The Giants entered the season with minimal expectations. None, really.
A new general manager and coaching staff were entering the building. The previous regime didn’t leave the team with much cash to spend in free agency. There were glaring question marks on the offensive side of the ball, including at quarterback.
And here we are. The Giants are headed to the NFC divisional round. They just won their first playoff game since Super Bowl XLVI. And now they have a date with the Eagles set for Saturday in Philadelphia.
It has been remarkable turnaround in just a few short months, led by general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll. And everything around the franchise has changed.
The defense. The Giants hired Wink Martindale to be the defensive coordinator after Patrick Graham left for the Raiders last offseason. Given Martindale’s blitz-heavy, man-heavy scheme, there were concerns regarding the young Giants secondary after the team dumped cornerback James Bradberry.
But this unit has kept the team in various games all season long despite the Giants’ limited offense. While the secondary has kept its head above water and did so even without safety Xavier McKinney and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson for over a month, the pass rush has been stellar. The Giants are getting a great return on investment with rookie outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux and Dexter Lawrence has morphed into one of the NFL’s more talented defensive tackles.
The Giants’ defense was a huge reason for Sunday’s massive playoff victory over the Vikings. Big Blue allowed Minnesota to convert on just four of 10 third-down conversions and limited the Vikings to only 61 rushing yards.
Saquon Barkley. This was supposed to be Barkley‘s final year with the Giants. After three straight injury-plagued seasons and the hire of a new general manager that didn’t draft the polarizing running back, it was clear the young back was on his way out. He was to play out the fifth year of his rookie deal before testing the murky waters of free agency.
But a lot has changed over the last few months. Barkley didn’t miss a single game due to injury all year and is looking like his sensational rookie-year self again.
During that 2018 campaign, Barkley rushed for 1,307 yards while leading the league with 2,028 total yards from scrimmage in 16 games. This year, in 16 games, Barkley set a career-high with 1,312 rushing yards, a mark that was fourth in the NFL.
Now, a guy who was essentially on his way out of East Rutherford might be returning to the team by way of the franchise tag or a new contract. And it’s all because of the show he was able to put on in 2022.
Daniel Jones. Between the injuries, turnovers, the hire of a new GM, and that same GM passing on the fifth-year option, it was clear this was Daniel Jones’ potential final season in blue.
The Giants didn’t have much of a choice but to enter 2022 with him, but the belief was that he would continue to struggle, the Giants would struggle as a team, and then a rookie would replace Jones in 2023.
It’s safe to say that’s not how it played out.
Jones has been tremendous this season, leading the Giants to their first playoff berth and winning record in six years.
He’s stayed healthy and missed no games due to injury for the first time in his career. He set career-highs in completion rate (67.2%), passing yards (3,205), quarterback rating (92.5), rushing yards (708), and rushing touchdowns (seven). He also turned the ball over eight times, a new career-low. Jones committed 23, 16, and 10 turnovers respectively from 2019-21.
Everyone was ready to write him off in August, and rightfully so. He was coming off an injury-plagued 2021 season and wasn’t showing any ability to lead this franchise.
And in January, coming off a great regular season and playoff victory in which he threw for 301 yards and rushed for another 78, Jones is gearing up for a potential new contract. And the Giants should absolutely give him one — a four-year deal, perhaps.
Follow ESNY on Twitter @elitesportsny