New York Giants: Many reasons for optimism in 2019

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 30: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants dives across the goal-line for a fourth quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on December 30, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 30: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants dives across the goal-line for a fourth quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on December 30, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

The New York Giants put together yet another disappointing season in 2018. Despite the 5-11 record, there are a few reasons to be optimistic about this team moving forward.

This has been a frustrating time of year for New York Giants fans recently. As the NFL Playoffs begin, the G-Men and their fans can all but watch as as Big Blue has missed the postseason six out of the last seven seasons. The Super Bowl runs of 2007 and 2011 seem like decades, ago as they’ve been overshadowed by the recent problems this franchise has encountered.

With only eight combined wins over the last two seasons, why should New York Giants fans be optimistic heading into the off season?

For starters, let me clarify that I’m not ignorant to the many problems this franchise/team does have. I know the “Eli Era” is over, and his regression and immobility has hindered the offense. Despite the improved play of the offensive line the second half of the season, the front five is still a major need for improvement.

Defensively, this team has no edge rushers or quality depth in the secondary.

On top of these personnel issues, the New York Giants lost eight games by seven points or fewer this season, including five games by three points or less. Whether it was the offense going cold or the defense not being able to get one more stop, the fact is when the game was close the Giants couldn’t close.

Even though the Giants were competitive, the good teams in the NFL find ways to win, and this year’s team could not do that.

You can go into a lot more discussion about the problems of this team: General manager’s Dave Gettleman’s free agency whiffs, the quarterback debate and play-calling to name a few, but that’s not what we’re going to talk about.

Despite all there is to be concerned with, here are a few bright spots surrounding this team and where they’re at heading into 2019.

Signs of Life

Coming out of the bye week 1-7, this seemed like a year the New York Giants would be competing more for the first overall pick than they would be on the field. It’s worth putting some stock in the fact they went 4-4 the rest of the season, with three of those losses by a combined five points.

I know good teams find ways to win as mentioned earlier, and the Giants were not a good team this year, but showing a pulse the second half of the season when there was nothing to play for is encouraging.

A big reason for the second half turnaround was the improved play of the offense. Despite the doughnut put up in the Tennessee Titans game, the G-Men still averaged 27 points per game in the second half of the season. The addition of right guard Jamon Brown seemed to vastly improve the offensive line play, as the group allowed just 16 sacks in the last eight games compared to the 31 allowed in the first eight games.

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This offensive line improvement was also seen in the run game over the last eight games. In the first half of the season, Big Blue ran the ball 149 times for 623 yards for an average of 4.1 yards per rush. That equates to just 78 yards on the ground per game. The last half of the season saw 205 rush attempts for 1,027 rushing yards which was good enough for a 5.0 yard average and 128 yards per game.

Despite the losses, offensive inconsistency and lack of defense, this team showed signs of life the second half of the season. Who knows if or how it will transfer to next season, but the point is the talent is there to win football games, it’s just a matter of becoming a good enough team to stay consistent and finding ways to win.

Young Talent

Despite the misses general manager Dave Gettleman had in free agency this year, many would consider last year’s NFL Draft a great success. The draft class of last year combined with the handful of young talent that was already on the team makes for a very solid core of players to build around moving forward.

Offensively, the trio of Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram still can make for mismatches all over the field. The late season emergence of Engram at tight end was especially promising, after his early struggles with injuries the first part of the year.

Keeping Beckham healthy for a full season is proving to be a struggle, but when fully healthy and on the field he is a top-five receiver in the NFL (and top-10 quarterback).

On top of these three, you add “the rookies”, guard Will Hernandez and running back Saquon Barkley. Not much needs to be said about Barkley, as he is already a top-three all purpose running back in the league after his rookie campaign. On the offensive line, Hernandez struggled at times in pass protection, usually missing an assignment or making a rookie mistake, but for the most part he was an anchor for the middle of the front five that will only get better as he matures.

The pieces are there, and once the offensive line is improved, whoever steps in at quarterback to start the post-Eli Manning era will have some of the most explosive and talented weapons in the league at his disposal.

Defensively, this is a group that has a mix of some solid young talent, but overall has several holes to fill. The futures of Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins are up in the air right now, with the belief that at least one of will be released to free up cap space.

On the defensive line, defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill look like the future of the interior of that unit. Hill was a steal in the late third-round, as he went on to set the franchise record for quarterback sacks by a rookie this year with 5.5 sacks.

Linebacker Lorenzo Carter, another third-round rookie out of Georgia, had a relatively quiet first year, showing occasional flashes of his athleticism. He finished the year with 43 tackles, four sacks, and seven TFL, and could be a great edge defender for the New York Giants moving forward.

Safety Landon Collins will most likely be franchise tagged, bringing him back next year. Despite Collins’ struggles in the pass game this year, his presence in the back-end of the defense makes that unit undoubtedly better. Collins is still an elite player and one of the best young safeties in the league. Having a player of his caliber to build a secondary around is pretty exciting.

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Cornerback Sam Beal is a name to watch this offseason heading into next year as well. The 6-foot-1, 177 corner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury after the G-Men selected him in the third round of the 2018 Supplemental Draft. If he is able to recover and be ready to go, it could be a great addition to the defense.

Lastly, I need to give some credit to kicker Aldrick Rosas. After a terrible 2017 season, he bounced back in 2018 to hit 32 of 33 field goals – including a franchise-record 57-yard kick in the win over the Chicago Bears. He lead the league in field goal percentage and made his first career Pro Bowl and was (wrongfully) named an AP Second Team All-Pro. If 2018 proves to be the norm, the team has their kicker for the foreseeable future.

2019 NFL Draft

Their record of 5-11 isn’t ideal, but it does get the New York Giants the No. 6 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. I won’t debate who the team should select just yet, but the general consensus seems to be from the quarterback, defensive end or offensive line positions.

The debates among Giants fans will be endless until that draft pick is announced, but any one of those three positions would help fix a huge need for this team.

Having the sixth pick means there will be a lot of big names and talent to choose from when the G-Men are on the clock. Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, Kentucky defender Josh Allen or Alabama tackle Jonah Williams are sure to be mentioned.

There are a lot of prospects to be excited about for this year’s draft.

Though this is a relatively shallow quarterback class in terms of first-round talent, the defensive end/edge talent of this draft is ridiculous. If New York goes quarterback or offensive line are mentioned Round 1, there will be some big names still on the board by the time Round 2 rolls around.

On top of having the sixth pick, Gettleman and the Giants have stockpiled a total of 11 draft picks this year. This gives the front office some leverage, if they want to trade up, but if not, more picks, means more potential talent.

Pat Shumur

Some fans might not like Shumur, and I would agree he made some questionable decisions throughout the year. He can improve in terms of game planning, two-point conversions and clock management. Many saw Shumur as the QB whisperer who was going to craft an offense that Eli Manning could thrive in. We saw flashes of that throughout the season, but it was never consistent.

The main reason Shumur remains a point of optimism is his attitude.  It is refreshing to see a coach who shows genuine emotion like Shumur does, not just mindlessly staring at his Waffle House menu of a play card with slicked back hair like former coach Ben McAdoo did. When things are bad, he’s angry, and when great plays are made, he’s excited.

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Shurmur commands the respect of the players and locker room, and that was evident with how the team continued to play and compete coming out of the bye week.

Additionally, it’s not easy being a coach in the New York media spotlight, especially with a guy like  OBJ and the continued quarterback controversy. How he handled the media regarding Beckham’s comments about the confidence he had in Manning, earlier this season, was a refreshing change. all of which seems to come to a head after the close loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Back in October, Shurmur said, according to NJ Advance Media:

"“All right, I’m going to answer all the drama questions right now. I’m going to go back to what I said. I addressed it with Odell. I addressed it with our team. I publicly declared that I didn’t agree with his comments, and I asked anyone that was interested, if they wanted clarification, go to Odell because he’s a big man.”"

I love it.

McAdoo would never gone there, and Shumur’s attitude is one that an NFL head coach needs. It seems that he’s the right guy for the New York Giants moving forward.

To sum it up, the Giants are certainly not where they want to be as a franchise right now, but the sky isn’t falling. Outside of the 2016 season, they haven’t been serious contenders since their Super Bowl XLVI run. There are some major question marks to address this offseason, and we will all read about it constantly leading up to next year. That’s the reality when you’re 8-24 over the previous two seasons.

Related Story. New York Giants: Without Eli Manning, Gettleman has limited QB options. light

The youth and talent of the team is there and the second half of the season showed they are heading in the right direction. With another solid draft by Gettleman, and Shumur leading the way, we’ll be that much closer to righting the ship and becoming a contender again.