The Maj | August 10th, 2019
The New York Giants were supposed to take a step forward in 2018 with a new General Manager and coaching staff but instead, they stumbled starting with the 2nd overall pick in the NFL draft. Everyone speculated that the Giants would use the draft selection to take Eli Manning’s heir apparent but instead took a stud running back by the name of Saquon Barkley.
Even though they didn’t get their quarterback of the future they were still expected to compete after having upgraded their offensive line with the additions of Nate Solder and Will Hernandez. Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants Pro Bowl wide receiver, also signed a mega-extension prior to the start of the 2018 season but paradise was short-lived. As the season progressed it was evident that the Giants may have been better off using the 2nd overall pick on a quarterback as Eli Manning had seemingly shown that he was reaching the end of his career.
The move that captured the most headlines this offseason was the New York Giants trading Odell Beckham Jr. after months of speculation. He was traded to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the 17th and 95th picks in the 2019 NFL draft along with Jabrill Peppers. Another transaction that was attached to the Beckham deal was Olivier Vernon also being traded to the Cleveland Browns for guard Kevin Zeitler in a move that helped solidify the offensive line for the G-Men. These moves were addition by subtraction as the Giants tried to change the culture in the locker room. They also used the 6th overall pick on Eli’s successor Daniel Jones quarterback from Duke and the 17th pick in the draft obtained from the Browns to select defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence out of Clemson. The Giants had 12 picks in the 2019 NFL draft and used the 37th, 132nd, and 142nd picks to move back into the first round to select lock down cornerback Deandre Baker out of Georgia. The Giants weren’t done there with their offseason acquisitions, they also added in free agency most notably Golden Tate (WR), Mike Remmers (OL), and Antoine Bethea (S).
The Giants offense this season will be interesting to see without Odell Beckham Jr. on the field. I expect that the Giants are going to run an offense similar to what we saw last year in 2018, which was an offense focused on the run, play-action and quarterback rollouts . Eli Manning looked more comfortable towards the end of the season in Pat Shurmur’s system using more play-action and rollouts. In fact, Eli’s statistics were identical with Odell in the lineup as they were without him, he attempted nearly the same number of pass attempts and yards per pass attempt.
The issue for the Giants heading into the 2019 season will be how they utilize the players on this roster. They have two starting wide receivers on this team that are used to spending quite a bit of time in the slot, Sterling Shepard (49.9%) and Golden Tate (69.0%), and it may take some time to see how they will be used in this offense. The X-factor on this offense is going to be Evan Engram who is one of the larger targets on this team standing at 6’3 and was much more efficient in 2018 under Pat Shurmur. Engram saw increases in his yards per reception, yards per game, yards per target and more importantly his catch rate which was 70.3% up from 55.7% in 2017.
I envision that when Golden Tate returns from his four-game suspension for PEDs, he will spend more time lined up outside, with Sterling Shepard in the slot. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see the Giants line up Evan Engram all over the field outside of the traditional tight end role. Engram will be used in this offense to create mismatch nightmares for linebackers and undersized cornerbacks. Saquon Barkley will resume his role as the bell cow behind this bolstered offensive line which could be a scary thought to opposing defenses.
On the defensive side of the ball, you don’t have to look much further than the 2017 Cardinals defense if you want a glimpse into how this group of players will be utilized. The Giants, in fact, signed quite a few of James Bettcher’s old players: Kareem Martin in 2018, and they added Olsen Pierre, Markus Golden and Antoine Bethea in this year’s free agency. James Bettcher loves to blitz and play his safeties in box which is perfectly suited for hybrid players like Bethea and Jabrill Peppers. The Giants defense this year is going to be physical and they’re going to be aggressive, the question will be, do they have the personnel to match?
Predicting the 53-Man Roster
We already know that Eli Manning is being paid $23.2M to start at quarterback for the Giants this season so his spot on the team is secure for this year at least. However, this season will be all about the maturation and growth of the 6th overall pick Daniel Jones and that is why I think the 31-year-old Alex Tanney will make the roster as a mentor for Jones beyond this year.
Saquon Barkley is locked in as the top running back from here on until he chooses not to be. The competition for the backup position will be close but should ultimately belong to Wayne Gallman who has been with the Giants since 2017. Rod Smith is a veteran back who brings over experience from his time with the Cowboys and is a nice addition to this group. Paul Perkins‘s play, especially in the first preseason game versus the Jets, didn’t help his cause and gives the edge to Eli Penny who will most likely be the only fullback rostered.
The Giants will be able to keep 54 until Golden Tate’s suspension is over. My favorite wide receiver from the first preseason game was Reggie White Jr. who reminds a lot of Victor Cruz and his emergence with the Giants but hopefully if he doesn’t make the cut they can at least sign him to the practice squad. However, until Golden Tate comes back this receiving core will be led by Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, and Russell Shepard with T.J. Jones pushing for time if he continues to play the same way he did in the first preseason game. Darius Slayton was a 5th round pick of the Giants in this year’s draft and Bennie Fowler adds depth to round out the wide receiving core.
The offensive line heading into this season had improved its ranking to 15th overall according to ProFootballFocus.com and they added some much needed depth behind the starting five in Chad Wheeler, Spencer Pulley, and Nick Gates who can play both the tackle and guard positions.
The Giants have one of the youngest and best interior lines in all of the NFL. Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and R.J. McIntosh didn’t have a PFF grade lower than 69.0 and they bolstered the interior with 17th overall pick Dexter Lawrence. Giants fans should expect Lawrence to be on the field for all three downs despite the criticism of his only being a two down nose tackle.
The athleticism of the Giants linebacker core has been an issue in the past and still leaves something to be desired but if the first preseason game serves as an indicator, they may be okay. Tae Davis and Ryan Connelly should be an upgrade and add some much need athleticism at the position. Jake Carlock who is a converted safety had himself quite a game and showed some very good instinctive ball skills.
The Giants will look for Lorenzo Carter to step up on this defense and be the edge guy they desperately need. Lorenzo Carter has four sacks for the Giants in 2018 despite only playing 40.2% of the snaps. Third-round pick Oshane Ximines could end up playing a major role and has flashed in the opportunities given.
This may be one of the units with the biggest overhaul over the last year. The Giants used a 3rd round pick in the supplemental draft to select Sam Beal and then selected cornerbacks Deandre Baker, Julian Love, and Corey Ballentine in the 2019 NFL draft to improve their secondary.
The starters for this group are going to be Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea but the Giants showed interest in some free-agent safeties this offseason and may look to add one as teams start to trim rosters to 53. Julian Love is also a hybrid player that will move from safety to cornerback to the slot, so there is flexibility with him as a player.
The Giants had a Pro Bowl kicker in Aldrick Rosas in 2018 and they made the right decision to re-sign him. Rosas will join punter Riley Dixon, who averaged 45.4 yards per punt, and the second longest-tenured Giant Zak DeOssie.
The coaches and the organization want to win, as they should, otherwise they are wasting some of Saquon Barkley’s best years. However, make no mistake about it, this season will be all about the development of Daniel Jones. If Eli Manning is playing well enough to win football games, there will be no complaints from Giants fans but if he isn’t, they will get a glimpse into the future with Daniel Jones.
Season Prediction: 7-9
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