We are currently wading through that small pocket of days in September where we are yet to encounter meaningful professional football. This is a time of looking ahead, looking to the future, October and beyond. We are so close to the regular season that we can taste the Autumn air of Sunday battle.
As part of Big Blue View's 2015 season preview, I'm passing the time by outlining some future stars. This week may seem like a long one, but I have five guys here to keep your brain ticking over until game day.
While it would be easy to say that Kennard had somewhat of a breakout year as a rookie, it's nothing compared to what I imagine he can bring in a system that truly tailors to his strengths. In 2014, Kennard was magnetic, cutting through offensive lines in a quest to collapse himself on the quarterback. Now, imagine a scheme that drastically increases Kennard's opportunities to do just that. Perry Fewell's defense was downright conservative compared to the shiny new one installed by Steve Spagnuolo this off-season. This team know that the front four is weak. They know they need to compensate. Kennard can be the playmaking hurricane this defense so desperately needs.
I cried a little when I saw how much money the Giants gave Dwayne Harris; a return specialist with minimal interest from other teams. Jerry Reese thought he deserved $17 million. Not sure how the contract-lottery system in Reese's brain operates, but I'm against it. But enough about spilt milk. What would Harris have to do to justify that contract? What makes it seem like a good deal? I'm putting the numbers at three long returns and mild-decline of expected production should he have to fill in at receiver. This is reasonable, right? Big contracts seem a little more elastic when a team is doing well, like letting your chips roll in Vegas when you're up a couple of bills, but if this season goes south, critics will point to poor asset allocation like Harris' contract as a reason. However, Harris is in a good place to make a name for himself as a top returner, but I think his real value will come from the fact that the team won't have to put a player like Odell Beckham Jr. or Rueben Randle back there. I would gladly pay a dozen dumb contracts if it meant keeping the right guys on the field.
The reason I'm excited about Vereen is that I have wanted a player like him in a Big Blue uniform for years. I have pondered how this team would use a Darren Sproles / Danny Woodhead type player and finally, I think we have our man. Vereen was never featured in the Patriots' featureless offense. It didn't matter who came into that system because they had Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. The best argument for this comes in the form of Chad Ochocinco-Johnson playing in a Super Bowl. The Patriots won't miss Vereen, but the Giants should love him. Expect to see him utilized similar to how Green Bay uses Randall Cobb. Motions, screens, gadget plays. The offense can open up a little with Vereen on the field. The marriage between this team and player should be mutually beneficial for all involved.
Prince Amukamara was on the verge of a breakout season last year before his injury. Through Week 9 of 2014, he allowed a QB rating of just 58.2, which was good enough to be a top 10 cornerback at the time. Amukamara was timid in his first few seasons, constantly playing too far off the receiver and afraid to give up the big play. Last season, he developed as a press-corner which turned his weakness into a strength. By minimizing the deep pass, and keeping everything in front of him, nobody could exploit his side of the field. With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie providing solid coverage on the other side, Amukamara won't be pressured into covering the top receiver on every play. If he stays on the field, he's poised for a big year.
After a difficult stretch in the middle of 2014, Justin Pugh had a string of good games to end the year, thanks in large part to an improvement in his run blocking. In Pugh's new role at guard, that task should be easier. No longer does he have to anchor the strong side of the line. Beginning this year, Pugh will slot in between rookie Ereck Flowers and sophomore Weston Richburg. Flowers is a mauler, and Richburg should benefit from finally getting to start at his natural position of center. This should alleviate some of the pressure that dogged Pugh early in his career. He's entering his third year in the league, and he has a clear shot at being the best offensive lineman on the Giants right now.