NFL writers everywhere are struggling for ways to write about football when there isn’t any football, and might not be any for a while. Over at The Athletic, former NFL executive Michael Lombardi recently penned a post look at the obvious and non-obvious questions for each NFL team heading into 2020.
Well, we’re like everybody else in looking for unique ways to talk about the New York Giants. So, let’s look at what Lombardi said about them, and offer some reaction to that. The subheads are Lombardi’s thoughts on Giants questions.
OBVIOUS: Can second-year quarterback Daniel Jones hold onto the ball?
In 13 starts, Jones fumbled the ball 12 times, lost 8 of them, and threw 12 interceptions. He was loose with the ball in the pocket and must improve or the turnovers will continue to haunt him. When the game speeds up for Jones, he struggled last year. The Giants offense only scored seven points in two-minute, ranking 31st overall.
I could chide Lombardi for getting his numbers wrong — Jones fumbled 18 times. But, I wouldn’t pick on Lombardi. I will just stick to his larger point.
We talked about this the other day when we assessed ESPN/PFF roster rankings that put the Giants at No. 27 and called Jones the team’s X-Factor. Jones’ ability to hold onto the ball, to make quicker decisions in the pocket, is a question — until it isn’t. Until he shows that the weight he has added and the work we keep hearing he is doing on protecting the ball in the pocket has paid off.
NON-OBVIOUS: Do the Giants have enough speed and quickness on defense to create turnovers?
Last year the Giants ranked 32nd overall in takeaway points scored. They struggled to create turnovers with pressure or speed. When the Giants blitzed, they were the ranked 28th in the NFL, allowing opposing quarterbacks a 106.3 rating. They created just 10 interceptions and recovered 6 fumbles. These poor numbers are a clear indication of a lack of overall team defensive speed.
This is a good question. The key defensive players the Giants added — James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, Xavier McKinney — should be good ones. None, though, are known for their speed.
The Giants chose a slew of linebackers and edge defenders at the end of the 2020 NFL Draft, but how much any of them contributes in 2020 is a good question.
I quite honestly hate giving any attention to work done purely for the unprofessional purpose of poking fun at an opponent, but Jimmy Kempski’s “dumpster fire” post about the Giants contained this graphic that applies to the discussion:
It does point out the lack of speed. I will, though, say that Xavier McKinney should be more athletic than a long-past-his-prime Antoine Bethea. James Bradberry has never been a turnover machine, but he should be the Giants’ best cover cornerback since the 2016 version of Janoris Jenkins. Ryan Connelly should help the defense if he is fully recovered from his torn ACL.
Speed is a concern. In 2019, though, my view was that speed wasn’t the problem on defense. The bigger problem, beyond even pass rush, was too many instances of players simply appearing to not really have any idea what they were supposed to be doing.
Let’s hope new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and his highly-regarded coaching staff can fix that.