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Hixon for an 80-catch, 1,000-yard season

One of my favorite football sites on the web is football outsiders, which is a site that is like the sabermetrics Bible of football.

Another one of my favorite sites is the NY Times Fifth Down Blog: here’s what you get when you put the two together as Mike Tanier did a write up for fifth down blog.

Worried about how the Giants will move the ball without Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Derrick Ward? Think the team didn’t do enough in free agency to offset the losses on offense? Want Jerry Reese to call Marvin Harrison’s agent right this very second?

Remain calm. The Giants did what they had to do in the off-season. In Football Outsiders Almanac, we give them a 73 percent chance of winning at least nine games, and a 42 percent chance of winning 11 or more games and contending for the Super Bowl.

The Giants faded last season, losing four of their final five games (including a playoff game) after Plaxico Burress shot himself. It’s easy to blame Burress for the December fade, but the Giants’ offense actually played better without Burress than with him, once you account for the quality of their opponents. The Giants’ real problems were on defense: they recorded just six sacks in their final four regular-season games, then were held sackless in the playoff loss to the Eagles (though they did force an intentional-grounding safety). The Giants compensated for the retirement of Michael Strahan and for Osi Umenyiora’s injury early in the season, but by December, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka had played too many snaps, and the defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo (now coach of the Rams) was out of tricks.

Coach Tom Coughlin and Reese, the general manager, prioritized defensive depth with their free-agent acquisitions. Defensive linemen Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard aren’t marquee names, but they give the Giants the kind of line depth they had two years ago, when their pass rush led them to the Super Bowl. Linebacker Michael Boley is suspended for the season opener, but when he returns he’ll add a playmaking element that the Giants lacked at outside linebacker. The Giants ranked eighth in the league in defense, according to our DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) metric; they should rank in the top five this year.

Coughlin and Reese did address the receiver situation by selecting Hakeem Nicks in the first round of the draft and Ramses Barden in the third. Nicks is no big-play threat, and the 6-foot-6 Barden is a small-school project, which is why the Giants drew some criticism by not chasing a big-name receiver. The Giants don’t need a big name. Domenik Hixon might have dropped a sure touchdown against the Eagles, but he’s a rising star who dropped only one other pass all season. Our player projection formula puts Hixon on pace for an 80-catch, 1,000-yard season. Steve Smith is a capable possession receiver who ranked well above league average at converting third downs. Nicks and Barden join Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham in the battle for reserve receiver rolls. Factor in Kevin Boss, a better-than-average receiver at tight end, and Eli Manning has plenty of targets.

The N.F.C. East is as tough as ever. The Eagles project to win nine games (9.3, according to our thousands of simulations), the Cowboys and the Redskins will hover near .500, and one or two injuries or surprises could drastically change the balance of power. But Giants fans shouldn’t worry about life without Plaxico. They should look forward to seeing Umenyiora, Tuck, Kiwanuka and the new guys chase Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb all season long.

WoW. This is the first time I’ve seen any projections that put Hixon as a number 1 WR. It’s comforting, but we’ll have to wait and see. I personally believe that Hixon has the potential to be a top 5 #2 WR in the league, but I’m not sure I can believe a 80 catch 1,000 yard receiving season. We’ll see. I think he can be succesful remember he is 6’2” with speed to burn and did leda the Giants in yardage last year. I couldn’t find how many TD’s they projected for Hixon.

Well, friends, here’s at least one site that thinks the Giants are ok at WR-so that breaks from the norms.

Have a nice day, everyone.

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