If there is any satisfaction to be gained by Giants fans during the 2018 season, it will most likely result from the plays coming from several offensive weapons. That’s right, I said offense. A team rich in the tradition of solid if not spectacular defenses, this year’s New York Giants feature some of the games most exciting stars who are certain to win over fans who are still smarting from last season’s 3-13 finish.
Specifically, I have four players in mind that could change the outcome of a game. Let’s start with my new favorite player, O’dell Beckum Jr. 95 million dollars (65 million guaranteed) will do a lot to improve a player’s attitude. The Giants showed that they are indeed all-in regarding OBJ. I believe that he feels the same way. Prior to the opening kickoff at Met Life Stadium last week, O’Dell was sprinting in front of the rest of the team trying to fire up the crowd. I love it. And I love what the most exciting receiver in the game can do for us when he is healthy. I am expecting a monster season out of him, one for the record books. Against the number 1 ranked Jacksonville Jaguar defense, Beckum caught 11 passes for 111 yards. Paltry numbers for him. And Eli missed him on what would certainly have been a touchdown. Let’s see what he can do against bad defenses.
Now let’s discuss the rookie phenom Saquon “Say Gone” Barkley. That is correct, I said phenom. With no blocking last week against a stout Jaguars line, Barkley had 18 carries for 106 yards, a 5.9 average per carry. Barkley will do that to you. Sure, prior to his 68 yard run he was bottled up with a 2 + yard per carry average, but he always has the ability, with or without blocking to spring a long one. Watching Barkley run or catch a pass, you believe that he can score a touchdown anytime he touches the ball. The last Giants player to have that type of explosiveness, let me think, was noone. I can’t remember another back with the agility and breakaway speed that Barkley possesses. Sorry David Wilson, sorry Tiki Barber. Did I mention that Barkley can also catch and block? Just wait until the Giants utilize all of his tools.
The third weapon that I have in mind could just as easily qualify as a second receiver alongside Beckum. I am referring to none other than last year’s first round selection Evan Engram. Engram is a modern day version of Jordan Reed, the pass catching tight end who thrived on the Washington Redskins. If Engram can stay healthy, he has the potential to have the impact of a Jimmy Graham or even a Rob Gronkowski. He has all of the tools to have a breakout season. Fingers crossed on the durability issue.
Weapon number 4 is wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Against the Jaguars last week, Shepard caught 5 passes for 48 yards, an average of 9.6 yards per catch. A very talented outside or slot receiver, Shepard will have to accept any balls not thrown to weapons 1-3. Trust me, he will be very useful this season.
I have made it clear as to what I love about this team. I would be remiss if I didn’t address the unknown. If you believe it is appropriate to refer to this season as a rebuilding or transition season (I prefer to view last season as an aberration), then we must be honest about a few things.
The offensive line could not block for Saquon last week. Granted it was only game 1 and they did play the number one ranked defense in the NFL last season. The O-line needs time to gel. Although they should improve game-by-game, I would not be surprised to see substitutions or replacements on the line. Both tackles had poor games. Fans are already calling to replace Right Tackle Ereck Flowers. If he continues to falter at this position, he could see the bench or even be released. Management owes him nothing and they have already shown (Jason Pierre Paul) that they are not afraid to break from the past. Eli Manning was sacked twice against the Jaguars and hurried repeatedly. The offensive line has to do better if the GMEN are going to win games.
As for the defense, it is hard to condemn a team for only giving up 20 points (7 of those points came on an Eli Manning deflection). The Secondary played well, led by Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins and Eli Apple. Curtis Riley played competently alongside defensive captain Landon Collins.
The run stoppers did their job led by Damien “Snacks” Harrison who had 6 tackles. Granted, Leonard Fournette left the game early with a hamstring injury but they played well against his worthy backup, T.J. Yeldon. The GMEN had only one quarterback sack but that number will improve when star pass rusher Olivier Vernon returns to the lineup in week 2 vs. the Cowboys. If he is unable to play, perhaps James Bettcher’s defense should utilize more blitzing from promising rookies Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill.
The glass is clearly half-full in my view. The GMEN lost by 5 points to a Jaguars team that was one half away from going to the Superbowl in 2017. Time to get on the winning side this week and beat a Dallas team that is now Bryant and Witten-less and does not appear to be as scary as in past seasons.
On a final note, as the song goes… when the final buzzer sounds, when the loss stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad!
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