To say that the past few seasons for the New York Giants and their fans have been disappointing would be a clear understatement. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2011, the Giants franchise has been in slow, and more recently quick decline. With just one playoff appearance since that ‘11 Super Bowl (a 2016 Wild Card loss to the Packers), this team entered the offseason with a clear need to overhaul the roster and start fresh.
Whether they actually began this process of rebuilding in earnest and how they went about it is a matter of great debate in the not so forgiving New York sports media. The handling of trades, free agency, and the draft left many scratching their heads as to what exactly is the plan of GM Dave Gettleman.
Yet despite the questionable decision making with regards to player personnel, there is some talent on this team lead by 2nd year running back Saquon Barkley. His 1st year in Big Blue did not disappoint as he earned the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and accrued an impressive stat line of 1307 rushing yards and 15 TDs. However, despite his impressive numbers, many would also argue that Barkley represents the mistakes that have continued to plague this franchise for the past 8 years. Could that draft capital have been better spent elsewhere to build a stronger foundation? Did the Giants retain Odell Beckham for too long and therefore not maximize his trade value? What is Eli still doing on this roster and why does his replacement oddly look just like him?
I’m sure all of these questions will not go fully answered this season, however, we will begin to see what the future holds for the Giants as they enter 2019.
Super Bowl Odds: +5000
Odds to win the NFC: +2500
Odds to win the NFC East: +1600
Season Win Total: 6 (O +115 / U -135)
(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of June 8, 2019)
|Week||Opponent||CG Tech. Line||Expected Wins||NFL Model Line||Expected Wins|
|3||@ Tampa Bay||+3||.41||+1||.49|
|6||@ New England (THURS)||+11||.13||+10.5||.14|
|10||@ New York Jets||+3.5||.36||+2.5||.45|
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 6.29
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 6.71
As I eluded to in the open, there are a number of #surprised gifs or emojis which could succinctly summarize the Giants offseason.
Whatever your opinion on the Giants offseason moves there is no doubt that the mid-March trades with the Browns were monumental for both franchises. The deals sent WR Odell Beckham and LB Olivier Vernon to the Browns in exchange for S Jabrill Peppers, G Kevin Zeitler, and a 1st and 3rd round 2019 draft pick. As a result, the Giants jettisoned a mercurial and talented wide receiver as well as a productive defensive player for needed help along the offensive line and a versatile player in Peppers to replace safety Landon Collins who signed with divisional rival Washington in free agency.
In order to fill the hole left by the OBJ trade, the Giants curiously then signed free-agent WR Golden Tate who outside of a key playoff touchdown, never really fit in with the Eagles. While he does play the same position on the field and was a very productive player in Detroit, his impact on the game as a possessional slot receiver is nowhere close to the game-changing dynamic that Beckham brings to the field (however… who is?).
The Giants filled out their offseason by signing a trio of ex-Cardinals defensive players in S Antoine Bethea, OLB Markus Golden, and DT Olsen Pierre. The moves fill some holes and provide low-risk depth to the roster.
The gifs are mild considering the Twitter reactions of Giants fans after the team’s selection of Duke QB Daniel Jones with the 6th pick of the 1st round. Widely considered to be a mid to lower 1st round talent in the quarterback thin 2019 draft, Jones is now the heir apparent to longtime Giants signal caller and part-time statue Eli Manning. This pick was widely criticized not for the position nor the player but rather for the spot in the draft in which he was taken. Many believed a trade down would have been the wiser move at 6 however GM Dave Gettleman claims that two teams would have taken Jones with their selections. While we will never know the order of Washington and Denver’s draft boards, the fact remains that the Giants have finally signaled their willingness to move on from Manning and begin the process of grooming their quarterback of the future.
The Giants additional selections of DT Dexter Lawrence and CB Deandre Baker were more in-line with their pre-draft rankings and fill needs for the team moving forward. Lawrence is a Week 1 plug and play selection which will serve as a long term, cost-efficient solution at the defensive line whereas the trade-up back into the 1st round to take Baker is likely a future replacement for Janoris Jenkins.
Other notable selections include 4th round pick CB Julian Love from Notre Dame who appears to represent good value as a solid slot corner in the future and 6th round pick WR Corey Ballentine out of Division 2 Washburn.
After nearly a decade and a half of being “Eli’s offense”, the Giants are now firmly in a transitional period and for the time being it appears that though it is currently the “Saquon Barkley offense”. Barkley was the NFL leader in Yards from Scrimmage, the 3rd ranked RB according to Pro Football Focus (85.9) and was also a top 10 finisher in nearly all rushing categories during his rookie campaign. He appears every bit the generational running back the Giants hoped he would be when they selected him 2nd overall in the 2018 draft and he will continue to be the focal point of the Giants attack moving forward.
Big Blue will need Barkley to be all that he was in 2018 and then some as the surrounding offensive parts largely lack in elite level talent.
One potential bright spot for offensive coordinator Mike Shula could be 3rd-year tight end, Evan Engram. Engram will look to regain the form he showed in his rookie campaign as he hauled in 64 balls and scored 6 TDs. Injuries hampered him to only 8 starts last year but more consistent TE play will help to aid whoever is playing quarterback by stretching the field and providing a reliable safety valve. Sterling Shepard and the newly signed Golden Tate should provide solid, competent receiver play. Overall the offensive skill positional talent (RB/TE/WR) should at a minimum be average and has some upside as my NFL model places them 11th in the league.
As for the offensive line, this is a group that has been rebuilt on the fly within the past two years. The acquisitions of linemen Nate Solder, Mike Remmers, and Kevin Zeitler represent solid NFL players who can contribute with reliable play and veteran leadership. They also represent the difficulties that the front office has had in filling these positions through the draft (Erik Flowers) and the resulting drag on the cap. Overall this offensive line should be improved from last year and around the league average with room to improve further depending on the development of 2nd year G Will Hernandez.
Despite the generally good skill position talent and the upside for the offensive line, ultimately the success of the offense will be determined by the play of the quarterback. Unfortunately, this position has appeared to be lacking for quite some time now. It is unknown at this time who will be lining up under center come Week 10 but for the time being we will assume its still Eli Manning. In likely his last year in the league, Manning has been durable and a borderline Hall of Fame quarterback. However, its been awhile since he has been a top tier signal caller. The past two years are emblematic of his decline as he has thrown 40 TDs in the past 31 games and been sacked a total of 76 times! 2018’s PFF grade of 64.3 represents his lowest grade since his rookie year and really drives home the need to usher in some new blood. Daniel Jones has gotten encouraging reviews thus far in mini-camp however we won’t know what the Giants have in Jones till he suits up in the regular season.
Last year’s Giants defense was a below average group finishing in the bottom half of the league in Points Allowed, Yards Allowed, Yards per Play Allowed, and Defensive DVOA. They let arguably their best defensive player (Landon Collins) walk in free agency and traded Damon Harrison, Eli Apple, and Jason Pierre-Paul within the past year and a half. They currently have no standout defensive player to cause opposing offensive coordinators to adjust their schemes and the defensive unit currently ranks 29th overall according to my model. Yuck!
It’s not all negative, however. There are some reasons to believe an improvement may be in order as the season progresses. Former 2017 2nd round pick, DT Delvin Tomlinson has been a very productive player in his first two seasons in the Big Apple. Along with Tomlinson, 2nd year DT BJ Hill, and rookie 1st round pick DE Dexter Lawerence form a young and talented core at defensive line which could certainly improve as the season progresses. In the secondary, S Jabrill Peppers and 1st round CB Deandre Baker are young pieces to pair with established players in S Antione Bethea and CB Janoris Jenkins.
With a fair amount of youth on the starting defense, we will likely see some growing pains early on. But, the Giants have a history of disruptive defensive lineman and overall the unit could certainly grow if the young players along the line quickly reach their potential.
Notes & Nuggets
This applies to all the NFC East previews so I figure I’ll mention it now. Surprisingly, Home Field Advantage is nearly a non-existent entity in NFC East divisional games. In doing HFA numbers this spring and isolating divisional games only, all four East teams ended up with a negative raw HFA score for their divisional games. It is common for intra-divisional games across the league to have a lower HFA when compared to out of division game but it is certainly odd that they are all negative using my metric.
Now I absolutely will not be blindly betting all NFC East road teams in divisional games this year nor will I give the home team a negative HFA in divisional games this season. However, just file it away that none of these teams are overly intimidated by one another’s building and that fact is likely not fully reflected in the betting number come Sunday.
While the loss of Beckham’s talent is not easily replaceable, removing him from the Giants locker room and allowing this group to grow together may be more valuable in the long term. With a handful of young talent on the defensive side of the ball, a highly drafted 1st-year quarterback on the roster and a game-changing running back in the backfield paired with some solid veteran experience this team could quietly put together a bounce-back 8-8 season.
On the other hand, they could struggle in the early (and easier) part of their schedule and begin the Daniel Jones era after the bye week.
Given the way the schedule sets up and the likelihood of the Giants getting some early wins under their belt I think this team stays competitive throughout the season and I will take the over 6 wins for Big Blue this season.