They say all good things must come to an end. This will be my final post as a front page writer for Big Blue View. Real life gets in the way at times and won't allow me the time needed to provide you guys with the quality content that the community here deserves.
It's been a wonderful journey! I started as a front page contributor back in November of 2013, and since the, the community has grown with me and supported me with every article. For that, you guys rock! 275 articles later and here we are. I also want to thank Ed for giving me a forum for my ramblings over the last two years and being an awesome boss. I know I've fostered a friendship with Chris, Alex, and Jesse in my time here as well and I've learned a ton about football from all of them. I'll still be a regular visitor and I'll comment when I can, because quite frankly, I can't get enough. And who knows, our fearless leader might let me post a guest article from time to time!
If you've been here over the past 5(!) years I've been on this site now, you'll know that I'm quite the eternal optimist. It might not be the right way to analyze the Giants, but it's the lens with which I choose to view them. Just my style, I guess. So I figured, for my last post, why not lay out my reasoning, in May, why the Giants win this year's Super Bowl. Let's get it on:
The Offense Will Be Monstrous
Everything starts at the top, with Eli Manning. Coming off a year in which his stat line was 4,410 yards, 30 touchdowns, 14 interceptions. This was in the first year installation of an offense completely new and foreign to him. He returns for an encore, in a contract year no less, as a player under complete control of the west coast offense with more weapons than he perhaps ever had.
This last season was among Manning's best. There's a good bet that he could top it this year. Add to that a running back corps that is quietly one of the most balanced in the league. Are they the best? No, not close. Each player, however, brings something different to the table. Rashad Jennings is a smart player with good vision that can consistently get positive yards. Andre Williams is a hammer that sometimes doesn't know where the nail is. The hope is, he's learned that the nail can sometimes be at the second level through the gap. Vereen, the newcomer, is the prototype third-down back, capable of pass protecting and being a play maker as a receiver from the RB position. Together, they should form a capable trio.
The strength of the team in general is the wide receiving corps. It comes with question marks, but the ceiling is higher than anybody else's in the league. If Victor Cruz comes back healthy (and signs point to that being the case), adding him in the slot with the league's most explosive new player in Odell Beckham at the X is ridiculous enough. You add a motivated Rueben Randle as the third receiver, who started to shine once ODB had drawn extra coverage. After those three is a mish-mosh of hungry receivers looking to nab that fourth spot. Fierce competition between Dwayne Harris, Marcus Harris, Corey Washington, Preston Parker among others.
Let's not forget the tight ends. Larry Donnell is a villain for many, but looking at his raw numbers, he's an incredible weapon if used properly. We're talking about a guy who ranked in the top 10 in receptions and touchdowns and just outside the top 10 in receiving yards and first downs among all tight ends. He's a top 10 receiving tight end in the league. Hard to believe? It's true. He has a bit of a fumbling problem and he's not a good blocker, but if the Giants use him for what he is, a big red zone threat and first down safety blanket, he's another huge underrated weapon for the team.
Finally, let's journey to the offensive line. Big changes. Big necessary changes. The line has gotten younger and hungrier. The oldest player, would you believe it, is Will Beatty, who turned 30 years old in March. That's right. The oldest player on the line just turned 30. With the addition of Ereck Flowers on the line, the Giants do exactly what I had hoped and upgrade three spots on the line at once. I do believe Flowers is more naturally talented at tackle than Justin Pugh is, presenting an upgrade if not early in the season, then by the end of it. I had Justin Pugh as a guard when he was drafted, and I think his best work will be there. He's got the footwork, the balance, and the athleticism to thrive there. He supplants Weston Richburg, who is a natural center. Smart, athletic, and nasty. The offensive line will be better. It has to be.
The Defense Will Be Aggressive
I hate to reference the Dallas Cowboys in any form, let alone provide any praise for the way they do things. My hatred for that franchise is matched only for my hatred of the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, and yet I will use them as an example for our team to follow. I feel dirty.
Last year, the Cowboys had a devoid of real workable talent on the defense with injuries to Sean Lee and Demarcus Lawrence and the defections of Demarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. Yet, they were able to mount an effective enough defense. How?
With anger and time. Anger through the form of a new defensive coordinator in Rod Marinelli, who sprang that defense out from their prior lifelessness and lit a fire under them. Time through their offensive firepower, where they were kept off the field and often got to play with a lead. The Giants could, and will, follow a similar pattern. I'm not proclaiming Steve Spagnuolo to be the savior of the team, but I do expect him to put our players in the best place to succeed. I expect him to connect to them in a way Perry Fewell could not. I expect him to attack. I also expect the Giants offense to lend a helping hand. Control time of possession, play with a lead, and allow the defense to attack even more.
Jason Pierre-Paul will be motivated by dreams of money. The side opposite him filled with hungry talent like Robert Ayers, Damontre Moore, and Owamagbe Odighizuwa. A fearsome rotation indeed. Inside, you have perhaps the most underrated defensive tackle in the entire league in Johnathan Hankins. Jay Bromley had 10 sacks as a defensive tackle at Syracuse. It is now his time to reprise that role as a 3 technique. Add in newcomer Kenrick Ellis to the rotation of the DL.
As for the linebackers, they may be the most invisible corps in the league, however, Devon Kennard was anything but invisible during his rookie stint. He'll be the starting strong side backer next to a hopefully injury-free Jon Beason. J.T. Thomas will be the weak side linebacker, garnering the best QB rating against in pass coverage among all 4-3 linebackers by Pro Football Focus. He's the new age linebacker the Giants were hoping Jacquian Williams would become. Let's hope with some coaching he provides an impact.
At the secondary level, with a prayer of health, the Giants have the best cornerback duo in the NFC East. Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are two legitimate top 15 cornerbacks in the league. They've added the best run defending safety in the draft in Landon Collins, and will give one of their multiple contenders a chance to win the free safety spot. Competition is always a good thing.
There's questions at every level of the defense for this team, but with good coaching and help from the injury Gods, the potential is there for this defense to return to glory.
Special Teams Has Been Significantly Upgraded
If there was one area of the team that the front office decided needed to be upgraded through personnel, it was Special Teams. Not hard to see why. Dwayne Harris, Jonathan Casillas, Mark Herzlich, Mykkele Thompson, Geremy Davis, Shane Vereen, among quite a few others signed not only for roles on offense and defense, but also because of their special teams prowess.
The Giants were one of the worst teams in the league, while the Eagles and Cowboys were some of the best special teams units. That made a difference and it stuck in the craw of organization. They did something about it. Look for advantages at every change of possession rather than getting stuck in poor spots. Look for game-changing plays on specials. This is what we wanted and I'm confident that we'll be able to succeed there.
Will everything go as I said it would? Probably not. There will be injuries, there will be disappointments, there will be bad luck. Happens to every team. Am I stretching by saying this team wins the Super Bowl? Yes. A lot. They have a chance, though. A legitimate one. The talent is there, with a franchise QB, a superstar on offense, and a defense hungry for redemption. It's theirs for the taking, and I leave you as optimistic about our chances this year as I have been every year and will continue to be. Because ... well ... why not us?