Keep ‘em or Dump ‘em: Wide Receivers

Moving right along, we now take a closer look at the Giants receivers.

2015 in Review: Oh what might have been.

The hope coming into the 2015 season was that for the first time since 2011, the Giants would have three solid contributors at wide receiver, posing a triple threat that forced opposing defenses to pick their poison.

So what happened? After spending virtually every chance he got to warn the public that they couldn’t count on Victor Cruz, who was coming off a torn patellar injury, the Giants kind of did count on Cruz, if you think about it.

How else can the fact that they carried Cruz on the 53-man roster for 10 weeks despite the glacier-like healing of his calf injury—an injury we believe came as a result of overcompensation for his knee?

Overall, the receiver contributed 2,855 of Eli Manning’s 4,432 passing yards—64.4 percent—with the running backs and tight ends contributing to the rest of the yards.

If we further peel back the layers, Manning was victimized by 37 dropped passes in 2015, 19 of which came from his receivers, per Pro Football Focus.

You can’t help but wonder if at least half of those 19 dropped passes were caught, would Manning have come closer to 5,000 passing yards?

One last point before we go into the individual breakdowns—and this one surprised us considering the Giants had Odell Beckham Jr. for three more games in 2015 than they did in 2014.

In 2014, the Giants receivers combined to catch 3,140 of Manning’s 4,410 passing yards—71.2 percent.

So what can we take away from these numbers? Despite having Beckham for three more games, there really wasn’t that much else in terms of production from this group in 2015.

beckhamBeckham was the only player at this position to not draw a vote in favor of dumping him.

And why not? Beckham’s 1,450 yards in 15 games accounted for 24.3 percent of the Giants’ 2015 offense.

While Beckham topped his rookie yardage production, he also doubled his drops (from two in 2014 to four in 2015), and was the target on three of Manning’s passes that were picked off (versus the two as a rookie).

The Giants have since hired (reportedly) Adam Henry, Beckham’s old college coach, to see him through the next stages of his career. The big thing with Beckham is to strike the right balance of getting him to play with passion but doing so under control.

As we saw against Carolina, Beckham literally gave away the keys to the car regarding how to stop him. Not surprisingly, Beckham ended up as the third-most penalized Giants player in 2015 with eight flags called against him (three of which were declined). Three of those penalties accepted were for unnecessary roughness and one was for delay of game.

Beckham is going to get better as he goes along, and ultimately he’s going to play a smarter game. The sky is still very much the limit with this young man, who has firmly established himself as a core player.
randleThe same can’t be said of Rueben Randle, the disappointing second-round draft pick from 2012.

Perhaps the most damning statistics that will likely be used against this pending unrestricted free agent is that he has caught 20 career touchdowns while also being on the receiving end of 17 career interceptions and 13 dropped passes.

Breaking those numbers down, that’s an average of five positive plays and an average of 7.5 negative plays over his career.

Just in case you’re still not convinced, Randle averaged 3.5 yards after the catch, the lowest average of any Giants receiver this year who was involved in at least 50 percent of the team’s receptions.

Look for Randle and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn, the last men standing from the 2012 draft class—yes, a class taken four years ago that should be coming into its prime—to move on.

harrisIf you were among those who questioned why the Giants gave a four-year, $17.5 million contract to Dwayne Harris, who came to the Giants with limited receiving experience, you’re not alone.

Harris, though, proved to be every bit worth his contract. Besides his prowess on special teams, he stepped in at slot receiver and contributing four touchdown catches. That’s one more than he had in the first three years of his career combined.

Besides the production, Harris turned out to be one tough dude. He gutted out a shoulder injury toward the end of the season until it was simply too much to overcome. And who can forget the week where he was carted of the field with a leg injury but came back to catch a touchdown reception?

We might not know much just yet about what a Ben McAdoo player is, but we have a feeling that we’d be safe in assuming that Harris is the very definition of what the new coach is looking for.

cruzWe’ve already mentioned Cruz and how his 2015 season was lost to a calf injury. We are often asked if we think he’s going to be back in 2016, and our answer is yes, though not at the $9.9 million cap figure he’s due to count for once the new league year begins in March.

That figure, the second-highest after Manning, includes a $7.9 million base salary that we’re certain will be slashed by at least 50 percent.

Still, for those wondering what the implications are if Cruz were to be cut, the Giants would save $6.1 million and be charged $3.8 million in dead money if Cruz is designated a pre-June 1 transaction.

If the Giants make him a post-June 1 transaction, they save $8 million, get hit with a $1.9 million dead cap charge and then get charged another $1.9 million in 2017.

Again, we don’t think Cruz is in danger of being a salary cap casualty this year. If he struggles to regain his form though or suffers another injury, 2017 is a much different story.

davisWe were a little disappointed that rookie Geremy Davis ended up spending the last five weeks of the season inactive.

That’s likely what prompted one poll participant to note that, “Davis is another example of a classic Reese overdraft.”

Well, we’re not sure how a sixth-round pick is an “overdraft,” but to each his/her own.

For those who weren’t aware, game-day uniforms under former head coach Tom Coughlin were given to guys who a) showed the coaches they knew what they were doing and b) offered optimal value on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

When you’re the fourth, fifth or sixth player at your position, as Davis was in 2015, you better demonstrate that you can contribute on special teams and in a limited role on offense.

Davis, by the way finished with two receptions out of three pass targets for 21 yards and seven yards after the catch. He played in 36 offensive snaps, his contributions on special teams being of the “blink and you’ll miss it” variety.

nicksRegarding Hakeem Nicks, the only thing we’ll say is that the reason we were lukewarm about his return to the team was because we thought he had lost his speed and quickness following his lower body injuries.

Sadly, it looked like we were right. Whereas one poll participant opined that “Nicks can do something if he has the OTAs and training camp to get in McAdoo system,” we still found a couple of things concerning.

First, Nicks had trouble separating, which is a basic skill regardless of the offensive system. Also, despite his familiarity with Manning and the supposed simplicity of the new offense, Nicks was targeted just 14 times, coming up with seven receptions.

whyteMyles White was even worse.

Despite having spent the summer with the Packers, where logic would indicate that he might have more familiarity with the Giants’ system run by McAdoo than any other newcomer, White was good for just seven receptions out of 18 targets for 88 yards, one touchdown and two dropped balls.

His worst statistic? White averaged just 1.3 yards after the catch.

 

 

edwardsLast but not least, Edwards flashed during the spring as a slot receiver and as a punt returner. He lost his roster spot due to a hamstring strain suffered on the last day of OTAs and didn’t make it out of the first week of training camp.

After receiving an injury settlement, he was brought back to the practice squad in Week 12 and then elevated to the 53-man roster in Week 16, catching one pass for nine yards. Edwards will get his chance to compete for a bigger slice of the pie in 2016.

 

Advanced analytics via Pro Football Focus. Salary cap info via Over the Cap.

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