The New York Giants shocked the NFL world when they made the playoffs with a 9-7-1 record in 2022. It was the franchise’s first winning season since 2016. Everyone from first-year head coach Brian Daboll to quarterback Daniel Jones played a vital part in bringing the team back to relevance.
New York’s success certainly came at a high financial price, as the team had to extend the contracts of Jones and running back Saquon Barkley. We’re diving into whether the Giants’ offseason was good enough to help the franchise take the next step into Super Bowl contention.
Have the New York Giants Done Enough To Elevate Daniel Jones?
No one said success didn’t come with a price. The Giants found this out the hard way after betting against Jones earning a massive multi-year deal in a contract year. Daboll and new general manager Joe Schoen made the decision to decline Jones’ fifth-year option because they hadn’t worked with him before and felt they hadn’t been able to see enough to commit another season to the 25-year-old.
However, Jones saw real growth in his critical fourth NFL season. No longer shackled by a lackluster scheme and finally benefitting from quality game-planning, improved blocking, and a healthy Barkley, Jones was able to set career highs in key categories. His yards per game dropped, but Daboll helped Jones increase his completion rate to 67.2% while also raising his yards per attempt to 6.8.
Most importantly, Jones’ confidence surged at the right time of the year. After playing as more of a game manager for the first half of the season, Jones had several standout performances that showed off a higher ceiling than what we had ever seen. Concerns are fair that his two best games came against a historically bad Vikings defense, but it’s also hard to throw out the fact he had 747 total yards and three touchdowns over those games.
Even though the Giants were thoroughly overmatched and blown out by the Eagles in the NFC Divisional Round, the year was an incredible journey for this regime. Jones, who now has a four-year, $160 million deal with $81 million guaranteed, will benefit from finally “having continuity and more quality players around him,” said Daboll.
The latter part of that equation is one we can already dive into. New York was aggressive in retaining Jones and adding new talent. They franchise-tagged Barkley, ensuring they can negotiate a long-term deal without losing him to unrestricted free agency.
Keeping Barkley was important, as he was the catalyst for the offense’s improvement. The offense ran through Barkley, leading him to a total of 1,650 yards and 10 touchdowns. But the offense lacked dynamic receiving talents thanks to a slew of injuries.
Throughout the year, Kadarius Toney was eventually traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, Wan’Dale Robinson and Sterling Shepard tore their ACLs, and Kenny Golladay entered witness protection. Darius Slayton, once forgotten and at the bottom of the depth chart, emerged as a solid intermediate target, and then Isaiah Hodgins went from the Bills’ practice squad to a decent starter.
Slayton and Hodgins proved they’re capable NFL contributors, but there’s no doubt the passing game around Jones was lacking the explosiveness needed to win deep in the playoffs. Along with Shepard and Robinson returning from their injuries, New York added playmakers Parris Campbell, Jalin Hyatt, and Jamison Crowder this offseason.
Giants Swung Big for Darren Waller and Jalin Hyatt to WR Corps
The Giants’ most notable move, however, was a big swing. New York traded pick No. 100 (which they acquired for Toney) for Raiders star tight end Darren Waller.
Waller, who had back-to-back seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving in 2019 and 2020, has struggled with injuries over the last two seasons. Still, He’s an immensely gifted pass catcher when he’s on the field and was worth the risk.
The upgrade from Daniel Bellinger to Waller can’t be understated. The Giants face some of the best defenses in the NFL at limiting production to the position. Dallas allowed the second-least production to the position, Washington finished fifth, and Philadelphia was 13th.
The verticality of the offense was a significant issue in 2022. Slayton had downfield speed but was also the obvious deep threat. Considering that Jones ranked 30th in deep-ball attempts and 20th in air yards, the numbers spell out the Giants’ offense limitations.
Waller has averaged at least 12.1 yards per catch in four of his last five seasons, making him a premier option on intermediate throws who can draw safeties toward him and away from Slayton.
Hyatt, drafted 73rd overall, could be part of the solution as well. Though he was a unique deep threat from the slot in Tennessee’s vertical spread system, Hyatt knows he can be more than that.
When it came to Hyatt’s experience and skill set, he said, “I’m not going to come in here and say I only play slot, or I only want to play outside. That’s why I said I’m dynamic and explosive. I want to play everywhere…I’m going to do what I have to do.”
Hyatt’s development can be massive for New York because they oddly added multiple versions of players they already had on the roster. While it’s wise not to count on Robinson or Shepard producing much in 2023 (or ever based on their injuries), Campbell, Hodgins, and Crowder have similar skill sets as those two.
Slayton and Hyatt have more explosiveness, but the latter was more of a slot specialist or someone you’d use in a role similar to Campbell when he’s not going vertically.
Giants Did Little To Add to the Offensive Line
It’s unquestionable the Giants added more talent, and they needed it, but it’s fair to wonder whether they wisely spent some of their assets at receiver.
The offensive line didn’t see much action despite being ranked as the 29th-best unit in pass-block win rate last year. Adding second-round John Michael Schmitz was an excellent upgrade to the interior of the unit, but depth was ignored at both guard spots. Ben Bredeson won the LG spot last year before a knee injury knocked him out after eight starts and figures to be the favorite to edge out Joshua Ezeudu once again.
However, the Giants have a lack of depth along the unit. It’ll be a major issue again if Bredeson isn’t the answer and Schmitz struggles as a rookie. Alternatively, they’re in a troublesome position if one injury hits along the interior.
It’s hard to fault the Giants for prioritizing the playmaking unit and doing their best despite not having a ton of cap flexibility after acquiring Waller, re-signing Jones, and tagging Barkley. A more varied, role-specific set of receivers would’ve been nice, but it also wasn’t a deep free agent crop.
There’s more pressure on Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka to continue scheming at a high level to create openings for players who don’t have the best skill sets to win 1-on-1.
With the 2023 NFL Draft over, it’s possible the Giants add a competent veteran backup in free agency closer to the start of the season if they need to. Dalton Risner would be a particularly big upgrade at left guard, but it’s fair to see if Bredeson can win the job and be a plus starter.
New York has done enough to help Jones raise his floor and show off a higher ceiling. No one can say this unit is loaded around him, but the excuses are gone. The clock for Jones to prove he can be a difference-making quarterback begins in 2023, as the Giants can escape his massive contract after 2024.
Barring a major jump from Jones in terms of his explosive plays downfield (he ranked 25th in money throws last year), air yards per attempt (31st in 2022), and a decrease in interceptable passes (30th in 2022), it’s hard to see this offseason being enough for the Giants to win more in 2023. The bar to be a star QB in the NFC is much lower than in the AFC, but Jones’ profile is very clearly that of a game manager who needs play-action passes to be effective on the least-meaningful throws possible.