NFL Free Agency is well underway, with the 2017 NFL Draft on the horizon too. The New York Giants have already made some big moves, such as the signing of star receiver Brandon Marshall. With some more roster moves and signings to strengthen further, Big Blue may just turn out to be a legitimate contender next season. However, there are a number of areas and players that will need to step up next season in order to have a run at Super Bowl LII in Minnesota. The Giants will be looking to build on last season’s playoff appearance, and assert their dominance on the NFC. For that to happen, plenty of positions and their players will still need to make the leap.
New York Giants Players Who Must Step Up in 2017
Eli Manning, the Giants iron man at quarterback, is coming off one of his poorest seasons in the league. He wasn’t helped by the weak offensive line, and at times was forced to throw when receivers weren’t fully into their routes. However, it was becoming clear that his arm was weaker and he was under throwing receivers towards the end of the regular season.
While the acquisition of a tall, physical receiver in Marshall should help in that regard, Manning will still need to improve himself in his accuracy of passing, his arm strength and overall ability in the pocket. Last season the Ole Miss product threw for 4,027 yards and 26 TD’s on a 63 percent completion rate, whilst also throwing 16 interceptions.
Overall, the 36-year-old two time Super Bowl MVP will want to improve on the 86.0 passer rating he averaged last season. Quarterback is the most important position on the football field. The Giants defense last season could only take them so far. Should Manning bounce back, something he’s definitely capable of doing, Ben McAdoo‘s team will improve greatly. General manager Jerry Reese is surrounding him with talent in to help him make a late run at another Lombardi Trophy before retirement.
In his second season in the NFL, Ereck Flowers struggled greatly at left tackle. Despite a strong start in the first three games, his performances dropped drastically. The 22-year-old drew flags and seemed to be beaten on a high proportion of plays, giving up a league second worst 59 quarterback pressures. Additionally, his struggles also often led to 21 sacks being given up for a total loss of 142 yards. While the right side of the line looked to be making progress with the likes of Bobby Hart and John Jerry, Flowers’ poor performances at left tackle held the Giants back in their progress offensively, both in the passing game and in particular the running game.
Building on the offensive line is integral to the Giants progression in 2017. Although it’s still unclear whether the Giants may draft a starting left tackle, the likelihood may be that Flowers regains his place next season on the line. The former ninth overall pick will need to make improvements in his technique. His footwork can be good at times, but it’s working with his hands to block against edge rushers that needs to be worked on. Flowers still has promise, and it will be this upcoming third season in which the 22 year old product out of the University of Miami will need to step up and prove himself.
Paul Perkins and the Running Game
The hallmarks of successful teams are often having a strong running game. Paul Perkins, coming off his rookie season in the NFL, has the ability to grow further and increase his carriers. 22-year-old Perkins is a back with great speed and agility to break tackles and gain extra yardage. In 2016 he rushed for 112 yards while also catching passes out of the backfield, racking up 456 total yards.
It’s clear that Perkins is an exciting prospect, with plenty of upside, who has the ability to be the number one back with the right support. The signing of versatile blocker Rhett Ellison in free agency should help with this greatly, contributing both as a full back and as a tight end. So Perkins is a player that can make a leap in 2017 in his young career. Meanwhile, the Giants continue to search in free agency and in a deep running back draft for a power back that can share the carries with Perkins and provide a different element in the backfield.
The Giants can strengthen and bounce back from what was a poor running game in 2016, in which New York was ranked 30th in the league in drives ending in three-and-outs. With the right support, Perkins can help be a key component in an improved running game.
Brandon Marshall, the Giants marquee free agent signing so far, will look to hit the ground running at Big Blue. At 6’4”, the 32 year old veteran is the tall, physical receiver the Giants were looking for to complement Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr following the departure of Victor Cruz. Coming off a poorer season with the Jets in which he had 59 receptions for 788 yards and three touchdowns, he will look to be a weapon for Manning in the Giants’ offense and contribute consistently.
Safety Darian Thompson was one of the brighter prospects in the Giants’ 2016 Draft Class. However, he only played two games in 2016 before a foot injury ruled him out for the remainder of the season. In 2017, the 23-year-old will look to form a strong partnership with fellow safety and 2016 NFL First-Team All Pro Landon Collins in what is a strong New York secondary.
Middle linebackers Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard are currently free agents, and may not return to the team. If this is the case, then 23-year-old B.J. Goodson may take the next step and challenge for the starting middle linebacker spot. In his 2016 rookie season, Goodson only played 13 snaps, but looked to be a good contributor on special teams. Should the Giants not bring another line-backer, Goodson will need to step up and may contribute as a regular starting line-backer.
Similarly, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is still a free agent, with no guarantees of returning to New York. Should Big Blue not be able to afford him, they may look to bring in a new tackle either in the draft or in free agency. If this isn’t the case, then Jay Bromley may need to step up and gain a starting spot alongside premier run stuffer Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison, in what was a strong Giants defensive line in 2016. 24-year-old Bromley didn’t play many snaps behind Hankins and Harrison on the depth chart, but when he did play, he ended up making 14 tackles and making one sack.
The Last Word
These are some examples of areas where the New York Football Giants can build and strengthen going into the 2017 season. With key offseason moves yet to be made, there’s still a lot that will be subject to change. Overall, however, should New York improve in some of these important areas of the team, there’s clear reason to be optimistic. This team has a high ceiling.