Rivera Sees Giants as a Work in Progress

Despite all the hype around this offseason’s rebuild, the expectation of a quick turnaround for the New York Giants was never a reasonable one.

And at 1-3, coaches around the league see a team that still doesn’t have an identity.

Truthfully, they aren’t off in their assessment.

The Giants travel to the Carolina Panthers this week with their season on the line. According to FootballOutsiders.com, the Giants currently have a 7.6 percent chance of making the playoffs; a percentage that is the worst in the NFC East and tied as the third-longest odds in the conference. A loss, obviously, would put a severe dent into an already difficult situation.

Carolina, at 2-1, is on the opposite end of the spectrum, a team that is very much established and looking to make a deep run in the postseason. Unlike Carolina, the Giants are clearly in rebuilding mode, something that Panthers head coach Ron Rivera knows and understands.

Rivera knows the man behind the Giants’ rebuild all too well. Dave Gettleman, now the Giants’ general manager, was a former general manager in Carolina. Rivera sees potential in what head coach Pat Shurmur is doing on offense as the Giants continue rebuilding from a 3-13 season a year ago.

“But looking at what they’re doing right now, there’s some good things going on,” Rivera said on Wednesday in a conference call with the New York media. I think this is a team that’s trying to find itself, they’ve had some injuries, they’ve had some players they’ve had to move around. I know last week they didn’t have Evan Engram, who I think is a big part of what they want to do, so again I think it’s a good football team that’s finding itself.

“You’ve got a new head coach with new philosophies, new ideas, and you’ve got some new players in key spots. I like who they have, I think they’re a very talented football team, I’ll tell you that right now. It’s just a matter of time before they put it all together and they’re the type of football team that, believe me, people are going to hear from.”

There is a plan and a purpose for the Giants, a team that was in need of a roster shakeup despite having been a Wild Card team two years ago.

With a 10-6 record in 2016, this was a veteran-laden team that suffered from injuries, a severe drop in performance from several key players, suspensions and a locker room that grew toxic as the losses began to mount.

Gettleman and Shurmur have done a masterful job resetting the foundation of the team. They cleared out some of the issues from last year, whether they were bloated contracts or underachieving veterans. They added some high-end talent as well as much-needed depth in the NFL Draft.

In free agency, they did well to acquire the likes of middle linebacker Alec Ogletree.

All that means that the Giants are a younger, deeper and better football team than last year’s roster. Almost everywhere on the roster, they’ve improved and yet, it likely is a bridge too far to be thinking about the playoffs with this group. More work needs to be done if this team is going to make the playoffs.

They are getting closer, but are clearly not there yet.

The postseason remains the ultimate goal for Shurmur, though, even as Rivera rightly said this is a team still trying to find itself in what might be the toughest division in football.

“In our minds, there’s no tomorrows,” Shurmur said. “So we get ready for this one and then we sort it out and get ready for the next one.”

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