Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
Giants running back Rashad Jennings can't begin to tell you what a difference it makes to be in Year 2 of the West Coast offense compared to last year at this time, when learning offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system was like learning a new language. Or, if you prefer board games for your analogies, Jennings explains it like this:
"It's knowing what's going to happen before it happens," he said. "Instead of playing checkers, we're playing chess."
But Jennings takes it a step further. He's so confident that the Giants' offense can take a quantum leap that he sees promising results in the immediate future. He even sees the possibility of a Super Bowl championship in 2015.
Asked if he sees this year's team as a playoff contender and potentially a championship team, Jennings didn't hesitate.
Cue the Rex Ryan confidence.
"No question," he said at the team's Quest Diagnostics Training Center during a break from offseason workouts that began this week. "We've got the skill set to do that. We showed flashes last year, but they were obviously being overshadowed by what we didn't do so well. We eliminate self-inflicted wounds, the before-the-snap [and] after-the-snap errors, this is a different team."
That's quite a leap of faith to see a Super Bowl a year after a 6-10 season that included a rash of injuries to key players such as wide receiver Victor Cruz, guard Geoff Schwartz, running back David Wilson (who was forced into retirement in the preseason because of a neck problem), and Jennings himself (ankle problems). But Jennings believes there is enough talent, especially on offense, to make a stunning turnaround.
Sorry if we don't share that kind of optimism about a Giants team that still is challenged on defense because of a lack of quality depth along the line, outside linebacker and safety. But Jennings is convinced the Giants have what it takes to go where one of its newly signed players went on Thursday. Fellow running back Shane Vereen made a trip to the White House to celebrate the Patriots' Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks in February.
"I know where [Vereen] is," Jennings said. "[The Patriots] won the championship last year, so they get to visit the president. I'm going to shoot him some text messages and ask him to let [Barack] Obama change some things.
"He's enjoying himself as he should. They get a chance to do something special. But Shane's a great player. He's a teammate. He's not an enemy. We're working together, and we're going to win the championship together."
As soon as next season, according to Jennings.
"You look around the locker room, we've got great players," he said. "Everybody's coming back healthy, flying around, going into Year 2 of the same system. That makes a tremendous difference. McAdoo explained it to us. Last year, we installed a system. This year, we get to run our offense.
"There's a difference. Different attitude, different command in the huddle, different understanding of what's going on. It's not about lining up in the right place now. It's about making plays. That's what we expect. We've got explosive players. Great offensive linemen, we got the capability at every single position to make sure we're in this playoff push."
The Giants still are a long way from being a contending team, even if they look better -- at least on paper -- than they did by the end of last year's injury-ravaged season.
Odell Beckham Jr. is coming off a brilliant rookie season. Eli Manning showed much better command of the offense in the second half of last season. Vereen is a capable pass-receiving back. The offensive line should be better, particularly if the Giants select Iowa's Brandon Scherff in next week's draft.
But no one knows how well Cruz will come back from a devastating knee injury last season. And it remains to be seen if defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who helped the Giants win a Super Bowl after the 2007 season, can do enough to improve a defense that was mostly awful last season.
No matter, Jennings said. There's no doubt in his mind this team has what it takes to win it all.
Even if it is only April.