Each team in the NFC East has clearly defined strengths and weaknesses.
For the Dallas Cowboys, their strength is on offense and their holes are on defense. The Washington Football Team is poised to field an elite defense but questionable offense. In Philly, there are too many weaknesses to count.
The Giants, Cosell said, are more balanced as far as the gap between their offense and defense than the other teams in the division.
“I think that their season can go any number of ways,” Cosell said. This is an offense that can be consistent and I think their defense, which was pretty good last year, is only going to get better with the second year of Patrick Graham and better players. I think the Giants have the chance to be a very solid football team.”
So now that we know what separates the Giants - a squad that Cosell referred to as a “wildcard team” - from others in the NFC East, let’s take a closer look at Cosell’s analysis.
Cosell began by addressing the most important position for the Giants heading into next season in quarterback Daniel Jones. The former first-round pick was sacked 38 times during his rookie campaign and another 45 times in his sophomore season. In his first season, Jones’ touchdown to interception ratio was 24 to 12. In his season second, that ratio was 11 to 10. Most of Cosell’s analysis focused on third down plays and he determined that Jones was often under duress.
“I don’t mean there were free rushers, I mean he was often surrounded by bodies,” Cosell explained. “And he was not particularly comfortable. He was an unsettled player and there were too many snaps in which he did not set and plant his back foot. He probably started to anticipate that he would get pressure and when you anticipate getting pressure, you start to play fast physically and you just don’t set.”
For Cosell, this is what Jones needs to work on moving forward. He said that the tape does not support any notion that Jones cannot play quarterback at a high level in the NFL. But the next step for him is learning how to set and deliver when there are bodies around him.
“Ultimately, all pocket quarterbacks are going to face pressure and he needs to figure out how to handle that,” Cosell said.
Cosell added that he likes what he saw from Jones on third down when he was protected.
“I thought he was very decisive with his reads and throws versus man-to-man coverage,” Cosell said. “I think Jones still has the chance to be a good player and [the Giants] clearly feel the same way, which is why they did what they did in free agency and the draft.”
The Giants made a lot of offensive moves in free agency, including signing wide receiver Kenny Golladay and adding veterans Kyle Rudolph and John Ross. New York also used its first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft to select Kadarius Toney out of the University of Florida.
Cosell said that Golladay’s biggest strength is his ability to win contested catches in man coverage and called him a “big, physical, good athlete” who can run a little due to his impressive stride length.
Overall though, Cosell explained that the Giants tried to add as many dimensions as they could to the passing game this offseason.
Cosell had this to say about Toney:
“He can be used in multiple ways,” Cosell said. “He’s an ascending player because he is just getting used to playing the receiver position. He’s got explosive lateral quickness, he’s got that stop-and-start ability that is rare. He can give you everything you need to be a little creative. Toney can do a lot of things and line up all over your formation.”
Another added weapon on offense for the Giants is Saquon Barkley, who will make his return following the ACL injury he suffered last season.
“If Barkley is healthy for 17 games, he’ll cary the ball 250-plus times,” Cosell said. “Barkley will be a significant part of what they do. They will not be a pass-heavy team.”
As much as the Giants added weapons, Cosell said that the position group the Giants addressed the least was offensive line. But, Cosell explained, one could also argue that New York has the players they need on their offensive line if those players can only step up and be productive. For example, on former first-round pick Andrew Thomas, who turned in a mediocre rookie season, Cosell said that he saw progression.
“They certainly expect the left tackle position to be manned by Thomas and for him to be able to pass protect one-on-one against even the best pass rushers you are going to face week in and week out and you need your left tackle to be able to do that when you draft him fourth in the draft.”
As a whole, Cosell said that he believes the Giants have a chance to be better on both sides of the ball in the 2021 season than they were last year. Especially in a division like the NFC East, New York should not be counted out.