The New York Giants ended up with a 6-10 record for 2015 and few see the team as one that is barely able to compete for the playoffs, much less a Super Bowl. There is a lot of hope for the 2016 season and there is always a team that surprises each year. The Giants have as good a chance as any to do so. First, lets explore what went wrong during the 2015 campaign and whether the Giants seem capable of turning it around in 2016. I do like our chances more than the Jets.
What Went Wrong in 2015
While it is never a good idea to blame a losing season on bad luck or injuries as all teams face injuries, the amount of injuries that the Giants have suffered in recent years has been daunting to say the least. The Giants have had the most injured team, measured by the number of lost starters, for the past three seasons. This is difficult for any team to cover up and bounce back from.
All were not true football injuries either as the Giants lost Jason Pierre-Paul to a fireworks accident for much of the season though he eventually returned to the team and gave a weak defense a real spark. Victor Cruz did not return to the team after a torn ACL in 2014 and suffered continued hamstring problems. Will Beatty, their left tackle, injured his bicep in a weight training accident and missed the full season, and three safeties all missed the entire season on IR.
The net result of this was an anemic defense that was unable to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks and a cornerback group that, while talented, was exposed to the long pass play without a pass rush.
Hope for 2016
Whether the string of injuries was karmic retribution for Tom Coughlin’s infamous comments about injuries being mental and a cancer, the team is unable to have the same bad luck in the future. While this will have a positive impact on a beleagured defense, there are other factors that should help to turn around their defense.
Several of the major factors that could turn around the 2016 campaign are:
– Major free agency dollars spent on shoring up the defensive line and the backfield. The Giants signed defensive end Oliver Vernon from the Miami Dolphins who seems to be ready for a breakout year, run stuffing defensive tackle Damon Harrison, and Janoris Jenkins a playmaking corner back who replaces the injury prone Prince Amukamara.
– The anticipated return of Victor Cruz, the continued improvement of health of Jason Pierre-Paul, and the trio of safeties lost in 2016. It might not be the best team ever, but they could be good.
– The Giants are in a weak division which was open to the team to catch up with the Eagles, Redskins, and Cowboys. If the Giants nail down their division they can become hot in the playoffs and could contend for a Super Bowl like in 2007 and 2011.
– The continued emergence of young offensive stars like Odell Becham, Richberg, and Flowers who give the Giants a solid offensive core to pair with Manning for his twilight years
– Fresh coaching ideas in Ben McAdoo who successfully implemented a West Coast Offense that has Eli Manning’s stats being near the top of his career.
Given the unrest in the rest of the NFC East, we can see the Giants getting hot and running the division with a 10 and 6 record. Once the Giants are in the playoffs they can get hot and try and recapture the magic from earlier years. If the rookies of Eli Apple (CB), Sterling Shepard (WR) and BJ Goodson (LB) capture contribute you are looking at a deep team that can surprise significantly. Look out for the right side of the offensive line to spell trouble however.