Nicholas in New Jersey: What would be considered a successful 2021 season for the Giants if they don't make the playoffs?
John Schmeelk: This is a good question because the Giants could finish with 9-10 wins but miss the playoffs due to division or conference tiebreakers. If that happens, it certainly wouldn't be considered a poor season. Rather than putting a win total on the team, there are a few things to keep an eye on that could point the franchise in the right direction.
1. Daniel Jones taking the next step: Heading into his third season, Jones needs to show more signs of putting it all together. He had a productive first season with some highs and lows that featured some big games but also a lot of turnovers. His second season featured fewer mistakes, improved efficiency, but a dip in overall production, especially touchdowns. In his third season, it is time to combine the improved efficiency and reduced turnovers from his second season with the explosive production of his rookie year.
2. The offensive line coming together: The Giants have a young offensive line group that will have to show individual and group improvement to get better and give the offense a chance to take the next step. If there is a measure of improvement from the young players on the offensive line, it likely means this group gets the chance to continue growing rather than going through another re-tooling.
3. Saquon Barkley: After this season, Barkley will be heading into the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. How he recovers from his knee injury and whether he can avoid injuries after two straight years of missing games between ankle and knee injuries will be illuminating.
4. Pass rush: Can the Giants find consistent pass rushers? There are multiple facets to this. Can Leonard Williams come close to repeating his 2020 success? Will someone on the edge step out of the muddle and emerge as a legitimate difference maker? If they can, it will bode very well for this defense moving forward.
5. Continued development: This is overly vague, but the improvement of the players on their rookie contracts is essential. With the Giants being very aggressive in free agency this off-season, they will need their cost-controlled players to step up and fill in the gaps between the veterans on the roster.
All of these factors will not only impact the future, but also determine how successful the Giants are in 2021.
Ryan in New York: With all the off-season additions, what's a logical prediction for the Giants in the NFC East?
John Schmeelk: You won't find numerical predictions here. But when you compare the Giants' roster with the others in the NFC East, their talent ranks right there with the other teams in the division. There are very strong arguments to be made for the Cowboys (Dak Prescott and their explosive offense), Washington (an elite defense and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the mix) and the Giants to win the division. If Jalen Hurts plays high level football, the Eagles could be in the mix, too. Expect it to be a division that goes down to the final weeks.