It’s getting later in the season, and for many NFL teams, the playoffs are in sight. But some squads are already looking to next year. As each club is eliminated from the postseason, The Ringer will examine what went right, what went wrong, and where the franchise could go from here. Up next is the New York Giants, who saw their postseason chances snuffed out with a 31-13 loss to the Packers.
What Went Right
For a brief moment there, it looked like Daniel Jones might actually deserve his “Danny Dimes” nickname. In his first start—a tight 32-31 win against the Buccaneers—he passed for 336 yards and two touchdowns, and seemingly upended the art of quarterback evaluation in the process. His second start was a little shakier—he threw two picks—but the Giants beat Washington and moved to 2-2 on the season.
Of course, things have gone off the rails since then. After falling to the Packers on Sunday, the Giants have lost eight games in a row, and Jones has been up and down, to say the least. He has 20 total touchdowns, but is averaging just 6.4 passing yards per attempt. And he’s a turnover machine—he’s thrown 11 interceptions and fumbled 15 times, the highest number in the league. It’s almost Jameis Winstonesque: Jones has shown the ability to make big plays, but he won’t have a future in this league unless he can minimize his mistakes.
Jones’s performance against Green Bay was particularly ugly. He once again put the ball on the turf (though it was recovered by New York), and threw three interceptions, including two head-scratching picks that raise questions about his pro viability. This third-and-10 toss went straight to Packers corner Kevin King:
Daniel Jones had some snow in his eyes on this play. Throws an INT against the #Packerspic.twitter.com/ZW1VARnzCy— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 1, 2019
And this rocket on a third-and-18 in the fourth quarter went miles above Sterling Shepard’s hands and directly into the bread basket of Darnell Savage:
#Packers rookie 1st round pick Darnell Savage picks off #Giants rookie 1st round pick Daniel Jones.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 1, 2019
Jones threw another INT earlier.pic.twitter.com/BG7CxMOsLa
Despite these all-too-common mistakes, Jones has shown enough promise to excite Giants fans. Additionally, his connection with fellow rookie Darius Slayton is electric—the former fifth-round pick has caught five touchdowns this season. If Saquon Barkley can get back to being himself, this offense could hit the ground running in 2020. It will all depend on Jones’s development.
What Went Wrong
Make no mistake, New York is a thoroughly mediocre team in all phases of the game. The Giants came into Week 13 with the 25th-ranked offense and 27th-ranked defense by DVOA and few reasons to expect improvement this season. No one had this team penciled into a playoff spot entering the year, but even so, a few areas have been particularly disappointing.
First-round rookie corner DeAndre Baker has been a disaster. Though he’s had the starting job since Week 2, Baker is ranked no. 117 out of 118 cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus. He frequently shows a shocking lack of effort on routine plays:
Hargreaves benched/cut for lack of hustle.— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) November 12, 2019
Let's just say DeAndre Baker is lucky Bruce Arians isn't his coach: https://t.co/HLGlyEKRLS pic.twitter.com/ZiP8U91tWt
The Giants traded second-, fourth-, and fifth-round picks to move back into the first round to take Baker with the 30th overall pick. No player should be ruled a bust after 11 games, but Baker will need to make a seismic leap next season or he’ll be on his way out of New York in a hurry.
Then there’s Barkley, who hasn’t looked like himself all season. An ankle injury sidelined him for a few weeks, but even when healthy he hasn’t been able to get his motor going. He’s seen declines in yards per carry (3.9), rushing yards per game (57.6), and receiving yards per game (32.4) while recording just three total touchdowns. The decision to draft Barkley at no. 2 overall was met with criticism at the time, and now looks particularly bleak.
Like any young team, the Giants need their highly drafted young players to step up and look like the future of the franchise. So far, that isn’t happening.
Eli Manning is the team’s most notable free agent. He is, of course, almost certain to retire at the end of the season, and as he goes, an era of Giants football will come to an end.
As the franchise turns to a new chapter, the front office is clearly looking to rebuild the roster. Last offseason’s trades of Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon, combined with the decision to let Landon Collins walk in free agency, were the first steps in that process.
The Giants will likely be looking for a new offensive tackle, as current right tackle Mike Remmers is set to become a free agent this spring. Remmers signed a one-year “prove it” deal last offseason and has been mostly mediocre (he’s ranked no. 46 out of 73 tackles per PFF). He was a decent stopgap measure, but with a young, turnover-prone quarterback under center, the Giants would be wise to find someone better. Linebackers Markus Golden and David Mayo—who have started a combined 21 games this year—are also up for new deals, though neither will command big contracts. The Giants could move on from one or both of them.
They’ll also have to decide what to do with Leonard Williams. New York sent its 2020 third-round pick to the Jets to acquire the defensive lineman at the trade deadline, and Williams has proceeded to play only about a quarter of the team’s snaps since then. He looks just as disappointing for the Giants as he did for the other New York squad, and he’ll be a free agent after this season and could easily leave town. The Giants may not even want to keep him—doing so would also send their 2020 fourth-rounder to the Jets.
In total, Over the Cap projects the Giants to have more than $63 million in cap space this spring (the 12th most in the league). With virtually no impending free agents on the roster to re-sign, the Giants will have the flexibility to pursue big names and remodel their roster.
Outside of the picks they traded for Williams, the Giants have most of their draft capital in 2020 and should be in a position to add top-level talent with a first-round pick that could fall within the top five. With no quarterback need and plenty of roster holes, New York can employ the “Best Player Available” draft strategy. Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young could help the team get back the vaunted pass rush that powered New York to two Super Bowl runs this century, but the Giants may not be picking high enough to select him. Other targets include Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas and Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy.