The Giants offense, at least on paper, is improved. But that doesn’t change the fact numerous individuals will need to step up.
Enhanced talent within the group of skill players; a hopefully developed offensive line; the second year in the same system led by head coach Joe Judge and coordinator Jason Garrett.
The New York Giants offensive unit should experience a superior 2021 season in comparison to last year when the group finished 31st in both total yards and points.
But that means there are little-to-no excuses for some of Big Blue’s players on that side of the ball. The pressure is officially on, and the following individuals may be undergoing make-or-break years for their current organization in 2021.
OG Will Hernandez
The 2018 second-round selection possesses the opportunity to bounce back in 2021 after losing his starting spot in 2020 by the way of an emerging Shane Lemieux, who started the final nine games for New York at left guard.
Some signs, such as the Giants’ seemingly preferred method of implementing continuity into their offensive line, point toward Will Hernandez starting at the guard spot opposite Lemieux — improvements must be made though.
Following an impressive 2018 rookie season, Hernandez has regressed. He recorded 58.4 and 58.1 Pro Football Focus grades respectively in 2019 and 2020 after a strong 67.9 grade came in his inaugural NFL campaign.
Now’s the time to prove he’s a long-term solution on the interior of this offensive line.
TE Evan Engram
This one’s obvious.
After the fifth-year option was picked up last year, Evan Engram is entering the final season of his current rookie deal. The Giants seem to be high on him and long for him to be an integral component of their offense, but the past on-field mistakes loom large.
Engram recorded a whopping 11 drops last year for a drop rate of 10.1% — those types of statistics won’t fly again.
The 2017 first-rounder carries the potential to be one of the more athletic and versatile tight ends in this entire league. He must prove that in 2021.
WR Sterling Shepard
Sterling Shepard is entering his third season since inking a four-year extension in 2019. It’s interesting to note, however, his dead cap charge drops from $10.025 million to $4 million from 2021 to 2022.
If he doesn’t stay healthy or put together consistent on-field performances that boost the confidence this organization possesses in him, the Giants could give him the Golden Tate treatment and make him a cap casualty heading into 2022.
RB Saquon Barkley
After a sensational 2018 season in which Saquon Barkley earned his inaugural Pro Bowl bid and the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, fans believed they had their long-term running back of the future.
But injuries have taken a toll on the former first-rounder ever since. Barkley missed three games due to a high ankle sprain in 2019 and was slowed down for much of that year before sitting out 14 games last season because of a torn ACL.
The potential to be one of the top backs in the league is obviously present, but the talent cannot be portrayed when the injuries occur.
The Giants picked up his fifth-year option, so Saquon is signed through at least 2022. But if he can’t return to his 2018 form, is providing him a base salary of $7.2 million in 2022 and a subsequent long-term contract worth it? Especially when the true value of the running back position has diminished in recent years?
QB Daniel Jones
Finally, we have the most important position on the field.
Daniel Jones hasn’t undergone the most efficient development since entering the league, but you must take into account the exterior factors outside of his control that are playing a role in this hindered improvement.
Poor offensive line play during his 2019 rookie season followed by poor offensive line play for parts of 2020; a bad defense in 2019 that didn’t take much pressure off of him; an inconsistent slate of offensive weapons; having to learn the playbooks of two different coaching staffs during the first two years of his career.
It hasn’t been easy for DJ and it’s not entirely his fault, but for this coming season, it’s all changing.
The offensive line will (hopefully) continue to develop, the defense is much better than it once was, and for the first time in his career, Jones will be entering a second consecutive season with the same staff and offensive coordinator.
Not to mention, the Giants went out this offseason and acquired wideouts Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, and tight end Kyle Rudolph to provide notable assistance.
The ball is now in Jones’ court — time to show you were always the correct successor to Eli Manning.