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New York Giants: 2020 Position Grades

Leonard Williams and the D-Line Look to Take Major Steps this Year (Photo Credit: USA Today)

By: Michael Gagliardi

At the conclusion of this unusual (to say the least) offseason, the Giants have finalized their opening-day roster. This is a young team with a lot of potential, and even though they are not expected to be in contention for anything meaningful this year, I believe that they will be better than a lot of people think. Let’s break down the 2020 New York Giants by position to see who’s who and what’s what.

QB: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy (Practice Squad: Cooper Rush)

Grade: B

Danny Dimes obviously retained his starting spot this camp, and by all accounts, looked extremely on-point the whole time. I was skeptical at first of the Giants’ claim of him gaining 10lbs of muscle this offseason, but from the pictures and videos of him from camp, I believe it! This will definitely help with Jones’s ball security and durability, assisting him in hopefully taking a huge step forward this year, rather than having a sophomore slump. Colt McCoy actually looked very good this camp, as he was a fixture on the Giants’ “daily camp standouts” list. Do I want him running the offense? No. Would I feel confident with him coming in for Jones? Sure. Unfortunately, this was the end for Alex Tanney “Trickshot Quarterback”’s Giants career, as Cooper Rush beat him out for the 3rd QB job. Overall, Jones has a lot to prove this year, but I think he will perform up to his expectations, and some good depth in McCoy can’t hurt.

RB: Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman Jr.

(Practice Squad: Sandro Platzgummer)

Grade: A+

How can you not get an A+ when your RB group has Saquon in it? In Jason Garrett’s run-first offense, look for Saquon to have a ridiculous year and prove he is the best running back in the game, especially as a dual-threat. Dion Lewis is a quality backup and has proven himself in the league for years, so I trust him to do his job well when he’s in the game. I, amongst others, had concerns about Gallman going into camp, but he seemed to look very good in the televised intrasquad scrimmages. I don’t know how the Giants will split the 2nd RB spot between him and Lewis, but both of them are definitely NFL-caliber backups.

FB: Elijhaa Penny

Grade: B

I’ll say it till I’m blue in the face: Penny is a good player and was ridiculously underutilized last year by Pat Shurmer. He is no Vontae Leach or James Devlin, but he is a good blocker in both facets of the game and has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield every once in a while for a good check-down. In the scrimmages this summer, the offense showed a lot of I-Formation football, with Penny lined up in the backfield ahead of Saquon, and with a better O-line this year, this formation can be deadly. I’m giving a solid B for the only Eli left on the Giants.

WR: Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Damion Ratley, CJ Board

(Practice Squad: Alex Bachman, Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor, Derrick Dillon, Johnny Holton)

Grade: C+

Yes, the Giants are returning a lot of talent at this position in Tate, Shep, and Slayton, but the trouble is that all of these guys are essentially the same type of player. They’re all about the same size, very quick, and the only one that’s going to burn you straight downfield is Slayton. The Giants can definitely benefit greatly from a big, tall receiver to go up and get 50/50 balls, but there doesn’t seem to really be one on the roster. David Sills was a big-bodied (6’4”) receiver that the Giants were really hyping up during camp, and he seemed to have a great connection with Daniel Jones, seeming to connect with him for a TD just about every day. Despite this hope, he was put on IR with a season-ending fractured foot. Ratley, who was picked up off waivers from the Browns, seems like a special teams replacement for Cody Core but has some range to him in the receiving game, and CJ Board looked pretty good in camp against the 2s. Corey Coleman was a surprise cut, as after the injury to Cody Core, many expected him to take that roster spot because he had an extremely productive camp. I don’t know why they kept CJ Board over Coleman, but I guess that’s why I’m not an NFL coach. All-in-all, the Giants seem really thin at WR this year, which is probably why they have a very large pool of a few relatively promising receivers on the practice squad.

TE: Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Eric Tomlinson

Grade: A-

This group has a little bit of everything: elite receiver-like speed and athleticism in Engram, an all-around (under the radar) solid tight end in Kaden Smith, and a big tall blocking tight end who can also act as a red zone threat in Toilolo. Eric Tomlinson rounds out the group as an emergency blocking tight end who likely made the roster for his special teams ability. This Giants TE group can low-key be one of the best in the league and gives Jones even more solid options to throw to, and more guys to open holes for Saquon. Hopefully, Engram can just stay on the field for more than 3 games at a time, because if he’s hurt, then this group’s grade drops immediately to about a B-.

O-Line: Andrew Thomas, Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, Kevin Zeitler, Cameron Fleming, Matt Peart, Shane Lemieux, Spencer Pulley, Jackson Barton

(Practice Squad: Kyle Murphy, Tyler Haycraft, Chad Slade)

Grade: B

Yes, you read that right: a Giants O-line which should be SOLID. This hasn’t happened in the better part of a decade, but I think the day has finally come when a Giants QB can consistently have time in the pocket and a Giants RB can have holes to run through. That being said, Andrew Thomas will have his “welcome to the NFL” moments this year, and you already know everyone will want to call him Ereck Flowers #2 after he has his first bad game, but he will be (and probably currently is) the best left tackle the Giants have had in a long time. Either way, he’ll get a trial by fire against the Steelers’ pass rush in week 1. Hernandez and Zeitler have had good camps by all accounts, and the former is looking to have a breakout year after a bit of a sophomore slump in 2019. Nick Gates put on a lot of weight this offseason and by all accounts, has looked very solid at the center position. Cam Fleming will be serviceable on the right side, and the Giants all of a sudden have great depth all across the O-line, with rookies Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux developing for next year. Jackson Barton is a big, young body claimed off waivers via Kansas City, and Spencer Pulley will provide some veteran depth to this rather young group. Overall, the starting unit has a lot to prove, but this is no doubt the best Giants O-line in a long long time.

D-Line: Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlison, Leonard Williams, BJ Hill, Austin Johnson, RJ McIntosh

(Practice Squad: Niko Lalos)

Grade: B+

The only reason this group isn’t an A is because of its lack of depth. Tomlinson is our best defensive player right now, and God do I hope Gettleman makes the right decision and re-signs him next year. Dexter Lawrence is primed to build on his impressive rookie showing, and hopefully, that will include some better pass rush ability. Leonard Williams has played very well this summer, and the coaching staff has reportedly been working heavily on converting his large amounts of QB pressures into actual sacks. Austin Johnson is a space-eater who will likely come in for goal-line sets, and hey: I’ll take anyone from last year’s Titans defense on my team! BJ Hill had better step it up this year because he did almost nothing in 2019, or he may be in danger of never seeing the field again. RJ McIntosh hasn’t played much in his 2 years in the league, so there really isn’t too much to say about him other than he’s better than nobody, leaving the Giants with a thin D-line depth chart. That being said, the starting D-line remains a bright spot in an otherwise very shaky Giants defense.

EDGE: Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines, Kyler Fackrell, Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin

Grade: D+

Oh boy, here we go again. Unless Lorenzo Carter has this “breakout season” that everybody has been prophesying for 3 years now, then we’re likely doomed for another year of no pass rush. Carter has all the tools, size, and athleticism to be a very good pass rusher, but so far he has underwhelmed. Oshane Ximines never set a single edge in the run game last year but showed some promise in the pass rush game, so hopefully, better coaching can get him on his feet for his starting role this year. Markus Golden is a good #2 pass rusher, but unless Carter and Ximines perform this year he will be asked to do a #1 rusher’s job again. Fackrell was a one year wonder in Green Bay, so time will tell what he can do in a backup role in New York. Rookies Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin round out this group, but, besides Brown’s athleticism, neither has anything to write home about in my opinion. Unless Carter and Ximines way out-perform expectations, this is once again the weakest group on the team.

LB: Blake Martinez, Devante Downs, TJ Brunson, Tae Crowder

(Non-Season-Ending IR: David Mayo)

Grade: C-

Well...the Giants cut the best linebacker on the team and I don’t really know what to think. Ryan Connelly balled out in his 4 games last year before his ACL tear, and in his small sample size, he looked like the best ILB the Giants have had since Antonio Pierce. I even wrote an entire article about him (link is at the bottom of this page) which is now completely irrelevant! Of course, it’s very possible that his knee just did not recover correctly from the ACL tear, but he is still a far better all-around LB than David Mayo, and the two rookies (Brunson and Crowder) haven’t seen an NFL snap yet. Blake Martinez is a good tackler, but his awful coverage skills make him only slightly better than Alec Ogletree in my eyes. Devante Downs was raved about during camp, so I’m hoping he’s all they’ve cracked him up to be. From looking at his tape, I firmly believe that a healthy Connelly is better than all of these guys. This is a mistake for the Giants, and the Vikings, who picked Connelly up off waivers, got an absolute steal. Unfortunately, the lack of preseason games this year could’ve really hurt Connelly, as he does not possess elite athleticism, but his game speed and play recognition are what set him apart, and he didn’t get to show that in live games this summer. Overall, this group is slightly better than last year’s (minus Connelly), but is still just as bleh as it’s ever been in the past 10 years.

CB: James Bradberry, Corey Ballentine, Logan Ryan, Darnay Holmes, Isaac Yiadom, Brandon Williams

(Practice Squad: Jarren Williams, Ryan Lewis)

Grade: C+

Just a disclaimer: this C+ is with Logan Ryan included in the CB group; otherwise it’s a C- at the most. He is listed as a safety on the roster, but I don’t see Corey Ballentine starting for very long, and Ryan, who will likely play all over the secondary anyway, will likely return to being a full-time corner. This group has veteran leadership in Bradberry and Ryan, as well as a promising young talent in Darnay Holmes, but not much else. Ballentine got embarrassed last year in coverage, Broncos fans seem to think that Yiadom was their version of DeAndre Baker, and Brandon Williams is just a body as far as I’m concerned. The key for this group is whether or not Holmes can convert his excellent training camp into an excellent regular season.

S: Jabrill Peppers, Julian Love, Adrian Colbert, Nate Ebner

(Non-Season-Ending IR: Xavier McKinney)

(Practice Squad: Chris Williamson)

Grade: B

This group, with McKinney coming back towards the end of the season, looks pretty solid. Peppers, a ridiculous athlete, played well last year in his first season away from the sinkhole that is the Cleveland Browns, and McKinney, who many thought was the best safety in the draft, will add even more freakish athleticism to the position. Julian Love, who will probably be getting game reps at CB as well, was solid last year and can play both safety spots. He has good skills and instincts, plus he showed promise in 2019, so I’m hoping for a step forward for him this year. Ebner is a special teams specialist but can play from scrimmage in a pinch, and Colbert played under Pat Graham in Miami (for what that’s worth) but was used relatively effectively as a deep coverage safety.

Specials: K Graham Gano, P Riley Dixon, LS Casey Kreiter

(Practice Squad: K/P Ryan Santoso, LS Carson Tinker)

Grade: A

This is honestly a pretty elite special teams battery. Riley Dixon punted lights out last year, Casey Kretier made the pro bowl as an LS, and I barely even heard about Graham Gano missing a kick in a scrimmage or team period all camp. Maybe the tides have turned and this year Gano can hit a 63-yard game-winner for us, rather than against us. Under the special teams guidance of Joe Judge, expect the Giants to have a very well-rounded special teams unit throughout, including utilizing former college special teams monster Jabrill Peppers, who was elected one of the Giants’ special teams captains this year. The other captain for this unit is Nate Ebner who has been the Patriots’ do-it-all special teams specialist for the last 8 years, which is certainly not a job Belichick would approve of just anybody to do.

My Ryan Connelly Article:



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