Giants general manager Jerry Reese spent a mint on improving the team’s sagging pass rush and deplorable pass coverage. But he went bargain-basement hunting for linebacker help and safety depth.
Friday begins the journey to see if his moves were savvy or desperate. There aren’t any more fall guys for Reese, who’s seen defensive coordinators, offensive coordinators, and even a head coach get replaced over recent seasons, due to a string of sub-.500 seasons and no postseason berths.
Now that Tom Coughlin “stepped down,” Reese is the last bastion among the decision makers who can be held accountable. All fingers will surely point at him should the Giants falter this season.
The start of training camp on Friday will be the first real look at Reese’s additions, and judging by the amount of money he doled out to his new-look defense, he’s certainly hoping owner John Mara’s money was well spent.
Metro takes a look at some of the more pressing issues and storylines to follow for Big Blue, heading into camp.
What to Watch:
1. Will the secondary have its defense’s back this season?
Reese went all-in on improving the cornerback situation, as he shelled out $62.5 million ($28.8 million guaranteed) to former Rams corner Janoris Jenkins. This is the same Jenkins who once admitted to taking plays off and needing to better hone his in-game focus. Reese also spent a high pick on another cornerback, Eli Apple, who went 10th overall in the draft. Giants fans are hoping that the former Ohio State star is as effervescent on the field as his mom Annie is off the field. Gone is the inconsistent Prince Amukamara, who took his talents to Jacksonville, so it’s up to holdover Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to lead by example and make sure the newcomers improve last season’s weakest link. Safety is also a concern, because there’s yet to be a solid partner to team with the ascending Landon Collins. The Giants will have to sift between the likes of the injury-plagued (Mykkele Thompson, Cooper Taylor, Nat Berhe) and the inexperienced (rookie Darian Thompson) to see who best fits alongside Collins.
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2. Did Reese hit on any of his bargains?
While Reese went all-out on his pass rush and cover corners, the linebackers essentially remained status quo. The holdovers include Devon Kennard, Mark Herzlich, J.T. Thomas, Jasper Brinkley, and Jonathan Casillas. All are solid, if not unspectacular players. None, by any means, are considered stars. They’ll be joined by Keenan Robinson, who comes over from Washington, Kelvin Sheppard from Miami, and rookie draft pick B.J. Goodson. None of these guys – the holdovers or newcomers – will evoke memories of Giants greats of yore. The results won’t really be known until deep into preseason competition. But defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will have to work magic within this corps, because on paper, the linebackers are currently the weak link.
3. How will things change under new head coach Ben McAdoo?
The new man in charge is basically the only change to the coaching staff following Coughlin’s exit, meaning all eyes will be on the neophyte early. If the organized team activities and minicamps showed anything, it’s that things won’t be drastically different under McAdoo’s regime. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen. But for the most part, there will only be tweaks here and there. As McAdoo likes to say, the new-look Giants will be an evolution, not a revolution. He’s stated that Coughlin did a lot of things right, despite the consecutive 6-10 seasons to end his reign. The new coach said there won’t be a need for drastic changes. Big Blue will use the same systems on both sides of the ball, so the team isn’t starting over – but rather just getting a reboot. The new faces should help his transition, but it’s still a big difference in going from the offensive coordinator to the overseer of all things Giants.