Giants' young stars 'laser-focused' on improving in offseason, building off 2022

Jan 8, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney (29) and offensive tackle Evan Neal (73) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Jan 8, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney (29) and offensive tackle Evan Neal (73) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants exceeded all expectations this season, going from 4-13 in 2021-22 to to 9-7-1 under a first-year head coach and not only making the playoffs, but upsetting the No. 3 seed Minnesota Vikings on the road in the Wild Card Round.

Their season came to an end Saturday night in Philadelphia, as they lost 38-7 to the NFC's No. 1 seed Eagles. Despite the disappointing end to the season, safety Xavier McKinney told reporters Sunday that he's already focused on improving in the offseason.

"It's not the greatest feeling, but I think we got a lot to look forward to," McKinney said. "I thought we had a great year. I thought we improved a lot, especially just thinking back where we came from the last two years, last three years has been an amazing improvement. I think we got a lot of things to be happy about, but I don't think we should be complacent. I don't think we are. We're still going to be hungry for more, a lot more hungry.

"Now we just got to look to continue to build off of what we've already built. And we just got to continue to try to improve so we can be back in this situation next year."

McKinney missed a chunk of time during the season after suffering multiple broken fingers in an ATV accident during the team's bye week, and was asked about the next steps for his hand in the offseason.

"Rehab, yeah rehab. I'm gonna be working my ass off. I'll be around here so," McKinney said. "Like I said, this season is over. Obviously we're going into the offseason, but I'm laser-focused on what I need to do to have a great season next year, so we can have a great season next year. And a part of that is getting my hand all the way back to 100 percent. I'll be here, I'll be rehabbing every day and doing whatever I need to do."

Rookie offensive tackle Evan Neal switched to right tackle after playing on the left side at Alabama, and it took him some time to adjust, but he's proud of his progress.

"I want to get better in all facets of the game," Neal said. "Not just pass protection, I want to be a better run blocker, better pass protector. My knowledge and IQ of the game I want to increase. Really just getting better overall. And I feel like I made those improvements week to week, game by game this season. If you turn on the tape and watch it, I believe you'll see it."

Neal added:

"Well I did it in college, but making the jump from left tackle on the college level and right tackle on the NFL level, it made it a little bit more challenging being the fact that I played a different position basically since my senior year in high school, never got a chance to settle into one spot. So it kinda presented its own challenges, but I dealt with it the best way I could ... Definitely looking forward to it, just being able to get locked in to one position and just refine that position for sure."

Neal went on to say he believes he can achieve his potential by working hard in the offseason and blocking out the distractions.

"I'm just going to keep working until I get there," Neal said. "Put my head down, keep working, and I'm gonna look up and see how good I'm gonna become. But it starts with the work, putting the work in, having a good offseason, just doing the necessary things it's gonna take to get there."

Fellow rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux showed huge signs of growth towards the end of the season, including a 12-tackle game with a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and touchdown against the Washington Commanders in Week 16.

"I definitely didn't do everything I wanted to do, I left some stuff out there," Thibodeaux said. "I got a chip on my shoulder for next year."

He added:

"I ain't going to tell you where I'm gonna be, but I'm going to be grinding, just know that, I'm gonna be grinding."