NFC East: New York Giants
The Giants' average annual player salary is $2.1 million. The franchise's total player payroll of $109.8 million ranks 47th.
The news broke Wednesday that New York Giants left tackle Will Beatty tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights this week and needed surgery that will sideline him until at least November. There was surely some predictable reaction from the Beatty-bashers among the Giants' fan base, some believing this to be addition by subtraction. But I'm here to tell you it's not.
The Giants will miss Beatty. For all his flaws, he has started their past 46 games, is a consistent performer in the run game and is the least to blame for Eli Manning's protection issues of anyone on the line. Look at it this way: Of the five starting offensive line spots, the only one about which there was no question before this week was left tackle, where the Giants were sure Beatty would be the starter. They don't know who's going to be the right tackle, who will play which guard spot or how Weston Richburg will handle the transition to center. Beatty was a known quantity at his position, and there's comfort in that.
So within that context -- that this May injury news is bad news for the Giants no matter how you slice it -- here are five quick thoughts on this news the day after it broke:
1. There's no obvious replacement on the roster. Yes, the Giants selected Miami tackle Ereck Flowers with the No. 9 pick in the NFL draft three weeks ago. But they did not do so with the idea that Flowers would be ready to play left tackle at the NFL level as a rookie. It may turn out he is, but before the draft he was viewed by many, including the Giants, as a long-term upside project whose technique and footwork in pass protection need refinement. They're likely OK starting him at right tackle or guard as a rookie, but it's a reach to assume he can step in at left tackle right away. Justin Pugh would be the next logical candidate, as a 2013 first-round pick who's been the starting right tackle the past two years. But much of the Giants' offseason focus has been on replacing Pugh at right tackle and moving him inside to guard, where he might be better suited.
2. It's likely too late to find a replacement from the outside. Some have suggested the Giants look at veteran Jake Long, who's still a free agent, but I've received no indication at any point this offseason that the Giants were interested in him. This could change things, but the oft-injured Long is no more perfect a solution than any they may have internally. This complicates the offensive line picture for training camp, and the Giants will spend a good portion of the next couple of months rearranging things to find Beatty's replacement and their best overall starting line combination.
3. A November return does seem realistic. Earlier in his career, Beatty had a justified reputation as a player who was slow to come back from injury. But he has answered the bell consistently for three years now, and his full recovery from a broken leg in time to start all 16 regular-season games in 2014 testifies to his commitment. If the projected recovery from the surgery he had this week is five to six months, then it's reasonable to think Beatty can hit that target.
4. This could conceivably affect Beatty's future with the team. Beatty is entering the third year of a five-year, $37.5 million contract. None of the money in the final two years is guaranteed, and the Giants can pocket more than $4 million in 2016 cap savings if they cut Beatty next offseason. That gives the team leverage if it wants to go to Beatty to rework his deal or take a pay cut after this season. With Manning, Jason Pierre-Paul and Prince Amukamara all set to hit free agency after this year, that money could come in handy. And if Pugh or Flowers does show an ability to handle the position while Beatty is out, it may be a sensible decision to move on.
5. Groundhog Day. Remember that middle linebacker Jon Beason injured his foot in a June minicamp last year and basically missed the whole season? Something in the water down there in East Rutherford this time of year? Be careful out there, guys.
The New York Giants weren't thrilled when Ben Roethlisberger signed his new contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple of months ago, and they likely weren't thrilled Monday when they heard the news of Ryan Tannehill's new contract with the Miami Dolphins. Quarterbacks are getting more expensive all the time, and the Giants have one who has one year left on his deal and is content to sit back and watch the price go up.
As we have discussed at length here, the Giants and Eli Manning have made no progress on a contract extension, and both sides have made their peace with the idea of letting 2015 play out and dealing with this next offseason. From Manning's standpoint, there's very little to lose and much to gain. Roethlisberger's new deal pays him more than $19 million per year and includes $35 million in guarantees. The new money in Tannehill's deal comes in at more than $19 million per year. Between now and next offseason, we could see new deals for Russell Wilson in Seattle, Cam Newton in Carolina and maybe even Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. Each of these new contracts is likely to push the quarterback market higher -- or at least keep it as high as it already is -- which is why Manning has no reason to sign now at the Giants' preferred price and take less than the market dictates.
The Giants, in an ideal world, would like to get this done now. They reached out to Manning's representatives again after the Roethlisberger deal was done to see whether anything had changed in their favor, but they weren't surprised to learn that nothing had. So, recognizing that they don't live in an ideal world, they have decided they're comfortable letting Manning finish out his deal and working on the new deal next year. They know they can franchise him if need be at a top-of-the-market number (as they did this year with Jason Pierre-Paul), so they're not at risk of losing him to another team. They're just coping with the reality of the situation and the fact this is what franchise quarterbacks cost.
The upside to all of this is that the Giants have a franchise quarterback -- and one they know can deliver a championship. You see the effect of the law of supply and demand around the league. The Dolphins are paying Tannehill as a franchise quarterback even though he's never participated in a playoff game, simply because they believe in him and know that, if they lost him, their options for replacing him are pitiful. Similarly, the Giants know that if Manning left they'd be starting over without a real quarterback and could wander for years in the same frightful wilderness occupied by teams like the Browns and Bills and Rams.
So the most likely outcome here is that Manning gets paid a lot of money by the Giants -- likely something similar to Roethlisberger's deal -- next offseason. Sure, he could get hurt (which he never does), or something bizarre and unforeseen could alter the market (though that likely would take more than just one year). But as each of these new deals rolls in, it becomes clearer and clearer Manning has no reason to move in the Giants' direction in these negotiations and he's wise to wait.
So Todd McShay needed to do a 2016 mock draft, which means he needed a 2016 draft order, so Football Outsiders obliged him with some way-early win-loss projections for NFL teams for next year. This comes with many disclaimers, of course, because more work needs to be done on projections between now and the start of the season four months from now. But it's fun to play with numbers, so let's look at the 9-7 record that Football Outsiders projected for the New York Giants.
The projections show the Giants tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for second place in the NFC East (behind the 11-5 Cowboys) and tied with the Eagles for the second NFC wild-card spot (behind the 10-6 Saints). This obviously would be a welcome relief for Giants fans from the 7-9, 6-10 malaise of the past two seasons. And it's not out of the question. You may or may not recall that, when the schedule was released last month, I went game-by-game and came up with 8-8.
But what's interesting to me is that much of the FO projection seems to be based on the concept of injury luck -- i.e., teams that had way too many injuries last year are likely to have fewer this year and vice-versa. The Giants had terrible injury luck in 2014, as you likely know, so the projection presumes improvement just based on that. But just like me after the winter we just had, it comes with a big "but."
"Improved health is also a big reason we have the Giants projected to improve, but there are clearly some issues in the Giants' training room," Aaron Schatz writes. "Big Blue has led the league in adjusted games lost for two straight seasons. So while this projection assumes some regression toward the mean, it doesn't assume as much as it would with other teams. And if the Giants have another season as the most injured team in the league, this forecast is clearly going to be too high."
So there you have it -- the key question. Are the Giants' injuries the past two years the result of bad luck that's bound to turn around? Or is there something wrong with the way the Giants do things that's leading to an unusual number of injuries? If it's the latter, then there's a systemic problem that has to be corrected behind the scenes if we're to expect improvement. If it's the former, then the Giants are bound to bounce back and contend sooner or later, and it may well be this year.
It's just important to remember how far they have to go. The Giants finished six games behind the Cowboys in 2014 and haven't beaten them head-to-head since 2012. And because of that run they had against backup quarterbacks in 2013, it's fair to say they haven't beaten a good team since 2012. A Giants bounce-back may well be in the cards, but they have a lot farther to bounce than a lot of people seem to think. Better health is only part of the equation.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a thoughtful fellow who pays attention to the world around him and wants to know as much about it as he can. So when the news broke in January that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots may have illegally deflated footballs to gain an advantage, Manning did what any thoughtful quarterback would do. He deflated some footballs himself to see whether he could tell the difference.
Manning spoke Monday at a charity event in White Plains, New York, as the news of Brady's suspension and the Patriots' punishments was being released. According to Nick Powell of NJ.com: "I have studied it a little bit over the last few months and felt a few air pressures to see what it feels like and it is a way of getting an advantage and breaking the rules. I guess it's the short story to it all," Manning said. "There is a difference, there is a noticeable difference. Whether it's an advantage or not, I guess that's all dependent on what a QB likes or what it's like in cold weather or if it's wet, there might be other factors to it."
Manning also told Powell and other reporters there that he wasn't happy to see Brady suspended but he wasn't surprised in the wake of last week's release of Ted Wells' report on the matter: "Any time you lose a starting quarterback for four games and draft picks, it's a pretty big statement," Manning said. "The NFL is serious about not messing with the integrity of the game, no matter how big or little the issue is."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Much of the talk about what to expect from the New York Giants' offense this coming season has focused on the expected encore by Odell Beckham Jr. and the chances of Victor Cruz returning to form from his serious knee injury. But what about quarterback Eli Manning, who last year set career highs in passing yards and completion percentage in his first year with Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator?
"Usually, when you put in changes or change the system or address fundamentals, it shows up in Year 2," McAdoo said Saturday. "I like the look in his eye. I'm excited for what's on the plate this year."
One of McAdoo's goals last year was to reduce Manning's interception total after a career-high and league-leading 27 in 2013. Manning's interception total dropped to 14 in 2014, as McAdoo and the Giants' coaching staff worked successfully to get him to do a better job of hunting easy completions and throwing the ball away when nothing was there. Five of the 14 interceptions came in one weird Week 11 game against the 49ers. Four of the them came in the first two games of the season, when the offense was still coming together and Beckham was still on the shelf with a hamstring injury. There were eight games in which Manning didn't throw any interceptions.
McAdoo said he thought Manning "started feeling better about the offense" in the second half of the season, and because there won't be a learning curve in a brand-new offense this year, he has high hopes for Manning's performance in 2015.
"It's not a system anymore," McAdoo said. "It's our offense."
Later, McAdoo explained that what he meant by that is that the Giants have focused on tailoring the offense to their personnel, rather than imposing his own ideas on the personnel they have. This is a concept about which McAdoo spoke late last season -- that his first year as a coordinator taught him the importance of building around what your players can do, rather than what you believe will work in a vacuum. Manning's second year under McAdoo has a chance to be a good one, especially if the offseason offensive line fixes take hold this time. But it's also worth noting that McAdoo himself is likely to be more comfortable -- and better -- than he was in his rookie year, too.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Back in charge of the New York Giants' defense for the first time in seven years, Steve Spagnuolo realized pretty quickly that he has a lot of work to do.
"We've got to build this thing gradually," Spagnuolo said Saturday in his first public comments since re-joining the Giants as defensive coordinator in January. "You can't do anything until you get all the basics right. So we started from the ground up and began to build it up. We get to a certain point here and we just keep on going. But it's going to take a little while."
The Giants ranked 29th in the NFL in total defense in 2014 with 6,012 yards allowed. The reacted by firing defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and replacing him with Spagnuolo, who was their defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 before leaving for unsuccessful stints as Rams head coach and Saints offensive coordinator.
The Giants teams of which Spagnuolo was a part were perhaps the best of the Tom Coughlin era. They won the Super Bowl at the end of that 2007 season, knocking off the undefeated New England Patriots behind Spagnuolo's fearsome pass rush that featured Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. And they went 12-4 in 2008, securing the top seed in the NFC playoffs before losing their playoff opener to Philadelphia.
Those were great years for the Giants defense, and Spagnuolo has received a healthy amount of praise and opportunity as a result of them. But those who would assume everything's going to be OK now that he's back in his former job are cautioned to temper their expectations.
"This isn't an on-and-off switch where, boom, all of a sudden we're back to 2007 and we pick up where we left off," Spagnuolo said. "It doesn't work that way. It's a different challenge. It's a different year. It's different personnel. I'm not a magician. Things aren't going to happen like they may have happened in a different time. But hopefully, something exciting will happen. At least that's the goal."
Spagnuolo's four-man defensive line appears to have two surefire starters in Jason Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins and a bunch of question marks after that. His starting middle linebacker is Jon Beason, who fits the Antonio Pierce mold of the on-field leader he wants but, as we all know, has a hard time staying healthy. The best safety on the roster is the rookie they just picked in the second round last week, and they still don't know which safety position he'll play or who will play the other one. Spagnuolo doesn't know who his nickel cornerback will be.
"That's one we're trying to feel through, to be honest with you," he said. "As we go through the OTAs, there'll be a number of guys working in and out of there. So I'm not sure I have an answer for that right now. There were some guys who did it a little bit last year and some guys we added."
He named Trumaine McBride, Mike Harris and Josh Gordy as candidates for that role, but it's one of several that still have to be sorted out in the four months between now and the Giants' first game. But Spagnuolo said he's pleased with the way his charges are paying attention in meetings, he's pleased with the way they've responded to his efforts to educate them on the history of the Giants defense, and he believes he has something with which to work.
"When you understand the tradition of defensive football here with the Giants, you embrace it," Spagnuolo said. "When you embrace something, you take a little pride in it. If you've got a little pride in something, you tend to protect it. So let's grow our own tradition and history here. We've been going back and feeding these guys all the greats, and we'll eventually start feeding them great defensive games. We've got a few picked out. And I think we all should embrace that. There should be a passion about it, and that should carry right out here onto the field. That's the goal."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When the New York Giants made Miami's Ereck Flowers the No. 9 pick in the draft last week, the impression everyone got was that they were planning to start him at right tackle and move 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh inside to guard. This is the arrangement that would seem to make the most sense, and it's one with which Pugh himself indicated he would be fine just a couple of weeks ago.
But because it's only May, and because Flowers just got here, and because Pugh has been the starting right tackle for the past two years, and because quite honestly it's not always a sure thing that a college tackle can make a transition to the NFL with success right away ... the Giants aren't making any proclamations about offensive line alignment just yet.
"That remains to be seen," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said Saturday. "Justin Pugh, right now, is the starting right tackle for the Giants."
Asked directly where he sees Flowers fitting in on the line, McAdoo said, "We're going to play our best five, and if he's one of them, he'll find a spot."
Tempering expectations for a rookie is a perfectly reasonable way to go, especially at this early stage. But it's clear the Giants have high hopes for Flowers, whom they see as a potential left tackle of the future.
"We believe that he has a skill set to play left tackle in this league," McAdoo said. "So we're going to give him opportunities to train out there. We'll give him opportunities to train at multiple spots. But that doesn't mean we're going to pencil him into one spot right now."
Flowers played left tackle during the Giants' two-day rookie minicamp Friday and Saturday, but that's likely because he was the best tackle in this camp, which didn't include Will Beatty or any of the Giants' other veterans. The most likely Giants' offensive line alignment for 2015 remains Beatty at left tackle, Flowers at right tackle, Pugh and Geoff Schwartz at the guard spots and Weston Richburg at center. But they're correct when they say Flowers shouldn't just be handed the job because of where he was picked. He has to show he can handle it.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants put their draft picks and other rookies through a two-day minicamp Friday and Saturday. Here are a couple of quick thoughts after watching Saturday's two-hour practice and speaking with some of the people involved:
- Safety Landon Collins, the Giants' second-round draft pick, moved around a lot as coaches want to see the way he handles the responsibilities they would require of their free safety -- reading the middle of the field, communicating coverage responsibilities to his teammates, etc. "I think you saw a lot just from yesterday to today," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "That last team period, Landon was moving people around and directing. So if he can do that every day, we'll have what we thought we were getting."
- Undrafteed free-agent signee Matt LaCosse, a tight end from Illinois, made a couple of highlight-worthy catches in the team period and in other drills. LaCosse is a former high school quarterback ("I was a runner, not a thrower," he said) who measures 6-foot-5, 261 pounds. He says his ability to stretch the field is one of his better assets, though he also takes pride in blocking and understands that's what he has to show the Giants if he's to have a chance to stick.
- Fullback Nikita Whitlock collided with punter Bobby Cowan during a punt-block drill. That's a no-no in a no-pads May minicamp practice, especially with the head coach watching. Tom Coughlin found Whitlock immediately, offered some pointed comments and was still barking, "Stay off the punter!" to anyone within earshot a few moments later.
- Sixth-round wide receiver Geremy Davis signed his rookie contract, leaving Collins and first-rounder Ereck Flowers as the only Giants draft picks who have not done so. Draft pick contracts under the new CBA are mere formalities, and there is no reason to have any concern about Flowers and Collins, who will be signed before long.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Each member of the New York Giants' defense has a pebbled red, 80-page, 8-by-11 spiral notebook in which they have been scribbling notes about players who played before they were born. There is extra homework this offseason if you play defense for the Giants, and those who don't take it seriously could find themselves in a difficult position at any time during one of coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's meetings.
"Jackson!" Spagnuolo might holler, out of the blue, "Sam Huff! What college?"
Bennett Jackson, a second-year defensive back, can correctly answer "West Virginia" without checking his notebook. Because he has studied.
"Oh, I'm in there every night, doing my research," Jackson said. "I think, for the most part, everybody's on it."
This is a new initiative this offseason from Spagnuolo, who's back for a second turn as the Giants' defensive coordinator. One of the things he decided to do is instill in the current defensive players an appreciation for the history and tradition of the Giants' defenses of the past. So he adorned the meeting room walls with pictures of Huff, Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Andy Robustelli, Tom Landry, Emlen Tunnell, Harry Carson and Jessie Armstead, and he instructed his current players to go online and learn everything they can learn about them.
"I like the way Spags goes about it," Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara said in a phone interview Friday. "He's not trying to make you look dumb or get your teammates to clown on you. He's just trying to keep you on your toes and keep you accountable, because that's what he expects out of us.
"He'll do the same thing with the playbook, like, 'Prince, where are you supposed to be in this coverage?' and expect you to have the answer. And I like it, because the point is, this is easy, this is a classroom, but when you're out there under pressure in a game situation, you want to be able to react right away to things."
There is, however, also a sense of letting the current players know they're a part of something larger. The names of those in the Giants' ring of honor adorn their locker room walls, but that doesn't mean everyone knows or appreciates the accomplishments of guys like Huff and Tunnell and Robustelli, who played in bygone eras. Taylor might be the greatest player in Giants history, and he retired in 1993 -- the year before Giants second-round pick Landon Collins was born.
"Most of us weren't alive," second-year defensive end Jordan Stanton said. "But learning about these guys and finding out what they went through, who their coaches were, it's a lot of fun. We've got to live up to the past. We've got big shoes to fill here. We have to pride ourselves as a defense on filling those shoes. There are people watching us who expect us to fill their shoes."
Stanton flipped to the page in his notebook in which he wrote down the story of the day Huff left training camp in 1956, having decided to quit, and assistant coach Vince Lombardi followed him to the airport to talk him out of it. That's the fun part for these guys -- Spagnuolo has instructed them to find out what they can about that group of eight players, and sometimes the pop-quiz question will just be, "Emlen Tunnell! Tell me something interesting about him."
"It's fascinating to learn it all," Amukamara said. "I didn't know Tom Landry invented the 4-3 defense. I didn't know Emlen Tunnell was the first African-American Giants player. So you really do get a feeling of what came before you and how significant it all is."
Spanguolo has spent time showing his players old film of the great players of the Giants' past. When the rookies arrived for minicamp Thursday night, they were shown a film and given their notebooks and told to research these guys and come back with interesting facts, just as the veterans did weeks ago when the offseason program began.
"It's up to us now," fifth-round safety Mykkele Thompson said. "Go on the Internet and find out whatever we can. We have homework."
"The tradition. The passion. The Giant tradition," coach Tom Coughlin said. "The great defenses that have been played here in the past. The idea that we have to get back to that."
The message is being delivered at every level, and the players seem to grasp the reasons behind it.
"It's got everybody's attention, for sure," Stanton said. "I'm really enjoying it, and I think all of the guys are getting a lot out of it. There's a lot there to appreciate and to learn from, and it can really help."
The New York Giants signed six undrafted free agents after last week's draft. Those players will join the Giants' six draft picks at a two-day rookie minicamp Friday and Saturday in East Rutherford. Here’s a closer look at each player:
S Justin Currie: Started 37 of his 47 career games at Western Michigan, recording 339 tackles and five interceptions. He is 6-foot-2, 204 pounds and joins a crowd of unproven and inexperienced safeties who will compete for snaps with the Giants this spring and summer.
OT Sean Donnelly: A local guy from Pelham, N.Y., who went to Trinity-Pawling High School and then on to Tulane, where he started 36 of 42 career games. He played left tackle in 2012 and right tackle in 2013 and 2014.
LB Cole Farrand: Collected 276 tackles, including 15.5 for a loss, in 44 career games at the University of Maryland. He's also a local kid, from Green Pond, N.J., who played at Pope John XXIII High School. His best college game was a 19-tackle effort against Indiana that earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors.
DE Brad Harrah: Had 7.5 sacks in his four-year career at Cincinnati. At 6-5, 258 pounds, he could be an imposing presence on the line. And he does have a role model in Giants defensive end Kerry Wynn, who made the team as an undrafted defensive end last year. His uncle is Toby Harrah, who played Major League Baseball for the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers.
RB Akeem Hunt: Rushed for 2,035 yards and 11 touchdowns on 371 carries in his career at Purdue. Rushed for 949 yards on 173 carries last year. He was a do-it-all guy in college, catching 100 passes for 841 yards and six touchdowns and returning 74 kickoffs for 1,747 yards (a 23.6-yard average) and six touchdowns.
TE Matt LaCosse: A 6-6, 250-pound tight end from Illinois, LaCosse caught 38 passes for 397 yards and six touchdowns in college. He had 14 catches for 117 yards and three touchdowns last year.
The New York Giants selected UCLA defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa in the third round of the draft last week. It's a pick that has drawn praise from people who like the player and who believe the Giants need to re-stock their defensive end pipeline. Given the Giants' needs and their feelings about Odighizuwa's physical talent and potential, it was a pick that made a lot of sense.
But, as is the case with most third-round picks, the guy isn't a finished product or a sure thing to become the next great Giants pass-rusher. There is work to do on his development, and there is reason to wonder what we can expect him to be.
Fortunately, the gang over at NumberFire has a study on this very topic ready to go. They like Odighizuwa a great deal, but as Tom Coughlin suggested on the night they drafted him, he might profile more as the run-stopping left defensive end in the Giants' scheme than the eventual successor to Jason Pierre-Paul as a pass-rusher who can handle left tackles one-on-one:
"Standing 6-3 and weighing in at 267 pounds, Odighizuwa is on the small side of a well-rounded end but has the length and anchoring ability to be an excellent edge-sealing end against the run," Joe Redemann writes. "After two hip surgeries, he may no longer have the flexibility to turn the corner as well in the pass-rushing game, but he plays with an immense drive and purpose, has violent hands when battling offensive tackles and is relentless in pursuit of the play."
"The one downfall here is that "Diggy" is tight in his hips after two surgeries there and just might not have the agility to bend the edge and really maximize his pass-rushing potential with the Giants. If they're hoping to let third-year starter Damontre Moore go wild in time and be the primary rusher, then Odighizuwa could be a complementary edge-setter, but hopefully they know his limitations going in."
Nothing wrong with a player like that, especially if he has the ability to move inside on passing downs the way Justin Tuck used to and help out as an interior rusher in those situations. As we've discussed, the Giants' draft seemed to focus as much on what they could make these players into as it did on what these players currently are.
The New York Giants made six picks in this year's draft. They came away with a tackle, two safeties, a defensive end, a wide receiver and a guard. That means that certain positions on their depth chart -- quarterback, running back, linebacker, tight end -- remain untouched from a depth-chart perspective. But let's take a look at the positions that could be affected by what the Giants did this weekend. The (*) denotes a 2015 draft pick.
I don't know for sure which guard spots Pugh and Schwartz will occupy in camp, and this obviously assumes that the rookie first-round pick, Flowers, is ready to start right away (which obviously can't be assumed, since he's a rookie). It also assumes a return to full health by Schwartz, a smooth transition for Richburg from guard back to his college position of center and a smooth transition by Pugh from right tackle to guard. A lot of assumptions, but the overall talent level on the line looks the best it has in years.
Obviously, the Giants moved up in the second round to take Collins figuring he'd help right away. And they admit his more natural position is down in the box. That leaves free safety a question mark, as Berhe seems better suited in the box as well. Thompson was their weird reach pick in the fifth round, so projecting him as a starter is difficult. But they sure made it sound on Saturday night as though they viewed him as a complement to Collins and someone who could play the free safety spot. None of the other candidates on their roster looks like a sure thing to nail down the job. Expect a training-camp battle for that one.
We looked here just to highlight that nickel spot, where McBride is likely to get the first crack assuming a return to health, but where Thompson also has some experience and could make an impact if he looks good in camp. That's an important spot these days in the NFL -- basically a starting position considering how often teams are in nickel defenses -- and the Giants want to make sure they have people who can play it.
The coaching staff hopes that Moore (who's still five months younger than this year's third-round pick, Odighizuwa!) can finally show the maturity, consistency and understanding of his responsibility that he's been unable to show in practice or games his first two seasons. They'd love for him to emerge as a starter and rush the passer from the left defensive end spot. But they also want the player who plays that position to be able to play the run. Odighizuwa could muscle his way into the rotation as a guy who's strong against the run (he has a bigger frame than Moore does) and who can move inside on passing downs when they load up on pass rushers.
Obviously, not everyone makes the team here. The three starters (assuming a return to health by Cruz), along with Dwayne Harris, are sure things. And you have to think the sixth-round pick, Davis, makes the team as well. That's five right there, and it'll be interesting to see who emerges from camp with a spot on the roster out of this group.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A wrap-up of the New York Giants' draft:
Best move: The trade up to the top of the second round to select Alabama safety Landon Collins. It cost the Giants their fourth-round pick and one of their seventh-round picks to move up seven spots. Based on the way things were going Saturday, they weren't likely to find any obvious difference-makers in the fourth or the seventh. So making a big move to go up and get one of the better and more experienced all-around players in the draft was a good, aggressive decision. The Giants obviously had a major need at safety, which makes the move look even better. But it's clear they had a very high grade on this guy, and after he went undrafted in the first round, they were one of several teams trying to make a move to get him Friday night. Good for them for pulling it off.
Riskiest move: I don't think Ereck Flowers is a bad pick at No. 9 overall, but I'll put him in the "riskiest" category because (a) the later picks really aren't, by definition, risks; and (b) the ultimate verdict on this pick rests on Flowers' ability to develop into a top-end left tackle in the NFL. By the Giants' own admission, Flowers is not yet at that point, and he'll need some work on his technique in pass protection before he is. His strength, size and athleticism all bode well, as does his clear desire to improve and excel. So this is a risk worth taking on a player about whom the Giants feel very good. But if he can't be a good left tackle for them long term, then he won't end up having been worth the No. 9 pick.
Most surprising move: Without a doubt, it was the fifth-round selection of Texas safety Mykkele Thompson, who wasn't invited to the combine and was himself surprised to be drafted at all. The Giants say they see Thompson as a free safety type, and coach Tom Coughlin specifically said they viewed him as a complement to Collins, though he wouldn't go so far as to predict they could both start as rookies. The Giants clearly like Thompson's speed, and when they met with him (he said they were the only team who had him in for a visit), they were impressed with his intelligence as well. The surprise is because it seemed as though they could have used the pick on someone else and still signed this guy as a free agent. But as vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross said, this draft "thinned out pretty quickly," so the Giants figured it didn't matter if they were reaching as long as they liked the player. "Sometimes you think, 'Maybe we can get him as a free agent,' " Ross said. "But if everybody feels strongly about him at the time, sometimes you just take him."
File it away: One of Flowers' most hyped matchups of this past college football season was the Miami-Nebraska game in which he did very well against touted Nebraska pass-rusher Randy Gregory. Because Gregory was selected in the second round by the Cowboys, the two could see each other again when the Giants open the season in Week 1 in Dallas. "We should have won that game, is what I remember about it," Flowers said Saturday. "Yeah, I'm looking forward to that."
My take: I think you have to grade this draft with the idea in mind that it wasn't going to be a transcendent one for anybody. The Giants targeted guys they liked and filled some needs, and they approached it without panic and without any false belief about their ability to find saviors. Flowers, Collins and third-round pick Owamagbe Odighizuwa all have a chance to contribute right away. And given the rest of the depth chart at safety, it sounds like Thompson will get that same kind of chance. Sixth-round receiver Geremy Davis and seventh-round offensive lineman Bobby Hart look like helpful special-teamers with potential. All around, have to give the Giants draft a thumbs up.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few quick thoughts on the New York Giants' seventh-round draft pick.
The pick: Bobby Hart, offensive tackle, Florida State
My take: Nothing wrong with taking a huge (6-foot-5, 329-pound) offensive lineman at the end of the draft. Hart obviously played at a high level of competition, blocking for Jameis Winston at Florida State. Giants general manager Jerry Reese said the team projects him as a guard at the NFL level, even though he played right tackle in college. Hart, 20, is very young and obviously has room and time to grow.
Early success: Hart played high school football on a St. Thomas Aquinas team that won a 2010 Florida state championship and finished with a No. 3 national ranking. He was 17 as a freshman at Florida State when injuries thrust him into the starting lineup.