The Professor’s 2021 NFL Preview: NFC East – New York Giants


New York Giants

Team Projection

TeamPoints ForPoints AgainstGames FavoredPythagorean Expected Wins

Considering how often general manager Dave Gettleman has publicly announced his commitment to the offensive line, it’s somewhat amazing to look at how this roster has come together. There’s a lot to like about the team he’s assembled, but they’ve missed so often on offensive linemen that it’s one of the weakest position groups on the team.

The Giants cut their best offensive lineman, guard Kevin Zeitler, and the only addition they made to the room was former Houston Texans guard Zach Fulton, who will presumably compete with Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez for the starting guard spots. Lemieux and Hernandez competed for the left guard spot throughout 2020, with Lemieux eventually wresting the role away from Hernandez, but neither is particularly impressive.

At the center, Nick Gates was a pleasant surprise last season, and while left tackle Andrew Thomas struggled early and disappointed relative to his draft status, he settled in as a solid player as the year went on. Right tackle is more of a question, as Nate Solder is set to return to the team after a COVID opt-out. Given that Solder has played poorly since joining the Giants and didn’t play football last season, it’s a very real possibility that Matt Peart ends up as the starter, which wouldn’t be ideal for quarterback Daniel Jones or running back Saquon Barkley.

As to that pair, Barkley will return following last season’s torn ACL, which will provide a big boost to the offense if he’s right. When healthy, Barkley is one of the game’s most entertaining runners to watch, a player capable of breaking off the spectacular explosive run at any time who also catches the ball well. Jones has been a solid quarterback when his legs are available to him, but to become a true difference-maker at the position, he needs to progress in the passing game. The Giants added receivers Kenny Golladay (free agency) and Kadarius Toney (first-round pick) to a group that already featured Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram, so Jones won’t lack for weapons.

They also added tight end Kyle Rudolph, and while he’s not an explosive threat, he provides a reliable short-area target and a boost to the run game as a blocker. That will be critical, as the best way to help this offensive line out, particularly given their deficiencies at tackle, would be a run-heavy attack that minimizes the number of true dropback passes per game, which would also mesh well with the current state of Jones’s game.

If the offense can hold up their end of the bargain, the Giants will have a solid shot at the NFC East title, as this defense is set up to improve on last year’s impressive performance. Though they lost a key contributor in defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, they return Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, so they won’t lack for difference makers in their three-man front, and they have solid options for the third spot in Austin Johnson and free-agent addition Danny Shelton. They also have the potential for an improved edge rush with the addition of second-round pick Azeez Ojulari, a player some draft analysts felt should have gone much earlier. New York got by with a committee approach on the edge last season, and while free-agent addition Ifeadi Odenigbo isn’t likely to provide a notable upgrade on Oshane Ximines, Lorenzo Carter, and the rest of this cast, he does give them even more depth, and Ojulari could turn out to be a big-time player.

Blake Martinez continued to pile up tackles at inside linebacker as a Giant after coming over from Green Bay, and James Bradberry elevated his game to an elite level in his first season with the Giants, giving them a lockdown corner. They already had the league’s deepest safety room with Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, Julian Love, and Xavier McKinney, which gives defensive coordinator Patrick Graham all sorts of options in the sub-packages, and they added to their depth at the corner with the signing of Adoree Jackson and the selection of Aaron Robinson in the third round of the draft.

Isaac Yiadom did a solid job at the outside corner spot across from Bradberry last season, but that was the weak point in the secondary. If Jackson plays to the top of his game, the one weak point on this unit is the second inside linebacker spot next to Martinez when they’re in base, but in today’s NFL, some defenses simply don’t line up in base, so that’s not a particularly large drawback.

While this defense will be a lot of fun to watch, my best guess is that Daniel Jones will continue to limit this offense’s ceiling. As mentioned, the offensive line does not look particularly impressive, and that will make his life more difficult, but ultimately, the issue is that Jones has yet to show the ability to process the game at a high level. Perhaps he proves me wrong, but I think he’s the type of quarterback who can win with a lot of help around him but isn’t likely to carry the team on his own.

QB Passing Projections

Daniel Jones2717358.5556.20.647.42412515.513.514.98

QB Rushing Projections

Daniel Jones271775.26451.21.617.69.614.98

Skill Projections, Rushing

Saquon BarkleyRB1517265.54.651234.09.862.258.513.91
Evan EngramTE120178.55.5547.
Devontae BookerRB1771776.24.09312.03.317.919.74.26
Corey ClementRB287171.33.935.21.70.310.21.74

Skill Projections, Receiving

Saquon BarkleyRB151773.238.77.63294.
Kenny GolladayWR681757.068.015.671065.74.621.529.89.89
Darius SlaytonWR1181755.955.013.15723.83.617.723.67.16
Evan EngramTE1201763.561.811.07684.42.517.516.37.13
Sterling ShepardWR1561765.946.610.82503.82.012.713.15.05
Devontae BookerRB1771776.817.17.53128.
Kadarius ToneyWR2311765.721.215.68332.
Kyle RudolphTE2771774.719.98.47168.
Corey ClementRB2871780.613.98.17113.
Kaden SmithTE3091786.216.36.74109.
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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.