New York Giants Contend For Playoff Spot With Roster Makeup Of An Expansion Team

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Both The Athletic and ESPN slot the New York Giants 14th this week in their power rankings.    

That’s a high compliment to head coach Brian Daboll and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.  The Giants may be the least talented 7-4-1 team in NFL history.

Here’s a breakdown of the 46 players active for last Sunday’s tie with Washington:

  • Holdovers from former GM Dave Gettleman’s pathetic 2021 roster: 17
  • Very inexpensive veteran free agents signed this year: 6
  • Rookie draft picks this year: 6
  • Rookies undrafted this year: 2
  • Street free agents signed this year: 11
  • Waiver claims this year: 5

This is the roster of a second-year expansion team, not a playoff contender.

Left to right: CB Fabian Moreau, OG Mark Glowinski, WR Isaiah Hodgins and CB Zyon Gilbert. (Getty Images)

To face the Commanders’ dynamic receiving trio of Terry McLaurin (NFL’s 13th ranked receiver), Curtis Samuel (NFL’s 27th ranked receiver) and Jahan Dotson (16th overall pick in this year’s draft), the Giants trotted out this secondary:

  • Outside cornerbacks: A street free agent signed after being cut by Houston (the Texans!) and a waiver claim.
  • Nickel cornerback: Undrafted rookie Zyon Gilbert of Florida Atlantic, elevated last week from the practice squad and dropped into the deep end for 56 snaps in his first-ever NFL game.
  • Safeties: A veteran 4th-round draft choice and a waiver claim.
  • Extra DBs in dime packages: A rookie and a street free agent.

The enduring image of the Giants defense Sunday was panicked CB Fabian Moreau, the pickup from Houston, clinging to the tail of McLaurin’s jersey, hoping officials wouldn’t see.

Commanders wideout Terry McLaurin and Giants cornerback Fabian Moreau. (Getty Images)

On offense, it’s much the same.  To match up against Washington’s defensive tackles, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, both first-round selections, the Giants’ interior linemen were a 4th-round pick, a street free agent and an undrafted journeyman, backed up by a waiver claim.  

Of New York’s five receivers, two were undrafted, the other three were taken in the 5th, 6th and 7th rounds.  The season-long parade of tight ends includes a rookie, a street free agent and three undrafted players.

So How Are The Giants Doing It?

Mostly with their quarterback. For all the Daniel Jones haters out there (thinking of you, Stephen A. Smith), take another look.  

This kid is as fearless as they come. Jones led the team in rushing again Sunday with 71 yards, including six carries for first downs. And his runs rarely finish with slides.  He plays head-first.

Jones’ mediocre receivers get no separation, leaving him impossibly tiny windows.  His accuracy is remarkable. He completed 18 of his first 19 throws Sunday and the only incompletion was a spike to stop the clock.

The Giants are surviving, barely, by winning time of possession, being +3 in turnover differential, being 5th league-wide in red-zone defense, and by compiling a record of 7-2-1 in one-score games.

The other factor, of course, is coaching.  Daboll has somehow convinced these players they have pedigree.  And Martindale covers so many defensive flaws by blitzing on a league-high 40.8% of dropbacks.

Is A Playoff Spot Realistic?

The temptation is to say these rag-tags will lose their upcoming four division games and beat only Indianapolis.  However, if Philadelphia has nothing at stake in Week 18, maybe the Giants steal a victory and sneak into the post-season at 9-7-1.

On the other hand, if they finish last in the division, they’ll play a fourth-place schedule again next year.  GM Joe Schoen will enter the off-season with $51 million in cap room (third most in the league) and nine draft choices.

This is one of the league’s most-improved teams in 2022, and could be the same in 2023.

Written by Terry O'Neil

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