The New York Giants aren’t going to go down as having a good season this year. Yes, they still have two games left and could potentially win both, but the bad start to the season ensured that they didn’t seriously contend for the playoffs despite rebuilding the offensive line completely and gaining a new offensive star with the second overall pick in the draft.
But with the new year approaching, this is a good time to look back and see what went right for the Giants. The season as a whole was bad, but there were some bright spots that made it bearable.
The rise of Saquon Barkley
This is the most obvious one, so it’s the first thing listed here. When the Giants spent the number two overall pick on Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, there was a lot of concern that a quarterback would have been a better selection. Some believed that running backs aren’t valuable enough to draft that high, and that Barkley wouldn’t add enough to the offense to justify picking him rather than Sam Darnold.
Now, a lot of those concerns have been alleviated by Barkley’s meteoric rise, which has made him one of the best running backs in the league despite not even having a full season under his belt yet. Barkley all but has third place in the rushing standings wrapped up at this point, with two games to go. Only Ezekiel Elliot and Todd Gurley have more yards in the entire league, and both players are more experienced.
Elliot and Gurley also don’t have to play behind the much maligned Giants offensive line, which has stabilized a bit but still isn’t at the standard that would be expected of it after the overhaul during last offseason. If there’s one thing Giants fans should be glad for, it’s the fact that Saquon Barkley gives the team a versatile star to build around next year and in the future. Most likely, that rebuild process will involve changing up the offensive line some more, and giving Barkley better blocking to work with going forward.
Second half turnaround
It would have been easy for New York Giants fans to completely check out at the halfway mark of the season. The Giants only managed one win in he first half of the season and they had some very demoralizing losses that killed enthusiasm around the team.
The offense looked horrible against Dallas in week two, the season opener set the tone for later games when the offensive line practically didn’t show up to play, and a 34-13 loss to the Eagles caused the team’s record to drop to 1-5 and made even some of the most optimistic fans lose hope.
However, the second half of the season has been an improvement from this, giving the fans a better product to watch even if the team’s playoff hopes mostly died with the 1-7 start. So far, with two games left, the Giants have won four games and lost two during the season’s second half, and have a chance to add two more wins to their total by beating the Colts and the Cowboys.
Whether they win those games or not, recent weeks have been a drastic improvement over the earlier part of the season.
Building for the future
While the results haven’t always been the best, the Giants have laid some foundations this year for more success in the future. Saquon Barkley being drafted is an obvious example but there’s been other smart moves, too. Odell Beckham Jr. received a big extension to make sure that he’ll be a New York Giant for years to come. The midseason move for Jamon Brown paid off, helping the Giants solve their problem at right guard.
On defense, the Giants have also found players that can play a bigger role going forward. Defensive back Grant Haley came into the league undrafted and had to join the active roster from the practice squad, but has really proven why the Giants were smart to sign him following the draft. His small size hasn’t kept him from playing regularly during the later part of the season and making an impact, and it looks like he’ll have more of a role after gaining more experience.
The trade of Damon Harrison put more pressure on rookie B.J. Hill, but the third round draft pick has given the Giants first round value and is already one of the top tacklers on the team. The team’s third leading tackler is Curtis Riley, who is in his first year with the Giants after playing two years for the Titans. Riley’s performances have improved since joining the Giants, and Riley has also played in more games.
All of these players will have a greater future impact both next season and in the coming years, and while this season overall wasn’t a good one, certain players stepping up in their performances gives the Giants some hope for the future. They’re better than some of the NFL’s other rebuilding teams, after all.