The New York Giants have made numerous upgrades to their offensive line and are bound to have an improved running game and defense, but it still won’t be enough to return to the playoffs.
2013 Season Recap
The Giants had an extremely rough start to their season as they started out with an 0-6 record, and quarterback Eli Manning had the worst season of his career as a full-time starter with 27 interceptions thrown.
This was partly due to having a shoddy running game and offensive line that gave him very little time to throw, and the team endured various injuries as well. The defense didn’t do Manning any favors either in its 0-6 start as it allowed about 35 points a game. However, they finished strongly and the Giants ended 2013 with a 7-9 record.
2014 Offseason Recap
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride announced his retirement at the end of the season, and he was replaced by former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo.
In an effort to beef up the offensive line, the Giants signed three free agents. Guard Geoff Schwartz and John Jerry and center J.D. Walton each signed with the Giants, and they are all battling for a starting job. The running game was also upgraded with the signing of Rashad Jennings.
The defense was also upgraded with the signings of cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond.
The draft produced gems such as wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Andre Williams, who are expected to help Manning bounce back.
Position of strength
The Giants are set at cornerback now that they have Prince Amukamara and Rodgers-Cromartie as their starters. Amukamara had a breakout season and emerged as one of the better cover corners in the league. Rodgers-Cromartie also had a fantastic season with the Denver Broncos but will need to prove he has a good work ethic with a hefty contract after struggling in Philadelphia.
Walter Thurmond will be around as the Giants’ nickel corner after assuming the same role with the Seattle Seahawks, who he helped lead to a Super Bowl victory on the heels of their dominant defense.
Position of weakness
The worst position for the Giants is tight end after they lost Brandon Myers to free agency, and there are no proven players at the position. They will be reliant on the upside of Adrien Robinson, who has looked promising in preseason. The other key tight ends they have are Kellen Davis and Daniel Fells, who are also unproven.
Best case scenario
If Manning cuts down on the interceptions, the offense will instantly improve. The offensive line blocking better would help matters a lot too. If Jennings and Williams can run effectively, Manning will have attention drawn away from him and he will be able to help Victor Cruz become a top NFL receiver once again. Beckham may become an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate if he plays to his potential.
The pass defense should be better with quality depth at cornerback, and the starting safety duo should be dangerous with Stevie Brown healthy and Antrel Rolle continuing to be one of the top safeties in the NFL. The defensive line also has the potential to bounce back as defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is due for a rebound year.
Worst case scenario
If the Giants offensive line does not improve its blocking, Manning is in for another long season. He will need to do his part as well by making less risky throws that turn into interceptions. The defense will also need to carry its momentum into 2014 after settling down toward the end of the 2013 season.
If Jennings does not turn out to be the full-time starter he is expected to be, the running game will be in trouble again, especially if Williams has an underwhelming rookie season.
The defensive line may feel the loss of Justin Tuck, who provided excellent leadership to the Giants defense. If Pierre-Paul continues to play like he did in 2012 and 2013, the defensive line will continue to be a shell of its former self.
The Giants could be a sleeper to win the NFC East after making improvements to the roster, but the division is becoming tougher, and they have to face the NFC West.
The Eagles have too much firepower to prevail over for an NFC East title, and there are too many question marks on units that struggled last season.
Prediction: 2nd place in NFC East, no playoffs