Overall: So will the real Giants please stand up! Are they the guys that bumbled their way to a disastrous 0-3 start in one of the easy parts of the schedule to open the year, or the group that has gone 3-3 during arguably the toughest part of the schedule? The simple answer is that there is no simple answer and we’ll find out more over the final two months of the schedule. That’s why they play the games!
Offense: There were hopes that the offense would become a major force this season. The Giants focused on upgrading the skill positions in the off-season, while it was hoped that the young line would be better with an added year of experience. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened so far, in large part, because the Giants simply can’t keep a healthy unit on the field. That said, the offense hasn’t been terrible; its also certainly improved from last year when it ranked in the 30s in just about every important statistical category. Through the first half of this season, for example, the Giants rank 21st in the league in total offense (one spot ahead of Green Bay) and 23rd in points, but the expectation was that it would be closer to a top 10 unit.
Quarterback: Let’s start the discussion by saying unequivocally that Daniel Jones ain’t going anywhere at the end of the year, or anytime soon for that matter. In fact, he’s been far and away the best player on the offense so far this fall. And (cue the squawking!), he’s probably already as good as his predecessor. Despite not having anywhere near a full complement of receivers (nor that matter much of a running game or competent offensive line in front him), Jones is completing 65% of his passes this fall, a mark Eli surpassed only once on his story career, an is on pace to finish the year with just 10 interceptions, a number Eli never, ever did under. And did we mention that he also led the team in rushing through most of the first half of the campaign.
The one number that still hasn’t come for Jones are the TD passes. He’s on pace to have 16 this year, but that’s basically about half where you’d like to be, although the fact the Giants right now don’t have a healthy deep target clearly isn’t helping. Indeed, let’s also be clear that nothing that Jones has done to date is elite, but you can see there is something there and if the Giants could just provide him some healthy receivers and a functional line we’d have a better idea what he can, and can’t do down the road. Grade: B
Running backs: This is one of several positions that you’d really like to give an incomplete grade because of the injuries. The Giants, of course, had no idea what they would get from Saquon Barclay this fall as he was coming off a torn ACL. And it was pretty obvious that he still wasn’t confident making cuts in traffic early in the season. But ever so slowly you could see the explosion in space coming back, but just when you thought he was back to form he went down with a rather ugly sprained ankle and hasn’t played the last month.
Meanwhile, Devontae Booker has done a more than workmanlike job since stepping in for #26 as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield. Workmanlike, though, is the operative word as you aren’t going many big plays out of Booker and no teams that the Giants play lose sleep at night scheming how to slow him down. Kudos also to FB Elijhaa Penny, most games the only other active back on the roster, who has done a nice job as a short yardage back and even contributed some big runs in the win over the Raiders. Grade C+
Receivers: This is another group that is really hard to grade because of the run of injuries. Indeed, in only one game this fall were the Giants top wideouts – Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney – all available to start. In fact, there were more games in which none of the three was available. It is also hard to fathom that Toney is the Giants leading receiver this year, as it just doesn’t seem like he’s played all that much to date, because he hasn’t! Fact is that when the top receivers have played, they have made plays, but again the operative word is ‘when’. When they have played the three combined for 79 receptions for almost 1,000 yards. They also contributed 51 first down catches, but have only 1 measly TD reception among the three. One can only hope that everyone gets a chance to heal during the bye week, and then maybe we’ll finally get a chance to see what we actually have in the rebuilt offense.
If there has been one real disappointment in the receiver corps its maybe Darius Slayton who has been pretty healthy to date, but has caught less than 50% of his targets to date and hasn’t contributed anything in the way of big plays. Grade: C-
Tight ends: With the WR corps beset by injuries, one would have thought the Giants might look a little more to their TEs in the passing game. However, whether it’s the players, the scheme or more injuries it’s been kind of a meh group. Evan Engram, for example, has seemed like something of an afterthought most games. He’s been targeted 4-5 times per game, but that’s barely half what one might normally from a pass-catching TE in an offense shy on legit threats at WR. Meanwhile, Kyle Rudolph has also been okay, contributing 16 receptions, including 1 for a TD, but those numbers are well below his career averages. And speaking of afterthoughts, let’s spare a thought for Kaden Smith, who brings new meaning to the concept. Smith, who’s actually a very good receiver who has been on the field for roughly 1/3 of the Giants offensive snaps this fall, has been targeted 3 times. That not PER game, that’s all season. Seems like kind of waste of a guy who likely is almost never going to be covered. Grade: C
Offensive line: Gosh; what a mess! The Giants ended up playing much of the first half of the campaign without their best two offensive linemen – LT Andrew Thomas and C Nick Gates – while they are currently on their 5th (or maybe 6th; we’ve lost count) starting LG. At least they may get Thomas back after the bye; of course, the news on Gates, the really promising former undrafted free agent, is far less promising as his injury is at best career-threatening. Indeed, we are still trying to figure out who’s most to blame for his loss: John Mara or Dave Gettleman.
In the end, the Giants most consistent lineman this year has probably been RG Will Hernandez, but he’s a free agent at the end of the year and will be tough to resign him at market value this winter, if they indeed even want him back. However, being the most consistent guy on this OL, isn’t necessarily a stretch. Indeed, one could have a pretty good argument with oneself which has been worse: the interior or the OTs. In fact, for much of the season, the interior OL was generally regarded as the most problematic, but especially with Andrew Thomas sidelined the OT situation has had its own share of concern. Even in the win over the Raiders this weekend, for example, the offensive game planners clearly had little confidence that OTs Nate Solder and Matt Peart could block Vegas DEs Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue and Carl Nassib, although at the same time, it’s worth noting that after taking the lead on the Xavier McKinney pick-6 to start the second half, the Giants never trailed and really didn’t have to force, or risk, anything.
It’s also worth noting, that while the Giants’ offensive line has been kind of a chaos theory in real time this fall, in terms of actual production, they have actually been close to middle of the pack. This year, for example, the Giants are 23rd in the league in rushing yards per attempt, despite almost no Saquon, while they are a respectable enough 20th in sacks allowed.
And despite all the issues on the offensive front so far this fall, nobody anywhere in football is saying that ‘gee, if the Giants just had a better OL, they wouldn’t be 3-6’. People around the league are saying that the Giants could be 4-5, or maybe even 5-4, if they any kind of a pass rush at all. You’ll also hear people pointing to the rash of injuries among the skill position core group as being a major factor; the o-line not so much. Grade: C-