Who is the most improved team heading into the new season? If it were based on roosters alone the simple answer would be Cleveland. And thanks to HBO’s Hard Knocks we get to see if that turns into a franchise on the way up or heading for another train wreck. However, there is a team that has the potential to see a bigger improvement based on overall results. This team is the New York Giants. After going from 11-5 season in 2016 and reaching the playoffs for the first time in 5 years, their 2017 season ended with a 3-13 result and a season full of injuries and distractions. Can the giants turn the 2018 season around? With a 37 year old quarterback, a defensive unit that are publicly bickering with one another and a star receiver coming off a season ending injury, is it pointless to be optimistic?
The NFC East is looking to be one of the most competitive seasons next year. The Philadelphia Eagles are after coming off a Super Bowl winning year and looking likely to dominate the NFC East for another season. Dallas are looking to get their first win in the playoffs in 18 years with the Elliott-Prescott combo and the redskins are heading into the new season with a brand new team lead by Alex Smith. Realistically, the Giants will be looking to come second in the division behind the Eagles and claim a wildcard spot. With the current strength within the NFC, this isn’t an easy feat.
There were some highlights out of last year however. Eli manning was one of the few bright lights. He proved he still had the ability to take control of a game even with his team crumbling around him. Their 2016 number 1 pick, Evan Engram finished the season with 722 yards and touchdowns. Despite missing multiple games, Sterling Shepard stepped up to the plate and showed his potential as a go to receiver. The other upside of last year’s poor season was the fact that the giants got to draft at number 2 in the 2018 draft where they took Sequon Barkley. Barkley will be a day one starter and has the potential to be New York’s Star.
They also addressed their offensive line needs by drafting Will Hernandez and trading for Nate Solder. Eli Manning will have more time in the pocket and Barkley will have lanes opened for him. With team’s having to choice between stacking the box to stop Barkley or covering the backfield to stop Beckham and co., this offense should be unpredictable in 2018. Speaking of OJB, he will return after breaking his ankle last season. For a team to regain a player with his ability is a massive boost. The question is can he be as effective after this injury. And this wont be answered until he takes his first few game snaps.
The big area of concern is defense. The back field has the potential to dominate but with off pitch issues impacting the unit’s performance, it remains to be seen if they can turn things around this year. But with a new defense minded head coach, there is a possibility this can happen. And early reports indicate that Shurmur has already began to address these issues. The loss of Jason Pierre-Paul is a big that that will need to be filed opposite Oliver Vernon. The giants did draft two defensive players (Carter and Hill, Linebacker and defensive line player respectively) in the third round who can add depth to the front seven. Albeit not a defense that will consistently win games for the giants, it is a defense that can cause teams problems. And with an offence that the giants have built, that might be all it needs to do.
So the final question is to put quantify the improvement that we can expect to see. In my eyes, playoffs is a target that this team definitely has the ability to reach. After that, if the they learn how to use Barley effectively and manage any dressing room issues that arose last year, I would not be overly surprised to see this team making an NFC Championship game. Hell, Eli might even get to finish with an extra ring n his finger. I wonder will Peyton celebrate for him .