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Rookies formed cornerstone of Giants' roster overhaul

When general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur became the Giants’ preeminent football decision-makers after the 2017 season, one of their first goals was to change the team’s attitude, morale, and spirit. In short, it’s culture.

The result was a roster overhaul, the scope of which was perhaps unique in franchise history. With two weeks remaining in the season, only 13 players on the active roster were also there at the same juncture last year. That was three fewer holdovers than any other team had.

Predictably – and sensibly – many of the team’s best and most valuable players did stay, including Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Jr., and Olivier Vernon. They were bolstered by veterans who were acquired via trade, free agency or the waiver wire, including Alec Ogletree, Nate Solder, Jamon Brown, and Michael Thomas.

But the cornerstone of the restructuring was the team’s six-player 2018 draft class – running back Saquon Barkley, guard Will Hernandez, linebacker Lorenzo Carter, defensive linemen B.J. Hill and RJ McIntosh, and quarterback Kyle Lauletta. Each of them has appeared in at least one game this season. Barkley, Hernandez, and Hill have been season-long starters.

Most, if not all of them, should be contributors for many seasons.

“Obviously, we knew a lot about them and we vetted them out because we wanted terrific players that were going to be terrific teammates, and I think they’ve all displayed that,” Shurmur said. “I think they’re going to be part of our cultural shift, and we have them out there playing. They’re all contributing in some way and we’re pleased with the guys that we picked - not to mention the Grant Haley’s and the Sean Chandler’s (rookie free agents) and the other guys that are not part of the actual draft class. I’d like to think that Alec Ogletree’s part of this class as well, because we traded a draft pick for him. When you look at the impact of this year’s draft on our team, we’re hopeful that we got a lot of good, young players that are going to be with us for the long run.”

In separate interviews, the young players spoke about the close bond they have with one another.

“Not just the draft class, but everyone that came in as rookies this year,” Barkley said. “We do dinners together and we’re planning a trip together. It’s huge, and I think that goes a long way, longer than football. The relationships you make in football can last you a lifetime. It also helps with the chemistry on the team. I feel like the closer we get, the better you get and the more you want to play for each other. I believe in that a lot.”

“When you come in here at first it’s the same way it is in college, if you think about it,” Lauletta said. “Your eyes are wide and you’re just not used to this, so you look for other people that are experiencing the same thing, to lean on and to talk to. Us rookies, we’re very close, starting out during training camp. We’re in a hotel together and we’re spending so much time together. It’s been really fun just getting to know a good group of guys who are all committed to winning. And it’s awesome to see some of these guys get filtered in during the season, and playing more and more and playing better. Just a good group and I think years from now wherever we all are, we’ll still keep in touch and always remember being on the New York Giants and being a family together.”

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