The New York Giants entered the 2021 season with the hopes that Joe Judge and Daniel Jones would finally figure things out. Unfortunately for the second-year head coach and the oft-criticized quarterback, they seem destined to watch the playoffs from home again.
And things could get even uglier moving forward.
With the Giants looking like an early favorite to land a top-five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, their nightmarish season just went from bad to worse.
The second year of the Joe Judge era has gotten off to a horrific start
Coming off a 6-10 campaign in which they finished 31st in scoring and ninth in points allowed, the Giants needed to take a drastic leap forward on offense while maintaining a strong level of play on the other side of the ball.
Neither has happened through the first three weeks of season.
Although the Giants have increased their per-game scoring average from 17.5 to 18.7, that still places them near the bottom of the league. In fact, New York ranks 24th in points — not exactly a stellar mark for an offensive that features four recent first-round picks at quarterback (Jones), running back (Saquon Barkley), tight end (Evan Engram), and left tackle (Andrew Thomas).
Meanwhile, the defense has experienced a regression in the second year of the Judge era. Despite having average quarterbacks, the Denver Broncos and the Washington Football Team totaled 827 total yards and 57 points against Patrick Graham’s unit.
To no surprise, New York lost both contests.
Although the defense only allowed 14 points in Week 3, the Giants still suffered another loss. The Jones-led offense mustered 14 points against a talent-deficient Atlanta Falcons squad that surrendered 80 combined points to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And besides losing their third straight game, the Giants sustained a major blow with long-term implications.
The Giants’ nightmarish season just went from bad to worse
Could things get worse for the Giants as the season unfolds?
Don’t be surprised if that happens. After all, a defense that clearly hasn’t lived up to expectations must figure out a way to turn things around without its unquestioned leader.
According to Jordan Raanan of ESPN, middle linebacker Blake Martinez suffered a torn ACL in Sunday’s 17-14 loss to the Falcons. The injury will sideline the 27-year-old team captain for the remainder of the season.
A fourth-round pick in 2016, Martinez spent the first four years of his career with the Green Bay Packers. After signing a three-year, $30 million deal with the Giants, he totaled 140 tackles, three sacks, five passes defended, and one interception during the 2020 season. Highly regarded for his leadership skills and reliable play on the field, Martinez easily ranked as one of the team’s best overall players.
Losing him for the season represents a massive setback for a defense that already looked thin at linebacker. Without the veteran in the lineup, the Giants could easily experience further regression and fail to replicate or improve upon their success from a year ago. Ultimately, it’s hard to envision New York slowing good offenses down with Martinez out of the picture.
Blake Martinez headlines a long list of players who face an uncertain future with the franchise
Will the Giants have a new starting middle linebacker in 2022? Based on Martinez’s injury and contract, there could be a man leading the defensive huddle next season.
In fact, several prominent players could be wearing different uniforms at this time next year.
After restructuring his contract in March, Martinez’s 2022 cap hit sits at $14 million. However, the Giants can get out of his deal by taking on a $5.5 million dead cap charge. Perhaps his injury will convince the team to move in a different direction and save some money in the process.
Of course, Daniel Jones also faces an uncertain future with the franchise. If he fails to impress across the course of a 17-game season, will the Giants admit defeat and hit the reset button?
Plus, the team has to decide whether to keep strong safety Jabrill Peppers and right guard Will Hernandez around for the long haul. Both players will become free agents after the season, so it will be interesting to see if the Giants retain two experienced starters.
Then again, if things go south, a full-scale rebuild may be the best path to take.