New general manager Dave Gettleman has been busy re-constructing the 3-13 New York Giants this offseason, work he calls “a brick-by-brick deal.” He has done a lot, conducting a draft that has drawn praise and adding several useful pieces (or bricks) via free agency.
The work is, however, never done. In the building an NFL roster there are always bricks missing, or ones that need to be replaced. What is the biggest hole remaining on the roster for the 2018 Giants?
Our writers offer their opinions below. Vote in the poll at the end of the post to offer yours.
What is the Giants’ biggest hole yet to fill? I’ve got it down to a pair of finalists: Punter and cornerback. Right tackle and wide receiver could be concerns as well, but they might also be fine depending on how well Chad Wheeler plays and how the offense is schemed.
Punter, and special teams in general, are issues that fans seldom think about unless they are actively hurting the team. But they are responsible for quite a bit of hidden yardage and can be a tremendous advantage for the defense. The Giants released punter Brad Wing after a down season, trading for Broncos punter Riley Dixon. Whether that is an upgrade, a step back, or a lateral move remains to be seen, but punters are people too and a reliable punter is of understated importance to the team.
However, the biggest need is one the Giants have created all on their own, and that is the cornerback position.
The Giants had one of the most feared secondaries in the NFL heading into the 2017 season, but injuries and locker room dysfunction turned it into something of a joke. While Janoris Jenkins should be healthy after playing on an injured ankle in 2017 and Eli Apple will hopefully be able to build on a promising rookie season with renewed trust in the coaching staff, there isn’t much behind them. The Giants released Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie after he refused to take a pay cut after agreeing to move from cornerback to safety, and allowed Ross Cockrell to leave via free agency. Both moves are understandable in their own contexts -- the Giants needed cap room and Cockrell isn’t a great fit for James Bettcher’s aggressive man-coverage defensive scheme. However, their departures did create a hole in the roster, and it’s a hole that Dave Gettleman hasn’t rushed to fill. The Giants have added plenty of bodies to the secondary, signing long-time veteran William Gay, Curtis Riley, B.W. Webb, Michael Thomas, C.J. Goodwin, and Orion Stewart thus in free agency. How many of them are viable players is completely unknown Gay has been a solid player in the NFL, but at 33 years old, relying on the 11-year veteran is a chancy prospect at best.
Given the importance of nickel sets in the modern NFL, and the rate of attrition in secondaries in general, the lack of a reliable starting slot corner and depth behind Jenkins and Apple has to be a major concern.
There is still more league-wide roster churn to go between now and opening weekend, and the Giants might yet acquire a player to fill the void(s) by snapping up a late cut or making a trade.
It’s cornerback, easily. It’s hard to imagine how there’s confidence in any cornerback on the roster outside of Janoris Jenkins as the depth chart stands right now. It’s one thing to give Eli Apple a clean slate, but it’s another to roll him out as the No. 2 corner again. Apple was 69th of 81 qualified cornerbacks in Success Rate per Sports Info Solutions charting form Football Outsiders last season and he was 79th of 84 in 2016. The top corners in Success Rate those two seasons? Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (2016) and Ross Cockrell (2017), two players who are no longer on the roster. Last season the Giants were also the worst team in the league defending against No. 2 wide receivers, per DVOA, and 20th defending the pass overall.
One thing that eluded James Bettcher in his time as defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals was a solid outside corner to play opposite Patrick Peterson. But even with that missing piece, the Cardinals had good to great players in the slot with the likes of Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker. The Giants don’t even have that. The Giants brought in some outside slot options, but right now those are William Gay, who played just 27 percent of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps last season as the Steelers’ dime corner, Curtis Riley, who played 14 percent of Tennessee’s defensive snaps mostly at safety, and B.W. Webb, who didn’t appear in a 2017 game.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of the team’s undrafted free agents — Penn State’s Grant Haley or Georgia’s Aaron Davis — to not only make the team, but start in the slot at some point this season.
My pick is offensive tackle. Even if Ereck Flowers somehow comes to his senses and reports to the team to compete for the starting right tackle spot — and I’m not counting on that — the Giants are still thin at that spot.
Right now, if we assume Flowers isn’t with this team, one of Chad Wheeler or Adam Bisnowaty figures to be the front-runner for the starting job (barring a future acquisition, that is).
If the Giants don’t get another guy who can backup at both tackle spots, we could be looking at another O-line shuffle necessitating moving multiple guys around rather than a simple plug-and-play scenario.
With all that said, I suspect that Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur are hoping to either find someone in the undrafted free agent pool—Nebraska’s Nick Gates could be someone to watch in that regard—or perhaps the Giants might be on extra alert for a veteran swing tackle to shake free from another team’s roster.
Cornerback. I have always been a big believer that a team can never have enough quality cornerbacks, and right now I’m not even sure the Giants have two reliable ones. Eli Apple is a huge question mark after last season. Janoris Jenkins is extremely talented, but he’s coming off an injury and a season marred by a suspension. Can anyone really be certain the Giants are going to get quality play from either of them? I’m not.
Beyond them? The Giants parted ways with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and lost Ross Cockrell. They have taken a volume or “throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and hope something sticks” approach to filling their shoes. I’m not sure any of the guys they have added — William Gay, B.W, Webb, Curtis Riley, Teddy Williams, C.J. Goodwin, Orion Stewart — are really guys you want playing significant roles.
Maybe an undrafted player like Grant Haley of Penn State or Aaron Davis of Georgia will be the solution. Maybe, though, they went undrafted for a reason.
I always caution that you can’t fix every hole a team has in one offseason. The Giants have questions in several places — offensive tackle, wide receiver, pass rusher among them.
The thing I am most concerned about, though, is cornerback. I’m just not sure the Giants have enough quality at that spot.
What is the Giants’ biggest remaining need for 2018?
This poll is closed