Getting better? That's the goal of the New York Giants brass, who went to work this off-season to add a host of talent across the various position units to give head coach Joe Judge and the coaching staff more reinforcements at every position group.
But while it's now up to Judge and the coaches to sort everything out and determine who fits into what roles within each position group and the scheme, let's take a quick look at how each position group stacks up in terms of a power ranking.
(For comparison purposes, I included my analysis of the position group rankings after the 2020 NFL draft.)
No. 1: Defensive Backs
(2020 Ranking: No. 8)
A year ago, questions galore popped up regarding this unit. They began with projected starter DeAndre Baker running into some legal trouble from which he was later exonerated.
And the situation at this position continued to deteriorate before summer training camp when Sam Beal, whom the team had hoped might challenge for a starting job, opted out due to COVID-19. Those two events left the Giants scrambling to find a second cornerback to play opposite of James Bradberry.
Meanwhile, at safety, Xavier McKinney was a promising prospect who ended up breaking his foot in training camp, which left some questions as to who might line up next to Jabrill Peppers.
Eventually, answers trickled in. The Giants landed coveted free agent Logan Ryan, who has since become a staple of the Giants defensive backfield. McKinney managed to get back on the field before the season ended, and reserve Julian Love proved to be a valuable utility man who could be plugged in anywhere in the secondary.
In 2021, the unit, whose most significant challenge was finding a bookend to Bradberry, signed free agent Adoree' Jackson. In the third round, they added Aaron Robinson to challenge Darnay Holmes for the slot duties and plucked Rodarius Williams in the sixth round as a potential swap out for Beal, who, due to issues with injuries, just hasn't worked out as hoped.
Isaac Yiadom, who accepted a pay cut, will also provide depth if he can hold off challengers like Jarren Williams from winning a roster spot. Overall, the Giants have a good and deep group of defensive backs whose coverage abilities should help the pass rush this year by smothering receivers down the field.
No. 2 Defensive Line
(2020 Ranking: No. 1)
The Giants finally locked up Leonard Williams to a long-term deal after delivering his first double-digit sack performance of his career last year. Still, they lost Dalvin Tomlinson, one of their best run-stuffers, to free agency. Tomlinson is a player whom Williams often credited with doing the dirty work that made it possible for him to succeed.
Tomlinson was more than just a run stuffer, as he posted a career-high 28 quarterback pressures last season. While he leaves quite the void, the Giants appear to be planning more of a committee approach that will include Danny Shelton as the likely first and second-down player, Austin Johnson and B.J. Hill.
Will the three--all signed through 2021, by the way--be able to match what Tomlinson brought not just in terms of stuffing the run but in pushing the pocket on pass-rushing situations?
Also worth noting in this group is the addition of Ifeadi Odenigbo and rookie Elerson Smith, two players who mostly have played with their hands in the dirt.
Odenigbo has 10.5 sacks in his last two seasons, and Smith, the Giants' fourth-round pick, recorded 14.0 sacks in 2019.
No. 3. Wide Receiver
(2020 Ranking: No. 5)
In retrospect, this unit was more of a detriment last year than initially realized. To be fair, injuries to Sterling Shepard, who missed time with a turf toe, and Darius Slayton, who didn't miss time but who was trying to get things out, didn't help.
Neither, though, did the decline in Golden Tate's ability to win contested catches, nor did the fact the Giants declined to add to this group in last year's draft.
Put it all together, and the Giants not only didn't have enough firepower at this position to run 11-personnel all that much, but what they were able to put on the field struggled to produce.
Between free agency and the draft, the Giants have devoted some significant resources to improving the playmaking ability that quarterback Daniel Jones desperately needs to step up this season. The Giants finally got themselves a legitimate and tall X-receiver in Kenny Golladay.
John Ross can take the top off a defense with his straight-ahead speed, and first-round draft pick Kadarius Toney is so versatile that the sky's the limit regarding the possible deployment of his talents in this offense.
With offensive coordinator Jason Garrett looking to open up the offense's deep passing game, they finally have the players capable of separating and winning most contested catches. Most of all, they have added a group whose history of scoring is just what last year's 31st ranked scoring offense needs.
No. 4. Inside Linebacker
(2020 Ranking: No. 9)
Blake Martinez was spectacular last year, never leaving the field (except when injured). He finished as the team leader in tackles with 151, and of those, 58 were stops for zero or negative yardage, also a team-leading stat.
There was some question as to who might line up alongside Martinez in the base defense. The Giants, who moved on from David Mayo, appear to believe that they have an answer between Tae Crowder, who finished the season as the primary guy, newcomer Reggie Ragland and returnees TJ Brunson, Carter Coughlin, and Devante Downs.
- Breaking Down the New York Giants Roster Post-Draft: Running Backs
- Breaking Down the New York Giants Roster Post-Draft: Quarterbacks
- Breaking Down the New York Giants Roster Post-Draft: Tight Ends
- Breaking Down the New York Giants Roster Post-Draft: Offensive Line
- Breaking Down the New York Giants Roster Post-Draft: Receivers
No. 5. Quarterbacks
(2020 Ranking: No. 6)
Just about every media outlet still lists quarterback Daniel Jones as a significant question mark, and he is given his won-loss record as a quarterback.
But he did show some improvement last year despite his receiving targets dropping 29 balls (seventh-most among NFL quarterbacks). Despite the other limitations, such as a lack of separation and the injuries to Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley, that without question put a crimp in the Giants' offensive plans.
His completion percentage rose from 61.9% to 62.5%--not bad considering his pass protection this year was even spottier than the prior year, given all the inexperience on the offensive line. But stats aside, where Jones took a significant leap was in a couple of areas.
One, he began to see the field a lot better to where he wasn’t blindly throwing the ball and hoping for the best. He showed a better ability to read and decipher defenses, particularly those trying to disguise coverages.
And he showed improvement in his ball security toward the end of his second season, losing two balls (albeit two balls too many) in his last seven games after losing four in the earlier past of his season.
That all said, the giants will go as Jones goes. He needs to be a lot more consistent and finally show that he can do what all good franchise quarterbacks are capable of doing, which is load the team on his back and carry them to the finish line, something that eluded him last year.
No. 6. Edge Rushers
(2020 Ranking: No. 10)
The Giants haven't had a solid homegrown pass rusher since Jason Pierre-Paul. While they have tried to address the position in the draft, this year's use of a second-round pick (Georgia's Azeez Ojulari) was the highest draft pick used on a pass rusher since Pierre-Paul in 2010 (first round).
There is also hope that Lorenzo Carter, who last year finally looked as though he put it all together only to have his season cut short due to a ruptured Achilles, can come back stronger and quicker than ever before.
The same hope exists for third-year man Oshane Ximines, whose season ended early last year because of a shoulder injury.
The Giants also added some additional pass rush help, including veterans Ryan Anderson, to a group to which second-year men like Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown also hope to contribute to building a solid pass rushing foundation off the edge.
No. 7. Tight Ends
(2020 Ranking: No. 4)
The decline of the receivers was undoubtedly disappointing, but it doesn't come close to matching the struggles of the Giants' tight ends because at least the tight ends were healthy last year.
What's simply fascinating about this group is that no one seems to get the best out of Evan Engram. Last year, Engram ran several comeback routes, which doesn't suit his skill set all that well and may have contributed to eight dropped passes.
And the continued insistence by the coaches to ask Engram to block head-on someone who has at least 30 pounds on him was another head-scratcher.
Engram, who, despite the ups and downs last season, still earned a Pro Bowl berth, can be better if he is used more to his strengths.
Per Pro Football Focus, Engram was much more effective against man coverage than when he was trusted to find soft spots against the zone. But with the addition of Kyle Rudolph, how much, if any, will Engram's snaps be affected?
Rudolph is a legitimate red-zone threat, but he'll be coming off off-season foot surgery, yet another factor that cast hesitancy about what the tight end group will be able to give to the offense.
All these questions aside, another area that needs to be resolved will be the run-blocking, which, except for those handfuls of run-blocking assignments Kaden Smith executed, wasn't very good from this unit. They'll need it to be better this year, especially with the offensive line still in a state of flux.
No. 8. Offensive Line
(2020 Ranking: No. 7)
Another year another configuration on deck. The Giants released veteran Kevin Zeitler in a salary-cap-related move and are rolling with their youth.
But having potential and fulfilling it are two very different things. However, the Giants, in leaving no stone unturned, have attempted to reinforce the coaching resources for this unit through the additions of Rob Sale and senior offensive consultant Pat Flaherty.
But let's get to the question marks, of which there are many. Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez are competing for the left and right guard jobs despite being career left guards.
While it's presumed that each has been working on technique from the right side, most any offensive line guru will tell you that simply flipping from one side to the other isn't as easy as people make it out to be.
At right tackle, the team seems to be banking on second-year man Matt Peart to anchor that spot. Peart, through photos that have appeared on social media, looks like he added some bulk. But what the photos don't tell us how far along he's come with his technique.
Another reason to be concerned is the unit's depth. The team brought back Nate Solder, who opted out last year due to the pandemic. Solder will presumably be their swing tackle. And on the interior, they have veteran Jonotthan Harrison as a backup guard/tackle and Chad Slade as a guard.
They also have some younger players like Kyle Murphy, Jackson Barton, and undrafted free agents Brett Heggie and Jake Burton. That's a lot of potential right there, but again, with potential comes many questions as to how quickly they'll be ready to step in if disaster strikes.
No. 9. Running Backs
(2020 Ranking: No. 3)
The Giants are optimistic that Saquon Barkley will be as good as new after missing most of last year with a torn ACL. Still, even if Barkley gets the green light, the chances of him stepping in right away and taking a full workload as he did pre-injury aren't very high, as the last thing the Giants want is for him to rush back before building up to the rigors that come with football.
The Giants added journeyman Devontae Booker, an every-down back, to their lineup. They drafted Gary Brightwell out of Arizona to go along with several other relatively unknown running backs.
While the Giants have quantity at this position, the quality of the depth is the most significant question mark and one that, quite frankly, the team needs to hope doesn't come back to bite them, especially if the unthinkable happens and Barkley isn't ready to roll.
Adding another veteran--Alfred Morris would be a welcome sight if he hasn't decided to retire--would go a long way toward reinforcing this group.
No. 10. Special Teams
(2020 Ranking: No. 2)
This unit, one an undisputed strength of the team, has taken quite the fall. Punter Riley Dixon's 44.8-yard punting average last year was the lowest of his career, as was his 39.4 net average.
While he needs help from his coverage unit regarding the net, there's little doubt that last year was an off-year for Dixon, who at one point looked like he might even have been nursing an injury.
Regardless, the Giants made sure to retain Ryan Santoso, a kicker/punter dual-threat, and that could end up being a competition that picks up steam this summer.
If Santoso can beat out Dixon, the cash-strapped Giants could end up saving $2.675 million on the transaction with just $250,000 in dead money hitting this year's cap and $125,000 hitting next year's cap.
The other thing the Giants need to figure out is how to turbocharge their return units. Dion Lewis, their primary kickoff return, was not retained, and it's uncertain if safety Jabrill Peppers will be asked to return punts this year on a regular basis.
Devontae Booker and Kadarius Toney both have return experience, but is there someone else standing in the shadows capable of giving the Giants better starting field position on kickoffs and punts? We'll find out once the preseason gets underway.