Fluke or for real: The New York Giants eye a potential playoff berth

After a 3-1 start, the New York Giants are one of the biggest surprises in the NFL thus far.

An+illustration+of+a+blue+football+helmet+of+the+N.F.L.+team+New+York+Giants.

(Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

Adam Covey, Staff Writer

The last time the New York Giants made the playoffs was in 2016, and they haven’t won a playoff game since winning the Super Bowl back in 2012. This season, however, the Giants have a legitimate shot to end their playoff drought this year. New head coach Brian Daboll has led them to a 3-1 record through four weeks. Though the Giants have not exactly faced the stiffest competition, they have taken care of business thus far. 

One of the biggest strengths of the Giants has been their defense. After allowing only 17.8 points per game through week four, there is reason to believe in this team. Even though they have not faced any top quarterbacks yet, the Giants have surrendered less than 200 pass yards per game, which is good for eighth in the NFL. 

Safety Xavier McKinney and defensive end Leonard Williams — who is currently dealing with a knee injury — are solid players who this defense can rely on. Aside from McKinney and Williams, several other members of the defensive unit have the talent to have breakout campaigns. Former first-round pick Dexter Lawrence is off to a solid start with two sacks, which is half of his previous career high. Prized rookie outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux has been relatively quiet in the first two games of his career, but he has the potential to instantly become one of the team’s best pass-rushers. However, this defense has its flaws, as opposing running backs have obliterated the Giants to the tune of 141 yards per game

On the offensive side of the ball, the team has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, Saquon Barkley has re-established himself as a premier running back in the NFL. Barkley finally looks healthy and explosive again, and has perhaps been the league’s best running back up to this point. He leads the NFL in rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing yards per game and yards from scrimmage. 

While Barkley has been great, the rest of the offense has been largely underwhelming. Starting quarterback Daniel Jones has not impressed as a passer, as he has posted just 157.8 yards per game and a 3:2 touchdown to interception ratio. He has, though, made a big difference with his legs. The fourth-year signal-caller has compiled a healthy 193 rushing yards and two rushing scores in four games, which are excellent numbers for a quarterback. He had an impressive 21-yard touchdown run in the team’s week four victory against the Chicago Bears.

While injuries to Jones and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor have clouded the team’s short-term outlook, the hope is that Jones can return to the field in short order. Taylor, who is being evaluated for a concussion, will likely be forced to miss time, especially considering the backlash received by the NFL after the head injury to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The fact that Jones’ biggest asset is his mobility makes the diagnosis all the more crucial. 

Although Jones has not been faring well, he has gotten very little production out of his wide receivers. Sterling Shepard, who was Jones’ top target, will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL. Wan’Dale Robinson and Kadarius Toney are also battling injuries. Both wideouts will have a chance to prove their worth once they return to the field as the team is devoid of a go-to pass-catcher. 

Veteran Darius Slayton has also been virtually nonexistent through four weeks, registering a grand total of one catch. Kenny Golladay, who signed a $72 million contract, has been an absolute disaster ever since joining the team, with 5.5 receiving yards per game for a supposed star wide receiver. If he can’t turn his season around fast, then look for his name to continue appearing in trade rumors

Jones, or whoever is under center for the Giants, desperately needs one of the squad’s receivers to step up to prevent this offense from being overly reliant on the running game. While Barkley looks to be in pro bowl form, one player alone cannot carry a team’s offense. If the lackluster production at wide receiver continues, general manager Joe Schoen may want to gauge the trade market for external options. 

While a 3-1 record is an encouraging sign for Giants fans, this team is not without its issues. The team must figure out a contingency plan if both Jones and Taylor have to miss games. It wouldn’t be wise to rely on practice squad quarterback Davis Webb to beat former MVPs Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson, who the Giants face in week five and week six, respectively. 

Signing a veteran on the free agent market would be a keen move for the team, and it appears they may do just that. If the Giants want to remain competitive in a rejuvenated NFC East Division, they must bolster their run defense and get more production from their wide receivers. If they can do that, and Barkley keeps playing at an elite level, the Giants have a real chance at a playoff berth this season. After five years of disappointment, that’s more than enough reason for Giants fans to be confident in their team. However, it remains to be seen whether or not the Giants will live up to these expectations.

Contact Adam Covey at [email protected]