Updated: Feb 5, 2021
After a 6-10 record in the New York Giants 2020 campaign, is sad to say that this season was a success. But because the Giants have been so bad the last 6 years, it is cause for celebration. The season could have turn out better, The Giants left 3 wins on the table. They should have beaten the Eagles after being up 10 points with 4:00+ minutes in the 4th, only a dropped 3rd down pass from Evan Engram stopped that. They should have beaten the Bucs at home on Monday Night Football and the Cowboys on the road after a last-minute field goal up-ended them.
This football team is headed in the right direction but there is a lot to do to get from sub .500 to a winning football team. I will try to unpack the to-dos for the Giants in this off-season that must be addressed before training camp rolls around.
1. Is Jason Garrett the answer at offensive coordinator
The Giants offense shows signs at times, but for the most part was a collective disaster. Losing Saquon Barkley to a season ending ACL tear did not help matters much, but the issues started before that. The Giants finished 31st in points per game (17.5 PPG), 31st total yards per game (299 yds per game), 29th in passing yards per game (189.1 per game) and 19th is rushing yard per game (110.5 yards per game). Jason Garrett was hired as offensive coordinator after his long stint in Dallas. He worked some magic with what he had, but it was clear Daniel Jones regressed a bit. While he protected the ball better than the past, his stat line of 2,943 yds / 11 TDs / 10 INTs are not scaring anyone. The Giants came out and expressed confidence in Jones, but what about the coordinator? He had one interview with the Los Angeles Chargers, but they went in another direction by hiring Rams DC Brandon Staley. Giants must decide if the Jones/Garrett pairing can work.
2. Can they keep the defensive line together?
The defensive line helped anchor a resurgence in the Giants’ defense in 2020. Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill gave the Giants solid run defense and allowed the LBs like Blake Martinez amass over 150 tackles this year. Their play helped turn around a terrible defense in Patrick Graham’s first season as defensive coordinator (who the Giants quickly extended with a deal to keep him as coordinator). But with Williams and Tomlinson both heading into free agency, can they afford to pay them both?
Williams was franchised in 2020, bet on himself and will look to get paid as a top tackle in the league. Williams had a career-high 11.5 sacks and was 3rd in the league in pressures with 62. The going rate is $17.5M for a top DT, and he will get it. Tomlinson only had 3.5 sacks and 49 tackles on paper, but he commands a double team, stuffs the run, and allows LBs to run free. Tomlinson was a defensive captain and was the Giants’ nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year. Both men had to be in Blue for the Giants to succeed, but one will likely be gone, and the draft is where you find the replacement. The Giants project to have $48M in cap space but that money goes quickly.
3. Must find a WR1 threat for Daniel Jones.
The Giants WR core is solid at best, with Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton. But none of these WRs are a number 1 receiver and a threat to break the game open. The Giants traded Odell Beckham 2 years ago and have yet to find his replacement. Evan Engram is a Pro-Bowler, but he cannot be counted on all the time when he drops critical passes or hurt often. There are some solid WRs available this off-season with Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kenny Golladay, T.Y. Hilton. There are also some talent WRs coming in the NFL Draft like Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Rondale Moore and Terrace Marshall Jr. IF the Giants let this season go without surrounding their young QB on a rookie deal with no talent on the outside, then Dave Gettlemen officially wasted Jones’ rookie deal.
4. Upgrade the pass rush
For as improved as the defense was in 2021, the Giants still are lacking in a dominate pass rusher. The Giants ranked 13 in team sacks (40 sacks) but can still use an outside rusher. The championship teams in 2007 and 2011 were built on that outside rushers of Strahan, Osi, Tuck, JPP, etc. The Giants must address this, most likely in the draft. But do you use the top pick on a WR, DE, or offensive linemen? The 2021 NFL Draft can potentially include Xavier Thomas from Clemson, LaBryan Ray from Alabama, Gregory Rousseau from Miami, Carlos Basham from Wake Forest, and Kwity Paye from Michigan. No matter who they pick, they must address this position. They missed out on Chase Young last year and cannot wait to address this position any longer.
5. What to do with Saquon Barkley
While this will be a quick section it is worth discussing now. Barkley is coming off a terrible injury in 2020 and hopes to be ready for the 2021 season. But before the injury, he was not productive at all. Is first 3 seasons have seen a decline in yards per carry (5.0 in 2018, 4.6 in 2019, and 1.8 in 2020). Now the offensive line was a big reason why he struggled, but the line gelled during the season and Wayne Gallman had a career year. Barkley has 2 years left on his deal and after this season it will be time to decide if you extend him. So do the Giants roll the dice, let Berkley walk after his deal is up and keep Gallman? There is no reason to think Barkley would not succeed in this offense with this line that will add back Nate Solder. But do you pay your RB top dollar in this market? Time will tell what the Giants will do.