NFL offseason power rankings: No. 28 New York Giants try to regroup with Daniel Jones, Brian Daboll

Preview focus: This could be a make-or-break year for the QB and head coach

(Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)
The Giants are counting on coveted rookie receiver Malik Nabers unlocking the offense in 2024. (Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)

When the New York Giants made the playoffs at the end of the 2022 season, everyone celebrated. As they should have. It had been a long time since the Giants made the playoffs and even longer since they won a playoff game. Making the postseason and winning a playoff game is never a bad thing.

Ultimately, that run might have done more harm than good.

That 9-7-1 season, propped up by plenty of close wins that belied how good the Giants actually were, led to a 2023 offseason approach that contained delusion. The Giants weren't ready to contend. They were a rebuilding team that happened to slide into the playoffs. They tricked themselves into thinking otherwise.

The Giants' biggest question a year later stems from a mistake they made, which happens often in the NFL: They paid big for an average quarterback. Daniel Jones signed a four-year deal worth $160 million in the afterglow of that playoff win against a similarly overrated Vikings team. Instead of throwing in the towel on Jones, they decided his 3,205-yard, 15-touchdown season was worth $40 million per season. Then Jones threw for two touchdowns and six interceptions in six games last season before he tore his ACL, playing at the same ho-hum level he had most of his career. That's not what you want from a player making about $12 million more per season than T.J. Watt.

It's hard to move on from quarterbacks, but the Giants could have done so without any complaint if they didn't make the playoffs two seasons ago. That playoff appearance and win probably cost them $92 million in guaranteed money to Jones.

It might have also caused them to put off an honest assessment of the roster and how close they were to being contenders. With a clearer head they might not have made moves like trading a third-round draft pick, 100th overall, to the Las Vegas Raiders for 30-year-old tight end Darren Waller. He had 552 yards, one touchdown and then retired this offseason. When regression hit a little too hard and the Giants struggled to a 6-11 season, all of 2023 looked like a massive waste.

The good feelings from the playoff trip and win didn't survive through the first quarter of last season. The NFL also made the mistake of thinking the Giants were good, choosing them to host the first Sunday night game of the year against the Dallas Cowboys. When Trevon Diggs hit Saquon Barkley on a short third-and-19 pass, knocking the ball loose for DaRon Bland to snatch it and return the interception 22 yards for a touchdown, the Cowboys led 16-0. The 2023 season wasn't even 13 minutes old, but the Giants would never recover.

They lost that opener 40-0, started the season 2-8, bickered throughout the season and immediately questioned that contract to Jones. The best thing to say about the 2023 Giants is that head coach Brian Daboll held everything together when it looked for a bit like there might be a total revolt.

The Giants won three of their last six, even after Jones tore his ACL. Don't mistake that for any real momentum going into this season, but it could have turned out worse.

That leads to a weird 2024 season. Daboll won NFL Coach of the Year in 2022 but he's probably on the hot seat this season, especially as stories started to leak about his management style with assistants. He made some key strategic missteps last season as well. Jones is probably in his last Giants season if he struggles again. The Giants were seemingly fishing for a quarterback in this draft, reportedly trying hard to trade up to No. 3 overall. That pick presumably would have been quarterback Drake Maye. Regardless, the Giants didn't like the other three first-round quarterbacks who fell to No. 6, so they drafted receiver Malik Nabers and will stick it out with Jones for another season. Though there has also been speculation (it was denied) that offseason signee Drew Lock could compete for the job. There's never a lack of drama in New York.

A year ago, the Giants tried to talk themselves into being close to the same level as the Cowboys and Eagles in the NFC East. Going into this season, their coach and quarterback are battling for their jobs, the roster looks like the rebuild it always was and thoughts of another playoff trip are far-fetched. That fun 2022 season led to a big step backward.

The offseason featured a huge move that should age well. The Giants traded a second-round draft pick for Panthers pass rusher Brian Burns. In 2022, the Rams offered two first-round picks for Burns and were denied. It's surprising the Giants were able to land the 26-year-old for such a low trade cost, though he got a five-year, $141 million contract upon the deal. That's not a bad price for an elite pass rusher.

That was the big play and the rest of free agency was spent on solid yet uninspiring moves, like adding offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. and running back Devin Singletary. Runyan is a reliable player who fills a big need; the Giants' offensive line is still a big question and the success of that group could determine the success of the Giants' season as a whole. It was a surprise the Giants didn't franchise tag safety Xavier McKinney, who signed a four-year, $68 million deal with the Packers. McKinney was one of three 2023 Giants to make Pro Football Focus' top 101 players from the 2023 season (defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence II and linebacker Bobby Okereke were the others). Saquon Barkley signing with the Eagles had to be hurtful for the Giants and a reminder of what could have been, though it probably wasn't the worst thing to pass on Barkley at the price (three years, $37.75 million). The Giants' draft was considered average. The pick of Malik Nabers at No. 6 overall over Michael Penix Jr., J.J. McCarthy or Bo Nix was probably right, but will be debated if any of those quarterbacks become a star. But Nabers is an elite prospect and the Giants have needed a true No. 1 receiver for years.

Grade: B

Daniel Jones' reaction to the chatter that the Giants were looking into drafting a quarterback to replace him wasn't surprising.

“Yeah, I mean, I wasn't fired up about it,” Jones said. “But I think it's part of it at this level. What I can do is focus on myself and getting healthy. Play the best football I can play and that I know I'm capable of playing. That's my job and that's what I'm gonna do.”

Whatever happened over the offseason doesn't matter because Jones has the opportunity to reclaim his job for the long term. First, he has to be healthy. Jones tore his ACL on Nov. 5 but insists he'll be ready for the start of training camp and isn't concerned about Week 1. He'll have a new No. 1 receiver, Malik Nabers. That will help. If Jones plays well, it will put to rest the inevitable talk of Drew Lock getting a shot and also any speculation about Jones' future. The path might have been messy but it led to a simple place: If Jones plays well enough this season, with an exciting new No. 1 receiver to throw to, he can reestablish himself as the Giants' quarterback for 2025 and perhaps beyond. And if Jones struggles, he'll likely be gone. No pressure, right?

The Giants are predicted to finish last in the NFC East, at least by BetMGM's odds. The Giants are +1000 to win the division, which is the longest odds among the four teams. Their win total of 6.5 is a reminder that it could be another long season. The good news is that Malik Nabers is +1100 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, the fifth-best odds on the board.

From Yahoo's Scott Pianowski: "Devin Singletary was a top 20 fantasy back in the 2021 season, working with Brian Daboll in Buffalo. Now Singletary and Daboll are reunited, and a return to the top 20 is possible.

"Singletary's usefulness in Houston last season flew under the radar. He took over as the team's starter for Week 9, and was a top 12 back in cumulative half-point scoring for the remainder of the year. If you prefer a per-game ranking over that period, Singletary checks in as the RB20.

"Chasing durability can be a fool's errand at the running back position — everyone is an injury risk — but we should note that Singletary has been reliable, logging a full season in four straight years. The Giants have marginal pieces behind him; Eric Gray didn't do much as a rookie, and Tyrone Tracy was primarily a receiver in college. Singletary has an excellent chance to beat his current RB30 tag in Yahoo drafts."

Net yards per play differential — the yards per play you gain on offense minus the yards allowed per play on defense — is a simple and effective way of determining the true level of a team. The Giants finished dead last in the NFL in that metric last season at -1.14. The Giants were really bad last season. It didn't help that Daniel Jones missed most of the season, but they were bad with Jones in the lineup, too. It's very hard to tie for first in the NFL in turnover margin and still finish 6-11, but the Giants did it. The Giants' 6-11 record was probably a little lucky; the advanced stats indicate they should have been a win or more worse than that. The Giants have plenty of work to do to get back to the playoffs.

Having one of the best defensive lines in the NFL is a good foundation for any team. The Giants already had a pretty good defensive line when they traded for Brian Burns. Burns and Kayvon Thibodeaux are an elite pass rushing duo. Dexter Lawrence II was the top-graded defensive tackle in the NFL last season via Pro Football Focus, and the team added longtime veteran Jordan Phillips to fill in next to Lawrence at tackle. That's a really good line.

That makes it easier for new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen, who replaces Wink Martindale. The relationship between Martindale and head coach Brian Daboll was strained during the season and it reportedly came to a head when Daboll fired outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins and defensive assistant Kevin Wilkins after the season. That led to Martindale leaving the Giants. They replaced him with Bowen, who was the Titans' defensive coordinator the past three seasons.

The Giants have questions in the secondary, but a strong line will help everything on that side of the ball.

Theoretically, a team that made the playoffs in 2022 could make it again in 2024. The formula is hard to replicate because plenty of good fortune was involved two seasons ago. But if Daniel Jones reverts to his form from that season, helped by dynamic rookie receiver Malik Nabers, and a strong defensive line carries the defense, maybe the Giants can be in the playoff hunt again. Regardless of record, it would be great if the Giants had restored faith in Brian Daboll and if Jones provided some hope at quarterback over the long term.

When you win, a coach's angry outbursts are happy narratives about firing up the team. Brian Daboll found out that those same heated diatribes aren't too popular when you're losing. He lost a lot of the goodwill he built up in his first season as Giants head coach. Daboll looks more like Matt Nagy than Sean McVay when it comes to recent first-year coaches winning NFL Coach of the Year, and he's in danger of being fired if his third year is as bad as the second. The Giants might look much different in a few months. General manager Joe Schoen seems to be a favorite of ownership, but Daniel Jones needs a good season to hang on longer and Daboll probably does too. Making major changes just two years after winning a playoff game would be a tough blow.

It's hard to get too excited about the Giants. Maybe Malik Nabers has an impact at receiver the Giants haven't experienced since the Odell Beckham Jr. days, Daniel Jones is fully healthy off his ACL and a better player than he was a year ago, the defensive line is as dominant as the Giants hope, the offensive line comes through and they win enough games to be in the playoff hunt. It's way more likely that Jones is a middle-of-the-road quarterback at best, the rest of the offense isn't good enough to overcome that (don't forget how much of the load Saquon Barkley has carried, and Devin Singletary isn't replicating that), the defense isn't great and the Giants are again near the bottom of the NFL. Then the big question has to be asked: Can Brian Daboll survive a second straight losing season?