EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – There will be no Odell Beckham Jr., no Landon Collins and no Olivier Vernon on the field for the Giants this week. Eli Manning will of course still be there, but his eventual replacement will likely be standing in his shadow the whole time.
So it’ll be a new, interesting and somewhat confusing look for the Giants as they begin their three-day, full-team, mandatory minicamp on Tuesday morning. It’s either the beginning of the end of the Manning Era, a new start for the Dave Gettleman Era, or maybe even a little bit of both.
One thing’s for sure: There will be plenty of interesting storylines. Here are a Top 5:
1.The age-old question: Is Eli Manning still a franchise quarterback, or a quarterback in decline?
That is, perhaps, the most important question of the 2019 season, since it leads to everything else. If he’s a franchise quarterback, maybe the Giants can make the playoffs and maybe Manning will still be around in 2020. If he’s in decline, just how long will the Giants stick with him, and how messy will it be when they decide to go instead with Daniel Jones?
The Giants are months away from those answers, but there already have been some concerns about Manning’s not-sharp performances as the organized team activities (OTAs) this spring. It’s absolutely crazy to worry about how a veteran quarterback is performing at OTAs, of course. But if he struggles through minicamp too?
In that case, the Manning-Jones training camp battle could be all sorts of fun.
2. Does Gettleman finally have his Hog Mollies in place?
He’s not going to know for sure if he’s completed his much-anticipated rebuilding of the offensive line until the pads are on and the hitting begins. But some signs can certainly be detected in shorts in the spring. After all, in past years, it was pretty clear the line was terrible by the way they whiffed in pass-rushing drills.
If nothing else, the line has more talent now. The addition of Mike Remmers at right tackle is a big step up from Chad Wheeler (though Remmers, as he recovers from back surgery, might not practice this week). The return of Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley will make for a great camp battle at center. And don’t forget that one big return piece in the Beckham trade was guard Kevin Zeitler, and that will be an enormous boost to this line.
3. No Odell, no problem? Or are the receivers a big problem?
Nobody put on a camp show quite like Beckham (when he participated, of course). The current receiving corps figures to be a lot quieter and a lot less flashy, but can they possibly be as good?
It’ll be really interesting this week to see how coach Pat Shurmur uses the combination of Sterling Shepard and newly signed Golden Tate in his offense, especially since they appear to be similar, slot-type players. There’s also a wide-open battle for the third-receiver job. Consider Corey Coleman the favorite, but it’ll be interested to see if speedy rookie Darius Slayton can work his way into Shurmur’s plans.
4. Why, exactly, does defensive coordinator James Bettcher think he has enough talent to work with?
The Giants didn’t have enough talent last year on defense – at least not talent that produced. Now they’ve gotten rid of Collins and Vernon, which came after they got rid of defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Eli Apple. As former Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck said on Monday, “Alec Ogletree is going to have his hands full.”
Yes he is. Probably. Or at least maybe. The Giants think they’ve pieced together enough talent around Ogletree. They got safety Jabrill Peppers back in the Beckham trade as a replacement for Collins. They added veteran safety Antoine Bethea. They signed linebacker Markus Golden and they think he’s primed for a bounce-back year as a pass rusher now that he’s another year removed from a torn ACL.
They also drafted heavy on defense – defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and cornerback Deandre Baker in the first round, Old Dominion linebacker Oshane Ximines in the third, Notre Dame corner Julian Love in the fourth. All of them could be asked to have a big impact this year. And the same goes for second-year linebacker Lorenzo Carter and cornerback Sam Beal, who returns after missing his rookie year.
Can they all step up? Will it all work? Bettcher thinks so. Maybe they’ll show off some reasons for his faith this week.
5. Is the “culture” really better? And can anyone tell?
This was the whole reason behind the Gettleman purge. When you look at most – not all – of the players he’s gotten rid of since he took over as GM, they’ve all had issues. Some had bad attitudes, some weren’t the best teammates, some were outspoken, and some were just headlines and controversies waiting to happen (OK, well, one was).
This camp, comparatively, figures to be … well, dull. Think about it: Outside of whatever drama someone can create around Eli Manning and Daniel Jones (and it’s far too early to be anything but manufactured drama), where are the controversies? Who are the players who could get in trouble simply by opening their mouths? What’s the risk of anything off-field looming over the on-field work?
Seemingly, there is no risk. Whether that means the “culture” has improved or that this is more of a team than the last couple of Giants teams, that remains to be seen. But it should be much quieter around the Meadowlands, with no sign of any media circus.
And that, obviously, is exactly what Gettleman and Shurmur want.