Yes, it's that time again. For the fifth year in a row, I'm back and I'm ready to fix the New York Giants. The Giants underwent a tremendous amount of turnover over the past year and have had an infusion of young, in-their-prime talent that has transformed the team from an aging, decaying squad of 2013-2015 into a new, possibly playoff caliber team led by a vicious defense.
That means that the core of the team, the foundation on which any football team is built on, is strong. It's one that is a far cry from what it was one year ago. With a couple strong drafts in a row, and with what looks like a very smart spending spree, Jerry Reese has locked in a powerful core, especially on defense. Glaring holes still exist, and they really are a reason why the team still looks like it's struggling, but certainly headed in the right direction.
How do I define what my core is? That's simple. I have a tried and true (well, not really sure if "true," per say, but it works for me) formula for defining what the foundation of a team is. I've got three simple rules:
1) Must be under the age of 30 unless working as a special teams specialist. Your core must be young.
2) Must be under contract for the 2017 season at least. You can't be a core player if you aren't going to be on the team. The only exceptions are recently called up practice squad players that can be easily retained.
3) Must show upside and should not be overpaid. This is all subjective, and a player can be handsomely paid, but they need to prove worthy of a contract or at the very least show upside that in the future they can possibly uphold that contract.
Youth. Upside. Under Contract. With that being said, let's define our core:
Ereck Flowers, Bobby Hart, Paul Perkins, Jerell Adams, Roger Lewis, Sterling Shepard, Odell Beckham Jr., Brett Jones, Weston Richburg, Will Tye, Justin Pugh, Shane Vereen, Eli Manning*
Eli Apple, Romeo Okwara, Landon Collins, B.J. Goodson, Andrew Adams, Darian Thompson, Owa Odighizuwa, Devon Kennard, Nat Berhe, Kerry Wynn, Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Robert Thomas, Janoris Jenkins, Jonathan Casillas, Trevin Wade
There are some good names up there. Noticeably missing are Jason Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins, the two stalwarts becoming free agents next year. Jay Bromley, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Larry Donnell are missing. Their arc is trending down. Bromley's snaps have been cut back in favor of Robert Thomas (who takes his place up there). Larry Donnell has been outright benched in favor of Jerell Adams. DRC is 30. Dwayne Harris doesn't make it because this year, he has violated rule 3. He's been on the down slope on special teams this year.
Even though Manning is well past the age of 30, quarterbacks will always (and probably unfairly) be the exception to every rule. Given that the team goes the way Manning goes on a given Sunday, to exclude him from a post about the team's core is...well...wrong.
Not all of this core are starting players, but they all include players who could (and should) have a role somewhere. They could be part-time fill ins, they could have starting upside. They could simply be waiting in the wings for someone else above them to get hurt. They form the nucleus of this team.
This is a far cry from last year and this team is quite talented. But again, easy to see the holes. This team still needs a bit of work, and in the next parts of this series, we're going to examine exactly where this help could come from.
Next Time: We take a look at the veterans on the team. It's time to make some decisions about who stays and who goes.