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Joe Judge swears that when he gathers his offense on the sidelines during games, he sees a spark of life in their eyes. He sees their good intentions. Their focus and desire is there.
“They got the right look in the eyes,” the Giants coach said. “They’re still going out there to compete. They’re locked in. They’re glued into it right there.”
Which means it’s not the effort that’s the problem, and it’s well beyond the scheme, and at this point the Giants can’t even lean completely on injuries as a crutch. The sad truth is that the Giants have assembled an offense that just doesn’t have nearly enough good players.
And that could be a real problem for them as they try to fix this mess next year.
Because for all their efforts, all their high draft picks and free-agent money, they will not head into 2022 with a stable of proven talent. And they don’t have a lot of assets -- like cap room -- to make it much better. Their core, when healthy, may look good on paper, but it has proven to be disastrous on the field.
Whether it will get any better remains to be seen. But here’s a position-by-position look at what the Giants have for their offensive future.
Spoiler alert: It’s not good.
The Giants are almost certainly going to roll with Daniel Jones as their starter in 2022, mostly because they don’t have any better options. A weak draft at the position isn’t going to help, and a trade for Russell Wilson is dream that will create more problems than it’s worth.
If Jones stays healthy, he’s proven he’s competent, though the jury is still out on whether he’s much more than that. But the Mike Glennon-Jake Fromm tandem the last few weeks has proven they need a much more viable veteran backup. If Jones is likely to miss 2-3 games per season, they better have someone who can step in and win.
Saquon Barkley averaged 2.1 yards per carry on Sunday and his one catch went for minus-4 yards. It’s well beyond the blocking issues in front of him. He’s just not a player who makes anyone miss anymore.
Maybe that’s what everyone should have expected in his first year after ACL surgery. The Giants sure hope that he can still find his old form next season since he’ll be back on his fifth-year option worth $7.2 million. But he’s not the guy who was supposed to be the engine of their offense. He’ll be better with an improved offensive line, but can he carry a team anymore? It doesn’t seem like he could.
This is a trainwreck and there’s no sign of help, especially with no cap room to bring a top veteran in this March. The only keeper on their current group looks like left tackle Andrew Thomas, and they’ll be holding their breath that center Nick Gates and guard Shane Lemieux return from injuries next season and are as good as the Giants hoped they would be.
But they clearly need another starting guard and a new right tackle, not to mention some depth. It’s a safe bet they’ll draft a tackle with one of their two first-round picks. Any help they get has to come from outside, because they have little worth keeping within.
Kenny Golladay got a $72 million contract to be the Giants’ No. 1 receiver and he has no touchdowns and only 34 catches for 499 yards in 12 games. He shows no ability to get separation or to get open deep, and the Giants don’t ever seem to be in a hurry to target him. Rookie Kadarius Toney has looked like an electric receiver at times, but he’s played just 10 games and has to prove he can stay on the field.
Evan Engram will be a free agent, and it’s hard to imagine the Giants will want him back or vice versa. And Kyle Rudolph will likely end up a salary cap casualty, too. That leaves the Giants with … Kaden Smith? Maybe a mid-round draft pick or a budget free agent? As long as they find one that can actually block, maybe they’ll be OK.
Firing Jason Garrett was a good first step, but there’s no reason to hand the offense over to Freddie Kitchens at this point. Granted, he wasn’t handed a full deck of cards, but what he’s done with them has been far from impressive.
What the Giants need is a new set of eyes -- someone from the outside to take a completely different approach to how to use the playmakers and develop the quarterback. If that means changing the entire offensive staff, and Judge is willing to allow it, then so be it.
Keep an eye on Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who was a top choice of Judge when he was hired. The Bills wouldn’t let him interview Daboll two years ago, and Giants co-owner John Mara wanted Judge to hire Garrett anyway. But many believe Judge will take another run at Daboll. And if the Bills let him, he should.