Giants Roster Ranked 27th by PFF | Is it Fair?
Pro Football Focus is out with its ranking of all 32 NFL team roster, and apparently, they have some concerns about the Giants' roster, which they ranked 27th out of 32 teams based on its player grades from 2019.
The problem with using last year’s grades is that teams change. Players move on to different teams, and in the case of the Giants, they have a brand new coaching staff. Unfortunately, the grades aren’t a be-all-end-all measuring stick for a team’s strength.
An excellent example of why the use of grades is inside linebacker Blake Martinez, who was used as a “clean up” player in the Packers defense last year but who projects to have a more proactive role with the Giants.
But let’s look at PFF’s choices regarding the Giants’ biggest strength, biggest weakness, and the X-factor, which is where the meat of the argument stands.
PFF lists the Giants run defense as the team’s biggest strength. Grades aside, there are several reasons why PFF is on-point with this assessment.
The projected starting trio of Dexter Lawrence II, Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson formed a formidable front that last year. The Giants run defense, which had surrendered 122.3 rushing yards per game before Williams was acquired via trade, improved to allowing 104.1 yards per game after Williams arrived.
This year, with a new defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham, the Giants defensive front will again be called upon to lead the way with stuffing the run.
The idea appears to be to have the big bodies like Lawrence eat up multiple blockers while the nimbler Tomlinson and Williams plus the linebackers behind them exploit the gaps that open up when the opponent throws additional resources to stop the Giants push.
The other significant addition that will help the Giants run defense is the new linebackers they’ve acquired via the draft and free agency. One of the goals of general manager Dave Gettleman was to add speed, something the Giants didn’t have last year at that second level.
Not only do they appear to have the necessary personnel to plug the lanes in the middle, but they now seem to have some options to set the edges better.
PFF list the Giants pass rush as the most significant weakness, noting, “With a run-first defensive line, New York projects to have one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL.”
While there is no arguing that the Giants don’t have a true No. 1 pass rusher on their roster, that doesn’t mean the Giants can’t be productive.
While sacks are always the desired outcome, forcing incompletions either through a hit or a hurry is just as important. But it all means nothing unless the back end of the defense isn’t holding up its end of the bargain.
Think back, for example, to all those times when the Giants pass rush seemed to miss getting to the quarterback by a split second or two, the quarterback completing a pass to an intended target.
The reason was that on any given play, the back end of the defense couldn’t keep up with the speed of the offense’s skill position players, or the deep defenders couldn’t hold their coverages long enough to force the opposing quarterback to hold the ball a little longer.
Even if they do regain the services of Markus Golden, he can’t be expected to do it all by himself. They’re going to need a push from other pass rushers such as Kyler Fackrell, Oshane Ximines, and Lorenzo Carter to help discourage opposing offenses from devoting multiple resources against any single Giants edge rusher.
If we’re looking at things on paper, the Giants have more speed on the back end of the defense. Their defense’s strength—the defensive front—is capable of perhaps producing better results in forcing errant or incomplete throws.
Finally, PFF lists the play of quarterback Daniel Jones as the biggest X-factor in 2020, a selection that is hard to argue against. But let’s not harp too much on the turnovers, which while a problem, hopefully, has been corrected.
Instead, let’s focus on another aspect of Jones’ game: his pocket awareness. As PFF noted, “Jones' imperviousness to pressure produces some spectacular plays, but it also leads to those unnecessary sacks and mistakes.”
This is without question the biggest unknown. The Giants sought to upgrade the pass protection by adding Andrew Thomas to the offensive line, but Thomas is only one of five men.
The team still has a question mark at center, where it’s believed Spencer Pulley is the projected starter. And it’s still unknown what Nate Solder, who last year had a horrific season, has left in the tank.
Jones, to his credit, showed his toughness in hanging in the pocket for as long as he could, but as we also saw, it got him into trouble. So there is no question that he needs to make faster reads and get the ball out of his hands a lot quicker.
Although Jones ran workouts with teammates in Austin, Texas earlier this month, it’s thought that those sessions were to build up the timing with the receivers and put the concepts taught during the virtual program into practice. How much of that work was devoted to Jones’ speeding up his processing time isn’t known.
So is the PFF ranking of the Giants roster fair? If you look at it from the perspective that there are many unknowns about this team given the new coaching staff, it’s certainly understandable to have the Giants toward the bottom of the rankings with plenty of room to rise.