NE W YORK (CBSNewYork) — After a massive offseason spending spree, the Giants hope to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
With the team reporting to training camp Thursday, here is a look at three players who could make or break Big Blue’s season.
OLIVIER VERNON, DE
After finishing dead last in defense in 2015, the Giants overhauled the unit this offseason, with Vernon — who signed a whopping five-year, $85 million deal — the crown jewel of the team’s free agent acquisitions. Only two teams had fewer sacks than the Giants last season. But which Vernon is New York getting? The one who had 11½ sacks in 2013, or the one who averaged just seven sacks in the two years since?
ELI APPLE, CB
The Giants’ defense was torched for nearly 300 passing yards per game last season. The front office added cornerback Janoris Jenkins to start opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and then drafted Apple in the first round. The NFL is more pass-happy than ever, and every team needs a minimum of three reliable cornerbacks to have a chance. The Giants are extremely thin at corner behind their top three and weak at safety, so any major struggles from Apple could prove to be devastating.
STERLING SHEPARD, WR
The only given in the Giants’ receiving corps is stud Odell Beckham Jr. Everyone else is a question mark. Eli Manning needs more options to throw to, and Beckham needs a threat on the other side to keep defenses from keying too heavily on him. Even if Victor Cruz can stay healthy, it would be asking a lot of him to return to his old form. Shepard, the Giants’ second-round draft pick, put up gaudy numbers at Oklahoma, including 86 receptions, 1,288 yards and 11 TDs as a senior. He needs to make a quick transition to playing on Sundays.