It is one of the most famous and valuable sports clubs in the world, but the last few years have been at a dubious level. The New York Giants are having one of their worst periods in franchise history and are looking to put an end to it this season. In recent seasons, work has been done steadily on solid offensive and defensive units with some outstanding players. Take for example running back Saquon Barkley, linebacker Blake Martinez, but also cornerback James Bradberry. This already paid off a bit with a 5-3 series as the closing of the previous season.
Barkley’s injury threw a spanner in the works for the entire offense last year. Quarterback Daniel Jones, for example, had it harder because the attention could not be distracted by Barkley. For 2021, the roster has been strengthened in several ways and Barkley returns. If the Giants remain free from injuries to their strong holders, there could easily be a winning season for Big Blue.
Despite positive developments in 2020 compared to the previous season, there were still plenty of needs for the Giants in free agency. A true number one wide receiver, more depth on running back and cornerback, flexibility on tight end and a solid backup quarterback were addressed. A good edge rusher is still on the wish list. In veteran Kevin Zeitler (G) and Dalvin Tomlinson (DT), the Giants lost two strong forces; Tomlinson was even captain. Although their departure will have repercussions on the two lines, the Giants can handle it.
The need for a WR1 became painfully clear with Barkley’s injury. Daniel Jones had to make do with what he had and did so creditably at times. To hurt opponents more with a dangerous attack this season came Kenny Golladay. He wanted a more solid salary and the Detroit Lions mainly wanted to clean up. The Giants took advantage of that. In addition, with Kyle Rudolph came an experienced tight end and Devontae Booker is a solid backup for Barkley. For further depth on the wide receiver position, former first round pick John Ross also joined from the Cincinnati Bengals.
Defensively, the Giants “completed” their secondary. The arrival of cornerback Adoree Jackson means that we are dealing here with one of the strongest secondary’s in the National Football League (NFL). After all, Bradberry, Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan and Darnay Holmes were already there; Jackson was the missing piece. Furthermore, a lot of linebackers were brought in to compensate for the lack of a really strong edge rusher. Ifeadi Odenigbo and Ryan Anderson are outside linebackers who can mean something as edge rushers. Inside linebackers Reggie Ragland and Devante Downsbring extra depth. In positions where no real reinforcements could be brought in, the strategy seems to be to throw in as many players as possible and see what sticks.
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The New York Giants received a hefty fee for relinquishing their pick on #11 to the Chicago Bears. In addition to pick #20 in the 2021 NFL Draft, they also got #164 and a first and fourth round pick in 2022. That’s good news for New York as the 2022 draft class has a stronger group of edge rushers than this year’s. With the twentieth pick, the Giants chose a target for Daniel Jones: Kadarius Toney (Florida). After all, you can never have enough of that. Toney mainly played from the closing position last year, but can go anywhere on the field; for example also in special teams.
In the second round, the Giants traded their pick again. This time, #42 was shipped to the Dolphins for #50 and a third-round pick in 2022. With their second-round pick, the Giants chose outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari (Georgia). A choice that wouldn’t have been out of place in the first round. The reason Ojulari fell so far was due to arthritis following a knee injury. Despite medical approval, teams had little confidence in it. As a result, the Giants got a groel brillant just 20 years old in the second round.
With their third pick, the Giants went for a cornerback: Aaron Robinson (Central Florida). This only made the heavily occupied secondary even deeper. For a fifth round pick, the Giants traded up five spots with the Broncos, taking second round talent in the third round. Robinson is fast, strong and can handle both the outside and the lock. In the fourth round, the linebacker strategy of free agency was continued. Again an outside linebacker was added to increase the chance of a suitable edge rusher. This time it was Elerson Smith (Northern Iowa); A player who could use some development.
The final two picks were both in the sixth round. With running back Gary Brightwell (Arizona), depth was added to the position with a player who can also play on special teams. Barkley and Booker need not worry, as Brightwell still has plenty of time to spare. The final pick was cornerback Rodarius Williams (Oklahoma State). He also probably has a role in special teams.
It was a difficult year for quarterback Daniel Jones. He himself was mainly injured in the second half of the season and in week 2 he lost to Barkley. In addition, the offensive line was limited in its ability to protect him and he lacked good offensive weapons. This year, those excuses are no more, as the Giants have done everything they can to build the offense around him.
The arrival of Kenny Golladay means Jones will be the first since Odell Beckham Jr. has a real WR1 again. At six foot three, he is the big receiver that every team wants on the roster. In New York, they hope that Golladay will do for Jones what Stefon Diggs did for Josh Allen. Golladay is surrounded by suitable receivers. Sterling Shepard is a reliable receiver and Darius Slayton is expected to return to level after a lesser season. The same goes for tight end Evan Engram as for Slayton. However, if he does not return to level, there is always the stable Kyle Rudolph.
In terms of targets for Jones, Toney was also added in the draft. He is a very explosive skill player who can go anywhere on the pitch. The rookie can therefore become the Giants receiver with the most yards after catch. Overall, that makes the offense generally quite strong and that doesn’t include Saquon Barkley. However, the running back has not been able to be fully fit for a season since his rookie year. With a fit Barkley and a young O-line showing progress again this season, Jones can prove he is the right quarterback for the New York Giants.
Overall, the Giants are one of the youngest teams in the NFL and so is their defensive unit. Last year it was the arrival of veterans Leonard Williams, Blake Martinez and James Bradberry that brought stability. They’re good forces, but to ever be a contender for at least the NFC Championship Game again requires players of a different caliber. That potential is there in New York. Think of rookies Ojulari and Smith, but also a Jabrill Peppers.
Veteran and captain Tomlinson (DT) went to the Vikings, leaving a gap in experience. Renewing Williams was therefore an important move in this young group. The New York Giants have embarked on a path where the focus is on talent and lack of experience can occasionally tear them down. Last season, however, this was a bigger factor than this year. It all looks just that little bit better. For example, Adoree Jackson is a strong CB2 alongside Bradberry, Ojulari and Williams could pose a threat to any quarterback and DE Dexter Lawrence still has plenty of growth potential.
However, the qualitative depth of the players on the D-line is worrisome due to Tomlinson’s departure and uncertainty surrounding the skills of edge rushers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines. Extending Austin Johnson and signing Danny Shelton doesn’t offer the same security on the D-line as Tomlinson did. Carter and Ximines were injured last season and are especially big question marks.
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In 2021, the Giants are a more complete team than they were in 2020. Overall, however, it takes more depth to make a serious shot at the playoffs. After a strong draft and collecting a lot of draft capital for next year, there are plenty of opportunities to continue building. General manager David Gettleman will want to see last season’s investments paid off, but it seems a bit too early for that. The Giants are on the right track, the roster has been strengthened again this off-season, but they will need to show progress on the field to build confidence in the future. The coming season should show whether the Giants can compete sustainably for the prizes in the coming years or whether they are condemned to the middle bracket.