Things are certainly a lot more hopeful around the New York Giants as we head into the 2023 training camp than they were a year ago.
That isn’t to say that there wasn’t hope for the Giants before the 2022 training camp, but that year was largely viewed as something to be endured before the work of making progress could get going in 2023. Instead, the Giants surprised pretty much everyone and raised expectations with a playoff berth and victory.
But how high have those expectations risen?
ESPN has released itsannual Future Power Ranking (exclusive content). The Future Power Rankings attempt to rank the 32 NFL teams with respect to their prospects for the next three seasons. The Giants are ranked 17th overall this year, which ties them with the Cleveland Browns. That would suggest that while eyebrows are raised, there’s still a certain amount of skepticism regarding the team.
Let’s take a quick look at how ESPN arrived at that ranking, as well as what their writers (Dan Graziano, Louis Riddick, and Seth Walder) cite as reasons for hope, concern, and an under-the-radar stat to know.
Overall roster (minus QB): 77.0 - 21st
Quarterback: 77.0 - 15th
Coaching: 88.3 - 11st
Draft: 75.3 - 21st
Front office: 78.3 - 18th
The score that stands out here is ranking the Giants’ coaching staff 11th in the NFL. While it’s true that they only have track record of one season, that one season saw Daboll named Coach of The Year, and his coordinators become two of the hottest head coaching candidates. I would argue that the Giants have a Top 5 coaching staff in the NFL, and I think they’ll be viewed as such if they’re able to meet the expectations they’ve set for themselves.
Reason for hope: Brian Daboll won Coach of the Year in his first season with the Giants, leading a team of whom little was expected to the divisional round of the playoffs. The performance (and health) of QB Daniel Jones last season offers hope that he can keep them competitive while Daboll keeps building the culture and GM Joe Schoen keeps building out the roster. — Graziano
There’s definitely a renewed sense of hope surrounding the Giants, and I think it all stems from the work of Brian Daboll (as well as the rest of the coaching staff) and Joe Schoen.
While there’s a small sample size, and Schoen’s work really does need a couple more years for a full evaluation, so far it seems as though he’s done a very good job of identifying pieces who can fill roles within the Giants’ schemes. Last year he was forced to scramble not only to fill out the roster while in Cap Hell, but also to field a functional roster while the team struggled with injuries.
The coaching staff put on a masterclass in scheming and adaptation over the course of the 2022 season. On the offensive side of the ball, the Kafka and Daboll’s scheme was constantly evolving and shifting over the course of the season. They attempted and discarded a choice-heavy offense in camp that was reminiscent of what Kevin Gilbride ran. But rather than try to force that, they adopted an RPO-heavy offense for the first half of the regular season. They then pivoted to a more classic West Coast quick game as the roster shifted and defenses adapted to the RPO schemes from the first part of the season.
All in all, they did an excellent job of getting their best players on the field and putting them in position to attack opposing teams’ weaknesses throughout the season. And while the offense was very risk-averse, that also kept the team from putting itself in bad positions that it couldn’t fight out of.
That was still obviously only one season, but they showed enough that we should have confidence going forward.
Reason for concern: Did the Giants do enough on the perimeter to help Jones take the next step and justify management’s decision to sign him to a long-term contract extension? That’s the big question. I love the potential of Parris Campbell and the blazing speed of third-rounder Jalin Hyatt, but neither has No. 1 receiver upside for 2023. In fact, I don’t see a WR1 on the roster. That job could become the responsibility of tight end Darren Waller, but like Campbell, his durability has been an issue. — Riddick
Riddick does identify two of the potential stumbling blocks for the Giants this year. The first being the health of the players in which they’ve invested. The Giants are going to be relying on players at pretty much every position who have had recent and significant injury histories. We’ve seen before how even promising seasons can go sideways thanks to a key injury. An injury to any one of the Giants’ primary pass catchers, or Saquon Barkley, could see the offense right back where it was a season ago.
On the defensive side of the ball, there’s plenty of anticipation with regards to Kayvon Thibodeaux (more on that in a minute), but he was clearly better and more effective with Azeez Ojulari on the field. Ojulari, meanwhile struggled with injury a year ago, and that has to remain a concern for 2023. Likewise, Adoree Jackson has had injury problems throughout his career, which could leave the Giants relying on a rookie as their CB1.
The other potential stumbling block Riddick identifies is that the Giants weren’t able to add a true WR1. They did add plenty of athleticism to the passing game, and the coaches have very intriguing pieces with which to work. But having that player who can command and win double coverage and win tough match-ups can set up the entire rest of the offense with the match-ups they should be getting.
Case in point: The Giants’ defense was barely a speed bump for the Vikings’ offense with Justin Jefferson running roughshod in the first meeting. In the second meeting, Wink Martindale was determined to take Jefferson away and force the ball elsewhere. The Vikings’ potent offense struggled much more, even with TE T.J. Hockenson having a career day against.
The third potential stumbling block — which Riddick doesn’t identify — is that if the Giants take a more aggressive posture on offense, it will almost certainly mean a greater risk of turnovers. The Giants face a potentially tough slate of defenses, and (as mentioned above), much of their success in 2022 came from keeping control of the ball and not making mistakes. We don’t know if the team has the ability to overcome mistakes if a more high-powered offense puts the ball in jeopardy.
Stat to know: Edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux managed just four sacks in his rookie season, but the underlying numbers suggest better play than that. Thibodeaux’s 18% pass rush win rate at edge was above average for the position (ranked 15th), and he had 9.5 sacks created, a stat where we credit the player with the first pass rush win on a sack play rather than the player who finished the sack. His continued development will raise the Giants’ defensive ceiling. — Walder
There’s plenty of reason to be excited for Thibodeaux’s development, and that development will be one of keys for the defense as a whole. Yes, Wink Martindale loves to blitz and create pressure through aggressive scheming, but even he can’t blitz every down, and having a good natural pass rush will only make his blitzes that much more effective.
The addition of Deonte Banks will also help Thibodeaux realize his ceiling. Being able to play man coverage on the outside will help Wink scheme more pressures and create free runs into the backfield for his pass rushers. It should also keep the ball in quarterback’s hands and give the pass rushers an extra second or two to get to the passer.
That said, I’m not sure just what Thibodeaux’s ceiling is as a pass rusher. He has the traits to be a pretty good one, but there’s a certain artistry to finishing pass rushes and putting the quarterback on the ground. He might be destined to be more “Justin Tuck” than “Osi Umenyiora” — though I doubt Giants fans would be upset to have a defender as well-rounded and effective as Tuck on the field.