The New York Giants Aren’t Good But They’re Not Far Away

The New York Giants are an enigma. At 7-5-1, they’re not just in the thick of the NFC playoff picture, they’d be the seventh seed if things ended today. And still, they don’t feel like a playoff-caliber team because they aren’t one of the best 14 teams, analytically speaking. Nevertheless, the Giants have already overachieved in Year 1 of Brian Daboll, Mike Kafka, and Wink Martindale.

Like many teams have done in 2022, the Giants have worked in two main streaks. They won games early in the season that nobody expected them to, and advanced metrics deemed them an average to below-average team, despite their 6-1 record. New York ranked 13th in team DVOA after Week 7, primarily due to an unimpressive defensive output, and they’re currently 21st in team DVOA.

While they’ve stumbled offensively in the second half of the season, the Giants have also faced some really strong defenses over the past three weeks. But it’s New York’s defensive potential that should get Giants fans excited about 2023 and beyond.

The New York Giants Need To Build a Secondary

Martindale is one of the more unique defensive coordinators in the NFL, and none are more aggressive in their pursuit of the opposing passer. Nobody blitzes more than the Giants, and the Ravens were always at or near the top in blitz rate, even eclipsing the 50% mark in 2019!

Cutting James Bradberry was an awkward decision, given Martindale’s arrival. The Giants’ secondary was never going to perform like the Ravens have for Martindale over the years. From 2018-2020, Baltimore’s defense ranked inside the top 10 of defensive efficiency metrics in each season from a DVOA perspective and was third over the three-year span in EPA. Injuries in the secondary took away Baltimore’s biggest strength in 2021.

And the Giants need to go all-in on the secondary in free agency and the NFL draft. Adoree’ Jackson is a great option at one of the outside cornerback spots, but New York needs a… giant… upgrade on the opposite side.

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But the Ravens always found good safety play as well. The position itself has seen its value rise recently, and with how often New York is sending five and six defenders after the QB, their safeties need to be able to survive on an island in coverage.

The best news in all this? The Giants’ defensive front is set! Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence are both contracted through 2023, and New York used a 2021 second-round pick on Azeez Ojulari and a 2022 first on Kayvon Thibodeaux. That is one of the more impressive and explosive defensive fronts in the NFL.

The Giants will need to improve at linebacker. But that’s a position they can attack in free agency for little cost against the cap, given the non-elite linebackers are viewed similarly to running backs in free agency.

Oh, that brings us to their offense.

What To Do About Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley

The Giants can’t justify paying market price for Daniel Jones. Jones is like a local restaurant that you can go to one week and have some of the best food in town, and the next week it will give you food poisoning. For a long time, it looked like the restaurant would go out of business, but Daboll and Kafka are playing the role of Robert Irvine, attempting to save the restaurant.

The food and atmosphere have improved, but questions remain about its sustainability. Deciding not to pick up Jones’ fifth-year option was the correct decision at the time, given what we’d seen from him. But now, it forces New York into an awkward position.

The best-case scenario for the Giants would be for Jones to accept a four-plus-year deal with guarantees slightly over what two years of the franchise tag would cost.

But if Jones wants to bet on himself, the projected franchise tag cost at QB is $31.5 million. And New York has another high-profile signing to consider in Saquon Barkley.

Barkley’s franchise tag number would be $12.6 million, a nice chunk of guaranteed money. As a rookie, he exploded onto the scene with over 2,000 all-purpose yards, but injuries have leveled the playing field against him.

At just 26, two seasons on the franchise tag might be the Giants’ best bet to keep Barkley around, should they decide that’s the direction they want to go.

They could also peek in at the free agency class of runners, including Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, Kareem Hunt, Rashaad Penny, Jamaal Williams, Miles Sanders, and David Montgomery, for a more inexpensive option.

2023 Outlook

The Giants appear on the right track. They’ve only turned the ball over 13 times in as many games, good for second in the NFL behind Philadelphia.

Likewise, Daboll and Kafka appear to be on the right track with the offense, and Joe Schoen had himself a good first outing in the NFL draft.

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If New York focuses their efforts on the secondary, bring back Jones, and either keep Barkley around or bring in an option from the free agent pool, the Giants could be legitimate contenders in the NFC next season.

And if we know one thing about the NFC East, whoever wins the division in 2022 won’t do it in 2023. With the Eagles looking poised to win it this season, that streak extends all the way back to 2004.

The Giants may miss the playoffs this season, but they’re on the right track.

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