Being a New York Giants fan since the 2011 Super Bowl win has been tough. When you win two Super Bowls in four seasons, you expect the team to continue competing for titles, and at least expect them to make the playoffs. That hasn’t happened. Four straight seasons out of the playoffs (three straight with losing records) has seen future Hall of Fame coach Tom Coughlin exited unceremoniously, and once-praised general manager Jerry Reese has come under fire for ineffective drafts and not very many smart moves in free agency.
It would appear that has changed.
The Giants defense was one of the worst units in the league in 2015, and no part of it was any good. They couldn’t stop the run, they couldn’t rush the passer, and they couldn’t cover anyone. The moves they made this offseason have far and away gone towards improving all three of those aspects.
Enter Damon Harrison, signed from the New York Jets, who was ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 run stopper in the league in the 2015 season. He stopped an absurd amount of run plays he was on the field for — 18.1 percent, while no other player besides J.J. Watt had more than 12.9 percent. He’s a massive man at 350 pounds and will plug up the middle, giving improving DT Johnathan Hankins the chance to get one-on-ones and show off his ability to rush the passer from the inside.
Enter Olivier Vernon, who was graded by PFF as the best edge defender in the league over the final eight games of the season. The Giants also resigned Jason Pierre-Paul who, despite playing with half a hand and for only half the season, was ranked 11th in rushing the passer last season. The two will provide a dominant pair setting the edge, something the Giants haven’t had since Justin Tuck left in 2012.
Enter Janoris Jenkins, who in my opinion is the least important of the three big signings but a definite improvement over Prince Amukamara. Jenkins was only ranked as the 30th best corner in the league by PFF, and he’s a feast or famine type player, but he’s shown playmaking ability and has improved every year of his career.
The Giants also drafted Eli Apple with their first round pick. Most draft pundits agree in Apple’s potential, but don’t believe he’s someone who will contribute straight away without significant development. It’s a good thing the Giants have two established corners (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) at the moment, and only need Apple to solidify the third option. That’s a very important position in today’s NFL, but Steve Spagnuolo should be able to get what they need out of Apple this season.
Speaking of their draft, the Giants got several players you could argue will make contributions in 2016. The aforementioned Apple has the opportunity to see the field right away. Sterling Shepherd brings a lot of the same value that Odell Beckham Jr. did when he was drafted. He’s competitive, strong, fast, and can add value as a returner. He dominated as the Sooners’ only viable option in the passing game last season, giving the Giants flexibility if and when Victor Cruz returns to 100% health.
Several called Darian Thompson a steal in round three, and safety is a position that is wide open after Landon Collins. Nat Berhe is likely the starter at the moment, but there are no guarantees he will hold onto that. Late round picks Paul Perkins (RB) and Jerell Adams (TE) are both positions the Giants have struggled to find contributors over the past two-three seasons. They mostly apply a committee approach to both positions, but you could see either of these rookies taking over at some point.
The offense was already very good in 2015, with potential to be even better this season.
What you want from any offseason where you have a ton of needs and a ton of cap space is to see your team make significant improvements everywhere. One knock on the offseason is the Giants, once again, did not address the linebacker position save for another middle round pick in the draft. It’s clear Jerry Reese will never waste high picks or spend a ton of money there, thinking he can hide average LB play with dominant line and defensive back play. It has worked before, but it has failed miserably in recent years.
Reese took steps to make the DL and DBs great again, now they just have to gel as units and put it together. I believe Spags is the right defensive coordinator to make that happen.
In my obviously biased opinion, the Giants are the most balanced team in an average division right now. You could make the argument for any team winning the division and I would buy it. However, the Giants have a new coach, a new attitude on defense and an established offense. It’s time for them to put it all together, and they will.