2021 NY Giants Season Preview

Let’s cut to the quick. If you think you’re getting a guesstimate on the Giants record this season, you’re sorely mistaken. Sorry. Not sorry. With only 3 preseason games, extremely limited looks at starters, many starters held back from playing even a single snap of preseason, and new players (starting? name the guy pictured above for extra credit) added at the roster cutdown, it’s a different league with way too many unknowns.

Way too many unknowns. Offensive Line unknowns. This NY Giants blog has been talking about restocking/rebuilding Offensive Line since 2010 (yes, 2010, not a typo) when we saw an aging line that needed new blood. So here we are embarking on the 2021 campaign, and once again the Offensive Line cupboard in preseason was threadbare. Shocking! We talked about aggressively continuing to draft OL this past offseason.

Our reason was simple- if your optimism about Thomas Peart Gates Lemieux and Hernandez was correct, then let’s get DEPTH! Your worst case- we’re wrong!.. Those 5 guys are fantastic. Woohoo! So now we have depth when 2 of them invariably get hurt. There’s a word for this kind of business planning. It’s called being proactive. It means proper prior preparation to prevent piss poor performance.

We understand why you wouldn’t necessarily go to Free Agency to find Offensive Line help. After all, it’s a marketplace of ‘B’ players at ‘A’ prices. Look no further than Nate Solder, where our GM overpaid, making Solder the highest paid Offensive Lineman in the NFL in return for 2 years of mediocrity.

You get after Offensive Line in the Draft. Gettleman was a day late and a dollar short after going for WR Kadarius Toney at 1.20. Everyone here knows what I think of drafting WRs in Round 1. Until these (mostly) divas turn around after a TD and honor their OL, I don’t believe that they are part of building a lasting commitment to a franchise. (Don’t hold your breath. For every Larry Fitzgerald, there are too many that chase the money instead of investing in their franchise.) The Toney choice set in motion a series of missed opportunities to get Offensive Linemen. Gettleman made his single best decision as a Giants GM in trading down 9 spots for massive draft booty. But it took all of a few more months into August preseason to see the consequences of those Toney dominoes. The second string OL was (shocking, yup) Swiss freaking cheese, and it dawned on Gettleman that this wasn’t going to work. More shock… one of the starters, Lemieux, got hurt in camp. Whodathunk??!! So instead of being proactive in April, our fantastic GM becomes reactive in August, scrambling to make trades for Price and Bredeson, plus the signing of Larsen. THREE Giants Offensive Lineman came aboard in August who are now on the roster. That should tell you all you need to know about the Offensive Line and this GM.

Gettleman finds himself in these bad predicaments on a regular basis because he makes too many bad decisions on a regular basis. But don’t go telling him that. All you’ll get from him is how he’s been to “7 Super Bowls,“ implying his decision-making and architecture as a GM led to those appearances. If we look a little closer, we note that only one of those 7 appearances was Gettleman the GM, the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers of 2015 had tremendous talent…. six All-Pros in one season. SIX. One season. To give you some perspective, the last time the NY Giants had ONE All-Pro on their roster in any season was 2016, with Landon Collins.

C Ryan Kalil, QB Cam Newton, LB Thomas Davis, LB Luke Kuechly, CB Josh Norman and RB Mike Tolbert. All 6 were on the roster BEFORE Gettleman got there.

Gettleman was fired only a year after that Super Bowl appearance too, which tells us more. When questioned by reporters for daring to challenge any decision he has made, he offered his latest 2021 pushback of self-righteous indignation: “Do you think I do this for a hobby?” Well, frankly, I write this blog for a “hobby,” and in one (November 2017 Penn State) tweet, I’m probably more qualified than our perennially reactive GM.

All which brings us back to 2021. Gettleman has thrown the kitchen sink at this roster. He brought in 3 notable Free Agents, all with an injury history of varying degrees: WR Kenny Golladay, CB Adoree Jackson, and TE Kyle Rudolph. All 3 are terrific when healthy. Yet all 3 have been sidelined in camp, due to injuries of one sort or another. Essentially, Gettleman did Reese-2016-lite, jettisoning the pod and igniting it. It’s a bold move. It’s also a somewhat selfish move too, because Gettleman knows he won’t survive this year anyway if his 5-11, 4-12, and 6-10 seasons don’t improve to 9+ wins/playoffs.

The Giants rebuilt last year. Speaking for myself, I believed 2021 would be the year we finally saw results. And I certainly see that for the Defense. The addition of Jackson (if healthy), Ojulari at EDGE, the return of McKinney in his first full season, the comeback of Carter from injury, the maturation of Dexter Lawrence, and the continued Pro Bowl quality play of Bradberry & Williams all make me believe this is a Top 5 Defense. The secondary is absolutely loaded. Peppers and Ryan were excellent last year. The system of Patrick Graham is in its second year, so players will be flying to the ball on instinct instead of thought. The missing piece in 2020 was EDGE, so with Carter, Ximines and Ojulari, any one of them will make the D come together, and we may see 2 if not all 3 make their presence felt. McKinney has the versatility to line up all over the place, making it harder on opposing QBs to make pre-snap reads. Yes, this Defense can be VERY special.

So why the sour grapes on Gettleman? The damn Offensive Line. Daniel Jones has the accuracy. He needs the time. I still have my reservations about his pocket presence/poise/decision-making/ball protection. Those things are amplified/catalyzed without pass protection. And the 31st ranked OL was dead last, 32nd out of 32 teams in pass protection last year. The latest datapoint, training camp, was ugly. Lack of depth was punctuated by Andrew Thomas yielding 2 sacks and a pressure in limited snaps in the final dress rehearsal. If there was one guy on the OL who I was counting on to be improved and solid in 2021 after playing hurt in 2020, it was Thomas. Now we have to start thinking about him too?! For the Giants sake, I hope not. Bredeson will be an improvement but he’s new to the line, so even if he helps he’ll have miscommunication issues along the way. Hernandez had a good camp. He’s in his contract year and money talks. If that’s not enough incentive for his play to be salvaged from 2.34 draft disappointment, I don’t know what is. Peart? I have no clue. While I am hoping he’s ready to make the jump in his second year, I have not seen enough to know. 

The Giants Offense will have the “weapons.” Naturally, Evan Engram, who had a strong camp, is injured and doubtful for Denver in Week 1. If you can figure out if this enigma helps us more than he hurts us, you’re better than me. Golladay and Toney, our two latest toys, haven’t played a single snap in a Giants uniform due to injury. So how the hell does anyone make a 2021 prediction based on that? Or the post-ACL return of Barkley? One can argue it will come together for the Giants offense, or that it will be another stinkpile, and frankly I can see either and possibly BOTH.

There’s the Jason Garrett factor. I admit to being wrong and disappointed in his 2020 effort. A Coordinator must scheme to their roster’s strengths and weaknesses. And if I have to listen to Dan Schneier (accurately) rip apart Garrett’s archaic and simplistic playbook another season, it could be painful.

Schneier wants more presnap motion. I want one thing: to use Barkley more as a primary pass target than the predictable checkdowns. Ooooh, they’re throwing to Barkley! No, they’re not. Checkdowns on 3rd and 8 aren’t throws to Barkley. They don’t leverage Barkley. I know that Kamara, McCaffrey and Barkley are different RBs. But are they? Does anyone here think that Sean Payton would plug in Barkley and get him out in space the way he does for Kamara? Yup. So help the OL, help Jones, help the Giants, and pass the ball to Barkley in planned routes that aren’t (just) checkdowns. Not only will it help the Giants spread the field, it will help… Barkley run inside (and outside). All of these things will keep the opposing DL off balance enough that you’ll be able to go slightly more vertical to guys like Engram and Golladay. Stretch the field. It starts with flares (don’t give me a heart attack and actually execute the first NYG successful screen of the millenium) to Barkley.

There are literally 5 guys I’ll be watching the first 3 weeks of the season to figure out what we have in 2021: the LT, LG, C, RG, and RT. That’s it. That’s why I didn’t want Toney or Robinson, although they can certainly contribute. Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, it’s all about the OL. Again. If they are merely mediocre (a significant uptick), the Giants will make the playoffs. That’s how good I think the Defense can be this year. But if the OL is still a mess, they will torpedo the season, and Gettleman. But what do I know, it’s just a hobby.

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