With the New York Giants well out of the playoff race and the final game of the regular season soon approaching, most Big Blue loyalists enter the weekend with nothing in particular to be excited about, except perhaps the Giants ending the season with some fight, putting together back to back victories. That is assuming they can take care of business against the Washington Redskins this Sunday.
Even then, excited probably is not the word as that’s how the fans in Philadelphia are feeling after confirmations of Tony Romo’s absence in the winner-take-all NFC East finale between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. New York, on the outside looking in, is yielding more of an indifferent tone as fans have shared thoughts ranging from, “I hope we finish the season strong,” to “I hope we lose and get a better pick,” to “I just hope they don’t kill Eli.”
Regardless of the outcome, it’s safe to say the 2013 season for the New York Giants was a monumental disappointment in every facet of the game. Whether it was the offense, defense, or special teams, at least one group — if not all — were struggling on any given Sunday. Sure, injuries played a major role, but other teams in the NFL face them as well and it is up to the coaching staff to make the proper adjustments and cater the schemes and designs to ease the transition and maximize the potential of those filling in for injured starters.
Though certain tweaks may have been made, they surely were not significant enough to notice. Perhaps it takes time for chemistry to develop and that’s why certain units struggled. But don’t tell that to Jon Beason, who made his presence felt right away after he was acquired. As a result the excuses are somewhat limited, sure they’re there, but even the casual observer can tell you the team simply did not play well and didn’t show any heart until they absolutely had to, at which point it was pretty much too late.
Despite the dark cloud that loomed over the Giants' season, there were crevices and moments from which the sun leaked through and shined down upon certain players. Cullen Jenkins may have been the Giants’ best overall defensive lineman this season when healthy. Adding another solid pass rusher to this unit could be all this group needs, pending the arrival of Demontre Moore and revival of a healthy Jason Pierre-Paul.
At linebacker, Jon Beason was certainly a spark as he was probably the best middle linebacker the Giants have seen since Antonio Pierce in his prime, if not better. Adding perhaps a true SAM linebacker to this group could also help solidify the linebacker rotation as well. With the help of a better pass rush, the Giants secondary next year has the potential to be a dominant group.
The light probably shined brightest on safety Will Hill who broke out this season and has displayed Pro Bowl caliber technique and physicality at the position. If Webster can return to form or another quality corner can be added to play opposite Prince Amukamara, a safety rotation of Will Hill, Antrel Rolle (who should be a Pro Bowler) and the return of Stevie Brown, has the makings of one of the best ball hawking secondary’s in the NFL. Add some pressure from the defensive front to a group that already excels at stopping the run and the Giants have a defense capable of playing in the Super Bowl. That is again pending certain changes, one of which may very well be at the defensive coordinator position where a new scheme and some new faces could revitalize this group and bring it to the elite category as they often carried the limping team throughout the year.
That is mainly because the offense has been a mess of another nature, one that might require a mini series written on anti-depressants to analyze. So for now, lets just say the Giants need better offensive line play, though the issues dilate well beyond simply the interior of the offense. But let's be honest, that is the root of the thorns in Eli Manning’s side. One does not simply forget how to be a two-time Super Bowl Champion.
Sure, there were poor throws but every quarterback has those. Eli may have had more this year but some, as usual, were not entirely his fault and he looked unnerved in the pocket. Early in the year had too much faith in his offensive line and he paid for it, later in the year had little faith and was forcing throws to keep desperate drives alive and again he paid. All of that can change easily if he is allowed to be patient in the pocket again, go through his reads, and get a rhythm going passing the ball. He can only be as consistent as his protection allows. A running game with a pulse can facilitate that transition as well, another issue that can be rectified with another quality lineman or two.
The Giants have talent, but are still weak in the trenches, if they can strengthen those two groups, they are right back in the hunt for another Super Bowl. This season was simply the proverbial ‘slap in the face’ and wake up call not just for the players, but for the coaches and General Manager Jerry Reese as well. Expect the very best from all parties in the upcoming off-season into the next year as jobs, reputations, and contracts will be on the line. Quick turnarounds are not rare in the NFL, there’s no reason why the Giants cannot be the Kansas City Chiefs of 2014.
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