After a 6-10 season and the departure of long-time head coach Tom Coughlin, the New York Giants and his first-year replacement, Ben McAdoo, return 15 starters among the group that begins training camp on July 28.
That includes veteran wide receiver Victor Cruz, who was sidelined last season with a calf injury, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was late and limited last year after losing his right index finger in a Fourth of July fireworks mishap.
This year, Pierre-Paul spent the July 4 holiday out of the country but appeared on a televised public service announcement, spreading the message "Keep fireworks away from kids" and "Leave fireworks to the fireworks professionals."
Pierre-Paul is expected to be considerably improved at the beginning of this season. Although the team lost defensive end Robert Ayers (9.5 sacks) in the offseason, the Giants were busy spending big bucks in free agency to rebuild the defensive line.
Defensive end Olivier Vernon (formerly Dolphins) signed for up to $85 million over five years ($40 million guaranteed) and nose tackle Damon Harrison (Jets) came aboard for up to $46.2 million over four years.
In the secondary, the departures of cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Brandon Meriweather was addressed in the draft with the selection of Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple (10th overall) and Boise State safety Darian Thompson (Round 3, 71st overall), who was impressive in minicamp.
The Giants also signed free-agent cornerback Janoris Jenkins to a five-year deal worth up to $62.5 million. Jenkins, a second-round pick in 2012 by the then-St. Louis Rams, had three of his 10 career interceptions last year.
Cruz joins Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who literally single-handedly launched himself into superstar status with made-for-highlight-reel catches. In the draft, the Giants added Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard, a second-round pick (40th overall).
Here is a closer look at the newcomers and key players and how they should factor into the Giants' 2016 team:
TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE
SITE, LOCATION, ROOKIES, VETERANS
Quest Diagnostics Training Center, East Rutherford, NJ, 7/28, 7/28
2015 RECORD: 6-10
DIVISIONAL RECORD: 2-4
COACH: Ben McAdoo
1st season as Giants/NFL head coach
15; 9 offense, 6 defense, kicker, punter
OFFSEASON STANDOUT: Safety Darian Thompson.
--The Giants' third-round draft pick, Thompson came on like a tidal wave this spring. He initially impressed the coaching staff in the rookie minicamp by showing no hesitation in making the calls, and from there he quickly worked his way into the first-team defense, where he's received the lion's share of the snaps in the battle for the starting free safety role.
"He has been working with Landon quite a bit. That kind of probably says a lot that he is up there with those guys," said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. "I said this before: He is assertive, he is vocal, he is not afraid to make a mistake. If he continues to do that, he will learn the defense."
The draft -- A closer look at the Giants' picks (6):
--Round 1/10 - Eli Apple, CB, 6-0, 195, Ohio State
The Giants added Apple, a prospect who can play both outside and in the slot, to a thin cornerback unit. Apple spent most of the spring alternating outside with veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said they would continue to find out if they have a natural fit for the slot.
--Round 2/40 - Sterling Shepard, WR, 5-10, 194, Oklahoma
Shepard came as advertised during the spring, showing good hands and advanced route running for a rookie. Getting reps at both the slot and outside receivers, he also lived up to his reputation of stretching the field and going over the middle without fear.
--Round 3/71 - Darian Thompson, FS, 6-2, 210, Boise State
In what has become a two-man race for the starting free safety job, Thompson has pulled away from veteran Nat Berhe after earning most of the reps with the first-team defense after just a week of OTAs. Barring an injury, Thompson looks like he'll win that starting free safety job early this summer.
--Round 4/109 - B.J. Goodson, OLB, 6-1, 242, Clemson
Goodson proved to be a young go-getter, turning heads with his play-making ability, particularly in coverage. While he primarily ran with the second team, Goodson showed an ability to sniff out screens and came up with a few highlight reel plays that left the coaches pleased with his progress.
--Round 5/149 - Paul Perkins, RB, 5-10, 208, UCLA
Perkins was forced to miss the majority of the Giants' OTA program due to his classes at UCLA running late. Because he joined his teammates late, he has a lot of catching up to do, even though the coaching staff tried to keep him up to speed at night via technology.
--Round 6/184 - Jerell Adams, TE, 6-5, 247 lbs., South Carolina
With no contact allowed in the spring, it was difficult to ascertain how far along Adams was in his blocking. Meanwhile, he was inconsistent with his receiving skills, dropping some catchable balls. Adams is not necessarily a lock to make the 53-man roster and may need injuries to those ahead of him on the depth chart to help his cause.
--NT Damon Harrison: Big-bodied space eater should help improve the run defense.
--CB Janoris Jenkins: Will slide in as starting right cornerback and could move down to the slot in the nickel.
--RB Bobby Rainey: Scat-back type who has to get a grip on ball security issues.
--LB Keenan Robinson: Will compete for the starting middle linebacker role if he can shake off past injuries.
--LB Kelvin Sheppard: Another competitor for the starting middle linebacker role.
--DE Olivier Vernon: Big-ticket free-agent pass rusher whom they're hoping adds firepower to pass rush.
KEY LOSS: DE Robert Ayers Jr. (12/11)*
--Ayers' 9.5 sacks led the Giants last year. Although Olivier Vernon is an upgrade, Ayers' versatility -- he could play both end and tackle -- offered defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo flexibility.
--LS Danny Aiken (3/0), CB Prince Amukamara (11/10), LB Jon Beason (5/4), T Will Beatty (0/0), NT Barry Cofield (3/0), S Craig Dahl (15/4), TE Daniel Fells (3/2), CB Jayron Hosley (14/6), DT Cullen Jenkins (16/13), DT Markus Kuhn (10/9), CB Trumaine McBride (15/0), S Brandon Meriweather (13/12), G Brandon Mosley (0/0), WR Hakeem Nicks (6/2), WR Rueben Randle (16/16), G/C Dallas Reynolds (16/2), G Geoff Schwartz (11/11), DE George Selvie (12/3)*
Total games played/started lost: 179/105
*Number in parentheses is games played/games started in 2015
-- Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and 26th year on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. TSX's network of NFL insiders provided information for this report.