Giants head coach Pat Shurmur discussed the updates to the team's roster this offseason:
ORLANDO – Thus far this offseason, the Giants have signed 11 players who wore different uniforms in 2017. Jason Pierre-Paul was traded. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Dwayne Harris and Brad Wing were released. Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Devon Kennard and others have signed with other teams.
The NFL Draft is still four weeks away, but the Giants already have a significantly different roster than what they had at the end of last season.
Coach Pat Shurmur knows everyone outside the organization believes general manager Dave Gettleman and he are guiding the Giants are through a total rebuilding of the roster.
But he disagrees.
"I don't think that is the case," Shurmur said Tuesday morning. "Dave and I have spoken about this and we really believe this, we want to make our team better one move at a time. I think that's what we're trying to do. I don't believe that narrative that it's a reboot, that it's a rebuild. We're trying to make this year's New York Football Giants. I like saying that, New York Football Giants. The New York Football Giants (will be) as good as we can be going into September, and then we will continue to make moves as we go. This is not kind of a within boundaries-type deal when you shape the roster. It is constantly happening, and we're going to constantly try to improve our roster. It is obviously on the front burner this time of year."
Shurmur and the league's other head coaches were grilled by the media at separate tables for an hour this morning, one of the highlights of the NFL annual meeting. The Giants' new head coach was asked about a wide range of topics, including what has been an upheaval of the roster.
The Giants traded for linebacker Alec Ogletree, and signed free agents Nate Solder, Jonathan Stewart and Kareem Martin, among others. Shurmur is convinced the moves have improved the team.
"We feel like we've helped ourselves on defense, we've added some pieces that will fit our new defensive scheme," he said. "Guys are going to help us when we start to play five on the line and some of the ways we want to play on first and second down. We've helped ourselves up front. It's a little bit of the same model, last year in Minnesota we had (Riley) Rieff and (Mike) Remmers and then we drafted a player (Pat Elflein) that played as a rookie like a guy that was a veteran. So Dave and I are both of the opinion that you've got to improve the offensive line in order to get this thing kick-started, and that's certainly the direction we went in free agency."
The Giants could make more moves. On Sunday, team president John Mara said no one on the roster is untouchable.
"It's just another way of saying that we are going to do everything that we can to make our team better," Shurmur said. "I understand that, and it's sort of refreshing to know that we're going to look under any rock, turn over every stone we can to make sure that we make the New York Football Giants the best team we can make it as we start September."
One position will almost certainly be staffed with the most familiar of Giants faces. Shurmur reiterated that he's been very impressed with Eli Manning in the limited contact they are permitted to have at this time of year.
"I've seen Eli in the building almost every day in the offseason," Shurmur said. "He's the fittest, healthiest 37-year old I've been around, so I'm looking forward to working with him as well, as well as (second-year pro) Davis Webb. The important thing with quarterbacks is they come in all shapes and sizes, all skill levels, they're on all parts of the spectrum in terms of their experience in the league, so the one that ends up playing for us, you just try to get the best out of him. Much like we did with Case Keenum last year in Minnesota."
Manning started all 15 games in which he played last season, and completed 61.6% of his passes for 3,468 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a passer rating of 80.4. It was the first season since 2013 he did not throw for at least 4,000 yards or at least 20 touchdown passes.
Shurmur has watched every snap Manning took last season.
"I saw some good play," Shurmur said. "I think, and we've spoken about this, there are some plays on there that can't happen. But there is a lot of good quarterback play on there. And I think all things New York Football Giants, the guys that are going to be here that were here a year ago have got to play better, and we're going to add some pieces that we think will help us. And I think Eli is no different.
"Certainly he is probably near the back part of his career than the front part, just because of age. I know that. But he has been very durable. We can all talk about quarterbacks or point to quarterbacks, even that I've worked with, that have had a hard time staying on the field. Eli has stayed on the field. Your availability is huge when you're talking about a player. That just doesn't happen. He takes very good care of himself, he lives a clean life, he works out, he stays fit throughout the season, and I'm sure that's part of it."
The Giants hold the second selection in a draft that has several outstanding quarterback prospects, including USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen and Wyoming's Josh Allen. The Giants have spent as much time studying them as an aspiring attorney does for the bar exam. It's possible the Giants could select one of them as Manning's eventual successor.
"I think we are always looking for a young, generational quarterback and I think there are a couple examples of that out there playing, a couple in our division," Shurmur said. "So, yeah, that's the urge."
Is there a generational quarterback in this draft class?
"Time will tell, but these are all very talented guys that they have a chance to be really, really good players," Shurmur said. "I think when you talk about those players, they're all in the same category right now. I'm not going to sit here and list them. I have a list and order in my mind, but you've got to let me save a little bit."
Fair enough. Bur Shurmur did discuss numerous other subjects, including…
*Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, whom the Giants might consider selecting at No. 2.
"He's equally impressive like the quarterbacks we just talked about," Shurmur said. "When you watch his tape, you don't see anything that he can't do. As a running back, certainly he's got to do the obvious, be able to run the ball and secure the ball and he's done that and put the ball in the end zone, which he's done. He's really a pretty good pass protector in terms of protecting the quarterback; that's an important piece, and then he can catch the football as well. He can do everything that you're looking for in a running back, and he's a terrific human being, as well. We got to spend some time at the combine, our people have been to see him and I'm certainly going to get to know more about him as we go, as well."
*On Notre Dame's Quinton Nelson, the highest-rated guard in the draft.
"He is an outstanding player," Shurmur said. "They do a good job at Notre Dame developing their offensive linemen and he's a local guy of sorts. That really shouldn't matter, but the fact that he is local, we had a couple exposures with him and he's wired the right way to play the position, and we certainly like him a great deal."
*As an offensive coach, must he resist the temptation to take an offensive player over a similarly talented defensive player?
"My reaction is pick the offensive guy," Shurmur said, "but I do realize the importance of playing defense as well, so I get that. This is a collaboration certainly and we understand - it's a little easier to kind of look at the roster as a whole than you think. If you look up on the roster and you don't have a player that can't even line up and practice, then you've got to get a guy."
*On his conversation with Ereck Flowers, who was told by Shurmur he is moving to right tackle after the Giants signed free agent Nate Solder.
"I've actually had a couple (conversations)," Shurmur said. "The one that was reported was the one right after we signed Nate. It's been good. I expressed to him that I knew he was a little bit hurt and he played all year. I think that's an important piece. I kind of embraced him by saying I think he's a tough guy, but I also told him that we brought in a guy that's going to play left tackle and we want him to move over to right and compete to be a player there, and we're hopeful that he is going to be one of our best five (linemen)."
*On Eli Apple, who had a rough second season that included a team suspension for the final game.
"We're looking forward to working with Eli," Shurmur said. "It's a clean slate. I think that's safe to say. As we get to know everybody, it's a clean slate. Again, we're going to try to develop relationships with the players from the very beginning, or as soon as we can visit with them and try to work with them to be the best they can be. I think when you have sometimes younger players that are thrust into an NFL setting in a big town with a lot of attention, we've got to be willing to work with them in all areas of their game and their life, and Eli is a player that is no different than anybody else."
*When discussing the revamped kicking game, Shurmur alluded to 12-year veteran Zak DeOssie.
"We have a long-snapper who comes with the building," Shurmur said. "I think he's older than me."