Giants set to improve in one major category on offense in 2021

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Sterling Shepard
Dec 6, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) catches a two-point conversion against the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2020 season, the New York Giants had only one receiver who averaged at least 3 yards of separation per reception. Sterling Shepard was that player, representing one of the only options for Daniel Jones who could create a cushion between himself and the defender.

Behind Shepard, the next closest was Evan Engram at 2.9 yards, per Next Gen Stats, but his inability to catch the football plagued the offense, having dropped 11 passes and being connected to six interceptions, which was half of Jones’s total.

The next best Giants’ receiver was Darius Slayton at 2.3 yards of separation, a significant difference that presents an issue heading into the 2021 season. However, the Giants went out and signed multiple receivers in Kenny Golladay, John Ross and drafted Kadarius Toney out of Florida. Toney is a separation creator, which should aid the offense in catch rate and completion percentage.

Interestingly, Kenny Golladay was one of the worst separators in the NFL during his lucrative 2019 season, so this statistic can be skewed in some ways. During that campaign, Golladay finished with 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns, but when you have a 6’4″ frame, you don’t need much separation to haul in passes with an exemplary catch radius. There are physical traits that can mask the deficiencies of route running, and Golladay has an extremely large wingspan paired with solid hands.

When looking at the yards of separation statistics, alternative factors play a role, so it shouldn’t be taken as an end-all, be-all variable. For Golladay, having size masks his lack of speed, and Shepard should increase his total from 2020 exponentially, going up against lesser corners while Golladay attracts CB1 attention.

Overall, it is a statistic that should improve drastically next season, and while it is considered a major category specifically among receivers, I would look to catch rate for a better indication of hands and success. Even yards after catch might be a better variable to harp on, as it indicates play-making ability and athleticism.

Overall, the Giants injected plenty of new talent into the offense, which should help Daniel Jones tremendously, and most of the categories they failed in last season will change with more reps and chemistry.