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Cover 4

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Cover 4: Most underrated offseason move (so far)


Building the roster is a year-round process, one that doesn't begin with free agency in March and end with the draft in April. With that in mind, the crew discusses the most underrated personnel move made by the team since last season ended:

John Schmeelk: I don't think the Bobby Okereke or Darren Waller transactions can be considered "underrated," so I landed on Rakeem Nunez-Roches, better known as Nacho. Last year, the Giants allowed the second-most yards per rush play in the NFL and were especially vulnerable to the run when Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence weren't on the field.

The Giants desperately needed veteran help on the defensive line on early downs, and Nacho is the perfect person to satiate that craving. He may not put up sexy numbers or flash on highlight reels, but he will hold the point of attack, fill gaps, and be a positive influence in the locker room. The Eagles ran for more than 250 yards against the Giants twice last season. The Ravens also ran for more than 200 yards. Seven other teams ran for more than 140 yards against the Giants. If they want to be back in the postseason this year, the run defense problem had to be fixed and Nacho will help do just that.

Dan Salomone: Sometimes the moves that teams don't make end up having the biggest domino effect. The Giants parted ways with Jon Feliciano (49ers) and Nick Gates (Commanders), two veterans who were likely options to start at center. At the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix, general manager Joe Schoen said they had contingency plans in place. Those included bringing back Jack Anderson, whom Schoen and Brian Daboll knew from Buffalo. They can also turn to Shane Lemieux and Ben Bredeson, who have started games at guard but can play center. Then there's always the draft and camp cuts around the league.

The context of the following quote was in response to questions about Saquon Barkley, but like Schoen said, it applies to everyone.

"Essentially when you're building a team, and I'll say this to everybody, there's 53 players. You can't look at everybody in a silo," he said. "As you're going through negotiations and you can't come to an agreement on what the value of a player is, then you have to shift to plan B."

So, when you're talking about moves that flew under the radar but will have a major effect on the team's makeup, the interior offensive line is the place to look.

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 cycle.

Lance Medow: Parris Campbell was the Colts' second-round pick in 2019 following an impressive senior season at Ohio State. Unfortunately, due to various injuries, he was never able to build off that production immediately as he appeared in only 15 games over his first three seasons combined. Last year, he was finally able to put that behind him and suited up for all 17 contests, posting career-highs across the board. That's why this is a low-risk, high-reward addition to the roster.

If Campbell can stay on the field and pick up where he left off in 2022, he'll provide a deep, elusive threat for the offense. Although he only played in six games in 2021, he was averaging 16 yards per reception before he suffered a broken foot. Between him and Darius Slayton, the Giants should be able to stretch the field and the hope is that will create more explosive plays, a category the team wants to see skyrocket this coming season. It's very hard in football, in general, to sustain lengthy possessions where you have to drive 80-90 yards down the field because, in all likelihood, there will be a negative play that comes to light. That's where Campbell comes into play. In each of the last two seasons, he's had a reception for at least 49 yards and if you spread that out across a larger sample size, the potential is there for even more. Much like Isaiah Hodgins took advantage of more playing time and targets in 2022, Parris could subscribe to a similar philosophy.

Matt Citak: The Giants have made some key additions at positions of need over the last few weeks. But perhaps the most underrated move made thus far this offseason is the return of outside linebacker Jihad Ward.

Ward is coming back for his second season with the Giants. This doesn't come as much of a surprise after the outside linebacker put together the strongest overall campaign of his career with the Giants. Ward matched his previous career-best of three sacks while setting new high marks in tackles (43), tackles for loss (seven), quarterback hits (13) and passes defensed (four) in addition to forcing the first two fumbles of his career. Not only did he shine on the field, but the 6-foot-5, 287-pound linebacker also stepped up in the locker room. During minicamp last offseason, the veteran took on a leadership role with Kayvon Thibodeaux, making sure the rookie stayed on top of his studying of the playbook. That mentorship extended to all of the outside linebackers, as Ward, who had previously played for Wink Martindale, guided the group through the new defensive coordinator's scheme throughout training camp. It's no wonder the coordinator told the media he always wants Ward playing in his defense.

"He's a physical, tough guy that is the character of what you're looking for as a defensive player," Martindale said after last year's Week 1 win over the Titans. "He sets the pace, especially in the run game on setting the edges, and he took it personal that game, and that's what has made him who he is. And wherever I'm at, I hope I have Jihad Ward with me."

View photos of the newest members of the Giants touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.


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