Season grade: Below-average -- The Giants missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years after losing seven of their first eight games. They should have at least been competitive, especially when adding Saquon Barkley in the draft and getting Odell Beckham Jr. back from injury. The Giants made the decision in the draft to bypass a potential quarterback of the future for Barkley, who capped off a record-setting season with a huge performance Sunday. They also signed veterans and made moves as if they could compete for a playoff spot, but it didn’t work out.
Season in review: The Giants’ season started miserably, and they went into their bye week tied for the worst record (1-7) in the NFL. They didn't recover. Their offense was the primary culprit, failing to score 20 points in five of their first seven losses, and the offense never evolved into the unit that was expected with so many playmakers. Quarterback Eli Manning had eight touchdown passes in the first eight games, despite having Barkley, Beckham, Sterling Shepard and -- when healthy -- Evan Engram. The Giants offense struggled in season-opening losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cowboys the first two weeks, and it extended through the first half of the season. It set the stage for another season without playoffs, even though the Giants managed to win four out of five coming out of the bye week.
He said it: “When you don't get in the end zone, you can't win, so ... that's that.” -- Giants coach Pat Shurmur, after a 17-0 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 15
What will the Giants do at quarterback? They will be looking for a quarterback of the future in the draft. In the meantime, the Giants need to make a decision on Manning’s future. Do they want to roll it back one more time? The Giants are aware Manning, soon to be 38, is on the decline. They know their offense is limited with him behind center. The results over the past three seasons say it all. They will at least assess other options for a bridge quarterback this offseason. Teddy Bridgewarter, Nick Foles and Joe Flacco are options.
Which big money players could be cut or allowed to walk? Defensive tackle Damon Harrison was already shipped out at the trade deadline. Decisions need to be made this offseason on outside linebacker Olivier Vernon, safety Landon Collins (free agent) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The Giants turned down offers at the trade deadline for Collins and the most likely scenario is he returns on the franchise tag. They can’t afford to lose 24-year-old playmakers given the current state of the roster. Vernon is scheduled to count $19.5 million next year against the salary cap, but his production and availability haven’t matched that price tag. Jenkins is more likely to be back after the Giants gave him a roster bonus before the season that added $1.5 million more to his 2019 cap number, and he’s played well late in the year.
How will they fix their defense? It’s considered to be a strong defensive line draft, and general manager Dave Gettleman has always been big on taking linemen in the early rounds. His first three picks as GM in Carolina were linemen (2 DL, 1 OL). The Giants have major needs at outside linebacker and defensive tackle. They need to improve their pass rush, and this is the draft to get it done. Finding interior pass-rushers will be a priority this offseason. Returning Collins to the fold and using most of their available funds in free agency (in the range of $40 million) on defense should give the Giants a chance at improving.