1. Jon Beason stabilized the middle of the defense. Beason’s recent foot injury raised a flag heading into training camp, but the three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker is hopeful to return for the start of the season. After being acquired by the Giants in October, he made an instant impact on the defense and was re-signed by the team this offseason. Along with offseason acquisition Jameel McClain, Beason leads a position that had questions at all three spots heading into camp last year.
2. The return game has special players. No one was happier with free agency than special teams coordinator Tom Quinn. He saw his outfit gain ex-Bronco Trindon Holliday, the first NFL player to score multiple return touchdowns in a single postseason game, and Quintin Demps, a seventh-year pro who finished third in the NFL in kick return average last year and has two kick return touchdowns on his resume. The Giants also drafted Odell Beckham Jr., who won the Paul Hornung Award as the Nation’s Most Versatile Player last year with LSU. They will bolster a Giants team that last year finished 27th in kick return average and 26th in punt return.
3. The offensive line was addressed. The Giants made no bones about the need to bolster their offensive line this season and did so starting with free agency. They brought in Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, John Jerry, and Charles Brown, who have all started at least 20 games in the NFL. That was before they drafted center Weston Richburg in the second round to compete for a spot. Veterans Chris Snee and Will Beatty are returning from injury, and the expectation is they will be on the field during training camp.
4. Jason Pierre-Paul is healthy. At this time last year the Pro Bowl defensive end was coming off a back procedure which would hamper him throughout the season and cause him to play in just 11 games with two sacks. But now the fifth-year pro says he is as healthy as ever and looking to get back to his 2011 form.
5. The Giants added a playmaker in Odell Beckham Jr. Quarterback Eli Manning and the entire offense needed a dynamic player coming off a forgettable 2013 campaign. And they think they got one in Beckham with the 12th overall draft pick. “We are talking about the quarterback needing some help,” general manager Jerry Reese said at the time of the draft. “And this guy is a weapon.”
6. New blood is shaking things up. From the hiring of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to adding a slew of new faces in free agency and saying goodbye to old ones, there is a new look to the Giants this season. With that has come a level of excitement within the locker room as the front office hopes it translates to wins on Sundays.
7. Rashad Jennings solidified the backfield. The Giants found their bell cow at running back in Rashad Jennings, who signed with the Giants this offseason after a career year in Oakland. Jennings has proven he is ready to take the next step with the Giants after the team had to patch together a rushing attack that mustered just 83.3 yards per game in 2013. The Giants also drafted Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season at Boston College.
8. Young players are now ready to step up. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive end Damontre Moore have the opportunity and ability for larger roles after spending their rookie seasons learning from the veterans. Meanwhile, the Giants may have found something in wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan, who came on strong down the stretch last season after two unproductive years.
9. The Giants planted seeds. After winning Super Bowl XLVI in 2011, Big Blue has missed out on the playoffs each of the last two years. But instead of trying to chase the magic of 2011, they moved forward this year and retooled for this season as well as the future. They brought in proven veterans from winning teams and planted the seeds with their seven-member draft class, five of which were team captains in college.