This is the first installment of Giants position previews for the upcoming 2018 season. This will be an in-depth look at each position heading into training camp that begins on July 25th.
WR1: Odell Beckham Jr. (25-for-41, 302 yards, 3 TD, 12.1 Y/R, 4 G), Roger Lewis Jr., Travis Rudolph
WR2: Cody Latimer (19-for-31, 287 yards, 2 TD, 15.1 Y/R, 11 G), Russell Shepard, Amba Etta-Tawo
SWR: Sterling Shepard (59-for-84, 731 yards, 2 TD, 12.4 Y/R, 11 G), Kalif Raymond, Hunter Sharp
ON THE BUBBLE: Jawill Davis, Marquis Bundy, Alonzo Russell
KEY LOSSES: Brandon Marshall, Tavarres King
Expectations for the Giants coming into training camp last season were exceptionally high, but there arguably wasn't any higher than the wide receiver position.
Led by Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants decided to make a free agency splash by acquiring Brandon Marshall to join the crew that included a budding star in Sterling Shepard. These three on the outside were supposed to do damage with Eli Manning at the helm.
But, boy, did that turn south real quick.
Looking back, it was probably a warning sent from the football gods not to bet it all of this group when Beckham suffered a nasty ankle sprain in the Giants' preseason contest against the Browns. He wouldn't be able to take the field in Week 1 against the Cowboys, and when he made his season debut against the Lions at home in Week 2, he made a cameo appearance in what was a depressing home opener.
Then, just as things were looking up for the star wideout following good performances in Philadephia and Tampa Bay, the wheels fell off against the Chargers at home in Week 5.
Beckham suffered a fractured ankle while attempting a catch, and with Marshall suffering what was eventually diagnosed a season-ending ankle injury in the same game, all hope was lost. The Giants were already 0-4 at that point, and they couldn't close out what would've been their first win of the season.
Shepard was the only reliable receiver left after Beckham and Marshall hit the IR, but even he battled several injuries throughout the season.
The Giants were forced to go to the depth chart, and Roger Lewis Jr., Travis Rudolph, and Tavarres King were sent in to attempt a revival at the position. As one would have expected, it resulted in less than adequate numbers. The proof was seeing rookie tight end Evan Engram barely finishing second in receiving with 722 yards to Shepard's 731.
Overall, the Giants finished 19th in receiving (3,680 yards), and were second-to-last with 9.9 yards per reception.
Every player on the Giants last season wants to throw the 2017 season out the window, but none more than this wide receivers crew.
Biggest Question Heading Into Camp: Has OBJ lost a step?
The spotlight - and that virtually means anyone that cares about the NFL - will have their eyes glued to what Beckham does during training camp. He was able to participate in individual drills during voluntary sessions this offseason, and based on his Instagram posts of his own private workouts, his surgically-repaired ankle looks ready to go.
But will he be active in team activities, including preseason games? My guess, like many others, is the 25-year-old will participate during practice, but will be held out of preseason based on what happened last year.
Beckham has a lot banking (literally) on what he shows ownership during camp as his contract extension still looms over East Rutherford. So, practice will be the big indicator as to whether or not he is back to 100 percent.
If Beckham can display he hasn't lost a step on the field, he not only will likely see his desired contract that keeps him in the Big Apple for years to come, but it will also ease the minds of Giants fans heading into the season.
Though expectations will likely run high again for this group considering what they look like on paper again, I'm going to be cautious and take a step back before I make any large assumptions.
Yes, the Giants (should) return a healthy Beckham this season to match up with Shepard. That already is a major upgrade given we only caught a glimpse of his fourth NFL season before the injury.
However, the spot opposite Beckham is up for grabs and a bit of a question mark. Though I chose Cody Latimer to start due to his 6-foot-2 frame to compliment the shorter, speedier wideouts, I wouldn't be surprised to see Lewis beat him out in the end. He has experience working with Beckham and Shepard, and could use a mediocre 2017 campaign as motivation heading into camp.
But the real question for that WR2 slot is will there be a real impact from whoever is stationed there? Marshall failed to get on the same page with Manning last season, and in turn, his slot was a barren wasteland even before his injury.
My gut wants to say this unit will have a bounce back season, especially with the emergence of Engram and the addition of rookie RB Saquon Barkley. These two should generate extra attention, giving the wideouts some breathing room from opposing defenses. Also, a reinforced offensive line in front of Manning gives him more time to evaluate his options, which leaves more time for receivers to leave their man in the dust.
But my mind keeps playing last season on replay in my head as I write this, and it is heeding warning to jump the gun. Beckham and Co. need to prove they have curled, slanted and posted their way out of 2017 before I can set the bar high once again.
Hopefully that comes before Week 1.