Things the New York Giants Need to Accomplish by the End of Training Camp

Patricia Traina@Patricia_TrainaFeatured Columnist IVJune 27, 2016

Things the New York Giants Need to Accomplish by the End of Training Camp

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    The start of summer training camp is still a little more than a month away, but the New York Giants’ list of things to get accomplished before the start of the regular season has been shaping up ever since the end of last season.

    Coming off their third straight losing season and fourth without a playoff berth, head coach Ben McAdoo and the rest of the organization have a long list of things they need to accomplish before the curtain rises on the 2016 campaign.

    Let’s run down the list of some of the biggest ones that are no doubt going to take center stage once the team reports to training camp on July 28.

Stay Healthy

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    Frank Victores/Associated Press

    This accomplishment goes at the top of the list because when a team is at or top of the NFL in injured players, staying healthy throughout training camp is a must.

    This is something the Giants have had trouble doing the last three seasons. While injuries to any NFL team are going to happen, in the Giants' case, their team injuries seem to affect the starters the most.

    Over the last three seasons, the Giants have seen their injured reserve totals rise, from 12 in 2013 to 20 in 2014 to 22 last year for an average of 18 players to land on IR per season.

    Of those totals, at least half of the players to land on injured reserve were either starters or key reserves who were part of sub packages.

    In 2013, eight of the 12 players on injured reserve were key pieces to the puzzle. In 2014, that number increased to 10. Last year, 13 of the 22 players on injured reserve were either starters or key role players

    Again, injuries are going to happen, and to its credit, the personnel department has done one of its best jobs in recent memory to make sure that each position is fully stocked in the event of a wipeout.

    Likewise, McAdoo and his staff have made changes to the way they’re going to do business this year. It’s now up to Lady Luck to have a little compassion for a Giants team that sure could use it.

Identify the Slot Cornerback

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    William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

    It says a lot that the Giants have tried at least twice, with no success thus far, to sign a veteran slot cornerback this year.

    Those two candidates, in case you don’t remember, were Jerraud Powers, whom Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News reported made a visit to the Giants back in late March; and Leon Hall, whom Ralph Vacchiano, also the New York Daily News, reported was in for a visit after the Giants drafted Eli Apple No. 10 overall in late April.

    Per Vacchiano, Giants general manager Jerry Reese, in a radio interview with WFAN, called the cornerback position “the one position that makes me more nervous than anything else” and that it was a position to which they were hoping to add more faces.

    “Going into this draft it didn’t look like we had enough corners back there that had enough experience,” Reese said on WFAN. “We didn’t have a lot of proven guys back there. That always makes you nervous because in this league you throw the ball a lot.”

    The problem with the cornerback is that the Giants still aren’t sure if they have an upgrade for the slot.

    After failing to sign Hall and Powers, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is going to have to figure out if he has a natural slot cornerback among a trio consisting of Apple, Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, or if he’ll just have to stick with Trevin Wade, who ended up playing the position last year.

    “We are trying to find that out right now,” Spagnuolo said when asked if they had a natural slot cornerback candidate.

    “We have played a lot of guys in there in the OTAs. Tim Walton has done a great job, and we decided to do that right from the beginning. Let’s find out which guy plays best in there and then go from there because we know they can all pretty much play outside.”

Rediscover the Pass Rush

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The Giants spent a lot of resources to upgrade their defensive line—$94.4 million in contracts, to be exact.

    They not only re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul, an emerging pass-rusher whom they hoped would become a cornerstone of their defense until a July 4 fireworks accident cast a shadow of doubt on that, they brought in Olivier Vernon, the top 4-3 free-agent pass-rusher on the market, according to Pro Football Focus.

    In addition, the Giants are expecting to have a healthy Owa Odighizuwa back this year, a player who told Inside Football that he’ll be used in a variety of pass rushing packages to complement a pass-rushing unit that will also have a healthy Johnathan Hankins at defensive tackle in the mix.

    That all sounds just peachy, and certainly the hope is that all those pieces not only stay healthy but produce better numbers than the group who struggled through last season.

    However, just because the Giants invested heavily on their defensive line doesn’t necessarily guarantee success and in fact appears to be more of a gamble than anything.

    Upon closer inspection, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus has reservations about whether Vernon is going to justify the contract he received:

    Olivier Vernon’s contract was the biggest deal they handed out, and one of the marquee names available this free-agency period, but Vernon’s elite play really only spanned eight games.

    After eight games last season, Vernon was PFF’s 47th-ranked edge defender, 38 places below teammate Cameron Wake. He had 24 total pressures on the season, which ranked 25th among edge rushers.

    At that point Vernon’s cumulative career grade at PFF was +16.9, and over the next eight games he posted a grade of +52.5, the best mark in the NFL among all edge rushers, and so far above his career baseline to that point.

    While it would certainly be nice if Vernon did indeed justify the full contract total he was received, the Giants would probably no doubt be happy if he can replicate his 2013 season in which he posted double-digit sacks (a career-high 11.5).

    As for the rest of the pass rush, only when the pads go on and contact is allowed will anyone know whether the Giants overspent on the new pieces, or if they  found the right combination to resurrect a pass rush that, for the better part of last year, was nonexistent.

Get the Running Game Humming

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    One of the basic beliefs of most NFL head coaches is that the teams that can achieve balance on offense are usually going to have the best chances of winning.

    Unfortunately for the Giants, that kind of balance—near-equal production from both the running game and passing game—has eluded them for various reasons. First, the passing game has taken off thanks to the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr.

    Second, with the Giants often having to play catch-up last year, they would frequently have to abandon the running game in favor of the pass.

    A bigger reason for the lack of balance in the production has to do with personnel. Last year, the Giants ran the ball 403 times for 1,609 yards (3.99 yards per carry) and passed it 392 times for 3,500 yards (8.9 yards per catch).

    Last year, the Giants famously tried a four-man committee that didn’t seem to have a rhyme or reason to it other than to keep the running backs healthy. The approach worked, but the production suffered for the first 10 weeks of the season when they barely cracked the 4.0-yards-per-carry average most teams strive for.

    So what did the Giants do this offseason? Instead of pairing down the running backs on the roster, they added two new faces—veteran Bobby Rainey and rookie Paul Perkins—to a group that already includes Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa.

    It will be interesting to see how the reps are split up this summer and if the Giants are able to get a good look at guys such as Williams, who had a poor showing last year, Perkins ad Rainey.

    Whomever they ultimately decide to go with, let’s hope that the group can come closer to matching the 2012 backfield, which finished the season averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

Settle the Right Side of the Offensive Line

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    After the Giants finished making their draft picks in April, McAdoo was asked if he was OK with the right side of the offensive line’s current condition. 

    “The story is yet to be written on the right side of the offensive line,” he said. “We’re going to look at every possible combination, give guys a chance to compete and see where it goes from there.”

    Since then, it looks as though John Jerry, the incumbent right guard, has tightened his hold on the starting spot for 2016, though he’s still expected to receive some competition from Bobby Hart.

    That is, of course, if Hart doesn’t find himself knee-deep in a competition for the starting right tackle job with incumbent Marshall Newhouse.

    What’s interesting is that throughout the offseason and as late as this month, the Giants tried to upgrade at tackle rather than guard, which would seem to indicate that they are more concerned about the former position (as they should be given the lack of depth there).

    Back in March, New York flirted with Russell Okung, according to Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News.

    Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that the Giants were also planning to meet with Donald Penn, a meeting that never took place since Penn re-signed with Oakland.

    This month, the Giants were involved in unsuccessful trade talks with Baltimore to acquire their now former offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.

    Even after the Ravens cut Monroe, Vacchiano reported that the Giants were still interested in signing the eight-year veteran.

    Why have the Giants struck out with landing a veteran to shore up the depth at offensive tackle?

    A big reason is likely their refusal to commit to moving Ereck Flowers, their current and future left tackle, over to the right side to accommodate those veterans, all career left tackles who no doubt have refused to budge in their preference as to where they will play.

    “I’d rather not deal in hypotheticals,” McAdoo said when asked if he’d consider moving Flowers to the right side were the team to sign a veteran left tackle.

    “Ereck is working hard to develop into a standout left tackle for us. We feel he’s making progress, and he had a good offseason.”

    The head coach was also coy when asked about his level of interest in adding a veteran offensive tackle, breaking out his best Reese impersonation to answer the question.

    “You never say never in this business, and if we feel one is out there that can help us, we’ll look into adding him to the mix,” McAdoo said.

    Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer, NFL Spinzone and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.  

    Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.

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