The Giants 2017 season is finally, thankfully, over. Ending on a slight high with a win over divisional rivals, Washington Redskins. The Giants finish 3-13, holding onto the 2nd overall pick in the draft, behind the winless Cleveland Browns. Recently hired GM, Dave Gettleman, has a busy off-season ahead of him. Below are five concerns and needs that will be on the minds of Gettleman and the front office. Giants offseason needs…
It seems the entire NFL world has been discussing the Giants offensive line worries, for at least the past 2 off-seasons. I believe Dave Gettleman will put an end to this seemingly never-ending narrative. Or he will at least attempt to. The plethora of top-level offensive big men seems to shrink with every passing year. Potential upcoming free agents in 2018 are ‘headlined’ by Nate Solder, Luke Joeckel and Andrew Norwell. Hardly blockbuster. The Panthers connection between Norwell and Gettleman is an intriguing one, but Norwell will more than likely enter the 2018 season as the highest-paid interior lineman. Can the Giants afford him?
On the home front, its up in the air what Gettleman will do. It wouldn’t surprise me if he cleans house across the line. Neither would it surprise me if he adds one or two pieces. Justin Pugh and Brett Jones, I believe will be retained. To the fans delight, so will Ereck Flowers. It doesn’t make huge sense to cut him at this point. He has made some progression this season, which will be encouraging for the Giants, but still, he’s not good enough to be a starting blindside blocker. A move to right tackle potentially?
Moving inside, center Weston Richburg sustained a season ending concussion in November, and has since been usurped by Brett Jones, who played impressive in his stead. Richburg is set to become a free agent this off-season and it financially makes little sense to pay him. Bobby Hart didn’t last the season, getting cut before the final game. Rookies Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty will be placed on the practice squad for 2018. That leaves DJ Fluker, John Greco, Jon Halapio and John Jerry. It doesn’t seem either of the four will be starting for the Giants in 2018.
Pass Rusher/ Depth
With the countless other woes and mishaps that struck the Giants in 2017, this defunct area of the roster has largely gone unnoticed. Admittedly, week in week out, I see fans complaining that Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon are ineffective and overpaid. The problem is not that they are overpaid, it’s that they are overworked. The Giants are certainly trying to squeeze every last penny out of the two edge rushers, both of whom continually play upward of 90% snaps each week.
According to Football Outsiders, in 2016, Olivier Vernon started all 16 games for the Giants. Leading all defensive linemen in snap percentage with 93.6%. Fast-forward to this season, Jason Pierre-Paul, again playing all 16 games, registered 91.5% of defensive snaps, second only behind Cam Jordan (who had 5.5 more sacks). Yes, both ends are excellent run stoppers. But it’s inexcusable how little the Giants rotate pass rushers. The Jaguars, who had 55 sacks on the season, are a prime example of a defense effectively rotating pass rushers. Calais Campbell, Yannick Nkagoue, Dante Fowler and Malik Jackson played all 16 games for the Jags and yet not one of them played over 80% of defensive snaps.
For as good a run stuffer as Damon Harrison is, and Dalvin Tomlinson to some extent, neither are capable of putting real pressure on the passer. QB’s are able to step up in the pocket, with no real pressure in their face, avoiding the rush from the two ends. With the Giants already paying Pierre-Paul and Vernon a total of $35 million in 2018, it’s unlikely they add any premier free agents.
Whether you’re an Eli Manning lover or a down-right 10 hater ( I preside on the former), there’s no denying the Giants have to solidify the quarterback position. The direction in which the Giants go this off-season, will be in large part down to how Gettleman views Eli Manning’s fading years and if he sees Davis Webb as his eventual successor.
Either way, it’s highly like the Giants draft another QB, whether that be at 2, further down in the 1st, or even early in the 2nd. Both Josh Rosen (UCLA) and Sam Darnold (USC) have declared for the draft. Barring some serious U-turning from draft analysts, the Giants will have a shot at drafting one of the top-2 rated QBs. Further down the board, the Giants could land; Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield or Josh Allen. Right now Rosen/Darnold are 1 and 2, but there’s certainly not a huge drop-off in talent outside of these two. That being said, the Giants haven’t had a chance at drafting a top 5 pick QB, since the current franchise passer was drafted/traded to the Giants in 04′. If Gettleman and the scouting team rate either of the California QB’s, it would be surprising to see the Giants pass on them.
For arguments sake, let’s say the Giants go an entirely different route to finding their franchise QB. Free Agency. All three of the Vikings QBs are set to become free agents in 2018. Could the Giants pick up Teddy Bridgewater? Case Keenum? With the number 2 pick and Davis Webb still on the sidelines, I don’t believe the Giants will entertain this scenario, but the option is there.
Another position on the defense that lacks quality depth. B.J. Goodson had a solid start to his sophomore season, his first as the starting middle linebacker. Multiple leg injuries limited him to just 7 games though. 18 tackles in the season opener vs the Cowboys shows how much of a down-hill tackling machine Goodson can be. If he stays healthy, Goodson is a more than an adequate stater for the Giants, but they will need to secure some backups. Veteran Jonathan Casillas also played limited games due to injury, resulting in Kelvin Sheppard, Carl Munson and Keenan Robinson stepping in for the two starters.
Ideally the Giants would love to add some depth via the draft in April, while also picking up some veteran presence in free agency. Giants won’t a get the chance of drafting Georgia’s Raquon Smith outside of the first round. Alabama’s Rashaan Evans seems a more realistic option in the 2nd round.
Free Agency offers the Giants more veteran options, as Demario Davis looks set to hit free agency. Zach Brown could join him if he can’t ink a deal with the Redskins. Elsewhere, Avery Williamson (Titans) and Preston Brown (Bills) had outstanding 2017 seasons, so it would be shocking to not see them sign contract extensions. Slim pickings for the Giants at one of their most needed positions.
Let’s just say it was an interesting season for the cornerback group. Three in-season suspensions for the Giants in 2017, all came from the position. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the first, followed by Janoris Jenkins. Eli Apple had several benchings at different points in the season, culminating in a late season suspension and Landon Collins calling him a ‘cancer’ in the locker room. Ouch.
Clearly, Eli Apple is the biggest problem facing Dave Gettleman. If issues between Collins (and other team members) can’t be solved, the new GM will be forced to off-load him. Early in the season, Apple showed signs of real progression, but if you delve deeper into his tape, his effort is lacking on multiple plays. Check the videos, from Dan Duggan’s tweet.
It will be interesting to see what Gettleman does with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had a relatively poor season, playing limited snaps and picking up the suspension. DRC is 31, with 2018 being the final year of his contract. It could be time the Giants move on and look elsewhere.
Ross Cockrell emerged late in the season, to string together some impressive performances. I don’t see him becoming a starter in 2018, but if the Giants move on from Apple, Cockrell will become a valuable backup, for whoever steps in. Regarding free agents in 2018, Kyle Fuller, Patrick Robinson and Trumaine Johnson are the most standout. Plenty of veterans available if Gettleman wants to replace DRC like-for-like. I don’t see the Giants moving on Janoris Jenkins, who has been their best CB since his arrival in 2016.
Quite honestly, you could give arguments for upgrading every position for the Giants. Do you Giants continue to roll with running back tandem of Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman, both of who averaged over 4 yards per carry. Or could they make the blockbuster pick of Saquon Barkley? The Giants will get their star wide receiver back in 2018, but many question still remain about Brandon Marshall. Even before his injury, the veteran had a tough start to his Giants career. Sammy Watkins is a potential free agent and it would make more sense adding a younger guy, to pair with OBJ and Sterling Shepard.
Defensively, there are still question marks about FS Darian Thompson, who was expected to have a break through year in 2017. With issues still at the cornerback position, Thompson will have to up his game, to continue to play alongside the Pro Bowler, Landon Collins.
A long, but fun offseason awaits the Giants. Expect more trade activity from Gettleman than the previous GM, who is not afraid to move up or down in the draft.
Giants Offseason Needs.