5 Personnel Moves the New York Giants Should Consider
Ask New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese or new head coach Ben McAdoo about what lies ahead for the franchise, and it’s guaranteed that both will say that there is a lot of work to be done regarding the roster.
Currently the brain trust is evaluating the roster from last year that severely underperformed. In a matter of weeks, it will soon announce which players will be sent on their way as salary-cap cuts, which will be the first step.
Also under discussion are potential plans for the personnel the team does plan to keep. And while the Giants won’t announce any of those moves until they have to, here’s a look at some moves that could be under consideration for the 2016 season.
Move Devon Kennard to Middle Linebacker
On the surface, the Giants’ “conundrum” at linebacker could probably be easily solved if the front office actually decided to draft guys at that position.
While that could happen if there is someone in the draft that catches their fancy—and it would be surprising if, given the needs at defensive end, safety and receiver, linebacker becomes a Day 1 draft priority—the Giants could do a little reshuffling at this position as well.
The Giants actually did explore that possibility as a fallback plan last year during the spring, moving Kennard to the middle for some extra looks.
"He has an ability, he does a great job of getting the calls out, and knowing where to play. He's a big 'backer, big man," former Giants linebackers coach Jim Herrmann said, according to Tom Rock of Newsday.
The Giants would go on to scrap that plan in the summer, partially due to the emergence of Uani 'Unga in training camp.
However, ‘Unga soon proved that he’s not an ideal cover guy and is a backup at best going forward.
Although Jasper Brinkley held up well when put into the role following yet another season-ending injury to starter Jon Beason, Kennard probably offers the most athleticism and instincts for that critical position if he can stay on the field.
Want an added bonus? At 25 years old, Kennard is nearly six years younger than Brinkley, which means he can potentially be the long-term solution on the inside.
Reshuffle the Tight End Depth Chart
While some are of the opinion that tight end is a priority that needs to be addressed either in free agency or the draft, it turns out that the Giants might very well have what they need already on their roster in Larry Donnell, Will Tye, Jerome Cunningham and Matt LaCosse.
The only change that really needs to be made is to move Tye, who showed himself to be a better receiver than Donnell in his short stint as a starter, to the top of the depth chart.
Although Tye led the Giants' tight ends with five dropped passes, there were some other flashes he showed that could put him ahead of Donnell on the depth chart next season.
Tye, who finished with five touchdowns to lead the team's tight ends, was the only one at the position on the team to actually show the ability to pick up yards after the catch. He racked up 206 such yards, which led the Giants' tight ends by a mile.
To that end, Tye was elusive enough with the ball in his hands to create a team-leading 11 missed tackles among the tight ends group.
Okay, so what about his blocking? Again, not too shabby and certainly on par with Donnell’s, despite the fact that the latter has more experience than the rookie.
The bottom line is that Tye showed enough promise and production in a half season’s worth of work to make a serious push for the starting job ahead of Donnell.
Convert Andre Williams to Fullback
Of all the moves proposed in this slide show, the idea of moving running back Andre Williams to fullback probably has the least—and likely zero—chance of happening.
It should though.
First let’s start with his production over the last two seasons. As a rookie, Williams rushed 217 times versus the 88 times he ran the ball this year. His per-carry averages in each of those two seasons were 3.3 and 2.9 yards, respectively.
Not much of a pass receiver out of the backfield after two seasons in the league, Williams is far too one-dimensional, which means if he’s going out on the field, you can either count on him being a blocking decoy or running the ball.
The biggest problem with Williams is that he lacks the vision, patience and feel that one tends to look for in a running back.
Here’s the other problem. As long as Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen are healthy, Williams can expect to continue to receive sporadic touches moving forward.
With the Giants apparently set to carry four veterans at the position—add 23-year-old Orleans Darkwa to the mix—the thought of moving the powerfully built Williams to fullback is just too intriguing to ignore. Williams might be a slightly better fit at the position than Nikita Whitlock, who played the position extensively for the first time in his young career last year after coming into the NFL as a defensive tackle.
Plug Bobby Hart at Right Guard
There’s a reason why head coaches tend to be a tad squeamish when they have to play rookie offensive linemen, especially those who are late Day 3 draft picks.
Simply put, the speed of the game often overwhelms a young offensive lineman to the point where if he’s out there, unless he has the mental toughness to overcome the bumps he’s likely to encounter, he could ultimately fall apart.
That wasn’t the case this year with Bobby Hart, who played 155 snaps for the Giants, per Pro Football Focus. With every one of those snaps coming on the right side and all but 53 of them coming at right tackle, Hart allowed 10 pressures, one of which resulted in a sack.
For the most part, Hart has fundamentally sound technique and has played in some big-time settings while in college with the Florida State Seminoles, including a national title game.
A sturdy sort with a big 6’4”, 334-pound body, Hart could turn out to be a true value pick who becomes a steal once he gets more reps to adjust to the speed of the NFL game.
With the Giants likely to re-do the right side of their offensive line and Geoff Schwartz, who has twice now been unable to get on the field due to injuries, potentially finding himself a salary cap casualty—which would save New York $2.991 million against its 2016 cap, per Over the Cap—such a move could open the door for Hart to make the starting right guard job his.
Make Shane Vereen the Change of Pace Back
Running back Shane Vereen, signed in the offseason, was supposed to be the missing piece to the offensive backfield—a David Wilson-like player who could get out in space and do some damage.
Well, Vereen didn’t disappoint in that regard, hauling in 79.7 percent of his pass targets for an average of 8.4 yards per reception and 7.3 yards after the catch, per Pro Football Focus.
The only problem is, for whatever the reason and despite promises to the contrary by the coaches, the Giants didn’t get this key player the ball as much as they probably should have.
When he came to the Giants, however, he ended up getting involved in just 38.7 percent of the offensive snaps.
Vereen recorded two or fewer catches in eight games in 2015, but he caught 23 balls in the last three games and showed that he could more than handle one-on-one coverage.
Whether Vereen’s lack of usage was a result of his pass blocking is up for debate—and it’s certainly a valid argument, by the way.
Given the offensive weapon he can be, it just might behoove the Giants to get Vereen more involved next season.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.