NY Giants offense is improved even before NFL Draft
The NY Giants have already improved their offense through free agency. The NFL Draft will only make it stronger.
NY Giants QB Daniel Jones needed help.
It’s rare that a quarterback comes out of college ready for the NFL, and even rarer that they succeed on bad teams. Two seasons was enough for Dave Gettleman and the front office of the NY Giants to know that Jones isn’t one of those rare gems, and they acted accordingly.
It’s not all of Jones’ fault. Between a bad offensive line and no stand-out, superstar weapons to get the ball to (emphasized by Saquon Barkley’s absence), Jones, in a way, was set up to fail.
But that is now the past.
While the 2020 free agency under Gettleman sought to improve the defense, which it did immensely, the 2021 offseason was all about offense. The Giants were able to sign two offensive weapons whose presence alone will help improve production.
The additions of Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph (plus the return of Barkley) should be plenty for Daniel Jones, not to mention whoever they take in the 2021 NFL Draft. They are improvements over the players who were unable to support the young quarterback’s growth.
Just how much of an improvement are the two new Giants players? Let’s compare them to what Jones has had in the past.
There is no speculation on who the Giants’ number one receiver will be in 2021.
Kenny Golladay signed a four-year, $72 million dollar contract this offseason. The four-year pro and 2019 Pro Bowler is a far step up from anyone on the Giants’ roster.
At six-foot-four, Golladay is a larger target than Jones is used to. And despite being hurt for the majority of 2020, Golladay’s 338 reception yards would have put him ahead of most receivers on the Giants. His total was just 50 yards behind Golden Tate, and Tate played seven more games.
Golladay twice eclipsed 1000 receiving yards in a season, something no Giants receiver has to their credit now that Tate is gone. (Tate eclipsed 1000 yards three times with the Lions prior to joining the NY Giants, a harbinger worth mentioning.)
But the big reason why he will be a better option for Daniel Jones is shown in the passer rating when targeted. Since 2018, the passer rating for quarterbacks throwing to Golladay were 95.3, 105.2, and 119.
Compare that to Darius Slayton, the Giants’ team leader in reception for the past two years, and you’ll see a strong improvement. Although in his rookie campaign, Slayton helped quarterbacks sport a rating of 98.3, that dropped drastically in 2020, as that metric plummeted to 79.8.
Looking beyond Slayton, Sterling Shepard has helped provide surer hands for quarterbacks. But his numbers were lower over the same three-year span. Since 2018, the passer rating for quarterbacks targeting Shepard were 92.1, 80.2, and 100.
But Jones needs more than a good set of hands to catch contested passes. He needs someone to help him minimize turnovers.
While Golladay has as many drops as Slayton has (8) over the past two seasons, he is responsible for one fewer interception (5 vs. 6). Every one counts when you struggle as much as Jones does in this metric.
Further, Golladay showed modest improvement year over year. The five interceptions he was responsible for all came in his 2019 Pro Bowl season, as did six drops. He caused zero interceptions in 2020 and only two drops, though he only played in five games.
Meanwhile, Slayton, who was hoped to improve on his rookie season, digressed in drops. He dropped just two passes in 2019, but six in 2020.
In the small sample size from Golladay’s 2020 season, he made his quarterback’s rating nearly 40 percent points higher than the Giants’ leading receiver, dropped fewer passes, and caused zero interceptions.
Not a bad way to help Jones improve in his third season.
Bigger, stronger, though not as fast — Kyle Rudolph, even as the Giants’ No. 2 tight end, will bring improvement to Daniel Jones where it matters most.
The two-time Pro Bowl tight end enters his 11th season as the old, wise vet. And while his frequency of targets, receptions, and yards per season have steadily gone down from a 2016 high and a 2017 Pro Bowl nod, other metrics show why he’s as vital now than ever.
Let’s start with catch percentage. Rudolph in his past three seasons had the three highest catch percentages of his career. Starting in 2018, he had a catch percentage of 78, 81.3, and 75.7.
Compare that to Evan Engram, the Giants’ resident starting Pro Bowl tight end: Engram since 2018 has been on a downward spiral for catch percentage. Starting in 2018, Engram has had a catch percentage of 70.3, 64.7, and then 57.8.
The higher catch percentages are a quick peek at how much surer hands Rudolph has than Engram.
Engram’s biggest problem, as just about any fan can tell you, is drops. In the past three seasons, Engram has dropped at least 17 passes, 11 of them coming during his 2020 Pro Bowl campaign. Since 2018, he’s had a drop percentage of 4.7, 4.4, and 10.1.
Rudolph, meanwhile, has only one drop to his credit in the past three seasons — and it came in 2018. He has zero drops in the past two years.
The ability to catch what’s thrown his way shows the value of adding a veteran like Rudolph. That one drop in 2018 was the lone interception Rudolph was responsible for.
Flip back to Engram, who is responsible for six interceptions over that same time span — all coming in 2020.
And to look at one last metric, let’s see the quarterback rating when targeting the two TEs.
Quarterbacks throwing to Rudolph have never had a rating under 110 when targeting in the past three seasons. Since 2018, quarterbacks who throw his way have had ratings of 110.1, 138.1, and 111.8.
Only once in the past three seasons have quarterbacks hit above 110 when targeting Engram. Since 2018, quarterbacks who throw Engram’s way have had ratings of 113.9, 99.3, and 55.4.
No one should view Rudolph as a replacement for Engram; they should see him as a reliable security blanket for Daniel Jones’ development.
Rudolph is more likely to catch a pass, less likely to cause an interception, and gives quarterbacks a far better rating than Engram. His presence will not only help Jones curb his turnover habit, but it will also push Engram to reach his full potential.