With high expectations, Cullen Jenkins signs a three year contract on March 11. Photo courtesy of Giants.com
It has been a difficult off season so far for fans of the New York Giants. Between the waiting for negotiations with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks to the mass exodus of veterans like Osi Umenyiora and Chase Blackburn, fans have had a hard time coping.
The team has been much more active than some may think, however. In addition to re-signing a few of their players like Will Beatty, David Carr and Shaun Rogers, they have added space in their salary cap by reworking several contracts.
More importantly, they have added a several free agents to fill key voids on the roster. For example, with the loss of Kenny Phillips to Philadelphia, they added Ryan Mundy in the Safety spot.
Of the 14 free agents they have signed so far (some were re-signed) there are a few names that really stand out. These players are entering roles in which they will be intrical parts of the team. The following are major components to the 2013 success of the New York Giants. As they go, the Giants should go.
5) K- Josh Brown: With the team going in a different direction due to finances, their new kicker, Josh Brown, has big shoes to fill (pardon the pun). Lawrence Tynes is the two-time Super Bowl kicker that wanted too much money for the Giants to afford to pay.
While it is sad to see him go, Brown is a perfect player to make the transition for fans and teammates. He is a ten year veteran with three teams (Seattle, St Louis and Cincinnati). What he lacks playoff experience (one game last year in Cincy), he more than makes up for in big leg power. He has a career 45 field goals of 50 or more yards and 90 field goals of 40 or more.
Compared that to Tynes who has 21 field goals of 50 or more and 56 of 40 or more and it's easy to see that Brown is actually an upgrade for far less money. The issue is he has to show he can respond to pressure kicks. In his stints with those other teams, he has had few chances for pressure kicks.
That will quickly change in New York. If he does come through in the clutch (better than Tynes did in that 2007 NFC Championship game) than he will help fans forget all about Tynes and show his worth.
4) LB- Dan Connor: Entering his sixth season, Dan Connor has never been the break out LB the Carolina Panthers expected when they drafted him or the Dallas Cowboys anticipated when they signed him to a massive deal last year. He has one career sack and 145 career solo tackles.
When we compare him to fan favorite Chase Blackburn, who he seems to be replacing, he stacks up well. Blackburn has 231 solo tackles in his nine year career (all with the Giants). He is a bit older than Connor having three more years of experience. Prior to last season, Blackburn only had one and a half sacks. He added three more last season in a defense that used the LB position much more aggressively.
With that similar defensive mentality, Connor could emerge as a play maker against the run with an occasional pass rush threat thrown in too. He plays the game hard. That is what endeared Blackburn to the fans and the coaches and that will endear him too.
The main question is big game experience. He has been in two Giants-Cowboys games and knows the rivalry from the other side. Now, he will have the chance to see it from the New York sideline. He hasn't had much more experience in big games, however, and he didn't perform too well in those games last year having just one solo tackle.
He did play the Eagles and Redskins well, though. In three games against them, he had eleven solo tackles. Perhaps he could just use a break from facing the Giants by playing for them. If that is the case, he could be a good fit here.
3) DT- Cullen Jenkins: After the Giants lost Chris Canty, they were looking for a big player to fill that role in the middle of their D-Line. They found it in Cullen Jenkins.Jenkins is a ten year veteran that knows how it feels to win.
He was a part of the Green Bay Packers when they won the Super Bowl in 2010. He also knows the Giants. He lost to them in Green Bay in 2007 and he played them for two seasons as a member of the Eagles. The main question on Jenkins is how he responds to pressure games.
He is a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. While he has won a Super Bowl, he didn't record a single tackle in that game and only had three solo tackles in those playoffs. He has not performed well in the big games in the last two seasons either.
As a member of the Eagles for two seasons, he had 18 solo tackles and one sack in twelve head-to-head games with the NFC East. These are the biggest games of the season and he averaged one and a half tackles a game against the division. When the Eagles really needed him, he didn't show as much as they'd hoped.
He will have several key games with the Giants. He must be more like the forceful player the G-Men saw in the 2007 NFC game (he had four solo tackles) and less like the one they saw last year (four solo tackles in two games).
If he can find his game in New York, he could be the key free agent signing. The question is which Cullen Jenkins will show up?
2) TE- Brandon Myers: The Giants took a chance last season when they signed Martellus Bennett. He was a career backup in Dallas and looking to be the main TE in an offense. One year later, Bennett is a big loss to the Giants offense. His 55 catches for 626 yards and five TD's will have to be filled by someone.
The Giants use the TE spot as a main component to their offense. Eli Manning likes going to the middle to open up the outside receivers later in the game. The TE role is the one that carries the load of the passing attack in the early stages of the game. They have to trust their TE. Enter Brandon Myers.
Myers at this point is similar to Bennett at this point last year. He had one break out year in his four seasons in Oakland. It was last season when he caught 79 passes for 806 yards and four TDs. Prior to that however, he was a backup. With just one season of success, it is difficult to gauge what he will do in New York.
His main competition while tallying that total last season was weak, at best. He had one game over 100 yards and it was against the Cleveland Browns late in the season. His other big games were against Miami and twice against San Diego. He is not exactly a proven weapon in big game situations.
Against the best team in their division, the Denver Broncos, he had four catches for 29 yards in two games. Still, the one thing he has proven is that he can be a target. He was thrown to 105 times last year and he came down with 79 of them. That is a little better than 75% of the time.
That is more targets than Bennett had last year in his 55 catches out of 90 targets. His percentage was closer to 65% of the time. If we had a player that would catch the ball three out of four times instead of three of our every five, that would be considered an upgrade.
It stands to reason that if the Giants target Myers in the range that they did Bennett, the percentage would be higher and therefore Myers will have more opportunity to make big plays. If this happens, we will be saying Martellus who?
1) CB- Aaron Ross: The prodigal son has returned. After leaving for Jacksonville after the 2011 season for a greener contract, the two-time Super Bowl winner realized quickly that Jacksonville is no New York. After just one season of sub-par production on a mediocre team, he was cut by the Jaguars. He clearly was too expensive for a team needing to make salary cap room.
It is with great humility that he finds himself "coming back home". With the secondary torn to shreds by free agency and injuries, the addition of Ross adds much needed depth. The question is how successful will he be upon his return? That all depends on his role. If the Giants use him as a nickel or dime package option, he will be a great addition as he will matched up with the lesser receivers in the league.
If they start him on the corners against the premiere wide outs, he could rapidly be exposed and further damage the pass defense. Keep in mind that the pass rush depends on the secondary as much as the secondary depends on the pass rush.
If the secondary covers receivers well enough to limit options for the opposing QB, the pass rush will have time to break through and wreak havoc in the backfield. If they fail to do so, the pass rush will not have that time and. therefore, the lack of pressure will make the Giants defense exposed. All because of that secondary.
Historically, Ross has not been good in buying the pass rush a lot of time. In his final season with the Giants in 2011, Ross ranked very high in yardage given up. In fact, he was ranked #10 in worst percentage in the league that year.
While numbers can be skewed in many ways, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Aaron Ross can be a successful play maker in that secondary. He has ten career INTs, all with the Giants in some big games and he doesn't miss many tackles. He recorded 37 solo tackles last year to add to his career total of 197.
He is experienced in pressure situations and can come through in the spotlight in New York. He has already established that. He is not so old by league standards that he would be considered slow or unable to cover the younger, faster receivers at a decent rate.
It is when he is asked to do so consistently that he runs into trouble. If the Giants use him the way they did in his first few years when he was not immediately the main CB, he will make them successful.
Overall, his addition is a good thing but the team has to recognize that he is not the player that he once was and use him accordingly.