Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 07-30-18

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.


By Dave Klein

And 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 McAdoo.

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.

Got 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 sides.

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 Gay.

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.

And 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 Reese.

But some of the injuries didn't help, either, chief among them the broken ankle suffered by the electric wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Ah, yes, 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.

Or run, since he does that so well.

But 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 last April.

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 season.

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.

Check out Dave's website at E-GIANTS where you can subscribe to his newsletters which run much more frequently than what is available here.
- Team Giants

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