The New York Giants begin the second half of their 2021 NFL season on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The first half brought a 3-6 record that included disappointing, maybe disturbing, losses to the Washington Football Team and Atlanta Falcons, and a near-miss upset bid of the Kansas City Chiefs.
What will happen over the final eight games? Can the Giants play .500 or better football over that stretch? This seems like a great time for a ‘Big Blue View Round Table,’ so we asked our contributors the following question:
“What would you like to see from the Giants in the second half of the season?”
Let’s see what they said.
What am I looking for in the second half of the season from the Giants? Basically, consistency on offense and some signs that they can be a team that wins on offense. Having a stout defense is a great thing — I love defensive football — but winning on defense just isn’t a recipe for consistent success in the modern NFL. Keeping games close and waiting for the other team to make a mistake isn’t sustainable; the deck is stacked too far in offenses’ favor.
We’ve seen teams with great defenses that drag offenses that are little more than dead weight into the playoffs — the Giants in 2016, the Jaguars in 2017, and the Bears in 2020 (and very nearly the Giants, for that matter). But while that can feel good to root for in the moment, those teams’ ceiling is always lower than a team that can dictate the terms of the game on offense. Not only would it take pressure off the defense to be perfect all the time, but it’s also much more sustainable from year to year.
I want to feel more confident in the Giants’ offense as we progress through the second second half of the NFL season. New York has relied a lot on efficient and opportunistic defensive football in order to win games. However, you’re not going to win important football games with an offense that struggles to score touchdowns and is wildly inefficient in the red zone.
In Daniel Jones’ rookie season with Pat Shurmur he had a touchdown rate of 5.2 percent; a very impressive rate, but Jones’ turnovers were his primary discussion - and rightfully so. Fast forward two years and Jones has cleaned up his turnovers (for the most part). His interception percentage was 2.6 percent in 2019, it’s 1.7 percent now. Unfortunately, his touchdown rate in Garrett’s offense has been a woeful 2.7 and 2.5 percent over the last two seasons.
In order for Jones to really inspire true confidence, he needs to marry his progress in turning the football over with an improved touchdown percentage, while also just capitalizing in more profound moments.
I also want to see more Kadarius Toney usage. Toney has unique play making ability that can really stress opposing defensive coordinators. I’m hoping he’s a bigger part of the game plan moving forward. The bye week should have helped players like Toney, Kenny Golladay, and Saquon Barkley who were dealing with injuries. The Giants offense averages just above 19 points a game. In order for me to invest legitimate belief in this team, the overall offense needs to improve.
In the second half of the season I’d like the Giants to grind out tough, character wins. We don’t need to see fireworks on offense and a lot of us won’t expect that. But the Joe Judge brand is supposedly this hard-nosed, play until the last whistle type of team and thus far we have not received that product. I think Giants fans would feel optimistic if we see the Giants finish out the season as that kind of a team.
Heading into the parts, I’d love to see the defense continue its good play over the previous three games (but Tom Brady and the Buccaneers may have other thoughts Monday night in Tampa). Dave Gettleman spent a good chunk of change on the defense over the offseason and fans deserve to see dividends.
On offense, it would be nice to see Kenny Golladay sprint out the season with strong play and several 100-yard games. We all know what we have in Kadarius Toney, so there’s no real concern there for me. It’s more that Golladay turns his season into a respectable one given his paycheck. And finally, Saquon Barkley needs to play in every game for the remainder of the season. Barkley has missed over one out of every three Giants games in his career (21 missed games out of 57, or 38 percent missed games).
We’ve stopped talking about it as often, but it’s still been 13 months since the Giants scored 30 points in a game. That’s an absurd streak. With the roster getting healthier and games against the Eagles and Dolphins coming up, there’s simply no excuse for that statistic not to change by the end of the season. At this point, a playoff run is extremely unlikely. I’m less worried about the Giants winning games and more concerned with them proving they can sustain a dynamic offense with the pieces they have.
Daniel Jones has already done enough to prove he should be the starter next year, and I don’t think there’s anything he can do in the second half to change that fact. But if the offense remains stagnant, there will be little reason to believe that Jason Garrett should keep his job or that Saquon Barkley should be offered a hefty contract extension. It’s great that New York’s defense seems to have regained its mojo from last year, but until this team proves they can march down the field for a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, they’ll never break the cycle of mediocrity.
At this point, the Giants’ record at the end of this season is not significant in terms of postseason play. But while numbers do not tell the full story, they do provide some insight. I think there are some numbers the Giants need to put in their minds and say “We are going to hit this mark, break this mark, etc.” before the season ends. That starts with the record. At 3-6 and with eight games left to play, New York’s goal should be to finish the season at 6-11 or 7-10. With two games against the Eagles, one vs. the Dolphins and the season-ending game against Washington, this goal feels attainable.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Giants need to continue to trend upwards and establish consistency. They are tied for 30th in the league in red-zone touchdowns scored per game with 1.2. But after converting seven of 17 attempts into touchdowns through the first six games, they have converted four of eight over the last three. Injuries have decimated this offense so the remainder of the season is about seeing who can step up when needed. The defense, meanwhile, is still ranked in the bottom 10 in the league despite some stronger performance in recent weeks. That unit allowed an average of 29.5 points allowed over the first six weeks of the season, but has given up an average of just 13 points in the past three games. That is the type of command we should look for from the defense for the rest of the season.
If we look at the question purely in terms of won-loss record, I’m looking for 4-4 or 5-3 over the final eight games. I really don’t think anything less is good enough. By the way, if the Giants go 4-4 that will give them a 14-game stretch at 7-7. That would be their longest stretch of decent football since 2016, and despite an awful start the ability to say progress is being made.
More than the number of games the Giants win or lose, though, I’m focused on a few questions.
Can they play sound, disciplined football? You can argue that the Giants have cost themselves two games with stupid offside penalties. They have shot themselves in the foot over and over on offense with critical penalties. They have been undisciplined on special teams, leading the league in penalties and constantly making it harder on themselves. A sign that Joe Judge’s process is working would be if his team starts playing with the discipline required to be good.
Speaking of Judge, I have been consistently critical of his conservative in-game decision-making. I want to see signs that he understands he needs to be more aggressive.
On offense, I want to see Daniel Jones get an opportunity to work with a full, healthy group of playmakers for an extended stretch. The offense isn’t going to suddenly morph into a juggernaut, not with the rag-tag offensive line the Giants are fielding, but I want a better idea what Jason Garrett and Daniel Jones can do with a full array of play-makers. That will help the offseason decision-making.
Defensively, all I want is progress from the young players. I want to see Azeez Ojulari continue to grow as a player. I want to see Quincy Roche continue to play important snaps. I want to see cornerback Aaron Robinson earn more snaps and begin to show the skill set the Giants continue to rave about. I want to see edge defender Elerson Smith earn some snaps and show he might become a useful pass rusher.