Back in February when the New York Giants released veteran wide out Victor Cruz, it was an expected move, but it left many wondering about who was going to be brought in as his replacement. With the addition of former-New York Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, the team finally found a true outside receiver to line up opposite of Odell Beckham. With young players on roster like Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, there’s an extraordinary amount of potential for them to develop into elite players.
Granted, last year experts and critics said the same thing about the Beckham/Cruz/Shepard trio, but after only being one year removed from a Pro Bowl season, Marshall is a clear upgrade over Cruz. Not to mention Engram’s speed and receiving abilities gives him a significant edge in the passing game against the other tight ends on roster last season. Other teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers all have excellent receiving corps as well, but let’s take a closer look at why the Giants have the best receiving corp in the NFL heading into the 2017 season.
New York Giants: NFL’s Best Receiving Corps
Future G.O.A.T. Meets Future H.O.F.
With three seasons of NFL experience under his belt, Odell Beckham Jr. has quite the resume. He’s not only the fastest player to haul in 250 receptions (38 games) and 4,000 receiving yards (42 games), but he’s the only wide receiver to record 90+ rec, 1000+ yards, and 10+ TDs in first three seasons. There’s no argument Odell sits among the top wide outs in the league and it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if he unanimously took the throne in the upcoming years. With opposing defenses occupied with the rest of the offensive weapons, there’s still even more room for him to succeed.
As Odell continues to scorch the record books, the help around him keeps getting better. At 6’4, 230 pounds, Brandon Marshall’s size and physical play style compliments the skill set of Beckham and will be one of the most exciting duos to watch this year. In addition to his starting job he’ll be filling the side-role Ben McAdoo tried to have Victor Cruz fill, and that’s being a deep ball threat.
After his injury, Cruz lost some of his explosiveness and although Marshall is older he still has the physical advantage to fill the need and the components to succeed in taking coverage away from Odell Beckham. Marshall has been torching defenses for years with his phenomenal footwork and 4.52 speed, so while Odell will likely draw coverage from the first-string cornerback, that leaves the second-string to cover Marshall. Considering that he’d be most teams first-string receiver and he’s second on the Giants is just a testament to how lethal this corp is.
Young Players Stepping Up
If having two first string receivers wasn’t enough, throw in Sterling Shepard, the 2016 second-round pick who performed as one of the league’s best rookie receivers alongside Michael Thomas. He was brought into the organization as part of a plan to replace Victor Cruz in the slot and that’s exactly what he did. Heading into his second season opposing teams will know what to expect, but that’s easier said than done. He’s an explosive player with outstanding hands who can turn a short pass into a long gain on any given play. After an impressive rookie year, he finished with 65 receptions, 683 yards, and eight touchdowns. It’s hard to say many defenses in the NFL right now have a strong enough secondary to defend this trio of starters.
While listed as “tight end,” Evan Engram might as well be a wide receiver. If his tape wasn’t enough evidence, his draft is undeniable. His 6’3, 235-pound frame combined with 4.42 40-yard dash speed and a 36” vertical is more than what the vast majority of defenders can handle. Not only because of his extraordinary speed, but his size, arms, and catch radius are much longer than that of any defender he’ll go up against, especially considering he’ll be likely to draw a lot of coverage from linebackers. Whether he’s making a play for the ball or not, his presence alone will open the field up allowing himself and the wide out trio to capitalize.
Behind the Scenes
Both Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard played over 1,000 snaps last season, which means each of them played in 94% of offensive plays. With more talent at the wide out position that ever before, this pattern should at least decrease a little to rotate players accordingly. In those moments that the starters do come out, the reserves are in good shape to take over. Leading the pack is 2017 Pro Bowl Returner Dwayne Harris who has proven his worth as a receiver, and alongside him are sleeper candidate Tavarres King and Florida State sensation Travis Rudolph. There was promise in Roger Lewis. to take the number four receiver spot on the roster heading into the season, but he was recently arrested for operating a vehicle while impaired on June fourth and his league consequences are still pending.
When the Giants incorporate this three wide out and one tight end package, it’s going to be a real challenge for defenses to keep up. Considering this year’s upcoming schedule, most receiver/corner matchups look to be in favor of the Giants by significant margins. An important key in the success of this unit is the man behind the passes, Eli Manning. While under contract for the next three seasons, he’s excellent condition to improve his already Hall of Fame career with the talent he’s surrounded by. Fixing the weakest part of the team last season was dealt with by making minor tweaks in the offensive line and improvements have already been reported at recent OTAs.
The way the team stands right now, they are fully capable of transforming their offensive flop in 2016 into one of the league’s best units in 2017. Each individual receiver in the corp is especially great at scoring points in the red zone so to have four on the field at once almost seems like an overkill. The fate of the offense ultimately depends upon what Ben McAdoo changes going into his sophomore year as head coach. Some of his biggest weaknesses last year were his inability to expand the playbook and his constant use of the same formations, these allowed for a predictable offensive play call. He’s addressed this issue in interviews and has confirmed they are working at fixing it for the new season. McAdoo hasn’t disappointed yet and that’s why the New York Giants are going to have the NFL’s best receiving corp in 2017.