This is a terrible time for New York football, with the Giants and Jets sitting on what feels like rock bottom. They are a combined 5-14 this season, and the playoffs are already out of reach. And they are a combined 13-38 (.254) since the beginning of 2018.
But while there may not be hope at the moment for either team, there is still some talent on their two rosters. If they could only somehow combine the two, they might even have the makings of a playoff team.
Probably not. The “GiantJets” (or JetGiants?) would still have plenty of holes. But there’s no doubt if they could take the best of their worst and make one New York football roster, they’d at least be a slightly better and more competitive team.
Here’s a look at SNY’s all-New York squad:
Despite all the detractors out there, this one is an easy call. If you’re building for a long-term future, the 21-year-old Sam Darnold is obviously the man. But, for one season right now and a run at the playoffs, Eli Manning is the best bet.
He’s not perfect and he’s showing his 37-year-old age, but he’s proven that when he gets protection he can still play. And despite a leaky offensive line and questionable weapons, he’s still on pace to complete a career-best 67.6 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,560 yards with 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Other than his touchdown totals, this would rank as one of his finest statistical seasons, even though he’s on pace to be sacked a ridiculous 57 times.
The ideal situation, of course, would be to have Manning as the starter and Darnold as the backup – an option the Giants passed on when they let Darnold slide right past them with the No. 2 pick in the last NFL draft.
Through his first nine games, Saquon Barkley has been everything he was advertised to be – a dazzling runner capable of incredible moves and big plays, a dangerous receiver, and a terrific kid. He’s on pace to rush for 1,042 yards and catch an incredible 110 passes for 942 yards. He’s also on pace for 12 touchdowns.
Now imagine how he could perform if there were holes to run through. There simply isn’t a running back in the New York area anywhere near his class. Maybe Isaiah Crowell can stick on the team as a backup, but unless Barkley gets hurt, he wouldn’t get more than a short series a game.
It’s hard to believe anyone would want to overload on Giants’ offensive players the way they’ve struggled this season, but they do seem to have a monopoly on the talent. The Jets did nothing to rebuild their receiving corps in the offseason and it shows. They have no one who can come close to Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard on this team.
Beckham is having a ridiculous season, on pace for 116 catches and 1,525 yards. Shepard (a pace of 75-980) is putting up good No. 2 numbers. And both of them feel under-used, and they’ve certainly been lacking in big plays.
They still are so much better than what the Jets put out there every day, but since this team has three starting receivers – a must in a pass-happy league – one Jet does crack the lineup. Quincy Enunwa may have injury issues and his production is down (29-345-1 in eight games), but he’s proven to be a clutch, third-down receiver and a very tough, over-the-middle guy. He edges out Robby Anderson, who is a deep threat, but little else.
Give it one more year, and maybe Chris Herndon could make this team as more than the backup. But, for now, it’s still Evan Engram as the best tight end in town.
He’s lacking as a blocker, and drops far too many passes, but he’s such a threat as a receiver that he demands attention from the defense. He’s too fast to cover with a linebacker, which makes him a matchup problem. Granted, he’s under-performing, but his potential is higher right now – at least until the Jets show otherwise by using Herndon a little more.
Even if the Giants and Jets combined forces, it’s not clear they’d be able to put together a good offensive line, given how that’s been a weakness for both teams this season. Chances are they’d still be looking elsewhere for help. But for now, this is what they’ve got – and it’s not much.
Nate Solder will get the nod at left tackle over Kelvin Beachum, even though Solder has struggled for much of the season. He had a terrific game on Monday night, which pushed him over the edge, since he reminded everyone of his talent and why the Giants gave him a $62 million contract. The only other Giant who gets on this unit is center Spencer Pulley, but it’s mostly by default. At least he can shotgun snap, which is something Jets center Spencer Long has struggled with this season thanks to a finger injury.
The rest of the line is all green. Giants rookie left guard Will Hernandez may have a lot of potential, but he’s not better than James Carpenter yet. And Brian Winters gets the job at right guard, though the way new Giant Jamon Brown played on Monday night, he’ll be on the team as a backup and as a threat to win a starting job. And right tackle was easy, even though Brandon Shell has had his issues, he’s had far fewer than Chad Wheeler.
If you’re looking for a pass rush from the front of this 3-4 defense, look elsewhere. It just hasn’t been happening. The good news is it is loaded with talent and potential. In fact, end Leonard Williams has shown signs in his career of being a pass rusher – certainly the best of this combined bunch. He doesn’t get to the quarterback nearly enough, but he usually keeps the pressure up.
The Giants believe that B.J. Hill will eventually do that too, at end. The rookie has shown flashes so far, but not enough yet. And there’s no question that right now Dalvin Tomlinson is the man in the middle at defensive tackle, narrowly edging out veteran Steve McLendon. The Giants liked Tomlinson enough to allow them to trade Damon Harrison, which says enough.
There’s actually some talent here — if you ignore the fact that neither team really has the dominant edge-rusher that every 3-4 team needs to survive. Olivier Vernon has the best chance of becoming that guy, but he was hurt at the start of the season and hasn’t really been a consistent force since – certainly not up to the level of his $85 million contract. There are moments where Jordan Jenkins looks to be that guy, but only occasionally, and can be a liability against the run. Maybe Lorenzo Carter will eventually be that guy, but right now, he can’t start on this team.
Vernon and Jenkins will be decent compliments on the outside, to a strong, all-Jet interior of Avery Williamson and Darron Lee. Those two have been two of the best parts of the Jets’ defense. They are reliable leaders and frequent play-makers and have proven better in coverage than the Giants’ Alec Ogletree, who can stick around for depth.
Neither team has depth here, but they both have big-money players and they make the team by default, even though neither is really living up to their contract at the moment. Still, there are times when both Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins have proven to be shut-down cornerbacks.
And maybe they can benefit from playing with each other, leaving quarterbacks few options of where to throw. For a third corner, add in Buster Skrine who is by far the best of the rest, which isn’t saying a whole lot about the corner depth on these teams.
This might actually be the best part of this combined team. Jamal Adams and Landon Collins are both among the best young safeties in the game, and it’s a fair debate over which one is better right now.
Collins is more accomplished, but Adams is having a better season. Both are strong at the line of scrimmage against the run. Both are good in coverage. Adams is a better blitzer. And both are vocal locker room leaders. It’s hard to do better at a safety twosome than this. And Marcus Maye is a perfect complement for three-safety sets.