The New York Giants might be only a week removed from a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots, but the NFL clock ticks all year round. With the combine coming up, the Giants need to address a few issues to be even better in 2012.
2011 Record: 9-7, Overall: 13-7, Super Bowl Champs
Strenghts: Quarterback, Wide Receivers, Defensive Ends, Secondary (starters)
Let's face it, the Giants weren't the best team in the 2011-12 season. They got hot at the perfect time, as their strengths overshadowed their weaknesses. As I've written in almost any Giants-related post, they do two things extremely well: throwing the ball and rushing the passer. Eli Manning proved he was an elite quarterback this year, having the best statistical season of his career, and winning his second Super Bowl MVP. Along with Eli comes his great wide receiving core. Even though it's rumored that Mario Manningham won't return, The Giants will have a deadly duo of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. With Domenik Hixon returning from injury and a possible Steve Smith reunion, the Giants should have similar success throwing the ball next season. As for the defense, Jason Pierre-Paul emerged this season as one of the best, young pass rushers in the league. JPP, along with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, make arguably the best pass rushing combo in the league. Although the Giants got criticized for having a weak secondary, let's look at a few reasons why they weren't great. They lost Terrell Thomas very early in the season with a torn ACL, and had other players injured throughout the course of the season. Since so many guys were out, they had no depth, leaving their cornerbacks and safeties to play almost every play of every drive. With guys at full strength next year, the Giants secondary shouldn't have a problem.
Weaknesses: Running Back, Tight End, Offensive Line, Linebackers
The Giants ranked dead last in run-efficiency this season. Maybe it's because of theirpass-happy offense with a great quarterback, maybe it's because both running backs were injured for parts of the season, but either way, the Giants need to return to smash-mouth football. Although I love Jacobs and Bradshaw, one of them needs to go this offseason. Both of them can run up the middle fairly well but they both struggle to get outside and pick up big yards. If the Giants can get a young, speedy running back in the draft, they'd drastically improve their running offense. The tight end position is also a problem for the Giants. Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard both tore their ACL's in the Super Bowl, so Bear Pascoe is currently the only tight end on the roster. Another problem with the Giants is the offensive line. Whether it was the unnecessary holding flags, or the lack of protection of Eli Manning, the Giants' offensive line was weak this season. Four out of the five starters on the line are over 30; It'd be great for them to draft a new lineman with the last pick in the first round. Another weakness of the Giants is their linebacking core. Although they got the job done this season, the Giants could upgrade at inside linebacker. With an incredible front line, and a solid secondary, the linebackers are the weak spot on defense. If the Giants can fix that this offseason though, they'll have one of the best defenses in the league.
Possible Options with 1st round pick (32nd overall):
Dwayne Allen, Vontaze Burfict, Peter Konz, Dont'a Hightower
Dwayne Allen- The junior out of Clemson is by far the best tight end in this year's draft. Mel Kiper Jr. has been raving about Allen for his great hands and blocking. Allen could have an immediate impact with the Giants this season, and could become a one of Eli's favorite targets right away. Allen is special because he can open up the run game with his great blocking outside, but can also catch balls on play-action calls. I could see GM Jerry Reese taking Allen because he is known for taking the best player available in the draft (Amukamara and Nicks in recent drafts), regardless of the need.
Vontaze Burfict- Not sure if Burfict will slip to the very end of the first round, but if he does, the Giants have to consider taking him. The junior out of Arizona State is a prolific pass rusher, and great leader on defense. Burfict's size, speed, athleticism, and heart can make him an immediate starter at inside linebacker. I can see the Giants taking Burfict, and starting him alongside Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka, but again, not sure if he will slip to the end of the first round.
Peter Konz- Like all linemen from Wisconsin, Konz means business. He just finished up a great junior year at Wisconsin, protecting Russel Wilson, and also allowing Montee Ball to rush for the most touchdowns in college football history. At 6-5, 315 lbs, Konz has surprisingly quick feet and hands, and will be great at the next level. The Giants have drafted skill-set players the past years, but could mix it up with an offensive linemen this year.
Dont'a Hightower- Like Burfict, Hightower might not be available at 32, but if he is, the Giants seriously need to consider taking him. Hightower was part of the monstrous Crimson Tide defense this past year, and is capable of playing both inside and outside linebacker. I don't think that middle linebacker is the biggest problem for the Giants, so they could end up with a linebacker with later picks. If they do decide to take a linebacker though, Hightower is definitely the guy they want. When he's healthy, he's a force to reckon with.
What the Giants need in later picks (assuming they take Allen): OT, RB, OG, LB, C, FS
Recap: Even though the Giants won the Super Bowl this year, they still can make a few improvements this offseason. They will already be down two tight end's and aren't sure if players like Mario Manningham or Osi Umenyiora will return. Although the Giants don't have an absolute weak link, they can afford to upgrade positions like linebacker, parts of the offensive line, and their secondary.