When I asked for 'Big Blue View Mailbag' questions this week I received several. There is only one, however, that is going to be addressed in this week's 'Mailbag.' It's an excellent question, and on that requires much more than a cursory answer.
Well .... the answer is actually pretty complicated and we won't know for sure until this fall when the games are played. Let's break down the way it looks on paper, however. The best way to do that at this point is to go position-by-position through the spots on the roster that have undergone the most change.
Andre Brown gave the Giants what he had, but Jennings is an upgrade. Hillis was productive at times last season, and he is healthier than Jacobs, whose spirit was willing but whose knee was not. The wild card is, of course, what the Giants will get from David Wilson.
Kellen Davis is not the every-down answer as he is really little more than a blocking tight end who could replace Pascoe. No way of knowing if Adrien Robinson or Larry Donnell will be the answer, either. The Giants hoped Robinson would be their guy by now, but he hasn't been able to practice or get on the field enough during his two seasons for anyone to have any idea what he really is. It would be stunning if the Giants don't select a tight end somewhere in the draft.
Verdict: To Be Determined
The return of Manningham excited Giants' fans, but he has battled a serious knee injury for the last season-and-a-half, and no one knows what he can give the Giants in 2014. The loss of Nicks? The Giants miss what Nicks can give at his best, but it's been a long time since he has given the Giants that. Parting ways was the right move for both sides. The Giants will rely on the development of Rueben Randle and will hope what they saw from Jerrel Jernigan in the final three games was not a mirage. This is a position that figures to be addressed early in the draft.
Predictably, this group has undergone the biggest re-structuring. Schwartz was a terrific signing, and Jerry and Brown bring experienced depth the Giants did not possess a season ago. Walton is an unknown at center since he hasn't played a snap since 2011. What Chris Snee can give in his final season also remains to be seen. It wouldn't surprise anyone if the Giants add more pieces to the line in the upcoming draft.
The Giants pretty much knew they would lose Joseph, which is why they drafted Johnathan Hankins a year ago. They wouldn't match the price for Tuck, and replaced him with a younger version in Ayers. What this group does not have right now is the depth last season's defensive line had, and there is also the question of replacing Tuck's leadership in the locker room.
What the Giants have really done here is swap McClain for Rivers. That might be a wash, although McClain could be a larger locker room voice than the generally invisible Rivers. The big key here is that the Giants will have Beason from the beginning.
This group has gone from a question mark to a strength, with the potential to be one of the best cornerback groups in the league. No reason to see Antrel Rolle trying to cover Dez Bryant in 2014 -- the Giants have a plethora of real cornerbacks to choose from this time around.
Verdict: Vastly improved
If he is healthy Stevie Brown is a better player than Mundy. Demps adds depth that wasn't there a year ago, and with the unpredictable Will Hill as a starter depth is always important.
Gained: Trindon Holliday, Demps, Bowman
Holliday and Demps offer the Giants something they did not have in 2013 -- real return men. Bowman is a veteran with a reputation as an excellent special teams coverage player who should help in an area where the Giants were pitiful a season ago.
Yes, when you go back through it we have touched every position on the roster except the quarterbacks and the kickers. It has been that sort of massive roster overhaul for the Giants -- major change touching almost every area of a roster that was found wanting in 2013.
Now, back to the original question. Are the Giants better, or just different?
On paper, the Giants are better. There are still holes, but these are not your 2013 Giants. Looking back at that team now it's a miracle -- and a huge credit to Tom Coughlin -- that the Giants won seven games in 2013. Between injuries, inexperience and under-performance of key veterans the Giants simply did not field a competitive squad in 2014. The revamped roster should be improved. The offensive line has more talent, experience and versatility. They have improved at running back. They are far better in the secondary, and Beason's presence for a full season makes them better at linebacker.
All of that said, there are no guarantees the end result will be any better. The offensive line, re-constructed as it is, is still a question mark. Whether Eli Manning has enough receiving targets is debatable. The biggest question on offense, though, is Manning himself. What level of play will we see from him in 2014? Can he regain his championship form? If he resembles 2013 Manning the Giants have no chance.
How will Manning mesh with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, and how will McAdoo handle his first job as a coordinator? For that matter, will the revamped offensive coaching staff help?
On defense, the secondary is better, but the defensive line is a question mark. Do they have enough depth at tackle? Do they have enough pass rush? The second question comes down to whether or not we ever see the All-Pro version of Jason Pierre-Paul again.
So, the answer is really that all of the free-agent moves made by Jerry Reese -- and the fact that the upcoming draft is a deep one in several areas where the Giants can still use help -- will give the Giants an improved roster with an opportunity to have a better season. There is, however, no way to predict whether or not it will all come together on the field.