I am sure you have heard the excuse a million times by now. If games ended in the middle of the fourth quarter the Giants would have been closer to 10-6 than 6-10, even in last second finishes, the Giants had a handful of losses. The reality is they lost every close game. They had a poor roster, it was mangled by injury early and often, and they had struggles with their coaching (clearly in the late game situations). The Giants didn’t beat a team that finished with a winning record since week 3, when they beat 9-7 Washington at home. Sure, the Giants are a candidate to be better next year, but there are no awards for losing close to the good teams, and in losing their last three games giving up 35 or more in each of them shows you where the team was heading into the off season. While their high clearly had to be beating Washington at home, three weeks later their low came on the road, in the division when the Philadelphia Eagles embarrassed their offense as Eli Manning threw for 189 yards and 2 interceptions in a 27-7 loss to push them back to 3-3.
As mentioned, it was time to shake things up in New York. Tom Coughlin has been in New York long enough that he should have been able to leave on his terms, but for the club to grow they needed to push him out. The problem that I see is that in pushing him out to grow, they assumed everyone else was doing just fine. Promoting their offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo isn’t the craziest thing (the Bucs did the exact same thing this year). It is the fact that no other position from the front office to the coaching staff saw turnover. Coughlin only coaches what he has to work with, and aside from a few strong first round picks, the Giants have butchered their last few drafts, and Jerry Reese the GM should have been on a much hotter seat than Coughlin this year. Steve Spagnuolo was dealt a bad hand with the Giants defensive roster, as well as the Jason Pierre-Paul incident, but still the defense was not the most well coached. He will get another year to try to build up this unit and everyone will move on, of course except Coughlin.
The biggest reason why it is hard to knock the Ben McAdoo promotion is the work he has done with Eli Manning. Manning has always had his ups and downs, but when McAdoo took over, Manning had a 18:27 TD:INT ratio. In the first year of the offense he improved to 30:14 and even improved off of that last year with a 35:14 ratio. In the two years Manning has set career highs in touchdowns, yards and completion percentage. Crazily like a couple other teams picking in the top ten, the Giants are another that has the biggest problem resolved and that is having a quarterback. We have seen nothing out of Ryan Nassib, and at this point he is still a huge wild card, but based on pre season play and pre draft reports his career is in line with a career backup.
Running back play
The Giants, despite finishing tied for 30th in rushing touchdowns weren’t the awful rushing team that many had them out to be. The problem mainly was that Andre Williams was getting carries. Of Giants players to carry the ball 30 times or more this season he is the only one out of Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa and himself to not have a four yard per carry rate. In fact, he brought the crew all the way down with his 2.9 yards per carry rate, awful by almost any account. Williams wasted 88 carries this year typically running into the backs of his lineman. What it mainly did was throw lead back, Jennings out of any groove he could have tried to get in. Jennings averaged 4.4 yards per touch, but only in two games late in the year did he get 20 carries. Other than the fact that Williams is on a rookie deal, and Darkwa would have to be brought back on the minimum, it would be a disappointment if Williams is still in the Giants plans moving forward.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
In year two of Odell Beckham he proved that the hype was real, and can be considered an elite wide receiver moving forward. While he continued to shine, most teams knew that aside from his strongest punch, that was typically all the Giants were getting in the passing game. Shane Vereen was the team’s second leading receiver. Vereen just so happens to be a running back. In the running back section when three guys were mentioned sharing a backfield, and Vereen has to be thrown in, it becomes crowded. Vereen also has 81 targets to 61 rushes, so it is safe to say the defense could get a suspicion for what the play call is when he is on the field. Moving forward it will be interesting how they can use Vereen more in the pass game while keeping the defense honest to the run. Ruben Randle despite playing the primary number two wide receiver position had two less targets than Vereen and nine less receptions. Ruben Randle is a guy I like to compare to Dwayne Bowe in career arch. Both former LSU Tigers, it is becoming sad to say but Bowe may even finish with a higher peak than Randle, who is slowly becoming a waste of talent. Randle is a free agent, and it would be a major surprise to see him back in New York. Perhaps the change of scenery can get him to playing to the level many anticipated for him. To add to the fact that they have little to throw beside Beckham, is the fact that currently nine million dollars is being invested in what should be beside him in Victor Cruz. It is tough to knock Cruz, who is now over a year removed from a debilitating injury, but the Giants have to question if anything, what they will get in 2016. Cruz is only 29, but would be a prime restructure candidate to bring down his cap number, and to find someone in case he is a shell of his former self (very possible). Without restructure it would be obvious the Giants would have to cut him and essentially start over at receiver depth behind Beckham.
Aside from needing to start over, the Giants also currently don’t have a tight end who caught a pass in 2015 signed. Between Daniel Fells, Larry Donnell,Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham, the Giants got 85 catches, 826 yards, and and 5 touchdowns. Pretty solid stat line, mainly coming from Fells and Donnell, but the direction the Giants go moving forward will be key to watch. All four can come back cheap, but the Giants could certainly want to move on given that Fells led the team with seven starts this year.
The Giants offensive line played a bit over their heads considering the buzz about them before the season. That is mainly because of the pleasant surprise that Ereck Flowers looks like a player as a rookie at left tackle. The team lost Will Beatty for the season in training camp and for Flowers to get tossed in with little notice showed toughness. Beatty is now back, but also is one of the highest paid players and may be looking to restructure or hit the open market. Geoff Schwartz can play RT or guard leaving the Giants in a versatile situation that gives them most of the leverage to deal with Beatty. With Justin Pugh and John Jerry being the potential guards and both being free agents after this year it wouldn’t be a bad idea to resign Beatty, move him to the right side and have be deep at guard for a season while deciding if either Jerry or Pugh is worth bringing back.
The defensive line is about as unclear as much of the offense when looking to the future. They currently have Cullen Jenkins, Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, and George Selvie all unsigned leaving the underrated Kerry Wynn and rookie unknown Owa Odigizuwa. Clearly they will have to bring someone back or defensive end is going to be a major problem moving forward. Unfortunately, Pierre-Paul is the only one with luster, and the others would only be signed as depth consideration. For a team that won Super Bowls with guys like Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan, you would have to assume this is now a potential pressing need.
This doesn’t even bring into the fact that only one defensive tackle is currently signed. If the team does move on from Beatty and Cruz they have a ton of money, however with all of these holes, the question is do they patch holes with replacement level names who know the scheme, do they shoot for the draft and a major rebuild, or do they splurge to win now? I would assume it is a bit of patchwork, and major draft pressure on Reese.
At linebacker Devon Kennard flashed at times and has to be the high point of the front seven when looking forward right now. Jonathan Casillas and Jasper Brinkley had solid years by most accounts but both, like almost everyone on this team is a replacement level player, is a free agent and doesn’t really need to be brought back. However, with needs everywhere else, to bring these two back and to cut Jon Beason is more than likely the way to save money at linebacker. Beason, one of the highest paid players on the team has started eight games in two years and will save the Giants five million dollars when they let him go this offseason. With Kennard, JT Thomas and Uani Unga signed bringing back those two would push the need to linebacker back at least for a year or two, and the Giants can sprinkle the five million across the roster elsewhere.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie quietly had a nice 2015 campaign. He’ll get caught cheating here and there, but he loves setting quarterbacks up for traps, and he is quite successful at luring them in to slap it away. In an amazing turn of events he is actually signed to a deal outside of his rookie one. In DRC fashion, I lured you into thinking the Giants handled this position well, but in reality aside from DRC the Giants have no one signed. They also don’t need to bring any of them back. They probably will bring back at least Jayron Hosley. Prince Amakumara should test the market, and it leaves the Giants, like virtually every other position with major questions, with even bigger questions on how to fill it. At safety, Landon Collins is in his rookie contract, and what do you know no one else is signed back there. Collins spent his rookie year playing the position that doesn’t suit his skill set, and the hope will be that he will be playing in the box in 2016 and the Giants should be searching for a center fielder in free agency.
Where do they go?
How Jerry Reese survived over Tom Coughlin is perplexing. Reese did draft Beckham, Flowers,and Pierre-Paul but the last five years have left the team with absolutely no in house talent, and you have to wonder how long you can hang your hat on Odell Beckham. The Giants need to look in the mirror and decide what they want to be. Decide on the running style, decide who your tight end is, decide if anyone will be targeted beside Beckham this year. Oh, and do it with a defense that has about three guys currently signed with major starting experience. The Giants need to rebuild, and I am unsure if they are and will go about it the right way.