A six-game mid season winning streak, helped the New York Giants and first year head coach Ben McAdoo to a 11-5 record, which was enough to see the Giants safely into the playoffs, the first appearance since their 2011 Superbowl win over the Patriots. The Giants were ultimately undone by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the wildcard round, ending an encouraging first season under McAdoo.
The Giants enter the 2017 season knowing they are close to where they want to be, as the curtain starts to come down on the career of 2x Superbowl MVP Eli Manning. The Giants boast a very talented defense, along with a potentially explosive offense, led by the veteran Manning and superstar Odell Beckham Jr. It seems all the pieces are in place for the Giants to make a real run at Superbowl glory in 2017.
Eli Manning enters his 14th season in the NFL, in an off-season where the Giants hope they drafted his replacement in Davis Webb. Manning rejoins Head Coach and play caller Ben McAdoo, who employs a West Coast-quick passing offense. Manning will be looking to get back to his 2014-15 form, where he thrived when McAdoo was the offensive coordinator, with 65 touchdowns to 28 interceptions over the 2 year period. 2016 was a down year for Manning, with many questioning his arm strength and ability to zip the ball. Geno Smith and Josh Johnson will be battling it out to be Eli’s backup- although that doesn’t equate to much when Manning is under centre (just ask Ryan Nassib).
The Giants upgraded Eli’s weapons at the wide receiver position in 2017, with the big addition of Brandon Marshall, who swaps green for blue in New York. Eli will certainly enjoy throwing to the ‘big man’ Marshall, who brings a significant height increase to the receiver corp. Victor Cruz exited New York in favour of Chicago, leaving Sterling Shepard to continue working out of the slot, where he excelled during a decent rookie season. Odell Beckham will continue to be the man around New York…do I need to say much about the superstar wide out? The remaining roster spots are wide open, with Roger Lewis, Tavarres King and Dwayne Harris backing up the three starters. The Giants also upgraded their tight-end position, via the draft, where they drafted the athletically-gifted Evan Engram in the first round, who will provide mismatch dilemmas for defensive coordinators, as he could potentially play anywhere across the line. Rhett Ellison was signed in free-agency from the Vikings and brings some much needed blocking ability. Will Tye and second year man Jerell Adams return to battle out for snaps.
At the running back position, Rashad Jennings was let go in the off-season to allow 2nd year man Paul Perkins to assume the starting role. Perkins showed glimpses of explosiveness in limited snaps in 2016, so will look to make a real impression in 2017. Perkins isn’t a huge upgrade over Jennings, but adds a bit of spice to a running game that was severely lacklustre in 2016. Shane Vereen will resume his spot on the roster as a dangerous pass-catcher. Orleans Darkwa, rookie Wayne Gallman and free-agent pick up Shaun Draughn will all be looking to grab a roster spot and fight for carries throughout the season.
Now we come to the offensive line, and this is where the ‘upgrades’ ends. The Giants once again opted out of bolstering this much deprived and ridiculed unit. Weston Richburg (C) and Justin Pugh (LG) are about the only bright sparks on the line, who both played to a high level in 2016, Pugh in limited games due to injury. D.J. Fluker was signed in free agency, but will more than likely be the backup guard to John Jerry (RG). While the centre of the line looks solid (ish?), the same can’t be said for the tackles. Bobby Hart started 13 games at right-tackle in 2016 and his play has steadily improved. He is young and raw, so question marks will still remain, but with only 6th round Adam Bisnowaty as the only real backup, the Giants don’t have much of a choice. Ereck Flowers enters his 3rd season in the NFL at left-tackle, after receiving intense criticism for his 2016 campaign. All reports in the off-season have been positive, with Flowers staying in New York, working on technique and fitness. It all sounds good, but his play on the field will do all the talking.
This young Giants defense, coordinated by blitz-heavy Steve Spagnuolo, will be looking to build on a very impressive 2016 season, where they ranked 4th in the NFL in points against (18.9) and came up with 35 sacks and 17 interceptions. Spags employs a 4-3 defense, who loves to throw interchanging blitz packages at quarterbacks.
The only real talking point for the Giants defensive line over the off-season, was that Johnathan Hankins opted for free agency and was replaced by 2nd round pick Dalvin Tomlinson out of Alabama. Tomlinson joins Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison at the tackle position along with Jay Bromley who will have his say for the starting spot next to Snacks. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon will continue terrorising quarterbacks from their defensive end position, backed up by Romero Okwara and Owa Odighizuwa. Avery Moss was drafted in the 5th round and adds some competition for the back up pass rushers. The defensive line’s M.O. in 2016 was that they stopped the run, they will look to continue this trend in 2017, while also dialling up pressure on quarterbacks.
The weak link of the 2016 Giants defense was the linebacker position, who were vulnerable to giving up big plays vs tight-ends. The Giants are hoping second year man B.J. Goodson is the answer, as he looks set to start at middle linebacker, even though he only saw 13 snaps on defense in 2016. Veteran man Jonathan Casillas will help Goodson, who returns at the weakside linebacker position, with 4th year man Devon Kennard as the strongside linebacker. Much like the offensive line, the Giants opted not to upgrade the linebacker position, with only Keenan Robinson as the main backup.
The secondary in 2016 was outstanding for the Giants, with Janoris Jenkins playing at Pro Bowl level, along with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had a career high 6 interceptions. Rookie Eli Apple completed the triplet, who progressed throughout 2016 to have a very solid year. Lack of depth remains the only concern in 2017, as veteran Leon Hall was not resigned, leaving Valentino Blake and Michael Hunter the current backups.
Landon Collins had a break out Pro Bowl 2016, becoming the only player in history to have more than 100 solo tackles, over 2 sacks, at least 5 interceptions and more than 12 passes defended. Free safety Darian Thompson returns from an injury-inflicted rookie season, where he only played 2 games. Thompson has all the skills to complement the hard-hitting Collins and they should form a formidable partnership. Andrew Adams, Nat Berhe and Duke Ihenacho will join the starters as more than adequate backups.
Players to watch
Paul Perkins – The Giants run game has to get better in 2017. Perkins is the man to do it. He brings speed, vision and elusiveness. If his Week 17 vs Redskins tape is anything to go by (click here), Perkins should have a big season.
B.J.Goodson – With only 13 defensive snaps to his name, the 2nd year linebacker will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to perform at the high standard, set by the impressive Giants defensive.
Ereck Flowers– Yes, a left tackle! How exciting. A pivotal year for Flowers, who needs to show he is the future left-tackle of the franchise. Giving Eli time and keeping him upright will be priority number one for Flowers.
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