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Fact or Fiction: Way-too-early stat predictions


Daniel Jones will have more rushing touchdowns than Saquon Barkley has receiving touchdowns.

John Schmeelk: Fact -- Dan started us off with a great statement. These are the kinds I enjoy debating. It's often difficult for running backs to get receiving touchdowns, especially in the red zone. Barkley, however, has a chance of getting more than a couple long touchdown passes off screens, wheel routes or other downfield throws. With that said, I would be surprised if Barkley had more than four receiving touchdowns. I do think Jones, however, will surpass that many running the ball. Jason Garrett's Cowboys often used Dak Prescott to run for touchdowns in the red zone, and Daniel Jones could be used similarly. Prescott's scores came on quarterback sneaks, read-options plays, other designed runs and traditional scrambles. Prescott has had more rushing touchdowns than Ezekiel Elliott has had receiving touchdowns in each of their four years together in Dallas. I think that pattern continues with the Giants this season.

Dan Salomone: Fiction -- While not a replica, Joe Judge has said the offense will resemble what Jason Garrett did in Dallas. That included four seasons with Dak Prescott as his starting quarterback, a stretch in which the quarterback ran for six touchdowns in each of his first three seasons before recording three last year. Furthermore, the Cowboys were 17-4 when he ran for a touchdown. When he didn't, they were 23-20. That sounds like a good formula to replicate with Daniel Jones, who has shown what he can do with his legs.

Lance Medow: Fact -- Last season, Daniel Jones had two rushing touchdowns and Saquon Barkley two receiving scores. While Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott aren't identical in skillset to Jones and Barkley, in the four seasons Dak and Zeke have been together in Dallas, under Jason Garrett, Prescott finished with more rushing touchdowns than Elliott had through the air. Prescott and Jones are both mobile and Zeke and Barkley are both elusive, so the trends we've seen in Dallas over the last four seasons could continue with the Giants. Much like Elliott, Barkley will do more damage on the ground in 2020, which will give Jones an opportunity to beat him by a slim margin.

Golden Tate will lead the Giants in receiving yards this season.

Schmeelk: Fact -- Despite finishing with fewer total yards, Tate averaged more receiving yards per game than Darius Slayton did last year. Slayton's play time was limited early in the year, which does skew his numbers downwards. Slayton could take a step back statistically if both Sterling Shepard and Tate are healthy the entire season. I have great confidence in what Tate is going to produce. He has had an extremely consistent career. He still looked like the same player athletically last year, and there is no reason to think he won't top 800 yards and 70 catches if he plays all 16 games. I predict he will be closer to 80 catches and 900 yards, which I think will be better than Slayton's sophomore numbers.

Salomone: Fiction -- At this time last year, I was running for president of the Darius Slayton Fan Club. After that rough first practice at rookie minicamp, he settled down and started turning heads. He went on to tie for the NFL rookie lead in touchdown catches, and I think his yardage will increase this year. Slayton had 740 yards on just 48 catches for an average of 15.4 per reception. He can make the big play, but what impressed people the most was his savvy route running. He and Daniel Jones have something special brewing.

Medow: Fact -- In 2019, Darius Slayton edged Golden Tate by just 64 yards, and while Slayton (14) played in three more games than Tate (11), their targets were nearly identical: Slayton 84, Tate 85. In his four full seasons (2014-17) in Detroit when he played in all 16 games in each of those campaigns, Tate led the Lions in receiving yards twice and one season (2017) finished less than 100 yards behind Marvin Jones Jr. for the team lead. Tate has been very durable during his career. He has played in at least 15 games in eight of his 10 seasons. Considering the chemistry he has already established with Daniel Jones, I like Tate's chances of leading the team in receiving yards.

James Bradberry will lead the team in interceptions.

Schmeelk: Fiction -- I never like to choose a cornerback to lead a team in interceptions. It is difficult for cornerbacks, especially in man coverage schemes we expect the Giants to play, to rack up interceptions. Their backs are often to the quarterback when passes are released, and it is hard for them to get their heads around in time to make plays on the football. Players who get the most interceptions are the ones who have the benefit of having plays develop in front of them. Zone cornerbacks have that luxury, but in the defense the Giants will likely play, it will be the safeties who will have those opportunities. I think Jabrill Peppers will play closer to the line of scrimmage, so it comes down to Julian Love or Xavier McKinney. It is hard to select a rookie safety, but I saw enough from McKinney playing deep zone at Alabama for me to believe he can lead the team in interceptions his rookie season. He has good instincts and range to make plays on the ball down the field. It wouldn't surprise me, however, if it is Peppers or Love.

Salomone: Fact -- He's coming off a career-high three interceptions for Carolina last year, and he did it in perhaps the toughest division for cornerbacks. The NFC South boasts wide receivers Julio Jones in Atlanta, Michael Thomas in New Orleans, and Mike Evans in Tampa Bay. The Panthers routinely assigned Bradberry to cover the opponen's best wideout. He's tested.

Medow: Fiction -- Last season, Janoris Jenkins led the team with four interceptions. Ryan Connelly was the only other player to have more than one and he only played in four games due to a torn ACL. James Bradberry has never had more than three interceptions in a season and he reached that total once in four seasons with the Panthers. That was last season when he finished tied for the team lead. Given the youth and lack of experience at corner, Bradberry has a good chance of leading all players at his position in interceptions, but as far as overall, I'll say Xavier McKinney winds up leading the Giants in that department. He made many opportunistic plays over the last two years (5 total picks) at Alabama.

The Giants will have a player with double-digit sacks.

Schmeelk: Fiction -- Could Kyler Fackrell get there? Yes. Could Markus Golden, if he returns? Yes. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines are two youngsters who have a chance to get there if they have breakout seasons. I just don't think it is likely. Somebody, perhaps two players, will surpass seven sacks. If the Giants top two sack leaders can combine for 16 or more, it is a good sign they've gotten a consistent pass rush. I think that is a more realistic goal, and a more important goal than one player getting 10 or more.

Salomone: Fact -- But remember, it's not necessary for success. Look at the 49ers last year. Only one of their players was in double digits, and it was Arik Armstead with exactly 10. Former Packer Kyler Fackrell is certainly a candidate for the Giants this year, but I'm also very interested to see what this coaching staff can do with players like Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter. We shall see.

Medow: Fiction -- As it stands right now, just one player on the Giants defense has produced a double-digit sack season. That's linebacker Kyler Fackrell, and he accomplished that once in his four seasons in Green Bay when he had 10.5 in 2018. Outside of 2018, he had just six sacks in the other three seasons combined. Fackrell is a very intriguing player because of his 2018 campaign and the fact that in 2019, the Packers made a big splash in free agency by signing Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith, which contributed to Fackrell losing snaps. With neither of the Smiths on the Giants roster, Fackrell has the opportunity to get back to his 2018 production, but I think the team's sack total will come with multiple players collecting four to six sacks as opposed to one main guy. Someone could certainly emerge and have a breakout campaign, but the track record says otherwise.

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