Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Giants' Offensive Weapons Are Statistically Elite

By Michael Salfino

August 17, 2011

Giants fans may be worried about the strength of their offense after the losses of wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Kevin Boss, plus a lackluster effort in the team's preseason opener. But a closer look at the numbers should provide some reassurance. Big Blue's key remaining skill players have résumés that would make them the envy of most of their peers.

Quarterback Eli Manning last year became just the 30th quarterback since the 1970 merger to post a 30-plus touchdown pass season. His primary target, wideout Hakeem Nicks, has 17 scoring grabs in his first two seasons, the 11th most since 1970. Smith's replacement at wide receiver, Mario Manningham, was the second-most effective weapon in the league last year measured by average gain on all passes thrown his way (completions plus incompletions). Should the opposing defense overplay these elite wideouts, Manning can just turn around and hand the ball off to Ahmad Bradshaw, whose 4.84 yards per carry is ninth best since 1970 among all running backs with at least 500 attempts .

Pessimists will argue that the Giants finished just fifth in yards gained and seventh in points scored even with these four playing at high levels. But that was largely due to the team's league-high turnover rate. Most notably, Manning threw 25 interceptions, but there's an argument that this was the result of bad luck, considering eight of these picks first hit the hands of his intended receiver.

If Smith and Boss returned, it may have turned out to be subtraction by addition. After all, Manning only has one ball to distribute on every play, and already has three weapons with achievements great enough to demand a bigger share of the action.

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