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2021 Team Report: New York Giants

Last updated: Fri, Jun 11

Offensive Philosophy

Jason Garrett's return to play-calling didn't go well. The Giants finished 31st in points and yards after finishing 18th in 2019 under former coach Pat Shurmur. A lot went wrong, including injuries on an already-thin offensive line, a season-ending injury to cornerstone Saquon Barkley, and most notably poor play from quarterback Daniel Jones. It's difficult to find a silver lining, but Garrett will get another chance to install his version of Air Coryell system, this time armed with a healthy lead back and new No. 1 receiver in Kenny Golladay. Looking back at Garrett's tenure in Dallas, his run/pass ratio varied wildly from season to season, but the team's most successful years came when the running game was the focal point. Expect a balanced attack emphasizing ball control this year, hoping to take some of the pressure off Jones and giving him more opportunities to make throws downfield off play-action.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Daniel Jones
Backup(s): Mike Glennon, Clayton Thorson

Starting QB: Daniel Jones enters his third season with a mountain of questions. After an up-and-down rookie season, many expected improvement under the watchful eye of head coach Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. But the gains didn't materialize. His completion rate (62.5%), yards (2,943), and yards per attempt (6.6) were mirror images of his rookie season, but his decision-making was the more significant concern. After throwing 24 touchdowns (5.2% rate) in 2019, Jones threw just 11 scores in 14 games last year. He was sacked nearly 10% of dropbacks and fumbled 11 times; giving him 29 fumbles in two seasons. Jones needs to show marked improvement this year, or the Giants will understandably turn their attention elsewhere; it's now or never.

Backup QB: Mike Glennon steps in as the No. 2 and is an ideal fit. At 31 years old, Glennon understands his role but has a healthy amount of starting experience if called upon in an emergency. Glennon has started games for the Buccaneers, Bears, and Jaguars in eight seasons, but his career averages leave much to be desired. He's a career 61% passer with a paltry 6.1 adjusted yards per attempt average.

Running Backs

Starter: Saquon Barkley
Backup(s): Devontae Booker, Ryquell Armstead, Elijhaa Penny, Gary Brightwell [R], Jordan Chunn, Taquan Mizzell, Sandro Platzgummer
Fullback(s): Cullen Gillaspia

Starting RB: Saquon Barkley has a lot to prove to himself and his organization. GM Dave Gettleman questioned whether the team would pick up Barkley's fifth-year option because of health concerns, but ultimately did so, which is a stunning turn of events after he was considered the team's offensive centerpiece 12 months ago before tearing multiple knee ligaments. When healthy, Barkley is on a shortlist of the league's best ball carriers. As a rookie, he led the league with 2,028 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 touchdowns. He can run inside with power, break outside, is deadly in the open field, and is an above-average route runner with soft hands. All eyes will be on Barkley this summer; if he's healthy and practicing, the Giants may have a puncher's chance of fielding a league-average offense. If his rehab lingers, all bets are off.

Backup RBs: GM Gettleman described Devontae Booker as "a legitimate three-down running back" after signing the former Raider to a 2-year, $5.5 million contract to serve as Barkley's new backup. Praise aside, the sixth-year tailback has never run for more than 612 yards (as a rookie in 2016) and has just nine touchdowns in five seasons. Elijhaa Penny is more fullback than tailback but slots as the No. 3 unless Jordan Chunn can displace him. Rookie Gary Brightwell is a converted slot receiver who is still learning how to play the running back position. That's invited comparison to Washington's Antonio Gibson, but Gibson was a far more explosive playmaker in college; so consider that an aspirational comparison and far from the likeliest of outcomes.

Fullback: Cullen Gillaspia comes over from Houston in hopes of securing the lead blocking role.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton
Backups: Kadarius Toney [R], John Ross, Dante Pettis, David Sills, C.J. Board, Austin Mack, Derrick Dillon, Alex Bachman

Starting WRs: Last year's trio of Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Golden Tate was a stunning disappointment, which explains the decision to sign Kenny Golladay to a 4-year, $72 million contract in free agency. Golladay provides Daniel Jones his first true No. 1 receiver; he can leverage his 6-foot-4, 218-pound frame to make contested catches. Golladay has averaged 16.8 yards per catch in four seasons, which dwarves anyone else on the roster. As a big, vertical threat, the hope is he'll help the other receivers step into their more natural roles. Sterling Shepard has been miscast, repeatedly, as a No. 1, but he can add value as the No. 2 target. He's been remarkably consistent, catching between 57 and 66 receptions in each of five seasons. A strong route runner, Shepard's only vice is a tendency to miss time. Darius Slayton shocked the league as a rookie but regressed a bit in Year Two.

Backup WRs: Dave Gettleman had his sights set on DeVonta Smith, but division rival Philadelphia jumped in front, prompting the GM to move down and select Kadarius Toney. The mercurial Florida Gator is a divisive player because of the way he was used in college. Mainly a gadget player, there's not a lot of film on Toney running crisp routes or making difficult catches in traffic. But just because we haven't seen a player do something doesn't mean they can't; as we learned with DK Metcalf in Seattle. John Ross and Dante Pettis are former high draft picks who flamed out with their original teams but now provide inexpensive veteran depth. When healthy, Ross has the vertical speed to blow the top off defenses, while Pettis is the more well-rounded option.

Tight Ends

Starters: Evan Engram
Backups: Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith, Cole Hikutini, John Rysen, Levine Toilolo, Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Nate Wieting

Evan Engram is never going to be a dominant, every-down playmaker. His inconsistencies haven't improved through four seasons; at this point, he is who he is. Engram is playing on his fifth-year option, and he'll likely suit up for another team in 2022. In the meantime, he'll continue to provide Daniel Jones with a boom or bust option in the middle of the field. Engram is an elite athlete, but minor injuries and lapses of concentration keep him from standing alongside the likes of Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. Kyle Rudolph joins the team after ten years in Minnesota. The two-time Pro Bowler saw his role marginalized in recent seasons but can contribute in New York, particularly if Engram's lapses continue. Rudolph has sure hands (68% catch rate), is an above-average blocker, and has a knack for the red zone (48 career touchdowns).

Place Kicker

Graham Gano: Gano was excellent in his first year as the Giants kicker after missing all of 2019 and losing his job to Joey Slye in Carolina. He hit 31-of-32 field goal attempts, missing only from 50+ yards, where he was still 5-of-6. He actually missed two extra point attempts, with only 23 tries, the lowest in the league for any kicker that played at least 10 games (Gano played all 16). Even with that anemic number, Gano was just outside of the top ten in field goal attempts, so his upside is capped in the Jason Garrett offense, making him bye/injury material and not worthy of a pick in typical fantasy drafts.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Kadarius Toney [R], Dante Pettis

The Giants have a couple players who could return kickoffs, but no sure things to capture the job. Perhaps the best bet is receiver Kadarius Toney, their 1st-round pick who was electric with the ball in his hands in college. If not Toney, then Dante Pettis had limited experience on special teams in San Francisco.

Punt Returners: Jabrill Peppers, Kadarius Toney [R]

While the Giants might want to get exciting rookie receiver Kadarius Toney's feet wet on special teams, veteran punt returner Jabrill Peppers is the sort of experienced, reliable option that coaching staffs tend to prefer when the games matter.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Andrew Thomas, LG Shane Lemieux, C Nick Gates, RG Will Hernandez/Nick Fulton, RT Matt Peart
Key Backups: OT Nate Solder, OL Jonotthan Harrison

Left tackle Andrew Thomas started sixteen games as a rookie and performed well down the stretch. Right tackle Matt Peart will compete with Nate Solder, who opted out of 2020 but restructured his contract. Shane Lemieux is a power mauler at left guard, and Zach Fulton arrived from Houston for the right guard spot. Center Nick Gates remains the weak spot; This group has solid tackles but is still rebuilding inside.

Team Defense

The Giants' defense improved under new coordinator Patrick Graham. The unit finished 9th in points allowed and 12th in yards allowed and brings back a nucleus of talented players. It all starts up front where Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence are dynamic, two-way defenders capable of collapsing the pocket. In the secondary, the team broke the bank to sign cornerback Adoree Jackson who will pair with James Bradberry on the outside. GM Dave Gettleman added a handful of proven veterans, including Danny Shelton and Ifaedi Odenigbo, who will push for rotational roles. Given how well the unit played in Graham's first season, it's exciting to think about what they'll do with a year of experience in the system.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Leonard Williams, NT Austin Johnson, DE Dexter Lawrence
Backups: DE B.J. Hill, DT Danny Shelton, DE R.J. McIntosh, DT Breeland Speaks, DT David Moa, DE Niko Lalos, DE Elerson Smith [R], DT Raymond Johnson III [R]

Starting DL: Leonard Williams didn't want to play under the franchise tag again, and fortunately, his agent and the team came to terms on a 3-year, $63-million deal that will keep him in New York for the foreseeable future. Williams is a versatile lineman capable of doing whatever the scheme requires; he routinely commands double teams freeing up the linebackers to make plays off the edge. Dexter Lawrence is built like a nose tackle and showed tremendous growth in his second year, notching 53 tackles, four sacks, and 16 quarterback pressures. Few 3-4 fronts offer a more compelling tandem. The team could not keep nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson for cap reasons but re-signed backup Austin Johnson as the presumptive replacement. Johnson only played 21% of the Giants' snaps last year, so he's a question mark as a full-time contributor.

Backup DL: B.J. Hill won't start, but he graded out as a top-30 interior defender last year in 375 snaps and provides the Giants with a high-end rotational option at both 3-4 end, 3-4 tackle, and 4-3 tackle. Danny Shelton had a down year last season but was an above-average interior defender for much of his career. He could step into a starting role with a strong camp or if Austin Johnson struggles. Rookie Elerson Smith dominated against weaker competition at Northern Iowa, and has a nonstop motor and nose for the backfield. But he's skinny and can be overpowered at the point of attack.

Linebackers

Starters: LB Lorenzo Carter, ILB Blake Martinez, OLB Azeez Ojulari, ILB Tae Crowder
Backups: OLB Ryan Anderson, OLB Ifeadi Odenigbo, LB Oshane Ximines, LB Devante Downs, LB Cale Garrett, LB Cam Brown, LB Reggie Ragland, LB T.J. Brunson, LB Carter Coughlin, LB Trent Harris

Starting LBs: Blake Martinez is a tackling machine; he logged 151 tackles and three sacks in his first season in New York. He's had 144 or more tackles in four consecutive seasons and will be the finisher as the stout defensive line funnels opposing running backs inside. Once a liability in pass coverage, he's improved markedly and is now an above-average pass defender, too. Tae Crowder wasn't impressive last year, but appears to be first in line to line up next to Martinez. Lorenzo Carter was limited to five games last year, derailing the coaches' plans to use him exclusively as an edge rusher. Rookie Azeez Ojulari was arguably the best defender on one of the nation's best defenses in Georgia. He had 8.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 10 games against the toughest competition in the nation. Expect him to start immediately if he has a healthy camp.

Backup LBs: Ifeadi Odenigbo comes over from Minnesota and will factor as an edge defender, lining up as both an end in 4-3 fronts and as an outside linebacker in the base 3-4. The coaches believe he's capable of more than a part-time role, but he'll need to improve in coverage to see more than 40%-50% of snaps. Oshane Ximines only played four games after a promising rookie campaign. If healthy, he could provide the Giants the much-needed pass rush they missed in 2020. Devante Downs was below average as a part-time player and would be ill-suited to a more significant role. Ryan Anderson didn't amount to much in four seasons in Washington but has raw power and athleticism that can entice coaches who think they have the key to unlock unrealized gains.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB James Bradberry, CB Adoree Jackson, SS Jabrill Peppers, FS Ryan Logan
Backups: NB Darnay Holmes, CB Aaron Robinson [R], S Xavier McKinney, CB Rodarius Williams [R], CB Isaac Yiadom, CB Quincy Wilson, CB Montre Hartage, S Julian Love, CB Madre Harper, CB Jarren Williams, CB Joshua Kalu, CB Sam Beal, CB Chris Milton

Starting DBs: James Bradberry more than justified his big free-agent deal last year, providing the Giants with a true shutdown corner. He played more than 1,000 snaps, had three interceptions and 118 pass breakups while ranking as a top-10 defender, according to Pro Football Focus. As well as Bradberry played, the defense's biggest hole was on the opposite side, as a rotation of subpar performers gave up big plays at inopportune moments. GM Gettleman hopes he struck gold in free agency again by signing Adoree Jackson, who signed a 3-year, $39-million deal after being cut by the Tennessee Titans. Jackson missed most of the 2020 season but was an above-average defensive back in his first three seasons. At safety, the team is in good hands with starters Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers. Peppers has become a reliable in-the-box option while Ryan stepped into a leadership role as the deep safety and on-field field general after signing late in the summer.

Backup DBs: Xavier McKinney missed the first ten games of his rookie year with a foot injury and struggled upon his return. But rookie travails shouldn't derail excitement for the talented defensive back who remains one of Nick Saban's favorite players ever. Rookie Aaron Robinson was a elite high school recruit who played at Alabama as a true freshman, but transferred to UCF. He was a relative late bloomer who never made first team in his own conference. But he has the requisite tools to emerge, particularly as a slot corner. Now healthy, McKinney should see the field quite a lot in nickel situations and could emerge as the team's best defensive back over time. Isaac Yiadom didn't handle spot starting duties well last year, and his roster spot is tenuous. Safety Julian Love -- a converted cornerback -- should stick as the No. 4.