EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — It’s not uncommon for NFL players to be optimistic heading into training camp.
It happens every year as teams gear up in the summer and start thinking about making the playoffs and dreaming about winning a Super Bowl.
What was a little surprising Wednesday was the optimism of Giants offensive coordinator Mike Shula and defensive coordinator James Bettcher in May.
Just days after the draft, both men went out of their way to say how excited they were heading into 2019, Pat Shurmur’s second season as coach.
Shula said the offense — now without the traded Odell Beckham Jr. — is light years ahead of last year; two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning is looking great at 38; and No. 6 overall draft pick and quarterback heir apparent Daniel Jones will be ready to play if needed.
Bettcher, whose defense had trouble holding leads last season, is stoked to be working with a mixture of veterans Janoris Jenkins, Antoine Bethea, Jabrill Peppers and Markus Golden along with several recently added draft picks, led by defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence II and cornerback DeAndre Baker, both taken in the first round with Jones.
“I am hoping it can be an aggressive, attacking defense that dictates,” Bettcher said. “As I look at where it is at today and moving to tomorrow, I believe that is what it can be.”
The Giants are going to have a different look on defense. Perennial leading tackle Landon Collins signed with Washington and sacks leader Olivier Vernon was traded to Cleveland for guard Kevin Zeitler. Edge rusher Connor Barwin, safety Curtis Riley and defensive lineman Kerry Wynn all are gone.
Like any other coordinator, Bettcher admitted he would have liked the Giants to have taken a defensive player with the sixth pick overall, but he said the needs of the team come first.
“You have had the conversations and given your opinion on the player, the individual player as we would talk about them,” Bettcher said of his talks with general manager Dave Gettleman. “The emotion gets taken out of it. There is great communication and it is clear communication.”
Shula said Jones has all the tools. He has a good arm, is smart, asks good questions and learned plenty in the recent rookie camp.
“Obviously with any young guy, whether it is Daniel or whoever you have, I think you have to make sure that those guys, you find out what they can do best and get them on the field doing that to start with, and then go from there,” Shula said. “I think he’s got that capability.”
The big ask for the offense this season will be replacing Beckham. Sterling Shepard and free agent signee Golden Tate will carry the load with tight end Evan Engram and a group of receivers, including speedy draft pick Darius Slayton.
“The receivers we put on the field are going to be the guys that we are confident in and who we want to go out there to make plays,” receiver coach Tyke Tolbert said. “Doesn’t matter what number you want to put on it, we are going to play the best players at all positions, and I feel confident that whoever we put on the field, they are going to be able to go out there and make plays and help us win games.”