4. New York Giants
Daniel Jones is the least proven quarterback in the NFC East. He has not been dealt the best hand to play with, with a below average offensive line and mediocre receivers for his entire career. The bell cow running back who was supposed to alleviate a lot of the pressure on the young QB has been MIA for most of the last two seasons. (More on that shortly.)
Jones has skills. He can run. His arm is legit. He simply has not produced consistently and though he is still young, patience is wearing out. He needs a strong season. A more dynamic offense would help – his career yards per attempt is a mundane 6.7 – worse than Taylor Heinicke’s number in 2021.
One thing is certain – there is no one else waiting in the wings. The Giants have a solid backup in Tyrod Taylor who can step into a game a win it for you. But at this point in his career, with durability issues always a concern, Taylor is not taking over unless there is an injury. 2022 is all about Daniel Jones.
As with Zeke Elliott, if this were the 2018-19 era, the Giants would have an elite pair of running backs. That’s back when Saquon Barkley was the next big thing, and Matt Breida was a scary-fast change of pace back. Since then, both men have fallen down a rabbit hole. Barkley suffered a serious knee injury in the second week of 2020. After putting up an exceptional 2,310 yards in his first two seasons, at a rate of 4.8 yards per carry, he has managed just 627 yards over the last two years, at 3.5 yards per carry. Reports are that he is now fully healthy, and everyone is optimistic. Isn’t that always the way?
Breida, meanwhile, has barely played in the last two seasons, and his best years clearly seem to be behind him. The Giants do have three other running backs on their roster. I’m not sure if new coach Brian Daboll could name them all.
Once again, the Giants clearly bring up the rear in ranking the NFC East backfields heading into 2022. The other three teams are a bit of a toss-up, and that is largely due to the fact that no one has a surefire quarterback situation. I have the most confidence in Dak, Zeke and Tony Pollard to be reliably productive so I have Dallas in the number one position.
If Brian Robinson were healthy, I might have inched the Washington Commanders ahead of Philly, but as it stands now, I have Philly in second place. I am cautiously optimistic about Carson Wentz. I have great confidence in JD McKissic and I think Antonio Gibson will be just fine. But I also think Jalen Hurts is going to keep improving and that puts Philly ahead, despite questions at running back.
By the way, here’s another bit of trivia with which to impress your friends. Who is the only player to be the leading rusher for the winning team in a Super Bowl for multiple franchises?
HINT: He was mentioned at the beginning of this article.
HINT 2: No one in Boise is buying him a drink.
HINT 3: LaGarrette Blount