Multiple New York Giants will look to bounce back in 2020 after undergoing struggle-filled 2019 campaigns.
The New York Giants‘ 2019 season was another year filled to the brim with issues, which resulted in a third consecutive playoff-less campaign. From poor play on the defensive end to struggles within the offensive line to weak coaching decisions, this past season was a year Big Blue would like to forget.
An additional negative was the fact that multiple players who were expected to grow actually regressed a little. Or, at least, stayed stagnant. The following four young players simply didn’t meet their standards, and will thus look to bounce back in 2020.
Let’s take a look at each of these individuals and figure out what went wrong.
DL B.J. Hill
As a rookie in 2018, B.J. Hill emerged as a reliable defensive lineman who could be an integral part of this organization for years to come. The third-round pick played all 16 games (12 starts) and racked up 48 combined tackles, six tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits, and 5.5 sacks. In the sack category, Hill’s total ranked second on the team.
The former NC State standout’s 2019 performance was anything but the same though. After starting five of the first six games, Hill didn’t see a start the remainder of the season. He ended up losing his spot completely when Leonard Williams came over from the New York Jets and played in the final eight games (five starts).
On top of that, his statistics were down from the previous year…big time. Hill combined for 36 total tackles and just one sack. The latter statistic is one he didn’t pick up until the Week 16 win over the Redskins.
If the Giants decide not to bring back Williams –whose contract expires this offseason — look for Hill to possibly step back into a starting role and work towards returning to his rookie-year form. But if New York does indeed re-sign the former Jet, Hill may reprise his role as a primary reserve lineman.
Hill could still find ways to see the field even as a backup though. Newly-hired coordinator Patrick Graham will likely run both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive sets. This means Hill could see a multitude of scenarios in which he may find some playing time.
WR Sterling Shepard
Through 16 games in 2018, Sterling Shepard caught 66 balls for 872 yards and four scores. Both his reception and yards totals were career-highs. This led to Shepard receiving a four-year, $41 million extension prior to 2019.
But his inaugural season after the extension was, unfortunately, one filled with setbacks. The fourth-year receiver was sidelined for six games due to multiple stints in the concussion protocol. It was the highest number of missed games he’s experienced in a single season.
Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones needs to develop a dominant connection with Shepard for the future. High-end chemistry between the two of them will go a long way for this primarily young offensive group. The two didn’t possess much time to build this on-field relationship in 2019, so 2020 must be the year it all comes together.
Shepard can still play, there’s no doubt about it. He likely would’ve surpassed numerous career-highs if he took part in all 16 matchups last year. In 10 games, the former Oklahoma Sooner caught 57 balls for 576 yards and a trio of touchdowns.
Sterling’s main goal will be to stay out of the trainer’s room in 2020. If he can do that, look for him to be a highly-productive target for Jones.
When’s the last time the Giants employed a consistently reliable left tackle? Regardless of the answer you provide, Big Blue supporters surely know the man currently in that spot doesn’t fit the aforementioned bill.
New York inked Nate Solder to a four-year, $62 million deal prior to the 2018 season. At the time, the contract made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league.
But since he put pen to paper, Solder hasn’t lived up to his financial standards…to say the least.
He’s stayed healthy, having played and started in all 32 games since becoming a Giant. The production isn’t there though, as he allowed eight and 12.5 sacks in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Solder additionally committed four penalties for 30 yards and four penalties for 40 yards in his first two seasons in East Rutherford, also respectively.
If the Giants decide to select an offensive tackle in the first round of the draft — such as Alabama’s Jedrick Wills or Georgia’s Andrew Thomas — a competition may be held for the left tackle spot. That means Big Blue may indeed switch Solder to the opposite side of the line.
But if Solder reprises the starting left tackle role, he must improve. The Giants could do great things with this young and talented offense. But overall, it starts with Solder and the front five, a group that allowed 43 total sacks last year (tied for 19th in the NFL).
RB Saquon Barkley
And last, but certainly not least, soon-to-be third-year running back Saquon Barkley.
People may ask, why is Barkley on this list? He was a 1000-yard rusher who managed to miss just three games from a high ankle sprain, an injury that could’ve forced him to miss a whole lot more.
But if you saw the fantastic on-field production Barkley was able to put together in 2018, you’d realize how disappointing this past season was for the young back.
Slowed down by that ankle injury — which he played through for much of the year despite hardly admitting it was an issue — Barkley failed to reach 100 rushing yards in eight straight contests. Poor performances included the Week 3 win in Tampa Bay — when he went down with the injury — along with the Week 10 loss to the Jets. Barkley conjured up just one yard on 13 carries in that matchup with the Giants’ crosstown rivals.
If it wasn’t for the ankle, Barkley could’ve really built off his sensational rookie season, one where he led the league with 2,028 yards from scrimmage.
Just like Shepard, a large goal for the 2018 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year will be to stay out of the medical tent. If that can be done, Barkley could continue to be a leader in an offense now run by newly-hired coordinator Jason Garrett.