Top 5 Giants Storylines for 2019: The Start of a Rebirth, or an Implosion?

Getty Saquon Barkley scores a touchdown vs. Washington

The New York Giants’ whirlwind of an offseason has been a lot to take in from a multitude of perspectives. The brash and unorthodox ways of Giants GM Dave Gettleman’s approach to building a team has left many New Yorkers and media outlets scratching their heads, and others yanking their hair from their scalp in anguish.

March 11th kicked off a two-day span of complete Giants agony. Landon Collins, former all-pro safety and team captain of the Giants, signed with the division rival Washington Redskins, after the Giants refused to even offer him a contract. This headline was quickly shattered just a day later by the earth rattling news that the Giants traded then franchise cornerstone Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns. This, after months of Gettleman pounding the table and shouting to anyone willing to listen that the Giants “didn’t sign him to trade him.” In return for Beckham, the Giants received a poor man’s Landon Collins in safety Jabrill Peppers, and a first round pick which they turned into former Clemson defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence. They hope Lawrence can help fill the void left behind by Snacks Harrison, who the Giants traded away for a bag of rocks at the 2018 trade deadline.

Things came to a head on draft night when the Giants shocked the world and selected Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, a second-day prospect in most people’s minds, with the 6thoverall pick. Many Giants fans hearts, and some TVs, were shattered once faced with the reality that Jones, not Ohio State QB, Dwayne Haskins would become Eli Manning’s heir apparent.

Since then, the Giants have kept fairly quiet and put forth a solid product on the field, albeit in the pre-season. While division rivals such as the Cowboys may grab headlines thanks to contract disputes and player holdouts, no team may be more compelling than the one located in the media capital of the world. They have arguably the most talented skill-player in the NFL at their disposal. They shipped off a generational talent at wideout. Then, they drafted a signal caller to eventually unseat a two-time Super Bowl Champion. These are just a few storylines that make the Giants one of the most interesting NFL teams in 2019.

How Will the G-Men Replace Odell Beckham Jr.?

GettyFormer New York Giants teammates Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley.

Losing Odell Beckham Jr. means losing one the most prolific wideouts in the game. Beckham Jr. took the NFL by storm in his first three seasons in the league. He averaged 96 receptions, 1,370+ receiving yards, and nearly 12 touchdowns per year from 2014-2016. Beckham Jr. was coming off yet another 1,000-yard season a year ago before being shown the door by the Giants’ brass. OBJ’s departure leaves a huge pair of shoes to fill within the Giants receiving arsenal.

Replacing Beckham Jr. will be no short task. In fact, it will be virtually impossible with just one player. Instead, the Giants will trot out a multitude of different receiving options. Sterling Shepard will see an uptick in usage and is the likely candidate to assume the “WR-1” tag within the offense. Golden Tate was brought in from Philly to bring some consistency and leadership to the wide receiver room. Unfortunately, Tate will serve a 4-game suspension for a fertility drug, but when he returns he will give the Giants another proven threat in the passing game. Players such as Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler add much needed size to the otherwise diminutive receiving corp, but are best suited to serve as role players within the offense.

While players like Shepard may see their fantasy football ADP rise, the player most likely to consume the majority of targets left behind by Beckham Jr. may not even be a wide receiver. Tight end Evan Engram is a matchup nightmare, and an athletic freak with sub 4.5 speed. While there may be a tight end designation by his name, Engram is a receiver by trade. He has played his best ball over the years when OBJ was out of the lineup. During the final four games of the 2018 regular season, Engram averaged nearly six receptions and 80 ypg., all with Odell Beckham out of the lineup. This statistical output for Engram is a jump of nearly three receptions and 44 receiving yards per game, compared to when Beckham Jr. was healthy and on the field. Engram has had a case of the drops during his career, but if he can fix the occasional mental lapse, he has the talent and opportunity to assert himself within the hierarchy of elites at the tight end position in the NFL.

Can Saquon Improve on Last Season’s Production?

Any NFL team would be hard-pressed to ask anything more out of their running back than what Saquon Barkley produced in his rookie campaign with the Giants. Yet, that’s exactly what New York will be looking for from their pro-bowl back this coming season.

Barkley, who touted the rock 261 times in 2018, will possibly see that number reach north of 300 this season. This will mainly be due to the loss of Odell Beckham Jr., which will directly correlate to a prospective change in the Giants’ offensive blueprint. Expect Eli Manning and fellow Giants QBs to keep the deep shots to a minimum in 2019. You can expect the offense to run through Barkley more than ever this coming season, while the passing game operates within the short to intermediate range on a regular basis. Barkley will not only be a workhorse back in the running game, but with the loss of OBJ, he has a chance to surpass his record-setting 91 receptions that he put up as a rookie. In 2019, Barkley could eclipse Christian McCaffrey’s NFL single season record of 102 receptions by a running back.

As a Giants fan, you hope that the organization doesn’t use up and spit out their best player before they’re ready to truly compete within the NFC East, and eventually Super Bowls. Then again, Barkley’s talent may be so otherworldly that he will carry the Giants within contention.

Can the Giants Make a Playoff Push?

The New York Giants have missed the playoffs in all but two years since the 2008 season. Most expect this coming season to be much of the same in terms of New York’s success on the football field.

The Cowboys and Eagles are expected to duke it out for NFC East supremacy, yet questions surround both teams. First and foremost is the lingering holdout of Ezekiel Elliott. Without Elliott in the fold, quarterback Dak Prescott will have to prove he can carry the offense, something he has struggled to readily do in the past. The Eagles may be the most talented of the bunch, yet Carson Wentz’s availability is always in question, as he has averaged just 12 starts over the last two seasons. This year, they don’t have Nick Foles in the fold to bail them out. Lastly, we have the Washington Redskins, who with their current roster construction may be closer to the 1stoverall pick in the 2020 NFL draft rather than a 2019 playoff berth.

That leaves the Giants, who may have quietly found the formula to make a potential push for their first playoff appearance since 2016. With Odell Beckham Jr. out of the picture, the Giants will no longer feel pressured to force the ball to one specific player. Instead, the offense will operate more similarly to that of Pat Shurmur’s Minnesota Vikings offense back in 2017. The Giants will be a run heavy, high-percentage passing offense, which will better suit Eli Manning’s skillset. If Saquon Barkley can continue to carry the load, and the Giants young defense can sustain some consistency, the Giants may shock some people in 2019.

Who’s on the Hot Seat? Shurmur? Gettleman? Or Both?

Let’s be frank, Pat Shurmur, while a talented offensive play caller at times during his NFL tenure, has done very little as a head coach in the NFL. So little, it’s fair to question if he deserved the Giants head coaching gig in the first place. Shurmur is now 15-34 during his time as the lead man for an organization. He currently boasts the 10thworst winning percentage in NFL history by a head coach with at least 50 games of experience.

Dave Gettleman has worn out his welcome in the majority of the organizations he has circulated during his career. Numerous former players have been left with disdain for his GM’ing ways. His handling of Odell and Landon Collins with the Giants likely hasn’t helped his popularity amongst players within the organization.

While the seat underneath these two’s bums may seem to be boiling, they have a few things working in their favor. First, the Giants front office is one of the most loyal in all the NFL. The Giants have regularly opted to give coaches too much time to get things right rather than pull the trigger too soon. Second, Gettleman has done a nice job of adding an influx of young talent to the roster. Their defense is up-and-coming, while the offensive line is arguably the strongest unit the Giants have had since their most recent Super Bowl runs. Finally, the drafting of Daniel Jones, whether he performs well or poorly this coming season, will possibly buy the tandem one more season in New York to get things right.

Shurmur has Gettleman’s backing, but if things in New York this season go how many expect, Gettleman may not be around to have a say in Shurmur’s tenure.

When Will Daniel Jones Unseat Eli Manning?

Getty Giants QB Daniel Jones chats it up with incumbent starter Eli Manning

How quickly the tables have turned. Just a few months ago, Giants fans were booing Daniel Jones at a Yankees game prior to ever setting foot on an NFL football field. Now, after just a few preseason games vs. second and third team defenses, fans are clamoring to see the Daniel Jones era to start in New York.

The excitement that Jones has brought to the fan base is understandable. Jones has looked more than ready for the big stage in his limited game action. While he may lack the cannon arm of a Pat Mahomes or Josh Allen, he has made up for it with poise and accuracy. Jones has the ability to deliver the ball with pinpoint precision, and enough mobility to keep defenses honest while also moving the pocket.

While Jones may be the talk of the town, his impressive play, and simply his addition to the Giants roster in the first place, has clearly lit a fire under Eli Manning’s behind. While Jones plays has left fans salivating, Manning has quietly shown more zip, and better timing on his passes during the preseason, than the QB has put on tape in a number of years.

The Giants have preached from the start that they’d like to follow the Kansas City Chiefs-Pat Mahomes model of letting their quarterback learn from the sidelines during their rookie season. Yet, even Mahomes started one game his rookie year, thanks to the Chiefs locking down a playoff berth. The chances of New York having the opportunity to rest their starters in the regular season prior to the playoffs is highly unlikely. In fact, there is a much better chance that the Giants will be out of playoff contention in the final weeks on 2019.

Most teams look to make a QB change during a bye week, giving the QB time to get used to operating as the team’s starter, while also getting comfortable with the game plan. Unfortunately, the Giants face off with the Chicago Bears following a week 11 bye. Starting Jones vs. Chicago would be essentially throwing him to the wolves, a highly unlikely scenario if the Giants care anything about their young gun-slinger’s confidence. Week 15 vs. Miami might be your best bet of seeing Jones dethrone Manning as the Giants’ starting quarterback.

The end of the Eli Manning-Giants Era is inevitable, it’s just a question of when. If the Giants get off to a poor start, Gettleman will likely ponder benching Manning for Jones sooner rather than later. He will also be fueled by the prospect of getting Jones in-game experience, while also hoping to stick it to his naysayers. But who knows, as we stated before, Gettleman has an admiration for the Chiefs-QB plan, plus it’s not like Gettleman has ever gone back on his word.