Don’t be too quick to judge
The Giants season starts with a brutal seven-game stretch that includes not just the opener against the Jaguars but games against playoff teams such as the Saints, Panthers, Falcons and Super Bowl champion Eagles. In fact, the combined 2017 record of the Giants’ first seven opponents was 68-44. If they can survive that start anywhere close to .500, there are seemingly winnable games on the back end that could be enough to keep them in postseason contention.
Need of a pass rush
Successful Giants defenses of the past have always been predicated on pass-rushes. If that is to continue this season, the Giants will need a break-out performance from somebody. They enter the season with just two players on the roster who have ever had more than 3.5 sacks in any single NFL season: Olivier Vernon and Connor Barwin. And both of them were banged up in the preseason. Last year the Giants had just 27 sacks and they traded away Jason Pierre-Paul who led them with 8.5 of those. Rookies Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill may have an opportunity to make some noise in that regard. Clearly someone will have to.
Last year the Giants couldn’t shut up about the Super Bowl. Every interview they gave referenced their desire for a “fifth trophy” and their ultimate goal at the end of the campaign. Those comments evaporated quickly in a 3-13 season. This year, Pat Shurmur has eschewed such chatter and the players have followed. “I’m not into predictions,” Shurmur said. “I’m not smart enough to predict, but I’m smart enough to stay in the moment and try to make it as good as it can be.”
Eli Manning will have to do nothing but step on the field against the Jaguars in the opener and he will set yet another team record. It will be his 217th regular-season game for the Giants, breaking a tie with Michael Strahan for the most by a player in franchise history at 216. Manning could have broken that record last year had he played in the one game he was benched for in Oakland. But after a (short) portion of this past offseason when it was unclear whether he would ever wear a Giants uniform again, perhaps it’s more poignant that the record be broken now and not then.
Expect lots of close-ups of Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher while watching games this season. While Pat Shurmur is a rather stoic figure calling the offense, Bettcher has a fiery personality and seems to either exult or explode depending on the outcome of each snap. “Bettcher is a high-intensity guy,” LB Olivier Vernon said. “On the defensive side, you love that. It makes it fun. It kind of breaks up the monotony. It’s just a different type of flow to things.” He’s that way in practices, too, going ballistic whenever someone misses an assignment or drops a potential takeaway. “A lot of bleep, bleep, bleepity-bleep,” Vernon said. “He’s trying to squeeze every last ounce of anything that each individual has. You can’t do nothing but respect and appreciate it.”