EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants opened 2021 NFL training camp on Tuesday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Here's a closer look at a few storylines:
What does quarterback Daniel Jones need to do to take the next step after a disappointing 2020?
The pressure is on. This much is obvious, with Jones already fielding questions this spring about whether this is a make-or-break season. Now, it's about how he responds and handles the pressure -- specifically in the heat of the moment.
Can he continue to improve his pocket presence and reduce the turnovers? Jones made strides last season. He went from throwing 12 interceptions and fumbling 18 times in 12 starts as a rookie to 10 interceptions and 11 fumbles in 14 starts last season. He also ranked among the top five QBs with a 54.9% completion percentage under pressure.
The growth in those key areas needs to continue. Jones' TD passes dropped from 24 as a rookie to 11 last season, but if he reduces the mistakes and gets the requisite help that is expected from this improved group of playmakers, we're likely to see a significant jump in Year 3. Especially if he gets more comfortable in his second season playing in coordinator Jason Garrett's offense.
It seems the Giants went into this offseason with a well-conceived plan. They wanted to add playmakers for Jones, each with a different skill set.
Golladay is the tall outside receiver who can go up and make the tough, contested catches. He led the NFL with 26 contested catches in 2019, per Pro Football Focus. The Giants didn't have that for Jones last season.
Toney, a 2021 first-round pick out of Florida, serves as a much-needed offensive weapon who can do damage in a lot of different ways -- especially after the catch. The Giants ranked 32nd in the NFL last season, averaging 3.0 yards after the catch.
Kyle Rudolph slides in as a consistent and reliable red zone target. That was necessary after the Giants' tight ends managed one red zone touchdown reception in 2020. Rudolph also had one last season, but he was fourth in the NFL among tight ends with five the previous season.
It seems this trio should fit seamlessly into massive holes on the roster. Speedy wide receiver John Ross could be a deep threat if he can stay healthy.
What should we expect from running back Saquon Barkley after his knee injury?
Speaking to people around the league and with the Giants, there doesn't seem to be much concern about Barkley returning as a dominant player. As one general manager said at the time of his injury, "he is a Adrian Peterson-like freak." But that doesn't mean he will have an Adrian Peterson-like comeback season after he tore his ACL. Peterson rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 2012, and was back at 100% usage by Week 1.
The Giants are going to bring Barkley along slowly. It's possible he is not back by Week 1 or not handling anywhere near a full workload.
This is the smart play for Barkley and the team. The Giants want him to be part of the organization long term, and he has his eyes on a new contract. Rushing him back would be irresponsible. Everyone seems incentivized to play this slowly and cautiously. And they will.
How good can this defense be after a strong showing last season?
If the Giants hit big with one of their new edge rushers (such as 2021 second-round pick Azeez Ojulari), this can be a dominant defense. Patrick Graham's unit ranked in the top 12 overall and among the top 10 in points per game last season.
Now it has been upgraded substantially at cornerback with the signing of Adoree' Jackson after starting five different players at that spot last season. The Giants also get promising second-year safety Xavier McKinney back for a full season after he missed most of his rookie campaign with a foot injury.
The Giants managed to finish tied for 13th last season with a 25.6% QB pressure percentage, per NFL Next Gen Stats. That's a major credit to Graham and the pressure schemes given the lack of elite pass-rushers. If Ojulari, Lorenzo Carter, Elerson Smith, Oshane Ximines or anyone on the roster can be a consistent threat off the edge, this will be one of the league's best defenses.