A Unit for the Future: The New York Giants Offense
The New York Giants season is all but over now, but hope isn’t lost for the future. From the ashes of a disappointing season, where the defense underwhelmed and Eli Manning lost his clutch gene, several encouraging players on their roster on the Giants’ roster have arisen, the majority of which reside on the offensive side of the ball. Let’s take a look at the future of the Giants offense.
Well, they have Manning. He’s been their quarterback since 2004. He’s brought home two Super Bowl rings, with two Super Bowl MVP’s to boot. However, he’s folded at key moments this year in losses to San Francisco, Dallas, and Jacksonville. And while statistically, he’s having a better season than last, many people are starting to wonder how much time he has left in New York.
Let me squash that misconception right now. The Giants issue isn’t Manning. Its an offensive line that still isn’t as good as it should be. It’s a skill position corps ravaged by injury. And it’s a defense that can’t get stops at key moments.
Manning is 33 years old, and still has at least three seasons of being a competitive NFL quarterback. And while Giants fans may complain that he isn’t as good as he should be, all they need to do is look at the Jets, who haven’t had a competent quarterback since Brett Favre. Big Blue have the luxury of a proven NFL starter, especially with 2 rings and 10 years experience under his belt. So let’s get this straight now: Manning isn’t going anywhere. While Ryan Nassib is an intriguing prospect, if he stays with New York, he won’t be a weekly starter until his late 20’s-early 30’s.
The Giants running game has been very solid this season. When healthy, Rashad Jennings is averaging 3.9 yards a carry, to go along with 4 touchdowns. At 29 years old, he still has a few years left in him; the key is staying healthy. The Giants really missed his physicality in the middle stretch of the season when he went down with injury.
More encouraging, however, has been Andre Williams, the 22 year old rookie out of Boston College. Williams had to step up as the number one back in Jennings’ absence, and he did admirably, behind an often banged-up offensive line. He has 3.2 yards a carry and 6 TD’s on the season, and at 22 years old, is a player for the future. Whether that future is as a serviceable backup or part of a two-headed monster, we don’t know, but I’m not quite sold on him being a feature back just yet.
Wide receiver is a strength for the Giants when they are healthy. Big Blue fans should be salivating at the prospect of Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. starting together. Cruz is a proven receiver, who was playing well before succumbing to a season ending injury. Beckham Jr. has not only filled his shoes, but has actually played better than the Pro Bowler. Despite missing the first 4 games of the season, Beckham Jr. leads the team in yards and is third in receptions (see Athlete of the Week). He also made what was quite possibly the greatest catch in the history of the NFL. Oh, and he’s 22. Yeah.
Throw in Rueben Randle, Preston Parker, Jerell Jernigan, and Corey Washington, and you have a very solid receiving corps, not to mention a young one. Going into the draft, Jerry Reese (or whoever the Giant’s general manager is after the season) shouldn’t have to worry about drafting a receiver.
To Larry Donnell’s credit, the tight end position hasn’t been as lethargic as some people thought going into the season. The undrafted 26 year old out of Grambling State (yes, Grambling State) has 6 touchdowns on the year, as well as 60 receptions.
He’s more than exceeded expectations, and he’s proven that he can be at least a productive #2 tight end in the NFL. However, his fumbling issues loom large, as does his relatively limited ceiling. But with the receiving corps the Giants have, he doesn’t need to be Jimmy Graham. Unless the Giants find themselves with a superstar tight end on the board this May, expect Donnell to start next season. A more serviceable backup is needed, however.
The offensive line has also been encouraging. Justin Pugh, Will Beatty, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz have all had ups and downs, but as a collective unit they have a mix of promise and experience. The Giants offensive line is ranked as the 14th highest pass blocking efficient team, a massive upgrade from 31st a season ago. They’ve also surrendered 29 sacks to last years 40. The Giants need to take a page out of the Cowboys book, however. Drafting Zach Martin in this year’s first round has completed a massive transformation on the offensive line, one that is paying big dividends. Martin, paired with Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, have one of the best lines in the NFL after taking four years to build. Giants fans remember well when Tony Romo had 15 seconds in the pocket to torch the Giants in the 4th quarter. Either a right tackle or right guard is needed to complete the offensive line’s transition, and a first round pick could very well be used on an offensive lineman.
Ben McAdoo’s system has held up, and he has maximized the talents of Larry Donnell. Odell Beckham, Andre Williams, and Preston Parker are encouraging young talents, and Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, and Rashad Jennings are still very capable veterans. The focus this offseason should really be defense, and the offensive line.
So it’s not all rainy days and cloudy skies for the New York Giant’s. Pick your heads up, Giants fans, at least you’re not rooting for the Jets.