New York Giants: Offensive and defensive breakout candidates for 2021

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants have made extensive efforts to upgrade their offense while also bolstering the defense this off-season. In free agency alone, they added several players who can help contribute toward a winning season in 2021, including the likes of Kenny Golladay and Adoree Jackson. With the NFL draft in less than a month, the Giants have more ammo and resources to allocate, which should help some of their individual players improve in the near future.

Take a look at breakout candidates for the New York Giants:

Offensive breakout candidate: Daniel Jones

If there’s any player that desperately needs a breakout season, it is quarterback Daniel Jones. After posting 24 touchdowns in his rookie season, Jones saw that number slash by more than half to just 11 under Jason Garrett. Unfortunately, he didn’t have Saquon Barkley and a plethora of playmakers, but the Giants are looking to give him everything he needs to succeed moving forward.

Adding Golladay, a bonafide wide receiver one, and John Ross, we should expect Jones to play a bit more efficiently. In addition, he will have a healthy Saquon Barkley, and the Giants could use the 11th overall pick on another play-maker.

Ultimately, there is no excuse for Jones not to have a better 2021 performance, and the Giants desperately need to see improvement if they want to commit to him as their franchise quarterback moving forward. Looking at a bit more of his statistical output, Jones is deadly accurate when throwing the ball downfield. I expect the Giants to take a more vertical approach to their offense, which is what sold Golladay on joining Big Blue, and the presence of Ross also suggests a more vertical strategy.

When throwing the ball 20+ yards downfield, Jones threw six touchdowns and zero interceptions, so adding more deep threats is exactly what the Giants set out to do, and they accomplish that goal in free agency.

Defensive breakout candidate: Dexter Lawrence

One player I believe will have a stand-out 2021 season is Dexter Lawrence, and with the absence of Dalvin Tomlinson after signing with the Minnesota Vikings, the Giants need Big Dexy to take a step forward.

Last season, Lawrence finished with 37 tackles, four sacks, and 33 stops. He was one of the most double-teamed interior defenders in the NFL, and with two seasons under his belt, a year-three breakout season should be expected.

I believe his knowledge of Patrick Graham’s scheme and the retention of Leonard Williams should assist in his production, and I think the Giants want to see him take more of a pass rusher role from the 3-tech position, where he can pressure the interior and get after the quarterback adequately.

3 New York Giants players primed to make big jumps in 2021

New York Giants, Dexter Lawrence

The New York Giants’ defense surprised everybody in 2020, ranking ninth in points allowed per game with 22.3. In rushing yards allowed, they were a top 10 unit but struggled in defending the pass until the second half of the year, ending up average, allowing 237.9 yards.

The injection of essential free agents completely overhauled the unit, along with Leonard Williams, who produced 11.5 sacks. Cornerback James Bradberry, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, had his best season to date, allowing 50+ yards just twice over the course of the entire season. He allowed three touchdowns, two of which came in week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

However, it was some of the rookies and youngsters that played a significant part, and some fresh faces are primed to take a significant jump in 2021.

Three New York Giants players primed to take big jumps in 2021:

1.) Dexter Lawrence

Lawrence is going into his third season in the NFL, and he took a big jump last year with the Giants. Alongside Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, who both had career seasons, Lawrence nearly doubled his sack totals from 2.5 to 4.0. He also totaled 10 QB hits and six tackles for loss. His combined tackles number went up from 38 to 53 over just 60% of defensive snaps, a decrease of 3%.

Lawrence was double-teamed more than either of his counterparts and ranked near the top of the league in the category as well. He recorded 33 stops, 19 hurries, and just two missed tackles all season long.

With his growth, I expect him to take a nice jump in 2021, especially if the Giants retain both of their interior lineman who are hitting free agency. If all goes well, Dexter is in line to become a staple in the trenches.

2.) Xavier McKinney

Xavier McKinney missed a majority of his rookie season with a fractured foot which occurred during training camp. However, he returned in the second half of the year to post some quality numbers to finish the season.

In week 17 against Dallas, he recorded eight combined tackles, one tackle for a loss, one pass defended, and one interception. He was all over the field making plays, at one point bursting through a TE to take down CeeDee Lamb in the backfield. With that impressive performance, the Giants must feel confident he can take a step forward in 2021.

Based on the fact that McKinney came from a pro-style defense with Alabama, his transition to the NFL was never expected to take long. It seemed as if he finally settled down against Dallas to finish the campaign, so I expect that to translate over to next year.

3.) Darnay Holmes

While rookie slot corner Darnay Holmes suffered through m injuries as well, he didn’t allow a touchdown the entire season, the only starting rookie corner to do so.

In addition, he allowed 30 yards or less in six appearances but did have some struggles toward the end of the campaign. A lingering injury hurt his efficiency, posting four penalties in his last four starts. With a superior mentality and NFL genetics, Holmes has the ability to become a stellar corner in the NFL, but he must remain healthy moving forward.

New York Giants: One pair of defenders is excelling in PFF statistics

New York Giants, Dexter Lawrence

While the season has been a mixed bag so far for the New York Giants, some players on defense have definitely flourished under new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Some of these players were on the roster last season but have stepped their game up with a different system and better coaching. Others are new arrivals who have made an instant impact and helped the Giants turn it around over the past couple of weeks.

Two players in specific are worth praising as they’ve made themselves stand out on the field and in the statistics columns.

Dexter Lawrence

Dexter Lawrence came into the league at the same time as Daniel Jones and is already on his second defensive coordinator in the second year of his career. But it looks like Graham is bringing out better things in him than James Bettcher. He’s already set to surpass his statistics from his rookie season. He had 38 combined tackles after playing in every game last year. This year, after only playing in 10 games so far, he already has 33.

Lawrence already has more tackles for a loss than he had last year, and only three less quarterback hits. And when it comes to PFF grade, which accounts for a number of factors, Lawrence is currently one of the highest rated sophomore defenders.

The Giants picked up Lawrence in the draft not long after moving on from Damon Harrison and it looks like they made the right choice. Harrison had the worst statistical season of his career after leaving the Giants, and has already changed teams to the Seahawks. Lawrence, on the other hand, still looks like he has room to move up.

James Bradberry

The signing of James Bradberry was met with varying reactions from interest to skepticism, after the Giants brought in the former Carolina corner to replace Janoris Jenkins. The Giants have missed at evaluating cornerbacks a number of times in recent memory. If you want proof of that, just look at their results after drafting Eli Apple and DeAndre Baker in the first round. Even when they brought in Janoris Jenkins, the Giants found a corner that was effective but would ultimately talk himself off the team with his attitude.

But those situations haven’t repeated themselves with James Bradberry. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. Bradberry looks like the most likely player on the Giants defense to make the Pro Bowl or All-Pro team and has been worth the money so far. He has 3 interceptions so far, tying his career record, and also has 14 passes defended.

According to PFF, he leads the league this season when it comes to forced incompletions.

With six games left in the season still, there’s room for both Bradberry and Lawrence to further improve in their statistics. And it looks like both players are on pace for career highs in some of the most important areas. The Giants haven’t hit every time they’ve taken a swing at acquiring players. But this season, it does seem they have more hits than usual. Especially on defense, where the rebuilding process is finally showing some result.

New York Giants: Silver Linings From Week One vs Pittsburgh

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants suffered a disappointing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last night. After getting off to a good start, the Giants squandered their lead and ultimately lost the game by two possessions. The final score was 26-16.

Despite this loss, there was plenty to like about the Giants’ performance in Week One. Some Solid performances on both sides of the football can encourage Giants fans heading into the second week of the season.

The Silver Linings

Daniel Jones

The Giants’ second-year quarterback, Daniel Jones, played a great game on Monday night. However, he did turn the ball over twice, and it cost the Giants big-time. But outside of those two turnovers, Jones was impressive as can be in Week One.

The Steelers possess one of the best defenses in the NFL. Their run-defense and pass-rush were elite last night. The Steelers held Saquon Barkley to 6 rushing yards and pressured Daniel Jones on 26 of his passing attempts. Jones was pressured 6 times more than any other quarterback in the NFL in Week One.

Despite having pressure in his face constantly, and despite not having a solid run game to rely on, Daniel Jones stood in the pocket and made some of the best throws of his career. Jones totaled 279 yards and 2 touchdown passes on 26 attempts.

Jones was particularly good when targeting the middle of the field. When targeting the middle, Jones completed 13 of his 15 passing attempts for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jones was also superb on third down and carried the Giants’ offense at times. If Jones can continue to play at this level while keeping the turnovers down and receiving more help from his offensive line, 2020 could be the year Jones establishes himself as a franchise quarterback.

The Front Seven

The Giants enjoyed multiple impressive performances in their front seven. No one was more impressive than newly-signed inside linebacker Blake Martinez. Martinez recorded 11 tackles (tied for the most of all linebackers in Week One) en route to an 83.9 overall grade by Pro Football Focus. Blake Martinez played like one of the best linebackers in the NFL in Week One.

Lorenzo Carter also had one of the best games of his career on Monday night. Carter recorded 3 pressures, nearly had a sack, and earned an 81.5 overall PFF grade this week. His 3 pressures were tied for the team lead along with Leonard Williams, another player who had an impressive performance.

Leonard Williams recorded a sack and 3 pressures in Week One. Another interior defensive lineman also recorded a sack, though. Dexter Lawrence, the big hog molly out of Clemson started his second season off on the right track, earning a sack in an impressive performance.

The Giants’ defense was most impressive in Week One. The front seven was excellent, seeing multiple players have some of the best individual performances of their careers. This was especially important as the defensive secondary struggled to contain Ben Roethlisberger and his playmakers. The Giants will want to see their front seven build off of an impressive performance in Week Two, while also hoping to see some improvement from their young and inexperienced secondary.

New York Giants: Good Camp So Far For Dexter Lawrence

New York Giants, Dexter Lawrence

The New York Giants should have better talent on the defensive front this year. That’s a matter of them simply having more experience and added talent compared to last year. The pass rush should be better with Markus Golden returning and Kyler Fackrell joining, but don’t forget about what the Giants have in the middle.

Specifically, don’t forget about Dexter Lawrence. The second year lineman is improving since last season according to Joe Judge, who spoke on his camp performance on Friday.

Dexter Lawrence earns praise from Joe Judge

“I think Dex had a really nice camp. He’s a guy that came in really good shape, really ready to go. He’s done a really good job working with [Sean] Spence[r] and working on some of the pass rushing stuff,” Judge said when asked about his thoughts on Lawrence’s game and improvements. “But really where he’s improved this year a lot is his ability to build that wall and anchor in the run game, and really help us get them to a third down situation.”

It’s another mention of third down. It appears to be an important down for the Giants this year. Kyler Fackrell also spoke of third downs recently, saying it will be a ‘fun down’ this year. And Lawrence might play a part in getting the opposing team to third down in the first place through stuffing the run and pressuring the quarterback.

“He has a good knack for getting his hand up at the right time and batting the ball down,” Judge said about Lawrence’s ability to knock down passes at the line.

“A lot of that comes into just his instincts. But he’s also got that good length where he can really keep extension off the offensive line and see through them to when the quarterback is in a rhythm of throwing the ball, he gets his hand up at the right time.”

Last season, Lawrence had a decent run as a rookie player with 38 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He started every game, which is expected to continue into this season as Lawrence is unchallenged at his spot by others on the depth chart.

And so far, it looks like there’s good reason to be optimistic about his play.

New York Giants: Dexter Lawrence Ready To Break Out In 2020

New York Giants, Dexter Lawrence

The New York Giants have built one of the best, young defensive lines in the NFL since 2018. General manager Dave Gettleman has put a heavy emphasis on building through the trenches, investing tons of assets into the defensive line. Since 2018, here is what the Giants have invested into their defensive line: a 2018 third-round pick, a 2018 fifth-round pick, a 2019 first-round pick, a 2019 seventh-round pick, a 2020 third-round pick and 2021 fifth-round pick in a trade to acquire Leonard Williams, and a $16.1 million franchise tag on Leonard Williams. Additionally, the Giants already had a 2017 second-round pick invested in Dalvin Tomlinson.

This long list of investments has paid off for the Giants. Their defensive line is loaded with talented players entering 2020. The Giants’ defensive line could be dominant in 2020. But the most exciting player in this position group is Dexter Lawrence. Lawrence was a first-round pick for the Giants just last year but he already looks like one of the team’s best players.

Why Dexter Lawrence Will Break Out This Year

Dexter Lawrence was great as a rookie in 2019. But he will be even better in 2020. Last season, Dexter Lawrence played and started in all 16 games, totaling 38 combined tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Dexter was an underrated pass-rusher coming out of college, and he definitely flashed some potential as a pass-rusher last season.

But Dexter Lawrence’s biggest strength is his performance in run defense. Dexter received the honor of making Pro Football Focus’s 2019 All-Rookie Team. PFF states that Lawrence’s 76.3 run-defense grade ranked 21st among 117 qualifying interior defenders last season.

Lawrence uses his ginormous stature to dominate in run defense. Last year, Dexter was logged in at 6 feet 4 inches and 340 pounds. But according to the man himself, that will not be his playing weight in 2020. Losing weight was something Lawrence focused on this offseason:

“I got a personal trainer, we focused on eating, portion control, I got a chef. I didn’t really like my build last year (when his listed weight was 342 pounds). This year I tried to focus on losing a little bit of weight just so I can be better on the field. I’m out there running a lot better than I did last year. That’s just the goal for me each year. Feel better and be better.” – Dexter Lawrence via Giants.com 8/18/20

This is potentially big news for Dexter Lawrence. Being lighter on his feet will allow Dexter to improve as a pass-rusher. It could also improve his stamina and make him more efficient in the fourth quarter, something he mentioned to the media. Dexter Lawrence will break out in 2020 with a leaner build and improved skills with a season of experience under his belt.

New York Giants: Dalvin Tomlinson talks new defense, Dexter Lawrence

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

The New York Giants are learning a new defense under first-year head coach Joe Judge, administered by new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson is enthusiastic about the new defense, comparing it to his “Alabama days” (quotes are courtesy of Giants.com’s Dan Salomone)

“I’m super excited about the new defense. I want to help in the run and pass this year.” He says the scheme is “fun” and reminds him of his Alabama days in terms of technique.”

The Giants selected Dalvin Tomlinson with the 55th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Last season he totaled 49 combined tackles, three and a half sacks and nine quarterback hits. The Alabama product has started 48 games while totaling 158 combined tackles, four and a half sacks and 10 quarterback hits across his three-year NFL career.

Tomlinson is entering the final year of his rookie deal, making the 2020 season a money year. He’s one of four holdovers from former general manager Jerry Reese’s reign, wide receiver Sterling Shepard, tight end Evan Engram and running back Wayne Gallman being the other three.

The Giants projected starting defensive line features Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, and the second-year Dexter Lawrence.

Tomlinson sees Lawrence getting more “comfortable” at the NFL level in training camp.

“You get used to the NFL. You get a little more comfortable going into Year 2.”

General manager Dave Gettleman selected Lawrence with the 17th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Clemson. He was one of the team’s three first-round draft selections, Duke quarterback Daniel Jones (6) and Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker (30) being the other two.

Lawrence started 16 games in his rookie season, totaling 38 combined tackles, two and a half sacks and nine quarterback hits.

Last season the Giants defense was third in the NFL in points surrendered (451), fifth in penalties (117), eighth in yards surrendered (6,037), 22nd in sacks (36), and tied for 28th in takeaways (16).

New York Giants: Why The Defensive Line Could Dominate In 2020

Since becoming general manager of the New York Giants in 2018, Dave Gettleman has put an emphasis on building up the defensive line. Since 2018, here is what the Giants have invested into their defensive line: a 2018 third-round pick, a 2018 fifth-round pick, a 2019 first-round pick, a 2019 seventh-round pick, a 2020 third-round pick and 2021 fifth-round pick in a trade to acquire Leonard Williams, and a $16.1 million franchise tag on Leonard Williams. Additionally, the Giants already had a 2017 second-round pick invested in Dalvin Tomlinson.

The Giants have invested a considerable amount in their defensive line. But this investment should pay off, as New York has a young core of highly-talented hog mollies to fill the trenches.

Young Defensive Line Talent

Dalvin Tomlinson

The Giants’ longest-tenured defensive lineman is an underrated star, Dalvin Tomlinson. The hog molly out of Alabama has been the most consistent and efficient player on the Giants’ defense since entering the league in 2017. Dalvin has not missed a game in his career, starting in 16 games every season for the past three seasons.

2019 was a career year for Tomlinson. Dalvin Tomlinson recorded 49 combined tackles with 7 tackles for loss. What made Tomlinson’s 2019 season so exciting though was his improvements as a pass-rusher. After failing to record a single sack in 2018, Tomlinson totaled a career-high 3.5 sacks in 2019. Dalvin Also totaled 13 pressures in 2019, 5 more than he did in 2018.

There is a reason to believe that Dalvin Tomlinson will improve further in 2020. When asked about new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme, Tomlinson expressed excitement:

The scheme is fun. It reminds me of the Alabama defense and the Alabama days and the techniques I used to use and stuff like that.  – Dalvin Tomlinson via Giants.com 8/6/20

New York Giants: Is Dalvin Tomlinson The Most Underrated Player On The Giants?

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

The New York Giants‘ defensive line is slowly turning into one of the best units in the NFL. The combination of Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Dexter Lawrence will leave opposing offensive lines struggling to gain ground in 2020.

On that defensive line, there is a player who is rarely talked about. Dalvin Tomlinson, the heart and soul of the Giants’ defensive front, has been one of the best and most consistent defensive linemen in the NFL over the past few years. Heading into 2020, Tomlinson is still an underrated and underappreciated talent.

Why Dalvin Tomlinson Deserves More Respect

Since entering the league as a second-round draft pick in 2017, Dalvin Tomlinson has been a rock on the Giants’ defense. Dalvin has not missed a game in his career, starting in 16 games every season for the past three seasons. Tomlinson was already a solid player in his rookie 2017 season but he has only gotten better each year.

Tomlinson finished with 50 or more tackles in each of his first two seasons. In 2017, Dalvin totaled 50 tackles, and in 2018 he totaled 59. He improved his tackles for loss total to 5 in 2018 after posting only 1 in 2017. Dalvin Tomlinson is not a flashy player, but he gets the job done.

In 2019, Dalvin Tomlinson recorded 49 combined tackles with 7 tackles for loss. What made Tomlinson’s 2019 season so exciting though was his improvements as a pass-rusher. After failing to record a single sack in 2018, Tomlinson totaled a career-high 3.5 sacks in 2019. Dalvin Also totaled 13 pressures in 2019, 5 more than he did in 2018.

Dalvin Tomlinson is far from a household name. He has never been to a Pro Bowl and he is rarely discussed as one of the best defenders on the Giants. But silently, Dalvin has been the Giants’ best defensive player over the past three years. Entering a new Alabama-like system in 2020, Tomlinson is bound to break out and get the respect he deserves (and maybe even a new contract).

New York Giants: The 3 most important defenders for 2020 and beyond

New York Giants, James Bradberry, Dexter Lawrence, Xavier McKinney

The New York Giants no longer have room for failure, as the past three years have been disappointing and resulted in a revolving door of head coaches. Since hiring Joe Judge, the team seems to be on a better path, but only the regular season will give us legitimate answers.

This off-season has already been different, as the NFL draft seemed influenced by Judge. He also utilized the rare free agent tender to retain Markus Golden potentially. These small but robust moves can be the difference between success and failure in specific units.

However, the defense still requires plenty of attention and refinement. Judge will be more of a walk around head coach monitoring every unit, leaving his coordinators to do their jobs. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will have a lot on his plate in year one. Installing a new defense with many different sets and tendencies can be problematic.

Nonetheless, the defense has several talented players that will hopefully develop an identity moving forward.

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Let’s take a look at the three most important New York Giants defenders:

1.) Dexter Lawrence

Lawrence earns the number one spot simply based on his youth and potential. During his rookie season, the former Clemson stand-out posted 38 combined tackles, nine quarterback hits, and 2.5 sacks over 16 games. His numbers were more efficient than Leonard Williams’, who is currently asking for $18-20 million per season.

Considering Dexter is still on his rookie contract, he represents additional value in the monetary category. His production and statistical efficiency should see an improvement with one year of experience under his belt. He is a building block and staple on defense and will be utilized as such for the foreseeable future.

Several weeks ago, an anonymous general manager and AFC scout told Matt Lombardo of NJ.com that Dexter ranks atop the players on the Giants’ defense.

“It has to be Dexter Lawrence or James Bradberry at this point. Lawrence is a legitimate run-stuffer up the middle, and Bradberry is a dominant cornerback with good size and ball-skills,” the GM said.

“I believe it will eventually be Andrew Thomas, but I can’t give him that title just yet. My choice is Dexter Lawrence. He’s just such a factor in the running game and now has been showing emerging pass-rush ability,” he said.