We don't usually post videos and certainly not one of practices, but WOW -you need to see this one!
The wait is over. After a long off season, the Giants kick off their pre-season this Friday night. I have some initial thoughts on the upcoming season, which are admittedly going to be refined significantly prior to the regular season.
I can’t recall the last time that there was a wider gap between the upside and downside possibilities for this team.
The negative case is that the Giants had a ton of close games last year and mean reversion usually means that they should only win about half of them. That alone would cost them two wins.
Additionally, the Giants have one of the toughest schedules in the league. That too could be good for an expectancy of a couple of more losses. All else being equal, last year’s team playing this year’s schedule, would average about 7 wins. Their biggest liability last year, the offensive line, went basically unaddressed in the off season. Also, their most expensive player, QB Eli Manning clearly started the back 9 of his career. It is highly unusual for this to get better. The more likely path is for it to get worse. All these facts don’t bode well for the Giant’s.
Here is the upside. They were an 11 win playoff team. Their defense was not only good last year, but gradually improved over the course of the year, amazingly even after JPP went down with an injury. With the possible exception of Dominique Cromartie, not one significant player on the defense is at an age where he should be getting worse. The one loss on the defense in Hankins was adequately replaced. The free safety situation should be reasonably improved with the return of Darian Thompson from injury. I expect B.J. Goodson to be an improvement from last year’s Kelvin Sheppard (who still remains unsigned if you needed to be sure of that). Eli Apple looks improved from last year and he continued to improve throughout the year last year. The secondary could be the best in the NFL. Most importantly, it seems the defense improvement over the course of the year last year was not a coincidence. The last time the Giants won the Superbowl, defensive coordinators Steve Spagnuolos defense started out by giving up 80 points in their first 2 games before learning the system and improving. This team seems to have learned the system and should be able to utilize this knowledge and improve their game.
On the offensive side, even though the line remains the same, there is an argument that it does not. Pugh missed some time last year and is now healthy. Westburg apparently played with an injured hand which is now better. Disappointments Flowers and Hart stayed in Jersey all winter to work on their bodies and their games. Even a minor improvement should help. They also had no tight end last year who could block and they do now with Rhett Ellison, who was one of the best blocking tight ends in the game. In terms of passing targets for Manning, Marshall is a huge improvement over a post-surgical and ineffective Victor Cruz, and rookie tight end Evan Engram has been flashing in practices and looks like a size/speed mismatch that Ben McAdoo will utilize well. In addition to the obvious expected greatness from OBJ, Shepard is coming into year 2 where may receivers make a jump. He has one of the better statistical years of any first year receiver last year. The Giant’s stuck with Jennings at running back for too long last year and he was awful. Perkins when given a chance did much better than Jennings and will be the main ball carrier. Also Shane Vereen coming back as a receiving back will be helpful. More so the diverse talent they have should allow them more formations and make them less predictable. The Giant’s are only 2 years removed from having a good offense and it was with a substantially similar line. The subtle improvement the offense has made since last year, via additions and health could have a significant impact. If their defense is as good as I think it can be and the offense even gets back to middle of the pack, even with a tough schedule the Giants could be as good as any team.
After round 1 we gave our thoughts on Engram. I would have still gone with Reuben Foster. I think adding an elite MLB to that defensive line and backfield would have made for a truly dominant defense.
The Giant’s tight end situation is poor enough that very solid solutions could have been had through round 4 or 5 that would have represented an upgrade on their current team. I would have liked to see Jake Butt taken in the 4th round. Maybe Engram will be a nightmare matchup problem and prove me wrong but it didn’t seem like the pick to make. In the second round, as we predicted they would, they took a DT to replace Hankins. They selected Dalvin Thompson. He should reasonably be a swap for Hankins who, while loved by the Giants, was not worth the $10m he got from a defensively desperately bad Colt team. The PFF guys happened not to have rated Hankins very highly last year and there is reasonable thought he was better situated to the NT position occupied by Harrison. The replacement cost here is materially less. Now if the Giants knew they would have been replacing him they potentially could have allotted that salary cap piece elsewhere, either to a Martellus Bennett at TE or to a quality offensive lineman.
Round 3 pick David Webb could ultimately make or break the draft. Unless they had him ranked significantly higher, I’m against the pick. The Giants have current holes that needed filling, and realistically speaking, this is a pick who likely won’t play for 3 years. This is a problem for 2 reasons. One is that the Giants have a very good team right now and every chance to take advantage of the “Manning Window” should be taken. Two, with very few exceptions, good teams don’t just go from one franchise QB to another without a big drop. At some point post-Manning, it’s likely that they will need to rebuild. At that point they can get a high draft pick and get their man then. If they had Webb rated much higher than he was taken, then it’s reasonable to take a crack at him in round 2. Reports are that he is not very accurate and that is something that doesn’t generally improve sufficiently over a career.
I am not enamored with 4th round pick Wayne Gillman. The Giants have their good, but great lead back in Perkins, who is young and flashed reasonable potential last year, running for a much higher average than Jennings behind the same exact line. For the most part this very mediocre line should only get better as except for John Jerry they are all young guys still on the ascent their career. They won’t be good but should be improved. Gillman who ran a slow 4.6 40-yard dash time is supposed to be the stronger in between the tackles compliment to Perkins. I like Darkwa in that role. His numbers decreased last year but that was primarily because most of his runs came against the Packers and Vikings, two excellent run defense teams and were while Justin Pugh was injured. He is a solid runner and as good as Gillman making this a wasted pick.
In round 5 they took Avery Moss, a DE who could add to the pass rush. Once you are down to round 5 it’s not crazy to take guys that could come in as specialist and its possible Moss can fill that role. He has the right body type. They traded up in round 6 when they realized they didn’t take any OL. They took Bisnowaty. It’s doubtful he becomes more than serviceable but he performed well in a good conference. It’s possible he can add muscle and get better.
He won’t be a year 1 starter, if ever. Some of the URFA looked good. USC OT Chad Wheeler could make the team. Same for Notre Dame DT Jarron Jones. I look forward to seeing these guys in the upcoming rookie minicamp.
The Giants selected Evan Engram from Ole Miss with their first-round pick. While we expected that the tight end position was a likely choice, we thought it would be Miami’s David Njoku. Shockingly, the early round run on quarterbacks created a dynamic where OJ Howard slipped to 19. It raised hope but the Bucs grabbed him and it was not meant to be. The problem I have with the Engram pick is that he is only a tight end in name only. At 235 pounds, he is similar in size to Brandon Marshall. He is a wide receiver who is called a tight end. It’s not that he isn’t a good player who can create major mismatches. I think he could be. He is surprisingly fast (4.42 40) for a man of his size. It’s just that we didn’t need a wide receiver. We are good there. Perhaps the Giants will come up with creative game plans to use his unique skills. The Giants are stacked at wide receiver and didn’t need this pick with all the needs they have.
OT Bolles did get picked a few picks beforehand as well. As we predicted in the preview, I didn’t think the Giants loved the other tackles as first rounder’s, so it’s not shocking that they passed on them. I did think they could take Alabama middle linebacker Reuben Foster with the pick - that is who I would have taken. Given the question about his character and the Giants focus on high character players it’s not shocking that they passed.
Perhaps Engram can add 20 pounds and become something else, but I am not convinced. He is exceptionally fast and big enough to cause matchup problems but it’s not a pick I would have made. Perhaps they are more bullish on last year’s 4th round pick B.J. Goodson than we realize and that was a reason to pass on Foster.
They also could feel there is decent quality tackles to be taken in later rounds and didn’t want to reach for one they didn’t love in round 1 once Bolles was gone.
I’m looking forward to the upcoming rounds over the next couple of days. I think they will take a DT in round 2 or 3 and an OT but it really depends on how the draft shakes out.
This is my favorite time of the year.
- Ari Glass
The Giants 23rd Draft tonight. Their needs are plentiful. the offensive line needs significant help at the tackles. The defensive line is now lacking a DT since Jon Hankins signed with the Colts (I happen not to disagree with the giants not matching a $10m a year offer.) The linebackers on the Giants have been mediocre for years. Something the Giants needs is a running back too, but unless they can get someone exceptional (Fournette will be gone so possibly McCaffrey), I don’t think anyone else really adds to the Perkins-Dwarka mix. Tight end is also a big need. They singed Rhett Ellison from the Vikings and he can block but they don’t have a good receiving tight end or all around tight end.
So what does this all mean? Who will the Giants pick in the first round?
When drafting this low its always hard to predict because the uncertainty of who will still be available is that much higher. I do believe the speculation that the Giants could take a QB with the first pick if certain options are still available is absurd. They know their window with Eli Manning is closing and they need all the resources they can muster while he is still around.
So who will they take?
I’m not sure they are sold on any of the solid, but not great offensive tackles. It comes down to Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, Utah’s Garret Bolles or Alabama’s Cam Robinson.
I think Bolles would be the first choice as he has the most LT potential, and they know Flowers will eventually have to move to the right side. I’m not sure they would take one of the other two if Bolles is gone. It may make more sense to get a tackle in later rounds than to reach for one here.
They really do need a DT unless they sign one in free agency but nobody in this draft seems to fit this spot in round 1.
If OJ Howard the 'Bama Tight End was available, they would jump at that but he is not expected to be. David Njoku from Miami could fall to them and is a real possibility. If it’s not one of them, linebacker Jarrad Davis from Florida would make sense. Some are pushing for Zach Cunningham but I think that is a bit of a reach.
They almost never trade up or down in the first round and there is not an obvious need, so I don’t see it happening tonight either. Of course as we saw last year with Tunsil, there are always unexpected things that happen. Looking forward to seeing!!
The Giants will play the Packers in the first round in Lambaue. It’s the worst draw they could have gotten. The Lions in Detroit would have been ideal and even the Seahawks in Seattle would have been ok as they have not been that good since losing Earl Thomas.
The Packers are the league’s hottest team and dominated the Giants in their earlier season match up. However the Giants are a different team now than they were then. Also, if you look at who the Packers have beat on this 6 game winning streak its not a very impressive list. The one quality win was against a not as good as advertised Seahawk team. Rodgers is a great player and is playing lights out, but they haven’t played a defense this good during the streak the likelihood of continuing to have no interceptions for 7 straight weeks is low. The rest of the team is ok but nothing special. The one thing that scares me is what Rodgers can do with his legs. He can escape pressure and make things happen. Barring such heroics that Giants could hold their own in Green Bay. It would be an upset but not a shocker for the Giants to come out of there with a win and head to Dallas to play the Cowboys for a third time this year.
The game plan will have to involve even a bigger move towards Perkins and away from Jennings. Its not a coincidence that Perkins finished the season with a very respectable 4.1 yards per carry versus the anemic 3.3 yards per carry that Jennings provided. Manning will also have to get enough time to throw some deep balls. His game has clearly slipped, likely the result of age, but he can certainly still get hot and do enough to score the points needed to win with a very good Giant defense. Lastly, now that we are in the playoffs the Giants should use Beckham more as a punt returner. He had at least 3 excellent run backs that were called back due to penalties. He showed his potential as a returner. In the regular season sits likely not worth risking the injury but its lose and go home so now is the time to take the risk. I think the Giants will go in and surprise some people and pull off a 20-19 victory to advance to the second round (but if Jenkins is still injured, I don’t think the Giants can win).
The Giants finished the regular season with strong win over a good Redskin team in a game meaningless to the Giants but it bounced the Redskins out of the playoffs. The Giant defense continues its excellent play that has been in place over the second half of the season.
The Giant offense once again didn’t score much, but this game seemed a bit different than the others as of late. Firstly, the Giants’ offense moved the ball well in the first half when they were fully staffed. The offense stalled in the second half largely as a result of OBJ being benched for smart and precautionary reasons. For the first time all season Paul Perkins was inserted into the starting lineup and he was given the most carries. He responded well by running for over 100 yards (first such game recorded by a Giant this year) and subjectively looking good both by finding holes and physically moving piles. He brings a skill set that Jennings likely never had and certainly doesn’t have any more. With a line that can best be described as mediocre you can’t also have a running back like Jennings who is not dynamic. Optimists will point to the 2007 season when rookie Ahmad Bradshaw got few carries until the end of the season and then led them in the post-season. The second difference in the game was the Manning pass to King for 44 yards setting up the game winning field goal. It was the first completed deep pass by Manning in recent memory. I’m hopeful that gives manning the confidence to start hitting receivers downfield. Most of the long plays OBJ has scored on in the second half of the season were short passes that he used his skills to turn into long plays. The Giant defense was dominant in the first half when Janoris Jenkins played and good enough in the second half when he didn’t. It’s not that the drop off to game MVP DRC is a big one. It’s not. DRC still is a top-flight corner, even if not the Pro Bowler that Jenkins was this year. It’s that on passing plays teams are going with at least 3 receivers and therefore going against your third cornerback. Downgrading from DRC to someone like Wade as a third corner hurts the defense tremendously. As the saying goes, you are only as good as your weakest link. Jenkins didn’t play in the second half due to soreness. The Giants must hope that was a precaution and not indicative of a real recurrence of his recent back injury. While there were some rumors of JPP being ahead of schedule those were mostly shot down. JPP probably played the best game of any defender the last time the packers and Giants played and his presence will be missed. Of course it was early in the year when Vernon was playing through a hand injury. Once that healed, Vernon became the player the Giants hoped they would get when they gave him his huge contract.
Speaking of which, I’ve never seen a slew of free agent signings as successful as the ones the Giants have had this year. In addition to Vernon becoming one of the game’s best 2-way defensive ends, Snacks Harrison completely transformed the Giants rush defense. The pass defense looks much better against a 3rd and 7 versus a 3rd and 2. He could be the best run-stuffer in the league and is under appreciated. It’s no coincidence that the Jets defense fell apart this year in his absence while the Giants went from easy to run on to very hard to run on. He is that dominant. And Jenkins at the corner we already discussed. It’s a shame JPP is not back because this defense would be ready to dominate. Free agency isn’t the only place Reese did a good job. The draft class is looking good as well. Apple took over a starting corner job and has recovered from a mid-season slump to be very reliable. Shepard had put up good stats for a rookie receiver. Thompson looked very promising at free safety before an early injury cost him the year. Perkins could be their running back of the future and even Adams has contributed at tight end.
The Giants finished with 11 wins one above our 10 win preseason prediction. Given that Vegas on average predicted an 8-win season, we will put our prediction in the win bucket.
After watching all NFC teams competing for a wild card spot win yesterday (despite most of them being in danger of losing at some point), the Giants had what was almost a must-win against the team with the best record of the NFL. After being massively outplayed in the first half on the field but not the scoreboard, they put it together in the second half combining a dominant defensive effort with a mediocre offensive effort highlighted by one great Odell Beckham play, to beat the Cowboys 10-7 in front of a stadium that sold approximately a quarter of its tickets to Cowboys fans.
Random thoughts on special teams:
Love OBJ on punt returns but let’s do it against punters without good hang times. With no room to run, why risk it? But when he is given time he will break one.
Not opening on the character issues with Josh Brown but Giants passing on a 40 something yard field goal attempt in the first half was a reflection of their understanding of the difference between Robbie Gould and Josh Brown.
I didn’t understand why Dallas punt returns lines up only 40 yards from line of scrimmage when Brad Wing punted. He kept kicking it over their heads which left them with backwards momentum when trying to catch the ball.
Thoughts on the defense last night:
Olivier Vernon looked solid for the first half of the season. We were told he had some sort of wrist injury which has subsequently healed. I would say that his play over the last 6 weeks has been spectacular including last night. Tyron Smith is a top 5 NFL tackle and he won that battle convincingly. He is amazingly justifying that enormous contract.
The game from Okwara was a very good game. Anyone watching in pre-season (the last time he got real PT) would not be shocked and we got on his bandwagon early. He is clearly no JPP –especially against the run- but his strong game, if followed up with others in the coming weeks could hurt the negotiating power of JPP this off season. I believe JPP bleeds blue and would love to return but with the money already invested in Vernon and Harrison on that line and potentially Hankins too, it will be a tough keep unless he provides a home team discount.
Vernon is on T the only free agent signee performing well. ‘Jackrabbit’ Jenkins has been a true shut down corner and his dominance of Dez Bryant was likely the biggest contributor to the win. Lastly, ‘Snacks’ Harrisons run stuffing has changed the entire defensive front.
I am still perplexed by the lack of playing time that DRC gets. He is still playing great ball. Is this really all about preventing injury? I can even understand having a strong performing Eli Apple ahead of him in base defenses as the gap is minimal, but the fact that Sensabaugh gets playing time as the third CB on first and second downs is perplexing.
I’m not sure if the return of Justin Pugh next week will move the needle enough in terms of the play from the line but the Giants running game just can’t seem to get going and can’t keep defenses honest. Odell will never see single team coverage and defenses don’t have to. There is just no run game to respect –especially when you have a middle linebacker like Sean Lee. He is truly amazing. I’m not sure of his free agency status but I’d love to see the giants come after him.
Dak Prescott has obviously been amazing but he plays with a great running game and the best offensive line in football. It’s hard to imagine that Tony Romo would have struggles the way Dak did last night. Dak has had it easy and never really had to come from behind against a good defense to prove himself.
Offensively, it is still a bit of a mystery to me why the offense would be this much worse than a year ago with virtually identical players other than the upgrades at wide receiver. One possible explanation is that the defense has been watching the Giants offense which has become more predictable. It seemed that every time Manning called an audible at the line, Dallas called their one play in reaction to it and left them in better position to defend the play. Also, the best quarterbacks are always good at looking off of the primary receiver to move the safeties or linebackers. I recall getting to watch Brett Favre in his one NY season and he was amazing at that. Manning doesn’t seem to be able to do that anymore. I’m not sure if his lack of confidence in the time his line will allow him plays into this but he targets his primary receiver from the snap. That is one of the reasons he is particularly poor at screen passes where always telegraphs the play ahead of time. His accuracy seems to have declined as well. He is getting older so a slip in performance shouldn’t be a shock, but it is one possible explanation for the offensive struggles.
What a difference a few weeks makes. Suddenly the Giants are on a win streak and find themselves at 6-3, with upcoming games against the struggling Bears and Browns and already currently positioned as a Wild Card. The defense is gelling and the offense is doing enough to outscore the opponents. The free agents have performed well and the rookies have been solid, but not spectacular. Landon Collins in year is materially improved and is a shoo-in for a pro bowl selection. Even their 3 losses were to the Redskins, where the Giants outplayed them and to the then-hot Vikings and Packers, who they just caught at the wrong time.
That is the good news. The bad news, if you want to be pessimistic is that the 6 wins are by a combined 21 points, most of them in games that could have gone either way. In fact, the biggest difference between this year and last year is their performance in these close could go either way games. Last year’s 6-10 could have been 10-6. This past week the Giants rushing stats looked good. However this was misleading as they could not run most of the game and most runs went for 2 yards or less. Three good runs accounted for most of the positive yardage and that is not indicative of a true improvement in the running game. The Giants’ offensive line is just not that good. They are especially poor on the run and their sacks allowed stat is good but slightly misleading as Eli Manning just throws the ball very quickly and that is why it’s usually not very far down field. That is why Beckham has had little success with long pass plays this year.
I’m almost disappointed that Jennings ran well on Monday night against the Bengals because that will lull the coaching staff into a false sense of security as to his skills. He doesn’t make people miss. Darkwa happened to have been given his chance specifically when they played two of the best run defenses in the Packers and the Vikings. I’d still love to see him get another chance.
One reason for bullishness is that the Giants do actually seem to be learning to play with each other on defense and actually getting better. Their offense still seems to have more untapped potential but they will have to figure out how to get a semblance of a rushing game. I still wish they had drafted Tunsil. It would have made a bigger difference to the team than Apple.
This coming week I expect a Giants victory. The defense is playing well, and they catch a Bear team that will be without their best receiver due to an Alshon Jeffery suspension. The Giants offense may still struggle but look for a 20-13 victory.
The Giants play the Redskins this weekend at Met Life stadium.
It would have been a competitive game in DC, but in NY it should be no contest. The skins are a mess having started 0-2 against a very good Steelers team, and a mediocre at best, Dallas team. Cousins is likely regretting having turned down a long term contract and the Skins management is likely relieved that they chose not to offer top tier money off of such a small sample size.
The Giants defense will shut down the Redskins ground game and pressure Cousins into mistakes on long third down conversions.
On offense, the Giants will still struggle to run the ball but Eli will have much better luck this week converting yards into scores. When an offense throws for 368 yards and only punts twice all day as happened against the Saints, you would expect a lot of points. That conversion rate will revert to the mean, and the Giants will score 24 points in a 24-17 victory over the Redskins.
The interesting story of the day will of course be OBJ going up against Josh Norman. Of course, as we learned last week, if a defense pays too much attention to OBJ, Sterling Shepard will run wild. I can see them both eclipsing 100 yards this week.
Ari has been an avid Giants fan since 1979. He attends many home games and has attended the Giants last 2 Superbowl victories. This blog will talk about anything related to the New York Giants. Ari also blogs about the New York Knicks, at http://www.ariglassknicksblog.com