32 NFL Teams in 32 Days: Giants Need Defense to Prop Up Their Offense

New York failed to bring in any veteran difference makers on offense, which is risky for a team potentially one year away from a full reset.
Thibodeaux celebrates after a sack against the Jets
Thibodeaux celebrates after a sack against the Jets / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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Welcome to 32 teams in 32 days. To get us through the offseason, we’ll be taking a closer look at every team in the NFL, in order of projected 2024 win totals. Up next: the Giants.

Last year was a disaster for the New York Giants. After a surprise run to the playoffs in 2022 that included a wild-card win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Giants decided to run it back with Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones returning.

The hope was for another year of building toward a Super Bowl. Instead, New York fell apart. The Giants went 6–11, with the biggest bright spot being an undrafted quarterback in Tommy DeVito, who most-notably lived with his parents and sparked Italian pride in the area.

Going into 2024, New York is once again relying on Jones to be a driving force for an offense devoid of proven talent, while the defense is expected to prop the unit up.

If Jones rebounds, the Giants could be frisky. If not, we could be looking at a full-blown reset for 2025.

Biggest gamble this offseason: No significant veteran offensive additions 

Last year, the Giants’ offense was hideous. The unit ranked 30th in yards per play (4.5), 30th in first downs (267), 31st in drives resulting in points (23.6%), 28th in  yards per completion (9.9) and 30th in points (266).

Yet instead of overhauling the unit, general manager Joe Schoen decided to largely stand pat in free agency. In fact, Schoen watched running back Saquon Barkley sign with the rival Philadelphia Eagles, while only replacing him with Devin Singletary.

Although adding first-round receiver Malik Nabers with the No. 6 pick was a big move, it’s hardly enough to fix an offense relying heavily on Jones, who threw for two touchdowns and six interceptions in six games before tearing his ACL.

Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 5 to 8

Although they’ll get a mini-bye before the trip, the Giants will need to make a cross-country trek in Week 5 for a game with the Seattle Seahawks.

Then, New York flies back home to host the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles in consecutive weeks at MetLife Stadium. Finally, the Giants head to Pittsburgh for a Monday night contest against the Steelers.

If Big Blue can even split those four games, it should feel good about the prospect of hanging around the playoff race. However, this stretch could spell the end of New York’s competitive spirit in 2024.

Breakout player to watch: LB Bobby Okereke

Okereke is one of the more underrated linebackers in the league and has a chance to elevate himself nationally with a second strong season in New York.

Now entering his sixth year, Okereke played well with the Indianapolis Colts over his rookie deal before elevating with the Giants. In 2023, he made 149 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss. He also had a career-best 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits playing under aggressive coordinator Wink Martindale.

Okereke is a complete player, able to come downhill against the run while also dropping into coverage to blanket pass-catchers.

Best-case scenario: A terrific defense props up a suspect offense

If things break right, the Giants’ defense could be very difficult to deal with. 

New York has a pair of terrific edge rushers in Kayvon Thibodeaux and Brian Burns. As importantly, Dexter Lawrence patrols the middle of the interior. Between the three of them last year, they combined for 24 sacks, 29 tackles for loss and 52 quarterback hits. 

In the secondary, New York has 2023 first-round pick Deonte Banks on one corner, but there are questions elsewhere. If the back end can hold up, the Giants should have a good enough defense to give the lackluster offense a chance.

Worst-case scenario: Daniel Jones & Co. completely derail the team

The Giants need Brian Daboll to showcase why he won Coach of the Year in 2022. Even more to the point, they need him to be the guy who helped Josh Allen go from bust to behemoth as Bills OC from ’18 to ’21. 

Last season, New York ranked toward the bottom in most passing and scoring categories, largely because Jones was awful and then hurt. This year, the Giants don’t have Barkley to bail out the unit, relying instead on Nabers, Singletary and Jones to bounce back.

If Nabers isn’t great immediately, and Jones doesn’t have a complete reversal of last year’s play, Big Blue could be quickly sunk.

Head coach-quarterback tandem ranking

No. 25: Brian Daboll (20) and Daniel Jones (26)

Daboll won Coach of the Year and guided New York to a wild-card win in 2022, but everything fell apart in a six-win campaign last year. To rally, Daboll must figure out how to prop up Jones without Barkley. As of the end of the ’23 season, Jones’s four-year, $160 million contract looks like one of the worst in sports.

Sleeper fantasy pick: WR Malik Nabers

Nabers landed in a favorable position out of the NFL draft and is a virtual lock to lead the Giants in targets this season. Sure, the quarterback will be Jones or Drew Lock, but volume of opportunities can often overcome bad signal-callers. Nabers, who comes from the wide receiver-friendly LSU offense, could push for weekly starting value in fantasy leagues in his first year. —Michael Fabiano

Best bet:  Nabers Most Rookie Receiving Yards (+600) at DraftKings

Nabers instantly walks into the WR1 spot for New York, with about 130 targets likely going his way. If Jones is at all efficient, and Nabers stays healthy, the rookie wideout certainly has a chance to be within striking distance of the Arizona Cardinals’ Marvin Harrison Jr., who is currently the favorite to lead all rookies (+175), and Nabers’s six-to-one payout is far more attractive. —Jennifer Piacenti 


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Matt Verderame

MATT VERDERAME

Matt Verderame is a staff writer for Sports Illustrated covering the NFL. Before joining SI in March 2023, he wrote for wrote for FanSided and Awful Announcing. He hosts The Matt Verderame Show on Patreon and is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. A proud father of two girls and lover of all Italian food, Verderame is an eternal defender of Rudy, the greatest football movie of all time.