The Giants ended the offseason feeling pretty good about themselves, even though they arguably spent the last five months losing more talent than they gained. They are big believers in addition by subtraction, and they feel they've added some pretty good pieces, too.
It'll be a few more months until we know whether GM Dave Gettleman's plan was genius or ill-conceived, and whether his big makeover of the team's culture will result in any more wins. But during the spring organized team activities and mini-camp, there were a few hints about which direction the Giants were headed.
So here are 5 things we've learned about the Giants this spring:
1. They want the perception of a Quarterback Battle, but likely don't really have one
It may seem counterintuitive, because who wants to invite controversy? But head coach Pat Shurmur made it clear this spring he's not closing the door on the idea of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones winning the Opening Day starting job. It's almost certainly not going to happen, even though Shurmur keeps hinting it could.
Why is he doing that? The best guess is that he wants to motivate Jones and light a fire under Eli Manning. Also, if Manning has a terrible summer at age 38, Shurmur wants to make it clear he's not opposed to handing the ball to Jones. The Giants love Jones, the sixth overall pick in the Draft, and he's exceeded their early expectations. If it turns out he's their best option, Shurmur has to be open to that idea.
That said, their plan is absolutely to start Manning. Their hope is that Manning plays well and leads the Giants into the playoff chase. Regardless of whatever fading skills he has, they believe he's good enough to win and that his veteran savvy and knowledge gives him a huge edge over Jones. It would take a colossal collapse this summer (or an injury) for Manning not to be under center on Opening Day.
2. Hope is where the Giants' pass rush plan lies
When defensive coordinator James Bettcher was asked last week if he thought the Giants would have a good-enough pass rush, he said "I believe we can, and that will reveal itself when we get to training camp." In other words, he hopes so.
The Giants hope that Markus Golden can be a dominant pass rusher again now that he's another year removed from knee surgery. They hope Lorenzo Carter can build on the progress he showed last season. They hope Kareem Martin can do something this year, and they even hope Dexter Lawrence, their massive rookie out of Clemson, can get some pass rush out of the interior defensive line.
Maybe they can, but that's a lot of things they are hoping will work out right. The pass rush is far from a proven commodity.
3. The third receiver competition is wide open, and a rookie might just win it
The third receiver isn't a significant part of the Giants' offense, because along with Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, the other two top options in the passing game are running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram. But the Giants do have an ideal for their third receiver: Their hope is he'll be a reliable deep threat who can stretch the field.
The current No. 3 is Corey Coleman, the former Cleveland Browns first-round pick whose career has been a bust. He believes that after spending a year learning the offense, he can blossom into a reliable option for the Giants, who are willing to take a chance on his talent.
But one thing that was really clear this spring is that Darius Slayton, the Giants' sixth-round pick, improved quickly and if he can cut down on his drops this summer, he has a shot to win the job. He's blazing fast. He just needs to show he's reliable. It won't take much for him to vault Coleman on the depth chart.
4. The offensive line will be much better, as long as everyone stays healthy
There was improvement at the end of last season, but now there is just better talent. Jon Halapio is healthy, and the Giants are really high on him as their starting center. They are ecstatic about their trade for guard Kevin Zeitler, and signing Mike Remmers could solidify their right tackle spot as long as his back is OK.
It's the caveats that should make everyone nervous. Halapio is coming off leg and ankle surgery that cut short his 2018 season. Left tackle Nate Solder had ankle surgery in May. Remmers is still recovering from back surgery. No one seems sure that either of the Giants' tackles will be full-go at the start of training camp, and behind them, it's not as if the Giants are overloaded with line depth.
If their regular five are ready and healthy, yes the line could be good. But a few injuries or slow recoveries and it could turn back into an all-too-familiar mess very quickly.
5. Things will be calmer and quieter around the Giants, and the locker room might be happier, but who knows if that means more wins?
This whole offseason was about a "culture" change. That was the driving force behind so many of their decisions - especially the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, and at least part of the decision not to re-sign Landon Collins. Like it or not, agree with it or not, the Giants wanted to improve their locker room atmosphere and make sure they had a football-first, less-outspoken, controversy-free team.
On the surface, it seems like it worked. There aren't any potential loose cannons on the roster. It's hard to see any of their current players speaking out of turn or developing into a locker room problem.
But will that matter? Culture is nice, but wins are what matters. Gettleman believes that a better, more cohesive locker room will indeed translate into wins. That's a hard argument to make considering the Pro Bowlers he let get away, but maybe he's right. For the last few seasons, the Giants have been talented, but underachieving and somewhat dysfunctional.
We'll have to wait until September, at least, to find out if Gettleman is right.