The Giants are set at quarterback. After Eli Manning posted career-best numbers in completion percentage (63.1%) and touchdown to interception ratio (30:14), it’s pretty safe to say that Ben McAdoo’s quick-hitting scheme suits Manning’s skill set. With another year in the same system, the potential return of Victor Cruz, and improvements along the offensive line, Manning could best his 2014 numbers. The Giants are also in great shape with Ryan Nassib as the backup quarterback. Nassib struggled in his rookie season in Kevin Gilbride’s scheme, but he put together a dominant 2014 preseason in Ben McAdoo’s offense. Nassib finished the 2014 preseason with 588 yards and a 5:0 touchdown to interception ratio on 44 completions. Compared by some scouts to a poor man’s Aaron Rodgers, it’s no surprise that he has excelled in McAdoo’s system.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY SportsJasen Vinlove
Josh Brown put together arguably his best season as a pro in 2014. Brown didn’t take that many field goals, but he managed to go 24-of-26 on field goal attempts. Brown had a long of 53 but also went 4-of-4 on 50+ yard attempts and 4-of-5 on attempts between 40-49 yards. Brown also finished with the 10th-most touchbacks in the NFL.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY SportsAndrew Weber
Steve Weatherford put together another strong season as the Giants punter. Although he will never rank in the top five among punters in net average, he has always been excellent at directional punts that pin opponents deep inside their own territory.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAYRobert Deutsch
The Giants will enter 2015 with the 2014 Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Jr. as their number one target, but he doesn’t make an entire receiver corps. Outside of Beckham Jr., the corps is filled with talent but also uncertainty. Rueben Randle will be entering his fourth season in the NFL and he is coming off career highs in receptions (71) and yards (938), but those are to be expected given the increase in his total snaps in 2014. Randle came on strong over the final two games, but he will need to prove that he can keep up the momentum in 2015. Victor Cruz is on track to return to the team at the start of training camp, but after tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee there is no guarantee that he will be as effective as he was once was. Behind these three, the Giants lack depth and upside.
Kyle TeradaKyle Terada
The Giants are in better shape at cornerback than most people are giving them credit for. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie lived up to his contract in his first year s a Giant despite the porous play of every single player who remained healthy in the secondary. Often put on an island, Rodgers-Cromartie limited big plays to his side of the field. Prince Amukamara should be ready to roll for training camp following a freak biceps injury. He was having his best season as a Giant before landing on injured reserve. With Trumaine McBride also under contract, the Giants could enter the season right now with a solid unit on paper.
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY SportsJim O'Connor
No offseason changes will be reported in February, but I am assuming that the Giants move 2014 second-round rookie Weston Richburg to center. Richburg’s skill set is best fit at center and that’s where the Giants drafted him to play. He struggled in his first season in the NFL after making the switch for the first time in his career to left guard. Moving him to center will mean that the Giants will either bench or release J.D. Walton. Walton started all 16 games in 2014, but he finished as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-worst center. I broke down how much salary cap space the Giants can save by releasing Walton here.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Rashad Jennings looked like a free agent steal for the early part of the 2014 season, but injuries limited him to just seven fully healthy games. Over the last three seasons, he has missed 12 games. Jennings provides the complete spectrum as a back—runner, receiver, pass protector—but his injury history and age (he’s turning 30) make him hard to count on. Behind Jennings, promising talent Andre Williams will be entering his second season in the NFL. It is fair to expect an improvement out of Williams, but he has limitations as a receiver that probably can’t be taught. I expect the Giants to make a move for a versatile back who is proficient as a pass catcher. Someone like free agent Roy Helu would fit very well in Ben McAdoo’s offensive scheme.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY SportsAdam Hunger
If the Giants move Justin Pugh to right guard and Geoff Schwartz recovers from his freak toe injury to man the left guard spot, then the Giants will enter the 2015 season with two starters carrying a lot of upside. Schwartz was a dominating run blocker according to Pro Football Focus during the 2013 season before his injury-derailed debut season with the Giants. Pugh has always been considered best suited to play guard at the NFL level. John Jerry started all 16 games for the Giants last season, but he graded out as one of the 15 worst guards according to Pro Football Focus. The Giants could look to address the offensive line in what’s considered to be a very deep draft class.
Phil Sears-USA TODAY SportsPhil Sears
The outside linebacker position is less important in a 4-3 defensive scheme, and the Giants have demonstrated their belief in that over the course of Jerry Reese’s tenure as general manager. Last year’s fifth round draft pick, Devon Kennard, was an outstanding addition down the stretch. He has Giants fans remembering their last successful fifth round pick, Kevin Boss, and hoping that Kennard will have a longer tenure with the team. Outside of Kennard, the Giants have major holes. Injuries derailed Jacquian Williams’ 2014 season, but it may be time to give up on the idea that he will become a quality starter.
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY SportsJim O'Connor
With Jason Pierre-Paul set to hit free agency, defensive end becomes a primary position of need. Pierre-Paul had a dominant finish to the 2014 season after a slow start, and the Giants can’t let him hit the open market if they have hopes of re-signing him. The market is flush with teams like the Raiders and Jaguars who have more than $50 million in salary cap space and a coach who believes in building the defensive line first. Behind Pierre-Paul, talented linemen Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore provide upside for the position but also question marks with health and run defense, respectively. When the Giants were winning Super Bowl their mantra was that you could never have enough pass rushers. With Steve Spagnuolo back as defensive coordinator, it seems safe to predict that they will adopt that same strategy again.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY SportsRobert Deutsch
One-technique defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins didn’t get enough credit for how dominant he was in 2014. Hankins put together eight sacks, six additional quarterback hits, and 21 quarterback hurries. He did this while lining up as the nose tackle in Perry Fewell’s 4-3 defensive scheme. Hankins was also the seventh-best defensive tackle in run defense according to Pro Football Focus. Unfortunately, the Giants don’t have much behind him. Cullen Jenkins is on the wrong side of 30 and his 2014 season was derailed by a calf injury. The Giants can’t count on him to generate the pass rush that is needed from the three-technique defensive tackle spot in Spagnuolo’s scheme. It’s a risky proposition for the team to count on second year three-technique Jay Bromley to fill in for that role.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner
When the Giants traded for Jon Beason in 2013, they got an incredible return on their investment. Beason was immediately the leader of the defense and he gave them a presence in the middle that was missing since the days of Antonio Pierce. Beason went on to miss almost the entire 2014 season with an injury. Beason has played in just 24-of-64 games over the last four seasons, and the Giants would be ill advised to count on him to stay healthy. Last year’s free agent addition Jameel McClain proved to be too slow to man the middle. McClain was a major liability in pass coverage and he very rarely made the big plays that are so important from a middle linebacker in a 4-3 defensive scheme.
Getty ImagesMike Stobe
If we are to assume that the Giants’ plan is kick Justin Pugh inside to guard, and most signs point to this happening, then the Giants will need to address the tackle position in free agency or the draft. They will have the luxury of kicking Pugh or Geoff Schwartz to right tackle at any time because they both have experience on the outside, but this is not the ideal scenario they are looking for. The Giants will likely be in the market for a mauling right tackle prospect that can excel in the run game. This is what they’ve been missing in their run game ever since Kareem Mackenzie retired.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
Larry Donnell took the NFL and the Giants by storm after his three-touchdown game against the Redskins in Week 4 last season, but the rest of his season was flushed with inconsistency as a receiver. Donnell had key drops and fumbles that plagued him down the stretch, but it was his blocking that stood out for the wrong reasons. He finished as Pro Football Focus’ worst run-blocking tight end and the Giants struggled to run on the outside. With limited plodders Daniel Fells and Adrien Robinson behind him, the Giants need to find a two-way tight end who can block at the point of attack.
Phil Sears-USA TODAY SportsPhil Sears
Antrel Rolle is set to hit free agency, and the Giants will be faced with a dire situation at safety. They can try re-signing Stevie Brown again, but let’s not forget that he was benched early on in 2014 and never recaptured his role. Brown may improve after another year away from major knee surgery, but it seems likely that he will have to prove it with another team. His replacement, Quintin Demps, cannot come back in anything more than a reserve role. Demps took terrible angles in run defense and pass coverage. Throw on game tape of the 49ers game for a perfect example of that. He takes a terrible angle and what should have been a seven yard slant turns into a long touchdown for Michael Crabtree thanks to Demps.The safety market in free agency and the draft is once again barren, so the Giants may have to get creative at this spot.