Season Review: Where Do Giants Go Following Brutal End To 2016?
By Curt Macysyn
Where do we go from here? Usually at the end of the season, teams are clearly moving ahead or falling behind, but this group of Giants is not easily evaluated.
Coming into the season, no one knew what to reasonably expect. Big Blue had a new, untested head coach in Ben McAdoo, as well as a roster full of newbies. In September, most fans would have been happy with an 11-5 record and beating the Dallas Cowboys twice. But a 38-13 blasting by the Green Bay Packers on Wild Card Weekend has many folks scratching their collectives heads to figure out whether the team overachieved in the regular season, or underachieved in the playoffs.
The Odell Beckham Story
Act III of the Odell Beckham Story began to wear thin for Giants' fans. Yes, Beckham had top-notch statistics again in 2016, and for the first time he played in all 16 regular season games. His 101 receptions were a career high, but Beckham's 13.5 yards per catch and 10 touchdowns catches were both career lows.
OBJ had only one huge game this season, and that came against the Baltimore Ravens when he recorded eight receptions for 222 yards and two touchdowns. More than the Ravens' contest, Beckham will be remembered for his temper tantrums against the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings, kicking the practice net, banging his head against the wall in Philadelphia and (allegedly) punching a hole in the wall at Green Bay. Oh, and lest we forget, there was also the Miami party boat excursion and running on the field shirtless in Green Bay.
All Beckham could muster against the Packers was four catches and 28 receiving yards. Not only did Beckham incessantly call attention to himself throughout the season, but he also came up small in the Giants' playoff game. Where he goes from here is anyone's guess right now.
Ben McAdoo's First Season As Coach
Taking this cast of characters to the playoffs should earn McAdoo some respect, but it likely will not. McAdoo was handed a bag of garbage right out of the gate when he had to vouch for kicker Josh Brown's roster spot. Both co-owner John Mara and general manager Jerry Reese were no where to be found when Brown's ugly domestic history finally came to light. To his credit, McAdoo tried to answer the questions.
Later in the season, McAdoo had to deflect questions about the wide receiver party boat, which he tried to make into a non-story. In addition, McAdoo heard continued criticism of his play-calling, despite the 11 wins and a wholly deficient offensive roster (more on that later). In these circles, the only criticism that should be lobbed his way is the continued sheltering of players, some of whom, quite frankly, cannot get out of their own way.
Deficient Roster Makes The Playoffs
General manager Jerry Reese took an bad defense and made it a contender in 2016 with the acquisitions of Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins in free agency. New York ranked second in the league in rushing defense (88.2 yards per game) and points per game surrendered (17.2). Big Blue's defense was hitting on all cylinders before star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul went down with a sports hernia. Undrafted free agent rookie Romeo Okwara filled in admirably, but the lack of depth would continue to bite the Giants in the rear end.
Offensively, the team continued to rely on tight end Larry Donnell, until it could not stand his play any longer. Second-year pro Will Tye was certainly more productive than Donnell, but he was also hit or miss all season. Rookie sixth-round draft pick Jerrell Adams continues to be a work in progress. Another second-year man, Ereck Flowers, continued to prove that he cannot be considered a suitable left tackle, as he graded out to be one of the worst offensive linemen in football.
Journeymen Marshall Newhouse and John Jerry continued to flounder on the line as well, and all Reese did was bring in Will Beatty, who did not contribute at all. Will Canadian-import Brett Jones get a shot at offensive guard next season? And New York curiously decided to go without a fullback when incumbent Nikita Whitlock was injured in training camp. That was clearly a mistake.
The Bright Side
The play of Vernon, Jenkins and Harrison give the Giants hope for a dominant defense in 2017. But first-round draft pick Eli Apple will need to improve on his rookie campaign. Ditto for Sterling Shepard, who was boldly predicted in many circles to be a 1,000-yard man in his initial NFL season. Shepard had good production, but needs to improve in case Victor Cruz is not retained.
Veteran linebacker Keenan Robinson's game came around later in the season, but he is an impending free agent, as is Pierre-Paul. One huge off season question revolves around the re-signing of JPP, which is anything but assured right now. Running back Paul Perkins got his feet wet as the featured back later in the season, and he should be in line to start in 2017. Meanwhile, veteran halfbacks Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen may be given a one-way ticket out of town.
What To Expect In 2017
Making the playoffs after a four-year hiatus should have made 2016 a successful campaign, yet once again, Big Blue has more questions than answers heading into the offseason. Questions abound: Will the team re-sign Pierre-Paul? Will receiver Cruz restructure his contract again, or will he simply be cut? Can Perkins step up and be the starter at running back? Should New York trade draft picks to bring in someone like Cleveland left tackle Joe Thomas? And, most importantly: Can Beckham mature into a leadership role?
Veteran quarterback Eli Manning just turned 36 years old, and he does not have much tread left on the tires. Can Reese put the right pieces around Manning to get the Giants to another Super Bowl? And will McAdoo give up play-calling next season?
This much is clear: The Giants have enough personnel to make another playoff run in 2017. Only time will tell if they have the pedigree to take their game to the next level.
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