After a resurgent 2016 season that saw the New York Giants return to their roots of winning through dominant defense, fans of the team — not to mention the team itself — is rightfully excited about their prospects going forward.
Outside of Eli Manning, Zak DeOssie (LS), John Jerry (RG), and Brandon Marshall (WR), the Giants’ roster is either young players, or veterans in the prime of their careers.
After three straight losing seasons, the Giants were suddenly back with an 11-win season, finishing second in the division and sweeping the division champion Dallas Cowboys. It would seem that in a short span of time Jerry Reese did a spectacular job of not just reloading, but rebuilding the Giant’s roster.
Well, of course there are always dissenters, and this time it is Pro Football Focus.
They have ranked each of the 32 rosters from best to worst according to their own metrics. Unsurprisingly, they have the Dallas Cowboys rated as the seventh best roster, and have the Giants smack dab in the middle as the No. 16 roster. One spot above them are the Philadelphia Eagles at 15th overall, and one spot below the Giants are the Washington Redskins at 17th overall.
Lets take a closer look at the Giants and Eagles and see just how PFF arrived at their rankings.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Biggest strength: Brandon Graham generates more pressure than almost every other edge rusher in the league, though he doesn't always convert those pressures into sacks. He produced 83 total pressures in 2016, trailing only Khalil Mack.
Biggest weakness: Cornerback is a glaring weakness, with much expected of third-round rookie Rasul Douglas. The Eagles are also hoping second-rounder Sidney Jones can recover from his pre-draft Achilles injury and contribute in 2017. Jalen Mills is likely to start again, but the 2016 seventh-round pick allowed 63.7 percent of the passes thrown his way to be caught last season.
By the numbers: Over the first five weeks of the 2016 season, rookie Carson Wentz was the second-highest-graded quarterback, trailing only Derek Carr. From Week 6 onward, however, he ranked 30th. He had a 32.8 passer rating when under pressure in 2016.
16. New York Giants
Biggest strength: Landon Collins had a breakout 2016 after switching to strong safety and was a Defensive Player of the Year contender. He had 46 defensive stops in the regular season, eight more than any other safety.
Biggest weakness: Both offensive tackle spots were major problems for the Giants last season. Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart combined to allow 105 total pressures. While Eli Manning had a down 2016 season, the Giants need to improve his pass protection dramatically if he wants to rebound this season.
By the numbers: Manning's box-score stats look fine, but his PFF grade of 53.0 was the lowest of his career since his rookie year and ranked 27th overall. His 71.7 adjusted completion percentage ranked 23rd.
There’s a lot going on there, so let’s sort this out by position.
Okay, yes. Compared to his seasons in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015 Eli Manning had a down year. But PFF wants us to believe that he was worse last year than when he lead the league in interceptions in 2013.
Manning lead Wentz in yards, touchdowns, touchdown to interception ratio, completion percentage, sack rate, and overall quarterback rating. All while playing in a painfully predictable offense limited by the available talent. In the final game of the year, a frigid night in Green Bay, Eli was the best player on the field for either team despite being let down again and again by his receivers. Let’s see what he does with an offense that can actually be multiple and doesn’t rely on Manning threading the needle on short passes and hoping Odell Beckham can make magic happen.
Edge - Giants
The Giants were hit by injuries to Justin Pugh (who PFF themselves rated as the top LG in the league before his knee sprain) and Weston Richburg (who was arguably the best center in the league in 2015), but even so, the Eagles take this one. The Giants are counting heavily on the development of Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart. The strategy paid off handsomely a year ago with the safety position, they can only hope it does so again with the offensive tackles.
Edge - Eagles
This one isn’t even close. Zach Ertz is good, and might be better than what the Giants field at tight end. Engram and Ellison are unknowns in the Giants’ offense at this point, and we don’t yet know what the Giants may get from Jerell Adams or Matt LaCosse.
But really, that’s not what we need to talk about here.
I’m going to use this section to address the lunacy, nay blasphemy, of rating Odell Beckham Jr. as “Good”.
How in the actual hell is he not the highest rated offensive player on either team? Seriously, look at the scores. Pro Football Focus rates Nigel Bradham as roughly equal to OBJ. On their two starting rosters, they have 9 players ranked higher, six of whom are Eagles. The only player who I might argue was better than Beckham was Landon Collins.
Have we all become so intensely jaded to Beckham’s greatness that even though he produces plays like this (follow link if embed doesn’t show) with regularity, they’re nothing special?
Go home, PFF, you’re drunk.
Edge - Giants
This is actually an interesting battle. Blount did lead the league in touchdowns last year, and Darren Sproles is infuriating as a runner and a receiver. However, Blount has also generally failed to live up to the heights he shows as a New England Patriot when he is on teams that aren’t the Patriots.
On the flip side, Paul Perkins has emerged as a starter and was an exciting player in his limited reps. The Giants will be getting Shane Vereen back, and he should still be one of the top pass catching running backs in the league.
Given how quickly a running back can plunge off a cliff, I think I’d take the younger duo. But I can also see how someone else would rather have a longer track record.
Edge - Push
The Eagles certainly have a talented defensive line, nobody can take that away from them. It’s interesting that they have Brandon Graham graded with an “Elite” 93.3 (the highest grade on either team), but Olivier Vernon (86.1) beat him out in tackles, sacks, and total pressures by their own count.
Graham was more efficient, and garnered similar stats with far fewer snaps, and that certainly counts for something, but 7 whole points better?
Despite having his season cut short by injury, PFF graded Jason Pierre-Paul as their 15th best edge rusher (Vernon was 14th). On the inside, Damon Harrison is likely underrated by PFF, given that the site themselves credit him with more run stops than any other team’s duo of defensive tackles. While Big Snacks doesn’t give the pass rush stats that Fletcher Cox does, Cox also doesn’t come close to being as good as what he does best as Harrison is.
Considering both are rookies, we’ll leave both Derek Barnett and Dalvin Tomlinson off to the side for this year. I like both and they both should be players sooner rather than later.
Edge - Giants
I think it says all it really needs to that Giants fans can breathe a sigh of relief that their linebackers are competent. There should still be hope that Devon Kennard will regain the form he had from his rookie season, and that B.J. Goodson will emerge as Jon Goff or Antonio Pierce 2.0 and be a steal. I would like to note that watching the games, Keenan Robinson’s 44.5 grade just doesn’t jive with his play on the field. He might not have been great, but he wasn’t the liability he was graded as.
But all that being said, the Eagles’ linebackers are better.
Edge - Eagles
Is this even a question?
The trio of Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie might well be the best starting group of cornerbacks in the game. Likewise, Landon Collins had a Defensive Player of The Year caliber season.
The Eagles’ secondary pales in comparison.
Oh, and while I’m here, it seems just a bit disingenuous to put Darian Thompson as the starter when Andrew Adams is the incumbent. Adams, by the way, got PFF’s second-highest grade for a rookie safety with a 79.4.
Adams is the starter until Darian Thompson beats him out, so why not use him, PFF?
Edge - Giants