LAST year the giants finished 9 – 7 – 1 overall, 1 – 4 – 1 against the division, and third place in the NFC East. The East ran through the NFL like an Ex-Lax smoothie, and sent three teams to the playoffs. The giants won their Wild Card match-up against the Vikings, before being obliterated by the Eagles in the Divisional round. Still, it has left giants fans with hope for 2023.
So then let’s take a look at the 2023 Pre-Draft giants, to see if they are indeed, poised to take that next step.
QB: Forget Daniel Jones’s jersey, I want his ski mask! This guy in four seasons has thrown all of 60 touchdowns (15 per year), and had the unmitigated gall to ask for 40M per year. And he got it! What happened was the giants organization fell in love with his 708 rushing yards last year, and they have visions of what he can be with better weapons. Also, he’s coming off of a season where he went 9 – 6 – 1. It’s his first winning record in four tries. And they actually paid him! Backing up Jones, is competent journeyman Tyrod Taylor. (-)
RB: With Saquon Barkley having not signing his franchise tag yet, he’s technically not on the active roster. So if a game had to be played today, the starter would be, back-up Matt Breida. Breida seems to have left his explosiveness back in 2019, and at 195 pounds, isn’t built to carry the load. Behind him is Gary Brightwell, an unremarkable, 6th round pick from 2016. Last and certainly least on the list, is undrafted Jashaun Corbin, who didn’t log a touch in 2022.
Even with Barkley, this is a thin group. Without him, the load for winning games shifts entirely only the QB. This may be why Barkley hasn’t signed, given how he has to grovel for a long-term deal, while the QB that he carried, has been handsomely rewarded for Barkley’s hard work. Stay tuned! (-)
WR: Losing Richie James to the Chiefs has to hurt, especially after the way the Kadarius Toney trade turned out. Darius Slayton is a wildly inconsistent deep threat, who can disappear for weeks at a time. Even when he starts. Sterling Sheppard is a shell of himself, and can’t stay on the field. He’s played just 10 games in two years.
Isaiah Hodgins walked off the Bills waiver list midseason, and into 8 starts for the giants, as well as tying for team lead with 4 TD catches. (You can read that as either good or bad.) However, as a 6’4, 24 year old, the giants are more than willing to gamble on his upside.
Wan’Dale Robinson was a second round pick, who went down with an ACL tear during a less than promising rookie campaign. Brought in to bolster their depleted receiving corps, was Parris Campbell. Campbell defected from Indianapolis in order to upgrade the quality of QB that he plays with, and finally jump-start his career. (You want to tell him? I don’t have the heart to tell him.)
Jaydon Mickens comes over from Tampa, and Jeff Smith from the Jets. Both represent the bottom of those teams depth charts. A forty million dollar passer and no weapons? This has to be where their first pick goes. (-)
TE: On the surface, trading for Darren Waller looks like a power move for the giants. They only gave up a third rounder in exchange for one of the NFL’s most dangerous players at this position. On the surface it looks like they outright fleeced the Raiders. That being said, the player being described here, hasn’t actually been seen since 2020.
Since 2021, Waller’s career has been a mish-mash of missed games, and games where he’s flat out been invisible. And then there’s the injury history. Five injuries to his right leg. A recurring ankle injury in 2021; a knee strain in 2021; and most alarmingly two Grade 2 hamstring strains (tears) in 2022. Keep in mind, a Grade 2 strain to that same thigh, shut down his 2015 season.
Waller being traded doesn’t come from out of the blue. The Raiders nearly traded him to the Dolphins last year. So they’ve been looking to unload him. Makes me wonder if they know something about his long-term injury risk, that they aren’t letting on about. Or maybe given his drug history, they felt antsy about how he was coping with the move to Las Vegas from Oakland, where they transformed a 6th round nobody, into a Pro Bowl player. (Look it up)
Aside from Waller, the giants still have their top two from last year in Daniel Bellinger and Lawrence Cager. Bellinger caught 30 passes for 268 yards, and is more like an extra lineman than a receiver. Conversely at 220 pounds, Cager is more of a slow WR. Something had to happen here. The question now is: Did it actually happen? (-)
OT: LT Andrew Thomas has turned his career around. As a rookie he was a turnstile, just utter trash, giving up 10 sacks that year. Last year, that number was more like 3. So he’s gone from being the anchor on the line, to being the anchor of the line.
Speaking of being a trash rookie, RT Evan Neal gave up 7 sacks last year, and that doesn’t begin to describe or define his struggles. This offseason they’re working with him to change his stance and his kick-step, but with him being 6’7 and 360 pounds, physics will only let coaching change him so much. Much of a lineman’s footwork has to be in-born. It takes talent. You can’t just teach any big man to play offensive line, and re-programming only goes so far.
Matt Peart has been an absolute disappointment, but he’s depth, he was a third round pick, knows the system, and is still on his rookie deal. So he’ll likely survive final cuts this season. Peart was such a disappointment that last year, the giants added Tyre Phillips from B-more. Phillips ended up with 5 starts filling in for Thomas (1 game) and Neal (4 games). They’re fine at LT, but RT is in the shop, up on a lift. (-)
G: The giants have nine, NINE players listed at this position! Only five of them have a chance of sticking with the team, and that’s only until Shane Lemieux gets off of I.R. At which point his placeholder will be cut, and the number will drop to four. Shane will open the season as the fifth at this position. Sounds stupid and it is, but wait, watch, and see.
Last year they signed free agent RG Mark Glowinski to a 20M$ contract and he responded by allowing a career-high 4.5 sacks, contributing to the 44 that the line would allow as a whole. Likely to man the LG spot is Ben Bredeson. He had 8 starts last year and didn’t allow anyone to take down his QB. What’s more, the team started 6 – 1 with him in the starting lineup, and went 3 – 6 – 1 once he sat down.
Jack Anderson and Wyatt Davis represent the only real depth on this team, but they don’t have much experience. There’s a lot of “up in the air” about the depth chart here, and it will stay that way until Lemieux gets back. (-)
C: After losing John Feliciano to San Fran, and Nick Gates to Washington, the giants don’t have a player designated at this position. Perhaps they hope to develop one from their large pool of Guards, but the pivot isn’t a plug-and-play position. Someone has a rude awakening coming. (-)
In A Nutshell: Everything is wrong with this offense. The QB is grossly overpaid; which has offended the workhorse RB, who’s staying away as he begs for a decent contract offer. This will only highlight the weakness at WR. Especially if the TE doesn’t return to his All-Pro form. All of this is built on the back of an offensive line that seems much worse than they were last season. (-)
DE: Because the giants favored a 2-4-5 look last year, Ryder Anderson is currently the only player listed at this position. As an undrafted rookie last year, he made two starts, grabbing 2 sacks, and 8 tackles. Not bad, but given his body type, there may not be much of role for him in this scheme. (+)
DT: Dexter Lawrence is a mountain of a man, coming off the best season of his four year career, with 68 tackles and a team-leading 7.5 sacks. He’s currently holding out of voluntary team activities, while he asks for/demands a better deal. Though talks are characterized as ‘good’, don’t expect to see him in pads until there’s a new contract.
Playing beside him, is Leonard Williams. Williams’ declining play hasn’t lived up to his contract, and now there is talk of everything from restructuring his deal, to trading him. Beyond that there’s young D.J. Davidson, and a pair of veterans Rakeem Nunez-Roches, and Vernon Butler who have both been in the league for years, but both are just guys. (-)
OLB: People are singing the praises of Kayvon Thibodeaux. While his rookie season only produced 49 tackles (6 TFL), and 4 sacks, the talk is that there is still plenty of upside for 2022’s 5th overall pick.
Azeez Ojulari missed most of last season. Still, for the 7 games he played, he netted 14 tackles (3 TFL), and 5.5 sacks. So he was impactful when he was out there. He’s expected to be healthier this year, and so the giants are awaiting bigger things from him.
Undrafted rookie Tomon Fox put together a pretty nice campaign in 2022. He posted 1 start, and ended the season with 24 tackles (3 TFL), and 1 sack. Second year player Elerson Smith, lives on I.R. (+)
MLB/ILB: The giants coaching staff was so impressed by this position last year, that they allowed Jaylon Smith to just wander off, and went out and signed Bobby Okereke from Indy. Rookie Micah McFadden started 7 games, and notched 59 tackles (9 TFL) and 2 sacks. Not overwhelming, but it portends good things. The remaining four guys are just roster filler. (+)
S: This position is a mess. Losing Julian Love was a tough blow. Xavier McKinney missed practically the second half of last season, but started both playoff games. So far in his three year career, he’s missed half of two separate seasons. In his one complete season, he was an absolute menace. The question however, is will he play a whole season, or just half of one.
Even at his best, McKinney can’t play two spots. Which raises the question of, who gets the other job. Both Jason Pinnock and Dane Belton, each started 5 games last year. Pinnock was more of an in the box presence (41 tackles, 2 for losses, 1.5 sacks), while Belton (31 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 interceptions) seemed to be more suited to coverage. Everything here is a question. (-)
CB: Adoree Jackson started the first 10 games last season, missed the rest of the regular season, but returned in time for the playoffs. He’s serviceable, but hardly a difference maker anymore. Darnay Holmes played Nickel last year, but may move into a more prominent role with the departure of Fabian Moreau.
Cordale Flott made 6 starts last year, as a third round rookie, and was made to look like one. On the other hand, last year could be great for experience and as a teaching tool. Nick McCloud saw a lot of action last year, and may be asked to step up in 2023. Rodarius Williams, and two more warm bodies are drawing paychecks at this position.
This position wasn’t very good in 2022, and the loss of Moreau doesn’t help. (-)
In A Nutshell: Personnel turnover is part of any business, but the giants haven’t been able to mitigate key losses. Especially in the secondary. This doesn’t bode well at all. (-)
K/P: Kicker Graham Gano was 29/32 (90.6%) last year, hitting 18/20 from 40+, and connecting on 32/24 (94.1%) extra points. Of his 84 kickoffs, 50 were touchbacks (59.9%). Big leg. Reliable. What’s not to like? (+)
Punter Jamie Gillan is maybe out-kicking his coverage a little. Last year he averaged 46.8 yards per punt, with a net of 40.1, which is fine. The issue is, of his 74 punts, 28 were returned (37.8%) for 277 yards (9.8ypr). While no opponent took a kick to the house last year, they often had room to try. Again, not a huge problem, but something to work on. (+)
In A Nutshell: Being able to rely on their kicking, especially in Met Life stadium where the wind swirls, and can change direction, helps the giants in any game where they can keep the score close. This has allowed them to steal quite a few games over the years, and will probably help them steal 1 or 2 more this season. (+)
BOTTOM LINE: Personnel losses and holdouts are the story of the giants offseason so far. While other teams are talking about what they’re adding to get stronger, the giants are clearly having trouble just treading water. Every indicator says that they will take a step back in 2023. A 9 – 8 finish would be a strong mark for them this year.