Where do the Giants Go From Here: Needs in 2017
By Michael Stewart
After finally making the playoffs with a 11-5 record, the New York Giants lost to the Green Bay Packers 38-13 in the wild card playoff game. The loss gave the Giants the 23rd pick overall in the 1st round of the 2017 draft. The last time the Giants drafted at the 23rd spot was way back in 1958 (OL Frank Youso) which was actually in the 2nd round).
The 2017 draft will be held April 27-29 and from now and until then the Giants will have a lot of decisions to make to improve this team. The 2016 season was a reversal of 2015 as the defense improved, but the offense seemed to digress. However; the team did improve from 6-10 in 2015 to 11-5 in 2016. GM Jerry Reese will need to know if the Giants offense; which scored 110 fewer points this season, just had an off year or does the team need to make major changes.
Last off season, Reese had the luxury of having more salary cap to work with and he took full advantage of it by spending nearly $208M on five major additions (Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Jason Pierre-Paul and Keenan Robinson). This off season, Reese will be limited with his salary cap (roughly $32M), unless he releases/cuts current players on the roster; most notably WR Victor Cruz, RB Rashad Jennings, RB Shane Vereen, LB J.T Thomas and perhaps CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie despite his solid season. Those five would give the Giants an additional $21.2M (pre-June 1 cut) or $22.3M (post-June 1 cut). Last season, Cruz and Thomas took pay cuts to remain with the team and that could be a possibility again this season. If not, the Giants would have $54.3M in salary cap to work with and Reese could focus on improving the team with more flexibility.
I have compiled my top 4 need positions of need on Offense and Defense below; which the Giants could look to in the draft, FA, trades or UDFA.
LT: Ereck Flowers thus far has been a disaster at the LT position since being the 1st round selection in 2015. The Giants must find a LT and move Flowers to RT where Marshall Newhouse has been equally ineffective as well.
OG: Overall OL of the Giants were horrendous running the ball; especially between the tackles. OG Justin Pugh had an off year, but is still regarded as a solid OG and should be able to bounce back in 2017. John Jerry was the weak link at the OG position and he needs to be replaced.
RB: If the Giants do release Jennings and Vereen, that’s 50% of the backfield that needs to be replaced. Rookie RB Paul Perkins showed his value in the final 4 games as the Giants running game improved by nearly 18 yards per game. RB Orleans Darkwa was hampered with injuries, but should return as a valuable big back depth RB.
TE: Historically, the TE position was never considered a major component to the Giants offense. There were exceptions when they had Mark Bavaro and Jeremy Shockey, however; other than that the Giants view the TE position near the bottom of their wish list. With current TE Will Tye, Jerell Adams and Larry Donnell on the roster, the Giants should rethink their position and possibly look to improve this position dramatically. Will Tye has done a decent job, but having a TE that can create problems and mismatches in the secondary would greatly improve the Giants offense and give Manning another weapon.
Defense: DE: With a couple of DE entering FA; most notably JPP, the Giants should look to find a DE to either provide depth to the position or be a replacement should the Giants decide not to bring JPP back. Kerry Wynn should be brought back as he would still be cost effective and provide value.
DT: The addition of Damon Harrison made an immediate impact for the Giants run defense. However; his signing could prevent the Giants from re-signing Jonathan Hankins. A few seasons back, the Giants let DT Linval Joseph test the FA market and decided to move on and they drafted Hankins as his replacement. Despite the talents of Hankins, the Giants run defense suffered a setback with the departure of Joseph. If Reese repeats this scenario again one of the best indications would be if Reese addresses the DT position early in the draft. If so, Jonathan Hankins might have played his last game as a Giant. If not, Reese could bring Hankins back; which would keep the Giants run defense in tack.
LB: GM Reese has been reluctant to address the LB position early in the draft with the Giants. The current Giants starting LBers all finished in the top 6 in tackles (Casillas-96/Robinson-83/Kennard-61). Robinson will be a FA and it’s unclear if Reese will bring him back as rookie B.J Goodson could be viewed as the Giants starting MLB possibly in 2017. Would like to see Reese finally think outside the box and bring in a LBer (OLB or ILB) that is a play maker.
CB: Signing Janoris Jenkins to a large contract could be the end of DRC career as a Giant despite having a solid season. If so, the Giants would only have Jenkins and Apple as their top CB‘s and with the history of injuries to the Giants secondary over the past several years; acquiring another CB would most likely be in Jerry Reese’s game plan. During Reese career as the Giants GM, the secondary position (16) has been his most popular selection and the 2017 draft should not be any different. Even if DRC remains (which is very likely) on the team, I can see Reese selecting a CB somewhere in the draft.
Final Thoughts: From now and until the draft, I will be featuring possible players and prospects that the Giants could or should target to help to improve this team. Making the playoffs for the first time since 2011 is a positive step, but getting back there in 2017 and consistently staying there will take wise decisions on personal and based on Reese’s overall track record; this might be too much for us to ask.