Welcome back to our 2018 NFL season review series, where we’re going to be taking a look at all 32 National Football League teams and how they stack up heading into the new season.
Last time out we previewed the Miami Dolphins who will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 campaign going into this year. It’ll tough work for Adam Gase and co though, especially without star receiver Jarvis Landry and Ndamukong Suh causing havoc for opposing O-Line’s. But, with Ryan Tannehill returning hopes will be high that the Dolphins can improve upon their 6-10 record.
Today we turn our attention to the New York Giants. After posting the second worst record in the NFL at 3-13, their lowest win total since 1983, the Giants enter 2018 with a new coach and a star running back to help Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr turn things around. Let’s see how they’re stacking up across the board ahead of the 2018 season…
As aforementioned, 2017 was a rare off year for the Giants who dropped to 3-13 and propped up the NFC East. Coming off an 11-5 season in 2016 hopes were high, but it was a year to forget in the Big Apple, and the coaching staff paid the price for the lack of success.
Ben McAdoo was fired after a week 13 loss to the Raiders, and it got worse from there as they set the franchise record for most losses in a season. Eli Manning’s consistent poor play led to his benching for Geno Smith in that loss to the Raider but the former Jet faired even worse than the two-time Super Bowl MVP.
Manning threw for under 20 touchdowns for only the third time in his career and the first time since 2013 whilst posting his lowest total passing yards since 2008.
It was no help that Beckham Jr missed 12 games of the year after going down with a fractured ankle in a week five loss to the Chargers though, and the offense never looked the same without him in the lineup.
The running game was poor once again, with only six teams having fewer rushing yards, and overall the offense ranked second last in points per game with 15.4. They went 1-6 in the division, including humiliating losses two the Cowboys in which they shipped 49 total points and only scored 13 in reply across the two matchups.
The Rams put up 51 points in week nine on the defense that dropped off dramatically from 2016 whilst the Cardinals handed them another embarrassing loss in week 16, shutting the offense out in a 23-0 drubbing. The secondary gave up the second most passing yards per game in the NFL whilst they also ranked in the bottom three for sacks.
All around it was a year to forget, and one that was completely out of character for one of the most stable organisations in league history.
Free Agency Moves
The big move was getting left tackle Nate Solder over from New England to protect Manning and improve the run blocking for first round pick Saquon Barkley.
Former Jags guard Patrick Omameh also arrived on a three-year deal to replace Justin Pugh. Weston Richburg also departed and they added guard Will Hernandez in the draft so the O-Line will look very different in 2018.
Jonathan Stewart should also help with that run game which has been so weak for so long, so that was another shrewd move.
On the defensive side of the ball Connor Barwin will add some much needed juice to a pas rushing unit that notched just 27 sacks in 2017 and lost Jason Pierre-Paul.
A flurry of defensive backs including former Steeler William Gay and ex-Dolphin Michael Thomas gives the secondary more depth too.
They also traded for Alec Ogletree from the Rams. The veteran linebacker gives the inside of the defense outstanding leadership and experience and he’ll help solidify that area further.
1) Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
2) Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
3) Lorenzo Carter, LB, Georgia
3) B. J. Hill, DT, NC State
4) Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
5) RJ McIntosh, DT, Miami (FL)
FANS EYE VIEW
In all our 2018 previews we’ll be speaking to a fan to get their opinion on the current state of their team. Representing the Giants is Alex Williams of UKGiantsHQ, you can find them on Twitter here.
GMS: How would you rate your team’s offseason?
As good an off-season as we’ve had in a few years. Glaring holes in the roster were addressed with star veterans; Alec Ogletree at middle linebacker and Nate Solder at left-tackle. On paper, the draft was a great success. Saquon Barkley and Will Hernadez are instant upgraded starters on offense. I liked the later round picks of Lorenzo Carter, B.J Hill and R.J McIntosh, who will offer rotation in the new look defense.
GMS: What’s the general opinion of the job the head coach is doing?
Obviously, it’s too early to rate Pat Shurmur’s job so far, as he was only hired in the off-season. But just judging off press conferences/interviews it’s hard not to like the guy. He seems the complete opposite of Ben McAdoo, which can only be a good thing. You have to be impressed by his recent offensive coordinator record, especially taking Case Keenum to unearthly heights last season. I’m excited to see what he can do with Eli Manning and the abundance of talent around him
GMS: Your opinions of the offense? (What’s good, bad, different from 2017)
2017 was a write off for the offense. Injuries to Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall meant we never saw the offense at full tilt. The offensive line has been upgraded with Solder and Omameh coming in, but question marks still surround former 1st round pick Ereck Flowers and his move to right tackle. Outside of the offensive line, talent oozes from the offense. A revitalised Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard combing with second year tight-end Evan Engram AND running back Saquon Barkley. Excuses will be few and far between for Eli Manning- who needs a bounce back year late into his career.
GMS: Your thoughts on the state of the defense? (What’s good, bad, different from 2017)
New defensive coordinator, James Bettcher, brings his 3-4 defense from Arizona meaning the Giants will line-up completely different from last season. With Jason Pierre-Paul moving on, a lot lies on Olivier Vernon to get after the quarterback, who himself has shifted positions to outside linebacker. The Giants pretty much have an elite player at every position of defense; Damon Harrison at defensive tackle, Olivier Vernon at outside linebacker, Alec Ogletree at middle linebacker, Janoris Jenkins at cornerback and Landon Collins at safety. The problem is depth. There’s a serious lack of veteran depth on defense, especially at the cornerback position.
What’s your deepest concern for 2018?
I hate to say it, because I’m one of his biggest fans, but Eli Manning. The last few seasons you hear a lot of “He has no weapons around him” or “His offensive line can’t block” or “He has no running game”. Well this season he has all three. There will be no excuses for number 10. The schedule is also a concern, the Giants face some stern opponents, both in and out of division. A good start will be imperative against the Jaguars.
GMS: Give us a name to watch out for?
Lorenzo Carter. The outside linebacker was drafted in the 3rd round out of Georgia. Has great range and length at 6ft5, which could prove to be problematic rushing from the outside. With Olivier Vernon being the starter, Carter will mainly have a rotational role for the Giants, but will get plenty of opportunity to be productive.
GMS: And finally…your crystal ball prediction for the season?
Feels like an all or nothing season for the Giants. So, I’m going to say make the playoffs, but won’t win division. A 27-24 superbowl win over the Patriots, with Tom Brady crying as he once again gets outplayed by Eli Manning.
If not, 8-8.
Week 1: vs Jags
Week 2: @Cowboys
Week 3: @Texans
Week 4: vs Saints
Week 5: @Panthers
Week 6: vs Eagles
Week 7: @Falcons
Week 8: vs Redskins
Week 9: BYE WEEK
Week 10: @49ers
Week 11: vs Bucs
Week 12: @Eagles
Week 13: vs Bears
Week 14: @Redskins
Week 15: vs Titans
Week 16: @Colts
Week 17: vs Cowboys
Starting with the passing game Eli Manning is on a clear downward trend having posted descending QBR’s in four straight years and relying more and more on the short and intermediate passing game.
Having Odell Beckham Jr back in the lineup will help, as will Saquon Barkley, but Manning won’t likely crack the top 20 QB’s. He’s a decent value pick in certain games but facing one of the toughest schedules in the NFL including formidable defenses in the Texans, Jags and Eagles doesn’t make for the strongest outlook.
As for Beckham, he’ll get the most targets without a doubt and of course he will rattle off his fair share of chunk plays. He’s certainly a top five wideout and is worthy of a mid to high first round pick. Even playing just four games last season Beckham finished inside the top five WR’s for fantasy points scored per game, the fourth year on the bounce he’s done so.
Expect him to bounce back in style and post huge numbers in 2018.
Sterling Shepard should have another similar year and be a nice flex player in certain situations. His ability to play effectively out of the slot makes him a key weapon for Manning as he ages and leans more towards shorter passes and he’s a solid red zone player too.
Evan Engram is a rapidly improving TE and he too is certainly worth picking up. He’ll receive his fair share of targets and is a big red zone threat so should score highly amongst TE’s.
Saquon Barkley will get a huge workload. He will certainly be a top 10 RB and possibly even crack the top five depending on how well his body holds up.
The number two overall pick excels in the receiving game too and though he’s not an elite between the tackles runner he’ll certainly crack 1000 rushing yards if he plays all 16 games. His big play ability make him extremely valuable in fantasy football and owners will get huge weeks out of him when he does rattle 50-plus yard scores.
He could well join LeVeon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson and Todd Gurley as another elite dual threat running back in almost no time.
Jonathan Stewart is clearly the RB2 on the depth chart and won’t be high scorer but his vastly different running style to Barkley means he may be worth keeping around for red zone situations.
The schedule is so tough, and despite the improvements they’ve made offensively, it might be their downfall.
Their division might be the best in football and they face the improving AFC South out of conference.
Having said that, this is probably the most explosive set of weapons Manning has ever had in his time in New York and if they can get it working well under Pat Shurmur’s guidance it could pop quickly.
Barkley and Stewart will make a huge difference to a running game that’s been almost non existent in recent times and having that genuine threat will give Manning and his receivers more time and space in the passing game.
The defense is a little more predictable but it won’t be anything special. The pass rush just isn’t good enough to consistently create pressure and though Landon Collins is a stud over the middle and Alec Ogletree adds veteran leadership, the secondary isn’t the strongest on the outside.
A lot depends on how quickly the offense can gel and how well it’s key components can retain their health. If everyone stays healthy, which is unlikely, they could make a playoff push.
As we see it, they’ll improve but not quite enough to make splash in the postseason. GMS predicts an 8-8 season in New York in Pat Shurmur’s first season in charge.