The New York Giants had a better than expected 2022 season, winning a playoff game for the first time since their 2011 Super Bowl title. If they are going to return to the playoffs, however, and continue ascending toward truly becoming a title contender there is hard work to be done this offseason.
General Manager Joe Schoen has hard decisions to make about players to keep and let go. Which players were making the Giants better and can do so in the future? Which ones, even if they played well, were just holding down spots because there was no one else?
We will dive deeper into positions and players as we transition into offseason mode. Here, though, is a brief look at five positions that need to be upgraded.
The Giants got fantastic production out of Isaiah Hodgins, Richie James and Darius Slayton. As I wrote Monday, though, the Eagles’ talented secondary made it clear the Giants need more talent at this spot.
Hodgins is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent. I can’t imagine the Giants not keeping him. Kenny Golladay will be released. Richie James, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard and Marcus Johnson are free agents.
Shepard figures to get an incentive-laden one-year deal to see if he can come back after two devastating leg injuries.
The real question will be if Schoen thinks James and Slayton are worthy of bringing back, or if they were simply holding down spots after the injuries to Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson, and the trade of Kadarius Toney.
At tight end, the Giants have Daniel Bellinger. They need more.
No matter what, the Giants need to hunt for a player or players who could become a No. 1 receiver, at tight end or wide receiver. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka did a great job scheming guys open in 2022. To get to the next level, the Giants need more players who can get themselves open or win the ball even when they are tightly covered.
Interior offensive line
Andrew Thomas is an anchor at left tackle, one of the best in the NFL. Evan Neal had a difficult rookie season, but after investing the No. 7 overall pick in the 2022 draft on the idea that Neal could join Thomas to booked their offensive line the Giants are not going to give up on that idea after one season. Nor should they.
The offseason questions that need to be answered are at center and guard.
Center Jon Feliciano is a free agent. So, too, is rotational left guard Nick Gates. Will either be back. Giants’ fans aren’t enamored of Feliciano, but he has history with Schoen and the coaching staff. They are enamored of Gates, but the Giants preferred Feliciano at center and Bredeson played more snaps when rotating with Gates at left guard. Plus. truthfully, the offense seemed to play better when Bredeson was on the field.
Mark Glowinski isn’t a great right guard, but he is at least adequate and would carry an $8.65M cap hit as a pre-June 1 cut. He is unlikely to be let go.
Do the Giants see third-round pick Josh Ezeudu or fifth-round pick Marcus McKethan, who both landed on IR, as part of the solution? After two years lost to injury, what to make of Shane Lemieux?
Will they draft a center or an interior offensive lineman with a premium pick? Will they look for established help on the free agent market?
The Giants had a mish-mash at these spots in 2022, both because of injury and performance. How will they stabilize, and improve, that part of their line in 2023?
To put it bluntly, the Giants need more play makers at this position.
Adoree’ Jackson is a really good coverage cornerback. You know what he is not? A play maker. He has three interceptions in 77 career games, including playoffs. He has not had double-digit passes defensed since 2018.
The Giants got good play from Fabian Moreau. Good enough to get a new contract? Maybe. Maybe not.
What to make of Aaron Robinson, who has played in only 11 games in two seasons? Is Nick McCloud worthy of a full-time job? What about Darnay Holmes? He was on and off the field, so I’m not sure the organization truly has faith in him.
A lot like wide receiver, what the Giants truly need here is a difference-maker.
When she accomplishes something she feels good about, my 7-year-old granddaughter is fond of saying “that was satisfying.”
I can’t think of anything satisfying about the play of the Giants’ inside linebackers in 2022.
They jettisoned Blake Martinez, Austin Calitro and Tae Crowder. They ended up with Jaylon Smith, Micah McFadden, Jarrad Davis and hybrid players Tony Jefferson and Landon Collins playing some in sub-package situations.
McFadden, a fifth-round pick, will almost certainly be back. Will he be considered more than a special teams player? Maybe not.
Smith, Davis, Jefferson and Collins are all free agents. It’s possible none of them are Giants next season.
The Giants were 31st in the league in yards per rushing attempt, and in my view this level of the defense was the biggest reason why. There’s no speed. There’s no dynamic play-making. There isn’t a single player in that group who isn’t replaceable or, to put it another way, is a player you actually want on the field on a regular basis.
Defensive line depth
What did we see Saturday night when the Giants took Dexter Lawrence off the field to give him a rest for a couple of plays? The Eagles ran the ball right up the gut for a couple of huge chunk plays.
Lawrence and Leonard Williams are terrific. They need help, though. The Eagles (and I hate to keep pointing to them) showed the Giants how big of an advantage the ability to run waves of talented defensive linemen into games can be.
The Giants did lose veteran Nick Williams and rookie D.J. Davidson to injury during the season, but I’m not sure those two players would have really helped in the end.
The Giants need better depth here. They have to be able to give the 340+ pound Lawrence some rest. There also has to be some concern about Williams. He has been incredibly durable, but missed five games with a neck injury this season — the first NFL games he has ever missed. Even Williams seems concerned that his neck injury is one that will linger. Besides, heading into his ninth season you have to believe he will need more rest and that injuries will happen more often.