Analyzing the 2023 Giants season, plus biggest offseason storylines

The Giants made the playoffs a year ago. They beat the Vikings in the first round. They entered this season believing they were capable of accomplishing the same, maybe even going further.

That did not happen.

The Giants finished 6-11, their playoff hopes dashed after a 2-8 start.

So what went wrong for New York this year? Where must it improve for 2024?

Here’s the Giants’ season in review...

What went right

Not much. The Giants regressed in almost every possible way from their playoff season a year ago. They thought they’d found their franchise quarterback in Daniel Jones -- they have not.

They thought they’d infused their offense with additional playmakers -- they did not. They felt their defense was better than a year ago -- they were not. They thought they’d closed the game between themselves and the others in the NFC East -- they did not.

There was a month of fun with undrafted quarterback Tommy DeVito, but about all you can praise is the development of some of their youth. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux, despite having a low overall pass-rush rate of 8.8 percent (NextGen), finished with 11 1/2 sacks. That ties the most by a Giants defender since Leonard Williams (11 1/2), and was one off Jason Pierre-Paul’s 12 1/2 in 2014.

The Giants also saw some progress from receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. Last year’s second-round pick returned from offseason knee surgery to catch 60 passes for 525 yards and one touchdown in 15 games.

What went wrong

There’s quite a lot, but nothing more pressing than quarterback. Jones enjoyed the best season of his career in 2022 when he threw for 3,205 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions, adding another 708 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

He capped the year leading the Giants to an upset victory over the Vikings in the first round. The Giants believed he’d turned a corner, so GM Joe Schoen signed him to a four-year, $160-million extension.

The ROI on the contract hasn’t been ideal.

Jones played six games for the Giants this season. He went 1-5 as a starter and regressed in nearly every statistical category except completion percentage (career-high 67.5). Expand his statistics out to a 17-game season and Jones would have just 2,575 passing yards, six touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Jones’ performance thrusts his status as the team’s franchise quarterback into extreme doubt. The Giants could be looking for his replacement in the draft this offseason.

Making matters worse: He tore his ACL against the Raiders on Nov. 5 and the Giants are uncertain when he’ll be able to play.

The offseason storylines

1. Saquon Barkley

The Giants had contract talks with Barkley last offseason but failed to come to terms on a long-term deal. Barkley played this season on the franchise tag. While there’s a chance the Giants tag him again, it seems more likely that Barkley is on a new team next year.

He admitted before the Giants’ Week 18 finale against the Eagles he’s thought about a "fresh start." There is clearly a limit on how much Schoen is willing to pay a running back, which will likely lead to the end of Barkley’s career with the Giants. Barkley finished this season with 247 rushes for 962 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games. The Giants will make Barkley another offer. It’s just hard to imagine it’s for the money he wants.

2. What will Brian Daboll’s coaching staff look like?

It’s crazy how much can change in one season. This time last year, the Giants were readying for the playoffs and their two coordinators (Mike Kafka on offense, Wink Martindale on defense) were hotshot head coaching candidates. Now it’s hard to foresee a situation where both return -- and not because they’re getting promotions.

Kafka looks destined for the college ranks, where he could receive head coaching interest. He wanted an NFL job, but that’s not happening. Martindale, however, is another story. He and Daboll, as first reported by Fox’s Jay Glazer, did not see eye to eye throughout the season, something Martindale himself never denied during multiple news conferences. That tension is overlooked when you’re winning.

It boils over when you’re losing.

"Those answers will come later on in the week as far as which way we go," Martindale said during his final meeting with the media.

That answer came a day after the regular season ended as Martindale resigned to pursue head coaching and other coordinator opportunities.

3. Evan Neal's future

The Giants selected Neal seventh overall in 2022. He had a bad first season, finishing with a Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of 41.8. That’s fine. Neal wouldn’t be the first (or last) player to endure a challenging NFL acclimation before turning it around. The problem is that Neal did not improve in Year 2. He actually got worse.

His final grade before landing on season-ending injured reserve: 39.8. Neal allowed 30 pressures, according to PFF, in his seven starts. Referees flagged him five times. He wasn’t horrible as a run-blocker, at least, with a 51.1 mark.

Schoen admitted during his midseason news conference that he went back and watched Neal’s college tape again to see if he missed anything. He feels he can still play. The Giants must decide whether his future is at tackle or guard, though.

It’s clear, either way, they can’t rely on him entering next season. They can hope he develops, but cannot expect him to without any contingency plan in place. That could mean using their first-round pick on Notre Dame tackle Joe Alt or Penn State’s Olu Fashanu.

Salary cap outlook

The Giants are projected to have $34.86 million in salary cap space, according to OverTheCap, assuming a team cap of $242 million. They can free additional space with the releases of guard Mark Glowinski ($5.7 million) and receiver Darius Slayton ($6 million). Releasing tight end Darren Waller, although unlikely, would free another $7 million.

Where they’re picking

The Giants will select sixth in the 2024 NFL Draft. It will be their highest selection since 2022, when they picked fifth and seventh and selected Thibodeaux and Neal.

It will be a successful offseason if …

They find an answer at quarterback. There’s no worse position than quarterback purgatory in the NFL. That’s where the Giants find themselves now. Jones will be on the team in 2024 -- no one is trading for a quarterback coming off a torn ACL and two neck injuries. It seems very unlikely he’s on the team in 2025.

The problem: The Giants have no realistic option to develop for the role. They need to find that player this offseason. Either with their first- or second-round pick. They likely won’t be in position to draft Drake Maye (UNC) or Caleb Williams (USC), barring a trade up, which isn’t out of the question. They could draft Michael Penix Jr. (Washington) or Jayden Daniels (LSU).