Well that was exciting, wasn't it, New York Giants' fans?
We all thought the front office would go with Mike Sullivan as offensive coordinator and keep a known, comfortable, 'run 'n shoot' approach. Not so. With the hiring of Ben McAdoo, the Giants have ushered in a new offensive era. They are now moving more towards a West Coast offense.
Now, they won't completely transition to the WCO. It will most likely be a hybrid between the vertical passing elements that Tom Coughlin likes mixed in with more creative screens and mid-range 'dinks and dunks.' Of course, this also means a shift in the personnel. So let's go ahead and take a look at what the Giants might do to help ease this transition along.
The most obvious connection here is the free agents who are currently available on the offensive side of ball from McAdoo's former team, the Green Bay Packers. Who are they? Let's take a look (along with their Pro Football Focus grades for good measure).
Evan Dietrich-Smith, center (+12.1)
John Kuhn, fullback (+9.6)
James Starks, running back (+5.6)
James Jones, wide receiver (+2.9)
Jermichael Finley, tight end (-2.8)
Andrew Quarless, tight end (-5.1)
Marshall Newhouse, offensive tackle (-9.7)
Of those players, it's quite obvious that Dietrich-Smith would probably be highest on the Giants' wish list. He's from Green Bay, played well this year, is only 28, and plays center. He is a very strong pass protector and is in line for a nice pay day but should be well within the Giants' spending limits. If I were a betting man (I'm not), I'd say that EDS is in a Big Blue uniform by training camp.
Kuhn would have been a nice addition had the Giants not had two quality fullbacks on the roster already in the form of Henry Hynoski and John Conner. James Starks is interesting. He was relegated to becoming the backup once Eddie Lacy emerged, and has good experience as a pass catcher. He's a shifty runner with above average speed and decent vision. He scored a -0.3 grade in pass protection from PFF for last year, so he isn't a complete failure in that regard. If he can be had for cheap, he'd likely make a quality third-down back. He's definitely on my watch list.
James Jones is a solid returner, so he could be of some interest to the Giants, however, as a wide receiver he appears redundant because of Rueben Randle. The two tight ends are intriguing. They both could fit in nicely with the Giants. Finley will obviously have to undergo a rigorous physical as a neck injury almost ended his career this year. Quarless came on strong at the end of the year, but is at this point, not much more than a cheap one- or two-year deal.
Marshall Newhouse is not an option for the Giants, as they are trying to improve the team.
Before talking about the draft, let's take a quick look at the scheme that McAdoo helped preside over in Green Bay. It was a quick offense that utilized plenty of no-huddle. It had a ton of west coast elements, including quite a few short and intermediate routes and made ample use of the middle of the field.
The Packers made use of two tight end sets more than the Giants, and were vastly more successful than the Giants when it came to screen passes. Plenty of three- and five-step drops. Unlike Kevin Gilbride's 'Run 'n shoot' offense that set up the play action vertical passing attack with an established run game, the Packers used slippery wide receivers, running backs and plus-matchup tight ends in a short range passing attack to keep defenses from crowding the box.
So let's take a look at some prospects that may fit this description and help the Giants in the "drive for five."
Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina and Jace Amaro, TE Texas Tech
These two players are the best receiving tight ends to come out in some time. Ebron is a potential Vernon Davis type mismatch as a hybrid tight end/wide receiver. Amaro could be Jimmy Graham-esque pass catcher working from the slot. Both are mismatches against slower linebackers and smaller safeties and would be perfect fits for this new offense.
Their receiving presence in the middle of the field not allow presents great targets for Manning, but clears that side for more room for the underneath receivers to operate in the attack. Ebron is firmly in my top 10, and Amaro will be moving up the list for the Giants because the fit instantly becomes that much better.
Carlos Hyde, RB Ohio State
Carlos Hyde is this year's Eddie Lacy. They run the same way: angry. Hyde has tremendous vision, and above average agility for his size. He is a powerful runner that can find those cut back lanes and never goes down on first contact. In a league that's gotten blown away by runners like Lacy, Marshawn Lynch, and Zac Stacy, having a bruising, powerful, knock 'em out, punch 'em out type runner is a big advantage to teams that the team has not had since the vintage Brandon Jacobs. It wears teams down. If Hyde is available in the second round, the Giants should strongly consider the star from Ohio State.
Jared Abbrederis, WR Wisconsin
Abbrederis is not a common name dropped among the top WR discussions, but he should be. He is a fantastic route runner, probably one of the top players in this class in that regard. He isn't especially big, or incredibly fast, but he just knows how to find soft spots on the defense and get open. He has terrific acceleration in and out of his cuts and has tremendous YAC capability despite not having superior athleticism. As a fit for this offense, he'd be perfect and would likely come in the third or fourth round. Like Ryan Broyles, pairing him with Jerrel Jernigan in the slot could be deadly in this offense.
Marqise Lee, WR USC
Much like Abbrederis, Lee is a perfect fit for this offense. He might be relegated to the slot in the pros but that doesn't mean he isn't a first round talent. He has a large catch radius for his size and has insane speed. He is a developed route runner that excels not just on those sideline fly routes, but also in those short digs and curls. He has fantastic YAC ability, where he can take a short slant to the house on any single play. Lee likely moves into a tie with Mike Evans as the second- rated wide receiver for the Giants in my eyes, behind the incomparable Sammy Watkins.
Bryan Stork, OC FSU
Bryan Stork and Travis Swanson are my highest-rated centers in the draft. I think Stork is a better fit, however, for the Giants. I believe he's a tad more athletically gifted than Swanson is and has the perfect dimensions for a center at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds. He was adept at getting to the second level blocking for Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., and played smart. He often times was heard calling out protections and really stabilized that offensive line. If the Giants decide not to sign Evan Dietrich-Smith, Stork would be a great option even in round 2.
The Giants will be looking for an upgrade in speed. Speed, speed, speed. They will want mismatches. They will want route runners. They will want yards after catch. David Wilson and Jernigan are natural fits in this offense, as is Victor Cruz. Andre Brown and Rueben Randle will need to adjust, but I think they will be able to thrive as well.
The offensive line play needs to be smart. Even though there are more three- and five-step drops, the pass protection still needs to be there. With this much change on the offensive coaching staff, there will be changes in offensive personnel and the team must adapt.
Here's to hoping they will.
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