New York Giants: Top 5 Necessities for the 2011 Season
The 2010 NFL season brought nothing but shear anguish and utter disappointment to New York Giants fans everywhere. As fans, it is time to move on and focus on how this team can improve and make themselves true contenders next year.
It's no secret that the Giants were a team that had the talent to make the Super Bowl—or make the playoffs at the very least—but whether it be injuries, turnovers or poor leadership, they have nobody to blame but themselves for yet another collapse.
There are some glaring holes in this team and it should be a top priority to bring in some players to fill the voids that were exposed over the course of the season. I like the young core group of players this team has, but it is going to take more than just raw talent and guts to reclaim the Lombardi Trophy.
On top of looking to add players through the draft and free agency, it is equally important to make sure players the Giants would like to keep who entering free agency or who will be in the near future are re-signed.
And sometimes, the best way to improve your team is by getting rid of players. Maybe it is time for the Giants to get rid of some of their guys.
Here are what I believe the top five offseason necessities are for Big Blue in 2011.
1. Re-sign Steve Smith for a Long Time
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You can only imagine how different the second half of the season would have gone if this man was suiting up for New York.
Smith is the Giants' rock in their passing game. Any time they need a big third down, No. 12 is there to make a play time after time. He has the best hands on the team and is quickly turning into one of the top possession receivers in the league.
When he went down, the offense had a lot more trouble converting on third downs, and Eli didn't have his favorite "hot" receiver to throw to against complicated blitz packages that defenses like the Packers were throwing at him. He always runs the right route and knows how to get in space and make the catch in traffic. Not to mention he was virtually the only receiver on the Giants that didn't have a pass slip through his hands and into a waiting defender's.
Don't get me wrong, Nicks and Manningham are great players—although the drops are a concern—but the Giants offense moves so fluently when you have all three of them to throw to, as well as Ahmad Bradshaw out of the backfield.
In about eight games this season, Smith had 48 catches for 529 yards and three scores. In the eight games he played, the Giants averaged 27 ppg, while notching only 22 ppg when Smith was out with injury or hurt during that game.
Smith is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and I think—above anything—he needs to be re-signed to a long-term deal. At 25 years old, you don't see receivers with the intelligence and precise route-running that Steve has at such a young age. He was taught the ways by Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, who had been around the block when he entered the league, so it's no surprise he has a very "slippery" and tactical way about his game.
You can't operate an car without all the parts intact, and Steve Smith could possibly be the most important part (aside from Eli of course) to this Giant offense.
2. Draft a Linebacker
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If the G-Men had one thing on defense that held them back from greatness, it was the linebacking corps.
Michael Boley is a solid player and Jonathan Goff is improving, but Keith Bulluck's days as an enforcer are far behind him and this group as a whole cannot cover very well. Tom Coughlin and company are in desperate need of a playmaking linebacker who can cover the pass as well as being effective against the run and rushing the passer.
The three linebackers projected in the first round—Von Miller (Texas A&M, ranked 10th on ESPN's Big Board), Akeem Ayers (UCLA, ranked 18th) and Justin Houston (Georgia, ranked 23rd)—are all very talented players who could be used in different ways in the Giants defensive scheme.
Ayers is a little more of a pass rushing linebacker better suited in a 3-4 scheme, but he gets to the quarterback, has decent hands and can take on blockers against the run. Von Miller is another speed rush OLB/DE hybrid who can really pressure the passer and create some big plays. He has great quickness off the snap, but can get caught out of position on occasion.
Both of these guys are a little undersized, but I wouldn't object to the Giants drafting either of them if they decided to use them in blitz packages and third down situations to get a little more pressure. Then again, it's hard to risk a first round pick on a player who may not be on the field every down if he has holes in his game.
Houston, on the other hand, is a guy who has played in a 4-3 front up until this season, when Georgia switched to a 3-4. He is a bigger guy—listed at 6'3" 255 lbs.—and has the capabilities to defend the run well and drop back into a zone to play the pass. Right now he is projected at around picks 15-25 and the Giants sit at the 19th slot in the first round, so there is a pretty good possibility he will still be on the board when the Giants get on the clock.
I'm hesitant to believe that the Giants should wait a round or two to pick this position because in the past—see Gerris Wilkinson, Clint Sintim and Bryan Kehl—the middle round linebackers the Giants have chanced on just haven't panned out.
A team's linebacking corps is the glue that holds the defense together, and no matter how good the rest of the unit may be, it is hard to be successful with inconsistent play from that position, so going with a linebacker early could really help this team rebuild the defense to their liking.
3. Re-Sign Ahmad Bradshaw for a Few Years
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As important as Steve Smith is to the passing game, Ahmad Bradshaw is that intricate to the rushing attack, and then some. He is the lightning in the Big Blue's new look "Thunder and Lightning" paired with the big boy, Brandon Jacobs.
Bradshaw becomes a free agent after his best statistical year, putting up 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per rush. The fumbles are obviously a concern—Ahmad had seven in 2010—but Tiki Barber suffered from the same "fumbilitis" bug early in his career and virtually eliminated it from his game within the next two seasons.
Now I'm not saying that we should ink A.B. to a lucrative long-term deal worth a ton of money, but a three-year deal worth anywhere from $25 to 35 million would probably be suitable for this rising stud. With him and Jacobs shouldering the load, the Giants guarantee themselves two very good running backs who are extremely physical and complement each other well.
Jacobs will be a free agent after 2012, and the Giants probably aren't going to be very big on re-signing him when that time comes. For now we need to lock up one of our playmakers at this position for the next few years.
4. Revamp the Offensive Line
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It has been a while since we've had to talk about the offensive line being an issue, and I don't think it is a big concern, yet. That is why the Giants need to work on bringing in young talent on the line this year so the transition isn't as drastic.
Kareem McKenzie is a good player, but his age is catching up with him. Shaun O'Hara is coming off an injury-ridden season, as well as Rich Seubert suffering another horrific, season-ending injury, tearing his patella tendon and dislocating his kneecap. In addition, I'm not sold on Shawn Andrews being able to stay on the field consistently. He didn't do it in Philadelphia and was on the verge of retirement because of the injuries, so I wouldn't count on it.
Chris Snee and David Diehl are both guys who New York can rely on, but I would still go out in free agency and grab someone like Davin Joseph, who had a great season for Tampa before fracturing his foot. Getting Joseph may be a long shot, but there are also guys like Daryn Colledge, Logan Mankins and Deuce Lutui that Jerry Reese could try and lure to the Big Apple.
Grabbing a guard would solidify that position and allow Diehl to move back outside, alongside McKenzie. Andrews can be useful in spelling at any position besides center, and can serve as the eligible lineman when Kevin Gilbride needs an extra blocker on the edge.
As long as the Giants can pick up somebody up to aid this group, it will make the transition that much easier when a few guys leave or retire.
5. Re-Sign Barry Cofield
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Everyone Giants fan knows how great it is to see Osi Umenyiora back on his game and Justin Tuck staying healthy and playing at a consistently high level. I give all the credit to them in the world, but there is a man who if he was not doing his job, they wouldn't be getting to the quarterback as frequently.
Barry Cofield has been a steal ever since joining the club in 2006. This year, Cofield recorded a career-high in tackles with 54, as well as having four sacks and a forced fumble. He is very explosive and constantly is disturbing the flow in the opponent's backfield. He has the ability to take on multiple blockers, freeing up the defensive ends into one-on-one situations.
He is very good against the run and does a nice job rushing the passer, which is what the Giants need out of their defensive tackles in the aggressive 4-3 defense Perry Fewell runs. I do like the improvement Linval Joseph showed at the end of the season, and even Chris Canty shows flashes of his potential, but you can't really lean on either to play all the time and contribute at a high level.
Cofield is a guy who is very durable, only missing one game in his first five seasons and can do everything you ask at his position. I even see him making hustle plays down field on receivers at times, which shows his grit and athleticism.
The Giants' fierce pass rush needs Barry Cofield to remain a constant threat.
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Phil Lombardo is a Giants and Knicks Featured Columnist as well as a senior journalism/mass communications major at St. Bonaventure University.
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