Coming off a disastrous 2017 campaign, the New York Giants enter training camp this summer with a renewed sense of optimism. After an off-season where New York made organizational changes, shored up their weaknesses and supplemented their already strong offense through free agency and the draft, the Giants and many of their fans think a turnaround could be in the cards.
You don’t go 3-13 by accident, though, and while injuries (hello, Odell Beckham) did derail the Giants 2017 season, they were, for the most part, a hapless and hopeless crew ever since the 2017 season began. Thus, a change in general manager (now headed by Dave Gettleman) and head coach (now skippered by Pat Shurmur) was not only vital but necessary. A clean slate under a new regime could be the catalyst to the Giants returning to winning ways.
With training camp commencing this week, let’s look at five things to watch for as the Giants gear up to make last season a distant memory.
What’s Up With Odell Beckham?
As of this writing, Beckham will report to camp despite not having gotten anywhere on extension talks. He is demanding in the range of $20 million a year.
So far, Beckham is not letting this become a distraction and intends to report to camp. The optics on how the two sides (Giants’ team brass and Beckham) conduct business will be very telling.
As for on the field, Beckham’s health will definitely be something to monitor. In recent workouts, Beckham has looked no worse for the wear. How he looks and feels will be a telling sign on what the Giants to expect out of him moving forward.
We’ll just have to continue and wait and see if the Giants and Beckham can soon come to an extension agreement.
2. Saquon Barkley Is Finally Signed, So What Can We Expect Out of the Number Two pick?
Saquon Barkley has become somewhat of a folk hero among Giants’ fans and he comes to camp with immense hype. Can he live up to the hype?
There is no denying the natural explosiveness and pure athletic ability that Barkley possesses. He wasn’t drafted number two overall for no reason. Fans will flock to Giants’ training camp in hopes he can dazzle the crowd.
He is capable of giving the Giants a new dimension that they have missed for a long time—a three-down back that can make plays in a variety of ways. Barkley will be the most watched player in camp and how he meshes with his new teammates is a storyline that will be the talk of the camp.
— New York Giants (@Giants) July 22, 2018
With Beckham coming back to form combined with the addition of Barkley, the Giants are expected to be fine on the offensive side of things. However, it will be the Giants’ defense that will be most heavily scrutinized this summer.
One major piece they have to replace is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was traded to Tampa in the off-season. While his numbers (particularly sacks) have dipped in the last few years— added with the fact that he doesn’t have the same athleticism he displayed earlier in his career—Pierre-Paul nonetheless was a key cog in the Giants’ defense.
New addition Josh Mauro (from Arizona) came in to help with the departure of Pierre-Paul, but Mauro will be suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. New defensive coordinator James Bettcher will have to mix and match his defensive end rotation. While Mauro can compete in camp, Bettcher will have to squeeze the most out of placers like Kerry Wynn, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Jordan Williams to see what they can provide when September comes around.
The position is clearly a weakness for the Giants and how the team goes about addressing it in camp will be of significant importance before Week 1.
4. How Will the New Look Giants Offensive Line Perform?
Arguably—and there shouldn’t be any argument, really— the Giants’ biggest weakness in 2017 was the wretched play of the offensive line. Quarterback Eli Manning was constantly under siege on almost every single snap. For the Giants to have a good shot of rebounding in 2018, the offensive line had to undergo a major facelift.
Out are Justin Pugh, D.J. Fluker, and Weston Richburg from last season’s O-line and in their place are vets left tackle Nate Solder, guard Patrick Omameh, as well as second-round draft pick Will Hernandez. The new additions on paper appear to be an upgrade, and how well they come together and form chemistry is of utmost importance.
The primary responsibility of the line is to keep Manning upright. The 37-year-old signal caller is getting up there in age, is slow and unathletic and simply needs time to make his reads. It’s incumbent that the O-line come together, get their timing down and give Manning the time he needs to be effective.
Also of major importance, this may be a do-or-die season for embattled tackle Ereck Flowers. Flowers’ motivation as he enters a crucial season of his career will be something to keep an eye on.
5. Does Eli Manning Have Any More Tricks Up His Sleeve?
Speaking of Manning, this camp and the ensuing season could be one of redemption for Manning.
After last season’s debacle in which he was benched for Geno Smith—and ending his streak of starting in 210 consecutive games—Manning is hoping to prove some of his many doubters wrong. Again, if Manning has time to make reads he can still be effective. Thus, he could be in store for a rebound season. With weapons like Beckham, Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram surrounding him, Manning will not be lacking in playmakers.
With his window closing in on competing for the playoffs, this could be Manning’s last best chance to make something special happen. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has surprised Giants’ fans many times before and it will be intriguing to see what Manning has left in the tank.
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