New York Giants fans are optimistic after the hiring of a new front office staff and coaches, as well as the 2022 NFL draft. The arrow seems to be pointing upward.
Not, though, if you are the New York press corps that covers the Giants. Jeremy Portnoy posted links to several stories making predictions of the Giants 2022 record. Here are the results:
Zack Rosenblatt, NJ.com: 5-12
Ralph Vacchiano, SNY.tv: 6-11
Dan Duggan, The Athletic: 5-12
And for good measure, Mark Hale of the New York Post predicts that “The Giants will be the worst team in the NFL next season.”
That’s barely any better than the 4-13 2021 team that basically waved the white flag on offense toward the end of the season. Only BBV’s Nick Falato has any optimism about the 2022 Giants, predicting that they will go 7-10. While that would not make them a juggernaut, it would be their best record since the playoff season of 2016.
Have the Giants gotten better, worse, or stayed the same in the short term? Here are a few things to consider:
Here is a comparison between the Giants 2021 and 2022 offensive rosters. The 2021 roster was fluid to say the least, and the 2022 opening week roster is far from set yet, so I’ve only listed what I consider the 20 most important offensive players on the 2021 team entering that season and made an educated guess for 2022:
Offensive roster comparison
|QB||Daniel Jones||Daniel Jones|
|Mike Glennon||Tyrod Taylor|
|OL||Andrew Thomas||Andrew Thomas|
|Shane Lemieux||Shane Lemieux|
|Nick Gates||Jon Feliciano|
|Will Hernandez||Mark Glownski|
|Nate Solder||Evan Neal|
|Matt Peart||Joshua Ezeudu|
|Billy Price||Max Garcia|
|Ben Bredeson||Matt Gono|
|WR||Kenny Golladay||Kenny Golladay|
|Kadarius Toney||Kadarius Toney|
|Sterling Shepard||Sterling Shepard|
|Darius Slayton||Darius Slayton|
|John Ross||Wan'Dale Robinson|
|TE||Evan Engram||Ricky Seals-Jones|
|Kyle Rudolph||Jordan Akins|
|Kaden Smith||Daniel Bellinger|
|RB||Saquon Barkley||Saquon Barkley|
|Devontae Booker||Matt Breida|
QB: Daniel Jones, with or without Tyrod Taylor replacing him due to injury, has to be better than 6+ games of Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm. Taylor started for three years for Buffalo, had a 22-20 record in those years, and took them to the playoffs once.
OL: Fixing the Giants’ OL is a multi-year proposition. But Mark Glowinski is an upgrade over Will Hernandez at RG, and Evan Neal, even if he suffers rookie growing pains, can’t be worse than Nate Solder or Matt Peart were last year at RT. The Giants have several options at LG, any of whom should be as good as or better than Matt Skura or Ben Bredeson. Jon Feliciano is likely not to be worse than Billy Price, who played most of the season at C.
WR: The cast is pretty similar to last year among the front-line players with one exception. Will Wan’Dale Robinson be a more productive player than John Ross was able to be?
TE: Perhaps the Giants’ tight end room has taken a step back this year. Or one could argue that Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph produced little despite their higher pedigree, and that Kaden Smith, despite being a fan favorite, saw his career end due to injury. Fourth-round pick Daniel Bellinger is the wild card.
RB: Saquon Barkley, now fully healed, will get one more chance to prove what he can do as a starting RB. Anything remotely approaching his 2018 season would be a big upgrade. Devontae Booker did a nice job last year, but he remains a free agent for a reason. Matt Breida is a more explosive backup option.
Taking the same approach for the defense, this is the comparison between 2021 and 2022:
Defensive roster comparison
|EDGE||Lorenzo Carter||Kayvon Thibodeaux|
|Azeez Ojulari||Azeez Ojulari|
|Quincy Roche||Quincy Roche|
|Oshane Ximines||Elerson Smith|
|IDL||Leonard Williams||Leonard Williams|
|Austin Johnson||Justin Ellis|
|Dexter Lawrence||Dexter Lawrence|
|Danny Shelton||Jihad Ward|
|ILB||Blake Martinez||Blake Martinez|
|Tae Crowder||Tae Crowder|
|Reggie Ragland||Micah McFadden|
|Jaylon Smith||Darrian Beavers|
|CB||James Bradberry||Adoree' Jackson|
|Adoree' Jackson||Aaron Robinson|
|Darnay Holmes||Darnay Holmes|
|Aaron Robinson||Cordale Flott|
|Rodarius Williams||Rodarius Williams|
|S||Xavier McKinney||Xavier McKinney|
|Logan Ryan||Julian Love|
|Jabrill Peppers||Dane Belton|
EDGE: Will Kayvon Thibodeaux be better than post-Achilles Lorenzo Carter, who only produced in the final 5 games? Will a year of experience make Azeez Ojulari, Quincy Roche, and Elerson Smith more effective? The answer to both questions is likely to be yes.
IDL: Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence return. Austin Johnson was perhaps better than his replacement, Justin Ellis, but Johnson tailed off after a strong start in 2021. Jihad Ward should be better than Danny Shelton, who gave the Giants almost nothing despite significant playing time.
ILB: Blake Martinez returns after missing 14 games, the first time in five years he had not played a full season. This alone makes the LB corps better than 2021. Tae Crowder is the other incumbent, but Micah McFadden and Darrian Beavers may press him for playing time. Jaylon Smith, the only Giants ILB who was good at coverage in 2021, remains a free agent.
CB: This is the biggest potential weakness for 2022. James Bradberry did not have a good 2021, giving up 8 TDs and a passer rating of 93 and missing 21.7 percent of his tackles, all career highs. But at the moment his replacement looks to be Aaron Robinson, who did not play enough on the boundary in 2021 to show whether he can be a successful CB2. Darnay Holmes returns in the slot; will Cor’Dale Flott supplant him? Will Rodarius Williams be an effective option on the boundary returning from an ACL?
S: Xavier McKinney returns after a breakout second season and shows every sign of being a top S. The safety room is sparse after the release of Logan Ryan, but Ryan mostly played poorly for the Giants last year. Julian Love’s play in 2022 was as good as Ryan’s. Dane Belton will get a chance to show that he can provide what Jabrill Peppers did.
The Giants lost more man-games to injury than any other NFL team in 2021. They are also the most injured team in the NFL from 2009-2021:
Here's the 2021-only season visual pic.twitter.com/ziMKmedx5t— Man Games Lost NFL (@ManGamesLostNFL) January 20, 2022
Is it the MetLife artificial turf? Maybe, although many of the Giants serious injuries in 2021 occurred in training camp or on the road. The diagram above does not show a strong association of injuries with turf. Was it the training methods of Joe Judge and his staff? Perhaps. Do the Giants just have injury-prone players? That can be said about the WR corps, although Kadarius Toney played a full year at Florida the year before without missing any games, and Darius Slayton did not miss any games that year, either.
Aside from Blake Martinez, Aaron Robinson and Elerson Smith didn’t make it out of training camp healthy, returning only in mid-season. Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Kaden Smith, and Rodarius Williams hardly played.
Injuries are mostly unpredictable. A reasonable assumption for 2022 would be that the Giants will not have as many injuries to key players as in 2021. For what it’s worth, the Buffalo Bills were the least injured team in the NFL last year. Maybe Brian Daboll and Co. know something, or maybe they were lucky.
The Giants beat writers seem not to think that coaching and play-calling matter much to a team’s performance. Yet the coaching changes the Giants made are considered to be among the main reasons for optimism going forward. Brian Daboll, Mike Kafka, Wink Martindale vs. Joe Judge, Jason Garrett, Patrick Graham. Consider Martindale vs. Graham a wash, although their coaching schemes are dramatically different. On offense, though, the combination of Daboll and Kafka ais likely to be a dramatic improvement over what Garrett and Freddie Kitchens did last season. And expect Daboll to embrace analytics more often than Judge did when it comes to those 4th-and-3 calls inside the opponent’s territory.
It takes time to adjust to new offensive and defensive schemes, and surely the Giants will be rough around the edges for much of the season. But the same is true of several of their most beatable opponents (Jaguars, Bears, Texans). In 2020 it didn’t take long for the defense to learn Patrick Graham’s schemes despite the pandemic limiting contact - the Giants almost took down the Rams in game 3.
Daboll and Kafka emphasize route combinations (high-low, rub) that spring receivers open, as opposed to the isolation routes that Garrett favored. Chris Pflum has tried to read the tea leaves to intuit that the Giants may use more inside zone blocking to give Saquon Barkley better running lanes in an offense that may use more spread or Air Raid concepts. It’s hard to imagine that, combined with at least a somewhat better OL, the Giants will not have a better offense in 2022.
An easier schedule
The Giants are projected to have the easiest schedule in the NFL in 2022:
You’re going to see a lot of “strength of schedule” tweets today. Most are based on ‘21 win totals. Throw those out. They treat the Steelers as a better opponent than BAL or DEN, for example.— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) May 12, 2022
The better SoS formula is based on ‘22 Vegas win totals. https://t.co/ZbQ48ePsug pic.twitter.com/pzUM9XVJLY
That’s just a projection. Every year some teams surprise, others disappoint. But last year the Giants wound up with one of the tougher schedules in the NFL (which is why they drafted No. 5 despite having the same record as the 4-13 Texans and Jets).
The division opponents are always the same. The Eagles may be an improved team. It is not obvious that Dallas and Washington are.
The other NFC opponents are Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit, Minnesota, Carolina, Seattle, vs. Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Atlanta, Carolina, Chicago, Los Angeles in 2021. The degree of difficulty overall is similar.
The AFC opponents are Tennessee, Indianapolis, Houston, Jacksonville, Baltimore vs. Kansas City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Denver, Miami. Two very beatable opponents vs. none in 2021 (even though the Giants did defeat Las Vegas).
This is not a year to expect playoffs, but neither does it look like a year to surrender. I’m with Nick Falato: 7-10. Giants fans, what do you think?
What will the Giants’ 2022 record be?
This poll is closed
4-13 or worse
9-8 and playoffs, baby!