2018 Season Recap: New York Giants

2018 SEASON RECAP: NEW YORK GIANTS

Division: NFC East

Record: 5-11

General Season Review

"How come we can't throw the ball for more than 20 yards? How come we don't attempt or try to throw the ball for more than 20 yards?" - Odell Beckham, Jr., October 2018.

All seasons are reactions to the previous season. The 2018 Giants are no different.

Lets briefly touch on a very special 2017 season for this New York football team before diving in to what happened this past year.

The 2017 season was, to put it lightly, a fucking nightmare. We won three out of 16 games. Odell Beckham Jr. was hurt in preseason and then hurt again in the regular season. He wasn't the only one. Every remaining starting Giants receiver was literally hurt in one game. The secondary took turns quitting on McAdoo throughout the year. McAdoo benched Eli Manning for Geno Smith, lost the locker room, and was fired mid-season. This happened. Long-time general manager Jerry Reese was canned.

Dear reader, in all my years as a Giants fan, it's hard to recall a year that went more off the rails than 2017.

After a 2016 playoff run that was built off a talented defense and Odell taking slants to the house (exhibit A, B, and C]. The Giants came back down to earth in stunning embarrassing fashion. Oh, and the Eagles finally won a Superbowl. Like I said, 2017, nightmare.

So in 2018 the Giants signed a new head coach and general manager with the the hope that having an adult in the room along with nailing the draft, could maybe, just maybe, give the Giants a chance of competing in Manning's twilight years.

The Giants hired ex-Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, who was also a longtime personnel director for the Giants under legendary front-office man Ernie Accorsi from 1999 to 2011, along with the previous year's Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur with a clear objective: fix the offense.

The demolition was swift. Only​ 23​​ players who were on the 53-man roster in 2017 were on the roster for this season’s opener. By week 17, there were only 15 players from 2017 still standing.

Gettlemen stated clearly after taking the job that both he and the Giants organization thought Eli Manning still had YEARS (plural) left, and that the Manning we saw in the last quarter of a 2017 Week 3 game against the Eagles was not an aberration but also a reasonable way to evaluate a quarterback's play over an entire season.

What could go wrong?

Well, it turns out a lot can go wrong. And a lot did go wrong.

The Giants had their fifth losing record in six years and finished last in the NFC East. It's the first time since 1995-1996 that the Giants have been last in the division in back-to-back years.

The writing was so clearly on the wall that by mid-season Gettlemen began hawking key defensive pieces midway through the year, sending all-pro defensive tackle Damon Harrison to the Detroit Lions and cornerback Eli Apple, the previous 10th overall pick, to the New Orleans Saints for additional draft capital.

The 2018 season story can be told largely through the offensive line. It was a rebuilt unit that did not coalesce until far too late in the season, and was not helped by the fact that it was retooled throughout the year due to poor performance and injuries. That unit's poor showing, along with an aging quarterback that can no longer elevate the team around him (but who still commands one of the highest salaries in football) and a defense that frankly didn't have anywhere near enough talent to compete at a high level, was not exactly a recipe for a winning season.

The Giants won one of their first eight games before the bye. They followed that up by winning four of their next five, but it was not anywhere near enough to get the Giants in playoff contention. Their slim playoffs hopes were dashed in a Thursday night game against the Eagles, after which they fell to 3-8.

Giants fans can take some solace in the offensive line somewhat improving throughout the year, phenom offensive rookie-of-the-year Saquon Barkley looking like a generational talent, and having the sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft.

The Giants' roster has a ton of holes to fill and the organization still needs to figure out what life is going to look like in the post-Eli Manning era.

Draft

RB | Saquon Barkley, Penn State

He's already one of the most exciting offensive players in the league. Barkley makes the first guy miss every single time. It's otherworldly. Early in the season he had a tendency for looking for the home run, but got better at taking what the defense gives you as the year went on. He had a league-high 2,028 yards from scrimmage and caught 91 passes. One of the sole bright spots for Giants' fans in 2018.

G | Will Hernandez, UTEP

Started off slow, but already looks to be a foundational piece at left guard. He also played every offensive snap.

LB | Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

He had four sacks but failed to consistently generate pressure off the edge this year. At 6'5 and 252 pounds, he has all the tools to develop into a pass rusher, but whether that happens remains to be seen.

DT | BJ Hill, NC State

Hill was able to generate some interior pressure throughout the season and had 5.5 sacks in 12 games while playing 59% of snaps. He had some issues with penalties but looks to be a promising piece moving forward.

QB | Kyle Lauletta, Richmond

It's difficult to evaluate Lauletta based on how little we've seen him play. He looked terrible coming in late in a Week 14 game, and getting arrested in October after nearly running over a cop didn't help his cause.

DT | RJ McIntosh, Miami

RJ had a thyroid condition that limited his availability until Week 12. He's hard to evaluate based on the limited action we saw in six games.

Free Agency

RB | Jonathan Stewart

One of Gettleman's worst moves since taking the job. Stewart has nothing left in the tank and was paid $6.9 million on a two-year deal for a reason no sane human being will ever understand. There's nothing about his limited action that suggests the Giant should keep him for year two of his contract.

OL | Nate Solder

In the first half of the season, you could probably point to Solder at Gettleman's worst signing of his short tenure. He allowed six sacks in his first eight games, but just one in the back eight. If he can play like he did in the second half of the season, I think this one could turn our alright. He's obviously overpaid, but that's how free agency works. He gives the Giants an answer at the position following a disastrous couple years with Flowers and is also well respected in the locker room.

OL | Jamon Brown

He helped solidify the line midway through the season after being cut by the Rams. Still, Brown allowed 19 quarterback pressures, according to PFF, and was called for eight penalties in his eight games played. He was an upgrade over Omameh, which isn't saying much, and the Giants should look to upgrade at right guard this offseason if they can.

OL | Patrick Omameh

Disaster. He was signed to a three-year, $15 million deal and only lasted eight games as right guard before getting cut. His play was frankly embarrassing in both the run-game and pass protection.

DB | Michael Thomas

An elite special teamer that played well as the third safety and as a slot corner in nickel packages. He's a piece to build around, even though he didn't play well coming in for Landon Collins after he was injured.

DB | Curtis Riley

Not a stretch to say he's probably the worst tackling safety in the league. He missed TWENTY THREE tackles this year. Look at that number again. It doesn't even seem real. He had 63 solo tackles all season, meaning that he's whiffing over a third of the time he tries to take someone down. Not ideal. There's no way he comes back.

LB | Kareem Martin

A role player that was overpaid on a three-year $15 million deal. His play improved as the season went on but only had 1.5 sacks and 14 hurries in 16 games.

DB | B.W. Webb

B.W. Webb was originally brought in as depth, but ended up starting as slot corner and then took on a bigger role across from Janoris Jenkins after Eli Apple was traded. His play was up and down and he had issues with penalties. I think he's worth bringing back on a minimum deal but should be treated as depth and not a starter.

DE | Josh Mauro

Started off the season suspended due to PED, but plays well against the run and is limited as pass rusher. He's a favorite of DC James Bettcher and seems like a likely player to come back next year.

Other signings

DB Teddy Williams, LB Connor Barwin (already cut), WR Cody Latimer, DB William Gay, WR Russel Shepard

Pre-season and Midseason Trades

Jason Pierre Paul

This was one of Gettleman's smartest moves since he took the job in this fan's opinion. Jason Pierre Paul had a incredible rookie year and has been an inconsistent pass rusher ever since. He's just not worth the deal Jerry Reese gave him, recouping a third round pick and offloading that contracts makes a ton of sense even if it leaves the team with only one worthwhile pass rusher in Vernon, who has issues of his own.

Damon Harrison

Harrison was traded to the Lions for a fifth-round pick. He's an all-pro nose guard and one of if not the best run defender in the league. It was sad to see him go, but we were paying him a lot of money and at age 30 he's likely not worth keeping him around for a rebuild. I think this one caught a lot of fans offguard, especially with what the Giants received for Harrison. But, age, positional value, and contract all make this a difficult sell for the Giants, getting what they could now makes sense.

Eli Apple

Apple was traded to the Saints for a fourth and seventh round pick. His play was up and down throughout his time at the Giants and he had a tendency for holding/pass interference calls and was a bit of a headache in the locker room. It's an unfortunate ending for the Giants on their 10th overall pick from the 2016 draft, but we probably weren't going to extend him anyway.

Statistics

Offense

Statistic Value Rank
DVOA   13
Points For 269 16
Total Yards 5,697 17
Passing Yards 4,047 11
Turnovers 19 13

Defense

Statistic Value Rank
DVOA   24
Points Against 412 23
Passing Yards 4,044 23
Rushing Yards 1,898 20
Turnovers 21 15

Weekly Game Recaps

Jaguars defense bottled up the Giants outside of an inside run that Barkley kicks outside for a long touchdown. Fairly boring match and Bortles & Co. do just enough to take the win.

Prescott throws a 64-yard touchdown on the third play of the game after Jenkins slips and falls down. Giants offensive line gets utterly destroyed giving up sacks to six different Cowboys. Center Jon Halapio breaks his right leg.

Giants take their first lead of the season on a 15-yard run by Barkley, but struggle following halftime. It's enough to best Huston. Beckham has a nice game, 9 catches and 109 yards.

Kamara runs for three scores. The Saints defense was ranked 30th coming into this game and shuts down the Giants offense outside of one early touchdown. OBJ says after the game, that "it seems like it shouldn't be this hard but it is," which is a nice encapsulation of the Giants offense since 2012.

OBJ throws a touchdown to Barkley on a trick play. Giants take a 31-30 lead with 1:08 remaining. Graham Gano kicks a 63-year field goal to win the game. Why wasn't McCaffrey's 4th-down carry at the end of the game reviewed? Everything is terrible.

The Eagles offense finds its groove with Wentz throwing three touchdowns. Manning and the line have another rough game, getting sacked four times and taking 13 hits. "We didn't do anything well enough to win tonight," Shurmur says after the loss. Odell headbutts a cooling fan. Barkley is sublime, but none of it matters. On to Atlanta.

Barkley is held for under 100 yards rushing/receiving for the first time, despite taking a screen pass for 55 yards. Matty Ice tears up the defense. Manning gets sacked another four times but still manages to throw for 400 yards against one of the NFL's worst defenses. Giants suffer their fourth straight loss.

Manning gets sacked seven times. Adrian Peterson runs for 149-yards. Beckham has 125 yards but the offense is no where near good enough to win an NFL football game. "We are not scoring enough points," Manning says after the game. Yes.

The Giants pull off a last-second score to best Nick Mullens, who throws two interceptions. Manning throws a 3-yard pass to Shepard to win the game with 53 seconds left. This felt like Manning's first 4th quarter comeback in a decade.

Barkley runs all over the Bucs to pull out the win. Ogletree has a pick six. Pierre Paul sacks Manning and says "Get up, stop falling," which, funny enough, is also a phrase that you're likely to hear in my living room on Sundays. Fitzpatrick throw 3 picks and gets replaced by Winston who keeps it close. Giants hold on. The Associated Press writes "Crazy as it may sound, the Giants are starting to believe they have a chance to make a run," after the game. Crazy, indeed.

Giants jump to an early lead against an Eagles secondary that has no healthy corners. Barkley has a 51-yard run up the middle for a touchdown, and then gets five touches in the second half for some reason. "It had nothing to do with the outcome of the game," Shumur says. Giants go to 3-8 and lose any realistic chance of making the playoffs.

Ogletree picks off Daniel twice. Beckham throws a 49-yard pass, cementing him as the best football-throwing person on the team. Barkley has a ridiculous run to set up the overtime field goal to win the game. Collins hurts his shoulder. Giants win their third game out of the past four.

Giants manage to beat Mark Sanchez, who returns right to form throwing a pick six. Barkley drops an early pass and tells everyone on the bench that'll he make it up to them. He then proceeds to rush for 170 yards to become the first Giants rookie to break 1,000 yards and sets a franchise record with 13 touchdowns. "We're starting to figure out that kind of this offense runs through him," Manning observes fourteen games into the season.

Titans blank the Giants at home. Derrick Henry runs over everyone. The offense stutters and stalls all game. Giants officially are out of the playoffs. OBJ misses his second straight game.

Giants held the lead for all but 55 seconds. Manning gets picked off to seal the defeat.

Dallas does New York a solid by starting half their team in a meaningless game. Barkley breaks Reggie Bush' record for most receptions by a rookie running back. "These losses hurt and they are tough to deal with," Manning says, as the Giants finish off their fifth losing season in six years. Giants nation nods enthusiastically.

High Points

  • Beating the Bears in overtime.

Low Points

  • Watching Manning get sacked four times a game and look like a 200-year old tree.
  • The team's playoff hopes ending in primetime against the Eagles.
  • Going 1-7 in the first eight games.

Overall Roster Review

All-Pros: Aldrick Rosas (2nd Team).

Pro Bowl Selections: Saquon Barkley, Landon Collins, Aldrick Rosas.

Team Strengths:

WR/RB/TE: Hard to be unhappy with the combination of Barkley, Beckham, Engram and Shepard, most of which are on rookie deals.

LT,LG: Assuming Solder plays like he did in the second half of the year going forward, Solder-Hernandez is a solid tandem that should keep the left side of the line competitive for years.

K: Aldrick Rosas is young and looked great this year.

P: Riley Dixon ranked seventh with 41.8 yard net average and was acquired for a seventh-round pick last year. He's 25 and gives the Giants a long-term answer at the position.

Team Weaknesses:

QB: Eli Manning is 38 years old and is set to count $23 million against the cap. He's not playing anywhere near the level that they're paying him. The line is obviously flawed, but Manning has lost the little pocket mobility he use to have and clearly does not see the field like he use to. Manning can have success with a strong supporting cast, but his cap hit makes that challenging if not impossible.

C,RG,RT: Giants have no real answers at any of these positions currently on the roster. RT Wheeler looked outmatched all season, RG Jamon Brown was decent but had a mixed year if you look at the stats, C was a revolving door after Halapio went down early in the season but Spencer Pulley was reasonable enough down the stretch that he should be brought to compete for the job.

Pass Rush: The pass rush was anemic all year with JPP being trading to Tampa and Vernon hampered by injuries. Vernon's contract makes him a cut candidate, so the Giants likely need a few players that can get to the quarterback.

Free Safety: Curtis Riley was a disaster. This is a clear weakness across from Landon Collins.

CB2: Assuming Jenkins comes back, the Giants would benefit from an adding a DB or two. B.W. Webb does not appear to be a long-term answer beyond depth.

2019 Draft Picks

(Note: comp picks were just announced and there doesn't seem to be updated information on where exactly they're picking within each round, as far I can tell.)

  1. 6th overall
  2. 38th overall

No third round pick - used in 2018 compensatory draft for Western Michigan corner Sam Beal who was out his rookie year with an injury.

4)

4) From the Saints for Eli Apple.

5) From the Lions for Damon Harrison.

5)

5) 171st overall, compensatory pick.

6)

7) From the Vikings for Brett Jones.

7) From the Rams in Ogletree trade.

Cap Space

$28,252,094, according to overthecap.com, as of 2/24.

Potential Cap Casualties

Olivier Vernon

He will have a 19.5 million cap hit in 2019. The Giants have a glaring hole at pass rusher, but this contract is too rich to honor it. I imagine they try to restructure, but ultimately end up cutting ties in some form. He consistently pressures the quarterback, but doesn't seem to be able to get sacks and has battled injuries since 2016.

Janoris Jenkins

Jenkins will count 14.5m against the cap in 2019. The 30-year old cornerback from the Rams, too, has had his ups and down, and his motor and willingness to play through difficult seasons are also not great. I think the Giants stay put here. They just don't have a lot of other options at the position and 14.5 million for a guy that can play at a high level when he wants to do, makes some sense.

Eli Manning

This is Giants brass' big decision this offseason. Manning has a 23.5 million cap hit for 2019. I pray that the Giants bite the bullet and ask Manning to restructure this year, and then ask him very nicely to retire if he's unwilling. Most likely, I think the Giants let him play out this year and then have him announce his retirement at the end of next year. It's an unfortunate end for a Giants legend, but this is beyond overdue. Manning has a no trade clause so that's not an option, and it's hard to imagine him generating much interest regardless.

Key Upcoming Free Agents

The Giants only have one real FA situation. They have a number of contracts they need to evaluate, but in terms of true free agency dilemmas, there's not much here.

Landon Collins

Landon Collins was incredible in 2016 and a huge part of that year's playoff appearance. He was all over the ball and performed well in coverage, taking a huge step forward from 2015. Sadly, his play has been up and down the last two years. I think the Giants tag him. The news from Josina Anderson seems to suggest that Collins sits out most of the offseason if he gets tagged. I'd like the Giants to pay to the man, just by virtue of how few talented secondary players this team has, and that safeties aren't exactly breaking the bank these days.

Players they'll likely re-sign, and shouldn't require a lot of money to do so

FB Eli Penny, K Aldrick Rosas, C Jon Halapio, C Spencer Pulley.

Coaching Staff/Front Office review

Dave Gettleman, GM

Year one had some bright spots. But it's hard to give him a passing grade for bungling the most important position. Saquon Barkley is Barry Sanders reincarnate and yet we only won 5 games. Passing on two potential starting QBs looks like a franchise-altering decision for the worse. Selling Harrison and Apple at the bargain bin wasn't great, but the moves are defensible. How Gettleman navigates the transition from Manning to not Manning will define his legacy.

Pat Shurmur, head coach

Shurmur has plenty to deal with his first year and he managed to keep the team together and improving throughout the season. And yet, as an offensive head coach, Shurmur's first year feels like a failure. The offense was way too ineffective for a 2019 professional football team. It's hard to separate his playcalling from the shoddy line and QB play. I'm optimistic that he can figure it out with the right quarterback.

James Bettcher, defensive coordinator

The Giants defense has maybe two good players, and they're inconsistent at best. Bettcher's defense played respectably in spurts, and was on the field way more than it should have been given how the offense played. Still, the defense was objectively bad this year. I think he can right the ship and performed admirably given the hand he was dealt.

Mike Shula, offensive coordinator

Shula doesn't call plays and works with the quarterbacks and also helps develop game plans. His tenure in Carolina was not exactly stunning. It's hard to give him a real evaluation of how he performed this year given how involved Shurmur is in the offense.

Final Thoughts

If I wake up as Dave Gettlemen tomorrow, this is how I'd try to approach this offseason.

Call Eli Manning, drive to Hoboken and ask him to play for $10 million in 2019 and groom the next guy for the job. Him and his agent likely refuse. I tell Manning that we love what he's done for the organization, that East Rutherford school children will sing his praises for decades to come, but that this farewell tour has gone on long enough and release him or let him retire.

I call Denver and see what they want for Case Keenum as a stopgap. If I can get him for a 7th rounder (maybe a 5th?), which I have two of this year, I do that deal and reunite him with Shurmur for a year and look ahead to the 2020 draft for a QB.

I don't extend Sterling Shepard before his rookie deal is up. He's a great player and blocker but I don't want to pay top dollar for my second receiver. I then go after RT Darryl Williams, hoping he'll return to form when he's healthy and try and solidify the other side of the line.

On draft day, I take the best offensive linemen that falls to me at sixth overall and look for BPA defense likely after that. I don't pick Kyle Murray because he's too small and I'm scared of tying my career to a quarterback that only played 1 full college season in Dwayne Haskins.

I do everything I can to have our 2020 QB starter to come into an ideal situation. With Barkley, OBJ, Engram, I just need to shore up the line and we're in good shape. Depending on how well the 2019 season goes, I take my QB or trade up for him. I pray that this is enough for me to have a consistently good offense and I run it back until I hit on some good young defensive players in the draft, or load up on FA one year and make a Rams-esque run, or potentially both.