By Michael Stewart/@golferbad
Introduction: Another disappointed season for the New York Giants finishing with a (5-11) record; which was actually a two game improvement over the 2017 season (3-13). There were a lot of reasons and blame to go around for the Giants overall performance this season, so here’s a look at my final grades at each position for the 2018 New York Giants.
Eli Manning: Manning had his ups and downs, but his overall numbers were very respectable playing behind an offensive line that struggled for the most part. Finding Manning’s successor is still an option, but it may not happen in the upcoming draft or at least in the 1st round. Grade: B-
Kyle Lauletta: Lauletta never got the chance to really showcase his talents this season. His brief audition against the Washington Redskins (0-5 with 1 interception) may have not been what the Giants had hoped for, but it’s too small a sample to fairly grade his performance this season. Whether the Giants draft a quarterback in the 2019 draft is still unclear; especially in the 1st round. Grade: Incomplete.
Saquon Barkley: Barkley surpassed all expectations with an outstanding rookie season; as he has already been named to his 1st Pro Bowl and will no doubt earn him offensive rookie of the year. Barkley became only the 3rd rookie running back to eclipse 2000 total yards from scrimmage in a season; along with Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James. Grade A+
Rest of the running backs: Not much ink should be given to the rest of the running backs on the Giants roster as their performances were at the very least below average. Giants should and will likely look to find a running game to help Barkley moving forward. Providing some support in the running game or by adding production. Grade C-
Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham got better as the season progressed; until a quad injury sidelined him for the final four games. The commitment the Giants have made with Beckham when they agreed to give him a 5 year deal worth $95 million dollars starts in 2019 could be a wise move or the worse move in franchise history. My gut tells me that Beckham will never fulfill that contract with the Giants and each side will move on sometime in the next 2 to 3 years. Grade B+
Sterling Shepard: Shepard had his moments, but for the most part performed to expectations for the Giants. I believe many in the Giants organization were hoping that Shepard would exceed expectation this season and they could be a chance the Giants look to shop Shepard around to see if there’s interest. Grade C+.
Rest of the Wide Receivers: Not much to bolster about here as the Giants really get much production from the supporting cast of wide receivers on the roster. GM Dave Gettleman could look to find fresh faces to fill those roles this off season. Grade C-
Tight Ends: After a solid rookie campaign by Evan Engram in 2017, the second year tight end struggled to not only stay healthy and produced only in the final two games of the season. Engram was hit again with dropped balls that plagued him in 2017 and the 2019 could be a make or break year for him as a Giant. Many experts believe that the Giants would be wise to either move Engram to wide receiver; since he is more suited in open space or to possibly look to trade him for either picks or a position of need. Grade C-
Rest of the Tight Ends: Rhett Ellison was serviceable, but his production doesn’t equate to his contract; so expect to see Ellison become a cap casualty in the off season. Scott Simonson played sparingly and did a good job blocking, but as a receiver his development is way behind. Grade: D
Offensive Line: I saved the best for last regarding the Giants offensive grades as the offensive line was the Giants Achilles heal in 2018. Although the performance showed a little improvement once Spencer Pulley and Jamon Brown were inserted at center and right guard. This team needs to make the offensive line a major priority in the off season; regardless if they re-sign both Pulley and Brown. Only bright spot for the Giants was the play of rookie left guard Will Hernandez, who was without question the most consistent linemen for the team in 2018. Grade D (which was an upgrade from a Grade F in the first half)
Defensive Line: This group was a major disappointment as a group as they were weak against the run and didn’t have much of a pass rush. Dalvin Tomlinson couldn’t replace Damian Harrison and neutralize the middle of the defensive line. Josh Mauro is a solid back up player who played starter minutes and the production showed. Rookie B. J Hill was the only bright spot among the defensive line and led the team in sacks and a selection to the all rookie defensive team. If the Giants plan on staying with the 3-4 scheme alignment, they need to find a nose tackle who can stuff the run. The rest of the linemen who play significant minutes were Mario Edwards Jr. and Kerry Wynn who played well enough in backup roles, but there’s a good chance both will not be on the 2019 roster. Grade C-
Outside Linebacker: Starters Kareem Martin and Olivier Vernon were expected to provide much needed pressure on the quarterback; especially Vernon. Unfortunately; not only did they both fail in the sack department, but both were equally as bad against the run. Lots of rumors going around that the Giants could release and/or trade Vernon and possibly Martin as well in the off season; which would save the Giants a lot of money. Only bright spot and the main reason their overall grade wasn’t worse; was the play of rookie linebacker Lorenzo Carter who is looking more and more like a star in the near future; which could be as early as 2019. Grade C+
Inside Linebackers: Strong play from Alec Ogletree in the second half of the season has given the inside Linebackers position a boost and possibly something positive for the next season, if not released. B. J Goodson seemed to have taken a couple of steps back in 2018 and once again found some time on the injury list. Backups Nathan Stupar and Tae Davis really didn’t contribute much on defense; although both did do a decent job on special teams. Grade C+
Cornerbacks: Eli Apple was traded and Janoris Jenkins had an up and down season and played better in the final four games. However; Jenkins is another player being reported of possibly being a casualty cut or traded this off season as the Giants GM Dave Gettleman must find a way to increase the cap space. The rest of the cornerback group had their moments, but not enough to want a return performance. Grade C
Safeties: Landon Collins was playing well; which earn him a Pro Bowl selection. Curtis Riley seemed to be out of position most of the time and forgot how to tackle. Reserves Michael Thomas and Sean Chandler played above expectations when called upon. The season ending injury to Collins could have a rippling effect on what the Giants will do moving forward in regards to his future as a Giant. Grade C+
Kicker: If you have told me that kicker Aldrick Rosas would have the best grade aside from Saquon Barkley at the end of the season; I would have never believed it. However; the numbers don’t lie and Rosas performance was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl selection. Grade A
Punter: Riley Dixon quietly had a solid season for the Giants and solidified the Giants decision to acquire him last off season from the Broncos for a 7th round pick. Grade B
Long Snapper: Seems like Zak Deossie has been a Giant forever and does his job in a professional manner without much glitter. The dependability that Deossie provides for the Giants might be over looked by the fans and the media, but not by the Giants coaching staff and ownership. Grade B
Summary: GM Dave Gettleman has his work cut out for him this off season as he will have a lot of tough decisions to make regarding the teams cap space and how to increase it. There are many candidates currently on the Giants roster who could become a victim by either being traded or released. Currently; the Giants have roughly $32 million available in cap space and I expect that number to increase tramatically by the time Gettleman is through. 2019 might be another building year for the Giants, however; if Gettleman pushes the right buttons, the Giants could be built for the long term and a legit playoff contending team. Overall team Grade: C+