Spring has finally sprung, and as the weather starts to warm up, we’re just a few short weeks away from the start of spring football.
That’s followed by the three-week phase two, which permits position coaches to work with players (but no offensive versus defensive drills).
Lastly, there’s phase three, which runs for four weeks. That’s when the OTAs (and the offensive versus defensive drills) are allowed. That phase concludes with the annual mandatory minicamp.
So that's what's ahead for the Giants, many of whom have been trickling back into town to get a head start on their workouts.
Switching gears, here's another Twitter mailbag column. Thanks again to everyone who submitted a question!
Pete, the training camp roster still isn’t finalized, so I'm always reluctant to speculate this far in advance without knowing what the competition looks like.
With that said, I think the coaches would like Ryan Nassib to win the backup job. Before that happens, we still need to see how Nassib performs this spring—is he ready for that big step forward?
Frank, technically the team could sign another veteran free agent now, if it wanted to.
The Baas cap savings, which will be credited to their cap after June 1, will be used to sign the rookie class. The leftover money will probably be used to add a veteran here and there for camp as well as to address signings that become necessary as injuries pop up during training camp.
The other thing you have to keep in mind is that a team doesn’t have to use all of its available cap space on other free agents.
In other words, the Giants could save some of the excess cap space it has and use it to extend some of their upcoming free agents, such as cornerback Prince Amukamara or defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
Those decisions won’t be made until much later in the season, but it’s certainly an option if the Giants have the money to spend and the players are willing to negotiate.
The Giants could also elect not to do anything with any surplus cap space and instead carry it over into the 2015 league year. So it will be interesting to see what they do with the extra money.
Hasan, I think those should be the first three positions addressed (in any order, as you said).
However, as I’ve said before and will probably say countless times through the draft, the Giants see their needs differently than those of us on the outside.
So it’s possible that if, for example, Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald is sitting there at No. 12, he could be the pick.
Kevin, the more I look at North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron on film and the more scouting reports I read about him, the more I'm convinced that they go in another direction at tight end.
Thus to answer your question, I think Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans would be the pick if the choice came down to him and Ebron.
If the Giants are like most teams when it comes to free agency, they're looking at production and value.
I'm guessing that Jennings didn’t demand a gross amount of money as a free agent that would have priced him out of the Giants’ range. That right there had to be a plus in his favor.
The second thing is they were apparently impressed with how he ran against them when Oakland played the Giants last year.
Remember, the Giants had a good run defense, and Jennings still managed to rush for 88 yards on 20 carries (4.4 average), this after the Giants’ run defense shut down top NFL rushers such as Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles.
Let's take Jennings' production a little deeper. Thanks to Dan Graziano of ESPN, I found the website NumberFire, a subscription-based site that offers advanced metrics on the performance of NFL players.
Using an advanced stat called Net Expected Points (NEP), NumberFire's J.J. Zachariason determined that in 2013, Jennings’ Rushing NEP total of 11.8 was the eighth-highest among running backs and the sixth-best mark among the 35 running backs who had 150 or more carries.
In addition, Zachariason provided this gem about Jennings:
Jennings can catch the ball out of the backfield, too, which was something the Giants lacked in 2013. In fact, Jennings’ 36 catches (mind you, he didn’t start the entire season) was only 22 off of the entire Giants’ running back group combined. And that includes fullbacks.
Price and performance—two key factors that no doubt stoked the Giants’ interest in Jennings.
Zac, I wrote a detailed article on the Giants’ injury situation this past January that has a lot of in-depth detail.
One of the many points made in that article was you have to look at the type of injuries that were most common—how many were soft tissue/muscular or knees, broken bones, etc.?
As you’ll see in one of the charts in that article, the Giants reported 33 knee injuries last year—more than twice the number of groin issues (14) and hamstrings (12).
As to your question what the team is doing to fix its injury situation, other than ensuring that the players properly stretch before engaging in the activities associated with football and ensuring that they remain properly hydrated and well-rested, there's not much else that can be done.
Injuries are part of the game. They’re terrible when they happen, but short of changing the game's rules to eliminate contact, there’s really not much more than can be done to protect humans who are purposely colliding with each other at speeds that the body is just not meant to withstand.
Tim, that’s an interesting question, but I think it needs to be flipped. I think the question that needs to be asked is “is it possible that their draft strategy influenced their free-agency decisions?”
For example, the veteran free-agent tight end class was, in my opinion at least, nothing special. So did the Giants purposely avoid reaching out to a veteran tight end because they have their eye on someone in the draft, where the class is a little deeper, cheaper and, perhaps, of a better quality?
The same argument is true for center and receiver. Why didn’t the Giants get serious about landing a top-shelf veteran center and/or receiver?
Is it because the offensive line class is so deep that they believe they can land a quality player at each spot at a fraction of the cost of a veteran at each position?
So the short answer to your question is no, I don’t think free agency necessarily shaped their draft strategy.
Maybe you can make an argument that landing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie lessened the need for a cornerback, but that's about as far as I might go this year in saying that free agency shaped their draft strategy.
If anything, I think their draft strategy might have shaped their free-agency plans.