New York Giants co-owner John Mara stated that resources would be allocated toward the offense this off-season during his postseason press conference.
The Giants didn’t expect their offense to be so lackluster in 2020, as Saquon Barkley suffered a torn ACL in week two against the Chicago Bears, and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was left trying to piece things together ever since. The Giants finished with the 31st ranked offense in points per game, averaging just 17.5. Over the final four games of the season, they scored single digits in two of them.
The offense desperately needs assistance, and if the Giants are committed to Daniel Jones as their quarterback, leaving him with patchwork weapons simply won’t get it done. They need to take advantage of his rookie contract, and as he heads into his third year, this is a make or break season for the former Duke star.
Let’s take a look at how the Giants can allocate resources this off-season to help bolster their weakest link.
Five-step plan to solve the New York Giants’ offense:
1.) Replace Jason Garrett
It is hard to fathom that the Giants actually got worse on offense when compared to 2019. Former head coach Pat Shurmur was also calling plays, and as we know, it was very predictable and lacked spark.
Garrett managed to underwhelm even further, as the passing game was one of the worst in the NFL and Jones threw just 11 touchdowns after recording 24 in his rookie season. Some could make the argument that Jones actually took a step backward in his development, aside from his pocket awareness and ability to protect the football.
Garrett’s offense lacked creativity regarding route concepts and beating man coverage. The second half of the season saw opposing defenses play plenty of cover 1 and cover 0, manning up across the board against the Giants’ receivers. They simply didn’t respect them enough to be them deep or create enough separation to make a difference.
I would like the Giants to find an OC that focuses on verticals and pushing receivers downfield. In addition, I would like to see Saquon Barkley utilized more as a receiver, like Alvin Kamara or Austin Ekeler. One option that comes to mind is former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn. Lynn is a former running back himself and used Ekeler to perfection. Ultimately, if the Giants can maximize Barkley’s footprint on the field, their offense will be significantly better. Also, with the expectation they will inject more help at wide receiver this off-season, they could take a major step forward with a downfield play-caller that stretches the field.
Some have made the argument that for Jones to learn his third offense in three seasons is negative. However, when you look at how inefficient the unit was this past season, it can’t get much worse. Again, the Giants barely manage more points than the New York Jets, a historically bad team.
2.) Draft Devonta Smith/Jaylen Waddle
If the Giants want to take a more conservative approach to fill the receiver spot with more talent, they could look to the draft as a potential supplement. Keeping the cap hit down on a star pass-catcher is ideal, especially since they need to find room for Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson. Draft prospects Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle both represent stellar players who can help the Giants in 2021. Smith is a nimble yet elusive receiver who can win in man-coverage and push the ball downfield. Waddle is a more refined slot receiver with elite speed and elusive route running.
Depending on step three of the plan, the Giants should have a better idea of what they are looking for on offense. However, it is possible that Smith doesn’t fall to the 11th pick, but this upcoming draft is flush with receivers, and as we saw last year, teams might wait a little bit longer so they can land a high upside player later in the first round.
3.) Sign a big-body WR like Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin
Even if the Giants do select a wide receiver in the draft, I believe signing a free agent is also necessary. Given the rate of injuries in the NFL and Daniel Jones quickly approaching the second half of his rookie deal, the Giants need to do everything they can to give him ample weapons on Sundays. Receivers like Kenny Golladay or Chris Godwin represents stellar options, as they both have big bodies they can make catches in traffic.
Golladay had a tumultuous 2020 season, playing in just five games, hauling in 20 catches for 338 and two scores. In 2019, however, he earned a Pro Bowl appearance, recording 1,190 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He is a tall, 6-foot-4 receiver who is nicknamed “Babytron,” after future Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson.
Given his down year, Kenny might be willing to sign a one-year, prove-it deal with the Giants, which could lead to a massive payday after the cap increases in 2022.
Godwin is another fantastic receiver who primarily works out of the slot. If the Giants are looking for a boundary option, Golladay is likely the better choice, but Godwin offers above-average route running and consistent hands.
This past year, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Godwin hauled in 65 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s only 24 years old, so Godwin is still in the middle of his prime and still has room for growth. At 6-foot-1, he’s not as tall as Golladay and might even be a bit more expensive based on his healthy this past season.
4.) Utilizing Saquon Barkley differently
As we know, Saquon Barkley is capable of breaking a play open at any given moment. It will take him a few weeks to get acclimated to the NFL and the physicality coming off of a torn ACL. Trusting his repaired ligaments will take time and reps, but if he manages to return to full strength, we know what he’s capable of.
During his rookie season, the Giants had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, but Barkley still managed 2028 yards from scrimmage. He’s extremely reliable with a ball in his hands, rarely ever fumbling, and is a touchdown machine when given decent running lines. Ideally, the Giants can find a coordinator, if not Garrett, who will utilize him as a receiver more frequently and bounce him outside of the tackles to get him into space.
Barkley is a vastly different runner than Wayne Gallman, who prefers a north-south style. Garret’s outside-zone running scheme actually fits well for Barkley, and as long as he incorporates him as a receiver on unique routes and pushes the ball downfield to create space underneath, he should have a nice rebound season in 2021.
5.) Keep the offensive line similar
The Giants are going to have to create cap space to re-sign some of their better talents, but disrupting the continuity in the trenches must be maintained.
Some have suggested that cutting Kevin Zeitler and saving about $12 million would be beneficial, but he is their best lineman and the only player the Giants can truly trust. It is expected they will cut Nate Solder post-June 1, which will save them $10 million, but everything else should stay relatively the same.
Utilizing Will Hernandez and Shane Lemieux at left guard is fine as the former Oregon product continues to develop. Having Cam Fleming and Matt Peart at right tackle isn’t necessarily bad, as Peart is hopefully the future. Fleming is a cheap stop-gap who can get the job done for now.
Ultimately, the line saw massive improvement this season, thanks to gradual developments from left tackle Andrew Thomas. Also, center Nick Gates was phenomenal, taking to his new position with ease. I believe keeping things the same and cutting Solder would be the ideal game plan.