The first training camp under new head coach Pat Shurmur is a critical one for the Giants, who have spent the offseason acting like a team that believes it can be a contender, one year after finishing 3-13. To do that, they need everything to go right, and they desperately need to stay healthy.
The quest for that begins on Wednesday morning when the full-team reports to camp.
And with questions looming over everything, from Odell Beckham, Jr. to Eli Manning to their formerly dysfunctional defense, how will training camp go for the Giants? Here are five bold predictions for what to expect between now and Opening Day...
1. Odell Beckham, Jr. will practice, say all the right things, and be handsomely rewarded this fall
The Giants' star receiver has been the very model of a modern major superstar ever since early March, even after the Giants blew their stack over his last controversial video, all-but threatened to trade him, and ceased any semblance of contract talk. Beckham's reaction? He showed up for some of the offseason workout program, all of the June mini-camp, and presumably the start of training camp on Wednesday.
That has not gone unnoticed by the Giants' front office, which appreciates his willingness to buy into their new program. Unless he shows up to camp and refuses to practice (claiming he's not ready for full football duties, when all evidence seems to prove that he is) or finally vents about his lack of a deal, those good feelings from the Giants will continue. And if that happens, expect them to quietly open negotiations over the summer with the eye on striking an early fall deal.
After all, that's what they did in 2008 when Plaxico Burress was seeking a new deal, and it's a pattern they've embraced before. Beckham could quietly be on the same timetable, as long as he's healthy and continues to behave.
2. Eli Manning will look and feel rejuvenated when he sees his offensive line can actually block
The new-look offensive line was instantly improved with the arrival of left tackle Nate Solder and the selection of guard Will Hernandez in the second round of the Draft. Sure, they have questions at center and right tackle, where the Ereck Flowers reclamation project continues. But it's a better line, especially on Manning's blindside.
And he knows it. And he felt it in the spring, even without a live rush. Over time he will feel more secure in the pocket, know he has more time to make decisions, and the skittish-ness of the last few seasons will be gone by September. Manning, who usually has strong summers anyway, will look like a new man -- and his new-found confidence will be clear.
In the preseason games, he'll make running the offense look a lot easier than it's looked in preseasons past. And he will head into September on a roll.
3. Saquon Barkley will be everything everyone expects and will become the biggest rookie summer star the Giants have ever had
The Giants' running game has been so bad over the last few years, Barkley would look good no matter what he does this summer. But his moves, his burst and his breakaway speed will awe fans and teammates alike. Most of the training camp buzz will be about him.
And all it will take, really, is one or two big, breakaway plays in a preseason game and the Barkley Hype Machine will be out of control. In some ways, it already is. After all, when have the Giants had a rookie come in with this many expectations? Manning in 2004, sure, but everyone knew he wasn't going to start on Opening Day. Beckham was hurt in his first camp and no one had unreal expectations for him.
You could go back to Lawrence Taylor and other great first-rounders of the past, but that was before the digital age and even 24-hour sports talk radio. The hype they experienced doesn't compare to what Barkley will experience now.
4. The defensive personnel will be shaken up before the opener, with some surprises in the starting lineup
There is always a surprise cut or demotion or two when any new coach takes over, and if it happens with the Giants it feels like it will take place on the defensive side of the ball. Shurmur and new defensive coordinator James Bettcher are switching to a 3-4 scheme and have been tinkering with a lot of new additions all offseason long.
Players to watch who could end up as starters -- rookie defensive lineman B.J. Hill, rookie linebacker Lorenzo Carter, rookie corner Sam Beal. Don't rule out veterans Connor Barwin or safety Michael Thomas claiming a significant role, either.
And definitely keep an eye on the cornerbacks. They were terrible last season. The Giants are optimistic, but not at all certain, about a bounce back for Eli Apple. And Janoris Jenkins has a huge cap hit, plus back in June his brother was accused of killing a man in Jenkins' home. Who knows if that will weigh on him? That situation seems ripe for someone -- maybe Beal or a vet like William Gay or Curtis Riley -- to rise up and steal a job.
5.The head coach's daily press conferences will be entertaining, engaging and educational -- not confrontational, which had been the default around the Giants for far too many years
Tom Coughlin softened over the years, but was never soft. Ben McAdoo promised to be engaging, but admittedly treated the press like his enemy. Shurmur, who wasn't known for being warm and fuzzy in his last head coaching stop in Cleveland, has contrasted both of them by being the ultimate professional. He acts, as GM Dave Gettleman promised, like "an adult." He takes questions. He answers them, even if he doesn't give away team secrets. He reveals just enough to satisfy everyone, doesn't duck tough questions, and doesn't treat his press conferences like a war of wills.
It's refreshing for reporters, no doubt. It could be even better for the fans who are usually longing for some sort of insight into their team. Shurmur gets that in a way that neither of his predecessors did, which could make for a fun and even informative summer.