EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) After years of being asked when are they are going back to the playoffs, the New York Giants have the potential to make a run at a title again.
Playing most of Ben McAdoo's first season as coach with a stagnant offense, the Giants rode a Landon Collins-led defense to an 11-5 record and their first playoff berth since the 2011 season, a campaign that ended in a Super Bowl win.
The expectations are through the roof this year.
Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's defense is back for the most part, and two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning finally has some options on offense other than Odell Beckham Jr. Veteran receiver Brandon Marshall was signed as a free agent after a couple of seasons with the Jets. First-round draft pick Evan Engram has been an exciting addition at tight end. Add in slot receiver Sterling Shepard and the Giants could be potent.
If the running game comes around, the Giants should challenge Dallas for the NFC East crown. The teams open in Texas on Sunday night.
''I don't think you can get too overly concerned with the expectations from the outside,'' Manning said Monday. ''We have expectations of ourselves and the style of football we want to play and what we want to do and need to do to be successful. So from that standpoint we're going to try to hit those goals and that should be our concern, not the outside expectations.''
Collins, who finished third in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year, leads a unit that includes ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul and shutdown cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
''With more work, definitely, it can be a better year,'' Collins said after practicing for the first time since the final cuts. ''The guys we picked up, the guys that are in tune and that cohesiveness we have as a unit on both sides of the ball, it's big. I'm very excited. I think it's going to be a better year.''
The main concern heading into the season is Beckham's left ankle. He hurt it two weeks ago in a preseason game against Cleveland.
''We are our biggest critics,'' McAdoo said. ''I'm my biggest critic. No one from the outside can put any more pressure on ourselves than we put on ourselves. We want to play at a high level in all three phases. We know what the goal is.''
Here are some other things to know about the Giants heading into the season:
OH LINE: If anything is going to prevent the Giants from getting back to the playoffs, it's the offensive line. While general manager Jerry Reese has shored up the defense and receivers' positions in the last two years, he hasn't done much to help a line that failed to produce a running game or protect Manning. His hope was another year together would help the group. It hasn't, at least based on the preseason. LT Ereck Flowers remains a work in progress and RG John Jerry struggled in the preseason and may not start.
ENGRAM: There was a lot of second guessing when Engram was taken in the first round. If training camp is any indication, the Mississippi product is going to give the offense its first big-play asset at the spot since Jeremy Shockey. He will be a mismatch for a lot of teams.
JPP: Collins has become the face of Spagnuolo's defense after an outstanding second season. The guy to watch now is Pierre-Paul, in his second season back from mangling his right hand in a fireworks accident in 2015. He rebounded last season and has been even more of a playmaker in training camp and the preseason. He had 1+ sacks, an interception and a tackle for a safety in limited time during two preseason games.
KICKING: The Giants went with 22-year-old Aldrick Rosas over veteran Mike Nugent for their kicking job. Rosas made all eight of his preseason field goals, including a winning 48-yarder on the final play to beat the Patriots last Thursday. Still, he's a kid kicking for the first time in an NFL game.
MARSHALL: New York signed the former Jets player to give Manning another option on the outside. He was barely on the field in the preseason because of coaches' decisions not to play him in the first and fourth games, and a shoulder injury in the second that kept him out of the third. He caught one pass for 2 yards. The 33-year-old, who has never been on a playoff team, has to stay on the field.
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