Week Three: New York Giants (Thursday, 8:45PM, MetLife Stadium)
What Happened – The Giants finished their 2014 season with a 6-10 record, though the team showed promise. Injuries derailed New York during a seven-game losing streak over the middle of the season. The team showed promise, however, winning three of the final four games, and coasting to the finish while playing impressive football. In their two matchups against the Giants, the Redskins lost twice.
What's New – Two key additions to the Giants' roster should help boost last year's 23rd ranked running game. Ninth overall pick Ereck Flowers will bring a 6-foot, 6-inch, 330-pound frame to the table. His specialty is run-blocking, which is exactly what the doctor ordered in New York. The G-men also added former Patriot Shane Vereen. The starter, Rashad Jennings, has always struggled with staying healthy, so the benefit of depth at running back can't be overstated, and Vereen will add a new dimension of a change-of-pace back who is elite in the passing game and as a backfield blocker.
Question for Training Camp – New York finished last year as 29th in the league in total yards allowed on defense. The defensive line looked good on paper, but it all crumbled behind them. Now with Jason Pierre-Paul having suffered a serious hand injury, even the line isn't a sure thing. Fortunately, the team brought in Steve Spagnuolo as the new defensive coordinator. Spagnuolo was the mastermind behind the Giants defenses of 2007 and 2008. He clearly works well with Coach Tom Coughlin, and is fantastic at adjusting his schemes to fit the personnel, which could be key if the Giants defense continues to be banged up. There are plenty of boom or bust players on roster. Rookie safety Landon Collins and young defensive end Damontre Moore could evolve into top tier defenders... or do nothing more than ride the bench. The biggest questions for training camp: will the right players step up to what's expected of them, and how will Spagnuolo shape his defense to meet his players' skill-sets?
Matchup to Watch – Easily the biggest and most exciting success for the Giants last season was the breakout of the stud rookie receiver out of LSU, Odell Beckham Jr. The 12th overall pick of the 2014 draft has freakish athletic ability and seemed like a seasoned veteran in his 12 game campaign. Beckham will matchup in this game with the five year pro, Chris Culliver, who was signed to a four year, $32 million deal with Washington this offseason. The Redskins organization and Coach Jay Gruden believe that Culliver is a top-of-the-line cornerback. He's a good tackler and has the ability to stick with the elite receivers in the league, which is an important attribute to have considering the talent at the WR position in the NFC East. Odell Beckham vs. Chris Culliver will be an exciting dog fight on every play between two Goliaths at their positions. Will ODB continue to dominate the East, or will Culliver complete the task that he was brought in for?
Fantasy Focus – A sneaky value pick later in fantasy drafts this year is the veteran running back Rashad Jennings. New York brought him in from Oakland to fill the starting role after he had a fantastic 2013, but injuries held him back all of last year. He has shown that he has what it takes to be the featured back, but only if he can stay on the field. It's not as though Jennings should be considered a starter on fantasy teams, but his average draft pick in the mid-70s makes him a player that can fill the flex role occasionally, while most weeks sitting on the bench. Vereen and Andre Williams could take some carries away, but Jennings is the most well-rounded runner the Giants have, so he'll have the biggest chance of winning the full-time job. Take Jennings at a low price and don't be surprised if it pays big dividends.