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2015 Team Report: New York Giants

Quarterbacks

Starter: Eli Manning
Backup(s): Ryan Nassib

Starting QB: Has any NFL quarterback had as uneven a career as Eli Manning. A year ago everyone was questioning the two-time Super Bowl winner after multiple years of regression. In 2013, Manning led the NFL with 27 interceptions while completing just 57% of his passes. What a difference a year makes. Thanks to a combination of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and the most impressive rookie receiver in a generation (Odell Beckham), Manning bounced back in a major way. He completed a career-high 63% of his passes for 4,410 yards and 30 touchdowns while cutting his interceptions in half (14). As long as the Giants can stabilize the offensive line, Manning is well positioned for a career season in 2015. The team will benefit from a year of experience in McAdoo's system, and more importantly Odell Beckham will get a chance to start 16 games. Don't rule out a 5,000-yard season for the 'other' Manning.

Backup QB: Ryan Nassib outplayed Curtis Painter with a masterful preseason in 2014 to lock down the number two job. He looked even better this preseason and appears to be one of the better, yet unproven, young backups in the league.

Running Backs

Starter: Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen
Backup(s): Orleans Darkwa
Fullback(s): Nikita Whitlock

Starting RB: The Giants ground game has been woeful for years, and while new OC Ben McAdoo fixed the passing game in 2014, he didn't improve the rushing attack. The Giants ranked 30th in yards (in spite of ranking 19th in carries) and finished dead last with a 3.6 yards per carry average. Sound familiar? Part of the problem was the offensive line, and it's unclear that issue has been resolved. The other problem is frankly a lack of top end talent. Rashad Jennings wasn't the answer, as durability concerns proved accurate. Andre Williams got the heaviest workload, but it's hard to get excited about a 230-pound runner that can't break tackles (3.3 yards per rush). Rather than bring in a new lead back, the Giants opted to sign Shane Vereen in free agency. Vereen has just 907 rushing yards in four seasons as a New England Patriot, due to injuries and Bill Belichick's propensity for committees. But the talent is undeniable. All three running backs will contribute, much to fantasy owners' chagrin.

Backup RBs: Orleans Darkwa parlayed a stellar preseason into a spot on the 53-man roster. He'll make his living on special teams, or be inactive for game days.

Fullback: Nikita Whitlock outplayed Henry Henoski to win the fullback job.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle
Backups: Victor Cruz, Dwayne Harris, Preston Parker, Geremy Davis [R]

Starting WRs: The Giants had high hopes for Odell Beckham Jr. after selecting him in the 1st round of the 2014 draft. But it was a quiet offseason for Beckham as hamstring issues kept him off the practice field, and in head coach Tom Coughlin's doghouse. After the hamstring issues persisted into the start of the regular season, many wondered if Beckham's rookie season would turn into a red-shirt year. Those fears couldn't have been more misplaced, as Beckham not only produced, but he emerged as one of the league's most explosive playmakers. It's not hyperbole to say Beckham delivered one of the best rookie campaigns in NFL history. In the final nine games of the season, Beckham never had fewer than 90 yards receiving, and logged seven 100-yard games and 9 touchdowns. He was unstoppable and enters the 2015 with massive expectations. What's unclear is who lines up alongside Beckham. Victor Cruz is the ideal choice, but won't be ready for Week One due to several injuries (including his ongoing recovery from a torn patellar tendon). Rueben Randle doesn't have the all-around refinement to his game that Cruz brings, but showed last year that he can contribute. He fell just short of 1,000 yards receiving and was effective as a downfield threat.

Backup WRs: Dwayne Harris was added and provides valuable depth after three seasons in Dallas. Harris will also contribute on special teams. Rookie Geremy Davis and veteran Preston Parker round out an uninspiring backup receiving corps.

Tight Ends

Starters: Daniel Fells
Backups: Larry Donnell, Jerome Cunningham

The Giants appeared to have a gaping hole at the tight end position entering the 2014 season, but little used Larry Donnell emerged as an improbable fix, and quite possibly played his way into a long-term starting role. Donnell burst onto the scene with a 56-yard, TD performance against the Lions in Week One and never looked back. He finished the season with 66 catches for 654 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Giants stood pat in free agency and the draft, meaning Donnell will have a chance to build on last year's breakout. Daniel Fells contributed in a part-time role (16 for 188 and 4 TDs) and is the nominal starter until Donnell is 100% healthy. Jerome Cunningham won a spirited camp battle for the #3 role.

Place Kicker

Josh Brown: Brown had another successful season for the Giants - hitting 24 of 26 field goal attempts - but he finished well outside of the top 10 in scoring. Brown did display a good distance leg, hitting all four of his 50+ yard attempts, but the Giants have been one of the worst teams at creating field goal attempts over the last five years. The team signed Chris Boswell in the offseason, but he is most likely a camp kicker/punter to give Brown and Steve Weatherford some rest.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Dwayne Harris, Shane Vereen, Reuben Randle

The Giants struggled on kick returns last year 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 continue this trend in New York, as he was given a contract that would seem too large for just his expected contributions as a receiver. Shane Vereen has also seen time on kick returns in a game when Harris was briefly knocked out of the game.

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

As with kickoffs, Dwayne Harris joining the team should settle any uncertainty in 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 Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg, RG Geoff Schwartz, RT Ereck Flowers [R]
Key Backups: T Marshall Newhouse, T Brandon Mosley, G John Jerry, G Bobby Hart [R], C Dallas Reynolds, G Troy Kropog, G Adam Gettis, G Eric Herman

The Giants' line received some bad news when left tackle William Beatty tore his pec during offseason workouts. Beatty has already had surgery and a six month recovery should have him back in action somewhere in November. Without Beatty the team will either have to accelerate Ereck Flowers' development or move Justin Pugh over from right tackle. It is not clear exactly how this situation will turn out as this goes to press, but if the team used a nine overall pick on Flowers, they might want to throw him in the fire early and see if he can handle the position. Weston Richburg had a rocky rookie campaign and the team needs him to improve, especially in pass protection. Geoff Schwartz will likely start at right guard but the left guard situation looks to be a toss up at this point. Brandon Mosely, John Jerry and Dallas Reynolds could all compete for that spot and in fact the season starter may not be on the roster right now. Ironically it is at guard is where the Beattly injury hurts the team the most. The team had planned on moving Pugh inside and getting players such as Mosely or Jerry back on the bench. Obviously those plans are on hold for now. In the long term this team can rise in the rankings if they get better play out of the center position and when Beatty returns to full strength.

Team Defense

The Giants were not a good D/ST for fantasy football last year outside of games against teams with weaker QBs like Jacksonville, Tennessee, Houston, and Washington. The good news for their 2015 outlook is that once Odell Beckham Jr broke out, the defense started to benefit from better game scripts and had more sacks in the final five games than they did in the first 11. Jason Pierre-Paul looked mostly like his old self with another year to recover from back surgery, and the team added in the box safety Landon Collins in a top of the second trade up to help plug the biggest hole in their secondary. Their bottom ten ranks in points and yards allowed might be an obstacle to using them in leagues that weight those contributions to fantasy bottom lines, but a more efficient and effective offense could trigger more shootouts that fuel their #4 sack and #11 interception finishes in 2014.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Jason Pierre-Paul [injured], DE Robert Ayers, DT Johnathan Hankins, DT Markus Kuhn, DE Cullen Jenkins
Backups: DE Damontre Moore, DE Owa Odighizuwa, DE George Selvie, DE Kerry Wynn, DT Jay Bromley

Starting DL: After a disappointing 2014 season, the Giants defensive line had a bounce back 2015 campaign. This mini-renaissance was due in large part to the resurgence of All-Pro player Jason Pierre-Paul who compiled 12.5 of the front four's 36 sacks - his highest number is three seasons. A 4th of July fireworks accident left JPP without the index finger on his right hand, however. He's been very hesitant to allow the Giants medical staff to examine his injuries and is refusing to sign his franchise tag tender until he can pass a physical. Pierre-Paul's status for the season is completely up in the air at this point. But the general gut feeling is he will either miss a handful of games or not receive a full complement of snaps during the first portion of the season. Third year player Jonathan Hankins was perhaps the team's most improved defensive player a year ago, sneakily amassing seven sacks and finishing second among all G-men linemen in tackles. Robert Ayers is listed as the starter at RDE on the team's depth chart but he will likely rotate fairly equally with third year player Damontre Moore. Look for the team to move defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins outside on occasion to help strengthen that part of the line, elevating Markus Kuhn into a starter-like role on the interior.

Backup DL: With Pierre-Paul's playing status a big question mark, expect Robert Ayers, Damontre Moore, rookie Owa Odighizuwa, and even veteran George Selive to all see solid playing time (at least for the first portion of the season).Damontre Moore was extremely productive in his sophomore season on a limited basis. That said, expect the Giants to lean on him more heavily heading into 2015. If he can show progress early in the season, he has a chance to break out of the logjam of players currently at defensive end. Odighizuwa played both the run and pass well in college and has the speed/power combination to be a dominant force in the NFL down the road, but he needs time to develop and may not be a significant contributor until 2016.Outside of Johnathan Hankins and Cullen Jenkins, the Giants don't have a ton of depth along the interior of their line. Markus Kuhn and Jay Bromley will both likely see an increase in snaps with Mike Patterson no longer on the team.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Jon Beason, SLB Devon Kennard, WLB J.T. Thomas
Backups: SLB Mark Herzlich, SLB Jonathan Casillas, MLB Unai Unga

Starting LBs: Although the Giants failed to bring in a front line starter at linebacker, they did shore up their depth at the position. The team will return veteran Jon Beason whom they acquired via a trade back in 2013, but missed a majority of last season. Once an elite linebacker, Beason's play has diminished over the last few seasons after suffering significant knee and toe injuries. Due to the lack of depth at the position last year, fifth round selection Devon Kennard saw 300+ snaps at linebacker. The Giants are banking on that experience heading into 2015 as they look for him to assume the team's starting strong side linebacker role. The Giants brought in former Jaguar J.T. Thomas to play the weak side. Thomas filled in admirably for an injured Paul Posluszny last year, but will likely sit in subpackages in favor of Kennard.

Backup LBs: Mark Herzlich will continue to function as an adequate two-down thumper, but will likely serve more in a reserve capacity than in previous seasons now that the Giants have improved their depth at the position. Journeyman Jonathan Casillas was brought in as a special teams player. Unga, who went undrafted out of Brigham Young, saw some first team snaps in subpackages during the preseason and could function in that same capacity during the regular season.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB Prince Amukamara, SS Landon Collins, FS Cooper Taylor
Backups: CB Trumaine McBride, CB Jayron Hosley, CB Trevin Wade, S Craig Dahl, S Brandon Meriweather, SS Nat Berhe [IR], S Mykkele Thompson [IR],

Starting DBs: The Giants filled a huge need at the safety position in the off-season by drafting Landon Collins. Collins is a prototypical in-the-box safety who excels in run defense. New York was a sieve against the run last year so look for them to play him close to the line scrimmage. On the other hand, the team has been absolutely ravished with injuries at the other safety position. Nat Berhe, Mykkele Thompson, and Bennett Jackson all went down with season-ending injuries in preseason leaving the razor thin at that spot. Cooper Taylor is the start for the time being, but expect competition for playing time from recent veteran signings Craig Dahl and Brandon Meriweather. Prince Amukamara has developed into one of the league's premiere run-defending cornerbacks and pairs nicely with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The lack of depth behind these two is concerning however given both of their respective injury histories. The most glaring hole at present is at the nickel corner position which the team will likely address via the waiver wire this pre-season.

Backup DBs: Trumaine McBride is penciled in as the team's nickel corner. The Giants don't seem overly excited about him, however. Given how extremely shallow the talent pool is at safety for New York, expect both Craig Dahl and Brandon Meriweather to see the field a decent amount this year. Meriweather is the more dynamic of the two, but can't seem to keep himself from getting suspended. Former third round selection Jayron Hosley managed to save survive final cuts with a strong performance late in preseason. He, and Trevin Wade, will serve as the backups at cornerback to Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Last modified: 2015-10-06 17:44:34