We’ve seen a lot of power rankings and position previews for the New York Giants and the NFL as a whole over the last month or two.
It’s only natural to wonder how the various teams will fare with the season approaching and speculate based on the moves made over the offseason. That’s doubly true for the Giants, who not only underwent a franchise-wide change and have a huge decision to make over the course of the season.
The folks over at Sharp Football Analysis ranked every position group — quarterback, offensive line, wide receiver and tight end, running back, defensive front seven, and secondary — in the NFL. They also included an explanation how they arrived at their conclusion.
Each position group was graded on a scale of 0-100 and ranked according to their grade. I included the grade and ranking for each of the Giants’ units. Overall, the Giants’ roster scored an average of 26.3/100, which was good for an average rank of 24th overall.
Before we get started, let’s take a quick look at how the Sharp Football Analysis staff went about ranking the 32 teams.
The ranking guidelines were up to the specific voter with the only requirement that the focus is on the upcoming season only, not the future outlook.
With a combination of numbers, film, and projections, the rankings were averaged for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers/tight ends, defensive front seven, and defensive secondary.
Personally, I would have preferred a uniform set of criteria. That said, as long as the individual staff members were using the same criteria for all their evaluations, that’s good enough for something like this.
Let’s see what they had to say about the Giants’ various position groups.
Relative to what Daniel Jones has shown us through three years, this could be considered a generous rank for the Giants quarterback room 一 and possibly an indication of our expectation of progress with a more competent coaching staff.
While the ranking is about the position group as a whole, let’s be honest: this season is about Daniel Jones. If Tyrod Taylor is the Giants’ starter, we have our answer for 2023, and Davis Webb is unlikely to get a realistic opportunity to work his way onto the field. If Webb is taking snaps on game day, something has likely gone very wrong.
Their ranking of the Giants’ quarterback room (ie: Jones) is pretty fair. It’s also a fair insight that most of the optimism regarding Jones in 2022 is really regarding Brian Daboll — largely due to the development of Josh Allen. Personally, I’ll be interested to see what form the Giants’ offense ultimately takes this year.
Jones’ best play came in Pat Shurmur’s highly QB-friendly system. And while Jason Garrett tried to implement his own philosophy in 2020 and 2021. Jones put the ball in harm’s way far too often in both years, resulting interceptions or near-interceptions. Garrett ultimately reverted to a Shurmur-like offense of half-field reads and one or two-man progressions in both years.
Will the new sophisticated offense gain traction on game day? Or will Daboll and Kafka have to strip their schemes down in the regular season?
The Giants’ offensive line made significant improvements last year. The unit provided at least three untouched yards on 27% of rushing attempts, the league’s 11th best rate. If rookie Evan Neal makes an instant impact, it’s possible we’ve underrated this group.
I don’t think Giants’ fans were expecting the offensive line to be ranked this highly, called (potentially) “underrated,” or get a compliment for its play in 2021.
While there’s no doubt that the Giants need to continue to improve their offensive line, I have been wondering if the offensive line hasn’t been scapegoated to an extent. ESPN ranked the Giants’ line 14th in run block win rate at 71 percent. And while they had the 28th ranked pass block win rate (54 percent), that was still 5 points better than the AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals (30th, 49 percent win rate).
Warren Sharp noted in a tweet earlier this summer that the Giants fielded the third-worst scoring offense in the NFL when not allowing a sack. They scored on just 30 percent of their drives when not allowing a sack, trailed only by the Texans (29 percent), and Jaguars (28 percent). Clearly the Giants have other problems on offense — you don’t produce the worst offense over a two year stretch with just bad blocking.
There are likely to be ups and downs with Evan Neal over the course of his rookie season. We know that the adjustment to the NFL is a tricky one for rookie offensive tackles. It’s very rare for them to step in and play at a consistently high level immediately. The addition of steady veteran Mark Glowinski at right guard should be a moderating force for Neal, and hopefully that side of the line will be more stout than it has been in recent years.
The questions on the Giants’ line are at the center and left guard position. Shane Lemieux is is once again injured and the start of the season is in doubt for him — and he struggled in pass protection when he was on the field as a rookie and sophomore player. Jon Feliciano has likewise struggled to stay on the field throughout camp at center. No team has great depth along the offensive line, and a rash of longer term injuries could make the OL an issue.
That said, the folks at Sharp are absolutely correct: The potential is there for this to be a surprisingly decent group.
Wide receivers and tight ends
Votes for the Giants’ pass catchers ranged from 20th to 29th. How you view this unit likely depends on which version of Kenny Golladay you think shows up. Golladay was easily shut down by man coverage last year, hauling in just 46% of his targets. Wan’Dale Robinson was the only notable addition, but he’s a gadget receiver who likely does not make a substantial difference in Year 1.
I would add that how you look at this group also depends on if Kadarius Toney shows up. While he has the ability to be electric with the ball in his hands, Toney has been frustratingly injury prone throughout his college career and thus far into his pro career.
Robinson has the potential to be a similarly electric player, hopefully giving the Giants access to that skill set more consistently. Personally, I’m also looking forward to seeing what Collin Johnson and Richie James can do over the remainder of the preseason. Johnson moves very well despite his size, and plays more like the player Golladay is billed to be than an undrafted cast-off from the Jags.
Saquan Barkley is explosive, but his inability to create for himself has become a problem. Barkley averaged 0.99 yards per carry when contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage, which ranked 42nd out of 47 qualified running backs. He is not the elite threat he was once believed to be after his breakout rookie season.
Just like at quarterback, this is really all about Barkley. While I’ve been very impressed with the trio of Brightwell, Corbin, and Williams, Barkley will get the lion’s share of the reps.
I do believe that he’ll have a productive season this year, a year removed from his ACL injury and yet another ankle injury last year.
(And therein lies the rub. Can Barkley stay healthy for a full 17-game schedule?)
I don’t know that he’ll be a 2,000 yard player, but I think we’ll see something more akin to 2018 vintage Barkley than we’ve seen since then. Even just getting him the ball down field, past the line of scrimmage, and in space, could open his game up tremendously.
Personally, I’ll be looking to see if Barkley changes his running style this season. We’ve heard that he’s being coached to run more efficiently and “take what the defense gives him” this year. But this is the third or fourth time in his career he’s been asked to do so. Fans, writers, and commentators have been clamoring for Barkley to run more like a stereotypical “big back” since his rookie season. And he has run behind his pads more in the past, but he also always goes back to trying to make magic happen when the offense sputters in the absence of big plays.
Looking toward the future, I think I’d be fine with Brightwell, Corbin, and Williams manning the Giants’ running back position in 2023 and beyond if Barkley gets a big contract elsewhere.
New York has some talent in the front seven, but the production hasn’t matched. Opponents averaged 1.8 yards before contact in the run game last year, which ranked 28th. The addition of Kayvon Thibodeaux should boost the pass rush, but he likely will not be a difference-maker against the run early in his career.
This is the first of two poor rankings for the the Giants’ defense, and the emergence of a trend from analytics-based outlets. The folks over at Football Outsiders project the Giants field the worst defense in football. While there’s reason for concern with Martindale’s defense (which we’ll get to in the next section), I don’t think the Giants’ front seven deserves to be ranked this low.
The addition of Thibodeaux to Azeez Ojulari, Dexter Lawrence, and Leonard Williams could make for a dangerous pass rush in Martindale’s defense. Martindale specializes in scheming pressure and free runs into the backfield. Thibodeaux and Ojulari are quick, athletic, and have good power for their size. They can both win in a variety of ways and also help out in twist and stunt games. And while there’s a drumbeat from fans to play Lawrence at the nose tackle, Martindale will likely use him much more dynamically. His power, explosiveness, speed, and agility make him a much more intriguing one-gap pass rusher.
Run defense could well be a problem for the Giants, particularly considering how many nickel and dime packages they will likely use. That could be particularly concerning against the Philadelphia Eagles’ running game. However, Justin Ellis and rookie D.J. Davidson could help improve their interior run defense.
And frankly, if I have to choose one phase of a modern offense to defend, it will always be the opposing quarterback and passing game.
The salary cap mismanagement of the previous regime forced the Giants to part with James Bradberry which dealt a significant blow to an already shaky secondary. This unit fell 20 spots since last season, partially due to the loss of Bradberry, but also last season’s disappointing performance.
Right, about that reason for concern with the Giants’ offense. Martindale is going to blitz. He’s going to blitz aggressively and often, and he’s going to do so under an aggressive coverage scheme.
That’s great and incredibly disruptive to opposing offenses when it works, but it can be very dangerous when it fails. The Giants’ secondary is full of unknowns, making the outlook for this season murky as well.
Adoree’ Jackson will be the “number one” corner for the first time in his career. Aaron Robinson is entering his first year as a full-time starter, and at a new position. Julian Love will be a full-time starter for the first time in his career. And while the potential is there for this to be a solid secondary — Darnay Holmes’ penchant for creating turnovers in practice offers hope in particular. However, if the secondary struggles, it could fail badly as a whole.
Underneath all of that are creeping concerns about the Giants’ depth in the secondary. They’ve already had injuries nibble away at their depth chart, and while their starters have stayed healthy, one injury at a bad time could put force a fourth-string player into a starting position.
We saw the Patriots pick on Robinson and make a point of leaning into come-back routes in the first preseason game. They were able to move the ball through the air at will and were only limited by their quarterbacks throwing poor passes. The other 31 teams have that tape and we’ll see how how they attack the Giants’ defense and the Giants adapt.