by Ciaran Farley
Following a disappointing end to the season with a blowout loss to the Green Bay Packers, it’s time to look back on the New York Giants’ 2016-2017 campaign. The Giants made big bets in hiring a young head coach and spending big money to improve their defense. And it worked! The Giants won eleven of their sixteen games en route to their first playoff appearance in five years. However, they have various questions to address this offseason, such as which free agents to re-sign and how to fix their anemic offense.
The best part of the Giants’ season was undoubtedly the revamped defense. In 2015, they finished last in yards allowed and third to last in points allowed thanks to a weak secondary and defensive line. General Manager Jerry Reese brought out the checkbook and committed almost $200 million in contracts to defensive players alone in free agency. This huge investment paid off. The Giants jumped to eighth in yards allowed and second in points allowed. Several players starred over the course of the season. Tackle Damon Harrison and safety Landon Collins both made the All-Pro team this year as they were both the best at their respective positions. Ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul helped Harrison on the defensive line to create nightmares for quarterbacks. In the secondary, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie complemented Collins well and tied for second for the league lead in interceptions with six. The defense’s outstanding performance propelled the Giants to two wins over the NFC’s number 1 seed, the Dallas Cowboys, and a playoff berth. The only thing that limited the Giants’ ceiling was their offense.
Despite being expected to be above average this season, the Giants struggled on offense almost every game. They had star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with two seasons of experience under his belt, fellow receiver Victor Cruz returning from injury, and Eli Manning coming off one of his best seasons. The offense of course imploded instead. They finished 17th in passing yards and 29th in rushing. The failure to meet expectations has several culprits. The main reason is the terrible offensive line. The Giants’ line routinely couldn’t create holes for their running backs and were unable to pass protect for more than a few seconds after the snap. Lineman Ereck Flowers was overwhelmed almost every game and regularly committed holding penalties. Just like last season, Beckham faced criticism over his judgement and fiery personality. Early in the season, he infamously punched a kicking net on the sideline, which accidentally caused it to recoil into the side of his head. The day after the regular season finale, he and the Giants receiving corps took their talents to South Beach for a day of partying with singer/rapper Trey Songz (see picture). Fans and media criticized them heavily for this after a few of the players (Beckham included) had poor outings in the Giants’ first round playoff loss.
Most of the players on defense will be returning, so Giants fans can rest at ease about that for the most part. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is in line to make 8 million next season, so he will likely have to restructure his contract or get cut. Jason Pierre-Paul is a free agent and is looking for a long term contract. On offense, the Giants need to settle on a long term solution at running back after cycling through Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, and Paul Perkins this season. They also need to spend money and draft picks on offensive linemen to enable the running game. Their success next season largely hinges on how GM Jerry Reese upgrades the O-line.