EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Co-owner John Mara put the onus on general manager Jerry Reese to fix the New York Giants after three "not acceptable" years. Reese, with his reputation at stake, is optimistic it is mission accomplished in a matter of months.
"I think we have a really good football team," he said Sunday after the team's third training camp practice of the summer. "We added some players obviously in the offseason. I think we helped our defense a little bit more than we've been able to in the past. Actually, we had a significant amount of money to spend this time. We were players, obviously, in the free-agent market. We feel we had some quality top-end players coming out of that market. Really, guys still in their prime. We feel good about our team.
"Defensively, we think we'll be better and offensively I think we'll be able to score points and our special teams should be solid again.
Reese conceded he feels confident about the roster he assembles every summer when the Giants are still undefeated. But this time there appears to be tangible evidence.
The Giants went to work in the offseason. They spent more than $200 million to restock the league's 32nd-ranked defense. They needed $85 million to land defensive end Olivier Vernon, dished out $62.5 million to acquire cornerback Janoris Jenkins, invested $46.25 million to lure defensive tackle Damon Harrison, and allocated $10 million to re-sign defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
The hope is that it's enough to resuscitate a lifeless defense and end a four-year playoff drought. But it's not the only reason Reese believes the team is greatly improved and primed for a better season.
The Strength Program
It hasn't been a secret that the Giants are serious about staying healthy this season. They've been the most injured team each of the past three seasons, according to Football Outsiders.
The changes installed by McAdoo have Reese excited. He lauded the way McAdoo has eased the Giants into training camp with an eye on keeping players on the field. He also provided rave early reviews on the new strength and conditioning program that was instituted this offseason.
"We invested a lot of money in the weight room," Reese said. "We had a good offseason with the current players and the new players we brought in."
This is all part of the Giants' attempt to avoid the injury bug. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is the only player to leave any of the first three practices with an injury, and that is not believed to be serious.
Return of JPP
Reese described Pierre-Paul as a "man on a mission." So much so that McAdoo told him the other day he almost had to slow him down a bit. Pierre-Paul was going too hard at practice (if that is possible).
Reese noticed much of the same at organized team activities one day when he watched Pierre-Paul for several minutes. He was thoroughly impressed with how the defensive end moved and ran almost a year removed from the serious Fourth of July weekend hand injury.
"He looks like the old JPP," Reese said. "He just looked big, fast and explosive. I'm happy to see that for him. His hand situation is something that has healed up more and he learned how to use it better. I expect him to be a load."
The right side of the line is an area of concern. Veterans tackle Marshall Newhouse and guard John Jerry are running with the first team after being considered reserves at this time last year.
But Reese has confidence in them to at least be sufficient enough to field a winning team. He mentioned that both players have been around for a while, mostly as starters.
Reese also looks at the Super Bowl teams each year as a litmus test.
"I say: 'You know what? That is not a big difference from the offensive linemen that we have or to whatever degree that may be,'" he explained. "I just kind of look around and it would be great to have five Pro Bowlers up front, but I don't think anyone has that."
The Giants don't have an offensive lineman on their roster with a Pro Bowl on their resume. Center Weston Richburg and guard Justin Pugh have potential. Left tackle Ereck Flowers has talent as the No. 9 overall pick in 2015.
Jerry and Newhouse round out the first-team unit. Reese also said to keep an eye out for second-year lineman Bobby Hart.
Is that good enough?
The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl with Pro Football Focus' 20th-ranked offensive line last season. The runner-up Carolina Panthers were ranked second.
Reese believes the talent he has on his offensive line is comparable to what those teams had.
"We have confidence in our offensive line," he said. "We'll always try to upgrade every position as we move along, but we think we have a very competent offensive line that can get the job done."
Much like McAdoo, Reese expects this year's draft class to play immediately. There are no adjustment periods anymore. Cornerback Eli Apple, wide receiver Sterling Shepard and safety Darian Thompson (among others) give the Giants hope they have players who can significantly contribute immediately.
Options at Safety
Thompson is a player who impressed this spring. But Reese believes he's not the only option at safety after being left so incredibly thin last summer because of injuries.
"There are a lot of guys back there that I like that I think can play," he said.
Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson and Justin Currie are some of the options. They're all returning from season-long injuries.
Reese feels there is a lot of "positive energy" in the building right now. He sees the team coming together well. He also believes this is fostered, in part, by the competition that exists at many positions. The Giants have more than a handful of starting positions that appear up for grabs.
All of this provides the man who put together the roster some hope. Then again, last year at this time he predicted the Giants would be "really good" defensively and surprise some people. They finished dead last in the NFL.