Now , with preseason complete, the page has been turned from the summer of Daniel Jones and his development to Eli Manning, the Giants first-team offense and the real season, which begins a week from Sunday in Dallas.
With that comes a focus on the importance of the skill-position weapons around Manning, specifically his receivers, because, the 38-year-old veteran quarterback is not capable of putting the team on his back and carrying it Aaron Rodgers style.
We’ve already determined that Manning needs a good deal of help around him to succeed, which in fairness goes for almost every quarterback in the league, but some more than others.
Odell Beckham Jr. is in Cleveland now. Sterling Shepard, who is slated to assume Beckham’s role as the team’s so-called No. 1 receiver, didn’t play a single preseason snap after suffering a fractured left thumb at the start of training camp.
Golden Tate, the marquee veteran offseason free agent signing who figured to be a dependable presence, must sit out the first four games of the season to serve a suspension for violating the NFL’s banned substance policy.
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Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler, both of whom came into the league together with Denver in 2014, are unknown quantities and are likely the two who must pick up the slack with Tate out for the first month.
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Latimer, a second-round draft pick who’s yet to fulfill his potential, has played in 51 career games and started just six of them, producing 46 receptions for 635 yards and four touchdowns.
Fowler has played in 55 career games and started just 10 of them, catching 72 passes for 798 yards and six touchdowns in his five seasons.
This all begs the question: Does Manning have enough pass-catching firepower around him?
“We’re going to be just fine,’’ Tate said after Thursday night’s preseason finale, a 31-29 walk-off victory at New England. “We’ve got some very impactful players in the wide receiver room.’’
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Tate, with two catches for 37 yards on the Giants opening drive Thursday, provided a little tease — for himself and the coaches — of what he can bring to the offense once he’s eligible to return.
“I got a chance to get my feet back under me, make a few plays and show this organization and this team what I can bring week in and week out,’’ he said.
Now, for Tate, comes the hard part. The waiting is always the hardest part.
“Now is when it’s going to start to hit me,’’ Tate said. “I can honestly say that being away from the team these four weeks is going to make me appreciate this game so much more, and it’s going to light a fire under me. Hopefully, when I come back, we’re 4-0 and ready to keep this thing going.’’
Though he’s not permitted inside the team facility, at practices or in meetings, Tate said he plans to do whatever he can to help his fellow receivers from afar.
“My plan is to kind of be there without being there,’’ Tate said.
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Tate, in his 10th season and having started 101 games, has 611 career receptions for 7,214 yards and 38 TDs, and is the most accomplished receiver on the Giants roster. He caught 74 passes for 795 yards last season, split between the Lions and Eagles, and is just a couple years removed from catching 90-plus passes each season from 2014-17.
So him being unavailable is a major blow to Manning.
“It sucks the way it happened, but it’s a great opportunity,’’ Latimer said. “Guys have to step up and make plays until Golden gets back, and when he gets back, he’ll fit right in with the team and make plays.’’
Fowler called Tate’s absence “an opportunity to go out and make plays, an opportunity to step up and help this team in whatever way I can.’’
“You haven’t seen the best of me yet, but you will,’’ Fowler vowed. “I saw this opportunity last year when Odell went out the last four games. Same thing when Emmanuel Sanders got hurt in Denver (in 2017). I’ve been in this situation before and I’ve seized the opportunity before. Cody did the same thing as well. When you have a guy like Eli, it makes it a lot easier.’’
It’s actually the job of Latimer, Fowler, Shepard and the rest of the receivers to make Eli’s life a lot easier.