In this week’s “Cover 3” on Giants.com, we asked our staffers that very question with regards to the Giants. Here is what they had to say:
By John Schmeelk
If the Giants want to take the next step in 2017, I think they need to upgrade their play at the tight end position. It starts with the blocking where there were far too many times this year that poor blocking by the tight end would often short circuit running plays that would otherwise be successful.
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Too many times defensive ends or linebackers would crash down the edge to stop plays. Other times, when the tight end was asked to play the H-Back role and lead into the hole from the backfield, they would be unable to clear the way.
The Giants saw so many two-deep defenses this year, and one way to beat that alignment is by throwing it deep and down the middle to the tight end. The Giants did not do that consistently enough to get teams to change their defensive strategy. Will Johnson’s return should bring some balance to the tight end group with his blocking ability. Adams should continue to improve, and hopefully Tye and Donnell will become better blockers. All that said, I would not be surprised if the Giants add someone to the group this offseason to further compliment the blocking, or add some big play ability. Or, just maybe, they will add someone that can do both.
STEP UP THE RUN GAME
By Dan Salomone
You don’t need the best running game, but consistently ranking in the bottom third of the league doesn’t cut it. Over the past four years, the Giants ranked 29th, 19th, 23rd and 29th in rushing yards per game. Conversely, the NFC representative in the Super Bowl ranked fifth, second, first and fourth in that span. Yes, the Giants did win it all in 2011 with a last-place rushing attack, but everyone can agree that’s not the best formula. As a team in the Northeast, you need a consistent ground game to get you through December and January.
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Again, you don’t need to be No. 1, especially when you have Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and company. But just envision this year's defense coupled with a more balanced offense. It would benefit every phase of the game and take some pressure off Manning’s arm. That’s how the Giants get to their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history.
WIN IN THE TRENCHES
By Lance Medow
If the Patriots and Falcons have anything in common, it’s balance. Throughout the 2016 season, both teams were able to put up points and create game-changing plays with their defense. Atlanta ranked first in the NFL in points per game, New England third, and both defenses collected 34 sacks. Based on those stats, that means both teams won in the trenches on offense and defense and that’s what you need to do consistently in order to get to the Super Bowl. Aside from New England and Atlanta, even if you go back two years, the Broncos and Panthers both had solid pass rushes and strong running games.
Last offseason, the Falcons went out and signed free agent center Alex Mack from Cleveland. His arrival helped improve the one facet of the team that had held them back in previous seasons: the offensive line. Same can be said for the Patriots, who struggled to protect Tom Brady in the 2016 AFC Championship Game against Von Miller and company. In 2015, New England’s offensive line showcased too many different combinations to count due to injuries, but with more stability in 2016, thanks to better health, and the addition of rookie Joe Thuney (2016 third round pick), the Patriots had much more consistency on the line.
Any offense in the NFL is dependent upon the production of the offensive line, given the quarterback and the run game rely so heavily on that facet of the team. While Eli Manning was sacked the third-fewest times (22) in the NFL in 2016, the Giants run game ranked 29th in total yards per game (88.2) and 30th in yards per carry (3.5). Most important, winning in the trenches, more often than not, translates to better red zone efficiency. In 2016, the Giants finished 22nd in the NFL in that category (51%). In comparison, the Falcons were eighth (65%) and the Patriots 10th (64%). It’s no coincidence that’s why each of those teams boasted top three offenses when it came to points per game.