New York Giants
Last year: 4-12, third place in NFC East. Missed the playoffs for the third straight year.
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Coach: Joe Judge (first year).
Dates with the Birds: Oct. 22 at Philadelphia; Nov. 15 at East Rutherford, N.J.
Top offensive players: QB Daniel Jones (284-459 passing,, 3,027 yards, 24 TDs, 12 INT), RB Saquon Barkley (217-1,003 rushing, 6 TDs; 52 receptions, 438 yards, 2 TDs); WR Darius Slayton (48-740, 8 TDs); TE Evan Engram (44- 467, 3 TDs).
Top defensive players: LB Blake Martinez (155 tackles with Green Bay); DE Dexter Lawrence (38 tackles, 2.5 sacks); LB Markus Golden (72 tackles, 10 sacks); S Jabrill Peppers (76 tackles, 2 INT), CB James Bradberry (65 tackles, 3 INT with Carolina).
What they are saying: Judge, a Lansdale Catholic graduate, will have plenty of challenges in his first season. As with most teams, the key will be the development at quarterback of Jones in his second season.
Giants quarterbacks were sacked 43 times, including 38 of Jones, so the offensive line has to improve. There was a lot of criticism when Jones was selected sixth overall, but he had an impressive rookie season. He must take care of the ball better. Jones led the NFL with 18 fumbles (of which only three were not lost). No wonder the Giants were tied for last in the NFL with a minus-17 turnover ratio.
Besides Jones’ development, the key will be how the offensive line fares. Left tackle Nate Solder has opted not to play this year over COVID-19 concerns, so first-round pick (No. 4 overall) Andrew Thomas of Georgia is the Giants’ top tackle. Even without Solder, the line has some interesting players with the addition of guard Kevin Zeitler (acquired from Cleveland) and the continued development of guard Will Hernandez. If third-round pick Matt Peart starts at the other tackle, it will be an awfully young set of bookends with good potential. But can they get up to speed this year?
Jones has plenty of weapons. Barkley is among the best all-purpose players in the NFL. Slayton came out of nowhere to be a viable receiving threat. Engram has always had great potential but must prove he can stay healthy.
If the line can improve, then the Giants could have a much better offense.
There are also questions of the other side of the ball after New York finished 30th in scoring defense, allowing 28.2 points per game. Like most teams, the Giants need a better pass rush. They were 22nd in sacks with 36.
Former Eastern High and Rutgers star Loan Ryan signed as a free agent Aug. 31 after playing the last three seasons for the Tennessee Titans. Last year he had 113 tackles and four interceptions. Ryan likely will play free safety, but he has the versatility to help at corner. His veteran presence should we welcome.