Now that the 2020 New York Giants season is over and done with, we can sit back and calmly assess the state of Big Blue’s roster. Frenzied weekly overreactions to good or bad performances are a thing of the past. It’s time for a rational examination of which positions New York can feel confident about, and which still need to be addressed.
Contrary to the wishes of a good portion of the fanbase, general manager Dave Gettleman has been retained. He’s preparing to embark on his fourth offseason with the Giants. While his rebuild has gone slower than hoped, this roster is closer to complete than at this time last year. Some familiar problem areas can now be reasonably considered solved.
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Second-year undrafted free agent Nick Gates stepped in at center and did an admirable job all year. Rookie fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes gave Big Blue reliable play at slot cornerback for the first time in a while. Andrew Thomas, New York’s 2020 fourth-overall draft pick, had a strong second half to the season after a difficult first half, showing promising signs of being the franchise left tackle. Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones had an inconsistent year but played well enough, especially in the second half of the season, to earn the faith of the Giants’ brass. Free-agency netted Big Blue a true number-one corner in James Bradberry and a rock-solid inside linebacker in Blake Martinez.
Many positions that prior to this season were question marks have now been answered. There are still a handful, though, that remain areas of concern. Here are the Giants’ top five roster holes that need filling this offseason, ranked from most to least urgent.
1. Wide Receiver
Receiver was a position group that most Giants fans felt at least decent about heading into the year, but as the season went along, it proved to be a glaring weakness. Second-year fifth-round pick Darius Slayton couldn’t build off his promising rookie campaign, as he caught only three touchdowns to go along with 751 receiving yards. As middling as those numbers are, they still led the team.
Sterling Shepard, who compiled three touchdowns and 656 yards in 12 games played, is a solid slot/possession option, but nothing more. Golden Tate, who will likely be a cap casualty, had his level of play drop off in his age-32 season. He caught only two touchdowns with 388 total yards in 12 games. Even if you pencil in Slayton and Shepard as starters for next year, New York absolutely needs to get a big-time outside threat to make plays down the field and aid in Jones’ development.
The addition of Bradberry gave the Giants a certified top corner, but DeAndre Baker‘s legal troubles and subsequent release along with Sam Beal‘s opt out left Big Blue scrambling for another passable starter on the outside. A combination of Corey Ballentine, Isaac Yiadom, and Julian Love filled that role. Nobody played nearly well enough, though, to earn the job for next season. New York needs to find one more quality cover-man so that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can play more of the man-heavy scheme he deployed in Miami, rather than the soft zone he used this year.
3. Outside Linebacker
Coming into the season, outside linebacker was arguably the Giants’ deepest position. Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Markus Golden, and Kyler Fackrell were all worthy of playing time, even if none were great. As the year went along, that depth dwindled until it disappeared. Carter and XImines suffered season-ending injuries, Golden got traded, and Fackrell missed all of December with a calf injury. Carter and Ximines will return next season, but relying on two unproven players coming off serious injuries is ill-advised. Fackrell is an unrestricted free agent, and New York may bring him back. The Giants could really use an infusion of talent at the position, as the team has struggled to produce an effective edge rush for the last four years.
4. Inside Linebacker
Much like at cornerback, a free-agent, in this case Martinez, has solidified one of the starting spots at inside linebacker. The other starting spot, however, remains in flux. Rookie Tae Crowder wound up taking over that role by Week 5, and performed much better than his status as a seventh-rounder would predict. It appears the Giants like Crowder, so he’s expected to get plenty of snaps next season as well. Still, New York would do well to draft someone in the mid-rounds to compete with Crowder and help fill a pretty barren depth chart at the position.
5. Right Tackle
The Giants hope their future at right tackle is already on the roster in 2020 third-round pick Matt Peart. Peart played a series or two in most games this season, displaying promising play along with moments of rookie struggle. The UConn product has all the physical attributes you’d look for in an NFL tackle. It’s concerning, though, that he never wrestled the starting job away from Cam Fleming, who is a career backup. Peart will probably begin next season as the man at right tackle, but Big Blue should sign another sturdy veteran, like Fleming, capable of starting if needed.