Breaking Down the 2017 New York Giants Offseason Roster — Offense
What positions should the Giants target in the draft? What does Brandon Marshall solve? Can the Giants improve their paltry rushing game?
Projecting the Giants record prior to the season was becoming easier after their 2011 Super Bowl campaign. From 2012 to 2015 the Giants missed the playoffs and posted two 6–10 seasons back to back before an unexpected revival in 2016.
There was an anxiety building in the Meadowlands as the Coughlin-Manning duo wasn’t producing the late season magic anymore.
Ben McAdoo to the rescue.
McAdoo inspired the same confidence that Nacho Libre would inspire in a wrestling ring. McAdoo, donned in his dark shades behind his patented Cheesecake Menu play sheet ordering some toffee before asking Eli to throw a 7-yard slant to Odell, seemed to be the basis of an offense that McAdoo was coordinating fairly well in years prior.
The big story ultimately was the return of Steve Spagnuolo who would once again get the most out of the Giants defense that struggled mightily in years prior. McAdoo’s offense held on for dear life in 2016 before sputtering to a halt, then being buzzsawed by Aaron Rodgers in the wild card round of the playoffs.
Despite the hold-your-breath mentality of the typical Giants fan, the 2016 season, complete with an 11–5 record, is not only to be celebrated but a reminder that the Giants are a serious threat. The Giants are missing a few pieces in a league where every team is missing a few pieces somewhere. The following position breakdown will assess which pieces need to be improved, and where the Giants should excel in 2017 on offense.
QB: Eli Manning, Josh Johnson, Geno Smith…?
(Bolded player(s) are starters)
There’s a competition brewing in New Jersey, and it’s for the prestigious career backup position behind Eli Manning.
It’s actually time to start thinking about the future of the quarterback position as Eli is 36 years old. Manning will open 2017 with his 200th straight regular season start and if he goes another 9 games after that he’ll pass brother Peyton in straight starts; God willing; knock on wood.
I’ve detailed the mercurial career of Eli Manning in an article so if you want the full story, give that piece a read.
Some questions aren’t meant to be answered, so we’ll just debate them until we’re blue in the facemedium.com
The league knows what Eli Manning is at this point, but he’s going to turn some heads by becoming the 7th quarterback to reach 50,000 career passing yards. That list includes: Brady, Brees, Peyton, Elway, Favre, and Marino.
After two really strong seasons, 2016 was not Eli’s best, though it was no 2013 (18 TD’s, 27 INT’s). Eli went for 4,027 yards, 26 TD’s, 16 INT’s, with a 63% completion percentage last season.
With additions to the O-line and Brandon Marshall, health provided, Eli should be in for a solid 2017.
RB: Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa, Shaun Draughn
I bolden the name of Paul Perkins with an apprehensive trepidation. I’m not a fan of Perkins who is a below average scatback that ran for 12 yards once and because he’s not Rashad Jennings is being clamored for as an every down back. He had 112 carries for 456 yards.
Orleans Darkwa is the power back that jumps off the screen and looked like he was going to get a real shot at the starting position before he went out for the season with an injury. He had 30 carries for 111 yards and 2 TD’s. Darkwa is not a slow power back either like Jennings and looks more like prime Brandon Jacobs. Darkwa has the ability to plow through linebackers and fall forward for an extra four yards after contact (like prime Jacobs).
Shane Vereen also went down due to injury last season and couldn’t stay healthy when he returned which is always a concern for a 28-year old back. Vereen is a fantastic 3rd down pass-catching back who can take a couple carries as a change of pace back. Vereen caught the ball 59 times and carried it 61 times in 2015 which goes to show the Giants really missed him in 2016.
If it was up to me, which obviously doesn’t matter and it’s not, even though it should be, a healthy Orleans Darkwa is the starter and Paul Perkins is a last resort.
FSU’s Dalvin Cook is an intriguing option as far as a possible first round draft pick is concerned. USF’s Marlon Mack also has the build and power for a potential Giants back as a later round option.
WR: Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Tavarres King, Roger Lewis, Dwayne Harris
It’s past debatable that Odell Beckham Jr. is the most talented wide receiver the New York Giants have ever had. Ever. The speed, the hands, the field goal net love affairs, Odell has yet to show any signs of slowing down in his 3 seasons.
Fun fact: According to NFL.com Draft Tracker, the Giants received the same draft grade (6.1) for picking Odell 12th in 2014 that the Browns did for picking Johnny Manziel.
Odell caught 101 passes for 1,367 yards and 10 TD’s in 2016. He’s yet to finish a season with below 90 catches and 10 TD’s.
Brandon Marshall is the new acquisition to line up opposite field of Odell and allow Sterling Shepard to work in the slot. Marshall is coming into the twilight of his career, but has proven no matter what team you put him on, he can contribute at a high level.
If anything stands out about Marshall’s career, it’s the QB’s he’s had to put up with: Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton, Chad Henne, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Geno Smith. Marshall’s hall of fame career has come with mediocre to BAD quarterback play.
Shepard is the primary slot receiver in an offense that mostly runs 3-receiver sets with one deep back. Shepard had a fantastic rookie season for a 2nd rounder hauling in 65 receptions and 8 TD’s.
Dwayne Harris will likely remain in a return role while King and Lewis will battle it out for the fourth receiver spot.
TE: Will Tye, Jerell Adams, Rhett Ellison
The Giants have had a carousel of tight ends come through Manning’s career at the helm. There’s talk of the Giants going to the draft looking for a tight end early and it’s certainly a feasible option but not essential.
Tye is serviceable, but not spectacular. He’s the better receiving option over Adams who had a quiet rookie season. Tye caught 42 for 464 yards and 3 TD’s mostly playing as Manning’s safety net.
Rhett Ellison is an intriguing offseason addition. After a lot of grumbling about how the Giants have no options at fullback, Ellison has been brought in to quell that discussion. Jerell Adams was occasionally thrust into the role, but wasn’t a good fit as a lead blocker. Ellison is known for his abilities as a blocking tight end and can fullback play behind the line.
The hope is that Ellison will see a lot of reps in the Giants paltry run game and create some more space for the young backs to break into the open field.
OT: Ereck Flowers, DJ Fluker, Bobby Hart, Adam Gettis, Martin Wallace, Michael Bowie
Fluker is a tackle converted to a guard and while he is listed as a guard, the Giants don’t have any other tackle options that are better than Fluker. So for projection purposes, I’m slotting him in the right tackle spot that’s really up for grabs at this point.
No more Marshall Newhouse or Will Beatty leaves Ereck Flowers as the only shoe-in starter at tackle. Flowers will hold down left tackle in 2017 and right tackle will be between Fluker or Hart.
Flowers needs to improve and fast, which is bad news for Giants fans that have been frustrated with the blocking from the tackle spot over the last several years. It’s the atrocious foot speed where Flowers ends up turned around watching Eli get punished that makes him so frustrating. Flowers has a good frame for a run blocker, but the rest of the line hasn’t shown much promise opening up lanes.
Fluker comes in with the most experience at the tackle position starting 59 games in 4 seasons with the San Diego Chargers. Fluker was converted to guard and could see the right guard position depending on what the Giants want to do with their offensive line carousel.
OG: Justin Pugh, John Jerry, Bobby Hart, DJ Fluker, Jon Halapio
Pugh was drafted in 2013 as a right tackle and was converted to left guard in 2015 where he has remained since.
John Jerry also returns with a new deal but neither Pugh or Jerry provide any confidence in the Giants O-line for 2017.
Bobby Hart saw 13 starts mostly at right tackle last season and is the likely option to start at right tackle for continuity reasons but there’ll likely be a shakeup due to injury or poor performance elsewhere on the line meaning Hart and Fluker can end up anywhere.
C: Weston Richburg, Brett Jones, Khaled Holmes
Richburg was signed to the Giants as a guard and was moved into the center position after his first season. Richburg has been OK. And that’s about as much praise you can give anyone on the Giants O-line.
The offensive line as a whole is one to pray on. Pray and hope for the best.
The overall takeaway for the Giants in the offseason is that if you aren’t looking for a playmaker in the backfield like Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey, then it’s best to look for a depth offensive lineman or an athletic tight end.
As much as I love Victor Cruz, I’ll take a durable veteran in Brandon Marshall every time. Marshall is an elite second option with Beckham likely to see double coverage. Shepard will be allowed to operate in the slot and that makes a fearsome passing attack if healthy.
The unknowns for the Giants are the rushing game and the offensive line, but that’s nothing new. There’s a lot of youth on the line and in the backfield and it will require someone to step up and become a star to lead the Giants offense to its utmost potential and a second straight playoff appearance.