John Schmeelk: This is our second annual media round table. We embarrassed ourselves last year. NFL Network's Kim Jones was there for it, so we're going to try and not look like fools this year when we had three people predict the Giants in the Super Bowl. It was ugly, so we're going to try and do better this year.
Art Stapleton (Giants beat reporter for NorthJersey.com/USA TODAY): It's not our fault.
Bob Glauber (NFL columnist for Newsday): My conscience is clear because I didn't pick them even though I wasn't on the round table.
SCHMEELK: Your colleague Tom Rock was here, so you can blame him.
STAPLETON: I wasn't here, either.
SCHMEELK: Kim is our only returning member.
JONES: I did pick them to go to the Super Bowl.
SCHMEELK: I know, I had them in the NFC Championship Game, so don't feel bad. All right, here we go. Let's start with the basic question. A lot of changes this year, new general manager, new coach. Offensively, what's going to be the identity of the team? I think we know what Pat Shurmur has said, what Dave Gettleman has said, old school football, run the ball. Their personnel, on the other hand, says they should be throwing the ball all over the place. So what will be the offensive identity of this team be in 2018?
GLAUBER: I think this is going to be much more of a passing offense than you would think given the drafting of Saquon Barkley. I mean, look, they're going to run the ball, Barkley is going to be counted on to run it and to get some semblance of a play-action passing game, which is great, they have to have that. But, you're right, the skill position players, [Odell] Beckham, [Sterling] Shepard, [Evan] Engram, this is going to be a vibrant offensive team, at least from a play-calling perspective. I think Pat Shurmur is going to go down the field a lot.
STAPLETON: I think it's the commitment to run and I think that as much as the previous regime talked the talk about running the football, they didn't walk the walk.
SCHMEELK: Or run the run, if you will.
STAPLETON: Right, and I think that Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula, last year top-five rushing offenses in attempts: Minnesota, Carolina. They're not faking it, they're going to run the football and with Eli Manning, I think the idea you're going to run the football will only make him better because you'll be able to disguise what they're going to try to do and I don't think they did that very well over the past four, five years.
SCHMEELK: Shaun, can they run it consistently?
Shaun O'Hara (NFL Network analyst and Super Bowl XLII champion center): Yeah, they can. I think it's going to look differently. To me, it's a run game with a true fullback or true tight end back there, so you're going to see a lot more two-back runs where as in the past three years it has been single-back runs out of shotgun. Your run game install can't be shotgun runs and that's why this offense already looks differently. I think the run game – it's going to be more physical for a number of reasons, but I think the tight ends are already in a better position with some of the combo blocking we've seen in the preseason. I think the offense as a whole, they will be more of a passing team, to your point, but they're going to move the pocket passing, which is bootlegs, nakeds, play-action pass plays. You could throw the ball 40 times, but yet you're still physical because it's through play action and through roll outs, not letting – if you throw the ball 40 times and they're out of shotgun, the quarterback is throwing from the same exact spot. That's what you have to get away from and this offense is already showing that.
JONES: How's this: I think it will not be predictable, which will be refreshing, and Eli is now allowed to throw downfield, which I think a lot of people feel good about.
SCHMEELK: And Kim, you stole my next question. I think all of us who have been at practice the last four years under the old offense, I think we've probably seen more deep balls this year in practice than we saw in the last four years maybe put together. How big of a difference will that make in the offense this year?
GLAUBER: It's such a big difference. It's incalculable because you saw it in the receivers, they bit their tongues, Odell Beckham bit his tongue and absolutely Eli. By the end of the season, he kind of brought it up. He said you know we could only do what you're allowed to do with the play calls. That was a big deal, maybe that was even the year before. When you have the ability to strike deep, even if you don't hit it all the time, the threat of it changes your offense and changes the dynamic. I like what Pat Shurmur has done and I like what he did in Minnesota and I think you'll see a lot more of it here.
O'HARA: Wide receivers are kind of like the Ricky Bobby of the NFL, they want to go fast. And if you ask any receiver what they want to do, they want to run by people and these guys can. It makes it a lot easier to run by somebody if they're peeking in the backfield because they're worried about the run. If a corner doesn't have to worry about the run or a safety is not focused on the run, guess what? They're back peddling, and it's hard to get behind them. I think it's going to be much more explosive from that standpoint. I think the other thing with throwing deep is you've got to have time for the receivers to get down field. You don't have time for that deep route to develop if you can't protect the quarterback and if there is no pocket. Eli finally has the ability to step into throws and actually has a pocket that he can complete these passes, so I think it's going to be big from that standpoint, but I also think good things happen when you take shots even if it's not completed, you got a chance for pass interference and I think also just kind of loosen up the defense a little bit.
STAPLETON: You kind of make the defense believe you're going to run the ball in order to be able to hit the play-action passes down field. The last two years, you'd watch them run play-action plays and no one is going for the fake. I mean, they're just basically diving into the line of scrimmage trying to stop Eli from getting into some sort of pocket and I think that's something that Pat Shurmur brings to the table is that he has a blueprint to what worked for him in Minnesota, but also what didn't work here with some of the same personnel. Let's change it up, let's do what we got to do to make sure defenses respect all facets of the offense and I think predictability, as Kim said, is the most important thing.
JONES: I think the most interesting thing for me this preseason from an offensive standpoint was Sterling Shepard against the Jets and I said to myself after that game and double-checking the stats -- seven-for-seven on receptions and targets, he did that without Saquon and Odell on the field and the Jets were intent on stopping the Giants in that game early on. What does he do when everyone else is – the idea that Pat Shurmur has turned Sterling Shepard into a receiver, not a slot receiver, is incredibly significant to me when I look at this offense.
GLAUBER: There was a game a couple of years ago in Green Bay. I think this was the start of the predictability problem. They were without their starting corners, banged up and they played – I think Green Bay won the game. They played zone because they had, you know, nobody's out there. They just played zone and beat the Giants at the passing game and then I think Ben McAdoo kind of looked at that and he just didn't impose his will on zone coverage, just a two-deep zone. It was like the simplest coverage to play and you do that when your cornerbacks are hurt, but it worked against the Giants and he just never was able to figure it out and the receivers absolutely became frustrated by it and I just think you'll see more imagination. You don't have to run trick plays, you just have to be disciplined in what you want to do and how you want to approach it and you've got to be able to do that. Throw the seam route to the tight end, breaks a zone defense, seam route. There was just not enough of it and [Evan] Engram can do that so let's see what happens, but I do think they're in a much better position to have a vibrant offense.
O'HARA: The one thing that jumps out at you just watching this offense now through games is Eli is under center.
O'HARA: It's hard to sell play-action when you're in the shotgun. All of a sudden he backpedals now, you're seeing the ball fakes. It's looking and sounding like run when it's play action.
JONES: Did you guys have to do a double take when you saw that, though, the other night? I specifically saw it against the Jets and I was like, Eli's under center.
STAPLETON: Quarterback sneak.
JONES: Right, did he forget?
SCHMEELK: Now Shaun, you know what Eli's most comfortable doing. Do you see him doing things that you believe he's more comfortable and better at this year than maybe in the past few?
O'HARA: I think he's most comfortable – he's so good. I don't think he gets enough credit for his pre-snap awareness and what everybody is doing and really it's kind of to his own fault sometimes, too, we've seen a number of delay of games. It's like 'hey, just go ahead – if it's a bad play, let's go on for second down,' but he knows where everybody is supposed to be. He can see everything. You guys might have seen on the play there was a strong safety blitz, Jamal Adams came off… I'm trying to remember the play. He saw he was coming – I think it was the deep ball to (Cody) Latimer. He knew it was coming, he knew he had to pick up. He told Shane Smith to stay right there and block him. He sees all that stuff so I think he's most comfortable in that play action realm. He loves the two-minute no-huddle. He loves that part of it and I think he loves being able to just signal and 'hey just go down and do that' and the defense, he's got them where he wants them, but I really think he's a really good deep passer.
STAPLETON: To piggyback what Shaun said, the thing that I'm thinking about is for Eli this year it's trust. He lost trust in the people around him last year and I don't mean the players. I think he wouldn't come out and say it, but there were questions about how much the coaching staff trusted him and in turn, I would think he questioned how much do I trust them as far as what's going on here and I think when it comes to getting to the line of scrimmage, McAdoo didn't do that too much with Eli. I don't know how much control he gave Eli to be able to do the kind of things he wanted to do at the line of scrimmage and I think, again, before the season begins, Pat Shurmur's greatest strength with Eli is from day one he got Eli believing that his head coach has his back and I think that has shown itself on the field to this point is that I truly believe that Eli Manning believes that this offense is his. That he has ownership in this offense and I don't know necessarily if that was the case last year or the year before when it just seemed like it was the head coach's offense that he was operating.
SCHMEELK: And people having a critical view out of the last few years, his numbers are down, but I think all of us understand a lot of it has to do with what's around him. Well, there's a lot around him this year. You talk about Pat Shurmur's creativity doing different things. The mismatches he can create with Saquon Barkley out of the backfield, Engram at tight end. We haven't mentioned Odell Beckham Jr. here, by the way, which is amazing, we're 15 minutes into this thing. Have you been around an offense here that has so many guys at different positions that are just guys that you cannot play one-on-one or you're finished? I haven't been.
O'HARA: I don't think I've seen an offense that is this much of a mismatch if you're going to play man-to-man coverage because each one of those guys – I mean, Evan Engram is a nightmare, you get him on a linebacker, it's not even fair.
SCHMEELK: Same with Barkley.
O'HARA: It's like asking a linebacker to cover a receiver, you would never do that, but that's what's going to happen. I think to that point and kind of going back to your question before about Eli and your trust aspect, one of the best assets that I think Eli has as a quarterback and why guys love playing for him as a receiver, is he trusts you to make the catch. Sometimes to his own fault, he will make that throw, maybe a lot of quarterbacks won't make that throw, but he believes in his guys and he'll trust that you're going to find a way to make that catch. I think every one of these guys are going to get a great chance to kind of prove him right, that they can make those plays. You mention Sterling Shepard like he has already grown so much. He was a good receiver coming out. I think his rookie year, everybody's like, 'wow, this kid's special', but adjusting to the ball in the air, I think he's done a really good job at improving that aspect as we saw against the Jets already.
STAPLETON: I think the one team I go back to when mentioning this, obviously Shaun knows better than I do, but '07 before [Jeremy] Shockey got hurt. We really didn't know how good Steve Smith could be, right? But with Plax [Burress] and [Amani] Toomer and Shockey–
SCHMEELK: Hey, go the year before and throw Tiki [Barber] in if you want.
STAPLETON: Right. That was really the only team that I could go back to that had the back involved, you know what I mean. But even then the back wasn't the same receiving wise. '07, Ahmad (Bradshaw) came on late in the year, so it wasn't like he was out of the gate like Saquon (Barkley) is. The crazy thing I think now is we've talked the past couple of years, it was always the triple threat. It was the receivers. It was, sounds silly to say now, but it was Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham Jr.
SCHMEELK: Or Hakeem Nicks.
STAPLETON: Hakeem the year before. Then it was Odell, Cruz, Shepard. Then it was Odell, Brandon Marshall, Shepard. But it was never about the back and now the back and the tight end are in the mix, that's what really takes this to another level.
SCHMEELK: What's the impact of Saquon?
JONES: I mean it could be across the board. He could do everything. He can return kickoffs if you want him to and the new kickoff rule, who knows. He gets a head of steam and a defender doesn't now, right? I don't know if they would do that, but he can do anything and the Penn State people who know him best and what they talk about him doing is everything on and off the field. The legacy he left there isn't just a great back, they're going to have other great backs, maybe not as great, but other great backs. The legacy he left there was in the weight room, being diligent about classes, which he'll admit weren't easy for him all the time, especially Spanish, and with his teammates and being a good team guy. I thought before he was a Giant, I thought in this draft wherever he goes he would bring all of that.
GLAUBER: I think he's going to be great. You don't draft a running back number two that's not going to be great or at least you think, but I just want to tap the brakes a little bit. I mean, he is a rookie running back in the NFL. There are blitz pickups that he's not going to always master. There are going to be plays – his first game, the preseason game where he had the 39-yarder, rips it off the first play and then the next four carries were for minus one-yard, I believe. So let's–
JONES: The next five might have been for 37, though.
GLAUBER: Yes, and that's what you do with a running back. You just keep pounding it and then hope something breaks. Shaun, you've been apart of offensive lines that have certainly been part of that process, but it's going to take some adjustment for him, so I think on paper we're talking about this offense and IF Eli Manning, IF Eli is Eli again and that's – the skill position guys are there, the offensive line is better, not perfect, but better. This is a lot on Eli Manning and Saquon, he's still a young back who's – we're talking here like 'wow, it feels like they're going to go 16-0.'
SCHMEELK: Well, Bob, you mention the offensive line, so let's go there. When I had this conversation last year with Kim and the rest of our group, I asked everybody what the X-factor was of the year and I think three of the four people said the offensive line. It's completely different. You're not going to have one guy starting in the same spot this year that was here last year in the same spot. Flowers is the only starter remaining and he's moving over to the right side. What's everybody's view on what they've seen from this offensive line so far and how it's going to affect the year?
STAPLETON: I think it's very interesting when you take a global view of where their offensive line is. Back when it was in free agency, the perception and, really, part of the reality was that the number one priority was Andrew Norwell and the Giants were going to get Andrew Norwell, All-Pro guard, plug him into this line and they were going to go from there and in a matter of 48 hours, they were disappointed that they lost out on Norwell at the 11th hour and they went and made Nate Solder the highest paid offensive lineman at the time. The presence of Nate Solder on this offensive line is enormous and it's not necessarily because he's an All-Pro player because we all know he's not. I don't think he's made a Pro Bowl in his career, but what that does to settle that left side… Eli Manning played without a tackle on his offensive line last year. This offense did not have a functional tackle on the offensive line, left or right. They have one at left tackle and I think that makes a big difference for me when you're building this line. The one constant is you know what you're going to get from Solder.
GLAUBER: Agreed and you spend money and maybe you think well on the outside, wow, too much money for a guy who is not an All-Pro player, but you're right and he has the experience from New England, he has championship experience, he knows what it takes. He is a typical offensive lineman: reliable, not fancy, probably a little bit boring at home and he's fine with that. That's great, though. That's what you want and they're the steadiest collective position in football and they're usually the nicest guys collectively, the most down to earth people and Solder is that. I think his presence is absolutely enormous. The interior of the line, that's going to be a work in progress and [Ereck] Flowers is going to be a work in progress. The one constant, though, is Solder and I think it was a very good signing for a lot of reasons.
JONES: Here's the one thing about this offense: they've got to score and they've got to score a lot. We talk about the weapons, the offensive line – marginally better is where I am on it, marginally better, but better. And the weapons healthy plus the addition of Saquon, better, so to me that's a better offensive line, marginally better at this point. Shaun, if you disagree, I defer to you, it's your area of expertise, but to me this offense has to be closing in on a 30 point-per-game offense and that will be a dramatic departure from the last couple of seasons when they couldn't average 20. That's what they have to be. They've got to help this defense along. As long as OV's out and I don't know how long that will be. Their cornerbacks don't have depth and have been shaky, other than Jackrabbit, I think that's fair. The safety alongside Landon (Collins) again is up for grabs, again, because it always is and I think against the run, they'll be good. I think the offense is going to have to lead this team and not just by being this spectacular group of explosive playmakers. They're going to have to score 26 to 30 points a game.
O'HARA: They still have some work to do. Look, the only way to get better as a group is to play games. You can practice until you're blue in the face, but it's the games where you really figure things out and figure out how to help each other out. I think personnel-wise they're much better, they're much more athletic. You mention the left tackle position. I mean, Nate Solder, he can – if you ask him to pass block one-on-one 40 times, he's going to win 90 percent of those. That's all you can ask for in the league. I think he's got long arms, he can handle that position. You mention he's a quiet leader, I think he's perfect for this offensive line and I think the other young guys have kind of already put him in this leadership role. I love the Will Hernandez pick, I love the mindset. I think it's great the Giants didn't get Norwell because had they gotten Norwell, they wouldn't have gotten Solder, too, and I think they're better with Solder and Hernandez than they would've been with Norwell and anybody else.
STAPLETON: Totally agree and I think it was one of those things where we didn't think it the first 24 hours, but it ultimately became that way.
O'HARA: Yeah, and so it feels like you missed out, but then you won out in the long run. I think this offensive line is already more physical. I think [Jon] Halapio is very physical. Really he's a guard playing center, but he's a big guy and [Patrick] Omameh is going to settle in at right guard. He's been playing left guard for the last two and a half years, so he's still hasn't played a full game at right guard.
SCHMEELK: And now there's Flowers at right tackle.
O'HARA: I think Flowers is still – to me, he's still the red flag. I thought he showed improvement in his punch, in his hands against the Jets. I saw a number of different passes where he looks more comfortable pass blocking on the right side than on the left side. It's almost like he trusts his hands, and his footwork is a little bit better, but there's so much more room for improvement, especially with his run blocking where his technique is poor. The problem with this offensive line is you're only as good as your depth. The Philadelphia Eagles just won the Super Bowl with a backup left tackle and a backup quarterback. When we won a Super Bowl in '07, I missed time, Grey Ruegamer had to step in. He played center when we beat Tampa Bay, he filled in against Green Bay when Richie [Seubert] got hurt.
SCHMEELK: In 2011, Will Beatty went down and David Diehl played left tackle.
O'HARA: Your depth, especially now, rarely do you make it with all five guys throughout the whole season, so your depth, you've got to have good experience. I think John Greco is a really good feather in the cap for this O-line. He's played a ton of football and he's kind of a guy that everybody just – he flies under the radar. John Greco is the reason Brett Jones got traded.
SCHMEELK: Final one is this–
JONES: Can I, one thing real quick, I don't know if it'll make the thing?. Did anyone see Nate Solder track down Leonard Williams after that fumble in the Giants-Jets game? Nate Solder!
SCHMEELK: It was a good tackle, too.
O'HARA: Solder came out of nowhere.
JONES: He did! To me – I replayed it!
STAPLETON: Nate Solder tracking down defenders, he's moving cafeteria tables together for–
SCHMEELK: Let's move on to the defensive side of the ball. Let's start this way: what's the part of the defense that worries you the most?
STAPLETON: Cornerback depth.
GLAUBER: Wow, you stole my line, Art.
STAPLETON: Cornerback depth. If you were to somehow lose Janoris Jenkins, I think there's a stretch of games where you're going to end up seeing Drew Brees, Cam Newton.
SCHMEELK: A lot of good quarterbacks on the schedule.
STAPLETON: Right, but that's midway through the season, not off the bat. Off the bat, it's run teams. I think it'd probably be cornerback depth just because I think there's some young guys who, with some seasoning, might be able to play. Donte Deayon has shown he can play a little bit, but over the long haul, I think corner depth is the biggest issue for me.
GLAUBER: Same here, Art, you literally took the words right out of my mouth. I want to see Alec Ogletree. We've seen some plays where he's been taken advantage of by quicker running backs coming out of the backfield. I think that's going to be an issue and I think he's a little bit limited. It's not a fatal flaw, but just something to keep an eye on and the linebacker position, overall, has been a problem in recent years and Ogletree was brought in kind of to try and cure that, but that's just another thing that's a little bit worrisome.
JONES: I'm interested in how they respond to adversity, to giving up the big play. Ogletree, we've seen do it in a couple of games, we've not really seen him then play an extended period of time to see exactly how he bounces back. Clean slate Eli Apple, how does he handle the idea that they're not looking at Janoris a whole lot. Sorry Jackrabbit, we know he prefers that. They're not looking at Jackrabbit a whole lot and they may not to some degree depending on who the receivers are, obviously, but they're picking on Eli Apple a little bit and a couple of the Jets plays I did think had a little bit of a fluky nature to them. At one point, a receiver comes back for the ball and ends up on the ground, does make the catch. I mean, it's not like he's been beaten over top every time, but the defensive line, I don't worry about Snacks, I don't worry about OV, but how do some of those guys respond if times get a little bit tougher and it's not going their way, particularly with pass rush because I don't worry about the run defense a whole lot. And I don't worry about Landon (Collins), but here's my question and it's not fair to knock Landon's health, but can Landon stay on the field and be healthy and be the leader back there? They're going to need Landon to be that and I think he's vital to those kinds of things. I don't think Landon hangs his head. I don't think Landon thinks about losing and I think his presence on the field is vital.
SCHMEELK: And I don't think Jackrabbit worries me, either.
JONES: No, and I have great respect for him. I thought the point he made about Pat Shurmur in the cafeteria and earning trust and sitting with players and at first you think, if I'm a player, 'hey, am I in trouble? The head coach is sitting with me at lunch,' and then you realize no, he's just sitting with me at lunch. I think Jackrabbit is underrated in terms of the NFL perspective he provides because I think a lot of players think like Jackrabbit even though I think sometimes we dismiss him as that corner who's aloof. I don't think he's that at all.
STAPLETON: And if he was last year or had become that last year, he's not that–
JONES: He also played hurt from the second week of the season last year.
O'HARA: My biggest concern is just the pass rush. I think a good pass rush could cover up for a weak secondary. If you have corners that aren't great cover corners, if you can get to the quarterback, it doesn't matter. I'm a little bit concerned about the safety position opposite Landon Collins, especially given James Bettcher's aggressiveness. I read a stat the other day that three years in a row he's blitzed more than any other defensive coordinator in the league. I want to say it was 41 percent of the time. You got a guy that loves to get after it. I think if you got a defense that can get after the quarterback, it doesn't even have to be sacks, but it's quarterback hits, that's where good things happen for you defensively. Not to bring it up again, but the defending Super Bowl champs led the league in quarterback hits last year, the Eagles, so they have guys. You got to get to the quarterback with the front four. It can't always be a blitz or you're putting your defense in a position where they can give up a big play. With OV being hurt, hopefully it's not anything big, but I don't look at the Giants D-line right now and say, 'man, they got four guys when on third down, they can all win their matchups.' I know as a player on Wednesday install, you came in, depending on who you were playing that week, it was alright, who's got the hard hat this week, who's playing against that one guy and then you had some teams where every one of us has a guy, we all got our hands full. I don't know anyone other than OV that really scares anybody right now.
SCHMEELK: I'm going to build on what you just said about Bettcher. He liked to blitz and he played a lot of cover one. Plays man and blitzes a lot. Will he be able to play the defense he wants to play the whole year with this personnel?
STAPLETON: Pat Shurmur said from the beginning when he got here that it was about the players, not the plays. So if that–
SCHMEELK: He did and so did Bettcher, by the way, they both said it.
STAPLETON: So if that's the case, then Bettcher and his assistants need to get on a page in a room in the beginning of the season and realize where their shortcomings are and how they need to play and to what Shaun said, you're going to blitz, but you need to blitz wisely. You have to choose your spots and where to go. I'm interested to see how much the young defensive linemen next to Snacks make an impact. B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson – can those two guys get involved in, I don't want to call them pass rushers, but can they disrupt the pocket and get up inside? Can either one of those guys do that because that'll then allow Bettcher to maybe sit back a little bit and not keep coming on the edge, keep coming. Players, not plays.
O'HARA: I think there's two factors with Bettcher and the aggressiveness. Number one: health. Do I have all my guys out there? Do I got somebody out there I can – and to Kim's point, what's the offense doing? If we're struggling to score points, I can't really blitz. I can't afford to give up a touchdown. If we're racking up 28 points a game, let's go. We can find the end zone.
GLAUBER: I personally like aggressive play callers on defense. I think it's fun watching that in football. I mean, Buddy Ryan was the ultimate and the '85 Bears team was the ultimate, you know, you watch that team for defense. This is not going to be the '85 Bears, but I do err on the side of being aggressive and yes you can get burned, but I think you do develop confidence. You're going to make some plays and I think watching a defense feed on a good pass rush and especially when they blitz because you know they're taking a risk there, there's kind of nothing like it. If you get that confidence in this Giants team early, I think it'll really serve them well. Now, yes, there are risks and you play the gauntlet of quarterbacks that you're going to see and get burned on that, maybe sometimes too much, but I think he'll be smart with it. I think he'll have a good mix of it and I think it'll be a very active defense and it'll be fun to watch.
JONES: My sense is this is going to be an aggressive coaching staff, not as reactive as we seen. Last couple of years, it was always what are they going to do. My sense is that fits Bettcher and that he's going to, not recklessly, but he's going to call his defense and he's going to have the players coached up to where they can play it. They're not going to win every down, but to where they can play what he wants to call, which we know is aggressive.
SCHMEELK: Some big picture questions, maybe we can do a little bit more rapid fire if you like. This will be more play related. Most irreplaceable player? Offense or defense your choice. The player that they can least afford to lose, not including the quarterback Eli Manning.
JONES: Not Eli?
SCHMEELK: Not including Eli, everybody else. Who's the one guy they can't afford to lose that would hurt the team the most?
O'HARA: I think Nate Solder.
GLAUBER: That's my guy, too.
GLAUBER: Nate Solder on offense and Olivier Vernon on defense.
GLAUBER: Solder because that blind side protection is irreplaceable and the Giants, it was their Achilles heel the last couple of years. For Vernon, I think this defense is so dependent on him having a vibrant season and he's the guy. You can just see it from training camp on that if he's not out there that they're going to really struggle.
STAPLETON: Odell on offense. I think we've seen proof the last couple of years when he's not on the field, and I say Jackrabbit on defense. I think Bettcher had Patrick Peterson and that changed the way he was able to do things in the back and I think Jackrabbit can be his Patrick Peterson. So I'd go those two.
SCHMEELK: How about you, Kim?
JONES: Just to kind of change it up because I agree with a lot of what you guys said. I think Landon's invaluable. I mean, you look at the defensive secondary right now and you take him off the field – against the Jets, he made a play, he was middle of the field maybe shaded right and he was the one who ran over. Now, Sam Darnold was scooting out of bounds, but it was Landon who was right there. If he had stayed in bounds, he would've walloped him. And he covered a lot of ground. That was as fast as I've seen Landon look in a long time. Now, it's a new season, my eyes might be tricking me, but I think Landon, very valuable.
O'HARA: Landon's a great call because he's basically Deone Bucannon in this defense and he's basically a linebacker. Landon wants to be down at the line of scrimmage. Guess what, you can find a lot of safeties out there that can cover, but they can't all come up and tackle. They don't all play the ball down hill as well as Landon does.
SCHMEELK: Breakout player either side of the ball? Take your pick, anyone on the team.
GLAUBER: Does Sterling Shepard count as a breakout player?
SCHMEELK: Sure, if you think he's going to go to turn into a real true number two.
GLAUBER: Yeah, I think he'll become a true number two. I think he's kind of got the confidence. He's got the NFL experience under him. He's seen a number of different kinds of situations and having Odell back, I think he's going to be on fire.
O'HARA: I would say Evan Engram. He led the league in drops last year and knowing the kind of kid he is, that irks him. In this offense, I think he's going to get a lot of good opportunities.
STAPLETON: I like the call on Engram, but I'm going to go B.J. Hill. I think, this might be a little early for a rookie, Giants haven't had a defensive rookie to kind of breakout that way in a while, but from what I've seen from the moment he got on the field, he basically forced his way into the starting lineup. Snacks loves him and as much as Damon Harrison is a great teammate, he doesn't talk guys up unless they earned the respect and he's been talking up B.J. Hill from the moment he got into OTAs. So I like B.J. Hill to surprise some people upfront.
JONES: What about Dalvin Tomlinson? A guy who has some agility to him, a former wrestling champion. Really one of those draft picks that we kind of don't credit because maybe it's not the sexiest pick in the world, but that's a really solid pick in a guy who you expect to be on that D-line for a long time and I think to make a jump rookie to second season.
SCHMEELK: I think the guy the Giants would like it to be is Eli Apple. I think that would probably help this more than anything else than to have the second corner that James Bettcher can trust in man-to-man and then all of a sudden you can help your slot guy a little bit if you're still figuring that out.
STAPLETON: Well, if you do that, you'd be able to change the complexion and perception of that secondary.
O'HARA: My defensive dark horse would be Kareem Martin. I think he fits this scheme very well. I think he's a handful at that SAM linebacker position on the strong side. He's got really long arms and he's really strong, really powerful. He's a mismatch one-on-one for tight ends to block him. He's been manhandling tight ends this preseason.
SCHMEELK: I like that. Anybody else have a dark horse?
JONES: They have more guys on this defense now who look like small forwards. The length and the agility.
SCHMEELK: Like Lorenzo Carter.
JONES: That's what I'm saying, they have a few of them now.
STAPLETON: There probably isn't any other player on this team on the defensive side of the ball that knows this defense better than Martin either, so that's a great point.
JONES: And Josh Mauro, I would think, what, we'll see him in week five?
SCHMEELK: NFC East, NFC in general. Tough conference, competitive division. Do you think a second team comes out of the NFC East to make the playoffs or do you have to win the division to be in? And to win the division, how many games do you have to win? How do you think this breaks down in the division?
GLAUBER: I think you got to win 10. I think it's going to be tough for two teams to come out of this division because of the NFC West and the NFC North. They're just – and you're basically saying there well, does that mean Green Bay or Minnesota gets knocked out? Do you have to be the champion of the NFC North? So, I think the NFC is stacked, especially at the top. There's more depth of good teams in this conference than I've seen in a long time and you're factoring in Seattle as a contender. Well yes, on paper I guess, but you know, the Rams have really come on. I think the Cardinals will be improved. I think the 49ers will be improved, so the NFC South is a beast. There's just so many good teams anyway you look at it. I think 10 is the minimum and I would say it's going to be tough for a second team to come out of this division.
JONES: As much as I hate to say it, I agree with Bob.
O'HARA: I think we get two teams out of the East.
SCHMEELK: Do you have to win 10 to be the Wild Card?
O'HARA: You got to win 10 to get in because I think the NFC South is making a big push.
SCHMEELK: Who drops out of the NFC South? Carolina or Atlanta or the Saints? It's tough.
O'HARA: I think Atlanta and New Orleans, I think they're playoff bound. I think Carolina, a lot depends on Cam (Newton).
SCHMEELK: So you think either Minnesota or Green Bay is not going to get in out of the North?
O'HARA: Yeah, I think only one team comes out of the North and the West, I think we only get one team of of the West.
STAPLETON: I agree with Shaun. Right now, I say one team out of the NFC East, you got to win 10, but I do think there is that potential. I think the Saints are the team in the South that I like, so I think the Saints get in and I think Green Bay and Minnesota both get in, although I'm a little worried about Green Bay's defense, I don't know what that's going to look like, and I think the Rams are the only team in the West that get in. I think San Francisco is going to deal with a little bit more adversity than people expect even though Jimmy G is kind of the…
SCHMEELK: Man of the moment?
STAPLETON: Man of the moment, yeah.
SCHMEELK: We know about the Eagles. Are you guys worried about them having a step-back? A little letdown year? Cowboys, Washington, just your thoughts on the other division teams.
STAPLETON: There's a reason why there hasn't been a repeat champ in the NFC East since 2004. I mean, there's a reason why. There's a reason why teams don't repeat as Super Bowl champs anymore. I mean, the Eagles are loaded. If you're talking about strictly based on Madden (laughs), then the Eagles should be sitting there in Atlanta ready to defend their crown. They're that loaded. Defensively, Shaun mentioned it earlier, the type of personnel they can bring in on a defensive line, the improvements they made in the secondary just with guys like Sidney Jones stepping in and at face value, you'd say yeah, but I don't think the Eagles are going to repeat. I just think there's something in this league that subconsciously that hunger takes a little dip if you go through the season the way things are going. I just don't think – I agree with Ben McAdoo about the Eagles.
SCHMEELK: If you think the Eagles step back, then who do you have winning the NFC East?
GLAUBER: Say it, Art. I know, just say it.
STAPLETON: I don't know… I mean, I think the Giants and the Cowboys could be the two teams that just kind of butt heads all year. By the end of the year, it's a three team race and maybe the Eagles thought they would flip the switch and they'd be back and the quarterback question worries me about the Eagles because Carson's not even ready for the start of the season and Foles goes back to being pre-Super Bowl Nick Foles, well then, what do you think of the Eagles?
GLAUBER: I just find it fascinating you talk to the Super Bowl champions each year, the next year they come back, 'hey, it's going to be harder this year. Oh we absolutely know teams are going to come give us their best shot.' Do you really? 'No no, we know. We're ready for it.' End of the season, they don't make the playoffs or they don't get to the Super Bowl, what do you say? 'You know, we didn't realize how hard it was going to be. We really didn't, we thought we did.' It's unbelievable. There have been two repeat champions, two, since free agency started: the Broncos and the Patriots. Two. So that's 1993.
Yeah so that's the reason, and there's other reasons, too, but that's it. The talent has been spread around this league more carefully than ever and more fairly than ever and that's why you get that every year, it's something different. I think it makes the league great because of its unpredictability.
SCHMEELK: Who do you like in the East?
GLAUBER: That's it, I do like the Eagles in the East because I think they are loaded talent wise. I think talent wins out here. Everything's going to have to go well for the Giants and the Cowboys for them to compete. I think we all see the Redskins as I don't know, there's just something missing there, but Alex Smith settles things down, at least uncertainty-wise, at quarterback, but I do like the Eagles again this year.
JONES: I think the Eagles – somehow their first four games are all winnable and the Giants' first eight games are, you know, walking a tight rope. You can easily fall off. With the whole parity thing and the way schedules are done, it's hard to believe that happened and I'd have to double check, but it's Atlanta, Tennessee, Indy, and someone else beatable on the Eagles first four games. It doesn't matter who the quarterback is, they'll probably go 3-1. And they'll probably have a lead after a month.
O'HARA: Yeah, defending the title, it's tough. We almost did it in '08. We had a little bit of a…
GLAUBER: Something happened.
JONES: Situation happen.
SCHMEELK: It started well.
O'HARA: Yeah 11-1 at one point, but we were still 12-4, the number one seed, and…
SCHMEELK: That was the best team you ever played on?
O'HARA: Best team I ever played on. And you throw a clunker in the postseason, so even getting to the postseason, as hard as that is, it's all about who's the hottest team. Look, the Eagles, the tough thing is you win the Super Bowl and then you come back. Alright, as a coach, how do I motivate these guys? How do I get them pumped up for a week one game when we just won the Super Bowl? Like I remember that feeling as a player coming back the first preseason game, I was like, 'man, how am I supposed to be excited for this preseason game? I'm going to play 15 snaps. We just went on an unbelievable run. Played in Green Bay in minus-23 and beat the Patriots. This is supposed to get me excited?' It's hard, but their starting quarterback missed the last three games of the season, didn't play in the postseason, and has not taken a live snap with Carson Wentz in team drills. They kind of got some unknown factors with that. Our training camp in '08 was the best training camp I've ever been around. When we came in – our practices were so crisp and clean, the balls weren't on the ground, we had a new standard of excellence. I think that's what's going on in Philly. My biggest question with them is can they run the ball as well as they did last year? Like yes, we know that Carson Wentz threw 33 touchdowns, he looked great and his passing offense was awesome, but LeGarrette Blount was a huge factor in the offense, so if they can't replace that, they're not going to be able to close a lot of those games out. I think it's a two team race, really though. I think it's the Eagles and the Giants and I think that December 30th game against the Cowboys here at one o'clock could really determine who the Wild Card ends up being.
JONES: I mean the Eagles start Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, Tennessee. How do they not go at least 3-1?
SCHMEELK: So they basically have the end of the Giants schedule at the start of their season.
JONES: It's amazing.
STAPLETON: Giants have to tread water by the time they find their way to the end of October…
SCHMEELK: Hope you're around .500 by the bye.
STAPLETON: Hope you're healthy, hope your offensive line has come together. They're a different team in October than they are in September and maybe in those first seven games, maybe you win three of them. You're 3-4 and you're sitting there going, alright now we can make a strong push for the rest of the season.
SCHMEELK: Super rapid fire, one word answers. League MVP?
GLAUBER: Aaron Rodgers.
JONES: I was going to say Rodgers.
O'HARA: Drew Brees.
SCHMEELK: Okay, two Brees, two Rodgers, I like it. Rookie of the Year? Which is a tough one this year. A lot of quarterbacks and, of course, you have Saquon.
STAPLETON: We're not splitting it offensive and defensive, right?
SCHMEELK: We can if you want.
O'HARA: I'll take Saquon.
JONES: I was going to take Saquon. I have to take Saquon.
GLAUBER: I'll take Sam Darnold.
STAPLETON: I think Saquon wins offensive Rookie of the Year. I think the guy poised for the biggest year overall is Bradley Chubb because I think with Von Miller on the other side, Bradley Chubb is getting one-on-one matchups this entire year with Denver. We know how Denver wants to attack defensively, so I think Bradley Chubb will be Saquon's biggest competitor in terms of winning the overall Rookie of the Year.
JONES: They're going to be on the field a lot, Miller and Chubb.
STAPLETON: Very true.
SCHMEELK: Defensive Player of the Year?
GLAUBER: I think it's a big year for Von Miller, sticking with Denver.
SCHMEELK: I picked him last year… Did not work out.
GLAUBER: I know, but I think he's a team leader, he's got a lot on his shoulders, he's got an offense that needs to be carried by the defense. I think he's got a lot of motivation to have that top end season again.
STAPLETON: Aaron Donald.
SCHMEELK: Okay. Kim, Shaun?
GLAUBER: I'd go Devin McCourty.
JONES: Does J.J. Watt have another big year in him?
SCHMEELK: He might.
JONES: Does (Jadeveon) Clowney? I don't know. Can they stay healthy?
STAPLETON: A lot of Comeback Player of the Year candidates.
JONES: Yeah, there are. Comeback Player of the Year will be impossible to guess.
SCHMEELK: Well, that's my next one, so start thinking about it! People always try to find someone that gets a lot of interceptions, too. They like giving it to them.
JONES: Actually, I'm going to say Jadeveon Clowney.
SCHMEELK: We'll go Clowney, I like that. That's off the beaten path.
O'HARA: Clowney's a good one. Defensive lineman is always tough because you can have a kickass season and still only have five sacks, like–
SCHMEELK: Go ask Geno Atkins that.
O'HARA: Like I think Aaron Donald is the most disruptive player in the league, but…
SCHMEELK: I know you want to pick a big guy, it's okay.
O'HARA: I kind of do, but… Khalil Mack might not even be out there…
STAPLETON: If I didn't go Donald, I was going to go Joey Bosa.
JONES: I thought about him.
SCHMEELK: That's a good one. There's his other defensive end friend over there, too.
O'HARA: Melvin Ingram, yeah…
SCHMEELK: I think the Chargers defense is going to be very good this year, too.
O'HARA: I may go Bobby Wagner.
SCHMEELK: Linebacker, I like it. Okay, Comeback Player of the Year? There's so many, you can't really go wrong here. You got like five choices.
GLAUBER: How about sticking with in-house for that one.
SCHMEELK: Go Mr. Beckham?
SCHMEELK: Okay, I like that.
GLAUBER: I mean, why not? I think he's going to have a great season and he's coming back from a horrific injury and I think this has got him written all over it. At least the opportunity.
SCHMEELK: I imagine you're going to go Watt?
JONES: No, no, I'm going to go Odell because I hope it's Odell because of the excitement he brings to this team, that stadium, and this city.
STAPLETON: This is the year where Odell Beckham Jr. goes from celebrity football player to this is a guy who's making a serious run at Canton.
SCHMEELK: Now here's the funny thing, though. Don't you think he might get fewer targets because of all the other guys that are going to get the ball in their hands?
JONES: Yeah, and it will be better for everyone if he does.
SCHMEELK: No, I think that's absolutely true, but I think – so you think he'll be so good even though his numbers might be down slightly from his peak?
STAPLETON: But we're talking about comeback, now.
JONES: We're talking about Comeback Player of the Year, though.
SCHMEELK: That's a fair point.
STAPLETON: I think people forget how good Odell Beckham Jr. is on a football field.
SCHMEELK: He's ridiculous.
STAPLETON: Because of last year and because of all the off-the-field stuff, so I think this is going to be the year where he proves, money in the bank, contract issues settled, I'm making a run to prove that I can be one of the best receivers to play ever in this game. That's what's most important to me.
SCHMEELK: How about you, Shaun?
O'HARA: Is this off injury?
SCHMEELK: Comeback, off anything. Aaron Rodgers is in the mix, David Johnson another guy.
O'HARA: David Johnson is a good one.
JONES: Josh Gordon…
SCHMEELK: Josh Gordon, J.J. Watt.
O'HARA: I mean, my kind of dark horse for this one is Joe Flacco. Everybody's kind of written him…
JONES: That is dark horse.
SCHMEELK: That is a nice one, I like that.
O'HARA: Everybody's written him off and everybody's on the Lamar Jackson train. I think Joe Flacco has a big year.
SCHMEELK: My last rapid fire and then I have two big pictures. Super Bowl prediction?
JONES: Oh God…
SCHMEELK: Let's all make fools of ourselves.
O'HARA: It's going to be in Atlanta! There's going to be a lot of traffic.
GLAUBER: I'll go Rams over Patriots.
STAPLETON: Saints over Patriots.
SCHMEELK: I'm going to go Vikings over Patriots. I like Minnesota this year. I'm a Kirk Cousins believer.
GLAUBER: I'll go Rams-Vikings NFC Championship game.
SCHMEELK: I like that, that's a good one.
O'HARA: We're picking a winner, too?
SCHMEELK: Yeah, sure. You don't have to if you don't want to, though. I was just going for matchup. All of us got it wrong last year, but picking the Patriots is always the safe way to go.
O'HARA: So you're setting the bar low I see…
SCHMEELK: You get bonus points if you pick a team that's not the Patriots in the AFC and you get it right.
JONES: Yeah, I know…
O'HARA: I'll say Rams-Steelers.
STAPLETON: I was going to go Steelers, but the Le'veon Bell thing scares me.
SCHMEELK: How about the Jaguars? Nobody has them. They were a drive away from beating New England last year. I'd love to see Jaguars and Vikings.
JONES: I want to pick the Texans so much.
SCHMEELK: Go for it!
JONES: Texans over Eagles.
SCHMEELK: I like it. Alright, now two big pictures. One bold prediction from each of you on the Giants, but before you answer that, you get to think about it. This is the other big picture question and then the bold prediction will be last. In three years, will we reconvene and sit here and say the Giants did the right thing in drafting Saquon Barkley instead of a quarterback?
GLAUBER: When in doubt, you go the quarterback if the right quarterback is there and I think the Sam Darnold question is going to hang over this franchise–
SCHMEELK: And I don't think the Giants thought any of these guys were the guy. If they did, I think they would've picked him.
GLAUBER: Probably, but I do think and I felt it then, it's just Eli is 37 and I know you want to be greedy here, but Father Time beats everybody, so I think yes. Quarterback over a running back just about every time if you feel the guy is the right guy.
STAPLETON: Mark Sanchez made two conference championship games, what, in his first two years?
GLAUBER: I believe it was his first two.
STAPLETON: First two years, he led the Jets to two conference championship games and in one of those games, they were probably a half away from being in the Super Bowl. No one looks at Mark Sanchez as a franchise quarterback for the Jets, so I think in three years, we're still going to be debating that issue based on where Sam Darnold is and I don't believe in three years you'll be able to declare whether or not he's the franchise quarterback of the Jets. I do think it will be a question here who is the quarterback of the Giants because I think that's an aspect of this that people are not considering is that they still have an opportunity to find Eli's heir apparent.
SCHMEELK: At least two years, at least two years.
STAPLETON: Whether that quarterback is on this roster or not and I think for that reason, I would say it's yet to be determined, but if I have to choose, I'd say no they're not regretting it because I do believe Saquon Barkley is that good.
JONES: I think in three years Saquon would have won a rushing title and I do think he will have extended Eli's career, so I think while I'm not predicting Sam Darnold will fail, I think Saquon will be what the Giants thought on draft day and that will be good enough, so that's where I will stay on that.
O'HARA: I think in three years the Giants are going to be working on a long-term deal for Saquon Barkley and Saquon Barkley will have more playoff wins than Sam Darnold, which it really what it all comes down to.
SCHMEELK: Now we'll get to Bob. One bold prediction for the New York Football Giants. Big picture, little picture, individual. You name it, you could do whatever you want.
STAPLETON: Pat Shurmur will be the NFL Coach of the Year.
JONES: That is bold. That's bold, that's a good one.
STAPLETON: Will take a team that was disarray, three wins, handled the Odell Beckham Jr. situation about as well as you could possibly do it with respect and admiration and puts this team in the playoff hunt, not necessarily the playoffs, but I think that's enough to get the respect. So he goes from Assistant Coach of the Year last year to overall this year.
SCHMEELK: I like that.
O'HARA: Do we lump Gettleman in on that like as Executive of the Year?
SCHMEELK: Sure, if you want, you can go there.
O'HARA: Especially when you figure what he's battling right now.
STAPLETON: Not a bad thought.
O'HARA: I don't know if that's a bold prediction or just wishful prediction.
SCHMEELK: You can go there if you want, Shaun. I think that's a fair thing. Whenever a team goes from 3-13 to being good, those people tend to win awards.
JONES: Do you want me to go, Shaun?
O'HARA: Yeah, go.
JONES: I think Eli has a career year. I don't know if he has career bests in every statistic, but I've always liked Eli on the move. Doesn't mean Eli on the run, doesn't mean Eli as a scrambler. I've always liked him on the move. I think that we undervalue his ability to be a complete quarterback. Doesn't have to be some great athlete, but he's a complete quarterback. He can run the boots and move the pocket and everything. I always liked him better like that and with the weapons he has now, I think moving the pocket will create havoc for defenses and I like his ability to really have numbers that we haven't seen in a long time.
SCHMEELK: I like that.
GLAUBER: Bold prediction: Ereck Flowers becomes a functional right tackle for the New York Giants.
GLAUBER: Oh yeah. Listen, Listen. Look it, as Parcells used to say. It's bold predictions, okay. You might fall flat on your face, but no guts no glory. I do think there is athleticism there and I do think there is, more importantly than anything, there is a will there. I think there's a will. I think Ereck Flowers – he's a very quiet guy, he doesn't really say much and you don't know what he's thinking a lot, but I do think there is a competiveness there that he's ticked off at what is happening. He has not been a functional left tackle, but I think coming out of Miami he was more suited for the right tackle position. More physical, less thinking, less technique, less being on an island than left tackle…
SCHMEELK: Mr. O'Hara, beat that.
O'HARA: So what would that be, Executive of the Year? Dave Gettleman, he kicked lymphoma's ass and now he's kicking ass in the NFC East.
JONES: I like that.
O'HARA: He's brought an unbelievable amount of professionalism back into this building and I think that was kind of his mindset with the hiring with Pat Shurmur, but he kind of had a plan in place when he was hired and I think he executed that as well as dealt with some adversity in an unbelievable manner. I think he's already kind of made this building proud. You mention the Odell stuff, too. Like handling all that. I think all offseason that was everybody talked about that. Was that going to be a distraction? He said, no, it was not going to be.
JONES: Right and it didn't even go to game week. I mean, that to me is remarkable, right?
STAPLETON: But to Shaun's point, though, Gettleman came here at a time where everyone was expecting the idea that they were going to blow it all up and he came in with a public perception that–
SCHMEELK: He's doubling down.
STAPLETON: Right, people thought he was basically just more of the same and he's been able to come in as a familiar face yet set a completely different tone than that was here last year.
SCHMEELK: And also made a lot of actual changes, too, by the way.
JONES: But him in tandem with Shurmur, who's done a lot of good here, too.
STAPLETON: The two of them together, right. If this season goes well, Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman will be getting a lot of bouquets from around the league.
SCHMEELK: And rightfully so.
O'HARA: There was a point last year where we thought we had hit rock bottom here in this building and it got worse and I remember just thinking, wow, it looks dysfunctional on so many different levels and that was tough to see, so I think that's what–
GLAUBER: I agree, I agree with you–
O'HARA: It was, wow, we can't even handle this.
GLAUBER: It was much needed stability restored.
JONES: And also sometimes, it's time.
O'HARA: My other bold prediction would be that the Cleveland Browns win eight games.
GLAUBER: Wow, now that is bold.
JONES: Are you being serious with that? Eight?
O'HARA: I think they could win eight games.
SCHMEELK: With who as their quarterback?
O'HARA: Tyrod (Taylor).
STAPLETON: The hardest part of that whole thing is that we can sit here and talk about the positives and no one's picking them to be in the Super Bowl. I'm pretty confident that the Giants are going to be a better football team this year, but I'm not confident or as confident that they're going to win the necessary games for the public to realize how much better of a team they are.
SCHMEELK: How about this. Final wrap up. What's the realistic expectation that Giant fans should have this year?
JONES: I've said seven wins, so I'm going to stick to that.
GLAUBER: 9-7, flirting with the Wild Card at the end, but not getting there.
SCHMEELK: I say, playing meaningful games in December. That means something, you have a chance.
JONES: Well, that's 9-7 territory.
SCHMEELK: Yeah, you have a chance.
GLAUBER: Give me a number, Schmeelk.
SCHMEELK: I think nine's a good number, I'm with you.
O'HARA: Giants fans are spoiled. Anything less than 10 wins is going to be, they're going to be upset.
SCHMEELK: That's why I'm telling you to set expectations more reasonably.
O'HARA: I think when you look at this team, to your point, four of the first seven games, I want to say, are prime time games against playoff caliber teams.
SCHMEELK: Eagles, Cowboys, Falcons.
O'HARA: Oh, they play Carolina, the Saints. This first half of the schedule is brutal. But I think this team is – when you have the second pick overall in the draft and you get a non-quarterback, you expect him to make an impact and I think the impact of Saquon Barkley may be felt more in stats than in actual wins, but I think that will appease a lot of the fans. I think for the Giants to not win at least nine games, it's a disappointment.
STAPLETON: I think if they get to Thanksgiving when everything fell apart last year or at least started to fall apart, that was the bottom dropping out, I think they'll be in a position where they can win anywhere from seven to 10 games based on how good the team has gotten at that point.
SCHMEELK: I think the sad thing: this team can play well and they still might only win seven or eight games because the conference and the schedule is so tough and you're going to need things to go right at the end of games to get to nine.
STAPLETON: So that's kind of what I'm thinking for this team that if they're feeling good about themselves come Thanksgiving, watch out because then they can get into a situation like Shaun said, Cowboys-Giants December 30th, I think is what you said, that there is a situation where – they could be in position and play their way into playing for a Wild Card in that spot, but I do kind of look at Kim's prediction of seven wins, seven-eight wins and say the fan base won't be happy on face value, but I do think they'll be a better football team and maybe bigger things are coming based on what they were able to do this year.