2021 New York Giants: Key to Success is the Wide Receiver Unit

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The New York Giants fans can rejoice as the start of the 2021 NFL season is here. Predictions on the team’s final record have been inconclusive. Half of the so-called experts have them winning the NFC East. The other half have them securing a top-five pick in next spring’s draft. However, all agree that this season’s success will come down to the production of the Giants wide receiver unit.

Kenny Golladay Needs to Become Giants Leading Receiving Threat

The wide receiver position went under the microscope when Kenny Golladay signed as a free agent this offseason. Despite all the time missed due to injuries, Golladay offers what the Giants lineup has been missing for a long time. That is an actual playmaker.

They haven’t had a legitimate top receiver since Odell Beckham Jr. left after the 2018 season. And that is where Golladay comes into the picture. For most of the 2020 season, Golladay battled through hamstring and hip-flexor injuries that forced him to become an afterthought in the Detroit Lions offense. It limited him to five games as Golladay caught 20 passes for 338 yards and two touchdown receptions. The production was quite disappointing, especially since he was coming off a season where Golladay led the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions.

Still, the Giants won a fierce bidding war for his services. Now, the goal is to keep Golladay healthy as he is a key component of the team’s passing game.

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The Jason Garrett Factor

Let’s not forget the Jason Garrett factor. For one, Garrett has proven to be able to design a sophisticated passing attack that can consistently put points on the scoreboard each week. Golladay could thrive in this type of system with other top offensive skill players like Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Evan Engram in the mix.

Garrett’s passing game is effective when the quarterback has the option of making an outlet pass to the running back in the flat. The return of Barkley will be key as his presence on the field will allow Golladay and Shepard to take advantage of single coverage downfield. The upgrade in talent at the wide receiver position should lower the number of dropped passes this season. No question, it was a momentum breaker for last year’s offense.

Shepard has been a standout performer since his debut with the Giants in 2016. You can expect him to line up in the slot position as his energy sets the tone for the Giants passing game. Not only does Shepard become a safety valve option for Daniel Jones, but his expected production will take pressure off the other Giants receivers. In many ways, Shepard is the ideal complement to Golladay’s skill set. He is a dangerous receiver who has enough speed to create distance from a defender. Plus, don’t sleep on Shepard’s downfield blocking skills, which is a key component to the Giants running game.

The Wide Receiver Depth is Deep

The wide receiver unit has great depth this season. Production will be key to get extended playing time. Currently, the top three options on the depth chart are Golladay, Shepard, and Darius Slayton. But the Giants have quality talent behind them. They have Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Collin Johnson, and other candidates on the practice squad.

The only concern is how hard the unit has been hit with nagging leg injuries throughout training camp. Toney and Slayton’s status is in question for Week 1. Ross is on the short-term IR list, but the jury is still out if he will be given another shot on the active roster.

Johnson is an interesting case as he was claimed off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. The Giants coaching staff hope he becomes a dangerous receiving target in the red zone because of his height (6-6) and good hands. Garrett needs to create sets that place Johnson in single coverage against undersized defenders near the back end of the end zone. It will allow him to utilize his wingspan to catch the football on fade routes.

No question, the depth will be tested this season. The players low on the Giants depth chart have the potential to secure a role in the passing game. It will come down to the type of production they can provide in games.

The Giants are tired of the rebuilding process. The team owners, John Mara and Steve Tisch want to win now and not in five years. Another disappointing season will put Giants general manager Dave Gettleman on the hot seat. He is the chief architect of a non-competitive team.

The passing game will not be able to carry the team to victory. But combined with a strong defense, it could be all that is needed for the Giants to have their first winning season since 2016.

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