Not many pundits predicted the New York Giants’ would end their five-year playoff drought under rookie head coach Ben McAdoo in 2016. From that standpoint, although they were eliminated in the wild-card round by the Green Bay Packers, there’s much to be excited about as Big Blue looks toward the future.
McAdoo did acknowledge the Giants’ progress in winning 11-games, their highest total since 2008, but he spent much of his season-ending press conference Monday focused on where they can improve.
“11 wins, tough to get in this league. We didn't reach our goal that we talked about as a team, we're all disappointed,” he said. “I feel that we built a solid foundation for the future and made progress towards our goal. We have a bad taste in our mouth right now but that's got to fuel us moving forward.”
McAdoo wants to see a large part of that team progression come from the Giants’ 2016 rookies, particularly Eli Apple, Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins.
“The young guys really worked hard at developing throughout the course of the season. At the end of the year we got a lot out of them and that's encouraging moving forward,” McAdoo continued. “At the same point in time, they need to take a big jump from year one to year two, there needs to be a big jump there. We can't have any sophomore slumps.”
The Giants got big contributions from all three last season, and each figures to take on more prominent roles next year. Perkins supplanted Rashad Jennings as the starter at running back late in the year. He finished his rookie campaign with 615 total yards on 127 touches (112 rushing, 15 receiving).
Apple had an up-and-down year which was generally more up than down. He also had the benefit of easing into the Giants’ secondary behind All-Pro cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Shepard doesn’t have the same luxury, with Victor Cruz’s future with the team in question. Shepard is Eli Manning's most targeted receiver, after Odell Beckham Jr., and could be an even bigger part of the offense without Cruz.
Check out a few more takeaways from McAdoo’s last media session of the season.
On whether or not he expected the Giants’ defense to play as well as it did ...
“I think defensively, like we said early in the season, we acquired some talent through free agency and acquired some young guys through the draft. When you have a chance to hit on talent, you always don't know what you're getting until they get into the building. So I think we added talented men of character and that's the biggest thing, guys who enjoyed seeing everyone else in the room having success, everyone else on the defense having success and not being selfish so everything fit together.”
On where he sees Eli Manning today, and going forward at 36 years-old ...
“Eli, to me, was moving better in the pocket than he has since I got here. He threw with tremendous zip all season. He had a couple come out funny, but a lot of guys do in weather games. I thought yesterday he was stroking the ball pretty good. The go route had nice depth to it and he fit a couple nice shots in there yesterday. The post was nice, throwing catch with him and Tavarres King, so I thought he was throwing the ball well, I thought he was moving in the pocket well, thought he played well. ... I don't see anything from this year that says he can't play at a high level.”
On Jason Pierre-Paul’s free agent status ...
“We haven't even had a chance to sit down and talk about much of anything yet. JPP is a tremendous player, great talent, can rush the quarterback. Anytime you can rush the quarterback or cover somebody on defense, you're a valuable asset and we'll take a look at that and talk about that here shortly. ... Do I want him back, JPP is a heck of player. He makes a lot of things easier on defense, sure.”
On whether or not Victor Cruz will be back with the Giants next season ...
“Victor Cruz, staying healthy is obviously encouraging. We'll sit down, we'll have discussions with Victor like we do with all of our players. I'm confident in Victor, absolutely. I want them all back! I like them all.”
On how to move forward with LT Ereck Flowers ...
“We're going to go take a look at all of our personnel and our schemes and we're going to evaluate everything, put it all out there on the table and see what we have to do to get better. It's a little early right now to say what direction we need to go or where we're going to go. Competition is always good. ... I saw a guy who's learning to trust his technique. With young players, the way they come into league now, you have to take a leap of faith with their technique as far as the bending, keeping your elbows tight and striking with your hands and pass protection. Finishing the way you're capable of finishing, those are the things that need to improve.”
On fixing the offense ...
“We felt that we had the talent and the coaching in the scheme this year to have a better year than we had. We obviously fell short from an offensive prospective. We need to go back and take a look at the film, do the scheme evaluation, do the personnel evaluations and look at everything that's involved. I need to take a good look at everything and see where we can get better.”