The New York Giants shocked much of the football world in 2022 by making the playoffs and winning a playoff game. Rookie Head Coach Brian Daboll was awarded “Coach of the Year” honors. On paper, the team followed this up with a strong offseason in terms of both free agency and the draft. Nevertheless, the Giants still finished third in their own division and face a far tougher schedule in 2023. It is certainly possible that the team may be better this year but fail to make the playoffs.
Most pundits believe the Philadelphia Eagles are in a league of their own in the NFC. The Dallas Cowboys are widely believed to still be better than the Giants as well. The short-term goal is to attempt to close the gap between the Giants and those two teams that went 5-0 against the Giants last year.
Much depends on the answers to these questions:
- Can Daniel Jones reward the Giants for their faith in him? In a few months, Daniel Jones went from lame duck quarterback on his way out of the Big Apple to being re-signed to a 4-year, $160 million deal. The team appears financially committed to him in a significant way for at least two years. Many think this was a huge mistake and mock Jones and the Giants. Others say Jones may have developed into a middle-of-the-road quarterback, he will never be in the upper tier category. Joe Schoen, Brian Daboll, and Daniel Jones don’t share those views and are eager to prove doubters wrong. For the Giants to seriously compete for the division title and more, Daniel Jones must build upon his 2022 campaign and reach new heights. There will be a greater emphasis on pushing the ball down the field and increasing scoring.
- How much of a hissy fit will Saquon Barkley throw and how big of a distraction will it be? Regardless of where you come down on Saquon Barkley’s contract situation, the hands of the franchise were tied as soon as the July 17th deadline passed. The team cannot offer him a multi-year deal now until January 2024. Thus, any holdout into training camp, preseason, or regular season is pointless other than telling the team something they already know, and that he isn’t happy. The more time he misses, the more likely he will not be in sync with the starters as a runner, receiver, and blocker. And the more likely he will not be in football shape and suffer a soft-tissue injury. Then there will be the endless questions for coaches and players from the media about Barkley’s status. The sooner this is over, the better. There isn’t anything Barkley and the Giants can do now to improve his contract situation, but Barkley certainly can punish the New York Giants and his teammates if he decides he wants to be petty about this.
- Once again, isn’t it the offensive line stupid? The team’s offensive line situation has not been good for over ten years now. Mainly due to the play of left tackle Andrew Thomas, the arrow was finally pointing up last year but there were issues at the other four spots for much of the 2022 season. Most eyes will be on Evan Neal at right tackle, a player the Giants selected with the seventh overall pick in 2022. But John Michael Schmitz is a rookie and there will be growing pains at center. Mark Glowinski needs to play better at right guard and the left guard spot seems to be wide open, with Ben Bredeson and Josh Ezeudu the main contenders. The Giants don’t have to look further than their own division to understand the opportunities and risks. The Eagles have demonstrated conclusively what an outstanding line can do for an offense, and the entire division is loaded with threatening defensive fronts. The better the line, the better Daniel Jones and all of the skill positions will look. The reverse is also true.
- Who starts at wide receiver and will they scare the opposition? The Giants have the numbers. And they have gotten rid of unproductive performers such as Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney. But questions remain about how much better the team really has gotten at this position. Opinions vary. It’s up to the players to prove they can get open and make big plays on a consistent basis. Based on spring workouts, the early favorites to start are Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, and Darius Slayton. Injury issues exist with Wan’Dale Robinson and Sterling Shepard. Others pressing for playing time and starting roles include Jalin Hyatt, Collin Johnson, and Jamison Crowder.
- Can Darren Waller stay healthy and regain his previous form? Everyone who saw Darren Waller practice in the spring raved about his ability. That’s good news for a guy who turns 31 in September. However, ankle, knee, and hamstring issues caused him to miss 13 games the past two years. If he can stay healthy and regain his 2019-2020 form, the Giants offense instantly transforms into a more dangerous animal. This is especially true with the surprising Daniel Bellinger also on the roster at tight end.
- Can Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari become consistent pass rushing threats? Both players have demonstrated they can do it. Now both need to stay on the field and do it game in and game out. Thibodeaux’s December 18th game against Washington was reminiscent of Lawrence Taylor, but he was held to four sacks in 2022. He has the potential to triple that figure, but results matter. On the other hand, Ojulari had five sacks in the seven games he played. If Thibodeaux and Ojulari can stay healthy, it is not crazy to think they could combine for 20 sacks or more. That would push the defense into a different tier.
- Can the defense improve against the run? The Giants were a dreadful 27th against the run in 2022. That won’t cut it, particularly in the NFC East. To address the problem, the Giants added inside linebacker Bobby Okereke and defensive tackles Rakeem Nunez-Roches and A’Shawn Robinson in free agency. Even cornerback Deonte Banks should help in run support given his physical style.
- How will Deonte Banks play as a rookie? It’s unusual for rookie cornerbacks to play as well as Sauce Gardner did in 2022. Most of the time, there are significant growing pains. That will be even more noticeable in Wink Martindale’s aggressive press coverage schemes. The sooner Deonte Banks matures as a player, the better the entire defense will be, not just in coverage but in terms of rushing the passer as the two are interconnected.
- Can Adoree’ Jackson stay healthy? For the fourth year in a row, and second year with the Giants, Adoree’ Jackson was not able to complete a full season due to injuries. It’s one of the reasons why the Titans most likely cut Jackson. Depth behind Jackson and Banks is still suspect. The Giants need Jackson to stay on the field.
- Who replaces Julian Love? Julian Love was a stabilizing presence in a secondary that slammed with injuries. He led the team in tackles and was able to play multiple positions in a pinch, including free safety when Xavier McKinney missed most of the second-half of the season. With Love in Seattle, Nick McCloud, Bobby McCain, Jason Pinnock, and Dane Belton all get their chance.
- Who wins the slot corner job? Darnay Holmes is a physical, aggressive player but he also was a handsy corner who was flagged nine times and exposed at key moments late in contests. He will face a stiff challenge from Cor’Dale Flott.
- Who is the second inside linebacker? Bobby Okereke is the main man in the middle and will serve as a three-down linebacker inside. When the Giants do employ defensive packages with two inside linebackers, who starts next to Okereke remains to be determined. A leading contender, Jarrad Davis, was lost for the season. Second-year linebackers Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers are now on the spot.
- Can the Giants settle on some decent returners? Like the offensive line, the Giants seem incapable of fixing the return game. The team hasn’t had consistent, legitimate threats at punt and kick returner since Dwayne Harris. Last year, this issue significantly affected the entire team when Adoree’ Jackson was lost for the second-half of the season returning punts.
- Are the Giants OK at punter? Jamie Gillan was the 25th-ranked net punter in 2022. Some of that is on his coverage teams, but the strong-legged Gillan needs to become more consistent and reliable. If not, the Giants may be eyeing who is on the open market.
- Can the team get out of training camp relatively healthy? If you’re a Giants fan, no explanation is needed here. The team has already lost Jarrad Davis before camp even started.