Giants identify two areas needing improvement on Offense

Posted Apr 1, 2016

Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan talks about where the offense needs to improve heading into 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ- When the NFL’s free agency signing period began, Mike Sullivan was the kid at Christmas who watched his brother open several gifts while he got nothing.

The Giants signed four defensive players for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, but none who will line up for Sullivan, the team’s new offensive coordinator. So it’s perfectly logical that one of the happiest guys at Giants headquarters is … Mike Sullivan.


“There’s no bigger fan of the defense getting the types of players that they got,” Sullivan said today in his first public comments since Ben McAdoo elevated him from quarterbacks coach to coordinator. “That means they’re going to take the ball away, they’re going to put us in position to force some punts, force some field goals, or not even let them get into field goal range and that’s going to give us more snaps, more opportunities, more at bats, if you will. So (the additions) made our team better, and I’m really excited about that.”

The Giants signed defensive end Olivier Vernon, tackle Damon Harrison, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and linebacker Keenan Robinson. They also re-signed end Jason Pierre-Paul.

“Yeah, it was nice,” Spagnuolo said. “It was like Christmas. (General Manager) Jerry (Reese) and his staff, (pro personnel director) Ken Sternfeld, they did a great job of identifying the guys, then being real aggressive and getting what we think are some pretty good football players. It’s exciting.”

That excitement stems in part from the return of Pierre-Paul, the two-time Pro Bowler who missed the first eight games last season while recuperating from a July 4 fireworks accident.

“JPP, as we all know, is a really good football player,” Spagnuolo said. “He wasn’t here with us, (we) didn’t have him all spring. So now we get him fully right from the beginning. That’s an advantage. We do think, obviously, the three guys that we got in free agency give us something; whether that’s because we didn’t have it last year or we did, I’m not really here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about going forward. Again, I’m excited about the guys we got. I’m hoping, certainly, that we can put a better product of the field than we did a year ago. I think that we will. All the pieces coming together, whether it’s players or coaches, is something that we’re excited about.”

The Giants’ assistant coaches spoke to the media today for the first time since McAdoo formed his staff. Some excerpts from the coordinators’ new conferences.

*Sullivan was asked where the offense can improve in 2016.

“Really, there are two areas where we took a hard look at ourselves and looking at last season where we can improve,” he said. “It starts with what we call the green zone/red zone, putting points on the board. We struggled, we were 29th in the league, and as we studied ourselves, too many of those mistakes were self-inflicted. We had a lot of turnovers, some penalties that pushed us back, some missed assignments. We’ve got to get better in that area. And secondly, third down. We finished 22nd in the league, and we have to be able to sustain drives so that if we get down into the green zone, put points on the board. Those are two situations that you know we need to improve upon. And then finally, we’d like to get that run game going, get it going back to where it needs to be to help us in other areas of the offense.”

*Spagnuolo on working with new positions coaches at defensive line and linebacker.

“I don’t know if difficult is the word - it’s a challenge,” he said. “Here’s the way I always look at it, though: I think there’s a positive spin on that. I’ve always felt this way, when you bring in new ideas and opinions, it’s two-fold: you can gather new ideas about what other people have been doing, and I think we’ve got some great guys here. And I think this is really important. For 17 years, I’ve been basically running this defensive system. It’s always good when somebody new comes in and says, ‘Why are you calling it that,’ or ‘Why are you doing this?’ Sometimes you go, ‘I’m not sure why we do that, maybe we should change the word.’ So that’s been really good, the give and take and the interaction has been great.”

*At their annual meeting last week, the NFL owners voted to spot the ball at the 25-yard line on a kickoff that results in a touchback. That is five yards further than it was previously. The change was made to make the game safer by reducing the number of kickoff returns, which are high-impact plays.

But it might not work out that way. Rather than blast the ball into the end zone, teams could have their kickers boot the ball shorter and higher if they are confident their coverage team can stop the opposing returner short of the 25.

Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn doesn’t know what teams will elect to do.

“We have been looking at a lot of college tape - they have had that rule for the last couple years, and it is a mix,” Quinn said. “There are some teams that feel good about their athletic ability and hang it up there and try to keep it in, and there are other teams that just bang it out. So I think it will be a mix.

“I’m sure we are all going to research and see. Obviously, there (are) two schools of thought. One, you bang it out and give them the ball at the 25, and the other one is you hang it up somewhere around the goal line with great hang time and location and you cover it and hope to tackle them inside the 20 or at the 20. So it is a five-yard swing there.”