Giants’ Passing Game Targets Shift with Barkley, Shepard Out

New York Giants, Darius Slayton
Nov 24, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) runs with the football ahead of Chicago Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara (20) in the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Kena Krutsinger-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants will be without running back Saquon Barkley (knee) for the remainder of the season and Sterling Shepard which will change the target/touches dynamic of their already challenged offense.

The Giants are the lowest scoring team (they have 29 points, one less than the Jets after two games) and now must figure out who will be their “go to” players going forward. Currently, wide receiver Darius Slayton and tight end Evan Engram lead the team in targets in the passing game with 15 apiece. That is likely to continue, as both players are two of the most attractive targets in the league at their respective positions, in the coming games.

But who else on the Giants’ offense could benefit?

Golden Tate returned last week after missing the opener against Pittsburgh with a hamstring issue. Tate caught all five of his targets for 47 yards last week against the Bears. You can expect this reliable veteran who has become a favorite of quarterback Daniel Jones to see an uptick in targets until Shepard returns.

Barkley had nine targets in the five and half quarters he played this year and was a key cog in the passing game. Luckily for the Giants they now have three backs who can all catch the football out of the backfield: Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman and Devonta Freeman. In the beginning, we will likely see more of Lewis and Gallman due to their familiarity with the offense but it is expected that Freeman will be asked to contribute more and more as the season unfolds. This should be interesting.

At the wide receiver position, the Giants aren’t very deep. After Slayton and Tate, there’s only Damion Ratley and C.J. Board. The team has decided to house four tight ends on the roster (Engram, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Eric Tomlinson) instead. The Giants will need Board and Ratley to produce in three-wide sets and we just haven’t seen enough of either to predict how that is going to play out.

At tight end, only Smith can be relied on as a pass catcher behind Engram. He has become a favorite of Jones, especially in the red zone should the Giants ever get there again.