>> POWER RANKINGS: GIANTS SET FOR BIG YEAR
Paul Dottino: FICTION - It's clear to me that the Giants plan on running the ball much more in the upcoming season than they have in the past few years, which automatically reduces the odds of the trio hitting the mark. Should those plans go awry, you could make a case that Odell Beckham Jr. is going to be good for nearly 1,300 yards, Brandon Marshall could reach 1,000 (for the ninth time), and Sterling Shepard might come close to 700 again. However, the Giants should get more receiving production out of their tight ends and running back Shane Vereen (rebounding from injury), and those receiving yards have to come at someone's expense.
Lance Medow: FICTION - In a recent version of Fact/Fiction we had to respond to the statement that Odell Beckham Jr and Brandon Marshall will combine for 2,000 receiving yards, and my response was “fiction”, so my answer is the same here. If you add up Beckham’s (average 1,374 receiving yards per season) and Marshall’s (1,096 receiving yards per season) career averages with Shepard’s total (683) from last season, you’ll get just over 3,000 receiving yards, but given how Eli Manning likes to spread the wealth in addition to the Giants’ desire to showcase more balance on offense in 2017 with a consistent run game, I think the trio will fall just short of 3,000. The last time the Giants’ top three receivers combined for 3,000 yards was 2011 when Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks each had over 1,000 and Mario Manningham collected 523. However, keep in mind, Manning had to throw an awful lot that season because of multiple fourth quarter comebacks.
Having good depth on the defensive line is more important than depth at cornerback
John Schmeelk: FICTION - I will take cornerback depth every single time. While losing pass rush ability is a problem, you can account for that by sending more blitzes, especially if you have a good secondary. If you lose cornerbacks and have to play guys who can’t cover one-on-one, the entire defense is going to struggle because of it. Good coordinators don’t let opponents hide bad cornerbacks. Even if you help over the top, there are other ways of taking advantage of a bad player at corner. The other side of this equation is that more defensive linemen will play during a game, making bench players more valuable, but there is often such a drop-off to the 5th and 6th corners on the roster, I’ll still go with good depth at cornerback.
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Paul Dottino: FICTION - The NFL has become heavily reliant on the pass, so much so that defenses are in a sub package nearly 65 percent of the time. No doubt, it helps to have depth along the line to create a pass rush - there is no greater gift to a secondary. However, modern-day offenses are leaning more often on a quick release, which realistically eliminates the teeth from a pass rush. The only way to deal with that type of quick-hitting attack is to make sure you have enough quality cover guys to contain the receivers off the line.
Lance Medow: FACT -The most physical aspect of the game takes place in the trenches. Defensive and offensive linemen absorb more hits than anyone else on the field because every single play they are guaranteed to experience contact. This is one reason why most teams like to rotate defensive linemen during the course of a game to keep everyone fresh. It goes without saying depth is important at every position, but a safety can always move to corner and you can drop a linebacker into coverage to make up for issues at corner. Given the size and physicality of offensive linemen, you would be hard-pressed to move another position to the defensive line.
Rhett Ellison’s biggest impact will be in the run game.
Paul Dottino: FACT - Rhett Ellison is listed at 6-5 and 250 pounds. He has never been targeted more than 26 times in a season. Is there any doubt that he was signed to enhance the blocking up front? Sure, he can provide help to quiet a pass rusher off the edge - that's certainly going to be part of his job description. Of greater significance is that he blocked as an in-line tight end and out of the backfield in 2012, when the Vikings' Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards and won the NFL MVP Award.
Lance Medow: FACT - In his first five seasons in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, Rhett Ellison collected 51 receptions. That’s an average of 10 catches per season. His career-high is 19 in 2014. While Ellison is more than capable of contributing to the passing game, based on those numbers, he will have a much bigger impact on the run game. Ellison doesn’t just play tight end. He also lines up at fullback and he helped Adrian Peterson run for more than 1,000 yards three times in the span of four seasons, including over 2,000 in 2012. Ellison’s strength is his blocking and that will be felt on the ground as a complement to the offensive line.
D.J. Fluker will play more snaps at guard than tackle in 2017
John Schmeelk: FICTION - Even though D.J. Fluker recently said on Sirius XM that he was brought to the Giants as a right guard, I think his path to more playing time is at right tackle. With John Jerry back in the mix after two seasons starting at right guard, the spot next to him at tackle is far more unsettled. Bobby Hart didn’t start in the playoffs after lining up at right tackle most of the season, putting some uncertainty into the future there. According to Pro Football Focus, Fluker was a better tackle than guard when he played for San Diego, and I think he can push Hart for playing.
Paul Dottino: FACT - This is no more than a guess because it's much too premature to tell. Fluker has played guard and tackle in the NFL and the expectation is that he's been brought in to compete with the possibility of becoming one of the starting five, regardless of where he fits in. His landing spot, if he wins a starting job, may wind up having more to do with the other players on the depth chart than how well he performs at a specific position during training camp.
Lance Medow: FACT - Over his first four seasons in the NFL with the Chargers, D.J. Fluker split time at right tackle and right guard. He played his first two seasons at right tackle and the last two at right guard. It remains to be seen where the Giants will line him up during OTAs and training camp, but in a recent interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio, Fluker said, “I was brought into New York as a right guard, but I’m willing to play anywhere on the line if they need it.” I think there’s going to be competition at both positions on the right side of the line and given his versatility and experience in both spots, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fluker sees time at guard and tackle, but given his most recent experience with the Chargers, guard is the frontrunner.