Grading the “New” York Giants

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I just have one question for Giants GM Jerry Reese: Who are you, and what have you done with the old Jerry Reese? Reese and the Giants have simply just gone all out this free agency, having thrown their old methods of not spending too much out the window. The Giants know they’re in a state where they need to fix this team, the defense especially, right now. The window is closing to give Eli his third Lombardi Trophy, and owners John Mara and Steve Tisch are just flat-out tired of seeing losing seasons from their team. We all are.

With all that said, Jerry Reese took this to heart and, knowing his job is on the line, slapped free agency in the face. I like this new side to him. In the first few days of free agency, Reese managed to get 3 of the top 15 free agents available, and re-sign another in JPP. He also managed to sign a linebacker who has a good amount of potential, and if healthy can provide a spark to that mediocre linebacking corps. Yes, I know the Giants overpaid for a lot of these guys. What did you expect! Not only is the NFL salary cap the highest it has ever been, but the Giants had around $60 million to spend, the fourth most in the league. It doesn’t matter a whole lot that they overpaid because they had the money to do it and for some of these guys, most notably Olivier Vernon, other teams were right behind them ready to pay similar prices. While I believe there will be more signings to come throughout the offseason, let’s get into my reactions for each signing throughout the Giants free agency frenzy so far.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul

To start off this busy free agency period, the Giants went ahead and made a crucial move by retaining Jason Pierre-Paul to a 1-year, $10 million dollar deal. This may have Giants fans wondering why they decided to keep the guy who basically plays with one hand and an unknown future. To answer this, the Giants did this, and it was the right decision, due to a number of reasons. To start off, they only signed JPP to a 1-year prove it deal. This gives them a low-risk, high-reward opportunity, and if he doesn’t pan out correctly the Giants won’t be losing much. Also, JPP has been improving with his hand. He recently reported that he will not be wearing the gigantic club on his hand anymore after getting surgery to repair his grip. This is crucial and will make life a lot easier for Jason moving forward. It is also good to have a guy come back who was drafted and developed by the Giants, and one who can mentor the younger guys along the line. The fact that Jason turned down the same kind of offer from a championship-caliber team in the Cardinals, who were offering him more money by the way, says something. He told reporters that he “has some unfinished business to take care of in NY,” so he really is loyal to this team. Kudos to Jerry Reese and the Giants by getting this one right and pulling such an intelligent deal with a familiar face.

Grade: A

 

CB Janoris Jenkins

The Giants opened up their spending spree by agreeing to a 5-year, $62.5 million dollar contract with electrifying cornerback Janoris Jenkins. In four seasons with the Rams, Jenkins has displayed his top-notch ball skills and playmaking ability. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and never backs away from an opponent. His style of play is risky because he often guesses on plays. If he guesses correctly, he seems like an All-Pro caliber corner, but if he guesses wrong, he looks lost and confused. To add on to this, the Giants definitely overpaid to get him even though he was arguably the best available corner on the market. They probably could have signed him for less but probably wanted to make sure that he was theirs, and I don’t blame them since they had a glaring need and the cap space to do so. Nevertheless, the Giants got themselves a durable, legitimate upgrade over oft-injured Prince Amukamara, who signed with the Jaguars. He is a top-shelf corner and will form one of the best cornerback tandems in the league alongside Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Grade: B+

DT Damon Harrison

Still very hungry this offseason, the Giants decided to buy a snack. Or a 350-pound defensive tackle nicknamed “Snacks.” The Giants inked dominant defensive big man Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the cross-town rival New York Jets. I absolutely love this signing. Here the Giants have a guy who won’t impress you with the flashy sack numbers or the lengthy highlight reels, but he is just as important, if not more. He is an immovable brick wall in the middle of the line, and one of the best in the entire league. He manhandles running backs every week and draws double teams so that others can excel around him. Harrison is a lot like Victor Cruz in terms of his journey to the pros. As an undrafted free agent out of William Penn University, Harrison had to prove to the NFL that he was the best. He is a guy with an amazing attitude and is determined to be the best even to this day. He knows his journey and plays with that kind of toughness and hunger on the field. Harrison does the dirty work and plays a position that often doesn’t get the respect it deserves. That changes with him getting a 5-year, $46 million dollar deal to put on Giants blue and wreck offensive linemen alongside Jonathan Hankins for years to come. This may not be a sign that fills the headlines, but it’s my favorite and one that will definitely pay off on Sunday.

Grade: A+

DE Olivier Vernon

Just when you thought the Giants were done with the big signings comes the biggest one of them all. The one that leaves Giants fans ecstatic and NFL general managers speechless. The one that makes smoke come out of Tom Coughlin’s ears and Olivier Vernon richer than JJ Watt. A 5-year, $85 million dollar contract that makes Vernon leave the Miami sunshine for the New Jersey snow. The deal that puts the finishing touches on a completely revamped defensive line. Vernon is a rising star in the NFL, he can do everything and has never missed a game in his 4-year career. He can rush the passer and play the run equally as effective and doesn’t shy away from opponents. In fact, he’s had some of his best performances against some of the elite tackles in the league. What makes Vernon even more special is the fact that he is only 25 years old and entering the prime of his career. He will continue to get better every year and has all the ability to earn the insane amount of cash he is getting paid. Yes the Giants overpaid him a lot, but once again what did you expect? They also had to do it due to the fact that the Jaguars were breathing down their necks, ready to sign him. The Giants got themselves a hard-working guy, an athletic freak, and a very talented player who also has proved a lot in his career. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m super excited to get the chance to see the new defensive line of Vernon on one end, JPP on the other, and an inside consisting of Harrison and Hankins.

Grade: A-

 

LB Keenan Robinson

To finish up the first week of free agency, the Giants finally addressed their empty linebacking unit with the signing of four year veteran Keenan Robinson from the division rival Redskins. They inked him to a 1-year, $3.5 million dollar deal, hoping he will provide a spark and inject some energy to this unit. Robinson is very athletic and has a nose for reading plays, but he has a very lengthy injury history. He has yet to play a full 16-game season, and in 2013 he missed the entire season with a torn pectoral muscle. His best season was by far his 2014 campaign, when he only missed 3 games and notched 109 tackles to go along with 1.5 sacks and an interception. Since then it’s been an up-and-down road for Robinson, battling injuries and losing his starting job. Although this is a low-risk, high-reward type signing, and Robinson can definitely be a pleasant surprise when healthy, I just don’t see why they replace one injury-prone linebacker with another one, as newly-retired Jon Beason often dealt with injuries throughout his career. This could pay off nicely, but there were better options available and I think this is just too risky of a move.

Grade: C+

LB Jasper Brinkley

Continuing to assemble their linebacking core, the Giants re-signed a familiar face; LB Jasper Brinkley. He was signed last offseason after being released by the Cowboys. Intending to serve as a backup and role player at most, Brinkley was asked to do more when injuries plagued the Giants linebackers. When being asked to start, Brinkley actually did a very solid job. He started 9 out of the 15 games he played, and finished the season with 67 tackles to go along with 4 forced fumbles and 1 sack. Brinkley served as a reliable veteran who masked a lot of the holes the defense had. He was a nice pleasant surprise for the Giants, and it’s no surprise the Giants resigned him to a 1-year deal. He and newly-signed Keenan Robinson will fill up the middle linebacker position and provide solid depth to the other linebacking spots.

Grade: B

FB Will Johnson

Finally turning the focus to the offensive side of the ball, the Giants made their first offensive signing when they inked ex-Steeler FB Will Johnson to a 2-year deal. This is an interesting signing with a player I am unfamiliar with. As I looked more into him and what he can bring to the Giants, I became more and more intrigued. Johnson is a guy who is very versatile, and that’s something NFL teams love. Not only can he help tremendously with protecting Eli and the running backs, but he can also play tight end if needed. Also a special teams ace, Johnson is a valuable weapon and should be used a lot of different ways. I guess this means FB Nikita Whitlock will see more snaps on defense, which isn’t a bad thing considering the Giants injury history. Nevertheless, good signing by the Giants.

Grade: B+

OL Ryan Seymour, OL Dillon Farrell

Nothing really special with these signings here. Just two journeymen who have bounced around numerous teams throughout their short careers. They’re competing for backup roles on the offensive line, or they could end up being just two more training camp bodies. Who knows.

Grade: C

LB Kelvin Sheppard

Turning their attention back to defense, the Giants decided to continue to boost their linebackers core with the addition of 6-year veteran Kelvin Sheppard. Sheppard is coming off a career year with Miami in which he recorded 105 tackles and played in all 16 games. He will compete for a starting spot but will most likely be a key rotational player. He is a very solid veteran which makes for a very solid value signing in the second wave of free agency.

Grade: B

 

RB Bobby Rainey

The Giants quickly turned back to offense with he addition of ex-Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey. This is a signing that I’m both confused and not too crazy about. Throughout his career Rainey has never been a big factor in the offense, racking up only 990 rushing yards and 377 receiving yards in five seasons. He had served as a valuable return specialist, but the Gianrs already have one of the best in the league in Dwayne Harris. I just don’t see a role for Rainey on the roster, as the Giants already have four capable running backs ahead of Rainey. Maybe a guy like Andre Williams gets traded for a draft pick? Who knows, but all in all I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rainey not make the roster when final cuts come around.

Grade: C

 

OT Byron Stingily

The Giants finally add an offensive tackle!  He didn’t play a single snap last season, but they still signed an offensive tackle (I say less excitedly). The 27-year old has played in 20 games over his career, only making 9 starts. After a 4-year stint with Tennessee, he joined the Steelers and was supposed to be the backup for OT Kelvin Beachum. When Beachum went down with a torn acl, though, Stingily wasn’t even activated for a single game. He could serve as a decent backup, or maybe he won’t even make the team at all. This was strictly a depth signing.

Grade: C+

 

New York Giants 2016 Mock Draft

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The New York Giants entered the offseason with numerous holes scattered across their roster. When free agency came along a couple of weeks ago, general manager Jerry Reese filled some of the major holes by taking advantage of their loads of cap space and signing some of the top free agents available. They enter the 2016 draft in a much more comfortable position now, but they still have a bunch of holes to fill.

Ever since free agency ended, the majority of Giants mock drafts have shifted from the defensive side of the ball to the offensive side of the ball. They think that a team who finished with the worst defense in all of the NFL last season, after only signing four free agents and still possessing needs on all three levels, can all of a sudden put to rest the need of possibly getting a game-changing talent to solidify the defense in exchange for yet another offensive weapon. Now don’t get me wrong, offensive weapons are essential to have, especially when you have aging quarterback like the Giants do in Eli Manning, but they have enough to the point where they can look to add more weapons in later rounds rather than grabbing someone with the 10th overall pick.

It’s time to put the focus back on defense, the unit that should be the main talk inside the war room when the Giants are on the clock with the 10th pick.

ROUND ONE: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Opening up the draft, the Giants need to attack all areas of the defense, so they’re main focus should be the best defensive guy available. With the first two picks likely to be quarter back thanks to the blockbuster trades, there could be some legitimate studs available. One guy very likely to be there is Hargreaves, who would be the missing piece to complete a stellar group of corner backs. Hargreaves may not have ideal size, but I’ve believed for months now that scouts are making too big of a deal about that. Some of the top corners in the game possess his size or some even shorter, so I think there won’t be much of a problem at all with Hargreaves translating his game to the pros. With the Giants having a great tandem of of DRC and Janoris Jenkins, Hargreaves will only need to play the slot for the first few years of his career. Maybe he can even see some free safety, and he will provide valuable depth that was lacking. He has great coverage ability, elite ball skills, and he is a very physical player. Adding him would be a great addition and make the Giants feel a lot better about having a future replacement when DRC eventually decids to move on.

ROUND TWO: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

The Giants still need to add another pass rusher to complete their totally revamped defensive line. With a top-five talent in Nkemdiche slipping to the second round due to off-the-field concerns, the Giants are ecstatic when they see him available with the 40th pick. If this draft were based solely on talent and ability, Nkemdiche could arguably be the number one overall pick and definitely a top 5 pick. Since he has some concerns off the field, he is expected to take a fall in the draft similar to Randy Gregory last year. Nkemdiche would be the perfect addition to the defensive line. He would raise the defense to a whole new level, and transform the line. He will become an extremely valuable weapon and really help take some of the load off the starters. He also can prove to be a valuable replacement just in case Jonathan Hankins doesn’t get re-signed following this season. He has amazing power, a physical build similar to that of JJ Watt, and freakish athletic ability. Picture this Giants fans, a defensive line consisting of JPP and Vernon on the ends, Harrison and Hankins in the middle, and a clean Nkemdiche plus a healthy Owa in the rotation. Yeah, I’m smiling too.

ROUND THREE: Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech

The Giants will definitely find themselves a right tackle in the first three rounds, and I think round three is the best time. They need defense first and foremost, and with the luck they’ve had with their first two picks, I’m sure they are happy to wait till now. With Le’Raven Clark still sitting there, Jerry Reese and the Giants are counting their blessings. Clark, standing at 6’5″ 316 lbs, possesses ideal size and physical build. He has great quickness and instincts, and was very productive in both run and pass blocking. He can play either tackle spot and will get better every year. He can start from day 1 and grow alongside the rest of this young offensive line to become an elite tackle. Clark really has Pro Bowl potential, and while it is rare he will be available this late, every mock draft has to have a surprise or two. If the Giants first three pick go like this, nobody will be complaining.

ROUND FOUR: Keyarris Garrett, WR, Tulsa

Even though I’m confident the Giants will add a veteran wideout after the draft, they desperately need to find their future number 2 wide receiver with the VIctor Cruz uncertainty. They need somebody who possess great size and good hands that will draw double teams and compliment Odell beautifully. Keyarris Garrett is the perfect guy for this. Standing at 6’3″ 220 lbs, he has the size scouts drool over. He also possess the ability to go up and snatch footballs out of the air. He will almost certaintly draw double teams from time to time, especially in the red zone. He will give defensive coordinators somebody else to worry about, and will grow and get better every year. Drawing lots of similarities to Calvin Johnson coming out of college, Garrett has the chance to be a very productive wideout in the NFL.

ROUND FIVE: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

Ah, Jaylon Smith. The Giants, after filling four big needs with their first four picks, are able to sit back and take a guy who is the biggest mystery in the draft, but could also be the biggest steal of the draft. Despite his injury he was most likely projected to be a late first, early second round pick, but mocks have him scattered all over. With his most recent medical check not showing any signs of improvement, I think there will just be too much uncertainty and teams will become afraid to take him due to the multiple injuries and nerve damage he currently has. I could honestly see Smith lasting until day three of the draft, and NFL.com has him projected to go in rounds 5-6. So nobody really knows. Nevertheless, if this happens the Giants could very well have snag a future All-pro at linebacker. He very well could have been the first overall pick if he didn’t have the injury. Drawing comparisons to Luke Keuchly, Khalil Mack, and Derrick Johnson to name a few, Smith could pay off immensly for the team that takes him. He has great size and build at 6’2″ 223 lbs, is extremely versatile, and has jaw-dropping ahtleticism to go along with amazing explosiveness. They may have to wait a year, but that’s such a small price to pay when you get the next great NFL linebacker in the fifth round.

ROUND SIX: Landon Turner, OG, North Carolina

To close out an extremely productive draft, the Giants add some much needed depth to their offensive line, and someone who can compete for that starting right guard spot. Turner, 6’4″ 330 lbs, has electrifying force centering around his insane lower body. He simply demolishes his blockers, and really makes sure he finishes the job. He is improving in his pass protection, but still has lots of room for improvement at that area. With Bobby Hart looking promising, Turner can play a backup role and get used to the system to maybe one day become a starter. This could be a nice value pick in the late rounds of the draft and pay off pretty well.