Let's use today's edition of "Five things I think I think" to look at the five areas on the New York Giants roster I believe are the most pressing ones general manager Jerry Reese and new head coach Ben McAdoo have to address.
Let's start with this. Let's please stop the "let's make Landon Collins a linebacker" stuff. Yes, the Giants need linebackers. In case you hadn't noticed, though, they need safeties, too, and right now Collins is the only one they have. I know Deone Buccanon is playing linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals, but not every safety his size can do that or should be used that way. How about just find a free safety to go with Collins and let him be what he is -- a downhill guy who can really play the run and might be a good cover guy in the short areas. Get him an Earl Thomas type and he might be Kam Chancellor. What's wrong with that? Besides, extra defensive backs are used so often that a strong safety like Collins is already somewhat of a hybrid. Leave him alone.
The question is do the Giants have the answer at the other safety spots on the roster? Craig Dahl, Brandon Meriweather, and -- sorry, Coop fans -- Cooper Taylor are not the answer. Maybe someone in the IR brigade of Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson, and Mykkele Thompson will be, but how would we know?
It would behoove the Giants to use some of their free-agent money to find an experienced, rangy free safety. Failing that, to use an early-round draft pick on one.
The Giants are, sadly, bankrupt at defensive end. They have two guys, the try-hard but really not that effective Kerry Wynn and second-year man Owamagbe Odighizuwa -- under contract at the position. They had hoped Damontre Moore would be a star by now. Instead, he's in Miami trying to salvage his career. They have huge free-agent decisions to make on Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers. Should they bring back JPP? How much is he worth? Will he ever be able to fully use that right hand again? What about Ayers? Good player, not close to a great one and now on the wrong side of 30. Can you give him a mega-contract? Can you afford not to give him a mega-contract considering the lack of options at the position?
The Giants finished the season with 23 sacks, 30th in the league, largely because they didn't get enough production from their defensive ends. This from a team that has a history of incredible defensive end play that includes Michael Strahan, Leonard Marshall, George Martin, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. It wasn't that long ago that the Giants had so many defensive ends they stuck Mathias Kiwanuka -- entering his prime -- at linebacker just to get him on the field. Now? They have, basically, nothing.
Everybody knows someone like this. The guy who drives around the neighborhood picking up things other people throw out. Or, the guy who drives the 15-year-old pickup truck with 250,000 miles on it, who spends his life at the junkyard finding scrap parts to make the old beater keep on truckin'. You know, and he knows, that it will never be as good as new but as long as it's running, what the heck. That's good enough. Only, it doesn't always run.
That, in a nutshell, has been the Giants approach to the linebacker position for, oh, maybe the last 30 years or so. This nonsense has got to stop. Watch teams run at will on the Giants. Watch them throw to the tight end, or anywhere in the middle of the field whenever they feel like they need a play, and it's so obvious that it's painful to have to even continue to discuss it year after year. Linebacker play is absolutely destroying the Giants' defense.
Will this FINALLY be the year Reese stops bargain-hunting, stops throwing Band-Aids at a geyser and actually does something substantive in an effort to find a lasting solution to the Giants' linebacker travesty?
Has anyone been watching the playoffs, watching Ryan Shazier of the Pittsburgh Steelers or Jamie Collins of the New England Patriots and wondering "when will the Giants get a linebacker like that?" I know I have.
Yes, it is now time to recite the sad history of the way the Giants have treated the linebacker position. Carl Banks, a great player and good friend of Big Blue View, remains the last linebacker the Giants used a first-round pick on. That was 1984 -- 32 years ago. The last real impact linebacker the Giants drafted was Jessie Armstead. Back in 1993, he was selected in a round of the draft that doesn't event exist anymore -- Round 8. The Giants used a second-round pick on a linebacker in 2009, but stuck a square peg in a round hole by drafting a 3-4 defensive end in Clint Sintim and trying to make him a 4-3 strong side linebacker. Didn't work.
The Giants have continually taken late-round fliers on linebackers in the draft and tried to patch together a decent group by picking up leftovers other teams no longer wanted. Whether it's via the draft or free agency it's time to make this position a priority. The Giants won't put together a consistent championship-caliber defense until they do.
The Giants' offense over the past two seasons has too often been Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr., followed by more Manning to Beckham, followed by even more Manning to Beckham. When the Giants faced the Minnesota Vikings this season without Beckham we saw that they basically had little hope of completing a meaningful pass to a wide receiver without Beckham. That has to change.
The Giants might give him another chance, but to my eyes 2012 second-round pick Rueben Randle has worn out his welcome. He will always be an enigma, a guy who looks like he doesn't always try and who should be better than he is. The Giants may or may not have Victor Cruz back next season, though what's left of Cruz after two years away we have no idea. There's Dwayne Harris, too, but really not much else after that.
The Giants need more playmakers on offense, period. I think they have them at running back if they use that group properly. They may also have one at tight end in Will Tye though that position could use supplementing. They need at least one more playmaker at wide receiver. They don't have a true second option at that spot. They need to get one.
The Giants have three young building blocks who should be foundations of their offensive line for years to come -- Weston Richburg, Justin Pugh, and Ereck Flowers. And no, I don't care a lick about Flowers' Pro Football Focus grades. He was a rookie thrust into an undesirable situation who showed extraordinary toughness playing much of the season on one good leg. I think his attitude and work ethic make him a guy you want to build around.
Beyond that, nothing but questions. Do the Giants keep Geoff Schwartz after two wasted seasons? They are not going to pay Will Beatty $9.175 million next season, which is what he is scheduled to make. Will Beatty take a pay cut to play right tackle, or hit the free-agent market hoping for a left tackle payday? My guess? Beatty's out the door.
What about young guys like Bobby Hart or Brett Jones? Can either of them help? Do they draft a right tackle? Sign one via free agency? The Giants have been trying to fix their offensive line for years. They will still be trying to do so this offseason.