The “Giants” will play their 16th and final game of the season on Sunday.
Most of the actual guys on the field for the upcoming contest against the Washington Redskins, though, will not have been part of all 16 of those games. Many of them weren’t expected to be there starting and playing larger roles, and a good number of them weren’t even affiliated with the team when this season of woe and disappointment began just 106 days ago.
They’re more like symbols, just taking care of the mop-up duty and personifying the downfall of this team that has gone from a Super Bowl contender to being the second-worst in the NFL. And it’s hardly a sturdy qualifier to be second-worst in anything in the NFL when the Browns are involved. Of the 31 functional teams this season, the Giants are currently ranked 31st.
So who are these players who will be wearing Giants uniforms? And how different will the team that walks off the field on Sunday look from the one that walked on it Sept. 11 in Dallas?
Consider that on offense only one player — Ereck Flowers — will have started every game of the season at the position where he was slated to play. Not even Eli Manning can say that. John Jerry will get 16 starts, but at two different positions.
And rookie TE Evan Engram seems likely to miss a game for the first time in his career due to a rib injury he suffered on Sunday in Arizona.
That’s not an excuse, but it does help explain a Giants offense that was shutout in its last game, has scored 228 total points (needing to score 10 or more on Sunday to avoid being the most futile team in franchise his ory; The 1979 Giants scored 237 points (which is the record low for a 16-game season), and has averaged 13.5 points per game in the 13 games they have not faced the Philadelphia Eagles (they managed their two highest outputs of the season, 29 and 24 points, against the division rival).
“We lost some of our playmakers, we lost some of our linemen, it’s been tough,” Manning said on Sunday night after the loss to the Cardinals. “We’ve had to change some things around, and we’ve not been able to do everything we could do. And we’re just not playing as well as we need to.”
The defensive front has been remarkable healthy — only Olivier Vernon has not started all 15 games played so far this season, and he has started 11 — but behind them is more chaos. When the Giants are in a nickel defense on Sunday, which figures to be most of the time, there will be only one projected opening-day starter on the field behind the front four: Darian Thompson. Four of those seven were not on the Giants’ roster when they played their final preseason game in August. Two of them were not on the team as recently as when they were eliminated from playoff contention over Thanksgiving weekend.
Not everyone is using the situation as a crutch. Jason Pierre-Paul was asked about the Giants barely having enough healthy players and “firepower” to make it through the last game.
“What do you mean firepower, man?” he said. “You have guys that are playing football out here. This is an NFL team. The next guy has to step up. Key players go down, the next steps up. That’s the way it is.”
That’s the way it’s supposed to be, anyway. This year, for the Giants, the old football axiom hasn’t quite worked out.
Like just about everything else.
Though the end is nigh, what lies beyond remains a mystery. The Giants are not expected to have a general manager in place by the time the season ends next week and they certainly won’t have a head coach for 2018. That leaves a lot up in the air regarding personnel.
That includes the quarterback who — assuming he plays, and interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo indicated he will — will appear in his 215th regular-season game as a Giant. That will tie the franchise record for games played set by Hall of Famer Michael Strahan.
And Manning knows he might not get a chance to break that record.
“I’ll figure out next week and go from there,” Manning said.
Here is a look at the lineups on offense and defense that the Giants thought they were going into the 2017 season with and the lineups they’ll likely take the field with in Sunday’s regular-season finale. Six of the 23 projected starters for Sunday were not on the Giants’ roster when the season began.
Week 1 starter; Prob. Week 17 starter
- QB: Eli Manning; Eli Manning
- RB: Paul Perkins; Wayne Gallman
- WR: Odell Beckham Jr.; Roger Lewis Jr.
- WR: Brandon Marshall; Hunter Sharp*
- WR: Sterling Shepard; Travis Rudolph*
- TE: Evan Engram; Rhett Ellison
- LT: Ereck Flowers; Ereck Flowers
- LG: Justin Pugh; John Jerry
- C: Weston Richburg; Brett Jones
- RG: John Jerry; John Greco*
- RT: Bobby Hart; Chad Wheeler
- DE: Olivier Vernon; Olivier Vernon
- DT: Damon Harrison; Damon Harrison
- DT: Dalvin Tomlinson; Dalvin Tomlinson
- DE: Jason Pierre-Paul; Jason Pierre-Paul
- OLB: Jonathan Casillas; Kelvin Sheppard*
- MLB: B.J. Goodson; Calvin Munson
- OLB: Devon Kennard; Devon Kennard
- CB: Janoris Jenkins; Ross Cockrell
- S: Landon Collins; Andrew Adams
- S: Darian Thompson; Darian Thompson
- CB: Eli Apple; Brandon Dixon*
- NCB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie; Darryl Morris*
- * — wasn’t on Giants’ opening day roster.