The Giants gave last season’s deplorable defense a $200 million facelift during the free agency frenzy, but there’s still work to do – specifically for the ailing offensive line.
General manager Jerry Reese did an admiral job addressing the needs on defense, but many Big Blue backers are likely wondering about the offensive side of the ball.
New offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said he’s not jealous of the attention – and money -- spent on his defensive brethren, noting it’ll benefit his unit as well.
“There’s no bigger fan of the defense getting the types of players that they got because that means they’re going to take the ball away, they’re going to put us in position to force some punts, force some field goals, or not even let them get into field goal range,” Sullivan said. “And in the end, that’s going to give us more snaps, more opportunities, and more at bats, if you will. It made our team better and I’m really excited about that.”
Sullivan, last season’s quarterbacks coach, added he’s not concerned about the lack of new faces on offense, but rather fixing an offense that lagged in key areas.
“We have to fix some things from last season. First, it starts with what we call the green zone, or red zone, and putting points on the board. We struggled there. We were 29thin the league,” he said. “And secondly, third downs [where] we finished 22ndin the league.”
Sullivan acknowledged that any inconsistencies began with their inability to sustain drives and limit self-inflicted mistakes. Any successful scoring drive begins up front, which is why the Giants have high hopes for new offensive line coach Mike Solari, who will make sure those little, yet important details, get refined.
Solari, a former offensive coordinator in Kansas City, and an assistant in Seattle, San Francisco, and Green Bay, likes what he sees in some key areas on the offensive line, even if Reese has yet to really touch that side of the ball.
“We’re going to put the five best athletes on the field [on the offensive line],” Solari said, specifically highlighting the Giants’ number-one pick of a year ago, tackle Ereck Flowers. “It was a great learning experience for him. Did he make mistakes? Sure, but he learned from them. He has all the skills. He’s big and strong, and he’s smart. He has the core strength, ability, and he’s mobile.”
Solari went on to add that at least three-fifths of the line is solid and ready to go, with the thought being more veterans and highly-touted rookie prospects will be brought in to compete.
Along with Flowers, Solari is confident that two other holdovers, center Weston Richburg and guard/tackle Justin Pugh, will be steadying influences for whatever newcomers Reese adds.
The veteran coach said he’ll make sure lines of communication are always open between players and coach, and is confident his triumvirate will be great andaccessibleleaders as well.
“Success absolutely starts with being a good communicator, [and] being a good teacher. That’s very important [because] everybody learns different,” said Solari, who added he’ll use every minute of OTAs [organized team activities] to see where Pugh fits the best. “Part of being a good teacher is being able to communicate and doing a great job of explaining it so that it is crystal clear … We’ll communicate that to the players and find the best five players to start and fit them where we seem they best fit.”
Big Blue notes:
-Of the remaining two spots on the offensive line, neither Sullivan nor Solari could identify who are the best remaining candidates – or if those two guys are even on the roster right now. Solari said he wouldn’t hesitate to slide in a rookie – or two – if they prove to be worthy and are among the best five linemen. He hedged his bet with a disclaimer, though, noting that any rookie who is good enough to crack the starting lineup is still a neophyte: “Remember, a rookie is a still rookie and there are mistakes built into the learning curve.”
-Among the holdovers that will compete for starting status include Bobby Hart, Marshall Newhouse, Adam Gettis, John Jerry, and Emmett Cleary.
-The Giants signed fullback Will Johnson, and offensive linemen Ryan Seymour and Dillon Farrell, on Tuesday. Johnson (6-foot-2 and 238 pounds) has also played H-back and tight end.Seymour (6-foot-4 and 305 pounds) was once the starting center for the Cleveland Browns. Most recently, he did stints on the practice squads of the Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, and New Orleans Saints. Farrell (6-foot-5 and 303 pounds) is a former reserve for the San Francisco 49ers, and most recently on the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad.