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2014 Team Report: New York Giants

Quarterbacks

Starter: Eli Manning
Backup(s): Ryan Nassib

Starting QB: It's hard to say a 2-time Super Bowl winner is on a short leash, but Eli Manning has to be under scrutiny by GM Jerry Reese after consecutive seasons of regression. Although 2012 was nothing to write home about, the overall numbers still argued in Manning's favor. Unfortunately his 2013 numbers did no such thing. A 57.5% completion rate was his lowest since 2007, and his 18 touchdown passes marked a career low as a full-time starter. Worst yet, he broke his own record with 27 interceptions, and rated as one of the worst starters in the league. At 33 years old, age is no longer an asset but it's also not a guarantee of further degradation. Realistically, what can be expected of Manning this season? The Giants are overhauling the offensive line, and have questions at the receiver position outside of Victor Cruz. But help is on the way in the form of Ben McAdoo, the Giants new offensive coordinator. McAdoo joins New York after a decade of learning under Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. McAdoo promises to implement an offense that relies on a short passing game and balance; similar to the West Coast offense made popular in San Francisco and Green Bay.

Backup QB: The Giants flirted with Josh Freeman in the offseason, but parted ways with the former Buccaneers starter after six weeks. 2nd year Ryan Nassib and veteran Curtis Painter fought it out for number two role, but Nassib ran away with the job thanks to a masterful preseason. A number of NFL personnel evaluators rated Nassib as a potential NFL starter before last year's draft, and the former Syracuse star has a big arm, can evade the pass rush, and is fearless.

Running Backs

Starter: Rashad Jennings
Backup(s): Andre Williams [R], Peyton Hillis
Fullback(s): Henry Hynoski

Starting RB: The Giants running game has been a sore spot for several years, and new starter Rashad Jennings is the unlikeliest of saviors. At 29 years old, Jennings has never been a full-time NFL starter, has never had a 1,000-yard season, and has never had more than 163 carries in a season. Yet, the Giants made Jennings an offseason priority and signed him to a 4-year contract with $10mm guaranteed. It's clear the Giants view Jennings as a full-time contributor. So why do the Giants think he's up to the task? Look no further than Jennings 2013 success in Oakland. After four years as an infrequently used backup to Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville, Jennings signed with Oakland as Darren McFadden's backup. But McFadden got hurt (shocker!) and Jennings started the final eight games of the season (127 carries for 593 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns). Jennings ran with power and broke tackles, and if he can approximate that same effort in New York, he'll get the job done. But at 29 years old and with essentially an 8-game resume of note, it's a high risk proposition.

Backup RBs: The most intriguing backup on the roster is rookie Andre Williams. Williams was a Heisman finalist last year amassing 2,177 yards and 19 touchdowns at Boston College. Although he's not a finished product, Williams is a power runner from Tom Coughlin's alma mater. That matters. He failed to catch a pass in his final collegiate year, but has already earned goal-line reps with the first team offense. Veteran Peyton Hillis got heavy work in a handful of games last year in New York, but did little with his opportunity (3.4 yards per rush and two touchdowns in eight games). His experience and veteran leadership ensured his spot on the 53-man roster.

Fullback: Henry Hynoski is a punishing lead blocker.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle
Backups: Odell Beckham Jr [R], Corey Washington, Jerrel Jernigan

Starting WRs: The Giants have a bevy of questions at the receiver position. Hakeem Nicks was talented but couldn't stay on the field, so the Giants didn't push to keep him. Rueben Randle is the likeliest to step into Nicks' role, but is by no means a sure thing. Randle showed growth in his second season (41 receptions for 611 yards and six touchdowns) but was inconsistent and seemingly never gained the full confidence of the coaching staff. Nevertheless, at 6'4", 205 lbs., Randle has the physical pedigree, not to mention the experience, to take another step forward. Victor Cruz returns on the opposite side, but looked a lot more like a complementary slot receiver in 2013 than the dynamic all-around playmaker of the prior two seasons. Yet, there's reason for optimism. First, Cruz was bothered by knee soreness throughout the 2013 season, but has felt great since his minor scope in December. Second, new OC Ben McAdoo views Cruz as the engine of the passing game, comparing his role and skill set to that of Randall Cobb in Green Bay.

Backup WRs: The Giants drafted Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round of the 2014 draft, and eventually projects as a starter. Unfortunately a hamstring injury robbed Beckham of the majority of the preseason, and that will likely limit his role at least for the first month or two of the season. Beckham was one of our own Matt Waldman's favorite rookie receiver prospects. "Beckham has the athleticism and mentality to play both the big and small game. He has the speed to separate against man coverage, excellent 28 vertical skill to high-point over defenders, and the hands to secure the ball while taking contact from an opponent." Jernigan had some success late last year, but is likely relegated to backing up Cruz in the slot. Corey Washington was the star of the preseason, and could see immediate work in 3- and 4-receiver sets.

Tight Ends

Starters: Adrien Robinson
Backups: Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells

Adrien Robinson appears the favorite to get a starting role but that's more about his potential upside than anything we've seen of Robinson on the field. In two seasons, Robinson has zero catches and has appeared in only three games. Yet, the Giants are intrigued by his two-way ability and rare size/speed combination. GM Jerry Reese called him the "Jason Pierre-Paul of tight ends" when they drafted Robinson in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. Donnell and Fells will see regular snaps, too -- this is a true TE-by-committee.

Place Kicker

Josh Brown: Kicker Josh Brown was re-signed in March. Last year he hit 23 of 26 (88.5%) field goals for his best percentage in a full season since 2004. He only saw two 50+ yard attempts, making one of them. Camp leg duties are being handled by Brandon McManus this year - and he's worked himself into legitimately competing for the job. Brown will again be working with holder/punter Steve Weatherford and long snapper Zac DeOssie. The Giants had the biggest drop of any team in kicker scoring opportunities last year, ending up at 31st after having been 3rd the year before.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Dwayne Harris, Preston Parker, Reuben Randle

The Giants struggled on kick returns last season despite having signed several of the top returners from the season before. Michael Cox and Quintin Demps, have not been re-signed, with the Giants instead bringing in former Cowboys returner Dwayne Harris. Harris was particularly valuable in fantasy circles as one of the returners who handled all punt and kick returns for his team. It is a good bet Harris will handle all returns, as he was given a contract that would seem too large for just his expected contributions as a receiver. Preston Parker was used as a returner last year, and will likely be in line with Reuben Randle as backups to Harris.

Punt Returners: Dwayne Harris, Odell Beckham, Preston Parker, Reuben Randle

As with kickoffs, Dwayne Harris joining the team should settle down any uncertainty at the primary punt returner role. For potential backups, veteran Reuben Randle is seen as sure-handed by coach Tom Coughlin, but the team could also turn to receiver Odell Beckham. Beckham was a rookie breakout player on offense last year, however, and the Giants have shown some past reluctance to risk key offensive players on special teams.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Will Beatty, LG Geoff Schwartz, C Weston Richburg [R], RG Chris Snee, RT Justin Pugh
Key Backups: C J.D. Walton, T Charles Brown, G John Jerry, G/T James Brewer, G Troy Kropog, G Brandon Mosely, C Dallas Reynolds

Because of changes and uncertainty at several key positions, the Giants grade out as a below average group. Left tackle Will Beatty suffered a serious season ending leg kinjury last season. Should he not be ready for the start of the season, Charles Brown is the likely starter. Neither of these players could be classified as elite at this time. The Giants hope that whoever starts can be above average. At left guard, Geoff Schwartz was signed to relatively big money and will be a helpful player to have around. Schwartz is also not a great player but he has size and should be pretty good. Center is another competition as veteran J.D. Walton will compete with second round draft pick Weston Richburg out of Colorado State. Richburg is a tough player who should win the job in preseason. Right guard Chris Snee had a season ending hip injury and should he not be ready, free agent John Jerry appears to be the next man in at the position. Snee will also be looked at as a backup center, when healthy. Right tackle Justin Pugh reportedly is in great shape after offseason workouts that saw him add ten pounds of muscle. Pugh had a solid rookie season and has the potential to be a cornerstone of this line in the seasons to come. There is some talk of moving him to left tackle should Beatty and Brown wash out. Depth names such as James Brewer and Brandon Mosely are likely on their last chance with the Giants, and are in danger of not making this roster. Troy Kropog and Dallas Reynolds are new additions who will also compete for depth spots in preseason. Overall the Giants' front office knew they had a problem at the offensive line and have made many moves this offseason in an attempt to fix it. As these players gel together, this line could rise up in the rankings, and hopefully give quarterback Eli Manning an easier time in the pocket than he had last season.

Team Defense

What was once a very deep and talented line now is now a symbol for the Giants defense overall, thin and not very talented at all. Jason Pierre-Paul is probably the most talented player on the defense but it's hard to remember what he even looks like at 100%. Jon Beason was a nice addition at linebacker last season but the fact that he's the team's best linebacker at this stage of his career says a lot. The one major positive for the Giants defense should be in the secondary. Rodgers-Cromartie and Amukamara form a good cover tandem and Rolle is a very solid safety. This defense comes together if Pierre-Paul and Beason can stay healthy and play up to the level they have in the past.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE DaMontre Moore, DT Cullen Jenkins, DT Johnathan Hankins
Backups: DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DE Robert Ayers, DE James Gayle, DE Kerry Wynn, DT Mike Patterson, DT Jay Bromley [R], DT Markus Kuhn, DT Eathyn Manumaleuna

Starting DL: Not so long ago, the Giants defensive front was one of the most talented and feared in the NFL. However, injury issues and key off-season losses have left them with an average/slightly above average defensive line. Jason Pierre-Paul has struggled to regain his 2011 All-Pro form as he's dealt with debilitating injury issues over the past two seasons and the Giants lost two entrenched starters this off-season in Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph. This has left New York with some question marks in the trenches. JPP stated recently that he is now "90% healthy", and for a player that relies on power and athleticism over technique, his physical constitution is key. On the other side, the Giants will be relying heavily on 2nd year player DaMontre Moore. Although he possesses nice upside, he wasn't able to show much during his rookie season as he was limited to just under 150 total snaps. That said, he remains the big wildcard on the defensive line. Cullen Jenkins is long in the tooth but provides a consistent and reliable option on the interior of the line. Perennially counted on for 4-6 sacks, the Giants will continue those expectations this season. Last year's 2nd round draft choice, Jonathan Hankins has the difficult job of filling Linval Joseph's shoes at the tackle position next to Cullen Jenkins. Similar to Moore, he has very limited NFL exposure, so he may find himself struggling initially.

Backup DL: The Giants possess solid depth on their defensive line, particularly at the defensive end position. Mathias Kiwanuka has served as an above average utility man playing as a strong side linebacker in running situations as well as defensive end on passing downs. The Giants brought in former Bronco Robert Ayers in the off-season who will pair with Kiwanuka to form a legitimate run-stuffing duo. DT Mike Patterson was re-signed and remains an effective situation run stopper who has some disruptive flashes. Bromley, a 2014 3rd round selection, could leap ahead of Patterson on the depth charts and perhaps even bump him from the roster with a strong training camp.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Jon Beason [injured], MLB/OLB Jameel McClain, OLB Spencer Paysinger, OLB Jacquian Williams
Backups: MLB Mark Herzlich, OLB Devon Kennard [R], OLB Spencer Adkins, OLB Kendrick Adams

Starting LBs: The Giants mid-season addition of Jon Beason helped bring some stability to the middle of their defense. Beason's definitely not the same type of elite player he use to be before two serious leg injuries, but he remains a top talent between the ears which helps make up for his loss of quickness and speed. He probably doesn't have the sideline to sideline range as this point to keep up with elite running backs and tight ends, but he's smart enough and the tackle competition around him is low enough for him to have LB2- upside. Beason recently suffered a ligament tear and a small fracture in his foot and is doubtful to be ready for the season opener. Jameel McClain was brought in this offseason season to play strong side linebacker, but will fill in for Beason in the middle until he's ready to return to action. Spencer Paysigner and Jacquian Williams will play outside until Beason is healthy enough to start, with one heading to the bench once the veteran takes back his every down MLB role.

Backup LBs: Although Jacquian Williams isn't effective as Paysinger in an all-around sense, he's the better coverage linebacker and is likely to steal nickel duties at bare minimum. 5th round pick Devon Kennard was a tweener prospect coming out of USC and may see some time behind Jameel McClain in pass-rushing situations. 4th year player and two-down thumper Mark Herzlich will serve as a backup to Jon Beason.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Prince Amukamara, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, SS Stevie Brown, FS Antrel Rolle
Backups: CB Walter Thurmond, CB Zackary Bowman, CB Jayron Hosley (PR), CB Charles James, CB Bennett Jackson [R], CB Trumaine McBride, CB Junior Mertile, CB Travis Howard, CB Ross Weaver, SS Cooper Taylor, FS Chaz Powell, SS Quintin Demps, S Nat Berhe [R], FS Will Hill

Starting DBs: Even though their secondary wasn't necessarily a weakness last season, the Giants signaled that they were serious about adding a top cornerback when they signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a 5 year, $35 million contract. He will slot in as the Giants #1 cornerback. His arrival elevates the New York secondary to a higher level, and ultimately makes it the strength of the team. Former first round pick, Prince Amukamara will patrol the other side of the field. He still needs to improve his coverage skills, but he graded out as the #1 CB in all the NFL against the run according to Pro Football Focus - racking up 72 solo tackles. If he can continue to tackle at that clip and up his big play numbers, he should find himself in the elite fantasy CB tier. Antrel Rolle is an All-Pro safety who was one of the lone bright spots on defense for the Giants last year. Solid against both the pass and run, Rolle was asked to due a little bit of everything last year (including playing some hybrid linebacker in nickel situations) and showed that he was up for the task. With Will Hill likely headed for another suspension, Stevie Brown will get the opportunity to start opposite Rolle to begin the season. Regardless, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to have three safeties on the field in a lot of situations, so Brown will likely see starter snaps even if Hill returns.

Backup DBs: Newly-signed press-corner Walter Thurmond has the talent and skill-set to be a starter on many teams. However, due to the Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signing, Thurmond will likely open the season as the slot corner in what is now a very deep unit. Jayron Hosley will back him up in the slot and must prove his worth in the coming weeks to stay on the roster. Zach Bowman will fight with a litany of other cornerbacks (i.e. McBride, Hosley, and Jackson) for playing time. Quintin Demps was brought in mainly for his kick returning abilities; however, he did start several games for the Chiefs last year at safety and could be used there as a last-resort stop-gap option. Nat Berhe and Bennett Jackson are both late round 2014 draft choices that will serve as special teams players and added depth.

Last modified: 2015-05-10 18:13:16