The NFC East team is getting healthy with new upgrades
By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)
The NFC East is shaping up to be a very competitive division in 2021, as all four teams have at least a somewhat legitimate shot at the crown. I find many expert rankings surprising, given, for example, how much they favor the Dallas Cowboys over the Washington Football Team. Another thing that’s really surprising is how many experts have put the New York Giants third or last.
The Giants finished last year at 6-10, but that doesn’t mean they don’t belong in the division title conversation. They may end up losing out to the Washington Football Team in that department. However, this team is very solid despite how they’ve been flying under the radar, and they’re good enough to secure a Wild Card berth in 2021. Here are three reasons why.
They have a very underrated defense
The Washington Football Team’s defense stole the show, but while they were getting headlines, the Giants’ defense was quietly putting up good performances. New York held six of its last eight 2020 opponents to 20 points or less, and they never allowed more than 27. That schedule was no cakewalk either, as they faced the Ravens, Browns, Cardinals, and Seahawks in that span, all teams with very good offenses.
The Giants have many star playmakers on defense, led by defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who got himself a huge payday after racking up 11.5 sacks in 2020. Blake Martinez piled up 151 tackles last year to lead a solid linebacker group. However, what really makes this defense click is the secondary.
Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, James Bradberry, Julian Love, and Xavier McKinney form a fearsome big five that truly has the potential to be elite next year. The secondary is full of great athletes, and other than Ryan (who is 30), none of these players are over 27 years old (the other ages are 27, 25, 23, and 22). This means that the Giants are well set up for the future at cornerback and safety, but the secondary is good enough to make a difference now, and they are the group that could bring this defense to another level.
Daniel Jones improved last year
It’s easy to forget that Daniel Jones was actually not a bad QB near the end of last year, as he’s certainly had his fair share of struggles throughout his career. Jones also got hurt last year, and when he was on the field, he wasn’t himself due to the injury.
Jones’ 2020 numbers were very similar to his inconsistent rookie campaign (62-63% completions, about 3,000 passing yards), but those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Jones’ main improvement came in the form of smarter decisions. No one doubts Jones’ arm talent, but his main problem has been his penchant for relying on his arm too much and making bad throws. Late last year, however, he played smarter.
Jones cut down on the silly mistakes, and with the help of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, he transformed into more of a game manager. Jones wasn’t making a ton of spectacular plays, but he also wasn’t getting himself in trouble with bad throws. In 2020, he got used to throwing the ball away when under pressure instead of forcing a play, and that made him a better QB overall. Some might say that the lack of spectacular plays limits his upside, however, this last section will explain why Jones still has the potential to be electric in 2021.
The Giants have multiple lethal weapons to add to the offense
Obviously, Saquon Barkley was already a Giant before this offseason, however, his return from a season-ending torn ACL will do wonders for the Giants’ offense. Barkley is an incredibly explosive runner, and his acceleration and athleticism is matched by no one. Giants opponents will have to stack the box to have any hope of stopping Barkley, which will certainly make life a lot easier for Jones in the passing game.
The addition of Kenny Golladay, perhaps the best WR in this year’s free agent class, should also do wonders for Jones. Last year, we saw star Stefon Diggs completely change QB Josh Allen’s production when he went to Buffalo. It’s not terribly common for quarterbacks to have an Allen-like transformation in a year, but when you consider Jones’ physical and improving mental traits, it’s reasonable to expect a sizeable jump in his production. Golladay is a great deep-ball receiver, and he will be a field-stretcher causing major problems for opposing defenses.
After signing Golladay, the Giants decided that they weren’t done improving their offense, and they showed that by selecting Florida WR Kadarius Toney with the #20 overall pick in the NFL draft. Toney is an amazing athlete, and his explosiveness makes him lethal in the open field. Toney is the type of player who can catch a screen pass, make defenders miss, and run to the end zone, so he’s a great complement to Golladay. Overall, these three players should make a huge difference to Jones’ success, and if the offense and defense click like they should, the Giants can be a very dangerous team next year.