Giants looking to end 2-year playoff drought
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) After missing the playoffs the past two seasons, Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants aren't one of the morning-line favorites to get back to the postseason.
New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning are struggling to get the West Coast scheme in place. It doesn't look like it will be ready for the season opener in Detroit on Sept. 8.
Manning, who threw a career-high 27 interceptions last season in a 7-9 campaign, has looked uncomfortable in the preseason. The O-line is already reeling with the loss of guard Geoff Schwartz to a dislocated big toe for an indefinite period. Speed at the receiver position has been reduced with first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr. fighting a hamstring injury since training camp opened.
Doesn't sound good.
The positive is the defense.
While the unit lost end Justin Tuck and tackle Linval Joseph to free agency and saw middle linebacker Jon Beason break a foot in minicamp in June, this group has the potential to make the Giants a contender. Especially if end Jason Pierre-Paul reverts to 2011 form after two injury-plagued seasons.
The secondary has gone from a weakness to a strength with the acquisitions of cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond and Zack Bowman, and safety Will Demps to fit alongside cornerback Prince Amukamara and safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown.
Free agent signee Jameel McClain has played well in the middle while Beason hurries to return. The linebacking corps has benefited from a much-improved Jacquian Williams and a better-than-expected Devon Kennard, a fifth-round draft pick.
Up front, Pierre-Paul has shown flashes in the preseason and the line is deep. Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson are returning at the tackles, Mathias Kiwanuka is back as a full-time end, and there is a collection of solid linemen in reserve, led by an improving Damontre Moore in his second season.
''I think we have the potential to be a Super Bowl championship team,'' said Kiwanuka, who was a part of the Giants' title teams after the 2007 and '11 seasons. ''l am not just saying that. We have all the talent. We have the desire. It's just about putting it together.
''Changing the offense takes some time and I have been a part of multiple system changes on defense, so I understand what they are going through. But there is no doubt in my mind they will be ready to go.''
If the offense can get on track, the Giants will have a shot at contending for another title.
''Your time in this league is short,'' Kiwanuka said. ''Your time with your team is short. I think having the team we have right now, this is our time and we have to take advantage of it.''
Here are some things to watch from the Giants:
THE NEW OFFENSE: In replacing the retired Kevin Gilbride, McAdoo has put in an up-tempo system that utilizes quick releases, short, precise routes and high completion percentages. If Beckham ever gets healthy, Manning has the receivers with veterans Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle. The running game also has potential with free-agent signee Rashad Jennings and rookie Andre Williams. The line is the question mark with tackles Will Beatty and Justin Pugh the only returnees.
JPP WATCH: Pierre-Paul is the key on defense. After posting 16 1/2 sacks in 2011, back and shoulder injuries dropped his total to 6 1/2 in 2012 and two last year, when he played in only 11 games. He played well against the Steelers in the second preseason game, but has not shown much in recent weeks. Heading into his fifth pro season, the Giants need him to step up. When he is good, the 25-year-old can dominate with his speed, strength and athleticism.
NEW KIDS: While Beckham did not play in the preseason, the Giants have to like what they saw from a few of their draft picks. Second-rounder Weston Richburg is going to start at one of the guard positions. Kennard is expected to be the starting weak side linebacker. Williams who led all major college running backs in rushing last season, is a beast, averaging 4.6 yards while scoring two touchdowns. The sleeper of the rookie class is free agent receiver Corey Washington, who has caught a TD in each of the first four preseason games.
SHUT-DOWN SECONDARY: In recent years, the defensive front made the secondary look good at time. This secondary is as deep as any Coughlin has had and has the potential for many more coverage sacks. With Rodgers-Cromartie, Amukamara, Thurmond and Bowman in the lineup, Rolle does not have to become a nickel back in passing situations. That should make him even better coming off a Pro Bowl season.
NO TIGHT END: The West Coast offense needs a tight end and the Giants don't have A good one. Larry Donnell is the best of the bunch that includes Kellen Davis, Adrien Robinson and Daniel Fells. Don't be surprised if they claim someone on waivers before the start of the season.
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