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Cover 4

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Cover 4: Final thoughts on Year 1 of new era

The crew reflects on the first season under general manager Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll:

John Schmeelk: To quote Brian Daboll, the Giants "crash landed" in the playoffs. While the loss to the hated divisional rival Eagles certainly left a sour taste in the mouths of Giants fans, it shouldn't overwhelm the success of the season as a whole.

Heading into this season, an improvement to seven wins, or .500, would have been considered a successful first year for the Daboll and Joe Schoen regime. This was supposed to be at best the first year of a long-term rebuild. Instead, the Giants went 9-7-1, made the playoffs, and even won a playoff game.

More important than the record is the improvement and progress shown by some of the young, foundational players. Dexter Lawrence was the best nose tackle in football, and there's a very strong argument to make he was the best defensive tackle. He's only 25 years old and is under contract for another season.

Andrew Thomas' play continued its steady improvement in his third season, and he played like one of the best left tackles in football. He is 24 years old and plays one of the most important positions on the field. He's now a cornerstone of the future.

Daniel Jones took another leap this year protecting the football. He had the lowest interceptions per pass rate in the NFL (1.1%) this season and a career-best 67.2% completion rate. Jones also had his best year running the football with 708 yards.

Saquon Barkley had his healthiest and best year since his rookie season. Kayvon Thibodeaux improved as the season went along. Julian Love and Xavier McKinney continued to improve. Isaiah Hodgins established himself as a big part of this wide receiving corps moving forward. Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger showed promise as a two-way tight end. Wan'Dale Robinson flashed. Evan Neal should continue to improve.

The improvement shown this year by so many young players should set a solid foundation for the future, but that doesn't mean there still isn't a lot of work to do in the draft and free agency to try to reach the level of the Eagles and the other top teams in the NFC. It should be a fun offseason to see how they do just that.

Dan Salomone: Even if they had all the cap room in the world, which they didn't last offseason, we've seen that the regime's philosophy isn't just to collect talent. The goal is to build a team. The focus on camaraderie and culture led to the franchise's best start in more than a decade. It also helped them weather the lull that is inevitable in almost every season and clinch their first playoff berth since 2016, leading to their first postseason victory since winning Super Bowl XLVI.

No one was ever going to be foolish enough to put a timetable on anything when Schoen and Daboll were hired a year ago, but at the end of the season, you needed to see progress. They certainly put a giant check mark in the column.

But now the work begins. Schoen was upfront in his season-ending press conference in saying they need to "close that gap" with the talent around the league, especially in the NFC East. Having a healthier cap will allow them to do things they weren't in Year 1.

"There were times in season where there were maybe some veteran players that we wanted to sign that would've helped us, but we just weren't able to do it," Schoen said. "That part stings throughout the season because we could've helped the roster, but just didn't have the flexibility. Yeah, to have financial flexibility, nine draft picks, to be able to devise a plan where you have a little bit more flexibility and resources, I'm definitely excited about that."

Re-live the season with the best photos from the Giants' 2022 playoff campaign.