Five Questions Facing the New York Giants

Five Questions As The New York Giants Continue Training Camp

  • Daniel Jones
  • Darius Slayton
  • Evan Engram
  • Leonard Williams
  • New York Giants
  • NFL
By Usayd Koshul August 8, 2020 0 Comment
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As the New York Giants continue training camp, questions remain all over the roster

Let’s face it: After the New York Giants hired Joe Judge in January 2020, the franchise hit the reset button once again. For the third time since 2016, the Giants have a new head coach with Judge. Thankfully, for the first time in forever, it feels like the team is heading in the right direction.

With young talent at multiple positions on both sides of the ball, the expectations for the Big Blue are clearly higher than they were a year ago. Last year, at this time, all the talk about the beginning of the Daniel Jones era. This year, the talk still revolves around Jones, and what he can develop into as he enters year two.

Besides Jones, the Giants have some questions to answers. Besides Darius Slayton, who steps up at wide receiver? What about Leonard Williams? Can Xavier McKinney emerge as well? With the hole that’s been created as a result of DeAndre Baker’s legal issues, who’s going to step up?

As the Giants continue training camp, here are five questions that will need to be answered.

1) Will Dave Gettleman’s lack of investments in wide receivers hurt the Giants?

Look around at all the teams that have drafted quarterbacks over the last few years. There’s a clear trend that exists as teams head into their second off-seasons with young quarterbacks: Investing in wide receivers. The Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery for Carson Wentz. The Bears signed Allen Robinson for Mitchell Trubisky. And the Giants? Well they didn’t invest in a single wide receiver for Jones.

Heading into the 2020 NFL off-season, despite having Slayton on the roster, the Giants needed to add some pass-catchers. Golden Tate is an aging veteran who isn’t the future of this team, while Sterling Shepard has dealt with concussion issues over the last few years. The 2020 NFL Draft was expected to be deep at the wide receiver position. Thus, giving Gettleman an opportunity to add Slayton’s complement, while giving Jones another target in the passing game.

Gettleman elected not to draft or sign a single wide receiver in free agency, which has some serious implications. Gettleman is banking on Tate and Shepard being healthy, Slayton taking the next step, and the four undrafted free agents he signed to make an impact.

But here’s the catch: There is no guarantee that Tate or Sheppard stay healthy, while Slayton is a WR2 at best. The Giants need to hope that someone like Austin Mack steps up, otherwise, the team will have to address wide receiver during the 2021 off-season.

As the Giants get back to work, the wide receiver room will be one to monitor. Even if Slayton makes the jump many are anticipating, Gettleman’s lack of attention to the wide receiver could room hurt the Giants, meaning the team will need to address the position by bringing in a top-tier option in 2021.

2) Can Leonard Williams live up to expectations? 

No player is under the microscope in 2020 more than Williams, who’s been Gettleman’s hand-picked defensive tackle. After acquiring Williams for third and fifth-round draft picks, the hope is that Williams can rediscover the magic that made him a top-10 pick six years ago.

In eight games with the Giants last season, Williams had just 0.5 sacks. Unless the name is Aaron Donald, defensive tackles typically don’t pad the stat sheet. Much of their work is done by stopping the run and picking up blocks to allow for linebackers and defensive ends to get after the quarterback.

Williams now faces a make-or-break year in 2020. His cap hit is $16.1 million dollars, which is sixth highest in the NFL for interior defensive lineman, per Over The Cap. That puts him behind names like Donald, Chris Jones, Fletcher Cox, and DeForest Buckner.

In the NFL, it’s all about return on investments. If the Giants believe Williams is worth paying, then he’ll need to have a big year in 2020. That means a career year that sees the former first-rounder reach double-digit sacks, pressures, quarterback hits, and tackles for loss. Only a huge year from the USC product would ensure that Gettleman gets a return in the third and fifth-round picks he packaged away. If not, Williams will hit the free-agent market in 2021 with the Giants likely not resigning him.

3) Will Xavier McKinney emerge as the face of the defense? 

Perhaps the most underrated pick of the Gettleman era, Xavier McKinney has a chance to quickly become the face of a young defense that’s entering a new era, with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham leading the way. Alabama safeties have found success quickly in the NFL over the last few years. Just ask Eddie Jackson and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Had there not been a run on wide receivers during the first-round of the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s likely McKinney is a first-round pick. Instead, he fell to the second-round, into the Giants’ lap. With Graham as his main teacher, McKinney has a prime opportunity ahead of him. Along with first-rounder Andrew Thomas, he’ll be the second of 10 rookies who’ll start week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As of right now, the Giants don’t have an impact player on defense. A versatile chess piece who can play multiple positions, gives Graham the opportunity to craft a unique role for McKinney. Scheming different roles for McKinney each week based on the Giants’ opponents will be a fantastic strategy for the first year defensive coordinator.  McKinney will have every opportunity to be the face of a young defense that’s slowly coming together.

4) Who steps up opposite cornerback James Bradberry? 

Just two weeks ago, nobody, not even Deandre Baker knew what would happen with the legal situation. However, we’ve known now, for about the last 72 hours.When the Giants reported to the camp, Baker wasn’t expected to be with the team, having been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. Even if he does return, Judge’s staff will make him earn the starting role. That means a wide-open competition at cornerback is set to begin.

With a total of seven cornerbacks on the roster, not including Baker, a three-way competition will ensue between Darnay Holmes, Ross Cockrell, and Corey Ballentine. Each of the three brings something different to the table, however, Holmes is the hottest name to watch.

A fourth-round pick, Holmes played mainly on the outside at UCLA and was praised for his character both on and off the field, something that will translate into his NFL career as well.

Fourth-round picks, especially cornerbacks typically don’t start their rookie season. Their first year is spent learning the inner-workings of NFL-level defenses, coverages, and schemes. While Holmes will need to learn the latter, he’ll benefit from the absence of Baker. He’ll have every opportunity to seize the starting job and hold it down until at least 2023.

5) Will we see a healthy Evan Engram? 

Yes. No. Or maybe. Nobody knows if we’ll see a healthy Evan Engram during training camp. One thing is clear: When the Giants’ front office opted to pick up Engram’s fifth-year option, guaranteeing that he’s with the team through the end of the 2021 season. By picking up the option, the Giants are displaying confidence in Engram showing up to training camp healthy while also stating that they view him as a key part of the team moving forward.

Over the last few years, lower-body injuries have hampered Engram’s ability to be a key part of the Giants offense. He’s played just 19 games over the last two years and ended 2019 on injured reserve. As he hopes to land a contract extension sometime between 2021 and 2022, Engram needs to stay healthy and have a big year in 2020 to prove that picking up his fifth-year option was the right decision and that he can be a security blanket for the rest of the Giants offense.

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