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5 questions that will determine the Giants’ fate in 2018

Are the rebuilt Giants good enough? We are about to find out

New England Patriots v New York Giants Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Just like the New York Giants, we are now in regular-season mode here at Big Blue View. That means there will regularly be a ‘Valentine’s Views’ on Tuesdays. At least when I have things to discuss.

Today, let’s look at what I think are the five biggest questions that will determine the success or failure of the Giants in 2018.

Were the Giants right about Eli Manning?

Everything the Giants have done this offseason — hiring Pat Shurmur, passing on Sam Darnold and drafting Saquon Barkley, revamping the offensive line, cutting Davis Webb — has been about their belief in Manning.

The Giants are all-in with the 37-year-old for this year, and probably next. He told me early in the summer that he is “on a mission” to prove the team’s decision-makers right to continue to have faith in him.

If the Giants are right about Manning — and I think they are — they have a chance to win and to push those “quarterback of the future” questions to the back burner.

If they are wrong? Well, let’s just say that is going to leave them in a bad way.

Is the offensive line good enough?

For years, then-GM Jerry Reese tried to fix the offensive line. High draft picks on Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg. Big money spent on Geoff Schwartz. Nothing worked. He couldn’t get it right. His last couple of years he just seemed to throw his hands up, say “I quit trying,” and move on collecting play-makers and hoping the Giants could scheme around their porous line play.

Only, an immobile quarterback without a credible running game and left only with the option of throwing the ball as quickly as he could to avoid pressure was never going to succeed that way.

The hog molly-loving Gettleman walked in the Giants’ door loudly proclaiming that the line had to be fixed. It has four new starters and Flowers playing a new position. There are a couple of new backups. So, it’s vastly different. The question we keep coming back to, though, is will it be better?

The preseason results were mixed. There is a lot riding on the ultimate answer to this question. Given a chance to use them, Manning has a tremendous arsenal at his disposal. Shurmur has said the Giants will only go as far as this offensive line will take them.

So, how far will that be?

Can James Bettcher’s defense get the job done?

The Giants made the playoffs in 2016 based almost entirely on the dominance of their defense. In 2017, though, that defense sprung all kinds of leaks. Sometimes, in fact, it appeared to part like the Red Sea.

James Bettcher, highly successful as defensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals the last three seasons, was brough in to fix it.

Can he?

Bettcher brought an aggressive, multiple scheme players love to play in. It mixes fronts, attacks quarterbacks with a variety of blitz packages and generally aims to cause confusion.

Question is, though, do the Giants have enough talent? There are justifiable questions about the pass rush, the cornerbacks, the free safety position, whether the linebackers can cover anybody.

We’ll find out. It isn’t hard, though, to envision that to win games the Giants might have to regularly score 30 or more points — something they haven’t done since 2015.

Is there enough depth on the roster?

GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur have given the Giants roster a massive makeover. There are 29 players on the current 53-man roster who were not Giants a season ago. That’s what happens when you go 3-13 and bring in new decision-makers.

Thing is, I have said many times that no GM can fix every problem a team has in one offseason. The fact that the Giants made a monumental six waiver claims on Sunday tells you that the roster is still a work in progress, that there is still much work to be done. Remember, the guys claimed on waivers were cut by someone else so they obviously are not perfect players.

The Giants are loaded with talent at the skill positions with Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. They have Manning. They have stars like Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Landon Collins on defense.

To win, though, you need more than a handful of stars. You need depth. You need everyone on the roster to be able to contribute something, because at some point they will likely all be in a position to try. Do the Giants have enough depth?

Good question.

Can they overcome a brutal schedule?

The Giants have to face the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles twice. They open the season vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were a half away from the Super Bowl last season. They have road games vs. the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and Jimmy Garappolo-led San Francisco 49ers. They face the New Orleans Saints, who were a miraculous play away from the NFC Championship Game. They also host Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears, as well as the Tennessee Titans. [Full schedule]

Whether you measure by 2017 winning percentage of this year’s opponents or by expected wins in 2018 the schedule is treacherous. Top 10 in difficulty either way. Brutal. The Giants could be a good team, and with this schedule still wind up 6-10.

Things I think

A few other thoughts that are banging around inside my brain today.

  • The fact that as I write this not a single Giant cut over the weekend has been added to a 53-man roster around the league is telling. It tells you the rest of the league doesn’t think much of the players the Giants got rid of. Backup defensive tackle Robert Thomas, the only player signed by anyone so far, had to settle for a practice squad spot with the Buffalo Bills.
  • There is/was a lot of gnashing of teeth about the workout the Giants are holding today. They might sign one or two guys. They might sign no one. This is what teams do every week during the regular season. They will work out available players to see who is in shape, who might fit their system if a need arises, who might be worth stashing on the practice squad (I see you, Quadree Henderson!). The Giants might even swap Matt McGloin for Alex Tanney as a backup quarterback. Who knows? I think we shouldn’t go ballistic, though, every time we hear that the Giants are working out a player whose name we recognize.
  • I think that if Olivier Vernon can’t play Sunday vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, or can’t play like himself, I haven’t got a clue where the Giants’ pass rush is going to come from.
  • Judging from the remarks Shurmur made Monday about Beckham and Barkley being options in the return game, I think you might as well just get some therapy for your Jason Sehorn nightmares and get used to the idea that at some point this season you will see one or both running back kicks.
  • I think I am really looking forward to the Beckham-Jalen Ramsey matchup this Sunday.