The New York Giants have gone through two of the most frustrating seasons, and it’s obvious that time is running out for both head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning. But believe it or not, the G-Men may not be quite as far from contending for a championship as they currently appear.
The stadium crew are still sweeping up the confetti in Phoenix, and the party back home for the champion New England Patriots has yet to begin, but the close of another spectacular NFL season should give many pause when considering what the future holds for the Giants.
It could only take a few more pieces. Most of the important ones are in place. They have the quarterback, of course. The superstar playmaker Odell Beckham Jr. A talented, underrated crop of cornerbacks led by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara. And the Giants could finally have a potent pass rush with Steve Spagnuolo calling the shots on defense, as long as they are able to re-sign Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to a long-term deal.
For the first time in a few years, general manager Jerry Reese’s job is simple: fix the offensive line and replace Antrel Rolle. The G-Men have needs at linebacker, but they’ve been getting by for some time with an average group; they can certainly do it again as long as Devon Kennard continues to progress.
Rolle, meanwhile, has surpassed his peak, now 32 years old and coming off one of his worst seasons to date. Despite this, it’s widely expected the former Pro Bowl safety could have a high asking price that would be foolish for the Giants to commit to. In a pass-first league, the 10-year-veteran is a liability in coverage and now would be the perfect time to find a youngster like Alabama’s Landon Collins in the draft or sign a potential upcoming free agent like Rahim Moore or—less likely—Devin McCourty.
Along the offensive line, things aren’t as bad as they were entering 2014 either. William Beatty seemed to be rejuvenated, and Justin Pugh proved he is still a viable option at right tackle should they keep him there. The Giants’ best move might be to shift him inside, however, bolstering an underwhelming interior group, while seeking an answer at right tackle early in the draft.
An offensive line that features Beatty, Pugh and Schwartz at guard, second-year player Weston Richburg in his proper position at center, and a rookie holding down the right tackle slot sounds much more stable than what the Giants have put on the field the last three years.
That’s really all the Giants need. A competent offensive line would enable Manning, Coach Ben McAdoo and company the opportunity to achieve the kind of success through the air they proved to be capable of in the second half of 2014. With a returning Victor Cruz set to join the high-powered receiving corps with Beckham and Rueben Randle, the G-Men could possess an offense capable of making them instant competitors in the NFC.
Even in the competitive NFC East, just a few improvements would boost the Giants back into the divisional title picture alongside the last two champions, the Cowboys and Eagles. Both teams are expected to be the cream of the crop again in 2015, and that comes as a result of elite offensive united and underrated defensive play.
The addition of Spagnuolo is a step in the right direction. Now, it’s on Reese to make the final necessary improvements to elevate the Giants once again. In the NFL, a team is never too far away from becoming a contender, and the Cowboys were the perfect example of that this season when everyone had written them off.
Having missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons, the Giants would love to be that unpredictable underdog in 2015. Fortunately for them, many of the players already on roster put them in good position to excel in that role.