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21 Questions in 21 Days

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21 Questions: Main NFL storyline to follow


With the calendar flipped to July, asks 21 important questions heading into the team's 2021 training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

For 21 days, a member of the crew will answer one question about the roster, coaching staff, schedule, and much more.

No. 11: What is the main storyline around the NFL in 2021?

Dan Salomone: Fans, fans, fans. They're back. The boos from Eagles supporters will never have sounded so sweet to the Giants after the coronavirus pandemic upended 2020. In late May, it was announced MetLife Stadium could operate at full capacity, meaning the home crowd will see the team for the first time in the Joe Judge era.

"I can't wait to walk in a stadium and hear it at a deafening level," Judge said shortly after the decision was made. "That's something I'm really looking forward to and feeling the energy of the fans. It's something we've missed, and I've expressed before how much we value and thrive on as a team, going out playing in front of your home crowd and the animosity playing on the road against a visiting crowd."

Re-live the most memorable moments and images from the first year of the Joe Judge era.

John Schmeelk: It's either the Dallas Cowboys or the Washington Football Team. Washington has what could be a Top 5 defense, but they have a journeyman at quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick and young players at their skill positions. When in doubt, go with the team with the best quarterback and that's Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys ranked 14th in the NFL in yards per game last year (371.8) without Dak Prescott for 11 games, their starting left (Tyron Smith) and right tackle (La'el Collins) missing a combined 30 games, All-Pro guard Zack Martin missing six games, and starting tight end Blake Jarwin missing 15 games. With Ceedee Lamb entering his second season and joining forces with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup outside, the Cowboys' offense should be a Top 5 unit this year.

On defense, Dallas allowed the fifth-most points in the NFL (29.6 points). In eight of their 16 games last season, Dallas allowed 33 or more points. They drafted exclusively on the defensive side of the ball and hired a new defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn. Despite the poor defense and injuries on offense last season, Dallas still finished tied with the Giants at six wins.

If Dallas can keep Dak Prescott on the field, keep their offensive tackles healthy and approach mediocrity on defense, they should be able to win somewhere around 10 games. If that's the case, they will be the Giants' biggest competition in the NFC East.

Lance Medow: The Giants were very aggressive this offseason, adding several players through free agency and the draft at various positions. That's why it's very easy to overlook former Vikings edge rusher Ifeadi Odenigbo, who proved to be a nice complement to Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffin in Minnesota over the last two seasons.

The Giants need someone to assume a similar role opposite pass rusher Leonard Williams. They also lost Kyler Fackrell to the Chargers after he finished tied for second on the team with four sacks in 2020. Odenigbo had seven sacks in 2019 and although his total dipped to 3.5 last season, he also recorded 15 quarterback hits, three tackles for loss and a safety. He's capable of being a disruptive player. It's all about opportunity within the Giants' scheme.

Dan Salomone: For starters, they're getting a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award (which goes annually to the nation's top defensive player in college football) and the 2020 SEC leader in sacks and tackles for loss. The Giants' familiarity with the linebacker, however, went deeper than the numbers. Kevin Sherrer, who will be his position coach in the NFL, originally recruited Ojulari at the University of Georgia. Additionally, the Giants have a host of former college coaches on staff who also coached against Ojulari and "he's always a guy that stood out to them on the field as someone they had to account for," coach Joe Judge pointed out after the draft.

After trading back from No. 42 overall to No. 50, the Giants had a "bunch of guys" they liked in that range, but director of college scouting Chris Pettit said what set Ojulari apart was his pro-ready hands, instincts, and the "ability to make big plays in big spots." The Giants' top offseason priority was adding offensive playmakers for Daniel Jones, but pass rush help was not far below it.

John Schmeelk: You could look at this receiving corps like a basketball team – they have different players with complimentary skill sets. Toney is electric with the ball in his hands and can turn a 3-yard pass into a 50-yard gain because of his elusiveness, strength, speed, quickness and creativity.

Toney was not the most polished route runner in college, but there's no reason to think he cannot become more adept running the route tree with more reps in the NFL. He will probably open primarily in the slot with plays designed for him to take advantage of his freakish abilities. Expect a lot of screen passes, slants, end-arounds, shovel passes and jet sweeps to start the season. And don't forget about his return abilities, either.