On Monday I gave you a list of four things New York Giants fans should feel good about as we enter the summer months. I promised you I would give you the flip side, so here are four things to worry about when we consider the 2019 Giants.
Will they have enough pass rush?
If you want to be be really optimistic about the 2019 defense, you certainly can. As I have said previously, there is a lot of youth, a lot of athleticism, a lot of potential. There are a plethora of young defensive backs to be excited about.
What is missing, though, are pass rushers with resumes.
It is fine to believe that Markus Golden can return to his 12.5 sack 2016 form. He might. Counting on that, however, is a gamble. He is now two seasons and an awful knee injury removed from that — and he doesn’t have Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell to help him. He has to prove he can again be a dominant edge player.
It is fine to believe that Lorenzo Carter will take a step forward as an impact edge rusher in his second season, and that Oshane Ximines was terrific value at the end of the third round. They still have to prove it, though.
It’s fine to believe that B.J. Hill might improve on his 5.5 sacks as a rookie. He got three of those in one game, though, and came out of N.C. State as a run-defending nose tackle not thought to have pass rush ability. I’m not counting on big pass rush impact from Hill.
It’s fine to believe 17th overall pick Dexter Lawrence can push an NFL pocket. He has to prove he can, though.
It’s fine if you buy the growing narrative that pass coverage might be more important than pass rush. I’m not yet convinced, but I do know both work together. Better coverage gives rushers more time to get into the backfield. Better pressure means defensive backs aren’t hung out to dry and asked to cover forever. At some point, though, a pass rusher has to win a one-on-one matchup and be able to make a play.
“Lorenzo Carter has to build his resume, Markus Golden has to continue building his resume. That is the only way that happen,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “OV [Olivier Vernon] was not just day one, came into the league and was a dynamic pass rusher, he had to build that. The only way the guys get a chance to do that is on the field getting snaps.”
The Giants are counting on coverage and resume building. We’ll see if it works out.
The Manning-to-Jones transition
Way back at the NFL Scouting Combine, before GM Dave Gettleman was in “full-bloom love” with Daniel Jones and used the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to select him, I asked head coach Pat Shurmur if having Eli Manning at quarterback complicated any potential midseason transition to a then-hypothetical new player at that position.
“I don’t think so,” Shurmur said at the time. “We’re not looking to make a midseason transition. We’re looking to play the best player and have that player in there.
“We’re also trying to win games and if we bring in a new player [which we now know they did] develop that player to the point where he’ll start for us.”
Manning’s presence will be good for Jones, who will learn valuable lessons from the two-time Super Bowl MVP whether Manning goes out of his way to be a mentor or not. News flash, though. Having Manning as the starter undoubtedly complicates any potential in-season transition to Jones.
The comparisons to the Manning-Kurt Warner situation in 2004 are easy and obvious, but not necessarily accurate. Warner was in his first season with the Giants and the franchise had no ties to him. They owed him nothing. Manning will be giving the Giants his 16th season in 2019. He’s given them two Super Bowl titles. He is the best and most prolific quarterback in franchise history. John Mara and Gettleman have loyalty to him.
No one in the Giants organization wants to embarrass Manning. They would like things to end well, not with the bitterness that came when the franchise moved on from Phil Simms after the 1993 season.
Manning isn’t Warner. He isn’t Ryan Fitzpatrick, Joe Flacco or Tyrod Taylor. His accomplishments and longevity in a Giants uniform can’t help but complicate the transition.
The Giants pulled the rug out from underneath Warner in 2004 when the Giants were 5-4 and still in playoff contention. I can’t imagine they would do that to Manning. I doubt they would hesitate if they start 0-6 like they did in 2013 or 1-7 like they did last season, but not if there is a chance at the playoffs.
Like I said, it’s complicated.
The youth at cornerback
The Giants’ youth and apparent talent at cornerback is exciting. It’s also scary. Right now it looks like they will have four cornerbacks on the season-opening 53-man roster — DeAndre Baker, Julian Love, Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine — who have never played an NFL snap.
Cornerback is a position where mistakes often lead directly to giving up points. Inexperienced players make mistakes. They, hopefully, grow and learn from them. They do, though, mess up sometimes.
The Giants have to hope their evaluations of these young players were correct, and that whatever growing pains they experience don’t end up costing them games.
Offensive line depth
The offensive line has been upgraded with the additions of Kevin Zeitler at right guard and Mike Remmers at right tackle. As optimistic as everyone should be, there are still risks and potential issues along that line.
Jon Halapio is back at center. Giants’ decision-makers have pretty much tripped all over themselves talking about how well Halapio was playing before being hurt last season. Maybe so. Still, he has played TWO NFL games at center after struggling for years to keep an NFL job. Do we really know how good he is?
Remmers had back surgery. He called it a “little” procedure, but it was still back surgery. He’s an average right tackle, which would be an upgrade for the Giants, but he’s not an All-Pro.
What about the depth? The backups right now look like Chad Wheeler, Spencer Pulley and Evan Brown. Is that good enough?