A new era dawns for the New York Giants in 2020, as former New England Patriots assistant coach Joe Judge takes the reigns. Judge will be the 21st head coach in franchise history. The Giants, who have had four head coaches since 2016, hope this Belichick disciple can bring New York back to relevancy.
Along with the new head coach, the Giants have entrusted second-year quarterback Daniel Jones with the offense after two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning announced his retirement. Jones is accompanied by new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett who has spent the last decade in charge of the Dallas Cowboys where he went 13-5 against his current employer.
Defensively, new coordinator, Patrick Graham takes over. He worked with Judge in Foxborough from 2012-2015 and was with the Giants from 2016-2017 serving as the defensive line coach. In 2016, the Giants D-line registered 35 sacks, the next season they regressed to 27 sacks which ranked third worst in the league. Last season, Graham was in Miami as their defensive coordinator, his first coordinator job. Under Graham, Miami allowed the most points per game in the NFL, however the Dolphins were in #TankforTua mode even before the 2019 season kicked off.
With a cadre of new faces gracing the sidelines this year, what can the fans expect from Big Blue on the field?
The New Judge in Town
Although it has been a relatively quiet training camp for the Giants, one takeaway has been the style of practicing Joe Judge has implemented. Early on he had a no-name practice jersey policy as well as handing out running punishments for mistakes. That running included both players and coaches.
Many in the national media were surprised, and some even derided it. Watching Judge’s introductory press conference these methods could have been foreseen. The current players seem to have bought-in, and Judge has shown he’s not just a disciplinarian tyrant.
New York and its famed media can tell when a person is not genuine. So far Judge hasn’t shied away from New York’s rabid press pool. Tom Coughlin was a no-nonsense guy and that style is what this young team seems to be responding to. The last couple of seasons have included the antics of Odell Beckham Jr. and a lack of physicality on defense. A guy like Judge could build a culture where players want to play their hardest and police themselves. No matter what, the win-loss record will determine a ruling on Judge.
Jonesing for More
In 12 games started as a rookie, Daniel Jones threw for 3,027 yards, 24 touchdowns, and completed nearly 62 percent of his passes. He earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after his first start in Week 3, 2019 – a 32-31 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Like most rookie campaigns, there were high and low points. For Jones that was a league-leading 18 fumbles, 11 of which were lost. Ball security needed to be addressed and Jones made it a top priority this offseason as he worked with trainers Anthony Boone and David Morris.
Decision making was another aspect where Jones could improve. A newly bolstered o-line and healthy receiving options should help. The Giants drafted OT Andrew Thomas from Georgia with the fourth overall pick and he will be expected to contribute immediately with Nate Solder opting out of the season.
The receiving corps will look the same this season with Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, and TE Evan Engram being the top options. Those four only played together once in 2019, Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings. The new offensive additions come in the backfield where Pro Bowler Saquon Barkley will be accompanied by Dion Lewis who signed with the Giants this offseason after two seasons backing up Derrick Henry in Tennessee.
The keys for the offense in 2020 will be staying healthy and reducing turnovers.
The Giants gave up the third-most points per game in the NFL last season. Of the Giants four 2019 wins only two were one-possession games. Frankly, they need to be better defensively and close out games.
The front office signed LB Blake Martinez and CB James Bradberry to three-year deals. The last times Big Blue made a similar splash was in 2016 when they signed CB Janoris Jenkins to a five year deal and in 2017 when they traded for LB Alec Ogletree. Both were promising but failed to live up to expectations. Similar to Jenkins and Ogletree, Martinez and Bradberry will jump right into starting positions.
The defensive line is returning all 2019 starters. It will be good to see second-year DT Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, and mid-season acquisition Leonard Williams back together. All are primarily run stoppers and the Giants will need to rely on their linebackers to get after the quarterback.
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham runs a 3-4 defensive scheme. I noted at the top of the article the lack of QB pressure he had as the D-line coach here in New York. It is concerning because those seasons he had Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon whose main job was to get the QB. The Giants’ sack leader last season was LB Markus Golden (10) and he will be the lone weapon this season.
The secondary has been dreadful in recent years and especially in 2019. Landon Collins was a pro bowler in 2018 but was let go in the offseason. To address that loss, Jabrill Peppers was brought in from Cleveland but he played below average. His fifth-year option was picked up by the Giants. Opposite the aforementioned Bradberry is newly acquired veteran Logan Ryan. Second-year CB Corey Ballentine is expected to get reps as well and played well in 2019.
Deandre Baker, a first-round pick a year ago and who was slated to start this season, was arrested in May and charged with four counts of armed robbery. The Giants are expected to cut him. The lack of depth has opened up the chance for others and rookie Darnay Holmes has jumped on the opportunities.
It’s hard not to improve on last season but the Giants will but will still be a bottom-ten defensive unit in 2020.
The Giants schedule is the seventh easiest based on combined 2019 winning percentages. They will face the NFC West, AFC North, Bears, and Bucs to go along with their division. Similar non-division opponents from last season included the Buccaneers, Bears and Cardinals against which they went 1-2.
I predict the same, with the win coming against Arizona instead of Tampa. Although they haven’t done it since December 11th, 2016, the Giants will also get a win against the Dallas Cowboys this season. I have them at 6-10 on the season which would be a two-win improvement but the fourth season without a playoff appearance.