Last season, the Giants' saga ended with CEO John Mara declaring his 7-9 team's offense "broken" and vowed to fix it in the offseason.
With just days to the opening kickoff, Mara and GM Jerry Reese feel they've done that, hiring a new offensive coordinator along with making a slew of personnel moves in the specific areas of need.
They have gotten away from their vertical, deep passing philosophy in favor of the West Coast-style which favors short, quick strikes and play-action. So far, injuries and ineptitude have limited the offense's progress much to the frustration of OC Ben McAdoo and head coach Tom Coughlin.
QB: The good news here is that the much maligned Ryan Nassib has played well enough for the Giants to carry only two quarterbacks, instead of the three they carried last year. The bad news is that Nassib has grasped the new offense better than the starter, Eli Manning, who has struggled with his accuracy and timing all summer. Many point to the extenuating circumstance of the poor pass protection in which Manning has been provided. Others just blame Manning for not stepping up and overcoming adversity as a 2x Super Bowl MVP and an 11-year veteran. The goal is for Eli to raise his completion percentage to 70 percent. This preseason, he hovered around 48 percent. Uh oh.
RB: An all-new approach with three players will surely raise the level of production over last season, when the unit suffered due to multiple injuries. Rashad Jennings, rookie Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis are all players that can push the pile and get positive yardage. Jennings and Hillis are excellent blockers and receivers and Williams is the short-yardage back the Giants have sorely missed the past few years. Henry Hynoski will be the FB after outplaying John Conner in preseason. He is expected to have an expanded role this year. The Giants have a good group here. I would not be displeased or surprised if they try to play a little smashmouth until the passing game gets its sea legs back.
TE: In the past, veteran TE coach Mike Pope was counted on to mold raw talent into a viable group. He's gone, now and Kevin M. Gilbride is the new position coach. Gilbride will try to make something out of Larry Donnell, Adrien Robinson and Daniel Fells. He'll be in for a raise if he can get just one of them to play half-decent. None of the three is a complete player. Donnell is the best receiver, Robinson the best blocker and Fells the most complete player of the three. The projections and expectations for this group are woefully low and rightfully so.
WR: Victor Cruz is probably the best slot receiver in football, but he's only effective if he has two legitimate threats on the wings. Rueben Randle is allegedly on the verge of becoming one of those threats and this may be the season he finally breaks out. It's the other side of the field the Giants are most concerned about, though. With first round selection Odell Beckham, Jr. still sidelined with a tricky hamstring, the Giants are relying on Jerrel Jernigan to fill the role. The problem is, Jernigan translates into more of a slot guy than a wing receiver. The other two receivers on the roster are Preston Parker, who is on the roster primarily as a returner and UDFA Corey Washington, who caught four game-winning TDs in preseason mostly against backup DBs.
OL: Sorry we have to do this, folks, but it's compulsory. The general consensus is that the Giants would be better off sending out five tackling dummies than the group they plan to start on Monday night in Detroit. There is only one sure thing out of five on the O-line these days and that is RT Justin Pugh. LT Will Beatty was subpar to put it lightly last season before breaking his leg in the final game. Most think he can't possibly turn in another poor season, but who's to say he won't. Center J.D. Walton was signed after missing nearly two years with an ankle injury. He's been just okay this summer. Serviceable. The vacancy left by Chris Snee's retirement is a close contest right now between Brandon Mosley and free agent John Jerry. LG was supposed to be filled by free agent Geoff Schwartz, but he's on short-term IR with a toe issue and won't be eligible to return until Week 9. In his place the club will go with Weston Richburg, the team's second round draft pick who was drafted to be the center of the future. The group has done well in the run blocking portion of the playbook, but the pass protection has left everyone wanting more. They need to get that righted, and quickly, if the Giants are to have any chance of competing this season.
K: Josh Brown is back in the saddle. He's a solid kicker who didn't have a ton of opportunities to show his wares last year, but may get more shots this seasons.
KR: Almost an irrelevant position since the league moved up the kickoff line to the 35 a few years back, but if you had to choose a KR, backup safety Quintin Demps would be high on many team's list.
PR: Free agent WR Preston Parker won this role by default. No one else showed any prowess at all at the position. This was a job the team hoped would be handled by Beckham or free agent Trindon Holliday. Beckham never got the chance and Holliday was given an injury settlement after he missed most of training camp with a hamstring strain.
Overview: A lot of ifs and intangibles at play here, and many are not confident this group can rip off a winning season amidst all these changes. In this offense, the ball is designed to come out quickly, which is not a strength of Eli Manning. He's still working to get it right, and if he does, the Giants could be in business. The hope is that Beckham can come in and give the Giants a boost and the offensive line can hold the fort until Schwartz returns. They also need a TE to make a play or two here or there and the other receivers not named Cruz to produce at a high level. It looks like the running game will be carrying the flag up the hill until McAdoo's system sinks in and takes hold.
Tomorrow: The defense.