Pat Shurmur and Doug Marrone were one game away from playing against each other in the Super Bowl last season. They meet on Sunday in their first games since then. The Giants open the 2018 regular season against the defending AFC South champion Jaguars at MetLife Stadium.
"Certainly, we're playing an outstanding football team, a team that fell one game short of going to the Super Bowl," said Shurmur, the former Vikings offensive coordinator and current Giants head coach. "I experienced that last year in Minnesota, so they've assembled a very fine football team. They've got a quarterback that plays winning football, they were the number one rushing team in the league last year, and they're outstanding on defense. Not to mention, they have a terrific kicking game. We've got a big challenge this Sunday and look forward to battling them out here in the stadium."
Here are five storylines to follow in Week 1:
1. New era begins. Two hundred fifty-five days will have passed between the day the New York Football Giants hired Dave Gettleman as their general manager and Sunday's season opener. For those of the mindset that there would not be much change with Gettleman, who spent 15 seasons as a personnel executive in the Giants organization before becoming the Panthers' general manager, they were wrong. Gettleman, always keeping a culture-first mentality, shook up the personnel department, helped hire a new head coach with no previous ties to the organization, drafted a running back second overall in the face of a perceived loaded quarterback class, revamped -- and continues to revamp -- the roster from top to bottom, and put a stamp on countless other facets of the operation. On Sunday, we start to see the results.
View the starters for Sunday's matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Engram out of concussion protocol; OV is a fast healer. Second-year tight end Evan Engram, who suffered a concussion during the third preseason game against the Jets, shed the red do-not-touch jersey and cleared the protocol heading into Wednesday's practice. As for outside linebacker Olivier Vernon and his sprained ankle, Shurmur said that he is making "great" progress.
"From what I've seen, he seems to be a fast healer, but he's working his way back," Shurmur said of Vernon. "I don't think he will be out there today. He's doing a good job of trying to get back. Certainly when we don't have OV in there, we've got to compensate and maybe two or three guys have to do what he does."
3. More than just "Sacks"onville. The Jaguars return a franchise-record six Pro Bowlers this season, and they all play on defense. Calais Campbell led the AFC in sacks last year, while cornerback Jalen Ramsey led the NFL's No. 1 pass defense and has no qualms talking about it. The unit also boasts cornerback A.J. Bouye and a front seven that includes Malik Jackson, Yannick Ngakoue and Telvin Smith. But make no mistake, the Jaguars are more than a ferocious defense that can get to a quarterback. They added All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell to an offense that led the NFL in rushes and rushing yards last season. Of course, that includes 1,000-yard rusher Leonard Fournette, the fourth overall pick in last year's draft. Fifth-year quarterback Blake Bortles, fresh off signing a three-year contract extension, once again leads the unit and won his only previous meeting with the Giants in 2014.
4. Put a blue bow around it and go. Saturday's 53-man roster deadline was merely a guideline for the Giants this year. While they did reach the league limit in time, they were far from done. With players flooding the market over the weekend, the Giants claimed six players off waivers (defensive end Mario Edwards, Jr., wide receiver Kaelin Clay, center Spencer Pulley, and defensive backs Antonio Hamilton, Mike Jordan and Kamrin Moore), signed two more (defensive tackle John Jenkins and linebacker Nate Stupar), and built their practice squad. Now the coaches have to get them up to speed.
"Part of the process is I've spoken to all the new guys and said this is what we are as a team culturally, these are the things we've been emphasizing for all these months, and you've got to get up to speed fast," Shurmur said. "That's part of being a pro. This isn't unique to the Giants this season. Guys come to teams and have to compete quickly, and typically they're in shape because they've been in training camps and they've been on a lot of teams that have talked about the same types of things. You just put a blue bow around it and there you go."
5. TC in the house. Sunday will be the first Giants-Jags game in which Tom Coughlin is not the head coach of one of the teams. Coughlin, who is currently Jacksonville's vice president of football operations, coached the expansion Jaguars from 1995-2002 and the Giants from 2004-15. Shurmur spoke to the two-time Super Bowl champion head coach after taking the Giants job this offseason.
"I have certainly heard a lot about Tom and his years here -- 12 years," Shurmur said. "He helped the organization win two Super Bowls. Prior to coming here, I have a professional friendship with Tom and we've been able to communicate. One of the guys I talked to when I was talking to former players and coaches was Tom in the offseason, and I've communicated with him a few times in the offseason. I'm going to go to his fundraiser (the Jay Fund Champions for Children gala) on (September) 21st. I have great respect for Tom and what he accomplished, and certainly he left a very, very strong mark on this organization. All good stuff. That's where that's at."