Saquon Barkley

Taking a look at the many issues the New York Giants must fix coming off another losing season, whether they make the playoffs or not.

Ryan Honey

It’s been a strange year, and with that abnormality comes the New York Giants potentially making the postseason as a 6-10 ballclub. Yes, you read that right.

A team that hasn’t participated in playoff football since January 2017 may indeed find itself in the postseason in its first year with head coach Joe Judge.

Unfortunately, an overwhelming reason as to why the Giants are still alive heading into Week 17 has to do with the putridness that’s surrounding the NFC East division. The Eagles (4-10-1) were just eliminated while the Cowboys and Washington (both 6-9) are also on the doorstep of a playoff berth.

What does this all mean?

Well, the Giants may advance to January football but would still possess the issues they’ve endured from four consecutive losing seasons. A potential playoff team will thus need to resolve those lingering problems, and what better time to do so than at the beginning of a brand new calendar year?

A calendar year that’s, hopefully, much better than the current one.

1. Draft a wide receiver in the first round

I understand you’re not supposed to do this and that it usually makes more sense to wait until the second round, at the earliest, to address this position.

But the Giants receiving corps has provided no help for Daniel Jones this year that it’s evident they must draft a wideout when their top pick arrives.

Needless to say, the Giants employ no true No. 1 receiver on the roster — neither Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, nor Darius Slayton is that type of player.

The numbers are underwhelming and what you would expect.

Shepard is averaging 49.5 yards per game with a 72.5% catch rate while Slayton is averaging 48.6 yards per game with a 52.2% catch rate. Shepard’s season-high in receiving yardage is 77 while Slayton has surpassed the 100-yard mark just twice (and hasn’t since Week 5).

Tate, on the other hand, possesses a 32.3 yard-per-game rate with a 67.3% catch rate and season-highs of just five receptions and 47 yards. And amid a potential out in his four-year contract after this season, his future in East Rutherford is in question.

If the Giants lose this upcoming Week 17 matchup with the Cowboys and miss out on the playoffs, they’d be looking at a top-10 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. If you really want to acquire a playmaker for Jones (which he’ll absolutely require in order to effectively and efficiently develop), you go after someone like LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, or Alabama’s DeVonta Smith. The latter-most individual was just named the AP College Football Player of the Year.

Some may want a corner or edge rusher with the top pick, but the passing game has been one of the team’s weak points in 2020. The Giants aren’t going to replace their quarterback, we know that, so they must alter something within the receiving corps.

2. Upgrade the cornerback spot opposite James Bradberry

The Giants have started a number of guys at the outside cornerback position opposite Pro Bowler James Bradberry, mostly going with young defensive back Isaac Yiadom. And while Yiadom is improving, he’s not all that talented. He wasn’t even originally supposed to be the starter and was only traded for amid the DeAndre Baker situation.

Yiadom has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 62.7% of throws for 487 yards, six touchdowns, a 13.2 yards-per-completion rate, and a 122.6 rating — not ideal numbers, to say the least.

The Giants do indeed possess alternative options for that spot, most notably Darnay Holmes and Julian Love. Nontheless, the coaching staff seemingly prefers the former to play in the slot and the latter to be more of a situational safety. There have been games in which Love has been on the field for over 90% of the defensive snaps and other games in which he’s played 30% or fewer.

If the Giants don’t draft a receiver in the first round, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II — the top corner in the upcoming draft and this year’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year — could be an option. Clemson’s Derion Kendrick — a 2020 first-team All-ACC selection — may additionally be available early in the second round.

The organization is better off utilizing the draft for this issue, given most of the top free-agent corners in 2021 will be at least 30 years old.

3. Extend Leonard Williams’ contract

Leonard Williams is playing under the franchise tag in his first full season with the Giants.

If the organization wants to get more than just a year and a half out of him and progress towards a winning ballclub (which is obviously the ultimate goal), Big Blue should extend his contract.

Not extending him would essentially make the 2019 trade for him (the Giants sent a 2020 third-round pick and 2021 fifth-round pick to the New York Jets) a waste. Williams is playing the best football of his life and is the team’s top pass rusher even as a defensive lineman in a 3-4 set. He leads the Giants in sacks with 8.5 (the next-most is 4.0) and quarterback hits with 25 (the next-most is nine).

A 2020 performance that stands out is when Williams recorded 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hits against Seattle in the absence of the team’s top four edge rushers from the beginning of the season. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines were both out for the year, Kyler Fackrell was on injured reserve, and Markus Golden had been traded prior to that game.

Putting consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback is so crucial in today’s NFL; Williams certainly provides the Giants with a notable boost in that area of the game and could continue to do so for years to come.

4. Figure out the Jason Garrett situation

This one is pretty simple: figure out what to do with the putrid job that Jason Garrett has done in his first year as Big Blue’s offensive coordinator.

Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t, and the numbers are horrific for the Garrett-led group.

Entering the regular-season finale, the Giants are 31st in scoring (17.1 average points), 31st in total offense (297.2 average yards), 29th in passing (187.7 average yards), and 20th in rushing (109.5 average yards).

Not to mention, they’re 27th in scoring percentage (rate of offensive drives that concluded with points) and 28th in net yards per drive.

Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones additionally looks worse than he did during his 2019 rookie campaign, and Garrett is certainly a reason for the hindered development.

Jones has thrown just nine touchdowns to nine picks with 208.8 yards per game, 6.4 yards per attempt, and a measly 78.9 rating.

Garrett also doesn’t run the high-tempo, aggressive offense that you see a lot of in today’s game, which you could tell just by looking at each of the top three receivers’ yards-per-target rates. Slayton is averaging 7.9 yards per target, while Tate and Shepard respectively sit at 7.5 and 6.8 yards per target.

Simply speaking, Garrett isn’t scheming enough down-field plays.

The Giants may need to execute a one-and-done with the veteran coach after this season. Patience can’t be implemented, given this eager fanbase and the fact that this team hasn’t really won since 2016. There’s currently a major problem with New York’s offense, and the organization must fix it pronto.