As the New York Giants prepare for the final phase of their offseason program in which the offense will see the offense line up against the defense, the picture of what we might be able to expect from Ben McAdoo’s new offense is starting to come into focus.
Earlier this week during an open media session, the players addressed questions regarding what we might be able to expect.
When it was over, I came away with three primary storylines from the offensive side of the ball regarding what to pay attention to next week when the Giants open select OTA workouts to the media.
I’ll be keeping you updated on my observations from those open media sessions, but for now, here are the three major points worth noting.
Center of Attention
When the Giants signed center J.D. Walton in March, they gave him a two-year contract that, per Over the Cap, will pay him $6 million with half of that guaranteed.
Who should be the Giants' starting center in 2014?
Given the length of the contract, it seemed very likely that Walton wasn’t viewed as the long-term solution.
Instead, the team drafted center Weston Richburg in the second round—a move that stirred up some questions about whether Richburg would instead be the opening-day center instead of Walton assuming Richburg had a solid training camp.
Before I give my take on what I think is going to happen, let’s look at some monetary numbers first.
Walton’s contract has $3 million in guaranteed money. Most of that comes in 2014 from his signing bonus ($1.25 million) and his first-year base salary ($1.25 million).
In 2015, Walton’s base salary shoots up to $2.25 million, but he can earn up to $500,000 in game-day roster bonuses. Thus, the remaining $500,000 in guaranteed money is probably part of his 2015 base salary.
The point is that I don’t think Walton is heading to the bench this year unless he has any kind of physical setback with his ankle.
Whereas I thought maybe Walton might be in the mix to compete at right guard if Richburg showed he was ready to start on Day 1, Walton put that theory to rest for now, telling reporters that he’s been focusing on the center position.
“Anything I’m on, I’m going to bust my butt,” he said. “Just from stuff I’ve done in the past, I’m expecting myself to start.”
OK, so what do the Giants do with Richburg for his rookie season if he has a solid training camp?
Certainly, the rookie from Colorado State will get some looks at center, which didn’t seem to affect Walton who noted, “Nothing wrong with competition. He’s a good kid. [Competition] elevates everyone’s play.”
Richburg, meanwhile told reporters that the coaching staff advised him he’ll be doing some work at guard, though how much he does at that position remains to be determined.
Logic would seem to dictate that with the center potentially having more responsibility for making the protection calls in this offense, Richburg will get as much work at the position as possible.
That might very well be the case, but I think the plan will be to start Walton at that spot, while Richburg could potentially be the starter at right guard ahead of Chris Snee.
The team needs to consider if, at this point, an aging Snee is better than the up-and-coming athletic Richburg, who can pull and do all the things that Snee used to be able to do in his prime.
If the answer is “yes,” then don’t be surprised if the Giants’ interior offensive line is Richburg at right guard, Walton at center and Geoff Schwartz at left guard.
The Tight End’s Role
One of the biggest mysteries about McAdoo’s offense has focused on not just the identity of the starting tight end, but what McAdoo wants from the position.
Who do you think will be the Giants' starting tight end in 2014?
One thing we did learn is that the Giants brass didn’t feel that any of the tight ends in the draft class were worthy of a pick.
“The tight end position wasn’t a class we felt was very strong,” said Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross.
“Even with a couple of the guys, there are things that to the outside eye you don’t know about some of these guys that devalue them even more.”
So for now, at least, that leaves the Giants hoping that one or more from a group that includes Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis and Xavier Grimble step up.
So how is the tight end’s role different in this offense versus last year’s?
“We move around a lot more in the backfield, [run] different routes,” Robinson said, adding that the tight end position would also play the H-back, line up at fullback and split out wide in certain packages.
Do the Giants have a candidate who can do all of that, or is the ideal candidate not yet on the roster? Stay tuned.
Ryan Nassib Could Thrive in This New Offense
Last year, quarterback Ryan Nassib didn’t take a single regular-season snap, though per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he took 53 snaps in the preseason, finishing 7-of-19 for 114 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and a 57.8 NFL rating.
To be fair, Nassib not only appeared to struggle with applying the concepts of former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride’s playbook, but also had to operate behind a suspect offensive line.
Fast-forward to this year, and Nassib seems rejuvenated not just because he’s entering his second year, but also because of the new offense, which is similar to what he ran during his career at Syracuse.
“It’s something that I’ve done in the past, which I kind of got away from last year,” he said.
“Now that we’re back in and stuff, the lessons that I’ve learned in the past are kind of becoming relevant again. It’s been nice to be able to have that background now when I’m trying to learn something new.”
There is also the matter of having a full offseason under his belt, which Nassib believes is going to be a big difference for him as he battles Josh Freeman and Curtis Painter for the right to be Eli Manning’s backup.
“I think my progress from this offseason compared to last year is like night and day,” he said.
“I didn’t have to deal with the draft and all of those workouts and stuff like that like I had last year. Now all I have to do is focus in on what we have to do here.”
Will that all translate into production? That remains to be seen, but as Kim Jones of the NFL Network reported, the Giants’ hope is to go back to being able to keep two quarterbacks on the roster after last year carrying three for the first time since the 2007 season.
Re: Josh Freeman -- NYG wanted veteran arm, someone w/chance to play his way onto 53-man roster as Eli's backup. NYG hope 2 keep only 2 QBs.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) April 16, 2014
If Nassib is going to be No. 2, he’s going to need to quickly show that this new offense, which he summarized as “getting the ball out quick, having a good running game and playing fast,” is really something that he can do “pretty well” at this level.