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Kalemkerian: The NYG are ready to contend

| Thursday, April 29, 2021

The 2020 NFL season ended in disappointment for the New York Giants after narrowly missing out on a division title and playoff berth despite a hard-fought victory over the Cowboys in Week 17. Nevertheless, last season was a step in the right direction for the Giants, who have been stuck in mediocrity (or worse) since the 2012 Super Bowl. After losing seven of the first eight games, they bounced back with a four game winning streak to nearly win the NFC East even without the ultra-talented Saquon Barkley. 

So will this year be different? My answer is, undoubtedly, yes. The Giants 2020 free agent class turned the defense from a bottom five unit into arguably a top five unit last year. LB Blake Martinez and lockdown CB James Bradberry are each locked into deals for at least two more seasons. This year’s free agent class was just as good, with oft-maligned general manager Dave Gettleman resigning DE Leonard Williams to a three-year deal, as well as bringing in 2017 first-rounder CB Adoree’ Jackson to further solidify the defensive side of the ball. The biggest question following the 2020 season was where to get more weapons for QB Daniel Jones, to which Gettleman responded by signing Pro Bowl WR Kenny Golladay from the Lions. Perhaps the biggest addition to the team in the upcoming season will be the return of Barkley, who missed nearly all of last season after tearing an ACL in Week 2. 

Owners of the 11th pick in Thursday’s draft, the Giants have the opportunity to add an instant starting-caliber player to an already solid roster. I believe the pick should be used to give Jones another offensive weapon. If Kyle Pitts (Florida), Devonta Smith (Alabama) or Ja’Marr Chase (LSU) are available, Gettleman should snatch one of them up without a second thought. Though it’s wise to expect the unexpected on draft night, it’s possible and perhaps even likely that none of these three will still be on the board at 11. In this case, Gettleman should go with OT Rashawn Slater (Northwestern), likely the best available player who, along with OT’s Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart drafted last year, will solidify the offensive line and hopefully limit the opposing quarterback pressure.

The entire roster is trending in the right direction, but ultimately none of this will matter if Daniel Jones can’t prove himself as a winning quarterback. Jones has nearly two full years of NFL experience under his belt and surrounded by a retooled offense that, at least on paper, looks capable of putting up points in a hurry, will need to prove that he can be the guy that Giants fans everywhere are desperately hoping for. It’s going to be a major disappointment if he can’t take a leap this season while surrounded by all the offensive weapons he could possibly ask for. 

Clearly a lot is riding on Jones’ continued development. It’s made all the more important by the fact that the NFC East appears to be wide open, at least for the next couple of years. The Eagles are a few years behind the Giants in rebuild mode, the WFT has a weak roster around their few stars, and the Cowboys have a defense that couldn’t stop a high school JV team. The pieces are all there for the Giants to start seriously contending in the playoffs this season, they just need to put them all together.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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