2015 NFL Offseason: New York Giants

New York Giants (Last Year: 6-10)

2015 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Shane Vereen, OT Marshall Newhouse, DE George Selvie, NT Kenrick Ellis, OLB Jonathan Casillas, ILB J.T. Thomas, CB Josh Gordy, KR Dwayne Harris.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Ereck Flowers, S Landon Collins, DE Owa Odighizuwa, S Mykkele Thompson. Giants Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Peyton Hillis, WR Jerrel Jernigan, OT James Brewer, G Adam Snyder, C J.D. Walton, DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DT Mike Patterson, OLB Spencer Paysinger, OLB Jacquian Williams, CB Walter Thurmond, CB Terrell Thomas, CB Zackary Bowman, S Antrel Rolle, S Stevie Brown, S Quintin Demps.

2015 New York Giants Offense:
The Giants’ scoring unit was erratic at best to begin the 2014 season. They scored 14 or fewer points in three of their initial six games, which included a doughnut in a humiliating 27-0 defeat to the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Adding injury to insult, Victor Cruz suffered a horrific torn patellar tendon in that contest, and the Giants, who dropped to 3-3 at that point, didn’t seem to have any hope going forward.

And then Odell Beckham Jr. happened. The LSU rookie took over as the starting receiver and started to dominate. He began snatching mind-boggling one-handed catches, and the amazing thing is that he made it look routine. The opposition, meanwhile, had no answer for Beckham. They simply couldn’t cover him. Even the league’s best cornerback, Richard Sherman, was torched by Beckham. As a result, New York scored 28, 24, 36, 24, 37 and 26 points in its final six contests. Beckham’s numbers in those games looked like this: 60 receptions, 842 yards and nine touchdowns. Extrapolate that over a full 16-game slate, and it comes out to 160 catches, 2,245 yards and 24 scores. Beckham is for real, and he’s arguably the best receiver in the NFL already.

New York is going to be difficult to stop unless Beckham is guilty of some sort of inexplicable sophomore slump. And even if his production does slip a bit, he’ll open up opportunities for Eli Manning’s other weapons, including Rueben Randle, Cruz and Larry Donnell – all of whom are marginal players who will definitely benefit from Beckham getting more attention. Manning, by the way, maintained the best touchdown-to-interception ratio of his career in 2014 (30:14), thanks to Beckham starting for half a year, so imagine how good it could be with Beckham playing an entire season.

Manning will also have a new toy to work with coming out of the backfield. Shane Vereen was signed over from the Patriots in a very promising move. Vereen isn’t much of a runner in between the tackles, but he’s a dynamic pass-catcher for a running back. Quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Philip Rivers have struggled when they’ve lost their backfield safety valves, so it would make sense that Manning’s overall play would improve with Vereen as a new option.

Vereen, of course, will share the workload with two other backs: Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. Jennings is more talented, but he’s very injury-prone. Williams is a clear downgrade, as he’s nothing more than a large plodder. Still, he’s not completely useless, as he plunged into the end zone on seven occasions as a rookie.

Speaking of injury-prone players, left tackle William Beatty and his torn pectoral put a damper on what was a promising offseason. Beatty could return late in the year, but the initial diagnosis was that he’d be out for five months. With that in mind, it’s a good thing New York spent its first-round selection on Ereck Flowers. The Miami product was already a good pick, but he’s an even better option now because New York’s offensive line won’t be a train wreck in the wake of Beatty’s injury. Flowers was initially slated to begin at right tackle, moving Justin Pugh inside. Now, Flowers will man the blind side, with Pugh remaining at right tackle. Pugh is a natural guard, and he wasn’t at his best on the outside. He wasn’t terrible, but he’d be so much more effective as an interior lineman.

With Pugh sticking at right tackle, the inside of New York’s front will be comprised of guards John Jerry and Geoff Schwartz and center Weston Richburg. Unfortunately for the Giants, both Jerry and Richburg struggled mightily in 2014. Jerry is a lost cause, but perhaps Richburg might be able to improve; he was a second-round pick last spring, after all. Schwartz, meanwhile, missed most of this past year with an ankle injury. He looked good in brief action, however, so his return will at least slightly negate the loss of Beatty.

2015 New York Giants Defense:
The Giants used their first-round draft pick on an offensive tackle, but they focused on finding defensive help after that. They can’t be blamed for doing so; remember that six-game stretch at the end of the season in which they scored a ton of points? Well, they allowed 25 or more in four of those outings, which would explain why they were just 3-3 to close out the year.

New York actually traded up in the second round to obtain Landon Collins. The Alabama product was considered by many to be the top safety product in the class, but yet he still fell to the second frame because of some concerns about his ability in coverage. That’s not good news because the Giants just dealt with the same problem when they had Antrel Rolle in their secondary. Rolle struggled in 2014 and is no longer on the team as a consequence. Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps, who also saw plenty of action at safety, are gone as well. That leaves a pair of fifth-rounders – Cooper Taylor, chosen in 2013, and Mykkele Thompson, a rookie – to battle for the job next to Collins. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this position is a big problem area for New York.

Rounding out the secondary, the Giants figure to be much better at corner. They return almost all of the same players, though they lost some depth with Walter Thurmond going to Philadelphia. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara performed well as the starters there last season, though the latter missed half the year with a torn bicep. He’s ready to go for training camp, so getting him back will be a huge boost. There’s some concern with Rodgers-Cromartie, however. The talented corner played well in 2014, but he has been known to quit on his teams in the past. If he’s unhappy, he could easily just give up on the Giants.

The front office’s next defensive selection was used on third-rounder Owa Odighizuwa. The UCLA product was seen as a potential first-rounder, but he fell because of a variety of reasons, including some injury and scheme concerns, as well as the fact that he was a 1-year wonder. Still, New York will be hoping that either he or former third-rounder Damontre Moore can step in right away and contribute in the wake of Mathias Kiwanuka’s departure. Kiwanuka was a major liability last year, so the Giants won’t miss him, but better depth at the position behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers is needed. Pierre-Paul had an awesome 2014 campaign, notching 12.5 sacks, but of course injured his hand during an idiotic fireworks incident. His status is still unknown. Meanwhile, Ayers looked good when he was on the field, but he missed some time with an ankle injury.

It was believed that the Giants would use a high draft pick on the defensive tackle position, but they completely ignored that spot. They had to find someone talented to play next to Johnathan Hankins, who made a big leap last year and became a fantastic player in all regards. Cullen Jenkins is currently the favorite to start next to Hankins in the wake of Mike Patterson’s departure, but Jenkins just turned 34 and is just a rotational lineman at this stage of his career. The team will be hoping that 2014 third-rounder Jay Bromley shows some improvement after looking very pedestrian in brief action during his rookie campaign.

The Giants didn’t use a selection on the linebacking corps, but they paid a player at the position $12 million over three years in free agency. That player was J.T. Thomas, who figures to start at weakside linebacker. The problem is that Thomas struggled in Jacksonville as a major liability against the run, so he shouldn’t be seen as any sort of upgrade. Thomas will start along with Jon Beason and Devon Kennard. Beason can’t be counted on to stay healthy; he has missed a ridiculous 40 games in the past four seasons, including 12 in 2014. Kennard, meanwhile, could be the best of the bunch; the 2014 fifth-rounder didn’t play until the second half of his rookie campaign, but he looked good down the stretch as a two-down player specializing in run support.

2015 New York Giants Schedule and Intangibles:
During their first Super Bowl run, the Giants won all of their playoff games on the road and boasted about how they were “road warriors.” They were 9-1 as visitors and 3-0 on neutral sites in 2007. History repeated itself, as New York was 8-3 outside of the Meadowlands and just 5-4 as hosts in 2011. Perhaps they should go back to that, because they’ve been 13-11 as hosts and 9-15 as visitors the past three years and have failed to qualify for the postseason.

Josh Brown drilled 24-of-26 attempts last year, including a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond 50.

Steve Weatherford was just 24th in net punting in 2014, and he finished in the middle of the pack in terms of getting kicks inside the 20.

The Giants had one of the worst special-teams units in 2013. They improved on kickoffs last season, but they still struggled to cover punts.

Excluding two contests against the Cowboys, the Giants play just two teams that qualified for the playoffs in 2014: the Patriots at home in Week 10, and the Panthers at home in Week 15. It’s safe to say that they have an easy schedule.

2015 New York Giants Rookies:
Go here for the Giants Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2015 New York Giants Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2015 New York Giants Analysis: The Giants haven’t made the playoffs in three years, but that could easily change this season. They showed tons of promise down the stretch in 2014 when Odell Beckham Jr. caught fire, and that should carry over into the 2015 campaign. With an easier schedule and a couple of improvements, New York could challenge for the NFC East crown, or at least claim a berth via the wild card.

Projection: 10-6 (2nd in NFC East)

NFL Draft Team Grade: B- Grade

Goals Entering the 2015 NFL Draft: The Giants need to bolster the trenches. They’re expected to target an offensive lineman at No. 9 if Amari Cooper doesn’t fall to them. They’ll also be looking to find help at both defensive end and defensive tackle. The safety position is an issue as well.

2015 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Much like the so-called “greatest sports day evar!” the Giants’ draft class was fine early, great in the middle and terrible at the end. They kicked it off by drafting Ereck Flowers, who will start at right tackle and eventually end up on the blind side after Will Beatty moves on. Flowers was a solid choice, but the Giants were hoping that their top options – Amari Cooper, Brandon Scherff – would fall to them. That didn’t happen.

New York was at its best on Day 2. The team solved its safety issue by obtaining Landon Collins. I’m not as crazy about Collins as some because of his coverage issues, but he’ll be a force in run support. Owa Odighizuwa, meanwhile, was the Giants’ top selection. Odighizuwa was generating some late-first-round buzz, so getting him in the middle stages of the third frame was a steal. He could start in a year or two.

Just like the overhyped boxing match, Day 3 was a disappointment. The Giants reached for three prospects, including fifth-rounder Mykkele Thompson, whom I didn’t have as a draftable prospect.

Overall, New York had an average draft. It definitely could’ve been better, but as you’ll see, there are teams who did far worse.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

9. Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami: B Grade
So much for Mel Kiper’s assertion that no offensive linemen were worth taking at No. 9. Ereck Flowers is definitely worth the selection, and I’m not just saying that because he’s a reader of the site. Flowers was the best pure tackle prospect in this draft, and I had him going No. 10 in my mock draft, so the range definitely makes sense. Flowers also fills a big need, as the Giants had to protect Eli Manning, who has been battered and bruised the past couple of seasons.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

33. Landon Collins, S, Alabama: B Grade
The Giants dealt a fourth- and a seventh-round pick to move up to this spot. And I can see why they did it. Landon Collins was seen as a first-round prospect by many, but he slipped into the second frame. He potentially fills a huge need for the team, and if the Giants had their hearts set on filling the safety spot, they almost had to move up because there are no other players at the position worth taking in the second round.

74. Owa Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA: A Grade
The Giants just landed a pass-rushing steal who dropped into the third round? When has that ever happened? Jerry Reese is the master of obtaining great values on the defensive line, and Owa Odighizuwa is his latest one. The UCLA product should’ve gone in the first half of the previous round, so I like this pick, especially since Odighizuwa fills a need up front.

144. Mykkele Thompson, S, Texas: C- Grade
No one mentioned Mykkele Thompson as a draftable prospect, so this pick is pretty sketchy. Thompson has a lot of experience at Texas, but will probably be relegated to special teams for most of his career. This is a reach.

186. Geremy Davis, WR, Connecticut: C Grade
Geremy Davis is a borderline draftable prospect, so the Giants could have waited a round to take him off the board. Davis has good size and nice hands, but that’s about it. He can’t get open, so that may remind New York of a former receiver with similar issues, Ramses Barden.

226. Bobby Hart, OT, Florida State: C Grade
Bobby Hart was a good player for Florida State, but he doesn’t project as an NFL player. He just doesn’t seem to have the appropriate skill set.

Season Summary:
The Giants missed the playoffs for the third year in a row, but this was far from a lost season. That’s because they discovered Odell Beckham Jr., who as a rookie, may have emerged as the top receiver in the NFL. Beckham proved to be unstoppable despite having absolutely no NFL experience. The Giants will be dangerous with him going forward, especially if they can add pieces around Eli Manning.

Offseason Moves:
  • Texans sign S Stevie Brown
  • Giants sign CB Josh Gordy
  • Dolphins sign CB Zackary Bowman
  • Dolphins sign OLB Spencer Paysinger
  • Jets sign OT James Brewer
  • Giants sign DE George Selvie
  • Dolphins sign C J.D. Walton
  • Giants sign NT Kenrick Ellis
  • Giants re-sign G John Jerry
  • Giants re-sign CB Chykie Brown
  • Bears sign S Antrel Rolle
  • Giants re-sign FB Henry Hynoski
  • Giants re-sign OLB Mark Herzlich
  • Eagles sign CB Walter Thurmond
  • Giants sign OLB Jonathan Casillas
  • Giants sign WR/KR Dwayne Harris
  • Giants sign OT Marshall Newhouse
  • Giants sign ILB J.T. Thomas
  • Giants sign RB Shane Vereen
  • Giants re-sign RB Chris Ogbonnaya
  • Giants cut C J.D. Walton
  • Giants franchise DE Jason Pierre-Paul
  • Giants cut RB Peyton Hillis
  • Giants cut DE Mathias Kiwanuka
  • Giants re-sign C Dallas Reynolds
  • Giants re-sign WR Kevin Ogletree
  • Giants announce retirement of CB Terrell Thomas

    Team Needs:
    1. Right Tackle: Eli Manning’s pass protection must improve. Justin Pugh proved to be overmatched on the outside, so an upgrade at right tackle could allow him to move inside to a more natural position. Offensive tackle will be in play at No. 9 overall. Signed Marshall Newhouse

    2. Two Safeties: New York’s top three safeties all have expiring contracts. Antrel Rolle was coming off a down year, anyway. The Giants will likely have to address this position in the draft.

    3. Defensive Tackle: Johnathan Hankins was a stud this past season, but he had very little help next to him. Mike Patterson looked done, so the Giants will have to address this position via free agency or the draft. Signed Kenrick Ellis

    4. Strongside Linebacker: The Giants have had issues at linebacker for years. Jon Beason was lost with a knee injury during the season, while the team didn’t get much out of the strongside position. Jameel McClain disappointed, while Mark Herzlich happens to be hitting the market in March. Signed J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas; re-signed Mark Herzlich

    5. Defensive End: Jason Pierre-Paul was playing some of the best football of his career toward the end of the season. Unfortunately, he’s an impending free agent. Even if he’s retained, depth is needed. Re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul; signed George Selvie

    6. Guard: Even if Pugh moves inside, the Giants will need another interior lineman. John Jerry and J.D. Walton struggled mightily in 2014. Weston Richburg wasn’t too hot either, but he was just a rookie.

    7. Running Back: Rashad Jennings is too injury-prone and unreliable. Andre Williams had some bright moments, but looked like an ordinary plodder most of the time. A running back could be chosen on the second day of the draft. Signed Shane Vereen

    8. Cornerback Depth: The Giants have a couple of cornerbacks who will be heading toward free agency, so they’ll need to find some depth behind Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara. Re-signed Chykie Brown; signed Josh Gordy

    9. Fullback: Re-signing Henry Hynoski is a must. Re-signed Henry Hynoski

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2015 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots. Age: 26.
      Signed with Giants

      Shane Vereen has been a disappointment as a runner, but he has been a Kevin Faulk-type pass-catcher out of the backfield for Tom Brady. He caught 52 balls in 2014 after logging 47 receptions the year before.

    2. Dwayne Harris, WR/KR, Cowboys. Age: 27. — Signed with Giants (5 years, $17.5 million)
    3. George Selvie, DE, Cowboys. Age: 28. — Signed with Giants (1 year, $1.4 million)
    4. J.T. Thomas, ILB, Jaguars. Age: 27. — Signed with Giants
    5. Marshall Newhouse, OT, Bengals. Age: 26. — Signed with Giants (2 years, $3.25 million)
    6. Josh Gordy, CB, Colts. Age: 28. — Signed with Giants
    7. Kenrick Ellis, NT, Jets. Age: 27. — Signed with Giants (1 year)
    8. Jonathan Casillas, ILB, Patriots. Age: 28. — Signed with Giants

    New York Giants Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants. Age: 26.
      Franchised by Giants

      Jason Pierre-Paul has been inconsistent throughout his career, but when he’s on, he’s nearly unstoppable. He registered 12.5 sacks in 2014, and he was playing some of his best football down the stretch. He’s only 26, so there’s time for him to get better and more consistent.

    2. Henry Hynoski, FB, Giants. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Giants (2 years, $2 million)

      Henry Hynoski is one of the best run-blockers in the business. He doesn’t do anything when he has the ball, but he can blast open huge holes for his tailbacks.

    3. Stevie Brown, S, Giants. Age: 28.
      Signed with Texans

      Stevie Brown was benched early in the season, but he played well once he regained the starting job late in the year. Brown may not have been 100 percent coming off his knee injury.

    4. Antrel Rolle, S, Giants. Age: 32.
      Signed with Bears (3 years, $11.25 million; $5 million guaranteed)

      Antrel Rolle played extremely well in 2013, but there was a noticeable decline this past season. He was a major liability in run support, which isn’t a surprise, given that he’ll be 33 at some point during the 2015 campaign. He can still start, but not for much longer.

    5. Walter Thurmond III, CB, Giants. Age: 28.
      Signed with Eagles (1 year)

      Walter Thurmond had a quality 2013 campaign with Seattle, but barely got to play this past year because of a torn chest he suffered in September.

    6. Jacquian Williams, OLB, Giants. Age: 27.
      Jacquian Williams played all three downs for the Giants until landing on injured reserve because of a concussion. Williams probably should’ve been used on just two downs because of his poor play in coverage. He was very strong in run support, however.

    7. Zachary Bowman, CB, Giants. Age: 30.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Zachary Bowman, who has played well over the past two seasons, would’ve started at corner this year if he wasn’t stuck behind two talented players.

    8. Mark Herzlich, OLB, Giants. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Giants (2 years)

      Mark Herzlich is very effective in run support, but he can be a major liability in coverage. He needs to be on the field for just the first two downs.

    9. Quintin Demps, S/KR, Giants. Age: 30.
    10. Mike Patterson, DT, Giants. Age: 32.
    11. Adam Snyder, G/OT, Giants. Age: 33.
    12. John Jerry, G, Giants. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Giants
    13. Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, Giants. Age: 32.
    14. Chykie Brown, CB, Giants. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Giants
    15. J.D. Walton, C, Giants. Age: 28. — Signed with Dolphins
    16. Peyton Hillis, RB, Giants. Age: 29.
    17. Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Giants. Age: 26.
    18. Kevin Ogletree, WR, Giants. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Giants (1 year)
    19. Spencer Paysinger, OLB, Giants. Age: 27. — Signed with Dolphins
    20. James Brewer, OT, Giants. Age: 27. — Signed with Jets
    21. Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Giants. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Giants
    22. Dallas Reynolds (RFA), C, Giants. Age: 31. — Re-signed with Giants


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