Five priorities for the Giants this season

Having not made the playoffs since 2016, pressure is building on the New York Giants to step it up this year. These are the Giants’ top five priorities for success this upcoming season.

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Manasa Gudavalli

Expectations are high for the New York Giants, who have not made an appearance in the playoffs in four years. Managing players and strategy will be crucial for the team to find success this season. (Staff Illustration by Manasa Gudavalli)

By Ethan Hourizadeh, Staff Writer

Keeping Saquon Barkley healthy

Star running back Saquon Barkley tore his ACL in a game against the Chicago Bears early last season, sidelining him for the remainder of the year. While Barkley has shared videos of himself rehabbing and getting back into shape, he has still not fully recovered from his injury. It would be wise for the coaching staff to lighten his workload at the beginning of the new season. However, with a short turnaround between the Giants’ first two games of the season, carefully easing Barkley back into his pre-injury level of involvement is imperative.

With the Giants’ former running back Wayne Gallman now signed with the San Francisco 49ers, the remaining carries will go to free agent signings Devontae Booker and Corey Clement. The Giants’ second preseason game provided some insight into which of the pair will be relied on more heavily. Despite Clement being given the most opportunity, Booker proved to be more productive and efficient, as he scored a touchdown. Regardless, it will benefit the team in the long run when they have Barkley — only the third rookie running back ever to rush 2,000 total yards — to lean on later this season after his recovery. 

Building the chemistry between Daniel Jones and Kenny Golladay 

With Barkley not in full health, another player on the Giants offense will need to step up. Earlier this offseason, the Giants added wide receiver Kenny Golladay to the team. While he was recognized as one of the league’s best wide receivers with a Pro Bowl selection in 2019, Golladay still has a lot of work to do in building chemistry with his new quarterback Daniel Jones. 

Even star receivers, like former Giant Odell Beckham Jr., can face setbacks when signing with a new team and working with a new quarterback. The season after Beckham Jr. was traded from the Giants to the Cleveland Browns, his total number of catches, receiving yards and touchdowns all fell from the previous season, despite playing four more games.

A strong connection between quarterback and wide receiver is important in determining both individual and team success. With Barkley limited, it will be more important than ever for Golladay and Jones to avoid a scenario like Beckham Jr.’s by building chemistry and getting comfortable playing together early in the season.

Golladay has a much different play style than that of Beckham Jr. Golladay has fewer average catches per game than Beckham — a more volume-based receiver — but averages more yards per catch. This difference makes Golladay less likely to suffer a drop-off in performance. While Beckham Jr.’s success is reliant on being provided many opportunities to make a play with the ball in his hands, Golladay won’t need the ball as often. This allows the focus to remain on Jones making the right decisions instead of forcing the ball one way. 

Improving offensive line play

A major factor that contributed to the Giants losing 6-10 record last season was the team’s offensive line play, which Pro Football Focus ranked 31st out of 32 teams. The offensive line did not give Jones much of a chance to succeed. It also contributed to Barkley’s injury issues, as opposing defenses had more direct hits on him. 

Every good offense has at least an average performing offensive line. The Giant’s poor offensive line performance last season can be attributed to the youth and inexperience of the position group. With Andrew Thomas (22 years old), Will Hernandez (25) and Matt Peart (24), the position group should improve with time. Veteran Nate Solder returns to the team after opting-out the previous season. While Solder is no longer the top player he was earlier in his career when he played for the New England Patriots, he does bring veteran leadership that will help the younger players who are still transitioning into the NFL.

Keeping the defense strong

One of the few bright spots from the Giants’ past season was their stellar defense. The Giants’ defense was within the top 10 for fewest total points per game allowed and within the top 12 for fewest total yards per game allowed. Newcomers James Bradberry and Logan Ryan excelled as part of the defensive secondary, with Bradberry earning a Pro Bowl selection. Defensive end Leonard Williams led the charge on the defensive line with 11.5 sacks. Although the Giants lost defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency to the Minnesota Vikings, the Giants can continue their success from last season. The addition of former Titans defensive back Adoree’ Jackson and second round pick Azeez Ojulari, as well as the improved play of linebacker Blake Martinez and defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, will contribute to an even better-performing defense. After extending Williams contract, the Giants’ defense is in a position to stay together and thrive for years to come. 

Making a final decision on Daniel Jones

Heading into his third NFL season, Jones has lots of doubts to put to rest with his play on the field. In an article for Pro Football Focus, Seth Galina describes his opinion on Jones. 

“Right now, New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones simply exists as one of the 22 players on the football field for each play — nothing more,” Galina wrote.

Although his work ethic is not in question, as exemplified in the many videos of him working out with new teammates, fans and management are still unsure if he is the quarterback of the future for the team. Given the daunting circumstance of filling in for his two-time Super Bowl champion predecessor Eli Manning, who retired in 2020 after 16 seasons with the Giants, Jones performed well his rookie season and improved in his second season. Next Gen Stats named him the top deep passer in the NFL. However, ball security has still proven to be an issue for Jones. His fumbling problem from his rookie season persisted this season, as Jones was tied for the most fumbles in the NFL. Additionally, Jones missed some time with injuries last season; head coach Joe Judge recently spoke on the setback. 

“What I would say about the injury last year — it was much more serious than maybe people thought on the outside,” Judge said. 

While Jones did not have many playmakers around him in his first two seasons, it seems this year is pivotal for his future with the team.

A version of this article appears in the Monday, August 30, 2021, e-print edition. Contact Ethan Hourizadeh at [email protected]