Are the New York Giants taking too big a risk on their pass rush in 2020?

New York Giants, Markus Golden

The New York Giants will either have a solid pass rush in  2020 or struggle significantly with the lack of proven talent on the roster. One could argue that the Giants are taking too big a risk with the current pass rushers on the team.

The only player they signed in free agency was Kyler Fackrell, who stands at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds. His last successful season was in 2018 when Patrick Graham was his linebackers coach. Fackrell tallied 10.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and posted a 14.3% missed tackle rate. From these numbers, we can conclude that Fackrell was a solid pass rusher two years ago, but he missed a good amount of tackles to pair with his 10.5 sacks. He must improve in that category significantly after posting an 11.5 missed tackle rate in 2019.

Nonetheless, he has proven to be healthy over the course of four years in the NFL, and he lost his starting position to Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith last year, setting him back in his progression. While there is optimism, he can replicate his 2018 performance, having only one good year as his sample size does not breed optimism. We can hope for the best, but there is a very real chance Fackrell could be a dud.

The Giants are also placing their confidence in homegrown players. Both Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines will play in expanded roles moving forward, despite Carter regressing in 2019.

In nearly double the number of snaps from his rookie season to 2019, his numbers either remained the same or worsened. He only recorded .5 sacks more in 2019 (4.0 –> 4.5), and he logged a 15.1% missed tackle right after not missing a single tackle in 2018. Taking that far of a step backward might actually be a good thing because we know what he’s capable of and the potential he has.

This season is clearly an outlier, and if you can reverse this negative trend, Carter can be a successful player with Big Blue.

The New York Giants could have a stud in Oshane Ximines:

On to Oshane Ximines, who posted 4.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits on just 45% of defensive snaps in 2019. I anticipate he will earn more reps and hopefully emerge as a quality pass rusher for the Giants. He didn’t miss a single tackle last year, and he showed a wide array of pass rush moves that justify optimism. He utilizes a nice speed rush, arm chops, swim moves, you name it. For a player out of Old Dominion, a lower-tier D1 school, he certainly requires more pass rush moves than the average prospect. I expect big things from him in 2020, and he certainly has the skill set to prove me right.

The next player on the list is Markus Golden, who the Giants placed a free agent tender on this off-season. Ultimately, if he doesn’t sign elsewhere, he will stick with the Giants on a one-year, $5 million deal, which is about 110% of his 2019 contract.

Golden was the best pass rusher for the Giants in his redemption year last season, posting double-digit sack numbers and getting after the quarterback frequently. He was the leader on the defensive line, but the Giants were all but ready to let him walk in free agency before hitting him with a relatively cheap tender. If he sticks with the team, the Giants could have a solid pass rush to work with.

It is also fair to mention that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham utilizes a schemed pass rush, including linebackers and safety blitzes. The Giants also bolstered the interior of their defensive line with Leonard Williams, to help the outside linebackers put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This defense is going to rush the passer on all different fronts, so we should expect a unique system that focuses on unpredictability.

New York Giants: 2 defensive players have breakout potential in 2020

New York Giants, Dexter Lawrence

Taking a look at three defensive players for the New York Giants that could break out in 2020:

The Giants’ defense ranked 30th in points allowed during the 2019 season, allowing an average of 28.19 points per game. In the yards allowed section, they ranked 25th, allowing 377.31 yards per game. Ultimately, the Giants ranked 20th or worse in nearly every category. One of the more problematic statistics was their -17 turnover differential, showing how much they actually lost the football on offense and forced their defense out onto the field.

Increasing their time of possession to allow the offense more opportunity is essential, and that starts with Daniel Jones’ ball security and taking time off the clock with the running game. However, the defense must step up significantly moving forward, and these three players could make a significant difference in 2020.

1.) Dexter Lawrence

The former Clemson standout had a solid rookie season, playing in all 16 games and logging 63% of all defensive snaps. He recorded 38 combine tackles, 2.5 sacks, and nine quarterback hits. His 11.6 missed tackle rate was a bit too high, but for a rookie, Lawrence played admirably.

A year of experience under his belt should promote further development, and gaining Leonard Williams on the line should also help his productivity increase. The Giants expect Lawrence to be a big run stopper and also put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, given the 3-4 base scheme.

2.) Oshane Ximines

Ximines is one of my favorite players going into year two for the Giants, and his 4.5 sacks on just 45% of defensive stats make him a prime breakout candidate. He missed zero tackles last season as a rookie and got after the quarterback well, knocking down the quarterback three times and collecting 12 pressures.

The big storyline is the Giants might have a weak pass rush next season, but I believe Oshane can be a significant factor for them. Considering Graham’s desire to utilize linebackers and safeties in a schemed pass rush, this unit could be vastly underrated.

New York Giants: Why Oshane Ximines Will Take A Leap In 2020

New York Giants, Oshane Ximines

The New York Giants are looking to improve their record in 2020. After a disappointing 4-12 2019 season, the Giants upgraded their roster’s talent significantly. New York made a few key acquisitions on the defense in free agency. They then bolstered up the offensive line and secondary in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Despite improving nearly every positional group on the roster, there is one group that went mostly untouched. This position was one of the roster’s significant weaknesses, too. The Giants did not do much to upgrade their pass-rush, signing only one edge rusher in free agency and drafting not one player at that position.

Many fans have complained about the lack of assets invested in the edge position. There is a large portion of the fan base that wanted to see the team make a run at Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. Instead, New York signed Kyler Fackrell, an underrated addition that could help improve the pass-rush tenfold. But there is a player on the roster who could take a leap in 2020 and become the team’s primary pass-rusher: Oshane Ximines.

Underrated 2019 Performance

Oshane Ximines does not get enough credit for his performance in 2019. As a rookie out of Old Dominion, Ximines stepped in and made an impact instantly. In limited playing time, the rookie totaled 4.5 sacks. He also recorded 25 combined tackles and 12 pressures.

Ximines was used as a rotational pass rusher in 2019. Being from a small school like Old Dominion, the Giants wanted to ease him into the NFL. But now, with a year under his belt, Oshane is ready to expand his role in 2020.

An Increased Role In 2020

Oshane Ximines played only 45% of the Giants’ defensive snaps in 2019. Tallying 4.5 sacks and 12 pressures in 503 snaps is an impressive feat. Oshane should see his snap total increase in 2020 and, thus, his statistics will improve, too.

Teammate Lorenzo Carter is a comparable player for Ximines. Carter played 40% of snaps as a rookie in 2018. In 2019, he saw his snap percentage increase to 65%. Carter did not exactly improve his performance in the more expansive role, though. His sack total went from 4 to 4.5. This lack of improvement made Carter one of the more disappointing players in 2019.

But Ximines seems ready for an expanded role in 2020. And luckily for Oshane, the Giants’ new defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham, knows how to scheme up some pressures.

New York Giants: 3 breakout candidates for the 2020 season

New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

Taking a look at three New York Giants players that can break out in 2020:

The New York Giants made it a priority to boost both sides of the ball this off-season through the NFL draft and free agency. However, the success of the team moving forward heavily relies on the 2019 draft class and their development.

The Giants added quarterback Daniel Jones, interior defender Dexter Lawrence, and cornerback DeAndre baker all in the first round. While Jones and Lawrence had successful rookie campaigns, Baker struggled significantly and failed to leave his mark on the field.

In 2020, the defense, which is the youngest of the units, must step up in a big way and show progress from last season.

Here are three breakout candidates for the Giants in 2020:

1. DeAndre Baker

Baker played in 16 games last season, and at just 22 years old, he still has plenty of time to reach his potential. Compiling 61 tackles, two for a loss, and eight passes offended, he was a bit all over the place in terms of production. He didn’t record an interception and was quite poor in the tackling department. He missed 9% of his tackles and allowed a 61.4% completion rate. The most troublesome statistic is the number of touchdowns he allowed, which was six. He allowed it 116.2 passer rating against opposing quarterbacks.

His struggles primarily landed on James Bettcher, who inefficiently utilized him. Baker was known to be a more refined man/press cover corner coming out of Georgia, but Bettcher employed him as an off-ball player in a heavy zone scheme. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will utilize him in mostly man coverage, which he used 50% of the time in 2019. That should benefit Baker significantly.

2. Oshane Ximines

Ximines is one of my favorite breakout candidates for 2020. On 45% of defense of snaps in 2019, the 23-year-old posted 4.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits. He didn’t miss a single tackle and earned five tackles for loss on top of it all. He was quite efficient for a rookie third-round selection, and he has the potential to be a staple for the Giants at outside linebacker. Patrick Graham will likely utilize him as a starter alongside Markus Golden if he ends up staying with the Giants.

If the Giants can extract the most out of Ximines in 2020, he can resurrect a pass rush that has been quite inadequate the past few seasons. An improved secondary should also allow him more time to get after the quarterback.

3. Darius Slayton

Jumping over to the offensive side of the ball, wide receiver Darius Slayton is the third breakout candidate. Having posted 740 yards and 8 touchdowns in his rookie season, leading the team in both categories, he is set to make a sizable developmental jump next season.

While he had shaky hands at some points, posting a 57.1% catch rate, he developed nicely after starting rookie minicamp, dropping everything in sight. He played on just 66% of offensive snaps, and seeing an uptick in that category and remaining healthy should allow him to cement himself as Daniel Jones’s top option. As a fifth-round pick, most expected him to be more of a project, but he has defied all odds and established himself as a starter moving forward.

The New York Giants’ pass rush could come together nicely in 2020

New York Giants, Oshane Ximines

Taking a look at the New York Giants‘ pass rush and how it could come together in 2020:

This week the Giants used the rare free agent tender to lock down Markus golden for the 2020 season. This does not guarantee his services but rather grants the Giants rights over his contract next season unless he can find a different team to play for that is willing to pay a higher price. The deal would be 110% of his 2019 contract, so he would earn around $5 million next season if he fails to sign elsewhere — a low number for a player who racked 10 sacks last year.

This would be a huge boost to the Giants’ defensive unit that was scheduled to lose Golden in free agency. The only allocations they spent in free agency toward a replacement was for Kyler Fackrell, who recorded 10.5 sacks in 2018 but fell into a reserve role last year, playing just 40% of snaps and logging one sack on zero starts.

His playing time fell off tremendously after defensive coordinator Patrick Graham left the Green Bay Packers and moved on to the Miami Dolphins. However, Graham and Fackrell will reunite this upcoming season in New York, in the hope is they can replicate is 2018 performance. Prior to Golden receiving the tender, the Giants were expected to elevate Oshane Ximines, their third-round draft pick in 2019, to a more significant role.

Ximines had a solid rookie campaign, playing in 45% of defense of snaps and recording 4.5 sacks. In an increased workload, the expectation is that he can post reasonable numbers and utilize his array of pass rush moves to help the defense. With minimal cap space available, the Giants weren’t in a position to allocate elite pass-rusher money in the market, which forced them to rely on Fackrell and Oshane before Golden re-entered the picture.

A unit consisting of Golden, Ximines, and Fackrell would be able to generate enough pressure to help the Giants succeed in 2020. Considering how much they spent on the secondary this off-season and the drafting of Xavier McKinney, the unit should be improved. Patrick Graham is known for his blitzing schemes and heavily involving linebackers and safeties, which suggests that the Giants will likely incorporate multiple positions into their system.

New York Giants: 2 surprise breakout players in 2020

New York Giants, Oshane Ximines

Taking a look at two breakout players for the New York Giants in 2020:

The 2019 NFL Draft saw GM Dave Gettleman allocate ample resources toward the secondary, but the players added to the roster didn’t live up to expectations. First-round corner DeAndre Baker struggled in year one, rightfully so due to the challenging transition to the NFL, and both Julian Love and Corey Ballentine experienced minimal reps.

The defense needs to take a significant step forward if the Giants want to be competitive next season, and with Gettleman signing only three free agents to solve positions of need, it’s safe to say that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has his hands full. The lack of a star pass rusher and unproven talent at inside linebacker could be problematic, but the Giants do have players who can rise to the occasion.

Here are two breakout players for the Giants:

1.) Oshane Ximines

With pass rush a major concern, Ximines has big shoes to fill with Markus Golden expected to move on in free agency. The Giants simply don’t have the necessary cash to sign a proven outside linebacker, which resulted in Gettleman adding Kyler Fackrell on a one year deal to replicate Golden’s production.

Ximines quietly had a solid 2019 campaign, posting 4.5 sacks on 45% of defensive snaps. Compared to Golden, who plays on 83% of snaps, the Giants must be confident in Ximines and his ability to replace the former Giants with ease. I believe the former Old Dominion standout will break out for the Giants next season, simply based on his nice array of pass rush moves and underrated strength.

Adapting to the physicality and speed of the NFL takes time, and with Ximines showing he can keep up in his rookie season, we should see compounded growth on our investment.

2.) Nick Gates 

The offensive line needs some love, and Gettleman made sure to ensure the media that they have tremendous faith in Nick Gates, who featured as a reserve option in 2019. Gates, formerly being an undrafted free agent last season, filled in valiantly at guard and tackle.

Coming out of college, he was projected as a guard due to his lack of upper body strength and anchor, but the Giants may see him as a possible fit at right tackle. I believe his frame suggests he’s more of a center, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants throw him into a position battle at RT and C to see where he fits. Ultimately, I believe Gates will earn a starting spot one way or another and will prove his durability at the NFL level.

Where are the New York Giants going with the pass rush position?

New York Giants rookie, Oshane Ximines.

When the New York Giants beat the Washington Redskins late in the 2019 season, they all but ruled themselves out of the Chase Young sweepstakes, despite attempting to blow the game against a lackluster Washington team. Fast forward several months, and the team is without their best pass rusher, Markus Golden, who sits idly on the free-agent market.

General manager Dave Gettleman has done little to address one of the weaker spots on the team, signing only Kyler Fackrell to supplement the supposed loss of Golden. However, there are still moves to be made and time to evaluate players. With the minimal cap space available for the Giants, however, signing a big-name free agent doesn’t seem to be the most likely course of action.

Who do the New York Giants currently have to work with?

On the roster, Big Blue has Fackrell, who logged 10.5 sacks and 12 QB hits in 2018, Lorenzo Carter, who hasn’t been able to live up to his potential, yet, and Oshane Ximines, an exciting, young prospect who posted 4.5 sacks on just 45% of defensive snaps last season.

I imagine they’re high on Ximines, who showed off some quality pass rusher moves in his rookie season. Where the Old Dominion product improved the most was against the run. His 0.0% missed tackle rate was impressive, tallying 25 combined tackles and 14 assists. He also logged five tackles for a loss.

Ximines did a good job beating offensive tackles on speed rushes around the edge, using his left arm to attack the outside left shoulder of said tackles. If he can develop a more refined bull rush and work stunts into his arsenal, Oshane can develop into one of the Giants’ premier pass-rush specialists. However, there’s development needed, and I believe we will see an improvement in year two.

Despite our optimism regarding Ximines’, the Giants could still be in the market for another pass rusher, especially if the football gods grace the Giants with Chase Young at the 4th overall pick. Of course, that would be an easy decision to make if he manages to slip; alternatively, they could find a mid-round pick to contribute, but they’ve invested plenty of draft picks into high-ceiling pass rushers already.

If Gettleman stays put, the Giants could be looking at a scheme-based pass-rush, utilizing their interior defensive line to produce internal pressure and utilize their OLBs to come over the top. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how they develop a pass rush moving forward. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will have to be creative with his schemes.

The biggest problem for the New York Giants in 2020

New York Giants, Dave Gettleman

Aside from putting the 2020 NFL Draft in the hands of New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman, free agency is the factor we should be more concerned about. Gettleman has been atrocious in picking up quality free agents that produce in a starting manner. The Odell Beckham Jr. trade worked out quite well, but his pickups off the market have not contributed in the ways most hoped.

To name a few — Patrick Omameh, Jonathan Stewart, Nate Solder, Mike Remmers, Antoine Bethea, Josh Mauro, Kareem Martin, the list goes on. A majority of his signings were tailored to help defensive coordinator James Bettcher smooth over the transition to his 3-4 scheme, however, those plans halted due to injury and a youth agenda that crippled the efficiency of the team.

Focusing on rebuilding through the draft was a priority from the get-go, and Gettleman has done well at some positions, including wide receiver with Darius Slayton, linebacker with Ryan Connelly, running back, quarterback, and several others. It’s his mid-round picks that have stumbled out of the gate and struggled to reach their potential.

Players like Lorenzo Carter, BJ Hill, Will Hernandez, Oshane Ximines, R.J. McIntosh, Kyle Lauletta (not on the team anymore), have all failed to see significant growth in their second or rookie seasons. Ximines is the outlier from the group, considering him being a recent draft pick, but he hasn’t made a significant impact on the defense, despite fighting for reps.

What’s the biggest problem for the New York Giants?

Gettleman is more successful in the draft than he is in free agency, and giving him over $80 million to spend could result in a slew of bad decisions, which is one of my primary concerns. Also, the lack of desire to join a rebuilding Giants team with no identity will force Gettleman to overpay significantly for good players, making that $80 million in available cap-space look more like $50 million.

With reinforcements needed on the offensive line, defensive line, secondary after the cutting of Janoris Jenkins, and linebacker positions, that cap-space will be filled up quickly.

The New York Giants keeping Janoris Jenkins at trade deadline makes sense now

New York Giants, Janoris Jenkins

After a disastrous loss to the lowly Jets, the New York Giants were forced to evaluate the state of the team going into the BYE week. If owner John Mara wasn’t already concerned about his team, falling to a 1-7 opponent marked as one of the worst teams in the NFL might get the point across.

Big Blue was destined for a life of rebuilding after general manager Dave Gettleman stripped the team clean of any Jerry Reese talent, enforcing a turnover at nearly every position. Gettleman was always going to live and die by the team he constructed, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that they can still be competitive.

The number of rookies featuring on one of the league’s worst defenses should tell the entire story. Dexter Lawrence, Oshane Ximines, DeAndre Baker, Corey Ballentine, Ryan Connelly. Most of these players are current starters, which is the most concerning part. Year two is what they call the “evaluation year,” which helps determine the weak spots and where cap-space needs to be allocated.

New York Giants’ Gettleman can come to several conclusions:

-His secondary is a mess

-The free safety position needs a significant upgrade

-The linebackers are in disarray 

-His offensive line is made os Swiss Cheese

-He needs a true No. 1 WR if Sterling Shepard cannot return

-In need of a pure pass-rusher if Markus Golden leaves in free agency

There are a lot more holes that need to be filled than previously assumed. However, at the trade deadline, when everyone thought the Giants would be sellers, ended up buying.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was expected to be traded, but his retention tells us one thing — Gettleman is trying to save face. Jenkins has shown a lack of effort in weeks, failing to justify the Giants not trading him. If Gettleman would have left the secondary in a situation where they didn’t have a real No. 1 corner, his team might fall apart at the seams.

Jenkins is a voice in the locker room and a veteran with respect, and putting DeAndre Baker in a disadvantageous spot as the top corner would be ludicrous. If Baker was performing well, I imagine “Jackrabbit” would have been shipped off. In other words, Gettleman’s decisions are telling.

Ranking The New York Giants’ 2019 Draft Class So Far

New York Giants, Dexter Lawrence

The New York Giants are one of the NFL’s most disappointing teams this season. They sit at 2-7 heading into a winnable matchup against the New York Jets this Sunday. The Giants are a rebuilding team, though. They have young players starting all over the roster.

The Giants’ 2019 draft class has seen a ton of playing time so far. Dave Gettleman was criticized highly over a few picks after the draft, particularly a couple in the first round. But most of Gettleman’s picks have been solid performers so far this season.

The Giants have started seven of their ten draft picks at some point this season. Some have played better than others, but some have come as a complete shock and played well above expectations. Let’s take a look at how each rookie has played so far this season and rank them based on their performance so far:

1. Dexter Lawrence II

The Giants’ second pick in the 2019 NFL Draft has been their best performer so far. New York selected Dexter Lawrence with the 17th overall pick and received much criticism for taking a defensive tackle with that pick. But so far, Lawrence has been one of the best rookies in the NFL this season.

Dexter has posted 24 combined tackles, 3 sacks, and 5 quarterback hits through nine games. He has been making his presence felt in both the run and pass game. In fact, Pro Football Focus has raved about Dexter’s work in run-defense.

Dexter Lawrence has earned an 86.9 run-defense from PFF grade, ranking seventh at his position. PFF also points out that Lawrence has missed a tackle on just 4% of his tackling attempts. Dexter Lawrence is grading out as one of the top players in the entire NFL at his position. The rookie has been the Giants’ most impressive draft pick so far this season.

2. Daniel Jones

The 6th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft was one of the most controversial draft selections in the last decade. The Giants decided to take Duke quarterback Daniel Jones and absolutely stunned the world. Dave Gettleman received a lot of criticism for this move, but so far, he has seemed like a mad genius.

Daniel Jones has silenced most of his haters this season. He took over as the starter in week three and instantly elevated the Giants’ offense. So far, Jones has thrown for 1,676 yards and 11 touchdowns with 8 interceptions. The turnovers (especially the 10 fumbles) are a problem, but Jones has made enough positive plays to outweigh the negatives and flash potential as a franchise quarterback.

3. Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants’ fifth-round draft pick, Ryan Connelly, looked to be a draft-day steal earlier this season. Unfortunately, in week four, Connelly went down with a knee injury. It was later revealed that Connelly had torn his ACL and would miss the remainder of the season.

But Connelly was playing at a high level before his injury. He had a combined total of 20 tackles in three and a half games. He also added 2 interceptions and 3 passes defended in that span. Ryan Connelly will need to be healthy for the Giants next season and take over as the team’s starting inside linebacker.

4. Darius Slayton

The Giants have received a solid amount of production out of their fifth-round receiver Darius Slayton. The speedster out of Auburn has developed a strong connection with rookie quarterback Daniel Jones this season.

Slayton has played in 7 games this season and caught 17 passes for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns. Slayton has been running routes vertical and downfield. He could be the Giants’ next big-play receiver. Darius showed his high potential in the Giants’ week eight game against Detroit where he caught two contested touchdown receptions and totaled 50 yards on the day.

5. Oshane Ximines

Oshane Ximines was the first player ever to be drafted out of Old Dominion. The Giants selected Oshane at the end of the third round and they have already seen the rookie make an impact as a rotational pass-rusher. Ximines has 16 combined tackles so far this season with 2 sacks, 4 quarterback hits, and 3 tackles for loss.

It is encouraging to see a mid-round edge rusher having productivity this early in his career. The Giants should be able to use Oshane Ximines as a rotational pass-rusher for a while, but maybe he could even develop into a full-time starter.

6. Corey Ballentine

The Giants drafted Corey Ballentine out of Washburn in the sixth round of the draft. He was impressive during the preseason but has not seen a lot of playing time on defense in the regular season. However, Ballentine has been serving as the Giants’ kick returner this season.

In the first six games of the season, Corey Ballentine served as the Giants’ primary kick returner. Ballentine returned nine kickoffs for 237 yards, an average of 26.3 yards per return, including an impressive season-long return of 52 yards.

While the starting kick returner position is not the most valuable, Ballentine is still being productive and has the chance to take a step forward in the future with some promising potential at cornerback.

7. DeAndre Baker

DeAndre Baker has definitely been the most disappointing rookie for the Giants this season. New York traded up to draft the cornerback at the end of the first round. It was considered a great pick on draft night, but so far, Baker has not come close to living up to that first-round price tag.

Through nine weeks, DeAndre Baker has earned an atrocious 37.3 overall Pro Football Focus grade. This ranks 114th out of 115 cornerbacks. Baker has allowed 100 yards in coverage four times this season and has also given up 7 touchdowns. It has been a really tough start to the rookie’s career, but hopefully, Baker can bounce back and develop into a capable starting cornerback by the end of the season or next.