Happy New Year, New York Giants' fans! Here are five New Year's Resolutions for the Giants as they try to rebound from back-to-back disappointing seasons.
1. Fix The Offensive Line -- The line the Giants used in 2013 truly was offensive -- offensively bad. Yes, there were injuries to David Baas and Chris Snee, but you can argue that at this point in their careers those guys were no longer top-flight linemen, anyway. Years of neglecting to use high draft picks to replenish an aging line and the failure to bring in experienced backups cost the Giants dearly. Eli Manning took the worst beating of his career. The Giants averaged an atrocious 83.2 yards per game rushing, 29th in the league. Their 3.5 yards per carry average was also 29th.
The Giants need as many as three new starters on the line as you can argue that a center and new starting guards are all necessary. They also need to figure out which is the real Will Beatty, the good Beatty of 2012 or the bad Beatty of 2013. On top of which, the broken leg suffered by the left tackle in the season's final game complicates their planning. The only offensive lineman they can truly feel good about right now is right tackle Justin Pugh, who improved immensely throughout his rookie season.
2. Get The Draft Right -- Co-owner John Mara admitted this week that the Giants have had some misses in the draft in recent years, saying that the Giants have taken some chances that have not panned out. We will delve into what those misses might have been in more detail between now and the May 8-10 draft, but the Giants can't afford misses at this point. They have too many holes to fill, too many positions that lack depth. To be great, sometimes you have to take risks and I generally support that idea. In the upcoming draft, however, the Giants might be well-advised to play it safe.
3. Let The Kids Play -- Mara wondered on Monday why it took the Giants three years to find out that Jerrel Jernigan, who caught 19 passes the final three weeks of the season, could play. One reason was that Jernigan is the second-team slot receiver behind superstar Victor Cruz. Another reason, though, is an apparent aversion on the part of the Giants to playing young players who are not yet fully developed. It's an aversion the Giants need to get over.
First-round pick Justin Pugh developed into the team's best offensive lineman this season. Without injuries he may never have gotten the chance. Jernigan would not have gotten an opportunity without injuries to Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Damontre Moore rarely played despite Jason Pierre-Paul's health issues and Mathias Kiwanuka's ineffectiveness. It took the Giants three seasons to fully trust Prince Amukamara. Playing veterans who know their assignments but can't physically do the job anymore over kids who have a lot to learn but show athleticism and upside is not a way to get better.
If certain schemes have to be simplified to ensure that the younger players have a chance to succeed, so be it.
4. Find A Real Return Man Or Two -- The Giants were 27th in the league in average yards per kickoff return and 26th in average yards per punt return. When it came to the Giants' special teams in 2013 much of the focus was on the poor coverage units. If the Giants really want to help their offense, however, they need to find a return man who can change field position and create easier scoring opportunities. Rueben Randle can catch punts, but not much more. Jernigan and Michael Cox were nothing special returning kickoffs. The Giants have to do better than simply catching the ball.
5 Get Rid of Your Tired, Your Weak, Your Old -- GM Jerry Reese has said in the past that one of the difficult parts of personnel evaluations is deciding when to cut ties with veteran players. Letting go of a player either a year too soon or too late can hurt your 53-man roster. In 2013, possibly because the Super Bowl is being held at MetLife Stadium in a few weeks, the Giants most likely held on to several fading veterans a year too long. Maybe they thought they could make one last run with the old guard that helped them win two Super Bowls, but that did not work out. Not close. It is time to cut ties with veterans whose best football is behind them and who can't consistently get on the field. In 2014 the Giants should get younger, hopefully healthier, and re-stock with players whose careers are on the upswing.
- NFC East Notebook, NYE Edition: Shanahan gets the axe; Garrett safe?
- Jason Pierre-Paul confident he can return to Pro Bowl form
- Mike Sullivan: The right replacement for Kevin Gilbride?
- New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins, Pro Football Focus Review
- Final NFL Power Rankings 2013: Giants end year at 23