- Shurmur's Giants won't look all that different from last year's team led by Ben McAdoo, but the slight changes—the top running back in the draft and a capable offensive line—could be the key.
WHO: The New York Giants
WHERE: Quest Diagnostics Field, East Rutherford, N.J.
WHEN: Tuesday, Aug. 7
HOW: Drive from Western N.J., via route 80 east.
The Ben McAdoo era feels like a strange blip on the radar here in northern New Jersey as the Giants prepare for their first preseason game under new head coach Pat Shurmur.
Shurmur embodies the type of person the Giants prefer in a head coach—stoic, soft-spoken and largely unflappable in public situations. This is where McAdoo, and his very public growing pains, worried New York’s ownership. The ever-present weight on the franchise to capitalize on the final years of Eli Manning’s career set against the backdrop of an increasingly unpredictable NFL is not something that everyone can handle. Shurmur, formerly the Browns’ head coach from 2011-12, is just a few months in but seems up to the task so far.
There are worse starting points. On this particular Tuesday, Manning still looked sharp. His velocity remains largely unchanged and his throwing motion looks a little more at ease thanks to some offseason tinkering with long-time whisperer (and Duke head coach) David Cutcliffe. It’s good enough for Shurmur’s and offensive coordinator Mike Shula’s systems which, according to Shurmur, shares a lot of the same principles.
The Giants are going to attack opponents with a flurry of different formations based in similar concepts, so expect the offense to move at a brisk pace but swap the personnel on almost every snap.
If this sounds familiar, it’s the type of versatile display McAdoo was working toward with Odell Beckham Jr. before his time was up and all his receivers got injured. The league’s best athlete does not need mismatches, but could use a system that creates enough confusion to earn him some relief from the tight, bracketed double coverage he faces on almost every down.
From the outside looking in, it won’t look tremendously different, but the combination of a more vanilla defense and a slightly more capable offensive line should make a world of difference.
Giants players were asked Tuesday about the idea of flying under the radar, though it’s a ridiculous notion given their geographical location and the division they play in. General manager Dave Gettleman spent at the top of the market for a left tackle, took an immediate-impact but ultimately limited-shelf-life player at the top of the draft and quickly peppered the roster with experienced thirty-somethings in hopes of traversing a hollow NFC East.
Why doesn’t this team have a hype similar to Los Angeles or Jacksonville circa 2017? They are similarly built to win—or wither—immediately.
OH, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT: Shurmur said one of his biggest regrets was going at his first head coaching gig without an offensive coordinator. While defensive coordinator James Bettcher was the most critically acclaimed offseason addition to the Giants’ coaching staff, Shurmur said that the Giants were “lucky” Mike Shula was available after being let go by the Panthers.
“I didn’t have one in Cleveland and that’s not the right way to go. You need a coordinator.”
STORYLINE TO WATCH: More Davis Webb film. The famously botched transition from Manning to Geno Smith to Davis Webb last season deprived the current coaching staff any opportunity to see their 2017 mid-round pick in game action. From the sidelines, Webb looks the part. He’s accurate with tremendous velocity and also has enough functional mobility to get out of a bad situation with his legs. Ideally, he takes the lion’s share of the time this preseason alongside 2018 selection Kyle Lauletta. You can read more about the Richmond product here.
TOP POSITION BATTLE: CENTER FIGHT! People always gloss over the offensive line, but in training camp it is one of the few positions where there can be a true head-to-head competition. The Giants have Brett Jones but their early depth chart gives the nod to Jon Halapio, a former used-car salesman!
OFFBEAT OBSERVATION: Giants practice is packed. Even on a Tuesday. Even in 90-degree heat. Even when fans have to park on the blacktop acre near MetLife Stadium and fry under unobstructed light for an hour or more until they get into the stands. That, my friends, is dedication.
PARTING THOUGHTS: I think it would be foolish to let Evan Engram slide in fantasy football drafts this year. Just watching the way Shurmur is trying to space his receivers and create openings, the former first-round pick is going to reap most of the benefits. We saw this a bit last year when he was the only realistic target left for Eli Manning, but in 2018 he can be more of a weapon than a security blanket over the middle.