To a large extent, it has been a free agency period for the Giants of throwing things at the wall and hoping to see if it sticks. Rather than focus on one or two signings that would fill a major need going into the draft, their strategy focused on value searching in low-cost players with starting experience.
For most of these signings, Giants fans should be taking a wait-and-see approach. Players like Kenrick Ellis and George Selvie come on cheap one-year deals having played some good football in the past, while Jonathan Casillas and J.T. Thomas are par for the course in terms of how Jerry Reese has typically valued the linebacker position in free agency. But if there is one player the Giants should have high hopes for making a big contribution in 2015 and beyond, it is former Patriot running back Shane Vereen.
Vereen brings a skillset reminiscent of former Patriot Kevin Faulk or the slightly more contemporary Darren Sproles. While lacking Sproles’ elite elusiveness, Vereen is a player that does damage in space and becomes far and away the most explosive player in a running back stable that failed to create many spark plays. Like Faulk and Sproles, most of Vereen’s opportunities come as a receiver. The Patriots lined up Vereen all over the field, including split out wide and in the slot. Simply, Vereen is a dangerous, versatile receiving threat that is unrivaled by Rashad Jennings and especially Andre Williams.
New England's Week 7 matchup against the Jets from last season highlights Vereen’s versatility. It was his best regular season performance, hauling in two touchdowns as a receiver and picking up 114 total yards from scrimmage. Vereen starts the game as New England’s lone running back and picks up four yards. He spends the next three snaps flanked to the far right as a receiver. On the third play, he runs a wheel route and hauls in a 49-yard touchdown reception with a diving grab. Later in the game, he is a fixture on the field as the Patriots close in for another touchdown before the end of the half.
After taking a dump-off pass for eight yards to bring the Patriots within three yards of the end zone, Vereen grabs his second touchdown. He motions from a flanked left position pre-snap to the left of Brady in the shotgun. Vereen then runs a crisp out route in the end zone, separating from linebacker DeMario Davis in coverage and creating an opening for Brady to squeeze the ball in between two defenders. This is the type of player the Giants had lacked on offense last season, and is one the Giants can get a ton of use out of.
The West Coast Offense is a system heavily predicated on short, high-percentage throws and picking up yards after the catch. The focus on a better completion rate was clear when last offseason Eli Manning was given the lofty goal of completing over 70% of his passes. While he finished with a career-best 63.1% completion rate, that still just puts him 19th amongst quarterbacks with at least a hundred attempts. There is a need for Manning to further grow in this area, but it isn’t squarely on his shoulders. The Giants need more quality options at receiver. With Vereen, they have a new element to their passing offense in the short-intermediate area of the field.
The Giants clearly have something special in Odell Beckham, yet are gambling that there is more of Rueben Randle’s late season surge to come and that Victor Cruz will be the same player post-injury. Especially without Cruz at his best, there is a need for a safe receiving option that can extend drives on third down and also give defensive coordinators something else besides Beckham to think about. On a manageable four-year deal, Vereen brings exactly that to the table.