Following a disappointing 7-9 season, the New York Giants have made their biggest free-agency splash in Jerry Reese’s seven years as general manager.
The additions include many potential starters in running back Rashad Jennings, defensive end Robert Ayers, guard Geoff Schwartz, receiver/return specialist Trindon Holliday and cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Next, the Giants will focus on the NFL draft, where they have been particularly successful finding quality players over the years.
With the No. 12 pick in one of the deepest draft classes in years, there is a lot of pressure for the Giants to draft a game-changing player.
After the free-agency signings, though, having a solid draft has become much less crucial to the Giants’ success. Many players are already excited about the current team; star safety Antrel Rolle, for example, has praised the offseason so far, calling it "explosive" on NBCSN's Pro Football Talk.
Fellow star defender Jon Beason has also bought into the Giants’ offseason acquisitions:
Beason says Giants offseason moves "say 'right now.'"— Tom Rock (@TomRock_Newsday) April 22, 2014
Meanwhile, franchise quarterback Eli Manning is still quietly rehabbing from ankle surgery.
Manning insists he will be ready for training camp, as noted by this tweet from Ralph Vacchiano of New York Daily News:
Eli Manning "I think I'd be safe to say I'd be 100 percent for the start of training camp. I would hope so."— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) April 22, 2014
Throughout his career, when Manning is on his game, the entire Giants team succeeds. A full recovery is great news for a team that has not seen a different starting quarterback in 162 straight games.
On the other hand, health does not immediately translate to productivity.
Last season, a healthy Manning finished with a career-high 27 interceptions. To his credit, he played perhaps as well as any quarterback could have behind a paltry offensive line.
Speaking of the offensive line, there is a good chance the Giants grab an O-lineman with the No. 12 pick in this year’s draft.
Notre Dame’s Zack Martin is one of the top linemen in the draft. A two-year captain and three-year starter, Martin looks like the prototypical draft pick for the Giants that is capable of playing right away.
Martin has also drawn plenty of comparisons to last year’s first-round pick for the Giants, tackle Justin Pugh.
Like Pugh, Martin is not the most athletic or overpowering player, but he makes up for it immensely in sound fundamentals, quick feet and hips and consistency. His strengths cannot be understated; these instincts are crucial in adjusting on the fly to new offensive line positions, which the Giants have never shied away from doing.
But Martin does have a distinct advantage over Pugh with a longer reach:
Notre Dame OT Zack Martin checked in with 32 1/4-inch arms at Senior Bowl weigh-in. Not ideal but Justin Pugh was 31 1/2 and went Top 20.— Scott Wright (@DraftCountdown) January 20, 2014
Pugh had a very productive season for the Giants. He was one of the few (perhaps only) offensive lineman that consistently performed all season. With that track record, the Giants are surely tempted to grab another near-guarantee at a position they desperately need to improve.
How does Justin Pugh feel about the potential addition of Martin? It’s from earlier this year, but let’s take a look:
@shlog3131 and I don't see you as one either. I hope Zack Martin kills it.— Justin Pugh (@JustinPugh) January 21, 2014
Ouch. Good for Zack Martin, bad for Logan Fredrickson. I bet he didn't wake up expecting to lose a heated Internet battle to an NFL player that day.
Regardless, if Pugh can hold up as an NFL tackle, Martin should be able to make an immediate impact as well, especially with a more ideal reach.
At 6’4” and 250 pounds, Ebron is a freak of an athlete with huge mismatch capability (a 4.60 40-yard dash, per NFL.com). Linebackers will not have the speed to keep up with Ebron’s superb route running, and defensive backs will not have the size to match up against Ebron.
Just as Martin seemed a perfect fit for the Giants needs, Ebron can easily start from Week 1.
The Giants have not had a major pass-catching threat at tight end since the days of Jeremy Shockey. A majority of the successful teams today have a versatile tight end who is a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators.
Moreover, new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo plans to incorporate many pieces of the West Coast offense next year for the Giants:
We’re going to be an offense, we’re going to have an identity. First and foremost, we’ll be sound, smart and tough. We’re going to be committed to discipline and poise and at the end of the day, we’re going to hang our hat on the fundamentals. Obviously, we want to have a sound foundation. We feel we have that and at this point, we’re starting to build what we’re going to look like.
Two major components of the West Coast offense are a quarterback who makes quick, smart decisions and versatility at receiver and tight end.
While new tight end addition Kellen Davis is a good blocker, he cannot be deployed anywhere on the field for the Giants like Ebron. Since the Giants also lost Bear Pascoe recently to the Atlanta Falcons, there is a visible need for a capable tight end.
McAdoo, who was also a tight end coach for six years, would have a field day creating plays if the Giants drafted Ebron.
However, pick No. 12 is very high for a tight end. While Ebron’s receiving threat is without question, he must improve drastically at blocking.
If Zack Martin and Eric Ebron are available at #12 who would you draft? Draft Experts make the case for each player: http://t.co/Y64LI68IrR— New York Giants (@Giants) April 28, 2014
It is almost impossible to know who the Giants will draft. Reese has stubbornly committed every year to simply drafting the best available player.
While the strategy has worked in grabbing many impact players, do not buy too much into any rumors until a name is finally announced.
At the same time, do not be surprised if the Giants draft Martin or Ebron at No. 12.
Whoever the team ends up drafting, for the first time, NFL Network will have a camera inside the Giants’ war room on draft day. While this was a shocking move by Reese, it may in fact have been a decoy to keep him focused on the draft:
#Giants are one of 16 teams that will have a war room camera. Team has multiple draft rooms, though, so we'll see how salacious this gets— Conor Orr (@ConorTOrr) May 5, 2014
To say the least, it should be interesting to see which Giants coaches and front office members appear in the televised war room.
The offseason is far from over for the Giants, but they have already made wholesale changes to last year’s underperforming squad. Reese himself has stated there is still much more work to be done.
Stay tuned, Giants fans. The upcoming draft and training camp should be full of interesting storylines to follow.