New York Giants: Justin Pugh

Mel Kiper Jr.'s third mock draft Insider of the offseason is out, and once again he has an offensive lineman going to the New York Giants at No. 9. But this time it's Stanford's Andrus Peat instead of Iowa's Brandon Scherff, and I'm intrigued by the change because I think there's a big difference in the kind of pick that would be for the Giants.

Scherff is the offensive lineman you take if you're the Giants and you want a guy who can start right away at guard or possibly right tackle (if you want to move Justin Pugh to guard). If you're looking at what Dallas did last season with first-rounder Zack Martin and you want some of that All-Pro goodness, Scherff is where you're putting your chips.

But if you have the No. 9 pick and you want to make sure you use it on a player who can become a franchise cornerstone at a position of significant value, Peat makes more sense. He might not be the run-blocking mauler Scherff is, but the Giants can probably find that in free agency, whether it's a guard or a right tackle. Peat is an upside guy. If he starts at right tackle as a rookie, he's not likely to be a liability in pass protection, and he's the kind of guy who could potentially develop into a franchise left tackle once they're done with Will Beatty. And if that's the case, then he feels a lot more like a top 10 pick than a guy like Scherff, who might always be an NFL guard.

Part of me still finds it hard to believe Jerry Reese takes an offensive lineman at No. 9 if guys like Amari Cooper, Trae Waynes, Danny Shelton, DeVante Parker, and Arik Armstead are still on the board at No. 9, as they are in Mel's mock. Reese loves those electric playmakers, and though committing another high-end resource to wide receiver doesn't seem like a great roster-management decision, the Giants aren't picking No. 9 because they have been shrewd roster-managers over the past half-decade. When push comes to shove, I still think Reese is the kind of GM who falls in love with the flash in the first round instead of making the duller, more sensible pick.

But if the Giants are thinking about a long-term foundation on the offensive line -- as they absolutely should be -- then Peat would be a fine choice at No. 9.
The New York Giants didn't know what to expect from center J.D. Walton when they signed him last year to a two-year contract. Walton had missed the entire 2013 season and almost all of 2012 due to ankle injuries. And after the Giants picked Colorado State center Weston Richburg early in the second round of last year's draft, there was no guarantee that Walton would even make the team, let alone start.

But Chris Snee's retirement and Geoff Schwartz's preseason toe injury created holes at both guard spots, and the Giants needed Richburg to play left guard and Walton to play center, which he did for all 16 of their games in 2014.

Walton's reward for finally staying healthy and avoiding the Giants' injured reserve bug? The Giants released him Monday in a move that clears $3 million in 2015 cap room and the way for Richburg to take over as their starting center in 2015.

Richburg, journeyman Dallas Reynolds and Canadian import Brett Jones are the only centers on the roster right now. And while it's possible the Giants could look to add someone at that position and either keep Richburg at guard or make him compete for the starting spot, they drafted Richburg to be their center of the future, and he's likely ready to take over now.

Releasing Walton leaves the Giants with $28,608,930 in cap room, though $14.813 million of that will vanish as soon as defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul signs his franchise player tender. They will be on the lookout for offensive linemen in free agency and/or the draft as they work on getting tougher run-blockers this offseason. Walton did a good job helping establish and administer the new offense from his position, but he too often got overpowered in the run game, and they're looking for stronger players up front going forward. Schwartz's return should help solidify one of the guard spots, and they'll look either for another guard or a right tackle who would allow them to move Justin Pugh inside to play guard.
Todd McShay's latest mock draft is out, and he's sticking with Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff to the New York Giants at No. 9 in the first round.

We've been over Scherff before, because this isn't the first mock draft in which he's shown up at No. 9. The Giants are looking for run-blocking help on the offensive line. Scherff is a player who could potentially start right away at right tackle and move 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh inside to guard. He's also a player who could play either guard spot right away if they decided to keep Pugh at tackle. He makes a lot of sense for the Giants as a long-term building block, and his versatility and willingness to play any position are appealing.

At the combine last week, I was there when Scherff had his news conference, and I posted these five things we learned about him that day. He was engaging and funny and appealing. I'm certain he makes a strong impression in interviews as well as on tape.

The question is whether an offensive lineman who doesn't project as a franchise left tackle is worth taking with a pick as high as the one the Giants hold this year. And I guarantee you, if the Giants are looking at Scherff as the draft gets closer, that's a question the Giants will be asking themselves. As obvious as a problem as their long-term neglect of the line has been for them, it's still very difficult for GM Jerry Reese and the Giants to change the way they've always done things -- especially when it comes to the value they assign to certain positions. Pugh is the only first-round offensive lineman they've drafted in the past 15 years, and that's not a coincidence. They believe they can find good value at those positions later in the draft.

So my reaction to Todd's latest mock is pretty much in line with my past reactions to the Scherff pick. I think it would be a very smart and useful pick for the Giants to make, but looking at the names of the next four players taken in this mock -- two wide receivers, a pass-rusher and a cornerback -- I find it hard to believe Reese would take a right tackle/guard at No. 9 instead of one of the more dynamic names that likely occupy similar locations on his draft board.

Countdown to Combine: New York Giants OL

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
A closer look at the areas the New York Giants could address in the draft. We'll look today at the offensive line, which is scheduled to work out Friday in Indianapolis.

Position of need: Offensive line. They made improvements here last offseason, and assuming Geoff Schwartz returns from his injuries, that will help again. But the Giants are determined to improve their run blocking, and they're looking at all options. They could find a big, mauling right tackle and move Justin Pugh inside to guard, or they could beef up in the interior of the line. The versatility of players like Schwartz, Pugh and Weston Richburg means the Giants don't have to limit themselves to specific positions in their search for line help. They can just look for the best possible player.

Three players the Giants could target in the draft:

Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa: The only issue with Scherff is that, as was the case two years ago with Pugh, many believe he's better suited to play guard than tackle at the NFL level. And No. 9 overall may be too high to take a guard. So it comes down to the Giants' sense of Scherff's long-term value versus their needs. He'd immediately upgrade the run game at either position. But if they see him as a guard long-term, their first-round pick might come too early for them to pull the trigger.

Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami: At 6-foot-6, 325, Flowers absolutely profiles as a tackle -- possibly even a high-end, pass-protecting left tackle down the road. He'd be more of a project than an immediate helper for the Giants, and they could look his way if they believe they've addressed their immediate needs in free agency. The Giants haven't done a great job developing their project linemen in recent years (a major source of their current woes), but Flowers has first-round talent and may not need that much time.

Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke: One of the stars of the Senior Bowl, Tomlinson would be more of a mid-round pick if the Giants were looking for a smart, experienced player who could shore up the interior of the offensive line (think Richburg last year). He's 6-foot-3, 323 pounds and started for four years at Duke, where he majored in psychology and evolutionary anthropology.
Still almost three months until the NFL draft, but less than a couple weeks until the scouting combine, so you know mock draft season is in full effect. Todd McShay has his second mock draft of the year out today Insider, and the player he has listed going to the New York Giants at No. 9 is Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff.

It's an Insider piece, so I can't give you the whole thing, but the line you'll like is the one where he says Scherff "is perfectly wired to be a New York Giants offensive lineman. He's durable, tough, strong and nasty."

I've been writing for years that the Giants need to commit more of their high-end resources to their offensive line, so if they take a lineman at No. 9, obviously I would consider that a good long-term move. But my hunch is that they will try to find a free-agent tackle, move Justin Pugh inside to guard, then attack defense early in the draft, either with a pass-rusher or a safety.

The market dictates these things, though, and if they can't find their offensive line answers in free agency, they do bring back Jason Pierre-Paul and do better on defense in free agency than they expect to do, then they could find themselves looking for a first-round offensive lineman come draft time. Never a bad play, in my humble opinion.

Twitter mailbag: Free-agency thoughts

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
Behold! The answers to your #nygmail-hashtagged questions in the weekly exercise we like to call... The New York Giants Twitter mailbag.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Well, as a Bills fan, you'll be happy to learn that Marcell Dareus is not a free agent, since the Bills picked up the 2015 contract option on their 2011 first-round pick last spring. But pass-rusher Jerry Hughes and running back C.J. Spiller are free agents, and both are interesting names for the Giants. Hughes is among the top pass-rushers available on the free-agent market, assuming Buffalo lets him hit that market, along with the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul. I wouldn't expect the Giants to try to sign both of those players, as they'd be over-committing financially at one position to do it, so my guess would be Hughes is a high-end option who would only be on their radar if they decided to let Pierre-Paul leave. As for Spiller, he interests me a lot. I wrote last week about one of the ways in which the Giants plan to upgrade their run game -- namely, by signing offensive linemen who can upgrade their run-blocking. But I also expect them to pursue a change-of-pace running back to fill the role they had planned for David Wilson last season, and Spiller's speed and elusiveness put him in that category along with players such as New England's Shane Vereen and Atlanta's Antone Smith and Jacquizz Rodgers. Depending on what the market will bear -- and I highly doubt anyone's going to be paying Spiller feature-back money -- he could land on the Giants' radar for sure.

@DanGrazianoESPN: They will definitely make an effort to sign Pierre-Paul long-term. And if they can't get that done, they may well use the franchise player designation on him to hold him in place for one year at around $15 millon. Otherwise ... uh ... I don't know. Antrel Rolle, if he'll cut them a deal (which I kind of think he won't)? Stevie Brown and Mike Patterson if they're still cheap? Jacquian Williams if his concussion symptoms are cleared up? Mark Herzlich is part of the furniture, and I'd guess he returns. But the Giants' didn't have the kind of defensive season that makes you scream, "Bring everybody back!!!" The most interesting one to me is Walter Thurmond, as I wonder what his price is going to turn out to be after he signed a one-year, prove-it deal and went down with a season-ending injury in Week 2. I know they like him, but it's possible the injury has changed their mind on whether he's their nickel corner of the future.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I would think it's safety, because whatever you or I may think of Will Beatty and Justin Pugh as starting NFL tackles, they have proven they can be that. Yes, I think the Giants can upgrade at both of those spots, but if they have to go with Beatty and Pugh as their starting tackles, they believe they can get the job done. But right now, the only two safeties on the roster are 2013 fifth-round pick Cooper Taylor and 2014 fifth-round pick Nat Berhe. It'd be a huge bonus if even one of those guys played his way into a starting role in 2015, and to expect both of them to do it would be folly. (And even if they did, they'll need at least one backup, right?) In the recent past, the Giants used a first-round pick on Kenny Phillips and signed Rolle to a five-year, free-agent deal, so we know they have a history of using major resources on safety. I believe they have a crying need at that position, whether they bring back Rolle or not, and I expect them to be big-game hunters when it comes to safety this offseason.

@DanGrazianoESPN: The Giants' problems on the offensive line are the result of years of neglect. They ignored the line at the top of the draft for more than a decade before taking Pugh in the first round two years ago. And adding Geoff Schwartz as a free agent and Weston Richburg as a second-round pick last year didn't solve the underlying problem, which is that they have failed to draft and develop offensive line talent for years now. Beatty is being paid as a franchise left tackle but doesn't always perform like one. He was a second-round pick. But mid-rounders such as James Brewer never developed, the pipeline got dry, and they've spent the past couple of years trying to play catch-up. Unless you commit significant high-end resources to the line (as the Cowboys have, taking a lineman in the first round in three of the past four years) or develop one and let it mesh together for a period of time, you can't expect consistently dominant production there. The great Giants line of Diehl/Snee/O'Hara/Seubert/McKenzie carried them for a long time, but once those guys got old, the Giants did a rotten job of re-stocking their positions, and they are obviously paying the price.

Thanks for all of your questions. Enjoy the Super Bowl. We'll be back next week.

Possible Giants' run game targets

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
One of the New York Giants' top priorities this offseason will be to improve their run game, and they're likely to address it in free agency. But while many of you want to talk about which running backs the Giants will target, I think you may be missing the point. The Giants like running backs Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. And while they may go out and look for a veteran running back who can augment that pair and possibly help in the passing game, their primary focus is to improve the run-blocking effectiveness of their offensive line.

While the Giants plan to have Will Beatty back as their starting left tackle, Weston Richburg back as either a guard or (they hope) their starting center, Geoff Schwartz healthy and back to play one of the guard spots and Justin Pugh back as either a guard or right tackle, don't be surprised if the Giants add multiple pieces on their offensive line. Part of their issue there the past couple of years has been a lack of depth, and they don't want to keep getting caught short on the line.

With that in mind, here's a very short, partial list of potential offensive line targets in free agency:

Joe Barksdale, Rams tackle: This is a 6-foot-5, 326-pound giant who just turned 27 three weeks ago. He graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 10 tackle (and No. 3 right tackle) in run-blocking in 2014. If the Giants' plan is to get a mauling right tackle who would allow them to move Pugh inside to a guard spot, this is a guy to watch -- assuming the Rams let him hit the market, which is no certainty.

Bryan Bulaga, Packers tackle: Grades out better in pass protection, but he's no slouch as a run-blocker. Former first-round pick turns 26 in March and could leave Green Bay if the bidding for his services gets out of their preferred price range.

Doug Free, Cowboys tackle: He has rebounded from a rotten 2012 with two strong seasons at right tackle for Dallas, and was a big part of the league's No. 2 rush offense in 2014. But Free is 31 and therefore a bit older than the Giants' preferred free agents tend to be.

Orlando Franklin, Broncos guard: He has played tackle and guard in his career, and the Giants like that versatility in their linemen. Franklin is 27 years old, which makes him appealing as well.

Mike Iupati, 49ers guard: Turns 28 in May. Graded out as PFF's No. 2 run-blocking guard in 2014. Likely to be in demand.

Clint Boling, Bengals guard: He is quite young, as his 26th birthday is not until May. At 6-foot-5, 310, he's a bit smaller than those first two guards I listed.
If it's Saturday, it's New York Giants Twitter mailbag. And it's Saturday, so here you go.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I do think it would make sense to move Justin Pugh to guard and find a big-time, mauling, run-blocking right tackle. I have thought that for a couple of years now, and based on the comments the Giants' decision-makers made on the radio earlier this week, it sounds as though they believe it now as well. And your plan -- to find a tackle in free agency and not leave it for the draft -- is likely to be the one they pursue. I believe in the value of building the line through the draft, but at the No. 9 pick it does not appear as though there's going to be a must-take tackle for the Giants this year. There are some interesting tackle names on the free-agent market (Doug Free? Bryan Bulaga? Joe Barksdale?), and it's possible the Giants have their eye on one of them. If they can't upgrade at right tackle, they're fine with Pugh there and could beef up at guard again instead. But it sounds to me as though they'll be in the tackle market, yes. And I think they should be. @DanGrazianoESPN: It's certainly not impossible that the Giants could re-sign free agents Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle, but the chances depend on a number of things. First and foremost is price. If Pierre-Paul is determined to max out as a free agent (which I believe he is), then the Giants would either let him leave or franchise him. If they franchised him, there would be less money for Rolle, who also believes he's worth a lucrative free-agent deal and could leave if they lowball him the way they did Justin Tuck last year. Their best chance for keeping both is that at least one of them gives some sort of "hometown discount." They're not likely to get that from Pierre-Paul. But as a 32-year-old safety, Rolle might not find the market for which he's hoping and could decide staying with the Giants at their price is the best option for finishing his career. @DanGrazianoESPN: A return to full health for wide receiver Victor Cruz is not guaranteed. But if he does make one then his return to the offense would help Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the offense immensely. I do not think Beckham's role would change at all, and if he continued to play at the level at which he played in 2014, he would continue to pile up targets and catches. But offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo had big plans for Cruz before his season-ending injury last year, and having Cruz back as the slot receiver could make things even easier for Beckham as defenses had someone else who required their attention. Cruz is a guy the Giants feel they can use in a role similar to the one in which the Packers use Randall Cobb -- move him around the formation, line him up in the backfield, etc. And having Beckham as the threat he represents on the outside would enable them to maximize those options. Cruz and Beckham played only one full game together in 2014. As for the "odd man out," good question. Assuming Rueben Randle as the No. 3 (which I think is a fair assumption), they have a fair bit of depth with guys such as Marcus Harris (assuming he comes back from his injury), Corey Washington and Preston Parker and Kevin Ogletree if they bring those guys back. They were surprised by what Parker delivered for them this year, and they view him and Ogletree as good fits for their offense. Wide receiver could be a position of good depth for the Giants if Cruz does return. @DanGrazianoESPN: I don't think so. If we go back to the Packers comparison (which I think we should always do when talking about the new Giants offense), they really haven't had a high-impact passing-threat tight end recently, right? Jermichael Finley for a time, maybe, but not lately. The Giants (a) don't like to spend big resources on tight end and (b) really like Larry Donnell as a high-ceiling developmental player. They believe that another productive offseason will help Donnell make another leap and emerge as a major threat in their passing game. But even if he doesn't, they showed this year that he can be useful as-is, and as we discussed above, they might have more than enough options at wide receiver.

Thanks for all of your questions.
Mel Kiper's first mock draft of 2015 has the New York Giants selecting Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff with the No. 9 pick in the first round.

It's obviously still way too early to know anything for certain at this point, but Mel's reasoning on Scherff sounds like the kind of reasoning that would appeal to the Giants. Some project Scherff as a guard at the NFL level, but the same was said two years ago about Syracuse's Justin Pugh, whom the Giants drafted in the first round and started at right tackle for his first two seasons in the league.

The Giants' specific offensive line needs are unclear at this point. In their radio interviews Tuesday, coach Tom Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese indicated that there had been some talk of finding a dominating tackle and moving Pugh inside to guard. But Pugh's position flexibility as well as Weston Richburg's and Geoff Schwartz's, allow the Giants to keep their options open.

The Giants need to do better in the run game, and that starts up front, where they struggled mightily with their run blocking in 2014.

You know me. I was the one arguing for Zack Martin over Odell Beckham Jr. last year when the Giants were picking No. 12. But you also know Jerry Reese, who admitted in his radio interview with WFAN in New York on Tuesday that he had Beckham and Martin ranked close together but will always take the dynamic playmaker over the lineman in such a scenario. Given the way the first eight picks of Mel's mock fell, Scherff looks like a solid pick for the Giants at No. 9. But if they think he's a guard, they may decide that's too high to take him, and the guy still on Mel's board who jumps out to me as a Reese-type pick at this spot would be Louisville wide receiver Devante Parker. And if they didn't want to take a wide receiver in the top 12 two years in a row, maybe a pass-rusher like Clemson's Vic Beasley.

Again, long way to go with this stuff.

For Kiper’s complete analysis of the Giants' pick and the entire first round, click here .
The Dallas Cowboys, the first NFC East team to win a playoff game since the New York Giants won Super Bowl XLVI, are no fluke.

Their 12-4 regular-season record included an 8-0 road record, and while they shouldn't be favored in next week's divisional playoff game in Green Bay, they're not likely to be an easy out. After three straight 8-8 seasons in which they lost a division title game on the final day, the Cowboys this year broke through to join the ranks of the NFL's top teams. No team in the league won more games.

Along with the ridiculous sight of New Jersey's governor/climber trying to butt in on a celebratory hug between Stephen and Jerry Jones at the end of Sunday's playoff victory over Detroit, the Cowboys' resurgence likely eats at Giants fans who hate that team and the fact it's on to the second round while the Giants sit out the playoffs for the third year in a row. But while you may not like hearing it, the Cowboys offer the Giants and the rest of the NFL a pretty good team-building road map.

[+] EnlargeCowboys
AP Photo/James D SmithThe Giants could stand to borrow a page from the Cowboys and build a better offensive line.
This is a Cowboys team that has demonstrated patience and resilience. The three years that preceded this one were fraught with cries for the firing of coach Jason Garrett, arguments about the merits of releasing young wide receiver Dez Bryant when he found trouble off the field, and the requisite jokes about Tony Romo choking in the clutch and Jerry Jones' impatience and meddling. But through it all, the Cowboys stuck with a plan that didn't appear to anyone else to be working. Jones believed in Garrett, tried any number of different assistant-coach arrangements before Scott Linehan came in this year and unlocked things, and stood by Bryant when others might have chosen not to do so. He is being rewarded now with a playoff run after three straight years of disappointment.

Next season will tell whether it was wise for the Giants to keep Tom Coughlin and to keep his staff intact, but regardless of whether they're better off staying put, one thing about the Cowboys' model that should stand out to them is the way they've built their roster over the past half-decade -- specifically up front on offense.

The Cowboys went 29 years without picking an offensive lineman in the first round before taking Tyron Smith at No. 9 overall in 2011. This was not a coincidence. It was a deep-rooted organization belief that the value of using a first-round pick on an offensive lineman wasn't justified. But it showed, and as the Cowboys amassed impressive offensive skill-position talent year after year, offensive line issues continually sunk their seasons. Smith was a great value pick at a position of tremendous need in 2011, and they pulled the trigger.

The following year, they goofed and traded their first-round and second-round picks to move up and take cornerback Morris Claiborne. But in the two years that followed, they went big again, moving down to take center Travis Frederick at No. 31 in 2013 (and picking up Terrance Williams with the extra third-rounder they got out of that deal) and taking Zack Martin at No. 16 last year.

The result is a monster offensive line that gives them the confidence to run the ball with authority even when they fall behind in big games and to protect Romo for six or seven seconds if that's what he needs to throw the game-winning touchdown pass. The Cowboys' offense is still loaded with big-time playmakers, but now it's built to control games and to allow its playcaller to stick with the plan for the full 60 minutes. These are major advantages, and Dallas' 5-1 record against the Giants the last three years has offered plenty of game-by-game evidence of the growing difference between the teams.

The Giants are starting to get the message. They went 13 years without taking a first-round lineman before taking Justin Pugh at No. 19 in 2013. But their current projected 2015 starters still include only Pugh, second-rounders Will Beatty and Weston Richburg and free-agent signees Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton. They continue to seek patchwork solutions at a place on the roster where it's clear they need more elite talent. Beatty is fine, but I don't think "fine" is what you're looking for in a left tackle these days. He's clearly the No. 4 left tackle in his own division behind three Pro Bowlers, and there's little doubt they could upgrade there.

Obviously, Odell Beckham Jr. was the right call for the Giants at No. 12 last year. Martin could have slotted in nicely and been a big help, but Beckham gives them a big-play wide receiver threat the Cowboys already had in Bryant. After Beckham's rookie season performance, there's no second-guessing that particular pick.

Going forward, however, the Giants would do well to at least check out the model the Cowboys have put together over the past four years, realize the manner in which it's working, and think about investing some major resources in that offensive line for a change.
The end of the New York Giants' season does not mean the end of the weekly Twitter mailbag, oh no it most certainly does not. We have not yet begun to Twitbag or whatever.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Based on what we heard at the postseason news conferences Tuesday, it sounds as though the Giants have not ruled out using the franchise player designation on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. The price is very high -- likely around $15 million -- but other than that the move makes sense if the Giants want Pierre-Paul back next year but are too worried about committing to him long-term. They have very real reasons to worry about that long-term deal, given the injury issues he had in 2012 and 2013 and the uneven nature of his performance in 2014. Pierre-Paul is looking to cash in with a big deal, and it may be tough for the Giants to compete for his services if they allow him to hit the open market. If Pierre-Paul realizes that his performance to date doesn't merit a top-five pass-rusher deal, it's likely he and the Giants can work something out before they have to make a decision about franchising him. But if he's determined to hit the market and see what he can get, then franchising him may be their best bet for keeping him in 2015. I don't see them using the franchise player designation on Rolle, but I do think they will be able to work out a deal with him.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I expect the secondary to be among the top offseason areas of focus for the Giants this year, along with the offensive and defensive lines. But the second part of your question is key, because they may decide to address the secondary simply by bringing back the guys they had this year and hope they stay healthy. Just because Walter Thurmond tore a pectoral muscle in Week 2 doesn't mean the Giants think any less of his abilities as a nickel cornerback, and the injury might help them bring him back relatively cheaply. They have Prince Amukamara's $7 million option picked up already, but they can negotiate around and get the 2015 cost down if they want to, and Amukamara was having a strong season before his biceps tear. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played hurt all year, and he'll surely be back. If they can keep that threesome healthy in 2015 and address safety, they should have a strong secondary. The law of averages says they can't possibly have as many defensive back injuries next year as they did this year. Right? Right???

@DanGrazianoESPN: They have to address the pass rush. If they bring back Pierre-Paul, they need to find another piece for the other side to go with Robert Ayers, because Mathis Kiwanuka is unlikely to be back. Kerry Wynn showed promise late in the season, and there's still hope that Damontre Moore can figure some things out and make use of his considerable natural ability. But I would expect the Giants to add at least one veteran pass-rusher, and if they can't bring back Pierre-Paul, more than one. On the offensive line, they'll surely bring back tackles Will Beatty and Justin Pugh, and the expected return of Geoff Schwartz from his injury-wrecked season would solidify one of the guard spots. From there, it's a matter of deciding whether Weston Richburg's future is at guard or center (they thought center when they drafted him last year) and adding a guard or center who's an upgrade over John Jerry or J.D. Walton. From where I sit, there's more work to do on the defensive line than there is on the offensive one, but that doesn't mean they should ignore opportunities to upgrade on the offensive line if they have one. I'm not super-high on Beatty as the answer at left tackle, and if I were the Giants and had the chance to take a potential franchise tackle at No. 9, I'd do it.

@DanGrazianoESPN: The case for keeping Perry Fewell as defensive coordinator is the same as the case for keeping Tom Coughlin as head coach. You do it if you like the way he coaches and can't come up with a clearly better option. There's a comfort level with Fewell, ample explanation (injuries, years of poor drafts) for why the defense struggled this year, and the knowledge (based on experience) that he can win for you if the right circumstances and pieces fall into place. The Giants don't like to fire coaches if they don't have to. They believe in continuity in positions of leadership. And if Coughlin thinks it's a win-or-else year in 2015, why shouldn't he stick with the people he picked and in whom he believes? I don't know what will happen with Fewell, and it's entirely possible that the Giants could announce next week that he's being replaced. But that's not the way the wind was blowing at week's end, and it's not as though they don't have reasons to keep him if that's what they decide to do.

Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy the playoff games. 
Mailbag time. You use the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter with your Giants question, I answer on Saturday morning.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Here's what I believe about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. I think the Giants' decision-makers view him as head coach material and believe he could be their head coach at some point in the future. He is only 37 years old and just now getting to the end of his first season ever as a coordinator at any level, so it's hard to have complete confidence that he could handle the job if they gave it to him right now. But what they've seen from him in his first year has not injured their perception of him or his prospects, so he remains a consideration as a possible replacement for Tom Coughlin at some point in the future when they or Coughlin decide it's time to make a change. However, the Giants understand that putting a "succession plan" in place or having a "coach-in-waiting" in the NFL is a tough business because so much can change in a short period of time. What if the offense tanks next year? What if McAdoo gets a job somewhere else first? And so on. So while McAdoo is on their list of potential Coughlin replacements down the road, he's not alone on that list. I guess since you asked what the front office "wants," it's probably that Coughlin coaches for several more seasons during which the Giants have plenty of success and, if McAdoo's still on the staff when Coughlin's time here ends, maybe he gets the promotion. They do like him a lot.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Early returns on GM Jerry Reese's 2014 draft are pretty good. Obviously, first-round pick Odell Beckham doesn't just look like a future star, he actually is a present star. Second-rounder Weston Richburg will end up starting 15 of the 16 games at left guard, and while he's had his struggles, he has also improved and could be a long-range answer at center if he continues to improve. Fourth-rounder Andre Williams has had a couple of 100-yard rushing games, and fifth-rounder Devon Kennard is a valuable contributor at linebacker who already has an NFC Defensive Player of the Week award on his resume. So you're right to like the contributions the Giants have gotten from their rookies this year, and obviously if those guys continue to play and produce at their current levels, this ends up looking like a good draft -- maybe even the best one Reese has had, though that's not necessarily saying much. The key is, of course, how they continue to play and develop. A year ago, everyone was happy with Justin Pugh following his rookie year at right tackle. But Pugh's struggles this year are an example of why we can't always assume a strong rookie year guarantees long-range success. And you can't assess a draft after only one season.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I believe the Giants and veteran safety Antrel Rolle will be able to find common ground on a contract for Rolle to return. I don't see the market opening up for a 32-year-old safety, regardless of Rolle's impressive durability and his evolution as an on-field and off-field leader. He's the kind of guy who likely has more value to the Giants than he would to another team at this point, so I think their offer will reflect that and he'll end up taking it. Will it be for the three more years he says he wants to play? Hard to say. But my hunch is they can work something out.

As for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the entire thing is going to be market-driven. If there's a hungry free-agent market for Pierre-Paul as a still-young/now-healthy pass-rusher, the Giants could get priced out. Not because they don't have the money or cap room, but because the Giants' method with their own free agents is to assign a value and stick with it or close to it. If Pierre-Paul's price goes beyond what the Giants believe he's worth, I believe he'll take the highest offer and go elsewhere. But with Mathias Kiwanuka likely on his way out and Damontre Moore continuing to struggle with his development and maturity, the Giants need to find an impact pass-rusher on this year's market, whether it's Pierre-Paul or someone else. And it's the kind of position on which they don't mind spending money.

@DanGrazianoESPN: The Giants actually believe Williams has improved in both of those areas as this season has gone along. He spends a ton of time after practice each day catching balls off the JUGS machine, and they trust him more in the passing game than they did in September and October. Assuming continued improvement there, they'll feel good about him in the passing game next year if they need to lean on him there. Where Williams has been a bit of a disappointment is in his actual running of the ball. The Giants would like to see him be more patient and find the holes, rather than running as hard as he can to the hole before it has opened up. Some of that can be helped with improvements on the offensive line, but Williams needs to develop better trust and timing with his blockers in order to have success next year and beyond. As veteran running back Rashad Jennings tells Williams when tutoring him, he needs to be "quick through the hole, as opposed to quick to the hole." Williams is a part of the plans for next year, for sure, but at this point I doubt they view him as a surefire, carry-the-load starter.

Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy the final weekend of the regular season.

No, I don't know who's getting fired. No one does. But I'm happy to take your New York Giants questions if you used the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week, and then we'll get into all of that other stuff three-four weeks from now, mkay? Cool.

@DanGrazianoESPN: It's just such a major move, right? It's one thing for Washington to bench Robert Griffin III, who's had one decent NFL season and ticked off two different head coaches in two years, or for Cleveland to ponder benching a career backup like Brian Hoyer for first-round pick Johnny Manziel. But this is Eli Manning, two-time Super Bowl MVP we're talking about here. A guy who literally has never missed a game since becoming the starter in 2004. If you sit him down just to take a look at 2013 fourth-round pick Ryan Nassib, you're making a clear and unequivocal announcement to your team, Manning and the world at large that you no longer have faith in him to be your quarterback. And I just don't think the Giants are at that point with Manning. Or with Nassib, for that matter. If Nassib was blowing them away in practice and looking like he absolutely had to get a shot to start an NFL game, that might be a different story. But he's not, and after a year and three quarters as an NFL backup they got in the fourth round, there's no reason to expect that he would be. People get so locked in on the games, because that's all we get to see, that they forget the coaches are watching these guys work and throw and operate the offense four, five, six days a week. They don't have to find out what they have with Nassib. They know what they have with Nassib, and with what they have with Manning, and right now Manning gives them the best chance to win games. Their offseason evaluations may differ from what they're doing now, especially if different people are making the decisions. But as of now, they're trying to win as many of their final four games as they can, and Manning is their best quarterback option by far. He's also far from their biggest problem right now.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I think that's one of several good possibilities in terms of what happens with Tom Coughlin after this season. They hired Ben McAdoo to be their offensive coordinator last year in part because they saw him as potential head coach material down the road. It's not as though they hired him to be Coughlin's successor, but they saw in him the leadership qualities they like in a coach, and they believed he could develop into a potential head coach candidate. If, after his first year as a coordinator and playcaller, they still feel that way, and they don't want to move on from Coughlin, then it makes a lot of sense to give the Coughlin-McAdoo partnership at least another year in which they can continue to develop and evaluate McAdoo. I honestly don't know how to handicap what's going to happen, because I honestly don't believe any decisions have been made. Coughlin could get fired, could decide to walk away, could come back next year. But your scenario is definitely not far-fetched, and might make a lot of sense.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I think the Giants' biggest problems are on the lines -- offensive and defensive -- and if I were picking No. 7 (which is the pick they currently hold) and I were them, I would take the best available offensive lineman or pass-rusher on the board at that point. I don't think they can go wrong either way. Even if they re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul, the pass-rush is still going to need an infusion of potential building-block players. Can't have too many pass-rushers, as a wise man once said. And even after they took Justin Pugh in the first round last year, took Weston Richburg in the second round this year and signed three free-agent linemen who've started games for them this season, it remains clear that the line still needs a lot of work and an infusion of top-tier talent as opposed to bargain solutions. All you have to do is look at what's gone on in Dallas this year to see the value of using first-round picks on offensive linemen. The Giants need to think big in the draft. As in, big, big players.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I don't think even Eli would think that.

@DanGrazianoESPN: We'll know more in a few hours. Running back Rashad Jennings tested out his injured right ankle by doing some running Friday after missing Wednesday's and Thursday's practices, and the team was encouraged enough to list him as questionable for Sunday's game instead of ruling him out. So they'll try him out again this morning and decide, based on how his ankle responds to Friday's work, whether to take him on the trip to Nashville. If he does make the flight, that doesn't mean for certain that he'll play. (Justin Pugh traveled to Jacksonville last week and was still inactive for the game.) But it's possible they'll decide to leave him home, in which case you'll have your answer for sure this afternoon.

Thanks for all of the questions, and enjoy the college games.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The first and easiest instinct is to ask whether anyone has an explanation, but they don't. The New York Giants placed five players on injured reserve Tuesday, bringing their current total to a staggering 20, and it doesn't make any more sense to them than it does to you or me.

"You're asking me for a comment that has miffed me forever: Why does it happen?" Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday morning. "We've jumped even further into the science of staying healthy in terms of what we've done this year with our soft-tissue stuff, and as you can see, it hasn't been that. It hasn't been the soft tissue. It's been the surgical repairs, the things that have knocked people completely out of the game."

The Giants did overhaul their conditioning program this year, incorporating GPS monitoring and scheduled rest days throughout training camp and monitoring things differently during the season than they have in years past. But as Coughlin points out, the issues this year have generally not been muscle pulls or lingering strains. Starters Victor Cruz, Prince Amukamara, Jon Beason, Geoff Schwartz, Mathias Kiwanuka and Walter Thurmond all suffered season-ending injuries that required surgery to repair -- catastrophic-type issues that can't be prevented by better conditioning or vigilance. Dumb luck, in more or less all cases, which makes it even tougher to understand.

"It is a lot," said offensive tackle Justin Pugh, who missed the past two games with a quad strain but has avoided injured reserve and expects to play Sunday in Tennessee. "There's no doubt, you can look at it and think, 'How does this keep happening?' But it's part of the game. Every team deals with it. It's about how you handle the injuries."

The Giants haven't handled them very well, if their 3-9 record is any indication. Pugh said that the offense, at least, has had to make some changes in procedure due to the number of new faces shuffling in and out of the lineup all the time.

"Now, when we make a call, we're sticking with it. No gray area, where before we might have had some leeway," Pugh said. "Now it's clear-cut. But I don't want to say we've gotten more vanilla. We're just making sure we're harping on certain techniques and being real specific."

With four weeks to go in the season and big bodies naturally breaking down all around the league every December, the injury toll for the Giants is likely to climb even higher by season's end. They had three players miss practice Wednesday -- Rashad Jennings with an ankle injury and James Brewer and Mark Herzlich with concussion symptoms. They weren't the strongest roster in the league to begin with, and they've been wracked by injury more than any other team.

"I wish I had an answer for you," Coughlin said. "A lot of people want to go on and on about, 'Do we have enough offseason?' And I think that might legitimately be something to bring up at some point in time. But we offer no excuses, and we certainly have always maintained that position. I feel bad for the guys that are hurt. It's the nature of our business, unfortunately. We push forward."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Lots of New York Giants showed up on Wednesday's pre-practice injury report, but there seemed to be more good injury news than bad.

The only Giants who didn't practice due to injury were guard Adam Snyder, who injured his knee in Sunday's game, linebacker Jameel McClain, who did the same, and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who has been practicing on a limited schedule all season due to a knee issue. Safety Antrel Rolle also missed practice, and the team said that was due to a personal matter.

Linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion), tackle Justin Pugh (quad) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf), each of whom missed Sunday's game due to their injuries, were doing individual work at practice, which is progress for each of them. Guard Geoff Schwartz, who made his debut Sunday after missing the first 10 games of the season with a toe injury, was also a limited participant in practice.

And Odell Beckham Jr., the star of the week, was a full participant in practice in spite of the back injury he suffered at the end of Sunday's loss to the Cowboys.

"I was full-go today," said Beckham, who described his injury as "a bruise to the bone."

"It was sore after the game for sure and the next day and even yesterday, but it’s feeling a lot better today."

The Giants will have a practice Thursday morning before they're sent home to spend Thanksgiving with their families, then return for a full Friday practice before flying to Jacksonville on Saturday for Sunday's game there. At this point, the biggest question marks for Sunday are Snyder, Williams, Pugh and Jenkins, though the fact that the latter three are doing any work at all is encouraging.