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Special Report

Sent: 03-23-17

E-GIANTS
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

By Aaron Klein
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.

While every 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.

And 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.

Here is a quartet of thoughts and things to ponder as we aim for April:

1. 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.

2. Empty 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.

All that 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.

Sure, 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.

To 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 Kent State.

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.

So 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.

There 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.

Next week, 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.

Questions? Comments? Something to say?
Send it all over to aklein22@verizon.net
and follow me on Twitter @_AaronKlein_
Don't forget to follow us on Twitter @E_Giants

Check out Dave's website at E-GIANTS where you can subscribe to his newsletters which run much more frequently than what is available here.
- Team Giants

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