Players, not scheme, question for Giants
July, 30, 2014
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After a week of watching New York Giants training camp, it's clear the new offense is a smart, well-designed scheme. Ben McAdoo might be a first-time coordinator, but he has a plan and he's communicating it effectively, and the same goes for the new coaches he brought in and the ones he inherited. That Tom Coughlin oversees everything can only help matters, and if you want to be excited about the fresh, new ideas infusing the Giants offense in 2014, you're absolutely justified. It has a chance to be fun.
But it also has a chance to flop, at least in its first year, and not because of any fundamental flaw in design or planning. The biggest question isn't whether the new offense can work -- it's whether the Giants have good enough players to run it.
The focus will always be on the quarterback, but I think Eli Manning is the least of this team's concerns. He's 33, which is still a prime age for a quarterback in 2014, and there's no reason to think his mental or physical skills have eroded. The issue is the group around him, and the more you look at it compared with its chief competition, the more it starts to look substandard.
Where does the Giants' running back group rank in the NFC East? Even if you assume David Wilson can stay healthy (and everyone's holding their breath on that after Tuesday), you can't rank them any better than third. Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy/Darren Sproles group is a clear No. 1, followed by Alfred Morris/Roy Helu in Washington. You can argue Rashad Jennings vs. DeMarco Murray, but you could argue it either way. The Giants' running back corps is either third- or fourth-best in the NFC East.
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsVictor Cruz is a proven commodity, but besides him and Eli Manning, the Giants' offense is filled with question marks.
Wide receivers? Again, can't give them anything better than a No. 3 ranking in the division. I think Victor Cruz is fantastic, but he doesn't have enough help for anyone to consider ranking him with Washington's terrifying Pierre Garcon/DeSean Jackson/Andre Roberts trio. Cruz isn't as good as Dallas' Dez Bryant, and Terrance Williams has shown more as a No. 2 receiver than anyone else on the Giants has. So it's down to the Giants and Eagles for the No. 3 spot, and if you want to pick the Giants because Cruz is better than Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper, you're welcome to do so. Maclin's coming off injury, and Cooper is no sure thing to repeat 2013. But you'd like to see something out of Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham Jr. to help your argument.
We don't even want to talk about tight ends, where the Giants clearly have the fourth-best group in the division. They might have the 32nd-best group in the league, mainly because they've decided to expend no real resources on the position. If the Giants find a productive tight end from the group they have in camp, everyone will be surprised.
The offensive line is certainly not in a class with the ones in Philadelphia and Dallas. And while Washington is undergoing some change on theirs as well, the Giants' case here falls apart on the Trent Williams/Will Beatty left tackle comparison, which isn't close. Until it proves otherwise, you have to rank the Giants' offensive line fourth-best in the division.
Now, predictions in July aren't worth the bandwidth they occupy, and surely some of the players we've discussed here will outperform expectations, just as others will underperform. But this is a ton of question marks at nearly every single offensive position, and to think the Giants will answer all of their offensive questions satisfactorily is pure folly.
Should they give up? Of course not. This is the NFC East, which hasn't had an 11-game winner or multiple playoff teams since 2009. You could make a case for the Giants to win the division with a solid defense, a stellar secondary, strong coaching and a bounce-back season from Manning in spite of the group around him. You're not crazy. Last year showed us the Giants' floor is generally pretty high. They had one of the worst rosters in the league last year, and Coughlin still got them to 7-9. Positioning the Giants as contenders is never insane.
But if you're looking for this new offense to operate the way the Giants hope it can, I think there's a pretty good chance you're going to have to wait a year or so. The amount of change and the number of question marks are just going to be too much to overcome in one offseason. Given the issues they're facing up and down their depth chart, this new Giants offense is likely to remain a work in progress well into this season, and maybe even next.