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Eli Manning: Giants 'definitely' a playoff team in 2016

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The New York Giants spent a shipload of cash this offseason in an effort to rebuild a limp defense and mask the faults of four straight playoff-less seasons.

Eli Manning was asked Wednesday at a football camp at Kean University in New Jersey if he believes Big Blue is a playoff team in 2016. Instead of dodging the question or giving a roundabout response, Manning answered bluntly.

"Yeah, definitely," he said, via the New York Post. "We added some great players in the offseason. We were aggressive in free agency, but still have a lot of our core guys, especially on offense, back and I think we made some good moves on defense. We're getting some guys back healthy. It's just a matter of, hey, the talent is there, can we put it together, can we find a way to win the games and play our best football when we need to?"

Giants general manager Jerry Reese certainly hopes Manning is right. It feels like a make-or-break season for Reese, who kept his job while Tom Coughlin was ousted in favor of assistant coaches.

The NFC East is the most wide-open division in the NFL. You could make a realistic case for each team winning.

Reese spent big on defensive, adding end Olivier Vernon, corner Janoris Jenkins, tackle Damon Harrison, re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul and used a first-round pick on corner Eli Apple. Second-round wideout Sterling Shepard has received rave reviews and could become the second-fiddle to Odell Beckham that Big Blue missed last season.

The Giants might have revamped one of the worst defenses in the NFL, but questions still remain. That star-studded D-line is still more theory than practice. The safety spot could become a concern. Is the mishmash of running backs enough to carry the ground-game? Will Victor Cruz's return add anything to the offense? Could ignoring the offensive line be a crippling move?

For Manning, the summer is time for optimism to shine.

"I guess I'm always optimistic, always feel good about our squad," Manning said. "I don't remember feeling differently in the years that we made the playoffs, the years we won the Super Bowl, thinking: 'Oh, I definitely think this is a Super Bowl team.' You never know how it's all going to play out.

"You don't know what the injury situation is going to be and how you'll respond in critical situations in games. That's something it's hard to know until you're in those fourth quarters. Does the level of play rise or does it go get uptight or nervous? Hopefully we have guys who know how to make the plays and rise to the occasion."

Hope springs eternal in the NFL from March through August. Reality sets in once September hits.

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