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5 story lines to watch during the Giants’ 2019 season

Quarterback is, of course, the biggest one

New York Giants v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

There is no way to know exactly what will unfold during the 2019 season for the New York Giants. Here, though, are five story lines to watch as the season develops.

Eli and Daniel

Face it, what happens at quarterback for the Giants is THE STORY of 2019. No matter how it plays out.

Will Daniel Jones start any games? How many? That depends partially on how well Eli Manning plays, but mostly on how many games the Giants win. If they’re in a playoff race, it’s likely that Manning continues to play. If they aren’t, there’s no reason to keep Jones chained to the bench.

Whether or not it’s a week-to-week story, it’s a week-to-week question that coach Pat Shurmur is going to be forced to answer. Whether there is real justification for asking it or not, someone is going to ask about the quarterback situation.

If you were setting up a “when will Jones play?” pool, what week would you take?

Measuring improvement

Whether it’s been Shurmur, GM Dave Gettleman, co-owner John Mara or returning players, the Giants have steadfastly held to the belief that they are a better team in 2019 than the one that went 5-11 a year ago.

Shurmur, though, put it in perspective earlier in the week:

“All this progress we’re talking about now. The rubber is going to hit the road here. We’ve got to go play,” he said.

Yes, they do. So, will they be improved? How will they measure that?

Shurmur wouldn’t be specific, saying only that the Giants “need to start playing winning football in general.”

Gettleman isn’t into putting a number on improvement, either.

“You would like to think that guys like Saquon (Barkley), and Will (Hernandez), and B.J. (Hill), and Lorenzo (Carter), and RJ McIntosh are going to make a significant jump. That old saying from ‘year one to year two.,’” Gettleman said. “You’d like to think that those three first-rounders are the next man, and Julian (Love) and Corey (Balletine) can come in to make us better. It’s about just to continue improvement. I’m not going to put a record on it. It’s not fair, and it’s not fair to the kids.”

I have said before that improvement for the Giants could come in many forms. Winning more games is one. Signs that they have significant pieces, including a young quarterback, who can help them win in the future is another.

This is one we’re going to have to table and discuss at the end of the season.

It’s resume-building season

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said in the spring that his group was filled with players who had yet to build their NFL resumes. The success or failure of this year’s defense will depend largely upon whether or many of those young, unproven players can begin to build resumes to be proud of.

Dexter Lawrence, DeAndre Baker, Oshane Ximines, Ryan Connelly, Corey Ballentine and Julian Love are all rookies who could have significant defensive roles. Tae Davis, B.J. Hill, Grant Haley and Lorenzo Carter are second-year players in the same situation.

The Giants have so many players on defense who we really don’t know about yet that it’s hard to predict what the defense may or may not be.

If the resumes that get built are impressive, the Giants will have a good defense. One that might be good for years to come. If the resumes that get built leave the Giants seeking new job applicants, well, you know what happens in that scenario.

Better without Odell?

Odell Beckham Jr. is in Cleveland. He’s gone, but he’s Beckham. He’s not forgotten. One way or another, his ghost will hang over the Giants’ 2019 season.

If the Giants are good, part of the narrative will be “see, we were right that removing Odell from the locker room would be addition by subtraction.”

If the Giants are bad and can’t get defenses to stop stacking the box against Saquon Barkley, part of the narrative will be “see, you can’t trade away a superstar and get better.”

The Giants have hung their hat on four things:

  • They averaged 25.5 points in four games without Beckham last year, and just 21.4 in 12 games with him.
  • They believe that, on paper, they have improved their offensive line.
  • The second year in Shurmur’s offensive system should lead to better production.
  • As a team, they believe improved chemistry and a workmanlike attitude — rather than pure talent — will be able to carry them.

It’s going to be fascinating to find out if they are right.

It’s Saquon’s team now

It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. Saquon Barkley is now the leader of the Giants — and not because he is unquestionably the team’s best player. He is a captain in his second season because his teammates recognize that he is not only the face of the franchise in public, he is the guy who sets the tone for the players in the locker room.

His purchase of the ping-pong table that sits in the middle of the team’s practice facility locker room, aimed at fostering team togetherness, is but a tiny example.

Barkley is honored that his teammates think so highly of him.

“It means everything,” Barkley said Thursday. “It’s awesome to be a captain for my team and for them to vote for me, especially being a young player in my second year. But at the end of the day, captain or not, I wasn’t going to change. Just because I’ve got a ‘C’ on my chest, I’m not going to act out of myself. I’m just going to continue to try to keep the same mindset and continue to try to do the little things right, and encourage and push my teammates, and push myself, and try to be the best teammate I can be for my team.”

Here is what Barkley thinks a captain should be:

“Being a captain is someone you can hold accountable, that they know is going to hold up to the standard,” he said. “That’s how I visualize when I think, when you vote for captains for your team. That’s how I was when I voted for the people that I voted for, but like I said, to be a captain to me means a lot because it’s coming from the team, it’s coming from the people in this locker room, the men that you go out there every Sunday - or every day in practice and practice with and grind at a high level. So, to be voted by them means the world to me.”

Now, can he lead them back to respectability? Or beyond?