We've been talking plenty about the Dallas Cowboys over the past few months. Let's take a quick break from that and see what's happening with our NFC East brethren, the New York Giants. Yesterday I had a quick chat with the head honcho from Big Blue View, Ed Valentine. You guys know Ed, he's been talking to us about the Giants for years and years. Here's what he had to say about the Giants offseason so far.
Dave: So what happened with Eli last season. Was it the team around him or is some of it his fault?
Ed Valentine: Ah, the Eli question. Wasting no time. I think it was a combination of a lot of things. Everybody knows the Giants offensive line was terrible, the worst the Giants have had during Eli's career. He's a stationary QB, like his brother, and when he's getting hit, harassed and hurried bad things will happen. The Giants went through six starting halfbacks, none of whom was a great pass catcher. Hakeem Nicks was invisible. The Giants didn't have much at tight end.
It came to this. Eli simply did not trust anything around him -- protection, receivers, running game, play calls. Nothing worked right and by the end of the year he was frustrated, his mechanics had broken down and he was forcing a lot of plays that weren't there. I still think he's capable of playing great football, but the Giants have to protect him AND give him receivers who have a clue what they're doing.
Dave: You guys signed a boatload of free agents this offseason. Your thoughts on that and any you think might really help.
Ed Valentine: Well, the free agent haul was necessary, partly because the Giants had almost half the roster in the final year of their contracts. Mostly, though, because the roster wasn't good enough last year. The problem with this much change is even though you think you've added great pieces it's a lot of moving parts to meld together.
As for guys I think will really help, you have to start with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond in the secondary. You have to be able to match up one on one with multiple receivers, and now the Giants can. I think Geoff Schwartz is an excellent addition to the offensive line. Rashad Jennings is better than any running back they had last year, and -- very importantly -- he is accomplished as a receiver and in the screen game. Cowboys fans should remember, and be thankful, for how pitiful the Giants were in the screen game last year.
Dave: How did you feel about the draft? Was Odell Beckham the right pick?
Ed Valentine: In retrospect, I do believe Beckham was the right pick. I really expected the Giants to take Martin there because of the offensive line struggles, but I should have seen this coming. Jerry Reese loves his wide receivers, and Manning needed a target on the outside.
The Giants did add a few pieces to the offensive line in free agency, and I thought Colorado State center Weston Richburg was an excellent pick in the second round. As for the rest of the draft, who knows? Andre Williams and Jay Bromley could help, and linebacker Devon Kennard (fifth round) is intriguing. This draft has to be better than some of Reese's recent ones. Over the past four or five years the Giants simply have not gotten enough from their draft classes.
Dave: Tom Coughlin? Still full faith in him? Any thoughts that the Giants might need a shakeup in coaching?
Ed Valentine: I still have complete faith in Coughlin, yes. Looking back, I think Jerry Reese dealt Coughlin a horrible hand last year and it's amazing TC got that misfit group to win 7 games. That could easily have been a 3-13 disaster. It's not Coughlin's fault that Reese, who is a very good GM, has not been as successful in his recent drafts as he was back in 2007 and 2008. It's not Coughlin's fault the Giants had to replace Martellus Bennett with Brandon Myers. It's not Coughlin's fault that Jason Pierre-Paul was a shell of himself last year. As for a coaching staff shakeup, the Giants DID undergo one this offseason. The entire offensive coaching staff is new, and even the holdover guys are in new roles.
People think Coughlin is old and set in his ways. Well, he admitted a while back that this is the first time he has had to learn a completely new offensive scheme -- the one new OC Ben McAdoo is bringing with him -- in 30 years. So, the old dog is willing to learn new tricks. That said, if this turns out to be another bad year for the Giants there will be a lot of pressure for the Giants to move in a new direction, and Coughlin might end up forced to retire. I can guarantee you he doesn't want to.
Dave: One final question....Can the Giants succeed in 2014 with all this change, tons of new players through free agency, shakeups on offensive coaching...do you expect a return to the playoffs?
Ed Valentine: Yes, I think they can succeed. Do I think they have suddenly rebuilt themselves into one of the best rosters in the league? No, I don't. They have enough talent to get to the playoffs, especially if Eli has a normal Eli year and JPP can play more like he did in his All-Pro season. There has been so much change, though, that we just have to see how the pieces fit. I think the Giants are a playoff team. Admittedly, though, I go into every season expecting them to get to the playoffs or come right down to the final week with a chance to get there.