Bold Predictions for Giants' 2021 NFL Season

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2021

Bold Predictions for Giants' 2021 NFL Season

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    The New York Giants fell to the Cleveland Browns 17-13 on Sunday in their second preseason game of 2021. While New York played few starters and exhibition games are ultimately meaningless, we can glean a few facts from the Giants' latest outing.

    For one, New York played a physical and disciplined brand of football against a very good Browns team. That's the identity New York developed late last season under head coach Joe Judge. It will continue to be the team's identity in 2021.

    Second, the Giants showed that they have some quality defensive depth. Despite playing mostly backups, New York produced good pressure against Cleveland's quarterbacks, snagged an interception and got sacks from Oshane Ximines, Raymond Johnson III and Carter Coughlin.

    The Giants are going to be deep and dangerous on the defensive side of the ball, which gives them a realistic shot at making the postseason in 2021. Here are three other predictions for New York's upcoming campaign.

New York Will Field a Top-10 Defense

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    The Giants were relevant in the NFC East last season because of their defense. Coordinator Patrick Graham forged a unit that ranked 12th in total defense and ninth in points allowed. Graham, though, refuses to rest on his laurels.

    "As soon as the season's over, I've reset and then it's part of our job to make sure the players know, 'Hey, nothing matters from last year, from the previous year,'" Graham said earlier in August, per Yahoo Sports' Scott Thompson.

    However, New York's defense will be just as good, if not better, in 2021. The Giants locked up standout Leonard Williams this offseason while adding the likes of Danny Shelton, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Ryan Anderson and Adoree Jackson.

    The Giants then used second- and third-round picks on pass-rusher Azeez Ojulari and cornerback Aaron Robinson, respectively.

    With a full offseason under Graham, the Giants defense won't experience the learning curve in 2020. It will be a strong unit out of the gate and will finish as a top-10 overall defense.

Kenny Golladay Won't Reach 1,000 Receiving Yards

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    John Munson/Associated Press

    The Giants also made moves this offseason to improve their offense. The biggest addition was wideout Kenny Golladay, who signed a four-year, $72 million deal in free agency.

    Golladay projects as New York's new No. 1 receiver. But while he will fill that role, he isn't going to reach the coveted 1,000-yard mark.

    With the Detroit Lions, Golladay produced back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2018 and 2019. However, he was also playing with quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is a couple notches above Daniel Jones as a pro passer.

    Golladay has also been dealing with a hamstring injury in camp and may not get off to the hot start that the Giants envisioned when signing him.

    There's also the fact that Jones will have multiple quality targets with which to work this season, including Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard. Golladay won't see the target share that he did in Detroit. Nevertheless, he will have a big, positive impact on the passing attack.

Devontae Booker Will Be a Major Offensive Factor

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    While the signing of running back Devontae Booker didn't get the attention of the Golladay deal, it is going to pay major dividends this year. Starter Saquon Barkley is still recovering from last year's ACL tear and may not be close to 100 percent early in the year.

    Judge has "absolutely not," ruled out playing Barkley in Week 1, according to NFL Network's Kim Jones.

    Even if Barkley is healthy, though, the Giants should lean on Booker to lighten the superstar's workload. Booker racked up 423 rushing yards and 4.5 yards per carry last season with the Las Vegas Raiders and is already looking like an asset in the preseason.

    Against the Browns, Booker rushed for 27 yards and a touchdown on only six carries. He also caught two passes for 13 yards.

    Booker should form a solid tandem with Barkley and will contribute in a significant complementary role. He is going to see several touches each week, helping to keep Barkley healthy and the Giants offense effective. Expect to see Booker top 500 rushing yards this season.