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Shaun O'Hara saw 'huge progress' from 2022 Giants

BRIAN-DABOLL-DANIEL-JONES

The New York Giants made a monumental jump in Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen's first year with the organization.

Just one season after they won only four games and landed the fifth overall pick in the draft, the Giants were able to increase their win tally to nine. On top of that, Daboll led the franchise to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, while securing the Giants' first postseason victory since Super Bowl XLVI more than a decade ago.

The stark improvements led to Daboll being named the AP Coach of the Year, in addition to the team landing several players in the Pro Bowl and on the All-Pro list.

NFL Network analyst and Super Bowl champion Shaun O'Hara recently joined the Giants Huddle podcast, where he discussed just how impressive the team's accomplishments were this season.

"Before the season started, the "P" word everyone was using was progress with this team," O'Hara said. "That's what everyone wanted to see. I think the fact that we're actually saying playoffs, they made the playoffs, they won a playoff game, that's huge progress. I think for the Giants, we saw a lot of young players develop. I think that's something this organization has really been lacking, is look, you draft a kid, and in Year 3 and Year 4, they should be better players than the year you drafted them. We finally have seen that progress in these players, and I think it's amazing the difference that Brian Daboll and his staff, the difference that they have created with the same players…

"Look, there's definitely been some turnover on the roster. Joe Schoen has had his work cut out for him, but when you look at a lot of these same players that the Giants have won games with, the core players were here last year. It was a dramatically different team, different vibe, different feel. They were confident… It was a quiet confidence, but they were also, they believed in each other that 'hey, we get the game in the fourth quarter, we've got the guys that can win it and we're going to find a way to win games.' That was a breath of fresh air for everybody."

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The Giants saw several players improve dramatically this season. Dexter Lawrence shattered his previous career-best marks in sacks (7.5), quarterback hits (28) and tackles (68) on his way to being named second-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler. Andrew Thomas was also selected as second-team All-Pro after establishing himself as one of the top tackles in the NFL, while Saquon Barkley earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl since his rookie campaign in 2018. Meanwhile, Daniel Jones put together his best statistical season in several categories.

"We saw the best version of Daniel Jones this year," said O'Hara. "We saw the best version of Saquon Barkley since his rookie year. This was clearly the best version of Andrew Thomas that we've ever seen, and same thing with Dexter Lawrence. It's funny because I talked to Wink Martindale earlier this year and he said, 'When I came here, I said if Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence aren't Pro Bowlers, we're doing something wrong.' It's good to see that a coach can come in and see that talent and say, 'Ok so how do I maximize that? How do I get the best version of Dexter Lawrence?' And he did just that."

Perhaps the biggest improvement came at the quarterback position, where Jones shined in Daboll and Mike Kafka's system.

The fourth-year quarterback set career-highs in both passing yards (3,205) and passer rating (92.5). Additionally, he established numerous franchise single-season QB records, including completion percentage (67.2), rushing yards (708) and rushing touchdowns (seven). Jones also finished the regular season with a 1.06 interception percentage, which not only set a team record but was also the lowest-mark in the NFL.

As if that weren't enough, Jones became the first quarterback in NFL postseason history with 300+ pass yards, 2+ pass touchdowns and 70+ rushing yards in the team's Wild Card win over the Minnesota Vikings.

O'Hara was thoroughly impressed with Jones' performance throughout the season, especially his ability to protect the football, something that has been an issue for the signal-caller in the past.

"I thought Daniel Jones was unbelievably accurate," said the three-time Pro Bowl center. "He was like a sniper out there, and a lot of it was crossing routes. Daniel Jones is not throwing 10 go routes a game. A lot of it is deep ins, deep outs, it's attacking the middle of the field, and I thought that was really where Daniel Jones excelled. You mentioned taking care of the football. So many times, Daniel Jones when you're watching the film of him this year, when he's climbing that pocket, there are two hands on the football at all times. For those of you out there that think coaches can't make players better, that is false. This season was actually a great exercise in 'Can you help players fix issues?' And they did just that. Credit to Daniel Jones for that."

Jones is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins next month. In terms of whether or not he believes the Giants should retain their quarterback and captain, O'Hara left no doubt about how he feels on the topic.

"Look, your quarterback is always an iconic player. You have to find out 'Can we win games with this guy? Can he take us to the playoffs?' Daniel Jones answered that question, absolutely," the NFL Network analyst explained. "I think there isn't a quarterback in the NFL that was asked to do more with less than what Daniel Jones did this year. If you look at it and say, 'Wow, we made the playoffs with this group right now. If we can assemble a better team around him, can we go even further?' I think the answer to that is yes. So, for Daniel Jones, he proved he could stay healthy, he can be durable, he's reliable, he can take care of the football, and he can make the players around him better. I think that was one of the reasons why the Giants drafted him."

View photos of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones throughout his NFL career.

O'Hara touched on numerous other topics and players throughout the discussion.

On Saquon Barkley:

"I have yet to meet anybody in the Tri-State area that doesn't love Saquon Barkley and doesn't love what he brings to the table. Look, he's been through it all, too. He was at the top of the mountain peak his rookie year. Offensive Rookie of the Year. Then he got hurt, so he's been in the basement. He hit rock bottom. And he's crawled and he's clawed his way back. I think it's a great story what Saquon has done. I think he has a lot of great football left in him."

On the rookie class:

"There were a couple of injuries. (Darrian) Beavers in training camp, Beavers probably would have been one of the starting linebackers, if not the MIKE. He goes down early, Wan'Dale Robinson banged up. Yet, they still got a lot of production from (Daniel) Bellinger, Evan Neal, (Kayvon) Thibodeaux, even Micah McFadden was a factor and contributed. Those are all signs of good eye by the scouts and the GM."

On the O-line:

"I think Bobby Johnson, the offensive line coach, has paid dividends. Think about for Andrew Thomas, I think he had four offensive line coaches in his first three years. That's not the kind of consistency you want at that position group, and I think Bobby Johnson did a great job of bringing some solidarity to that group… The one thing that I think with this offense you could say was complete contrast to last year- they did a great job with the blitz pick up, this offense. It seemed like the communication was great. They were on the same page up front. Very rarely did you see missed assignments, unblocked defenders in both the running and the pass game."

On Evan Neal:

"I think Evan Neal has a bright future. I think for the Giants, what he does best is right now, he's a great run blocker. You get him on the tracks, there's not a defensive end in the NFL that he can't move at the point of attack. He does a great job with that. He's a great worker. Everything I hear about the kid is that he's a pro. He came into this building and immediately went to work. He doesn't care about anything else that's going on outside this building. He wants to be the best Evan Neal that he can be and the best tackle. So, I think that's encouraging."