The 2018 preseason kicks off for the New York Giants on Thursday night, a team looking to rebuild in a hurry and needing to get this exhibition slate off in the right direction if they hope to be ready by Week 1.
The Giants aren’t totally revamped – it isn’t like the team cleaned house this offseason. But there are a lot of new names that need to get on the same page if they are to contend sooner rather than later.
And make no mistakes about it: the Giants have the talent level to contend for a playoff spot this year.
Here are three things to watch out for in New York’s preseason opener:
1. The 3-4 defense: The transition to a 3-4 defense will be made easier by the fact that the Giants have an elite interior defensive lineman in Damon Harrison. With the New York Jets at the start of his career, Harrison grew into one of the best nose tackles in the game playing in the 3-4 defense.
Now back in the 3-4, after the past two years with the Giants, whose base defense has been a 4-3 since Harrison signed as a free agent, the whole defense is going through a tweak in their alignment.
Therefore, B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson will both get expanded roles off the edge and Thursday night will likely be the first glimpse at Olivier Vernon, a defensive end a year ago, playing standing up as an edge linebacker.
Keep an eye on Kerry Wynn, the defensive end, who showed some real flashes last year and who could thrive in this defense.
However, some of these moves and alignments are semantics only, but it will be a fascinating development to watch during the preseason as the team gels to a new defensive front seven.
2. Wide receiver depth: Odell Beckham Jr. is a star and Sterling Shepard is a future Pro Bowl wide receiver in the making. But after these two and Roger Lewis, the depth at receiver is a bit unproven. The Giants need to address this situation in a hurry.
These four preseason games are huge for the likes of Cody Latimer, a free agent signing, and Hunter Sharp, signed at the end of last year and who had a touchdown reception in Week 17.
Latimer is an intriguing wideout, coming off a year where he had 19 receptions for 287 yards and two touchdowns for Denver. They aren’t gaudy numbers but he could be a good fit in the Giants’ offense.
This team needs depth if only to be multiple, but also because injuries are inevitable and the Giants depth at receiver last year was shockingly bad.
3. New attitude: Under a new head coach in Pat Shurmur, this preseason is important. Last year, the Giants were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders.
Instead, they ended up an embarrassment, a team that disintegrated and literally fell apart.
A couple of wins to change the narrative would help this preseason, as would the Giants getting an attitude adjustment after last season’s toxic locker room. This preseason is as much about the Giants getting on the right track emotionally and mentally as it is about player development.
That all starts on Thursday night.