While the New York Giants are on their summer prep-cation we will use the “Five Thing I Think I Think” forum each Tuesday to examine the Giants in different ways. Today, five things we really could not learn in the spring.
Are Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart Really Better?
Giants coaches and players have been beating an optimistic drum when it comes to offensive tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart. Their less-than-desirable play a year ago unquestionable hampered the Giants on offense, but we’ve heard again and again about their youth, offseason dedication and improved conditioning.
Media, including yours truly, has been able to see first-hand that both guys are in outstanding physical condition. Both also appear optimistic about the upcoming season. Will that translate to playing better? Spring practices in shorts and t-shirts shows us little to nothing about whether or not an offensive lineman can truly block someone.
Even Flowers admitted as much.
“I have gotten better, but then again, we're not in pads so it's not real. When it's in the game, that’s when you really see the difference,” he said at the end of mandatory mini-camp. “I think I've been getting better at hand placement. Then again, we're out here with no pads, just helmet, and jersey. You're just working, but it's not the real thing yet.”
Will Their Running Game Be Improved?
The Giants moved on from veteran running back Rashad Jennings, handing the starting job to the younger and more elusive Paul Perkins. They have Shane Vereen back, and added rookie Wayne Gallman to the mix. They added a blocking tight end/H Back in Rhett Ellison. They are toying with the idea of keeping a true fullback, something they did not have a year ago. They have a couple of bigger bodies on the outside in wide receiver Brandon Marshall and hybrid tight end Evan Engram, who should help the run blocking out by the numbers or up the field.
Again, spring practices are non-contact workouts in shorts and t-shirts. Little to nothing can be gleaned about the success or failure of the running game. The Giants were 29th in rushing yards per game last season and 30th in rushing yards per play. We won’t know if the changes they have made will truly impact that part of their offense until the running game faces real regular-season tests.
Can They Trust Aldrick Rosas?
We learned in the spring that Aldrick Rosas has a really strong leg, and that the Giants really like the 22-year-old.
“Aldrick has done well. He's really progressed from when we first put hands on him and started working with him. He's gotten better every day, so that's really been encouraging. He’s been consistent,” special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said during mini-camp. “Very coachable. Very strong leg, and he's had good accuracy this spring.”
Still, with games on the line can the Giants really trust a kid who kicked collegiately at Southern Oregon University in the NAIA and has never kicked in an NFL regular-season game?
Rosas went 4-for-4 on extra points and made his only field-goal attempt during the 2016 preseason with the Tennessee Titans. The question of whether or not the Giants can trust him, though, is one that can’t be answered until Rosas faces pressure kicks in game situations.
Do They Need More Help at Cornerback?
The Giants have a Big Three at cornerback as good as any team in the league with Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple. What they have behind them, though, is anybody’s guess. Valentino Blake is a five-year veteran. In his only season as a starter, 2015, he broke Pro Football Focus records for yards allowed in coverage (1,074) and missed tackles (28). That’s not good. This film review from SB Nation’s Behind The Steel Curtain won’t make you feel any better. Michael Hunter had an impressive spring and appears improved, but that can’t completely erase the fact that the Giants found him wanting and sent him back to the practice squad after two games last season. Donte Deayon is easy to root for, but he still weighs no more than 165 pounds soaking wet and has to prove with pads on that he can overcome that physical disadvantage. Mykkele Thompson is trying to transition to corner after two years lost to leg injuries.
Maybe the answers are in-house, but right now the spring still leaves more questions than answers.
How Will The Pieces Fit Together On Offense?
The Giants got a couple of brief glimpses of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram on the field together during mandatory mini-camp, but that’s not enough to tell us how the re-configured offense is going to work.
What role will Rhett Ellison, who missed the offseason work with a calf injury, have? Will the Giants keep a fullback? Who will really shine and who might see his production take a hit with all of the options Eli Manning has at his disposal? Will the play of the offensive tackles improve?
Ultimately, will all of those new pieces fit together and make the Giants a more productive offense?
“You know we didn’t score enough points last year, everyone knows that,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said during mini-camp.
The Giants have added pieces with the potential to remedy that situation. How well they come together and whether or not they ultimately accomplish that is something we won’t know for a while.