By Anthony Strait
With the obvious idea that championships are won on the field, it’s safe to say that the Philadelphia Eagles haven’t won anything yet on the field. Off the field, the Eagles have won big with an unusual splash in free agency last week. With the additions of Vince Young, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cullen Jenkins and Nnamdi Asomugha, Philadelphia has established a “Dream Team” as Young dubbed them last week. The New York Giants-particularly Mario Manningham- aren’t quite ready to anoint their division rivals champions just yet.
“We don’t put nobody on a pedestal,” Manningham said. “We treat all our opponents the same even, if they got a hundred dream teams, it don’t matter.”
For the Giants, it’s been a tale of who they don’t have at camp that has been as big as focus as who they missed out on. Shaun O’ Hara, Rich Seubert, Shawn Andrews and Barry Cofield are gone as the Giants worked to get under the salary cap coinciding with the new collective bargaining agreement. They also lost out on former Giant and Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burres, who signed with their Meadowlands co-tenants the New York Jets (though fans can wonder how seriously interested Coughlin actually was).
On top of that, the Eagles became the envy of the NFL in 72 hours with their new additions to an already contender-caliber roster. These, plus the continued holdout of DE Osi Umenyiora, give football fans plenty of reasons to conclude the Giants are pure afterthoughts before the first pre-season game, right?
Hold on, says Manningham. Can we play some football first?
“I’m not about to say they’ve got a three-headed monster (Rodgers-Cromartie, Asomugha and Asante Samuel), I’m not about to give them all the props in the world when they didn’t even play a game yet. They good, they athletes, they in the NFL. We go out and do what we got do and we gonna see when we play them.”
While it’s understandable if Manningham or any other Giant don’t openly drool over what their division rivals did, New York still has plenty of questions surrounding their own roster. Two-time Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora is the ticking time bomb ready to explode and bring the team down with him. Unhappy with his contract, Umenyiora is demanding more money while the front office is granting him a chance to seek a trade. They resigned Ahmad Bradshaw on Monday to a new contract, but that still leaves Steve Smith, Kevin Boss and first rounder Prince Amukamara unsigned and not at camp. They also have holes on both sides of the football as they pretty much stood still during the free agent barrage last week. Lost in the wind is a team that won 10 games last season and easily could have made the playoffs had they not hurt themselves with turnovers and sloppy special teams play.
And yes…one epic meltdown against the Eagles that costs them the NFC East.
General Manager Jerry Reese has done a masterful job with finding the right talent to mesh a roster together since taking over in 2007. It may be another week before the Giants roster takes shape enough to be fully analyzed. Philadelphia has done its part to separate themselves in a division where many felt it was a two team race as Dallas ushers in a new coach and Washington has many, many uncertainties. On top of that, the Jets have made plenty of noise as well, taking much of the spotlight off their counterparts. It will be up to Big Blue to make their splash on the field as they’ve already lost on paper-at least according to the many NFL insiders and experts.
“We feed off of it,” defensive end Justin Tuck added about the talk being centered on the Eagles and Jets over the weekend. “I think we play better when we are backed into a corner. We like kind of being under the radar. You give the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jets credit. They got players they felt they needed. We will see what happens.”
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