5 Bold (and Slightly Less Bold) Predictions for the 2014 New York Giants
It’s never too early to start thinking about what the not-so-distant future might hold for one’s favorite football team.
As spring football begins to wind down—the New York Giants have two more OTAs this week, followed by their three-day mandatory minicamp next week and then a four-week break before having to report to training camp on July 21. I’ve been thinking about what the 2014 season might bring in the way of the expected and the unexpected.
Here, then, is a look at five predictions that I think have a realistic chance of coming to fruition.
David Wilson Will Start Training Camp on the PUP List
Running back David Wilson, who is recovering from offseason neck surgery, is so anxious to resume a full load of football duties that he told reporters a couple of weeks ago he might have to start kicking field goals if he isn't cleared.
He might just have to start warming up his leg because I've got a feeling he's not going to be ready to go.
While his appointment on June 4 yielded a lot of positive vibes—per an official statement issued by the team, “the exam revealed he is progressing to where (his being cleared for full participation) could occur next month (July)." I’d be surprised if that happens.
Now before anyone asks, no, I’m not a doctor. I'm basing my opinion on the comebacks of other players who have had a similar procedure as Wilson.
Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, who, per Fox Sports, underwent a procedure in October to fuse together the C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck, didn’t receive clearance by a doctor until earlier this month—about eight months after his procedure.
While it’s encouraging to hear that Wilson is making progress, this shouldn't come as a surprise as the longer he moves away from the date of the surgery, the more progress he’s going to make so long as he doesn't do anything foolish.
Will he be cleared to fully participate in training camp when the Giants report in July 21, a period that would put him at about six months post-surgery?
I’m not so sure about that.
Yes, every case is different, and yes, people heal differently. However, per knowyourback.org (emphasis mine):
Substantial bone healing does not usually take place until three or four months after surgery. At that time, activities may be increased, although continued evidence of bone healing and remodeling may continue for up to a year after surgery.
The Giants' medical staff has a reputation as being one of the most conservative in the NFL. Head coach Tom Coughlin himself has said many times that he’s going to be “very careful” before putting Wilson out there.
That’s why I strongly believe Wilson is going to start training camp on the PUP list. They're not going to take a chance until the fused bones are 100 percent.
The Giants Will Carry Two Quarterbacks
In 2013, the Giants carried three quarterbacks on the roster instead of two for the first time since 2007.
They had to, what with Ryan Nassib, the rookie for whom they traded up in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, too much of a risk to leave exposed on the practice squad.
This year, Nassib has a lot going in his favor in his quest to become Eli Manning’s primary backup.
For starters, he has gone through an entire offseason with his teammates which he said has made a difference.
“I think my progress from this offseason compared to last year is like night and day,” he told reporters last month.
“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.”
Speaking of what they have to do, Nassib said that offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's new system is one with which Nassib is familiar from his days at Syracuse.
“The lessons that I’ve learned in the past are kind of becoming relevant again,” he said. “It’s been nice to be able to have that background now when I’m trying to learn something new.”
Although Nassib hasn’t been accurate throwing the ball in either of the OTAs to which the media had access, neither has Manning, which is not unexpected at this point in the process.
Head coach Tom Coughlin is encouraged by what he's seen so far from Nassib.
“He’s worked hard. He’s worked very hard,” Coughlin said of Nassib. “He studied hard, and he can direct traffic out here. We just need to get the execution where we need it to be.”
Nassib will probably get a lot of work in training camp and the preseason to get more into a comfort zone.
That he has a solid understanding of what to do is already half of the battle. With more reps, he should become more accurate with his reads and with his throws to where he should be able to convince the coaches that they don’t need to carry three quarterbacks in 2014.
Will Beatty Will Not Be Ready for the Start of Training Camp
In the 2013 regular-season finale, left tackle Will Beatty suffered a gruesome-looking injury when Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall crashed into the hulking Beatty’s right leg, causing it to bend at an unnatural spot.
Beatty was carted off the field, and per Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger, the initial diagnosis from the Giants during the game was a “knee sprain.”
The nature of Beatty’s injury was later amended to a fractured right leg. He underwent surgery shortly after the season ended.
Interestingly, A.J. Perez of NJ.com consulted with New York orthopedic surgical resident Adam Bitterman, who stated at the time that Beatty would be looking at a three- to six-month recovery period “as long as no other damage—like to tendons or cartilage—is found.”
Beatty, who, per Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News had the surgery on January 6, has been held out of the spring practices. July 6 would mark the six-month anniversary of the surgery.
However, when Beatty spoke to reporters at the end of April, he sounded unsure about being ready for training camp:
Who knows the future? I know today I’m doing good. I know today I am past expectations of the doctor, and I want to make sure tomorrow I’m the same way. I want to make sure I keep improving, so when it is time for opening day, I’m there.
When it is time to put on pads for the first time, I can put on pads. Those are my goals, to hit those, I guess, mile markers.
The other interesting thing that Beatty let slip is that his injury was “more bone than ACL, MCL or stuff like that,” a statement that might suggest that bone and/or cartilage damage might have been involved.
“I did ask the doctor not to tell me too much information because opening me up is not something I want to hear about,” Beatty said.
My gut feeling is telling me that Beatty is going to start the summer on the PUP list, especially after head coach Tom Coughlin, when asked about Beatty and receiver Mario Manningham two weeks ago, said of both players, “Supposedly, they’ll be ready for the fall.”
Notice how he said "fall" and not training camp? Yeah, I did too.
The Giants Will Have a 1,000-Yard Rusher in 2014
Since 2008, when Brandon Jacobs and Derek Ward both rushed for more than 1,000 yards apiece, the Giants have been inconsistent with having a running back cross the 1,000-yard threshold, missing out on the mark in every odd-numbered season (2009, 2011 and 2013).
How bad was it last season? Per the 2013 year-end stats the team distributed to the media, the Giants’ top-three rushing-yardage leaders, Andre Brown (492), Peyton Hillis (247) and Brandon Jacobs (238), combined for 977 yards on the ground.
With a better offensive line leading the way, I think the Giants’ ground game is going to get back to being the force it once was, and I think they're going to have a 1,000-yard rusher this year.
Let’s start with Geoff Schwartz, whom the team signed to play left guard. Last season, Schwartz, the right guard for the Kansas City Chiefs, finished with a 9.0 run-blocking grade, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
When looking at the success rate the Chiefs’ running backs had, Schwartz was the only offensive lineman to earn a positive grade. With running backs running behind Schwartz, the Chiefs averaged 3.8 yards per carry.
So who will be the 1,000-yard rusher? I think it will be Rashad Jennings, whom the Giants signed as an unrestricted free agent from Oakland.
Per PFF, Jennings’ best 2013 average was 7.6 yards running behind the left guard. He had a 4.3 average running behind the right guard.
The Giants' 2014 offensive line, on paper at least, is vastly improved, even with question marks concerning J.D. Walton at center and Chris Snee at right guard.
Win or Lose, This Will Be Tom Coughlin's Last Year as Head Coach
In what I think is my boldest prediction, I would not be shocked if this season is Coughlin’s last as head coach, regardless if he wins or loses.
Let’s start with the losing.
Coughlin is coming off a 7-9 season after back-to-back seasons where his teams have posted records of 9-7. One of those teams, the 2011 squad, won the Super Bowl.
That second-half flop carried over into 2013 in the form of a 0-6 start. As a result, general manager Jerry Reese blew up the roster, signing 15 new players while passing on re-signing 16 of the players who were with the team in 2013.
While the roster was being revamped, so too was the offensive coaching staff. Coughlin replaced long-time assistants Kevin B. Gilbride (offensive coordinator), Jerald Ingram (running backs) and Michael Pope (tight ends) and re-assigned Kevin M. Gilbride from receivers to tight ends and Sean Ryan from quarterbacks to receivers.
Coughlin also hired three new coaches: offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, running backs coach Craig Johnson and quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf.
Given all of this change, what happens then if the Giants do not improve last year’s record and return to the playoffs? Is Coughlin, the winning coach of two Super Bowl championship teams, still safe?
I’m not so sure he is, not after management only gave him a one-year extension in February to remove the lame-duck status.
Now let's look at why I think this might be his last season if he wins.
While Coughlin told reporters at the end of last year that he hopes to continue coaching, I think if he can go out on top, he’s smart enough to realize when to say when.
The NFL landscape is changing largely, thanks to the push on player safety. Many of the changes have forced old-school coaches, such as Coughlin, to adapt, and while he has done a good job of it, can he keep up with the pace, or will he reach a point where enough is enough?
Then there is a matter of finishing what he started. Coughlin has always preached to his team about staying the course and not giving up.
If Coughlin, who at the end of last year told reporters that he “definitely (has some) unfinished business” with the Giants, is able to finish what he set out to start, then January 2015 might be as good of a time as any to walk away with his pride intact.