2016 Lions Opponents: Did They Improve? NFC East
By Al Stahl
New York Giants
The Giants finished a disappointing 2015 season third in the division at 6-10, unable to capitalize on the opportunity to seize the division for themselves with an injured Tony Romo in Dallas. The team started 5-4 before a 1-6 finish effectively ended any chance at a playoff spot. Offensively, the Giants mustered the 7th best passing offense despite largely having only Odell Beckham Jr. as a weapon. The real issue was on defense where New York finished dead last in passing defense and total defense.
So how has the offense changed?
|2015 Offensive Starters||Proj. 2016 O Starters|
|LT||Ereck Flowers||LT||Ereck Flowers|
|LG||Justin Pugh||LG||Justin Pugh|
|C||Weston Richburg||C||Weston Richburg|
|RG||Geoff Schwartz||RG||John Jerry|
|RT||Marshall Newhouse||RT||Marshall Newhouse|
|TE||Larry Donnell||TE||Larry Donnell|
|WR||Odell Beckham Jr.||WR||Odell Beckham Jr.|
|WR||Victor Cruz||WR||Sterling Shepard|
|WR||Reuben Randle||WR||Victor Cruz|
|RB||Rashad Jennings||RB||Rashad Jennings|
|QB||Eli Manning||QB||Eli Manning|
RG John Jerry steps in to replace Geoff Schwartz on an offensive line that remains otherwise intact. This line isn’t great, but it certainly wasn’t the reason New York went 6-10. They need to provide more push in the running game if they hope to improve. Sterling Shepard should join the mix from the beginning as the Giants’ number 3 receiving option and possibly number 2 depending on the oft-injured Victor Cruz’s health. Cruz hasn’t been able to stay healthy of late and Shepard is insurance against that. Last year, Eli relied on Reuben Randle and Dwayne Harris to pick up the slack and it proved to be less than ideal.
Those are the only notable changes for the Giants’ productive offense from a year ago.
Let’s look at where the Giants needed to improve the most:
|2015 Defensive Starters||Proj. 2016 D Starters|
|DE||Robert Ayers||DE||Olivier Vernon|
|DT||Markus Kuhn||DT||Johnathan Hankins|
|DT||Johnathan Hankins||DT||Damon Harrison|
|DE||Cullen Jenkins||DE||Jason Pierre-Paul|
|OLB||J.T. Thomas||OLB||J.T. Thomas|
|MLB||Jon Beason||MLB||Keenan Robinson|
|OLB||Devon Kennard||OLB||Devon Kennard|
|CB||Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie||CB||Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie|
|FS||Craig Dahl||FS||Darian Thompson|
|SS||Landon Collins||SS||Landon Collins|
|CB||Prince Amukamara||CB||Janoris Jenkins|
Olivier Vernon was signed in free agency from Miami to replace Robert Ayers who left this offseason. Damon Harrison was also brought in to bolster a defensive line that should feature a closer-to-healthy Jason Pierre-Paul. Those additions should improve a defensive line that has been on the decline since Michael Strahan retired.
LB Keenan Robinson was signed from Washington to replace Jon Beason and he’s the only change over the 2015 roster. Robinson is an active tackler and should be able to replace Beason’s production there. The linebacker corps as a whole is pretty weak though.
In the secondary, CB Janoris Jenkins was signed in FA to replace Prince Amukamara who left for Jacksonville. Jenkins will instantly improve a terrible secondary. Rodgers-Cromartie returns to man the other corner spot and rookie corner Eli Apple may compete for playing time out of the gate.
In the back half, second year safety Landon Collins looks to improve on a rookie season where he mostly struggled. He’ll be paired up with either third round draft pick Darian Thompson or Nat Berhe, neither of which should be very good to start the season. This is a bad safety group at the moment.
The Giants made minimal changes to a pretty good offense and added new players at key positions on defense. They should get immediate contributions from FA additions Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Keenan Robinson and Janoris Jenkins as well as rookie Eli Apple. The defense should be improved, but it’s still a question as to how much.
The Giants’ six wins last year came against opponents with a combined record of 38-58 (39.5% win percentage). In order to improve in 2016, they’ll have to show they can beat the good teams in the AFC North and NFC North. Even if they can’t though, they should still improve on their 6-10 mark from last year. The Giants are good enough to split with the AFC and NFC North as well as within their division. If they do all of that, they can finish 9-7 with wins against the Saints and Rams.
Lions’ chances for a road victory: 40%
Next: Dallas Cowboys