Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 2018 NFL Football season. Giants Football is back! Purging the nightmare of a 3-13 record last year begins with hopes anew for a turnaround.
We were struck almost immediately last year with how little had changed in the Offense in Week 1 & Week 2 vs Dallas and Detroit from the fumes of 2016. Why dredge up such unpleasant memories? Because it is a reminder of how little we truly know about what to expect from a coaching staff. McAdoo was a football fraud. The emperor had no clothes. We and everyone else incorrectly assumed that an entire offseason of adjustments would rescue a failing 2016 offense in 2017. There were none. We forecast 10 wins. The Giants won 3. After nailing it in 2014-2016 with a very good sense of what the year would look like, we were blindsided. It’s not to say that we didn’t understand the shortcomings of Flowers and Hart. They were front and center. It was just stunning how a boob coach could fail to do anything about it. We also admit to failing our readership in buying into Paul Dottino’s promises that Hart and Flowers were improving. He’s a completely worthless PR front man whose lack of objectivity is everything we rail against on this NY Giants blog. About the only thing I did correctly was reverse course after Week 1 & 2, sounding the alarm. That was too late, as the implosion was already in motion.
2017 is a sobering reminder of the limitations we are faced with here in forecasting 2018. The nature of preseason, where there is (1) no gameplan (2) extremely reduced first string appearances (3) limited disclosure of scheme (4) no halftime adjustments and (5) no great sense of overall coaching abilities for a new staff, all make handicapping 2018 difficult. I say each year that I’ll get a much better sense of what the team looks like after the first 3 games. That couldn’t be more true this year.
There are so many questions that we will get answers to only after watching 2-3 games. They are:
1) What do we see from the Offensive Line, particularly the right side?
2) Do we see fireworks from finally getting OBJ, Barkley, Engram and Shepard on the field at the same time?
3) Are Shurmur and Shula able to scheme so that liabilities from Flowers and Omameh are minimized?
4) Is Eli, at 37, given a Renaissance or a Rebuke?
5) Special Teams Coordinator McGaughey has cancer. Do we get his reversion to the mean or (demoted) assistant Tom Quinn’s return to ruin?
6) How long does it take for Bettcher’s new 3-4 Defense to gel?
7) How badly does the Giants pass coverage get gashed?
8) How long is Olivier Vernon out, and can players like Barwin and Carter get QB pressure before he returns?
9) Do the rookies (Barkley, Hernandez, Carter and Hill) deliver as quickly as we hope?
10) The Giants have no depth. Shurmur brought in 7 new players from other teams after preseason was over. This means the impact from injuries will be greater than otherwise expected. How healthy are the Giants this season, and can they minimize the damage from a significant lack of depth?
11) Is Shurmur 2.0 in New York a big upgrade from Shurmur 1.0 in Cleveland?
Frankly there are too many known unknowns here to be too optimistic about 2018.
The Bulls will weave a theme where
- scheme minimizes OL liability
- we get Offensive explosion from the OBJ wrecking crew
- Eli pilots a much improved ship
- Specials are effective
- we get gashed in coverage but
- Bettcher’s blitzing generates enough pressure
- the rookies deliver
- the team enjoys better health and
- Shurmur is a better coach
The Bears will bring us back to reality where
- Flowers is still Flowers
- Omameh is a journeyman on his 5th team in 5 years
- Barkley can’t rescue a running game all by himself
- Eli’s limitations are there
- Defensive pass coverage is exactly what we feared
- the rookies are good but need a half season to get it going
- a normal amount of injuries expose the underbelly and
- Shurmur is a normal coach (not a savior)
Where is the truth? It is likely somewhere in between. I have said this offseason that if you can tell me how the OL fares, I’ll tell you how this team does. Every year it is this way. It’s the legacy of Reese’s failure with this unit. He was finally held accountable, years too late. Because of Solder’s age, he’s a Gettleman patch. Hernandez is a fix, but he’s only one guy. (For the record, we wanted Gettleman to draft MANY more OLmen than just Hernandez in 2018, although Hernandez alone was a huge start.)
Bulls have one very good argument that I like as a contrarian: last year everyone was making Super Bowl reservations and we stunk. This year we are getting cautiousness, so that will bode well for a better year.
Scheme will be vital. How’s this for scheme… Wonder explains that he’d max protect for Eli by using a lot of a 6 man OL. Keep Eli upright so he gets the ball to those weapons. And then because the Tackle is eligible, he can fan out on a flare to Barkley and not be illegally downfield before the throw. Everyone knows how electric Saquad will be in the open field, so it’s up to scheme to leverage that. We are optimistic that Shurmur’s Offense will empower the skill players. We don’t know to what degree Eli is kept upright. Campbell, Dareus, Bryan and Jack will be a problem for any team, but will present even more problems here.
It’s really difficult to see exactly how this unfolds. Everyone knows how tough the first 7 games will be. 3-4 can get them to 9 wins. 2-5 is likely the rebuilding year we expect. The line in Week 1 is a FG because even the bettors have no idea what the Giants will bring. A win in Week 1 salvages the first 7 games. A loss probably puts 2-5 squarely on the map. I’m hoping for the best but realistically thinking 7-9 is what we get. I cited 11 questions to drill home the volatility in this year’s expectations. If you can answer those questions more decisively than I can, please share your comments and get on record for what the team will be in 2018.
Play the games. Entertain us. Give us fireworks. Stay healthy. Scheme. Surprise us with championship work ethic and mettle. I believe this is a rebuilding year. Let’s see good football and maybe we get more positives than we bargained for. GO GIANTS!