New York Giants 2020 Season Recapby James Dudko January 16, 2021 1 comment
Joe Judge didn’t exactly perform above expectations as a rookie head coach for the New York Giants in 2020. A 6-10 finish wasn’t good enough to win a weak NFC East, but there were still reasons to think Judge has the Giants headed in the right direction.
Most of those reasons concern a rotten run of injuries that claimed star running back Saquon Barkley and franchise quarterback Daniel Jones as victims. Injuries presented opportunities for others, and the Giants should feel excited about fringe players like Wayne Gallman.
Rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas played up to his billing as the fourth player taken in 2020. He already looks a linchpin as Jones’ blindside protector for the next decade.
The defense also took steps forward thanks to the stewardship of enterprising coordinator Patrick Graham. His schemes coaxed career-best production from defensive tackle Leonard Williams.
What Went Right
Graham’s defense ranked ninth in points allowed and 12th in yards surrendered. He schemed 40 sacks from a unit without a standout pass-rusher.
The Giants sacked Kyle Allen three times to spark a 20-19 win over the Washington Football Team in Week 6. It was the first victory under Judge, bringing down the curtain on an 0-5 start.
The defense was again the catalyst for Big Blue’s biggest win of the season. The Giants went into Seattle and beat the Seahawks 17-12 in Week 13 by making Russell Wilson look average.
This is the 3rd game this season where Russell Wilson has thrown an interception AND lost a fumble, the most such games he’s had in a single season in his career.
He previously had 2 such games in 2013, his 2nd season in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/9oft3CMN97
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 6, 2020
If the front office can bring Williams back and add a legit edge-rusher or two, this defense will be scary in 2021.
What Went Wrong
The wheels came off the offense the moment Barkely succumbed to a torn ACL. Expectations were already low for a unit coordinated by former Dallas Cowboys boss Jason Garrett.
In fairness, Garrett never had a full clip to work with. Jones also went down against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12. He missed the win over the Seahawks and a defeat to the Cleveland Browns but returned to play the final two weeks.
Garrett spent most of the season making do with retreads, both in the backfield and under center. Devonta Freeman and Alfred Morris had a go at replacing Barkley, while Colt McCoy tried to do a passable impression of Jones.
Silver linings came from the performances of Thomas, Gallman, and tight end Evan Engram. The latter earned a Pro Bowl nod after staying healthy long enough to record 63 receptions for 654 yards.
That Darius Slayton led the team in receiving yards with 751 underlines the need for an explosive playmaker in the passing game.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Leonard Williams
He was a draft flop for the New York Jets, but the light finally went on for Williams in 2020. He paced Big Blue with 11.5 sacks and became stronger as the season wore on.
The NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week is the Giants’ Leonard Williams.
2.5 sacks, including one on the game-deciding drive of Russell Wilson.
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) December 9, 2020
Williams also helped himself to three sacks during the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. He’s played himself into a position to cash in during free agency, but the Giants can’t let him go.
A formidable three-man line also featuring Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence III is the cornerstone of Graham’s defense. Tomlinson and Lawrence can absorb double teams at will, but Williams is the game-wrecker, equally adept at snuffing out a running game as he is collapsing the pass pocket.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Andrew Thomas
Many thought Dave Gettleman got it wrong when he took Thomas fourth overall. The Giants passed on the other touted left tackles in the 2020 NFL draft class, Jedrick Wills Jr., Mekhi Becton, and Tristan Wirfs.
They all played well, but Thomas may have learned the most after a rookie campaign spent dealing with some of football’s top edge-rushers. His welcome to the NFL moment came against Bud Dupree and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1.
Andrew Thomas allowed 0 sacks and 4 pressures against Chase Young this past year…
— Alex Wilson (@AlexWilsonESM) January 13, 2021
Giants LT Andrew Thomas posted a photo on IG that showed his left foot in a cast. Source says Thomas had surgery on his ankle. It’s an issue that had bothered Thomas for a while, but he was able to manage the pain during the season. He should be ready for the offseason program.
— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) January 13, 2021
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Tae Crowder
There wasn’t much competition for this award, but Tae Crowder did enough to merit special mention. The last player selected in the 2020 draft, ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ got on the field for 11 games, including six starts.
Crowder recorded 57 tackles, including three for loss. He also logged a sack and three more QB hits. Crowder’s most impressive statistic was the 43-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown against Washington in Week 6.
Staying in the starting lineup will probably be a bridge too far for Crowder. Blake Martinez is a tackling machine and the veteran signal-caller of Graham’s system. Meanwhile, Devante Downs is more of a thumper inside.
Biggest Surprise – Wayne Gallman
Barkley’s a rare combination of bruising power and breakaway speed. Replacing him was an unenviable task, but Gallman proved surprisingly effective.
Previously thought of as a pass-catcher and little else, Gallman rushed for 682 yards and six scores. He was tough between the tackles and produced big plays, notably a 60-yard run vs. Seattle.
Dion Lewis hasn’t looked like himself in New York, while Morris was merely a stop-gap. Gallman’s emergence means the Giants will have a prolific one-two punch once Barkley’s healthy again.
Biggest Disappointment – Golden Tate
Garrett’s an easy target, but Barkley’s absence wrecked his plans. He also didn’t get much help from the supposed veteran leaders he inherited, particularly wideout Golden Tate.
The 32-year-old rarely created meaningful separation, neither in coverage nor after the catch. Tate averaged just 2.3 yards after catch, according to Pro Football Reference.
His numbers weren’t great and nor was the way Tate handled himself. He went public with a demand for more targets, earning a trip to the bench.
One Burning Question
Can the Offense Match the Defense’s Improvement?
Graham got the defense playing close to an elite level. It was almost enough for the Giants to make the playoffs. The offense reaching the same level would surely return Big Blue to the Postseason.
How that happens is the question. Barkley’s return will help, but is Garrett the man to get the most out of Jones? The Giants also need to equip their quarterback with better receivers. A burner like Sammy Watkins would give this passing game the vertical dimension it lacks.