New York Giants: The Definitive Blueprint to Big Blue's Perfect Offseason
First off, I'd like to wish everyone on here a Happy New Year for 2013.
For the New York Giants, their new year did not begin the way they had imagined.
Instead of defending their Super Bowl title this January, they are sitting at home watching the playoffs from their couches.
Big Blue went 9-7 and finished in second place of the NFC East title, falling short to the Washington Redskins at 10-6.
Despite being a year removed from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Indianapolis, the Giants have a lot of work to do before September.
Tom Coughlin has to figure out a way for his team to avoid the second-half swoon in 2013 and not finish the season 3-4 after starting 6-2.
What kind of offseason will the team need to have in order to get back to playing football in January and potentially playing the Super Bowl in its own building?
Here's the blueprint for Coughlin and Jerry Reese on how to get to MetLife Stadium for February.
Re-Build the Offensive Line
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The strength of the Giants offense used to be their offensive line.
Go back to the team that won the Super Bowl in 2007, and you will find a great unit of players who excelled.
The unit we saw in 2012 was as far from the one we saw five years ago.
Jerry Reese knows this, and that has to change.
The offensive line was playing well when the team was 6-2. But then the unit fell apart, and honestly, I wasn't surprised because it was mostly a patchwork-type group.
Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe and Sean Locklear are all free agents.
Of the other three starters from this year, David Bass will be 32, David Diehl will be 33 and Chris Snee will be 31 entering next year.
I think Diehl will be released by the time March comes around, and I'm not sure what will happen with Locklear, given he suffered a broken leg just a few weeks back.
But as far as Beatty and Boothe go, who knows if they come back.
I did like the fact that Beatty was able to stay healthy and play most of the 2012 season, and since he's only 28, I could see the team keeping him for a few more years.
But the rest of the line needs to get re-built with some youth and a lot of toughness to protect Eli Manning.
I think the Giants should use a first or second-round pick in the draft and get a top-quality lineman, preferably at the right tackle spot.
I see the offensive line project as priority No. 1 for this team in the offseason.
Lock Up Victor Cruz Long-Term
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Last year, I felt Victor Cruz had earned himself the right to a contract extension.
He didn't get it, but he didn't complain. All he did was keep playing football.
For the second year in a row, Cruz hauled in another 1,000-yard season, netting 1,092 receiving yards on 86 catches, and had 10 touchdowns, one more than he did in 2011.
With Hakeem Nicks battling injuries through the entire year, Cruz was the most reliable target for Eli Manning, and he has showed everyone that he can be a dependable playmaker.
And that's exactly why Jerry Reese needs to lock up Cruz. He's earned it.
In 2012, Cruz showed the NFL that 2011 was not a fluke and that he is, in fact, a real playmaker.
Not locking him up after two straight 1,000-yard seasons would be a mistake for Reese and the Giants.
Get Hakeem Nicks Healthy
One of the biggest disappointments on offense was Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks was limited to 53 catches for 692 yards and three touchdowns, which were career lows for the fourth-year receiver.
Nicks had offseason surgery on his foot, and that seemed to be fine during the year, but it was a nagging knee injury that got the best of Nicks.
After his 10-catch, 199-yard and one-touchdown performance in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Nicks never really had another breakout performance for the Giants, and it was because he was battling the injuries.
There's a possibility that Nicks could need knee surgery, and if he does, he needs to have it as soon as possible.
Get that situation taken care of now so that he'll be ready and fully healthy for training camp and the regular season.
With a healthy and effective Nicks, he not only makes Eli Manning better, he makes Victor Cruz better as well.
The Giants know Nicks is their best receiver, and they have to get him healthy if they want to be a contender again.
Reload the Pass Rush
The pass rush for the Giants in 2012 was an utter failure.
There's no other way I can describe it as, other than a failure.
Jason Pierre-Paul lead the team with 6.5 sacks, Osi Umenyiora had six, Justin Tuck had four and Mathias Kiwanuka had three.
No wonder why the Giants are going to be watching the postseason from home instead of playing in it this month.
Of this unit, I think Umenyiora's gone and Jerry Reese should look to draft some younger blood in April's NFL draft.
Even though Tuck has battled injuries and will be 30 when 2013 rolls around, I think the Giants defensive captain will be back.
Kiwanuka needs to move from linebacker and be put back as a permanent defensive end, where he's more valuable as a pass-rusher.
But the biggest thing the defensive line needs to do is improve on stopping the run. The inability to stop the run is a reason why the entire Giants defense was held to 33 sacks.
If they work on that in training camp and re-tool the pass rush, especially with some new faces, there's no reason why this unit will improve and get back to what made them so dominant just a year ago.
Re-Build the Secondary
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Five years ago, Corey Webster was one of the best players on the Giants secondary.
Five years later, Webster may have played himself out of a job in New York.
As a professional, he had by far one of the worst seasons a starting cornerback could have.
He'll be 31 years old by the time 2013 rolls around, and he's also been an every-game player for the Giants dating back to 2005.
That's a lot of mileage on Webster, and I just think it's time for him and the Giants to part ways.
I also think, unfortunately, due to his second straight ACL surgery, we have seen the last of Terrell Thomas on the team.
It's a shame too, because if he were healthy, he could have made a real difference with the unit.
That leaves Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley as the two holdovers from 2012, and they are still in their developmental stages.
The Giants not only have to draft corners in April, but I would strongly recommend looking for a solid, veteran corner to help out and mentor the younger players.
I always felt one of the Giants' best moves was bringing in Sam Madison from the Dolphins because he helped the unit with veteran leadership, along with being a useful player on the field.
That's the kind of player Jerry Reese should try to get in free agency.
Perry Fewell Needs to Re-Tinker His Defense Strategy
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During the Giants' woes, some people felt that Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell should be on the hot seat for how bad the defense was playing.
The worst they looked in 2012 was Week 16 against the Baltimore Ravens, where they gave up 533 yards of total offense, 224 of which came on the ground.
But even after how poor the Giants looked at times on defense, I never really thought Fewell would get fired.
The only way I'd see Fewell not back with the Giants is if he got hired for one of the seven NFL head-coaching vacancies.
If not, he'll be the Giants defensive coordinator in 2013, but he needs to change up his play-calling.
You never really saw the Giants use any blitz packages or any deception on the field. What you mostly saw was a basic base defense.
Whether it was the standard 4-3-3 or 4-4-3, it wasn't really fooling opposing offensive coordinators, and you saw teams like the Falcons and Ravens drop 34 and 33 points on them in back-to-back weeks.
Fewell needs to have a better season from his defense if he wants to keep his job, or if he even wants to be considered for a head coaching job again.
Part of that is working on stopping the run, and another part is working on blitz packages to cause the quarterback to make mistakes and hurry his rhythm.
Look into a New Kicker
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Lawrence Tynes has been the New York Giants kicker for the last six years.
He's made two crucial field goals in two separate NFC Championship Games that sent the Giants to the Super Bowl.
But in 2012, Tynes really looked bad in the later part of the season.
His leg strength has been brought up in the past, and his accuracy has been something he's dealt with during his career, and it really came up in the Redskins game.
If Tynes doesn't miss that kick against Washington, there's a good chance the Giants are potentially the NFC East Champions at 10-6 playing the Seahawks this weekend.
Tynes is a free agent, and I think it's time the Giants made a change at the kicker spot.
The Giants could look to draft a kicker, but that's usually not their style.
Right now, the veteran kickers I see available are Neil Rackers, Nick Folk and Jay Feely, who played with the Giants back in 2005-06.
He'll be 37 by the time the season starts, but his accuracy in 2012 with the Cardinals was better than Tynes' with the Giants (89.3 as to 84.6).
The life span of a kicker in the NFL can go a long way as long as you can keep your accuracy. I think because of his late-season struggles, Tynes might be on another team in 2013 while the Giants look for a suitable replacement.
Figure out the Running Game
The Giants running game got a little better in 2012, but not too much better.
Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns, which led the team, but he continued to battle injuries, and his status for 2013 is unknown.
Bradshaw has two years left on his contract and will make about $3.75 million in 2013. Now, the Giants could always ask him to restructure his deal.
But ultimately, Jerry Reese has to decide if he wants to keep the 26-year-old as their main back or if they move the running game in a different direction.
Andre Brown is a restricted free agent, but I think the Giants end up bringing him back, as he led the team with eight rushing touchdowns.
Brown went down with a season-ending injury during the Packers game, but at the time, he was their goal-line back who got a lot of tough yards, and the Giants should reward Brown with a new deal.
David Wilson showed glimpses of greatness in 2012, but the first-round draft pick of 2012 has a long way to go. However, I think his role will increase in 2013 and he'll get better with experience.
Ultimately, it all comes down to Bradshaw and if the Giants keep him or release him. Right now, I'd say it's 50/50.