Giants head into 2018 with no Super Bowl hype
By TOM CANAVAN
The Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Coming off a three-win season, the New York Giants have changed.
They have a new coach, a new general manager, a new 3-4 defensive scheme and a slew of new players led by No. 2 overall draft pick Saquon Barkley.
The biggest change, however, heading into 2018 is there is no Super Bowl hype.
That was the main topic going into 2017 with the Giants coming off an 11-5 season under then-second-year coach Ben McAdoo. The expectations of a trip to Minnesota and a fifth Lombardi Trophy were through the roof.
The hope didn’t last long. After losing five straight to start the season and incurring several injuries, McAdoo and longtime general manager Jerry Reese were fired in early December after their decision to bench two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
The changes followed. Dave Gettleman was hired to replace Reese. Pat Shurmur was named coach. A slew of free agents were signed led by left tackle Nate Solder, guard Patrick Omameh and linebacker Kareem Martin. Fellow linebacker Alec Ogletree was acquired in a trade.
Barkley, guard Will Hernandez and defensive tackle B.J. Hill were added in the first three rounds of the draft. All should start against the Jaguars on Sept. 9.
“I just told the team today, and I’ll say this, I’m not into predictions,” Shurmur said Monday. “I told the team today really don’t worry about Jacksonville, let’s just make the rest of today as good as it can be and then we’ll see where we go with it.”
The Giants have talent. Getting back to the playoffs will be tough.
New York has two games with the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and five other matchups against teams that made the playoffs — Jacksonville, New Orleans, Carolina, Atlanta and Tennessee. Add in four games against NFC East rivals Dallas and Washington and winning nine or 10 games is asking a lot.
The positive is the personnel is good. The 37-year-old Manning has looked sharp in the preseason and the receiving group has the potential to be awesome, especially if Odell Beckham Jr. returns to form after missing most of last season with a broken ankle. Despite missing two weeks with a hamstring, Barkley has been impressive. He has a burst of speed that has not been seen in the Giants’ backfield in a while.
Defensively, tackle Snacks Harrison, end/linebacker Olivier Vernon, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Landon Collins are Pro Bowl caliber for coordinator James Bettcher.
Some things to know about the 2018 Giants:
∫ BECKHAM’S BACK: The Giants have been cautious with the three-time Pro Bowler in the preseason. He did not appear in any of the first three games and it’s likely he won’t play until the season opener. The 25-year-old has been barely touched in training camp which might raise some concerns.
However, if you’ve watched him, he has not lost a step. His cuts are crisp, his hands are as good as ever and there is no reason not to believe he is going to have double-digit touchdown catches and have more than 1,000 yards receiving. He also should benefit from opponents having to watch Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram.
∫ O-LINE ISSUES: The Giants spent a bundle to upgrade the offensive line. Solder is a major upgrade at left tackle. Hernandez is a fighter at left guard. The rest of the line is suspect. Jon Halapio is playing center for the first time. Omameh struggled against Jets at right tackle while Ereck Flowers has been up and down at his new right tackle spot. Bottom line is the line was the weak link in the offense last season and it could be again although the pass protection has looked a little better.
∫ SECONDARY ISSUES: The secondary has three solid starters in Jenkins, fellow cornerback Eli Apple and Collins at the strong safety. The free safety spot looks as if it will go to Curtis Riley. He outlasted incumbent Darian Thompson, who was bothered by a hamstring in training camp, and veteran Andrew Adams, who struggled despite making 17 starts over the past two seasons. There is little depth at cornerback and it is uncertain who will be the nickel and dime backs.
∫ D-LINE: A late concern for the line is Vernon’s reported high ankle injury. He is the top pass rusher and struggled at times last season with a similar injury. Rookie Lorenzo Carter, veteran Connor Barwin and Kerry Wynn will have to take up the slack.
∫ MANNING: Eli is enjoying the new offense. He was 17 of 23 against the Jets in his final tuneup, and no one is worried whether his starting days are dwindling.