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Notebook: Believe it when Coughlin says Giants will be good


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http://www.sportsline.com/nfl/

 

 

Notebook: Believe it when Coughlin says Giants will be good

 

June 8, 2006

By Pete Prisco

CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer

 

New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin isn't much for self-promotion or propping his team up in the media. That's why when he says something nice about his team, it usually means something.

 

"I think we can be good," Coughlin said this week. "Yeah, we can be good."

 

Stunned to hear it? Can this really be the cautious coach who offers little in terms of nuggets to the media?

 

Shockingly, it was him. It might seem a little out of character for a man who seems so guarded, but this much we've come to know about Coughlin:

 

He's usually honest when assessing his team.

 

If it's bad, he'll say it's bad. If it's good, he'll say it's good.

 

The Giants must be pretty good.

 

Coming off a division title in 2005, surprising many before losing in the playoffs to Carolina, Coughlin has reason to think his team will be even better.

 

Reason No. 1 is a huge one: Eli Manning.

 

In his second season with the Giants, and first full one as a starter, Manning played well at times before tailing off late in the season. He had two fourth-quarter comebacks to win big games and showed that he will be a future star. Yet late in the season, he stumbled. He forced passes. He made off-balance throws. He was awful in the playoff loss to the Panthers.

 

The New York media ate him up. That might have broken another man.

 

Eli Manning simply went back to work.

 

"I can't say enough about what he's done in the offseason," Coughlin said. "He was here a full two weeks before the program started."

 

Manning has spent his days working on his body, but, more importantly, working on the cerebral part of the game. Like his brother, Peyton Manning, Eli is an avid film watcher. Coughlin said the quarterback spent many a dark moment in the film room by himself this spring.

 

"He studies so much in the offseason," Coughlin said. "I think he'll be much better because of it."

 

Manning completed just 52.8 percent of his passes last season, ranking him near the bottom of the league's passers. He also threw 17 interceptions to go with his 24 touchdown passes. But 12 of those interceptions came in the final eight games. He topped that off by throwing three more in the playoff loss to the Panthers, the fall-off setting off the can-he-be-any-good talk.

 

The book on Manning was that he was a passer who forced the ball instead of taking a sack or throwing it away. When he got in trouble, he would throw off his back foot, leading to sailing passes and turnovers.

 

"I think a lot of that has to do with his competitiveness," Coughlin said. "He believes he can get the ball there. He's got to do a better job of dealing with people in his face, making better decisions. Don't put it in harm's way. Don't make a mistake. He's learning that. I think he'll be better at it."

 

Coughlin's also excited about the addition of second-round pick Sinorice Moss to the offense. The Giants already had good receivers outside in Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, but Moss gives them a smaller, quicker player on the inside.

 

"He gives us that dimension we didn't have," Coughlin said of Moss.

 

Then there's Tiki Barber. He had an MVP-like season in 2005, but he's getting up in the years at 31. Coughlin said you can't tell.

 

Barber maintains a stringent workout regimen that has him poised for a couple of more big years.

 

"We tell him he's 25," Coughlin said. "That way he doesn't realize how old he is."

 

On defense, the Giants have to improve the way they defend the pass. With two outstanding pass rushers in Mike Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, you would think the Giants would be good at keeping the other team's passing offense in check. Instead, they were 27th in pass defense last season, giving up 224 yards per game.

 

"We didn't play the ball in the air very well last season," Coughlin said.

 

The addition of veteran corner Sam Madison and the growth of second-year corner Corey Webster should help alleviate that problem. The Giants have also added another pass rusher in LaVar Arrington, who will come off the edge at linebacker, giving underrated defensive coordinator Tim Lewis another vital piece.

 

Even with the improvement, the Giants will be hard-pressed to equal the 11 victories from last season. Why? The division is brutal. Washington, Dallas and Philadelphia will all be worthy challengers.

 

"Everybody got better in the offseason," Coughlin said. "It's like the old days in the 1980s. That's what it reminds me of. (Redskins coach) Joe Gibbs said the problem with this division is, will we have any players left after we beat each other up? It's a challenge, that's for sure."

 

At the league meetings in March, Coughlin was asked if the Super Bowl was the next logical step for his team. The Giants didn't make the playoffs in his first year as coach of the team, won the division the next, so Super Bowl in his third?

 

He didn't bite.

 

"You're not going to get me to say that," Coughlin said.

 

No, but he did say his team would be good. Coming out of Tom Coughlin's mouth, you know it has to mean something.

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