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Giants Round Table: 2019 Season Preview

E_19_0818_practice032 hosted a round table with Giants beat reporters to preview the upcoming season.

John Schmeelk: Today we're going to do our special Giants Preview Round Table with three of the best beat writers in the business. I will introduce them in the order of their seniority on the Giants' beat. So, we'll start with Paul Schwartz from the New York Post. Paul, how are you?

Paul Schwartz: Why do I always get introduced first when we do the seniority stuff? I think the world is trying to tell me something.

JS: Yeah, that you're old?

PS: Yeah, that I've been around a long time. Yeah.

JS: Absolutely. Then we have Tom Rock from Newsday, who also has a book coming out.

Tom Rock: That's right. "Miracle Moments From New York Giants History" coming out September 17th. You can pre-order it now. Paul, you're the only one who's been here who predates Eli Manning. That's certainly an illustration of just how long you've been here.

PS: Well, all I have to say is, it was not like this when I covered Y.A. Tittle. There was no controversy about who was the starting quarterback.

JS: The only thing that was the same was that Paul Dottino was still here. Otherwise, pretty much, everything has changed.

TR: We all make the references of Kurt Warner and Eli Manning. He does the Charlie Conerly, Y.A. Tittle transition.

PS: I was in the Y.A. Tittle camp, by the way. You can look it up.

JS: You can go to the New York Post and check out that archive, by the way. And then Art Stapleton from The Record. Art, how are you?

Art Stapleton: I'm just enjoying the show. Enjoying the show and watching these old guys, it makes you feel young when you're only on the beat since the last Super Bowl.

JS: Alright boys. Let's talk about it. Let's start with this first. What part of this team do you feel most confident in heading into the 2019 season?

TR: Saquon.

JS: Okay, I think that's probably the easy one.

TR: I think Saquon. I think he's going to have a season for the ages. Possibility of 1,000 rushing yards, 1,000 receiving yards. I think the offense is going to go through him. I think the production that they lost from Odell not being here is going to be picked up by some other guys, but I think a lot of that is also going to fall on Saquon. I think he's going to have more touches, more catches, more yards, more of everything than probably we've ever seen a running back have here with the Giants.

JS: I wonder if he'll break Tiki's all-time scrimmage record. What is that, 2,300 something?

TR: I think it's something like that. That was 2005. Yeah, I think that's definitely a possibility and I think it's going to be fun to watch him.

PS: My one caveat with that is, is that fantasy football is great. But Saquon Barkley is in large part dependent in some ways on what's going on around him. If this defense is as bad as some people think it is, and I fear it could be, then they could be staring down a lot of deficits. Now you could have a lot of check-downs, a lot of 3rd and 13's, to Saquon for 11 and they get booed off the field and he gets 11 fantasy points. That's fine. Or 1.1 points, whatever it is. His numbers will be great if he's healthy. There's no question about it. But I'm worried about the overall team that could be an issue with him where they're going to have to throw the ball a lot with deficits. Then you can't hand the ball to Saquon, which is the safest thing to do in probably any play in football right now is hand the ball to Saquon.

AS: I agree with both of your statements about Saquon. I'll go, to answer John's question, I'll go to two pairs of guys that will be significant upgrades on this team at their respective positions. Number one- that offensive line. Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers on the right side will be a drastic upgrade to whatever the Giants have put out there, probably since Snee and McKenzie.

JS: 100% agree.

AS: That just shows you how far off the Giants have fallen, especially on the right side. Now I think Justin Pugh had some good moments at right tackle, but I do believe that he was never "the" right tackle on this team. Then the other spot that I think there will be some criticism early on is safety. I don't think Jabrill Peppers will be an upgrade to Landon Collins, but I think Antoine Bethea, even though he's probably older than all of us in this room, I kid, I kid, he will be a drastic upgrade to Curtis Riley at that position at safety. Bethea-Peppers as a combo will be more stabilized at the backend, they'll bring more stability, than what Collins and Riley did last year.

JS: Let's stick to offense. Is it fair to say yet that Dave Gettleman has completed his reconstruction of the offensive line, at least for this year? Or is there still more work to do? Have they finally gotten there?

TR: I own a house. The work is never done. You can't say 'Okay, I finished that room and so I'm done now. The house is finished.' That's not the way it works, and that's not the way building an offensive line works in the NFL, and that's the trap that they fell into I think and what got them into this hole. They had to gut the whole thing and they had to last year replace the left side, this year replace the right side. Now it looks like they have it set. But now, you have to start saying 'Okay, well what's behind them?' Because now you have a couple of 30-year-old guys at tackle. Zeitler probably has a couple more years left. Hernandez, obviously you want him to stick around for a while. But you have to start thinking about the future. You've got a couple of other young guys on the offensive line. There's always going to be traffic cones and construction signs around the offensive line, if you're doing it right.

PS: Two things about the offensive line. First of all, my litmus test is if there is one injury, is there chaos? I would say if there's one injury on the offensive line, if it were to happen going into this first game, there would be chaos.

JS: Especially at offensive tackle.

PS: Yeah, on the outside. But I'm saying is there one spot? Right, on the inside, they have a second starting center in Spencer Pulley. That's fine. They have some guards they can probably slide in. But if there's one on the outside, there's an issue. Number two is, from where this offensive line was coming from, I've kind of dumbed down my expectations as far as if you look at this offensive line right now, it's a bunch of 30-year-olds and Will Hernandez. 30ish guys. Halapio is what, 28? It seems like he's 12, but he's 28. He seems like he just got here. This is not a line for the real future. It's a line for right now and maybe next year or so. And there are no Pro Bowlers on this line. Now, has Kevin Zeitler at some time in his career played like a Pro Bowl guard? I'm sure he has, and he was playing for bad teams and he just didn't get selected to that. But this is a group that I think is now elevated to a middling position, I think. I don't think the talent is so there that you say this is a "blow you away" offensive line. I think it now has been elevated to "We can function and we can win with this offensive line." But not dominate. I don't think dominate is anywhere near the equation with this line.

JS: I think the question is, will this offensive line allow Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula to do whatever they want offensively?

AS: Again, these guys are kind of stealing the thunder but I think Tom's great point about the traffic cones, I think that is true. It's not literally putting a traffic cone out at right tackle, because that's kind of how it's seemed in the past. I do think Paul's chaos theory is certainly legitimate. There's a reason why Mike Remmers is here at right tackle. There's a reason why they have a comfort level. It's because he's very familiar with Shula, Shurmur, and even up top, Gettleman. The idea that they knew what they were doing when they put Zeitler and Remmers together. That there was not going to be this learning curve with these guys. That they were pros, they know how to get out there and be here and compete together. I do think there's a comfort level.

JS: Despite some of the struggles, one thing this Giants franchise has had, probably the last 10 years if you go back to Burress, to Nicks, to Cruz, to Beckham, is that number one, big play wide receiver, right? It's been here. Right now, we don't know if they have one of those guys. It looks like they have a solid guy in Tate, a solid guy in Shepard, right? But not that traditional, big X, 6-2 receiver that's going to beat you deep and be that big play threat. With that in mind, how do they still function at a high level offensively, without that guy outside that scares teams. Let's start with you this time.

AS: Well, two-fold. It starts with attacking teams with Saquon Barkley differently than maybe you would have attacked teams differently in the past. But the other thing is that I think it puts a lot of pressure on Evan Engram. I think this is his year to shine. I do think that we've seen guys here who've come through and they've had their 2-3 year moments and then they kind of take that trajectory. Hakeem Nicks had a major moment here. Cruz came through and Odell came through. I was surprised that Sterling Shepard got a contract extension here because we've gotten into this moment that the Giants, as far as a playmaker at a receiver spot, it comes to that point and for whatever reason, they just move on. This is a "show up or move on" season for Evan Engram. I truly believe that, and I think he has that opportunity, and I don't think it's any fault of his own, I just think that's the way this front office is going to operate. I think they look at it, whereas Jerry Reese and the previous regime offered scholarships, to steal a line from our friend Carl Banks. I don't think there are any scholarships here, especially since Engram is a holdover from the previous regime. So Evan Engram is the guy that I think needs to take a huge step forward. And I think he knows that, too. I think he believes that, and I think he'll get it done, but I do think that is a major factor here for the Giants offense.

PS: I don't think you need the one superstar to have a great team. I just don't think so. Now, it's great if you have it, but just don't think you need that. That's a good thing, because they don't have it. To me, Sterling Shepard is a good player. He's a starting receiver in the league, and that's probably what he is. Now whether it's 80 and 1,100, whatever it is, it is. But he's a starting player, but he's not a superstar. He'll probably never be in a Pro Bowl unless a lot of things happen. Golden Tate is similar. I think Sterling Shepard has a bigger upside, but Golden Tate is similar, and the fact that he will not be there the first four games is really, really damaging. Really damaging, because he… you can attack with him and Shepard in different ways, as Art said, with Saquon and with Evan Engram and now you have kind of a group that you can do things with. That group is definitely diminished without Golden Tate. But I do like what Pat Shurmur said recently about these backup receivers. That they play a fancy position, but they're tough guys. None of them are great players, but they're all NFL players. In the past, you've had receivers on this team that you had to call on who were really not NFL players. There were guys who we thought looked good in training camp, and that's where they belonged. Cody Latimer is an NFL player. Russell Shepard is an NFL player. Bennie Fowler is an NFL player. Now, they're not great players. But they know what they're doing. They are tough guys, and you can work with it. Not for 16 games, but for the first four games until Golden Tate's back, you can work with it.

AS: Those are the guys, and not to jump in before Tom gets to chime in, but those are the guys that vintage Eli Manning has always gotten the best out of.

JS: Yeah, and I think Tom, another point that Cody Latimer made to us, these guys are all getting their chance finally. These guys have all been special teams guys, right? They've never been given the chance to be a number two, or even a number three wide receiver on their team. So, somebody is going to have the chance down the road.

TR: I think there are some players out there. I think Cody Latimer seems like he has his head on right, his legs are working fine for him. That was a problem for him last year, and I think he can be a really productive player for this team in the first couple of weeks. We talk about wide receivers, they have two of the best number two receivers in the league in Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate. They don't have a number one. Does that make up for not having the number one? I don't know, we'll see. And does it really matter? Because at the end of the year, the guy who leads the team in receptions is going to be the running back. Wide receiver may be the second-most important position in the passing offense.

JS: Okay, let's wrap up offense here. Where does this team land, do you think? Are they a top 10 offense? Top 15 offense? Are they an explosive offense? Are they a workmanlike offense? When all is said and done, what are we going to think about the Giants offense this year?

AS: To me, that all comes down to the consistency of Eli Manning. I really believe that. I think the pieces are here. I think if Eli has a good season and doesn't have the lapses that he kind of fell into last year at times… Yes, he had some ups in the second half of the season but the first half of the season, there needs to be some accountability. Not that he doesn't take it, but Eli needs to raise his game a little bit now. This offense needs him to be the guy that you don't look at after the game and say, 'Well, they didn't get that throw done, and that guy was open but that guy may have run the wrong route.' This is it, 16 years, you know you have Jones on the sideline, Eli Manning has to have a big season for this offense to really click and do what they need to do to win games.

TR: Eli Manning has to have a great month, because if that doesn't happen in the first couple of games in the season, there are going to start to be cries for him to be replaced by Daniel Jones. Yeah, this is referendum on a quarterback season. This is it. Whatever Eli has left is what the Giants are going to get. If that's 16 games or 17 or 18, or maybe 20, who knows, that's what it will be. If it's five or six, then that's what it'll be, too. This team is set up, it's a perfect spot for Daniel Jones. You have what looks like a decent offensive line, you have a dynamic running back, you have a pass-catching tight end, you have wide receivers who aren't going to make a peep about things. It's a great situation for a rookie quarterback to come in and thrive. But it's also a good situation for Eli Manning now. So, he has to make that work. If he can do it, he'll hang on for as long as he can. If not, it's going to be a changing of the guard.

PS: Well, it's also going to be interesting to see how they evaluate this. If they lose 31-28, is that a checkmark against Eli or for Eli? Now did Eli throw a late interception when he was trying to come back? Look, we all know there are a lot of factors that go on here. I don't think it's a team that can average 28 points a game. I just don't. I think it's a team that needs to dictate, as far as the way the game goes, that they can use Saquon, that they don't have to just dump the ball off to him. Eli, we all know it. He's best with a play action game where there's a threat of a run, where he can use what he sees. There's no magic in Eli I don't think anymore. Now, it needs to be a functional, smart, as you said Art, he needs to be above it. Above the x's and o's. Can he do that? Yeah, he can, I think. But things have to go right. If you're down by 17 points entering the fourth quarter, it's going to be really hard. It's hard for any quarterback, but even harder for a 38-year-old quarterback.

JS: Paul, real quick, you were here when Eli was breaking in behind Warner. My understanding is, talking to people that were around at that time too, he didn't look nearly as good as Daniel Jones has this offseason. Not even close.

PS: No. Eli did not… It's amazing when you think back at it, that he was Eli Manning. He was Archie's son and Peyton's younger brother, and he was just not ready for the NFL. Now, 2004 is not that long ago, but it's almost a lifetime ago as far as the way these quarterbacks are now prepared and the college game with the quarterback gurus and the coaches.

TR: Eli didn't go to the Manning Passing Academy?

PS: He did, but he didn't pay. He went and was like, "Daddy, I want ice cream now." He was not ready. He was not ready in the preseason, he was not ready in the regular season. I mean it's amazing. I am sure, this is what I'm sure about in this whole thing, that if, but more likely when, Daniel Jones gets his shot, he will not lose his first six games, and in some of those games look just completely overmatched like Eli did. It's a different era. Now I'm not saying Daniel Jones is going to be better than Eli, but I think as far as hitting the ground running, Daniel Jones, with the training he has received, will be better.

JS: If you have any questions, Tom, about Daniel Jones, what remains for you? Just in terms of what you've seen, what he still needs to prove. Where are you at in terms of what he's shown?

TR: It's no fault of his own, but I'd like to see him go up against a starting defense that spent a week game planning against him. I'd like to see how he handles making checks at the line of scrimmage. That's obviously one of Eli's greatest assets is getting them into the right play. You can question his strategy, but nine times out of 10, and probably 99 times out of 100, he makes the right call at the line of scrimmage. He has to be able to do that. But those are all things that he has to do on the field, John. You have to get him on the field to do those things.

JS: And it has to be in the regular season, because these vanilla defenses in the preseason are whatever.

TR: And are we going to be talking about this next year in late August when we come in for the 2020 podcast and we say, "Well, we still don't know what we have in Daniel Jones because he hasn't done anything this season."

PS: Well if we are, then the Giants had a hell of a year. That's all there is to it. Look, they're not going to be shy about putting him in, and they're not going to be too quick to give Eli the hook. That's all there is to it. But I think the four of us in this room, seriously, will have a good sense as the season goes on. I think we'll have a sense. I don't think any of us four are going to be blindsided one day and say, "Oh my gosh, they made this change." I think we're going to know when it's coming.

TR: That already happened once. Dave Gettleman said we'll know.

AS: We'll know. I do think that they knew it was time to take a quarterback at number six. Whether you agree or disagree with the pick, they knew it was time. I think they'll know when it's time that they need to pop the balloon and get Daniel Jones in there instead of Eli Manning. I think they're going to give Eli every opportunity to show that he can lead this team into contention and into the playoffs. But like I said, I think they've learned from Daniel Jones to this point that they want to see more and not because they have to see more. They're eager to see more.

JS: Yeah, and I think they also think him not playing right away helps his development long term, too. As much as they think Eli helps winning now, I think they also believe that Daniel not having to play right away helps his developmental process as they move forward… Okay, let's go to the defense, because to me, that is kind of the big question, at least for wins and losses this year. Let's not bury the lead here. Who is rushing the passer, boys? Talk to me. What do you got?

AS: There's a lot on Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines and Markus Golden, guys that maybe can develop into something for this team at edge. But it has to be a collective effort, and any time you say it has to be a collective effort, that's usually the excuse for "We just don't have enough proven talent here to get it done." Look, I expect a big year from Lorenzo Carter, I really do. I think Oshane Ximines, he's probably still a year away, so maybe you go into 2020 thinking those two guys. Now all of a sudden, you add one big pass rusher and you've got your unit. You've got your, I don't want to go to the level of the trios that the Giants have had in recent years. I don't know if we have the answer in this room. I think that's because I don't think the Giants have the answer either.

TR: I think it's interesting that the most established pass rusher that they have has the most to prove, and that's Markus Golden. He's the only guy with a track record. He's the only guy who's done it. 12.5 sacks a couple of years ago. Blew out his knee, lost his defensive coordinator, who he's now re-found, and really hasn't been the same player since. He's the guy with the track record, but he has to show that he still has it in him. He's here on a one-year deal. It's literally, figuratively, hypothetically, anyway you can think of it, a prove-it season for him. He has to go out there and do it. Whether or not he can, whether or not he can stay healthy, he was missing time early in camp, he seems to have gotten over that, we'll see. He's supposed to be the guy. If he can't be, then you're asking rookies and second-year players to step up their game. That's always a dangerous ask, because those guys don't always do it. The guys that the Giants have drafted in those spots lately in the middle rounds, the high middle rounds, third round, second round, fourth round, those edge rushers, the homegrown edge rushers that they always used to hit home runs on, they're whiffing a lot on them lately. It would be nice for them to knock one out of the park.

PS: When you look at Lorenzo Carter, the Giants drafted him to be what Markus Golden was in 2016. Is that safe to say? Maybe even better, because maybe he's more of a sideline-to-sideline, not just an edge rusher. He's actually bigger and longer than Markus Golden is. But it's all developmental right now. The Giants are hinging on a guy to have a big year who had four sacks as a rookie and we all thought had a pretty good rookie year, who we all like, Lorenzo Carter. But that's what he is in the league right now. He's a third-round pick who had a nice rookie year on a bad team. Now it happens in the league all the time. He can become a terrific player. There's no reason why he can't. But it's all developmental right now. To me, Markus Golden, I haven't seen enough all summer to make me think "Boy, he's ready. He's ready, he's back." I just can't say that. When you have a guy from Old Dominion who you draft in the third round, you just very much have to think he's going to spend his rookie year developing and learning and maybe he'll become something. We'll see. To me, that's the reason why people have very little regard of the Giants. They don't think their defense is any good, and because they can't get to the quarterback.

JS: How much can we expect from Dexter Lawrence? Big program, freak show athletically. They drafted him there because they think he can be a pass rusher. If they thought he was just a run stuffer, I think we all agree they would not have picked him at that spot. They think he can do it. He's played only, I think, 30 snaps in the first three preseason games. He played fewer defensive snaps than any other player in the third preseason game. What can we expect from him in year number one? Paul?

PS: Well, I think we can expect him to play more. To play a lot more. It's amazing, he's gotten like the 35-year-old defensive tackle treatment. It's like "No, no, no, we don't have to see any more of him." I think he's going to be a good player. I think it's a great leap of faith to think he's going to be a big sack guy. Maybe he can apply pressure up the middle. That's one thing. We all know pressure up the middle now is the new vogue in the league. The A-gap, let's go pressure up the middle and don't worry about the edges as much. But he had what, nine sacks in four years in college? He's not Aaron Donald. I think he can be a good player, but also this summer, I don't know about you guys, I haven't seen anything incredibly dynamic from him in practice to make me think this guy is a beast. I haven't seen it yet, but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen. I just haven't seen it yet.

TR: My sense from him is that he'll be a fourth quarter guy. He's going to be kind of the guy that wears people down, wears offensive linemen down. His size, his strength, his physical movements, those things are things that a guard and a tackle are going to be able to handle in the first quarter. When they're gassed a little bit in the fourth quarter, it's going to be a lot more difficult and a lot bigger of a challenge to block him. My sense is that is what will happen. We haven't obviously seen it happen yet in the preseason games, because he's only been playing the first series or two, and sometimes not even that. But that's my sense. I think if that can transpire, he can have a pretty good season.

JS: And B.J. Hill is there with him, too, by the way.

AS: Yeah, absolutely. You know I talked to Jon Halapio about Lawrence early in training camp. He had high praise about Lawrence, and actually brought up Fletcher Cox, that he reminded him of Fletcher Cox. I said "That's lofty praise right now," and he said just the way he plays. That he can fool with your mind, the idea that you see this big guy and you expect him to hit you with power, and then he's right by you and beating you with his speed and agility. There was a play against the Bengals early on in the game where Lorenzo Carter got double teamed, and that left Lawrence with a one-on-one on the inside on the A-gap, and Lawrence broke in and got a batted pass down. If that's was James Bettcher is counting on, the idea that he's going to have guys win their one-on-one battles, well then like Tom said, if the game is on the line… You also get that personality out of Lawrence. I think when the lights go on for Lawrence in September, I think you're going to get his best. I just get that sense about him. I didn't know that about B.J. Hill last year. I knew B.J. Hill was a good player. It was a little surprising… obviously if B.J. Hill came out B.J. Hill year two and what we've seen this summer in terms of his verbal assault on the offense, let's say that, I think maybe we would have had a different opinion of him as a player.

TR: We probably would have thought he was a jerk.

AS: But I think Dexter Lawrence has that kind of personality where he's coming from that program, you expect when they step onto that field in Dallas that he is not going to take a step back from Zack Martin, Travis Frederick. It's a step up in competition, don't get me wrong. But I think that's kind of where we're at with Lawrence. Can he be the guy that pushes the pocket and makes the job easier for the edge? It remains to be seen. Are they going to have to throw attention towards Dexter Lawrence? I'm not sure.

JS: Well, that means the Giants cornerbacks better cover, and they better cover well. Besides Janoris Jenkins, we have a bunch of guys out there that have barely played in any NFL games. Grant Haley played in a few last year. He wasn't even on the active roster the first two months of the year. Then you got Ballentine, Baker, Julian Love, all those guys. I know we mentioned the safeties earlier, we'll talk about them in a second. But how much can you expect these young cornerbacks early not to make those young cornerback mistakes that all young cornerbacks tend to make?

TR: All of them do, so you can't expect them to do that. You can't expect these guys to come in and be seasoned pros and veterans and know exactly what they're doing. They're going to make mistakes. They're going to make plays but they're also going to make mistakes. So that's sort of what you have to live with when you're in a situation like this. When you have DeAndre Baker out there, who can probably cover any receiver in the league, but is probably going to get beaten a couple of times, too. That's something that we're going to have to watch from him, because he never got beaten in college. How does he react to that? We always talk about cornerbacks having a short memory. He's going to have to put that to the test this season.

PS: I like what Art said about the offensive line, saying that they may not be a dominant group, but they know what to do. They know why they're going to get beat if they get beat. They'll figure it out. It's the direct opposite with these cornerbacks. I think there's talent there. I do. Now the first-round pick, yes, DeAndre Baker, but I think Ballentine looks like…

AS: Yeah, how does that guy last until the sixth round?

TR: He played Division II.

PS: Division II, a school I've never heard of. He played in Division II. A guy that the first day out there once he was healed, he looked like he was an athlete that looked like he could play.

AS: We've seen communication breakdowns, right Paul, already in the preseason. Jabrill Peppers has been the guy in the area when teams have gotten big gains or scored touchdowns, and you watch the reaction of Peppers and you could see that it's a missed assignment. It's not Jabill Peppers getting beat one-on-one. Now I'm not looking to make an excuse for Peppers, but you can see it already in preseason when offenses are vanilla, that they're taking advantage of some communication breakdowns.

PS: Who has played together in that secondary? Janoris Jenkins and Grant Haley. Is that it? In a real game together?

TR: And Chandler.

PS: And Chandler, but is he going to play? When you look at that, this secondary group on any team has to be the most cohesive, or else it's a touchdown. There has to be growing pains. There has to be.

AS: And that puts the pressure on James Bettcher. We wanted to talk all last year about what this defense would look like, what would a Bettcher defense look like? A lot of blitzing, a lot of moving pieces and everything else. I think when you don't know what you're going to have on your backend beyond your safeties… I think that also speaks on probably why Bethea is here in that situation, is that …There was a play in training camp in one of the practices that I ended up catching on my video when I was just videoing a play. It was a run to the left side. You can hear Bethea call out to Corey Ballentine "Left Corey, left." Ballentine moved to the left, the run came right at him and he was able to stop the guy at the line of scrimmage. There are going to be plays like that in the regular season where we may not even notice it because we're not as close to the field as we are in training camp. That Bethea, there's a lot on his shoulders as well.

TR: He also needs to be heard over 90,000 people in Dallas for that to work.

JS: Alright, before I do my closing question, a couple of rapid fire things for you guys. Defensive MVP this year? Just give me a name.

PS: Jackrabbit.

JS: That should be my answer too. I'm with Paul on that.

TR: I'll say Peppers.

AS: See, I was going to say Jackrabbit. I don't think Peppers because the expectations are just so high for Peppers right now. He has to be the guy that replaces Odell and Landon. That's just going to be impossible. I'm going to say Dexter Lawrence. I'm buying in. I'm buying into Dexter Lawrence. I think the second half of the season, they're going to start using Lawrence the way they think he can be used. I think Dexter Lawrence is going to be a guy.

JS: Sack leader? Who will lead the Giants in sacks?

PS: Lorenzo Carter.

TR: Carter.

AS: Markus Golden.

JS: Who will lead the Giants in receiving touchdowns?

AS: Saquon.

JS: I'm going to go Evan Engram on that.

TR: Engram.

PS: Well, I can't say Engram because two people have said it. I'll say Sterling Shepard.

JS: And I bailed on the sack question. I'm going to go Markus Golden on the sack question, by the way. Who is going to lead the team in interceptions?

TR: Baker. He's going to get thrown at a lot.

JS: I like that. I'm going to go Julian Love. Sleeper.

PS: You know what? I'm sticking with Jackrabbit. I've hopped on to his bandwagon.

AS: I think Baker.

JS: Okay this is going to be tougher. A number. Saquon Barkley, total yards from scrimmage? Rushing and receiving together.

TR: 2,250.

AS: I was going to say 2,300.

PS: What did he have last year?

JS: Last year he finished just over 2,000.

PS: I'll say lower. I'll say 2,100.

JS: Okay… Who are your two teams in the Super Bowl this year?

TR: I like the Falcons this year. I like the Falcons in the NFC. Kind of a dark horse in the NFC. I guess the Patriots, right? Why not?

AS: Chiefs and Eagles.

JS: That would be a fun Super Bowl.

TR: The Andy Reid Bowl.

PS: I'll go Chiefs, and in the NFC, I will go Dallas Cowboys.

JS: Okay. Final question and then we'll wrap this up, we have to get out to practice. Overall direction of the franchise? Dave Gettleman said two offseasons to get into the intermediate phase of his building process. I think it's fair to say, right? Two years? Where do you think this team is pointing? How do you think he's done so far? Do we know? Is it too early? Just what is your overall feel for the direction we're heading big picture wise?

PS: I would say up. The whole key is, is Daniel Jones the next franchise quarterback? We know he will get the chance to be. The talent I like that he's assembled. I like the fact that he's kind of no-nonsense with some of the things that he does. I don't agree with everything that he did. I would say up, and I'm more bullish on Daniel Jones than I would have been the minute they picked him at number six and I was shocked. I'm more bullish on him now than I was then.

JS: I think that goes for pretty much everybody, except for maybe the people upstairs in the building. But everyone else, I think that's 100% true.

PS: I think even they are more bullish on him.

JS: They probably are. You're probably right.

TR: This season is going to be the tombstone for one era, the cornerstone for the next.

PS: Save that prose for the Newsday special section, okay?

AS: Actually, that's going to be in the Post and The Record tomorrow.

TR: This is the hinge season. This is what they've been planning for over the last five years really. Now is the time to implement that plan. We'll see the exact details of how it works out, but it's getting to zero hour here.

AS: How do I follow that one up? Will this be a miracle moment in Giants history, and that we don't see Daniel Jones at all? Look, I've said all along, this had to be a 'turn the corner' season. I don't know if that means seven, eight wins. I don't know how many games that means Daniel Jones has to play. But in reality, I think what ownership needs to see is that Pat Shurmur is the coach to lead this team into the next phase. I think they'll do that. I do think he is the guy, and I think you need Saquon Barkley healthy.

TR: Not to harp on the book thing, but one of the things I noticed when I finished the book, which was right after the Odell trade, is that there are only two players that I mention in a book of miracle moments for this team who are still on the team. That's Zak DeOssie and Eli Manning. They need people to make miracles. They need to have a new crop, a new generation of players here who are going to take the mantle and provide what Giants fans have gotten used to over the years, which is championship caliber football.