NFL Season Preview:
The New York Giants finished 7-9 last season, after starting out with a woeful 0-6 record. Eli Manning and company rallied to a strong finish, but all across the board last season was one of injuries and disappointing individual performances. Eli finished the season with 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. For a two time Super Bowl champion, it was a season of epic failure. The Giants fired offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and enter the 2014-2015 season with some optimism that this season can be better.
New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo comes over from the Green Bay Packers, where he was employed as a tight ends and quarterback coach. McAdoo is looking to implement a west coast offense, hoping that the short passing system will improve Eli’s accuracy. Eli Manning, and his career 58.5% completion percentage will need to improve dramatically to lead this offense. However, he will have some help in the running game with Oakland Raiders import Rashad Jennings, and rookie Andre Williams. The two backs have looked pretty impressive so far this preseason. The 11th year quarterback will have proven star receiver Victor Cruz to throw to. After Cruz, it’s a bit of a tossup at receiver now that Hakeem Nicks have left to join the Indianapolis Colts. The team will be hoping that Reuben Randle or rookie Odell Beckham Jr. steps up and takes pressure off of Cruz. Also look for Jerrel Jernigan, and Mario Manningham to make some plays. At tight end the Giants will be starting a new face. The position is manned by some unknowns. Larry Donnell, Adrien Robinson, Xavier Grimble, or Kellen Davis could either start for this team, or be cut at the end of preseason. As we are approaching the end of August and the final cut day, it has been a bit difficult to figure out just who will play tight end.
The Giants offensive line, which was a bit of a mess last season, isn’t much better this season. Chris Snee’s abrupt retirement has opened a hole at one of the guard spots. Weston Richburg, a 2nd round pick in this year’s draft should man one of the guard spots. J.D. Walton is the team’s starting center. He’s missed the past two seasons due to injuries. Brandon Mosley should take the other guard spot vacated by Snee. Will Beatty and Justin Pugh should man the tackle spots. Geoff Schwartz who was signed as a free agent from the Chiefs hurt his foot in the preseason game against the Jets but if he returns, he should push his way into one of the guard spots, bouncing Richburg or Mosley out of the lineup. The Giants offense this season will come down to this offensive line. If it gels, and gives Eli time the Giants might be better on offense this season.
The Giants defensive line should be anchored by Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul should be fully healed from the back surgery that he had prior to the 2013 season, that limited his production last year. Look for Damontre Moore, Robert Ayers, and Mathias Kiwanuka to rotate in at the defensive end spots. Cullen Jenkins and Johnathan Hankins should be the starters at defensive tackle. Jenkins and Hankins will be counted on to be run stuffers in the interior. Jenkins is a proven player, but Hankins is going to have to fill Linval Joseph’s shoes. Letting Joseph go to Minnesota might have been a mistake if Hankins isn’t ready to step up and produce.
Jon Beason was a revelation last season, however he’s currently injured. So look for Jameel McClain to start at the middle linebacker spot for Week 1. Jacquian Williams, and rookie Devon Kennard should start at the outside linebacker spots. Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, and Terrell Manning should rotate in as well.
The Giants secondary has some new faces. Notably Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond. Rodgers-Cromartie came over from the Broncos, and Thurmond from the Seahawks. DRC will start, while Thurmond and holdover Prince Amunkamara will be battling it out for the right cornerback spot. Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown return at safety. A long term position of weakness, the secondary is the strength of the Giants defense this season. Allowing, that everyone stays healthy. However, credit General Manager Jerry Reese for aggressively spending and beefing up the unit. This secondary should make some big plays allowing the D-Line and Linebackers do their jobs of getting to the quarterback.
Josh Brown and Steve Weatherford return at kicker and punter, respectively. Diminutive speedster Trindon Holiday, as well as safety Quentin Demps should man the return spots. The Giants special teams are manned by consistent and productive players, and should be a unit that will produce big plays this season.
The Giants draft is headlined by LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. Beckham impressed during the draft process and he will be counted on to produce both on the outside, and in the slot. The aforementioned Weston Richburg was the team’s second round pick and he’s been thrown into the mix for one of the starting spots at guard. Running back Andre Williams, and Linebacker Devon Kennard have also been earmarked for big roles this season. Overall the Giants draft could be a good one. At least four of the seven draftees have been tipped to be key contributors, and a fifth in Jay Bromley could eventually find himself a part of the defensive tackle rotation. Overall, it appears to be a strong group.
The Giants were 7-9 last season. They are currently 4-0 this preseason despite some woeful numbers by Eli Manning. So far it looks like the passing game is going to have a big adjustment to make to McAdoo’s west coast offense. The running game is going to have to carry this team early and often, so if you’re a fantasy football player I’d look to have Jennings and/or Williams on your team. They should put up some numbers this season.
The Giants have to face off against the AFC South and the NFC West this season. The AFC South isn’t too difficult, and neither is their own division the NFC East. The NFC West however is the toughest division in the NFL. The defenses in that division should give Eli and this offense fits. Looking at the schedule I really see one bad stretch for this team in Weeks 9-11. Coming off of the Week 8 bye the Giants have to face the Colts at home on a Monday night, a Sunday afternoon trip to Seattle, and back home to the Niners. I see the Giants losing all three games. After that Niners game the rest of the schedule is pretty soft. Trips to Jacksonville, Tennessee, and a Rams team that just lost starting QB Sam Bradford for the year with an ACL injury should scare no one.
So, what’s the final record going to be? Despite my concerns about the offensive line, despite being unimpressed with the defensive front seven, and my concerns that Eli and his receivers are going to struggle with this offense, I think the Giants finish the season 8-8. Why? The schedule isn’t that difficult. Looking at the NFC East the only team the Giants should be worried with is Philadelphia. The Redskins and Cowboys shouldn’t pose that big of a challenge. The AFC South is pretty weak outside of Indianapolis, and the NFC West could give the Giants a win against the Rams, and probably the Cardinals who have to play a 1pm start at MetLife Stadium. I predict an up and down, not so spectacular season for the G-Men. 8-8 might not make their fans happy, but it’s going to have to do for this team.
David: Manning got beat up last year and turned into a tackling dummy, and lets be honest, its not like the Giants played the NFC South or the NFC West and those defenses. This year, they do play the NFC West, and he’s going to get to play Houston as well. He’s lost Nicks, and Odell could be a major player- but again, how many LSU guys have turned into stars in the NFL at that position? The Running backs are no threat and the tight ends are even worse. The defense does have some talent, as EJ noted, but I don’t think it enough, or even close to being a legit playoff team. In the NFC East, they just have to be better than the Cowboys and Redskins, not exactly a high bar, to be sure.
Its going to take time for the line to come together, and on the plus side, that secondary could be really good. I’m looking at a 3-3 record in the East, the same 500 record vs the AFC South and maybe a win at best vs the NFC West, when you see the bonus games against the Falcons and Lions, I think thats 2 losses. 6-10 at best, but the wheels may come off if they are sitting at 2-5 at the break and Eli has declined- then they come back with games against the Colts, Seahawks and Niners. If thats the case- they could be even worse and looking for a top 3 pick.
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