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PFF ranks New York Giants’ starting lineup 19th in the NFL

What are the New York Giants’ biggest strengths and weaknesses heading into the 2021 NFL season? I think followers of the team know that the offensive line is still concerning and that the secondary is the team’s best unit.

Those notions were corroborated by the folks at Pro Football Focus in a recent piece that ranked all 32 NFL starting lineups. The Giants finished 19th overall in the rankings.

Biggest strength: The Giants have thrown resources at their secondary over the past several seasons. They’ve added James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan via free agency. Xavier McKinney, Julian Love and Darnay Holmes have been drafted to their ranks. Jabrill Peppers was included in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade two offseasons ago. The result is a unit that has an opportunity to be a top-five secondary in the league this season. New York’s newest addition, Jackson, earned a career-high 82.5 coverage grade in 2019 before missing much of last season with injury.

The Giants are loaded out there and that is without including this year’s draft picks — Aaron Robinson and Rodarius Williams — and several other holdovers such as Isaac Yiadom, Madre Harper and Jarren Williams. They appear to be good and deep in the secondary this year. In a passing league that’s good news and it will go a long way in helping rein in opposing wideouts such as CeeDee Lamb, Terry McLaurin and Devonta Smith.

What the biggest weakness? For the umpteenth year in a row, it’s the offensive line:

As a franchise, you always want to put your young quarterback in a position to succeed early in his NFL career. The Giants have at least added playmakers such as Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney to Jones’ receiving corps this offseason, but the offensive line remains an area of concern. Andrew Thomas was the only projected starter on the unit to earn a PFF grade above 60.0 on at least 200 snaps last season. And he was still a bottom-10 graded left tackle in the league. New York needs big leaps from several of their younger players there.

The Giants stuck to their guns along the line, even after having to let their best lineman — right guard Kevin Zeitler — go in a salary cap purge. They added veteran Zach Fulton and undrafted free agents Brett Heggie and Jake Burton to the mix, and tackle Nate Solder is returning fresh from his opt out but they are rolling the dice that this group steps up in 2021.

In an interesting side note, PFF cites rookie outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari as the “X-factor” for 2021.

Azeez Ojulari, a rookie out of Georgia, has an opportunity to assuage some of the concerns regarding the edge defender talent on this defense. The Giants’ top four pressure producers a season ago all played on the interior. That is unusual, to say the least. Ojulari will look to change that. He showed arguably the best cornering ability in this draft class and earned a 91.7 pass-rushing grade for the Bulldogs in 2020.

Ojulari can make a huge splash but only of the team uses him correctly and creatively. They play a 3-4 base but deploy five defensive backs on most sets. How and where they plan to use Ojulari will be interesting to see. Also keep in mind that inside linebacker Blake Martinez never comes off the field, so how much of and opportunity he gets is unknown.

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