We’re little over 100 days away from the start of the 2019 season and the biggest question for the New York Giants is how the offense will look on opening day. Collectively as a group, you would expect them to take a step back, especially after Giants general manager Dave Gettleman traded away a key offensive weapon in Odell Beckham Jr. this off-season.
However, it wasn’t like the Giants were an offensive juggernaut as they were 16th in scoring last season. At times, the play-calling seemed too predictable as one, two, three, kick might be perfect cadence for a Broadway dancer, but not for an NFL offense. The unit looked overmatched and out-classed by opponents with no sense of urgency among the starters. For Giants coach Pat Shurmur, it’s all about getting creative with his offense and achieving a balance that allows them to extend drives downfield.
How the New York Giants Offense Will Look in 2019: The Saga of Eli Manning
After winning only eight games the last two seasons and achieving one playoff appearance (2016) since winning the Super Bowl in February of 2012, it came as no surprise that the Giants front office decided it was time to revamp the roster. The next big move after trading Beckham Jr. away was anointing Daniel Jones as Eli Manning’s heir apparent at the quarterback position with his selection (sixth overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft.
It’s no secret that Manning is at the end of the road with the Giants as he’s entering the final (16th season with the franchise) season of a four-year/$84 million deal. There has been little fanfare for what could be his swansong in New York, especially when you consider the embattled quarterback led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories over the New England Patriots. Still, it seems everyone is in agreement that the time is right to begin the next era of Giant football.
Manning’s biggest deficiency over the last few seasons has been his lack of patience in the pocket. Too often, he rushed his passes in fear of being hit for a loss behind the line of scrimmage. Granted, the pass-blocking has failed to allow him to read the field and keep the defense honest with high-percentage pass completions. Still, Manning has the experience to extend a play before having to get rid of the football.
Shurmur wants to execute a faster, more efficient passing attack that puts a high premium on quarterback accuracy that hopefully negates the opposing team’s pass rush. Success will be dependent upon Manning speeding up his reads and distributing the ball better to all of his receivers.
In Shurmur’s last season as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, no receiver achieved higher than a 10 percent target rate in the passing game. That wasn’t the case in his first year as Giants coach as the receiving options were OBJ, Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley and not much else. If Manning couldn’t connect with one of them, then the play-making capabilities of the Giants offense were non-existent. This cannot be the case in 2019 or scoring points will become a challenge for them.
The Timetable of Daniel Jones’ Development
Let’s refrain from debating whether or not Jones is the right candidate and concentrate more on the course of development for him becoming the Giants next starting quarterback. I firmly believe he will be lurking in the background learning his trade by proxy this season. Jones doesn’t need to be connected to Manning’s hip in order to become an effective starter. It’s better for him to observe how Manning prepares for an opponent each week. This isn’t a selfish move as Jones is going to learn his trade by getting reps in practice and doing the prep work alongside Manning in the quarterback room.
Right now, the Giants are committed to Manning starting the 2019 season as the quarterback, but the job description doesn’t include mentoring Jones before handing over the keys to the franchise in 2020. Manning needs to salvage his career by proving he can still play winning football as a starting quarterback. His success could make him a viable option on the free agent market next off-season. He cannot concern himself with the development of his successor, but Manning can indirectly help by exhibiting the same work ethic in his preparation to play each week.
Life After OBJ at the Receiver Position
Having a balanced attack is paramount for success in Shurmur’s offense as it not all about hitting the deep ball for a quick score. No, he prefers to gain four or more yards on each down as this allows him to expand his play-calling capabilities that keeps the opposing defense off-balanced. This style of play isn’t flashy, but it allows an offense to be consistent for all four quarters.
The look of the receiving corps is quite promising as you have Golden Tate, Evan Engram, Shepard and Barkley projected to receive the majority of targets this season. However, there is no legitimate deep threat receiver on the roster, who can challenge a secondary with their speed. Engram might line up more to the outside this season as Shurmur will look to better utilize his speed coming off the line of scrimmage.
The bigger challenge will be for Tate and Shepard to expand their roles as each are talented slot receivers, but the Giants will need more production from both players. If not, then it puts more emphasis on Manning to spread the ball around and keep the chains moving.
Is the Offensive Line Rebuilt or Retooled?
Gettleman fully understands that to compete on Sundays, you better have a quality offensive line. This unit received the brunt of the blame for last season’s misfortunes as they allowed Manning to be sacked 47 times. The situation became so dire that off-season free agent signee Patrick Omameh was back with his former team (Jacksonville Jaguars) before the holidays.
The Giants had three picks in the first 37 selections in last April’s draft, everyone expected them to use one of those picks to improve the right side of the offensive line, instead, they chose the trade and free agent route to upgrade those positions. The hope is Mike Remmers can stabilize the right tackle position, while the acquisition of Kevin Zeitler from the Cleveland Browns is a significant upgrade at the right guard position. The bottom line is the production from this unit must be better or the results won’t change much in 2019.
Moving forward, the most important decision for Shurmur isn’t finding Beckham Jr.’s replacement or determining what week Jones will make his NFL debut. No, it’s developing some form of chemistry from the ruins of a complete roster turnover. Also, he needs to handle better the constant scrutiny that comes with coaching in New York.
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