By and large, the 2017 New York Giants will use the same starting lineup that won 11 games and made the postseason a year ago. However, there are still some new roles out there, whether it's a free-agent acquisition, a draft pick, or a returning player with a bigger opportunity.
In this week's "Cover 3" on Giants.com, we asked our staffers which new probable starter will make the biggest impact this season. Here is what they said:
I've been going all-in on Paul Perkins all offseason, so why stop now? Perkins could make all the difference for the Giants this year if he can help create a consistent running game. When Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram arrived, we talked about how their size and speed down the middle of the field could force defenses to come out of their two-deep safety formations. The only true solution to that problem, however, is to run the ball consistently.
Perkins running style, plus the continued development of the offensive line, could alleviate some of the blocking issues up front. Perkins is elusive enough to make unblocked players miss and turn potential losses into gains. If he does that, teams won't be able to keep those two safeties deep. Once teams have to bring a safety into the box, it will be a game changer. The offense could vault itself into the top five. It would be transformative. If the Giants defense can maintain their high standard of play and the running game comes alive to transform the offense, the Giants can be a true Super Bowl contender. That's what I call impact.
How about the six-time Pro Bowler with more 100-catch seasons (six) than any receiver in NFL history? That player, of course, is Brandon Marshall. These types of signings just don't come around that often, especially for a playoff team looking to take the next step. Marshall could be a major piece in building off the organization's first postseason appearance since winning Super Bowl XLVI, and it goes both ways. He has accomplished pretty much everything from an individual standpoint, but the 12-year veteran has never played in the postseason. That's his first priority right now as he embraces being the second receiver behind Odell Beckham Jr. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Marshall also a brings a size factor that Eli Manning hasn't had in quite some time. The passing game fell into a rut last year, but Marshall's presence should open things up for the entire offense, including the rushing attack.
Last year, the Giants signed former Steelers tight end/fullback Will Johnson with the expectation that his versatility would provide a boost for the offense, especially in run blocking. Unfortunately, he suffered a burner in the first preseason game, was sidelined for the next three contests and ultimately placed on season ending injured reserve before the 2016 campaign even started. Move the calendar forward a year and now the Giants have tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison in the mix after he signed with the team in free agency following five seasons in Minnesota. As a member of the Vikings, Ellison cleared the way for Adrian Peterson and also served as a tight end.
Although the Giants selected tight end Evan Engram in the first round of this year's draft, I still think Ellison will play an integral role on offense, specifically as the blocking tight end as well as at fullback. Ellison will fill the exact role the Giants anticipated Johnson would serve in 2016 before he was sidelined. His versatility will not only aid the run game but also help the offensive line in pass protection. It's easy to overlook the non-household names on the roster, but those players who do the dirty work in the trenches and don't fill up the stat sheet are the ones who usually dictate the success of the entire system as a whole.