The Giants: Probably not as bad as you think, but plenty to work on
Result: Missed Playoffs
2019 Regular season record: 4-12
2019 Scoring Offensive Rank: 18th 21.3 PPG
2019 Scoring Defensive Rank: 30th 28.2 PPG
2020 Draft First Round Pick: 4
Coach: Joe Judge
The Offseason Scenario:
It’s been a rough last few years for Big Blue, and like most of the teams with a top five draft selection, the Giants will be doing it with a new head coach after their seventh losing season in the past decade.
The Joe Judge era begins with the end of the Eli era, and maybe that’s not a bad thing… It’s easy to forget that the Eli Manning retirement tour was cut short when Daniel Jones was inserted in week four and never really looked back. When he got yanked, Manning had thrown six touchdowns and five interceptions, and you don’t need to be a doomsayer to make a change from that.
Jones, for his part, threw 24 touchdowns and 3,000 yards with a manageable 12 interceptions in a little more than three quarters of a season. It’s relatively safe to assume that if he’d started week one, he would have been in the top five QBs in the league in both TDs and yardage. And this with a patchwork offensive line and a run first offense featuring Saquon Barkley.
I wasn’t high on the Giants going with Jones in the draft last year, but the proof is in the pudding. If they can shore up one of the league’s worst defenses, the tandem of Jones and Barkley should win the Giants more than a few games in 2020 if they can upgrade one of the worst receiving groups in the league.
Free Agent Frenzy:
The Giants have only around $17 million left against the cap, but they’ve made some savvy, if not flashy, moves thus far. Most importantly from my view is the addition of former Panthers cornerback James Bradberry.
Bradberry isn’t a corner that gets featured on ESPN every week, but he’s versatile and reliable in coverage. He’ll also help the younger corners on the roster develop, which might be the most important part of his job. He wasn’t cheap at three years and $45 million, but I think the results will be well worth it if he can bring out the best in a young secondary.
Linebacker Blake Martinez was the centerpiece of the Packers defense the past few seasons, amassing almost 150 tackles per year over the last three years. He’ll be a significant upgrade and the “quarterback” of the new-look Giants defense. He doesn’t shine in pass coverage, but he’s a tackling machine that reads offenses and seldom misdiagnoses a play.
Offensively, the Giants partially addressed the O-line, bringing in versatile offensive tackle Cameron Fleming from the division rival Cowboys. He’ll be deployed all over the line depending on the situation. He’s not the gigantic road paver that the Giants would probably like to have for Barkley, but his ability to slot in to cover injuries and departures will be invaluable.
Speaking of Barkley, New York went out and got a veteran to spell him in passing situations. In New England, Dion Lewis was used almost exclusively as a pass catching back, and I anticipate that the Giants will deploy him similarly to keep Barkley fresh and avoid the type of wear and tear that could slow him down over time. Lewis was one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets for several years, and though he’s thirty years old, I’m not very concerned, since New England didn’t use him as a grinder and the Giants won’t expect him to carry the rock up the middle very much, if at all. It should give the Giants more versatility in both the running and passing attack.
Seriously Premature Draft Hunches:
There’s a few ways to go here, and honestly, I’m not sure which makes the most sense. The Giants are probably better than you think they are, but they can improve in a lot of areas.
Option number one: go big on offense and draft a top-tier offensive lineman to protect Jones and open holes for Barkley. I like this move because we all know that a shaky O-line can make even great RBs and QBs look bad.
Option two would be to focus the draft on defensive players to upgrade one of the worst units in the league if you trust that Jones and Barkley are good enough to thrive as is. The Giants allowed a ton of points last year, and they need to improve on both sides of the ball to get back in the mix for a playoff berth.
The other category that might draw attention for the Giants is the wide receiving corps, where New York hasn’t had a deep threat since trading away human highlight reel Odell Beckham Jr. If you’re sure that Jones is the franchise quarterback of the future, it makes sense to draft a player who can stretch the field and keep defenses from overloading to stop Barkley. With this year’s draft so loaded at wide receiver, perhaps that early second round pick is the place to look for some speed and steady hands.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.