Eli Manning, the Giants'
second-year quarterback, suddenly is drawing comparisons to his brother
Peyton -- nothing like setting the bar high, huh? Free agent wide
receiver Plaxico Burress is being mentioned (by some) in the same
breath as wideout heavyweights Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. Tiki Barber is widely regarded as one of the elite running backs in the NFL,
and Jeremy Shockey is so dangerous that the Giants just signed him to a
contract extension that makes him the highest-paid tight end in the
Theories abound about the way to stop the suddenly potent New York
offense. Put pressure on Manning. Double-team Burress. Stack the line
of scrimmage to stop Barber.
But according to rookie linebacker Kevin Burnett, none of those ideas
hold the key to derailing the Giant express.
"It's not stopping one guy," Burnett said. "It's first down. They're
averaging about 6 yards on first down. If we can manage that, we have a
chance to be successful."
When the Giants are able to gain significant yardage on first down, the
offensive coaches have many more options from which to choose out of
their playbook. The opposing defense, therefore, has to prepare for
more possibilities. So limiting the Giants' yardage on first down will
help limit the array of formations the Cowboys might face on second and
Despite the Giants' tradition of being a defense-first team, their
prolific offense certainly has caught the Cowboys' attention.
"They're definitely not a team that's flown under the radar, at least
not in our eyes," Burnett said. "They're first in the league in a lot
of categories, and they're carrying a lot of momentum.
"But we've got to contain them on first down. We do a lot of similar
things, so we've got a good idea of a lot of what their offense will
do. As long as we don't give them a crease to throw the ball, we've got
a chance to succeed."
With that said, Burnett acknowledges the considerable talents of
Manning, Burress, Barber and Shockey. But he said they are not the only
weapons on the New York offense.
"They've got a big-play running back (Barber), wide receiver (Burress)
and tight end (Shockey)," Burnett said. "But they've also got … I don't
want to call them 'role players' … I'd call them 'other guys.' Amani Toomer and No. 85 (David Tyree), they're burners. They're not role
players -- they can beat you."