The New York Giants begin their 94th regular season when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday afternoon.

The book will officially close on their dismal 2017 campaign. The Giants lost 13 games last season, setting a franchise record for futility. The regime has changed. Some of the players have changed but the goal is still the same: winning football games.

The Giants will improve on their NFC-worst three victories from ’17. There is nothing to suggest the moves they made will cause them to stay in the conference basement or regress. The real question how close can they get to the 11-5 playoff team of two seasons ago? Can they realistically make a one-season turnaround and seriously contend for the franchise’s fifth Lombardi Trophy?

In order for the Giants to have a chance, the following concerns need to be addressed.

1. Solve the offensive line riddle

One of the Giants’ biggest issues was the offensive line. The old regime of Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo didn’t address it with any significance last year. Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur didn’t follow suit.

The Giants’ biggest free agent signing was Nate Solder. They also selected Will Hernandez in the second round of April’s draft. Solder and Hernandez make a formidable left side of the line. However, the other three positions are up in the air.

Jon Halapio is a guard who will play center. Halapio was taught the center position by Brett Jones, who was traded to the Minnesota Vikings for a 2019 draft pick. The Giants also have the services of John Greco and Spencer Pulley. Pulley started in all 16 regular season games at center for the Los Angeles Chargers last season.

The right side of the line will feature free agent Patrick Omameh and former first-round pick Ereck Flowers. Omameh was very suspect in run blocking and terrible in pass protecting during the preseason. Flowers switched from the left tackle position and hasn’t been bad…he just hasn’t really good either.

2. Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr.

Barkley has an enormous amount of pressure on him. The Giants passed on a quarterback to select him with the No. 2 overall pick. He needs to come out the gate firing on all cylinders to justify the team selecting him with that high a draft pick.

The conception is that the Giants expect Barkley to put up huge numbers which is not what they require of him. Barkley will be expected to score points and extend drives, something that doesn’t necessarily come with eye-popping stats. It will be important to remember that Barkley is a rookie…and he will make mistakes. Regardless of that, he is expected to contribute immediately.

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OBJ is returning from a broken ankle. He is now the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history and now he has to play like it each and every down. Beckham will have to do things not expected of him before like run blocking and making himself a decoy. He will have to do more than just provide SportsCenter highlight material. Beckham has to emerge as a team leader both on and off the field.

3. Successful transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense

James Bettcher had one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses with the Arizona Cardinals. The team brought over former Cardinals linebacker/defensive end Kareem Martin to help the transition. Martin’s knowledge of the defense should help but he has never been the big-play threat the Giants need.

The defense is already at a disadvantage because they will begin the regular season without Olivier Vernon, their best pass rusher. Vernon hasn’t practiced since suffering a high ankle sprain two weeks ago and questions about the severity of his injury are surfacing. The Giants signed free agent Connor Barwin and drafted Lorenzo Carter. They both need to be on top of their game for the defense to succeed, especially if Vernon misses any extended time.

The Giants have a lack of depth at the cornerback position. After Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple, the talent drop-off is considerable with Donte Deayon, Antonio Hamilton, Mike Jordan, and B.W. Webb. They also lost supplemental draft pick Sam Beal to a season-ending shoulder injury.

The Giants will win more than three games in 2018 and it is not insane to think they can’t do a worst-to-first like their fellow NFC East brethren Philadelphia Eagles.

With the Eagles win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, the NFC East is the only division in the NFL’s current configuration in which each team has won at least one Super Bowl. It was also the only division in which each team won a division crown during the 2010s until the NFC West joined them last year.

Five of the 2010s NFC East champions (2012 Washington Redskins, 2013 Eagles, 2015 Redskins, 2016 Dallas Cowboys, 2017 Eagles) finished the previous season in last place. This division has the most parity in the NFL. The Giants last won the NFC East in 2011 en route to victory in Super Bowl XLVI. That season, the Giants won the division with a 9-7 record.

– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.

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