Boy, were Giants fans worried headed into this offseason with all of the holes Big Blue had. Holes on the offensive line, running game, line-backing crew, secondary etc. Well, Giants General Manager has really improved many aspects of this team with holes everywhere.
New York, to date has made 15 signings and re-signings including 5 players from the secondary, 3 players from he backfield, 2 offensive lineman and 2 linebackers. Some significant, some backups, some players filling into positions the Giants haven’t had difference makers in, in some time. Two areas that are pretty obviously improved are the secondary and the line-backing core. Just today, the Giants made one of the most improving offseason signings in my opinion, when they signed CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a 5 year 39 Million dollar deal. He’ll be taking Corey Webster’s spot on the opposite side of Prince Amukamara who flashed signs of greatness in his own right last season. Webster was the 12th worst corner in all of football allowing 7.49 percent of his snaps result in a first down or touch down. DRC only allowed 30 out of 68 passes thrown his way to be completed including 10 pass deflections and 3 interceptions. The outside has potential of 2 top 15-20 corners in the entire league and the likely slot corner, Walter Thurmond is coming off a Super-Bowl victory with the daunting Seattle defense. Thurmond has been very injury prone over the past couple seasons, just like who he is presumably replacing in free-agent Terrell Thomas, but last season had very productive plays in the 14 games he appeared in. He only had 1 interception but it resulted in a touchdown, he had one forced fumble but also had a recovery to go along with that lone force fumble. Along with the couple of turnovers, he had 6 pass deflections and 3 run stuffs. Backing 2 of the 3 new corners will be newly resigned Stevie Brown, fresh off of an ACL tear in which he missed the entire 2013 season. I can’t tell you how having him back improves the depth in the secondary, along with acquiring ex-Chiefs safety Will Demps, who is a threat in the kick return game as well. A player who lies in the middle of our defense, ahead of the secondary Big Blue resigned was Middle Linebacker, Jon Beason. He started 11 games last season and had 93 total tackles and if that were projected into a 16 game season, would have been 135, which would have been 8th in the league amongst linebackers. Jon needs to improve in the pass game, which was very poor last season, but his tackling ability along with the ability too lead makes him extremely valuable and NYG is better off with him than without, as long as he stays healthy. Along side he, and the combination of Scotty Paysinger and Jacquian Williams is new acquisition, Jameel McClain. McClain, has always been healthy before last year where he missed the firs 6 games of the year on the PUP list. He’s never been a player that forces many turnovers (2 combined interceptions and forced fumbles) but has been a sound tackler and is getting his chance at outside linebacker for the Giants this season.
Onto the offensive side of the ball everyone knows the main offensive issue was turnovers last season. Turnovers, caused by a really, really poor offensive line that wasn’t very good blocking for Eli Manning in pass protection or any of our running backs in that part of the game. Jerry Reese addressed that issue by signing Geoff Schwartz, who will start at right guard, but can play tackle if need be as well and center J.D Walton. Walton has been injury plagued and hasn’t played in a game since week 4 of 2012 but had 36 starts in his 1st 3 seasons with Denver so there is some upside there. Rashad Jennings has been the biggest offensive signing for New York this free agency. The Giants ranked 30th in yards per carry with 3.5, Jennings had 4.5 per carry. Nobody on the Giants had more than 500 rushing yards, Jennings had 733 yards on the ground, in only 8 starts. He was 13th overall in pass protection and that’s a huge step up from what the G-Men backs have had in recent memory. Rashad also put the ball on the ground a grand total of zero times in 2013 and that’s in 133 rushing attempts along with 36 receptions.
The third aspect, and mos underappreciated parts of the game is special teams. Big Blue addressed that tremendously by signing the aforementioned Quintin Demps and also signing the 5’7 Trindon Holiday just today. Demps was 3rd in the entire NFL while Holiday was 5th in yardage per kick return. In retrospect Michael Cox, Giants 2013 kick-returner averaged 21.8 yards per return, good for 21st in the league. A good dynamic of signing Holiday will relieve the pressure of Reuben Randle as a punt returner and focus on his rout running and his connection with Eli. Special teams hasn’t had a good return man in quite sometime and between these 2 players, they had 3 returns for touchdowns just in 2013.
I won’t say some losses won’t hurt. Linvall Joseph, Justin Tuck and Hakeem Nicks most notably. Linvall is one of the best defensive tackles in the game and Justin Tuck had a 2013 in which he was snubbed of a Pro-Bowl appearance. Tuck will, more than anything, be missed because of his versatility. He his an obvious lethal pass rusher from the inside or on the edge, but is great in containing the run, can even drop back in coverage but his leadership is what hurts to see go. He was with New York for both of there Super Bowl runs and is one of the greatest pass rushers in Giants history. But, it’s time for others to step up and be the new Justin Tuck. I’ll also be the first to tell you they still have gaping holes at WR and at the TE position. Jerry Reese and the Giants organization have the 12th pick in the upcoming draft and a lot of options at the OL/WR/TE position to choose from. Free Agency isn’t finished by any means, but if any single position isn’t addressed, it will likely be front and center at the 2014 NFL draft.