Let’s meet these new New York Giants.
They have Daniel Jones at quarterback, and he’ll be throwing to Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Evan Engram. On defense, Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams will provide the push up front while Jabrill Peppers patrols the secondary. Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximinies are looking to make an impact as edge rushers. And of course at running back there is Sa . . . Sa . . .
Sayyy, wait just a minute. These are all the same guys!
Well, yes and no. The bodies on the field in 2020 will actually be a pretty close replication of the roster that won just four games in 2019. In fact, depending on how they line up and which personnel group they begin with, of the 22 offensive and defensive starters on Sept. 14 against the Steelers there may be just five who did not start a game for the Giants last season.
That’s hardly an overhaul. In this age of free agency it seems more like continuity than anything. And given what the Giants have produced in recent years, that’s the last thing anyone wants.
So why does this team feel so different, even though so many of the pieces aren’t?
Because maybe it is. Maybe the other adjustments and overhauls that have happened around them will be enough to morph the on-field components of this football team. Maybe Joe Judge, the rookie head coach with his lap-running, mud-flopping ways, can tap into their potential and turn them into something none of the homegrown Giants talent has even been close to being in their NFL careers:
There are a few imports that will be counted on heavily, such as first-round pick Andrew Thomas at left tackle and free agent additions Blake Martinez, James Bradberry and Logan Ryan on defense. But beyond those new additions, there is a new vibe that has permeated the entire organization from top to bottom. There is a palpable bounce to everyone involved, one that can’t be concealed by masks or virtual meetings.
“It’s a brand-new year,” Saquon Barkley said. “It’s a fresh start.”
Not just to this particular season, but to a whole new era. Football starts in the fall, but this feels like springtime for the Giants, a period of rebirth and possibility. A time to plant seeds and stare at the soil excitedly anticipating the blossoms and the harvest.
“Every one of the guys is showing up every day trying to get better,” said veteran wide receiver Golden Tate. “We’re hungry to win.”
They were no doubt just as hungry in the past. Now, though, they are being taught how to cook.
Tate, one of the few Giants players who has been on winning teams, said he’s been impressed by “the attention to detail that we are going over as we install.”
“Our standard is very high that we are chasing every single day,” he said. “The detail, no matter if it’s a walk-through or in the meeting room, whatever it is, we are paying attention to detail. Speaking as a receiver, no matter where it is, we are in the correct stance. No matter where it is, a walk-through or full speed, we are getting our steps down correctly in our routes.
“Things like that I think are going to make a huge difference come September when we start playing. The attention to detail is what’s going to really help us out this year.”
All of which stems from Judge.
He’s the coach who assembled the staff and guided the organization through a virtual offseason with a plan that would not have worked had it been simply slapped together.
He’s the coach who sees things happening on the field (such as his defensive backs holding a little too much) and adjusts to it (in this case by taping tennis balls to their hands so they cannot grab anything).
He’s the coach who had the team go through a game-simulating scrimmage that saw them mimic every aspect of what a regular season Sunday or Monday night will include, right down to his own pausing for a mock halftime interview on his way off the field.
Before every practice, the team begins its stretching routine by clapping in unison ... and then stopping in unison like an orchestra being cut off by the conductor. There is a precision to it all that hasn’t been seen in these parts in a long time.
They say the devil is in the details. The Giants may need an exorcism once Judge is through with them.
That doesn’t mean everything will be perfect right away. Judge has spoken more in recent weeks about what he wants the team to look like in Week 17 than in Week 1. It’s a long-term plan, a process. It will take time.
It even may be worth the wait. And wouldn’t that be new?
Division: Third place
Forecast: The Giants have a new head coach for the third time in five seasons, but this is really the first fresh start they’re getting since 2004. Ownership is committed to Judge and his vision for the long term, but it would still be helpful to see some improvement out of the gate.
This is Tom Rock's 13th season covering the Giants for Newsday.