The Giants started off hot in 2009, winning their first five games of the season. Then things started to go south in a hurry. They went on a four-loss skid and stumbled to an 8-8 record by the end of the year. A powerful running game and a tough defense were the mark of recent successful Giants teams, but those identities were lost last season.
The offseason focus of head coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese will be returning the team to its roots as a physical bunch. They’ve already filled one glaring hole at safety by signing prized free agent Antrell Rolle away from the Cardinals, and they’ll continue addressing needs through the draft. New York still has all seven of its original draft choices, holding picks No. 15, 46, 76, 115, 147, 184 and 221.
The top priority has to be replacing Antonio Pierce at middle linebacker, whom the team cut in the offseason. Pierce was the defense’s quarterback and leader, but looked a step slower before suffering a neck injury and missing the last seven games of the season. New York’s already scheduled a meeting with Alabama’s Rolando McClain, the top inside linebacker in the draft.
The next area of concern is the running game. The Giants used to pride themselves on having a bruising rushing attack, but Brandon Jacobs was largely ineffective last season. He was hampered by a knee injury and managed just 3.7 yards per carry after averaging 5.0 yards per attempt a season earlier. Ahmad Bradshaw suffered from two sore ankles and a cracked bone in each foot, all of which required offseason surgery, but still managed 778 yards and seven touchdowns on 163 attempts. The Giants are said to be very high on Clemson tailback C.J. Spiller, a home-run threat whose lightning speed would be a great compliment to Jacobs’ power.
The running game’s lack of effectiveness can’t be blamed entirely on the runners. The Giants offensive line could use a spark as well. Starting guard Rich Seubert is 31 years old and was hindered by a shoulder injury all season. Shaun O’Hara’s still a great player who earned his second-straight Pro Bowl nod, but he’ll be 33 in June. David Diehl may move to guard to make room for William Beatty, a second-round pick in 2009 who showed promise starting four games. In any case, New York could benefit from some added youth along the line.
The Giants could also use help in the trenches on the defensive side of the ball. Fred Robbins is gone, and Chris Canty’s first season was marred by injuries. Justin Tuck struggled through a shoulder injury, and didn’t provide the interior pass rush from the defensive tackle spot the team‘s used to. The Giants could use a disruptive defensive tackle to provide help along the interior.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None
TRANSITION PLAYER: None
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB David Carr (was not re-signed, signed with San Francisco 49ers), LB Danny Clark (was not re-signed), P Jeff Feagles (re-signed for one-year at $900,000), DT Fred Robbins (was not re-signed, signed with St. Louis Rams)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DT Barry Cofield (received second-round tender at $1.759 million), WR Domenik Hixon (received second-round tender at $1.684 million), DE Dave Tollefson (received second-round tender at $1.684 million and signed offer sheet), WR Sinorice Moss (received original-round tender at $1.176 milion), LB Gerris Wilkinson (received original-round tender at $1.176), WR Derek Hagan (received original-round tender at $1.176 million), T Guy Whimper (received original-round tender at $1.176 million), G/T Kevin Boothe (received original-round tender at $1.176 million and signed offer sheet), S C.C. Brown (received right of first refusal tender at $1.226 million, but team rescinded), CB Kevin Dockery (was not tendered), TE Darcy Johnson (was not tendered)
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: RB Danny Ware (received one-year tender and signed), TE Scott Chandler (received one-year tender and signed), DB D.J. Johnson (received one-year tender)
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: P Jeff Feagles, DE Dave Tollefson, G/T Kevin Boothe, RB Danny Ware, TE Scott Chandler
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: S Antrell Rolle (five-years at $37 million), S Deon Grant, P Jy Bond, QB Jim Sorgi, TE Carson Butler
PLAYERS LOST: QB David Carr, LB Danny Clark, DT Fred Robbins, LB Antonio Pierce, TE Darcy Johnson, LB Danny Clark, CB Kevin Dockery, DB Londen Fryar, S Aaron Rouse
MIDDLE LINEBACKER — Antonio Pierce was the heart of the defense, but looked noticeably slower and wasn’t as effective. He missed the final seven games of the season with a neck injury and was released in February. The Giants could choose to address this need in the first round if Rolando McClain is available. The Alabama linebacker’s scheduled to visit with the team in the near future. If McClain’s gone, they’ll wait until later in the draft to fill the hole, possibly by selecting Sean Lee of Penn State, who’s also scheduled to visit.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE — Fred Robbins departed for St. Louis via free agency, and Chris Canty was slowed by injuries that limited him to eight games. Justin Tuck usually provides an interior pass rush from the defensive tackle spot, but he was hindered by a shoulder injury. Barry Cofield was tendered, but the Giants still need help along the interior. This draft is quite deep at the position, so the team could wait until the second, third or fourth rounds to address the need.
RUNNING BACK — Brandon Jacobs wasn’t nearly as effective this season and had meniscus surgery on his knee. Ahmad Bradshaw had screws inserted into both feet and had scar tissue and debris removed from both ankles. The Giants are said to be interested in C.J. Spiller and could jump on him in the first round if he falls to them. If not, the team should still look to add some quality depth and explosiveness to the position.
OFFENSIVE LINE — Getting the running game back on track is a priority this season, and it starts up front. The line problems may be fixed by some in-house moves such as moving David Diehl to guard and starting William Beatty at left tackle, thus reducing Rich Seubert’s role. However, the Giants could still use some youth and depth along the line.