Even though the New York Giants still have a few more practices remaining this week — they’ll wrap up on Thursday while the rookies will stay an extra week — the media access is over until the start of training camp.
We’ve learned quite a bit about the shape this Giants franchise is headed, but with all we’ve learned, there are still a few burning questions that will eventually have to be answered. Here’s a look at some of them.
1. How will they handle passing the baton from Eli Manning to Daniel Jones?
We might as well start with the quarterback question since that story line dominated the spring. At some point, Daniel Jones is going to get some reps in a game, and I have a feeling that it won’t merely be in a mop-up role.
If the Giants are sincere about following the “Kansas City Model” to a tee, hopefully, they’ll lock up a postseason berth to where they’ll have the luxury of letting Jones go through an entire week of preparation as the starter and play in a game.
And if Jones should light things up to where you get the pounding of the drum to keep him in there, how will head coach Pat Shurmur handle that?
Remember, Shurmur has gone out of his way to work with general manager Dave Gettleman to ensure the locker room is free of distractions.
Well, nothing spells distraction more than a quarterback controversy. Still, with the Giants ultimately needing to move on from Manning, let’s hope they have a plan in place that won’t create a distraction.
2. Is the offensive line better or different?
This was a question we had last year, and we quickly found out the answer was “different.” By the end of the year, after many tweaks, the offensive line got “better,” but there was still a lot of work to be done on that unit.
This offseason, Gettleman went the veteran route, adding established starters like Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers to the right side of the line. On paper, the unit should be improved significantly, but it sure looked like that would be the case last year.
Adding to the question is the fact that we have yet to see the projected starting offensive line work together.
Granted, there are no pads and no contact in the spring and you can only tell so much by watching those kinds of practice, but among those critical factors, you could tell include how well they’re actually communicating when they have just a few split seconds to execute pulls, blocks and traps, and such.
3. Can they replace Odell Beckham’s production?
They believe they have enough receiving targets between receivers Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Corey Coleman; running back Saquon Barkley, and tight ends Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison to do so. But as we all know, it’s not about quantity as much as it’s about quality.
The good news is Engram has historically had some of his most productive games without Beckham in the lineup. However, little nagging injuries like the hamstring strain that kept him out of the back end of the spring practices keep getting in the way.
Meanwhile, will Barkley see more than just the check down passes? A year ago, we saw him dazzle on wheel routes, yet those rarely made it into the offensive playbook during games. Will that change? And how exactly will the receivers be deployed?
There’s a lot to unpack there, but if nothing else, the Giants might have an advantage without Beckham in the lineup in that opponents won’t be able to correctly anticipate him getting most of the pass targets, which will aid their game planning. But whether the Giants get the production made up by whom they have on the roster is another story.
4. Do they have a pass rush?
They think they do, but a lot of that is based on a wing and a prayer. For example, they’re cautiously optimistic that Markus Golden, the only established pass rusher on the team, recaptures his pre-injury form.
They’re also praying that second-year man Lorenzo Carter can flourish and give them more production now that he’s in line for additional snaps with Olivier Vernon having been shipped off to Cleveland. And they’re hopeful that the X-man — Oshane Ximines — can contribute to the fun.
The good news is that the prospects are looking up. With an improved defensive secondary that showed they could do a better job of holding their coverage down the field, that could force the opposing quarterback to hold the ball longer and thus increase the pass rushers’ chances of sniffing into the backfield and creating some disruption.
Sacks would be great, but if they get hits, and hurries, force incompletions and knock down a few batted balls, that would be just as good.
5. How will the cornerback situation play out?
A few competitions are going on at this heavily loaded position, starting with the Sam Beal-DeAndre Baker competition for a starting job; the Grant Haley-Julian Love battle for the nickel back; and the depth competition at the bottom of the unit.
The good news is that the runners-up — we won’t call them “losers” — will still have a significant role on the team, if not this year, then definitely by next year.
For example, whoever finishes second the Beal-Baker competition figures to be a future starter once the team moves on from Janoris Jenkins. And whoever comes in second in the Haley-Love competition will probably become the dime cornerback as well as offer depth.
As for the bottom of the depth chart, Will there be a roster spot for Corey Ballentine, who can also play some safety, or will they try to stash him on the practice squad? And will there be room for anyone else at this position?
6. What about the depth on the offensive line?
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the depth on the offensive line remains a concern, particularly at tackle.
We saw glimpses of it in the spring where with Nate Solder and Mike Remmers sidelined as they continue their rehab from their respective off-season surgeries, the Giants had to rely on backups, one of whom, Chad Wheeler, they replaced at right tackle with Mike Remmers.
Meanwhile, along the interior, the Giants have even younger and inexperienced depth sitting there. The senior leader of the backups will be whoever between Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley loses the starting center competition.
With the offensive line, one can’t really come to any conclusions until the pads go on, but based on what they have on paper, it’s hard not to be concerned about what they’ll do if there’s an injury to a starter.
7. What can they expect out of this year’s draft class?
Gettleman has gone back to the old-fashioned way of roster building, which is to dump overpriced free-agent contracts and be more thorough with vetting draft picks.
In his first draft as Giants general manager, he appeared to hit a home run with guys like Saquon Barkley, Will Hernandez, B.J. Hill, and Lorenzo Carter — all projected starters on this year’s team while Sam Beal and R.J. McIntosh are expected to become role players.
This year, Dexter Lawrence, DeAndre Baker, Julian Love, Darius Slayton, and Oshane Ximines all project as Day 1 starters or at the very least, key backups. Down the line, you can also factor in Daniel Jones as a starter, with guys like Corey Ballentine, Chris Slayton, and George Asafo-Adjei being key depth players.
A lot is expected of the draft class members as the Giants try to establish a new foundation that’s efficient and cost-effective. Indeed, the arrow appears to be pointing in the right direction, but it will also take time for all these new faces to jell into cohesive units.