By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
In some ways, the Giants’ second half of their season mirrored the Jets’ run in 2019.
The Jets’ 6-2 jaunt led to visions of playoff dreams in their fans’ heads. Those dreams awoke to a stark reality in 2020.
The Giants’ 5-3 second half finish has jump-started similar feelings toward the 2021 season. Making the playoffs would have been the cherry on top of the sundae.
Sure, there are some factors in place for the 6-10 team this past season. However, don’t save any money for next-year playoff tickets yet.
Despite showing growth and maturity from a 1-7 start, the Giants appear ready to shelve their football puberty.
The defense ended their stance on a high note as they bent-but-didn’t break in their season finale against Dallas in a 23-19 victory. They did allow 10 second-half points after shutting down Dallas’ high-flying offense coming into the game, and helong the team to a 20-9 advantage.
Leonard Williams was a one-man wrecking crew with three of the team’s six sacks,and the unit played with the intensity and aggressiveness that was missing from the previous three-week losing streak.
Williams, by the way, played under a 16 million franchise tag this season, and the Giants likely will be the range of 18 to 20 million to re-sign him.
Second-round pick safety Xaiver McKinney provided a strong sample of what he could do in his six-game, shortened season due to a broken foot suffered in training camp. He sealed the Dallas victory with an interception in the final seconds, and he is sure to be penciled in at a 2021 spot.
Low-profile free-agent signings Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell solidified a linebacking corps that has struggled for the past few years. Rookie Tae Crowder, a.ka. Mr Irrelevant for being the last player drafted, and three-year veterans Devonte Downs were consistent productive players in the second half.
Getting Saquon Barkley back in the lineup certainly can be the turnkey to an offense that managed 17.5 points per game, only ahead of the last-place Jets. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett looms as a scapegoat if he isn’t offered a head coaching job.
Tight end Evan Engram earned All-Pro honors in spite of eight drops, and second-year wide receiver Darius Slayton never regained the form of a stellar rookie campaign.
Sterling Shepard, who had two touchdowns in the finale, once again demonstrated why he is a staple, but veteran Golden Tate stumbled through the season on and off the field, and it could have been his last in Giant Blue.
Top pick tackle Andrew Thomas worked his way through growing pains to a steady stance, and fellow rookie linemen Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux have worked their way up the depth chart.
Center Nick Gates was a surprise on how quickly he adapted, and Kevin Zeitler provided a calming, veteran presence.
Veteran kicker Graham Gano was a true game changer as he finished the year with 30 straight field goals, a 50-yarder that proved the game-winning points against Dallas. He signed a three-year extension earlier this season.
Quarterback Daniel Jones? He deserved to be the starter in 2021 as he has shaken his indecisiveness,fumble-itis, and game presence that lowered his stock in his rookie season. He’ll come back full healthy with a different and seasoned perspective.
So far, Joe Judge has proved to be the perfect leader, as his team has responded to his old-school, disciplined, and self-accountable character. He stays the course and isn’t afraid to make the unconventional move.
Judge, too, knows has to take the next step as a coach himself, and figure out how to elevate his team.
GM Dave Gettleman — who should and looks like he will return — has the 11th pick in the draft, and wants to find more weapons for Jones. Pittsburgh’s J.J. Schuster is one of the more attractive wide receivers on the free-agent market.
The Giants’ six wins could have been flipped to nine if they would have won tight contests against the Cowboys –first meeting — Rams, and Bears, all in the first eight games.
But this basically young , transitioning football team finally found its identity in the second half of the season by believing in themselves Now, the expectations begin to build.
The Jets never got into the right gear this season due to factors involving injuries and scuffles among players and coaches. The result was an overall catastrophe that will lead to a rebuild.
Stay the course, know your limitations, keep the expectations within reason.
The Giants should be expected to make the playoffs next year, but they are ready to grow into another stage.