Behind Enemy Lines 2022: NFC East Offseason Review- New York Giants
In last year’s “Behind Enemy Line” in the Meadowlands, I discovered vital intel that this was General Manager Dave Gettleman’s last stand.
Not only was it Gettleman’s final attempt to keep his job, but the entire New York Giants’ staff, from head coach Joe Judge to every positional coach in the organization, were let go.
Enter Brian Daboll, former offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills and orchestrator of one of the most lethal offenses over the past couple of years. The Giants double dipped into their Buffalo regime by bringing in General Manager Joe Schoen to rebuild this cap disaster of a roster. It will be challenging, but Daboll’s offensive philosophy should increase New York’s receivers’ production.
The Giants also have the eight-easiest schedule heading into the season, and I honestly feel better about their prospects than that team from Texas in our division. However, Daniel Jones is entering his fourth season without a solid campaign under his belt or talks of a long-term contract on the table.
All of the pressure is on the former Duke product with a new coaching regime. The biggest problem facing the young quarterback is that his skillset might not fit Daboll’s prototype signal-caller to run his offense. All eyes will rightfully be on Danny Dimes for the 2022 season, and his play might make or break the New York Giants’ chances of clinching a playoff birth for the first time since 2016.
New York Giants Departures
- CB James Bradberry (29): Philadelphia Eagles-1 year, $7.5M
- S Logan Ryan (31): Tampa Bay Bucs- 1 year, $1.12M
- TE Kyle Rudolph (32): Tampa Bay Bucs- 1 year, $2.0M
- TE Evan Engram (27): Jacksonville Jaguars- 1 year, $9.0M
- G Will Hernandez (26): Arizona Cardinals- 1 year, $1.2M
- CB Keion Crossen (26): Miami Dolphins- 3 years, $10.5M
- NT Austin Johnson (28): LA Chargers- 2 years $14.0M
- LB Lorenzo Carter (26): Atlanta Falcons- 1 year, $3.5M
- S Jabril Peppers (26): New England Patriots- 1 year, $2.0M
New York Giants Free Agent Signings
- G Mark Glowinski (30): 3 years, $18.3M- Indianapolis Colts
- G Max Garcia (30): 1 year, $1.12M- Arizona Cardinals
- C Jon Feliciano (30): 1 year, $1.15M- Buffalo Bills
- QB Tyrod Taylor (32): 2 years, $11M- Houston Texans
- TE Ricky Seals-Jones (27): 1 year, $1.18M- Washington
- OLB Jihad Ward (28): 1 year, $1.18M- Jacksonville Jaguars
- RB Matt Breida (27): 1 year, $1.03M- Buffalo Bills
New York Giants Draft Class
- Rd.1 (#5) EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
- Rd.1 (#7) OT Evan Neal, Alabama
- Rd.2 (#43) WR Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky
- Rd.3 (#67) OG Josh Ezeudu, UNC
- Rd.3 (#81) CB Cor’Dale Flott, LSU
- Rd.4 (#112) TE Daniel Bellinger, SDSU
- Rd.4 (#114) S Dane Belton, Iowa
Daniel Jones has one more year to prove that he can be the New York Giants’ franchise quarterback
New York Giants’ co-owner John Mara said of Daniel Jones, “We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up.” And I agree entirely. They focused on skill position talent, some more lackluster than others, rather than building the trenches to protect a potential franchise quarterback.
Even though it was the Eli era, a perfect example was when the Giants took Saquon Barkley #2 overall instead of a perennial Pro Bowl guard in Quentin Nelson. They thought Will Hernandez, selected in the second round, would suffice, but he has since not re-signed with the team. Prioritizing skill players in the draft when you have a lackluster offensive line and little to no Super Bowl aspirations is a sure-fire way to screw up an offense.
Another player hindered by the Giants’ front office ineptitude is Saquon Barkley. Their lack of attention to developing a viable offensive line made a generational talent become injury-prone and ineffective, only completing an entire season his rookie year.
The 2018 number two overall pick is on the last year of his initial contract. If the Giants falter through the first half of the season, Saquon could be on the trade block to a playoff-bound team in need of a running back. Daboll and Schoen brought Matt Breida over from Buffalo, who will be a valuable secondary back adding another gear of speed to this offense. Breida, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, also gives the Giants’ front office some stability if they eventually decide to part ways with the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The New York Giants quietly have a skilled group of wide receivers heading into 2022. Between Sterling Shepard on the outside, Kadarius Toney entering his second year playing in the slot, and dynamic rookie Wan’Dale Robinson out of Kentucky, each member brings a unique skill that should help Daniel Jones. The overall problem with this group is keeping them on the field as Shepard played in only seven games, while Toney only suited up for ten in 2021.
The enigma in this unit is the $72 million man, Kenny Golladay. One of the top free agents in 2021, it seems the former Detroit Lion took his bag last year and didn’t put in that extra work that got him there in the first place. When throwing to Golladay, Daniel Jones posted a 49.9 QBR with four interceptions and zero touchdowns to go along with a 49.3 completion percentage. Not the stats you want to see from your team’s 2nd highest-paid player.
QB and Weapons Grade: B–
For the first time in years, the Giants may have a competent offensive line while adding youth to the defensive trenches
Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen came into New York and immediately addressed that struggling offensive line unit. Focusing primarily on interior protection, Schoen dipped into the Buffalo pool once again and brought over eight-year journeyman center Jon Feliciano to anchor the center of his new line. Feliciano has dealt with his share of injuries, so availability could be an issue for the 30-year-old veteran. Still, the Giants’ new front office learned from past mistakes and added versatile depth to deal with unforeseen injuries.
Feliciano mainly played guard during his three seasons with Buffalo but can play anywhere on the interior line. Versatility and experience seemed to be a theme when targeting free agents, as they signed three guards/centers from the 2015 draft class over the offseason.
Max Garcia is another journeyman interior lineman, with the Giants being the third team of his eight-year career. Injuries have also plagued Garcia since his Super Bowl-winning season for the Broncos as a rookie. The fourth-round pick became integral to Denver’s offensive line from 2015-2016, primarily playing left guard. But after suffering a career-altering torn ACL, Garcia faced an uphill battle to regain that form. He eventually got back to starting at right guard and center for Arizona last year.
The Giants’ used what little cap room they had to sign 2015 second-round pick Mark Glowinski to a three-year deal after he spent the past four seasons playing right guard with the Colts, one of the most dominant offensive line units in the league. Glowinski thrives in pass protection and is the most effective stop-gap veteran added to this new interior line.
Schoen didn’t stop at free agency signings to fix the offensive line. He also used two of his first five draft picks in the first three rounds to select Alabama tackle Evan Neal and another versatile interior player in UNC’s Marcus McKethan. Neal joins fellow SEC standout, former Georgia Bulldog Andrew Thomas, with the task of anchoring the tackle positions on this rebuilt line. Thomas noticeably struggled during his rookie season but seemed to find his forms in some games while looking like his rookie self in others in his sophomore campaign.
He could move over to right tackle as Evan Neal, the six-foot-seven, 350-pound behemoth is one of the best offensive tackle prospects the NFL has seen in several years. Despite his hulking frame, Neal runs like he’s much lighter and allowed just 24 pressures over his last two seasons for the Crimson Tide.
Thanks to their lack of cap space, the Giants did not make any significant changes to a defensive line that hasn’t had a dominant pass rusher since they traded JPP away five years ago. The New York Giants may have found their new elite defensive end in Kayvon Thibodeaux, drafted fifth overall, and just two picks ahead of Evan Neal. Thibodeaux almost looks like a lab-created player enhanced to become to the best edge rusher in the NFL. However, he’s still very raw with his technique and arsenal of moves as he relied on his quick first step and superior athleticism to rack up sacks in college.
New York might have something brewing on the edge with their new rookie phenom and last season’s second-round pick, Azeez Ojulari. The former Georgia Bulldog set a New York Giants rookie record with eight sacks last season as a hybrid edge/linebacker. To help with their young pass rusher development, the Giants’ snagged Don “Wink” Martindale from the Baltimore Ravens to become their new defensive coordinator. His experience running one of the better defenses in the league should accelerate this young duo’s development and upgrade New York’s overall pass rush.
Martindale’s aggressive, blitz from everywhere scheme also should help the defensive tackles get pressure after falling off a bit last season. Eight-year veteran Leonard Williams had his lowest PFF pass-rush grade since his rookie season (64.4), while Dexter Lawrence continued to make strides in his third season despite not putting up the numbers. In their new defensive scheme, both Williams and Lawrence should have more one-on-one opportunities with the multiple blitz looks Martindale throws at opposing offenses.
Trench Grade: B
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The Giants have a huge problem with their thin secondary unit in Don Martindale’s defensive scheme
New regimes mean new schemes, and it’s no secret that Don Martindale loves to blitz heavy and often. After enjoying a terrific first season with the New York Giants, inside linebacker Blake Martinez tore his ACL in Week 3 of last year. The 2017 NFL co-tackles leader expects to be back for the first week of 2022 but whether he can regain his old form in that short recovery period remains a question mark.
His running mate, Tae Crowder, burst onto the scene for the Giants’ given the opportunity to fill in for Martinez. The 2020 seventh-round pick led New York in tackles in 2021 and finished the season with two interceptions, four pass breakups, and one touchdown allowed on 78 targets. Despite those numbers, Crowder’s inexperience and lighter frame stood out while playing in the box, missing 12 tackles and recording an astonishingly low 28.4 PFF run defense grade.
The Giants’ youthful secondary faces a humongous trial by fire in their new defensive scheme
James Bradberry signing with the Eagles may have a more significant impact on the Giants’ season than most fans expect. Signing Adoree Jackson to a whopping three-year, $39M deal last offseason plus the Golladay contract left New York in a cap crisis. Cutting James Bradberry saved them over $10M in cap space, but that’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things. So what’s left after Adoree Jackson? To sum it up briefly: a bunch of untested and young defensive backs.
Aaron Robinson, a 2021 third-round pick out of UCF, is set to handle the opposite side of Adoree after missing most of last year due to a core injury sustained in the preseason that required surgery. Another member of their 2021 draft class, sixth-round pick Rodarius Williams, suffered a torn ACL in Week 5 of 2021 but will battle Robinson for that other outside spot. Finally, everyone’s favorite former Eagle, Michael Jacquett, is in the mix to fight for a roster position. That’s how desperate this secondary is.
The slot and safety position somehow get even worse. The Giants’ front office is very high on Xavier McKinney, holding down the free safety for years to come. However, in a strange youth movement that furthered their cap crisis, the Giants cut aging defensive back Logan Ryan, who is now due more than $11.45M in dead cap to play for the Buccaneers.
A once thin secondary could now be considered malnourished. Julian Love, the Giants’ fourth-round pick in 2019 out of Notre Dame, had his growing pains last season as a sub-safety and has not played many meaningful snaps. He’s now expected to become an everyday starter at strong safety with only rookies and journeyman Andrew Adams remaining on the depth chart. Adams, the one-time Eagle, finds himself back with the team he started his career and his third team since the start of 2021.
At nickel, it’s more of the same for New York as Darnay Holmes, a 2020 fourth-round pick out of UCLA, is penciled to start despite playing only 282 total snaps in 2021. Holmes will have to fend off rookie Cor’Dale Flott, a third-round pick out of LSU, who very well could step over Darnay for the starting position. But once again, this coaching staff is asking another inexperienced defensive back to become an everyday starter, which typically does not work out very well.
The leader in the secondary (or highest paid member), Adoree Jackson, is convinced that the plethora of young talent surrounding him will be up for the task this season. They certainly will have to grow up quickly as Don Martindale’s blitzes will leave them all alone in coverage multiple times per game.