Darius Slayton, New York Giants
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

With the 2019 campaign in the books, here’s a look at how each position group fared for the New York Giants this past season.

The New York Giants finished 4-12 in 2019, missing the postseason for the seventh time in the last eight years. Through it all, a good number of players on the team had rocky campaigns. The low-end performances contributed greatly to what was another lost season for Big Blue.

Nonetheless, there were a few reasons to be optimistic about the team’s future. So which position groups sparked that optimism?

Here’s how each group fared in 2019.

Quarterbacks

The Giants started the 2019 season with longtime quarterback Eli Manning under center. But after two weeks, two losses, and two Manning interceptions, the Giants benched him for rookie Daniel Jones.

The first-year Duke product had his ups and downs but did plenty to prove he’s the team’s next franchise quarterback. In 12 games, the 6-foot-5 Jones broke the franchise rookie record for touchdown passes with 24. He additionally threw for 3,027 yards and totaled 279 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

The most impactful struggle for Jones though was his tendency to turn the ball over. The 22-year-old threw 12 picks for an average of one interception-per-game. He also fumbled an unacceptable 18 fumbles (11 lost).

All-in-all, Jones’ rookie season was one to build on, but the overall potential should excite fans. Thus, the Giants quarterback grade for 2019 is slightly above average.

Grade: B-

Running Backs

Giants star running back Saquon Barkley fell victim to the infamous sophomore slump early in 2019.

Barkley started the season with a pair of performances in which he passed the century mark. But in Week three, he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The setback kept him out of action for four games.

After his return, Barkley struggled for several weeks. He only rushed for one touchdown and didn’t reach 100 yards in his first six games back in the starting lineup.

Barkley essentially saved his group’s grade with his performances in the seasons’ final three games. He ran for 393 yards and added five total touchdowns to lead New York to a pair of late-season victories.

Outside of Barkley, this specific group didn’t manage much success. Wayne Gallman was injury-prone, Jonathan Hilliman struggled and was later demoted to the practice squad, and Buck Allen managed only one touchdown.

Therefore, the unit grade is mostly a report card of Barkley’s season. While his campaign earns a B- (he did indeed rush for 1,000 yards), his teammates slightly bring the grade down.

Grade: C+

Wide Receivers

Despite trading away Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants receiving corps earned the highest grade on this list.

The main reason New York’s receivers were given the grade they earned is due to the spectacular rookie season from Darius Slayton.

Big Blue selected Slayton in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but he missed the first two games of the season due to injury. With odds stacked against him, Slayton managed to put together an outstanding campaign with 740 yards and eight touchdowns.

Outside of Slayton, Golden Tate additionally had a strong season after serving his four-game suspension to begin the year. Tate racked up 676 yards in just 12 games with six touchdowns. His efforts included several highlight-reel catches in the end zone.

Despite a pair of concussions, Sterling Shepard also put together a quality season with 576 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.

If all three of these receivers were healthy and available for the full season, the grade could’ve been even higher. Regardless, the group still earns a respectable B+.

Grade: B+

Tight Ends

It was a rough season for the Giants tight ends, including former first-round pick Evan Engram.

The third-year pro’s season was off to a hot start. He totaled 116 yards and a touchdown in the Week 1 loss to Dallas. He also put up a 113-yard game with a score in the Week 3 win over Tampa Bay.

After that, his season went downhill. He suffered multiple injuries holding him to just eight games and eventually landing him a spot on injured reserve.

Rhett Ellison also struggled to stay healthy. He played in just 10 games and was held to 167 yards and one touchdown.

What saves the Giants tight end group from earning a “D-” grade is the emergence of rookie Kaden Smith. The undrafted free-agent who the Giants signed midseason caught 31 balls in just seven games with 268 yards and three touchdowns. This includes a game-winning grab in overtime to beat Washington in Week 16.

Smith saves the tight ends from an embarrassing year, but still, the grade is low.

Grade: C-

Offensive Line

Despite general manager Dave Gettleman‘s efforts to fix the Giants offensive line, the unit struggled mightily in 2019.

The front-five gave up the third-most quarterback hits in the NFL with 119, and 14th most sacks with 43. Within those 43 sacks, quarterback Daniel Jones was stripped 12 times.

New York also finished 23rd in the NFL in limiting negative rush plays. Needless to say, the offensive line allowed several run-stoppers into the backfield all year.

The only reason the Giants avoid an F here is because of the solid play from newly-acquired guard Kevin Zeitler, who committed only two penalties and allowed just two sacks.

Grade: D-

Defensive Line

While the Giants defense struggled overall in 2020, their defensive front actually played some quality football. 

New York finished 20th against the run this season, allowing an average of 113.2 rushing yards-per-game. Rookie Dexter Lawerence had a stellar season, racking up 34 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks, and nine quarterback hits.

It was also another solid year for fellow defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who totaled 49 combined tackles with seven tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks. The third-year man out of the University of Alabama also recorded nine quarterback hits.

The reason the Giants defensive line’s grade isn’t anything more than average is the poor play of B.J. Hill. After an outstanding rookie season in 2018, Hill struggled in his sophomore campaign, recording just one sack and two tackles-for-loss. He combined for 5.5 sacks and six tackles-for-loss in his rookie season.

Overall, the Giants defensive line fared better than several other groups on the team. Nonetheless, nothing was really above average. 

Grade: C

Linebackers

Like on the defensive front, the linebackers for the Giants played some decent football.

Offseason addition Markus Golden became the first Giant since Lawerence Taylor to record at least 10 sacks in a season from the linebacker spot.

In the middle, rookie Ryan Connelly played excellent football in four games before losing his season to a torn ACL. The University of Wisconsin alum combined for 20 tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions.

With Connelly out, David Mayo stepped in and played well at times. He finished the season with 82 total tackles and five tackles-for-loss. Mayo also defended two passes and recovered a fumble.

It was also a strong season for second-year outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who recorded 4.5 sacks including a strip-sack of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. That loose ball would be returned for a touchdown by Golden.

The struggling play of Alec Ogletree lowers this unit’s grade a bit. But overall, it wasn’t a terrible season for the team’s linebackers.

Grade: C+

Daniel Jones, Danny Dimes T-Shirt

Secondary

The weakest link of the Giants 2019 roster was a secondary that featured several youngsters. New York’s pass defense finished 28th in the NFL with 264.1 passing yards allowed-per-game.

It was a rough rookie season for first-round draft pick Deandre Baker, who allowed opposing quarterbacks to combine for seven touchdowns and 859 yards.

Janoris Jenkins, who spent 13 games with the Giants before his release prior to Week 15, defended 14 passes and grabbed four interceptions. Regardless, he allowed 822 yards and seven touchdowns.

Veteran safeties Michael Thomas and Antoine Bethea both finished in the top-10 on the team in tackles, but their lack of speed allowed for receivers to get by them often.

Overall, it was a miserable season for the Giants secondary. That end of the field will need a lot of work in order to show improvement in 2020.

Grade: F

Special Teams

On special teams, the Giants saw an excellent campaign from punter Riley Dixon. The veteran earned himself a three-year extension thanks to a 2019 season that saw him average 46.1 yards-per-punt. He pinned 29 of his 69 punts inside the 20-yard line and only saw 2.9% of his punts go for touchbacks.

While Dixon improved, it seemed Aldrick Rosas actually regressed. Coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2018, Rosas struggled mightily in his third year. His field goal percentage ranked 35th in the NFL at 70.6% as he converted on just 12 of his 17 attempts on the season.

Rosas also missed four extra-point attempts, finishing the year 35-for-39 in that department. His longest kick of the year came from just 45 yards out, having gone 0-for-1 on his lone kick from 50 yards or more. He also went 1-for-4 on kicks ranging from 40-49 yards.

Finally, the Giants return game did finish in the top half of the league in both average kick and punt-return yardage. New York finished fourth in the NFL with an average of 9.8 yards-per-punt return and 10th with an average of 23.5 yards-per-kick return.

If it weren’t for Rosas’s awful season, this group would be graded much higher. Instead, it stays slightly above average.

Grade: B-

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