The New York Giants are looking to bring back a new era of disciplined, fundamentally sound football to the Meadowlands this fall under rookie head coach Joe Judge.
Thus far, Judge, a disciple of the schools of Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, has delivered on his inaugural speech of building a hard-nosed, blue-collar football team to represent the tri-state area.
While Judge appears to have the team on the right track so far, this is still a mostly young team that is still learning to play within the new schemes on both sides of the ball and, more importantly, with each other.
Whereas last year the Giants had the 18th youngest team in the NFL (average age 26.0 as of the cutdown from 90 to 53 men), this year, 58 of its current 80-man roster is 25 years old or under, with the average team age being 24.0.
Judge’s focus is to keep the team on track and remain accountable to one another.
“When you make mistakes on the field, there are consequences,” he said. “In the game, it’s penalty yards. At a practice, we have to understand that there are consequences for mistakes. This isn’t a punishment; it’s a reminder that we have to … be more detailed with how we approach things.”
For years, the Giants have seen and been tormented by the explosive and productive offenses headed by Jason Garrett in Dallas.
So when the 54-year-old Garrett became available on the job market, the Judge wasted no time scooping up the one-time NFL quarterback to bring creativity to a Giants offense that has lacked firepower for several years.
Garrett as wasted no time getting to work to design concepts that better utilize the strengths of second-year quarterback Daniel Jones, third-year running back Saquon Barkley, and fourth-year tight end Evan Engram, three key skill players who barely scratched the surface in terms of their contributions thus far.
In Jones, the previous coaching staff barely took advantage of his strong throwing arm and his mobility. Garrett is expected to change all that by adding in some RPOs and some more vertical passing concepts that the Cowboys ran, and which regularly made Cowboys quarterbacks “must-haves” for fantasy football owners looking to rack up the points.
Barkley remains one of the top running backs in the NFL, but he has otherwise been woefully underutilized in the passing game, relegated to mostly dump-offs and check-downs in his first two seasons.
Pairing Barkley against a linebacker or safety in coverage has all kinds of potential given Barkley’s speed and power, yet it’s been a rare sighting for the Giants thus far.
The same can be said of Engram, the talented, but oft-injured tight end whom many view as a receiver in a tight end’s body.
Engram saw most of his snaps from the in-line position but can bring so much more to the offense if Garrett comes up with ways to pit him against a linebacker or safety where Engram’s size, speed, and physicality could make for some nightmarish matchups for opponents.
Once the pride of the franchise, the Giants defense has deteriorated beyond recognition.
This year, the group, as led by defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, is looking to change that narrative. General manager Dave Gettleman poured vast resources into the long-time neglected linebacker unit, adding players with speed and instincts.
There’s also hope that the pass rush, which has sputtered the last few years, will benefit from what could end up as the team’s secret weapon: a versatile three-safety set featuring veterans Julian Love and Jabrill Peppers and rookie Xavier McKinney, whose talent level hasn’t been seen by a Giants team since the 2011 team had Antrel Rolle, Deone Grant, and Kenny Phillips kept opponents from routinely sniffing the second level of the defense and beyond.
Peppers, McKinney and Love give Graham and the Giants the answer they’ve been searching for to stop opposing tight ends and running backs from owning the middle of the field.
Despite the additions at linebacker and safety, the Giants’ underperforming pass rush remains a question mark.
New York only added free agent run-stopper Austin Johnson to the defensive line, but they’re hoping for third-year man Lorenzo Carter and second-year man Oshane Ximines to build on their respective progress from last season.
Meanwhile, team sack leader Markus Golden returns for another go-around while Kyler Fackrell hopes to replicate Golden’s success in getting back to double-digit sacks in a change of scenery.
Even if all that falls into place, the other part of the question is at cornerback where the Giants will have young veteran James Bradberry but could otherwise be looking at fielding a relatively inexperienced player on the perimeter on the opposite end.
If the corners can’t hold the coverage, the guys up front could be in for some long days.
8-8. To expect the Giants to have a one-season turnaround like the 49ers last year is unrealistic given the Giants, unlike San Francisco, are starting from square one.
With that said, if the coaching staff delivers on its vow to put players in the right positions to be successful, if Garrett is creative with the offense to where the unit can sustain long drives to minimize the exposure of the young defense until it can jell, and if the injury and COVID-19 bugs stay out of the Giants locker room, this team has enough talent to double its win total from 2019.
Expected Depth Chart
- Quarterbacks: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy, Cooper Rush
- Running Backs: Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis, Javon Leake
- Fullback: Eli Penny
- Tight Ends: Evan Engram, Levine Toilolo, Kaden Smith
- Receiver: Golden Tate, Darius Slayton
- Left Tackle: Andrew Thomas, Chad Slade
- Left Guard: Will Hernandez, Shane Lemieux
- Center: Nick Gates, Spencer Pulley
- Right Guard: Kevin Zeitler, Shane Lemieux
- Right Tackle: Cameron Fleming, Matt Peart
- Receiver: Sterling Shepard, Corey Coleman
- Defensive End: Leonard Williams, BJ Hill
- Nose Tackle: Dexter Lawrence II, Chris Slayton
- Defensive End: Dalvin Tomlinson, Austin Johnson
- Strongside Linebacker: Lorenzo Carter, Kyler Fackrell Cam Brown
- Inside Linebacker: Devante Downs, Ryan Connelly, TJ Brunson
- Inside Linebacker: Blake Martinez, David Mayo, Tae Crowder
- Weakside Linebacker: Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines, Carter Coughlin
- Cornerback: Corey Ballentine, Darnay Holmes, Montre Hartage,
- Strong Safety: Jabrill Peppers, Nate Ebner
- Free Safety: Xavier McKinney, Julian Love
- Cornerback: James Bradberry, Chris Williamson, Jarren Williams
- Kicker: Graham Gano
- Punter/Holder: Riley Dixon
- Long Snapper: Casey Kreiter
- Punt Returner: Golden Tate
- Kickoff Returner: Javon Leake