State Of The NY Giants
After missing the playoffs for the second straight year, and four times in the last five years, there were whispers of significant changes to the organization through personnel and coaching change at seasons end. After a disappointing 7-9 season in which the team did not win a game until week seven of the regular season, both Giants
general manager Jerry Reese and team president and CEO John Mara indicated that major changes needed to be made in order to upgrade the personnel to compete for a championship. Most fans questioned whether these massive changes could be possible due to the Giants’ tendency to retain coaches in Tom Coughlin’s staff, to stay away from substantial spending during free agency, and to build through the draft. However, just three weeks into free agency, it has become apparent that the Giants front office has strayed away from its characteristic offseason blueprint to fix their apparently poor roster.
First, lets start with the offensive coordinator position. Former holder of the position, Kevin Gilbride, who had been with the Giants since 2004, (2004-2006 he was quarterbacks coach), retired at the end of the season. There were rumors of him being “forced” to retire by the front office to keep up appearances. But even if he did not retire, it was likely that he was going to be fired regardless. That’s neither here nor there. What matters is that the 2x Super Bowl winning Coordinator is no longer with the team. This was not surprising due to the absolutely dreadful offensive output last season, most notably Eli Manning throwing a league and career-high 27 interceptions. However, it is important to note that Coughlin had a close relationship with Gilbride, and he tends not to fire his long-time allies on the staff. Importantly, it will be intriguing to see how this coordinator change will affect Eli Manning, who has had Gilbride on his staff for his entire ten year career. A coordinator change could be just what the doctor ordered to revitalize the struggling Manning. However, the fact that Manning is coming off two straight down seasons and is experiencing a major change like this for the first time in his career could potentially become a problem for the Giants, but only time will tell.
Out with the old, in with the new. The new: Ben McAdoo. The 36-year-old McAdoo is a protégé of Packers coach Mike McCarthy, working as a quality control assistant under McCarthy in San Francisco in 2005, when McCarthy was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator, and then following McCarthy to Green Bay when McCarthy became the Packers’ head coach in 2006. McAdoo was the Packers’ tight ends coach from 2006 to 2011, and has been the Packers’ quarterback’s coach the last two years. Now McAdoo takes on the task of turning around a Giants offense that struggled mightily in 2013. As a young coach with zero offensive coordinator experience, McAdoo may seem like a bit of a risky choice, but as a quarterback specialist who has been a part of an explosive offense for the past several years, it’s not difficult to see why the Giants made the hire.
Now, lets look at the resigned free agents:
Jon Beason (MLB)- The most notable resigning, the Giants locked him up fairly quickly. When Beason came over from the Panthers in exchange for this year’s 7th round draft pick, fans did not know what to expect. But, Beason instantly contributed to the Giants’ defensive turnaround and became a leader in the locker room and on the field. Interestingly, he represented himself in free agency, which is an oddity today. Nevertheless, resigning Beason was clearly a priority for the Giants from the start of free agency, and they got it done fairly quickly.
Stevie Brown (S)- This ball hawking safety is coming off of ACL surgery and missed the whole 2013 season. The Giants seem to be really high on Brown, who showed great potential in 2012 when he recorded 8 interceptions, which was tied for 2nd in the NFL. If he can even come close to his 2012 production this season, the Giants will surely lock him up long term.
Peyton Hillis (RB)- This former Madden cover boy was signed as an emergency replacement for the injured backs David Wilson, Andre Brown, and Brandon Jacobs in the middle of last season. He did show flashes of production, and proved himself to be a capable backup, where he will most likely end up this season.
Henry Hynoski (FB)- An unexpected resigning here, Hynoski missed all of 2013 with a preseason knee injury. As Hynoski’s replacement, John Conner did an excellent job blocking as well as catching passes out of the backfield last season, and the two will likely battle for the starting job, and a roster spot entirely, in training camp.
Mike Patterson (DT)- Big defensive tackle Mike Patterson came over from Philadelphia last offseason. This fills one spot of the now seemingly thin and inexperienced area of the Giants defense. Patterson played well last season mostly against the run, and the Giants brought him back for relatively cheap.
Linebackers Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich where both resigned to bolster the linebacking corps. Nothing flashy about these moves, but these two both contribute to the team both defensively and through special teams.
Other players resigned were as follows: Trumaine McBride (CB), Josh Brown (K), Curtis Painter (QB), and Dallas Reynolds (C). Now, for the most surprising part of free agency so far: the free agent acquisitions. The Giants were uncharacteristically one of the most active teams in free agency. The Giants had plenty of cap room to work with thanks to in large part to restructuring of Chris Snee and Steve Weatherford’s contracts. As of today, the Giants have signed 12 free agents who played for other teams last season. Here they are:
Geoff Schwartz (G/T)- The team had made it clear that fixing the offensive line was its No. 1 priority, and the Giants proved it by nabbing Schwartz, a 6-6, 340-pound former Chief who was one of the top interior linemen on the market almost immediately. He chose the Giants over the St. Louis Rams because he believes that he has the best chance of winning in New York. Known for his prowess in the run game, Schwartz figures to start at left guard, with former Pro Bowler Chris Snee returning to play one more season at right guard.
Rashad Jennings (RB)- It’s a move that makes sense for the Giants. Jennings, 28, is a powerful back that is coming off a strong season with the Raiders in which he ran the ball 163 times for 733 yards and six touchdowns, often subbing for the injured Darren McFadden. Jennings had a solid game Nov. 10 against the Giants at MetLife Stadium, rushing for 80 yards, with 55 coming in a very impressive first half. The Giants have an inclination to sign power backs and players that have proficiency in ball security, and Jennings fits these conditions perfectly.
JD Walton (C)- This is an intriguing signing. Walton has not played a game since injuring his ankle in 2012, but has shown potential to be a serviceable, starting center in the NFL if healthy. He seems to be the favorite to win the starting center job in training camp over others, but nothing is definite.
Jameel McClain (MLB/OLB)- The 28-year-old McClain has played inside in Baltimore’s 3-4 defense, but he also has played some outside linebacker, and that’s where he most likely will start in the Giants’ 4-3 front. McClain notched 52 tackles in 10 games for the Ravens in 2013. He has recorded 332 tackles and 4.5 sacks in regular season play since entering the NFL as undrafted free agent in 2008. A low risk, high reward signing for the Syracuse product.
Quintin Demps (KR/S)- Because of the Giants’ depth in the defensive backfield, Demps may contribute mostly to the return game that was anemic last year. Nonetheless, he led the Chiefs last year in interceptions, so he has a knack for finding the ball. He provides even more depth to the suddenly top-notch secondary.
Walter Thurmond III (CB)- Coming over from the Legion of Boom, or Seattle’s vaunted secondary of last season, Thurmond is emerging as a quality NFL cornerback with potential to be great. However, because of past injury and suspension history, the Giants are protected if he gets hurt again or violates league policy, which would lead to a larger suspension.
Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie (CB)- Possibly the biggest splash of the offseason, the Giants inked DRC to a five-year deal after a great year for Denver last season. The 6 foot 2 corner has the ideal size and strength to be an All-Pro NFL cornerback. He will likely guard the opponents’ top receiver next season, says coach Coughlin. It is worth noting that DRC played with Antrel Rolle in Arizona in 2008 and 2009, which is said to have influenced his decision to come to New York.
Trindon Holliday (KR/PR/WR)- This explosive returner stands at only 5 foot 5, but his explosive quickness makes up for that and some. Out of LSU, Holliday ran a 4.34 40-yard dash, which demonstrates his tremendous speed in and of itself. He will likely be the starting kick and punt returner next year, and may contribute some as a receiver, where he played sparingly last season. He is known to have fumbling issues, and Coughlin (very characteristically) has already talked to him about ball security. With 4 career return touchdowns, he is poised be a catalyst for the awful return game of last year.
Mario Manningham (WR)- Reunited with the team that drafted him and won a Super Bowl with, Manningham struggled to find a niche in San Francisco, where injuries held him back from becoming a starting-quality wide out in the NFL, where most predicted he would be at this point in his career. He will always be remembered in New York for his catch in Super Bowl XLVI, and the Giants felt that he still has a lot left in the tank. He will likely be the fourth receiver on the depth chart behind Victor Cruz, Reuben Randle, and the emerging Jerrel Jernigan.
John Jerry (G/T)- This veteran lineman was signed to provide depth at offensive line, where the Giants had major problems last season. He can play almost anywhere on the line, and is known to be a quality pass blocker. Jerry was named in Ted Wells report as someone that “engaged in a pattern of harassment” toward Jonathan Martin in Miami last year. The Giants seem to have gotten assurances from the league office that there won’t be any discipline. “There is no suspension in the air or anything of that nature,” coach Coughlin said.
Zack Bowman (CB)- This experienced corner is part of the secondary overhaul in New York. The former Bears corner started seven games last year, and has 10 career interceptions in six seasons. He is one of three free agent cornerbacks that the Giants have signed already. Quality signing for Big Blue.
Charles Brown (T)- Brown spent most of last season as the Saints’ starting left tackle, but wound up getting benched after a rough outing against Rams defensive end Robert Quinn. He’s played right tackle as well during his career and gives the Giants an experienced option as a swing tackle behind Will Beatty and Justin Pugh.
After cutting ties with several players such as Linval Joseph (DT), Hakeem Nicks (WR), and defensive leader and former captain Justin Tuck (DE) without much effort to resign them, the Giants are making a change this offseason. The front office has thrown away its typical blueprint of building through the draft and keeping ties
with veterans, as well as coaches. They have seen the Giants fail to reach the playoffs four out of the last five years. They saw the downright ugly offense and at times porous defense of last season and had enough of it. They determined that the only way to fix this team is through many low risk, high-reward signings in free agency. They cut ties with some familiar faces and leaders, but this was intentional. With this new free agency philosophy, they believe that a fresh start is vital. In their opinion, a roster transformation was necessary to return Big Blue to football glory. Free Agency is not over, and more could still be done to fix holes at wide receiver, defensive line, tight end, and offensive line, but there have undoubtedly been major changes during free agency for the first time in a long time for the Giants. There are no guarantees that these changes will return the Giants to excellence, but what is guaranteed: the team will look very, very different in 2014.