Football fans have survived the free agent frenzy and the endless analysis associated with the recently concluded NFL Draft. Thankfully, we are a few short weeks from “real” football activity. With one less game on the preseason schedule, what takes place at training camp could play a significant role in shaping an NFL team’s roster. For the New York Giants, there are several breakout candidates who could become one of the franchise’s “faces” in 2021.
2021 New York Giants: Faces of the Team
It is time for Daniel Jones to take a major leap forward in his professional football career. Jones appears to have all the tools necessary to become a franchise quarterback: strong arm and athleticism. But he needs to show better decision-making ability under heavy duress in the pocket. Simply put, Jones must protect the football to be effective. Usually, when he tries to extend a play, the results are a momentum-changing turnover.
This off-season, the Giants front office faced an uphill climb in improving the offense. The unit ranked 31st in the NFL as they averaged just under 300 total yards per game and scored about 17 points per game last season. There was a sense of urgency to acquire proven receiving targets that could score more touchdowns. But more importantly, it is all about putting the right pieces around Jones and allowing him to become a difference-maker in close games next season.
You won’t hear too much from him on the expectations for 2021. Jones remains focused on what he needs to do on the field. As for his future with the Giants, everything will take care of itself if Jones plays to his potential.
For Saquon Barkley, his 2020 season ended before it could even begin. He suffered an ACL tear in a Week 2 loss to the Chicago Bears. His rehabilitation has gone on without any delay thus far. The Giants coaching staff has high hopes of him returning and becoming the main cog in the offense.
When healthy, Barkley is so much more than a traditional lead back. His athleticism makes him a viable option in the passing game. Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will use Barkley in various formations that will get him isolated on a linebacker in open space. This is called situational football as the percentages are high for Barkley to score a touchdown on those coverage mismatches.
The goal in 2021 is to keep Barkley on the field for all 17 weeks of the regular season. Neither side can afford another injury-marred season. With a little better luck on the injury front, we might be making an argument in Barkley’s defense on him being the best running back in the NFL. Still, it is not hard to envision Barkley becoming a more versatile offensive playmaker in the upcoming season.
2021 is a significant year for Evan Engram as he is playing the final season of his rookie contract. The young tight end could have a breakout campaign, but that will only occur if Engram establishes himself as a dangerous receiving threat downfield. Too much erratic play (dropped passes, poorly run pass routes and missed blocking assignments) from a player with so much talent and athleticism. Engram’s mental lapses stagnated the Giants offense last season. Often, it held back Daniel Jones from having huge passing games.
This off-season, the Giants upgraded their receiver room with the addition of Kenny Golladay and John Ross to the mix and the expected return of Saquon Barkley from injury. Still, if Engram expects to continue his career with the Giants beyond this season, then the time is now to unlock his ability as a primary target in the passing game.
Jason Garrett’s offense is geared towards pass-catching tight ends, so Engram could exceed his career totals in all receiving categories. If he plays his cards right, Engram could get paid as an unrestricted free agent next off-season.
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