Football is the ultimate team game, but if the New York Giants are going to have a successful 2018 season, it will be determined by these seven players.
To win in the NFL it comes down to all 53 players developing a chemistry and working together to achieve the ultimate goal. The New York Giants know all about this as they’ve won four Super Bowls over the last 31 years.
They also know what happens when the team is out of sync. Players underachieve, as was the case last season when the team went 3-13, the most disastrous season in the franchise’s history.
There have been wholesale changes to the roster, coaching staff, and even concept as the Giants will play a 3-4 defense this season after spending the majority of the last 25 years playing a 4-3.
With these changes, there’s optimism surrounding the Giants in 2018. But if they plan on making the postseason they will need several of their key players—new and old—to perform at a high level.
These are the seven players the Giants season rides on.
1. Eli Manning
The most important position in sports is and will always be the quarterback. The greatest quarterback in Giants history, Eli Manning, is 37 and has two years remaining on his contract.
That’s why general manager Dave Gettleman made it a priority to give Manning the tools he needs to succeed in his 15th NFL season.
Gettleman signed the best free agent left tackle in Nate Solder, took the best offensive player in the draft with the second pick in Saquon Barkley, and took one of the best guards in the draft in Will Hernandez in the second.
With a healthy Odell Beckham Jr returning, there’s no reason why Manning should not have one of his most productive seasons as he has arguably the best supporting cast he’s ever had.
If Manning is still an elite quarterback, the Giants will have one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, and earn a trip back into the playoffs.
2. Saquon Barkley
The Giants had a plethora of options with the number two pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. But they went with Barkley because they felt he could rejuvenate the team’s non-existent running game, which hasn’t finished in the top half of the league since 2012.
A dynamic player like Barkley only comes around so often. At 5-foot-11 and 233 pounds, he has the power to break tackles and run over defenders, and as his 4.40 time in the 40-yard dash showed, he can also outrun defenders.
— Jason Leach (@JasonKLeach) May 11, 2018
With Barkley now in the Giants backfield, defenses will have to commit linebackers and safeties to try to slow him down. This will open up the passing game and make Big Blue a less predictable offense that they’ve been the past several seasons.
Barkley has the potential of getting 1,500 all-purpose yards and is one of the leading candidates to become Rookie of the Year. If he plays to expectations, the Giants offense will give opposing defensive coordinators many sleepless nights.
3. Odell Beckham Jr.
No receiver in NFL history had a better first three seasons in the NFL than Odell Beckham Jr., who has been one of the best players in the NFL since the moment he first stepped on the field.
He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons and was the fastest receiver to 3,500 yards and 300 receptions. Few athletes are more recognizable.
But then fractured his ankle in the Giants Week 5 loss to the Chargers (27-22) and questions began to mount. Could he come back and be the same player? Would he remain a Giant?
OBJ’s rehab is on schedule and he’s already participated in some drills during the Giants OTA’s. He’ll be full go by the time training camp opens and should be back to his unstoppable self.
Once again, he and Manning will show they’re one of the best quarterback/receiver duos in the league.
4. Eli Apple
To say Eli Apple struggled during his first two years in the league would be a huge understatement. A combination of poor play, being called a cancer by Landon Collins, and then being suspended for the 2017 season finale made people question if Apple would be part of the Giants in 2018.
But as it stands right now, Gettleman intends to keep Apple on the team and give him a chance to redeem himself for his past mistakes.
With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie no longer on the team, now, more than ever, the Giants will need Apple to play up to the expectations that come along with being the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Giants will face four top-tier quarterbacks this coming season in Carson Wentz, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck. They will test Apple often and try to stay away from the Giants best cornerback in Janoris Jenkins.
If he can be an above-average cornerback, the Giants are in good shape. If he plays at his previous level, well, the Giants are in some serious trouble.
5. Ereck Flowers
After a decent rookie season in 2015, Ereck Flowers‘ play has dropped off, and he’s been the scapegoat for the Giants offensive woes over the last two seasons.
With Flowers not being able to protect Manning’s blindside, Gettleman had to upgrade the left tackle position and made Nate Solder the highest-paid left tackle in NFL history.
With Solder at left tackle, the Giants plan to move Flowers to right tackle. It’s a move he’s apparently not happy with, evidenced by his decision to be the only player to not attend the team’s OTA’s.
If Flowers can get his head together and perform well at right tackle, where he should have an easier time than left tackle based on facing fewer elite pass rushers then the Giants offensive line can be in the top third of the league.
If he struggles, he might find himself out of the league when the season ends, if not earlier.
6. Will Hernandez
One of the reasons there’s so much optimism surrounding the Giants is that they were able to get one of the best guards in the 2018 NFL Draft, Will Hernandez, in the second round, 34th overall.
The 6-foot-2, 327-pound behemoth is a physical lineman with a nasty streak, traits all great linemen need to have.
He can play either right guard or left guard, but the belief is that he’ll be on the left side and be paired with Solder. The holes that he and Solder will create for Barkley—and the ability to keep defenders off of Manning—is why the Giants offense will be vastly better than it’s been in years.
7. Lorenzo Carter
With the Giants switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, they needed a fast and athletic outside linebacker. Enter Lorenzo Carter, a great run stopper who has the ability to cover tight ends in coverage, who the Giants took in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
But the Giants will also need for him to apply pressure off the edge, especially with Jason Pierre-Paul now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Even with JPP, the Giants finished 2017 with 27 sacks, which was tied for third-fewest in the league.
They need Carter (and others) to bring the pass rush back to life. That’s especially important since they have a tough schedule in front of them, one that includes facing four of the top 10 passing offenses from a season ago.