My fellow Giants fans worldwide,
I have returned from my travels and I am here to comment on the state of our New York Giants. And I say that we are strong. Strong, and we are getting stronger. Why do I make such a bold statement?
Because I am drunk. Drunk on that sweet, sweet nectar of ocean blue KoolAid, no doubt spiked with a "not so little" amount of rum. It is May, and we are dragging our feet through the swamp of the offseason. This is the time when every undrafted FA signing is big, where each time an unknown catches a pass in a rather meaningless, padless OTA is the next Victor Cruz.
Yes, my friends, it is May. That means that what we think now is assuredly going to be wrong. There will be triumphs and tribulations. So all of this hand-wringing and prediction making is more or less useless. But hey, it is what it is.
For me, this means that nothing can stop me from looking at a 16-0 season. Nothing. It's May, what is there to lose? The homer in me is in full bloom. I know that this is likely to not be the case, and there will be troubles, but let's be honest here, we've got enough things to worry about as it is. So drink up, there's enough kool-aid for everyone!
Every year, I do a draft review. A little late this year, but I figured I'd just add it right into the SOTU.
Pick: OT Justin Pugh
My Grade: C+
How He Fits: I gave this a grade of C+, but consider that I'm grading on a scale where a C is average. So this, for me was an above average pick, but only slightly. I do believe from a pure value standpoint, this is a reach. I had graded Pugh in my final big board as a projected mid 2nd round selection. I don't like reaches. He doesn't make terrible sense in terms of a financial standpoint. RTs don't make that much money. So my first reaction was to be puzzled.
However, this selection definitely grew on me. Pugh is probably the 3rd most gifted pass protector in this draft, nipping at the heels of Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher. The one thing that Eli Manning desperately needs on the right side is pass protection. And yes, I project him to be our RT. More on that later.
Pugh is also a decent enough run blocker. Check out Nfpdawg's awesome highlight video on him to check out some of the blocks he can dish out. I'm honestly not too worried about his run blocking. David Wilson does an uncanny job of squeezing into the tiniest of windows.
Finally, Pugh has that versatility the Giants crave. C, G, T, you name it, he can play it. That will save the Giants both money and roster spots in terms of finding utility linemen. Also, consider this: Pugh is a bit of a finesse lineman. He uses opponent power and momentum to redirect them as opposed to imposing his own will on the defenders. The upside to that? He's going to be quite fresh in the 4th quarter. He'll be playing at a high level because he'll be playing efficiently, and that can only help burgeon Eli's capability to perform heroics at that stage.
Pick: DT Jonathan Hankins
My Grade: B
How He Fits: Big Hank was a nice pick. Another need pick to be sure, but this time the value was right there. The Giants have made sort of a habit of selecting defensive tackles in the 2nd round with mixed results. But Hankins looks like a good one to be sure. He's a powerful, powerful man that can anchor. Probably only he and Mike Patterson are the only good anchors on this team. He'll play 1 tech and can slide into the nose or even 5 tech (played all 3 at OSU) in certain schemes. He's a space eater and a two gapper. He's a pure run stopper with the upside to give you something in the pass rush.
His first step is very quick for a man his size, and it allows him to win the leverage battle quite easily. He's an instant upgrade at the backup 1 tech spot and will allow Joseph to take some plays off. That's huge for a team that was beyond awful in run defense. Hankins is, as Reese said, someone who "enjoys doing the dirty work." In my opinion, we don't have enough of those kinds of guys.
Pick: DE/OLB Damontre Moore
My Grade: A+
How He Fits: I don't like giving out A's, much less A+'s, but in this case, I think its deserved. I would have been happy drafting Moore in the 1st. He's a dynamic pass rusher that's dripping with upside. If you haven't already, please read Raptor22's excellent breakdown of him, it's an awesome piece.
I'm one of the few that is okay with Moore playing as a "Joker" type. I think the biggest thing you need to play that position is a motor. A relentless motor that allows you to push across the field if need be. Run and chase. That right there is the basis of Moore's game. He's got great short area quickness, awesome vision, and an unbelievable motor. He's got experience standing up and in a 3 or 4 point stance. He can move laterally better than Kiwanuka can.
As a moveable chesspiece, he'd be able to open the playbook to all sorts of new looks, provided Fewell is wont to use it.
Pick: QB Ryan Nassib
My Grade: B+
How He Fits: He doesn't. At least not in the short term. At first glance, it would seem that this was a wasted pick. I know there's a bevy of differing opinions on it, but here's mine: we'd like to think Eli Manning is immortal, but we thought Peyton was. He wasn't. All it takes is one awkward hit. You want to groom someone who can take over a game at the drop of a hat. Best example of that is Kirk Cousins winning a game for the Redskins to propel them to the playoffs just last year.
In the long term, he can be groomed for either a high round draft trade or as Eli Manning's successor given certain circumstances. In either case, the value was too good to pass up in a round where the Giants have historically not had much success under Jerry Reese.
I know the prevailing argument against drafting Nassib was the availability of Khaseem Greene. While I had a late 2nd round grade on Greene, the Giants not only probably did more film study on him than I did, but also met with him at his pro-day AND had him in for a private workout. That should say something about their thoughts on him. His will be a career to follow, much like Mason Foster of yesteryear.
Pick: S Cooper Taylor
My Grade: B-
How He Fits: At this point in the draft, you're basically looking for guys with upside. Guys that are athletic, can fit your system, and can play special teams. Cooper Taylor, a 6'4 230 lbs safety that runs a 4.45 is just exactly that. He's fast, fluid, a great blitzer, and can cover.
Originally I had thought he had a chance to play OLB. After watching videos of him, I don't think that's an option. Way too skinny. I do think he can be a Kam Chancellor type of safety. Someone who is an enforcer either near the LOS and covering TEs or as an intimidating single high safety out there in Secaucus making the opponents flinch when they come into his area.
He's got his warts, the biggest of which is just a lack of experience, but there is a gigantic ceiling there.
Pick: OG Eric Herman
My Grade: C+
How He Fits: Boy, we're loading up on offensive linemen, aren't we? Makes sense, we're in the midst of transitioning from one of the oldest OL to one of the youngest. By 2014, there will be questions at both guard spots. Good competition is tough to come by and the draft is one of the few ways you get it.
Herman is a tough guy with, as you know, more pancakes than you can count. He's nasty and powerful. He also seems quite intelligent and looks like he's versatile enough to play center as well.
Pick: RB Michael Cox
My Grade: C-
How He Fits: I'll be honest, I haven't seen a lick of tape regarding this guy. All I know is that he's big and fast. But hey, that's good enough for me. If he can contribute on special teams, it's a win in my book. He'll likely compete for a roster spot. Seems like, as with the 2nd round DT, the Giants have a penchant for 7th round RBs.
Projected Week 1 Offensive Roster (Starters in italics)
QB: Eli Manning, David Carr, Ryan Nassib (3)
FB: Bear Pascoe (1)
X WR: Hakeem Nicks (1)
Y WR: Victor Cruz, Jerrel Jernigan (2)
LT: Will Beatty (1)
RT: Justin Pugh, David Diehl (2)
PUP: FB Henry Hynoski (Knee)
When looking at this projected depth chart, the first thing that jumps out to me is the depth at offensive line. There is quality up and down and we have "suitable" backups at every position. I listed Beatty as the only LT, but of course you could have Pugh, Diehl, or Brewer fill in for him. At OG, there is a ton of youth. Brewer, Mosley, Herman, Cordle, Pugh. Lots of guys under 28. That bodes quite well for a line that's been maligned as aging.
I have Justin Pugh as the starting RT, not James Brewer. Why? I think Pugh doesn't have the strength to scrap in a phonebooth...just yet. I also think playing outside will showcase his biggest strength, his pass blocking. Pugh's kick slide is absolutely exquisite and we should take complete advantage of that. He can lock onto defenders and redirect them. That's going to ticket you for tackle.
Brewer, meanwhile...well...I watched Brewer in last year's preseason, and he was a major disappointment at tackle.
James Brewer PSN 2012 (via NYGiantCentral)
Nfpdawg was kind enough to post this video up. If you watch it, you can see terrible footwork, a lumbering stance, and poor adjustment from Brewer as he was repeatedly whipped by faster defensive ends. He looked much better at guard. Granted, he made mistakes there too, but there was promise.
Get a hulking 6'6 330 lbs monster inside and pushing forward, and I think you've got an effective player. Brewer knows how to take up space. Let him engulf 3 techniques inside and wall them off for David Wilson.
Speaking of David Wilson, I think he symbolizes this Giants offense quite well. An inconsistent offense, at times held back by scheme, but also capable of being completely and utterly devastating. It all starts with Eli Manning, who admittedly didn't have the best year last year. If he is able to get back to 2011 form, the offense will become that much more elite.
At WR, a healthy Hakeem Nicks allows Manning to have a reliable isolation option that is capable of consistently winning one on one battles outside. That opens up the center of the field for Victor Cruz, who is like that annoying mosquito. He keeps biting, and biting, and biting and more than likely he'll draw blood. You can keep smacking at him, but he's unkillable. On the other side, Rueben Randle is coming into his 2nd year. He and Louis Murphy can be the "swiss army knives" that Jerry Reese talked about. The forgotten weapons that can stretch the defense, get behind the secondary and hit them with the big play that Gilbride loves to use. Randle had a knack for tracking the ball well, and he showed big play ability. Both he and Murphy are large targets, standing a 6'2 with speed to burn.
I do not have Ramses Barden making the squad. I do think he'd help, but with keeping 3 QBs on the roster, I think we can only afford 5 WRs. If someone gets injured, he'll be back, you can count on that.
After the embarrassment of riches at WR, we move on to RB. Andre Brown is the week 1 starter in my eyes because of his superior blocking and vision, but I don't doubt that he'll get a 50-50 split with Wilson. Wilson is going to be dangerous. So dangerous. I feel as if his mere presence after week 5 will be enough to have a positive effect on the receiving game. If he can learn his pass blocking assignments, Wilson will probably tilt the carries in his favor after a few weeks. Brown will add that power element, and his straight ahead style of running is perfectly suited for our blocking scheme.
I have Da'Rel Scott beating out both Ryan Torain and Michael Cox. I basically went with speed over power here. In his 3rd year in the system, I have hopes that Scott has learned his blocking assignments and can be an asset as a 3rd down back. He also could be an excellent special teams gunner with his straight line speed.
At TE, Brandon Myers basically will act as an extra Y receiver. He's so proficient at finding the soft spots in the defense and excels as a chain mover type player. This has far reaching effects. I've always felt that Victor Cruz was saddled a little bit by the fact that he was the only real reliable passing option last year (with Nicks hobbled), and so he HAD to stay shallow enough to be Eli's safety valve. Cruz is an incredible threat down the seam, as we saw in this play:
NEW YORK GIANTS VICTOR CRUZ 77 YARD GAME WINNING TD VS. REDSKINS (via basesonballs)
With someone else to take that responsibility off Cruz, it will unleash him across the middle and create havoc. We might see the explosive Cruz of 2011, rather than the reliable but tamed Cruz of 2012.
I have high hopes for Adrien Robinson. He profiles to me exactly like a Martellus Bennett. You just don't find 6'5 270 lbs guys that run 4.5s. You just don't. Given the success of guys like Bennett (along with Ballard, Boss, and Shockey), I've pretty much assumed that Mike Pope can make dung look and smell like roses so long as they can block. And Robinson can. I'm trying to figure out how he gets on the field given all the other weapons here, but if he truly is the talent we hope he is, he'll find a way.
So my final thought on the offense is this: I'm excited. Beyond excited. The Giants obviously felt that a big reason for the inconsistency last year was due to the offensive line. They fixed it. I would also attribute part of it to Eli Manning's mediocre (by his standards, anyway) year. I think he fixes that as well. There is just an unbelievable amount of potential (and this potential can be realistically realized) with this squad.
I don't think we'll see enormous numbers from Manning, Cruz, or Nicks. I don't think we'll see enormous numbers from Wilson. But I think that's a good thing. I think we'll see a balanced offense that can run or pass. An offense that has trust in its RBs and its WRs if they stay healthy. We can strike at will, or drive steady. And that is where our power will lie. The offense is this team's strength, not the defense. And if we are to succeed, it will be through the arm and the mind of Eli Manning. I think we're up to the task.
Projected Week 1 Defensive Roster (Starters in italics)
1T DT: Linval Joseph, Jonathan Hankins, Mike Patterson (3)
SS: Stevie Brown, Cooper Taylor (2)
PUP: 3T DT Markus Kuhn (Knee)
What I find incredible is that I have the Giants going 11 deep on the defensive line and I'm still forced to leave out a few guys that I think can still play, like Shaun Rogers. I see a defense here with lots of potential, most of it focused on the beef up front.
I think that DT is my favorite position of all when looking at this depth chart. So much quality depth everywhere, just like the offensive line. And just like the offensive line, it was sorely needed. If you have, say half an hour to spare, please watch this video:
Mathias Kiwanuka - DL Entire 2012 Season (via NYGiantCentral)
Another fantastic video from Nfpdawg, this focuses on Kiwanuka, but the camera gives clear view of the DL as a whole. And its not a pretty sight. They are manhandled. Thrown to the ground. Shoved backwards. Times where there's a clean pocket for over 5 seconds.
In a word...unacceptable.
The Giants brass thought so as well, and added tons of beef in the form of Shaun Rogers, Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins, Jonathan Hankins, and Damontre Moore.
Linval Joseph is a very good player. That being said, he played way too much last year. He rarely came off the field. In 2011, he played 66% of all defensive snaps, a number bested only by Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, and Haloti Ngata (in terms of 1 techs/nose techs. Source: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/snapcounts). That number only increased in 2012 (unfortunately, snap count data is not out for this prior season, but this is a pretty safe assumption to make).
Given that Chris Canty was injured and Shaun Rogers was on IR, Joseph was our only true capable 1 technique last year, and when he wore down, you could see gigantic holes in the middle of the field. He was handled by only 1 defender later on in games due to the wear and tear and that freed up other linemen to take on the 3 tech or the DEs. We won't have that problem anymore. Enter "Fat Patt" and "Big Hank", both quite aptly named. We finally have a strong rotation that can anchor down. Hankins and Patterson are built in the same mold, wide bodied two gappers with unnatural first steps. They are more than capable of collapsing the pocket and creating havoc up front. This rotation will take a ton off of Linval's shoulders and thus is multiple upgrades at once.
At 3 technique, we're a bit worse off. Cullen Jenkins is the starter, and while he's not a great run stopper, he is a strong pass rusher. He's had around 4 to 5 sacks the past few years with Philadelphia, and I imagine he'd be of similar performance here. Marvin Austin is firmly on the bubble. His saving grace is that he is a 3 technique, and we don't have enough. I have faith that he's got the talent to make a difference but he needs to stay healthy and show it. He was god awful at the beginning of the year, but we definitely saw improvement:
Marvin Austin - Entire 2012 Season (via NYGiantCentral)
Once again, huge thanks to Nfpdawg. He's awesome.
Moving on to the defensive ends, we're returning a highly talented but incredibly underachieving corps. Jason Pierre-Paul remains one of the elite defensive ends who plays the run as well as or better than the pass. He can definitely stand to improve and if he sheds the weight, a svelte 275 lbs should be good enough to wreak destruction from the right side.
Opposite him is Justin Tuck. Not much needs to really be said about him, we all know of his troubles. All I'll say about him is that money is the greatest motivator of them all and he is in a contract year. I have more hope for the guy behind him in Mathias Kiwanuka. He's also coming off a bad year, but at extended time at DE, he's put in the best place to succeed. Adrian Tracy and Adewale Ojomo form high upside backups that will take the majority of snaps during garbage time and Damontre Moore will play the "Joker." Like I said, lots of strength on the DL.
Now on to the LBs. Ah, the Beez. Beezermania. What a maligned corps we have, no? Well, I can pretty much definitively tell you that we'll be better than last year. Quite a bit better.
Keith Rivers was a strong, strong player when healthy last year.
Keith Rivers Entire 2012 Season (via NYGiantCentral)
If he can stay healthy (and yes, I realize the percentage of that is slim), I don't think we have to worry about SAM. Curry is a similar player in my eyes, and we have a history of bringing in former busts (like Martellus Bennett) and putting them in positions to succeed. If Curry can reinvent himself, he'll be an asset.
At MIKE, we have Dan Connor. The best player? Not close. But he's certainly better than Chase Blackburn. He's faster and more decisive. As a MIKE with the Panthers, he was a strong gap shooter and a fundamentally sound tackler. Can't backpedal, but given that we're using our safeties quite a bit to man the MIKE spot, its okay. He can cover the shallow middle zone and that's good enough. Herzlich survives due to lack of depth.
At WILL, Jacquian Williams is primed for a breakout season...if he's healthy. Sense a recurring theme here? There's hope though, and he's a fast, sleek player capable of going step for step with TEs down the middle. Paysinger is a player on the rise, and is one of the few LBs that can play all three spots. Wouldn't surprise me if he grabs a starting spot somewhere on this team.
The key to the LBs is health. IF the LBs are healthy, they work well with the scheme. I've long craved for two freaks outside that can move and cover while still being big enough to impact the run game. Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams fit that bill. I've also long wanted to see a smart, instinctive LB inside that's big enough to take on free blockers and still make plays. They need to see the available gap and get inside into the backfield. I think Connor can do that.
I don't think the ILB absolutely has to, like I said, be able to cover very well or go sideline to sideline (if they did, they'd be Patrick Willis), but if they can do what I ask for, I'm happy. That's because we like using the Buffalo Nickel, and this time around, we've got tons better personnel than Deon Grant.
That personnel would be Will Hill and Cooper Taylor. Both are devastating hitters that can move across the field in a hurry. They are both adept in zone coverage (wasn't a problem for Taylor in college by all accounts), and are both good tacklers. They can both play the MIKE during passing situations, and are big enough that they can hold their own against the run as well.
Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown are both firmly entrenched as the starters at the S position however. Rolle is the utility guy, not great at any one thing, but he'll do everything for you and is the type to make everybody around him better. Brown, meanwhile was a ballhawk in the truest sense of the word. He just had a knack for the ball. The flipside was that his coverage was lacking quite a bit, due in part to communication issues.
I'd say that another year in the system can do wonders, and might do wonders to his game. If he can "get it," we'll have a dangerous, dangerous backend for QBs to deal with.
Ending, finally with cornerbacks, we've got to start with budding star Prince Amukamara. And yes, he's really that good.
Prince Amukamara - All Targets/PDef (2012 Season) (via NYGiantCentral)
I charted that video and came up with about 16 plays where he was at fault for giving up a play. I didn't include plays where he played off and gave up short passes, nor did I discredit him with plays where he let the player go for the safety and the safety failed to make the play. I also didn't discredit him for giving up a catch when he had good coverage. Things happen, and if he played it perfectly, nothing you can really do about that.
I credited him with 17 plays where he made a good play. That includes a pass break up, interception, or just really good coverage that re-routed the WR. Those are some pretty damn good stats, and he looks the part of a consistent, reliable player that you can count on.
Webster, however, is a different story. Clearly a player on the decline, it was interesting to note that Prince (on one of the Giants.com BigBlue Kickoff LIVE shows) mentioned that Webby was dealing with a broken hand and a bad hamstring. He's also in a contract year. As with Tuck, money talks. We can only hope for an improvement.
Speaking of hope, Jayron Hosley has the makings of a very good player. As a rookie, he made his mistakes, no doubt, but he showed aggressiveness and confidence, two very uncoachable traits that will absolutely help his development. As a corner, you need a short memory and swagger to succeed. Hosley has both, in spades. Give him time to develop at the most difficult position in football (perhaps besides QB), and he could turn into a quality player.
At this point. Thomas and Ross are depth and shadows of their former glory. If they can rekindle just some of their prior magic, it will be a win for us.
My final thought for the defense is this: It starts and ends with the defensive line. If they can stop the run and torment the QB, everything will fall into place. The Giants of this past decade really have been a bend but don't break type defense. The back end is peppered with question marks, but if things work out, they will work out well. There is hope in the inexperienced youth like Jacquian Williams and Amukamara and hope in the shades of former dominance like Tuck and Webster.
It's coin flip how the defense will go at this point, but given just how much is up in the air, and just how many questions there are, I don't think we can take what happened last year as gospel for what's to come this year. An argument can be made (and I think I just made it) that we improved every aspect of our defense from last year's squad, whether it be through new players, health, or more experience, but expect us to make noise in this department.
SPECIAL TEAMS PREVIEW
Projected Week 1 Special Teams Roster (Starters in italics)
K: Josh Brown (1)
P: Steve Weatherford (1)
LS: Zak DeOssie (1)
KR: Jerrel Jernigan, David Wilson (Accounted for)
PR: Louis Murphy, Rueben Randle, Aaron Ross (Accounted for)
Not much to talk about here. Brown can kick farther than Tynes. Weatherford and DeOssie are reliable. I think Jernigan has flashed enough to be the starting KR, but Wilson will get his snaps. To much of a weapon to not use him. I also think Murphy, as speedy as he is, will get the first crack at returning punts with the solid, if unspectacular, Randle and Ross backing him up there.
It's May, and I'm a homer, but even then, I can tell that we have a team that will contend. In fact, you can take away 52 guys right now, and leave me with one Eli Manning, and that'd be enough for me to tell you we'll be in it. We've never had a sub-.500 record with him as QB, and it sure as hell will remain that way this year.
Our offense can torch even the staunchest of opponents with blistering speed and tremendous physicality. Our defense can overwhelm opponents upfront with a tsunami of passrushers and hawk interceptions in the back.
They have that potential, and right now, we can only sit back and hope that they reach it.