Division Winner? No. The NFC (L)East was a mess this year, with the Eagles and Cowboys never quite getting on track while racing for the division crown, the Redskins never getting on track period, and the Giants hitting some major speedbumps. Their record is a testament to good coaching and a nucleus of talent that still exists, because injuries and lack of preparedness and depth along the offensive line did this team in early.
Milestones Of 2013: It’s difficult to find any. The 7-9 record is actually impressive when you consider how poorly this team played, particularly on offense, where they managed to average just 18 points and 307.5 yards per game. The only actual improvement, or milestone, this team managed to set for itself is its improved defensive play. While struggling early, the signing of Panthers veteran linebacker Jon Beason seemed to bring a renewed sense of purpose to the defense, where Justin Tuck and Antrelle Rolle had perhaps the best seasons of their respective careers. Overall, the Giants defense ranked in the top 10 in both total yards and passing yards given up…but managed to fall in the middle of the pack by letting about 24 points per game get by them.
Eli Manning showed more of an inability to carry his team than he ever did before, but there was always a sense of this even when the Giants were winning Superbowls with him under center. The offense definitely underachieved, and the biggest end results involve coaching changes and the eventual shuffling of the offensive line, which ranked 29th according to the good folks at Pro Football Focus. The only bright side? Will Beatty, who was given a lucrative contract after the 2012 season, has the capability to bounce back after a poor showing this year. Oh, and rookie Justin Pugh looks like the real deal.
Beyond the offensive line, the skill position plays looked absolutely disenfranchised the entire year. The running backs never could get a head of steam, and the rotation was a mess of former stars (Brandon Jacobs, Peyton Hillis) and complementary pieces (Andre Brown, Da’rel Scott, Michael Cox). Losing David Wilson for an indefinite amount of time to a serious neck injury has set this unit back immeasurably as of today.
The wideouts were a different story altogether. While it was evident that Victor Cruz was every opponent’s main focus on game days, he still managed to deliver a solid season. This can’t be said of his fellow “star” WR, Hakeem Nicks, who had a terrible season. Whether or not health played a factor, his poor play (56 catches, 0 TDS) is poor in relation to expectations. If the Giants can’t expect more out of him (and this was a contract year for Nicks, the time when many players kick it into another gear if they don’t typically play at their highest gear), don’t expect them to resign him unless Nicks agrees to a number that reflects his injury history and lack of production. The tight ends were simply no better, with Brandon Myers having an average season with 47 snags and 4 scores.
The Season In Review
The Giants’ 0-6 start was one of the most talked about stories of 2013 as it was happening, with disheartening losses to division rivals Dallas and Philadelphia, and embarrassing losses of 38-0 (Panthers) and 31-7 (Chiefs) sandwiched in between. New York then managed to bounce back, but not in any grand fashion, winning four straight against banged up or talent-deficient opponents. The Cowboys cut their winning streak down, and the Giants finished the year beating the Redskins twice, taking advantage of the Lions’ late season collapse…and being shut out yet again by the Seahawks.
Far too many times, this team looked unprepared for their opponents, especially offensively. Eli Manning was constantly making mistakes, forcing passes he had no right to throw, and the pressure that the porous offensive line let through was to blame just as often as Eli’s lack of vision and his wideout’s lack of timing. The running game struggled to move the chains all year, but found a big of a resurgence when they resigned Brandon Jacobs, who had a handful of productive games before being put back in the rotation with a newly healthy Andre Brown and newcomer Peyton Hillis. None of it was enough to compete against the big boys.
The credit must go to Tom Coughlin and his defense, the two aspects of the New York Giants that carried the team to a record far more respectable than this team could have managed otherwise. The decision to keep Coughlin, and the recent talks of extending his contract, are all great signs for Giants fans; his success has definitely been inconsistent, but you can’t argue with the two rings, can you?
Future Forecast: Brighter than you might think. 7-9 is nothing to sneeze at, and the retooling of this team begins and ends at the offensive level. While some concerns abound at defense, that side is playoff-caliber so long as Justin Tuck and/or Jason Pierre-Paul can produce at a high level consistently. No, the Giants need to address their offensive line early and often, and a draft that features no less than three O-lineman will be a necessary step, especially if free agency doesn’t produce any qualifying upgrades.
Beyond the line, the Giants should look to invest in a playmaking skill position player, something that is complicated due to the questions at RB and the weighing of potential at WR (Hakeem Nicks) and TE (Myers). Still, an early draft pick towards a better complimentary RB or a solid possession WR would certainly be worth the investment.
Elsewhere, the team must improve its general depth, as their special teams’ units were either average or worse all year. They gave up three punt return touchdowns and were generally unable to break off solid gains on their own returns. They’re sitting comfortably at kicker and punter, but they should consider challenging Josh Brown during the offseason.
QB – D
RB – D
WR – C
TE – C-
OL – F
DL – B
LB – B
CB – C+
FS/SS – B+
K/P – C+
KR/PR – D
Team MVP – Justin Tuck, DE
Offensive MVP – Victor Cruz, WR
Defensive MVP – Jon Beason, LB
Rookie Of The Year: Justin Pugh, RT
Biggest Disappointment: Eli Manning, QB
Very Early 2014 Prediction: 9-7, no playoffs