Training camp begins in slightly more than a week for the New York Giants. With that in mind, let’s go through “Five things I think I think” about the offseason the Giants have had, and what they might mean for the team’s fortunes in 2016.
I think the air has been freshened
I will be the first one to admit that I think Tom Coughlin got the short end of the stick from the Giants at the end of last season. It’s an old argument, but I will always believe the cumulative failures by the Giants the last four seasons were more about talent — a distinct lack of it on the roster — than about coaching.
That said, the Giants made a decision and it appears to be working so far. One thing was certain at the end of last season — something dramatic had to be done. Here, in my view, is the biggest thing the change to Ben McAdoo as head coach has accomplished thus far. It has changed the vibe, freshened the air, if you will, around the entire organization.
The losing, three years of it, had gotten old. The arguing about who to blame had gotten old. The Band-Aid changes each year had gotten old. Arguing about Coughlin vs. Jerry Reese had gotten old. Maybe the Giants were stuck in the past, a past that was getting mustier and mustier with each losing season.
There was a different feeling, a different energy around the Giants in the spring. The air was fresh. It was new. They are, finally, looking to the future rather than trying to re-create the past.
I think they vastly improved the defense
The Giants made three expensive moves in free agency, and on paper each made the defense better. On paper, Janoris Jenkins is better than Prince Amukamara, Olivier Vernon is better than Robert Ayers and Damon “Snacks” Harrison is several light years better than Markus Kuhn or an aging Cullen Jenkins.
Eli Apple should be an upgrade over Trumaine McBride and Jayron Hosley, and I only use the word “should” because we haven’t seen him in a game yet. If he isn’t, that’s an issue. B.J. Goodson gives the Giants a potential middle linebacker of the future, and while there aren’t any obvious impact players at least there are more options at linebacker. At safety, whether it’s Darian Thompson or Nat Berhe starting next to Landon Collins, that has to be better than Brandon Meriweather or Craig Dahl.
Reality is, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo never had a chance last year. Unless Jason Pierre-Paul turned the clock back to 2011 and Jon Beason found the fountain of youth, the unit he was handed was never going to be anything other than awful. We know what happened.
This year, Spags and the defense have a chance. Maybe not to be dominant, that might be expecting too much. But, to be competitive.
I think they cleaned out the closet
The Giants’ locker room the past few season was not full of malcontents, that’s not what this section is about. It was, however, full of too many players who couldn’t help them, either because they were too old, too injured, too disinterested, or some combination of all three.
Jon Beason, Geoff Schwartz, Prince Amukamara, Cullen Jenkins, Rueben Randle and Will Beatty all fit into at least one of those categories — some fit into more than one. I will let you figure out for yourselves who belongs in what category. Fact is, though, the Giants were counting on too many guys to play key roles who couldn’t be counted on.
Finally, the Giants have moved on. In some cases, obviously, it cost the Giants an extraordinary amount of money, but it had to be done.
I think they set up a competitive training camp
Well, you say, every training camp is competitive. That’s true. There is always competition for jobs. Too many times in recent years, though, the players they had competing were, to be kind, less than desirable.
In recent years, how many players cut by the Giants have gone on to succeed with other teams? Give up yet? The answer is, not many. That, friends, is the rest of the league telling the Giants they didn’t think much of their players.
This time around, I think that is going to be different. The Giants have more NFL-caliber players than they can possibly keep at running back, tight end, wide receiver and linebacker. Yes, linebacker. Some of the players they cut will likely become useful parts for other teams. There are exciting young players competing for roster spots at safety, corner and the defensive line. So, real competition among real players deserving of being on NFL rosters. That’s different.
I think the tackle situation remains the biggest problem
Geez, Ed, it sure took a lot of research to figure this one out. This is the one place where the Giants have done virtually nothing, where the status quo from 2015 remains in place. And it remains a huge gamble.
At the risk of arguing against myself, since I have pointed out in the past that the Giants did well offensively a year ago despite the less-than-stellar play of their offensive tackles, I’m going to argue against myself.
Sure, the Giants finished sixth in scoring (26.3 points per game) and eight in total yards. But, they couldn’t run the ball when they needed to run it. They also had to rely on the quick-throw because Ereck Flowers and Marshall Newhouse couldn’t hold up long enough to give Eli Manning opportunities down the field.
The Giants, as of now, are gambling that Flowers improves enough that they can feel reasonably comfortable leaving him out there on an island against the league’s better pass rushers. That, in turn, would allow them to give Newhouse more help.
I love Flowers’ athleticism and demeanor, and you can count me as optimistic that he will get better. If he doesn’t, and if the Giants struggle to block rushers off the edge, the offense won’t reach its full potential. And the Giants won’t win as many games as they could.