So Are They Better? Offense
Seven Rounds of the NFL draft. Free Agency. Post-Draft Free Agency. Players leaving. Players coming. So are the Giants better or worse off after all of this than they were at this time last season? Let's think about it. Offense first.
1) I'm focusing on the main players, not the last guys on the bench.
2) I'm comparing now to this time last year so I'll look at the players as they were perceived this time last year.
The quarterback is still Eli Manning, but we all have to feel a heck of a lot better about him than we did before last season after 2010's interception-plagued year. Eli has stepped up following his 'elite' comment and is one of the top QBs in the league.
So the good news is that Brandon Jacobs mediocre 3.8 yard per carry average is gone. The bad news is that Ahmad Bradshaw, who everyone seems to like, only had a 3.9 yard per carry average last year perhaps giving rise to concerns that the fault was with the offensive line. That is unless you blame the 3.9 on Ahmad's porcelain feet.
In any case, David Wilson is young, fast and hungry and running backs can contribute in year 1. Hope springs eternal.
Well last year, we had Travis Beckum, who had proven nothing, and some unproven dude named Jake Ballard. Now we have a hurt and still almost useless Beckham, a proven useful but hurt Ballard, a blocker in Bear Pascoe, a talented Dallas disappointment Martellus Bennett and a physically gifted but sashimi raw Adrien Robinson.
I suppose that Bennett and Robinson are better raw materials than Ballard was last year but I'm not doing somersaults about our situation at tight end. Let's hope that TE coach Pope can make chicken salad out of someone this year like he did with Pascoe last year.
Cruz and Nicks are the dynamic duo. Perhaps the best WR pair in the NFL. Last year at this time, Victor Cruz was that guy who killed the Jets in the preseason and then got hurt, now he's a star.
We lost Manningham. Now I've made it clear that I felt that Manningham had all pro physical skills that he could not harness because he didn't know which way to run half of the time. Having said that, he could stretch a defense vertically, which has value (ask Tom Brady). Replacing him won't be easy. Still, it's just a 3rd wideout who will go against a 3rd corner and 3rd corners are 3rd corners for a reason.
The cast of characters looking to play 3rd or 4th receiver are:
Domenik Hixon I think Hixon is a great 3rd receiver but has played 2 games in 2 years because of injuries. If he's healthy, he is my favorite.
Rueben Randle He's a promising prospect but the Giants have a very complex offense and the Giants do not like to play rookies much (especially at wideout and ofensive line). Barring a rash of injuries, I don't expect him to get much playing time unless he surprises everyone and picks up the offense very quickly (or there are a ton of injuries).
Jerrel Jernigan He's either going to be able to play or he's a bust and there's no way to tell at this point given his limited playing time in 2011.
Ramses Barden 3 years. 17 games. 15 catches. 3rd round picks who don't play don't play for a reason. Longshot to ever contribute.
At the end of the day, you have to believe that someone will step up at the 3 and 4 spots and the emergence of Cruz makes the Giants way better than last year.
So we lost Kareem Mackenzie who was clearly on the decline and really stunk it up in 2011. The running game was horrible in 2011 after being pretty good in 2010. At this point last year, there was hope that Beatty would step up and Baas would be great. It didn't work out and I don't know why.
So what do we have now?
Snee is, in theory, still very good.
Beatty can be ok if he's healthy.
Baas, I have no idea, but he was good before he came to the Giants.
Diehl is ok and can play multiple positions.
Boothe is ok and can play multiple positions
Brewer is unproven, so who knows?
Petrus is ok.
Mosley and McCants are rookies and won't dress up unless we have a rash of injuries.
So basically, we have Snee and a whole lot of nothing. We're coming off a year where our yards per rush went from very good to worst in the NFL. We have no one who we know can replace McKenzie as the masher right tackle (and Kareem was a monster all pro quality right tackle at his peak that really drove our running game).
Maybe the short preseason hurt us last year given that we had a new line. Maybe McKenzie fell off the cliff faster than everyone thought that he would. In any case, I'm feeling a lot less optimistic about the Giants' line play this year than I was last year at this time.
This is the biggest area of concern on the team.
Net, net, I guess I'm more positive than I was at this time last year mostly because I feel confident that Eli will be able to bail the Giants out more often than I did last year. I'm also hopeful that the coaching staff will figure out how to get at least decent play out of the less proven players, as they have in the past.
Next week – the defense