Where does your franchise stand heading into 2022? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the key figures to watch and setting the stakes for the season to come.
Members of the Giants' organization, Giants fans around the world and those who watch Eli's contributions to the Manning Cast wistfully:
There is a new era in New York. I'm sure you've heard that before. But it really feels like new general manager Joe Schoen and new head coach Brian Daboll are going to stick. Does that mean the Giants are challenging for the NFC East title this year? Maybe not, but I'm optimistic about what they have going.
One high from last season: Beating the Raiders in Week 9. This victory, coming just before the bye week, seemed pretty cool at the time. I mean, it's not like we were expecting the Giants, who came out of this one with a 3-6 record, to go on some huge winning streak or anything. (Well, maybe you were.) But it was a pretty good game against a team on its way to the playoffs.
One low from last season: Losing to the Bears in Week 17. Most of the year would pretty much qualify here, but this loss stands out to me. Even as a Bears fan, I was perhaps more disappointed in the Giants than anything; Chicago was still playing hard for its lame-duck coach, but New York did not give the same effort. It's not even like the Giants could take solace in their improved draft position, because any lift this result gave to their assigned first-rounder would have been negated by the hit to Chicago's first-round pick, which the Giants owned as a result of 2021's Justin Fields trade.
Head coach: Brian Daboll. Speaking of being a Bears fan, I was kind of expecting Daboll to be the next coach in Chicago. The work that he did as the Bills' offensive coordinator with Josh Allen from 2018 through 2021 -- and with former-Bears-starter-turned-Bills-backup Mitch Trubisky last season -- made him seem like a good fit to help Fields in Chicago. Honestly, Daboll was going to be attractive to any team trying to develop a young quarterback, and he'll get at least one chance (and perhaps more chances, depending on what happens with the incumbent QB) to help Big Blue do that. Ultimately, he's going to be judged (no pun intended) for what he does with the quarterback position, whoever ends up filling it long-term.
Plus, he's already made himself a New York legend by jumping on the New York Rangers bandwagon. I mean, I probably would have stayed at the Giants' facility to do some more work instead of spending so much time at Madison Square Garden. But it's June, and he's out there feeling himself, so I can't really be too mad.
Quarterback: Daniel Jones. Yes, Jones is a former top-10 pick -- but Daboll and Schoen weren't the ones who selected him sixth overall in 2019. They presumably entered their jobs with no extra emotional investment in seeing him succeed. It's like moving into a new apartment where the previous resident left a couch in the living room. You might as well see if it will work for you, because it would be awesome if it did. But it won't take much to get rid of it if you find out it smells like the kitchen of Famous Ray's Pizza.
The 25-year-old Jones has some of the attributes that made Allen so successful while being coached by Daboll in Buffalo. They are obviously not the same player; Allen has produced like a premier quarterback over the past two seasons, while Jones' TD-to-INT ratio over that span (21:17) is uninspiring, at best. But, like Allen, Jones is mobile (they are two of the seven QBs to top 900 rushing yards over the past three seasons), and their per-game figures over the first three years of their careers are closer than one might think (61.8 percent completion rate, 220.6 passing yards, 35.5 rushing yards for Allen from 2018 to 2020; 62.8 percent completion rate, 221 passing yards, 26.3 rushing yards for Jones from 2019 to 2021).
Complicating Jones' status is the fact that the team declined to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract for 2023, meaning he is currently bound for free agency after this season, no matter how well he plays. But it would serve the Giants well to at least see how Jones reacts to solid coaching for a change, even if his future with the team remains unsettled.
Projected 2022 MVP: Jones. I don't think anybody has the playoffs on their mind this year. But if the Giants are to have success or even maybe make some kind of a run, Jones is the likeliest person to drive that, via his development under center. Specifically, he needs to cut down on the turnovers. Jones has thrown 29 picks and coughed up 36 fumbles, which is a big factor in his paltry win total (12) as a starter. The Giants have added receivers over the years, and they executed a great draft plan this year to fill some holes. But a huge improvement from Jones can be the biggest difference-maker for this group.
New face to know: Wan'Dale Robinson, receiver. Huge fan of his talent coming into the draft. I know the Giants have a bunch of receivers on the roster, but the 43rd overall pick represents the new regime's biggest swing at the position thus far. Robinson made a name for himself with his toughness at Kentucky. He was clearly drafted with a purpose in mind in Daboll's offense, and he's about to be unleashed. I expect the Giants to line him up in the slot and find creative ways to get him the football.
2022 breakout star: Kayvon Thibodeaux, edge rusher. Let's be honest: This guy is already a rock star. I mean, the Oregon product -- along with his draft-night co-star, Sam Prince -- was the talk of the draft. He also threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium. He's basically been minted as Big Apple royalty. The key now, for one of the most talented prospects in this class, is to perform on the field. Let's hope the injury issue that limited him in practice recently is just a minor blip in his first pro offseason.
Three key dates:
- Week 3 vs. Dallas Cowboys (Monday night). The Giants could make a huge statement in this prime-time engagement with a high-profile divisional rival. I'm not saying that statement will definitely be good. But still.
- Week 7 at Jacksonville Jaguars. Some winnable home games from September through November are mixed in with some tough roadies. This is kind of a barometer game to see how this team can handle a hostile environment.
- Week 13 vs. Washington Commanders. This kicks off a three-game stretch in which the Giants host the Commanders, host the Eagles, then play at Washington. (Why do they make a schedule like this?) If the Giants are to exceed expectations this season, this is a point in the year when they can make some real noise.
Will the Giants be able to ...
Benefit from a rebuilt offensive line? One of the Giants' biggest problems lately has been the performance of the offensive line, which finished 31st and 30th in Pro Football Focus' O-line rankings in 2020 and '21, respectively. I don't think we need to revisit the conversation about passing on guard Quenton Nelson to take running back Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall back in 2018. (Even if I kind of liked the Barkley pick at the time, it looks like Nelson would have been the play; again, though, sorry to bring that up.) But the Giants have been making moves since then. Andrew Thomas, taken fourth overall in 2020, is at left tackle, and he's coming off a season in which his PFF grades jumped up. Center Jon Feliciano and guard Mark Glowinski were lured over from the Bills and Colts, respectively, this offseason. And Evan Neal (selected with the seventh overall pick, part of the return from last year's Justin Fields trade with Chicago) graded out as one of the top linemen in the draft. The Giants' O-line could go from being terrible to not so bad. (What? That's saying a lot.)
Get something from Saquon Barkley? Speaking of Saquon, what's done is done. He's on the team, at least through the end of this season, and no amount of redrafting exercises is going to change that. His recent output (627 rushing yards and two rushing TDs in 15 total appearances over the past two seasons) does not match his draft slot, even taking into account the torn ACL that ruined his third year in the league. But let's look at the good news. Barkley is still just 25 years old. There is still tremendous ability there; it's the same ability that made taking him second overall seem like a good idea to many. The early read from OTAs is the Giants are going to use a multitude of sets and really bank on his ability as a receiver out of the backfield. Wouldn't it be perfect for Giants fans if Barkley were to finally fulfill his promise in his contract year? (But let's be real; someone -- the Eagles? -- will end up overpaying for him next year like he's DeMarco Murray.)
One storyline ...
... people shouldn't overthink: The drama surrounding Kadarius Toney. There was some chatter the Giants could be moving on from Toney. Daboll was quick to dismiss all of that nonsense recently, calling the wideout a pleasure to be around. A pleasure! That's the kind of word you use only when you really like somebody. Trust me. Yes, I know the 2021 first-round pick has dealt with injury issues, but he and Robinson look like a pair of potential stars. Let's not forget what a competent offensive game plan could mean for the Giants.
... people shouldn't overlook: What the loss of James Bradberry could mean for this secondary. I mean, it wasn't all that long ago that many were counting on the secondary to be the strength of the Giants, even if it never really turned out that way. Now that Bradberry is gone, having been released this offseason (he signed with the Eagles), the team is left with corner Adoree' Jackson and safety Xavier McKinney as the locks. They are good, but it's just a bunch of question marks after that. This should be an interesting situation for new defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale.
Hmm ... perhaps I should have mentioned Martindale sooner in this piece. Anyway, surprise (to some of you): You have Wink Martindale. That's kind of cool.
For 2022 to be a success, the Giants MUST:
- Figure out what they have in Jones. You don't want to lose games, and you certainly wouldn't turn down an invitation to the playoffs, but Jones is the biggest question mark heading into next season. Coming out of 2022 with a definitive answer on the quarterback -- whether it's good enough for the team to try to move toward a new deal or bad enough that the team can focus fully on a replacement plan -- would qualify this season as a positive one.