The Post-OBJ Giants Offense
Here we are at the start of training camp, and the New York Giants are beginning a new era. The Daniel Jones era. The Landon Collins-is-now-on-the-Redskins era. The Post-OBJ era. GM Dave Gettleman and the Giants’ off-season certainly turned heads throughout the league. Many experts, pundits and fans are asking the same question: Where does the Giants’ offense go from here?
In March, the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns completed the blockbuster trade. Superstar Odell Beckham Jr is now in the Giants’ past. Yet four months later, he still dominates news headlines. The time has come for the Giants to re-invent their offense. In 2018, OBJ lead the Giants with 124 targets. Which accounted for 21.6% of the teams passing attempts, despite only playing in 12 games. As Beckham reports to camp with the Cleveland Browns, the Giants have a new focal point of the Post-OBJ offense: Saquon Barkley
In 2018, Saquon was targeted for passes 121 times (21%), and had 261 rushing attempts. Overall, Saquon had 352 touches, nearly half of all offensive plays (47.8%) ran by the G Men last year. Both Saquon’s carries and touches were the second best in the league to only Zeke Elliot. For Saquon, 2018 was legendary. Saquon comes into 2019 ranked 21st on CBS Sports’ Top 100, 11th on Pete Prisco’s list, and widely considered the top fantasy player. The expectations for Saquon will be sky-high in 2019. For the Giants offense the question becomes who will help the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year perform in his sophomore season?
The shiny new toy for the Giants’ offense is Golden Tate. His success largely depends on if he can return to his Detroit form. There he had four consecutive seasons of 90+ receptions and three seasons with 1000+ receiving yards out of the slot. USA Today lists Tate as the 9th best slot receiver in the league coming into 2019. If the Giants want to put up any fight this year, they will need him to play like it.
The true number-one receiver is going to be Sterling Shepard. Shepard will most likely attempt to fill OBJ’s colorful shoes. In his third season in the NFL, Shepard caught 66 of 107 passes thrown his way (61.7%) for 872 yards and 4 touchdowns, while playing all 16 games. Unfortunately, those numbers are regressive of his sophomore season. In 2017, he caught 59 of 84 targets (70.2%) for 731 yards and 2 touchdowns in only 10 games. The Giants, however, have made a $41 million bet that Shepard will be able to step into his new role. For the Giants pass game to succeed, Shepard will be the top target of Eli Manning.
Which brings us to the most talked about Giant of the last decade, Eli Manning. The two-time Super Bowl champ returns for year 16 with the Giants. Over recent years, the Giants have shuffled from Coughlin to McAdoo to Spagnuolo to Shurmur, yet the franchise quarterback has not changed. In 2018, Eli posted his career high completion percentage at 66%. Disappointingly, he was also sacked a career high 47 times. Eli also had a QBR of 51.6, which ranked 25th out of 33 qualified quarterbacks.
At 38 years old, Eli’s lack of mobility and declining arm strength has lead critics to say that he is holding the offense back. Critics also claim the Giants front office is not adapting to the times of the pass-heavy NFL. Last season, 62% of all snaps were out of the shotgun formation. In 2018, Eli posted 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions out of shotgun, compared to 9 touchdowns and 1 interception from under center.
Undoubtedly, Daniel Jones (the 6th overall pick in the 2019 draft) will take over the offense, presumably in the near future. Many fans have expressed criticism on this topic, to say the least. Coming into draft night, Jones was not highly ranked on many experts’ draft boards. Many wondered why the Giants did not take Ohio State star Dwayne Haskins. Especially, when compared to Daniel Jones’ very mediocre stats at Duke over a three years.
Surprisingly, the deciding factor for the Giants, was David Cutcliffe. The quarterback coach who previously worked with Eli and mentored Jones at Duke. Both Eli and Jones are similar 6’4 and pocket passers that do not have great arm strength or mobility. Will Jones develop into a Super Bowl winner like Eli? Or will he turn into the bust many are expecting? For now, all we know is that for better or for worse, Giants fans, Daniel Jones is the future.
Other Names to watch:
Third-year tight end Evan Engram should expect to see an increase in usage, after being limited to only 11 games in 2018. He was targeted 24 times for 20 receptions (83%) on 3rd downs in those 11 games. The main question will be Engram’s health and ability to stay on the field.
Kevin Zeitler, the offensive guard acquired for Olivier Vernon, should be help the G-Men’s offensive front. Considering they ranked 29th in the NFL in Adjusted Sack Rate. Zeitler, who was Second Team All-NFL in 2016, has started every game in each of the past four seasons.
Former Cleveland first-round pick Corey Coleman, had only 1 start in 2018 with the Giants, yet he looks to be a part of the offense. Coleman’s competition for the 3rd receiver spot should come from Cody Latimer. Last season, in 6 games, Latimer was only targeted 16 times.