The New York Giants are just a day away from playing real football again. Preseason football, but real football nonetheless.
With a couple weeks of training camp in the books league-wide, various outlets are laying out their predictions for the 32 teams. We’re seeing power rankings, record or playoff predictions, and just about every other way of framing the question “So, who do ya think is gonna be good this year?”
Football Outsiders staff writers Bryan Knowles and Cale Clinton had a conversation about the state of the NFC East, centered around whether they would take the “Over” or “Under” with each team’s projected win total.
Let’s start with the bottom line up front, then get to their reasoning: They hung an over/under of 7 wins on the Giants, and agreed that we should probably expect fewer wins than 7 wins.
So how did they get to their conclusion?
Here’s how Knowles opened his part of the discussion on the Giants:
“There was a lot of detritus to clean up, and the Giants really didn’t have the resources to do much about it this offseason. I don’t think they’ll be the worst team in football. I don’t think they’re the worst run team in football. But if I had to pick one team to miss the postseason this year, the team with the lowest chance of actually playing football past Week 18, I would pick the Giants.”
I don’t think he’s really off-base here.
The Giants aren’t in the same spot as the Jaguars, who essentially had to rebuild their entire offense from the ground up after kicking Urban Meyer to the curb. There’s a strong argument to be made that John Mara, and his relatives, have been too involved with the operation of the team and used their personal power to the team’s detriment. The reports coming out in early January were damning and should still be concerning if things haven’t actually changed behind the scenes. But even so, the Giants are far from the worst-run team in the NFL — they were at least competent enough to finally understand that they needed to go in a new direction.
Is Brian Daboll a source of optimism?
“So they’re just kind of sitting and waiting, hoping that Brian Daboll can work some magic and make [Daniel] Jones, or Saquon Barkley, or really any of the recent high-profile disappointments work out.”
“I mean, if there’s one guy who can turn this around, it’s Daboll. Look at the Year 3 magic he was able to work with Josh Allen. There are absolutely shortcomings in Jones’ game that Allen doesn’t have, but I feel like it’s not a crazy distant comparison.”
And much of the optimism around the Giants stems from the presence of Daboll. Giants fans are quick to point to Josh Allen as a comparison for Jones, and hope he’ll be able to work the same kind of magic with Jones.
Knowles agreed, but was more measured.
“Daboll crafted an offense to work around Allen’s skills, and worked with the quarterback to help him fundamentally change his mechanics to help produce that unprecedented jump. So, no, I don’t think Daboll is the worst choice at all to work with Jones.”
Personally, I’ve stayed far away from speculating that Daboll’s presence alone will cause the kind of leap in play that we saw from Josh Allen from 2019 to 2020. The leap Allen took in 2020 is almost unprecedented and we shouldn’t use outliers to set expectations. Outliers are outliers for a reason and using them as a basis for predictions only sets you up for disappointment.
I do disagree that Daboll “feels like the first real offensive coach Jones has had.” I realize 2019 feels like an eternity ago, but it was only three years and that’s not long enough to forget about Pat Shurmur. While Shurmur wasn’t a good head coach, he is a good offensive mind. It’s interesting that the FO guys list Darius Slayton among the Giants’ offensive strengths, but that’s really based on Slayton’s play under Shurmur.
That said, Daboll is probably a better offensive mind than Shurmur. He’s more widely traveled and has been exposed to a wide variety philosophies and schemes. And while Shurmur’s offenses are famously quarterback-friendly, Daboll seems to go the extra mile in finding out what his quarterback likes and executes the best. Even if Jones isn’t The Guy, Daboll’s history bodes well for whoever the Giants pick to replace Jones should they need a new quarterback in 2023.
This is Football Outsiders, and they aren’t basing their predictions on just “gut feelings.” Their predictions are based on models using their DVOA scores, which attempt to take opponents into account.
And while they don’t get into specific numbers (beyond saying Giants fans would be planning “parade routes” for Daboll if he gets Jones to 15th in QB DVOA), a couple of their projections are surprising.
In particular, Football Outsiders projects the Giants to have “the worst defense in football.”
I can see where the Football Outsiders models are coming from. The Giants lost James Bradberry and Logan Ryan from a year ago. In their place, they have Aaron Robinson and Julian Love at cornerback and safety. While both have flashed potential, they have a total of 18 starts in 4 years between them. The Giants will also have rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux starting at one EDGE position. Statistical models typically don’t like unknowns, and that’s likely hurting the Giants here. Martindale’s defense might struggle and give up more big plays than we want, particularly if the Giants’ coverage breaks down in real games. But I also think “worst defense in the NFL” is unlikely, if only because of the Giants’ rejuvenated pass rush.
They also note that the Football Outsiders projects the Giants to face the toughest schedule of the NFC East teams — though that has a lot to do with the Giants not playing the Giants.
That stands out a bit as well, given that the Giants actually have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL based on opponents’ 2021 win-loss records. However, Las Vegas still only favors the Giants to win three of their games, with an additional “push”. So from that perspective, the over/under of 7 wins is pretty generous.
As Clinton sums it up:
“The question is: is this team bad enough to fall below the dregs of the competition they’ll be facing on their schedule? I’m taking the under, but honestly I think they’ll cut it closer than we think.”
Knowles was more firm in taking the under:
“I’m with you on the under, but it’s a more confident under from me. I think the Giants are more likely to be battling for the first pick in the draft than they are to be trying to avoid double-digit losses.”
A pallate cleanser
I just wanted to leave you all with their opening thoughts on the Washington Commanders before you all get to arguing over what Knowles and Clinton said about the Giants.
Freaking Madden auto-generated franchise, the Commanders. Terrible, disastrous uniforms. A name that is simultaneously generic and too reminiscent of “Washington Generals” for my liking; they have queued themselves up for endless jokes there. Two years of suffering through “Football Team,” and this is the best rebrand Washington could come up with? What, does Dan Snyder have something more pressing on his time than this?
… oh. Well, fair enough.