Can Big Blue take a leap forward in 2022?
Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes
Ever since Tom Coughlin left the Giants after the 2015 season, the Giants have been searching for a long-term solution at their head coaching spot. With rumors circulating that the Giants had interest in Matt Rhule during the 2020 offseason, the Giants shocked the league and hired Joe Judge.
Judge’s Giants finished with a 6-10 record in year one, but the team recorded five of its six wins during the back half of the season. The progress the Giants made in Judge’s first year gives optimism to Giants fans regarding the team’s playoff aspirations. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s stellar defense was perhaps the greatest surprise for the Giants last year. This offseason, the Giants broke the bank to improve their roster, and further boosted their roster in the draft. The Giants also have a healthy weapons group to start the season, so a winning record is on the horizon.
The New York Giants defense took major strides during the 2020 season. The emergence of Leonard Williams as a borderline top-five interior defensive lineman in the league and the pro-bowl play of corner James Bradbury made the Giants an above-average unit. The Giants ranked in the top ten in rushing defense and top sixteen in passing defense and total defense allowed. After years of atrocious defensive play, a year where the Giants allowed only 5,589 total yards across sixteen games is a welcome surprise. The Giants also placed ninth in expected points contributed via their defense, courtesy of pro football reference.
The success of the 2020 New York Giants came entirely from their defense. Daniel Jones did not win games for the team, though he did not lose them either. His improved PFF grade in the 2020 season compared to the 2019 season (78.4 vs 65.9) is a positive sign. Jones did not get to play all of the 2020 season, which is both a red flag and a reason for optimism in 2021.
The Giants are also getting back their all-pro running back, Saquon Barkley. In Barkley’s rookie season, he posted over 2,000 yards-from-scrimmage. The Giants unleashed Daniel Jones’ rushing ability after Barkley tore his ACL during week two, and they could continue to use his running skill in the backfield to pair with Barkley’s dynamism.
The phenomena of “winning windows” has become increasingly relevant since the 2010 CBA made rookie contracts incredibly inexpensive. When a quarterback is on a rookie deal, a front office can assemble a great team around them and make the playoffs. Even below-average quarterbacks like Jared Goff can lead their team to a super bowl on a rookie deal if their surrounding talent is sufficient.
The Giants signed Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay to a four-year, 72-million-dollar contract, giving Daniel Jones a legitimate alpha weapon. The Giants also drafted gadget-weapon Kadarius Toney at 20, giving the team a diverse group of playmakers. On the defensive side of the football, the Giants gave cornerback Adoree Jackson a three-year, 39-million-dollar deal to play across from James Bradbury. They then drafted Azeez Ojulari in the second round, potentially completing their pass-rushing group.