Giants' Keys to Success in 2021 NFL Season
The New York Giants had plenty of positives to take away from the 2020 season. While they only won six games, they established a culture under head coach Joe Judge, forged a defense that finished ninth in points allowed and proved that they are relevant in the NFC East.
The bar has been raised heading into the 2021 season, and New York should hope to be more than relevant. It should have playoff aspirations.
If the defense can maintain the intensity and production is showcased last season, the pieces for a playoff run should be in place. The Giants are expected to have star running back Saquon Barkley on the field at some point early in the season, and New York added offensive skill players like Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph, Devontae Booker and Kadarius Toney this offseason.
On paper, New York is a better team than it was a year ago. Of course, games aren't won on paper. Here, we'll examine three keys to a successful 2021 Giants campaign.
Get New Weapons on the Field
If New York's offensive additions are going to have an impact, they're going to have to get on the field. That's been a problem during the preseason, as Golladay (hamstring), Toney (undisclosed) and Rudolph (foot) have all been hampered by injuries.
Toney has also spent time on the reserve/COVID-19 list and has struggled to even get on the practice field.
"It’s been a disappointing camp for him," Darryl Slater of NJ.com wrote.
Toney is a relatively raw prospect who may not have contributed early anyway. Golladay, though, was signed to a four-year, $72 million deal in free agency and is expected to be New York's new No. 1 receiver. The hamstring injury is a serious cause for concern, though, as a hamstring issue cost him 11 games last season. Jones and Golladay have had virtually no chance to establish chemistry in camp.
With the Denver Broncos looming in Week 1, the Giants have less than two weeks to get as many of their new pieces ready as possible.
Limit Daniel Jones' Mistakes
Getting Golladay, Toney and Rudolph on the field should help quarterback Daniel Jones rebound from a disappointing 2020 campaign. While Jones flashed promise as a rookie (24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions), he was a borderline disaster last year. He had just 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions to go with a passer rating of 80.4.
Even with new weapons at Jones' disposal, the Giants will have to limit the quarterback's mistakes to be successful this season.
Poor decision-making and a lack of pocket awareness have plagued Jones through his first two seasons. He's tossed 22 interceptions in 27 games, taken 83 sacks and fumbled 29 times.
Against the Patriots, Jones showed that his decision-making still isn't quite where it needs to be. He killed a promising drive with an interception on third down from the New England 1-yard line.
The pending return of Barkley should take some pressure off of Jones' shoulders, though the health of the fourth-year back will be a concern all season.
Keep Saquon Barkley Healthy, Fresh Throughout the Season
The Giants know that Barkley can be special when healthy. In 31 career games, the Penn State product has amassed 2,344 rushing yards, 1,219 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. However, Barkley is also coming off of a torn ACL and only recently began taking live practice reps.
Barkley may or may not be ready to go by Week 1, but the Giants should be in no rush to put him out there. Having Barkley available early is less important than having him for the bulk of the 18-week season.
New York must keep Barkley healthy throughout the season too, and that may require putting him on a pitch count. Overworking Barkley—who has averaged 21 touches per game as a pro—would end up in disaster.
This is where the signing of Booker comes into play. The sixth-year pro needs to see a healthy dose of backfield work even after Barkley returns to the lineup. Corey Clement and Elijhaa Penny should also be part of the equation—each averaged six or more yards per carry against the Patriots.
If the Giants hope to reach the playoffs and be a postseason factor, they must ensure that Barkley is available and relatively fresh late in the year.