With the New York Giants having completed their offseason program, and with what GM Dave Gettleman calls the “roster-building season” long over, our last “round table” question asks Big Blue View contributors which offseason player acquisition (free agent or draft pick) they believe is the most important.
I think this is a toss-up because there are a couple of guys you can point to — guard Kevin Zeitler, safety Antoine Bethea, safety Jabrill Peppers and rookie defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence.
My vote goes to Bethea. Having seen him in action and having spoken with him, he reminds me of Deion Grant, another veteran safety whom the Giants acquired in free agency that proved to be well worth his weight in gold during that 2011 championship season.
I think given his experience, not just in James Bettcher’s system but throughout his career, Bethea is going to be an excellent addition to that locker room. We didn’t see many coverage breakdowns with him back there — pretty impressive given how this is a rebuilt defense — and he was also spotted coaching the younger players up.
We’ll see what happens, of course, but based on what I saw in the spring, I feel bullish on the decision to add Bethea to the mix.
My pick has to be Kevin Zeitler. In the lowest points of the 2018 season, the reoccurring theme was always poor offensive line play. From Ereck Flowers tripping defenders to the constant shuffling of lineman, so many headaches were caused by below average, bottom tier blocking. History has shown us that no team can be successful without a strong and consistent offensive line.
While Jamon Brown was a decent addition midway through last year, he was not a long-term answer at right guard. Zeitler, however, can be an anchor for this offensive line.
A guard like Zeitler can help set the tone for the rest of his line mates, and establish a new mentality for the season. His veteran presence is very important for this young team, but it also helps he’s a top 10 player at his position.
Zeitler is the embodiment of this new and improved offensive line. Over the next few seasons, this line will open up huge holes for Barkley and protect whoever is dropping back behind center.
If we’re being honest, the only answer here is Daniel Jones. Regardless of how anyone felt about him as a prospect, he is now the most important player -- person -- to join the Giants in the last year. As a quarterback picked sixth overall, he is expected to be the face of the franchise and win games, division titles, and perhaps even championships for the team. But the weight of responsibility is even more than that: Daniel Jones holds Dave Gettleman’s legacy, the jobs of Pat Shurmur, James Bettcher, Mike Shula, and countless other coaches, scouts, and players who could be fired if he fails and ownership decides to clean house again. With not just the fortunes of the team riding on him but people’s livelihoods, it doesn’t get much more important than that.
However, I’m going to cheat slightly and go with the new acquisition who might be the most important this year and say Jabrill Peppers.
Peppers could well be the centerpiece of the Giant’s revamped defense in 2019. Peppers was largely used as a linebacker safety hybrid last year in Cleveland and has already mentioned that he will be playing a variety of roles for the Giants’ defense in 2019. In talking with Mark for our latest podcast, it occurred to me that the Giants could be interested in adopting something like Iowa State’s “3-3-3” Air Raid Killer defense on certain downs and distances. If so, having a player with experience at both linebacker and defensive back would be important.
The Giants will also likely be leaning in to their blitz packages to generate a pass rush. Peppers was one of the most frequently blitzed safeties in the league last year, and that is likely to continue going forward. It is entirely likely that Peppers willingness to play a hybrid role and experience as a blitzer were as much a part of the Giants’ demand to include him in The Trade with Cleveland as how much he impressed Bettcher and Gettleman during the draft process.
That makes him pretty freakin’ important, on a number of levels.
In the biggest sense, the answer is Daniel Jones. His performance over the next two to three seasons is what will be the most important for how the Giants are set up for the future. If he’s good, the Giants can build around him and really start the “building” process they’ve been pushing. If he’s below average, few of the other acquisitions are going to matter.
But in the more immediate sense, it’s Jabrill Peppers. There are so many layers to what makes Peppers so important for 2019 and beyond. First, the way he was acquired. He was the big get in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. That has to matter. He’s also filling the role of Landon Collins. That has to matter, too. That potential moneybacker/safety role is going to be key in how the rest of the defense can be deployed. The linebackers aren’t great and the cornerbacks are young outside of Janoris Jenkins. If Peppers is excellent helping out both groups, the rest of the defense can look the way James Bettcher hopes it will. But if he can’t handle the role, it’s a burden on the entire defense.
Since his acquisition, the Giants have heaped nothing but praise onto Peppers and the player they believe he can be. For the defense to be successful, Peppers has to be that player. Statistically he was similar to Collins in 2018, but when looking deeper into the play, Peppers struggled a lot with tight ends in man coverage while a lot of Collins’s “faults” were making up for mistakes of others. The hope, of course, is that the Giants can get something out of Peppers that Gregg Williams and the Browns couldn’t over his first two seasons. He’s also one degree of separation away from two of the Giants’ biggest and most controversial roster moves this offseason. Peppers play is connected to the success of the defense and shapes how successful the trade of Beckham and the non-committal strategy for Collins will be remember. For a non-quarterback, stakes couldn’t be much higher for all involved.
Daniel Jones is the obvious choice. When a team uses the sixth overall draft pick on a quarterback that tells us that New York views Jones as their long-term franchise quarterback. And in the NFL, there is nothing more important than that.
But I am going to stray from the obvious and say Kevin Zeitler. A top 10 guard in this league and an even higher ranked pass blocker, adding Zeitler should go a very long way to creating an environment for this offense, namely Jones, to succeed in 2019. Up front, New York isn’t super strong at center or right tackle, but they do now have what should be an outstanding pair of guards. Picking a guard for this honor is certainly unorthodox, but the ripple affect of the Zeitler acquisition could have major ramifications.
For me, this one is easy. The most important acquisition for the franchise this offseason is quarterback Daniel Jones. Obviously, I’m looking at this as a “big picture” question and not just a 2019 question.
How can the answer not be Jones? There are other players like Kevin Zeitler, Jabrill Peppers or Golden Tate who will likely have a bigger 2019 impact. There are none, though, who will have a larger impact on the long-term future of the Giants.
When Dave Gettleman was hired as GM, it was understood that the biggest decision he would have to make would be to identify and acquire the player he believed would be the next franchise quarterback when the time came to move on from Eli Manning.
Gettleman has now done that, and the success or failure of the Jones’ pick will chart the course of the franchise for the next five to 10 years, perhaps longer. So, in my mind Jones is not only the most important acquisition of this offseason. Drafting him No. 6 overall is likely the most consequential decision Gettleman will ever make.
Which player was the most important acquisition by the Giants this offseason?
This poll is closed