Yesterday, I had a chance to go watch the NY Giants training camp practice out in Jersey. I never paid much attention to preseason football. But this year presents far more interest than previous seasons.
With our old defensive coordinator back, a first round pick for the O-Line, and a few key players coming back from injury, this Giants squad has all the makings of a championship-bound team. Every roster experiences the injury bug and it bit hard last year. After missing the playoffs for 2 consecutive seasons, GM Jerry Reese used the draft and free agency to address most of the problems the Giants have had during that time. Let’s review, shall we?
Last season, Eli Manning threw over 4, 000 yards for the 4th time in his career. And that was mostly without Victor Cruz! This season, Manning has a plethora of targets between Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr. and the newly acquired James Jones. In fact, there’s stiff competition for that 3rd receiver slot considering Reuben Randle has neither improved nor regressed. He’s just…there.
Not only have the Giants added depth to their offense, but they’ve finally fixed their O-Line. 2 years ago, Manning threw 27 picks, the highest of his career; primarily because he had poor protection in front. The O-Line is nowhere near perfect. But the Giants drafted Ereck Flowers to play on the left while Will Beatty is out. He looked very solid during the practice I saw. Assuming Geoff Schwartz can stay healthy on the other side, this O-Line will significantly help the Giants put up their desired 28 points every week.
Who will be the Giants’ lead back? Do they really need a dominant one? It’s rare that a team has quality depth at the running back position. In the NFL, there’s a sharp drop off in performance after the top 5-6 backs. The Giants added Shane Vereen, who’s coming off a healthy 16 game season in which he played a career-high 595 snaps for New England. Even with missing several games last year, Rashad Jennings was on the field for 418 snaps. So clearly, someone’s going to have to give. What’s been immediately improved by signing Vereen is that he’s a pretty good blocker and can also play downfield. Additionally, we have 2nd year Andre Williams who’s most effective in goal line carries. This is the most complete the Giants’ offense has been since the 2011-12 season. (We won that year)
The Giants defense is the area with the most question marks. Obviously that begins with the missing finger(s) of Jason Pierre-Paul. Nonetheless, the Giants used the draft to sign what would have been JPP’s back up. Owa Odighizuwa isn’t the type of defensive end that Paul is, however that’s what the Giants need him to be. They reportedly have him watching exhaustive film on Paul and Justin Tuck, 2 of the Giants’ most recent pass-rushers of dominance. I saw some film on Odighizuwa and he’s a pretty good defender against the run. This should also be a break out year for Damontre Moore too. JPP’s injury has opened the door for these 2 young players to define whether or not he’ll be worth the long term commitment.
The Giants, for once, have a fairly favorable schedule. The toughest games on their schedule is against Buffalo and the Jets. It’s not a stretch to predict this to be a 10-11 win season with everyone healthy. The last time we won the Superbowl, the Giants finished 9-7 in the regular season.
Do you think the Giants can go all the way this year? Who else, besides Seattle, do you see coming out the NFC?