Sterling Shepard
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

If the New York Giants are going to contend for a playoff berth this season, they will need for these three players to have breakout seasons.

Jason Leach

It has been one of the roughest stretches in the history of the New York Giants. They’ve missed the playoffs in six of the last season seasons, and have a record of 8-24 over the last two seasons.

Ownership and players have been frustrated over what’s happened to the franchise since winning Super Bowl 46 over seven years ago.

But general manager Dave Gettleman has had a long-term plan on how to fix the Giants recent woes and to make them contenders again.

In just 14 months, he’s rebuilt the offensive line by signing left tackle Nate Solder, drafting Will Hernandez in the second round of the 2018 draft, trading for right guard Kevin Zeitler, and then on Saturday, signing free agent right tackle Mike Remmers.

Aside from the re-built offensive line, it will take a total team effort if they’re going to turn their fortunes around.

Quarterback Eli Manning will have to play at a high level and Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley must continue to show that he is one of the very best players in the league.

In addition, the Giants will have to rely on three players having the best seasons of their young careers to help turn the Giants into contenders again.

Jabrill Peppers

Peppers is entering his third year in the league and his first one with Big Blue, and the Giants have a lot riding on riding on the 23-year-old safety. The Giants acquired Peppers in the trade for Odell Beckham Jr., but Peppers role on the Giants will be to replace the void that strong safety Landon Collins leaves behind since leaving via free agency and signing with the Washington Redskins.

Despite the lack of winning in recent years, Beckham and Collins were arguably the Giants best two players and the two have a combined six Pro Bowl selections. So to say Peppers has huge shoes to fill would be an understatement.

In his two seasons with the Browns, Peppers has recorded 136 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and two interceptions in 29 games. Those are respectable numbers, but the Giants are hoping he can take a huge leap in 2019 and become a Pro Bowl caliber safety, have around 100 tackles, and contribute on special teams as a returner.

Sterling Shepard

With OBJ now a Cleveland Brown, Sterling Shepard is the longest-tenured Giants wide receiver on the roster. Shepard is a quick and crisp route runner, and a solid downfield blocker. In his three seasons with the Giants, Shepard has caught 190 passes for 2,286 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The Giants rewarded Shepard by giving him a four-year, $41-million contract extension in April.

With a new contract and now poised to be Eli Manning’s number one receiving option comes with lofty expectations. In his three seasons with the Big Blue, Shepard has yet to collect 70 receptions or 900 receiving yards in a season. That should change in 2019.

It wouldn’t be realistic to expect Shepard to post numbers similar to Beckham. But to have 75 receptions and to surpass or come close to 1,000 receiving yards is to be expected.

Markus Golden

In the case of Markus Golden the Giants may not need a quote-on-quote breakout season for him, but rather he plays at the form he did in 2016 when he had 12.5 sacks with the Arizona Cardinals. Since then Golden has appeared in just 15 games.

A torn ACL cut short his 2017 season at just four games, and Golden appeared in just 11 games season and had just two and a half sacks.

Golden was one of the Giants key free agent signings in the offseason, and with the Giants electing not to draft Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen with the sixth pick in the draft, the onus of Golden being able to apply pressure is imperative.

The Giants have just 57 sacks over the last two seasons and is one of the main reasons the defense has struggled. If Golden can get back to his 2016 form and get double digit sacks and provide consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, it will make the entire defense better.

Jason's first love was football while growing up in northern New Jersey. For the past three years, he has covered the New York Giants, as well as several boxing events along the East Coast.