NFL

The Story Lines That Will Shape the Giants

Drive for five has been the motto for the New York Giants since Ben McAdoo and his Cheesecake Factory playbook took over the sideline last season.

McAdoo’s first season was a successful one, as he was able to help manage the team win 11 games and make the playoff for the first time since winning their fourth trophy. However the drama around the devastating playoff loss left a bitter taste on an otherwise stellar season.

With the drama of Miami boat rides behind them the Giants look to training camp and a fresh start. With the welcomed additions of veteran like Brandon Marshall, D.J Fluker & Rhett Ellison, along with rookies Evan Engram, Dalvin Tomlinson & Davis Webb the Giants look to be in the control of their drive for five.

Here are the story lines that will shape Big Blue as they gear up for the regular season opener in Arlington against the Cowboys.

Expectations vs Reality

Last season the Giants pretty much snuck up on everyone, going from mid-card fighter who might not be booked this week to the main event. That isn’t going to happen this season.

The Giants are a legit contender coming out of the NFC, with the Super Bowl on their mind. Rightfully so with the return of nine defensive starters and plenty of weapons on the offensive side. McAdoo and crew will be feeling the pressure come week one.

Adding veteran talent who feel like they still have something to proven will help the Giants stay “hungry” and focused on getting to the big game. This might be the most confident I’ve seen the Giants as they enter training camp, seemingly leaving their blunder of a playoff game in the rearview.

Expectations can bring a daunting amount of pressure to a team that’s never truly been tested. With believers come skeptics and I’m not sure a single player has as many as Beckham Jr. does. He’s struggled to handle the pressure of the bright lights thus far, but the Giants are hoping Marshall can mentor him.

Another question mark is the offensive line, something that wasn’t addressed like many assumed it would be in the off-season. The weak link of the Giants team and something that could put a damper on this high-octane offense that we’re all gassed up about.

Three Man Band Plus Their Roadies

It wasn’t that long ago that we were arguing over who the greatest receiver in New York was, Odell Beckham Jr. or Brandon Marshall. Well two seasons later Marshall made his way across the hall and into the Giants locker. The addition of Marshall, whose 6-foot-4 frame is a perfect for Manning, makes the Giants offensive weapons even more dangerous.

Marshall’s desire to finally reach the playoffs has been clear since he signed with the Giants. He’s been topic of a locker room drama previously, but hasn’t show any signs of that being a factor going forward. This is also the first time he’ll be taking a back seat, as Beckham is clearly the focal point of the offense and the media’s attention, as we saw by the frenzy they had when he skipped OTAs.

Having both Beckham & Marshall on the field should benefit 2nd year receiver Sterling Shepard. Marshall has already gone on record appealing Shepard who had a great rookie season and is only looking to improve on that.

These three receivers have remarkable talent with plenty of upside but they aren’t the only target out there. First round pick Evan Engram is an interesting wildcard for this offense. I’ve heard many say it’s going to be like having Mike Evans in the slot, which is going to be great. However his ability to block has been brought into question, the answer so far has been veteran Rhett Ellison. Ellison who the Giants signed this off-season is a hybrid full back/tight end who’s blocking ability has been on showcase in Minnesota since being drafted in 2012.

The combo of Engram & Ellison could be a tell for defenses, but with the weapons on offense this season I’m not sure how much of an issue that’s really going to be.

Offensive Material

If you ran a poll and asked every Giants fan “Who is the #1 player you’d love to replace?” my guess is that Ereck Flowers would be a top that list. If the NFL the position that’s least respected and greatly undervalued is the offensive line and without a good one your team will struggle.

Going into the draft I felt like the Giants would look to bolster their tackle positions, most notably the left tackle. They instead went with a right tackle, Adam Bisnowaty, who will challenge Bobby Hart for the starting right tackle job.

That leaves us with Flowers at the left tackle position with no real option on the roster to challenge him. After ranking dead last at the left tackle position last season, Flowers came in to camp looking leaner and quicker on his feet. So far he’s been impressing the coaching staff with a new-found dedication to the game. Honestly his regression was so bad last season that he really can only go up from there.

The lack of a real back-up plan, shows that the Giants are taking a huge leap of faith with both men in hopes that they vastly improve from last season.

Odds & Ends

It’s been a long time since the Giants had a back-up quarterback competition like this. Rookie Davis Webb, Geno Smith and Josh Johnson are all vying for the back-up gig that belong to Ryan Nassib last season.

It looks like the job will either go to Johnson or Smith who’ve been getting the majority of second team snaps so far in camp. Both men have been described as lackluster with Johnson barley edging out Smith in terms of accuracy. Last year’s season ending ACL injury did limit Smith during the spring, so that should be taken into consideration given how early it still is.

Davis has been working with the third team primarily and seems like a long shot to land the No. 2 gig behind Manning. If I had to guess at this point Johnson probably lands the job, but it’s still early and I’ve been wrong before.

Last season the Giants used three kickers, mainly because they decided to employ the psychopath Josh Brown for as long as they did. This season it looks like they’ll try to stick with just one and he’s never kicked in an NFL game before, Aldrick Rosas. He’s been getting rave review from the coaching staff and looks like he could be the real deal.

Janoris Jenkins is an innovator. How many training camp fights have come during wind sprints? While I’m positive this little spat won’t lead to any real issues, I just want to applaud Jenkins for finding a new way to spice up training camp fights.

I’m interested to see how this group of tight ends comes together. Engram, Ellison, Tye & Mark Herzlich are an interesting group of tight ends. With Ellison & Herzlich both playing other positions the real battle for starter is going to be between Engram & Tye. If I had to guess both men will start the season splitting snaps, at least until Engram improves his blocking ability.

End Game

The Giants have the 8th toughest schedule this coming season, with four of those teams having new coaches. If I had to bet, I’d say the Giants could get double digit wins again this season. I think they sweep Washington and split games with Dallas & Philadelphia. #DriveFor5

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