New York Giants
Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
Giants receiver Brandon Marshall, invited by the league to speak to NFL club officials at the annual league meeting in Arizona, told reporters afterward that he would welcome a mentoring role within the locker room, particularly if it involved fellow receiver Odell Beckham Jr., if the opportunity presented itself.
However, as Marshall has said before, he's not going to force the issue; rather, he'll let any such opportunity to serve as a mentor to Beckham and anyone else on the team to develop organically.
"I've been on both ends of the spectrum, you know," said. "I've been a problem, and I've also been a solution. I have a wealth of experience, and I just think organically and naturally whenever he needs - not just him but any guy in the receiver room - whenever they need to pull from that, they'll do that in a natural, organic way."
Beckham appears to be the one receiver who could probably most benefit from Marshall's tutelage. Although Beckham hasn't run afoul of the law as Marshall did earlier in his NFL career, there is some concern over Beckham's ability to control his emotions and handle the stardom that quickly found him following his spectacular one-handed catch in a prime-time game in 2015.
Since then, Beckham has made more headlines for what he's done off the field than on it, headlines that have included an ongoing rendezvous with the team's kicking net that resulted in a mock marriage proposal, a bizarre outburst in which he was alleged to have banged his head in frustration against a wall following a loss at Philadelphia, an ill-advised trip to Miami to party ahead of the Giants' wild-card game against Green Bay, and his punching a hole in the wall outside the visitors' locker room following the loss to the Packers.
A day after the Giants' first postseason run since 2011 came to a crashing halt, Giants general manager Jerry Reese spoke candidly about the organization's expectations for Beckham.
"I see a guy who needs to think about some of the things that he does," Reese said. "Everybody knows that he is a gifted player, but there are some things that he has done that he needs to look at himself in the mirror and be honest with himself about, and I think he will do that.
"We all have had to grow up at different times in our lives, and I think it is time for him to do that. He has been here for three years now and is a little bit of a lightning rod because of what he does on the football field, but the things he does off the football field, he has to be responsible for those things and we will talk through it."
Marshall wants people to remember that Beckham, who is getting ready to begin his fourth NFL season this year, is only 24 years old.
The veteran receiver is also confident that his young teammate will, in time, figure things out.
"Next year (Beckham) is not going to be perfect, and the year after that he's not going to be perfect," Marshall said. "Shoot, I'm 33, and every year I get better and better. I'm never perfect. I just want him to stay on the track that he's on and continue to mature."
Team co-owner Steve Tisch agreed. "He's not a problem child," he said of Beckham. "He's a work in progress."
One of the Giants' offseason goals was to try to keep the core of their defensive unit together.
For the most part, they've accomplished that, re-signing defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and linebacker Keenan Robinson. However, one key piece to the puzzle, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, remains unsigned.
The Giants, per sources, have made a substantial offer to the 24-year-old unrestricted free agent, an offer that is still on the table. Hankins, however, has reportedly been seeking a massive pay day on the open market, a windfall that has yet to come and which has, in fact, seen the demand for an audience with him fail to materialize.
With less than three weeks to go before the Giants begin their offseason conditioning program on April 18, the team is hopeful that Hankins eventually decides to take their offer and return to help the team win its first championship since 2011.
"I'm very optimistic that we're going to work this out," team co-owner Steve Tisch said at the NFL league meetings. "I'm pretty convinced Johnathan ... would like to work this out. I hope we can. I think we will."
There's an old cliche that claims you can't find out the strength of a tea bag until you plunge it into hot water.
That's exactly what the Giants did with general manager Jerry Reese following the 2015 season, a year in which the team not only failed to make the playoffs for the fourth straight year, it also failed to post a winning record.
Following that season, which resulted in then head coach Tom Coughlin and the Giants going their separate ways, team co-owner John Mara stood before the media and all but challenged Reese to fix what had become an underperforming roster filled with aging veterans well past their prime, some with recurring injury histories, and left empty through years of poor drafts.
"There was a lot of heat on Jerry," Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said via the New York Post.
"John Mara, my partner, made it very clear to Jerry, 'We're watching you and we have very high expectations, and it's really your time to deliver, Jerry.'"
Reese responded by plunking down over $200 million that next offseason on defensive free agents such as Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins. He followed that up with one of his most promising draft classes since 2007, his first year as the team's general manager.
The result? The Giants, under new head coach Ben McAdoo, finished 11-5 and made the postseason for the first time since 2011; all this despite not having a fully functioning offense.
"The moves he made last season, clearly in retrospect, were hugely significant and really changed the whole defense of the team," Tisch said.
Despite the progress made last year, Reese and the Giants aren't satisfied. This offseason, he's added some key supporting cast members whose names, while not as sexy as Vernon, Harrison and Jenkins, are just as integral to the Giants' plans for 2017.
Those names include veteran receiver Brandon Marshall, tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison, and offensive lineman D.J. Fluker.
Reese also has done a solid job of keeping the core of the league's No. 10 overall defense last season together, even if it meant tying up precious cap dollars in the franchise tag to retain defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul has since singed a new four-year deal, leaving defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins as the lone unsigned starter from last year's defense.
Tisch expressed optimism that Hankins' new deal with the Giants, which remains on the table, would be done sooner than later. Regardless, there was no mistaking his delight over how his team's general manager responded once his feet were put to the fire.
"That doesn't happen every time," he said of the success Reese has had. "I'm thrilled Jerry accepted the challenge, acknowledged what he had to do and he did it."
Head coach Been McAdoo raised more than a few eyebrows when he was asked whether Geno Smith, the former Jets starting quarterback who signed with the Giants as an unrestricted free agent, had a legitimate chance of one day succeeding Eli Manning as the Giants' franchise quarterback.
"I can't see why not," McAdoo said when the question was put to him.
He then quickly added, "We're a long way to go from there. To me, Geno, you look at it, you study the guys coming out, you study Geno, I think he's right in the mix of one of the better players available this year."
Smith's body of work would surely suggest otherwise. In 30 starts, Smith has completed just 57.9 percent of his pass attempts for 5,962 yards, 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
He's also been sacked 77 times, including a whopping 43 sacks in 2013, his rookie season and only 16-game season to date.
To be fair, Smith has also played under two different offensive coordinators and two different head coaches, thus being deprived of a chance to achieve continuity in one system.
He also has battled the injury bug the last two seasons, which has further stunted his development and will again limit him when the Giants reconvene starting April 18, as Smith recovers from a torn ACL suffered last year.
Despite Smith's hard times, McAdoo said he's able to look past the numbers and see some building block with which the Giants hope to assemble into a solid foundation.
"He has a compact throwing motion, you like his profile, he has a quick release, gets it out of his hand, a ton of arm strength, he's mobile, so it will be interesting," McAdoo said.
"I find it very exciting. A guy who has his skill set is hard to find. You can't find guys out there that have that type of arm talent, the quick release, the throwing motion and the feet to go with it. And he's a competitor."
It also helps that Smith has the luxury of sitting and learning from Manning, who hasn't missed a start since taking over as the team's franchise quarterback midway through the 2004 season.
These reasons are what has McAdoo excited to start working with Smith, whom he said will be limited in the spring but whom the team hopes will get the green light to go full blast come training camp.
"It's exciting to bring a guy in and work with a guy like that," McAdoo said. "See where you can take him."