LAST year… the giants went 1 – 5 in the division (again), and 5 – 11 overall, improving on their 2017 mark of 3 – 13. They were 16th in the NFL in scoring (369 points), but 23rd in points allowed (412 points). At mid-season GM Dave Gettleman traded away a few talented players, but saved his biggest trick for this offseason when he traded away WR Odell Beckham, and best pass rusher DE Olivier Vernon, effectively relegating them to last years news.
That was last year. Keeping in mind that though the Draft will change some of this, the following is a report on how the team looks today, prior to the NFL Draft….
Eli Manning finished last year throwing for almost 4,300 yards, completed a career-high 66% of his passes, threw 21 touchdowns, averaged 7.5 yards per pass (his highest since 2011), and had his fourth highest QBR (92.4) of his 15 year career. All despite being sacked 47 times, which was also a career high. (39 was his previous high).
On paper there is no question that he can still play. However if you watch him play, Father Time is clearly tugging on his elbow. (Almost literally.) His eyes can see openings that his arm can’t fire the ball through fast enough. He’s still sort of getting away with it, but when his game expires, it will do so suddenly. Likely in the middle of a game. Definitely in the middle of a season. Perhaps this one.
Behind Manning are two QB’s with a combined resume of 6 years and 19 pass attempts. Manning is still viable as you read this, but he’s like milk being stored on a window sill. (-)
Saquon Barkley was the absolute truth last year, and the best back in the NFC East by a wide margin. On just 352 touches, he posted 2,000 yards from scrimmage, 15 TD’s, and seven, yes SEVEN plays of 50 yards or more. However, given the teams offseason losses, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll have as much success in 2019, despite what will likely be a heavier workload. Behind him are Paul Perkins and Wayne Gallman. Both are trash, so they shouldn’t play much. As long as Barkley is healthy and starting, this team is strong at this position. (+)
Did you hear the one about the team that paid two Slot receivers nearly 80 million dollars? It looks as if the number one option is now Sterling Shepard which is a hoot! He says he looks forward to leading. No. I’m not making this up. I guess he’s seen as more dangerous than Golden Tate. Both are possession receivers who can’t really stretch the field, but each will be expecting to start 16 games. Even if one of them plays in the Slot, the closest thing the team has to an established downfield weapon, is Russell Shepard (no relation). Don’t look his career up, you’ll only hurt your eyes.
Former first round pick Corey Coleman is on the roster (his third team in two years), but he was used mostly as a return man in 2018. So there is no telling where, or if he figures into the offensive plan. If the idea is to somehow reclaim Coleman’s lost value, it would explain why the GM put a first round tender on him, essentially driving up Coleman’s price, in a market where the only suitor was his current team. So yeah. No individual receiver on the roster, nor this grouping as a whole, will scare an NFL secondary, and maybe not even some collegiate ones. (-)
Evan Engram was selected 23rd overall two years ago, and has yet to produce his first 100 yard game. This is odd, because he sees roughly 8 targets per game. This is perplexing, because he should be a weekly match-up headache, gifted with explosive play-making athleticism. This is significant, because he can’t block, so if he doesn’t offer value as a weapon, he has no value on the field. Especially given the talent he’s been surrounded with since setting foot in the NFL. While he can’t be called a “bust”, he’s basically been “just a guy”, from Day 1. Rhett Ellison is more of a blocker, and everyone behind him is a glorified camp body. (-)
So last year during Free Agency, this team went out and gave an assload of money to LT Nate Solder. Even after that, I said that it wouldn’t be enough and I nailed it. They proceeded to give up 47 sacks in 2018, which was a dramatic increase over the 34 they surrendered in 2017. So to bolster the line, they traded for G Kevin Zeitler, still playing on a big 2017 contract from the Browns, after earning it doing this for the Bengals:
I’m not kidding. These are actually listed as highlights. I included this link, just so people can’t say that I’m picking on the guy.
So far this unit looks like the Hindenburg. (-)
In a nutshell:
With a passing game predicated on short quick passes, expect crowed boxes which will make running the ball very tough this year. Nothing about the offensive roster says that this team is trying to win now. I’m guessing the plan here is to give Manning no protection, no run game, no targets to throw to, and watch him get pummeled until he’s injured, or can’t stand it and requests his own benching. At that point, it’s a re-build that fans will blame the player for forcing. After which the team can take a couple of years, with the fan’s blessing, and no real dip in attendance. (-)
While the team’s leading pass rusher from last year is in Cleveland now, the good news is that B.J. Hill is still here. Hill had 5.5 sacks last year (3 in one game against the Bears). Olsen Pierre was brought over from Arizona, in hopes of rekindling past success, with DC James Bettcher, his 2017 DC in Arizona. He’ll likely have to battle for the other end spot, with R.J. McIntosh. Aside from Hill, there are far more questions than answers at this spot. It’s hard to imagine that they open OTA’s in this condition. (-)
Dalvin Tomlinson won’t offer much interior rush, but he’ll absorb blockers and allow other defenders to get to the ball-carrier. There is however, no depth behind him. (+)
Lorenzo Carter was third on the team with 4 sacks in 2018, which was also his rookie season. This means that this organization has a vested interest in seeing this pick pan out. Expect him to start. Across from him is another former Cardinal, Markus Golden. Golden had 12.5 sacks in 2016 (under Bettcher), but he tore his ACL in early 2017, and only collected 2.5 sacks through all of 2018. He may also be looking to rekindle past success with his old DC.
Kareem Martin started 7 games here last year, so he offers experience. While Carter is a true LB, everyone else here is more of a DE, and they can be taken advantage of in coverage. This group is far more about rushing the QB than anything else. That said they have the experience with it. If they get the proper support, there’s no reason why they can’t be effective. (+)
Alec Ogletree picked off FIVE passes last year and returned 2 for touchdowns. He’s a complete LB and it was a stroke of genius to sign him last year. B.J. Goodson is coming off of his best year as a pro. 13 starts, 61 tackles, and 2 interceptions, are all career highs. Between these two players, this defense compiled 7 picks. Tae Davis is more of a S/LB tweener, but he had a very promising rookie year in 2018, which makes this position downright terrifying and maybe the best in the division. (+)
So the front office went and raided Arizona and Cleveland, for help in the secondary. The haul from those heists include Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea. Not exactly a ballhawking pair. Also, both seem more suited to in the box play. It remains to be seen who will have to handle the deep coverage, unless they want to trust it to Micheal Thomas. Also not a ballhawk. While there is a ton of NFL experience here, it doesn’t appear that this position can keep up with the firepower of some passing offenses in the division. (-)
Janoris Jenkins is overrated as a play-maker. Over the last three seasons he’s defensed 42 passes, but come away with just 8 of them. Still, he can be expected to deliver top-tier coverage. After 2018’s mid-season “fire sale”, Grant Haley got 9 straight starts in the Slot to finish the year. Word is that Ann Veal, (sorry) Sam Beal, who missed his entire rookie season with a non-contact, non-pad, recurring shoulder injury which occurred during OTA’s, will be counted on to start in 2019, in order to justify the 3rd round pick the team shelled out for him in 2018’s Supplemental Draft. And depth is non-existent. (-)
In a nutshell:
It’s concerning that a number of former Cardinals that have come over in the last two seasons, and are pushing for serious playing time. This is despite not being very successful before getting here, yet still displacing young players drafted by this team. Olsen Pierre, Markus Golden, CB Ronald Zamfort, Kareem Martin, are all examples of this. Only Antoine Bethea carries a history of consistent, high level play.
Still, it would be disingenuous to pretend not to see DC Bettecher’s vision, once the parts have been laid out, and a bird’s eye view of them can be taken. So it would be unfair to say that this unit looks bad for 2019. It’s 100% fair however, to say that there are too many question marks at key spots. Who is the pass rusher on the d-line? Can the OLB’s be relied on for anything other than pass rush? How does this team defend the pass beyond 20 yards and in the flat? Too many question marks. Too many holes. (-)
Riley Dixon was brought in from Denver last year and had a pretty good run. On 71 punts, only 27 were returned for 177 yards (6.5 per), and no scores. With an average punt of 45.4 yards, he had a net of 41.8. Meaning he doesn’t generally leave much meat on the bone for returners. (+)
Signing another K last offseason really lit a fire under Aldrick Rosas. After a crappy rookie year, he rebounded in 2018 to hit 32 of 33 field goals, and 31 of 32 extra points, roughly 97% in both categories. (+)
While a few players took a crack at returning punts, no player broke 90 yards for the season, let alone took one to the house. Corey Coleman posted 598 kickoff return yards for an average of 26.0, and three returns of 40+, but no scores here either. The return game isn’t a liability, but it’s also not a huge plus. (+)
In a nutshell:
Seems like the team has finally decided to get their act together here. Hidden yardage and reliable kicking helped keep this team in games they shouldn’t have been in. With all the key players returning in 2019, there’s no reason to expect that they won’t find a way to improve yet again. (+)
You can’t win a football game if you can’t score. You can’t win a football game if you can’t stop the other guy from scoring. The giants look like they’re about to have both problems. If they can find a savior in the Draft, then they might find a way to 6 – 10. Otherwise, for New Yorkers looking for football worth watching, you may want to buy tickets to a Jets game.