A new season begins in earnest for the New York Giants on Wednesday as the full roster reports for 2018 training camp, with the first practice on Thursday. Rookies, quarterback and select veterans have already been on the field since Monday.
We’ve been previewing camp, and the 2018 season for a while now. Player profiles, position-by-position previews. Let’s be real for a second, though. There are probably dozens of outlets trying to feed you information, including training camp previews, about the Giants. They are all doing, roughly, the same things we are.
One of those is to list for you what the story lines for training camp and the upcoming season will be. I am about to give you my version of story lines for 2018, and I hope you will find it entertaining. I am going to try to frame the story lines — most of which, to be honest, you probably already know — into some unique categories with some unique perspectives.
When you think about it, “second chances” is really a theme from the top down.
GM Dave Gettleman is getting both his second chance as a general manager after a successful four-year run with the Carolina Panthers that included a 40-23-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance. He is also getting a second chance with the Giants, after having been bypassed for the GM job when it was given to Jerry Reese before the 2007 season.
Head coach Pat Shurmur is also getting a second chance to run a team after going 9-23 as coach of the woeful Cleveland Browns in 2011 and 2012.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the new braintrust gave a clean slate, and a second chance, to players like Eli Apple, Ereck Flowers and Janoris Jenkins. They traded for Alec Ogletree, a player the Los Angeles Rams no longer wanted. Punter Riley Dixon was a Denver Broncos discard. There are many other examples on the roster.
Even Odell Beckham Jr. is getting somewhat of a second chance. On his third head coach in his fifth season, with a reputation for causing distraction off the field as well as excitement on it, and with a huge contract at his fingertips Beckham is getting a chance to show he has finally found the maturity the Giants have long hoped he would acquire.
Age is just a number
Gettleman is a 67-year-old guy who has been in the NFL for more than 30 years. He is probably on his last NFL stop, the job he has wanted for a long time. He is fighting lymphoma. Gettleman doesn’t want to hear about guys being too old to get the job done.
“You have to stop worrying about age,” Gettleman said in the spring in regards to his geriatric quarterback, Eli Manning.
Gettleman is building around the 37-year-old two-time Super Bowl winner, hoping for one more run, rather than trying to push Manning out to pasture.
Several other 30-somethings have also been added to the team. There is 33-year-old cornerback William Gay, 32-year-old pass rusher Connor Barwin, 31-year-old running back Jonathan Stewart. 33-year-old offensive lineman John Greco and others. In all, there are 13 30-somethings on the 90-man roster.
Having their cake and eating it, too
Just collecting a bunch of old guys and trying to make a short-term run seems kind of like a bad business philosophy, especially when you went 3-13 a season and ago and have one lopsided playoff loss to show for the last six seasons.
While the Giants are trying to maximize Manning’s remaining time, they are also trying to serve the master we might simply call “The Future.”
They drafted quarterback Kyle Lauletta in the fourth round, adding him to 2016 third-round pick Davis Webb and giving themselves two chances to draw a winning hand when it comes to finding an eventual successor to Manning.
The Giants used the No. 2 pick on running Saquon Barkley, a guy they hope will become the face of the franchise and one day wear a gold Hall of Fame jacket.
Selecting Sam Beal in the third round of the 2018 NFL Supplemental Draft was a move made with an eye on the future, which Gettleman admitted when he said “We feel like we’re getting our third-round pick (in the 2019 NFL Draft) now.”
So, the Giants are trying to serve two masters — win now and be as good as they can while Manning still has something to give, and set themselves up for continued success down the line.
There are always position battles, players competing mano-a-mano to earn a starting spot, roster spot, practice squad spot, whatever. The Giants have competitions of one form or another at every position on the roster entering camp.
That’s a good thing. So, why “Frenemies” instead of position battles?
Because these competitions, through days, weeks, months and sometimes several seasons of grinding away on the field and in the weight room, then hanging out with each other away from the field, are often between friends. It is one of the weird things about sports — you often become friends with the guy who’s job you’re trying to take, even though you both know one of you is going end up being judged second-best.
Davis Webb and Kyle Lauletta, each working diligently and hoping to someday earn the right to be the Giants’ starting quarterback, are golfing buddies. Each has talked about all of the quarterbacks helping each other.
Jon Halapio and Brett Jones are competing for the center job. Center is not a natural position for Halapio, and he credits Jones with teaching him how to play it over the past year or so. Now, Halapio might thank him by taking the job nearly everyone expected to belong to Jones this season.
Safeties Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams came into the league together in 2016, Thompson as third-round pick and Adams as an undrafted player. They have spent two years together and Adams says they are “very close.”
There are position battles for wide receiver and tight end spots, reserve offensive line spots, secondary spots, reserve linebackers, backup defensive linemen, punter and placekicker.
The last few roster spots are insanely hard to predict as friends battle friends.