Five storylines to follow in the second half of the season as the Giants go on their bye week:
1. Evaluating everything. The bye week is a time to evaluate schemes and personnel, but realistically there can’t be sweeping changes. “It’s not like you’re going to come out and we’re going to be running the Wing T,” coach Pat Shurmur said. Instead, what coaches do is they take a step back and look at things like which route combination worked against a certain type of coverage and go from there. The sample size is large enough now. There have been 518 snaps on offense and 529 on defense, which have amounted to a 1-7 record at the midway point.
“In terms of the players, there may be some changes, we’ll see,” Shurmur said. “But in terms of the scheme, you just step back and look and seek better ways to do things. We’ll look at it.”
There is one player change at the center of much speculation: quarterback Eli Manning. After the Giants lost their last game before the break to the Redskins, Shurmur was asked if he has to consider changes at the position. “I don’t want to go there, I’m not going to tease that,” he said. “I just want to look at everything and see what we have to do moving forward.”
Shurmur stuck with that when he was pressed on the topic further the next day.
“I think we’re going to evaluate everything, from who the guy is and how he’s playing, and that’s just what we’ll do as we move forward,” Shurmur said. “We certainly have not done things well enough and we’ve got to do things better. That’s what we’re looking at.”
2. Post-trade roster. The Giants were busy the week before the league’s Oct. 30 trade deadline, dealing defensive tackle Damon Harrison to Detroit (in exchange for a fifth-round choice in the 2019 NFL Draft) and cornerback Eli Apple to New Orleans (for a fourth-round choice next year and a seventh-round selection in 2020). But other than the release of offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, a former first-round draft choice, a few weeks earlier, the major roster movement ended there.
“All changes, if they’re good, that’s what we expect,” safety Landon Collins said. “We expect the coaches to know what they’re doing up there, and they know how to use their best players. When we come back, I expect them to know what’s going on and how to fix things.”
3. Opportunities abound. The trades have led to bigger opportunities for players like B.W. Webb, Grant Haley, Sean Chandler and Dalvin Tomlinson. Meanwhile, Spencer Pulley got up to speed at center, moving John Greco over to right guard in the last few weeks. The first four picks of the draft class have also played significant roles, which will only expand as the weeks go on. “What you do is you try to do what you can to win the next game,” Shurmur said, “and then you reassess each week and move forward that way.”
The Giants enter the Week 9 bye with a 1-7 record and half the season done. Heading into the second half of the season, here are the players to watch out for.
4. Saquon’s growing leadership role. Shurmur has said that sometimes rookies can be your best leaders, and running back Saquon Barkley is proving that. The 21-year-old Bronx native is gaining respect on the field and in the locker room. He is second to only Todd Gurley II, a legitimate MVP candidate with the Rams, in yards from scrimmage (1,016) through the first half of the season. That puts him on pace for 2,032, which would be the fourth-highest total in franchise history. (Tiki Barber holds the top three spots.) Meanwhile, Barkley is emerging as a voice on a team looking to right as many wrongs as possible from the first half.
“Go back, watch film on yourself, see what you can do better from the first half of the season, see the things you did well, try and improve overall in your game,” Barkley said on how he approaches the bye week. “Take a little bit of time off to just decompress from football, but also keep aware that you can’t take too much time off because you’ve still got to keep your body in shape for another eight games, and come back ready to work.”
5. Eye on the future (and draft order). Whether their team is 1-7 or 7-1, scouts are currently deployed throughout the country and doing the legwork for the 2019 NFL Draft. Once again, the Giants, who picked up three picks with the recent trades, figure to be major players in April. They are currently tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the worst record in the league, and sure enough, the two teams meet next Monday night at Levi’s Stadium. Big Blue drafted Barkley second overall this past April with quarterbacks being taken first and third. Draft analysts’ consensus top prospect coming out in 2019, however, is a defensive end -- Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, who is the younger brother of Chargers pass rusher and former third overall choice Joey Bosa.