As much as I have been trying to avoid the end of summer, my fantasy football draft was yesterday. This signifies that the Summer, the beginning of fall and, best of all, the start of New York Giants Football! The Giants had a very disappointing season in 2013, finishing at 7-9, third in the division and out of the playoffs for the second straight year. They have definitely re-tooled a bit, and seem ready to improve on their declining record over the last couple of seasons.
First of all, the Giants will have a brand new offense this season. Most of the cast of characters is returning, but long time offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride retired (thank God), and the Giants hired Ben McAdoo (pictured above) as the new offensive coordinator. McAdoo had been a Tight Ends and Quarterbacks coach with the Green Bay Packers, where he’d been for the last eight seasons. The first thing McAdoo did was to throw out Gilbride’s playbook (which it seems involved running for two yards and then having Eli throw passes to the other team), and change the Giants’ style to a type of adapted West Coast Offense. Now, the West Coast Offense involves a lot of three and five step drops with short passes to receivers, tight ends, running backs and the like. Eli Manning isn’t exactly built for that type of system, so it seems we’ll be seeing a lot of the same drop back deep ball passing that Eli has been known for over the last ten years. The offense will definitely be a work in progress for a while, which is a bit scary to think about. I guess We’ll see. Anyway, let’s break down the roster and see what we might be able to expect.
No real surprises here. Eli Manning will be returning for his eleventh year as a Giant, and his tenth as the team’s number one signal caller. Eli is coming off of his worst season as an every-week starter. He completed only 57.5% of his 551 passes (his worst percentage since 2007) for 3,818 yards (his worst since 2008), and only managed 18 Touchdowns to go along with his league-worst 27 interceptions. It’s not like Eli hasn’t led the league in picks before (20 in 2007 and 25 in 2010), but he hadn’t thrown more INT’s than TD’s since his rookie season. Other than in the first game, Eli hasn’t looked particularly good this pre-season, completing only 48.8% of his passes for 188 yards and a TD in his five appearances. Hey, at least he didn’t throw any interceptions! I don’t put too much stock in preseason numbers, but the Giants need to know if last year was a fluke, or if their franchise QB is beginning the down turn of his career. A good pre-season showing would have eased some fears.
If Eli does falter, or gets injured, then QB duties could end up falling to Ryan Nassib. Nassib beat out Curtis Painter, Josh Freeman and other losers to win the battle for the Giants’ backup QB position by putting up 588 yards and 5 TD’s while seeing the bulk of the snaps in the Giants’ five games. It will be interesting to see how Eli fares, and whether or not Nassib will get a chance to make a name for himself in the regular season.
To put it bluntly, last year’s running backs situation was an absolute god damn mess. Andre Brown broke his leg again. David Wilson got hurt and eventually had to retire due to a spinal condition. Da’Rel Scott and Michael Cox had their turns at the job and failed miserably, so the Giants were forced to sign Peyton Hillis, who was coaching a high school team somewhere at the time, and they also had to bring back Brandon Jacobs, who had one good game, got hurt and has since retired. Needless to say, I was really hoping they would address this during the off-season.
They kept Peyton Hillis, which I don’t mind because he’s tough, and everyone loves a white running back. If all goes well, Hillis won’t be getting in on too many downs, but he’s a good goal line guy who can grind out big yards when you need it. I’m hoping the bulk of the snaps will go to the two new Giants’ running backs, Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams (pictured). Jennings was signed as a free agent from the Oakland Raiders, where he played well last season, rushing for 733 yards and 6 TD’s in eight starts while filling in for an injured (again) Darren McFadden. The scouting report is pretty simple for Jennings. He’s a guy that’s going to run where the blockers are. He’s not flashy, but, at 6’1″ and 235 lbs, he’s solid and gets the job done. He’s also only lost one fumble in his career, which makes him better than a lot of last year’s options already. Jennings seems to have taken well to the starting role, as he led the team in rushing this pre-season, picking up 212 yards and averaging an impressive 6.1 yards per carry. He also scored a TD.
We did a profile on Williams when the Giants drafted him out of Boston College in the fourth round of this year’s draft. At 5’11” and 230 lbs, Jennings has the size and power to really help this team. At BC, Williams nearly won the Heisman Trophy in his senior year. He became just the 16th player to ever rush for 2,000 yards in an NCAA season, racking up 2,177 yards and 18 TDs in 13 games for the Eagles. Being a graduate of BC, Williams obviously holds a special place in my fandom heart, and I hope he can translate his college success to NFL glory. In the pre-season, he rushed for 195 yards and 2 scores, averaging a solid 5.1 yards per carry. The Giants have announced that, at least to start the year, Williams will take a backseat to Jennings, but it’s nice to know the Giants have a good option if Jennings falters or gets injured.
Oh yes. and don’t forget Fullback Henry Hynoski, like I did while writing this section of the post. The Giants rarely use the Fullback, so all Hynoski has to do is block guys and not screw up. He’s been pretty good at that over the last three seasons, so there’s no reason to think he won’t do a decent job there again this year.
I’m convinced that one of the main reasons Eli was so bad last year, was that nobody other than Victor Cruz really proved themselves to be a major weapon for him to throw the ball to. Cruz ended up only playing in 14 games (12 starts) last year due to injuries, but he still caught 73 passes for 998 yards. However, he only managed 4 TD’s. Hakeem Nicks was brutal, catching only 56 balls for 896 yards and no TD’s. That’s right, zero touchdowns. None. Zilch. Nada. He contributed zero points to the offense. Thankfully, he’s gone now, off to Indianapolis to not catch Touchdowns from my fantasy football QB Andrew Luck. The Giants will look for Rueben Randle to step it up this year and probably take over the second receiver slot. Last year, with Nicks struggling, Randle got some better looks, catching 41 passes for 611 yards and 6 scores. He should hopefully improve on that this year.
The G-Men are also hoping that first round draft pick Odell Beckham, Jr. (pictured) will be able to provide a huge boost to this offense. We also profiled Beckham just after the draft, and you can read that here. Beckham hasn’t really played or practiced much this pre-season because of a frustrating hamstring injury, so it will be interesting to see what he can contribute as he starts to get his NFL legs under him. Coming out of LSU, he was viewed as a pretty polished wide receiver with game changing type speed that should help on the receiving corps, as well as possibly on punt returns. Think of him as a DeSean Jackson type. Here’s hoping he can get on the field and show us what he’s got to offer, and soon.
The other receivers on the roster are Jerrel Jernigan, Preston Parker and Corey Washington. We’ve known Jernigan for a while, as this will be his fourth year on Big Blue. He caught a career high 29 passes for 329 yards and 2 TDs last year, and the speedy receiver should help ease the pain of Beckham’s hamstringed (see what I did there?) development. Parker joins the Giants after three years in Tampa Bay, but there isn’t much to say about him. Last year, he only caught 2 balls all season. The really intriguing guy is Corey Washington. Washington, an un-drafted free agent out of Division II Newberry College, led the Giants in receptions (10), yards (155) and TD’s (4) this preseason, which helped him sneak onto the team–at least as well as a 6’4″, 214 lb guy can sneak anywhere. His height brings back memories of Plaxico Burress, and could make him a huge red zone threat for Manning. Watch for him to catch a few scores this year.
Sorry everyone, Mario Manningham, who hasn’t really played for two years, somehow didn’t make the team. The dream of resurrecting the “Manning to Manningham” connection is officially dead. Maybe Corey Washington will make the next ridiculous fourth quarter Super Bowl winning catch on a desperation throw from Eli.
Tight End is a bit tricky, because no one I’ve ever really heard of, or have any confidence in, is anywhere near the depth chart. That could be very troublesome, especially in a West Coast, short pass based offense where a Tight End might be needed to catch a lot of Eli’s passes. That being said, one of Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells and Adrien Robinson might step up and grab the bull by the horns, so to speak. Donnell (pictured), a third year Giant from Grambling State who caught 3 passes for 31 yards last year, is currently listed at the top of the depth chart. Fells, a five year veteran out of UC-Davis who did not play in the NFL last year, is technically next in line. He had 41 catches in 2010, so he’s got that going for him… which is nice. Finally, there’s Robinson, a third year man out of Cincinnati who has played three career games on special teams and never caught a pass from Eli, or any other Giants QB. So, to be clear, these three men have caught three combined passes since 2012. Scared yet? Well, I try to view it this way: there’s an opportunity available for someone to make a name for themselves. Someone’s got to take it… Don’t they? I guess there’s always the waiver wire? Ahoo.
Let’s face it: there aren’t any stats I could give you to really express how good or bad the Giants linemen have been in the past, or will be in the future–at least no stats anyone not on the sidelines can really understand. Let’s go through the depth chart, shall we? We do know one thing, and that’s that former Guard, and knocker-upper of the coach’s daughter, Chris Snee has retired. Also, the Giants signed Geoff Schwartz to tighten up the offensive line this off-season, but he’s now injured and won’t be with the team until midway through the year… great.
The starting tackles, according to the latest unofficial depth chart released by the Giants, are set to be Will Beatty, a sixth year man out of UConn (I loved him in Bulworth) and second year man out of Syracuse Justin Pugh. Pugh, pictured above, was a first round pick last year, and I know the Giants are expecting big things from him. The Guards will be second round pick out of Colorado State Weston Richburg (filling in for Schwartz) and, according to the depth chart, Brandon Mosley, a third year man out of Auburn. Mosley is still also listed on the injury report with a back problem, however, which probably means we’ll see John Jerry, whom the Giants signed from the Miami Dolphins this off-season, starting in Week 1. Finally, the man handing Eli the ball oh so close to his own buttocks will be Center J.D. Walton, a fourth year pro out of Baylor, whom the Giants also picked up this off-season. The backups, in no particular order, will be Charles Brown (T), Dallas Reynolds (G) and James Brewer (T). You’ll probably see a few of those guys play all over the line as needed throughout the course of the season.
The offense is run through the offensive line. The Giants again have a lot of new faces that need to learn to play together in order to succeed, which seems like the case every year. If this group gels well, they should be talented enough to open up holes for the running backs and give Eli time to run the new offense. If not, then we’re all in a lot of trouble. The Giants had a terrible offense last year, and they can’t afford for that to be the case again.
The Giants need Eli Manning to have a bounce-back season. They have improved the running game immensely, and I’m really looking forward to what Jennings, Williams and even Hillis can contribute on the ground, but the fact remains that if Eli has another year like he did in 2013, this team is not going to succeed. I’m happy with the addition of Beckham, Jr, and excited to see if Randle and Jernigan can continue their development. The Tight End situation could be a huge mess, but I’m always optimistic that someone will step up. It’s all about the Offensive Line though. A good line can make up for shortcomings in other areas, and the Giants are going to need their line to stabilize the team. I’m a bit weary heading into this season, especially with everyone trying to adapt to McAdoo’s new system, but, like any good Giants fan, I’m hoping for the best.
Featured image courtesy of: Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News
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