On paper, there's no question the New York Giants should be harder to cover this year than last year. Odell Beckham should just now be rounding into his athletic peak, Brandon Marshall should represent a decent upgrade over the departed Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard should be one of the more enticing No. 3 wideouts in football.
At his youth football camp this weekend, Beckham agreed.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing what teams are going to do this year. I think it's going to be a lot of trouble," Beckham said, via NJ.com. "Especially young Shep, I know he's ready. I know the other receivers in that room, TK (Tavarres King), are ready and our defense is going to be very solid as well. So I'm looking forward to this year."
The Giants essentially run a steady 11 personnel lineup. On 353 of 405 possible first and 10 scenarios last year, they trotted out three wide receivers, a tight end and a running back. On their most common second and third down scenarios (second-and-10, third-and-4) the breakdown was the same. Imagine, then, swapping Cruz for Marshall -- an interesting but not direct one-for-one switch that will allow the offense to take on a different look especially on intermediate routes. Because of his size and length, Marshall tends to get open a few yards before Cruz.
For years, Giants fans dreamt of the moment they could get Cruz and Beckham on the field together. When that finally happened in 2017, Cruz admirably carved out 39 receptions on 72 targets despite not being the player he once was before a series of devastating injuries. While this year could represent another false promise -- Marshall is 33 after all and saw his 109 receptions from 2015 more than halved last year with the Jets -- he still has his health and has never missed more than three games in a season.
This is Eli Manning's best offensive lineup since the 2007 Giants featuring a 30-year-old Plaxico Burress, a 33-year-old Amani Toomer and a 27-year-old Jeremy Shockey and probably their most dynamic set of playmakers since 2011, when a 25-year-old Cruz paired with a still-dominant Hakeem Nicks and steady Mario Manningham.