The New York Giants season came to a painful end on Saturday night, drawing to a close with a dismantling at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles 38-7 in the Divisional Round loss.
Even the final score didn’t capture the one-sided blowout, as Philadephia jumped out to a 28-0 lead at halftime and finished the game with a massive advantage (416 to 227) in total yards. While it was a disappointing conclusion, it doesn’t erase the positives from a bounce-back season for the franchise.
New York seems to have finally found the right men to lead the franchise in general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll who might be named Coach of the Year.
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Before the 2022 season kicked off, questions surrounded the future of quarterback Daniel Jones. Finally in the right environment, the debate over whether or not he can be a capable starter ended with a resounding “Yes” following a breakout season.
However, Saturday’s blowout loss to Philadelphia proves there is still a lot of room left to improve. Heading into a critical offseason, here are three moves the Giants must make in 2023 beyond re-signing Jones and Saquon Barkley.
New York Giants must find a No. 1 receiver
The Giants’ most glaring weakness on their roster is the absence of a game-changing receiver who can make plays without needing to be schemed open. This plagued the offense the entire season as receivers were unable to create separation or generate explosive plays downfield.
With the exception of Darius Slayton, who is now a free agent, most of the receivers Jones threw to would be practice squad players on a majority of NFL teams.
There’s been speculation that the team could trade for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk or Cincinnati Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. Both Aiyuk and Higgins are scheduled to be free agents in 2024. Rather than lose them to the open market, some believe Cincinnati or San Francisco might be willing to part ways with either player for the right price.
As long as the price does not involve a first-round pick, Schoen needs to seriously consider pulling the trigger on the trade as this will be a major upgrade to the roster.
With either Aiyuk or Higgins on the roster next season, they’ll finally be able to generate big plays in the passing game and allow Jones to progress even further as a quarterback.
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The Giants could look to the draft to upgrade this position, but in an area that’s in glaring need of an upgrade, it’s better to go with a proven commodity.
Strengthen interior offensive line with NFL Draft, free agency
New York is set at left tackle as Andrew Thomas is one of the best in the game. On the other side, Evan Neal still offers a bright future at right tackle despite a challenging rookie season.
However, the interior line needs to be addressed as often they were overwhelmed against top-tier defensive lines. Center Jon Feliciano and left guard Nick Gates are unrestricted free agents and are positions that the Giants were going to look to upgrade anyway.
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Schoen could address this need in the first round of the draft by taking Florida offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence. The 6-foot-5, 346-pound guard would be a welcomed addition in both pass and run blocking.
The Giants can address the center position in free agency, signing Ethan Pocic (10 pressures, two sacks allowed in 461 snaps). After playing on a one-year deal, New York could land the 27-year-old center with a lucrative contract to fortify its interior offensive line.
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Add a defensive run stopper
New York had the 27th-ranked run defense this season, which the Eagles exploited on Saturday for 268 yards on 44 carries. It was a season-worst performance and a problem that defensive coordinator Wink Martindale never resolved.
The biggest issue with the run defense was the ease with which teams were able to run off the edge for big gains. It’s clear that they need to get more athletic and add depth at the defensive end position. In addition, they also need to add a quality backup for Dexter Lawrence.
Lawrence has been sensational this year and deserved to be named Second-Team All-Pro, but it’s hard to expect a man that 345 pounds to play around 85% of the snaps. When Justin Ellis steps in when Lawrence needs a breather, he’s often overmatched by linemen.
To be financially responsible, it’s probably best to address this need in the draft. Fortunately, New York has a total of 11 draft picks, of which they can use a few of those picks to upgrade the defensive front seven. If Schoen can acquire some impactful rookies, the team will be ready to take an even bigger stride in 2023.