After missing the playoffs four times in a five-year span, the New York Giants are looking for a fresh start.
New offensive coordinator, new system, new-look offense, remade secondary, no Justin Tuck, Chris Snee, Linval Joseph or Hakeem Nicks.
However, the month of August was anything but refreshing for the Giants and their fans because Ben McAdoo's offense was in quicksand for an entire five-game stretch during the preseason, leaving a multitude of questions to be answered as the 2014 regular season gets underway.
With that in mind, we've got 10 predictions related to Tom Coughlin's squad.
1. Eli Manning Will Once Again Throw 20-Plus Interceptions
We don't trust Manning, who continues to make poor decisions and/or inaccurate throws in an offense that is supposed to cater to him but actually appears to be further confusing him.
We don't trust his offensive line, which is missing Snee, David Baas, Geoff Schwartz and Brandon Mosley while relying on question marks like J.D. Walton, Will Beatty and Weston Richburg.
We don't trust his receivers, because Nicks is gone, Rueben Randle has yet to prove he can be relied on as a starter, rookie first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. continues to be M.I.A. and there isn't much beyond that.
Manning led the NFL with 25 picks in 2010 before doing it again with 27 in 2013. We wouldn't be shocked at all to see him fall into that range once more during what is shaping up to be a nightmarish 2014 campaign.
2. Manning Will Miss Starts for the 1st Time Since His Rookie Season
This goes back to that pass protection issue. Beatty was bad last year even before suffering a broken leg at the end of the season. Now on Manning's blind side, he's even more of a liability.
Second-year right tackle Justin Pugh is good, but he can't single-handedly save a line that is a mess everywhere else.
Manning was under constant pressure throughout the preseason, indicating he may be in for an even larger beating than he took last year. This would be a shame because Manning has started 151 straight games, which is the third-longest streak among quarterbacks in NFL history.
|Longest Streaks of Consecutive QB Starts|
|1. Brett Favre||297|
|2. Peyton Manning||208|
|3. Eli Manning*||151|
|4. Philip Rivers*||128|
|5. Ron Jaworski||116|
|* Active streak|
Considering that he barely survived 2013 after being sacked a career-high 39 times, you have to think that his luck with injuries is in peril entering 2014.
3. Andre Williams Will Be the Team's Best Offensive Player Not Named Victor
The fourth-round rookie out of Boston College was tailor-made for Coughlin's offense. He's a battering ram who can also explode into holes and is the type of rock this team so desperately needs in the offensive backfield.
Veteran Rashad Jennings might get a higher percentage of the snaps early, but after a stellar preseason in which he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored twice, it might only be a matter of time before Williams becomes this team's bell cow.
Of course, if ball security or pass protection issues come even remotely close to the surface, this prediction could go completely to hell.
4. Someone Currently Not on the Roster Will Finish the Season as the Starting Tight End
Five preseason games, and nobody even came close to convincing us that he can hold it down as the No. 1 tight end in New York this season.
Paul Schwartz of the New York Post wrote about the situation:
Tom Coughlin admitted the Giants do not have one player who can be considered a complete tight end and so it will have to be a tight end by committee. “I really think there will be a group of guys that will play that will help us in different situations and try to be matched up according to circumstance,’’ Coughlin said.
Fine, but while Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells and Adrien Robinson share the duties for now, expect the Giants to keep dipping their toes into the waiver wire. It's even possible that if the tight ends continue to disappoint, they give free agent Jermichael Finley a shot.
5. Backup Cornerbacks Trumaine McBride and Walter Thurmond Will Frequently Outplay Starters Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara
DRC and Amukamara might have more natural talent. Both were first-round picks, and DRC is coming off a career year. With that said, neither has been consistent and both have clear limitations in coverage.
Meanwhile, Thurmond and McBride are two of the most underrated players on the team.
McBride was quietly lights-out in coverage last season, as Pro Football Focus (subscription required) indicates he allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete a league-low 43.8 percent of their passes against him for an average passer rating of just 57.4.
Thurmond was in the same range, with an opposing passer rating of just 67.5, while helping the Seahawks win a Super Bowl. Between them, they surrendered only two touchdowns on over 1,100 snaps.
|Giants' Top 4 Corners Entering 2014 (2013 Stats)|
|Cornerback||PFF grade (rank)||Comp.% (rank)||Rating (rank)|
|1. D. Rodgers-Cromartie||13.1 (6)||44.1 (2)||67.8 (14)|
|2. Prince Amukamara||4.6 (34)||64.9 (82)||87.7 (57)|
|3. Walter Thurmond||4.8 (33)||64.2 (80)||67.5 (13)|
|4. Trumaine McBride||6.8 (24)||43.8 (1)||57.4 (5)|
|Ranking out of 110 qualifying corners (Pro Football Focus)|
I guess the main takeaway here is that, for the first time in years, the Giants have four very reliable corners.
6. Jason Pierre-Paul Will Record Fewer than 10 sacks
With Tuck and Joseph gone, this defense desperately needs Pierre-Paul to regain the magic that helped him put together 16.5 sacks in 2011, but we're wondering if injuries might prevent JPP from getting back to that point.
The 25-year-old has set some lofty goals for this season, but he has also confessed that he's felt "a little something" in regard to the back surgery he underwent over a year ago.
I don't know if you can trust him to stay healthy. Even if he does, it's fair to wonder if that 2011 campaign was a flash in the pan.
7. At Least 4 Offensive Players Will Have More Catches than Rookie Odell Beckham Jr.
The No. 12 overall pick has been the biggest disappointment on the team this summer. He's been hampered by a balky hamstring for so long that Coughlin has lost his patience, and now you have to wonder if the wide receiver from LSU will spend much of his rookie season wearing a proverbial red shirt.
Don't be surprised if Cruz, Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Jennings all catch more passes than Beckham does. In fact, don't be surprised if we're already wondering if he's a bust by the time we ring in the new year.
8. The Linebacking Corps Will Actually Be a Strength
For quite a while, this was the weakest spot on this team. But with tackle machine Jon Beason back from injury, Jacquian Williams fully healthy and coming off his best summer yet, and Jameel McClain bringing plenty of experience and a Super Bowl ring from Baltimore, the Giants have one quality starting trio.
Throw in rookie fifth-round pick Devon Kennard, who stood out early in camp, and you have one of the strongest position groups on the team, complete with a heck of a lot of upside.
9. The Giants Will Again Finish with a Losing Record
Another six- or seven-win season seems about right. I can envision them digging another early hole with some tough defensive fronts on the schedule and the offense not ready for prime time.
|Brad Gagnon's NFC East Prediction, 2014|
|1. Philadelphia Eagles||11-5||+100|
|2. Washington Redskins||9-7||+25|
|3. New York Giants||6-10||-70|
|4. Dallas Cowboys||5-11||-110|
Beyond that, there continue to be too many personnel issues on offense, and it's not as though the pass rush looks like it can mask deficiencies as it so often has in the past.
You'd be crazy to count this team out so long as Coughlin and Manning are around, but you'd be just as crazy to look at the current state of this franchise and deem it to be playoff-worthy.
10. Coughlin and Manning Will Be Back
Coughlin doesn't seem as though he wants to go anywhere, especially on a sour note. The Giants don't appear as though they're willing to force the league's oldest head coach out the door either.
That might have something to do with the fact that he and Manning led the franchise on two of the most improbable Super Bowl runs in NFL history, all within a five-year span.
Neither should be able to live off of those accomplishments permanently—not in this "What have you done for me lately?" league. That's why, if the Giants do miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, they have to get serious about finding and grooming replacements for their longtime coach and quarterback.
Just don't expect either to walk away at the conclusion of this season, no matter how bad things get.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFC East for Bleacher Report since 2012.
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