This post will guide you through the roster upheaval the New York Football Giants went through in turning the page from a dismal 2013 season to what has the potential to be a very promising 2014 campaign, at least on paper.
Last year’s Giants team had high hopes leading into the season and a veteran squad of proven winners on the roster. However, after a dreadful 0-6 start, the G-Men could not dig themselves out of the huge hole they put themselves in and even though they played well down the stretch, it wasn’t enough to overtake a weak NFC East.
**In Reese We Trust**
This saying took on a new meaning coming into this season as the Giants said goodbye to former champions and hello to a new wave of young veteran players who are sure to, with the help of a promising draft class, have a chance to come together and surprise a lot of people this season, much like they did in 2007 and 2011.
To list all 36 free agent signings would be a bi toot much, so we'll cover a couple of key ones who should play a big role with the Giants this season.
**Stevie Brown – Safety**
– Brown was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2013 after tearing the ACL in his left knee in the preseason. Brown returns to a Perry Fewell's scheme he thrived in two seasons ago, when he was able to use his great anticipation/ball hawking skills to lead the Giants in interceptions (8) in 2012. Brown will play free safety for the Giants as he recently proclaimed himself “100%” and ready to go for camp.
**Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – Cornerback**
- When motivated and focused, he is one of the better cover corners in the NFL and, according to Tom Coughlin, he’ll draw opposing teams’ #1 wide receivers all year long. Having up and coming corner Prince Amukamara on the other side and old friend Antrel Rolle (who played a big role in recruiting DRC) in his ear to keep him engaged and motivated, should mean nothing but positives for this secondary.
**Geoff Schwartz – Guard** -
Schwartz has excellent size and can maul people as a run blocker, and he is very solid in pass protection as well. Schwartz is versatile and he is able to play guard or right tackle. The signing of Schwartz should go a long way in repairing a unit that struggled last year.
**Rashad Jennings – RB**
– In 2013, for the lowly Raiders, he started eight games and rushed for 733 yards and six touchdowns on 163 carries (4.5 yards per carry). He also caught 36 passes for 292 yards. Jennings is a big, physical, no-nonsense back who can punish defenders. He’s a north-south runner who does his best work between-the-tackles or off tackle. He is good in pass protection and only has lost one fumble in his career.
**Robert Ayers – DE**> – Ayers has good size for a defensive end and is a decent run defender. Ayers can move inside in pass rush situations and he has experience playing in a 2-point stance given his experience at linebacker. Ayers, who finished one spot behind Justin Tuck according to PFF’s defensive end rankings, will attempt to replace Tuck this season, and can benefit from more playing time instead of being a part of the rotation the Broncos had him playing in.
Other Notable Additions – Quintin Demps, Safety – Walter Thurmond, CB – Jameel McClain, LB – Mario Manningham, WR – Trindon Holliday – WR/Kick Returner
**Round 1 — Odell Beckham Jr., WR** —Beckham lacks classic size, but he is a well-built receiver with the speed, quickness, agility, and acceleration to separate and threaten defenses vertically. He has an explosive element to his game. Beckham has long arms and big hands, giving him a very good catch radius. Beckham runs very good routes, adjusts well to the football in the air, and has good hands catching the ball though he is guilty of an occasional drop. He is extremely elusive and dangerous with the football in his hands after the catch.
**Round 2 – Weston Richburg, C**
– Richburg was a four-year starter at Colorado State. Richburg combines decent size with very good overall athleticism for a center. Good pass protector who has the size and strength to anchor against big tackles and the feet and balance to keep up with quick rushers. Richburg lacks ideal power as a run blocker, but he plays with very good leverage and tenacity. Mobile and agile, Richburg, can block at the second level and pull on outside runs. Richburg is smart, tough, aggressive, competitive, and a team leader.
**Round 3 – Jay Bromley, DT**
– This pick pissed me off as I wanted the Giants to take Chris Borland, LB out of Wisconsin, but I digress. Bromley might have been a bit of a reach here, but the Giants wanted him and got their man…In Reese We Trust. Bromley was a 3-year starter at Syracuse. He combines decent size and strength with good athletic ability. Bromley is more of a 3-technique disruptor than 1-technique run stuffer, and if he pans out he could give the Giants a young and nasty DT combo by pairing him with Johnathan Hankins. He has good initial quickness and will penetrate into the backfield against both the run and the pass. Bromley hustles and pursues well. When Bromley plays with good leverage, he can be very difficult to block. At times Bromley plays too high, but he is a very hard worker both on and off the field and was a team leader for Syracuse.
**Round 4 – Andre Williams – RB** –
Williams led the country in rushing in 2013 with 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns, but he did not have one pass reception. Williams is a big, powerful, instinctive, north-south, downhill runner with decent speed. He is not terribly quick or elusive but he runs with good balance and body control. Williams breaks tackles and gains yards after contact. Williams has a tough, physical running style. He likes to punish opponents and is a good short-yardage back.
**PLAYERS TO WATCH**
**Johnathan Hankins, DT**
– Goodbye Linval Joseph and hello to “Big Hank”. Johnathan Hankins graded out very good this season, Per Pro Football Focus Hankins, who earned snaps as a rookie, didn’t record a single negative grade in his 195 snaps. He finished with an 8.0 overall grade and a 9.5 grade against the run. The Giants will look for Hankins to build off a solid rookie season and become a major contributor at defensive tackle.
**Damontre Moore, DE**
– Sky is the limit for the man teammates call “DaMonster” this season. The Giants still have JPP, Ayers and Kiwi (who sucked last year) in the rotation, but many around Big Blue want to see the 3rd pick of 2013 take a major leap forward. Moore showed flashes in 2013 both on the D-line and on special teams, where he blocked 2 punts, and hopefully for the Giants the still young Moore (21), who added some bulk this off-season and impressed at OTA’s is ready to become the next in a long line of Giants feared pass rushers.
**Adrien Robinson, TE**
— When he was drafted in the 4th round back in 2012, GM Jerry Reese said Robinson could be “the JPP of tight ends”. We’re still waiting, Jerry. Robinson has all the physical tools to be an effective TE in the NFL, but that really don’t mean a thing until he produces. With another dark horse in 6’6 Larry Donnell breathing down Robinson’s neck in OTA’s, Robinson has his work cut out for him in what should be one of the most heated competitions in training camp.
**Cooper Taylor, Safety**
Taylor, 2013’s 5th round pick has looked good so far this off season and earned some 1st team reps in OTA’s. He’s packed on some weight and stands 6-4, 232 pounds, eight pounds more than the 224 he played at last season. Coach Coughlin for one, has took notice, stating during OTA’s, “Well, you can see that he’s a much bigger human being right now,” Coughlin said. “He’s worked hard in the offseason. He’s stronger, he’s bigger, he’s in his second go-around, so he has an excellent opportunity to contribute in a lot of ways.”
With Will Hill being “smoked out” of the Giants organization and the Giants sure to limit Stevie Brown’s reps in training camp, Cooper Taylor has a great opportunity to kick the door that is wide open off its hinges and become a huge piece of the puzzle for the Giants revamped secondary, especially in Perry Fewell’s now famous 3-safety packages.
Considering how this team struggled as a whole last season I don’t know if you can call any of the players they lost “notable”, but gone are familiar names like Justin Tuck, a two-time Super Bowl champion, and David Baas who was the Giants center in 2011 when they won their 2nd ring in 5 seasons.
The Giants also waved good-bye to Hakeem Nicks who left Giants fans befuddled all of last season with his less then inspirational play. Other names include G/T, David Diehl, RB, Andre Brown, RB, Brandon Jacobs, G, Kevin Boothe and Cornerbacks Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross.
The Giants will bring back Tom Coughlin, their fiery 67-year-old coach for another year and see if he can once again prove the critics wrong and inspire this team to lead them to greatness like he has 2 times before.
The defense will once again be run by Perry Fewell, who despite his complex schemes and lack of talent last year on defense, led his players to the number 8 spot in the NFL in total defense. With the collection of talent the Giants have assembled this off season, this defense, on paper at least, is the best in the division and should have a huge say in terms of this team making a run to a division title.
On offense, well, it’s night and day. No more Kevin Gilbride and his complex down-the-field read-and-react offense. Forget on the same page, this offense last year wasn’t even in the same library, and it left Eli Manning on the hook and on his back for the entire year.
Ben McAdoo to the rescue? The former Green Bay Packers tight ends coach will get his chance at the offensive coordinator position and has his work cut out for him to say the least. McAdoo is challenged with the task of implementing a West Coast offense this off season and getting Eli Manning and crew to learn it quickly and buy in. The changes should lead to a lot less miscommunication between Eli and his dangerous group of wide receivers (Reuben Randle, Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham, JR and Jerald Jernigan). But McAdoo’s work doesn’t end there – he will also be responsible for fixing the offensive line and the running game as well as finding a tight end to contribute and become a consistent threat for Eli over the middle. If it was only as easy as calling the plays, In McAdoo We Trust!
The competition at camp should be fierce, as the offense has a lot going on to say to least.
First off, the Giants are trying to learn a new offense which is always a challenge, especially when there are so many new faces to get acclimated to it.
However, the positives are that Manning looks re-energized with this new offense and seems to have learned it very quickly. The west coast element should help get the ball out of Eli’s hands and into to the hands of play makers like Cruz, Randle, and Beckham Jr quickly and in space so they can use their speed and elusiveness to make plays. Also, by eliminating the read and react portion of Gilbride’s offense, the Giants hope to end up with fewer miscommunications and less of Manning throwing it up and left to wonder where the wide receiver went.
The Giants are also fixing a broken offensive line and feel confident that Will Beatty will rebound from a poor 2013 and recapture his 2012 form. Second year right tackle Justin Pugh returns from an impressive 2013 rookie season to lock down the right tackle spot. With the addition of Weston Richburg via the draft to play center , along with the free agent signing of Geoff “your Schwartz is as big mine” at guard and the return of former pro bowl guard Chris Snee, this unit can go from weakness to strength in a hurry.
The running game should bounce back as well as the Giants brought in Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams to provide a Big Blue breath of fresh air to this position. Add in wild cards like David Wilson and Peyton Hillis, who looked like his old self in OTA’s, and this can be a fun bunch to watch this season.
Position Battle to watch in camp:
**Fullback** – “The Hynocerous” vs “The Terminator”
– Henry Hynoski returns from his injury plagued season of 2013 and will compete with (In my Arnold Schwarzenegger voice) John Conner, who played well for the Giants last season. Two men will enter and only one will survive and make the team. This is an important training camp battle as the fullback role is an important one in the Packers west coast scheme. One of these guys will get the versatile role of fullback much like John Kuhn did with the Pack, where in 116 games Kuhn touched the ball a total of 234 times for 966 all purpose yards and 20 TD’s. Whoever doesn’t make the cut won’t be unemployed for long.
**Defensive Outlook ***
Believe it or not, the Giants ranked No. 8 in total defense when the season ended. I know… I was surprised as well. Where did the other NFC east teams finish? Washington was 18th, Philadelphia was 29th, and Dallas was dead last at 32.
This offseason, the Giants loaded up in the secondary, adding Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond, Zac Bowman, Charles James and Quintin Demps to play alongside a blossoming Prince Amukamara and team captain Antrel Rolle, making this unit deep and versatile, especially if Cooper Taylor becomes the beast I think he can.
At linebacker the Giants should get Jon Beason back from the foot injury suffered in OTA’s for the start of the season. And Beason, much like he did last year, should have the same impact he did when Jerry Reese stole him from the Panthers for a 7th round pick. Beason in the middle along with free agent pickup Jameel McClain on the strong side give the Giants a physical, aggressive, and battle-tested combo.
The player I am most excited about at linebacker this season is Jacquian Williams. The 25 year old 6’3 LB with 4.55 40 speed has shown flashes with the Giants on special teams and with his coverage abilities on running backs and tight ends, but Williams seems to be turning a corner coming into this season.
Williams has assumed control of the weakside linebacker position after splitting duties with Spencer Paysinger the past two seasons. Williams is currently entrenched as the first-team WILL heading into training camp. Williams, who appears to have put some muscle on his frame this offseason, has impressed the Giants in all facets this spring. He has them thinking he may be a three-down linebacker with his speed and development as an all-around player. “He does [have a different skillset]. I will say this: This OTA and minicamp, he did a great job in our base stuff as a WILL,” Hermann said (Giants linebackers coach). “He’s a natural WILL in nickel, but he did a great job in our base. To me, he made a big jump and big improvement this spring.”
On the line, the Giants have youth and veteran leadership which should provide some quality play and depth for them this year. Johnathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and my man Markus Kuhn should provide a pretty nasty combo at DT, especially if Kuhn comes along the way I think he’s going to. At defensive end, the Giants brought back Mathias Kiwanuka, against my will that is, Kiwi was ranked dead last among 4-3 defensive ends last year according to PFF, and hopefully he can totally redeem himself this season. The combo of former 1st round pick Robert Ayers and 2nd year player Damontre Moore got us Big Blue fans fired up about the possibilities of what they bring to the table on the right side of the line, but this unit comes down to one player.
Jason Pierre-Paul has been a shell of himself since exploding on the scene back in 2011, when he lead the Giants and this defense to a Super Bowl victory. Since then, injuries have held JPP back and as Giants fans we hope he has gone hunting for his former self this off season, and from reports I’ve been reading, he may have found himself.
JPP is fully recovered from the back surgery that hampered him all of last year and has trimmed down to a lean 275 pounds. Reports from OTA’s said the former all pro is back to his old self flying around the field again, and seems to be motivated that everyone seems to have forgotten what a game changer he can be.
**Overall Season Prediction**
Do the Giants have question marks this season? Yes they do, but what team doesn’t? In the NFL nowadays it’s not about who the best is in September, but who can continue to get better in October, November and December to prepare for a run in January. With the additions made on offense and defense, if this team can gel and stay healthy they can be just as dangerous as anyone in football. They have a two-time Super Bowl MVP under center and a new offense that should reinvigorate him. At his service he has young explosive play makers at wide receiver; a retooled offensive line and a nice combination of speed and power at running back. The possibilities of a bounce-back 2014 for this offense gets our Big Blue blood pumping.
But defense wins right? Well, considering the facts that no one else in this division has a defense to speak of and that the Giants added a ton of talent to a scheme that somehow worked last year with a less-than-stellar talent pool playing in it, it’s hard not to think the Big Blue sky is the limit for this unit to improve on what they did last year and give the offenses in this division fits all season long.
Add to that the fact their 67-year-old fiery head coach Tom Coughlin is the class of the division and always seems to come up big when everyone else has counted him out, and the Giants could be a dangerous dark horse in not only the NFC East, but the entire NFC this year.
11-5, NFC East Division winner, and if they get in, fans have witnessed the damage Big Blue can do**