After winning the Super Bowl you’d forgive the New York Giants for putting their feet up and relaxing. After all they built a roster that won the big one, beating the incumbent Packers and AFC Champion Patriots on their way to a remarkable victory.
However, this is an NFL where if you’re not getting better you’re getting worse. The Giants do have a number of areas to improve on if they’re to repeat and not fall away as they did the last time they won a Super Bowl. Given what they were able to do this year, without a big free agency and limited contributions from their draft class, you wouldn’t bank on the Giants being big players. Moving forward it’s time to look at some of their problem positions, and some possible moves to rectify them.
Primary Need: Guard
We can argue with people until we’re blue in the face, but the tape really doesn’t lie. David Diehl (-58.1) is an accident waiting to happen. With Will Beatty (-1.2) back at left tackle after an eye injury, Diehl is likely to be the default left guard again. This is something that is likely to make the job of Eli Manning harder than it perhaps needs to be. In addition to doing a horrible job with his run blocking, Diehl was playing on skates most of the year in pass protection (unless of course the Giants were giving him help). He rather incredibly managed to finish last in our Pass Blocking Efficiency rankings at two positions, so just think how much cleaner Manning’s uniform will be with an upgrade at LG?
The Giants don’t have much room to make any big moves, and may opt to give Mitch Petrus (-5.4) more snaps. Yet, that kind of approach could come back to haunt them, and so it seems a position the Giants could attack in the draft. Realistically, looking at the cap situation and given the Giants history, there isn’t a player available who you could see them making a move for. It does stand to reason though, if Evan Mathis (+34.6) doesn’t find the kind of market he deserves, the G-Men could be one of the teams looking to swoop in for a bargain.
Secondary Need: Right Tackle
Watching Kareem McKenzie (+23.6) in 2010 you were seeing a guy who could rightfully say he was the best right tackle in all of football. Fast forward a year and you’re looking at the worst (-33.2). That’s the kind of dropoff in play of a man that was drafted back in 2001. Due to turn 33 in May, McKenzie is at that age where your play can nosedive, and it’s alarming just how bad he was at the end of the season (his last six games all earned negative grades). Looking cumbersome and struggling to dominate at the point of attack, the Giants have to accept that they’ve possibly seen the best from McKenzie and need look towards finding his successor.
One player that is likely to be available is Geoff Schwartz who missed all of 2011. The restricted free agent could be tendered by the Panthers, but if a new coaching staff who hasn’t had him on the field opts to sever ties, then Schwartz could be one of the bargain free agents available. A secret superstar of the 2010 season (+12.3), he has the ability to play both tackle and guard, and excel at either spot. This is a solid example of a low-risk prospect with a big upside that’s available for an astute team.
Tertiary Need: Slot Cornerback
While Antrel Rolle (-21.4) is a lot of things, one thing he isn’t, is a slot cornerback. In fact, the more you look at the Giants’ roster the more you see this as a glaring hole. Rolle gave up the 9th most yards from the slot and struggled to cope with the demands of combining his safety role with matching up with those shifty slot receivers. The Giants would obviously like to move Rolle back to full time safety, but who do they place in the slot? Aaron Ross (-1.2) has played that role but it says a lot about him that he was moved from that spot after struggling. The other question is can Terrell Thomas return from a preseason injury, provided the Giants do indeed re-sign him.
With plenty of question marks, finding a capable slot cornerback should be high up on the Giants priorities given how big a part of offenses the slot receiver is. There are plenty of cornerbacks available, but with Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara on the roster they don’t need to spend big on an every down CB. Instead, looking for some value the Giants could turn their attentions to special teams ace Corey Graham (+3.4) who flashed ability when replacing D.J. Moore, or Chris Carr who was excellent in 2010 before finding himself on the outs a year later. There is talent at this spot that can be had for very little cost in an upgrade.