The Giants let a lot of big-name, big-talent players go this offseason. In fact, Odell Beckham Jr., Landon Collins and Olivier Vernon were easily three of the most important players the Giants had.
How will they survive without them? The answer to that will be provided by the performances of several key players this season.
So here's a look at the Giants' 10 most important players for 2019:
10.WR Golden Tate - Technically, he's the replacement for Beckham. They're not expecting a Beckham-like season from him, but they paid for a receiver who had been a pretty consistent, 90-catch, 1,000-yard guy since 2014, until last year (when he was traded midseason). They don't need that production out of him, but they expect something close. He's got to be dangerous enough to take pressure off Sterling Shepard, and good enough that the Giants don't have to be reminded all season about the guy they let get away.
9.S Jabrill Peppers - He is not only the guy who replaced the popular Landon Collins, but he was also the key to the Beckham trade. Once the Browns were willing to include him, Giants GM Dave Gettleman jumped. Now, he's been a solid player in his first two seasons, but not quite in Collins' class. The Giants need the 23-year-old to take a huge leap and be a force on their defense.
8.RG Kevin Zeitler - The 6-4, 315-pounder was the key piece of the Vernon part of the deal with the Browns, and he's expected to solidify the right side of the Giants' offensive line. He's exactly the type of tough, nasty "Hog Molly" that Gettleman loves, and they're counting on him to have the kind of impact Chris Snee had on the Giants' last great O-line. There are other important pieces to be sure, but he'll be in the spotlight because he's the new guy and because of the details of the deal that brought him here.
7.LB Alec Ogletree - When former Giants DE Justin Tuck was asked about all the changes on the Giants' defense, his first answer was "Alec Ogletree has his work cut out for him." As a veteran, a leader and a middle linebacker, it's going to be up to him to piece everything together. The Giants have new, young players littered across their defensive backfield and up front. Think of the 27-year-old Ogletree as the sage. He's got to figure out a way to pull this defense together the way Antonio Pierce did a decade ago.
6.LT Nate Solder - The Giants gave him a four-year, $62 million deal to anchor and strengthen their offensive line. In return, he gave them an OK season with some early struggles. He's the anchor of this line, though, so the Giants need more. They need him to play like one of the best left tackles in the league. That's especially important with a 38-year-old quarterback fighting for his job. The only hope for the Giants this season is to keep Eli Manning on his feet.
5.TE Evan Engram - Engram's first two years in the NFL have been marred by too many drops, too many injury issues, and a lot of talk about what a great mismatch he can create. The Giants really think he can be a dynamic weapon, but they haven't been able to turn him loose. With Beckham gone, this could be their chance. They need to find ways to get him matched up on linebackers and then get the ball in his hands. He needs to be consistent so he can become the weapon everyone expects him to be.
4.DE/LB Markus Golden - The Giants know they're going to have to scramble for a pass rush and hope a lot of players have breakout years. A lot of their hope seems to be with the 28-year-old Golden, who played for defensive coordinator James Bettcher in Arizona. Golden was once a dynamic pass rusher. He had 12 ½ sacks in 2016. Then he tore his ACL and was never the same. The Giants seem to be betting that, with another year removed from knee surgery, he can recapture his double-digit sack form. If he does, the Giants' defense could turn out to be unexpectedly good.
3.WR Sterling Shepard - He got the semi-big contract and now, with Beckham gone, it's pretty clear he's the Giants' No. 1 receiver. So far in his career he's done nothing to suggest he's capable of that role. He's been a possession-like slot receiver who sometimes erupts for a big game. But he needs to have those big games consistently now. He's the best receiver the Giants have and their best bet for sustaining a passing game. If he takes a step back now that he's in the spotlight, the Giants' passing game isn't going to work at all.
2.QB Eli Manning - The Giants have a lot riding on his 38-year-old arm. They believe that with a better cast around him (and yes, they think it's better) his numbers and consistency can go up. If it does, they think they're a playoff team. If it doesn't, everyone may get an early look at rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. How Manning performs will not only have a great impact on this season, but it'll affect the immediate future, too. There'll be no one more in the spotlight and no player who figures to be more controversial (again) this year.
1.RB Saquon Barkley - He is the unquestioned star of this team and the best player. He's also now going to be what he should've been all last season - the man whom the offense will run through. That's what Pat Shurmur wants, and now with Beckham gone, he can do it and not have to worry about anyone being unhappy. Figure Barkley to get another 260 carries and 1,300 yards, and he'll approach 100 catches and 800 yards too. If he takes the step forward that everyone thinks he will, he'll be a huge help to Manning and the Beckham-less offense. If there's any regression, yards and points won't come easy to the Giants. Barkley needs to be worthy of being the guy that defenses are going to focus on all season long. He needs to force teams to load up with 8-man fronts. He needs to scare opposing teams. Because if he doesn't, the Giants won't scare anyone at all.