NFC East Camp Capsule: Can Giants make final run?

NFC East Camp Capsule: Can Giants make final run?
July 10, 2014, 1:45 pm

With training camp quickly approaching -- the Eagles open July 25 -- we'll take a look at status of their division rivals entering camp. Up next, the New York Giants:

2013 Record: 7-9 (3rd in NFC East)

Key Additions: OC Bob McAdoo, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, WR Odell Beckham Jr. (R), CB Walter Thurmond, OG Geoff Schwartz, RB Rashad Jennings

Key Subtractions: DT Linval Joseph, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Justin Tuck, TE Brandon Myers, S Ryan Mundy, C David Baas, OG David Diehl, OG Kevin Boothe

 

With a 7-9 record, the New York Giants are coming off their worst season in 10 years. The last time the club finished below .500, Tom Coughlin was in his first year as Giants head coach, and Eli Manning was only a rookie.

It’s possible that the two most prominent faces behind a pair of Super Bowl championships in between have taken the franchise as far as they can. There was even some talk of Coughlin—who turns 68 in August—being let go or retiring as last season circled the drain, while there seems to be a league-wide belief Manning is in decline at 33.

Undeterred, the Giants made several changes during the offseason, but there was no monumental shift in direction. Coughlin received a one-year contract extension. Manning remains the unquestioned leader of the offense.

It would appear they’re gearing up for what could be one final run.

The biggest difference is at offensive coordinator, where unlike Coughlin, Kevin Gilbride retired. The club tabbed Ben McAdoo as a replacement, a rising star in coaching circles who spent eight seasons on the Green Bay Packers’ staff, most recently as quarterbacks coach.

While a makeover probably can’t hurt New York’s 28th-ranked offense, scheme wasn’t really the problem. Nor was Eli, for that matter, despite tossing 27 interceptions in 2013—most in a single season by any QB since Brett Favre hurled 29 in ‘05.

Manning was never the most efficient passer in the NFL, but there were times last year when he simply didn’t have a chance. On top of the picks, Manning was also sacked a career-high 39 times. Any passer is going to look rattled when he's constantly under pressure.

The Giants’ offensive line collapsed. At one point, three starters were out with injuries, which any Philadelphia Eagles fan who lived through 2012 can tell you what that’s like. In all, there were 38 missed starts due to injury in front of Manning last season.

The front office attempted to patch things up during the offseason, but who knows what the end result will be. David Baas, who missed 13 games last season, was not retained, so there will be a competition over the job at center. David Diehl retired, his spot in the starting lineup awarded to journeyman free agent Geoff Schwartz.

The rest of the unit still has question marks. Three-time Pro Bowler Chris Snee is hoping to come back strong from a hip injury that cost him the final 13 games in ’13, but the right guard is 32. 2009 second-round pick Will Beatty—still recovering from a broken leg—continued to make for an underwhelming left tackle last season.

At best, New York’s offensive line could be solid. At worst, it will be a complete and utter disaster again.

For that matter, even the Giants’ defense is something of an unknown heading into the season. While the secondary was bolstered by the additions of cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (provided the team remains relevant in the standings) and Walter Thurmond, the defensive line lost its two most productive players in end Justin Tuck and tackle Linval Joseph. The linebackers are just meh.

If Jason Pierre-Paul—the club's most feared pass-rusher—returns to form, that could counteract the loss of Tuck, who led New York with 11.0 sacks last season. After going to two consecutive Pro Bowls, JPP recorded just two sacks in 11 games of an injury-riddled campaign. He needs to get back on track, or the additions to the secondary will be meaningless.

Then again, the entire defense is rendered meaningless if Manning and the offense continue to give the ball away at near-historic rates. New York’s defense ranked eighth in yards allowed last season, but 18th in points surrendered. Too often, they were put in no-win situations.

Manning has bounced back before, and even at 33, he’s probably good enough with the right supporting cast. It all comes down to protection. As long as Coughlin’s Giants can find a way to keep the quarterback upright, that team always has a shot to be in the mix in the NFC East.

And as Coughlin and Manning have proven on more than one occasion, all they need is a ticket to the dance. If the Giants sneak into the playoffs, anything is possible.

Previously: The Washington Redskins