2022 NFL Previews: New York Giants

The New York Giants are in quite an unfortunate situation. The same franchise that has twice beaten Tom Brady and the Patriots to win a Super Bowl can’t even seem to win a game lately. They have been one of the most dismal teams over the past five years and have not given fans too many reasons to be excited.

But that all seems to be changing. The Giants now have a new GM in Joe Schoen and a new head coach in former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Those two kicked up the new era of Giants football, hopefully, a good one, this offseason with an outstanding draft.

New York was one of the clear winners on the first day of the 2022 draft when they hit on both of their selections. First, with the fifth overall pick, they took University of Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, a freak athlete who has the potential to be one of the best pass rushers in the league. Then, two picks later, they took tackle Evan Neal from the University of Alabama. Neal can play almost anywhere on the line right away, which he will do this year, and will surely be a big part of the future of the franchise.

The Giants didn’t just do well in the first round, they filled up their draft class with potential impact players. In the second round, New York selected wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, a speedy playmaker that should contribute explosive plays immediately. They also guard Joshua Ezeudu, cornerback Cordale Flott, tight end Daniel Bellinger, and safety Dane Belton. And that is all before the fifth round.

Now we just have to wait and see how the incoming rookies will mesh with the players already on the roster. There is one guy in particular that will be under a microscope this season: quarterback Daniel Jones.

This legitimately might be Jones’s last chance to prove that he is a starting-caliber quarterback in this league. Despite being just 25 years old, a bad season from the quarterback could subject him to perennial backup-dom.

Part of the reason for that harsh reality is the presence of Daboll. He is a very well-respected offensive mind who was able to facilitate Josh Allen’s development into a superstar. People aren’t necessarily expecting that much of a leap from Jones, but he will be expected to show some improvement this year.

He was a top-10 pick so it is reasonable for the team to want him to at least be a solid starter. Jones should see a bump in play this year just due to playing in a great offensive system under a competent head coach. But for him to make the leap to a top-20 quarterback he will have to do more than just play in a better scheme. Jones is going to have to get better at protecting the ball (both fumbles and interceptions are an issue) and making the smart decision.

It is very possible that Jones takes a huge step forward this season. Maybe the talent will finally come through and he will start playing like a capable and responsible quarterback. Hopefully, the new offense will help a lot. If Jones does make a massive improvement then Daboll will officially be a quarterback genius because that will be nothing short of a miracle.

Another player that might need a miracle this year is running back Saquon Barkley. Oh wait, never mind, he doesn’t need a miracle, he just needs to stay healthy (but maybe that is a miracle for him). Barkley entered the league with an enormous amount of hype. He was drafted second overall, which is not something that happens with running backs anymore, and he initially lived up to the hype.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten back to that level since then. A big part of that has been injuries and another part has been playing on the Giants. It seems like the injuries part is getting better (he played in 13 games last season) so hopefully the Giants part is getting better too.

Barkley could greatly benefit from the new offense and a competent quarterback in the backfield with him. Instead of being the lone bright spot on a dumpster fire of an offense, Barkley could instead be an important component of a functioning offense that can do the basic things like move the ball down the field and score touchdowns.

The wide receivers also figure to be much better in the new offense. There are plenty of receivers on the roster that have potential but none of them have really solidified themselves as an effective starter yet.

Veterans such as Kenny Golladay and Sterling Shepard clearly have the talent to produce in this league since they have done so before. Golladay has been especially disappointing because he was brought in on a big contract to be the number one wide receiver but has not even come close to living up to it so far. Both of those guys will need to have big years in 2022 to prove to the new staff that they deserve to stick around.

On the other hand, the Giants also have some young receivers that are looking to finally prove themselves. Robinson obviously hasn’t got the chance yet because he is a rookie but other players such as Kadarius Toney, Darius Slayton, and Collin Johnson have shown promise. Somebody is going to have to step up and earn the starting spots and any of those players have a good chance to do so.

The area of the offense that will be even harder to improve this season is the offensive line. the Giants have consistently rolled out a pretty poor group up front but they have made moves to improve it recently.

The addition of Neal with be a big help for the unit. He will likely line up at the right tackle spot because left tackle Andrew Thomas had a breakout year in 2021, finally living up to his fourth overall draft selection. The Giants also addressed the line in free agency, signing Mark Glowinski and Jon Feliciano to go along with Ben Bredeson and Shane Lemieux. Some combination of those four will likely account for the three interior offensive line spots.

The other side of the ball will also need to make some improvements if the Giants want to be taken seriously this season. The defense wasn’t a bottom-10 group last year so it hasn’t been as bad as the offense lately but there is still some work that needs to be done.

The one area that looks like it is the closest to becoming a solid unit is the defensive line. Although they have struggled with the pass rush (that is on the outside linebackers as well) there is some considerable talent up front.

Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence has developed into a very good player in the middle. The ceiling for run-stuffing nose tackles is a bit capped due to their lack of sack production so Lawrence may never be a superstar but he has been one of the few bright spots on the defense.

Defensive lineman Leonard Williams has been another important piece. He has been effective for the Giants after getting traded from the Jets and has been the most consistent pass rusher. He wasn’t as productive last year as he was in 2020 but the former top-three pick has the talent to succeed. New York also has veteran defensive linemen Justin Ellis and Nick Williams to round out the big guys up front.

The guys that will have to help Williams up the Giants’ pressure on the quarterback are the outside linebackers. Thibodeaux will certainly be a nice addition to the group as he has the skill to be a productive pass rusher from day one. But New York also has plenty of other young guys at the position to work with the rookie.

Second-year outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari is the most promising of the bunch. He had a very good rookie year, earning a role as a starter and leading the team with eight sacks. Ojulari showed everything that a team wants to see in a young pass rusher and if he gets even better in 2022, he could be a future star in New York.

There is also plenty of potential behind Thibodeaux and Ojulari. Outside linebackers Quincy Roche, Oshane Ximines, and Jihad Ward all have a chance to earn some snaps. If those guys can work as solid backups then the Giants would be looking at a pretty decent pass-rush rotation.

While the outside linebacker group looks promising, the same optimism is not shared by the inside backers. Tae Crowder does have some potential. The 25-year-old led the team in tackles last year with 130 and seems like he could be a stalwart in the middle for years to come. But it is the spot next to him that needs to step up.

Linebacker Blake Martinez is presumed to man that spot but it is possible he is not the best option. He is a solid tackler but can struggle in other aspects of the job. He also played just three games last year so there may be some injury concerns. The Giants’ best bet to fill the spot next to Crowder is for one of the younger linebackers like Carter Coughlin or rookie Darrian Beavers to emerge and win the job.

Another position on the defense with tantalizing potential is safety. With two young players entrenched at both safety spots, the Giants don’t have to worry about that spot much. Safeties Julian Love and Xavier McKinney have both translated successful college careers to the next level, giving New York enough confidence to let safety Logan Ryan leave in free agency.

Unfortunately, those two players may have a difficult time given the state of the cornerbacks on the roster. With number one corner James Bradberry no longer with the team, the Giants are certainly in a precarious situation at corner. They do not really have any proven commodities ready to take on an increased role in the wake of Bradberry’s departure.

The Giants have effectively taken out a bunch of fliers on guys at the position in hopes that a few of them pay out. They have cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, whom they signed last season, to likely take over the number one spot, although he hasn’t shown that level of play so far in his career. Behind him, New York will be banking on young corners such as Darnay Holmes, Aaron Robinson, Rodarious Williams, Flott, and Olaijah Griffin.

The best-case scenario for the Giants this season is that they show glimpses of success and lay the groundwork for the future. Basically, they don’t have a shot to be competitive this year. I think they will be lucky to get to six wins and will probably finish 5-12.

New York’s success this year should not be measured by wins and losses because if it is, then 2022 will be a failure. There is a new head coach and GM and they need to be given time to turn this team around. Their success should be measured by how many players currently on the roster look like they can be part of the long-term plan.

If Jones looks like one of those players then that will be a huge win for the team. If some of the rookies look good right away, especially the first-rounders, that will be a win. If guys at receiver, corner, and pass-rusher step up, that will be a win. The Giants may not end up with a ton of wins on the scoreboard, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a promising season.