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Questions Heading into Giants’ Offseason

New York Giants offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (76). (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

New York Giants offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (76). (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

After Sunday’s dismantling at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, the Giants head into the offseason. They were hoping to get into offseason mode after bringing home the fifth Lombardi Trophy for the glass case. However, that was all for naught.

Now the Giants have questions that must be answered for the next five to six months, which I will highlight below.

Will the Giants be Able to Keep Beckham in Check?

This season has been a media circus for the Giants. Not for the team, but for superstar player Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham is under the proverbial microscope, everyone is watching what he does, whether it’s on the field or during his own personal time.

Some of the stuff Beckham does is self-inflicting (fines for wearing personalized custom cleats, fines for touchdown celebrations, complaining to officials, etc.). I get it, Beckham likes to win games, but he has to realize that everyone is watching his every move. Not only opposing teams, analysts and fans, but also children who look up to Beckham. His antics after this Sunday’s playoff game didn’t help matters, after slamming his head against his locker and punching a hole through a Lambeau Field wall.

The Giants have always been seen as one of the classiest organizations in football, however, it has taken a hit due to Beckham’s antics. Based off of the end of season press conferences, the Giants are getting tired of it.

“We all have had to grow up at different points in our lives, and I think it’s time for him to do that,” said Giants General Manager Jerry Reese. “He has been here for three years now and is a little bit of a lightning rod because of what he does on the football field, he has to be responsible for those things and we will talk through it.”

This statement comes after Beckham not showing up to the end of season press conference or to clean out his locker. There is no denying that Beckham is one of the most talented players in the entire league, but he has to ensure that he doesn’t enter Manziel territory in regards to antics.

Can the Giants Manage to Keep Both JPP and Hankins from Walking?

Jerry Reese did a great job this offseason in bolstering the defense, after having one of the worst defenses in football in 2015. Now they have turned into the best defense in the entire league.

The one issue they have is to find a way to keep impending free agents on the defensive line: Jason Pierre-Paul and Jonathan Hankins.

Jason Pierre-Paul was signed to a one year, $10 million “prove it” deal this offseason, and did he ever prove his worth. The injury to his hand after the fireworks did not hold him back at all, as he was as much of a threat as he was during his strong 2011 season. Pierre-Paul had seven sacks, 53 tackles, and three forced fumbles through 11 games, until he undergoing regular season-ending sports hernia surgery. Regardless of the injury, Pierre-Paul showed that he can still be the dominant defensive end that the Giants drafted in 2010. Pierre-Paul was outspoken in regards to his impending free agency.

“I’ve done proved it,” said Pierre-Paul. “…There’s not a guy like me doing it with seven and a half fingers.”

Reese even expressed his desire to get Pierre-Paul back.

“Do we want him back? Of course we want him back,” said Reese. “He is a good football player.”

Defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins is also a free agent. Hankins, the 2013 second round draft pick for the Giants, has done a great job this season, especially being paired with new defensive tackle Damon Harrison. Hankins finished his 2016 season with 43 total tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble.

With the success of the defensive line, Reese is going to have to work some magic in order to keep the line intact.

What Will the Giants do with Ereck Flowers?

Ereck Flowers has been dreadful at left tackle this season, and that’s putting it nicely. Opposing defenders have had a field day when matching up against the 59th ranked overall tackle. The six foot six, 329 pounder possesses the size to be a dominant offensive tackle, but he just doesn’t have the quickness and elusiveness to stop the pass rush.

Let’s get to the penalties. If Flowers has not been allowing the pass rush to get to Eli Manning, he’s been getting called for penalties. Flowers has been called for 13 penalties (one declined penalty) this regular season, as well one penalty in the playoff matchup against the Packers. Nine holding penalties, four false starts, and one face mask. Flowers is tied for second for most penalty counts by player. Not a good track record.

The Giants hope to somehow, someway, help Flowers improve, even if it means moving positions.

“He is an early-out junior, still a young player,” said Reese. “…but it is time for him to show us the fruits of being a first round draft pick, and I still think he has a chance to do that…But I do think that he is a big, strong kid who has a chance to be a really good player, so I still believe he has a chance to be a good player.”

It will be interesting to see what the Giants will do with Flowers, but the fan bases’ patience is running thin on the offensive tackle.

Is This the End of Victor Cruz in Giants’ Blue?

The veteran wide receiver has been a beloved player by the Giants fans ever since his emergence as a walk-on in the 2011 season. Cruz worked his way up the roster, proving to be an offensive weapon. In the process, he helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI.

Cruz started off the 2016 season strong, posting 24 receptions for 331 yards and one touchdown in the first seven games of the season. After that, his production has dropped, only having 15 receptions for 255 yards and zero touchdowns in the final nine games of the season.

Cruz, who has signed through 2018, expressed his desire to stay with the Giants, but he will be expected to take a pay cut. If not, the Giants will likely have to cut the veteran receiver.

“I feel good about my chances of coming back,” said Cruz. “I’ve just got to go into this understanding all aspects of it and then at the same time, making the best decision for me and my family.”

Jerry Reese stresses what is expected in order for Cruz to stay with the organization.

“That is all part of the process,” said Reese. “…We will come to the conclusion after the process is over, and we will see where everything goes. We will keep all of our options open with respect to everybody on the roster right now.”

The Paterson, NJ native has been a fan favorite for the Giants ever since his debut in 2011. However, with his production falling (some in part due to not getting the ball thrown his way), Cruz will have to take a pay cut in order to stay. Cruz will also have to wait and see if other teams offer him better deals, so this is going to be a process to keep an eye on.

How Will the Giants Solve Their Offensive Woes?

The Giants offense has been the polar opposite of the defense in regards to overall play. The offense has been inconsistent all season, players having one good game out of X number of games, but they are not in succession.

In the 2016 season, the Giants offense has posted:

  • 7 Total Yards per Game (25th in NFL),
  • 4 Points per Game (26th in NFL)
  • 310 Total Points on the Season (26th in NFL)
  • -2 Turnover Differential (21st in NFL)
  • 28:19 Time of Possession per Game (29th in NFL)

The numbers are not good at all, and they managed to make the playoffs, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. With an “offensive guru” such as Head Coach Ben McAdoo, it is disappointing that the Giants have produced such low offensive numbers. This is a key thing to work on in the offseason.

“We felt we that we had the talent and the coaching in the scheme this year to have a better year than we had,” said McAdoo. “We obviously fell short from an offensive prospective. We need to go back and take a look at the film, do the scheme evaluation, do the personnel evaluations and look at everything that’s involved.”

The Giants have to make this the focal point of the offseason, whether it is signing free agents, drafting offensive help (we’ll get to that later), or possibly giving the play calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. Stay tuned with this topic, as it will be key to the Giants success next season.

What is the Giants’ Draft Strategy?

The Giants have the 23rd pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. The question is, what are they going to use that pick on? Here are possible position needs that the Giants could address this draft. Note: All stats are based on the 2016 College Football Season.

  • Offensive Tackle: The offensive line continues to be a need for the Giants. The best option will be someone who can play left tackle, because Flowers is just not a fit there. Possible Options: Cam Robinson (Alabama) 6’6” / 310 lbs.; Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky) 6’6” / 300 lbs.
  • Tight End: The Giants have been in desperate need for a consistent tight end. There has been a carousel of tight ends since they lost Martellus Bennett to free agency in 2013. The need for a tight end that can catch the ball consistently, as well as being a great blocker. If this is their strategy, get the top overall tight end in the NFL. Possible Option: J. Howard (Alabama) 6’6” / 251 lbs.: 45 Receptions, 595 Yards, 3 TDs.
  • Linebacker: The Giants linebacker corps is decent, but are in need of an explosive linebacker. The Giants have been missing one for years, ever since Mathias Kiwanuka retired. The Giants are a young, strong, and fast linebacker away from making the Giants an all-around great defense. Possible Options: Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt) 6’4” / 230 lbs.: 125 Total Tackles (71 Solo, 54 Assisted); Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State) 6’2” 243 lbs.: 102 Total Tackles (49 Solo, 53 Assisted).
  • Running Back: Yes, I know the Giants have a crowded back field. However, Jerry Reese is known to take the best player available. So why not take a running back that has the strength to plow through the defensive line, as well as the speed to cut through tackles. Possible Option: Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) 6’0” / 202 lbs.: 253 Rushes, 1603 Rushing Yards, 13 TDs; 37 Receptions, 310 Receiving Yards, 3 TDs.

Will the Giants’ Find Manning’s Successor this Offseason?

Eli Manning is 36 years old. He’s near the back end of his career, so the Giants have to prepare for this.

Eli Manning is coming off a decent season, throwing for 4,027 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. However, this can be attributed to a weak offensive line, which they can address through the draft. The fact that Manning is in his mid-30s is a cause for concern and are prepared to find his eventual replacement (should he retire in the future).

“36, I don’t think that is ancient for a quarterback,” said Reese. “I think he is probably on the back nine, but I don’t think that is ancient for a quarterback, and he is taking care of himself really well, and I thought he finished the season strong.”

The Giants do need to prepare for the future at the quarterback position, and there is one way to do that, in the draft. I don’t expect the Giants to spend a high draft pick on a quarterback this draft. A middle round draft pick? More likely.

With Deshaun Watson (Clemson), DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame), and Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina) likely getting selected in the first round. However, one option the Giant could look at is Brad Kaaya out of Miami. The 6’4” QB has completed 261 out of 421 attempted passes for 3532 yards (62.0% completions) for 27 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Kaaya is a perfect fit in the west coast offense, which Coach McAdoo uses. Kaaya is expected to be taken in the middle rounds, so it could be a low risk, high reward for the Giants, if he is available.

I’ll go more in depth once it gets closer to the Draft Combine, to discuss possible QB options for the Giants.

Stay tuned for Giants’ Offseason News on DoubleGSports.com

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