The Giants.com staff debates Big Blue topics as the offseason continues toward Free Agency and the Draft:
*The Giants should draft on offense in the first round. *
John Schmeelk: FACT -I will preface my answer of "fact" by saying that, if there is an outlier left high on their board that's by far the best player left when the Giants pick in the first round in April, they should pick that player regardless of whether he plays offense or defense. If all things are equal in terms of talent available, I think it is essential to address the offensive side of the ball.
The Giants averaged under 20 points per game this season, ranking them 26th in the league. That number has to get better if the team wants to take that step from a playoff team to a championship team. Finding upgrades on the offensive line and at tight end could be two areas worth exploring this offseason. All that said, this is considered a strong draft on the defensive line and at cornerback, and you can never have enough pass rushers or coverage players.
Dan Salomone: FICTION -Best player available. Best player available. Best player available. Let's see what happens in free agency before we rule out one side of the ball. Of course, the offense wasn't where it had been or should have been, but you can't neglect what got the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2011: the defense. Why not keep building the bully?
Lance Medow: FICTION -As of right now, you could make an argument for the Giants to take an offensive player in the first round but there's so much that will happen before the draft headed by free agency that could completely change the look of the depth chart. Plus, you can't go into the first round thinking you need to address a specific position. Instead, you have to maximize the value of the pick. Case in point, in 2010, the Giants selected Jason Pierre-Paul in the first round yet they already had Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Dave Tollefson at defensive end. You can never have enough depth at any position given the unpredictability of injuries such as what happened to Kiwanuka in 2010 when he was placed on injured reserve due to a herniated disc
The biggest focus this offseason should be improving the run game.
John Schmeelk: FACT -Many things the Giants offense struggled with this year comes back to the running game. The Giants gained less than four yards on almost 57 percent of their first down plays, which points a finger at the running game. The team only had seven running plays go for 20 yards or more in 2016, and they haven't had a run go for over 40 yards in two seasons. As teams realized the Giants couldn't consistently run the ball, they constantly played two safeties deep, which took away big passing plays. Run the ball better, and a lot of those offensive problems go away.
Dan Salomone: FACT -It's never one thing in football. The run game didn't do the passing game many favors this season, and vice versa. With that said, the running game had an average rank of 25th over the last four seasons, putting a lot of the pressure on Eli Manning to make things happen with his arm. We've seen the Giants raise the Lombardi Trophy with the last-ranked rushing attack, but it's not a formula that gives you the best chance to win on a yearly basis.
Lance Medow: FACT -The Giants haven't ranked in the top half of the league in rushing yards per game since 2012 when they were 14th. In 2013, they dropped to 29th, 2014 finished 23rd, moved to 18th in 2015 and this past season fell to 29th. As you can tell, the rushing numbers have fluctuated but they've stayed in the bottom half of the league. Balance is key and in 2016, the Giants had just four games where they had the same number of run attempts as pass attempts or more run attempts than pass attempts and, no coincidence, they went 4-0 in those contests. Improving the consistency of the run game has to be priority number one this offseason.
Justin Tuck is the best postseason player in Giants history.
John Schmeelk: FICTION -With all due respect to Justin Tuck and his 5.5 sacks in 10 games, I'm going to have to say fiction. It's hard not to pick Eli Manning, who in 12 playoff games has 18 touchdowns to only nine interceptions, three of which came in his first ever playoff game after the 2005 season. In the Giants' two Super Bowl runs, he played very efficient football with 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The Giants don't make either run without Manning protecting the football. In 2007, he had a special game in sub-zero temperatures at Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship Game. The 2011 trip to Indianapolis was on Manning's back. His fourth quarter performances were epic that season, and he continued it through the playoffs. In 2016, Manning played well against the Packers but didn't get a lot of help from his teammates.
Dan Salomone: FICTION -Look no further than the only two-time Super Bowl MVP in franchise history: Eli Manning. He's delivered some of the most iconic moments in NFL history, let alone just for the Giants. He made them the only team to win five consecutive road games in the postseason, including the first to win back-to-back trips to Lambeau Field. Along the way, he's outdueled Brett Favre, Tom Brady (twice), Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers when the games mattered the most.
Lance Medow: FICTION -If the statement read Justin Tuck is the best Super Bowl player in Giants history then it's an easy fact. He sacked Tom Brady four times in two contests and made a number of game changing plays but since it says 'best postseason player' you have to take into consideration all games*. *Outside of the two Super Bowl appearances, Tuck's stats don't necessarily jump off the page but that's not case with Eli Manning, who has regularly elevated his play in the playoffs. After a rough postseason debut against the Panthers following the 2005 season in which he had no touchdowns and three interceptions, Manning has turned things around. In the 11 games since, he's completed 61 percent of his pass attempts and has thrown for 18 touchdowns with just six interceptions (15 TDs, 2 INTs in both Super Bowl runs combined) highlighted by a numerous clutch plays.
*The 2011 NFC Championship Game was more thrilling than 2007. *
John Schmeelk: FICTION -The 2007 NFC Championship game is my all-time favorite game I was present at, including the Super Bowls, so this one was easy for me. The back and forth with turnovers in the fourth quarter and overtime made for an emotional roller coaster I'll never forget. The tension as Lawrence Tynes lined up for the game-winning field goal after missing a couple was palpable. Throw in being at Lambeau Field and the cold weather and the game is unbeatable. The 2011 game was great in its own right, since neither team showed they could consistently move the ball. One big play or mistake was going to make the difference. It turned out to be the Kyle Williams fumbled punt return. It was fun, but not as good as 2007.
Dan Salomone: FACT -I'm bias on this one, so I might not be the best person to ask. For the one at Lambeau, I was watching at a place called Grizzly's Grill N' Saloon in Minnesota, where I grew up. Naturally, the people there took some pleasure in seeing Favre lose in that fashion, but I was at the one in San Francisco, so I'll give the nod there. It was my second season working for the Giants, and I was watching a truly epic game unfold while rain was dripping on my laptop in the old press box at Candlestick Park. Just the physical nature of the game is what stands out. That San Francisco team was as big and bad as they come, but Eli got up over and over and over again – chinstrap be damned.
Lance Medow: FACT -The 2011 NFC Championship Game was one of the most physical games I've ever witnessed. You need multiple hands to tally the hits Eli Manning took from that strong Niners front seven. Both contests went to overtime and weren't offensive clinics but I have to give the 2011 game the edge. Eli Manning and Alex Smith each had two touchdown passes, both kickers played huge roles, and there were two fumbles by San Francisco punt returner Kyle Williams that the Giants recovered and turned into ten points including the game-winning field goal in overtime. You had offense, defense and special teams. All three facets were showcased and impacted the outcome of the game.