The Giant Insider Online

Three Areas Where the Giants Will Be Much Improved This Season

Last year, the New York Giants had all the earmarks of being a bad football team. This past offseason, the new GM, Dave Gettleman set out to improve the team’s weaknesses, which were aplenty.

We know the running game will get a major boost with the addition of first round pick Saquon Barkley, free agent veteran Jonathan Stewart and Wayne Gallman entering his second season, so we won’t dwell too much on that although it could be the most improved part of the team this year.

Here are three other areas where I believe the Giants will markedly better in 2018.

Pass Rush

The Giants ranked 30th in the NFL in sacks per game with 1.7 last season. That’s down from 2.4 per game in 2016 when they were 11th best. Jason Pierre-Paul led the team with 8.5 sacks, Olivier Vernon had six and Devon Kennard four. JPP and Kennard are both gone and Vernon is shifting from DE to OLB this season, so the Giants will have to find some new methods to get to the quarterback.

That’s where new DC James Bettcher comes in. He is adept at getting pressure on the QB even with a 3-4 alignment, which morphs into a 4-3 at will. In Arizona, Bettcher created pressure through blitzing, and everyone got in on the party.

This year, the Giants will have bigger bodies up front and more athletic ones behind them. Vernon should flourish rushing from the OLB position. Other converted DEs such as Kerry Wynn, Avery Moss, Romeo Okwara and rookie Lorenzo Carter will be untethered on the edges while MLBs B.J. Goodson and Alec Ogletree will be taking turns up the middle. The secondary will also be active. Luck for the Giants, they have one of the best safeties in the game in Landon Collins, who has four sacks in 2016 and led all safeties in pressures last year.

Expect the Giants’ pass rush to be much more productive in 2018. They should rack up considerably more than the paltry 27 they had last season. It won’t just be sacks, though. Pressures will increase as well.

Big Plays

Last season the Giants had only 33 passing plays of 20 yards or greater. They had 67 in their Super Bowl season of 2011. They had just six plays of more than 40 yards. In 2011, they had a league-leading 18.

You can thank the Ben McAdoo short passing offense for that and the fact that Eli Manning was forced to get rid of the football as hastily as possible. Nearly two thirds of Manning’s throws were released in 2.5 seconds or less in 2017, which was the most in the NFL.

Not having Odell Beckham, Jr. for three-quarter of the seasons only compounded the issue. The Giants dropped passes and the ones they caught were for little yardage. Since 2014, only Oakland’s Derek Carr has had more passes dropped that Eli.

Last season, Eli only threw deep on 10.5% of his attempts, the 2nd-lowest rate among 23 qualified QBs. As for the route tree, expect head coach Pat Shurmur and OC David Shula to extend it and have Eli hang onto the ball a little longer. That should be easier for him to do this season with a revamped offensive line. The past few seasons, Manning had little trust in his line and looked to dump the ball much too soon. On some plays he simply spiked it into the ground rather than take a hit or throw a pick.

With Beckham back healthy and WR Sterling Shepard and TE Evan Engram coming into their own, Manning should be back in business with the big play. The addition of rookie RB Saquon Barkley will also add to the pile. According to Pro Football Focus, Barkley was the only draft-eligible RB to rank in the top 5 in both Breakaway Percentage & Yards per Route Run. He also led with 644 yards after the catch last season at Penn State.

Special Teams

Longtime ST coordinator Tom Quinn was not brought back this season after serving in the role for over a decade. Over that time the Giants’ specials have had more down moments than up. New coordinator Thomas McGaughey, a one-time assistant under Quinn, hopes to fare better. To be fair, the team had not been prioritizing the specials in recent years. That will change here under the new management team.

Punter Brad Wing was a major disappointment in 2017, finishing last in the league in net yardage with a 38.6 average. His two short punts late in the season vs Tampa Bay and Philadelphia arguably cost the Giants those ballgames. He landed just 19 of his 95 punts inside the 20 and had two punts blocked. He was released in March with two years remaining on his contract.

In his place, the Giants traded a seventh round pick for Denver’s Riley Dixon, a 6″4″ Syracuse product, who could give them more length and hang time. But Dixon won’t go unchallenged this summer in camp. The team has brought in former Minnesota Vikings punter Taylor Symmank to give Dixon some competition.

Among kickers who played all 16 games, first year PK Aldrick Rosas was the lowest-graded kicker in the NFL last season. He converted just 4-of-9 field goal attempts between 40-49 yards, last in the league. Overall, Rosas was 18 of 25 for a 72% conversion rate. He missed three PATs as well. That contributed greatly to the Giants’ poor offensive meager 15.4 points per game average in 2017.

Rosas did make all three of his attempts over 50 yards, however, but that has not convinced the Giants to bring in competition this summer. Marshall Koehn has been signed to give Rosas a run for his money. Koehn has spent time with Miami, Minnesota and Cincinnati since entering the league in 2016. The job is wide open, but the point here is that both specialist jobs are still in play as camp approaches, something that was not the case under McAdoo.

Also coming in on special teams are two of the NFL’s top ST players in Michael Thomas and Cody Latimer. All of the returner spots ares still up for grabs and who knows how kickoffs are going to play out under the new rules anyway…

So, these there areas are all set for big upgrades this season and that should help propel the Giants back to respectability. They are back in the business of playing football again.

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