The New York Giants came into the 2023 season with high hopes after experiencing their first playoff appearance since 2016 last season.
Those hopes have been dashed — and then some — as the Giants have opened the 2023 season with a 2-8 record and are on course to have one of their worst seasons in franchise history.
That didn’t happen in a vacuum. Injuries, poor coaching and personnel choices, and yes, player underperformance, have all contributed to the club’s rapid demise.
Here are five players who contributed heavily in 2022 that have ‘vanished’ this season.
Isaiah Hodgins played a major role on the Giants’ offense during the stretch run last year after being claimed off waivers from Buffalo.
Hodgins caught 33 passes for 351 yards and four touchdowns in five starts in December and January.
In 2023, Hodgins has started eight of 10 games and has just 12 catches for 120 yards and one score.
I’m in the midst of not blaming Hodgins. I blame the Giants and their poor game-planning and play-calling. Sure, a revolving door at quarterback due to injuries has hurt, but still, why aren’t they trying to get him the ball?
The arrival of Darren Waller was sure to cut into Daniel Bellinger’s role as a receiver on this team — and it has. Bellinger came to camp pumped up and ready to assume more of a blocking role as Waller stepped into the spotlight.
Waller, after a slow start and some injury issues, leads the team in targets and catches.
But, as many teams who steered away from Waller predicted, he cannot stay healthy and is now essentially out indefinitely with a leg injury halfway through the season.
Bellinger, on the other hand, has dressed for all 10 games and has been used sparingly. He has nine catches for 99 yards this season and should be in line for a bigger role.
That is about to change — or is it? The Giants appear to have elevated Lawrence Cager into the Waller role over Bellinger. What a waste of talent.
The Giants committed to Darius Slayton with a two-year, $12 million extension this offseason. Last week, he was spatting on the sidelines with wide receivers coach Mike Groh and teammate Sterling Shepard.
The Giants’ passing game is a mess right now, as illustrated above, but other teams seem to soldier through quarterback injuries to remain functional.
Somehow the Giants aren’t doing that — and don’t seem to be planning on doing it. The hey are content with Tommy DeVito under center, running the ball and throwing short and medium-range passes.
Even though he’s second to Waller on the team in targets, that strategy has no role for a player like Slayton, who has averaged nearly 15 yards per reception over his career.
K Graham Gano
Yes, we know Graham Gano is injured and out for the season. Maybe that’s the point.
Gano has been a key to the Giants’ recent success, setting franchise records for consecutive and long kicks.
This season, Gano was signed to a three-year extension but is now on IR after suffering a knee injury. He played in eight games but attempted just 17 field goals, converting 11, with a long of 57 while hitting all eight PATs in his eight games played.
Isn’t Julian Love on the Seattle Seahawks now? Yes, and that’s the point.
Last season, Love led the Giants in tackles — by a lot. He had 124 total stops. Linebacker Jaylon Smith was second with 88.
They have not been bad. McKinney is second on the team in tackles and Pinnock is fourth and both have started all 10 games.
But something is missing. Leadership. And that is what they lost when Love left. For those asking, Love has started six of nine games for the Seahawks and is third in tackles behind Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks. He will be in the NFC playoffs.
McKinney, meanwhile, has been very critical of the way the team has been run and will likely be headed elsewhere in free agency next March.