The NFL’s second best defense in 2017 will take on a completely rebuilt New York Giants offense in week one of the 2018 regular season. The Jacksonville Jaguars will bring a stingy team with several high profile players on both sides of the ball. They will be the perfect challenge for the Giants after overhauling their front-office and schemes.
Big Blue added the likes of running back Saquon Barkley and various pieces to the offensive line which should test the Jaguars defense. Expect to see a heavy dosage of Barkley in the first half, as HC Pat Shurmur will look to create mismatches with linebackers. Unfortunately for the Giants, the Jags have Myles Jack, an extremely athletic and dynamic linebacker who will match up with Barkley in ways he’s never seen before. Throw in cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey and the Giants will be scrambling to find their balance on offense.
Not only will their defense be a test, but their offense will be no easy feat either. The Jags signed Andrew Norwell, who was projected to go with the Giants this past offseason. Instead, New York grabbed left tackle Nate Solder for a record breaking $15 million per-season cap-hit.
Jacksonville has a stellar offensive line but lacks quality and depth in the receiver corps. Leonard Fournette solidifies the backfield, offering a bullish running back to take on linebackers and defensive lineman. The Giants made the transition to the 3-4 defense this past offseason, making the week one bout versus the Jags a big challenge and test of their adaptability.
Who will be the key players for the Giants?
We will name two players on both the sides of the ball that will play an influential role in the game.
1.) LB Alec Ogletree
This will be Ogletree’s first game with his new team, and my oh my will it be a big one for him. This is his opportunity to show why the Giants invested $10 million per-season into him and why he will be the MIC linebacker going forward.
He will be tasked with spying on Blake Bortles and bottling up Fournette before he reaches the second level. The physical linebacker has had an up and down career thus far, but the system that DC James Bettcher is implementing suits his strengths perfectly.
Projection: 11 tackles/1 forced fumble
2.) DT Damon Harrison
As always, Snacks will be assigned the role of run stopper and havoc wrecker. He will play a massive role in taking two offensive lineman out of the game for the linebackers to step up and shoot the gaps. Harrison has seen his tackle totals skyrocket after becoming a Giants, simply because they have used him more frequently and have asked him to pick up the slack when all else fails.
His ability to grab hold of the runner is unparalleled and we will see this once more in week one of the regular season.
Projections: 9 tackles/1 quarterback hurry
3.) RB Saquon Barkley
The Giants prized first-round pick is unknown in the NFL, but his talents are more than apparent. Opposing defensive coordinators will plan around him at the line of scrimmage and allocate extra defenders to stop him in the flat.
This will open up the field for tight end Evan Engram and receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. He will play a massive role in drawing extra defenders and helping Eli Manning execute the play-action to perfection.
Projection: Rushing yards=95/receiving yards=43/1 touchdown
4.) LT Nate Solder
This will be the first test for left tackle Nate Solder on Eli Manning’s blindside. He started off the 2017 season shaky but strengthened as the season progressed. Hopefully, he will start off the season strong and show Manning why his Saturday nights should be full of resting and not worrying.
Solder has played as Tom Brady’s left tackle since 2011 and has been one of the most durable lineman on the team. He only missed more than one game in 2015 when he was diagnosed with cancer and missed a majority of the season. After receiving a massive four-year, $62 million deal, the Giants will be expecting big things from Solder.