The 2022 New York Giants season will be defined by both beginnings and potential endings; fresh starts and final chances.
Almost everything. After four seasons of Dave Gettleman’s tenure as the Giants’ general manager, in which the team burned through two head coaches and only won 19 of a possible 65 games, owner John Mara decided to completely clean house. Enter Joe Schoen, formerly the Buffalo Bills assistant general manager, as the team’s new GM. Schoen’s first major decision was to hire Brian Daboll, who worked with Schoen in Buffalo as their offensive coordinator, to be Big Blue’s new head coach.
Daboll then brought in Mike Kafka, most recently the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator, to be the teams’s new offensive coordinator. He also snagged Don “Wink” Martindale, formerly the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, to serve in the same capacity for the Giants.
Most optimism for the Giants’ upcoming season stems from this theoretical upgrade in coaching. It was clear after two seasons that former head coach Joe Judge was in over his head, and former offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was one of the most poorly thought-of coaches in the NFL. Both Daboll and Kafka come from explosive, dynamic, and creative offenses. The hope is they can breath new life into what had been a listless Big Blue attack.
While the Giants have undoubtedly embarked on a brand-new era, a couple of prominent characters from the old regime are looking to stay on through the transfer of power. Quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley were the two defining draft picks of the Gettleman regime, and both are entering the final year of their rookie contracts.
Another of Schoen’s significant decisions this offseason was declining the fifth-year option on Jones’ rookie deal. The 2019 sixth-overall pick will get one more chance to show he deserves to be New York’s franchise quarterback. He’ll be fighting an uphill battle, as he’ll have to adapt to his third offensive scheme in four years under a regime that won’t have any fealty to him. Jones has been stuck on bad, poorly coached teams for his entire career. If the Giants’ new brass can put a capable team around him, he’ll have his best opportunity to prove himself.
If Jones is fighting an uphill battle to remain a Giant, Barkley’s battle to do the same is even steeper. The 2018 second-overall pick has yet to make good on the promise of his draft status and spectacular rookie season. Much like with Jones, the causes of Barkley’s struggles can be easily deflected elsewhere. Injuries have played a massive part in his dip in production. A high ankle sprain hampered him in his second season. A torn ACL robbed him of almost his entire third season. Last year, he played in only 13 games because of a freak sprained ankle and clearly lacked the explosiveness he displayed as a rookie. Given the diminished value of running backs throughout the NFL, Barkley will need a special season to garner a second contract from the Giants’ new front office.
We can already claim with a healthy amount of confidence that the Giants’ offense will be better than last season, almost by default. Big Blue ranked 31st in the NFL in scoring last season, averaging a pitiful 15.2 points per game. There’s no place to go but up for Jones and company, and factors such as coaching, health, and individual improvement will determine just how big of a leap this offense can take.
We’ve already talked about how the Giants should see a major uptick in offensive coaching. Another, perhaps even greater factor in their offensive ineptitude last year was injury. Jones missed the final six games of last season with a neck injury, and the offense nosedived as a result. He has yet to play a full season in the NFL. Barkley’s issues with injury are well documented, and receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney were both sidelined for multiple games last year. New York’s offense needs its important players to stay on the field to maximize its potential.
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When they are on the field, they simply need to play better. Jones has done a good job of curbing turnovers after his rookie year, but his production has plummeted, too. He needs to continue to limit turnovers while recovering the form that put him on pace to break the rookie touchdown-pass record in 2019. Golladay has to rebound dramatically from his zero-touchdown campaign last year, and Toney must take the great moments he displayed as a rookie and be that player consistently.
Ultimately, New York’s offense will probably go as its offensive line does. That unit will have four different starters from last year, with left tackle Andrew Thomas as the only holdover. Rookie seventh-overall pick Evan Neal will need to be a solid right tackle immediately. Newcomers Jon Feliciano and Mark Glowinski will join the back-from-injury Shane Lemieux to hopefully fortify the line’s interior. The Giants have had dreadful offensive lines forever, so a merely average season from that unit could do wonders.
While New York’s offense will almost certainly receive much better coaching than last year, we can’t necessarily say the same for the defense. Martindale is an extremely respected and venerated coordinator, but Big Blue’s defensive coordinator the last two seasons, Patrick Graham, is one of the game’s bright, up and coming minds. Martindale will definitely bring a different defensive approach, as his blitz-heavy, aggressive style is a far cry from the zone coverage and disguised looks Graham deployed.
The big question is whether the Giants have the defensive personell to run their new scheme effectively. Martindale often leaves his cornerbacks with single-coverage assignments for the sake of bringing extra pass rushers. Number-one corner Adoree’ Jackson has the chops to play man, but after him things get dicey. Second-year player Aaron Robinson will start opposite Jackson, but he has limited experience. The rest of the secondary is extremely thin, with safety Xavier McKinney as the only other surefire quality starter.
The front seven looks more promising. Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence will hold down the defensive line. Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux will join second-year player Azeez Ojulari to form an exciting young pass-rushing duo. Inside linebacker Blake Martinez should return from injury to quarterback the defense.
If the Giants’ secondary can surpass expectations, this defense can be a pretty strong unit. If not, it likely won’t be very good.
The Giants will be better than last season. The question is how much better. If they can get some injury luck, and the new coaching does translate to a superior on-field product, this team can exploit a weak schedule and get to seven or eight wins. From there, an extra upset win or two would put them on the fringes of the playoff picture. Anything beyond that, though, is a pipe dream.
This content was originally published here.