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5 storylines to follow before season begins

The Giants have less than 100 days to get from where they are to where they want to be.

As the countdown to the 2015 kickoff turns to double digits, looks at five major storylines to keep an eye on from now until Sunday night, Sept. 13 in Dallas. 

1. Restoring the defensive tradition.

When Giants fans think about their team, the tradition of the franchise comes to mind, and it is usually accompanied with great defenses. With no playoff appearances since their 2011 Super Bowl run and the defense finishing in the bottom five in two of the last three years, coach Tom Coughlin and the Giants know they need to get back to their roots. Beginning with the offseason workout program and the arrival of the rookies, Coughlin and his staff have been educating players on the history of the Giants. The reason behind it?

"The tradition," Coughlin said. "The passion. The Giant tradition. The great defenses that have been played here in the past. The idea that we have to get back to that."

Meanwhile, the return of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, whose unit held the then-undefeated Patriots to 14 points in Super Bowl XLII, will be instrumental in the process.

"Maybe that comes from having been there, but the whole staff just felt like when you understand the tradition of defensive football here at the Giants, you embrace it," Spagnuolo said.

"When you embrace something, you have a little pride in it. If you've got a little pride in something like your family, you tend to protect it. The only other thing I added to them was let's grow our own tradition and history here. We've been going back and feeding the guys all the greats here and we'll eventually start feeding great defensive games. We've got some picked out. I think we all should embrace that. There should be a passion about it, and that should carry it out right here on the field. That's the goal."

2. McAdoo, Year 2.

Last year, it was the offense installing a new system under first-time coordinator Ben McAdoo, a former assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. After some highs and lows early on, the Giants turned it on down the stretch and finished 10th in yards as quarterback Eli Manning recorded the second 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown season of his career.

While the running game struggled with 3.6 yards per carry in 2014, the Giants have high hopes for the offense, which now has a full season under its belt. Meanwhile, all eyes will be on reigning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Jr. for an encore as well as the return of fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz from a knee injury. 

3. The new-look offensive line.

While some of the pieces were the same from last season, none of their locations were when the Giants rolled out their offensive line at OTAs.

From the release of center J.D. Walton to drafting offensive tackle Ereck Flowers ninth overall and left tackle Will Beatty's pectoral injury that will cause him to miss five to six months, things have been shaken up.

Flowers is currently at left tackle, Justin Pugh at left guard, Weston Richburg at center, Geoff Schwartz at right guard and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle. 

4. Safety valves.

With no retuning starting safeties, the Giants found a chance to be aggressive at the position when they traded up to draft All-American Landon Collins out of Alabama with the first pick in the second round last month. They chose him to compete right away for a starting role -- which he has done -- but the question remains who will be lining up opposite him. While second-year pro Nat Berhe continues to deal with a calf issue, Cooper Taylor has handled the role during OTAs. The Giants drafted another safety this year in Mykkele Thompson in the fifth round while Bennett Jackson continues his transition from cornerback.

Photos of the Giants 2015 official roster

5. The NFC East pecking order.

From rushing title-holders to All Pros and quality starters, there was plenty of player movement around the league this year via trades and free agency. And much of that came inside the NFC East, which could lead to an intriguing divisional race that often comes down to the wire. The Dallas Cowboys are the reigning champions of the NFC East, but no team has won back-to-back years in a decade.


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