They are getting a taste of what it’s like to win. The problem is we don’t know from one week to the next, which Manning will be on the field on that particular Sunday. We continue to get the good with the bad but that goes with the territory of having a young QB. Under normal conditions it would be easy to live with Manning’s growth process, but this is not a normal year. The entire NFC is weak and the Giants find themselves right in the thick of things. While it makes for an interesting season, it also makes it very frustrating at times. They have a real chance to be a Super Bowl team because there are no outstanding teams in the NFC. What a golden opportunity this team has. The down side is that we can also very easily see this team squandering this golden opportunity to get to the big game. So, like we said, there isn’t anything they can do except continue to force-feed Manning.
What about the coming offseason? Which position groups should they be most concerned about?
Without question, the bulk of the offseason work has to be done in the secondary. It is their biggest area of concern and it is loaded with questions that need to be addressed. Also, it is not too early to be concerned about this unit either. They need to be watching what is happening with their own players as well as those who will be available in free agency.
Still, the biggest decision involves Will Allen, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this coming March. His play has improved as the season has progressed. More and more teams are picking on Curtis Deloatch and staying away from Allen’s side. If Allen could make plays there would be no question that he would be a priority to re-sign. So, the questions are: Do they take him back, knowing he is not a playmaker or do they overlook that weakness in his game? Also at what price do they attempt to re-sign him? We don’t believe those questions can be answered today. He is truthfully playing for his next contract whether it is here or elsewhere. Ideally, he will finish the year strong and they will do their best to work out an acceptable deal. If they don’t re-sign him then they’ll have a gaping hole at corner.
Part of the problem is that there are not many corners who will be free agents who are better than Allen. This is why it is so important for Corey Webster to bring his game up to speed. In fact, we would like to see Webster switch spots with Deloatch and have Webster be the starter and Deloatch the nickel. There are only two UFA corners we would rank ahead of Allen talent-wise and they are Charles Woodson of the Raiders and Nate Clements of the Bills. We would be very interested in Clements. He is a tough, hard-nosed corner who would fit the Giants very nicely. He can shut down the opponent’s top receiver.
Brian Williams from the Vikings is an interesting player. He is a playmaker and he has some very good cover skills. He has had some injuries that have kept him out of the lineup but lately he has been playing well. He would be a less expensive alternative. We would also have some interest in Jerry Azumah of the Bears. He is a great athlete and he is a corner who has improved every year. He was a running back in college so he is still learning his trade, but he has a lot of upside.
Among the restricted free agents are Ricky Manning from Carolina and Ike Taylor from Pittsburgh. They would be worth a shot, but Manning would cost a third round pick and Taylor a fourth so it is unlikely the Giants would pursue either of them. There is one RFA, however, who is very interesting and would not require any signing compensation – Leigh Bodden from the Browns. This is a very athletic corner who got a chance to play when the Browns’ starting corner Gary Baxter went out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. Bodden has stepped in and played extremely well. He appears to be a natural and if he keeps improving he will be a big time corner. He would definitely be someone worthy of strong consideration.
Safety is also of concern to the Giants. Gibril Wilson is a given, he looks like he will be around for a while. James Butler is an interesting prospect, but his future is still undetermined. They really need an upgrade over Brent Alexander. He should be on the team because he provides excellent depth, but not as a starter. He is not awful, but he is a middle of the road safety.
There will be a much deeper crop of safeties that will be available in March than there will be corners. Let’s take a look.
Adam Archuleta – St. Louis – A one-dimensional player. He got off to a very good start this season. He is tough, fast and physical. He plays the run well and is good in short coverage. He has some durability concerns and will command a big dollar contract.
Will Demps – Baltimore – A good overall player, but best in run support. He will make plays. An underrated player. Does not have classic size but he plays hard. Can play both free or strong.
Tank Williams – Tennessee – Another one-dimensional run support player. He has great size and is very physical, but has only limited coverage skills.
Ryan Clark – Washington – This former Giants safety has really picked up his game. He is a good athlete with versatility. He has matured into a solid safety.
Ifeanyi Ohalete – Cincinnati - A strong safety who can really bang. He doesn’t run real well and he doesn’t have great range but he plays hard.
For value, the guy we would pursue is Will Demps. His story is a lot like Antonio Pierce’s. He was an undrafted rookie who worked hard and worked his way up from the practice squad to special teams and then a starting spot. Besides, if they sign him and re-sign Will Allen with Will Peterson already in place, they will have three Wills in the secondary.