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Today: The New York Giants
Last Year: 7-9 (3rd place in NFC East)
Starting off a season with six straight losses pretty much dooms any postseason aspirations an NFL team might have entering a new season, and instead puts the team in the No. 1 draft pick conversation. That’s how the Giants’ season began, except the Giants were never really that bad. You know, No. 1 pick bad. The Giants realized this and didn’t really feel like tanking, so they ripped off four straight wins and ultimately finished the season with a 7-9 record.
Let’s start with the bad. Eli Manning led the league in interceptions. The Giants’ leading rusher was Andre Brown. He ran for 492 yards on the season. Hakeem Nicks had zero touchdowns. At one point Brandon Jacobs — yes, Brandon Jacobs — was getting reps at running back. The team finished the season ranked 29th at running the ball.
Now, the good. The defense finished 10th against the pass. Antrel Rolle — a cornerback — had one of the best seasons of his career. The run defense fell somewhere in the middle of the pack. Justin Tuck, after having nine sacks combined in 2011 and 2012, went for 11 sacks in 2013.
Last Year’s Stud: Antrel Rolle
Rolle’s stats in 2013: 98 combined tackles (career high and team high), six interceptions (career high and team high), 15.4 score on Pro Football Focus (team high). The team’s defense would finish the season as the 10th best pass defense, largely due to Rolle.
Runner-up: Justin Tuck
Last Year’s Surprise: Justin Tuck
I’m not sure anyone thought Tuck had anything left in his tank. After back to back subpar seasons, Tuck exploded for 11 sacks in 2013. Pro Football Focus scored him a 15.4 — second best on the team. He did all that in his ninth NFL season. He’ll spend his 10th in Oakland.
Runner-up: Brandon Jacobs (he was on the team at some point??)
Last Year’s Disappointment: Eli Manning
I’m going to try to go 50 words without a Manning Face picture. No wait, I can’t do it. Here you go:
Look, Eli has two Super Bowls. But last season was pretty pathetic. His 27 interceptions led the league. Manning Face time!
He didn’t have much help — the run game and offensive line were a mess. But still, you throw 27 interceptions, you’re going to have to take the blame. Manning Face GIF!
Runner-up: Hakeem Nicks
The Giants are now without Hakeem Nicks, who trotted over to Indianapolis in the offseason. Rueben Randle hasn’t really done much since his second-round selection in the 2012 NFL draft. Victor Cruz is still salsa-ing, but Eli Manning still needs help, so the Giants went out and drafted Odell Beckham from LSU.
Ben McAdoo is the team’s new offensive coordinator and his offense will most likely be vastly different than the vertical passing attack that was featured under former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. In McAdoo’s offense, Beckham should be playing on the outside, and should be involved in a lot more short passes and screens.
I think it’s a great fit for Beckham, because he’s a pretty good receiver despite being under 6-foot.
He also might lend himself well to special teams…
Call me a fan of this pick.
Other notable pick: Jay Bromley
This Year’s Stud: Victor Cruz
He knows how to dance. Do I need another reason?
Runner-up: Will Hill
This Year’s Surprise: Eli Manning
I know, LOOK AT THAT FACE:
It’s going to be incredibly difficult to explain why Eli Manning is in store for a bounce back season when I have that face looking back at me. Seriously though, Eli Manning is bound to surprise some folks this season. He’s got a better offensive line now (it’s hard to see the line playing worse than it did a season ago) and another receiver in Beckham, but the most important factor has to be a new offensive coordinator that will rely on shorter, quicker passes. I’m guessing fewer sacks and quarterback hits will be in store for Manning, which in turn will lead to fewer turnovers.
Runner-up: Jay Bromley
This Year’s Disappointment: David Wilson
He’s cleared for Giants training camp, but I don’t think anyone is expecting Wilson to turn into a 20-25 carry back in 2014. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that Wilson was drafted in the first-round back in 2012. Since then, he’s done pretty much nothing. The Giants signed running back Rashad Jennings, they have Peyton Hillis on the roster, and they drafted a running back — Andre Williams. It’s a crowded backfield for the Giants, so don’t expect Wilson to go on justifying his first-round draft status in 2014.
Runner-up: Rueben Randle
Draft early: Victor Cruz
Good value in the middle rounds: N/A
Don’t Draft: Eli Manning, Rueben Randle, any of the running backs
What Vegas is saying (LVH sports book): 7.5 wins
What We’re Saying: 7-9 (3rd place in NFC East)
There are still a lot of question marks surrounding this team. How will the Giants fare with a new offensive system? What’s happening at the tight end position? Who is going to step up at running back? And, can the defense survive the loss of its leading sack-man, Justin Tuck?
I think it’s a better offense. I think Eli Manning will improve drastically. But, when looking at the schedule, it’s tough to see too many wins. They have to face the NFC West (yikes), the Eagles offense is never an easy task to slow down, and, while teams like Houston and Atlanta had down years in 2013, they should be difficult tests in 2014.
Can the Giants sneak out nine wins? Maybe. But a 8-8 or 7-9 season is more likely.
[genericon icon=twitter] Follow Sean Wagner-McGough on Twitter @seanjwagner