It is incredibly easy to be negative about the New York Giants right now, just hours before they kick off the 2015 NFL season on Sunday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys. Many have already resigned themselves to the idea that this might be another ugly season for the Giants. Those naysayers might be right. They might also be wrong. It is harder to see the bright side for the Giants, see reasons to be optimistic. They are, however, there if you choose to see them.
I don't know which way the season will go for the Giants. The injury to Will Beatty, the mess with Jason Pierre-Paul, the rash of injuries at safety and the idea that key players like Victor Cruz and Jon Beason aren't ready to open the season mean things definitely have not gone the way the Giants drew it up during the offseason. Still, there has not yet been a single snap that counts. From where I sit, it looks like this season could go either way for the Giants. It could be ugly. It could also turn out to be surprisingly good.
Several days ago I wrote a lengthy season preview laying out the myriad of question marks the Giants face. If you haven't read it, please take the time to do so today. I won't bore you by rehashing it. What I want to do, though, is quickly give you three reasons why the Giants' season could be a good one ... or a bad one.
Three reasons this could be a good season
- Remember when Steve Spagnuolo took over as defensive coordinator the first time? Nobody knew who the Giants safeties would be. Corey Webster had been a flop as a corner up to that point. Aside from Antonio Pierce, the Giants linebackers looked like, well, typical Giants linebackers. Justin Tuck had not emerged as a force. The Giants have a ton of young defensive players worth being excited about. Those include Landon Collins, Devon Kennard, Jay Bromley, Johnathan Hankins, Damontre Moore (who just turned 23 -- happy belated birthday, BTW), Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kerry Wynn and Uani' Unga. If many of those players step up this season Spagnuolo's defense will be better than people think.
- The offense could be really special. Toss out the preseason. Who really cares? We know Eli Manning is better than that. We know what Odell Beckham Jr. can do. Even without Cruz, there is Rueben Randle. Larry Donnell is back at tight end. Shane Vereen adds an element to the offense that should be noticeable. If rookie Ereck Flowers can simply be adequate at left tackle the offensive line will be better than many think, giving the offense more opportunities.
- Tom Coughlin & Eli Manning. That is the best coach/quarterback combo the Giants have ever had (argue with me all you want Parcells/Simms backers, but longevity is on my side). They are still in place, and while I don't know if they have another Super Bowl title in them I still think they have at least one run left in them.
Three reasons this could be a bad season
- Remember what I just wrote about the defense? Well, what if most of those young, unproven players prove that they aren't ready for prime time? There aren't any proven, in their prime, difference-makers on this defense. The reality is defense is now about making game-changing plays, creating turnovers. Who is going to do that for the Giants? If no one shows they can, all of Spagnuolo's aggressive scheming won't mean a thing.
- Oh, those injuries. The Giants have tried all sorts of things -- spa days, changes to the stretching program, changes in the weight room, dietary changes, GPS monitoring. Still, after being the most injured team in the league the past two seasons, they appear to be headed in that direction again. They won't win if they keep losing key players and have to constantly fill in with players off the street.
- The offensive line. Yours truly believes, or maybe wants to believe, that the line will be OK until Will Beatty returns and then really good after that. What, however, if it isn't? What if Flowers is overmatched? What if Geoeff Schwartz breaks down again? What if Marshall Newhouse can't do the job? What is Weston Richburg can't manage his knee tendinitis and stay in the lineup? If the line can't give Manning time or open some running lanes all those flashy skill position players the Giants have won't matter.