Praying For A Giant Rebound

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Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones tosses the ball during New York Giants training camp in the MetLife Sports Complex. (Photos by Joseph Wolkin)

The New York Football Giants are entering a new era. It’s almost time to see rookie quarterback Daniel Jones take the helm from two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
But until head coach Pat Shurmur gives Jones the call to head onto the field, it’s Manning’s squad. And that means the Jones era has a year to sink in. Fans can hold off on drafting Jones for their fantasy football teams this year, mainly because he’ll get little to zero playing time.

Nonetheless, it is indeed a new era. The Giants are gearing up to rebound from a 5-11 2018 season and 3-13 record in 2017. Now is the prime time for the new-look Giants to make a push at the playoffs.

“I think you also bring in players that have done it before, so you have more guys on your roster that are aware of what that process entails,” Shumur said of teaching this team how they can win. “Then, you put the ball down and you play. That’s where we’re at.”
The face of the Giants is sophomore running back Saquon Barkley, fresh off winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. In his freshman year with the Giants, he rushed for an astonishing 1,307 yards, breaking into the end zone 11 times.

Even during training camp, Barkley’s raw speed was phenomenal. He flew by the opposing Giants defense, breaking them down player-by-player. Shumur knows just how elite of a rusher he has on his hands, and now is the time for him to lead them into a playoff hunt.

“We know what we have with this team,” Barkley said. “We have a lot of talent, can be special and compete this year.”

Below: Head coach Pat Shurmur discusses Golden Tate’s suspension with the media.

Manning is coming off one of his best seasons in the NFL, with a career-high 66 percent completion percentage, a passer rating of 92.4, 4,299 yards thrown (fourth-most of his career) and only 11 interceptions thrown. He still has what it takes to get the job done, and that’s exactly what the Giants need after major offseason shake-ups, including the loss of the team’s biggest on- and -off-field distraction, Odell Beckham Jr., who was traded to the Cleveland Browns for Jabrill Peppers and the Browns’ first and third round picks.

Now that Manning is definitely the Giants’ starting quarterback—for now—Jones can absorb knowledge for him and let his preseason experience sink in before he one day takes the field for a regular season match.

“I think, for the most part, trying not to make mistakes over and over again,” Jones said of what he’s doing well with thus far. “I think that’s how you learn, is not repeating mistakes. I think that’s a big thing, and trying to focus on that. When you’re told something once, to correct it and move on so you can take the next steps. I think I’ve done a decent job with that.”

Besides Jones, who was selected sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Giants picked up tackle Dexter Lawrence. To replace Beckham, “Big Blue” picked up veteran wide receiver Golden Tate, who signed a four-year, $37.5 million contract.

However, Tate is out for the first four games of the season due to being suspended for taking the drug Clomiphene, which is meant for infertility. While Tate and the Giants appealed the suspension, the NFL upheld the ruling.

“I honestly think the hardest part is just about over,” Tate told Long Island Weekly on Aug. 14, just hours after his suspension was upheld. “It has kind of hurt me to my core having to explain to the organization what’s going on. I just want to play football. Look at me, I’m not trying to cheat. I think I have represented the NFL shield pretty well in my career. I have achieved a lot of things, and I hope this doesn’t smear that reputation that I have worked very hard for.”

TJ Jones, who the Giants signed in late July, will likely receive a chunk of playing time with Tate’s absence. 28-year-old Russell Shepard is also expected to have more on-field opportunities this year.

But Manning’s main target, even when Tate makes his debut in the blue uniform, will be Sterling Shepard. Shepard enters his fourth year with the Giants, emerging as a leader for the Giants’ offense with 872 receiving yards in 2018.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants allowed 25.8 points per game, ranked 23rd in the league. With a brand-new defense, featuring several young players, such as Julian Love, Dexter Lawrence and DeAndre Baker, that number is expected to decrease in 2019. Veterans B.J. Goodson, Alec Ogletree, Markus Golden and Janoris Jenkins will add to the defense’s versatility.

The pressure is on the Giants’ shoulders this year, especially for Shurmur. Some reports say he’s one of the most likely coaches to either be fired or resign by the end of the year if he can’t lead the Giants back to the top of the NFC East.

The Giants begin the regular season by facing the division rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, away on Sept. 8.

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