The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Report date: July 27
Location: East Rutherford, N.J.
1. Is Jason Pierre-Paul all the way back?
The defensive end has had quite a stretch: in line for a big payday two years ago, Pierre-Paul’s July 4 fireworks accident did significant damage to his right hand, which put any talk of a monster contract on the shelf. Instead, Paul agreed to one-year contracts in each of the last two seasons, and looked to be back to form last season – he had seven sacks in 12 games, including 5.5 in a two-game stretch – when suffered a groin/core muscle injury that caused him to miss the final four games and required four offseason surgeries.
But Pierre-Paul has worked hard this offseason, and was rewarded by the team with a four-year, $62 million contract. He also was a full participant in all of the Giants’ offseason camps and displayed leadership by reminding his teammates to be cautious during their summer break – reminding them he’s “living proof” of what can happen.
New York had a top-10 defense last year in terms of yards allowed, but were in the bottom third of the league against the pass; Pierre-Paul being back to at least 2014 levels, when he had 12.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, can only help.
2. Will the new pass-catchers fit in seamlessly?
The Giants’ passing offense last season was Odell Beckham Jr. and not much else. Beckham had 1,387 receiving yards – fully one-third of the team’s passing yards. Sterling Shepard was under 700 yards and Victor Cruz under 600, and Cruz is now gone. Plus, the offense struggled on third down, converting just 35.6 percent of their chances.
Insert Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram.
After Marshall asked the New York Jets to release him during the Combine after two seasons, he signed with the Giants. Marshall might be 33, but he can still be an asset, particularly with a quarterback like Eli Manning (as opposed to Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty and Geno Smith, the quarterbacks he played with last year).
Engram, the 23rd pick in this year’s draft, is built more like a tight end at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, but moves more like a receiver and is expected to have an instant impact.
3. Who will run the ball?
While the Giants’ passing game wasn’t stellar, they at least had Beckham to make plays. The ground game didn’t have the same benefit.
New York totaled just 1,412 rushing yards as a team last season, 29th in the NFL. Rashad Jennings averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on 181 attempts, and Shane Vereen played in just five games due to injury.
Then-rookie Paul Perkins stepped up fairly well in a limited role; he averaged 4.1 YPC, and added 15 catches. Perkins looks like he could step into the starter’s role, but a healthy Vereen will certainly be in line for touches too. At his best, Vereen is a multi-tool, third-down-type back (remember his 12 receptions in Super Bowl XLIX), which can certainly help an offense that had its share of difficulties on third down last year.
Keep in mind, too: the Giants haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012. There may not be a heavy emphasis on the run, and this may still be perceived as a pass-first league, but the two teams in the Super Bowl last year, New England and Atlanta, were both top-seven in the NFL in rushing yards.
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