Something is different about this New York Giants offseason. For the first time in years, a palpable sense of optimism is hanging around the team. This week, ESPN ranked Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram among the top 10 players at their position. Bleacher Report named the Giants’ offense the most likely to improve in 2021.
So with that optimism in mind, let’s have some fun drawing up bold predictions for the New York Giants’ upcoming season. These are not necessarily things that are certain or even probable to happen. Instead, they are meant to highlight outcomes that are more likely than might be expected.
1. Azeez Ojulari will win Defensive Rookie of the Year
Ojulari was the seventh edge rusher taken in this year’s draft. The Giants were able to trade back eight spots in the second round and still take him. However, the knee injury concerns that caused Ojulari to fall down the board — he tore his ACL in high school — were likely overblown. Multiple doctors confirmed that Ojulari’s knee is perfectly healthy.
Either way, Ojulari will have virtually no competition as New York’s top edge rusher. Blake Martinez was the only Giant last year to record at least three sacks from the outside. Assuming that he performs well in training camp, Ojulari will be asked to do more than any other defensive rookie, with the possible exception of the Cowboys’ Micah Parsons. Double-digit sacks and a chance at the Defensive Rookie of the Year award are not out of the question.
2. Leonard Williams will have less than 10 sacks
Williams was unquestionably the most important member of New York’s defensive line last year. The six-year veteran and former first-round pick finally had a breakout season, finishing with 11.5 sacks and 30 quarterback hits.
However, it is too early to declare Williams a star just yet. A large chunk of his production came during Weeks 12 and 16, where he totaled 5.5 sacks. If those two games are taken out of the equation, his career sack total decreases by nearly 20 percent. Williams is certainly in a position to enjoy another successful year, but it is just as likely that last season was an outlier.
3. Kenny Golladay will challenge the franchise receiving yards record
The New York Giants spent the offseason trying to make their offense more explosive after ranking 29th in the league with five yards per play. Signing Golladay was the most important step towards that goal, and he has a realistic chance to break Odell Beckham Jr.’s franchise record of 1,450 receiving yards in a season.
Since 2018, Golladay ranks third in the league in deep receiving yards despite missing most of last season. His height makes him difficult to cover, and recently earned him the No. 3 spot on Pro Football Focus’s list of the NFL’s top deep threats. Daniel Jones did not make many deep pass attempts last season, but he was the league’s most efficient quarterback when asked to do so.
There are a lot of variables here — Jones has never played with an elite receiver and his pass protection will likely be lacking — but Golladay could be in for a special season.
4. Saquon Barkley will rush for less than 1,000 yards
This is not a question of whether Barkley will still be an effective rusher after returning from an ACL tear. He is one of the league’s most physically gifted players — he is going to be just fine.
However, everything the Giants have said this offseason suggests that Barkley, who is eligible for a contract extension, is a part of their long-term plans. Preserving his health will be their top priority, and it is unlikely that he will average 16.7 carries per game like he did in 2019.
New York’s rushing game was less effective without Barkley last year, but it was not a catastrophe. They ranked 19th in total rushing yards while relying on a committee of career backups.
It is incredibly unlikely that the Giants will be Super Bowl contenders this season, and wearing down Barkley simply doesn’t make sense. Expect new addition Devontae Booker to share some of the load.
Featured image courtesy of Elsa/Getty Images
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