The Giants enter their Week 9 bye with a 6-2 record. Just like everyone predicted.
This team was supposed to be one of the NFL’s worst as it entered the first year of a long and overdue rebuild. An abysmal record was the expectation, and so was an early draft pick to take a top quarterback prospect next offseason.
But at the midway point, that same team has one of the best records in the NFC.
This early surprise may alter some of the future plans, and it surely bodes various questions: What will the Giants do at quarterback next year? What does Saquon Barkley’s future look like? Should the team have been buyers at the trade deadline?
Some thoughts as Big Blue finally has a weekend off:
Jones’ future. Back in April, general manager Joe Schoen passed on Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option. The young quarterback entered a make-or-break 2022 season — many expected him to struggle, the Giants to stink, and the team to part ways with him for a rookie in 2023.
But eight games in, Jones has managed to go 6-2 without much of a supporting cast. While Barkley has stayed on the field and looked like his rookie-year self, the team isn’t sporting much talent at the wide receiver and tight end positions. And Jones is somehow finding ways to manage the offense and is playing clutch football, having executed five fourth-quarter comebacks already this season.
So what does Jones’ future look like? Is Schoen going to franchise tag him, which Over The Cap projects to be around $31.5 million? Is he going to earn an extension that locks him in for multiple years but pays him an average value that’s less than the franchise tag?
Honestly, it’s too early to tell. Head coach Brian Daboll and coordinator Mike Kafka have coached to Jones’ strengths and the young signal-caller is using his legs effectively. But during those huge late-season games and playoff matchups when you’re facing top quarterbacks, you must excel through the air. And right now, Jones is averaging just under 175.0 passing yards per game.
Give him the final nine games (plus any possible playoff matchups), see how he performs down the stretch, and then decide on the future.
Barkley’s future. We touched on this earlier in the week — the Giants shouldn’t retain Barkley even if he impresses and stays healthy the rest of the year.
It’s clear neither the franchise tag nor a multi-year deal would make sense.
OTC projects the running back franchise tag to be around $12.6 million. An extension, on the other hand, could pay Barkley an even higher average annual value. If he has a strong second half, he’ll likely want to be one of the league’s highest-paid backs. Currently, that’s San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey, who makes just over $16 million per year.
Paying Barkley anything in the range of $12-16 million annually would be a waste. Especially when there will be other roster spots and possible extensions to address next offseason.
Slayton’s redemption. Kadarius Toney is now a Chief, Sterling Shepard tore his ACL, and Kenny Golladay (knee) last played in Week 4.
The Giants have needed one of their reserve receivers to step up, and Darius Slayton has been that guy. The fourth-year wideout was buried on the depth chart entering the year but has started the last three games. He and Jones have a connection dating back to either’s 2019 rookie season and we’re finally seeing that chemistry come back to life in 2022.
Slayton just caught his first touchdown of the year in the Week 7 win over Jacksonville.
Daboll’s heroics. Rookie head coach Brian Daboll already deserves the NFL Coach of the Year Award. Despite a true lack of talent on either side of the ball, Daboll has outcoached the opposition on numerous occasions and has been a terrific game manager.
He and Kafka are getting more out of Jones and Barkley than former head coach Joe Judge and coordinator Jason Garrett ever did. And they’re still finding ways to win even with various injuries on offense.
Let’s additionally acknowledge the job Wink Martindale has done. The Giants’ defensive coordinator has maximized the talents of guys like defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson and Fabian Moreau, and safety Julian Love. All have played significant roles in the strong start. Currently, New York’s defense is allowing only 19.6 points per game (tied for seventh in the NFL).
Trade deadline recap. The NFL trade deadline has come and gone, and the Giants came away with two draft picks but no new receiver for a possible playoff run.
The two picks were from the Toney trade, which was an incredible move by Schoen. The rookie GM acquired third- and sixth-round picks for an injury-prone receiver with possible commitment issues. Toney has been a wild card since entering the league and there’s no confirming he’ll do a 180 in Kansas City. And the Giants were somehow able to land a legitimate return.
Schoen also made the right choice not buying at the deadline. Despite having already won six games, the rebuild is still on and the Giants still need to retain draft picks. They must cherish the future, not mortgage it by giving away draft capital for a quick fix.