(image credit: Dennis Schneidler/USA Today Sports)
By: Austin Geller
Well, folks, football is finally back! After five tiring months of no football, New York Giants football is back! With training camp just a week away, it is time to jump back into it. There are a lot of questions heading into the New York Giants 2021 season. After a 6-10 campaign last season in the NFC Least, the Giants found themselves a Week 17 Eagles win away from stealing the division (as shocking as that sounds). The Giants look to build upon last season despite concerns lurking in the Giants organization. Let’s get into it, shall we?
1. Will Daniel Jones finally make a giant leap forward?
Let’s just start off with the elephant in the room: Mr. Daniel Jones. After being selected as the sixth overall pick by the Giants in the 2019 NFL draft, Daniel Jones had a decent rookie season. He had a 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and threw for over 3000 yards in 12 starts. Last year, however, Jones struggled a lot. As easy as it was to be done with him and move on to the next quarterback, Daniel Jones was put in an impossible position to succeed. We can start with Saquon Barkley going down for the season in Week 2. Losing arguably the league’s most dangerous weapon would hurt any quarterback. In addition, I do not care if you are Tom Brady or Marcia Brady: no quarterback can thrive when his receivers are at the bottom of the league in separation from defenders and are top 10 for most passes dropped. In 2020, Golden Tate could only muster a whopping 2.1 yards of separation while Darius Slayton could only create 2.3 yards of separation. Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram were slightly better, but still, both ranked in the bottom half of the league for receiver separation. Daniel Jones was basically Luke Skywalker trying to hit a target that you could only see with a microscope. And please do not get me started on Evan Engram. I like to call him an incredible athlete with incredibly horrible hands. In 2018 and 2019, Engram only dropped six passes combined. In 2020, he dropped 11 passes. The last time I checked, the only way to score is to have the ball in your hands. I understand Daniel Jones still has to improve, but there is always room for improvement no matter who you are. The additions of star Kenny Golladay and rookie Kadarius Toney, while also regaining Saquon Barkley, should give Daniel Jones a lot more room to operate.
2. Will the offensive line gel?
I always say the game is won and lost in the trenches. It does not matter if you are Patrick Mahomes or the last guy on the bench; without an offensive line to protect and open up holes, offenses will struggle. That statement held true in Super Bowl 55 between the Chiefs and Buccaneers. Not even the great Patrick Mahomes, with all of those weapons, could overcome a depleted offensive line. He struggled mightily to no avail. The guy that we have come to expect to throw for 500 yards and six touchdowns every week could only muster 270 yards and two interceptions. It is very difficult to score when the defense clogs every hole and hits the quarterback most plays. New York’s offensive line actually performed a lot better in the second half of the 2020 season. If the offensive line can build upon last year, New York’s offense, with its new additions, could finally blast off.
3. Will Kenny Golladay get used to a new offense?
I cannot say I wasn’t thrilled when I got the notification that the Giants had signed Kenny Golladay. Kenny Golladay is one of the most underrated receivers in football. This is a player who went for two consecutive 1000 yard seasons in 2018 and 2019 with the Detroit Lions and was on pace in 2020 until a nagging hip injury kept him out the rest of the season. This is a player who is a nightmare for defenses with his 6’4, 214-pound frame. He is a physical force on that field who does not need a lot of room to make a play. Does anyone remember Plaxico Burress? Same build as Golladay. Without him, the Giants may have lost that Super Bowl. The two big questions here are: Can Kenny Golladay find his way with this offense? And can Kenny Golladay develop a rapport with Daniel Jones? Only time will tell.
4. Can Saquon Barkley be relied on to stay healthy?
The return of Saquon Barkley has given Giants fans a greater sense of excitement and optimism heading into the 2021 season. Here is the million-dollar question: Can Saquon Barkley stay healthy? And if not, who do the Giants have as backups? Saquon Barkley was lost for the season in Week 2 of the 2020 season with a torn ACL. This now marks the second time in as many seasons that Saquon suffered a major injury, having suffered a gruesome ankle injury in 2019. We have seen star players come back from rehab and succeed. The person I think of is Adrian Peterson. After a torn ACL in 2014, the NFL’s legendary running back led the NFL in rushing yards in 2015 with 1485 yards. Who is to say that Saquon can’t do the same thing? Having the dynamic talent of Saquon Barkley on the field will make a massive difference for opposing defenses. However, if Saquon cannot stay healthy, do the Giants have enough to account for it? Saquon’s backups are Devontae Booker and Corey Clement. Booker, so far, has not found success in the league since being drafted in the first round by Denver in 2016. Corey Clement, however, has shown some potential while spending his time with the Eagles. If Saquon goes down, can the duo of Booker and Clement be enough to overcome the loss?
5. Will Jason Garrett learn from his past?
The final concern heading into the 2021 season is none other than Jason Garrett. There is a reason Dallas let him go in the first place. If there was an image in the dictionary for “conservative” and “reserved”, a large picture of Jason Garrett would come up. If I ever needed someone to call a running play on 3rd and 10, Jason Garrett would be at the top of my list. If I ever needed someone to throw a five-yard curl on 3rd and 10, Jason Garrett would be at the top of my list. I understand that the offensive line and receivers were a concern, but it is not illegal to throw the ball more than 15 yards down the field. The Giants ranked 31st in total yards per game in 2020. That is not going to cut it in 2021. With the additions of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, there is no excuse for Jason Garrett to not start calling some deep shots. Not only are deep plays morale boosters, but they also keep defenses honest, which can open up the field for runs and short passes that Garrett loves so much. If the Giants want to take that big leap forward, Jason Garrett needs to let this offense fire on all cylinders.
Big Blue has an opportunity to build off of 2020. I am very excited about what 2021 has to offer for New York fans. As Giants fans know all too well, let’s get ready for the emotional roller coaster that is the New York Giants!