In this installment, we look at the Giants' offense and try to come up with a word that summarizes the type of season the players have had thus far.
Some quick notes: I only included those players who have seen significant snaps over the course of several games, the exception being running back Saquon Barkley, who I felt had to be included in this group.
And instead of doing a separate line item for each offensive lineman, I came up with one word for the group since the group had been on a rotation.
Quarterback Daniel Jones: Developing
Critics of Daniel Jones like to point out that of the quarterbacks drafted in his class, he’s the runt of the litter.
Those same people, however, fail to take into account that unlike his fellow classmates, Jones hasn’t had a consistently good offensive line in front of him, he’s played more than half his NFL starts without Saquon Barkley, the most complete player on the offense, and he lacks a true No. 1 receiver.
Did I mention that this year, he’s playing in a new offense that's not like what he’s run in the past as a rookie and at Duke? Because there was no off-season or preseason games, he had no choice but to spend the first five or so games of the 2020 season finding his footing.
Call it an early hunch, but if the Giants keep the same offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for next season, and if they can find him a legitimate No. 1 receiver, don't be stunned if Jones's stock rises even higher.
Running Back Saquon Barkley: Crossroads
The original plan was to include only active players and starters at their respective positions. Still, I felt it necessary to include Saquon Barkley even though he’s recovering from a torn ACL.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft was supposed to be a game-changer for the Giants' offense given his elite talents as both a rusher and receiver out of the backfield.
But two lower leg injuries—a high ankle sprain last year and more recently a torn ACL requiring reconstructive surgery—have cast a pall over whether Barkley can be the player he was before the injuries.
He’s determined to make it happen, that’s for sure. And it’s been done before—see Adrian Peterson.
After seeing how running backs have done in the running game thanks to the offensive line’s improvement, should the Giants make Barkley the highest-paid at his position if he makes a complete recovery?
The answer is yes, because in Barkley, you have a one-stop running back who can do it all, and that alone makes him a valuable member of the offense to have around if he makes that recovery.
Running Back Dion Lewis: Underutilized
Is anyone else surprised that the Giants haven't used Dion Lewis as a receiver out of the backfield more?
Lewis has a 76.2% reception rate, best among the Giants running backs with at least 20 targets, and second-best of the Giants receiving options with at least 20 pass targets.
His 4.3 yards per catch is second behind tight end Evan Engram's 4.5 yards per reception, and he's tied with Sterling Shepard for just one dropped ball out of the eligible sample.
Perhaps it's because Lewis hasn't scored a touchdown yet? Who knows, but for him to score, there has to be a way to get him the ball a receiver out of the backfield more than 2.1 times per game, right?
Running Back Wayne Gallman: Steady
After a somewhat promising rookie season in 2017 where he ran for 476 yards on 111 carries, Wayne Gallman was understandably cast aside when the team drafted Saquon Barkley the following year.
However, instead of being the No. 2 back behind Barkley, Gallman mysteriously slid from view during the two seasons Pat Shurmur was head coach.
No explanation was ever given as to why Gallman slid from view, but once Shurmur was gone, Gallman got a clean slate from new head coach, Joe Judge, and made the most of it after Barkley was lost to his season-ending injury.
Gallman currently has 69 runs for 275 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns. He’s also caught 13 out of 16 pass targets for 75 yards and has recorded 21 first downs for the offense.
Gallman probably isn’t cut out to be a bell cow as he seems to have been at his best when he’s given around 15 carries per game, but if nothing else, he’s shown that he can be an effective running back if you need him to step in.
Fullback Eli Penny: Undervalued
Eli Penny will probably never get the recognition of fellow fullback Kyle Juszczyk of the 49ers. Still, the happy-go-lucky Penny is very much a valuable member of the Giants football team, especially on special teams where he’s one of the core members.
Penny has four total special teams tackles, including three assists. While he doesn’t get many snaps on offense—last week’s game against the Eagles was the first time this season where he had double-digit snaps—when the opportunities do come Penny’s way, he contributes.
On his three rushing attempt s this season, he’s converted two first downs. He’s also caught four out of six pass attempts for 38 yards, 9.5 average, and two more first downs.
Those numbers might not look impressive on the whole. Still, given the context in which Penny is deployed on offense, he certainly makes most of his opportunities.
Offensive Line: Incomplete
I’m taking this one as a group rather than assigning a word for each player because an offensive line is considered one unit.
Of all the position units, the offensive line is the one that always carried the highest priority to rebuild because without that line functioning, it didn’t matter how good the players behind it were.
Well, the good news is the rebuild appears to be almost done. The Giants have two very solid and progressing young tackles in Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart, who will be the future.
They appear to have their answer at center in Nick Gates, and they are thought to be high on a future guard tandem of Will Hernandez and Shane Lemieux.
But that projected starting lineup probably won’t take the field with any regularity until 2021, thus making the 2020 version incomplete.
By the way, don’t get too used to the rotating offensive linemen. A big reason behind Judge’s insistence on doing this is to make up for the fact the team didn’t have an off-season or preseason games where it would be safer to evaluate young and transitioning talent without having to work about the effects on the won-loss record.
And something else to watch with the offensive line is how much, if any, will the Giants offensive linemen have to re-learn as far as their technique now that head coach Joe Judge made an in-season coaching change, replacing Marc Colombo with Dave DeGuglielmo.
Tight End Evan Engram: Waking
If you’re a fan of PFF’s grades, it might interest you to know that in the last three weeks, not only has the Giants offensive line been playing better but so too has tight end Evan Engram.
Over that period, Engram has caught 12 of 20 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, posting some of his weekly highest NFL ratings as a pass target.
Know what else has improved? His blocking.
Engram was always a willing blocker, but these mismatches against a bigger defensive end that outweighed him by 30+ pounds were maddening.
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, in shifting the focus of the offense to get the ball out of Daniel Jones’ hand faster, has done all the blockers a favor. In turn, that has helped their respective games, including Engram, who gets in the way of a defender just enough to slow him down.
TE Kaden Smith: Intriguing
Let's see.... five allowed pressures in 36 pass pro snaps, a lot of solid run blocking, which has helped the offensive line out, particularly on the edges, and an 82.4% reception rate (14 of 17 pass targets)?
Yup, color me intrigued by this second-year tight end.
Smith won't be confused any time soon for the more athletic Evan Engram. Smith doesn't exactly have the athleticism Engram has, nor does he have the speed (that he only has broken two tackles in his 14 receptions tells a lot about his ability to separate).
But sometimes, a slow and steady dose of consistency to move the change is a lot more effective at the end of the day than the homerun ball.
WR Golden Tate: Declining
For years, Golden Tate’s bread and butter was his ability to pick up yards after the catch, where from 2018-19, he averaged 6.0 yards after the catch.
This year Tate, who has seen his pass targets decline, has 24 receptions for 270 yards. Of those, 205 yards came before the catch and only 65 after. That’s not promising production for a guy who has the second-highest cap hit on next year’s roster.
WR Sterling Shepard: Underrated
How much did the Giants miss Sterling Shepard when he was on the injured reserve list? Put it this way. When he was in the lineup, the Giants averaged 231.8 net passing yards per game and posted four games of 200+ yards.
When he was sidelined, the average dropped to 170 yards per game, with four out of the five games he wasn’t available, resulting in a net passing yard total of 165 or less.
WR Darius Slayton: Clutch
Need a first down? Dial “86,” as in Darius Slayton’s number. Of the Giants' top three receivers—Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard being the others—Slayton’s 62 first down conversions over the last two seasons lead the team, and it’s not even close.
Slayton has 38 first down conversions this year, which leads the team by a large margin. And his three receiving touchdowns lead the team (he’s second overall in scoring touchdowns, behind running back Wayne Gallman, who has five touchdowns scored via the ground).
Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think, Giants fans, by dropping a comment below.