Is RB Saquon Barkley an elite RB?

Is RB Saquon Barkley overrated?

By: Brady Akins

We, as a collective society, live in a world of first impressions. If the first thing I ever did to you bought you an ice cream cone, it would probably take a lot to convince you after the fact that I’m probably not a decent person. If the first thing I ever did to you wrote an article trashing your favorite running back, well, it might take some time to convince you that I actually do know what I’m talking about.

So when professional football’s first impression of Saquon Barkley, the former all-world running back from Penn State, was complete and utter domination of the NFL Scouting Combine— most of the world was head over heels. Including the New York Giants, who used the second overall pick in 2018 to make Barkley the highest-drafted running back since Reggie Bush in 2006.

And to be fair, Barkley’s combine performance was staggering– finishing with a 4.40 40-yard dash, the second-best time for a running back in 2018, 29 reps on the bench press, tied for the year’s best for running backs, and a vertical leap of 41.0 inches, another best among 2018 running backs. So it wasn’t too surprising when New York used that pick to take Barkley ahead of quarterbacks like Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, or offensive linemen like Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. 

And in Barkley’s first season, he went to work on strengthening his already strong first impression, making the Pro Bowl as a rookie with 1,307 rushing yards as a runner, 91 receptions as a pass catcher, and a league-best 2,028 yards from scrimmage en route to a runaway Offensive Rookie of the Year season. 

In 2019, things weren’t quite as good for the Giants running back. Not bad, by any stretch, but not up to par with the king of first impressions. His rushing production dropped from 1,300 yards to barely over 1,000, his touchdown volume dropped from 15 total to eight, and his pass-catching volume plummeted, falling from 121 targets in 2018 to 73 the following year.

Again, not bad. But for a player being projected by ESPN’s Matthew Berry as the most valuable player in PPR leagues to fall to 10th in points per game among running backs and behind 21 other skill position players in total PPR scoring– Barkley’s plummet could be considered ‘bust-worthy’ if you took him first overall.

Granted, injuries did derail some of Barkley’s 2019 potential, forcing him out for three games. But after a torn ACL in Week 2 of 2020 forced Barkley out for the Giants’ remaining 14 games, injury concerns might be a problem in their own right. 

Injuries and a decline in production haven’t yet wavered the overall fantasy football community, however, as Barkley heads into 2021 drafts as the fifth-ranked running back by ESPN in PPR leagues, and the consensus fourth overall player on FantasyPros in standard-scoring leagues.

Just like in 2019 and 2020, Barkley is gearing up for yet another fantasy season selected as a high first-round player. But after back-to-back disappointing seasons, it becomes fair to wonder, is the fantasy football world thinking too highly of Saquon Barkley?

Expectation vs Reality

As mentioned at the top, first impressions mean the world through the lens of football. NFL scout’s first impression of Barkley was a physically gifted player ahead of anyone else in the class. Football fans first impression of Barkley him being a highlight machine capable of tearing up a football field as a player who averaged five yards per carry and nearly eight yards per catch. 

And for fantasy managers, their first impression of Barkley was a bonafide first-round running back, capable of producing highly as a runner and receiver. After ending 2018 as the league’s highest-scoring running back in PPR league’s and second-highest scoring in standard leagues– the benchmark for Barkley as an elite fantasy asset was set.

Of course, as we’ve already explored, 2019 marked a dropoff, and with a season-ending injury, 2020 was far worse for the consensus first-round running back.

But even examining Barkley’s performance through the small sample size of 2020 presents enough concerns on its own. With 19 carries through five quarters last season– Barkley managed just 34 yards. Yes, his two matchups came against two strong defenses in the Steelers and Bears, respectively, but a 1.8 yards per carry end to the year is a far cry from the numbers you would expect from a superstar. 

Barkley has actually developed a nasty habit for inconsistent production on the ground since his 2018 campaign. Dating back to 2019, Barkley has had four games of over five yards per carry, including his brief appearance against the Bears with 28 yards on four carries– and four games under two yards per carry, including a 13 carry performance against the Jets in 2019 that resulted in just one yard. 

You never know what version of Barkley to expect on the ground, despite his combine measurables and penchant for explosive plays. One week he can be a fantasy football powerhouse, and in another, he can rush for one yard. This showed up in 2020 as well, when Barkley’s only full game was a 15 carry, six-yard showing against the Steelers.

The saving grace of Barkley has been his ability in the passing game, which flashed tremendously in his rookie year with quarterback Eli Manning under center. With Daniel Jones, however, Barkley’s production as a receiver has been relatively limited.

In 2018, Barkley finished with eight or more targets in half of his games– including five games with 10 or more, a level of volume that led to a peak of 121 targets in 2018. With Manning running the show through the first two weeks of 2019, that balance between rushing and receiving carried on, with six and seven targets in his first two games, respectively. However, when the Giants made the switch to Daniel Jones at quarterback, Barkley’s receiving volume suffered. Since then, he has seen just two games in 12 starts with eight or more targets, and just four games with six or more.

In addition to inconsistency as a runner, Barkley has not had the receiving volume to make up for spotty performances on the ground. And in 2021, Barkley’s target share might continue to decrease.

So Many Mouths, Not Enough Cooks

The Giants made moves in the offseason, the biggest of which came at the wide receiver spot. 

Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard and the tight end Evan Engram, the Giants three leading receivers from 2020, all remain in New York. Joining them will be the veteran Pro Bowler Kenny Golladay and the first-round rookie Kadarius Toney.

What was once a shallow group of pass-catchers that leaned on Barkley out of necessity is now a group with deep talent, and a young quarterback who has yet to make a habit of checking down to his running back. 

Barkley’s volume in the passing game dropped by nearly 50 targets in the span of a year, and it could continue to decrease. To be the elite running back that the fantasy world still thinks he can be, Barkley will need to lean heavily on his ability as a runner. That, just like his passing target volume, has dropped off since 2018, as well.

2018 saw Barkley finish second in total rushing yards, behind only the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliot. His 5.0 yards per attempt were good for ninth in the league, showing an ability to do a lot with a little, and his 11 rushing touchdowns were good for fifth in the league. All stats and rankings plummeted in 2019.

From second at 1,307 rushing yards to 16th with 1,003. From ninth in yards per carry to tied for 14th. From fifth in rushing touchdowns to tied for 20th. Across the board, Barkley was a worse player in 2019 than he was the year the world fell in love with him.

That’s not to say that 2019 is the new standard. However, Barkley faces an uphill climb to be the clear-cut RB1 the world wants him to be. 

It’s a world of first impressions, and Saquon Barkley nailed his. But the reality since then has failed to live up to expectations.

Top Three Takeaways From Giants Training Camp

Giants training camp is off to an excellent start

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes

Introduction

Joe Judge’s hire during the 2020 offseason shocked many fans. His emphasis on the basics of football, including proper preparation like sound tackling and lots of cardio, was the antithesis of the modern NFL. While coaches like Kliff Kingsbury run their teams more like colleges, Judge is staunchly an old-school football guy. During his first training camp, he tried out stars like Saquon Barkley as a punt returner and had any player that made a mistake (including Barkley) run laps as punishment. 

However, Judge eventually endeared himself to Giants’ fans through his participation in drills, like jumping in mud to recover a fumble to demonstrate the proper form. This year, there is still a lot to be discovered during Giants’ camp, but we know a few key focal points already.

Prioritization of conditioning 

Joe Judge, like most of his Patriots’ predecessors, wants his team to be in shape. During his interviews this week, Judge spoke about why conditioning can help win games. The Giants’ coach explained that anyone can play their best ball for the first few minutes of a game, but it becomes much more difficult during the fourth quarter. Judge preaches that the team will not practice anything that will not make them better during regular-season games. Veterans like Sterling Shepard have already come out in support of their rigorous conditioning program. Shepard felt that there were times last year late in games where he had an extra gear that was absent in prior seasons.

Zero tolerance for slacking

The Biggest story from training camp so far comes in the (large) form of Kelvin Benjamin. The Giants’ current general manager drafted Benjamin with the 28th selection of the 2014 NFL draft. During his rookie season, Benjamin won rookie of the year. Since then, Kelvin’s career has been a disappointment. 

The Giants brought in Benjamin as a tight end for camp. Benjamin came into minicamp a few weeks ago weighing 265 pounds. Judge and the Giants reportedly told me to cut his weight down to 251 pounds for training camp. Though Benjamin passed the conditioning tests today, he weighed a whopping 268 pounds. Benjamin claimed that the weight change came from added muscle. To Judge, the added muscle could not be more irrelevant. Coach Judge told Benjamin to hit a goal, and Benjamin completely failed. Judge confronted Benjamin during practice on the 28th and he was released that afternoon. After the practice, Kelvin spoke to certain media members and voiced his displeasure for Judge, though it came across more like a series of baseless complaints than an actual critique of Judge’s style. 

Rookies need to earn their spots

The Giants’ 2021 draft class could play a crucial role in their 2021 playoff quest, but it will not be easy for them to see the field. 1st round pick Kadarius Toney recently tested positive for COVID-19, meaning he may have even more trouble acclimating to the league. Toney tested out of the COVID-19 list, but Judge said he would be eased into practices. Toney will need to work tremendously hard to see starting work in three-wide receiver sets, as the Giants’ core of Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton remains strong. Toney will see schemed-up touches like screens and pitches, but anything more than that is wishful thinking early on.

Why Saquon Barkley is a top five running back

Why Giants Saquon Barkley is very elite

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

The New York Giants questionably drafted Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second draft pick of the 2018 NFL draft. The Giants’ front office, likely influenced by their ownership, chose to try and extend the career of Eli Manning instead of selecting a future quarterback (the options were Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, John Rosen, and Lamar Jackson). Selecting a running back in the first round does not typically yield great results for a team, but Barkley made a tremendous impact during his first season. Saquon was the focal point of the Giants’ offense and even claimed the offensive rookie of the year award over quarterback Baker Mayfield. Though Saquon Barkley has battled injuries during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the sky’s the limit for Barkley this season.

Unique Athleticism 

When Saquon Barkley came into the pros during the 2018 draft cycle, he was a generational talent. When talking about his college tape, Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman said “Saquon is a 9. I have never given out a perfect nine as a scout.” Simply put, Saquon was the greatest player to grace the gridiron in the eyes of the Giants’ staff. 

Barkley lit the combine on fire. His 4.40 forty at 233 pounds is in the 97th percentile in terms of raw score and 99th percentile when adjusted for weight. As an athlete, Saquon is one-of-one. Barkley’s athleticism is always on full display when he suits up, whether it be stiff-arming a defender onto the ground or running past an entire defense.

Unparalleled rookie production 

Saquon came into his rookie season with high expectations. After years of poorly executed running back by committee, the Giants were ready to utilize a bell cow. 

During his rookie year, Saquon broke fantasy football with his production. Though Barkley typically went in the first round of fantasy drafts, no one expected him to finish as the overall running back one. Saquon rushed for 1,307 yards and added 721 yards through the air during his 2018 campaign. Barkley totaled 15 touchdowns during his rookie season too. Adjusting to the NFL is not as easy as Saquon Barkley made it look. Recent first-round picks like Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Josh Jacobs did not post eye-popping numbers despite their massive volume. 

A weapon as a receiver

Over the past decade, the running back position has become devalued due to a plethora of studies that demonstrated the issues that come with paying top dollar (in draft capital or salary) to a running back. Most running backs deteriorate after their rookie contracts expire. However, capturing running backs that can stay productive into their second contracts is still valuable. 

The running backs that rely on breaking tackles and running between the tackles do not fare well in their late 20s. Even backs like Leonard Fournette are just backup caliber players in their fourth year in the league. However, backs like Giovanni Bernard can play meaningful snaps well into their 30s. Saquon had an almost unheard-of 20 percent target share as a rookie. Barkley can line up out of the backfield or in the slot and separate like a receiver. When Saquon Barkley is healthy, he is a menace whenever the ball is in his hands.

Why the New York Giants can contend for playoffs

New York Giants playoff bound next season?

By: Jeremy Trottier

The New York Giants have had a very impressive offseason, bringing in a lot of new members to the team and really improving it in all facets.  The Giants also only missed the playoffs last season by one game, and even though they were in a notoriously weak 2020 NFC East, they were still able to be in that position with rather lackluster receiving options and lacked depth.  In this article, I will be going over three reasons the New York Giants can return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Hugely Improved Roster

As I previously mentioned, the Giants have made some significant improvements to their roster and 

have really given Daniel Jones every single opportunity to succeed in the 2021-2022 season.  The most notable two additions for Jones will be Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, who both bring some elite separation factor to the roster, granted in different ways.  Toney reminds me of almost an Alvin Kamara of sorts in terms of how insanely elusive he is, obviously not that level of playmaker yet but his shifts and lateral agility are absolutely off the charts.  Having a short-range receiver like that who can turn five yards into 25 is massive.  

Outside these two additions they also brought in players like Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith to help the linebacking front, Rodarius Williams for CB depth and even potential to start eventually, and OL depth in Jake Burton and Raymond Johnson III.  It is also notable that they will have a returning Xavier McKinney for a full season of play potentially and his young capabilities should sure up an already solid secondary.

Daniel Jones is Ready for the Next Step

One of the most notable things in the NFL is when quarterbacks really learn the NFL landscape and make the jump from solid to good.  Josh Allen did it last season (year three), Baker Mayfield really improved from season two to season three, even players like Ryan Tannehill improved extremely when getting more weapons around them, in his case a new system and team. 

Daniel Jones did have a relatively down year in 2020, no doubt, throwing almost as many TDs as interceptions and less than 3000 yards, however, who can blame him?  When your primary receiving threats are a not yet developed Darius Slayton, Sterling Shephard who has been mediocre and struggles with separation, and Evan Engram who despite being a Pro-Bowler last season really has trouble holding onto the ball, you are bound to have issues passing.  Also take note he did not have Saquon Barkley out of the backfield to pitch to when he was under pressure.  With that said, he has the weapons, he has a somewhat developing O-line, and a phenomenal defense to get him the ball back.  He should perform at a new high level in 2021 based on all of this.

The NFC East is…Interesting

Finally, we take a look at the surrounding teams, all of which have huge deals of question marks.  Starting with the Dallas Cowboys, who yes, should be contending for the playoffs, however, this is provided Dak Prescott is actually able to play at the high level he did previously, and the injury did not change him heavily.  Even if so, the Cowboys did go 2-3 prior to Dak’s injury last season, and one game was pure because the Atlanta Falcons had a miscue on special teams.  

Then you have the Washington Football Team, who yes are also primed to make a playoff push potentially.  With that said, again, is their QB a set thing?  Ryan Fitzpatrick did do well with the Miami Dolphins, but this is a completely different offense, and many forget Fitz was not extraordinary and consistent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers not too long ago.  The WFT also are missing strength along the O-line to protect Fitz, and could definitely use some more in terms of secondary depth and potentially even another CB.  

Finally, the Philadelphia Eagles, who most have written off as the bottom team in this division right now, as they are mainly banking on Jalen Hurts and Devonta Smith to push this team forward.  With a continually aging offensive line, a relatively dismantled defense outside a few players like Fletcher Cox and Darius Slay, they really look like they will struggle unless something sparks heavily.

Why the Giants could have a Top 10 passing offense

Giants passing offense a Top 10 unit?

By: Daniel Racz

Introduction

The New York Giants’ offense fell short of all expectations in 2020. After losing star running back Saquon Barkley, the Giants had to adapt. The front office signed Devonta Freeman and Alfred Morris to pair with Wayne Gallman. To the surprise of many, the Giants’ running game was more successful than their air attack. However, there are many reasons to expect the Giants passing game to take a step forward. A healthy Daniel Jones will be the key, but there are a few other pieces that will be crucial if the Giants want a top-ten passing offense. Ensuring that the Giants use weapons besides Kenny Golladay and Saquon Barkley may be the determining factor for Big Blue in 2021.

Schemed Up Touches For Kadarius Toney

The Giants’ questionably spent a first-round pick on Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney. Despite remaining at Florida for four years, Toney is a raw route runner. If the Giants want to add a new element to their offense, they will have to play to Toney’s strengths. Toney is a menace in the open field. His ability to break tackles and evade defenders in college was reminiscent of Alvin Kamara. If that skill translates to the NFL, the Giants can utilize Toney like the dynamic weapon that he is.

The best way to maximize the skill of open field specialists like Toney is through touches at or behind the line of scrimmage. Giving Toney touches like screens, drag routes and even pitches could give the Giants a weapon that few other teams in the league possess. 

A Stable Offensive Line

The least talked about aspect of an offense when discussing their passing attack is their offensive line. The New York Giants’ were unable to run lots of successful deep passing plays in large part due to their inability to give Daniel Jones time to throw. Their offensive line ranked in the bottom five in almost every statistic. Jones did not have time to throw, and he got frazzled under pressure.

If the Giants can piece together a top twenty offensive line, it will open up new avenues for their passing attack. Deep targets to Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton can only be consistently successful if they are attempted from a clean pocket. The Giants hired Rob Sale to be their new offensive line coach, and he may be an X-Factor for the team in 2021. 

A Healthy, Dynamic Evan Engram 

Did Evan Engram make the pro bowl last year? Yes. Did that endear him to Giants fans? Not at all. 

In 2020, Engram’s drop issues cost the Giants turnovers and an early-season matchup against the Eagles. It is worth noting that Evan Engram played the 2020 season with a lisfranc injury. Engram’s injury is similar to the injury that Marquise “Hollywood” Brown of the Ravens played through during his rookie year in 2019. In 2020, Brown returned more explosive. If Engram can come into the 2021 season and play as he did earlier in his career, the Giants will have another weapon on their hands. When at his best, Engram is a premier tight end with elite athleticism. If the Giants use Engram properly, they can have an above-average passing attack. 

Daniel Jones is the Giants long term QB

Danny Dimes is the Giants future QB

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

The 2019 draft brings up confusing memories for most Giants fans. The expectation was that the Giants were going to put together one final attempt to win with Eli Manning. The perceived weak QB class made pass rushers like Josh Allen and Brian Burns the top targets in most mock drafts. However, the Giants’ front office shocked the world when they took Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth pick in the draft. 

Jones’ first two years in the NFL have been a series of ups and downs. His rookie year featured extreme volatility. Though he posted 26 total touchdowns, he also gave the ball away 27 times (not good!). With a depleted weapons group in Jones’ sophomore year, he cut back on the turnovers at the expense of the big plays. That said, there are numerous reasons to expect Jones to cement himself as the face of the New York Football Giants.

Tireless Work Ethic

Daniel Jones may be the subject of memes and mockery on the internet, but he does not let that phase me. Between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Jones loaded up on muscle intending to eliminate his fumbling issues. While he coughed up the ball eight times in 2020, that is much better than the fifteen lost fumbles from 2019. 

Multiple Giants have preached about Jones’ commitment to the game. The phrase “First guy in, last guy out” is frequently repeated when those in the know within the Giants’ organization are asked about Jones. Does this work ethic mean that Jones will take a leap and assert himself as a premier quarterback? Of course not. Nonetheless, it is a positive sign for a young quarterback like Daniel Jones.

Year Over Year Improvement

Fumbling is not the only area where Jones has progressed. While Daniel Jones posted better counting statistics during his rookie season, he had a better handle of the position his sophomore year. In the pocket, Jones was less susceptible to pressure, leading to fewer turnovers. This comfort also aided Jones as a passer. Despite a putrid offensive line, Jones managed to rank as NextGenStats’ number one graded deep passer in 2020. 

Daniel Jones also established himself as a force on the ground during his sophomore season. Jones went from 279 rushing yards his rookie year to 423 in 2020 despite playing the final few games on a bum leg. Jones should be expected to take another jump in 2021 with the return of Saquon Barkley too. 

Respectable Supporting Cast

For the first time in Daniel Jones’ short career, he has a dynamic group of weapons around him. Jones’ partner in crime in the backfield, all-pro running back Saquon Barkley, returns from his ACL injury. For better or for worse, most of the 2020 offensive line is coming back. At the wide receiver position, the Giants are as stacked as they have been in nearly a decade. Possession wide receiver Kenny Golladay signed with the Giants in free agency. The Giants also added tight end Kyle Rudolph and gadget wide receiver Kadarius Toney. The Giants now have big-bodied red-zone threats in Golladay and Rudolph. Though Toney is raw as a route runner, he is a solid athlete and phenomenal in the open field. Daniel Jones played with a 1990 Toyota for his first few years, and he has just been handed a Ferrari. 

The Giants also improved their defense via the additions of pass rusher Azeez Ojulari and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. Jones will have the chance to lead a top offense, and Big Blue’s defense will ensure that the team will be competitive in every game. 

Why Danny Dimes is safe in New York for the foreseeable future

Danny Dimes will not be kicked out of the Big Apple soon

By: Jake Rajala

Daniel Jones, who is now entering his third year in the league, has been through his fair share of ups and downs. Jones has proven to be an excellent deep passer, but he has had his moments of struggling to secure the football (36 career turnovers).

Heading into the 2021 season, Jones has been given his highest expectations thus far. Jones will be accompanied by wide receiver Kadarius Toney who was taken in the first round and prominent running back Saquon Barkley, who is coming off a season-ending injury. Undeniably, the Giants signal-caller is expected to take the next step.

There is a grand question that’s worth asking with regards to the first-round QB: Is 2021 a make-or-break season for him? I believe the answer is a clear NO. There are a few reasons why Jones is safe to be the Giants signal-caller for at least this season.

  • There are other glaring holes on the roster

Joe Judge embodies not just an old school personality, but a fundamental approach to building a football squad. Judge has made it clear that he wants to build his team the right way from day one. He’s not a fan of splash signings or draft picks, but rather building a team around a QB, vs throwing a QB in the fire (that’s the other former NY coach).

With that said, the Giants are still a couple seasons away from building a competitive roster around any talented QB. The defense still needs to improve on the DL, they could use a couple more playmaking LBs, and there aren’t any young studs in the secondary outside of Jabril Peppers.

  • Jones will be above the QBs available on the draft board

The Giants will likely unveil 6-10 wins in the 2021 season. So, the QB options in the draft will not be daunting, nor would it be worth for the team to cough up draft picks to move up the draft board. Let’s face it – Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell will be off the board when the Giants are on the clock.

Jones is surely above the QBs after the first two. More importantly, the experience of Jones will give him a huge advantage over the less sexy rookie signal callers.

  • Jones will grow in year three with the Giants offense

I confidently see Jones taking steps of growth in 2021. The rookie Toney will be a quality piece for Jones, Evan Engram remains in the offense, and Saquon Barkley will return healthy. As Pro Football Focus well stated, Jones remains an underrated QB. 

Jones should record around 32+ passing TDs and 3,500+ passing yards next season. His rookie season was impressive with an abysmal offense (24 TDs in 13 games). Expect to witness a career season out of the third-year QB with the best cast he has had. If and when Jones puts up quality numbers, it will be enough to maintain his starting position in the Big Apple for beyond 2021.

Why Joe Judge will post 8+ wins in year two

Can Big Blue take a leap forward in 2022?

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes

Introduction

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. 

Top-Ten Defense

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. 

Healthy Offense

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. 

Offseason Additions

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.

Remaining free agent targets for the New York Giants

New York Giants FA targets this offseason

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes

Introduction

While the majority of offseason signings occur right after free agency starts in mid-March, free agency never stops. Even during the regular season, many quality football players remain on the open market for one reason or another. Meaningful additions to any roster can be made this week, either via trade or signing.

For the New York Giants, the remainder of their moves will likely come in the form of signings, as they do not have much cap space to take on more expensive already negotiated deals. The Giants did not address their offensive line in the draft, and their edge rusher room still leaves a lot to be desired. The players the Giants will be looking for are rotational players or injury insurance at high-value, positions of need. 

Melvin Ingram

Perhaps no remaining free agent could make as significant an impact on the Giants in 2021 as Melvin Ingram. However, Ingram will carry a much higher price tag than other available players. In late April, Pro Football Focus estimated that Ingram would receive a one-year, eight million dollar deal. Very few teams have that money to spend, so his actual price tag will likely fall more in the five million dollar range. Ingram was graded out as a borderline elite player by PFF in 2016 and 2017 and has graded out as above average from 2018 to 2020. Ingram’s impressive body of work, coupled with the Giants’ lacking pass rush crew, make them an ideal fit. From 2015-2019 Ingram posted at least 7 sacks each season.

Russell Okung

Many in the NFL draft community expected an offensive tackle selection in the first round. Few could have imagined a world where the Giants passed on the offensive line for the entire draft. Nevertheless, the Giants enter the 2021 season with Nate Solder as their only addition at the tackle position. 

Enter Russell Okung. Okung has never been a premier blindside protector, but he has always been good enough. His consistently slightly above-average PFF grades, ranging from 62.4 to 78.4, suggesting that Okung would be a great addition to the poor group the Giants currently have rostered. Okung would compete with Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, and Nate Solder for tackle reps in-game, and coach Judge may even decide to rotate them throughout games. 

Austin Reiter

Without a doubt, the worst position on the Giants’ depth chart is their interior offensive line. Cutting Kevin Zeitler to make room for the Adoree Jackson signing may become infamous in Giants’ lore. A group composed of Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, and Shane Lemieux has the potential to be the worst in the National Football League. 

Austin Reiter is the best available interior offensive lineman. He profiles more as a center, measuring in at 6-foot 3-inches and 300 pounds, but the transition between interior positions is not the most difficult. Reiter has graded out as an above-average player in four of his five years, with his best PFF grade coming in at 78.6 in 2018. Even if the Giants do not add Reiter, they ought to address the position in one way or another. 

Why Daniel Jones is the ultimate Sleeper QB in the NFC

By: Eli Grabanski

Daniel Jones has had an up-and-down career thus far as a quarterback. He started his career off with a promising rookie year where he threw 24 passing touchdowns in just 13 games and many people expected him to take the next step in year two. It didn’t happen, with Jones throwing for just 2943 passing yards and 11 passing touchdowns in 14 games. After such an up-and-down start to his career, a big question remains: what can we expect from Jones in year 3? Let’s dive into his profile in order to have a better idea of what Jones should bring to the table in his junior season.

Flashes Of Passing Upside

In Daniel Jones’ rookie year he threw 24 passing touchdowns in just 13 games. His 24 touchdown passes led all rookie quarterbacks during the 2019 NFL season and at the time it was the 4th-most passing touchdowns by a rookie in a single season in NFL history – with only Baker Mayfield (27 in 2018), Peyton Manning (26 in 1998) and Russell Wilson (26 in 2012) having more.

Then he took a step back in his sophomore year, throwing just 11 touchdowns in 14 games. But it wasn’t all bad. Jones flashed some serious potential with his deep ball during the 2020 NFL season.

Jones may not end up being the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady as a passer, but he’s shown enough to prove that he can be a franchise quarterback – if he gets put in the right situation.

Rushing Ability

When you look at Daniel Jones, you will probably don’t think of him as being a strong runner…but he surprisingly is. Over the first 27 games of his career, Daniel Jones has carried the ball 110 times for 702 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. In fact, last year he ranked 7th among quarterbacks in rushing yards, finishing with 423 – more than players like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Ryan Tannehill, and Justin Herbert.

Jones having the ability to make plays with his legs makes the Giants offense much more difficult to defend and raises his ceiling as a quarterback.

Weapons Upgrade

The New York Giants clearly got sick of having Evan Engram as their number one receiving option in 2020, and decided to address it this offseason. They made a huge splash in free agency and signed former Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay to a four-year, $72 million deal. Golladay has a couple of 1000+ receiving yard seasons under his belt and has been one of the best deep-threats in the league the past few seasons.

Golladay’s knack for being a deep-threat should mesh well with Daniel Jones, who completed 46.2% of his deep balls last year – 7th best in the NFL according to PlayerProfiler.

Just adding Kenny Golladay would be a substantial improvement on the Giants pass-catchers. But besides Golladay, the Giants drafted wide receiver Kadarius Toney in the 1st round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Toney flashed major yards after the catch skills during his college career and will make some big plays for the Giants in 2021. Having improved weapons will make Daniel Jones’ job much easier in 2021 and allow for him to put up much better numbers.

Another Year In The System

It is important to note that Daniel Jones had to learn an entirely new system last year after the New York Giants fired Pat Shurmur and brought in Joe Judge to be the team’s new head coach, who appointed former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to be the team’s new offensive coordinator and play-caller.

Jason Garrett Team Passing Statistics (OC/HC)
YearTeam Pass Att.Team Pass Yds.Team Pass TDs
2007 Cowboys33.19268.132.25
2008 Cowboys34.19249.251.81
2009 Cowboys34.38280.191.63
2010 Cowboys362631.81
2011 Cowboys35.63278.312.06
2012 Cowboys41.133121.81
2013 Cowboys36.63264.132.06
2014 Cowboys29.75250.52.31
2015 Cowboys33229.811
2016 Cowboys30.19237.441.56
2017 Cowboys30.81207.881.38
2018 Cowboys32.94242.811.38
2019 Cowboys37.31306.381.88
2020 Giants (15 games)32.33207.670.8
Jason Garrett’s Team Passing Statistics During His Time As An Offensive Coordinator/Head Coach

It can take a while to learn a brand-new system in a normal offseason, but when you also factor in that the 2020 NFL offseason was not normal with the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes it even more difficult. Overall, we should expect Daniel Jones to feel more comfortable in Jason Garrett’s offense for the 2021 season and to improve in the passing yards and passing touchdowns department for next season.

Concerns

It wouldn’t be fair to talk about Jones without bringing up some of the major concerns surrounding his profile. The first of these major concerns is the New York Giants offensive line. The New York Giants offensive line ranked 31st in the league last year according to Pro Football Focus and Daniel Jones was sacked 45 times in just 14 games last year (3.21 per game). Inexperience played a large factor on the Giants line in 2020 with Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Matt Peart, and Will Hernandez all having four seasons or less under their belts and being younger than 26 years old. Another year of experience should help these players out, as well as the Giants hiring a new offensive line coach Rob Sale to replace Marc Colombo.

The other major concern with Daniel Jones has been his turnover issues. In Daniel Jones’ first two seasons in the league, he’s thrown 22 interceptions and fumbled the ball 29 times. This is an absurd amount of turnover-worthy plays and raises some major concerns about his ability to take care of the football. But while this is a major concern, it is important to note that Jones improved in this area from his rookie to sophomore seasons – seeing his percentage of times where he was intercepted on a pass attempt drop from 2.6% to 2.2% and seeing his fumbles go down from 18 in his rookie year (13 games) to 11 in his sophomore season (14 games). He’s clearly putting the work in to improve in this year which makes his outlook a little more optimistic.

Conclusion

Daniel Jones has a lot of great tools in his skillset. He’s flashed the talent, posting a 78.4 PFF grade in 2020. He’s become more familiar with Jason Garrett’s offense with another year under his belt. He’s gotten the receiving weapons he has so desperately needed in Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney. Now it’s just a matter of him putting it all together and living up to his billing as the New York Giants franchise quarterback. Jones is on the cusp of a breakout season and could be a major sleeper QB in the NFC this year.

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