Ranking the Top 5 Giants stories of 2022

Brian Daboll and Saquon Barkley
Brian Daboll and Saquon Barkley / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

The Giants are typically a franchise with a lot of stability from the top down, but the 2022 calendar year has been quite the ride for Big Blue.

From changes at general manager and head coach to two Top 10 picks in the draft to a 6-1 start, it's been a busy year for a team looking to get back to its winning ways.

Here are our Top 5 Giants stories of 2022...

5. Hot start to 2022 season

The Giants entered 2022 on the heels of five straight losing seasons dating back to 2016. Three head coaches and 59 losses later, the Giants entered the 2022 season with plenty to prove, and they made a statement right out of the gate, storming back from a 13-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Tennessee Titans on the road in Week 1.

In that Week 1 win, head coach Brian Daboll quickly put his head coaching style on full display, scoring a late touchdown and going for two points rather than playing for the tie. The gamble paid off with a 21-20 win, and the Giants rode that momentum to a 6-1 start, their best since they started 11-1 in 2008.

Big Blue sputtered a bit in the second half, but a huge Week 15 win over Washington breathed new life into their postseason chances.

No matter the outcome, Daboll proved himself as the right man for the job early on in his tenure, and the Giants offered a possible glimpse of what’s to come in future seasons as they continue to improve their roster.

4. Kadarius Toney saga comes to an end

Right from the jump, the Giants and Toney seemed like an odd fit. Toney, a talented speedster out of Florida, was viewed as a potential late-first or second-round pick in the 2021 draft. And while the thought was the Giants wanted to take a receiver early, they ended up trading back from their No. 11 spot after Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith all came off the board.

The Giants ended up taking Toney with the 20th overall pick, but a positive COVID diagnosis in training camp led to a slow start for the first-rounder. He had his breakout performance against the Cowboys in Week 5, hauling in 10 passes for 189 yards, but he was ejected from the game for throwing a punch.

An oblique injury and another battle with COVID led to Toney playing just 10 games as a rookie, and he wasn’t much of a contributor through his first two games under Daboll in Year 2, catching just two passes for zero yards in Weeks 1 and 2 before injuring his hamstring. His lack of production and availability eventually forced GM Joe Schoen’s hand, and the Giants traded Toney to the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 27, picking up a third- and sixth-round pick in the process.

Dec 18, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; New York Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Commanders during the first half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; New York Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Commanders during the first half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports / © Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

3. Drafting Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal

Having two picks in the Top 10 of any NFL Draft is certainly prime real estate to own, and with the Giants trying to shake off a streak of five straight losing seasons, the franchise knew it had to hit on those picks to help move things in the right direction.

With the fifth pick, the Giants selected Thibodeaux, an edge rusher out of Oregon, and then turned around and addressed the offensive side of the ball by selecting Neal, the Alabama tackle, with pick No. 7.

And while it’s still very, very early in each of those players’ careers, the early returns have been promising.

Thibodeaux missed the first two weeks of the season due to a knee injury, and while he had just one sack over his first nine games, it became apparent that Thibodeaux was becoming more and more of a problem for opposing offenses. His breakout game came in the national spotlight against Washington in Week 15, when he finished with nine tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery touchdown.

Neal has also been forced to deal with a knee injury during his rookie year, as he exited the Week 7 game against Jacksonville and then missed the next four games.

But when he’s been able to play, Neal has held his own while starting at right tackle opposite of Andrew Thomas on the left side, giving the Giants two young, talented bookends.

The jury is still out on what kind of players Thibodeaux and Neal will develop into, but for now, both players have shown flashes of being key pieces for Big Blue for years to come.

2. Saquon’s resurgence

Saquon Barkley played just two games in 2020 before tearing his right ACL against the Bears. He came back the next season and played in 11 games, but was nowhere near his pre-injury self, totaling just 593 rushing yards on 162 carriers, averaging a career-worst 3.7 yards per carry (excluding his shortened 2020 year).

As a result of those two lost seasons, Barkley entered 2023 as an enigma, with the Giants not yet extending him past his fifth-year option.

But the Penn State product made a statement in Week 1, rushing for 164 yards and touchdown in Big Blue’s Week 1 win over the Titans.

And from there, he was off and running.

With 100-plus-yard performances against the Titans, Bears, Jaguars, and Texans, Barkley has had a tremendous bounce-back season, rushing for 1,254 yards on 283 carries with T TDs. Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka have committed to the run game, and with so many issues at the wide receiver position, Barkley being a dynamic weapon once again has been a needed boost for the offense.

1. Regime change

The Giants have a storied, winning history, but the previous five seasons were pretty bleak. And with the franchise seemingly spinning their wheels in the mud, a change was needed. Former general manager Dave Gettleman “retired” in early January, though many saw the move as Gettleman being forced out, and former head coach Joe Judge was fired the next day.

By late January, the Giants had their new regime in place, led by Schoen and Daboll, both of whom had previously worked together in Buffalo. Schoen was tasked with rebuilding a roster that was lacking depth and locked into some gaudy contracts, while Daboll had to design a scheme that best fit the players already in the building.

Schoen got started by drafting Thibodeaux and Neal in the first round of the draft, and Daboll & Co. saw the Giants get off to a 6-1 start with a return to the playoffs firmly in view -- New York clinches a postseason spot with a win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in Week 17.

Time will tell just how good of a match Schoen and Daboll are with New York, but their early work has rightfully had Giants fans thinking that things are moving in the right direction.