It is still the middle of March. The ink is barely dry on the four-year contract Jason Pierre-Paul signed. The 2017 NFL Draft is still more than a month away. The New York Giants won’t hold an on-field offseason practice for another two months. They won’t play a regular-season game for nearly six months.
Yet, fans are obsessing. Who is going to be the placekicker? What is going on with the backup cornerbacks? Who is going to take over for Eli Manning at quarterback — three years or so from now? OMG, the Giants can’t be serious about leaving Ereck Flowers at left tackle again? Can they?
Well, they might just be serious about that last one. Because, well, they don’t have a lot of good options right now. Maybe they are able to draft a left tackle. Maybe something unexpected comes along in free agency. We’ll see. Anyway, let’s not get completely sidetracked with a Flowers discussion. This isn’t about that.
It’s about all of those questions. I do my best to offer my thoughts on those via Twitter (@BigBlueView), on our Facebook page via things like live chats and here on the web site via things like the mailbag that was posted Saturday.
I received a question recently, though, that really requires more than a brief mailbag answer. A reader recently sent a long-ish e-mail that basically boiled down to the question “Are the Giants better right now than they were going into 2016?”
The “going into 2016” is really difficult to answer. The way I will look at the question is “are the Giants better now than they were last season?”
I have to qualify the answer because right now the Giants are like an unfinished building, they remain under construction. There will be more roster moves made. The draft is yet to come. It will be a long while before they get on the field, and even longer before we see a game to know how the pieces are coming together.
On virtual Internet paper, which is really what we have to go on at this point, there is reason to believe they are better.
The offense has more pieces
I have concerns about how well Brandon Marshall will fit into the Giants’ locker room. At face value, though, there is no doubt Marshall gives the Giants things on the field that Victor Cruz could not. He is four inches taller, 25 pounds heavier, an,d in the worst season of his career since his rookie year, caught 20 more passes than Cruz last season. He gives the Giants the big outside wide receiver they did not have a year ago.
Larry Donnell is out and Rhett Ellison is in as a tight end/fullback type. Moan about the $8 million guaranteed the Giants gave to a player who has compared himself to Bear Pascoe, but Ellison makes the Giants better. He gives them a lead blocker in the run game they simply did not have a year ago.
The Giants have not made a significant personnel move on the offensive line. D.J. Fluker is in, while Marshall Newhouse is out, which really doesn’t qualify as “signficant.” Fluker is a 26-year-old former first-round pick. Newhouse is a 29-year-old former fifth-round pick and his new team, the Oakland Raiders, are his fourth franchise. We will see what happens, but Fluker would at least appear to have more upside than Newhouse.
Incrementally, the Giants should get better production from Paul Perkins and Sterling Shepard in their second seasons, and Flowers and Bobby Hart should also be better.
JPP is back
The Giants rode a dominant defense to the playoffs in 2016. Throughout the offseason I have maintained that the biggest thing the Giants could do for that defense in 2017 was to keep Jason Pierre-Paul. And, of course, make sure he was happy. They have done that.
Some want to argue that the Giants were fine without Pierre-Paul at the end of the regular season. If you want to believe that the Giants could get the same production from Romeo Okwara, Owa Odighizuwa and Kerry Wynn over the course of a full season that they can get from Pierre-Paul that is your prerogative. But, you’re kidding yourself.
The Giants may or may not lose both defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and linebacker Keenan Robinson in free agency. They are both good players, but neither is nearly as important to the Giants as Pierre-Paul. Both are also much easier to replace.
The McAdoo factor
Ben McAdoo was a rookie head coach in 2016, and the bottom line is that the Giants went 11-5. So, he did pretty well. Still, everyone who watched the Giants has their quibbles with the work he did.
The McAdoo memes started with the over-sized suit he wore to his introductory press conference and ended with even young Giants fans picking on that over-sized play card he kept stuck in front of his face.
You can prepare all you want, but no one knows everything about a job as soon as he or she gets it. Experience is a great teacher. I don’t want to debate what exactly McAdoo should do differently in 2017, but I would think he learned some things from his first season as a head coach. I have to believe he will put those lessons to use in 2017, and be an even better head coach.
There is still a loooooong way to go this offseason. The draft, the later portion of free agency, training camp cuts around the league and injuries — yes, injuries — will impact what the Giants’ roster looks like when the 2017 season starts.
In my view, though, there is reason right now to believe the Giants could field a more complete team next season.