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2019 Team Report: New York Giants

Offensive Philosophy

New York's coach (Pat Shurmer) and offensive coordinator (Mike Shula) remain unchanged from last season, but their personnel has undergone plenty of upheaval thanks to the departure of veteran (and ultra-high-volume) receiver Odell Beckham Jr. While operating a deep-passing offense early, aging veteran Eli Manning has transitioned to the West Coast Offense in the twilight of his career. The Giants preferred to run their offense through running back Saquon Barkley last season, with many of the passes that weren't directly targeting the rookie phenom instead being set up by play action to him. With Beckham gone, that emphasis on Barkley is only likely to increase.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Eli Manning
Backup(s): Daniel Jones [R], Kyle Lauletta, Alex Tanney

Starting QB: How does a fanbase simultaneously adore a quarterback's legacy and actively root for his irrelevance? That's a question very New York Giants fan asks himself each year about Eli Manning. Manning won two Super Bowls for the Giants, but he's become the brunt of frustration as the team has descended into irrelevance of late. Last year, new general manager Dave Gettleman drafted Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in lieu of one of the top quarterback prospects. This year, after assuring fans Manning was the starter, Gettleman selected Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the 6th overall pick. Jones is now the heir apparent, but the plan is for Jones to sit behind Manning for at least the 2019 regular season. While a 38-year old Manning may not excite the fans, it's fair to point out Manning was reasonably effective in his first year executing Pat Shurmur's system. He completed a career-best 66% of throws in 2018 and threw for 4,299 yards while setting a new 16-game low for interceptions (11). Manning had an adjusted yards-per-attempt of 7.3, which is a massive improvement from his 2015-2016 marks, and he did all this in spite of being sacked an alarming 7.5% of dropbacks. The question is whether Manning's 21 touchdowns (3.6% touchdown rate) was a byproduct of his supporting cast, or indicative of a veteran who's no longer willing to take risks downfield. Further complicating matters is the puzzling decision to trade Odell Beckham and replace him with Golden Tate.

Backup QB: The most popular player in town is usually the backup, but New York may not live up to the stereotype this year based on fans' reactions to the drafting of Daniel Jones. Jones, a starter at Duke, was taken 6th overall in what many draft pundits viewed as a reach. GM Gettleman disagreed and sees Jones as franchise quarterback who ran the same pro-style offense under Duke coach Dave Cutcliffe that Eli Manning ran at Ole Miss. Jones (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) looks the part and has a strong arm and a picturesque release. However, he also struggled to stay healthy at Duke, and his tape shows alarming footwork. Giants fans need to ask whether good college players can turn into great professionals. History isn't kind to that kind of leap in logic, but it's what Gettleman is counting on. Kyle Lauletta will try to hold off Alex Tanney for the third spot.

Running Backs

Starter: Saquon Barkley
Backup(s): Wayne Gallman, Elijhaa Penny, Paul Perkins, Rod Smith
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: In an era where the running back position has been marginalized, it's understandable pundits questioned the value of drafting a running back with the second overall pick. Yet, after Saquon Barkley's rookie season, it's hard to argue with Gettleman's decision. The former Penn State Nittany Lion dominated in every facet of the game, in spite of a subpar supporting cast and bad game scripts. He led the league with 2,028 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 touchdowns. He ran for 1,307 yards (5.0 per rush) on just 261 carries and was nearly as productive as a pass-catcher; he caught 91 receptions for 721 yards and four touchdowns. Only Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James gained more yards as rookies. There's no reason to think Barkley peaked as a rookie, particularly if the front office can improve a porous offensive line. He's one of the best offensive players in the game, in his prime, and still improving. That's the definition of a franchise cornerstone.

Backup RBs: Wayne Gallman and Elijhaa Penny return as Barkley's principal backups, but neither is a difference maker. Gallman averaged 3.5 yards per rush behind the same line Barkley gained five yards per carry, and Gallman only scored once in 65 touches. Penny had 15 touches, and is a change-of-pace back, at best. Paul Perkins missed the 2018 season but remains under contract. It seems a lifetime ago Perkins was named the Giants starter, but it was only two seasons. If he can recapture the form he showed at UCLA, Perkins would vault ahead of Gallman and Penny as the team's No. 2, but that seems unlikely.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate
Backups: Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard, Corey Coleman, Darius Slayton [R]

Starting WRs: Odell Beckham may be a diva. He may have been frustrating at times, but it's impossible to overstate his abilities or importance to a passing game that looked like the NFL's worst without him. The Giants are betting on addition by subtraction and traded their mercurial star to the Cleveland Browns. While that signaled a commitment to rebuild, the decision to sign Golden Tate to a multi-year deal signals just the opposite. Tate can be relied on for 90+ receptions but has never been a vertical threat nor someone who can dominate against double or bracket coverage. Tate's lack of vertical prowess seems even more puzzling when juxtaposed against returning starter Sterling Shepard, who was given a $40mm extension this offseason. Shepard, when healthy, can be an effective target hog but, like Tate, has rarely exhibited the ability to win downfield against top defensive backs. It stands to reason the Giants would be well served to establish a vertical threat to keep defenses from stacking the box against Saquon Barkley, but apparently, Pat Shurmur and his staff have other ideas in mind.

Backup WRs: The Giants return the same quartet of veteran backups: Benny Fowler, Cody Latimer, Corey Coleman, and Russell Shepard. Fowler was the beneficiary of Beckham's late-season injuries and logged more than 75% of snaps in the final three games. Latimer was the same boom-or-bust ancillary option he was in Denver. Coleman, playing for his career after disastrous stints in Cleveland and Buffalo, contributed as a fourth option in 4WR sets.

Tight Ends

Starters: Evan Engram
Backups: Rhett Ellison, Garrett Dickerson, Scott Simonson, CJ Conrad [R]

Evan Engram is a glorified wide receiver because he's proven in two seasons blocking is not a strong suit. However, there's a place for a catch-first tight end in today's NFL, and Engram has the raw skill set to be among the most prolific pass catchers at the position. To reach that potential, Engram will need to improve his conditioning, ability to stay on the field, decision-making, and focus. He's earned a reputation for making spectacular plays look effortless and easy plays look hard; that won't lead to stardom if it persists. With Odell Beckham traded, Engram becomes the team's best vertical threat, and he should get opportunities to beat single coverage downfield presuming Eli Manning regains his willingness to throw deep. Rhett Ellison out snapped Engram last year and remains a jack-of-all-trades option, because of his blocking ability. Scott Simonson returns as the third-stringer.

Place Kicker

Aldrick Rosas: The Giants stuck with Aldrick Rosas after a 2017 that some thought should have gotten him his walking papers. The team looked brilliant in hindsight, as Rosas hit 32-of-33 field goal attempts, missing only once from 50+ yards, and he also went 31-for-32 on extra points. He's entrenched as the team's kicker now, coming off of a season where he was top 10 in scoring and the team was top 10 in field goal attempts, so he should be one of the top choices on your last round kicker pick list.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Corey Coleman, Cody Latimer

Disappointments for the franchises that drafted them, receivers Corey Coleman and Cody Latimer have found second acts playing special teams for the New York Giants. With Odell Beckham no longer on the team, both young receivers have a better chance of making the final 53-man roster and playing a role on special teams again in 2019.

Punt Returners: Corey Coleman, Sterling Shepard

Six players returned a punt for New York last season, and five of them are no longer with the team, leaving Corey Coleman (who had one return for 19 yards) the last man standing. Expect the Giants to bring in competition for the job to make Coleman earn it if he wants to be the primary punt returner in 2019.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Spencer Pulley, Kevin Zeitler, Chad Wheeler
Key Backups: Brian Mihalik, Jon Halapio, George Asafo-Adjei [R], Jylan Ware

The team made big news when they traded for Kevin Zeitler in the offseason. Zeitler is a very solid veteran who should not only start at right guard from day 1, but becomes one of their better offensive linemen, along with left tackle Nate Solder, who excels at pass protection. Left guard Will Hernandez continues to develop as a force in the run game and center Spencer Pulley should be able to hold off Jon Halapio in training camp for the starting job after the team resigned both players this offseason. Right tackle remains a huge concern, with Chad Wheeler's only competition coming from converted defensive lineman Brian Mihalik. Both players are better as backups and the team could look to the draft early to fill the right tackle job. Overall, this line carries a grade in the mid-tier, below the top 20. Their grade can rise as Zeitler settles in and they find more talent at right tackle.

Team Defense

The Giants defense didn't make major improvements last year under new defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Aside from a few opportunistic games against backup quarterbacks like Josh Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Chase Daniel, the Giants once again struggled to stop opposing offenses from scoring in the red zone and failed to generate a pass rush. The team finished 23rd in points allowed and 24th in yards allowed while registering just 30 sacks. The Giants need to replace their best pass rusher - Olivier Vernon (team-leading seven sacks last year) and leading tackler - safety Landon Collins, from a unit that is already light on playmakers. General manager Dave Gettleman used seven draft picks on defense, adding much-needed depth and youth at every level. First-round nose tackle Dexter Lawrence projects as an impact starter, but oddly the Giants best returning lineman is Dalvin Tomlinson, can also play on the nose. Fellow first-rounder, cornerback DeAndre Baker, will get an opportunity to start immediately. New York remains an unappealing fantasy option except for spot starts against bottom quartile offenses.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE B.J. Hill, NT Dexter Lawrence [R], DE Dalvin Tomlinson
Backups: R.J. McIntosh, Olsen Pierre, Jake Ceresna, Chris Slayton [R], Myles Humphrey

Starting DL: Damon Harrison was the best run defender on the roster but was traded to Detroit after only 249 snaps. In spite of Harrison's departure, the defensive line is a team strength. Second-year Dalvin Tomlinson moved inside for Harrison and thrived, but can be equally effective as a run-stopping 3-4 end. Tomlinson will have to play end this year to make room for Clemson rookie Dexter Lawrence. And B.J. Hill will start on the other side, building off an impressive rookie season. The projected starters weigh a combined 970 pounds, with B.J. Hill (6-foot-3, 311 pounds) as the smallest. Hill is the only lineman with a proven ability to rush the passer, but Lawrence will generate pressure up the middle even if he doesn't get many sacks.

Backup DL: The starting linemen are gems, but the backups are question marks. Mario Edwards and Josh Mauro left in free agency and will be replaced by Olsen Pierre. Pierre was a part-time starter in Arizona, where he played for Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher. R.J. McIntosh and Jake Ceresna are inexperienced rotational pieces entering their second years, and they'll compete with rookie seventh-rounder Chris Slayton and undrafted free agents Nate Harvey and Jeremiah Harris for roles.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Kareem Martin, ILB Alec Ogletree, ILB B.J. Goodson, OLB Lorenzo Carter
Backups: Oshane Ximines [R], Tae Davis, Nathan Stupar, Markus Golden, Avery Moss, Ukeme Eligwe, Ryan Connelly [R], Josiah Tauaefa [R]

Starting LBs: Trading away Olivier Vernon puts the pressure on Lorenzo Carter entering his second season. As a rookie, Carter played about 40% of snaps primarily in a pass-rushing role. He notched four sacks and eight quarterback hits but struggled against the run. He'll need to improve as a run defender to earn his increased playing time. Veteran Kareem Martin is the other outside linebacker, and he too has been inconsistent as a run defender and is sometimes lost as a tackler. Neither are difference makers. On the inside, high-priced veteran, Alec Ogletree stays on the field in most scenarios but is coming off a woeful season. He needs to recapture the explosiveness he showed as a Los Angeles Ram, or he'll be a high-paid deficit and a likely cap casualty next offseason. B.J. Goodson outplayed Ogletree last year but isn't disruptive. He'll make the tackles he's supposed to, but won't change the tenor of a defensive series.

Backup LBs: An infusion of youth adds hope to an otherwise suspect group of backups. Oshane Ximines (Third Round) and Ryan Connelly (Fifth Round) were productive college linebackers with starter upside once they adapt to the rigors of Bettcher's 3-4 scheme. Their main competition for snaps come from Nathan Stupar, who played horribly in 65 snaps last year, and Tae Davis, who may be one of the worst coverage linebackers in Giants history. Veteran Markus Golden re-unites with Bettcher after four unremarkable seasons in Arizona.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Sam Beal, S Antoine Bethea, S Jabrill Peppers, CB Janoris Jenkins, CB Grant Haley
Backups: CB Deandre Baker [R], S Michael Thomas, S Sean Chandler, CB Julian Love [R], CB Corey Ballentine [R], S Kenny Ladler, CB Antonio Hamilton, S Kamrin Moore, CB Tony Lippett

Starting DBs: Division rival Washington may have vastly overpaid for Landon Collins' services, but that doesn't change the fact Collins was the Giants best defensive back and leading tackler. The Giants also lost Curtis Riley, who started opposite Collins for most of the year. In their place are newly acquired veterans Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea. Peppers is a local kid who came over from Cleveland in the Odell Beckham trade. He didn't live up to his first-round billing with the Browns, but showed improvement in 2018 and has intriguing upside if he can stop freelancing. Bethea joins his fourth team after thirteen seasons playing for the Colts, 49ers, and Cardinals. Even at his advanced age, Bethea is a durable asset particularly defending the run game. Janoris Jenkins is the team's top corner but is coming off a down year where he committed eight penalties, allowed seven touchdowns, and a 109 passer rating against opposing quarterbacks. First-round rookie De'Andre Baker should get the starting nod opposite Jenkins as long as he can outplay Sam Beal in training camp.

Backup DBs: The Giants drafted three defensive backs, including the aforementioned D'Andre Baker. The others, cornerbacks Julian Love (Fourth Round) and Corey Ballentine (Sixth Round) will compete in camp against Grant Haley at nickel back. Haley isn't a household name, but he was effective last year in the role. Michael Thomas returns as a backup safety, but the coaches seem down on him after a failed attempt in the 2018 preseason to win a starting job.

Last modified: 2019-05-24 15:28:41