Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
NOT-SO-GIANT THOUGHTS ABOUT
THE GIANTS AND THE OFF-SEASON
Spring has sprung and the NFL world moves into the quieter, final waves of free
agency, a time to tidy up the roster, figure out the last moves, check the balance
of the salary cap and make final preparations for the Great Body Snatch, also
known as the NFL Draft.
team participated in the free agency process to some degree, we're concerned with
the Giants first. What they have done, or not done, since the March 9 start of
the new league year has been, well ... at least it's been interesting.
many of you, as well as us, have been thinking about the moves, or non-moves,
the signings and the cuts, the stratagem and what may still come.
is a quartet of thoughts and things to ponder as we aim for April:
The mystery of the offensive line: During last year's draft, the Giants, who were
coming off a dismal 2015 season, seemed desperate for a new offensive lineman
or two. The unit struggled, especially on the right side, and it seemed like manifest
destiny would bring the second coming of Anthony Munoz to the team that needed
it most. Instead, the Giants didn't touch a single offensive lineman in the draft,
nor did they sign any undrafted free agents. They went with the guys they had,
struggled a bit through injuries and poor play, stagnated the running game, failed
too often to protect their franchise quarterback ... and still made the playoffs.
During this off-season, the Giants have
signed one – just one – free agent offensive line who probably can't unseat Ereck
Flowers at left tackle, and re-signed John Jerry. Meanwhile, right tackle Marshall
Newhouse left for Oakland. The rest of the line remains intact. There are a few
free agents on the market looking for a home and the team could bring one in,
but they already know who's out there and instead could wait until after the draft
to fill out the depth chart.
backfield: Rashad Jennings was released in a cap move and has not landed anywhere
except ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." Bobby Rainey is a free agent,
too. Paul Perkins is entering his second season after flashing some hope late
last year and Orleans Darkwa was brought back in, days before the team signed
journeyman back Shaun Draughn, who scored six touchdowns (four on the ground)
with San Francisco last year.
talk about Adrian Peterson was forgotten and probably never meant a thing to the
Giants. There weren't a lot of great veteran backs on the market, anyway, and
we'd expect the Giants to grab a running back in April's draft, probably in the
higher rounds. Sure, we could fantasize about LSU's Leonard Fournett or Florida
State's Dalvin Cook or even Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, but that's not usually
how the Giants roll, like it or not.
McCaffrey is a possibility, but the Giants are not the only team who are extra
cautious about drafting a running back in the first round. Perkins may be the
guy in the future, but we'll venture a guess that the team isn't convinced yet.
3. Backup quarterbacks: The Ryan Nassib
era is over, apparently. We hardly knew you, Ryan. While he may have only been
drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft to only be a backup and was never
expected to unseat Manning, there may have been some in the organization who thought
that he either might improve enough to push him at some point soon, or at least
become a strong enough player to become a trade asset. Neither of those things
happened, evidenced by his rather average play against second- and third-stringers
in the pre-season.
Josh Johnson, who
knocked around with the team as a third-stringer and then Eli's backup when Nassib
was hurt, was re-signed last week. He hasn't thrown a regular season pass in quite
a while but has at least proved his worth in practices and the film room as well
as with his grasp of the system.
bolster the depth chart, the Giants signed ex-Jets second-round pick Geno Smith,
who has a one-year prove it deal with the team and, assuming he makes it to training
camp, will compete with Johnson and Keith Wenning, a first-year futures guy from
There will likely be a draft
choice in the mix as well (see below), but it's hard to imagine the heir apparent
being there this season. Maybe the 2018 draft, or 2019, or maybe the Giants hope
they can find a veteran to bridge the gap, a la Kerry Collins, instead.
4. Draft strategy, if that's possible: So what if Jerry Reese was at the North
Carolina pro day? Sure, one of the top-rated quarterbacks in the draft, Mitchell
Trubisky, was working out, but so were a handful of good wide receivers and running
backs and a defensive tackle. It's hard to imagine the Giants using a first-round
pick on a quarterback with the potential of becoming the starter, especially since
incumbent Manning is under contract through 2020 and shows no signs of breaking
down as he enters his 14th NFL season as a 36-year-old starter who hasn't missed
a game since his first start in Week 9 of the 2004 season.
let's not make too much out of Reese's trip, unless you want to focus on defensive
tackle Nazair Jones, a solid Round 2-3 prospect, or wide receiver Mack Collins,
a Round 3-4 with potential ... or none of them. Maybe you should just accept that
Reese was doing his due diligence if nothing else.
are no real draft strategies, and that old "best player available" mantra
really does hold water, for the most part. There are few, if any, positions that
the Giants wouldn't try to improve, including quarterback, but it's fair to say
that there are certain areas of the depth chart that need more help than others.
Sure, everybody says that the Giants
need a left tackle, but not necessarily one who will start in Week 1 and not necessarily
out of the first round. What we've seen so far this off-season is a team gearing
up for a championship run, this year or next, so taking chances may not be at
the top of the to-do list.
we'll start paying attention in earnest to the 2017 Draft, now that the free agency
period has slowed. No mock drafts, as usual, but lots of prognostication.
Comments? Something to say?
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