Time will tell on Giants' defensive improvements

The Giants spent big in free agency on players like Olivier Vernon in an effort to improve their defense. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Our man John Clayton has the New York Giants as his second-most improved team of the NFL offseason, behind the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is not an uncommon sentiment, and it's based largely on the huge free-agent spend they undertook to improve a defense that allowed a league-worst 420.3 yards per game in 2015.

"Figuring new coach Ben McAdoo should get 25 to 26 points per game out of the Eli Manning-led offense, all the Giants need to do is cut three or four points per game off the defense to have a winning record," John writes, and it's a good theory. Adding Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins and getting a full offseason out of Jason Pierre-Paul has to help. It just has to.

Whatever you want to say about the Giants after three straight losing seasons, you can't say they're sitting on their hands. Their roster eroded due to a run of terribly unproductive drafts, and they are still in the process of rebuilding it. But this offseason alone, they have changed head coaches and spent more than $200 million to try to fix the defense. They're working on it.

The extent to which that work will translate into wins remains a mystery, and will for at least four more months. We don't know yet how Vernon, Harrison and Jenkins will play in their new homes. We don't know how the offensive line will come together. We don't know how successful McAdoo will be in his first try at guiding an NFL team through a 16-game season. And perhaps most importantly for the Giants, we don't know who's going to get hurt.

I have no issue with anything the Giants have done this offseason as they try to improve. They overspent to get the guys they wanted in free agency, but they had the cap room and apparently the cash, so why not overspend if that's what it takes? The only reason I try to soft-pedal expectations is that the Giants too often seem to get the benefit of the offseason doubt. It feels like every year, people are pegging the Giants as a "sleeper" team or a "bounce-back" team, and meanwhile they haven't made the playoffs since 2011 or finished .500 since 2012.

At some point, yes, I believe the Giants will be a good team again. And yes, I could see them improving by three games this season and having a winning record. It's not impossible. I just think this is a team that still has too many questions (free safety? middle linebacker? right guard and tackle? No. 2 wide receiver? tight end? depth on defense?) for anyone to assume they will do that. We're in a believe-it-when-we-see-it era of Giants history. These improvements will have to show up on the field to a far greater extent than the supposed improvements of the past three offseasons did. And NFL history tells us the price tag isn't enough to ensure that will happen.