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5 things Giants must rely on to be a playoff team in 2020 NFL season

Scott Thompson, | Twitter |

The Giants have made some big changes after another sub-par season that resulted in a 4-12 record.

The biggest of them all is head coach Joe Judge taking over after Pat Shurmur’s two seasons weren’t pretty. Judge brought in a good supporting staff as well, with Jason Garrett and Patrick Graham the team’s new coordiantors on offense and defense respectively. 

GM Dave Gettleman also spent this offseason addressing many areas of need on his roster. So with a new coaching staff and an improved roster, a turnaround toward the playoffs could be in store for this Giants team, right? 

Well, they’ll have to hope some things work out. 

See, Gettleman couldn’t fix all of the holes on the roster. And with Judge being a first time head coach, who knows what to expect in that department? There are a lot of factors that need to roll the right way if the Giants want to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016. 

Let’s start with the first and obvious one that we’ve already mentioned…

Joe Judge needs to win quickly

Skepticism and doubt was expected when Giants brass named Judge their head coach. Though he has tons of experience and has studied under some of the best to ever do it (Bill Belichick and Nick Saban), he’s never been at the head of the coaches’ meeting table before. And now he’s tasked with taking a franchise out of the gutter and back to their winning ways. 

Judge has said and done all the right things up to this point since being named the new head coach, but none of that will matter to fans if he can’t win games when the season gets underway. The best way to silence the naysayers is to collect a couple of wins early on, prove that his system works with this roster, and make the right game management calls. 

The Giants can’t have Judge ease his way into the new role because they’ll fall behind too quickly in the standings. They also have a tough first five games — Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys. 

That could either be a quick 0-5 rut, or Judge can lead his team to some victories. Hopefully it’s the latter. 

Video: Judge: Offense similar to what Garrett ran in Dallas

Evan Engram stays healthy throughout the season

Forget the Giants’ wide receivers health dilemma that they had last season, because if Engram is healthy, they won’t really have to worry about that. 

He’s such a matchup nightmare, but he just hasn’t had luck with injuries in the past couple of seasons. Last season, it was a foot injury that end Engram’s third year in the league after just eight games. In 2018, it was a sprained MCL, hamstring injury and a foot injury that limited his play to 11 games. 

The former first-rounder has proved to be a reliable option at tight end, and someone that can break out for big plays down the field. Just look back at Week 3 in Daniel Jones’ debut. Jones threw his first career touchdown to Engram on a route he took 75 yards to kick off the second half of the game, blazing past the secondary.

That’s just one example of what Engram can do…when he’s suited up and on the field. The Giants did exercise his fifth-year option, but Engram definitely want to prove that he can stay healthy and produce to get a contract extension instead. If the Giants want a playoff-esque offense, Engram needs to be a part of it. 

Kyler Fackrell can be like ’19 Markus Golden

One area that Gettleman didn’t address really was at pass rusher — arguably the biggest need for this Giants squad. Instead, he only signed Fackrell to a one-year, prove-it deal in hopes that he can emulate his 2018 season that saw 10.5 sacks. 

That’s exactly what he did last year when Markus Golden signed a similar deal, and he lived up to it after totaling 10 sacks. Of course, Golden could still be a Giant if he goes unsigned by July 22. 

For Fackrell, though, he has a chip on his shoulder to produce that kind of season after he took a backseat in 2019 with the Green Bay Packers due to the signings of Ze’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. The Giants need a pass rush if they wish to be better on defense this year, and Fackrell is being asked to lead that unit that also includes Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximenes and maybe a couple of the team’s late-round picks like TJ Brunson and Carter Coughlin

One cornerback steps up alongside James Bradberry

Gettleman surprised many when he spent a good chunk of change for Bradberry, his former second-round pick during his time with the Carolina Panthers. But there was a glaring hole in the secondary left by Janoris Jenkins, so that’s filled. 

Now he just needs someone to play with consistency on the other side of him. 

Bradberry has proven to hinder top receivers in this league from having big days on the gridiron, but that just means that opposing quarterbacks will target whoever else is open. It was expected that DeAndre Baker would start on the other side, but his current legal situation leaves that up in the air. Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine and even 2019 fourth-rounder Darnay Holmes are all in the conversation now, too. 

Someone needs to step up here. 

Daniel Jones shows improvement in ball security and decision-making

Jones set a new rookie record with 24 touchdowns thrown, but it was his big flaws that were emphasized more during the season. You can’t throw 12 interceptions and fumble the ball 18 times, and that’s exactly what Jones has been working on this offseason to correct. 

The Giants believe they have their quarterback of the future in Jones, and he proved that he can lead this offense and make the necessary plays and throws to win football games. But if the Giants want to even sniff the playoffs, Jones has to take the next big step in his development, and that means fixing those two areas of his game.

Granted everyone remains healthy, Jones has more than enough pieces to work with. Saquon Barkely anchoring the running game, three solid receivers in Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, and Engram to throw to up the middle. 

This can be a playoff offense, but it will only run efficiently under Garrett if Jones takes that next step forward. 

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