$200+ million dollars. That’s about how much the New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese spent during 2016 free agency. Many positions needed to be addressed over the offseason for the Giants, especially after an upsetting 6-10 campaign the previous 2 seasons. This problem mainly had to do with the defense, which was best compared to a revolving door. They always managed to keep the games close, though, but usually ended in heartbreak for the team and the fans. A notable fact about the 2016 season is that if every game finished at the 2-minute warning, the Giants would’ve been 13-3. Thats ridiculous if you ask me. They couldn’t finish and lock up the games, especially when the other team had the ball in the final seconds. As soon as the regular season ended for the Giants, the front office went to work.
Jerry Reese and co. began the 2016 offseason with quite a bang, as Tom Coughlin, 2-time Super Bowl champ with Big Blue, resigned as head coach of the team. For many Giants fans, it was going to be odd not seeing that crazy old man running around out there yelling at everything in sight. It was a sad departure after 12 seasons because he is a winner and the collapse of the Giants was far from his fault.
The next man to take the throne of this football team was none other than our Offensive Coordinator for the previous 2 seasons, Mr. Ben McAdoo. He was ready to create a legitimate football team and real contenders for the Super Bowl once again.
The first step towards hoisting that Lombardi Trophy over the streets of New York began almost immediately. Former quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan took McAdoo’s place as offensive coordinator. Together, they combined their schemes and plays to hopefully expose as many defenses in the NFL as possible. But after consecutive 6-10 seasons, the focus wasn’t on making plays on the offensive side of the ball. The two major things that set the Giants up for a playoff run for the 2016 season were free agency and the NFL Draft.
After a season where their defense was the laughing stock of the NFL, the Giants had some housekeeping to do, and they sure had the money to do it. The 2015 defense finished the season with 420.3 YPG (dead last in NFL), 27.6 PPG (30th in NFL), and 100.6 rush yards per game (19th in NFL). Jerry Reese and co. came out the gates of free agency with eyes locked on certain players and vowed to lock up the players on their big board. The #1 player on that board was a man by the name of Olivier Vernon, former defensive end for the Miami Dolphins. Vernon would prove to be one of the best pass rushers in the league, creating the second most QB hurries in the league. Although he only had 8.5 sacks, Vernon was constantly chasing after quarterbacks while battling a wrist injury during the first half of the season. Following the season he was named to the AP Second Team All-Pro. The Giants are definitely getting their money’s worth, but expect a lot more from Vernon come 2017.
The next big signing the Giants made was a not as costly one, just a one-year $10.5 million dollar deal, to bring back the seven and a half fingered beast, Jason Pierre-Paul. This was merely a “prove it” contract and boy did he prove it. No one in the league can do what he can with seven and a half fingers. JPP played in 12 games during 2016 and had 7 sacks to go along with 53 tackles and 3 forced fumbles, one being returned for a touchdown. JPP had a breakout game against Cleveland in week 12, recording 3 sacks, a forced fumble and a touchdown in that game. Without him being on the other side of Vernon, the Giants wouldn’t have had the season that they did.
Adding on to the $200 million dollars spent this offseason was cornerback Janoris Jenkins from the then St. Louis Rams and Defensive Tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison of the hometown rival New York Jets. “Jack Rabbit” as he likes to call himself, came into play alongside Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and help lock down wide receivers for this defense. Snacks, on the other hand, came to eat, not just food, but running backs as well. Jenkins was later named to the Pro Bowl and second team AP All-Pro. Snacks was named to first team AP All Pro.
Other notable free agent acquisitions for the Giants included linebackers Kelvin Sheppard and Keenan Robinson and cornerbacks Leon Hall and Coty Sensabaugh.
Free Agency isn’t the only way to improve a football team. The draft provides youth and charisma as young college athletes are hungry for professional football. The Giants have been successful in the past years during the draft and continued it this year with, in my opinion, their best draft in recent years.
They selected cornerback Eli Apple out of Ohio State with the 10th overall pick and he immediately stepped into a starting role on this defense. Following in the second round was wide receiver Sterling Shepard out of Oklahoma who became a huge threat out of the slot and had an amazing rookie campaign. Shepard became a fan favorite, especially when he found the end zone 8 times. Rounds 3-6 were no different, as Reese added monster playmaker and safety Darian Thompson from Boise State (Thompson was unable to show his abilities this year and was sidelined due to a foot injury since week 2). Round 4-6 included BJ Goodson who provided depth in special teams, Jerrell Adams, a giant passing target and great pass blocker as a tight end, and the new fan favorite, running back Paul Perkins from UCLA. Perkins took over the starting job very late in the season and didn’t make the Giants regret it, rushing for over 100 yards in his first start as a Giant. Perkins is also very versatile, able to catch the ball and break ankles as he runs down the field.
All of these players played a huge role in creating a Giants defense fans are so used to watching. With the emergence of safety and Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Landon Collins, this team brought a whole new vibe to games. Collins had five interceptions, four sacks, and 125 tackles. As a safety. Those stats are crazy. He also had a three-game consecutive interception streak. Collins was definitely the MVP for the Giants this season and only has higher hopes for the season to come.
This defense was the main reason this team went 11-5 and made the playoffs for the first time in 5 years. Compared to a season ago they increased they’re league ranking drastically, improving 17.8 PPG ( 2nd in NFL), 339.7 YPG (10th in NFL) and 88.6 rush yards per game (3rd in NFL). The one place the Giants struggled this season was in fact on offense, struggling to make plays down field and get the ball in the end zone.
Although the Giants lost in the Wild Card round in the frozen tundra of Lambeau field, there is a lot of hope not only in the locker room and front office, but in the heart and minds of the fans throughout the country. The Giants are a lot younger and have added lots of pieces to become a successful football team. They have a bright and long future ahead of them and it all started with this season. The Giants will keep the winning ways this city is used to, in hopes to bringing back the Lombardi Trophy very soon.