Countdown to Camp: 5 Key Developments from the Giants Offseason
After an unusual and virtual driven off-season, the Giants are set to hit the field July 28 for the start of what the club hopes will be a redemption of sorts in which the team, a frequent bottom-dweller amid the standings, is aiming to turn things around.
But there are many things no one yet knows about his Giants team, ranging from how exactly it’s going to look, to who its leaders will be to how quickly it will be able to hit the ground running.
With that all said, after winning just 12 games over the last three seasons, there is a good amount of optimism and hope that after three straight false starts in which there was false hope, the Giants are ready to begin the new decade headed in the right direction.
Here is a look at the five most significant moves the team made in the off-season that will hopefully yield much better results.
A Judge-ment Call
In 2016, the Giants took a gamble on hiring Ben McAdoo to be their head coach despite his relatively limited experience as an offensive coordinator, which he had served with the Giants for two seasons before his promotion.
The move proved to be a disaster as when things went south, McAdoo lost control of the locker room and became the first head coach in team history to be fired during the season since Bill Arnsparger showed the door after seven games in the 1976 season.
But in 38-year-old Joe Judge, who like McAdoo has never been a head coach at any level, but who received his training from two of the best in Alabama’s Nick Saban and New England’s Bill Belichick, the Giants think they finally got their most critical position on the team right.
They had better, as, since McAdoo, they tried and failed with Pat Shurmur, who drought some head coaching experience, and had to start from scratch.
Thus far, Judge’s honeymoon has been unlike that of his two predecessors. For starters, Judge has been no-nonsense, beginning with his refusal to publicly comment on any player until he got a firsthand chance to work with the athletes.
He’s also said he has a plan which, while still unfolding in terms of the details, has shown early signs toward being committed to fundamentally sound football and expecting both he player and coaches to achieving the same.
Moreover, he’s made an initial connection with the fan base, with whom at his introductory press conference, he identified with as “blue-collar, hardworking” people of the tri-state area who deserve a team that represents that mindset.
Judge has said and done all the right things so far, which also includes hiring one of the best assistant coaching staffs since Tom Coughlin first came to town in 2004. But all of that means nothing if the results aren’t there.
Dan's the Man
Last year quarterback Daniel Jones was thrust into the spotlight by a head coach who was likely desperate to ignite a spark on offense by opening up a part of the playbook that just wasn’t a fit for long-time starter Eli Manning’s skillset.
Manning has since retired, leaving the offense in Jones’ capable hands, but unlike last year, the second-year player cannot afford to fumble this opportunity away.
Jones, who admitted this off-season to it being somewhat awkward to have Manning in the shadows when he was trying to find his voice as a leader not just among his teammates but in the meeting rooms, won’t have the future Hall of Famer lurking.
That means this offense can now be built around what he does best, and hey, who better to design it than one-time NFL quarterback and the recent architect of the Dallas Cowboys’ explosive offense Jason Garrett?
Jones has himself an improved offensive line thanks to the addition of youngster Andrew Thomas, the fourth overall pick in the draft. He has one of the best running backs in the game behind him in Saquon Barkley; a versatile threat in tight end Evan Engram (assuming he stays healthy); and some decent firepower at receiver in Darius Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard.
Other than a question mark at center, this offense appears to be locked and loaded.
The Terrific Trio
Like in fashion, football concepts that appear to go out of style eventually find their way back around (unless the league bans an idea).
One concept the Giants don’t have to worry about having been banned that is finding its way back to East Rutherford is the return of the three high safety sets.
Thanks to the drafting of Alabama’s Xavier McKinney in the second round to go along with returning safeties Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love, new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham finally has three versatile safeties to deploy in any number of packages.
The three-safety set was one of the staples of the Giants’ last Super Bowl team in 2011 when they had Deon Grant, Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips messing things up for opposing offenses through to Super Bowl XLVI.
General manager Dave Gettleman, who was with the Giants that season before he would leave to join the Panthers as their general manager, undoubtedly remembers how effective that three-safety look was as part of the Giants defense.
While he continues to try to figure out how to recreate the pass rush up front, he’s at least addressed half of the problem by fortifying the back end of a defense that for the last three years has been shredded by opponents, particularly over the middle.
Speeding to Progress
Tired of watching opposing running backs and tight ends run to daylight up the middle of the field?
Yeah, so is Gettleman, who sought to add speed to the linebackers corps to stop that bleeding. Last year, opposing running backs averaged 47.4 receiving yards against the Giants defense, an average of 5.6 yards per reception, which ranked 16th in the league. In comparison, tight ends averaged 51.6 receiving yards per game and just over a half a touchdown per game, 11th in the league.
When we talk about speed, we’re not simply referencing the 40-yard dash time these players ran. We’re talking about mental processing and burst, two elements that allow guys to play faster than their 40 time suggests. We’re talking the ability to diagnose and anticipate plays and to get to the vicinity of the ball carrier with as few wasted steps as possible.
Projected starters Blake Martinez and a healthy Ryan Connelly can bring that kind of “speed” to the inside linebacker position. So too can seventh-round draft picks TJ Brunson and Tae Crowder, and veteran David Mayo.
Remember, it’s not about how many tackles a linebacker has but rather how close to the line of scrimmage those tackles come.
X Marks the Spot
As the Giants search for a consistent pass rush, a guy to keep an eye on is second-year man Oshane Ximines.
When we last left this promising young pass rusher who played his college ball at Old Dominion, in 269 pass-rush snaps, he blitzed 28 times producing two hurries, three quarterback hits, and 4.5 sacks. That’s not bad production from a pass rusher from a small school program trying to find his way in the NFL.
Assuming Ximines worked on improving his run anchor and adding to his pass rush arsenal, this third-round draft pick could end up being the straw that stirs the otherwise flat drink known as the Giants pass rush.
It looks like he’ll likely continue as a member of the rotation that will include Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, and, potentially, veteran Markus Golden and rookie Carter Coughlin.