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Can the Giants’ offense continue to ascend? Let’s assess the roster

The Giants have improved personnel, provided Saquon Barkley is playing

New York Giants Offseason Workout Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

In Year 1 with head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka the New York Giants made tremendous strides on offense, finishing 15th in the league in scoring after placing 31st in 2021.

Can the Giants continue to take steps forward on offense? Let’s look at where things stand now that the offseason program has concluded.


Current roster — Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor, Tommy DeVito

The big question

Will Daniel Jones continue to ascend?

The Giants are banking on it. They gave him $81 million guaranteed over the next two seasons to find out whether Jones’ impressive 2022 season was the best he can be, or if it hinted that he can play even better and take the Giants even further.

Jones had the best, most efficient season of his career in 2022. He still, though, totaled only 3,205 yards passing and threw just 15 touchdown passes in 16 games. The Giants were 15th in the league in scoring. Those numbers need to go up if the Giants are going to have a chance to become an upper-echelon team.

Darren Waller gives Jones the best receiver he has ever had. If the 31-year-old is healthy and still the player he was a couple of seasons ago, he changes the calculus of the Giants’ passing attack. So, too, does the speed possessed by newcomers Parris Campbell, Jalin Hyatt, Jeff Smith, and maybe Bryce Ford-Wheaton.

Assuming reasonably good health at the skills positions and the presence of Saquon Barkley this should be the best group of playmakers Jones has worked with. Combine that with his second season in this offense and it is reasonable to expect a significant jump in his passing numbers.

The roster question

Two quarterbacks or three? And, who is QB3?

The Giants kept two a season ago, with Davis Webb on the practice squad for most of the season. Webb, of course, is now the Denver Broncos’ quarterbacks coach.

Let’s start with the ‘Who is QB3’ question.

I don’t have the answer. After watching four practices this spring, though, I’m pretty sure DeVito, an undrafted free agent, isn’t the answer. Journeyman Jacob Eason was at the mandatory minicamp as a tryout player. To this point, he has not been signed. So, the Giants probably don’t think he is it, either.

How the Giants approach figuring out who will be the third quarterback might depend on whether they plan to keep a third quarterback on the 53-man roster to potentially take advantage of the new ‘emergency quarterback rule.’ That rule a third quarterback to be activated and play if the other two QBs are ruled out, provided he is part of the 53-man roster.

Will the Giants go with two quarterbacks and stash a young, developmental player on the practice squad? Or, will they try to find a journeyman who will at least have the advantage of prior NFL playing experience should he be needed?

Or, would they do both?

Running back

Current roster — Saquon Barkley (when and if he signs), Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray, Jashaun Corbin

The big question

What will happen with Saquon Barkley?

We have been over it ... and over it ... and over it. Will he get a long-term deal? Will he sign the franchise tag if he doesn’t? We have covered it enough. Here are a few of the recent links:

The roster question

Can Gary Brightwell keep his roster spot?

Barkly (assuming he is playing), Breida, and Gray would all seem to be locks to make the 53-man roster. The Giants kept only three running backs a year ago and if they do so again that could leave Brightwell — who is more a special teams player than a running back — on the outside looking in.

Brightwell was the team’s primary kickoff returner a year ago, and the league’s new kickoff fair catch rule that should further limit such returns might also limit Brightwell’s opportunity. Jashaun Corbin, who spent last year on the practice squad and is back to compete again, might also have something to say about Brightwell’s future on the 53-man roster.

Tight end

Current roster — Darren Waller, Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick, Tommy Sweeney, Ryan Jones

The big question

Can Darren Waller stay healthy?

Waller is different. He looks, moves, and plays differently than a normal tight end. The fact that he practiced almost exclusively with the wide receivers during the spring and spent most of his time aligned in the slot or on the solo side of 3x1 formations tells you the Giants plan to use him differently.

Waller could, as we said above, change the calculus of the Giants’ passing attack. If he can stay on the field. After back-to-back seasons of 1,00+ yards receiving, Waller played in just 11 games in 2021 and nine in 2022.

“I view this season as an opportunity to get back to having fun and just being available for my teammates every and each week. That’s something I haven’t been able to do the last couple years, and I’m fully aware of that,” Waller said recently. “I’m doing everything in my control to be able to be out there and be accountable, be reliable, by just being out there every day. I’m excited about that challenge. I’ve done it before, and I’m ready to do it again.”

If he can, and he still has something approaching the ability he displayed a couple of seasons ago, the Giants will have a unique and game-changing player at their disposal.

The roster question

Who joins Waller and Bellinger?

Lawrence Cager probably has an inside track on a roster spot. He is a receiver-first tight end like Waller, and considering Waller’s injury history having someone else who could do at least some of the same things is probably advisable. Plus, Cager did tantalize with an eight-catch game in the 2022 season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Considering that the Giants really can’t, or shouldn’t, rely on Waller or Cager to handle inline blocking responsibility, it would behoove them to find a way to keep another inline tight end to help Bellinger with that.

They have holdover Chris Myarick, former Buffalo Bill Tommy Sweeney, and undrafted free agent Ryan Jones to choose from. I would guess Sweeney if the Giants roster a fourth tight end, simply because of his connection to Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll from the Bills.

New York Giants Offseason Workout
Jalin Hyatt
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Wide receiver

Current roster — Parris Campbell, Jamison Crowder, Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Isaiah Hodgins, Jalin Hyatt, Collin Johnson, Jaydon Mickens, Kalil Pimpleton, Makai Polk, Wan’Dale Robinson, Sterling Shepard, David Sills V, Darius Slayton, Jeff Smith

The big question

How much will Jalin Hyatt produce in Year 1?

I could have gone with the ‘Who’s No.1?’ question, but I believe that doesn’t matter as much as it might have because Waller is the No. 1 receiver.

Hyatt, the third-round pick out of Tennessee, has exciting speed and play-making potential. He also, though, has a lot to learn. He is coming from a unique college offense that doesn’t resemble what he will be asked to do in the NFL. Hyatt also was purely a slot receiver for the Volunteers and is expected to transition to more of an outside role going forward.

Hyatt worked mostly with the third team throughout offseason workouts and did not catch a lot of passes.

“Jalin is doing a nice job. He’s right on schedule. He’s working. He’s growing,” offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said during OTAs. “That’s one thing you’ve seen from him from the first day in rookie camp to the next day, then you’re working through this Phase III part of it, is his growth and his familiarity and comfortability with the offense.”

The Giants traded up to draft Hyatt and it figures that they will find ways to add the threat of his speed to their offense. I am just not sure Hyatt should be expected to play a high percentage of snaps — at least not early in his rookie season. Especially since the Giants appear to have enough depth so they shouldn’t have to force-feed him.

The roster question

Who will be left out?

There are more capable, NFL-caliber receivers on the 90-man roster than the Giants can keep on the Week 1 53-man roster. That remains the case if Wan’Dale Robinson and Sterling Shepard, both rehabbing from torn ACLs, are not part of the season-opening roster.

If healthy, Hyatt, Hodgins, Campbell, and Slayton are roster locks. Beyond that, how many receivers the Giants keep and who they will be is anybody’s guess.

Offensive line

Current roster — Jack Anderson, Ben Bredeson, Wyatt Davis, Mark Glowinski, Shane Lemieux, Marcus McKethan, Josh Ezeudu, Devery Hamilton, J.C. Hassenauer, John Michael Schmitz, Korey Cunningham, Evan Neal, Matt Peart, Tyre Phillips, Andrew Thomas

The big questions

Can Evan Neal improve in Year 2?

Neal had a rocky rookie season, everyone who follows the Giants knows that. A midseason knee injury cost him several games, and he never appeared to be truly healthy the rest of the season.

Whatever the reasons, Neal’s rookie season wasn’t what anyone had hoped for.

Perhaps expecting a massive Andrew Thomas-like leap in Year 2 is unfair, but the Giants draft Neal No. 7 overall a year ago and he needs to begin to show them why this season.

“Evan’s a worker,” offensive line coach Bobby Johnson said at minicamp. “I have no reason to believe that with the work ethic put in, the attention to detail and pushing to be a really good player that [we won’t] see better results.”

Neal, of course, spent time during the offseason working with former All-Pro right tackle Willie Anderson to find a more comfortable stance.

“You’ve got to be able to be functional in your stance and be able to move efficiently out of your stance,” Neal said. “That’s what we were trying to find, find a place that I’m quick out of, that’s comfortable for me, a stance that I can get in and repeat rep after rep after rep.”

Johnson said the changes Neal made with Anderson were things he and Neal had previously discussed.

“These are all things that we had communicated, whether it be after the season or during the offseason with him keeping me informed,” Johnson said. “My big thing with this whole thing is you got a guy who’s a young guy, who’s a talented player who’s working to get better at his craft. I got no problem with that. I’ll never have a problem with that. So what he did this offseason, what he’s working on right now. I give the kid all the credit in the world because he’s a worker.”

Can John Michael Schmitz handle the center job?

The second-round pick did much, but not all, of the work as the first-team center throughout the spring. The Giants hedged their bet on Schmitz’s readiness by having Ben Bredeson take some first-team reps — with Joshua Ezeudu at left guard.

Starting at center and being in control of protection calls is a huge responsibility for a rookie. Not all are ready for it. Will Schmitz be?

“For him, from a mental standpoint, learning curve is minimal. He’s a very intelligent kid. He’s a quick study. He works really hard at it,” Johnson said.

Johnson is more concerned right now about the physical aspects of the job, something the Giants have not been able to test in non-contact practices without pads on.

“There’s gonna be a physical learning curve that we won’t know until be at the training camp,” Johnson said. “Doesn’t look like there’s gonna be a gigantic learning curve from a physical standpoint. But you don’t know.

“We’ll find out when we the training camp and we put pads on. It’s gonna be an eye-opener first day he has to block Dex [Dexter Lawrence]. It’s an eye-opener for a [Garrett] Bradbury in Minnesota that had to block Dex.”

Who is at left guard?

That might depend on whether or not the Giants believe Schmitz is ready to handle center. Left guard appears to belong to Bredeson heading into training camp. Ezeudu, a 2022 third-round pick, appears to be next in line.

The roster question

Is there a roster spot for reserve center J.C. Hassanauer? Who emerges as a backup guard out of the group of Lemieux, Anderson, Davis, and McKethan? Tyre Phillips did an adequate job as a backup tackle last season. Can Matt Peart or Korey Cunningham also earn roster spots?