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What Should New Expectations For Giants Be?

  • Jack McKessy
  • September 20, 2022
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The expectations for the New York Giants seemed pretty clear-cut entering the 2022 season. With a new general manager, Joe Schoen, a new head coach, Brian Daboll, and rough roster, the Giants would see what they’ve got from their young guys in what would be a rebuilding season.

After two weeks, those expectations have almost completely flipped. Suddenly, the Giants are 2-0 after wins over the Carolina Panthers and last year’s No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans. Up next for Big Blue are the Dak Prescott-less Dallas Cowboys—who, to their credit, looked solid against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2—and the Chicago Bears fresh off of another demoralizing loss to the Green Bay Packers. A 4-0 start, which no Giants fan would have dreamed of before the season, could be within reach.

After an astonishingly good start, what should the new expectations for New York look like this season?

Let’s pump the brakes on dreaming of a 4-0 start for now and instead focus on what was good about the Giants’ first 2-0 start to a season since 2016.

For one, running back Saquon Barkley might be back to a more confident—and dominant—version of himself. His Week 1 dominance in Tennessee was a shockingly sudden return to form for Barkley after he had struggled mightily returning from his ACL tear in 2021. After a miserable 593-yard season in which the former No. 2 overall pick looked like he had lost a step, he exploded for over 160 yards—over one-quarter of his total 2021 production—on 18 carries in Week 1 of this year.

It’s true that Barkley’s performance in Week 2 against the Panthers wasn’t as dominant or productive, but it still was part of an overall step in the right direction. After being held to just three yards on five carries in the first half against Carolina, Barkley had a significantly better second half with his 69 yards on 16 carries. With the Giants needing two first downs in the final two minutes to seal the win, it was Barkley who got the looks. New York clearly has faith in their running back and he may end up playing himself into a longer career with the Giants than many expected before this season.

Another bright spot has been kicker Graham Gano. He made all four field goal attempts in Sunday’s win against his former team, including the 56-yard game-winner. For a team that has had its struggles converting in the red zone, it’s good to have a consistent kicker to rely on to save three points from an otherwise disappointing drive.

A penultimate reason for optimism for the Giants has been their defense. Despite being down four starters—defensive tackle Leonard Williams, cornerback Aaron Robinson, and edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari—by the end of the game against the Panthers, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale stuck to his aggressive, blitz-heavy defense, and it worked. As the offense has struggled to get things going over the first two weeks, it’s been the defense that is helping pull New York to wins.

Finally, the coaching situation in New York has to be praised for what they’ve done so far. The team looks reinvigorated under Daboll. He’s clearly loved by his players, he’s won two straight close games, and his willingness to give up play-calling to fully commit to filling the head coach role has paid dividends in helping change the culture in the Giants’ locker room. This is a team that became notorious last year for its conservative play-calling and embarrassing lack of confidence in its players. Under Daboll, that has definitely changed.

There’s still a lot of ugly under the mask of the two wins. The passing offense is one big question mark with wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay still non-factors through two weeks. Rookie receiver Wan’Dale Robinson was out again in Week 2, and veteran Sterling Shepard was less of a factor than 2019 undrafted free agent David Sills and 2018 seventh-rounder Richie James. Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger had an exciting game that featured his first pro touchdown, but it came on his first—and so far only—target with the Giants.

Overall, the Giants averaged just 5.2 yards per passing play against the Panthers. They turned two early turnovers into just six points. The offensive line struggled in run and pass blocking against Carolina. Quarterback Daniel Jones played alright in Week 2, but he continued his turnover issues in Week 1 against the Titans with a lost fumble and an interception.

As impressive as the 2-0 start is for the Giants, most of the credit belongs to Martindale’s defense, which will only look better when all of its starters return from injuries. The offense is still more than a little messy and needs to get better at converting opportunities off turnovers and in the red zone before New York can be considered a “good team.”

For now, we have to pump the brakes on the idea that the Giants have a chance to be contenders after a strong start. There’s a lot to be impressed by and to enjoy in the 2-0 start, but this is not a team that looks like a contender just yet, even in a weak NFC field. Giants fans should rest easy in the knowledge that Daboll is off to a good start in changing the culture and the future looks much brighter than it did one year ago.

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Jack McKessy