It is the Tuesday before your New York Giants open the 2015 season against the hated NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys. Let's take the time to look at a season-opening edition of "Five things I think I think" about the Giants.
I think we need to begin with JPP
Where else, truthfully, is there to begin when it comes to the Giants right now? Now that he has finally allowed the Giants to examine his damaged hand what will happen with Pierre-Paul is the central story surrounding Big Blue right now.
The fact that the Giants have now seen JPP doesn't mean everything is rosy and that Pierre-Paul will be on the field Sunday night vs. the Dallas Cowboys. Far from it. Pierre-Paul still has not signed his franchise tender, so technically he isn't even employed by the Giants. He may never sign that tender, instead working out some sort of one-year compromise with the Giants based on when Giants doctors think he can play.
Word has been that JPP's reps think he's ready to play now. We don't know what the Giants think. Can he play effectively witha wrap or a cast? Is he in football shape to play at least a few snaps? Can he contribute knowing basically zilch about the new defensive scheme?
I don't know what will happen. I think this, though, and it's purely selfish. The Giants are usually boring, and I'm often jealous of bloggers who get to write about Tebow-mania, Rex Ryan and other easy attention-grabbing stories. In this case, though, the Pierre-Paul story makes the Giants anything but boring.
I think we need to talk about the safety spot
Let's start with this. GM Jerry Reese has made a complete mess of the safety situation. As awful as it looks right now, though, it could be worse. Can you imagine what it might look like if someone had snapped up Landon Collins at the end of Round 1 of the 2015 NFL Draft? What would the position look like for the Giants if that had happened? OK, sorry for bringing that up. Banish the thought from your mind. If you can.
Plan A at safety for the Giants was Devin McCourty, that much was obvious. There wasn't a Plan B. Reese turned his nose up at rest of the free-agent market like it was a dirty diaper, cockily figuring he could fix it from within or via the draft. We know what a mess it's been. Youngsters Bennett Jackson, Nat Berhe and Mykkele Thompson are on IR. Veterans Jeromy Miles and Stevie Brown have been signed, found wanting, and sent packing. Brandon Meriweather was signed, is still here and Giants' fans cringe at the thought of him actually playing. Veteran Craig Dahl just got here, and the idea that fans of the teams he used to play for are happy he's gone can't be comforting to Giants fans.
Let's think about this for a minute, though. Can the Giants possibly be worse at safety than they were a year ago? Honestly, the bar isn't set very high. Brown was rated by Pro Football Focus as the worst safety in the league last year vs. the pass. Quintin Demps? He was and is a journeyman backup, and honestly not a very good safety. Per PFF, Demps missed a tackle for every 2.3 that he actually made. Awful. How hard can it actually be for just about anyone to replace that tandem? Dahl/Meriweather/Cooper Taylor can be as good or better than that. Can't they? Maybe that's what Reese was thinking all along -- that just about anyone can be better than that.
Which leads use to Antrel Rolle. Leadership, veteran presence, making calls and all of that are important. Really, though, Rolle wasn't very good last season. A -13.9 overall PFF score, a few potential interceptions that slipped through his fingers, a propensity for taking poor angles that led to a -10.5 run grade. You can certainly see why the Giants didn't want to spend big to keep the 32-year-old Rolle.
If you look at Collins as the Rolle replacement, I will go on record right now as saying that the rookie will play better for the Giants than Rolle did last year. And better than Rolle will for the Chicago Bears this season.
Thus, if Collins is better than Rolle and just about anyone is better than what the Giants fielded at the other safety spot last year the Giants pretty much have to be better at safety than they were in 2014. No matter how much of a mess Reese made of getting there.
I think Nick Saban to the Giants won't happen
Yes, as soon as word surfaced that Alabama coach Nick Saban left the NFL coaching ranks with the Miami Dolphins because he didn't have a top-notch quarterback I figured Saban's name would pop up as possible successor to Tom Coughlin. I think Keane was right to lead this morning news roundup with that headline. I also think, though, that if the Giants replace Coughlin at the end of this season I would be stunned/shocked/flabbergasted if Saban becomes the team's next coach.
Let's start with this simple fact. Coughlin is 69, Saban is 63. If you are going to replace one coach partially because of his age, who would you hire another old coach to lead a rebuilding effort?
There are two other reasons why I believe Saban will never coach the Giants -- money and power. To leave Alabama and return to the NFL Saban is going to want a boatload of both, and that is not how the Giants do business. They have paid Coughlin handsomely over the years, but not break-the-bank handsomely. Saban is going to want to break the bank. He is also going to want Bill Belichick/Chip Kelly type power over everything. The Giants have always believed in a division of power -- the coach coaches and the GM, well, he GMs. Sometimes this leads to draft and roster decisions that perhaps one side or the other is not thrilled with. The Giants, though, have won four Super Bowl titles doing it that way. I don't think that structure is going to change.
More likely, if the Giants move on from Coughlin at the end of the year the replacement will be Steve Spagnuolo, Ben McAdoo or another rising star in the coaching ranks of GM Jerry Reese's choosing.
I think I'm tired of openers vs. the Cowboys
I get it. The NFL wants to create premier matchups for the opening weekend of the season, so the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Giants is an obvious, easy game to schedule. This, however, will mark the third time in four years that the Giants have opened the season against Dallas. C'mon, schedule-makers! Can't you think of something else?
Of course, it probably doesn't help that the Giants have lost those previous two season openers. Or that the Giants have lost four straight games to Dallas. Or that this version of the Giants is a work in progress that might not be ready for a critical NFC East matchup right out of the game.
I think I like many of the roster moves
Markus Kuhn aside (I had to get his name in here somewhere), I like many of the roster decisions the Giants made. They finally jettisoned a few players (like Adrien Robinson and Brandon Mosley) who were taking up space but not helping the Giants in any real way. They kept Nikita Whitlock and Uani Unga, two young, hungry players who will help the Giants with attitudes, athleticism and willingness to do whatever is asked. Tom Quinn haters will pooh-pooh the idea, but they made a plethora of moves designed to upgrade the special teams. Bringing in Brad Wing to replace the scuffling Steve Weatherford, adding Dwayne Harris, drafting Geremy Davis, adding guys like Jonathan Casillas and Dahl are among those moves.
Too often in recent years the Giants have put themselves behind the eight-ball, or lost games outright, because of poor special teams play. Personnel-wise, they have made a concerted effort to change that this season.