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Identifying the problem? Not difficult in any way, shape or form.
“We have to become more explosive on offense, make big plays and score more points and that’s a process we are going through,’’ Jason Garrett, the Giants’ offensive coordinator, said Wednesday before Day 2 of this week’s mandatory minicamp.
Going through the process at this time of year is fine and actually the expected course for the Giants to follow. The spring and early summer is perfect for figuring it out. Last year, the diminished on-field work amid the global pandemic coincided with Garrett’s indoctrination running the offense with the Giants after his 10-year run as the Cowboys’ head coach. It was a terrible combination. As it turns out, installing an entire new system with much less quality time to work out the kinks proved to be quite detrimental. Who knew?
That was then. This is now.
For all the talk about which Giants — starting, of course, with quarterback Daniel Jones — are facing a season of decision in 2021, Garrett is near the top of the list. The Giants in 2020 went 6-10 largely because their defense kept them in games. The scoring eruptions felt around the NFL never touched down in East Rutherford or anywhere else the Giants were scheduled to play. Finishing 31st in the league in scoring, at 17.5 points a game, compromised so much of what Joe Judge tried to accomplish in his first year as the head coach.
Garrett’s attack was robbed of star running back Saquon Barkley after only two games, a severe setback. Garrett was able to cobble together a rushing attack, though, as the Giants finished a respectable 19th in the NFL in rushing at 110.5 yards a game. Not terrible, considering the running back-by-committee fallback approach necessitated by Barkley tearing up his knee.
The passing game was another story. A sad story. The Giants were 29th in the league at 189.1 passing yards per game. Jones in 14 games threw only 11 touchdown passes. Only the Jets had a lower red-zone scoring efficiency than the Giants’ 46.34 percent.
Garrett attracted the ire of fans for this paltry production. His attack featured less pre-snap motion than almost every other team. There were plenty of factors for Garrett to try to overcome, starting with a young and often struggling offensive line, Jones’ failings in pocket awareness and a lack of breakaway talent after Barkley hit injured reserve.
There was a need to reassess and figure out what worked and, more importantly, what did not, what needs to be retained and what needs to be scrapped.
“I think every year you go back and evaluate what you did and how you did it and ways you can do things better,’’ Garrett said. “Sometimes you say, ‘Hey, we like how we do it that way’. Other times you say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to teach that differently or come up with a new thought or a new idea’. I think that’s just part of the process and that’s how you grow and evolve as an individual coach and as a unit and ultimately as a team. We go through that process really every year and that’s the process we went through this past year.’’
Garrett was able to get a handle on the turnover issues that infiltrated the franchise the past few seasons, especially down the stretch. That was a positive.
Judge stuck with Garrett but the Giants did not stand pat on offense. They opened the coffers to sign towering receiver Kenny Golladay in free agency. They used their first-round draft pick on Kadarius Toney, a yards-after-catch weapon. They signed veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is recovering from foot surgery.
It’s no wonder Barkley — on the mend following knee surgery — said he is “real excited about the offensive weapons’’ the team added.
Garrett should have more than enough to work with, as long as the still-young offensive line comes together the way the front office believes it will.
“Any time you add pieces, whether it’s in the draft or free agency, you’re obviously doing that to help improve your team, create competition, get guys out there that can help you and make plays and become more explosive,’’ Garrett said. “We are excited about the additions we have. We are trying to get those guys acclimated. We are also excited about the guys who were with us before and they have a year under their belt now. They will learn from those experiences and hopefully continue to grow.’’
Growth for Garrett’s offense could determine what happens next for the Giants, and for Garrett.
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