There is enough negativity around the New York Giants these days to fill the back of a tractor-trailer. Let's spin away from all of that doomsday talk about who needs to be fired and who needs to be let go. We have tons of time for that. Instead, let's focus on some good things that happened for the Giants in 2015. Today's "Five things I think I think" will give you a list of five positive developments for the Giants this season.
They drafted two building blocks
First-round pick Ereck Flowers and second-round pick Landon Collins should be cornerstones for the next several years. Neither rookie gets much love from Pro Football Focus, but no matter. Assessing a player is about more, much more, than silly, subjective +/- grades.
We knew Flowers had technique issues coming out of Miami, and that his rookie year would be a struggle as he played through and tried to correct them. That's why the Giants wanted him to begin his career on the right side rather than the left. The plan, though, went up in smoke thanks to the injury to Will Beatty.
The positives with Flowers are immense. His professionalism and work ethic bode well for his future -- he wants to be great and is willing to put in the time to get there. His toughness is unquestionable as he has basically ignored a severe ankle injury most of the season.
For me, those things make Flowers not only an anchor for the offensive line but a player who could hold other players accountable and become an exceptional leader for a team crying out for that quality.
Collins? We knew he would struggle in coverage early on, that he probably wasn't a center field type safety, and that he didn't have great hands. We have seen all of those things.
What we have also seen is a player whose confidence appears to be rising. Increasingly used close to the line of scrimmage, Collins is tackling better, looking more decisive in attacking the line of scrimmage, and showing up in the backfield more often. He will be an excellent box safety or hybrid safety/linebacker in the 4-2-5 defensive alignment now being used so much around the league. Now, if the Giants can just find a real free safety to pair with him.
Odell Beckham Jr. was awesome again
Forget the suspension and the ugliness of the game against the Carolina Panthers for a minute. Beckham was incredible again, and despite the many issues the Giants have his brilliance alone made them worth watching. He needs nine more catches against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday to become the second receiver in franchise history with 100 or more in a season. He needs 141 yards to surpass the single-season franchise record of 1,536 (Victor Cruz, 2011). He needs one touchdown catch to break a tie with Homer Jones for most in a season by any Giants receiver. He currently has 13.
He's been a one-man show, something we learned all too clearly when he wasn't there Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings. Now, the Giants need to do two things. They need to get him some help, and they need to get him to focus on answering the taunts of opponents with his talent and not his temper.
Weston Richburg emerged as a premier player
Want a blueprint for what you hope to see from Flowers in his sophomore season? Look no further than Richburg. A year ago, he was a struggling rookie. Moved this season from the guard spot he was forced to play by injuries to his natural center position, Richburg has quickly become one of the best in the league. With Richburg, Justin Pugh and Flowers playing alongside each other, that is a pretty good start toward building an offensive line the Giants can control games with.
A few other players stepped forward
Kick returner/wide receiver Dwayne Harris justified the money the Giants paid him in free agency. He was excellent returning kicks and had the best receiving year of his career. Punter Brad Wing should be around for several years. Rookie tight end Will Tye looks like a keeper. Shane Vereen was a good signing, even if the Giants don't always remember to get him involved in the offense. The Giants didn't have enough players step forward this season, but these guys did.
The Cowboys and Eagles stunk
Hey, I'm not above a shot at either of the Giants' two bitter NFC East rivals. The Giants have had another disappointing season, certainly. It is, somehow, comforting, though, that the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles have also suffered through miserable years. The Eagles are a fractured mess and will continue to carry that zero next to the Super Bowl victories column in their franchise history. The Cowboys? It's always fun to watch them implode. Dallas hasn't won a Super Bowl since 1995 and has two playoff victories this century. Maybe it's because I lived in the D.C. area for a few years as a college student at the University of Maryland, but it is somehow easier for me to stomach the Washington Redskins winning than to see either the Cowboys or Redskins do so.
There obviously were not enough positives for the Giants in 2015. There were, however, some and they should give the organization and the fan base optimism that perhaps a complete tear down isn't necessary. A lot needs to be done, certainly, to build the Giants back into the contending team everyone wants them to be. They have a franchise quarterback who should perform at a high level for a few more years. Thanks to improved drafts over the past couple of seasons there is a young core of players -- especially on offense -- to build around.
There is enough already in place to give hope.