An Offseason Giant Blueprint

For a team that made the playoffs and nearly won its wild card game, there is still much work to be done. The team will be faced with some major offseason issues. First and foremost is Eli Manning. They simply have to find a way to get him to play better.

Second is the defense. When they needed to make a big stop they were usually unable to do it. A capable replacement for Tim Lewis must be found and we are hoping they can pry Dom Capers away from Miami. Third they need to improve the team chemistry. Veteran leadership on this team has not been good.

Although it was not decided in this order, we believe the GM should have been in place before a decision was made on the coach. Once Scott Pioli decided against interviewing, the next logical decision is Jerry Reese. Reese is a good man, but our biggest concern is that he cut his teeth under the departed GM. Hopefully he will be his own man and understand that team leadership and chemistry is an important factor in building a team, something Accorsi apparently never understood. Much of the woes of this team go directly to Accorsi and it's our opinion he doesn't receive enough criticism for what he has created. While it may not turn out this way in the long run, he is the author of the "Accorsi Curse." The Manning deal will forever be his legacy, good or bad.

Well, we have Tom Coughlin for another year. There are pluses and minuses to that. Once the Falcons snapped up Bobby Petrino, there were not a lot of other viable candidates out there. The good thing is that it puts them in contention for Bill Cowher or perhaps even Bill Belichick next year. Clearly, Coughlin needs to make a lot of changes to his staff. They need a qualified QB coach to work with Manning. They need to hire a new defensive coordinator as well. Even though Coughlin received a one-year extension everyone knows his job is tenuous and despite the extension he is still, in effect, a lame-duck coach. That makes it difficult to attract quality coaches.

So far they have tried the two ends of the spectrum with head coaches. On one end was the "Fassel Country Club." On the other end was the "Coughlin Boot Camp." Neither worked with this group of players. It would seem that the next step would be to find a coach somewhere in between Fassel and Coughlin. Someone like Cowher who works his players hard but still has their respect. He can get in a player's face and also can hug them when they perform.

The first step in building an offseason plan is to evaluate your own team. Self-scouting is not always an easy thing to do. Sometimes loyalty and allegiances can get in the way of making tough decisions. Sometimes too much emphasis can be placed on consistency. Consistency only works when you have the right players. So let's make an honest evaluation of the talent on hand at the end of the season. We will put the players in four groups: 1. Core Player. 2. Compete in Camp. 3. Re-Signing Decision. 4. Adios. We will also determine the draft and free agency priority.

Quarterback – The first thing we would do in the offseason process is commission a DNA test for Eli to determine if he is really a Manning. That certainly would answer a lot of questions about what they may or may not have at QB. To us he looks timid in the pocket. No QB likes to get belted, but the great ones will stand in there and take a hit if they can make a play. Off the field, he doesn't seem to want to be a leader. He's timid there too. We believe this team wants him to step up and exude confidence, yet he remains the ultimate stoic. Our suspicion is that at best they have a game manager. Teams have won the Super Bowl with a game manager. Baltimore did it when they had Trent Dilfer, a certified game manager. Dilfer was sent out with the hope he would not lose the game. They didn't expect him to win the game, just not make mistakes. They relied on a sound running game and a stifling defense and it worked. For better or worse we are stuck with Eli for at least two more years. Perhaps new offensive coaches will make a difference. That remains to be seen.

Core Player: Eli Manning. There is no other choice. Compete in Camp: Jared Lorenzen and Tim Hasselbeck. Perhaps a veteran with starting experience would help Eli, but with proper coaching it's not necessary.

Need Priority: Low.

Running Back – Tiki is gone and he will be missed. He leaves behind Brandon Jacobs and not much else. Jacobs will get every opportunity to win the starting job. The problem, as we see it, is whether or not he can handle the load by himself. We would be much more comfortable if they had a scat-back type to complement Jacobs' power running. Big backs like Jacobs take a beating because they don't run around tacklers; they try to run over them. That's a lot of collisions in the course of a long season. A change of pace back would be a great idea. We've heard some good things about James Sims. He also should get a chance to show if he could be the change of pace to Jacobs.

Core Player: Brandon Jacobs. Compete in Camp: James Sims and Robert Douglas. Re-Signing Decision: Derrick Ward will be a RFA. They can match any offer he might get, but he has not shown enough to be more than a veteran minimum type player. Re-sign but only at the right price. Adios: Tiki Barber. So long, farewell Tiki. You've been a great Giant and you will be missed. We wish you the best in your new career.

Need Priority: High.

Wide Receiver – They face a real dilemma with Plaxico Burress. Getting rid of him and his questionable attitude and work ethic seems to be the right thing to do. The problem is that he is their best and most productive wide receiver and if they do get rid of him, who will replace him? They need to make a decision quickly on Burress. Amani Toomer will be coming off a knee injury and he will be 33 at the start of the season. We would like Toomer back because we believe he can continue to contribute as the second receiver.

Core Players: Plaxico Burress. Unless they can find someone better Burress has to stay, but if they can then he may not be worth keeping. He is not going to change and it's doubtful he would bring much in a trade because others teams know what he's about. He's not the kind of player others trade for. He's the player you give a limited shot to after he's released. Amani Toomer. Assuming he will be healthy, they need him. Sinorice Moss missed plenty of time and there are questions about him, but he deserves a full chance next year. David Tyree has to be back because of his special teams play, but he can't be more than a fourth or fifth receiver. Compete in Camp: Michael Jennings. He made some strides this year but he has a way to go. His speed is intriguing. Adios: Tim Carter. He received a chance to prove himself after Toomer was injured and he failed the test. He has a lot of wasted talent; now it's time to move on.

Need Priority: High.

Tight End – We will say something that may shock you, but if they got the right deal they should definitely consider trading Jeremy Shockey. We love how hard he plays, but let's face it, he is already breaking down physically. He has value and in our opinion this would be the right time to trade him to get maximum value. Visanthe Shiancoe did play better at the end of the season, but he's nowhere close to being a starting TE. Darcy Johnson is an interesting player who looked good in the pre-season as a receiver. He is someone to work with.

Core Player: Jeremy Shockey. Compete in Camp: Darcy Johnson. Re-Signing Decision: Visanthe Shiancoe. We would not be disappointed if he signed elsewhere.

Need Priority: Moderate.

Offensive Line – The biggest decision to make on the offensive line is whether or not to re-sign Shaun O'Hara. We would like to see him return, but if it's true that he expects to break the bank financially then they can move on without him. Rich Seubert showed that he could fill the center spot capably. Getting Luke Petitgout back will be a big help, if he continues to play as he did this year before he was injured. It also moves David Diehl back to guard. Oh yes, Bob Whitfield has to go. Perhaps he can get a tryout with the French National soccer team where apparently head-butting is a strong quality.

Core Players: Luke Petitgout, David Diehl, Chris Snee, Kareem McKenzie and Rich Seubert. Re-Signing Decisions: Shaun O'Hara – at the right price. Grey Ruegamer, a valuable sub at the veteran minimum. Compete in Camp: Guy Whimper. Adios: Bob Whitfield.

Need Priority: Low.

Defensive Line – When healthy this is their strongest unit. Unfortunately, this has not been the case and their strongest asset became the root cause of the defensive problems. When the pass rush went away, it exposed their weak secondary. Late in the season when the run defense went away it exposed their weak linebackers. It will be good to get a return of a healthy Michael Strahan; however there must be some concern over his advancing age. He will be 36 in mid-season, and he had the bothersome foot injury. Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck are all solid players. Fred Robbins had a very good year and Barry Cofield showed a lot of promise up until the point where he hit a wall late in the season. William Joseph continues to be a JAG, just another guy.

Core Players: Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck, Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield. Compete in Camp: William Joseph, Jonas Seawright and Adrian Awasom. If they can find anyone better than any of these three by all means go for it.

Need Priority: Low.

Linebackers – They have to hope that LaVar Arrington returns healthy and that he continues to progress in their defense like he was doing before the injury. This is very important because without him they will need two new LBs. As it is we expect to see a substantial overhaul in this unit. Antonio Pierce will obviously return, but he's one of those players who need to talk less and produce more. Brandon Short gave it his best shot, but it wasn't enough to be considered a starter any more. We like Chase Blackburn's fire and his special teams play and he would not be a bad reserve to keep around. Gerris Wilkinson showed a few flashes and he will benefit from an offseason of work along with another full training camp.

Core Players: Antonio Pierce, LaVar Arrington, Gerris Wilkinson and Chase Blackburn. Re-Signing Decisions: Reggie Torbor. Most likely he will move on. He didn't get much of a chance even when they were hit by injuries. Short will be a UFA and it's time for him to go. Adios: Carlos Emmons. Injuries have certainly caught up with him.

Need Priority: High.

Defensive Backs – As we stated earlier, the DBs were exposed for what they were, a zone team for the most part that could not hold up when there was no pass rush. What was particularly disturbing was the amount of receivers seemingly running free through the secondary. The number of missed interceptions was disheartening. It is not practical to start all over with this group, but it is reasonable to expect changes. Sam Madison no longer plays at the high level he once did. Will Demps was a disaster. We can remember one really good game he had but the rest of the time he was very ordinary and his tackling was atrocious. Gibril Wilson never followed through on the promise he showed as a rookie. Corey Webster had an injury-filled and disappointing season. More was expected from him. R.W. McQuarters, for a short while, was their best corner. Jason Bell was serviceable but his main contribution comes on special teams. Kevin Dockery showed enough flashes to make us think he could be something in the future even though he lacks great size.

Core Players: Will Demps, but he must step it up in 2007. Corey Webster deserves another chance. Re-Signing Decisions: Gibril Wilson. We would bring him back. Frank Walker. Bye-bye Frankie. Compete in Camp: R.W. McQuarters. Jason Bell. James Butler. E.J. Underwood was a player with some ability who missed the entire season with an injury. Kevin Dockery. Adios: Sam Madison. They need someone younger and better.

Need Priority: Very High.

Special Teams – It was obvious that even before he tore his ACL, Chad Morton was finished. They will need to replace him and Sinorice Moss has not given any reason to make us believe that he could be the man. The most important offseason item here is to get Jeff Feagles to return for another year. We don't care how old he is, he still gets the job done at a high level.

Core Player: Jeff Feagles. Re-Signing Decisions: Jay Feely. While he is not perfect, they can do a lot worse than him. Bring him back. Ryan Kuehl has become one of the most reliable and best long snappers in the league. Sign him up; we don't want to return to the long snapping woes of the Fassel era.

Need Priority: Low.

The units most in need of free agent and/or draft attention are the secondary, linebacker, running back and wide receiver. Since free agency opens on March 2 it would be wise to get that settled before we build a draft plan. The 2007 cap will be established at about $109 million. The Giants are currently approximately $13 million under the cap. This will fluctuate based on whom they re-sign and choose to let go.

They have a chance to fix their cornerback situation in free agency but it will take a strong financial commitment. Our recommendation is to do everything possible to sign both Nate Clements from Buffalo and Asante Samuel from New England. Last year, Buffalo placed a Franchise tag on Clements, but it is our understanding that when he signed his contract last year it was done with the proviso that they would not apply the tag again this year. Samuel has emerged as a top-flight cover corner. Signing these two would solve a lot of problems and eliminate the need to draft a corner. They can then turn their attention elsewhere.

At RB, we don't want to take another team's already used back. We would much rather fill this need through the draft. At LB, there are a few big names who will be UFAs like Adalius Thomas from Baltimore, Cato June from Indianapolis and Lance Briggs from Chicago. We believe Tully Banta-Cain from New England is an emerging LB. The problem is that Thomas and Banta-Cain are better suited to a 3-4 defense and Briggs and June will cost too much, especially if they get Clements and Samuel. So we will have to fill LB needs through the draft.

At WR, there are two UFAs we would strongly consider: Drew Bennett from Tennessee and Kevin Curtis from the Rams. Bennett is exactly the type of receiver Eli needs. He's a great route runner with very good hands. Curtis could be the type of receiver Tim Carter never was. Curtis is very fast and although he has played behind Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce we believe he is ready to break out as a starter. If they could get two players from the quartet of Clements, Samuel, Bennett and Curtis, that would be very good. If they somehow were to get three of them it would be outstanding.

That brings us to the draft. The Giants will be picking in the 20th position. Since we hopefully addressed CB and WR in free agency, we are looking at LBs and RBs with the early round picks. The top LB in the draft will most likely be Patrick Willis from Ole Miss; however he is more of an ILB and the Giants need an outside guy more. Paul Posluszny from Penn State should be there and besides making our editor KP very happy he would be a good fit. There is another guy who piques our interest more. Michigan defensive end Lamarr Woodley played with his hand down on the ground, but he is undersized for a DE and he has great athletic ability. He should strongly be considered as an NFL LB. At RB, Marshawn Lynch from California should be available, but we aren't all that crazy about him. So, if all were available to the Giants with their first pick, we would take Lamarr Woodley. He would go a long way toward fixing the LB problem. Down the road we can see him as a Julian Peterson type LB. He will be a playmaker.

In round two, they will have a much better opportunity to get the RB they need to complement Jacobs. One back that could fill that role would be Kenny Irons from Auburn. He is a Tiki-like back. He's not big, but he's quick, tough and a good receiver. He could be just what the doctor ordered. We would also take a close look at Ohio State RB Antonio Pittman. He has been a very productive back as well. At WR there could be a couple of interesting selections available in the second round like Anthony Gonzalez from Ohio State and Dwayne Bowe from LSU. We would lean towards Irons with this pick.

In the third round, we would look to add a solid prospect. One guy to target is Rutgers tight end Clark Harris. He is a very good receiver who is improving his blocking skills. We believe he would be an upgrade over Shiancoe. There is also an interesting safety from Miami, Brandon Merriweather. He was involved in the big in-game brawl this year at Miami so we would need to do some due diligence on his character, but he could be a good fit too.

Plan Summary: Re-Sign the following players: Shaun O'Hara, Gibril Wilson, Jay Feely and Ryan Kuehl. Make sure Jeff Feagles returns. Sign at least two of the following UFAs: Nate Clements, Asante Samuel, Drew Bennett or Kevin Curtis. Draft as follows: 1. LB Lamarr Woodley. 2. RB Kenny Irons. 3. TE Clark Harris.

The Giants Beat Top Stories