10 Things the Giants Do Not Want To See in 2020
With the NFL trying to navigate its way through the COVID-19 virus, football fans are bracing for a season like none other.
But for the New York Giants, they are trying to remain focused on what they can control, which is the development of their team. The goal of head coach Joe Judge, his staff and the players is to turn the franchise's fortunes around after it won just 12 games in the last three seasons.
That will take some time, given all the newness on the team coupled with the unconventional off-season. Still, right now, optimism is running wild in East Rutherford, and the football team is doing its best to avoid falling into the clutches of the COVID-19 virus as some baseball teams have experienced.
Of course, there is only so much the Giants can control, so in thinking of some of the possible things that could potentially hurt their 2020 season, I came up with the following list that no one wants to befall the Giants in 2020.
1. Saquon Barkley suffers another injury.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the 2019 season for the Giants was running back Saquon Barkley’s performance which slid downhill somewhat after he suffered a Week 3 high ankle sprain.
Barkley still rushed for over 1,000 yards and added 438 receiving yards last season, but these numbers were significantly lower than what the Giants expected him to produce.
Barkley set the bar very high after his impressive rookie season in 2018. The injury, which wasn't his fault, had an impact on his performance last year.
But the good news is that Barkley is now fully healthy, and figures to be a significant part of the Giants’ offense in 2020. For that reason, the Giants need a healthy Barkley.
2. More players opt-out of the season.
The Giants have already had left tackle Nate Solder, and wide receiver Da’Mari Scott opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. While no one is blaming them for doing what's best for themselves and their families, the last thing the Giants probably need is to have a situation like the Patriots, who lead the league in player opt-outs with eight.
The deadline for players to opt-out is this Thursday at 4 pm ET. Thus far, Judge said there were no indications that anyone else might be contemplating opting out, but we'll see what the deadline brings.
3. Daniel Jones’ turnover problems continue.
Daniel Jones had a solid rookie season, throwing for 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games played. However, he also threw 12 interceptions and fumbled 18 times, including 11 fumbles lost.
Jones was way too loose with the ball last year, something he has been working to correct in the off-season. Besides technique issues, part of Jones' turnover problems can be traced to him not always making quick reads and decisions.
Jones will benefit from having Jason Garrett as his new offensive coordinator. Garrett, himself a former NFL quarterback, spent the last four seasons working with Dak Prescott in Dallas and before that, Tony Romo, so he knows how to mentor a young quarterback.
If Jones hasn't cleaned up these errors, then it could be another long year for the offense.
4. Evan Engram gets hurt again.
If Garrett's history in Dallas is any indication, expect to see the tight ends used heavily in this offense. And to that end, Evan Engram's health will be a significant factor in how successful the Giants’ offense is in 2020.
If Engram can stay healthy, he should be one of the focal points of Garrett’s offense. However, this is a big "if." Engram has missed 13 games over the last two seasons due to multiple injuries.
When he has been on the field, he has proven that he can be one of the elite tight ends in the NFL. This is a crucial season for him. Engram could be an X-factor for the Giants if he does not suffer any injuries in 2020.
5. Darius Slayton underperforms.
One of the biggest surprises for the Giants in 2019 was the emergence of Darius Slayton, the fifth-round pick out of Auburn, who led the Giants in receiving yards and touchdowns last year.
Slayton had very good chemistry with Jones due to their early work together at rookie minicamp and in the early part of training camp, and that chemistry continued as each saw more playing time.
The hope is that Slayton is even more productive in his second season. But sometimes players who have a breakout rookie year go through a sophomore slump, and that's the last thing the Giants want to see happen with Slayton.
They need him to be one of their top receivers again. There’s even a chance that Slayton could emerge as Jones’ No. 1 receiver. If he is unable to duplicate his strong rookie season, the Giants offense could struggle.
6. Another bad start to the season.
One of the Giants’ main problems over the last few years is that they have consistently gotten off to bad starts, recording 0-2 starts in each of the previous three seasons.
Even though they have a somewhat challenging first few games in 2020, the Giants cannot start as they have in past seasons.
A look at their first four games shows a home contest against the Steelers, a road trip to Chicago, a home game against the 49ers, and another road trip to visit the Rams.
The Giants are then scheduled to play five out of their next six games against the NFC East, and indeed, they'd like for those games to mean something. A 2-2 record would certainly be an acceptable start, especially if they show they are improving as a team each week.
If not, it could very well end up being another lost season for the Giants very quickly.
7. Problems in the kicking game.
The Giants felt it best to move on from the strong-legged, but inconsistent Aldrick Rosas, who is facing misdemeanor charges related to a hit-and-run accident in which he was allegedly involved.
They've signed veteran Chandler Catanzaro to be their new kicker for now. Catanzaro has kicked for four teams throughout his five-year career but has not played since 2018.
His career field goal percentage is 83.8, which isn't very encouraging. While the terms of his contract weren't known as of this writing, it wouldn't be surprising if the Giants added another kicker before the start of the season.
Points are hard to come by, and the Giants want to make sure they have a kicker who is Mr. Reliable. Will they maybe look at Graham Gano, who was released by the Panthers recently, or are they keeping an eye on the kicking competition in Indianapolis, which features two very strong-legged kickers?
We'll find out sooner enough.
8. A struggling pass rush.
The Giants’ defense registered just 36 sacks last season; in fact, the previous three seasons the pass rush has been lackluster, to put it kindly.
Many people expected general manager Dave Gettleman to focus on fixing this in the off-season.
Still, with all the blue-chip pass rushers being tagged and Gettleman not having a chance at Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young, the Giants will now look to the scheme to create opportunities for the pass rush.
To accomplish this, he will need to rely on guys like Lorenzo Carter, Dexter Lawrence, Kyler Fackrell, Oshane Ximines, and the recently re-signed Markus Golden.
The problem is we've been told that the scheme will create a pass rush in the past few years only to be let down. Will this year be different? Will the Giants finally have a breakout pass rusher? Or will the pass rush continue to struggle again?
If it's choice, three, it’s hard to imagine that their defense will be much better than it was in 2019.
9. Andrew Thomas struggles early on.
Andrew Thomas has a lot of pressure on him heading into the 2020 season. The fourth overall pick in April’s draft was considered by many experts to be the most NFL-ready offensive tackle.
Pro Football Focus just ranked Thomas as one of the top-25 offense tackles in the league, even though he has not yet played a snap. The expectations are high for this Georgia product.
With Solder opting out, Thomas now figures to be in line to start at left tackle. As the Giants saw somewhat recently with Ereck Flowers, it’s not always easy for an offensive lineman to jump from college to the pros.
But Thomas isn't Flowers, and there is a lot of optimism that unlike the one-time ninth overall pick in his draft class, this year's fourth overall pick will live up to his pedigree.
If he doesn't, the Giants and particularly quarterback Daniel Jones could be in for a very long year.
10. The COVID-19 pandemic wipes out the season.
The last (and most obvious) thing that the Giants do not want to happen in 2020 is the COVIOD-19 pandemic forcing the season to shut down.
In the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the MLB, NBA, and NHL all successfully resume play. However, the MLB has already dealt with significant outbreaks on various teams, including the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.
Like baseball, the NFL will not be operating in a bubble. And the last thing the Giants or any team wants to see is an outbreak of positive COVID-19 tests.
The Giants appear to have a solid health and safety plan in place, and the NFL has also set up protocols for the players to follow to ensure that they keep the COVID-19 virus at bay. It's up to them to follow these guidelines and be smart.
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