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Cover 4

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Cover 4: What's the next step for the Giants?

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The first season with general manager Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll at the helm resulted in a resurgence for the Giants, who went 9-7-1 and claimed their first postseason victory since Super Bowl XLVI 11 years prior. That begs the question: What is the next step for the team?

The Giants.com crew discusses in this week's Cover 4:

John Schmeelk: They need to be better in the passing game on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Giants were one of only eight teams to average fewer than 200 passing yards per game. No NFL team had fewer than the Giants' 28 pass plays of 20 or more yards. If the Giants want to score more points and compete with the best teams in the league, they need to get 30 points more than the two times they did it in 19 outings last season. If that happens, the Giants could be a contender for a Super Bowl run.

Defensively, the below-average run defense hid a couple of issues with the pass defense. Last year, the Giants played eight games against five teams that finished in the top half of the league in passing yards per game. They went 2-9 in those games with their only wins coming against the Jaguars and Vikings, both of which went down to final possessions in the fourth quarter. The losses came against Minnesota, Seattle, Dallas (twice), Eagles (twice) and the Lions. Some of those losses were not particularly close.

The Eagles ran for over 200 yards against the Giants twice, but if they could have covered more consistently, they would have been able to put more players closer to the line of scrimmage to slow things down on the ground.

The Giants' schedule this year will feature more games against top passing offenses after having the good fortune of playing four of the five worst passing offenses in the league last year. Next year the Giants will have to contend with the Bills, Dolphins, potentially the Aaron Rodgers-led Jets and the Las Vegas Raiders in the AFC alone. It will only get tougher, and the pass defense needs to rise to the occasion.

Dan Salomone: Perhaps the most incredible accomplishment of last season was the Giants making the postseason with only one win in the division. They were 1-4-1 against the NFC East, not including the 38-7 loss to the Eagles in the Divisional Round). The other six playoff teams in the NFC were 26-10 against their own division, with no club worse than 4-3. While the Giants' 5-0 sweep of the AFC was masterful, it won't be sustainable. And the Giants know that. They have been set on closing the talent gap within the NFC East because that is the surest way to the playoffs year in and year out. The next step is taking care of the division.

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 cycle.

Lance Medow: If there's one statistic on offense the Giants need to elevate in 2023, it's their volume of explosive plays. Last season, New York had the fewest pass plays for 20 or more yards in the NFL with 28 and were tied for the sixth-fewest plays of 40+ yards through the air with five. They were in the middle of the pack in those categories on the ground, but if this offense is going to take the next step, it has to rely more on game-changing plays. That will help offset the reliance of lengthy scoring drives, where it's more likely something negative happens, such as a turnover or penalty, because you're using more plays in hopes of putting points on the board.

In 2022, the Giants averaged 21.5 points per game, tied for 15th in the league and 12th among the 14 playoff teams. The best way to boost the scoring average is with more explosive plays. To put things in perspective, both the Eagles (28.1) and Cowboys (27.5) averaged nearly more than a touchdown per game than New York. Forget the rest of the playoff field. Those two teams are right in the division and you have to contend with that at least four times combined each season. The Giants scored 22 points or lower in 12 of their 17 games last season but they only won five of those contests. That's why the natural progression for the offense is to improve on explosive plays, which is directly tied to scoring. This will also alleviate the pressure put on the defensive side of the ball. It all goes hand in hand.

Matt Citak: The Giants have addressed perhaps the team’s most glaring issue from this past season. The free agent additions of linebacker Bobby Okereke and defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches should go a long way in improving the run defense, which ranked 27th in the league with an average of 144.2 yards allowed per game. However, there is still more work to be done. As Dan mentioned above, the Giants have to start winning more NFC East matchups in order to become a true contender. In the seven divisional games last year (including the postseason game against Philadelphia), the defense allowed a whopping 189.3 rushing yards per game. With these numbers, it should come as no surprise that the Giants went 1-5-1 in those seven contests. While the team is likely done making big free agent splashes, they still have 10 draft picks to work with, some of which should and likely will be allocated towards further boosting the run defense. If you don't believe me, just listen to what Schoen had to say at the combine about the team's depth on the D-line behind Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams.

"Talk about allocating resources to positions, it's important," the GM said. "We've got to be better next year at stopping the run. I think some of that is our depth where Dexter doesn't have to play the amount of snaps he has to play or Leo doesn't have to be out there as much as he was out there. So, it's important not just there but across the board. We need to improve the depth on both sides of the ball."

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.

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