The Giants 2013 season was effectively over before it had really begun. By week 6 of the season they had dropped to 0-6 and the fact that they recovered to finish the year at 7-9 says more about the general quality of the teams that they came up against than their own talents. Victories over a woeful Minnesota side, the Redskins (twice), Raiders and a Lions side that was imploding at the end of the year did a great deal to pad their win column and mask the deficiencies of the side. Much of the poor season must be placed with Eli Manning; the Giants’ quarterback had a year to forget and how he bounces back next year will do much to shape the 2014 campaign.
Any offensive unit that is marshalled by a quarterback throwing 27 picks and just 18 touchdowns is going to struggle. Eli’s passer rating of a mere 69.4 is simply not good enough for a two time Super Bowl winner and he as much as anyone knows that this must be put right in 2014. New York also suffered from the lack of a running game. Andre Brown lead the way with just 492 yards (at 3.5 per carry) with Peyton Hillis’ 247 yards (at 3.4 per carry) the second best. Something has to be done to improve the running game. Victor Cruz was the top receiver; 998 yards from 73 catches and 4 touchdowns is a respectable output. Hakeem Nicks caught 56 balls for 896 yards, but failed to find the End Zone. Rueben Randle’s six touchdown receptions was a team high and with Nicks a likely departure he will need to step up from 41 catches for 611 yards in 2013. What is for certain is that there is plenty of room for improvement offensively for a unit that failed to score more than 27 points in any game after the season opening defeat at Dallas. The home shut out to Seattle was a particular low point.
Defensively, New York ranked eighth in allowing just 332.2 yards per game but 18th in points allowed (23.9 per game). In seven games they gave up 27 points or more, including the first six games of the year. Antrel Rolle (with 98) and Jon Beason (with 93) topped the charts in terms of tackles while Justin Tuck’s 11 sacks will be hard to replace if he leaves in Free Agency. Rolle also pick up six interceptions and defended 12 passes. Jason Pierre-Paul recorded just two sacks and will need to up his production markedly going into 2014. With many players potentially not returning to the Big Apple next season, the 2014 Giants’ defence could be a very different best to the 2013 version. It needs to be if the team are to compete for the division title.
The Giants gave up 3 punt return touchdowns without replying with a single one of their won. Kick offs were returned by committee, with Michael Cox the most used as he averaged 21.8 yards on 20 returns. Josh Brown made 88.5% of his Field Goal attempts, whilst punter Steve Weatherford and his coverage teams were clearly not on the same page; a 46.9 yard punt average was reduced to 38.2 net.
Tom Coughlin will return for an eleventh season in charge in 2014, but he will need to see a big improvement in the on field performance if he wants the chance of a twelfth season to be left entirely in his hands. He will need to use all of his experience to try to work on improving Eli’s mental state and revamping the misfiring offence if the Giants are to be successful.
DRAFT/FREE AGENCY NEEDS
New York have an interesting off season ahead, with as many as 29 players listed as potential Free Agents. Of those, guard Kevin Boothe, tight end Brandon Myers, wide receiver Nicks and defensive end Tuck were involved most frequently in 2013. Yet there are many other players who featured in over 500 snaps who will be looking to improve their financial situation going into 2014. Much of the Giants’ plans for the draft and Free Agency will depend on their approach to retaining these players.
Help in pretty much all areas in needed, particularly across the offensive line, at linebacker and corner back and at running back. If Myers leaves then a new tight end will also become a priority and Tuck’s contractual situation will impact on the plans in terms of improving the pass rush.
It will be an off season of flux in the Big Apple; player movement will be large and difficult to predict, but it will all be immaterial if Eli continues to fail to protect the ball on offence. That has to be the number one priority going into 2014.