Seven Reasons the Giants and Jets Will Be Worth Watching This Season

Neither the Jets (4-12 in 2018) nor the Giants (5-11) gave anyone much to look at last season. This year portends change: for the Jets, it’s on the sideline with the new coach, Adam Gase, and the new defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams.

For the Giants, the changing of the guard among players continues: running back Saquon Barkley should build on a rookie of the year season in which he led the team in both rushing and pass yards, while 15-year veteran Eli Manning will have to justify a job the rookie quarterback Daniel Jones is waiting for.

Here are seven story lines to follow as the Giants face the Cowboys in Dallas and the Jets open at home against the Buffalo Bills.

Running backs in the spotlight

The Jets’ Le’Veon Bell and the Giants’ Barkley will both be main attractions this year. Bell, who missed all of last season in a salary dispute with the Steelers, will be taking the field for the first time in over 600 days. Bell had over 1,200 rushing yards in the 2016 and 2017 seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl both years. He did not play in the preseason.

Barkley was a bright spot for the Giants offense last season. He finished with 1,307 rushing yards, becoming the first Giants rookie to break the 1,000-yard mark.

Eli Manning vs. Daniel Jones

The Giants shocked everyone when they picked Jones sixth overall out of Duke, with many questioning whether he was worth the high draft pick. Although Manning, 38, is still slated to be the starter, the conversation has turned to when, not if, Jones will see playing time for the Giants.

Jones impressed in the preseason, completing 29 of 44 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Manning, whose contract ends after the 2019 season, led the team to an 8-24 record over the past two seasons.

Can a new head coach ignite the Jets offense?

Gase was hired in January to lead a Jets team that scored fewer than 25 points 11 times last season. Touted as a quarterback guru, Gase has worked with greats such as Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler.

Now he is coaching second-year starter Sam Darnold, who threw for 2,865 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, but managed a scant 6.1 yards per attempt. With a new receiving and rushing threat in Bell, the field should open up for Darnold to throw downfield.

Can any Giants receiver help fill Odell’s shoes?

The Giants front office stunningly traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns in March after he stirred up drama expressing his frustration with Manning last season. Beckham had 390 receptions for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns in his five seasons.

The Giants signed Golden Tate, a 10-year veteran, in March, hoping he would be able to contribute right away. However, he has been suspended for the first four games of the season for using a drug prescribed for fertility planning, which violated the N.F.L.’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The Giants will now rely heavily on Sterling Shepard, who only recently returned from a broken thumb, until Tate is reinstated.

Jets kicking drama

It’s been six months of constant change, but the Jets seem to finally have their kicker in Kaare Vedvik, who was claimed off waivers from the Vikings on Sept. 1. Vedvik played for the Ravens in 2018 and was traded to the Vikings after the season ended. The Vikings released him after he made only one of four field goal attempts in the first two preseason games.

It’s been a carousel for the Jets since Pro Bowler Jason Myers left the team as a free agent in March. The Jets then signed Chandler Catanzaro, but he retired after the first preseason game, and Taylor Bertolet, who the team waived after signing Vedvik.

High hopes for Dexter Lawrence

Last season, the Giants recorded only 30 sacks, the second-lowest number in the N.F.L. They drafted tackle Lawrence 17th overall out of Clemson, where he slid in at multiple spots on the defensive line. At 342-pounds, Lawrence’s impressive athleticism has been on display during the preseason. He’ll team up with Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill on the defensive line.

Jets’ Defensive Depth

Williams has a solid set of starters to play with in his first year as defensive coordinator, but beyond that, the Jets lack depth, especially in the secondary. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson has been limited in practice since hurting his hamstring. Safety Marcus Maye returned in mid-August from a season-ending shoulder injury he suffered last year. He only played in one preseason game. The options to replace them are limited and that could be a major problem for a team that gave up the eighth-most yards per game (380.4) in the N.F.L. last season.

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