Three Giants writers discuss where the Giants need to improve the most to compete in 2018:
This week's "Cover 3" question: Do the Giants need to improve more on offense or defense to get back on track in 2018?
Can I choose both? The Giants were ranked 21st in the league offensively in terms of yards gained (314 per game), but they were next to last in points per game (15.4). Defensively, the Giants gave up more yards (373 per game) than any other team in the league but one. They also allowed 24.2 points per game, fifth-most in the league. Both sides of the ball need to make significant improvement if the Giants want to be better in 2018. If only one side gets better, it isn't going to matter.
But just for fun, I'll go with the offense. The defense will likely have much of the same personnel that put together a strong 2016 season, a fair expectation if the players on that side of the ball stay healthy. The offense, on the other hand, has struggled for two years. The issues were exacerbated in 2017 with the injuries to Odell Beckham Jr. and the other wide receivers, but the core of the problem was no different. The Giants were unable to run the ball consistently, or protect the quarterback well enough to make big plays down the field. Until there is improvement in those areas, the offense will continue to struggle and so will the team. Fix those things, and success will follow.
Injuries made a long season feel even longer in 2017, but that was far from the only issue. While no phase is immune after a 3-13 season, the offense failed to hold up its end of the bargain for the past two seasons. In 2016, the defense overcome those deficiencies. In 2017, the levee broke. Now the Giants find themselves with the No. 2 pick in the draft, a new general manager and a new head coach.
Pat Shurmur's background is offense, and that is the side of the ball that needs the most improvement. While Dave Gettleman and his front office sort out the trenches via free agency, waiver wires, trades and the draft, Shurmur has two major pieces in place with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. Despite all of Shurmur's success, this will be the best tandem he has coached in his career. It's just about tailoring a scheme to put them in the best position to succeed, which Shurmur has done so well, most recently in Minnesota.
When you look back at 2017, the Giants' roster was hit by injuries across the board. A handful of players on both sides of the ball will return, most notably wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. However, it can't be overlooked that when the team was at full health in 2017 and the majority of 2016, the offense still struggled to put points on the board. That's why I think they need to improve more on offense than defense. The Giants finished 29th in the NFL in rushing yards per game in 2016 and only moved up to 26th last season. That's one area in particular the Giants need to see a notable improvement if they want to get back on track in 2018. Everything feeds off the run game, especially the ability to convert on third down. In 2016, the Giants finished 28th in the NFL in third-down efficiency, only to drop to 30th in 2017.
As GM Dave Gettleman indicated in his introductory presser, addressing the offensive line is one of his top priorities. The Giants have three starters on the line that are scheduled to be free agents (Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, D.J. Fluker), so that makes that position group a point of emphasis by default. Changes at running back and wide receiver are also a possibility, especially since depth on offense is as important as who starts. The Giants finished with a top-10 defense in 2016, and improvement needs to be made on that side, as well. If that unit avoids the injury bug, the expectation would be for a return to form.
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