The New York Giants’ 2022 season is fast approaching, and we at Big Blue View wanted to evaluate the team’s progress since the NFL Draft.
Fellow Big Blue View contributor Chris Pflum recently detailed the Giants’ journey from the end of the lamentable 2022 season to the selections of the rookie class.
The changes in front office personnel, coaching, and overall philosophy were extensive, but necessary. The initial identity of the new regime was revealed with an emphatic Mike Breen BANG! The Giants selected Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and Alabama’s Evan Neal to bolster the defensive and offensive trenches.
Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll continued to select players of impact, some more noteworthy than others. The Giants added 11 rookies in the draft — six on defense, five on offense, and three along the offensive line. New York also signed several undrafted free agents to compete for spots on the roster and practice squad. Shortly after the draft, the rookie minicamp commenced.
Two rookie receiving options made early impressions: wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and tight end Daniel Bellinger. Rookie cornerback Cor’Dale Flott and safety Dane Belton had the pleasure of playing against Robinson during his senior season at Kentucky in 2021.
Flott and Robinson showered each other in praise, while Belton called Robinson an “electric player.”
Bellinger displayed his receiving ability through minicamp, which prompted questions about his upside. The former San Diego State Aztec played in a run-oriented offense that offered only 103 targets through three seasons. It became apparent quickly that Bellinger has more to offer than just blocking.
General manager Joe Schoen acting as a quarterback, Kayvon Thibodeaux shining in front of a camera, and Brian Daboll expressing his love for the New York Rangers weren’t the only storylines to emerge from voluntary minicamp. The second-year wide receiver Kadarius Toney was not present for the optional minicamp, which prompted questions about his commitment and longevity with the New York Giants.
Despite some persistent questions that teetered on possible unscrupulous paralogism and continued into training camp, Daboll insisted that Toney’s home was with the Giants.
“I really like him. He’s smart. Again, you’re not really — you’re doing things. A lot of them on air and stuff like that,” Daboll said. “But you can tell he’s got instinctive football. He’s been a pleasure to be around. Good teammate. Smart. It’s been great.”
Toney returned for the latter portions of the voluntary offseason program. If healthy, Toney is a focal point for the 2022 New York Giants.
The marriage of Daboll and former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback coach Mike Kafka is one of the more exciting aspects of the 2022 Giants. One of the primary takeaways from the duo’s offense was the involvement of running back Saquon Barkley in the passing attack. Barkley aligned in the slot, out wide, and sometimes in the backfield with fellow running back Matt Brieda or even rookie wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson.
The drumbeat for Robinson continued into camp as he made impressive catch after catch for Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor. Twitter nearly blew up after this contested catch was made by the 5’8 rookie offensive weapon over starting cornerback Aaron Robinson:
Daniel Jones *full send* to rookie WR Wan’Dale Robinson who makes a great catch in the endzone pic.twitter.com/dwmPhtuILP— Madelyn Burke (@MadelynBurke) May 26, 2022
We caught the first glimpse of the Giants’ starting offensive line as Andrew Thomas (T), Shane Lemieux (LG), Jon Feliciano (C), Mark Glowinski (RG), and Evan Neal (RT). Lemieux suffered a toe injury in the Giants’ 23-21 victory over the New England Patriots, and Daboll was noncommittal about his return. Lemieux will start the season on injured reserve.
The enthusiasm that came with Thibodeaux’s arrival was palpable, but Azeez Ojulari had an impressive change in his appearance. Ojulari fixated on improving his play strength by adding 10 pounds in the offseason. He’s now up to 255 pounds. Ojulari missed the start of training camp with a hamstring issue, but returned to practice before the Cincinnati Bengals preseason matchup.
The Giants were cautious all offseason with injured players. At the start of OTAs, there were so many red jerseys that one would surmise the Giants were incorporating their controversial red alternative jerseys from a decade ago. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Thibodeaux, Jones (all QBs, but Jones wasn’t cleared for contact yet), Toney, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Blake Martinez (who was released prior to the start of the season), Matt Peart (currently on the PUP list), Rodarius Williams (now on injured reserve), and Collin Johnson (who later ended up on injured reserve with an Achilles injury) were all in red jerseys. One player who donned red and caused some concern was left tackle Andrew Thomas. The potential star had offseason ankle surgery, but returned and saw some preseason action.
Thomas’ absence provided rookie third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu an opportunity to work at left tackle. The former Tar Heel has a versatile profile, and any reps are valuable for the young player, especially now that the Giants are thinner at tackle since Matt Gono’s medical retirement from football.
The Giants’ first mandatory minicamp practice was on June 7. Big Blue received good news on Daniel Jones’ availability: The fourth-year quarterback was fully cleared for contact.
The public caught its first glimpse of a concerning trend that’s plagued the Giants offense through training camp — the offense’s struggles against Wink Martindale’s defense.
There were no interceptions on the first day of mandatory minicamp practice, but Martindale’s pressure packages gave the Giants’ offensive line problems. The Giants’ receiving options struggled to hang onto the accurate passes delivered. On the bright side, at least the Giants defense looked effective.
Martindale’s propensity to dial up the pressure was on display at minicamp. He wasn’t afraid to sugar the A-Gap with safeties and bail or send them full force on the blitz. He showed simulated pressures, brought five/six on the blitz, and consistently attempted to manipulate the Giants’ protection package.
The Richie James hype train started Choo-Chooing as Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard sat out of team drills. James aligned all over the offensive formation, took advantage of defenders on choice routes, and consistently created separation with his short area quickness.
James built on a strong minicamp and consistently delivered throughout training camp. He had three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots. The 26-year-old was able to lock up a spot the Giants’ 53-man roster.
Praise for Saquon Barkley
Daboll continued to usher praise towards Saquon Barkley:
“He’s been able to do everything we’ve asked him to do. Run the different runs when we’re doing them. Those are more walk-through relative to how camp is being played. The routes we are asking him to run, his quickness, his ability to get in and out of breaks, his long speed, it’s all looked good,” Daboll said.
“I see a talented player. I’m glad he’s on our team. Look forward to working with him. He’s been great since I’ve been here just on the field, running around. Has been impressive.”
There’s been nothing but positivity surrounding Saquon Barkley. I get it; it’s that time of year, right? However, Barkley is now a year removed from his devastating knee injury. He’s with a modern offensive coordinator who wants to utilize him in the passing game, and he should be running behind the best offensive line he’s had in his career to date.
The Giants offense struggled throughout training camp. Questions about Daniel Jones’ ability to lead the offense better than backup Tyrod Taylor hovers over the team like a cumulonimbus cloud in a dank environment. Pressure breaks pipes is a conviction held by Martindale, and it appears to work.
A few bright offensive spots have emerged from training camp. Wide receiver Richie James continues to succeed against the Giants’ defensive backs. Johnson recorded seven catches for 82 yards on eight targets in the Patriots game, and he continues to look more fluid and more comfortable than highly compensated Kenny Golladay.
Golladay dropped a pass in that preseason game and has struggled to establish a rapport with Daniel Jones or Tyrod Taylor. Former Giants great Carl Banks called Golladay “an enigma” and noted that Golladay doesn’t resemble the receiver who led the NFL in touchdowns during the 2019 season.
It’s plausible that Golladay’s lack of production last year was due to the myriad issues that plagued the 2021 team, but the 28-year-old hasn’t impressed in his short time under the new regime.
Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence consistently dominated training camp reps in the one vs. ones and team periods. EDGE rushers Elerson Smith (now on injured reserve) and Oshane Ximines reportedly had good camps against the Giants’ offensive tackles. Adoree’ Jackson also had a very good camp by many accounts.
Preseason Week 1
Here are the Pro Football Focus grades from the Giants’ 23-21 win over New England.
Austin Calitro and Devery Hamilton stood out on the tape; their grades reflect their solid preseason performance.
Jones looked good in his preseason debut. Here’s one play that he may want back:
21 P, PA Flood (3-level read) vs Tampa-2 type of look— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) August 13, 2022
There's a window for Jones once he hits that backfoot and sees Johnson's arm shoot up entering the honey-hole
He doesn't take it and settles for the CD attempt
SAF is just outside the PS hash and the ball is on the far hash pic.twitter.com/KDT8WRjBdF
Johnson is open on the play. It’s difficult for Jones to process the defense (it was middle of the field closed pre-snap and switched to Tampa Cover-2 post-snap). Jones was on the far hash with the safety just outside the field-side hash (opposite of Jones). This throw would have had to happen instantaneously upon Jones turning his back towards the defense off the play-action fake. He hesitated to pull the trigger, looked to the intermediate option in the three-level flood concept, noticed the cornerback sitting, and forced a poor checkdown attempt to Jeremiah Hall.
Windows are small in the NFL, and this window was ajar for a short amount of time, but these are the types of opportunities that Jones fails to seize consistently. He may have just questioned his arm strength and ability to make this throw while processing what he saw. To be glass half-full, at least Jones didn’t force it once he realized he missed the boat.
Jones did convert two third-and-5s and a third-and-2; he also hit Kenny Golladay right in the chest on a red zone Double China concept from the 3x1 set, but Golladay dropped the pass.
Taylor looked solid and led an 11-play, 86-yard drive that concluded with a Richie James touchdown. Taylor had a few close calls with interceptions, but all-in-all was fine.
The Giants’ secondary struggled with Bailey Zappe’s back shoulder/underthrown passes; UDFAs Darren Evans and Zyon Gilbert surrendered a few catches in that situation.
The primary takeaway from the Giants defense was Wink Martindale staying true to himself. According to Sharp Football Analysis, Martindale blitzed on 46.3% of the Patriots’ dropbacks with a 20.3% Cover-0 rate — the next highest defense used Cover-0 9.5% of the time.
Football is a grind, and the Giants’ injuries have piled up — particularly on the offensive line. Shane Lemieux exited the Patriots’ game with a toe injury that would later land him on IR, Jamil Douglas ended up with an ankle injury and was eventually cut as the team pared the roster down to 53, and cornerback Cor’Dale Flott left that game with a groin issue. Leonard Williams did not play in the Patriots game for precautionary reasons.
Other offensive linemen that are injured include Markus McKethan (injured reserve, torn ACL), Matt Peart (PUP, torn ACL last season), Nick Gates (PUP, fractured leg last season), and Matt Gono, who medically retired with a neck injury. The Giants added tackles Will Holden (practice squad) and Eric Smith (who did not land a roster spot) in corresponding moves, and signed Garrett McGhin (who also didn’t stick on the Giants’ roster or practice squad).
Rookie safety Dane Belton broke his collarbone during training camp, and he may miss a few games to open the season, though he didn’t land on injured reserve. Tight end Ricky Seals-Jones didn’t get many opportunities and didn’t make the roster.
The Giants waived tight end Jeremiah Hall, guard Josh Rivas, defensive backs Gavin Heslop, Michael Jacquet, and Jarrod Wilson (terminated). They also waived/injured wide receiver Austin Proehl to get the roster down to 85. You can check out the team’s remaining moves to take the roster down to 53 and fill out the practice squad here.
General manager Joe Schoen has mentioned several times that the pro scouting department will be active, so expect the Giants to pursue recently released players on other teams. The final roster may consist of a few players who are currently wearing other jerseys.
The Giants’ massive overhaul isn’t over, as Schoen and Daboll continue to scour available options to field the best roster Week 1 versus Tennessee on Sept. 11th.