New York Giants
2015 Record 6 -10
Third place NFC East
Any team that finishes a season under .500 has some serious questions that need to be answered before the next season starts, and the Giants are not an exception to the rule. Historically the team has been built around its defense and this year's squad looks to hold true to that fact. The question that fans in New York will be asking is going to be "Will the defense be capable of carrying the offense like they have done so many times in the past?" The answer to that question will determine the fate of Eli Manning and his teammates in 2016.
Let's take a look at some of the recent press surrounding the G-Men.
Starting with our sister site at SB Nation, the media that covers the Giants is looking for some answers to the problems that are plaguing the team. Quite frankly in the little that I have seen thus far the Giants seem to be trapped in the same doldrums that they were in throughout 2015. Veteran players around the clubhouse think that it is the sum of the little things that are making the biggest difference for New York.
We've got to go back and look at the film and just figure out, ‘Hey, what are we missing with this performance?' That's it. I think there are good things to glean from it. It might not seem like it now, but it's never as bad or as good as it looks. There are things we can take from this, but we have to move forward and get better." - Marshall Newhouse
At this level of the game it is always the little things that make the biggest difference. That news is both good and bad for the Giants. The little things can be fixed, of course, but it also means that there is likely no room for the type of major leap forward that catapults anyone else.
If you have been a Cowboys fan for more than just the past few years you can certainly relate to the plight that the Big Blue crew is facing this season. It is hard to get anything going when the men upfront are not generating the protection the quarterback needs to be effective and not punching holes for the running backs. Against the Buffalo Bills the New York offensive line, in particular the first team, could not get anything going. If it was not whiffing on blocks, it was because they were shooting themselves in the foot with penalties.
How bad was it? With Eli Manning and the rest of the starters in the game the team was able to gain 32 yards on 16 plays from scrimmage. A Buffalo defense that was missing several key pieces was able to pitch a shutout against our rivals from New York.
Defense has always been the focus of the New York philosophy. 2015 was an embarrassment for the organization as they allowed league worst totals of 299 yards passing and 420 yards of total offense per game. In an effort to restore the luster to a tarnished unit the New York front office invested heavily in the defense during the offseason; perhaps too heavily.
The Giants signed defensive end Olivier Vernon, guaranteeing him $52.5 million. They added cornerback Janoris Jenkins. They snagged Damon Harrison. They re-signed defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. And they even added smaller pieces such as linebackers Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard and cornerback Leon Hall. They later selected cornerback Eli Apple out of Ohio State with the 10th overall pick in the draft.
They are looking for as many as five new starters for 2016. Success will depend on how long it takes the pieces to come together as a team. There is a ton of individual talent for the defensive staff to work with if they can get everyone on the same page. Through two preseason games the defense has looked good for the first six quarters but they faded down the stretch against the Bills.
It has been a long time since Mr. Cruz has salsa danced his way around the gridiron, and he faces a milestone this week.
Cruz is trying desperately to return to game action this week for the first time in almost two years. He's been dealing with a nagging groin problem this summer, on the heels of calf and knee injuries the previous two years. It has been almost two weeks since Cruz last finished a practice, and almost two years since he last appeared in a game.
This is the week when the Giants will be looking for Cruz to turn in the type of performance that he once did to come out of nowhere and rise to Pro Bowl levels. If he cannot prove to the team that he can make it through a full week of practice and a preseason contest the team will be forced to start debating the thought that has to be tucked away somewhere in the back of their minds, "Could Victor Cruz be through thanks to his injuries?"