What kind of person are you?
Better yet, what kind of fan are you?
Do you dare to dream and believe one win can be the jumping-off point for a streak, or at the first few signs of failure are you looking ahead to free agency and plotting draft-pick positioning?
The Giants make it appropriate to observe them in only one way: with a jaundiced eye.
Since 2017, the Giants, after nine games, have been 1-8, 2-7, 2-7, 2-7 and this season’s 3-6. So, progress right? Or nah?
Whatever it is, it is not good enough. The Giants will be hard-pressed to live up to co-owner John Mara’s insistence that this team, this year, must be playing meaningful games in December in order to approach successful-season status. Meaningful games equate to playoff contention, and the Giants are not close.
They currently sit at No. 13 in the NFC. Sure, they are only one game behind the Panthers (4-5) for the final playoff spot, but that is crazy-talk in mid-November. The Giants have lost twice as many games as they’ve won. Until they are on the precipice of .500, can we all agree to not mention “Giants’’ and “postseason” in the same sentence?
The Giants are at their bye week, and after nine games they have created more questions than answers. Start with the head coach. Joe Judge has yet to prove there is enough urgency in his beloved process to lift the program into a winning level.
Quarterback Daniel Jones has played well at times and not as well other times, but at this point he is not in the top five, and perhaps barely in the top 10, when it comes to Franchise Concerns. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has yet to put enough points on the board. The offensive line conundrum remains unresolved. The influx of offensive talent has thus far been an injury-riddled bust.
The Giants lost on last-second field goals in Weeks 2 and 3 and lost by a field goal in Week 8 in Kansas City. They got blown out in Weeks 1, 5 and 6. They closed out their pre-bye schedule by winning twice in three games. They are what they are, and they are where they deserve to be.
A closer look at that has transpired:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
The list is not long, as far as worthy options. Daniel Jones is the pick because the deck has too often been stacked against him: rough offensive line play, most of his top targets hurt and unavailable. Through it all, Jones did not blink. He has cut down his turnovers (eight, still too many), and when he uses his legs on designed runs or to get out of the pocket, good things generally happen. His touch on the long ball is excellent. Is he a finished product? No. Does he need to continue to speed up his decision-making process? Yes. There is something to work with here, though. In most of the losses this season, Jones deserved better.
LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER
There are too many candidates for consideration here, but it is difficult to bypass Kenny Golladay. The Giants gave him a four-year, $72 million contract, and the first half of his first season was a complete dud: 19 receptions for 310 yards and zero — repeat, zero — touchdowns. Yes, we get it, he got out of the gate slowly coming off a hamstring strain in the summer and missed three games later on. He showed what he can do (six catches for 116 yards) in the victory at New Orleans, but so much of value is wrapped up in availability, and Golladay has not been available often enough. On defense, Lorenzo Carter (no sacks, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit in six subpar games) certainly qualifies for the least valuable designation.
This presumably is supposed to be a “pleasant’’ surprise category, but there are not many worthy choices with this team. So, we’ll go the other way. Coaches do not like to hear about their team or their unit “hitting the ground running’’ from one year to the next. Still, this defense was expected to be much better much earlier. Nearly everyone was back from a unit that finished ninth in the league in scoring defense in 2020, when it allowed just 22.3 points a game. Yes, losing inside linebacker Blake Martinez in Week 3 was a crushing blow. Coordinator Patrick Graham was slow to react and his response — to simplify what his guys are doing to allow them to play faster — helped in strong performances the past three games. Getting this back in late September might have turned a loss or two into a victory.
Just wait until all that offensive talent gets onto the field! Well, we’re still waiting. The answer is “none’’ to the question “In how many games were all the top playmakers available?’’ That’s right. Saquon Barkley, Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard did not take one snap together in the first nine games. It has been a litany of hamstrings and ankles and quads that have kept the offense from being whole. The closest the Giants got was in New Orleans — when Barkley, Golladay and Toney made it into the same game. Add Darius Slayton into the mix of skill players to miss time. The injury theme dominated too many weeks.
No. 26 looked like No. 26 in the fourth quarter in Week 4 at New Orleans, and what a sight for sore eyes this was for the Giants. Saquon Barkley, finally rounding into form following reconstructive knee surgery, scored on a 54-yard screen pass to pull the Giants within 21-18, then crashed into the end zone on a 6-yard run to deliver the winning points in a 27-21 overtime triumph over the Saints. After an 0-3 start, the Giants finally broke through, and their franchise running back was starting to once again resemble a feared offensive weapon. Alas, in the next game, at Dallas, Barkley went down and out with a sprained ankle. He has not been in action since then.
So many to choose from. The absolute downer of all downers came in Week 2, at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The Giants had Washington beaten. They were leading 29-27, when Dustin Hopkins missed a 48-yard field goal in the closing seconds. Time to celebrate? Make that time to anguish, as Dexter Lawrence was called for an offside penalty. Replays were inconclusive, and the penalty might have been a bad call. That did not help the Giants when Hopkins, given a reprieve, nailed a 43-yard field goal as time ran out. That sent the Giants home 30-29 losers and dropped their record to 0-2. Lawrence faced the music after a game in which the Giants snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
We understand why Kadarius Toney was slow out of the chute in his rookie year. COVID-19. Hamstring. Acclimating to the NFL. We get it. But so far, this all seems like a tease, doesn’t it? He was intriguing (six catches for 78 yards) against the Saints and spectacular (10-198) a week later in a loss in Dallas, but that is really about it. Is he still hurting? Why only one target in 31 snaps versus the Raiders? Is he a legitimate game-breaker or a guy destined to create a highlight one week and be a heartbreaker the next? The Giants are still waiting for his first NFL touchdown.
When Andrew Thomas returns to health at left tackle, Joe Judge must decide if Nate Solder will stay put as the starting right tackle or if second-year player Matt Peart will get the call there. Peart has looked a bit better on the left side as Thomas’ replacement, but if he has a future with the Giants, it is at right tackle. He is a 2020 third-round pick and has potential. At 24, he could be the answer moving forward. Solder, 33, is not the answer and is more likely to retire after this season than to hold down the starting job. Thomas and Peart as the starting tackles offer hope.
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