The New York Giants receiving corps will look to show they have what it takes to be a solid unit without Odell Beckham Jr. vs. the Dallas Cowboys.
We’re just days away from the New York Giants season opener. In familiar fashion, Big Blue will take on the defending NFC East champions, the Dallas Cowboys Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
The Giants will look to start the season strong and upset their heated rivals. Snapping that pesky four-game losing streak to the Cowboys will be on the mind.
Much of the talk surrounding the Giants in training camp and into this season surrounds the playmaking quality at the wide receiver spot. For the first time since 2013, the Giants receiving corps will not include Odell Beckham Jr., who was traded in the offseason for Jabrill Peppers and two draft picks that eventually turned out to be Dexter Lawrence and Oshane Ximines.
It won’t be easy to replace Beckham’s production on the field, especially since none of the receivers that will be active on Sunday have had a 1,000 receiving season, or have scored double-digit touchdowns.
But general manager Dave Gettleman wouldn’t have traded away OBJ if he wasn’t confident in the remaining receivers on the roster.
Playing without Beckham won’t be anything new to the weapons who will take the field on Sunday against Dallas. After all, they played the final four games of last season without Beckham, and had one of their best games of the season, in the season finale against the Cowboys.
In that game against the Cowboys, the corps of Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler and tight end Evan Engram (since he spends time split out wide) combined for 16 receptions for 241 yards and two touchdowns.
Now naysayers will point out the idea this production was based in part to the Cowboys not having anything to play for since they had already wrapped up the division, and that they were just looking to come away from the game injury-free. Nonetheless, they showed they can make plays when their number is called.
If there is a weakness to the Cowboys defense, it’s their pass defense which finished 13th in the league last season, giving up 234.7 passing yards per game. Cornerback Byron Jones is probably the most talented player in the Cowboys secondary, but he is not a shutdown corner and the Giants shouldn’t shy away from him, especially since he only has two interceptions in his four-year career.
The focal point of the Giants offense will be to get the ball into Saquon Barkley’s hands often. But they must challenge Jones and the rest of the Cowboys secondary, especially downfield.
Throughout training camp and in the preseason, Latimer, Fowler and Russell Shepard have all shown that they can make plays, and are excited about what they can do this season. In particular, Latimer has shown that he can make plays down the field and he will likely receive the deep target that in past seasons went to Beckham.
This unit will get a boost on Sunday as Sterling Shepard will be on the field and will be the No. 1 option for Eli Manning. Shepard fractured his left thumb in the first practice of training camp and didn’t see any action in the preseason. But Shepard has been able to practice and does own a nice rapport with Manning. He’s poised to have the best season of his career.
Sunday will be a huge test for the receiving corps to show what they’re capable of and silence their critics.
Success in the NFL (these days) equals consistency in the passing game. Sunday will be a good barometer on what we can expect from the Giants this season.