Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
MAJOR CHANGES IN OFFENSE, DEFENSE HAVE STARTED TO PLEASE SHURMUR
By Dave Klein
you thought Olivier Vernon was a defensive end, didn't you? Well, not any more,
at least not under the new Giants' staff whose head coach is Pat Shurmur and whose
defensive coordinator is James Bettcher.
And that's just one of the major differences you'll see this year as the team
tries to crawl out from under the 3-13 burden left for them by the departed Ben
Vernon is now an outside linebacker
in Bettcher's 3-4 defense, and his job will be more to rush the passer and disrupt
running plays to the wide than to simply sack the quarterback.
And just to confuse you a little more, Vernon might wind up at strongside outside
linebacker while rookie Lorenzo Carter gets the chance to start there.
it? OK, let's try Cody Latimer at a wide receiver position, veteran Nate Solder
at left offensive tackle, rookie Saquon Barkley at running back, Ereck Flowers
at offensive right tackle, rookie Will Hernandez at left guard and Patrick Omameh
at right guard. By the way, it is possible that Hernandez and Omameh might switch
Alex Ogletree is positioned to
play strong inside linebacker, with Carter perhaps at weakside linebacker (if
not him, then Martin). The left cornerback may well turn out to be Curtis Riley
or Donte Deayon, while the slot corner seems to be reserved for veteran William
Remember, this is just the end
of July and there is considerable time to tweak the entire lineup and roster,
but for now it already looks like a major overhaul.
that is precisely what the team needed, considering the speed of their decline
under McAdoo and the gaps left in the roster by the replaced general manager Jerry
But some of the injuries didn't
help, either, chief among them the broken ankle suffered by the electric wide
receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
the unpredictable Beckham, who is with the team at the moment and whose negotiations
for a new contract are reportedly just getting into gear. But he has been known
to do more than just unexpected things, and if the negotiations don't go in the
direction he wants (he has said he wants to be the highest-paid wide receiver
in NFL history) he just might walk.
run, since he does that so well.
with Eli Manning at quarterback - and he has looked sharp and, if this is possible,
younger than his 37 years so far in training camp - the cushion of reliability
and experience remains.
He seems to
like his offensive weapons and has spoken in glowing terms of such as Latimer,
tight end-fullback Evan Engram, Solder and Brett Jones at center, and he has been
absolutely enthusiastic when speaking of Barkley, the second overall draft choice
It will be a relatively
new team, no matter who start at any particular position, and since the Giants
are in the moderately weak NFC East, despite the presence of defending Super Bowl
champion Philadelphia, they might well provide a surprise turnaround during the
You might also expect to find
Odell in the slot, usually the place for wideout Sterling Shepard, because Shurmur
likes the unpredictability of such a move.
"If you move around a dangerous player on offense: Shurmur explains, "the
defense is going to have to hold a few [on the field] meetings to decide how to
set up, how to cover him, like that. Being too predictable isn't necessarily good."
Conversely, Shurmur is looking for what coaches call a "three-down tight
end," and he is fairly certain that Engram, who has speed, size and strength,
can fill that role. "You should use your best weapons as often as you can,"
he noted, without saying that moving them around on the field but not to the bench
is the optimum.
Of course, this is all
on paper. No one is sure that Flowers will do any better at right tackle than
he did at left. The competition at center, between Jones and his avowed best friend
Jon Halapio, is going to be of critical importance to Eli and Barkley. And injuries,
which have plagued the Giants in recent seasons, must be held to a minimum.
And Shurmur is, at least overall, pleased with the offensive line and all the
new people and the changing of positions. "I am satisfied so far but again,
I don't have anything from a year ago to compare it to," he says. "But
I'm encouraged by what I'm seeing from the guys that are in there. You've already
written a lot of articles and done a lot of interviews about how we made a big
change up there. I like how they are working together."
So after less than a week of training camp, the Giants seem to be improved and
heading in the right direction. But be patient, some things can change in a hurry.
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