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New York Giants: What to Watch After First Four Games of 2021

What potential developments do we need to keep an eye on regarding this Giants team in the weeks ahead? Here are three to consider.

We're four games into the new York Giants 2021 season, and while it's still early, some storylines and developments have begun to emerge and affect the team's 2021 season.

In Part 1, we looked at the storylines, and in Part 2, we looked at the surprises. In this final part of our three-part series covering the first four games of the New York Giants 2021 season, we give you three things to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. 

What to Watch

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (88) takes the field before kickoff of an NFL Week 12 football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (88) takes the field before kickoff of an NFL Week 12 football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Potential Trades

We talk about players on the roster bubble during training camp, but there’s another bubble period once the season starts.

I’m talking about those final few weeks before the NFL trade deadline, which this year is November 2. With the Giants pressed so tightly against their salary cap—according to the NFLPA public cap report, the Giants currently have $3,048,972 in cap space after reworking cornerback James Bradberry’s contract last week—that newly found space might not be enough to get the team through the rest of the season.

The Giants are running out of contracts to restructure—and quite frankly, they should lay off of that approach given how concerning next year’s cap picture looks.

That leads us to the bubble period, or more specifically, who on the current roster might the Giants look to move in a trade.

Three potential candidates are emerging, but only two of the three make sense from a financial perspective.

The first is tight end Evan Engram, who continues to struggle to reach that level of play and production that his first-round draft pedigree indicated he should have been by now. Engram carries a $6.013 million cap hit, so if the Giants were to move him by the trade deadline, they’d recoup $353,705 for every week he isn't on the roster.

That said, with Kaden Smith being a regular participant on the team’s weekly injury report, the Giants might be reluctant to move Engram, who, after missing the first two weeks of the season, is presumably “healthy” again.

The second—and most likely—is safety Jabrill Peppers. Peppers, a team captain, has been losing playing time to Xavier McKinney. And Peppers, according to Radar360, has the highest “burn rate” (88.2 percent) of all the Giants defensive backs, including cornerback James Bradberry (75 percent), who hasn’t exactly played well to start the season.

Peppers currently counts for $6.77 million against the cap. Between his losing snaps to McKinney and, to a lesser extent, Julian Love, there’s little chance that he’s re-signed after this season anyway. General manager Dave Gettleman loves those late-day draft picks, so why not try to flip Peppers for a Day 3 pick in next year’s draft?

Doing so would mean a $398,235 weekly savings for every week he's not on the roster. As a bonus, the Giants plus they’d be getting something in return they can use net year, a year in which they’re not going to have a lot of money to spend to bring in veteran help to replace all those guys who are either on one-year contracts or the final year of their deals.

The third—and least likely—option is receiver Darius Slayton. Slayton is currently sidelined with a hamstring strain, so moving him right now won’t happen. But if John Ross continues to shine and grow in his route tree running, why not look to extend Ross, who is on a one-year deal, and move Slayton to a team looking for some speed?

If this scenario were to play out, it would be a classic case of “borrowing from Peter to pay Paul” in terms of cap savings. But if a trade yielded a Day 3 draft pick, it makes it worth it.

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones walks off the field aye the end of the game as the Denver Broncos came to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ and beat the New York Giants 27-13 in the first game of the 2021 season on September 12, 2021.

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones walks off the field aye the end of the game as the Denver Broncos came to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ and beat the New York Giants 27-13 in the first game of the 2021 season on September 12, 2021.

Will Daniel Jones Continue Maturing into a Franchise QB?

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones took a huge step forward in the team’s Week 4 win over the New Orleans Saints, looking every bit the franchise quarterback the Giants thought he could be when they drafted him sixth overall in 2019.

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But then again, everyone was feeling pretty good about Jones’s prospects after he made his debut as a starter on September 22, 2019, in a come-from-behind win over Tampa Bay. 

That day, Jones went 23 of 36 for 336 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions, and he rushed for 28 yards on four carries with two additional touchdowns as part of an NFC Offensive Player of the Week showing.

Jones has quietly been taking baby steps toward making that Josh Allen type of leap the team hoped he’d make in this, Year 3 of his career. He’s cut down on the fumbles—he posted three in the four games so far (one lost).

And although he snapped a streak of over one hundred pass attempts without an interception last week when a Hail Mary attempt at the close of the first half was picked off, that turnover was not a result of him misreading the defense or being overly risky with the ball.

“I just think he’s made progress over the last year and a half that we’ve been with him,” Garrett said. “It starts with playing winning football. You have to take care of the ball, and I think he’s done that.

“He has made really good decisions, he’s played decisively. I think he’s getting a better understanding for what we’re asking him to do, what defenses are trying to do to us and he’s seeing the field and he’s making a lot of good decisions. When things aren’t there, he’s made good decisions to get rid of the ball. …So, I think that’s a big sign of maturity and then he’s been able to make more and more plays.”

The New York Giants line up for an 11-on-11 drill during a 2020 training camp practice at the team's East Rutherford, New Jersey headquarters.

The New York Giants line up for an 11-on-11 drill during a 2020 training camp practice at the team's East Rutherford, New Jersey headquarters.

Have They Finally Turned the Corner as a Team?

All looked lost for the Giants after they threw away their first three games of the season—three winnable games, at that.

But for those who remember the 2007 Super Bowl season, that team also threw away two games. They looked to be on the verge of losing their third straight (a contest against Washington) before they finally woke up and started playing like a team that genuinely aspired to be in the playoffs.

The rest, as they say, was history as that 2007 team rebounded to earn a Wild Card berth that they rode to a stunning Super Bowl upset over an undefeated New England Patriots team.

Now, this isn’t to say that the 2021 Giants team is Super Bowl-bound (though one never does know, and that’s why they line up to play the game).

But remember that the division once known as “the Beast” has unofficially been re-labeled the “NFC Least” given the lack of play quality among its four participants 9giants, Cowboys, Eagles, and Washington).

Through four games, the Cowboys are off to a strong start, holding a 3-1 record, but it’s not so much about how a team starts as it is how it finishes. And while the NFC East does look a little better this year, there’s still a lot of football to go.

The Giants? They showed they can play solid football in their overtime win against a very good Saints team. But one win does not a playoff berth make, and it’s important for the Giants to stack similar performances on top of each other if they’re to earn a seat at the postseason table this year. 


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