The New York Giants have a number of questions they’ll need to address in order to return to their winning ways in 2020.
Three wins. Five wins. Four wins. That’s how the 2017, 2018, and 2019 campaigns respectively turned out for the New York Giants. It’s not an era to remember in the long and storied history of this franchise by any means.
Nonetheless, the detrimental string of years has a chance to stop at three in 2020. The Giants have a new coaching staff in place, a multitude of young and talented offensive weapons, and a top-10 draft pick they could use to greatly bolster the roster.
The ultimate goal is to gain significant success for the first time since 2016. But in order to do that, Big Blue will need to address a number of questions throughout the 2020 season.
1. Will the offensive line come together?
The Giants have made numerous moves over the past few years in order to improve a notoriously struggling offensive line. But regardless of all the acquisitions, the group just hasn’t gained any sort of chemistry.
These moves include inking an underachieving Nate Solder to an overly expensive deal (four years, $62 million), drafting Will Hernandez, trading for Kevin Zeitler, and signing Mike Remmers. Big Blue also signed Patrick Omameh to a three-year, $15 million deal in March 2018 only to cut him eight months later.
All of the moves have led to a group that allowed 47 sacks in 2018 (tied for 22nd in the league) and 43 sacks in 2019 (tied for 19th).
Some thought the offensive line actually improved from 2018 to 2019. But despite finishing better when it comes to the aforementioned statistic, they were arguably just as bad. They only seemed better because they were finally blocking for a quarterback (Daniel Jones) who could be athletic and escape the pocket. Thus, they were bailed out more on busted assignments than they would be with Eli Manning under center.
Fans are growing impatient, as a successful offense begins with a dominant offensive line. If the Giants could just piece that together in 2020, the young talent alongside the so-called “hog mollies” will thrive.
2. Will the pass rush finally be elite again?
Each of the organization’s four Super Bowl teams all had one glaring aspect in common: a dominant pass rush.
From the 1986 and 1990 seasons with Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, and Pepper Johnson, to the 2007 and 2011 campaigns with Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Osi Umenyiora, each team knew how to get to the quarterback early and often.
In the last few years, that hasn’t been the case with this ballclub…to say the least. In 2018, the Giants tied for 30th with 30 total sacks before finishing 22nd with 36 sacks this past year. It’s led to a number of issues, such as the problems within the secondary. Big Blue’s defensive backfield allowed 252.8 (23rd in the league) and 264.1 (28th) passing yards per game in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
The struggles in and around the defense start with the failures of the pass rush. And in order to fix this problem, the Giants need to make a move in free agency, whether that’s bringing a familiar face in Markus Golden back or inking a deal with any of the big-name free agents.
Per Over The Cap, the Giants currently possess nearly $73 million in cap space. They must use some of this on a talented pass rusher (my pick would be Golden) and work towards improving that department. It’s a move that needs to be made. Because if it isn’t, expect the Giants defense to struggle again in 2020.
3. Is Joe Judge ready to be a head coach?
The Giants went with an unpopular approach when it came to their head coaching change this past January. After missing out on guys like Matt Rhule (Panthers) and Mike McCarthy (Cowboys), New York hired the mostly unknown Joe Judge.
The 38-year-old has spent time with Alabama and the New England Patriots as a special teams assistant and coordinator. Thus, he possesses crucial references from two of the best in the game in Bill Belichick and Nick Saban.
But in spite of the fact that he’s learned from the best, Judge has never head coached at any level and doesn’t carry a proven offensive nor defensive philosophy.
So with that said, fans have no idea what they’re going to get out of him. He seemed to sell a lot of people during his introductory press conference in January, preaching concepts such as work ethic and a commitment to fundamentals.
But success at the podium isn’t going to lead to success in the standings. There are still a ton of questions surrounding the newest head coach of the Giants, most of which he’ll have to address next season.
4. Will the Giants undergo another injury-stricken season?
Part of the Giants’ woes in 2019 had to do with the injury bug that most certainly took a significant bite out of their roster. Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Rhett Ellison, Evan Engram, Jabrill Peppers, and Alec Ogletree combined to miss 36 games.
Barkley only missed three matchups, but it was clear the high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 3 slowed him down for much of the year. He failed to reach the century mark in eight consecutive games and wasn’t the type of offensive weapon he was during his rookie campaign.
Even Jones showed that he’s prone to injuries, missing a pair of games due to a mild high ankle sprain suffered in Week 13. Despite the fact that it was a short period of time, Giants fans aren’t exactly used to that. In 16 years, Manning never missed a single game due to injury. This contributed to his 210 consecutive starts from 2004-17.
Injuries are essentially a luck-of-the-draw type of situation, and hopefully the Giants luck out in those regards in 2020, especially on the offensive side of the ball. New York needs each of its young weapons to remain healthy in order to maximize the potential of that group.
5. Can Daniel Jones lead this offense to success in year No. 2?
In recent years, a quarterback’s second season is where things start to click.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz likely would’ve been the MVP in his sophomore campaign (2017) had he not torn his ACL in Week 14. Patrick Mahomes won the league MVP in his second season in 2018. Even Mitch Trubisky of the Bears, who people like to criticize, made the Pro Bowl in his second year after tossing seven touchdowns to seven picks in his rookie campaign.
Can Daniel Jones follow suit?
We already saw Jones put together a promising rookie campaign, throwing for 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 appearances (12 starts). But next season will be huge for the young quarterback.
He’ll possess the opportunity to move past the turnover issues that set him back in his inaugural pro season. He’ll also look to prove he can be the leader that this offense — and organization — needs for the future.
Jones will no longer have the “he’s a rookie” excuse tied to him. Year No. 2 will be extremely important. Is he up for the challenge?