The 2019 “dress rehearsal” is upon us, as the New York Giants travel to visit the Cincinnati Bengals in the third week of the preseason. Both teams have a lot to prove, as many pundits believe they’ll struggle in 2019, but talent is prevalent on both rosters.
To help us preview the upcoming contest, we caught up with Edward Valentine, who heads up SB Nation’s Big Blue View Giants site. In chatting with him, our memory was jogged on how many connections, both big and small, exist between these two teams that don’t seem to have a lot in common on the surface.
Let’s take a peek over the other side of the fence to see what the insiders have to say about the Giants as they come to town this week.
1.) Giants fans remember the ups and mostly downs with John Jerry and Bobby Hart. Bengals fans have been enduring the same with both players for differing amounts of time. Can you give some redeeming qualities for both players that can point to viability for at least 2019?
EV -- John Jerry is, or was before being out of the league for the entire 2018 season, an adequate player. Pretty good pass blocker. Less than adequate run blocker. A pro who works at his craft. Bobby Hart? I don’t have much nice to say. He had an opportunity with the Giants, and I thought he was en route to taking advantage of it. But then his play, and his attitude, went south. When you come into the building and tell the staff -- as a seventh-round pick -- that you aren’t playing in the season finale because it’s a meaningless game, as Hart was said to have done, you earn your walking papers.
2.) Former Giants secondary coach Lou Anarumo is now the Bengals’ defensive coordinator. It’s the first time he’s been a defensive coordinator in the NFL, aside from an interim stint, even though he has coached as an assistant for the past seven years. Is he up to the task? What strengths can he bring to the Bengals’ defense?
EV -- To be honest, I don’t know. Anarumo was only with the Giants for a year and we didn’t get to know him very well. The only thing I can tell you is that the Giants’ secondary wasn’t very good, most likely because a lot of the players weren’t very good. That’s why the group was completely revamped for 2019.
3.) The Giants caught a lot of flak for taking Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick, but they seem to really like him. How has he looked and might we see him supplant Eli Manning this season?
EV — Yes, they really like him. Thus far, he has given them zero reasons not to. He has looked and acted like a pro quarterback, in many ways a carbon copy of the personality and style of Manning, since the first day of rookie mini-camp. The smooth way he handled the shot from Baker Mayfield in GQ was a perfect example. He’s played well and has better arm strength than many gave him credit for.
As for replacing Manning, the Giants have been upfront (and I think correct) since Day 1 in their belief that Manning gives them the best chance to win games. He is still throwing the ball well and after 15 years in the league his understanding of what’s going on is outstanding.
What will likely happen is that the Giants will stay with Manning as long as they can justify it. Others will tell you Manning will get a quick hook, maybe as soon as the Giants lose a couple games in a row. I strongly doubt that. Co-owner John Mara has no interest in embarrassing a two-time Super Bowl MVP and the longest-tenured player in franchise history.
That likely means as long as the Giants are in realistic playoff contention Manning will play. If they are officially eliminated or at some point it becomes obvious that they aren’t a good team with a shot at the playoffs then Jones has to play. And I think he will.
4.) How are Giants fans taking the OBJ trade now that we’re in August? Are they attempting to be optimistic and viewing it as “addition by subtraction”, in terms of avoiding distractions, etc., or are they bracing for a rebuilding year in 2019 because of his departure and other perceived roster issues?
EV — There was a lot of outrage when the trade was made, and I get it because of Odell Beckham Jr.’s talent and celebrity status. The more Beckham runs his mouth and talks about his unhappiness in New York, though, the more people have come to understand that GM Dave Gettleman did what had to be done by moving on from Beckham.
As for “addition by subtraction,” I do believe that is how the Giants organization sees it. The Giants have moved on from a number of talented players (Damon Harrison, Landon Collins, Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul, Eli Apple among them) who either didn’t fit what they want to do or weren’t completely onboard with what Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur are trying to do.
Gettleman hates the word “rebuilding,” though that is really what he has been doing since he became the GM at the end of the 2017 season. The Giants believe they are a team going in the right direction, one that isn’t yet a finished product but could or should win more than the five games they won a season ago.
5.) How hot is Pat Shurmur’s seat? Will the Giants let things play out through 2019 and/or 2020, especially with looks at Jones in Shurmur’s system?
EV — I don’t think Pat Shurmur’s seat is hot at all. The Giants are an organization that craves stability, and I think ownership likes the professionalism Shurmur brings to the table. Of course, eventually, a coach has to win to keep his job.
The drafting of Daniel Jones, though, and Shurmur’s reputation as something of a quarterback whisperer, means Shurmur’s future is tied to Jones. Unless the wheels fall off completely, which I don’t expect, I think Shurmur gets the next couple of seasons -- maybe more -- to see where this is all going.
Our thanks to Ed Valentine over at BBV for answering some burning questions this week. Go check their site out, especially this week, as the teams get set to clash for the most important preseason game of the year.