The Giants have made significant strides to upgrade their roster this offseason, signing 15 free agents. Soon even more new names will be added to the depth chart after the draft which takes place in a month. Some fresh faces might just be what this team needs after a disappointing 2013 season. But the key to a more successful 2014 won’t be found on the open market or in this year’s draft. Eli Manning and Jason Pierre-Paul must return to the players they once were if the Giants want to avoid missing the playoffs for fifth time in the last six seasons.
All the blame for Eli’s poor season cannot solely be put on him. An injury prone offensive line with no depth behind it led to career highs in sacks (39) and interceptions (27). The 29th rated run game provided no relief for Manning either. Due to injuries, seven different players started at running back and generating a consistent ground attack was nearly impossible. Perhaps the most concerning factor of last season was that Manning seemed to have lost that clutch gene that was so vital to his success in 2011. The only fourth quarter/overtime comeback the Giants had last season was against the Lions, and Will Hill’s game tying interception was more instrumental than Manning was.
The bad start to Jason Pierre-Paul’s 2013 began before he even stepped onto the field. Pierre-Paul waited until June to have a procedure performed on his back. He never fully recovered from the surgery and admitted never being any better than 90% healthy. Eventually his back and shoulder issues would only him to play in 11 games and starting just six. His two sacks and 27 tackles were a far cry from his 2011 season in which he posted 16.5 sacks and 93 tackles.
The wheels have been put in motion to remedy these issues for Manning and Pierre-Paul. Four new players have been added along the offensive line, all which are massive individuals, ranging in weight form 297-340 pounds. Not only were they signed to keep Eli upright, they will also be expected to open holes for new workhorse running back Rashad Jennings. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s west coast style offense is something that should help Manning return to that elite level that he played at in 2011.
On the defensive side of the ball the Giants have made a point of bolstering the secondary. Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, Quentin Demps, Walter Thurmond III, and Zach Bowman have all been brought in to man what could potentially be one of the best secondaries in the league. Better coverage usually leads to more sacks for Jason Pierre-Paul. The signing of Robert Ayers from the Broncos should help alleviate the double teams that the giants top pass rusher last season. Most importantly Pierre-Paul should be fully healthy when training camp begins.
Players that were instrumental to the 2007 and 2011 championship teams have departed during free agency. Losing players like Justin Tuck, Linval Joseph, and Hakeem Nicks is even more reason that the Giants need big rebound years for their top players.