The pre-season, as meaningless as it usually is, was certainly an interesting one. It helped to answer some questions that had been lingering since the draft and free agency period. Last year, the Giants offense played reasonably well despite poor line play and defense was horrific primarily because of poor line play.
The Giants chose to materially address their defensive line and did not do anything to address their offensive line.
Both of these decisions have shown up in their pre-season production. The Giants starting defense was borderline dominant in the pre-season.
Olivier Vernon at age 25, their big free agent acquisition, looks to be coming into his prime and could have a huge year, both against the run and the pass.
Hankins looks back to pre-injury form, and a healthier (but still impaired JPP) looks to be back to something in between his pre-injury and post injury levels. Even his post injury self, last year was better than the headline number (1 sack) would indicate. Lastly Damon “Snacks” Harrison is an elite run stuffer which will help both against the run and the pass (when 3rd and 3 becomes 3rd and 7).
The cornerbacks are good and with rookie Eli Apple are legitimately 3 deep, despite the fact that drafting him so high was a mistake. The safeties should be much better for a few reasons. Collins, should make a leap in year 2 as his know-how catches up with his physical abilities. He should also really benefit from playing the strong safety position near the line as opposed to the miscast free safety he was forced to play last year. 3rd round pick Darian Thompson looks like a winner at the free safety, and Nat Berhe rotating in after coming back healthy from a missed 2015 will add to the mix.
Offensively the Giants are feeling the mistake of not drafting Laremy Tunsil over Eli Apple. They are desperate for help on that line. Newhouse and Jerry are not starter quality and Flowers has not been able to add technique to good physical skills. Pugh and Wesburg are very good but not enough to make a line. There is hope that the act of desperation in bringing back Will Beatty gets the Giants improved to a level of mediocrity at right tackle, but he hasn’t been healthy enough to get on the field since 2014 and just got signed too recently to even start in game 1. In the pre-season the line looked even worse than last year. They couldn’t block at all and Rashad Jennings actually had more negative than positive runs, a feat hard to accomplish.
The good news is that the Eli is still Eli in an offense that was made for his skills. He had a great year last year and that was with only one wide receiver to throw to. OBJ will be great again and that will draw attention away from impressive rookie 2nd round pick Sterling who I expect to have close to 70 catches for close to 900 yards. I’m not a believer that Victor Cruz has anything left to offer but I hope I’m wrong. If I am right, the Giants to have some young guys who impressed in camp and preseason and won jobs and could add value at the receiver position. A quality second reviver though could really improve the offense.
That is why despite a below average running game, the Giant’s will eventually learn to use short passes as a running game substitute and move the ball enough to compensate for the poor offensive line play.
When the preseason began I was very bullish and expecting a 10-win team. When I watched the preseason incompetence, I was down to 8 wins. Then I realized, that the defense will be good, and the offense was trying to accomplish certain specific goals rather than necessarily trying to win the football game, and that they will do what they need to do in the actual season to score 24 points a game. Then, when the Football gods injured Tony Romo and traded away Sam Bradford, the expected value went up by almost 1.5 wins and I am now predicting a 10 win season and a visit to the playoffs. I think I’m being objective and saying it as an analyst rather than a hopeful fan. The only reason I believe I am is that we have been accurate and not bullish for 2 years running. It’s been a long off-season and I’m looking forward to finally watching some Giants football.
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