The New York Giants have been on the rise. In 2016 they got into the playoffs for the first time since 2011 with an 11-5 record and a Wild Card spot.
The defense clearly deserves a lot of credit for New York’s success, but the offense allowed for the rise of rookies Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. While the offense ranked 26th in points scored and 25th in total yards, this was hampered by a bad offensive line, predictable play calls on 3rd and 4th down from Ben McAdoo, the limited skill sets of Rashad Jennings and Will Tye, as well as the declining Victor Cruz. Eli Manning’s arm strength also showed signs of a decline. (Week 16 at Philadelphia was a premiere example)
Though it ended with a loss against the Packers in the Wild Card round, the team still went out of their way to add to an already dangerous team, adding two explosive receivers. The big prize of the offseason was receiver Brandon Marshall from the Jets. While 33, his skill set is still quite strong for someone of his age, and with Odell Beckham and Shepard, he’ll be able to help Manning distribute targets.
In the draft, the Giants selected Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram in the first round. While he’s been called more of a wide receiver than a tight end due to his weight, Engram is extremely talented and should be able to solve a tight end problem that has plagued the team for years.
These two offseason additions, as well as the upgraded roles of Shepard and Perkins, have made the Giants’ receiving corps the best in the league. So below, I’ll preview the 5 key receivers for the team: Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, and Paul Perkins (in a receiving back role).
Odell Beckham needs no introduction. He is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, and in my opinion, he is. In each of his first 3 seasons, he has put up at least 90 receptions, 1,300 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns, and 13.5 yards per reception.
Beckham is one of six receivers in NFL history to put up 1,300+ receiving yards and 10+ TD in at least three consecutive seasons. He’s the first to do this in each of his 3 seasons since Randy Moss from 1998-2000.
Beckham is in elite company, and has the chance to match Marvin Harrison’s record of 4 consecutive seasons with 1,300 yards and 10+ touchdowns in 2017, though with the loading receiving cast, it could be a challenge.
Nevertheless, Beckham is perhaps the most complete receiver in the league. His ball skills, route running, speed, and elusiveness are all first class, making the “distraction” narrative that’s been going around meaningless.
Beckham is an insane YAC receiver that can turn impossible situations into big plays (GIF 1). Because of his field awareness, he’s able to understand how to break free and uses quick athleticism to sprint away from defenders.
While he dropped more passes than he should have in 2016, Beckham’s catch radius is still the best in the league (GIF 2). He’s capable of pulling in passes that wouldn’t be in the same area code for 90% of today’s receivers while securing the ball and completing the process of catching, making it look extremely easy.
Finally, Beckham’s ability on routes is nothing but special. He creates separation in all sorts of ways (GIF 3), which adds to the already difficult task of guarding him in the first place. All in all, Beckham provides everything you could want in a #1 receiver and then some.
When Sterling Shepard stepped up in his rookie season, it finally afforded Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense a second great wide receiver behind Beckham. This in of itself allowed for more breathing room for the passing game.
Already after one season, Shepard is a terrific slot receiver. In the slot, it’s key to use your spatial awareness and fight your way through traffic, which Shepard has shown he can do (GIF 1). He’s basically a 2nd rate Beckham, offering the same nimble route running (GIF 2) that allows him to be swift and open easily. As a slippery target, he’s shown consistent ability to fight through defenders at the line of scrimmage (GIF 3) and break tackles for YAC.
Shepard could definitely show improvement in year 2 against contact, but in general he’s been a fantastic addition to the Giants’ offense.
Pairing up Brandon Marshall with Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard was a scary thought after Marshall hit the free agent market, and that’s exactly what the Giants did this year. While the 33-year-old receiver saw a drop in quality from 2015 to 2016, he still packed a punch and made plenty of crazy plays that bailed out whatever quarterback he played with.
Staying in New York (or New Jersey, whatever you prefer) gets his best shot at making the postseason for the first time in his career. The Giants have two receivers that had at least 13.0 yards per reception in 2016 (Beckham with 13.5 and Marshall with 13.4), and since Marshall’s skill set has not reached the downhill spiral Victor Cruz’s did last year, he’s another weapon the offense can stretch downfield.
Similar to Beckham, Marshall offers a gigantic catch radius that can bail out the quarterback’s accuracy (GIF 1). He’s old, but has remained healthy, so his athleticism on route running (GIF 2) is still high quality, and his speed after the catch is also very good (GIF 3).
Granted, Marshall has a small window left before he eventually retires, so it’s wise that he’s on a team that is capable of making the Super Bowl. He gives the Giants a really good WR2 while Beckham works the WR1 and Shepard carries the load in the slot.
Out of all the tight ends drafted in the loaded 2017 class, Evan Engram just might be the most talented. Because of his size (6 ft 3, 234 lb.), he’s considered by many to be “a wide receiver disguised as a tight end.” Indeed, he was treated as such at Ole Miss, putting up 926 yards to the tune of 8 touchdowns in his final season in college.
That’s not a problem at all for the Giants, since it gives them a FOURTH receiver that can dominate anywhere on the field and provide yards after the catch.
Engram’s physical talent is awe-inspiring. He’s perfect for McAdoo’s offense as a short game receiver due to his elusiveness, which can be jaw dropping at times (GIF 1). He can also stretch the field and offers excellent concentration at the catch point (GIF 2) (GIF 3), which will be a huge asset for Manning, who hasn’t had that kind of skill from a tight end in a long time.
Engram is one of the more exciting rookies for these reasons, offering the perfect target for an offense that desperately needed a tight end.
Finally, though more of a running back, Paul Perkins has shown hints of explosiveness as a receiving back. Perkins is a very talented back that ultimately took over the starting job at RB at the end of the season. And with the release of Rashad Jennings, the Giants are committed to him as the starter.
Perkins has had few attempts as a receiving back, but has done well in his limited role. In the GIF above, he shows off his ability to elude defenders, stepping back and getting a few extra yards on the catch and run. As a back, his cut ability is terrific and his vision behind a poor offensive line is stellar. With more (probable) targets as a receiving back, Perkins will add to the Giants’ Big 4 a 5th dangerous receiver.
You might be wondering why I don’t consider the Buccaneers to have the best receiving corps in the NFL. Tampa Bay’s is also terrific, but it’s very close. Odell Beckham has the edge over Mike Evans for WR1, DeSean Jackson gets it over Brandon Marshall at WR3, Sterling Shepard has the edge over Adam Humphries or Chris Godwin in the slot, and while Cameron Brate is a really good tight end, I think Engram has just as good ball skills as him, and I like him better than O.J. Howard (who to his credit is the best blocking tight end of his class).
Charles Sims has more experience as a receiving back, but Paul Perkins has age and health on his side. I like Shane Vereen, but he’s a question mark at this point, and must prove he can be a force on the Giants’ offense. Jeremy McNichols is a guy I’m high on, though he’s not a guarantee to make the Bucs’ roster according to Dirk Koetter. Wayne Gallman has a shot to compliment Perkins in the run game, while Doug Martin has to prove he can be the RB1 in Tampa after he returns from suspension.
Really, this could go either way and I’d be perfectly acceptable with it. But to me, the Giants receivers’ at their peak look just slightly better than the Buccaneers’ at their peak. All of Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, and Paul Perkins have the skill sets to be dangerous at pass catching, giving the G-Men one of the NFL’s most dynamic and dangerous offenses heading into 2017.
There could be a few setbacks. Eli Manning needs to show better arm strength, but with this supporting cast he should have an easier time completing passes. The offensive line is a train wreck, and left tackle Ereck Flowers, a first round pick in the 2015 draft, is rapidly drifting into bust territory. Ben McAdoo must show more aggression and trust in his offense on 4th down play calls, and his 3rd down calls need to be less predictable.
Still, the Giants are covered in the pass game, and with a top defense on the other side, they could easily start the season 5-0. They’ve managed to stress Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in their two matchups against him, can beat the Detroit Lions in week 2, can beat the Eagles in week 3, could get the edge in a showdown against (who else) the Bucs, and can beat the Chargers at home in week 5.
If all goes right, the Giants are a team the rest of the NFC needs to look out for, and they have the best receiving corps in the league.
Featured image via sny.tv