5 Possible Concerns the NY Giants Have Entering Training Camp
It doesn’t take much for the most realistic plans and expectations of even the most savvy head coaches, such as Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants, to go astray.
The most common unexpected twist is, of course, an injury to a key player that can affect the roster numbers.
There is also the matter of a player or two not developing as the coaches hoped that can often affect the direction a team pursues in the ensuing regular season.
That brings us to our current look at the top five concerns that are staring Coughlin and his Giants team squarely in the face before training camp begins on July 21.
Read on to see what issues are most pressing and how the varying outcomes could affect decisions that will need to be made regarding the 53-man roster.
Back in May, when the Giants were sitting at No. 12 in the first round of the draft, the New York Giants made a rather interesting decision to skip over drafting offensive tackle Zack Martin, who went to the Cowboys at No. 16, in favor of receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The decision was surprising for the simple reason that many draft publications and analysts thought that Martin was the last good tackle on the board at the time. He was also a player who could fill a need for the Giants, whose starting left tackle, Will Beatty, had suffered a serious leg injury in the previous year's finale.
The Giants felt otherwise. Perhaps they were more confident that Beatty would be okay and, if not, that their veteran free-agent depth could fill in.
So here we are, at the end of June. It’s not so much that Beatty didn’t do any work this spring—that was expected.
As I noted yesterday, both Beatty and Coughlin sounded uncertain every time they were asked a question regarding Beatty's status for training camp.
Certainly given the way he played last year, the sooner Beatty can get back to practice, the better. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked Beatty as the 17th best left tackle last season based on left tackles who played at least 75 percent of their team’s snaps and who played in at least 12 games at the position.
That’s a steep fall from the year before when he was the eighth best left tackle.
So what is the backup plan if Beatty has to start training camp on the PUP list?
There’s John Jerry, who missed all of spring recovering from a knee scope. In addition to his medical issues, Jerry could be facing time away from the field related to his alleged participation in the Miami Dolphins workplace harassment scandal, as Jordan Raanan of NJ.com noted.
There’s Charles Brown, the former Saints left tackle who signed as an unrestricted free agent. Per PFF, Brown, who was benched by the Saints last year after struggling, was actually worse than Beatty, finishing as PFF’s 19th best left tackle (out of 20).
There’s James Brewer, who is entering his fourth year. Brewer has yet to play left tackle in the NFL, and has played right tackle in just six games. His better position is guard.
Lastly, there’s DeMarcus Love, who was added to the training camp roster following the mandatory minicamp.
Hopefully for the Giants, Beatty will be ready to go. If not, they might just have to bring in another veteran, especially if it looks as though Beatty’s absence could be extended and the other guys on the roster can't get it done.
After 12 practices for a tight end group that consists of Adrien Robinson, Kellen Davis, Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells and Xavier Grimble, no one has stepped up and taken the lead in the competition.
At one point during the offseason, Head Coach Tom Coughlin praised Robinson and Donnell in their development.
“(Robinson) has done a really good job in terms of just learning. Again, not many mental errors. I’ve been really impressed with that,” Coughlin said.
“Donnell is the same way. Guys learning it, they’ve picked it up. They’re out there, they seem to be much more natural, not a lot of plodding. It seems like they have grasped what we want done and let’s just hope they keep going. That’s all you can do.”
The fact that the Giants are no closer to having a clue as to who their starting tight end will be—and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it’s possible the starter isn’t yet on the roster—is concerning.
Coughlin noted in a post-practice press briefing that every day it seemed like someone else at the position was standing out, but that there wasn’t any consistency shown just yet by any one individual.
Considering that the Giants’ new system is going to put a lot on the tight ends, that’s not good news. The pressure will be on for someone in that group to step up and show that he can be the guy.
As crazy as it sounds, the resolution to the Giants’ backup quarterback situation could very well have a domino effect on the team.
Here’s the problem. Head Coach Tom Coughlin has traditionally kept two quarterbacks on his roster every year since 2008—until last season when he was forced to keep Ryan Nassib, who the Giants traded up that year to get, and Curtis Painter behind Eli Manning.
So here we are in Nassib’s second season. There’s a new offense—one that he told reporters is similar to what he ran at Syracuse.
There’s also a new quarterback coach in Danny Langsdorf, who echoed Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s sentiments regarding Nassib making progress in his knowledge of the playbook, but not so much so in his execution of the plays.
“He’s just got to keep working on executing, whether it’s a throw or timing with the receivers, he’s just got to continue to work with those guys,” Langsdorf said.
So what happens if Nassib’s play isn’t at the level they need it to be so they can justify keeping two quarterbacks?
That means another position is going to find itself short, which is not something you’d like to see when you have the possibility of injuries.
The Giants are already potentially looking at having to keep an extra linebacker on the roster if Jon Beason isn’t ready for the start of the season.
They might have to carry an extra offensive lineman as well, depending on what happens with Chris Snee, Will Beatty and John Jerry, all of whom are recovering from surgeries.
The Giants can probably ill-afford to carry three quarterbacks again this year. However, they might not have any choice but to keep three, and it will be interesting to see how it affects the rest of the roster.
Quarterback Eli Manning
If the Giants are going to have any success this season, their starting quarterback is going to have to bounce back from what was his worst season since his rookie year.
We all know about the 27 interceptions, which was a career high. In addition, his completion percentage—which peaked in 2010 (62.9 percent)—has declined each year since, dipping below 60 percent last year.
His 18 touchdowns thrown last season were his lowest in a season in which he’s played 16 games.
Certainly, a better offensive line will help. Improved mechanics will also work wonders for the 33-year-old quarterback, and new quarterback coach Danny Langsdorf told reporters that this is something he’s been focusing on.
“We’ve spent a lot of time fundamentally throughout the spring, both footwork and everything from ball fakes, ball handling to throwing accurately to dropping back,” the coach said.
“There’s a little bit different of footwork that we’re using, and we’re timing it up with the receivers so there’s a little bit of fundamental work. He’s a veteran guy and a pro that’s had success for a long time so we’re not doing anything, drastic changes, but just trying to fine tune and tweak a few things.”
Langsdorf also said that Manning has been making excellent progress in adapting to the new offense both mentally and physically.
That’s good to hear. But how will Manning respond to having to roll out more? This is something that he hasn’t done as much of in his career.
How will things be for him when he has to throw shorter passes? This was not quite a strength last year, per Pro Football Focus’ review of his 2013 season that revealed his struggles throwing passes between 11 and 20 yards?
The bottom line is that as Manning goes, so too will the Giants. If he doesn’t have a solid bounce-back season with the new offense, the better offensive line and the improved receiving corps, then New York is going to have some hard decisions to make moving forward.
When word broke of former Giants safety Will Hill’s third suspension in as many years, it was only a matter of time before the Giants would decide to cut ties.
In doing so—and the move had to be made given that they couldn’t depend on Hill—the Giants are now in an interesting situation at safety.
Their projected starters will be Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown. That duo should be just fine so long as Brown’s surgically repaired left knee can hold up.
The third safety is veteran Quintin Demps, who is one of the most underrated signings made by the Giants this offseason. Demps’ presence will allow Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to run his three-safety set.
What happens, however, if Brown suffers a setback or if something happens to either Rolle or Demps? Although the Giants have two young players on the roster now in Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor, both are short on experience.
Both Berhe and Taylor were fifth-round draft picks. Berhe is a rookie this year, and Taylor, entering his second season, has played in just five defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
While both have talent, would either be an ideal fit at this point to step into that three-safety set if circumstances called for it?