Around the NFL

New York Giants season preview: Holes on defense

*Around The NFL's season preview goes to the NFC East. *

Change we can believe in

This is a franchise afraid of too much change. 2015 feels like a final chance for the Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning-Jerry Reese Giants power structure, but we thought that about last year, too. It says a lot about this team when the most exciting addition of the offseason was defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, back from wandering the coaching abyss since leading the Giants' 2007 Super Bowl run.

Perhaps ownership understands how unlucky Coughlin and Reese have been lately. The Giants chapter in the Football Outsiders Almanac spells out the dreadful injury problems the organization has suffered through the last two years. Jason Pierre-Paul's amputated finger and left tackle Will Beatty's torn pectoral muscle give this season a similar feel before camp even started.

New York's offseason moves were mostly cosmetic, with the team banking on returning players to improve the squad. Additions like third-down back Shane Vereen, linebacker J.T. Thomas and Dwayne Harris are role players. Coughlin is banking on continuity on offense and a full season from Odell Beckham to cover up roster holes elsewhere.

Biggest concern

The Giants are asking a lot from Spagnuolo. With Pierre-Paul's status still up in the air, he has a talent-poor front seven to work with. Undrafted second-year player Kerry Wynn is in line to start at one defensive end spot. The team's best pass rusher is ... Robert Ayers. Middle linebacker Jon Beason, who has played more than four games once in the last four years, is hurt again. Throw in an ugly safety group that has been ravaged by injuries, and this has the makings of one of the worst defenses in the entire league.

Training camp surprise

Pierre-Paul's status is no closer to clarity now than it was on July 7. Owner John Mara admitted he is "beyond the point where I'm annoyed." It shows the amazing leverage that JPP has and the desperation of the Giants that they pray they can pay him $14.4 million despite not seeing him all summer. Pierre-Paul knows the Giants' defense needs him badly; he holds the cards.

His recovery, despite the mystery, still looks simpler than that of Victor Cruz. Coming off a torn patellar tendon, Cruz is now struggling with a calf injury. He could be as low as No. 5 on the receiving pecking order behind Beckham, Rueben Randle, Vereen and tight end Larry Donnell.

What we'll be saying in February

Mediocrity for the fourth season running brought about big changes.

Predicted finish: Third place in NFC East, No. 11 in NFC, No. 22 in Around The NFL's Power Poll.

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