With the Giants’ postseason hopes dashed after Sunday’s 37-14 loss in San Diego, it’s time to look ahead to an offseason filled with big decisions for Big Blue.
The Giants will play out the string, and they will probably play hard. After all, this is a team that rallied from a 0-6 start to draw within one game of the NFC East lead just before Thanksgiving.
A spirited performance against NFC West-leading Seattle or NFC North pace-setter Detroit in the next two weeks wouldn’t be a surprise. The Seahawks and Lions need to be on guard, and they likely will be. They may say all the right things about the Giants being proud, about the Giants being just two years removed from a Super Bowl title.
But anyone who looks at the statistics and looks at the tape knows the Giants have their limitations. Their offense lacks the might it once had, and it has much to do with a passing game that’s been off kilter all season.
Quarterback Eli Manning merits some of the blame. He’s thrown at least one pick in 12-of-13 games, including two against the Chargers. Manning ranks toward the bottom of the NFL in completion percentage and QB rating. He simply has not played well enough.
However, the Giants’ receiving corps hasn’t had a banner year, either. Wideout Victor Cruz has been the best of the group, and he figures to be the Giants’ go-to target in 2014.
The question is, will Rueben Randle or Hakeem Nicks be starting opposite of him? Nicks will be a free agent at season’s end, and he will be just 26 years old at the beginning of next season. Though in range of 1,000 yards receiving, Nicks has hardly been a force this season. Nor has been Randle, who’s talented but inconsistent and has room yet to grow.
No matter how the Giants proceed from a personnel standpoint, this much is certain: the passing game must be sharper next season. There have been too many instances when something went wrong and the result was a Manning interception. The Giants need to make cutting down on mistakes a major offseason focus.
The work doesn’t stop there. The Giants’ offensive line play has also left something to be desired in 2013. Manning has been sacked 33 times in 13 starts. Clearly, the Giants will have to get better upfront. The Giants may also have some work to do at running back with Andre Brown an unrestricted free agent and David Wilson coming off a neck injury.
Manning, who will be 33 next season, is signed through 2016. He’s still young enough as starting quarterbacks go, and he’s built up some credit after many winning moments for the franchise. He may have another blue-chip season or two left. Now, the Giants have to ponder how they can help him succeed.
Changes must be made after a season like this, when the Giants’ defense did its part but the offense never could break through. Whether this means personnel and/or schematic changes remains to be seen. But this much is certain: the Giants can’t stand pat, for they can’t stand for what happened this season.