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But 2021 hasn’t produced many positive storylines as the season nears an end.
Instead of more progress, New York has taken a step back and many questions remain.
Let’s take a look at the top five Giants stories of 2021:
5. Win-now free agent spending yields little results
GM Dave Gettleman saw the culture built by Judge in Year 1, and after co-owner John Mara hinted at wanting to see results instead of obtaining moral victories, he put his money where his mouth is.
But any good GM knows that free agent spending doesn’t always yield the results you want. And that definitely goes for the Giants after what they did this offseason.
Their biggest splash was landing Kenny Golladay, arguably the top wide receiver on the market. It was clear Daniel Jones needed more help on the outside after his receivers couldn’t get open in 2020, and Golladay was someone who was looked at to immediately change that.
Then, Leonard Williams finally agreed to his extension and got the guaranteed money he wanted -- $45 million. It was a three-year deal worth $63 million.
And finally, Adoree’ Jackson was inked to a deal just a couple days later, bringing in a cover corner who could play opposite to James Bradberry. It was a surprise to many that these three were locked in with Big Blue to start the year, showing they believed they were just a few players away from making themselves a contender again.
What have the results been? Golladay has yet to find the end zone in 12 games while hauling in 34 receptions for 499 yards. He’s also been dealing with many injuries (more on that in just a bit). But his production is nothing close to what was expected.
Williams hasn’t totaled double-digit sacks like he did last season, tallying 5.5 in 15 games. He does have more tackles than last year (70), but his quarterback hits (12) aren’t close to what they were. And for Jackson, he’s been solid but has missed time with injury as well.
So, while there’s been flashes of impactful play, it didn't give the Giants the boost they needed in the win column. And even worse, their cap for next season is less than ideal.
4. Injuries, injuries, injuries
No team wants the title of most injured, but unfortunately that’s where the Giants have found themselves in 2021.
Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates, two starting offensive linemen, were lost for the season just as it got started. Then, Blake Martinez went down with a torn ACL – a key defensive cog at linebacker. And the list goes on and on.
At one point, Golladay, Sterling Shepard, rookie Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton were all injured. Basically a practice squad full of receivers had to play. First-round pick Andrew Thomas dealt with foot and ankle injuries that forced him to miss games, leaving out the Giants’ best offensive lineman at left tackle.
So was conditioning prior to the season not good enough? Was it just a string of horrible luck? Either way, it’s something the Giants will certainly have to evaluate at the end of the year.
3. Firing Jason Garrett
Before the start of the season, many believed that Garrett’s scheme just didn’t work for the modern NFL. There was a reason the Dallas Cowboys gave those offensive coordinator duties to Kellen Moore before Garrett was eventually relieved of his head coaching duties.
Well, after less than two seasons, the Giants relieved him of his coordinating duties, too.
The Giants just couldn’t score points, so after just an abysmal performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 10, coming off a bye no less, they made the call to fire Garrett.
Some blame injuries or poor construction of the offensive line. But at the end of the day, Garrett couldn’t get things done when they were healthy. The Giants were the worst team in red zone efficiency in the league while he called plays.
But this all works back to the beginning of the season: Did the Giants really think Garrett’s scheme would work after what occurred in 2020 with a low amount of points scored per game? They did it for the sake of continuity for Jones, but the decision turned out to be the wrong one.
2. Saquon Barkley looks like shell of himself in comeback season
Barkley's rookie season in 2018 was masterful, breaking franchise records left and right while being in the conversation for the league’s best back. But then injuries starting coming into play in 2019, as he dealt with a bad ankle sprain that kept him sidelined and limited him when he got back in.
But for Barkley, 2020 was the worst year of all. A torn ACL and more knee damage occurred in Week 2 and shut him down for the year. However, we saw how quickly he came back in ’19 and he intended on returning as soon as possible for New York.
Barkley, though, has looked like a shell of himself all season long and that leaves the Giants with a huge question mark for their No. 2 overall pick. He’s due a contract extension after his fifth-year option, which kicks in for next season.
He looked great in Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints, scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime and totaling over 100 yards from scrimmage. He was swift, moving well against a good defense, and many thought this was where he hits his stride. Then, a freak ankle sprain against the Dallas Cowboys the next week ruined all of that.
If Barkley puts together a year like he did in 2021, it’ll be hard for a new GM to want to sign him to big money.
1. Daniel Jones remains an unknown as injury ends his season
The top storyline of the year is the performance of Jones. Year 3 for young quarterbacks is normally when they take that leap forward, cementing themselves as franchise quarterbacks. Or they don’t.
The Giants love Jones and how he is as a player. But the results have not been there.
And even worse for the Giants, they couldn't fully evaluate him as he was placed on IR with a strained neck that also ended his season.
So Jones’ 2021 campaign ends with just 2,428 yards through the air with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions over 11 games. That means for his career in 38 games, he has thrown for 8,398 yards, 45 touchdowns, 29 interceptions and owns a 12-25 record over that span.
Sure, there’s a lot that goes into evaluating whether or not Jones is the future of this franchise, including having to play through Garrett’s scheme despite its flaws, the failure to build in the trenches to keep him upright and more.
But, again, with a new GM expected to come in, he or she will have an outsider’s view on how Jones has performed. He didn’t help his case in 2021.