With the calendar flipped to July, Giants.com asks 21 important questions heading into the team's 2021 training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
For 21 days, a member of the Giants.com crew will answer one question about the roster, coaching staff, schedule, and much more.
No. 6: What is the main storyline for the Giants in 2021?
Lance Medow: Many would say the main storyline is the development and production of the offensive line and I would put that very high on the list but slightly behind the player they need to protect - Daniel Jones. He's entering Year 3 and the Giants added some weapons at wide receiver and tight end to provide him with even more firepower. Now, it's a matter of whether they can all put it together with Jones at the reins. The Giants had just 12 total passing touchdowns and averaged 17.5 points per game in 2020. Regardless of how good your defense is, it's very hard to remain competitive let alone win games with that level of offensive production.
Daniel Jones had a solid rookie campaign with 24 touchdowns against 12 interceptions in 12 starts. If he can duplicate his 2019 numbers and then some, I think the Giants offense will be in much better shape when it comes to its average points per game and will take some pressure off the defense. While an offense is dependent on many facets in addition to the quarterback, the signal caller's decision making can go a long way in determining the outlook of that unit. With Jones running the same scheme for the second straight year for the first time in his pro career, we'll also see whether that familiarity and comfort will prove to be a benefit that can help both him and the surrounding talent.
Dan Salomone: The front office was given the green light this offseason. They received the go-ahead to spend in free agency – which assistant general manager Kevin Abrams said was "probably uncommon this year" among NFL owners given the pandemic-related financial losses – and the aggressive approach carried over to the draft in the form of well-publicized trades.
"I think it did," general manager Dave Gettleman said after the Giants filled out their six-man draft class, which began with trading back to select dynamic wide receiver Kadarius Toney in the first round. "You know, we've had that mindset. And you know we just felt like, it's all about calculated risk. You go to Vegas, go to Atlantic City, and some people are aggressive and some people aren't. It's just sometimes it's instinct. Sometimes it's just looking at the board and seeing where it's going to take you. … We were aggressive in the roster-building season in both free agency and the draft."
Additionally, while every draft is about the future, the decision-makers had an even closer eye on next year. The reason was twofold. Not only is it shaping up to be a strong class, there were too many unknowns this year due to the pandemic-stricken evaluation process. Thus, they made it a priority to stockpile picks, gaining selections in the first, third, and fourth rounds in 2022.
"To be honest with you, it makes it fun knowing that we have all these opportunities to take players next year," director of college scouting Chris Pettit said. "So I'm looking forward to it. With a big class, it's going to be a lot of work for us. Our scouts are going to have to be as thorough as ever and start work earlier with such a big class and guys moving all around. We know that, and we are ready to take on the challenge. But now at least we have the picks to hit it out of the park next year again hopefully."
View photos of the New York Giants 2021 NFL Draft Class.
John Schmeelk: It's time to start winning. The Giants made additions on both sides of the ball, acquiring guys who are in the prime of their careers and should be able to bring a high level of play. The team had to get creative with future salary cap obligations to fit all these players in under the reduced 2021 cap, so this is going to be the core of the team for the next couple of seasons.
Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph were brought in to help Daniel Jones be a more consistent passer. They are reliable route runners with great hands who will make contested catches. so Jones will not have to be perfect throwing to players with such a large catch radius. They will also help in the red zone, where there is much less room to create separation from defenders.
On defense, the addition of Adoree' Jackson should stabilize the second outside cornerback position and give Patrick Graham the freedom to be more creative with his coverages. Graham's still expected to mix up his zone defenses and disguise a lot, but it's likely we will see more man-to-man on third downs and other critical situations. Danny Shelton should help replace Dalvin Tomlinson's production in the run game, while Ifeadi Odenigbo should help the pass rush.
The best word to describe the Giants free agency approach was "urgent" and it should give them a better chance to compete for a division championship or wild-card spot this season.
With training camp here, view photos of every move made by the Giants this offseason.
Lance Medow: As it stands now, there are likely three starting positions up for grabs on the offensive line: both guard spots and right tackle. It's fair to say Andrew Thomas is the left tackle and Nick Gates has a good grasp at center after starting all 16 games at that position in 2020 for the first time in his career. Last season, Will Hernandez started seven games at left guard before having to battle COVID-19. He was replaced by Shane Lemieux, who started nine games, but his sample size is relatively small. The Giants also brought in veteran Zach Fulton after parting ways with Kevin Zeitler. Fulton has experience at right guard and left guard and has started at least 12 games in six of his seven seasons in the NFL.
With Cam Fleming joining the Broncos this off-season, Matt Peart has a shot to win the starting right tackle job, but he only played 15% of the offensive snaps last season and Nate Solder returns after opting out. While Solder hasn't played right tackle since his rookie year in 2011, he's a polished veteran, who has been in the league for a decade. Regardless of who wins the right tackle job, the Giants should be in a good position at swing tackle. The offensive line is far from a finished product, given some competition at various spots, but in all likelihood, New York will be relying on a youth movement with potentially three second year players in the starting lineup.
Dan Salomone: Clinching a Week 17 victory over the rival Cowboys with an interception was a good way to springboard safety Xavier McKinney into his sophomore campaign. While a fractured foot delayed his rookie debut until Week 12 last year, teammates and coaches still knew how special McKinney could be in the NFL. He started to show that as he got his legs under him, and his game should only improve with Pro Bowl-caliber players and leaders around him at every level of the defense.
In terms of a player with a few more years under his belt, edge defender Ifeadi Odenigbo is a name to remember. The newcomer from the Vikings has already built a strong relationship with assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
"Outside of football, he's a very knowledgeable guy," said Graham, who played college football at Yale. "We were doing Zooms, and I saw his artwork in the background and helped me out. He provided the connection there for the artwork. Smart guy. I like the way he plays football. He has versatility inside and outside on the line. Natural pass rush ability. Plays strong with his hands. Physical edge setter and a great attitude. He's always soaking it up. He's very serious, but he could play around a little bit."
John Schmeelk: There are two legitimate answers – edge rusher because of the sheer number of players at the position and the offensive line.
There are also a lot of compelling story lines on the edge, such as Lorenzo Carter trying to return from his Achilles injury, Oshane Ximines returning from a shoulder injury entering his critical third season, veteran free agents such as Ifeadi Odenigbo and rookies Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith. It is essential for the Giants to get strong production from that group if they want to be an elite defense.
But the primary focus should be on the right side of the offensive line because the effectiveness of this group impacts every aspect of the offense. A leaky offensive line will also make the evaluation of Daniel Jones a little more difficult. It would be beneficial for the organization to see Jones under optimal conditions to see how effective he can be over the long term. If he is under constant pressure all season there could be "what if" questions left unanswered at the end of the year, which nobody wants with Jones entering his fourth season.
There are fun position battles within the unit, too. Will Hernandez has not played right guard since high school. If Shane Lemieux isn't the left guard, he could be called on to play on the right side, but he didn't take any snaps there in college, either (but had 13 snaps there as a rookie). And there are veterans in the mix, including Zach Fulton, Jonotthan Harrison, Chade Slade, and Kenny Wiggins who will try to hold off 2020 undrafted free agent Kyle Murphy and 2021 undrafted free agent Jake Burton.
The competition at right tackle is even more crucial and features two very different players. There's Matt Peart, a second year player from UConn with just 152 offensive snaps last year (104 of which came at right tackle). He started all 48 games he played in for the Huskies, with his final two years coming as a starter at right tackle. He checks every physical box with 36 5/8-inch arms and athleticism, but the flashes he showed as a rookie need to become consistent production. His competition is Nate Solder, who has been in the league for 10 years, but not played right tackle since his rookie season. He has always been a starter and will provide a strong baseline to challenge Peart.
View photos of the Giants' roster as it currently stands.