How the Giants’ Offseason Affects the Immediate Future
2019 was certainly a disastrous and forgettable one for the New York Giants. A 4-12 season ended in the departure of an icon, the face of the franchise for the last 16 years; QB Eli Manning. A young offensive nucleus had some fans thinking positive but a bad for all ages defense had them scathing. Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch relieved an overwhelmed Pat Shurmur of his HC duties.
GM Dave Gettleman threw himself at their mercy to save his job despite some head scratching personnel moves. Those included trading a 3rd round pick (68th) to the Jets for Leonard Williams’ expiring contract. He added to his misery with FA misses in Kareem Martin and Jonathan Stewart. That brings us to the 2020 offseason, where Gettleman was playing for his job, armed with a top 5 pick and 70 million in cap space to play with. Urgent team needs showed as offensive line and edge rusher.
Tisch and Mara led the search for a new head coach with input from Gettleman. Former Baylor coach Matt Rhule seemed to be their front-runner. Ultimately, the Carolina Panthers swooped in with the seven year contract Rhule wanted and hired him. The longtime owners now found themselves again missing their first choice. Enter Bill Belichick mentored Joe Judge, a special teams/assistant coach. His first press conference fired up the fans with his no nonsense approach to getting right to work.
Mara and Tisch realized being a first time head coach is tough, especially in New York. They did the smart thing and brought in two former head coaches. Jason Garrett will run the offense and Freddie Kitchens will coach the tight ends. Add in a young defensive mind in Patrick Graham, who has been particularly good at scheming his defensive disguises, and the Giants seem to finally have a solid staff.
A former GM once said, “you use free agency for need and you draft for value”. Good advice, unless you have ignored need for the better part of a decade. Gettleman was on the clock, not only for the draft, and he knew it. His draft strategy has never been to appease the fan base. While the fans and experts were split, Gettleman chose Andrew Thomas, the OT from Georgia. Not the sexy pick, but one needed in order to protect his franchise quarterback.
The athletic and strong Thomas will immediately be in the mix for a starting job. Where that could be depends. Often maligned 2019 FA acquisition Nate Solder did not play well at LT. Thomas, who is pro ready, could slide into the left side if needed or the right side if Solder plays well. Either way, he is expected to be New York’s new anchor on the offensive line.
The 36th pick for the GM played out perfectly, while the experts again screamed for him to double down on the offensive line, Dave never wavered and scooped up Xavier McKinney, the S from Alabama. An easy first round talent, McKinney has been touted by many as the steal in the draft. Another pro ready player, he can step right into the safety position next to Jabrill Peppers, forming a formidable back 2 alongside some young DB’s. It will also give DC Graham the flexibility to run 3 safeties, with Julian Love possibly spending time as a nickel.
The offensive line was back in the mix on day 3 with the selection of UConn’s Matt Peart. A right tackle who will need some development, but his size and freakish athleticism bodes well for him to be thought of as a starter in 2021. Round 4 found Darnay Holmes, an athletic and fast DB from UCLA who could compete for a nickel spot and help in the return game. Intriguing Shane Lemieux came next; he protected #6 pick QB Justin Herbert while at Oregon. Listed as guard, he is a Swiss army knife of a lineman. The Giants can envision him playing the center position as a starter with a good camp and preseason. The Giants had 5 more picks in round 6/7. They used 4 of them for depth at the LB position, finding good talent in Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin.
A big cap number for the Giants led everyone to believe the Giants would empty the wallet for big names at big contracts. I’m sure Gettleman was tempted to unload $20 million for an edge rusher like Jadeveon Clowney, but he resisted. He instead found 3, maybe 4, starters for contracts that will not handicap the team for the years to come.
First up was DB James Bradberry from his old team the Carolina Panthers. A physical and big DB, Bradberry uses his long arms very well in coverage. He tracks the deep ball with ease and is extremely comfortable in zone coverage. He has worked on his footwork and became very capable in press man to man.
The LB position has been a position of glory in the history of the franchise but has lacked talent the last few years. Bring in Blake Martinez from Green Bay, a tackling machine. Martinez is a smart LB who tackles at the point at an elite level. He has decent side to side speed, but what he lacks he will make up for by diagnosing the play quickly then making a lighting fast decision.
Former Green Bay teammate Kyle Fackrell was next on the list. A 6’5 stand up LB, Fackrell will likely transition into an edge rusher to help the lack of pass rush. Gifted with great size and long arms, Fackrell has not lit the world on fire with his sack totals. However, he has the physical attributes to do just that.
Veteran QB Colt McCoy was thought to be brought in to back up Daniel Jones. He’s very capable as such, but when the Cowboys released Copper Rush, the Giants rushed in and signed him. Even if McCoy beats him out as the #2, his work done in Garrett’s offense will be a huge help for Jones getting up to speed quickly. Some depth players in RT Cam Fleming (who may start), 6’7 TE Levine Toilolo, and S Nate Ebner round out the FA class.
Judge is the fourth (counting Steve Spagnuolo’s interim run) head coach since Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls with the team. He has inherited a team who had no identity for years and could not decide to re-build or play for now. With a boss whose head is on the chopping block, Judge will need to take that fire he has showed early and begin to establish a culture in the locker room.
That culture has already been tested as cornerback Deandre Baker has been arrested on serious armed robbery and gun charges. Innocent until proven guilty and all, but Judge’s first big decision will be on Baker, who may end up serving jail time. The Giants still have a young core on both sides of the ball filled with elite veteran players in key positions. As such, they have seemed to have finally put together a plan that could lead to success. 2020 contains a tough schedule, but in a division that is not particularly strong, the Giants might find themselves in the mix.