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2015 New York Giants: Previewing the offense

What can the Giants look forward to from their offense in 2015?

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The dog days of July are over, training camp is closed, preseason has come and gone. That means that it's time for the New York Giants to move on to the regular season.

With all the concerns about the Giants' defense -- JPP, the pass rush, the safeties, and, of course, the linebackers -- it has largely been assumed that the offense would carry the team until the defense hits their stride.

But where is the offense after four preseason games?

Offensive Line

Let's start where it all gets started: Up front, with the battle in the trenches.

In June the starting offensive line was

Left tackle - Ereck Flowers

Left guard - Justin Pugh

Center - Weston Richburg

Right Guard - Geoff Schwartz

Right Tackle - Marshall Newhouse

The elevation of Newhouse from backup tackle to starter raised eyebrows at best, and frightened fans at worst. It was assumed throughout OTAs, training camp, and preseason that the Giants would try different combinations and likely bring in outside help to solidify the tackle positions until Will Beatty returns from his injury.

After a barrage of injuries, four preseason games, and a variety of personnel combinations, the starting offensive line going into the start of the regular season is:

Left tackle - Ereck Flowers

Left guard - Justin Pugh

Center - Weston Richburg

Right Guard - Geoff Schwartz

Right Tackle - Marshall Newhouse

No changes.

No changes in the line-up anyway. The Giants, and their fans, have to feel better now about this lineup than they did in May after watching them come together in the preseason. Much was made about the technical flaws of rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers, but barring a few relapses, he has shown remarkable improvement over what he showed in college. Justin Pugh has taken well to his new role as the starting left guard.

In short, the GIants' offensive line has looked solid, even dominating at times, from from Geoff Schwartz to Ereck Flowers. Marshall Newhouse starting at right tackle still isn't ideal, but it might not be a long-term issue if Beatty returns more quickly than outsiders are anticipating.

Running Backs

How the running backs perform will largely be tied to the performance of the offensive line. It almost a cliche that a strong offensive line can make an average running back look great, while a great running back can't make a weak offensive line look good.

The Giants running backs have shown improvement over 2014 though.

Rashad Jennings is healthy. That, in and of itself, is big for the Giants offense. Jennings is a veteran running back who is as close as a do it all "Bell Cow" back as the Giants have. Behind Jennings, Andre Williams has shown marked improvement in both his patience behind the line of scrimmage and his pass catching. Williams is now waiting for his blocks to develop and holes to open before accelerating, and appears more natural catching the ball out of the backfield.

Then there's Shane Vereen. Vereen is one of the Giants' biggest, or at least most important, free agent acquisitions heading into 2015. He is one of the top receiving backs in the NFL, coming off a career game in the Superbowl. What Vereen lacks in stature, he more than makes up with speed and quickness. Running routes and catching the ball are Vereen's calling card, even motioning out of the backfield as a slot or wide receiver, but he is also a capable runner.

Orleans Darkwa is the Giants' fourth running back, but he made some serious waves in preseason, putting up the Giants' best rushing performances. Right now its impossible to say how many snaps Darkwa gets in the the regular season, but he might make it very hard for the coaches to keep him on the bench.

Passing Game

We are going to take a look at the Giants passing attack as a whole, rather than breaking it down into positions. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo often moves players around the offensive formation, creating mismatches for Eli Manning, and that will continue in 2015. It is difficult, however, to draw many conclusions about the state of the Giants' passing attack based on pre-season performance. Through his first two preseasons, McAdoo has shown a preference for using games to practice concepts and situations more than the meat of his offense. As a result, the starting offense often looked disjointed and out of sync. However when the Giants appeared to work on the timing-based aspects of their offense (against the New York Jets), Eli Manning went 12 for 16, though he also threw his only interception of the pre-season.

That doesn't mean that there won't be any breakdowns in timing or communication. Each of the Giants' starting receivers -- Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz, and Rueben Randle -- have missed significant time in camp and preseason as they either recovered from, or managed, injuries. However, once they get healthy and on the same page, the Giants' offense should be among the most dynamic in the league.

The Giant's tight ends have changed slightly from 2014. Jerome Cunningham emerged from the Giants' practice squad to become one of the stars of the pre-season. He showed the athleticism to threaten the middle of the field, soft hands to make tough catches, and a willingness to block at the second level.

The passing game will also feature the receiving talents of Shane Vereen. Vereen is expected to improve the Giants' 3rd down offense, keeping the chains moving and giving the offense chances, as well as provide an explosive new dimension to McAdoo's innovative screen plays.

Final Thoughts

The general consensus regarding the Giants' offense is that Eli Manning has never had the number and variety of weapons, or the sheer talent, around him as he will have in 2015. If the Giants' offense is hitting on all cylinders, it should be expected to be both explosively dynamic and difficult to stop.

But that hinges on two things: First, the offensive line continuing to gel and grow as a unit. They have talented players on that offensive line, a number of high draft picks and a prized free agent. What they need is for Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, and Weston Richburg to continue developing their rapport and settle into playing their positions at an NFL level. They also need Will Beatty to quickly return to health and Geoff Schwartz to stay healthy.

Secondly, the Giants need the passing game to be on the same page. To recapture the rhythm and timing they showed in the second half of 2014.

If they can get those two things, the Giants offense should be very good.