NEW YORK GIANTS: Top Concerns Entering 2019 Season

By Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan and www.Facebook.com/CoachMcCartan)

BERGEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY- Let’s cut right to it: there is an air of uneasiness and uncertainty surrounding the New York Giants this season. Las Vegas odds-makers have them at 100-1 to win Super Bowl LIV- the same as their MetLife Stadium roommates, the New York Jets. For whatever reason, the feeling is that the Jets are on the uptick and the Giants are, well, going through a tumultuous period.

Since December 29, 2017, since his tenure in New York began, New York Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman has traded Jason Pierre-Paul, Damon Harrison, Eli Apple, Olivier Vernon, Odell Beckham, Jr. and has allowed Landon Collins to walk to the division rival Washington Redskins.  In allowing six starters, including his defensive captain, to play on different teams in 2018 and in 2019, many thought that Eli Manning’s tenure as quarterback for the Giants was also expiring. Manning was due, and was paid, a $5 million roster bonus- leading everyone to think he will be the Giants’ starting quarterback in 2019.  Couple that with the selection of Saquon Barkley at number two overall in the 2018 NFL Draft and the (expensive) signing of veteran wide receiver Golden Tate (free agency), can Giants fans label this a true “rebuild”? In a way, the team is experiencing an identity crisis.

What are the three main areas of concern for the 2019 Giants?

1. Quarterback: With the sixth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected…. Daniel Jones, quarterback, Duke. With that, it seems as though the clock is ticking even more quickly down on 38-year old Manning, the Giants’ stalwart under center for the past sixteen seasons, and his NFL career. The Giants must figure out a way to make the transition from #10 to #8 as seamlessly and efficiently as possible. Because, even though Phil Simms has said that Manning’s passes have an extra zip on them this year, by all accounts, Jones is having himself an outstanding training camp. He heaved a deep ball to Paul Perkins down the sideline that dropped in his hands, in stride, for a touchdown.  When Jones let the ball fly, cheers from teammates could be heard on tape -and only grew louder when Perkins celebrated his training camp touchdown.  One could feel the energy that Jones brings to the team.

Head Coach Pat Shurmur called the play ‘outstanding’ and explained: “He’s made excellent throws in every practice, and that was evidence to me that he has the arm to play in this league…. We’ve seen it throughout the training, and that was actually a very good throw.” Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula echoed Shurmur’s sentiments: “He’s throwing the ball deep very well…. He has a better understanding of the routes we are running across the board. To hit a halfback like that down the field was pretty impressive for any quarterback, rookie or veteran.”

In regards to Manning’s training camp, Shurmur told ESPN in a live spot Saturday that “[Manning] is throwing it sharp. His arm is live. His second year in the system, the ball is coming out a little quicker and he is understanding the progressions a little bit quicker.”

When will the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Daniel Jones, unseat the surefire Pro Football Hall of Famer, Eli Manning? Fans, brace yourselves: it’s not a question of ‘if’, but a matter of ‘when’.

2. Defense: This year’s defense can’t be any worse than last year’s… could it? Last year, the league average was 23 points given up per game. If the Giants held their 2018 opponents to the league average in points scored at the very minimum, they would have won two more games. 7-9 is still not good, but it is more tolerable than 5-11.

The following are the Giants’ rankings in the most important team defense statistics.

  • Yards/game: 24th (371.4)
  • Points/game: 23rd (25.8)
  • Takeaways: 15th (21)
  • Sacks: T-30 (30)

This year, the Giants have a many new faces on a young defensive unit, most notably Jabrill Peppers (Paramus Catholic 2012 graduate), who came ‘home’ in the Beckham, Jr. exchange with the Cleveland Browns. Improvement is desperately needed at every level of the Giants’ defense, starting with defensive end B.J. Hill and the addition (via draft) of defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. Last season, the only team worse than the Giants in terms of the pass rush was the Oakland Raiders.

Manning, in talking with ESPN on Saturday, said that Lawerence isn’t obliged to put the opposing quarterback on the ground on every, single play, but he has the ability to push and affect the pocket. For the seventeenth overall selection in the 2019 NFL draft (acquired by the Giants in the Beckham, Jr. trade), disruption of the pocket and getting to the quarterback seem to be second nature.  The 6’4″, 342 lbs. lineman set a Clemson single-season record for sacks (5) as a freshman.

Furthermore, it seems as though second year defensive coordinator James Bettcher can best utilize Hill and maximize his output in stunt packages.

Moving to the next shelf of defenders… Linebacker Markus Golden is looking to improve upon a season in which he ranked no higher than 37th in the league in any of the following categories: solo tackles, assists, sacks, and forced fumbles (PFF). In the same boat is linebacker Lorenzo Carter.  He is looking to improve upon a season in which he ranked no higher than 26th in those categories.

Finally, in the final line of defense, rookie cornerback Corey Ballentine has been making progress and has been named one of this week’s standouts at camp by the Giants.

3. Wide Receivers: Odell Beckham, Jr., one of the most talented wide receivers in the entire league, is playing for a different team this season. To describe the group of pass catchers, Shurmur told ESPN on Saturday, in a live interview: “They’re competing. When you have a player like Odell that’s [no longer] here, the group says ‘there’s balls out here to catch’! [Tight end Evan] Engram has wide receiver traits that we can use in that way [too]”.

To fill the void left by Beckham, Jr., Gettleman brought in Golden Tate, a veteran, on a four-year, $37.5 million contract. As it stands today, Tate will be serving a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

Sterling Shepard, who, before this season, signed a four-year $41 million contract extension, is working through.. or around… a fractured thumb injury. “Shepard is running routes in drills wearing a no-contact yellow ‘pinny’ to indicate to the quarterbacks to not pass the ball in his direction and for the other players to avoid making contact with him.” The Giants are optimistic that he, barring any setbacks, will be ready for week one action.

Corey Coleman, entering his second year with the Giants, tore his ACL in the first practice of the season.  He will miss the entire season.

To what degree will the injury bug continue to bite the Giants’ receiving corp, which is dangerously thin? Will Gettleman be forced to bring in an economical stopgap (Dez Bryant, anyone?) Which, if any, of the remaining players on the roster will step up?

Entering preseason play, the Giants seem to have more questions than answers, but, with over a month until their first game, they have time on their side in order to straighten it all out and find the answers they seek.

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