NFC East Rank: 2nd
Projected Record: 9-7
The New York Giants have a new look and are set to rebound following a disastrous start to their 2013 campaign. They started last season with six straight losses and 15 interceptions from QB Eli Manning. Although they finished with seven wins in the final 10 games, the initial hole was insurmountable. Neither side of the ball performed particularly well, so this offseason was critical to their success in the immediate future. Additionally, Manning, who finished with a league-high 27 interceptions, is set to improve since he can’t get much worse on that front. In his ten seasons in the league, Eli has played under one offensive coordinator in Kevin Gilbride. With Gilbride retiring, the monotony of that offense will no longer suffocate the unit. The landscape in New York is set to change, but only time will tell if it will be an effective change.
After Gilbride’s departure this offseason, the Giants signed Ben McAdoo, who served as the quarterbacks coach in Green Bay for the past couple seasons. McAdoo will implement a sort of west coast offense in New York. His playbook has been constantly rehearsed during training camp and it will be effective immediately. McAdoo wants Manning to elevate his completion percentage above 70%, but that will prove to be quite difficult. Thus far, his career high is 62.9%, which he achieved in 2010. Plus, the feat has only been accomplished seven times in the history of the NFL (twice by Drew Brees). The short passes in the offense will be a better fit for Manning after he saw his balls end up in defender’s hands too often last year.
The offensive line will be an absolute difference maker this year. Last year’s line was atrocious in both pass and run blocking. This is partially attributed to the sheer number of injuries and alternating lines the G-Men used each week. Still, most of it was simply ineffectiveness. The old line was gradually aging, like all units do, but last season was a rude awakening to the problem. Veteran G Chris Snee retired this offseason following growing elbow concerns. New York believes the issues with the line have been resolved though. They acquired OT Charles Brown and G Jon Jerry along with using their second round selection on C Weston Richburg. These three can fundamentally alter the offensive line, because all of them have the potential to start in Week One. Yet, lines do not always coalesce as well as they look on paper. Chemistry was a critical component to the success of the line in the last decade and they need to find that similar groove early on in the upcoming season.
The group of receivers at Eli’s disposal also adds to the already improved offense. WR Victor Cruz signed a five-year $43 million deal last offseason, so the Giants don’t have to worry about their primary target for a while. However, WR Hakeem Nicks bolted for the Colts. Nicks, always thought to be a deep threat and one of Eli’s favorite targets, failed to catch a single touchdown all of last season. His deep threat label was relinquished to Cruz last year, so he hardly provided another dimension to the group. WR Reuben Randle and WR Mario Manningham will most likely be able to account for Nick’s production and some. Manningham, who caught that brilliant pass from Manning in their most recent Super Bowl, will look to regain some of the trust lost when he left for San Francisco. This receiving corps most significant addition was their first round pick in WR Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham could easily shift into that second receiver position right behind Cruz. His time at LSU was highlighted by his super speed and exceptional route running, both of which Manning could certainly utilize. This collection of receivers will fit well within McAdoo’s game plan and will offer at least three suitable options for Manning each set of downs.
The defense enabled New York to stay in games throughout all of last season. Without some of their decent play, this team’s win total could have just as easily been three or four. They greatly benefited the team, but were average in just about every category ranking somewhere between 10th-20th in the league. A Pro Bowl caliber athlete in CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a decent player in CB Walter Thurmond strengthened the secondary this offseason. Rodgers-Cromartie will start opposite of CB Prince Amukamara and together will form an impressive duo. These two along with a strong group of safeties in FS Antrel Rolle and SS Stevie Brown intimidate opposing quarterbacks from tossing the long ball more frequently.
The front seven has been the reason for much of their success in the past decade, but it wasn’t all that great through the course of 16 games. An underachieving DE Jason Pierre-Paul coupled with a mediocre linebacker corps did not help their case. It was the secondary and other parts of the line such as DE Justin Tuck who picked them up. A revitalized Tuck totaled 11 sacks last season but left for Oakland afterwards. It leaves both a physical and emotional void that needs to be filled soon. DE Mathias Kiwanuka believes he can do just that. Kiwanuka is the only player on this roster other than Manning who won the last two Giants Super Bowls. If he can indeed fill the massive hole, then the Giants will rush the quarterback better with a healthy JPP.
Last season’s 7-9 mark was the worst in the last decade under HC Tom Coughlin’s guidance. This season will be an inevitable improvement though. All signs point to Manning having a career season and his mission will be further aided by a revamped offensive line and formidable run game. The G-Men will have a great opportunity to qualify for the playoffs in a not so outstanding NFC East. And if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that the Giants can make incredible postseason runs. All they need is an opportunity. If Manning can click at the right time, New York can play into January and if they’re lucky for a third time, early February.
Pics and Stats from ESPN.com