2018 NFL Draft Reset: Giants must upgrade offensive line

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California: USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) in action before the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2017 Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29. --Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports (file photo)

— By Patricia Traina, NFLDraftScout.com —

Run the ball. Stop the run. Rush the passer. Win.

Those four elements can best sum up the goals of Dave Gettleman, who in his first offseason as the New York Giants general manager sought to shake up a locker room that grossly underperformed at 3-13 last season and which became a breeding ground for team in-fighting and attitude issues.

While there were many reasons for the team’s struggles in 2017, the fact that the team finished 26th in rushing (96.8 yards per game); 27th against the run (120.8 yards per game); and 29th in sacks (27.0) are the most glaring elements that resulted in an unprecedented in-season dismissal of both the general manager (Jerry Reese) and the head coach (Ben McAdoo).

The Giants’ biggest free-agency signing was left tackle Nate Solder, whose presence not only brings a recent member of a Super Bowl champion into the locker room, but who also provides a solid upgrade at left tackle over Ereck Flowers, the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft who is struggling to avoid the dreaded “bust” label.

The Giants also went in a different direction at running back, declining to re-sign Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa, and instead going with Jonathan Stewart, a familiar face to Gettleman from their days in Carolina. Stewart, released by the Panthers before the start of free agency, might have had some recent injury issues, but his 680 rushing yards on 198 carries would have ranked second on the 2017 Giants team, behind Darkwa’s 751 yards on 171 carries.

Defensively, the Giants are looking to convert to a 3-4 defensive front in their base. They traded away defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the last member standing from the team’s 2008-2013 draft classes, and added defensive end Josh Mauro who played with the Cardinals, to team up with Dalvin Tomlinson as the ends in the 3-4 base.

Mauro, Tomlinson and Kerry Wynn, who returned on a one-year deal, are all solid run stoppers who should be able to hold down the edge. This should then allow for Olivier Vernon to move to the strong-side outside linebacker spot, playing a role similar to what Chandler Jones played for the Cardinals.

Gettleman also gave some much overdue love to the linebacker unit after no doubt wincing every time he reviewed tape of last year’s efforts that failed to plug holes, resulting in the run defense being gashed mercilessly. He traded with the Rams to acquire inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, and he signed Kareem Martin from the Cardinals, another player who has familiarity with new coordinator James Bettcher’s defense.

There is still much more to be done, such as adding more depth to the cornerback position where the Giants sent veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie packing after failing to reach an agreement on a reduced salary.

The Giants will also try to take advantage of the upcoming voluntary minicamp before the draft to figure out what they have in backup quarterback Davis Webb, who is expected to get the bulk of the reps.

Overall though, time will certainly tell if Gettleman’s roadmap has the Giants back on the path toward the respectability level expected by team co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.

Here is a closer look at where the Giants are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.

THE BREAKDOWN

2017 finish: 4th NFC East (3-13)

STATISTICS

TOTAL OFFENSE: 314.3 (21st)

RUSHING: 96.8 (26th)

PASSING: 217.4 (19th)

TOTAL DEFENSE: 373.2 (31st)

RUSHING: 120.8 (27th)

PASSING: 252.4 (31st)

TEAM NEEDS

  1. Guard: The Giants invested heavily in their offensive line when they added Nate Solder at tackle. They also added Patrick Omameh to play left guard, but as was the case last year, the right side of their offensive line is still in flux. Ereck Flowers will compete for right tackle, but after voiding out the final year of incumbent right guard John Jerry’s contract, it’s clear that they are looking to upgrade at that spot. The Giants have guys on the roster who can play right guard, but if they can get themselves a difference maker at the position who can become part of the team’s foundation, that would behoove them more.
  1. Quarterback: The current coaching staff wasn’t done any favors by the old regime who failed to give quarterback Davis Webb any significant snaps in regular-season games. While in some ways Webb is on par with the rest of the 2018 quarterback class members, the second-year man, who has been relentlessly training at the TEST Football Academy in Martinsville, N.J., does have the benefit of having one year of pro coaching experience under his belt. Webb will get his chance at the upcoming minicamp prior to the draft to make his case, but the fact remains the Giants still need to add at the position since they only have two quarterbacks on the roster, one of whom, Eli Manning, just turned 37-years-old in January.
  1. Tackle: The Giants might have plucked down $62 million over four years to secure Nate Solder as their left tackle, but they need to start thinking about their long-term future at right tackle. Ereck Flowers will compete for the job, but he’s not necessarily a lock. Further complicating matters for him is that the team is unlikely to exercise the option year on his contract by the May 2 deadline. Meanwhile, the only other tackles on the roster with experience include Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty, both rookies who were underwhelming last year. One or both might still blossom into a solid candidate, but as of right now, the Giants’ depth at tackle is paper thin.

KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

–OL John Greco: Potential UFA; $1.105M/1 yr.

–LB Mark Herzlich: Potential UFA; $1.105M/1 yr, $45K guaranteed RB.

–DE Kerry Wynn: UFA; $1.25M/1 yr, $400K guaranteed RB.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

–CB William Gay: FA Steelers; terms unknown.

–K Marshall Koehn: FA; $1.105/2 yrs.

–WR Cody Latimer: UFA Broncos; $2.5M/1 yr, $2.47M guaranteed/$1.5M SB.

–OLB Kareem Martin: UFA Cardinals; $15M/3 yrs, $7.25M guaranteed/$3M SB/$500K RB.

–DE Josh Mauro: FA Cardinals; $880K/1 yr.

–LB Alec Ogletree: (trade Rams.

–G Patrick Omameh: UFA Jaguars; $15M/3 yrs, $5.5M fully guaranteed/$4.5M SB.

–S Curtis Riley: Not tendered as ERFA by Titans; $990K/2 yrs.

–T Nate Solder: UFA Patriots; $62M/4 yrs, $34.8M fully guaranteed/$16M SB.

–RB Jonathan Stewart: FA Panthers; $6.9M/2 yrs, $2.95M fully guaranteed/$1.55M RB.

–S Michael Thomas: UFA Dolphins; $4M/2 yrs, $800K guaranteed RB.

–CB B.W. Webb: FA Browns; $815K/1 yr.

–RB Terrell Watson: FA; terms unknown.

–CB Teddy Williams: FA Panthers; $880K/1 yr, $60K SB.

PLAYERS LOST

–S Nat Berhe: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.

–CB Ross Cockrell: UFA Panthers; $6.8M/2 yrs.

–G/T D.J. Fluker: UFA Seahawks; $1.5M/1 yr, $300K guaranteed.

–WR Dwayne Harris (released)

–LB Devon Kennard: UFA Lions; $17.25M/3 yrs, $8.5M guaranteed ($1M injury only at signing at signing, $5.25M SB).

–WR Tavarres King: UFA Vikings; terms unknown.

–DE Jason Pierre-Paul (traded Buccaneers).

–T/G Justin Pugh: UFA Cardinals; $45.025M/5 yrs, $15.75M guaranteed/$10M SB.

–C Weston Richburg: UFA 49ers; $47.5M/5 yrs, $28.5M guaranteed ($12M injury only at signing at signing, $9.3M SB/$4.2M RB).

–CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (released).

–LB Deontae Skinner (released).

–QB Geno Smith: UFA Chargers; 1 yr, terms unknown.

–P Brad Wing (released).

*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 2 overall)

Rob Rang (April 5 mock draft):

–Sam Darnold, QB, USC. When healthy, the Giants boast a more talented roster than most of the others picking in the top five, making general manager Dave Gettleman’s decision with this pick a fascinating one. He may very opt for the immediate help that edge rusher Bradley Chubb or running back Saquon Barkley would provide. The trade of Jason Pierre-Paul and willingness to at least listen to offers for Odell Beckham Jr., however, signal that Gettleman is building for the future. Darnold (or another young quarterback) to groom behind 37-year old Eli Manning would give head coach Pat Shurmur an ideal foundation to continue New York’s transition, with a trade down to another QB-needy club (Buffalo?) also a strong possibility.

Dane Brugler (April 6 mock draft):

–Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama. The Giants won’t be thrilled about this projected trade out of the top 10, but they still land a top-10 caliber player with Fitzpatrick, who is a cornerstone player and can line up at any position in the secondary.

Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?

Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see full mocks and ratings at NFLDraftScout.com.

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