As I pondered what really happened to the Giants season this year, and thought of what I would fix if I was General Manager Jerry Reese, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my list was fairly short. So I give you my top 5 list for 2011:
1. Special Teams-we need a bonafide punt and kick returner. The Giants ranked 24th out of 31 teams combined for kickoff and punt returns and they had an embarrassing 6.1 yards punt return average which was the worst in the league. A healthy Domenik Hixon will help that, but we need a game changer here in the draft or free agency. Love to see the Giants go after San Diego’s free agent Darren Sproles to solve their kick and punt return woes.
2. Special Teams-punter Matt Dodge was given an awfully long leash in 2010; in fact I have never seen a team stay with a rookie that made so many mistakes. When you dust off the 2010 league books, Dodge doesn’t stand out as a glaring need as they were 19th in the league in punting with a 37.3 net average. When you take into consideration one blocked punt, the Eagles Desean Jackson return that killed their season and the 535 opponent punt return yards which was the 4th worst in the league, we need to be thinking quickly in 2011 if this trend continues early on. Veteran free agent punter Daniel Sepulveda from Pittsburgh is worth a look.
3. Linebacker-The Giants need a true leader and game changer at linebacker. The LB crew in 2010 was just average again and while the defense registered 5th in the league in sacks with a total of 46 only 2 of them came from the LB’s. Michael Boley had a nice season leading the team with 86 tackles; however the entire LB unit combined for 4 turnovers (2 interceptions both from Keith Bulluck and 2 fumble recoveries). Boley and Goff are keepers, time to get rid of Gerris Wilkinson, Keith Bulluck appears done, Kiwanuka gets hurt too much, Clint Sintim has one more year to show something and Blackburn is a great back up. We need at least two big time LB’s from free agency or the draft. The Giants should look at free agents at OLB, Chad Greenway from the Vikes, Lamarr Woodley from Steelers, Tamba Hali from KC, ILB’s David Harris of the Jets and Paul Posluszny of the Bills.
4. RB’s-While the Giants were 6th in the league with 220 rushing yards, they had another huge issue with turnovers and RB was one of the big reasons with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs losing 6 out of the 7 fumbles they had combined. While Bradshaw had a breakout year with over 1500 yards from scrimmage he is a free agent in 2011 so the G Men have some decisions to make. I would like to keep Bradshaw, but don’t think he can be the #1 guy rather a great 2nd option. I think we do need to get a solid #1 RB and I don’t think it is Jacobs anymore as he failed for the second year in a row to go over 1000 yards ending with 823. Some potential options here are free agents: breakout fantasy star Arian Foster of Houston who rushed for 1616 yards, the often hurt DeAngelo Williams from the Panthers and Cedric Benson from Cincinnati who had his second year over 1000 yards. I like Sproles from SD for kick returns, but also as a change of pace back for the G Men too.
5. QB Coach-Eli Manning showed flashes of brilliance this year as he was tied for third in the league with 31 TD’s the best of his NFL career, but he also finished second worst in the league with 25 interceptions. You could argue that Eli looked great when he had all his weapons until every receiver on the team got hurt and the Giants had to look to the streets for anyone who can run a route. I would argue that his mechanics seemed off as he reverted back to throwing off his back foot like he did his rookie year. The Giants lost QB coach Chris Palmer who made a big difference for Eli and I would like to see the Giants get back to working on Eli’s footwork and pocket presence. The Giants had many batted balls up in the air from their own WR’s that resulted in interceptions so a strong WR’s coach won’t hurt us either here.
Overall, the Giants had a good season by many standards finishing with 10 wins and top 10 rankings in every statistical category (6th in rushing, 8th in opponent rushing yards, 9th in opposing passing yards and 10th in passing yards), but the Giants measure their success in playoff and Super Bowls wins and so 2010 was another bust. The Giants for the past two consecutive years have faltered down the stretch after starting 11-6 in their first 17 games; they finished 7-8 in their last 15 games. Head coach Tom Coughlin has come under scrutiny for their late collapses, but the Giants made the right decision by keeping the fiery coach as the leader of Big Blue. I believe the absence of some real field leadership is the true issue as Justin Tuck appears to be the only field general. Big Blue is in good shape as they go into 2011. The WR crew is one of the best young bunch in the league (The Giants must resign free agent Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks had 11 TD’s with 79 catches for 1052 yards), the defensive line is one of the most ferocious in the league knocking out 7 QB’s in 2010, the offensive line did a tremendous job keeping Eli healthy once again and was a literal MASH unit all year. The OL is an area where the Giants need to get younger with some key draft picks, as Rich Seubert, Shaun O Hara and Kareem McKenzie have a combined experience of 31 years while battling key injuries in 2010. The Giants seemed to have solved their secondary issues of 2009 with the return of Kenny Phillips and the addition of Antrell Rolle, but it was CB Terrell Thomas who became the leader of the backfield with a team leading 101 tackles and 5 interceptions. All in all, if it wasn’t for the collapse against Philadelphia I am certain that the Giants would have been in the playoffs. A few key acquisitions, the insertion of special team’s help, field leadership and a focus on taking care of the ball should land the Giants back in the playoffs in 2011. Who’s ready for the April draft?
About the Author
Written by Dennis Napoliello
Graduate of Providence College with a BS degree in Business Administration. While at Providence College, I co hosted the #1 radio program titled "The Sports Page". I make my living in the fitness industry as National Vice President of Sales at David Barton Gym located in New York City. On a personal note, I have been a long standing Giants fan as my family has held season tickets since the opening of Giants Stadium in 1976. I now own the tickets and enjoy going to the game with my three children (Peyton, Trevor and Camryn), wife (Michelle), Dad (Al) and brother in law (Chris). Other than college, I have lived my entire life in NJ and currently reside in Roxbury, NJ. My objective with this blog is to have fun writing, along with my two sons, about the team we love, and to be as objective as possible always trying to give you the fans point of view,