Each week, Lindsay Draper goes Behind the Enemy Lines to discuss what's happening with this Sunday's opponent. This time, she caught up with Giants reporter Dan Salomone (@NYGsalomone) to answer some pressing questions about the Giants, who have long been eliminated from the playoffs, but have a 4-3 record in the second half of the season after starting out 1-7.
1. This game is going to give Cowboys fans some insight into next year, perhaps a small glimpse of what they will have to face in 2019. Are there any up and coming stars who might garner some attention next season?
I don't know if you would consider Saquon Barkley up-and-coming because he's already come up, but like Ezekiel Elliott, he'll be a headache for NFC East foes for years to come in this running back renaissance. The second overall pick ranks third in the NFL with 1,886 scrimmage yards this season and needs 114 more against Dallas to join Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James as the only rookies with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards in NFL history. Other than him, certainly left guard Will Hernandez, the team's second-round draft choice, is someone to keep an eye on next season. He has played the whole year next to former Patriot and two-time Super Bowl champion left tackle Nate Solder, and the two are the only Giants offensive linemen to play every snap this season. Hernandez made a lot of good plays throughout his rookie campaign, but since the bye week, the coaches are seeing fewer bad ones. And that's the key. Coach Pat Shurmur said at some point this offseason Hernandez "is going to have an ah-ha moment that says, 'Wow, when this thing started I didn't know much about what was going on, but now the next time through I'll have so much more of an idea.' And that's sort of what you get. I think Nate's been able to help guide him through that." Rookie defensive lineman B.J. Hill, a third-round pick, has also been praised for being mature beyond his years and leads the team in sacks.
2. Is there still any drama surrounding Eli Manning, and what do you foresee happening at the QB position in the future?
The only time there isn't scrutiny is when he is standing on a podium with confetti coming down on him as a Super Bowl MVP, which has happened twice. That's the nature of the position he plays and where he plays. Looking at this season specifically, here is how the flowchart went during media availability: Did the Giants win? If no, the first question to Shurmur was if Eli would be the starter next week, followed by a query about when would rookie fourth-round pick Kyle Lauletta get in a game. If the Giants did win, the first question was about Saquon. More of the latter happened in the second half of the season, especially coming out of the bye week when the Giants won four of five games. Shurmur said there would be nothing better than seeing Eli assume the victory formation at the end of Sunday's game, and that is how both are approaching this Sunday. As for what comes after that, we'll wait and see. All season long there have been short-term and long-term plans running parallel in the organization. The top brass will sit down once the dust settles and have tough conversations about every position, including quarterback. "When you get to year 15," Manning said, "these things come up."
3. Saquon Barkley is closing in on some rookie records this season. He's an incredible talent. What pieces are the Giants still needing in order for him to succeed?
Shurmur, a three-year starting center at Michigan State, has stated all along that the Giants will go as far as the offensive line takes them. In the first half of the season, they didn't go very far. Three of the starting five players from the Giants' Week 2 game against the Cowboys are no longer on the active roster. Center Jon Halapio suffered ankle and leg fractures in that game, and right guard Patrick Omameh (free-agent acquisition) and right tackle Ereck Flowers (former ninth overall pick) were released before the bye week. The Giants found a groove coming out of the break with former Charger Spencer Pulley at center and former Ram Jamon Brown at right guard, neither of whom were on the roster in training camp but have played like viable long-term solutions. Cowboys fans know the value of an elite offensive line. Giants fans do, too, but for other reasons right now. While Solder and Hernandez have forged the left side of the offensive line, the Giants just need more continuity with the rest of the unit. Barkley can create something out of nothing better than anybody, but the offensive line is the engine that makes the entire car go.