EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jerry Reese will make no predictions for this season, but he has high hopes for the Giants in 2014.
The Giants were unable to do that last season. At his meeting with reporters last year, Reese talked about a sense of urgency after the Giants missed the playoffs in 2012. But the team stumbled to a 0-6 start. A second-half surge only lifted the Giants to 7-9, their first losing season since 2004.
"If you stay in this business long enough, some of those things might happen to you and it happened to us last year," Reese said of the string of defeats at the start of the season. "I really don't have a lot of good answers for that, but we sure don't want it to happen again. We did everything in our power during this offseason with free agency, draft, coaching changes to prevent that from happening again."
The Giants signed 18 veteran free agents who are on the current roster. They brought in a new offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo, hired new quarterbacks and running backs coaches and re-assigned others. They selected what they believe to be a strong draft class, headed by LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the 12th overall selection.
This is the Giants' most extensive offseason overhaul since Reese became the general manager in 2007. That has prompted Reese to preach patience. He is happy the Giants play a fifth preseason game next month (the Hall of Fame Game vs. Buffalo).
"I think it takes a little bit longer to gel when you have a lot of new faces," Reese said. "You could see yesterday, we practiced one time and it wasn't real pretty. Some guys flashed yesterday, but it was only one day. Coach (Tom) Coughlin is always worried about those things. I told him last night, 'We don't want to peak too soon. It was only one day.' We think we'll have enough time this preseason to get ready to go."
One of the keys factors in the expected improvement will be the play of quarterback Eli Manning, who a rough 2013 season. Frequently under pressure, he threw a career-high and Giants-record 27 interceptions. Manning also suffered an ankle sprain in the season finale that eventually required arthroscopic surgery, but he said this week the injury is no longer a factor.
"I expect nothing except for him to bounce back and be the Pro Bowl-caliber football player that we know he can be," Reese said. "He's still a young football player, all things considered with respect to the quarterback position. We expect him to come back and be a leader, bounce back and not have some of the things that happened to him last year and to be a dynamic football player for us. That's what I expect from him."
Manning turned 33 five days after the end of the Giants' 2013 season, but Reese said the number is irrelevant.
"The quarterback is a little bit different," Reese said. "Thirty-three is getting up there, but quarterbacks are different. It's not like a running back at that age or some other positions at that age. Quarterbacks don't take the hits like a lot of other positions do. Hopefully, Eli won't take a lot of hits like he took last year. We tried to fix that with some of our offensive linemen that we brought in. We got some guys back off the injury list that we expect to play better. We're hopeful that everybody gels upfront and we can have a deep offensive line so we can protect our quarterback."
The Giants' free agent haul included offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton, running back Rashad Jennings, linebacker Jameel McClain, defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. and defensive backs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond and Quintin Demps.
Reese and everyone else in the organization hopes they will make significant contributions to what they expect will be a much more successful season.
"It looks good right now on paper to us," Reese said. "We feel like we got some good players, some quality football players that have winning in their background. We feel like those guys are going to come out there and help us. But you have to go out there and do it. You can't talk about it – you have to get out there and do it. We're working hard right now to do that."
Photos from #GiantsCamp practice!