This was a bad loss, no two ways about it, and a painful way to end the season. But now we need to process that loss and the season as a whole. Does the loss mar the season? Do we discount the final game and concentrate on the positive?
What can we take away from the Giants’ painful loss to the Eagles, and what can we carry forward over the next few months?
First down: An unbelievable season
The Giants had about as embarrassing an exit from the playoffs as you could imagine, as they were blown off the field following their best game in years by a division rival.
But as disappointing an end to the season as this was, it doesn’t change how improbably unbelievable the 18 games before it were. All season long, we were saying that the Giants were playing with house money and that they always had an incredibly narrow path to victory. And yet Brian Daboll’s squad somehow managed to win “Any Given Sunday” games seemingly every single Sunday.
Their coaches did a phenomenal job of putting players in position to succeed and teaching them to execute. Daboll, Kafka, and Martindale designed schemes that got more out of the roster than anyone expected. Joe Schoen did a masterful job of negotiating the salary cap despite injury and no headroom. The Giants discovered unexpected depth at the wide receiver position and in the defensive secondary.
This loss stings, all the more so because of how the Giants lost and to whom. But that sting shouldn’t take away from the season that was.
Second down: Kayvon Thibodeaux’s growth
There is quite a lot for Giants fans to be excited as we head into the offseason. In particular, I want to shine a light on the growth of rookie edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux. Giants fans and Thibodeaux alike were excited when the Giants made him the fifth overall pick. Thibodeaux flashed in preseason, both as a pass rusher and how Martindale could use him, before suffering an injury.
Thibodeaux’s season wasn’t particularly impressive on the stat sheet with just 6 tackles for a loss, 4.0 sacks, 13 QB hits in 14 games, and this game certainly didn’t add much to his statistical resume. But that undersells just how much Thibodeaux has improved over the course of the season and was a problem for offenses all season long. Not only did he show up in high-leverage moments, but he also continuously improved as a run defender.
There were (very) few highlights for the Giants in this game, but among them were plays Thibodeaux made. He flashed in run defense, coming up with a couple nice run stops early in the game. He also showed off his athleticism and competitive toughness as he hustled in pursuit of ball carriers.
The Giants absolutely need Evan Neal to take a couple developmental steps in 2023. That said, I have a feeling Thibodeaux will make a JPP-like leap in his second year.
Third down: Work to be done
What the Giants did this season was, again, amazing. Unbelievable.
But the way the season ended also illustrates how much work the Giants’ brain trust needs to do in the coming off-season. The Giants’ brass has their work cut out for them over the coming months to continue their rebuild.
They have decisions to make at almost every position on their roster. They also need to use all of their available resources — the draft, free agency, and the trade market — to find starters at multiple positions. The good news is that the Giants’ front office proved back in October that not only can they find diamonds that other teams have discarded, but the coaching staff can get them to shine. How the Giants navigate this off-season and how Schoen and company approach roster building in their second year is going to be fascinating to watch.
We’ll have all the coverage you can ask for (more than, hopefully) of the full offseason.
Fourth down: It’s draft season
I mean, for some of us it’s always draft season, but it’s now officially “Draft Season” for the Giants.
One of the consequences of the Giants’ success is that they’ll have the longest wait to turn in their selection since taking Evan Engram with the 23rd overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft. The Giants will hold the 25th overall pick in the 2023 draft, which means we’ll have many more prospects to keep track of as draft day approaches. We saw Schoen and Daboll go far off the beaten path for prospects after the first round last year, and we could see them make surprising picks right from the jump this year.
We are already planning comprehensive draft prep and coverage, and this year we’ll have to cast our net far and wide. You also won’t have to wait very long for the draft coverage to get started.