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ESPN ranks the Giants’ roster 18th in the NFL

How do the Giants’ strengths and weaknesses stack up against the rest of the NFL?

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Giants’ mandatory mini-camp is in the rearview mirror, and we’re still a month away from the start of training camp. In other words, we’re solidly in the Dog Days of Summer, that brief window in the calendar when the NFL is actually on hiatus. That dearth of actual football news opens the door for outlets to try their hand at predicting how teams will stack up in the regular season.

This is the time of year when we usually get swamped in pre-season power rankings, position group rankings, and various other listicles.

ESPN’s Seth Walder and Mike Clay decided to rank the 32 rosters (exclusive content), focusing on each roster’s greatest strength and weakness, the biggest X-Factor on the roster, as well as a non-starter to know. They rank the Giants squarely in the middle of the pack at 18th overall.

18. New York Giants

Strongest unit: Interior defensive line. The Giants’ defense struggled last season (28th overall and 29th against the run in EPA), which was disappointing considering it is one of the league’s top interior D-lines on paper. Leonard Williams is a certified superstar, and Dexter Lawrence was arguably better in 2022. Rakeem Nunez-Roches and underrated A’Shawn Robinson were solid offseason additions and will play sizable roles. Mike Clay

There really isn’t any question that the interior defensive line is undisputed strength of the Giants. The starting duo of Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams is pretty easily in the top five of the NFL, and their depth would start for most teams. The Giants could find themselves in the enviable problem of having to decide which player to cut after the preseason wraps up.

The Giants struggled badly against the run last year, and their additions show a clear desire to address that weakness. Both the defensive line getting pushed off the line of scrimmage in the absence of Leonard Williams and linebackers not being able to flow to the ball contributed, and the additions of Nacho and A’Shawn Robinson should help with that.

The Giants’ clear desire to add so many big linemen could also give us a clue as to how Wink Martindale intends to call his defense.

The Giants’ cornerback position could give the defensive line a run for its money after addition of Deonte Banks. But until the rookie proves himself and Cor’Dale Flott or Aaron Robinson step up to solidify the Slot Corner position, iDL definitely gets the nod.

Weakest unit: Wide receiver. The question marks here are massive. Here is who is competing: Wan’Dale Robinson (torn ACL in Week 11), Sterling Shepard (torn ACL in Week 3), Parris Campbell (has missed 34 games in four seasons), Jamison Crowder (24 missed games over the last three seasons), Darius Slayton (was on the trade block last offseason), Isaiah Hodgins (13 appearances in three seasons) and Jalin Hyatt (third-round rookie). Will quantity over quality work out? We’ll see. Clay

Wide receiver — and pass catcher in general — is an intriguing unit for the Giants. It could well be the weakest position group on the team, but if things break the right way, it could be a strength. Jalin Hyatt could prove to be the playmaker the Giants have been missing through the air. He showed plenty of deep speed, good ball skills, and reliable hands for Hendon Hooker. But he’s also a rookie who had success in a very simplistic offense. And as Clay points out, injuries are a very real concern for this position group.

The runner up here might be the safety position. Xavier McKinney is one of the more underrated safeties in the NFL, though the time lost to injury throughout his young career (11 games in 2020, 8 games last year) likely plays a role. However, there are questions behind McKinney. Bobby McCain and Nick McCloud seem to be in competition for the second starting job. McCain is an experienced veteran DB, but he’s also closing in on 30 years old. McCloud, meanwhile, played well last year but has never been a full-time safety. Dane Belton also remains something of a question mark after his playing time dropped off later in the year. The safety position could be a strong one for the Giants, but we need to recognize that it isn’t a sure thing.

X factor for 2023: RT Evan Neal. His rookie season was one to forget, ranking 58th and 54th (out of 64) in pass block win rate and run block win rate, respectively per ESPN Analytics and NFL Next Gen Stats. With an excellent LT in Andrew Thomas on the other side, if Neal can play well and give the Giants two strong tackles, that would go a long way in supporting quarterback Daniel Jones.Seth Walder

The Giants are counting on Evan Neal to follow the same development arc as Andrew Thomas. He has the potential to be a very good offensive tackle, and give the Giants one of the best set of offensive line bookends in the NFL. That would obviously be a very welcome development for the Giants and could help solidify their offense as a whole with John Michael Schmitz.

Darren Waller should be considered another “X-Factor” for the team as a whole. He has the potential to be the “Number One” receiver the offense has lacked for years now, and could be a high-powered weapon for Mike Kafka. The Giants used him as a wide receiver in OTAs, and that could portend things to come.

Nonstarter to know: WR Sterling Shepard. Every Giants fan knows this one, but Shepard is trying to make a comeback from an ACL tear last year, which came shortly after his comeback from an Achilles the year before. But if healthy, Shepard could play an important role in a receiver room with questions.Walder

Shepard’s health is certainly something for Giants’ fans to watch, as is Wan’Dale Robinson’s. I would also like to point out the slot position on the other side of the ball as well. Nickel is the de facto base defensive package in the NFL, which makes slot corner a “starting” position, even if it isn’t an every-down position. Whether Cor’Dale Flott or Aaron Robinson can win the position — and solidify it — could factor heavily into the defensive performance as a whole. How the Giant’s EDGE depth performs could be important as well. Azeez Ojulari was plagued by lower-body injuries a year ago, and the Giants’ depth behind him isn’t exactly inspiring.

Final thoughts

Joe Schoen and the rest of the Giants’ brain trust have done an excellent job of rebuilding the Giants’ roster. The job isn’t done yet and depth remains a concern throughout the team, but overall, there’s a lot more talent on the squad than when they arrived in New York.

It’s interesting that Bill Barnwell — also writing for ESPN — ranked the Giants’ skill position players (WR, TE, and RB) 27th in the NFL just a couple days ago, while the roster as a whole ranked 18th. Granted, the two pieces were written by different authors, but it could also be a commentary on the strength of the Giants’ interior defensive line and Andrew Thomas.

Considering the state of the Giants at the end of 2021, it’s an accomplishment to have a league-average roster. The Giants are also landing in the middle of the NFC East in this ranking. The Philadelphia Eagles are 2nd overall, the Dallas Cowboys are 6th, while the Washington Commanders are 24th.

But one thing to bear in mind this time of year is that teams’ perceived strengths, weaknesses, or needs in June might not be the same in August, October, or January. We’ll find out once the games are played how the Giants’ roster truly stacks up with the rest of the NFL.