The New York Giants surprised everyone in 2022 when first-year head coach Brian Daboll brought the franchise back to the postseason for the first time since 2016. After going 9-8-1, the Giants were rewarded with the most difficult strength of schedule for the 2023 NFL season. We’re diving into whether Daboll can once again produce a top-15 offense this year after the team upgraded its talent.
An Analytical Look at the New York Giants’ Offense
A person could reasonably deduce that the Giants had a very good passing offense last year after committing a guaranteed $82 million to quarterback Daniel Jones this offseason, but that wasn’t the case.
The Giants produced the ninth-best EPA per play in 2022 due to an effective rushing game behind an improved offensive line and star rusher Saquon Barkley. Jones helped manage an efficient passing game that mitigated risks extremely well.
Producing the 15th-most points and 18th-most yards while coughing up the second-fewest turnovers was a textbook recipe for ball control. Barkley was stellar after finding the explosiveness that was missing in 2021 after tearing his ACL in 2020. Daboll rode Barkley hard, handing him the fourth-most carries in the league and adding another 76 targets.
Despite the fantastic rushing attack, the Giants’ passing game was as benign as it can get in this era. Injuries certainly limited the ceiling of the unit, as Wan’Dale Robinson, Kadarius Toney, and Sterling Shepard combined for only 11 games played. Kenny Golladay completely disappeared, and Isaiah Hodgins went from the Buffalo Bills practice squad to a starter for the Giants.
Still, the cream rose to the top. Hodgins proved to be a capable NFL player, and Darius Slayton enjoyed a comeback season. The unit peaked when it needed to as Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka worked magic with a group limited in talent.
Jones’ advanced numbers were shockingly low, even when factoring in the limited supporting cast. He ranked 32nd in intended air yards per attempt and 19th in yards after the catch per completion. But the trade-off of their conservative approach was he had the third-lowest bad-throw percentage and No. 1 on-target percentage.
He led a dink-and-dunk offense that no longer featured his signature deep passes that could stretch the field. However, the Giants added talent this offseason to help bring those opportunities back.
Giants 2023 Offensive Outlook
Expectations are for this Giants offense to improve. PFN’s own Arif Hasan placed the unit 18th in his offensive rankings entering 2023. Understandably, Hasan is low on Jones’ past performance despite the additions of tight end Darren Waller and receivers Jalin Hyatt and Parris Campbell.
The key for the Giants is to take their strength from 2022 and continue evolving without losing their foundation. Maximizing Barkley and controlling the ball by limiting turnovers is a limited-upside strategy, but it can help the Giants survive against more talented teams. However, the Giants have to be more than that.
Of starting running backs, Barkley ranked 13th in yards before contact per carry and 17th in yards after contact per attempt. He was fantastic, but those numbers aren’t overly inspiring that he can repeat being the workhorse.
Also, considering he was franchise-tagged for 2023, and though Giants general manager Joe Schoen iterated, “We want him to be here,” paying him long-term hasn’t been enough of a priority to already have a deal done.
Any sort of drop-off from Barkley in 2023 can crater the Giants’ rushing game. By only adding Eric Gray in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the team lacks a viable backup for Barkley if he holds out or suffers an injury. Jones needs Barkley more than the other way around, which is why the Giants’ decision to commit to Jones was a fascinating gamble.
Schoen did what he could to give Jones the chance to develop more. Acquiring Waller was a huge swing on a dynamic, difference-making talent at a position that’s difficult to develop a star at. If arguably the best tight end of all time, Rob Gronkowski, is right that Waller is going to play at a Pro Bowl level again in 2023, the Giants’ offense can take a big step forward.
Are the Giants a Top-15 Offense Again in 2023?
The Giants were a top-15 scoring unit last year but were otherwise not generally considered to be average in 2022. There’s more upside for this unit in 2023, with Waller and Hyatt in particular.
The verticality of the Giants’ offense was a significant issue in 2022. Slayton had downfield speed but was also the obvious deep threat. Considering that Jones ranked 30th in deep-ball attempts and 20th in air yards, the numbers spell out New York’s offensive limitations.
Hyatt, drafted 73rd overall, could be part of the solution. Though he was a unique deep threat from the slot in Tennessee’s vertical-spread system, Hyatt knows he can be more than that.
When it came to Hyatt’s experience and skill set, he said, “I’m not going to come in here and say I only play slot, or I only want to play outside. That’s why I said I’m dynamic and explosive. I want to play everywhere. … I’m going to do what I have to do.”
Hyatt’s development can be massive for New York because they oddly added multiple versions of players they already had on the roster. While it’s wise not to count on Robinson or Shepard producing much in 2023 (or ever based on their injuries), Campbell, Hodgins, and Jamison Crowder have similar skill sets as those two.
That puts unique pressure on a third-round pick, but the offense has to brace for regression from Barkley and the running game. The only way to overcome that and become a top-15 offense in 2023 is for Jones to be more than a mediocre game manager.
Considering he’s failed to show that talent outside of two performances against Minnesota’s awful defense in 2022, and the team’s difficult schedule, it’s a safer bet that the Giants fall just short of being a top-15 unit in 2023.
Even then, being in the 15-20 range is the safest bet because of their quality blocking, improved talent, and high level of coaching on both sides of the ball.
The Giants play a complementary brand of football. Their margin for error is small, and if their turnovers suddenly spike, they’ll be in real trouble of surviving the NFC East. This team needs Barkley to repeat his 2022 season, for Jones to take another developmental step, and for their playmakers to quickly find their peak.
That might be too much to ask, barring a Cinderella-esque storyline.