9 reasons to be optimistic as Training Camp nears
Before you know it, your summer break will be over and the New York Giants will be reporting for training camp.
And then it will be all systems go for the 2015 campaign.
From the offense coming together last season to a new defense this time around and another quality draft class, there is plenty to look forward to when the time comes for players to report July 30 at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Here are nine reasons to be optimistic about the team until then:
1. Last year's finish.
There was a point after the loss in Jacksonville, the Giants' seventh in a row, that president and chief executive officer John Mara wondered if his team would ever win again.
But then came some light. It wasn't enough to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves -- they finished 6-10 and outside the playoffs for the third consecutive season -- but the Giants went on to win three-straight games by outscoring their opponents 97-47 before the streak ended in the finale. The Giants can't expect to pick up where they left off automatically as they will have to earn everything again in 2015, but the pieces started to come together.
2. Spags is back in town.
For their future, the Giants reached into the past when Steve Spagnuolo was hired in January as the defensive coordinator, the same post he held in 2007 and 2008 when the unit finished seventh and fifth in total yards, respectively.
Of course, that period included Spagnuolo's defense holding the then-undefeated New England Patriots to 14 points in Super Bowl XLII to claim the franchise's third of four Lombardi Trophies and first since the 1990 season.
And now he's back.
Spagnuolo and the rest of Tom Coughlin's coaching staff have made a conscious effort this offseason to preach about the tradition of the organization, including showing players videos of iconic games throughout its history.
3. McAdoo's offense has a year under its belt.
Like what the defense is doing now, the offense already went through it last year when Ben McAdoo took over as Coughlin's offensive coordinator. In his first time holding that post in the NFL, McAdoo's offense overcame early bumps in the road to finish 10th in yards by the end of the season.
Now the offense is doing less installing and more refining, which the team hopes leads to even better results.
4. Eli's arm is as 'lively' as ever.
For those who watched quarterback Eli Manning this spring, there was a consensus that the 12-year veteran looked sharper than ever under center, highlighted by the zip he had on the ball during organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp.
"It is lively, very lively," Coughlin said. "He has worked hard on that."
"I would definitely agree with you on that," wide receiver Rueben Randle added.
"He overthrew me twice and I don't ever recall that happening. That is something we noticed down at Duke working with him.
"We noticed that his arm got stronger and that is exciting for us."
5. Odell headlines a deep receiving corps.
Following a whirlwind rookie campaign for Odell Beckham Jr. in which he was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, the Giants return one of their deepest positions on the team.
From Beckham to Victor Cruz to Rueben Randle to Dwayne Harris and others looking to step up like Preston Parker, Corey Washington, Marcus Harris, and rookie Geremy Davis, McAdoo and wide receivers coach Sean Ryan have a full arsenal at their disposal.
6. The youth produce.
Teams are only as good as their drafts, and the Giants have big expectations for their recent classes, some of which have already yielded sizable returns.
They were on full display last season as four of the seven members became regular starters, including Beckham, offensive lineman Weston Richburg, running back Andre Williams, and linebacker Devon Kennard.
In the class before them, Justin Pugh has turned into a pillar of the offensive line while defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins had a breakout season in 2014 with 7.0 sacks. Hopes are also high for players like defensive end Damontre Moore, defensive tackle Jay Bromley, and safety Nat Berhe, who will all be competing for roles in 2015.
7. The new class.
The Giants will see once the pads come on, but they believe they got tougher with the 2015 class, beginning with offensive tackle Ereck Flowers of Miami, the ninth overall choice, and safety Landon Collins, the All-American out of Alabama whom they traded up to select with the first pick of the second round.
Both were thrown into the deep end this spring with Flowers taking over left tackle for Will Beatty (torn pectoral muscle) and Collins leading the safeties after no starters returned at the position.
Meanwhile, defensive end Owa Odighizuwa, safety Mykkele Thompson, wide receiver Geremy Davis, and offensive lineman Bobby Hart will look to make contributions.
8. Free agents bolster the roster.
The Giants didn't win the Super Bowl this past season, but two of their players did receive rings. Shane Vereen, who set the Super Bowl record in February for most receptions by a running back, and linebacker Jonathan Casillas came to the Giants as free agents this offseason after recently winning the title with the New England Patriots.
They are part of a group of accomplished veterans that the Giants signed in free agency, which also includes wide receiver/return specialist Dwayne Harris, defensive end George Selvie, linebacker J.T. Thomas III, offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse, and defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis.
9. Cruz and others return.
A tough 2014 season will be remembered for its lengthy injured reserve list that included key players like wide receiver Victor Cruz, cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride, linebacker Jon Beason, and offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz. They are all eying a healthy return in 2015.
"Obviously coming off an injury like the one I had, you want to be able to come back stronger and come back in tip-top shape," said Cruz, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last October. "And I think I'm headed there. I think I'm about a little over 80 percent. These six weeks will be huge for me to continue to build on that and continue to be the force that I was before."