As the New York Giants inch closer to their upcoming training camp, the team’s roster is about to face rigorous evaluations and some heated position battles. Notwithstanding, the Giants have made significant strides in enhancing their athleticism and fortifying their squad’s foundation.
Following a commendable performance in 2022 despite apparent talent shortages, the Giants are optimistic about improving their standing and vying against the powerhouses of football. Their ascent, however, will depend on key players maintaining their fitness levels and showing remarkable developmental progress.
Here’s a look at three players who could be instrumental in shaping the Giants’ 2023 fortunes:
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1. Evan Neal: The Developmental Hope
No player’s progress is as critical as Right Tackle Evan Neal, who had a challenging rookie stint. Neal conceded 8.0 sacks and 52 total pressures, but his diligent efforts to shed some weight and hone his fundamentals are expected to pay dividends in his sophomore season.
Giants’ Offensive Line Coach Bobby Johnson commented, “Rookies, every game they see something new. Now all of a sudden in year two, he’s got that library of things he’s seen, all of a sudden it’s not new to him. Now it’s something he can have some confidence that ‘I’ve seen this before, it’s not new to me, and I can react accordingly.'”
Neal’s potential growth will be crucial for quarterback Daniel Jones, whose performance could soar if the right side of the offensive line is safeguarded effectively. The Giants’ quest for two reliable tackles may soon be over, providing a much-needed boost to their offense.
2. Azeez Ojulari: The Pass Rusher
While the Giants can count on the likes of Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, and Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari is a different proposition. The 23-year-old, limited to just seven regular-season games due to injuries last year, is arguably one of the team’s finest pass rushers.
Ojulari’s 6.0 sacks in essentially six starts underline his exceptional talent. An increase in his muscle mass could enhance his ability to seal the edge in the run game. Ojulari’s fitness will be a determining factor for the team – if he can stay healthy, he might emerge as one of the Giants’ top performers.
3. Darren Waller: The Genius Move
In a strategic move to replicate WR1 numbers without an appropriate player, the Giants made an astute acquisition. They traded a third-round pick for tight end Darren Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders, incurring a minimal cap hit of $4 million for the 2023 season while elevating their offensive potential.
Waller, with two seasons recording over 1,100 receiving yards and a career-high nine touchdowns in 2020, is an asset. His success, much like Ojulari’s, is tied to his fitness. But entering training camp and pre-season at full health and having already developed some chemistry with Daniel Jones during individual practices, Waller’s potential seems promising.
Incorporating him into the team’s offense and broadening his live-action role in the coming months will be critical for Waller’s 2023 season success. This might be one of the Giants’ most underrated recent acquisitions.
The Giants need to alleviate their dependence on Saquon Barkley to mitigate injury risks, making it necessary to have another star player share the load. Waller, capable of commanding significant attention, can create opportunities for others to make positive contributions. The path to success for the Giants in 2023 lies in the hands of these key players and their performances.