The one thing that is certain about the Giants is that they are a team in transition -- or at least they will be soon. There's a new quarterback and a new era on the horizon.
How this season goes will determine how soon that future will come.
So yes, the Eli Manning-Daniel Jones dynamic and when/if the inevitable switch is made will be the dominant story of the Giants' 2019 season. There's no way to avoid that. But that isn't the only storyline to watch...
1. The Quarterback Controversy
This story started the day Jones was drafted and continued with every impressive preseason performance he had. It will heat up again with every loss or interception. No matter how firmly head coach Pat Shurmur stands behind the 38-year-old Manning, he's got a quarterback controversy on his hands.
Everything that happens this season happens in the shadow of that. A good year and playoff run means the Jones era could be pushed off until 2020. A slow start, or any struggles by Manning, and the temptation will be to start it during the season. It is not only the biggest decision Shurmur (and GM Dave Gettleman and owner John Mara) will make this season. It's the biggest decision they will have had to make in years.
So stay tuned. It's a lock that this will be a topic every single week.
2. Life without Beckham
There are a lot of skeptics regarding the Giants' decision to dump their electric but controversial wide receiver. The Giants think they can adequately replace him -- at least when Golden Tate returns from his four-game suspension. But more importantly, they think they will have better team chemistry and a better "culture" with Beckham and his diva tendencies gone.
Shurmur and Gettleman are banking a lot on that "culture" change. But for a skeptical fan base, that lack of controversy better mean some wins. The only way that happens is if Sterling Shepard and Tate and whoever their third receiver is can put up some big numbers in the passing game. If the passing game struggles, it'll be hard to convince anyone that dumping Beckham was a good move.
3. The last line of defense
Shumur hired James Bettcher as his defensive coordinator because of his aggressive, attacking system, but the Giants had virtually no pass rush last season and finished 24th overall on defense in the league. Granted, he didn't exactly have the players, but the coach hardly distinguished himself in his first year.
The Giants didn't get him many players this offseason, but they do believe they've assembled enough pieces to be better. The question is, can Bettcher get anything out of them? Can he turn Lorenzo Carter loose and revive Markus Golden's career? Can he help make rookie Dexter Lawrence a force in the middle of the defensive line?
If he can't, the Giants might have to look elsewhere for a defensive coordinator next season. But if he can, so many around the league will be shocked, and Bettcher could suddenly find himself on the head-coaching track.
4. Saquon the star
The minute Beckham was out the door, Saquon Barkley became the biggest star and personality in the Giants' locker room. They think that's good, too. They believe he can handle everything that comes with it, from the sudden celebrity to the intense spotlight and pressure.
Maybe the bigger question, though, is: Can he duplicate his spectacular rookie season? Or can he exceed it? He rushed 261 times for 1,307 yards and caught 91 passes for 721 yards last season while scoring 15 total touchdowns. That's a lot of work (352 touches) and the Giants seemingly want to run their offense through him even more this season.
Now, especially with Beckham gone, Barkley will be more of a focus of opposing defenses than ever. He needs to prove he can handle that. The Giants also have to be careful not to wear him down too soon.
5. The Hog Mollies are here
Gettleman said from Day 1 that his philosophy of team-building starts with the offensive and defensive lines. Well, two years in, he's finally got what he wanted. The additions of guard Kevin Zeitler, right tackle Mike Remmers, and the 342-pound Lawrence on the defensive side give the Giants a formidable presence in both trenches.
That's important because the Giants' inability to protect Manning has been the main reason for the offense's struggles over the last few years. And their inability to collapse the pocket is a big reason why the defense hasn't been very good. If they can protect the passer and rush the passer, run the ball and stop the run … well, that's everything in football.
Gettleman finally thinks he has the horses -- or hogs -- to get that done. And if he's wrong, the Giants are going to be in a lot of trouble right from the start.