By Curt Macysyn
Oh so close – that phrase could be the mantra that defined the 2015 New York Giants (6-10), as the team dropped several close games with less than two minutes left. But in reality, the Giants were perhaps destined to lose many games this season with a defense that finished in the bottom of the league in most defensive categories.
Big Blue was supposed to show progress this season as general manager Jerry Reese brought in free agents Dwayne Harris, J.T. Harris, Shane Vereen and Jonathan Casillas. In addition, expectations were high for a draft class that included Ereck Flowers, Landon Collins and Owa Odighizuwa. Once again, the reality was very different as anointed starters Flowers and Collins scuffled through their rookie seasons, and the free agent acquisitions were nothing to write home about.
Super Bowl winning coach Tom Coughlin decided to call it quits after the Giants lost their season finale to the Philadelphia Eagles 35-30, as the veteran coach probably tired of being asked to make miracles with a roster that looks better on paper than it does on the field.
The fact of the matter is that the Giants finished dead last statistically in defense in the NFL, and the level of ineptitude cannot be underscored enough. Big Blue gave up an average of 420 yards per game, which was 137 yards per game more than the Denver Broncos gave up this season. The 298.9 passing yards per game that the defense gave up was also dead last in the NFL, while 27.6 points per game that the team gave up was 30th in the league.
Injuries were a factor to a point, and losing younger players like Devon Kennard, Jonathan Hankins and Owa Odighizuwa for large chunks of the season certainly did not help the cause. Jason Pierre-Paul’s fireworks mishap put Steve Spanuolo behind the eight ball before training camp even began, and trusting that Jon Beason would play the lion’s share of the season meant Reese was living in a fool’s paradise.
There are holes a plenty in this defense, and it is not likely that anyone currently on the roster is going to be an instant upgrade on defense next season. Keep in mind that the Giants finally gave up on 2013 third round draft pick Damontre Moore late this season.
Manning To Beckham
These three words represents the Giants only reason for optimism for the short term. Manning ended the season with 4,436 passing yards, and he had 35 touchdown passes against only 14 interceptions. Odell Beckham showed no sophomore slump with 96 catches for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdown receptions. Most teams in the league envy this type of combination, and the Giants also have other offensive pieces to the puzzle.
Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg showed strides along the offensive line, but the Marshal Newhouse experiment was another epic fail by Reese. Geoff Schwartz cannot seem to stay healthy, but he was productive when he played. The team needs to pull the plug with John Jerry already, and Ereck Flowers hardly played like the ninth overall draft pick.
Will the G-men re-sign Rueben Randle?
There are arguments for and against that being done, and Dwayne Harris was productive, but wore down as the season went along. Rashad Jennings finished strong at running back, but Andre Williams averaged an anemic 2.9 yards per carry. Williams is another Reese pet project that has been more hype than reality.
Prince of Tides
Cornerback Prince Amukamara has proven to be injury prone in his tenure with the Giants, and he is an impending free agent. But letting Amukamara walk will mean that the G-men will have to replace him in addition to the upgrades at defensive end, defensive tackle, safety and linebacker. It also continues a dangerous trend that has seen the Giants’ draft picks not getting re-signed after their rookie contracts expire.
Once again this off season, the Giants will have to ponder the future of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP made an emotional return from his fireworks accident, and he played with hustle and determination down the stretch. But hustle and determination do not equal production, and this team needs productive players more than anything else.
Giants Leap Possible In 2016?
Anything is possible, but the idea that a new coach with the same roster will make a difference is simply unfathomable. The Giants have a talent and leadership void that requires a drastic upheaval, not continued tinkering. Over the past three off seasons, the Giants have let key performers and locker room leaders depart with adequate replacements through the draft or free agency.
Cutting injury-prone and unproductive players this off season like Jon Beason, Will Beatty and Victor Cruz will free up significant cap room, and signing productive players will allow that cap space to be utilized effectively. The latest crop of Reese free agents were not very productive, so his utilization of assets should be questioned.
Ownership has enabled general manager Jerry Reese by allowing him to emasculate the roster every year without providing an upgrade, with the exception of Odell Beckham. They also have kicked the can down the sidewalk by replacing offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and now head coach Tom Coughlin with the idea that coaching was the problem.
The team took a Giants step backwards this year, and all of it cannot be blamed on injuries. Perhaps, ownership will stop worrying about how they look if they fire employees, and understand that the on-field product and inability to recognize shortcomings makes ownership look inept.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.