How the Giants became contenders in the NFC East this offseason

The New York Giants haven't exactly been competitive in the NFC East the past few years. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2011, they have yet to win the division. In fact, they haven't come close to doing so since they were second in 2012.

Following back-to-back third-place finishes in the NFC East the past two seasons, the Giants made a bevy of changes -- both additions and subtractions. The most notable difference from 2015 to now is the head coach.

Tom Coughlin is no longer the leader of the team; instead, it's former offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Because McAdoo had no previous head coaching experience, the Giants took a risk by promoting him, but it should make for a somewhat seamless transition for the offense. And needless to say, the Giants were in need of a change given the struggles they suffered in recent years under Coughlin.

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Of course, there will be some that believe New York would have been better off with Coughlin and his two Super Bowl rings. But as is the case with most sports, the NFL is a league of "What have you done for me lately?" And Coughlin had little success in recent years, while dealing with a great deal of criticism in New York.

With McAdoo, the Giants didn't automatically become contenders in the NFC East. That was far from the case. But the change should spark a fire under players in need of some urgency and intensity -- something Coughlin had trouble providing since his Super Bowl-winning days. And unlike Coughlin, McAdoo should help cut down on late-game collapses, which the Giants were known for last season.

Yes, they were the result of a combination of Coughlin, Eli Manning and McAdoo. No, McAdoo doesn't have much coaching experience with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. But he's a guy Manning can trust. He's spent the last two seasons with McAdoo as his offensive coordinator, and although it took a year for Manning to transition to the new offense, he thrived in 2015.

Despite being criticized for blowing leads and losing games week in and week out, Manning had the best year of his decorated career last season. He threw a career-high 35 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions, which were tied for his second-fewest since becoming the full-time starter in 2005. Furthermore, he posted his best passer rating ever with a mark of 93.6.

With Manning and McAdoo teaming up as a quarterback-head coach duo, the Giants are in good hands following the end of the Coughlin era. Not to mention, they spent more money than any team in the NFL this offseason.

In free agency, the Giants dished out $108.6 million in guaranteed money, according to Spotrac. Most of that came from the big three free agents New York signed: Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison. But just how much did the Giants give those three defenders? A lot.

Jenkins got $28.8 million guaranteed, while Vernon received $52.5 million and Harrison got $24 million. For Vernon, it's the biggest deal for a defensive end ever, surpassing the $51.876 million guaranteed J.J. Watt received in his $100 million contract. Think that shows the Giants' commitment to overhauling the defense?

Of course, none of the three have ever made a Pro Bowl, but they're all fairly young and only getting better by the year. In a division that features quarterbacks like Tony Romo and Kirk Cousins (and soon Carson Wentz), the Giants need a strong pass rush and secondary. After all, it's a passing league.

After losing Prince Amukamara in free agency, the front office knew it needed to add a cornerback to pair with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Not only did they sign one, but they drafted one, too.

Rookie Eli Apple is far from a polished product, but he has a combination of size and speed that teams covet. By adding Jenkins and Apple, the Giants immediately upgraded their secondary more than any other team, and it's now a strength rather than a weakness. So long as Apple can cut down on being grabby on the outside and Jenkins doesn't get burned as often as he did in St. Louis, the Giants' defensive backfield is going to be strong and make them a real threat to Dallas and Washington.

On offense, the Giants didn't do much in free agency. In the draft, though, they added a playmaker to pair with Odell Beckham Jr. Sterling Shepard out of Oklahoma is a similar player to Beckham. A precise route runner, Shepard has elite quickness to go along with his explosiveness (41-inch vertical). With question marks surrounding Victor Cruz, the Giants needed to find another weapon for Manning -- and they did.

The NFC East is as up for grabs as any division in football, and the New York made sure it made every effort possible to vault its name to the top of the division. Unlike in years past, Romo and Dez Bryant won't find passing against New York's secondary to be a walk in the park. There are some serious players on that defense now, led by Vernon and Jenkins.

The Giants have as good of a chance at winning the NFC East as any team in the division, and they've likely passed the Redskins in that regard.