The New York Giants were tough to watch last year, and thanks to prime time formatting, we got to see a lot of them. I understand New York is a big market that you have to appease, but the product on the field left me wanting. Eli Manning clearly struggled, regardless of his statistics, he was a shell of his former self. His offensive line did him no favors, allowing 47 sacks, which was the 10th most on the year. Injuries plagued the team all season from Odell Beckham Jr. to Evan Engram to their tattered sieve of an offensive line. I want to take a deeper look into what really happened and what might come from all this subpar production in the future.
The Giants finished last year 5-11, with the 25th Pro Football Focus ranked pass blocking offensive line, which undoubtedly was aided by the fact that Manning bailed on pressure, throwing the ball away before giving up a quarterback hit or sack. Saying the Giants offensive line struggled would be quite the understatement: they did not just struggle, they were paid millions of dollars to let their aging quarterback get destroyed. Nate Solder was given a contract which made him the highest paid tackle in the league, and promptly had the worst year of his career. Guard Patrick Omameh signed a 3-year, $15-million deal and was cut halfway through the season - not exactly how you want to build your offensive trench. Their offense had to withstand four games without Beckham and five games without Engram. Due to this - along with Manning’s lack of arm strength - Saquon Barkley led the team in receptions with 91 catches on 124 targets. With an offensive weapon like Barkley in the backfield, you do need to feed him, but this had less to do with targeting Barkley as it did Eli being pressured and checking the ball down, as if they were trying to run the old Flacco-Baltimore style offense.
The Giants offense last year mainly consisted of Beckham, Barkley, Sterling Shephard, and Engram. These players on paper read as a high-powered offense, but in reality, the statistically big games were substantially lacking. Manning had a mere three games over 300 yards passing, Beckham had six games with over 80 receiving yards, while Shephard and Engram had a combined four games over 80 receiving yards. In a league where passing is a premium, the Giants seemed hamstrung by Manning’s ability to produce. With all this being said, Manning still threw for 4,299 yards and 21 touchdowns. My counterpoint, when you’re consistently losing, garbage time offense adds up.
Moving to 2019
This past offseason shocked the world when the Beckham trade became reality. The New York Giants clearly agree with the statement “any press is good press” so they decided to trade arguably the most talented wide receiver in football. They received Jabrill Peppers, who will be filling the void left by Landon Collins, who the Giants did not bring back. Public opinion has it that Peppers is a less explosive, less dynamic box safety than Collins. The Giants also received the 17th and 95th overall picks in the 2019 draft, which turned into Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and Old Dominion defensive end Oshane Ximines. The Giants lost Collins, traded away linebacker Olivier Vernon for offensive line help in Kevin Zeitler, and traded one of the most dynamic pass catchers in recent memory for an average safety and two mid-round defensive linemen. Color me not impressed. If you are going to trade Beckham, you had better receive an overwhelming return. Instead, the Giants attempted to fill the void of two talented defensive veterans with hope and fairy dust.
The 2019 season is lining up to be another disaster. The Giants have consistently stated they will extend Manning’s contract through 2020 because apparently they saw positive signs towards the end of the 2018 season. Clearly, they are seeing things I am not, but let’s just say Manning starts all of 2019. With Manning at the helm, newly acquired wide receiver Golden Tate will fight for the top receiver spot with Shephard, while Barkley carries the bulk of the offensive load. My hope is a healthy Evan Engram will be utilized for what he is, a receiver/tight end hybrid with speed who is a nightmare for defensive matchups. The addition of Zeitler at guard cannot be understated, as according to Pro Football Focus, Zeitler gave up one quarterback pressure per approximately 60 pass blocking opportunities – perhaps the one positive in an offseason of disappointments. Staying on a positive note, Will Hernandez has to be mentioned, whose rookie year at guard did not disappoint. Hernandez started all 16 games and was clearly the Giants best offensive lineman. Beyond Zeitler and Hernandez, the Giants are simply hoping Solder finds his old form, as well as believing center Jon Halapio will return from his fractured right leg.
Looking through the Giants’ 2019 schedule, it is difficult to find the assured wins. The most hopeful games are in-division against the Redskins, but as everyone knows, division rivals rarely lay down. Odds-Shark has the over/under on Giants’ wins at six, I have them finishing 5-11 once again, with wins over the Redskins, Cardinals, Lions, Jets, and Dolphins.
This will yield a top six pick, familiar territory. With a massive whole at wide receiver I am projecting the Giants select Jerry Jeudy from Alabama. Jeudy is a physical freak in the sense that his explosive movements are unheard of. At 6’1” 192lbs, his ability to go from full speed to a full stop is almost unfathomable, but watch the tape and try to convince your eyes of what you are seeing. Jeudy has the speed, strength, and elusiveness to wow scouts, while also adding above average hands and superb route running. Let’s just say he is thrown into the Giants offense. Assuming he comes in and starts right away and Daniel Jones doesn’t suffer too harshly under his apprenticeship to Manning, the 2020 roster looks a bit like this:
QB – Daniel Jones
WR – Jerry Jeudy
WR – Golden Tate – will be 31 years old (signed through 2022)
WR – Sterling Shephard – will be 26 years old (signed through 2023)
RB – Saquon Barkley
TE – Evan Engram – will be 25 years old (2020 last year of rookie contract)
This actually gets me a little hot and bothered. 2020 will mean the offensive line had another year to gel and learn together. The addition of a true number one wide receiver in Jeudy allows Shephard and Tate to shift into roles they are comfortable producing in. Barkley doesn’t really even need to be talked about. If he is healthy, he will be a top-3 running back in 2020. Engram is going to be playing on a contract year, which I like to believe will be the catalyst to him having a career year. Finally, we have the lowly-touted Jones. All this offseason, there were constant rumors that the Giants liked Jones, who is friends of the Manning family, and they were going to take him in the first round. Then the analysts and scouts came with the fire and brimstone take that Jones wasn’t even in the top 100 on their draft boards. So - of course - the Giants took Jones sixth overall. However, if the coaching staff can survive another year of Manning, Jones will have experience in the system and a slew of weapons to attack the opposition with.
You won’t hear this anywhere else, but try to acquire Barkley. He good. Tate and Shephard will most likely be decent bye-week help, simply due to the fact that the Giants will be losing most of the time, and fantasy stats made in garbage time still count the same. The guy I like the most to surprise over the next two years is Engram. Health is a question, dealing with a hamstring strain, concussions and a MCL sprain does not aid in stat production, but these injuries are not the repetitive, worrisome type. His two concussions were spaced out over approximately a full year, while the hamstring and MCL sprain were both singular, unrelated events. Once Engram returned from the hamstring towards the end of the year, he was uninhibited for the final quarter of the season. A healthy Engram can take advantage of linebacker coverage, which leads to me projecting him as a TE1 and reeling in 9 touchdowns, which I know is a tremendous leap from his first two years in the league. All this basically boils down to the fact 2019 is going to be ugly, but 2020 has hope, 2020 has potential, 2020 is the year anything can happen.
Giants fans, here is to 2020.