EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 29: Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan #12 of the New York Giants breaks away from a tackle on a touchdown against the Washington Redskins in the second half at MetLife Stadium on December 29, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)
The Giants’ 2013 season is in the books after a 20-6 win against Washington on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
When football returns to MetLife on Feb., the NFC champion will meet the AFC champion in Super Bowl XLVIII, and it’s quite possible the game could pit a pair of teams who played the Giants this season.
The Giants faced all four NFC division winners in 2013 (Seattle, Carolina, Philadelphia, Green Bay). Moreover, the Giants played three AFC playoff teams: wild cards Kansas City and San Diego and No. 1 overall seed Denver.
With the playoffs set to begin and the Giants exiting stage left, here are five thoughts on the first day of the offseason:
1. Jerrel Jernigan has earned a bigger role in the offense next season. The third-year pro from Troy showed promise in extended playing time in the final games of 2013. He was the Giants’ best offensive player in Sunday’s win, scoring on a 24-yard reception and a 49-yard run. Jernigan seems to work well with quarterback Eli Manning; that alone should boost Jernigan’s stock entering 2014.
2. Ryan Nassib’s development from Year One to Year Two is no small matter. In his most extensive playing time of the 2013 regular season, Curtis Painter struggled in relief of the injured Manning, completing just 2-of-8 passes for 11 yards with one interception. Painter will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason; if he’s re-signed, it should be as the third quarterback. Ideally, Nassib, a second-year pro from Syracuse, is ready to be the top backup in 2014. It's time.
3. The Giants have an interesting decision to make on Justin Tuck. The ninth-year defensive end finished 2013 on a tear, recording 9.5 sacks in the final six games, including two against Washington on Sunday. From a production standpoint, re-signing Tuck is a no-brainer. However, he will be 31 in March, and he will not be cheap to bring back. What’s more, the Giants may have to budget even more money to re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul, whose contract is up after the 2014 season.
4. If the Giants’ defensive improvement is sustainable, they can be competitive in 2014. The Giants clearly had the NFC East’s best defense in 2013. In their last 10 games, the Giants allowed just 16 offensive touchdowns. In that span, the Giants won seven games and lost just three. The addition of middle linebacker Jon Beason helped, and Tuck’s resurgence gave the group a nice late-season boost. If Pierre-Paul returns to health, the Giants’ defense could be even more formidable next season.
5. The Giants’ players and coaches deserve credit for the rally from the 0-6 start. On balance, this was a disappointing season for the Giants, and there’s a good deal of work to be done to return to playoff form. Nevertheless, the Giants’ diligence and fortitude is to be respected. After a humbling shutout loss to Seattle, the Giants responded with competitive and winning performances against Detroit and Washington. The Giants' 7-9 record is nothing to be proud of, but the process of getting those seven wins should be satisfying for the organization. The Giants keep grinding until the very end of a lost season.