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Keys to New York Giants rebounding with playoff appearance in 2019

5 bold predictions for the New York Giants' 2021 season
Dec 30, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) points to his family on the sideline during warmups before a game against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com via USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Giants won a grand total of eight games the past two seasons combined and have a tough road ahead of them to get back to the playoffs.

The big picture: General manager Dave Gettleman has received plenty of scorn for his offseason moves in 2019, but did he actually do a better job than many believe? Here, we examine what must go right for the Giants to get back into contention.

It all starts up front: Everyone points to Eli Manning as the biggest reason the Giants won’t make it back to the playoffs. However, it’s worth pointing out that the offensive line has done him no favors the past two years.

  • Pro Football Focus graded the offensive line as the 21st-best in 2019.
  • This line gave up 47 sacks, which ranked 23rd in the NFL.
  • That figure also represented the most sacks Manning has ever taken in a single season.

Granted, Manning has become even more immobile in recent years than he ever was. But whether it’s Manning or rookie Daniel Jones under center, it’s going to be up to the big guys up front to determine the success or failure of New York’s offense.

  • Big-money man must step up: Nate Solder was signed to a then-record deal before last season. He was mediocre in his first year with the G-Men and absolutely must live up to that contract with a strong 2019 campaign.
  • Second-year leap: Last year’s first-round pick, Will Hernandez, was adequate and even sometimes dominant as a rookie. Yet continued improvement is needed, both in the run and passing game.
  • Smart trade? The Giants received guard Kevin Zeitler as part of the deal that sent Olivier Vernon to Cleveland. He wasn’t great last year but has been dominant in the past.
  • Book-end, or bust? Mike Remmers was signed after he was released by Minnesota. He may represent an upgrade over the team’s recent right tackles, but his consistent mediocrity (or worse) in the past may prove problematic.

Replacing a star: The Giants — for better or worse — traded their best offensive weapon away this offseason. So, is there enough talent on the roster now to replace Odell Beckham Jr.?

  • Sterling, or bust? Sterling Shepard is now the de facto No. 1 receiver on this offense. He’s shown the ability to make plays, but you’d be foolish not to doubt his ability to be the man now that opposing defenses don’t have to worry about OBJ.
  • Aging star: For a time, there were none better than Golden Tate in the NFL at making big plays after the catch. Yet it’s impossible not to notice his production took a big dive last year. At the age of 30, is he declining, or does Tate have enough juice to make a difference?
  • Hodgepodge: The rest of New York’s receivers are either busts in the making (Cody Latimer and Corey Coleman) or completely untested. Will someone step up?

It’s hard to imagine the passing game will somehow be better in 2019 than it was a year ago, but perhaps they put it all together and make it work.

Obviously, second-year back Saquon Barkley is a huge X-factor. He can do it all offensively and will once again be heavily featured both on the ground and through the air. If the offensive line can make vast improvements, then the Rookie of the Year from 2018 should blossom all the more.

Revamped defense: The Giants will look completely different on the defensive side of the ball this coming season.

  • Big-time losses: Vernon left via trade with Cleveland. Landon Collins is now in the nation’s capital playing for the rival Washington Redskins. Cornerback B.W. Webb signed a nice deal with Cincinnati.

Needless to say, the Giants have their work cut out to improve what was a disappointing defense, even with those players in the fold last season. There is reason to hope, though.

  • Monster in the middle: Dexter Lawrence may not be a fantastic pass rusher, but his presence inside should immediately improve New York’s run defense. If that happens, then the pass defense will be put in better position as teams are forced into more third-and-long situations.
  • Speed kills: Finding players who can fly off the edge and make big plays in the open field is key. The Giants signed Markus Golden, who had 12.5 sacks a few years back, and added linebacker Oshane Ximines in the third round.
  • DB revival: After losing a couple of key contributors from last year, Gettlemen worked hard to replace that talent, and then some. Deandre Baker, Julian Love, Jabrill Peppers, and Antoine Bethea all have a good chance to make big contributions this season.

The final word: There is a ton of competition in the NFC, and the NFC East is perilous all by itself. The Giants are in a state of transition, to be sure, and the chances of making a postseason run are slim.

Yet if the offensive line takes a huge step forward, if the Giants can somehow make up for the loss of Beckham Jr. and if the defense can become feared once more, Big Blue will surprise a lot of people in 2019.