NFC East Spotlight: Top 5 Things to Know about the New York Giants

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New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll, left, talks with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts following an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 22-16. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The New York Giants made the postseason for the first time since 2016 before getting shellacked by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Divisional Round. The game was essentially over at halftime, but they played out the final two quarters for fun. It was a tone-setting reminder, for anyone who hadn’t been paying attention all year, that the Eagles were the gold standard in the NFC East. And that not-so-shocking truth remains true heading into the 2023 season.

The Dallas Cowboys made some interesting tweaks in the offseason which should give keep them in the conversation. The Giants? Well, they could end up being a trendy pick to win the division, thanks largely to major upgrades at wide receiver, although the overall roster lacks pizzazz. Or, more appropriately, the talent level to be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders. New York caught a bunch of teams off-guard last season and rode that momentum into a surprising upset of the Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card round. From there, the cream rose to the top. The Giants still enjoyed an excellent year under NFC Coach of the Year Brian Daboll.

“That was a really good team,” Jalen Hurts said of the Giants after a 38-7 playoff win. “They’re really well-coached and we saw the game that they played against us two weeks ago with their starters not even playing. That’s a really well-coached team and they have really good players.”

Scouting the Giants: 5 Things to Know About the Enemy

Darren Waller, the New X-Factor:

The biggest move made was trading a third-round pick to Las Vegas for Pro Bowler Darren Waller. When healthy, the freakishly athletic 6-foot-6, 255-pound tight end is an elite talent in the top tier of players at his position. Key words: when healthy. Waller has missed 14 games over the past two seasons following a breakout 2020 campaign when he hauled in 107 balls for 1,196 yards and 9 touchdowns. He was targeted an absurd 145 times that year. If healthy, he could be Daniel Jones’ go-to guy and a perfect scheme fit in the middle of the field.
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Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) runs with the ball after making a catch as New York Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (22) tries to stop him during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Trouble in the Backfield

The Giants slapped the franchise tag on Saquon Barkley and it isn’t sitting well with the star running back. He has yet to sign the franchise tender while threatening to skip the 2022 season if a multi-year deal isn’t reached. The deadline for the latter is July 17. Barkley, fresh off a career-best 1,312 rushing yards last season, was their best offensive weapon and helped take the burden off quarterback Daniel Jones. If Barkley does sit out, the Giants don’t have much depth. Matt Breida will be the in-house candidate to start, with Eric Gray (fifth-round pick in 2023) and Gary Brightwell (sixth-round pick in 2021) behind him.

The Future Starts Now

New York received mostly high grades for their 2023 draft class, highlighted by first-rounder Deonte Banks who projects as the new starting cornerback opposite Adoree’ Jackson. The Giants’ secondary surrendered 3,638 yards through the air while recording only six interceptions in 2022, with opposing receivers posting the highest average depth of target against them at 8.47 yards. The combination of Banks and a healthy Xavier McKinney – the starting safety missed 8 games in 2022 – should improve that department. Meanwhile, they picked up John Michael Schmitz – Mel Kiper’s top-rated center – in Round 2, then added speedy receiver Jalen Hiatt in Round 3. He could push to be their starting slot guy.

Not Feeling the (Julian) Love

One key subtraction from the lineup is safety Julian Love. (Yes, the same Julian Love who threw shade at Nick Sirianni). While it’s easy to dismiss an aging backend player at nothing to worry about, he provided some much-needed leadership and veteran experience. He had 124 tackles and 2 of their 6 total interceptions in 2022. Xavier McKinney (45 tackles, 1 sack) and Jason Pinnock (41 tacckles, 1.5 sacks) are expected to start, with newcomer Bobby McCain adding depth there  after coming over from division rival Washington. They also grabbed rookie safety Gervarrius Owens in the seventh round.

Mr. Jones and Me

 It all starts with the man under center: Daniel Jones. The Giants rewarded their up-and-down quarterback with a four-year deal worth $160 million which sounded like an extremely bloated contract at the time it was announced. And it is. However, the Giants were stuck. The choices were to franchise tag him, extend him, or let him walk in free agency. Instead, they essentially structured it like a three-year deal and the Giants can escape it in two years if things don’t go well. Which is a legit possibility.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, left, is greeted by head coach Brian Daboll while leaving during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Prior to 2022, Jones was a turnover machine as evidenced by 29 picks versus 45 touchdowns. Danny Dimes has a lot of Carson Wentz in his game – very high highs, very low lows – and it’ll up to the coaching staff to keep his trajectory trending up. One thing the front office did was get him help in the form of veteran receivers with upside. They inked Parris Campbell, Jamison Crowder, and Jeff Smith in free agency then re-signed Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, and Isaiah Hodgins. No excuses. 

Key additions on offense: WR Parris Campbell, TE Darren Waller, WR Jeff Smith, WR Jamison Crowder

Key additions on defense: LB Bobby Okereke, S Bobby McCain, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches, CB Amani Oruwariye

AP Photo/Matt Slocum