“I think our offense is broken,” Mara said. “We need to improve on the offensive side. To me, that is the No. 1 personnel priority going into the offseason is we need improve the offensive line. My biggest concern coming into the year was if our offensive line could stay healthy. We were never able to protect Eli or get our ground game going well enough.” – John Mara December 31st, 2013
The writing was on the wall long before John Mara spoke about the disappointing Giants 2013 season. The offense was in shambles; the offensive line was old, hurt and bad. Eli was hit and under pressure more than he has ever been. His interceptions were up and touchdowns were down. The running game became a who’s who of former starter’s and the wide receivers struggled making basic reads, getting separation and ultimately holding onto the ball. The defense was resilient this year. Struggling with injuries and poor performance from some the defense was still able to perform well and frequently kept the struggling offense in the game.
When the ax came out it wasn’t shocking to hear Gilbride’s name called. Gilbride stated his head wasn’t in the game anymore. With his wife living in Rhode Island for the past four years he spent a majority of the year in a hotel or at the Giants facility. The time for change was here and he agreed it was time for him to walk away from the game and retire. Long time assistants Mike Pope, one of the longest tenured coaches, and Gerald Ingram were let go shortly after the New Year. Ingram was frequently shown on TV always talking to Jacobs trying to calm him down and get his head into the game. Perhaps it was the disastrous season Brandon Meyer’s had that put the cross hairs on Mike Pope but whatever the reason neither are included in the future plans for the New York Giants.
The Giants approach to the 2014 free agency market can best be described as uncharacteristic. The Giants went out and made some splashes. Some signing were bigger than others with some more important than others. Naturally with the good came the unfortunate. There were many signings that grabbed newspaper headlines and two of the three in particular that I feel were the biggest yet not the ones that caused the biggest splash. I don’t feel like the Giants honestly made moves to fix the woes of the offensive line; they addressed the issues but I believe they still should go offensive line round one of this May’s draft.
Let’s take a look at what the Giants have done so far and discuss what they might be doing in May.
Gildbride out McAdoo in: This isn’t Bill Sheridan again is it?
This is Ben McAdoo’s first play calling position. He is a disciple of Mike McCarthy working as an assistant with him in Green bay and San Francisco. He is young, 36, offensive minded with years of experience under McCarthy who incorporates parts of the west coast system into the classic smash mouth grind style football. McAdoo’s youth and creativeness is his greatest attribute. After 10-years of the same coordinator and system Manning has to be excited for a new outlook and strategy on offense.
Ingram out Johnson in: QB coach is now the Running back coach?
Craig Johnson is a long tenured quarterback coach who spent last season with the Vikings and the prior 10-years with the Titans. There are many questions why TC signed off on this hiring considering Johnson is a seasoned quarterback coach and not running back coach. I think TC understands the leadership Johnson brings to team. While with the Titans he was quarterback coach but also assistant head coach and then running backs coach in 2010. With an OC with no experience calling plays Johnson brings some veteran leadership that can help McAdoo with play calling and assist Manning as well.
Mike Pope to the Cowboys and a whole bunch of smaller moves to replace Pope:
The 71 year old long time tight end coach Mike Pope was let go after the Giants announced the hiring of McAdoo. Since then McAdoo hasn’t hired a new tight end coach as far as I have read. This position will change greatly for the Giants. The Gilbride system benefited the tight end as check down for Eli where McAdoo comes from the Mike McCarthy’s west coast style offense where the tight end is a primary. It will be interesting to see what the Giants will do in replacing the bust Meyers next season.
Every mock draft I see that doesn’t have the Giants taking a young offensive lineman in the first round simply incites me. As shown at the end the Giants were unconventionally busy this free agent season with many moves on the offensive line. But with such talent coming out of this year’s draft on the offensive line if Reese drafts anything but an O-lineman I will be flabbergasted. The offensive line was a travesty last year. They’re old, injured, young and terrible all at once. I’ve shown this flow chart once if I showed it hundred times this season; bad offensive lines leads to bad quarterback play especially under the Gildbride system.
The Giants spent money during this year’s free agency season on several offensive lineman which made sense but some of the contracts left you scratching you head.
- C J.D. Walton; Only 27 years old but he hasn’t practiced or played in a game since the fourth week of 2012. He was cut from the Bronco’s, picked up by the Redskins, never touched a field and then the Giants paid him $3mm guaranteed.
- G Geoff Schwartz was a solid versatile pickup from the Panthers. Also 27 where he’ll fit in will be decided during camp. $6.2mm guaranteed he has to be an immediate impact player.
- OL John Jerry comes to the Giants on a one year contract from the Dolphins. If Jerry can make the team and be impactful even as a backup he will be a great value find by Reese. Jerry is 27 but a little bigger than most of their lineman weighing at 335. He has a weight clause in his contract.
- OT Charles Brown is another value signing by Reese. Expected to step up if Beatty isn’t ready by the start of the season Brown was a second round bust drafted by the Saints. Hopefully a new system and team brings back the skills he showcased while at USC.
With one solid offensive lineman signing how can they not go lineman in the first round. Especially with rookie contracts levels capped bringing in young talent makes the most sense to me. The Giants can win when Eli plays as bad as he did last year (2007 stat line is very similar and they won the Super Bowl) but if Eli goes down from a hit the Giants chances of winning drop tremendously.
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Why will the Giants start camp with five quarterbacks?
Clearly Eli is the starter and will be the starter for the foreseeable future but perhaps the Giants are seeing that quality backups are now a priority in the new NFL. Though Manning is the longest tenured starter in the NFL if for some unfortunate reason he goes down (see offensive line plea up top) having a qualified back up is vital. Ask the Browns, Vikings, Titans, Bills, Raiders, Bears, Packers, Jaguars, Steelers, Redskins, Eagles, Texans and Cowboys.
With the resigning of Painter you assumed the Giants were going to let Nassib compete against the veteran backup to get off the practice squad and onto the 53-man roster. But then they signed Josh Freeman a 26-year old former first round draft pick who has true potential. Tall, strong and experienced what does this signing mean? Is Painter or Nassib dead man walking? Did the Giants streak of burning draft picks on bust quarterbacks continue or what? The Giants also signed Rusty Smith an undrafted free agent to the team as well. So there are a lot of unknowns for the #2 QB spot on the depth chart.
The three most impactful free agent signings
The Giants spent a lot time working out and signing offensive linemen this past free agent season but they also made three impactful signings on defense and offense. I personally think the signing of Rasheed Jennings is going to payoff huge for the GMEN. Jennings has young legs even though he’s been in the league for five years. He spent his first four in Jacksonville backing up Maurice Jones-Drew and then signed with the Raiders last season as a backup for Darren McFadden. After McFadden got injured Jennings stepped up big showing his strength and speed in his violent style of running. Going into camp I think it’s safe to say he is the number 1 RB on the depth chart. Considering the money the Giants paid for Rasheed he could be a great value signing IF all goes well.
On the other side of the ball the Giants signed a gaudy contract with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC has been a ball hawk since his rookie season in 2008 with the Cardinals. After three years in Tempe he played two in Philadelphia and played last season with the Bronco’s before signing with the Giants. Only in 2011 did DRC not have a single interception (career avg. 3 per season). The closest the Giants have come to a lock down quarter was the 2011 play of Cory Webster but even that is a stretch. If Reese can continue his streak of turning off field issue players into legitimate stars then the addition of Walter Thurmond from Seattle as a third corner back will only benefit players like DRC. If DRC plays to his potential and the safeties can stay healthy this will be the first time in many seasons the Giants secondary is a legitimate threat. Great coverage leads to coverage sacks and given Fewell’s love for the nickel package defense combined with movement, stunts and speed the big blue wrecking crew has a chance to terrorize the league once again.
A quite signing that didn’t garner as much attention as the signing of DRC was the addition of Jameel McCalain from the Baltimore Ravens. McClain has been playing inside LB in the Raven’s 3-4 since joining the team as an unsigned free agent out of Syracuse. He had a rough 2013 coming off the PUP list to start the season and the Giants were quick to pick him up during free agency. He brings a physical, fast and attacking style that the Ravens are known for at the line backing position that the Giants lack. McClain will replace Rivers who signed with the Bills as an outside linebacker in Fewell’s 4-3 style of defense. With the addition of DRC in the secondary and the linebacker core of Beason, McClain & Paysinger the Giants have on a paper a dangerous looking defensive backfield.
I know Giant fans are spiteful towards Reese for letting Justin Tuck walk. Tuck had a huge season but after learning the hard way with Osi, Jerry was smart in letting Tuck walk. If he wanted to remain a Giant he had to be willing to do so at a much lower salary. This is not baseball with monopoly money; the NFL is a salary cap league and “veteran” friendly contracts like Jeter received from the Yankees don’t exist.
As I mentioned above I honestly believe and would like to see the Giants to select a quality offensive linemen in the first round of this year’s draft. They signed several younger linemen during free agency but only Schwartz is game proven and ready to start. The Giants haven’t drafted this early in the first round since 2004 when they drafted Philip Rivers who was subsequently traded to San Diego for Eli Manning. Reese went offensive line last year with Pugh in an effort to bring youth onto the offensive line. Removing his learning curve Pugh did okay for his rookie year. It’s tough to be good when the veterans next to you are terrible. With the 12th pick in this year’s draft I believe the Giants should go offensive line once again. If any of the below are available (Jake Matthews has been mentioned as the most likely candidate) Reese should pull the trigger.
- Greg Robinson OT Auburn r So 6-5 332
- Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M Sr 6-6 308
- Taylor Lewan OT Michigan Sr 6-7 309
- Cyrus Kouandjio OT Alabama Jr 6-7 322
- Morgan Moses OT Virginia Sr 6-6 314
- JaWuan James OT Tennessee Sr 6-6 311
- Cameron Fleming OT Stanford Jr 6-5 323
There has been a lot of talk of the Giants not going offensive linemen but rather Tight End or wide receiver in the first round; Specifically Eric Ebron from North Carolina and Mike Evans from Texas A&M. With a new offensive coordinator Ben McAddo, a coordinator out of the Mike McCarthy school of West Coast interpreted style of offense; I understand the idea of selecting a tight end or wide receiver (a.k.a. best on the board) but don’t agree with it. Take a quick look at the Packers over the past five years and you’ll see that their tight end(s) are primary targets like their receivers but you’ll also note none of their “Stars” came out of the first round. Their offense made household names out of Finely (3rd round) Nelson (2nd Round), Jones (3rd Round), Boykin (undrafted) and Cobb (2nd Round) which unless you’re a Packer fan you had no clue who they were. Given the track record of success the Packer have had at tight ends & wide receivers I can’t justify using a number one draft pick on either position especially at receiver when the Giants have Cruz and Randle.
I honestly believe the Giants have put together a team that after the training camp cuts can be one of the most improved teams in the league. They addressed major issues on defense and began the process of fixing the offensive line through free agency. With seven draft picks in this year’s draft (12th in 1st round) the Giants have plenty of opportunity to bring in some young talent to find answers for many of their problems…i.e. Offensive line. As a fan I’m excited for the new season and what T.C. can do with this team especially what the offense will look like under McAdoo.
I definitely wanted to write more but between keeping it from becoming a dissertation and the fact I’m having surgery today I hope the final product was insightful and draws out comments from those who are reading it.
New York Giants 2014 Free Agent Signings:
- S Stevie Brown
- K Josh Brown
- RB Rashad Jennings
- G Geoff Schwartz
- RB Peyton Hillis
- QB Curtis Painter
- C J.D. Walton
- CB Trumaine McBride
- FB Henry Hynoski
- LB Jon Beason
- LB Jameel McClain
- S Quintin Demps
- CB Walter Thurmond
- CB Rodgers-Cromartie
- LB Spencer Paysinger
- KR Trindon Holliday
- WR Mario Manningham
- OL John Jerry
- DT Mike Patterson
- CB Zack Bowman
- OT Charles Brown
- DE Robert Ayers
- TE Kellen Davis
- WR Travis Harvey
- QB Josh Freeman
- QB Rusty Smith
Let’s Go BLUE!