The 2023 New York Giants and the players that comprise the team head into the season with high expectations following a surprising 2022 season where they made the playoffs as a wildcard, and won a playoff game. Their season ended in embarrassing fashion by their division rival, Philadelphia Eagles in the second round. Similar, if not better results are expected for a team that has upgraded throughout the draft and free agency.
While the success of this team relies heavily on the play of quarterback Daniel Jones, there are other young, important players on offense and defense that need to step up in order for this year’s edition of the Giants to remain competitive in a rising NFC conference. Here are three players that must step up this season.
3 New York Giants Players That Must Step Up In 2023
Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle
Evan Neal was drafted by Giants General Manager Joe Schoen with the 7th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and immediately earned the starting right tackle job. Unfortunately, his debut campaign left the fanbase and coaching staff needing and wanting more. On film, there were too many times when Neal struggled to maintain opposing edge rushers from attacking the pocket, forcing Jones to scramble early. Listed at 6′-7″ and 350 pounds, and playing at Alabama under Coach Nick Saban, winning is all that Neal has known before being humbled in the professional ranks. A productive year two from Neal will be monumental for Jones and the offense as a whole, as it aims to stabilize an offensive line unit that has struggled for many seasons.
Evan Neal was pretty candid in the first episode of Giants Profiles.
“Throughout my whole football career, I never had a performance like that”
— Doug Analytics (@Doug_Analytics) August 10, 2023
Azeez Ojulari, EDGE
If the New York Giants want to establish themselves as a defense that offensive coordinators fear, players like EDGE Azeez Ojulari will have to be the reason why. As a second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Ojulari made a decent impact when thrust into the lineup as a rookie, notching eight sacks on only 67 percent of his snaps. Expectations were higher in 2022, but were ultimately derailed when a calf injury limited Ojulari to just seven games.
Even in limited action, he still contributed 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. With second-year player and fellow EDGE rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux on the other side, the expectation is for this duo to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks. A lot of this rides on Ojulari staying healthy and available.
Xavier McKinney, Free Safety
Availability is your best ability. Unfortunately for Xavier McKinney, the injury bug has plagued him in his young career, playing in 32 of a possible 50 career games. He missed a good chunk of his rookie year with a foot injury, where he was limited to just six games. His best year was in 2o21 when he played in all 17 games and was tied for fourth in interceptions amongst defensive backs in the entire league. As a team captain and player that wears the “green dot” in Wink Martindale’s defense, McKinney is responsible for being the vocal leader when relaying the defensive calls to his teammates.
During the teams bye last season, Mckinney injured his hand in an ATV accident while on vacation in Mexico, and was limited to nine games in the regular season. This season, the New York Giants added new players at strong safety in Jason Pinnock and Dane Belton. The incumbent, Julian Love, signed a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, leaving a hole at the position. McKinney’s availability, experience, and production are important to the success of the Giants defense this season. Now he just has to stay on the field.
Main Photo: John Jones – USA Today Sports