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Fact or Fiction: Predictions for OV & JPP


Three Giants writers debate Big Blue topics with Training Camp right around the corner:

Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul will both have double-digit sack totals.

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PAUL DOTTINO: Fact - Let's just say it would bode well for the Giants should this occur. They won 10 games when last reaching this plateau with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora posting 11.5 apiece in 2010. And it's very possible that 10 victories will capture the NFC East this year.

Last season, Vernon and Pierre-Paul each played more than 90 percent of the snaps during games in which they appeared. The defensive line should be deeper this season, given the experience gained by Romeo Okwara and the signing of former Lion Devin Taylor, so this could mean as many as 10 fewer reps each per game for Vernon and JPP -- and that's not a bad thing because the snap reduction likely will increase the quality of their pass rushing reps since they won't have to conserve as much energy. Of course, this assumes the rushing defense will continue on its path of shutting down the ground game and forcing opponents to pass, which plays into the edge rushers' hands.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - I'm going with "fiction" just because I think people don't appreciate how difficult it is to get to double digits. Even with all the great pass rushers in the game right now and quarterbacks dropping back to throw more than ever, only 16 players had at least 10 sacks last season, the same total as the year before that. So one team getting two of them is really a remarkable achievement that shouldn't be thrown around casually.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Last season, Olivier Vernon led the team with 8.5 sacks, and despite missing the final four games of the season, Jason Pierre-Paul finished second with 7.0. Vernon has posted double-digit sacks just once (2013 – 11.5) in his first five seasons in the league, while JPP has accomplished that feat twice (2011 – 16.5, 2014 – 12.5) in seven campaigns. If you take into consideration Vernon played the majority of last season with a wrist injury and JPP was sidelined late in the season due to injury, I think many would say the two should easily reach double-digit sacks in 2017, but it's not that simple. Last season, JPP and Vernon rarely came off the field, and for the bulk of the year, before JPP suffered a season-ending injury, the two played more snaps than any other defensive ends in the NFL. I think this season defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will look to conserve those two and rely more on the depth chart. With slightly fewer snaps and quarterbacks continuing to get rid of the football quickly when they play the Giants, I think they'll both come close but fall just shy of double digits.

Sterling Shepard will have more receptions than Brandon Marshall.

PAUL DOTTINO: Fact - Shepard is expected to remain in the slot when the Giants go to a three-wide set; hence, he will continue to operate against the opponent's third corner, and there remains a shortage of high quality third corners in the NFL. Marshall, given his size, has always posed matchup issues in the red zone, so you could expect him to snare more TD passes than the second-year pro. But there are an increasing number of teams that have a quality second corner and there is also trend toward trying to get taller at the position with defenders who have a chance to compete against skyscraping wide receivers. Those factors add up to Shepard having an easier time to get open quicker than Marshall and should add up to more receptions.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Most people think Shepard's numbers will go down –or stay the same at most – with the arrival of Marshall and Evan Engram. But I'm not in that camp. Not only will the attention on the other targets open things up for Shepard in the slot, but he's just a darn good football player in his own right. And Eli Manning trusts him on third down and even fourth down when the situation calls for it.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - In 2016, Sterling Shepard had 65 receptions, good for second on the team behind Odell Beckham. Brandon Marshall has recorded at least 81 catches in eight of his 11 seasons in the NFL, but has had less than that total in two of the last three campaigns. Keep in mind, he didn't have a great deal of stability at quarterback during those two seasons. While Shepard should continue to improve, I think the return of Shane Vereen and the arrival of rookie tight end Evan Engram will eat into Shepard's targets and receptions. Eli Manning is arguably the best quarterback Marshall has ever played with and I think those two will hook up a bit more than Manning and Shepard in 2017.

Dalvin Tomlinson will be the starting defensive tackle next to Damon Harrison in Week 1.

PAUL DOTTINO: Fiction - It's only natural to expect Tomlinson, a second-round pick, to start as soon as possible. And it's very likely that he will find himself in the starting lineup much sooner rather than later. However, the Giants open the season at Dallas on national television in what's expected to be an incredibly intense atmosphere. The Cowboys and their strong offensive line are expected to come out running the ball - and they would love to immediately test the rookie defensive tackle. But veteran run-stopper Robert Thomas has drawn offseason praise from defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who could opt to start the elder lineman given the circumstances.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - The short answer is that I truly do not know at this point, and it's one of the top things I'm interested to see play out this summer. You would think the Giants could plug and play him without much debate, like they eventually did with Johnathan Hankins and Linval Joseph before him. But both of those guys had to wait a year and learn behind the veterans before taking over in Year 2. Tomlinson, however, could turn out to be too good to wait on, which is a very good possibility given his credentials from Alabama. Definitely keep an eye on this one, though.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Based on media projections and all the chatter around the league, it seems the majority opinion is that Dalvin Tomlinson was drafted to fill the void immediately left behind by Johnathan Hankins. While I think Tomlinson has a great deal of upside and will be a solid player for the Giants moving forward, I don't share that opinion for 2017. I think Robert Thomas will win the starting job next to Damon Harrison. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has spoken very highly of Thomas this offseason in terms of his work ethic and how he's building off his first season with the Giants. Let's also not forget Linval Joseph, who replaced Barry Cofield and Hankins, who replaced Joseph. Like Tomlinson, Joseph and Hankins were both second-round picks, yet they both didn't take over as full-time starters until their second years in the league.

At least two Giants will make the Pro Bowl for the first time in their careers this year.

PAUL DOTTINO: Fact - Unless his play drops off dramatically, it would be hard to imagine defensive tackle Damon Harrison getting passed over after all of the accolades he received for his sensational play last season. So that's half of the task. Left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg have played well during the early portion of their careers and either one of them could have a breakout season that would land them in the game. It's hard to believe, but defensive end Olivier Vernon has never made a Pro Bowl -- and he is about to enter his prime after making an impact despite battling though a hand injury last year. And do we dare say that if first-round tight end Evan Engram gets out of the gate quickly that he could put himself in position to grab a spot?

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - If the Giants keep winning games like they did in 2016, there will be plenty of Pro Bowl nods to go around. They just hope to be preparing for a different bowl game come February. Damon Harrison has to be a no-brainer for one of them. With all the talent on the roster – on both sides of the ball – you can find another one to emerge.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - This statement saved me from the "Fictional" sweep. Last season, the Giants accomplished this feat with Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins, and when you look at the potential candidates for 2017, I don't think it's a stretch to say they can do that for the second straight campaign. Last season, Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon were both All-Pro players but didn't make the Pro Bowl. If those two can repeat their production from 2016, there's a very good chance they'll receive invites to Orlando. Depending on his rookie campaign, Evan Engram could very well be in the mix as well as Paul Perkins and Eli Apple. My dark horse is Darian Thompson assuming he can stay healthy and showcase his ball-hawking skills from Boise State.

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