Giants Players with Most to Prove Ahead of 2021 Season
The New York Giants are entering a pivotal year in 2021. They showed signs of growth under new head coach Joe Judge last season but only won six games. They featured a playoff-caliber defense but ranked just 31st in points scored.
This offseason, New York used both free agency (Kenny Golladay, John Ross) and the draft (Kadarius Toney) to address its receiving corps. It is also expected to have a healthy Saquon Barkley at running back. If the offense—and quarterback Daniel Jones—can be even above-average, the Giants should be back in the NFC East mix.
If the offense continues to struggle, however, New York may have to consider some significant changes offensively—changes that could include Jones and/or offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
While the Giants are looking to prove they are a force in the NFC East, some players have their own battles to win. Here we'll examine three Giants players with the most to prove in 2021.
QB Daniel Jones
No one has more to prove in 2021 than Jones. The third-year quarterback has shown some glimpses of promise but has far from proved himself to be New York's franchise quarterback.
This past season, he threw for just 2,943 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions—after throwing for 24 scores and 12 picks as a rookie. Jones' career passer rating of 84.1 leaves plenty to be desired, and he has a major fumbling issue. Jones has fumbled 29 times in two seasons.
The reality is that if Jones doesn't significantly improve in 2021, the Giants may have to consider other options. First-round quarterbacks no longer enjoy the grace period they once did, as the crosstown Jets recently proved. Sam Darnold was traded after his third season in New York.
Jones shouldn't have many excuses this season, either. Barkley's return will be huge, and the Giants receiving corps is, on paper, the best it's been during Jones' tenure. With Golladay, Ross, Toney and Sterling Shepard at wideout and Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph at tight end, Jones should make strides as a passer in 2021.
If he doesn't, the Giants aren't likely to exercise Jones' fifth-year option next offseason.
RB Saquon Barkley
The Giants will have a decision to make on Jones' fifth-year option next year. They will soon have to make a decision on Barkley's future too. New York did pick up Barkley's fifth-year option, but the former Penn State star will be due a contract extension sooner than later.
"Barkley is likely the position's next hope to raise the salary floor for the league's top backs," Holzman-Escareno wrote.
After amassing more than 2,000 scrimmage yards as a rookie and another 1,441 scrimmage yards in 2019, Barkey could indeed help to reset the running back market. However, he will have to prove he is back to 100 percent—and can stay there—and that he's worth such a significant chunk of New York's salary cap.
Barkley was special as a rookie. He's been merely above-average since. He will have to return to his 2018 form to justify becoming the league's highest-paid running back.
TE Evan Engram
Tight end Evan Engram is entering the fifth year of his rookie contract, and his future is a bit murky as well. This is largely due to the fact that New York signed tight end Kyle Rudolph to two-year, $12 million deal this offseason.
Might the Giants be preparing to move on from Engram? It's possible, as Engram has been good but not elite in his four pro seasons.
Engram was a Pro Bowler in 2020, but his numbers—654 receiving yards, one touchdown—weren't particularly impressive. Engram has topped the 500-yard mark in three of his four campaigns but has averaged just four touchdowns per season.
Over the past three years, Engram has not produced more than three touchdowns in a campaign.
Give the evolving tight end market, Engram could be on his way out. To stay in New York, he will have to prove that he's worth the sort of money Hunter Henry got this offseason—three years and $37.5 million—and his numbers simply don't justify that.
Contract information via Spotrac.