While the Saints Bounty gate and Peyton Manning's release are making arresting headlines, let us talk about the Super Bowl Champions.
The Giants decided to tag punter Steve Weatherford. With Weatherford handling the punting duties in 2011, the Giants got much needed consistency. Over the last several seasons, the Giants special teams have not been too special. Having Weatherford was a breath of fresh air. And he was splendid in Super Bowl XLVI. Three of his four punts landed inside the Patriots 10 yard line.
WR Domenik Hixon was resigned. This means it is over for Mario Manningham. Since Victor Cruz has emerged as a top notch receiver, especially in the slot, Manningham has become expendable. Having Hixon return also helps the Giants special teams return game. As a team, the Giants averaged 6.1 yards per punt and 23.3 yards per kickoff return respectively. Here are links to see how the Giants fared in kickoff and punt returns. After seeing we are at the bottom of the NFL, let us hope Hixon can help the Giants improve in these areas.
Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw had some work done on his ankle. He received an injection to help his ailing foot. Sheesh! With multiple surgeries performed on his wheels, it is amazing he has been so productive for the Giants. Over his NFL career, Bradshaw has had surgery on both his ankles and feet. Being that feet are a running back's life blood, as an outsider, is Bradshaw's best days behind him?
Speaking of the running back position, the Giants have RELEASED RB Brandon Jacobs. This does not come as a surprise. Once a bruising runner, Jacobs has been limited due to serious injuries. Over the last two seasons, Jacobs was relegated to a reduced role. Last season, Jacobs gained a disappointing 571 yards. Since Jacobs publicly expressed an interest in playing with the Jets, ESPN's Jets reporter Rich Cimini compiled some statitstics on Jacobs. And Cimini caputured a snap shot of Jacobs' unimpressive 2011 numbers:
1. Jacobs had one rush for 20 plus yards.
2. For a 265-pound man, Jacobs doesn't break many tackles. His yards-after-contact average last season was 1.66, which ranked 44th in the league. (In fairness, we should point out he brought it up to 2.25 in the NFC playoffs.)
3. The Giants finished last in rushing and next-to-last in short-yardage rushing, with only a 52-percent conversion rate.
With Eli Manning restructuring his contract and Jacobs being released, the Giants appear to be under the projected salary cap. So what are their immediate needs?
Pro Football Focus examines the Giants major areas of need. Needless to say, after crunching their numbers, the Giants have to revamp the guard, tackle, and slot cornerback positions. It is evident, the Giants have to address the offensive line. On Thursday, reliable RT Kareem Mckenzie was told to go shopping. With no McKenzie, William Beatty recovering from surgery, and Diehl coming off an awful season, the Giants have to retool their offensive line.
As for the cornerback position, I think the Giants are okay in this area. Since 2007, Giants GM Jerry Reese has invested a lot of high draft picks in the secondary. Ross in 2007. Thomas in 2008. Prince in 2011. Reserve Bruce Johnson was resigned. And they will most likely retain Justin Tryon. Recall, this guy played with a broken arm against the Dolphins this year.
As the March 13th free agency signing period inches closer, the Giants have to think about the TE and RB positions. In Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants lost not one but both of their tight ends. Right now, the Giants have Bear Pascoe as the only effective TE. Look for Reese to sign a TE. And with the news of Jacobs' release and the uncertainty of Bradshaw's injury situation, the Giants have to upgrade the running back position. Let us not forget RB D.J. Ware has been concussed twice. He suffered a concussion in 2009 against the Broncos. And this year, he suffered another one against the Packers. Without question, Ware could be one hit away from being out of football. The Giants may have their future starter already on the roster- Da'Rel Scott could be the Giants next star running back. In the meantime, Reese has to pick up a veteran running back as insurance.
To sum up, Reese will use free agency to shore up the TE and RB positions, while using draft picks to stabilize their offensive line.
Thanks to all the players who helped get those two rings. Best of luck in the future. Now... as to the present and the future of the Giants - I will repeat, please do no give Diehl a free pass by simply moving him to the other side of the line, which is what has been mentioned quite often. His inept play last year made everyone's job on the offensive line that much harder. I don't know if any team, much less a SB winner, has ever replaced both starting tackles from one season to the next but I'd sure like to see us try.
And while we're at it - there wasn't much love here for Baas last year and rightly so. But along with maybe a handful of others, I couldn't believe that MOST OF HIS SNAPS TO ELI in the shotgun require ELI TO BEND, TO REACH, TO GO TO HIS SHOETOPS - just watch the SB again. You will be appalled. That OL needs a complete overhaul. Again, not as if we weren't saying that around here either.
We won a SB with those guys. Don't know how much higher we can go with a more than competent OL but it sure would make getting there easier.
The Giants could also use some help at Safety, but they don't necessarily need to get busy in FA beyond getting a competent body so that they can draft for value. Deon Grant got a ring, awesome! But his lack of speed was a liability that got exposed more than a few times. Phillips is a shame, as he was set for a great career before microfracture surgery. He was mostly a caretaker back there, so the Giants will need competition.
As for LBer, I really prefer a high draft pick here, not a FA, as everyone knows.
- Great move on Weatherford. He hasn't signed the tender yet I think, so they're still working on a long term deal but w/o the risk of him leaving.
- I don't think us signing Hixon relates to Manningham's situation at all. From a cap angle first, as Hixon signed a $5k or so deal with no guarantees. And on the field, Hixon is not half of the receiver Manningham is. Hixon is coming back as a specialist and maybe a 4th or 5th option, more like what Devin Thomas did.
- Bradshaw is always hurt and lacks vision, he is no #1 (I think we all no that but still). Don't get me wrong, I appreciate everything he did for us and most likely what he will do. But we have to find a real true RB somewhere. I'm not asking from a Peterson or a Johnson - unless UMass can give us one of those on the cheap ! - because of the investment (pick, cap) it would demand. But a real homerun threat would give this offense a whole other dimension. Maybe Brown can give us that (our 4th rounder in 09), 2 year removed from his Achilles. Or Scott ? We haven't seen him after his fumble.
- Jacobs gone is no surprise, but I'll regret the man. He was a loud mouth, yes, but he brought some attitude, sometimes a litte too much of it. Production just wasn't there for $5M. Thanks for what you did but it's time for you to go.
- MacKenzie not being resigned was expected. He was almost as awful as Diehl last season and is 33. Thanks you Kareem, you did good at RT.
- CB is tricky. Last season the guys (Tryon, Witherspoon, Johnson) showed that they could be a 3rd or 4th option before going down quickly. We are set (I hope) at #1 and #2 with Webster and Amukamara. Ross is gone. Can Thomas come back ? If he can, I can live with those 3 and the reserve. Tricky situation. Good luck Reese :)
- TE. This guys Dreessen from HOU could be the answer, great blocker, still a passing threat, the kind of TE we use. He's old though (30). But the one man I'd love is Bennett. DAL won't want him because he's not Gronk 2.0. We don't want that anyway. But Bennett says he wan to be a #1 guy with 60+ catches and he'll ask for the money that goes with that. I think he's delusional and won't get it, but Reese won't bother. Not a lot to draft, not a lot of FAs, TEs are rare and won't come cheap.
- If Hill is there at 32, I think we draft him.
It's hard to believe Super Mario's days are over in the Big Apple... I find it difficult to accept. Any chance the Giants FO could arrange a restructure of Mario's contract? It seems incredible to me that the Giants would release him outright after a great Super Bowl-winning season...
Spot on analysis. I have to say that I think those numbers may be skewed a bit by the types of runs BJ was asked to carry. Inside runs at the goal line wouldn't exactly net you too many yards. I agree that his stats weren't great but that speaks more about the play of the offensive line. IMO
I hope the Giants are not counting on Hixon or Barden to fill Mario's spot. You cant rely on either one....they are constantly getting hurt.
@DavidCastro Overhaul and OL don't mix well so even though they were awful, you can't just change 2 or 3 from one year to another and expect improvement IMHO.
Baas isn't going anywhere, let's just hope that a real offseason and a better health allow him to get better. He only played one year at C in the NFL so the odds are not good.
@ultimatenyg We won't draft a LB high.
I'm done advocating for a great LB. Our defense is about pressure and corners and it'll continue to be this way.
That's the reason why I thing we'll draft a DL and/or a CB before we draft a LB in 2012. Again.
And quite frankly, when I see how we played the last 4 games with Boley, Williams, Kiwi & Blackburn I'm beginning to think LB isn't a priority.
If Goff can come back, he'll be a huge upgrade over Blackburn and it'll be enough.
Will it be perfect ? No. It doesn't need to be either.
Would I love a great LB in the middle of our defense ? Yes ! I'll take a great CB or great rusher every day though.
I can't agree about Phillips, who allowed 0 TD this season.
If anyone need competition back there it's Rolle.
@plektor The amount of picks the skins gave up to move 4 spots to get him was frankly insane. I'll be blogging about this one in coming days.
@Tom Jackson It's not about the Giants "releasing" him. He's a FA. His contract is over march 13th, there's nothing to restructure here. He'll be free to sign where ever he want.
He's a very good WR, a deep threat and can make plays. Yet we all know how inconsistent he might be.
He's a solid #2, and we won't give him the money he'll get for that.
If Nicks and Cruz keep their pace, we'll have 2 guys in the top 10 at receiver. There's only so much money you can spend on 1 position, even if this position is one of the most important in your team building strategy.
@MikeL1981 I am quietly hoping Barden can sneak up, stay healthy, and have a big year. You are 1000% correct about the health issue, but as a GM you have to give all of these guys the shot at helping, including a guy like Thomas (and Jernigan) too. Remember, it took Amani Toomer into his 3rd year to really establish himself. These guys are all young, one of them can reach out and grab it. Toomer took Karate in the offseason to strengthen himself, and I think he even took yoga to increase his flexibility. As professionals, these guys have to realize that no one is going to make the leap for them. And let's also remember that guys like Victor Cruz and Miles Austin are walk-ons, so for my resource allocation, I just think the Giants have too many other areas of greater need.