Ranking New York Giants' Top Position Needs Ahead of 2018 Offseason
With the New York Giants officially eliminated from postseason contention, it’s time to begin thinking about next year.
While there are likely to be some major changes within an organization that has underperformed so badly—changes that will include general manager Jerry Reese and the coaching staff if the fanbase has its way—the biggest alterations are likely to be on the roster.
Regardless of who is making the personnel decisions for the Giants in the new year, a quick look at the roster shows several glaring holes that will need to be addressed.
Here is a rundown of those holes ranked from least to most pressing.
7. Running Back
The Giants' running game has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence since Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman were given increased reps on offense.
The pair have combined for 779 yards on 175 carries, an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Putting that number into perspective, that average would rank the Giants fifth in the league in average yards per carry (as a team, they rank 16th in average yards per carry, a huge improvement from their 30th ranking the year before).
Darkwa is set to be an unrestricted free agent, but the team should be able to re-sign him. The question is do they continue with Paul Perkins, who averaged 1.9 yards per carry in his second season or do they go in another direction?
With Shane Vereen, their third-down back, set to hit free agency, the Giants will likely let him go and maybe look to get Perkins into a the third-down back role. Either way, they can still use another running back for depth.
Kicker Aldrick Rosas has a big leg that looks as though it can do a lot of scoring in this league. However, the first-year kicker has been inconsistent in scoring and kickoffs.
Rosas went on a streak in which he missed six place kicks (either field goals or PATS) in games where he had at least one attempt. Interestingly, had he made the PAT he missed in the Giants' overtime win against the Kansas City Chiefs, one can't help but wonder if that game would have spilled into overtime to begin with.
Considering he has shown himself to have a strong leg, it's mystifying that more of his kickoffs aren't put deeper into the end zone.
It's also maddening how a few of his kickoffs this year have either come dangerously close to being out of bounds or—as was the case in one instance—actually went out of bounds.
The Giants gambled and came up way short of their goal of giving quarterback Eli Manning a tall, experienced wide receiver when they inked veteran Brandon Marshall to a two-year deal.
Marshall never seemed to fit into the offense despite his veteran status. Before a season-ending ankle injury put him on the shelf, he managed 154 yards on 18 catches and no touchdowns in five games played.
As we've seen from the young receivers the Giants turned to fill in for Odell Beckham Jr., Marshall and Sterling Shepard, there doesn't appear to be a long-term keeper in the lot.
Add to that a $6.156 million cap figure due in 2018 for Marshall, and it's likely the Giants will go in another direction to find a tall receiving complement to Beckham—who is due to return from a season-ending ankle injury—and slot receiver Shepard, who has had an ankle issue of his own and is now dealing with migraines.
Even before the questions about the efforts of Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple, the Giants cornerback spot was frighteningly thin given the depth behind the two starters and slot cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
With five weeks to go, those questions have intensified. Donte Deayon is done for the season with a broken forearm.
Jenkins is also reportedly looking at season-ending ankle surgery, while Apple has had a season to forget thanks in part to his mother's health issues combined with his brutal calling-out by teammates during head coach Ben McAdoo's now-famous film-review session.
While the chances of the Giants giving up on Jenkins and Apple are slim, the one who is likely the most in trouble of losing his roster spot is Rodgers-Cromartie, who has an $8.5 million cap number for 2018.
Although the 31-year-old is a popular figure in the locker room, being on the wrong side of 30 and having such a heavy cap figure leave a question mark over whether he will be back.
Ross Cockrell, whom the Giants traded for after training camp, will also be an unrestricted free agent after this year as well.
The Giants didn't address the cornerback spot in the draft last year, but they might want to do so in 2018 for no other reason than to get someone ready for the future.
The Giants' linebacker play this season has been a mess. Part of that is due to injuries that have kept all three starters—Devon Kennard, B.J. Goodson and Jonathan Casillas—out of the lineup at various times in the year, as well as having knocked out nickel linebacker Keenan Robinson for the season.
But the other factor has been the play of the linebackers, who haven't done as good a job filling holes this year, especially against the running game.
Casillas, Kennard and Robinson are all set to be unrestricted free agents. Of those, Kennard likely has the best chance of returning, though if the Giants were smart, they would try to upgrade that strong-side spot with more of a natural pass-rusher.
Overall, though, this unit needs a wholesale makeover that can't come soon enough if this defense is to reach its potential.
The Giants seem willing to try to squeeze every last drop out of starting quarterback Eli Manning's right arm.
While their decision not to play Davis Webb makes some sense to a degree—they won't want to tip their hand regarding next year's draft by putting him on display and giving other teams planning to offer them a package of picks in a trade any incentive not to—the bottom line is they need to address the position.
If the Giants finish with a top-three pick, they would be in a plum spot to pluck one of the blue-chip prospects from the draft.
The problem here, though, is the uncertainty hanging over Reese and the coaching staff, which makes it hard to determine in what direction the team will go at this critical spot.
1. Offensive Line (all Positions)
The Giants have some decisions coming up that will affect this unit's future configuration.
Let's start with left tackle Ereck Flowers. He struggled earlier in the year but then played well after the coaching staff tweaked the passing game to ensure the ball gets out of Manning's hand quickly.
Meanwhile, Flowers' run blocking, which was supposed to have been a strength, took several steps backwards. So should the Giants pick up the option year on his rookie contract, which would mean a cap hit equivalent to the average of the top 10 players at his position? Unlikely.
Justin Pugh is also set to his free agency. While the 27-year-old has been the team’s most consistent offensive lineman, he’s also been unable to make it through a 16-game season since his rookie year. Regardless, he's probably someone the team has to bring back and someone they will likely want to return to left guard, his best position.
Center Weston Richburg and starting right guard D.J. Fluker are also set to hit free agency. The former, who is on injured reserve with a concussion, probably won't be back given the emergence of Brett Jones.
Fluker, meanwhile, would seem a worthwhile investment to bring back given the difference he has made in the running game.
The most glaring issues beyond the pending contract decisions is the depth. At offensive tackle, the Giants' depth includes 23-year-old Chad Wheeler, who is as raw as they come, and sixth-round pick Adam Bisnowaty, who hasn't been called up despite the injuries that have hit the offensive line.
The Giants will probably need to redo their depth on this unit this offseason, with an eye toward getting a future starting left tackle if Flowers' option year isn't on the cards (it shouldn't be given his inconsistent play over his career).
Patricia Traina covers the New York Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.