For Giants, 2023 is all about proving to NFL that they can hang

Giants Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley
AP Photo/John Munson

For a team that averaged just over four wins per season from 2017-2021, the Giants came out of nowhere to pose as one of the larger surprises in the NFL last year. 

They won nine games, made the playoffs, defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card Round, and answered a litany of questions in the process. 

Daniel Jones can be the franchise quarterback of the future after throwing for 3,205 yards, 15 touchdowns, and five interceptions while adding 708 rushing yards and seven more scores on the ground as a legitimate dual threat within head coach Brian Daboll’s system. He was rewarded with a four-year contract.

Saquon Barkley shrugged off years of injury misfortune to provide a reminder that he can still be one of the more explosive talents in football, rushing for 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns while more importantly appearing in 16 of 17 games. It earned him a one-year, $11 million deal.

A defense that had often looked like a shell of what normally is a trademark tradition of the Giants finally took a step forward under Wink Martindale, going from abysmal to average — even stealing a game or two in the process. 

But the Giants aren’t sneaking up on anyone this season. Their schedule is significantly more difficult and the opposition now has a template as to what made Daniel Jones’ offense more of a success and how to better work around Martindale’s aggressive defense. 

To combat that, general manager Joe Schoen brought in more weapons.

“I like some of the guys that we brought in in free agency,” Schoen said. “I like some of the guys that we drafted but they’ve still got to go out there and do it on Sundays.”

New York added tight end Darren Waller, who has dealt with injury problems of his own to recently fall off his perch as one of the more dangerous receivers at his position in the game. Wide receiver Paris Campbell, coming off his best season as a pro with the Indianapolis Colts last year when he posted 623 yards and three touchdowns was also brought in.

Jalin Hyatt Giants
Jalin Hyatt (Associated Press)

University of Tennessee playmaker Jalin Hyatt also provides another high-upside talent alongside Wan’Dale Robinson — who was injured last season — to the wide-receiver room after he fell into the Giants’ laps in the third round of the draft. The Giants also did well to bring back breakout hero Isaiah Hodgins from last season, one of Jones’ favorite targets in Darius Slayton, and the oft-injured Sterling Shepard, who will help provide a veteran presence.

To provide more protection for Jones and help open up more lanes for Barkley, Minnesota center John-Michael Schmitz was taken in the second round where he provides a legitimate long-term fit for a position that had so long been in flux. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants addressed their largest areas of need with prominent moves. Providing help for cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, Deonte Banks was drafted out of Maryland with the team’s first-round pick. 

Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.amNewYork/Kyle Sweeting

A shallow linebacking group was bolstered by the acquisition of former Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke on a four-year, $40 million deal. Depth was also provided to the defensive line by picking up Rakeem Nunez-Roches and A’Shawn Robinson.

To provide more versatility, they brought in the dynamic Isaiah Simmons from the Arizona Cardinals, who can play either safety or linebacker — a talent that can help Martindale throw different looks at the opposing offense. 

The hope is that the upgrades made to the offense will ease the transition from playing one of the easiest schedules in the league last season to having the 12th-toughest slate in 2023. Regardless, Schoen continues to take the long view on building the Giants back toward prominence as they continue to rise from the ashes that was the Dave Gettleman regime.

“Each day, we’re going to try to get better. The thing is progress,” Schoen said. “We’re going to focus on our process. I think if we do what we did last year in terms of practicing the right way, coming in and being pros… Again, we’ll see what happens, I’m not going to say we’re going to do X, Y, and Z, but I think if we focus on our process, we’ll see results.”

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