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The second after an organization drafts a quarterback in the first round, particularly among the top-10 selections, the next step is building a better cockpit around the youngster.
The New York Giants on Saturday landed a new top wide receiver before all of free agency’s top-tier targets came off the board. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Kenny Golladay agreed to a four-year, $72 million deal, including $40 million guaranteed.
Golladay’s decision placed the spotlight squarely on Daniel Jones and his development.
New York hasn’t constructed its offense quite like anyone envisioned under the watchful eye of general manager Dave Gettleman. In some ways, the Giants went about things in a backward manner.
They started by investing the 2018 No. 2 pick in a running back. Saquon Barkley is amazing, but the devaluation of his position certainly created questions then and now, especially after he tore his ACL in Week 2 last year.
A year later, Gettleman stunned everyone when he picked Jones sixth overall. Jones wasn’t considered a top-10 talent by many. To say the selection didn’t go over well would be an understatement.
Gettleman’s investments in the wide receiver positionparticularly the trade of superstar Odell Beckham Jr. and the signing of Golden Tatewere head-scratching. Tate’s inclusion was redundant with Sterling Shepard already on the roster. As a whole, the unit did little to threaten defenses down the field over the past two seasons.
Finally, the decision to draft left tackle Andrew Thomas over some excellent classmates in Jedrick Wills Jr., Mekhi Becton and Tristan Wirfs also was questionable.
As a result, the Giants’ allocation of financial resources isn’t typical, as Over the Cap noted:
Jason_OTC@Jason_OTC#Giants have the following top 10 paid positions after the Golladay signing
2nd highest paid DT
6th highest paid WR
7th highest paid CB
9th highest paid RB
2nd highest paid K
4th highest paid P
Despite these pitfalls, the Giants still reached the point where their supporting cast is good enough for them to accurately and dispassionately evaluate Jones.
Last season, New York finished only one game behind the division-winning Washington Football Team. Granted, the NFC East is like a room of burnt-out lightbulbs with one dim fixture. Even so, the division race will be wide-open in the fall.
Golladay gives Jones a game-breaker to work outside the numbers. Last season, hamstring and hip injuries limited the 2019 Pro Bowler, and he finished with only 338 yards. However, Golladay posted back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2018 and ’19. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6’4″, 214-pounder ranks fourth in receiving yards on passes of 20-plus yards and second with 53 contested catches over the last three seasons.
The 27-year-old and fellow 2017 draft classmate John Ross, whom the Giants signed to a one-year, $2.5 million free-agent contract, bring different dynamics to the offense. Golladay’s size, catch radius and physicality to win 50-50 balls create a difficult matchup for smaller defensive backs. Ross brings blazing-fast speed.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
Downfield passing has been an issue for Jones.
As a rookie, he finished next-to-last with a 48.8 percent accuracy on throws of 10 or more yards, per QB Data Mine. Jones improved during his sophomore campaign. According to the Deep Ball Project’s Johnny Kinsley, the sophomore ranked 13th with a 52.8 accuracy percentage (on-target throws) when throwing passes of 21 or more yards, though he landed just 18th with 590 yards.
Targets on the outside to go along with Darius Slayton should make this offense more potent.
Outside threats will also create more space underneath for others to work. Shepard and tight end Evan Engramboth of whom excel when working out of the slotcombined to make 129 receptions for 1,310 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Gettleman even signed a Y-tight end in 10-year veteran Kyle Rudolph. The two-time Pro Bowler will aid multiple areas of the offense as an inline option. Rudolph will contribute to the running game and blocking schemes and help open holes for Barkley while protecting Jones in certain schemes. He’s also a reliable security blanket over the middle in the passing game.
David Berding/Associated Press
As long as New York’s young offensive line holds up, Jones has the weapons around him to attack defenses.
Thomas must play as he did over the second half of the season. Left guard Shane Lemieux, center Nick Gates and swing tackle Matt Peart should continue to grow as they get more comfortable in their roles. Finally, Will Hernandez, who found his way onto the bench, will have the difficult task of replacing right guard Kevin Zeitler, whom the organization released for significant salary-cap relief ($12 million).
Whatever the case, Jones can’t be sacked 45 times again. Consistent pressure will ruin even the most talented quarterback prospect.
New York has improved at wide receiver and tight end. Barkley is expected back. The offensive front is packed with potential. The Giants also return an excellent defense that ranked top 10 in points and rushing yards per game allowed. Leonard Williams re-signed, while Gettleman added edge defender Ifeadi Odenigbo and linebacker Reggie Ragland to the mix.
Everything will fall on Jones to work efficiently and execute for the G-Men to maximize their capabilities.
Anything less than competing for the division title should be considered a failure, and the Giants will be forced to consider their quarterback options if that were to happen.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.
Nick Wass/Associated Press