With the conclusion of Week 17 of the 2020-21 NFL season, the New York Giants have now been officially eliminated from playoff contention. Despite the higher draft pick the Giants receive from missing the post-season, fans of the team are at least a little disappointed to see the G-men miss the playoffs. While watching and observing their 17 weeks of play, now would be a good time to properly assess this Giants team. Starting with offensive positions, then defensive positions, and eventually making it through special teams, each group will be assessed a letter grade and given a brief explanation for that evaluation.
Due to sub-par quarterback play for most of the season from Giants starter Daniel Jones, this group has earned itself a C grade. What saved it from being lower was the strong flashes that Jones demonstrated. Specifically, he helped contributed to the team ripping off three of four straight wins towards the middle of the season due to a lack of errors and strong leadership.The other game they won was against the Seattle Seahawks, in which Giants back-up Colt McCoy helped lead the team to victory over their heavily favored opponent.
Unfortunately, running back Saquon Barkley had his 2020 campaign ended in a week 2 matchup against the Chicago Bears, where he tore his ACL after a blast from a Chicago defender. As a result, running backs Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis, Alfred Morris, and Devonta Freeman all split carries, with Gallman leading the bunch. From week 7 to week 13, Gallman exploded, rushing for at least 100 yards or a touchdown in all games. What keeps this group from being a B+ or A is the lack of the exploviness that the team is used to seeing from Barkely. With the superstar runningback returning next year, this squad’s play should see improvement.
Wide Receivers: D
The Giants receivers did not have the best year. Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Darius Slayton all noticeably lead the Giants wide receiving core, statistically speaking. With the use of Austin Mack, Dante Pettis, CJ Board, and others, the Giants’ passing attack was inept, almost ranking last in the league. With some players leaving this year and others signing in free agency or entering the league, Giants coaches and fans alike would all love to see a drastic improvement in this group for the 2021 season.
Tight Ends: B
Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, and Levine Toilolo overall did not have a bad season. Engram lead the bunch in the passing game with Smith and Toilolo being involved in small portions, as their main purposes were to serve as run-blockers and to be included in pass protection. This group did play disastrously, but Engram could not come up big in clutch situations. Engram dropped a ball from Jones in Week 7 against the Eagles, which could have very well won them the game. Tipped balls from Engram also led to interceptions, which is never good for a team trying to win a game.
Offensive Line: C+
The Giants’ offensive line was certainly more efficient in the run game than in the passing game this season, with defenders reaching Quarterback Daniel Jones several times this season. The line served to be very effective at times, and other times, dreadful. This line has been a problem for years now, and it was exemplified recently with Jones being sacked back-to-back-to-back times by the Ravens in their week 16 matchup. Rookie prospect Andrew Thomas started the year slower than expected, but his pace began to pick up. Assuming Thomas continues to grow, and there are some changes in the off-season, the O-line has the potential to get better sooner rather than later.
Defensive Line: A
The Giants unit upfront was extremely effective in stopping the run and getting pressure to the Quarterback. This group is one of the best in the league, with Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, and others playing every down with great effort. Williams played under a franchise tag last season, meaning that the team must either sign him or tag him again to keep him a Giant, which is a must if this group wants to be as strong as it was in 2020.
With the addition of Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell, as well as some key rookies the Giants Linebackers made some big plays this season. The LBs were also consistent throughout the entire season, something this group has struggled being in the past. With Martinez leading the charge, this group had a strong 2020 campaign as one of the most underrated coalitions in football.
James Bradberry served as a lockdown corner this season, ending with some of the best numbers in the league. Bradberry lead the NFL in pass breakups and shut down the majority of receivers opposite of him. The second cornerback spot, which defends slot receivers, seemed as if it remained unclaimed the entire season, with Isaac Yiadom, Darney Holmes, Julian Love, Xavier McKinney, and others all taking snaps at the position. A permanent corner opposite Bradberry would have served the Giants well during the season.
Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Logan Ryan, and Julian Love all took snaps at the safety position this season, with all players utilized for different purposes by Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. All safeties played some outstanding football this season, with Peppers and Ryan being the standouts. With Ryan recently signed to a three-year deal, this group can only grow.
Kickers/Punters/Defensive Kick and Punt Return: B
Giants kicker Graham Gano seemed automatic this season, only missing one field goal the whole year. He recently signed back with the team on a three-year deal. Riley Dixon, the Giants punter, also had himself a pretty good season. In terms of their kick and punt coverage, the play could be improved. Some long returns by opposing teams hurt the Giants in gritty, hard-fought contests. One of them coming from the Bengals unit during a Week 12 matchup.
With the heart-breaking conclusion to the Giants 2020 season, Giants coaches and fans must now look ahead to free agency and the draft. The Giants have some work to do this off-season, as they need to bring back some key players, while also adding some new guys to help improve overall play. One thing is clear, the future of this team is starting to look brighter with Coach Joe Judge at the helm.
By, Jordan Cohen