Apparently 'tis the season for meaningless lists and nonsense analysis. Personally, I would have waited until minicamps were over and we were truly into the dog days of summer. Of course, that is just the first disagreement of mine that you'll read here, so settle in, because Chris is going full Raptor.
Monday, Ed let us know that Pro Football Focus is down on the signing of Janoris Jenkins by the New York Giants. Very down, in fact, and they believe that the Giants' signing Jackrabbit Jenkins is one of the worst moves of the offseason. Of course, the stats service was also very down on the Giants' signing of Dwayne Harris, calling it one of the five worst signings of the 2015. However, after a career year in his first real opportunity as a receiver, and finishing as the third best return man -- and first Giant since 1955 to score on both a kick and punt return -- Harris became one of the Giants' most valuable players.
Well, PFF is back, and this time they have partnered with ESPN to rank all 32 NFL rosters, and the Giants come in at a paltry 25th.
25. New York Giants
Top five players: WR Odell Beckham Jr., DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Johnathan Hankins
Starters who should be upgraded: OT Ereck Flowers, OG John Jerry, OT Marshall Newhouse, TE Larry Donnell, DE Devon Kennard, LB Keenan Robinson, S Landon Collins
The Giants are all-in on the 2016 season after the biggest free-agent spending spree in the league earlier this offseason. They have brought in a lot of talent -- and upside -- but the bust potential of this group is high. Last season, Vernon played like a candidate for defensive player of the year in the final eight games of the season, but that stretch is a massive departure from his career baseline. In the first half of last season, he notched only 24 total pressures.
The biggest issue is on the offensive line, however. Flowers, playing on a bad ankle, was a disaster as a rookie on the left side. The ankle may be better heading into 2016, but he remains at left tackle, giving the Giants one of the most worrying pair of tackles in the NFL in Flowers and Newhouse. The two combined to surrender 10 sacks and 120 total pressures last season. For comparison, the entire Dallas O-line allowed just 108.
*rolls neck while cracking knuckles*
Where should I begin? Well, according to "The Sound of Music," the beginning is a very good place, so we'll start there.
First and foremost: How, exactly, can you list the Giants' best players and leave off Eli Manning? I acknowledge that Pro Football Focus is down on Manning -- to the point of their entire quarterback rating system being called into question -- but to say that the two time Super Bowl MVP, who was second in the league in touchdowns, quarterbacking the Giants to the sixth-best scoring offense in the league without a running game to speak of, and generally had one of the best statistical seasons of his career, isn't one of the five best players on your eighth-worst roster?
Well, quite frankly that is just insulting -- especially considering Sam Bradford is mentioned as one of the best players on the Eagles fifth-ranked roster -- and kinda makes me want to call PFF's drug testing policy into question.
I can't really take issue with any of the players they mentioned as the Giants "Five Best Players." There isn't a team in the NFL on which any of those guys likely wouldn't be starters.
Moving on ...
Let's take a look at the "Starters Who Should Be Upgraded."
I'm glad PFF is (finally) admitting that Ereck Flowers played through injuries throughout 2015. He suffered a high ankle sprain in the first week of the season, and then another in the Giants' Week 13 tilt against the New York Jets. Flowers absolutely still needs to improve his technique, but to imply that he isn't an NFL-caliber offensive tackle after a rookie season without two stable ankles, is just a bit absurd. And while I'm here, let's take a minute to look at their comparison with the vaunted Cowboys' offensive line. Yes, the Giants gave up more pressures, but they surrendered fewer sacks, only fourth in the league. That "worrying" tackle combination didn't seem to hold Manning back any.
It's interesting that PFF graded Will Tye as the top rookie tight end in 2015 (after, just half a season starting no less), but listed Larry Donnell as a starter in need of an upgrade. By their own logic, it seems that's already happened.
Next, I'm curious how a newly-arrived free agent who hasn't even won a starting linebacker job can be considered a starter in need of upgrade. I would have at least liked them to mention HOW Robinson got the job, is he one of the best linebackers on the roster and got it by default?
After Robinson, fellow linebacker, Devon Kennard. This is a player that, if we were to lay out the Giants' defensive issues, I doubt the third-year linebacker would be among them. In fact, with a mostly viable (JPP, Johnathan Hankins, Jay Bromley,Kerry Wynn and Damontre Moore) defensive line in front of him in 2014, PFF themselves ranked Kennard as the Giants' "Secret Superstar" and quietly one of their top 4-3 outside linebackers. Perhaps then, Kennard's perceived step back in 2015 had more to do with injuries forcing the Giants' defense to field a defensive line with players like George Selvie, Montori Hughes, Markus Kuhn, and Wynn in starters' roles.
And that, really, brings me to my main point, and it's one that Pro Football Focus can't seem to bring themselves to make: We just don't know how good, or bad, the Giants' roster is.
I'm not going to argue that they're world beaters, though in my view they have more talent at the top of their roster than many would (apparently) like to admit. What I am saying is that thanks to the prolonged plague of injuries, we can't say how good, or bad, many of the Giants' players are. Too many of them have been on the trainers' table of late to make an accurate evaluation.
However, to argue an injured rookie can't play better with a year of experience and two healthy ankles, or that Eli Manning doesn't deserve to be mentioned as one of the (if not the) most talented Giants, is just silliness. And while PFF acknowledges that the Giants added quite a bit of talent in the offseason, they seem to err to the side of those highly-rated players busting now that they're Giants.
Elsewhere in the NFL, PFF has the Eagles ranked fifth ("Sam Bradford played pretty well"), the Dallas Cowboys are 12th, despite holes in their starting secondary and defensive line, and the Washington Redskins are 21st, just ahead of the Giants.