This is a big enough game regardless of the circumstances.
Complicating matters for the Giants are lingering offensive concerns from their disappointing performance in the 2016 season. There are concerns about the offensive line, concerns about the running game, and concerns about offensive variety.
But easily the biggest concern facing the New York Giants’ offense as they get ready for Sunday night’s game against the Cowboys is whether or not they will have wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham, as well as the coaching staff, has indicated that as much as he would like to play, it is a medical decision. The Giants have to come up with a winning game-plan in a game in which they might not have access to their most dangerous weapon.
“Well he is obviously a great player and other guys are going to have to step up there,” Sullivan said. “There are some concepts that we felt really good about both in the run and the pass game. We are going to move forward in that direction and we will see what happens in whether he gets to play or not.”
If Beckham isn’t fully healthy by Sunday, which seems unlikely at this point, it is possible that he could be used as a decoy to open things up for other players. When asked about the possibility, Sullivan immediately drew a historic parallel.
“Well, as soon as you asked me that question,” Sullivan said, “I immediately thought back to big 17, Plaxico Burress. There was a guy that through that entire year, 2007, was never able to practice, was never at 100 percent, and there were many games where he wasn’t at his best and yet because of the player he was, teams had to account for him and if they didn’t, he was still good enough even though he was hobbled to hurt them. So, that certainly can be a factor.”
If Beckham isn’t able to play, it will fall to the other offensive weapons to pick up the considerable slack. As it so happens, the Giants drafted a versatile and extremely athletic tight end in Evan Engram who can help with that. One of the Giants’ most athletic players, Engram can attack defense’s from a variety of positions.
“I think all of our players bring something to the table and that is our jobs as coaches, to pull it out of them,” Sullivan said. “Evan has a lot of ability. He is a versatile player. We were excited about drafting him and have been very pleased with the things he has done in practice and in the preseason games. So, he is going to get his opportunities and I think he has high expectations for himself and it’s our job to try to help him reach his full potential.”
Engram isn’t the only rookie addition who has the ability to change the way the Giants play offense from the 2016 version. They also added undrafted fullback Shane Smith (though he is listed as a tight end), a position which didn’t exist on the roster the previous year.
“When you have a fullback on your roster, that enables you to have an additional personnel grouping that gives some different runs and different passes and that gives the defenses more they have to prepare for,” Sullivan said. “It’s been time and time again about the 90 percent 11 personnel that we were last year and I think when you have some additional personnel groupings, it just gives the defense a few more things they have to prepare for, it gives us a few more options, and the versatility is always going to be to our advantage, so that is something we are excited about.”
Sullivan said the Giants aren’t looking back at what went wrong last year on offense.
“Well I think the focus really is just on this being a division game and it’s the start of the new season,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think anyone is looking in the rear-view mirror and saying, “hey, we have something to prove” or “let’s make this different.” It’s a great opportunity against the defending NFC East champions at their place, and I think that in itself is enough motivation and enough reason for guys to really zero in and lock in on our preparations in practice and the meetings and just to go out and focus on that objective, going down there and to win the game.”