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After four long, hard and deflating years under the construction of former general manager Dave Gettleman, when the New York Giants hired Joe Schoen as general manager there were no expectations for Year 1 success. After all, Gettleman left Schoen with a roster riddled with holes at starting positions and a lack of depth at every position outside of the defensive line. Gettleman also left Schoen with nearly $50M in "dead cap" (players no longer on the roster but still counting against the salary cap) and arguably the worst contract in football (Kenny Golladay, $21.2M cap hit in 2022). Eight weeks later, the Giants are 6-2, making a push for their first playoff appearance since 2016 and the expectations have changed.

So how did we get here so fast? For starters, as Schoen noted during his bye-week presser, coaching has been a major factor. And that wasn't lip service. The Giants have had a coaching edge in nearly every game they've played so far in 2022 and more times than not it has been on both sides of the ball. Think about the wide-open touchdown designs to tight ends Daniel Bellinger (Bears) and Chris Myarick (Titans, the bootleg rollouts where Daniel Jones has cruised to an open TD (Bears X2). Remember -- this was an absolutely broken offense in 2021. Similar examples can be pulled from the defensive side of the ball -- but more on that below.

Let's dive right into the grades.

Coaching: A

As initiated above, the coaching has been the biggest story for the Giants rapid turnaround. Head coach Brian Daboll deserves a lot of credit for a variety of things including the staff he put together -- from the coordinators all the way through the position coaches. He also deserves credit for installing an offensive system -- in conjunction with offensive coordinator Mike Kafka -- that took the Giants out of Jason Garrett's dark age football (no presnap motion, spacing routes to the sticks, etc). Daboll has made winning in-game coaching decisions too -- like when he opted to go for what was ultimately the go-ahead two-point conversion in the Week 1 upset victory over the Titans.

If Daboll gets an "A" for coaching, it's fair to ask if Kafka deserves an "A+" grade. You can nitpick and wonder if at times he went away from Saquon Barkley too often (Jaguars) or stuck with him too often on first- and second-and-long situations (Seahawks), but the reality is that in both situations he was taking what the defense gave him. That's what good coaches do. They don't run or throw the ball just to do it -- they adjust based on the look the defense is giving them. And everything else has been "A+" from Kafka from the slew of wide-open touchdowns and key first-down plays he's designed, to the slew of presnap motion giving eye candy for the defense on every play, to the route combinations (the Giants finally running clear outs!) and interesting personnel packages and formations. 

Perhaps most importantly of all, Kafka has taken a roster that's very similar to last season and made them respectable when it comes to red zone touchdown percentage -- in 2021 they were among the worst in the NFL.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale deserves an "A-" for the job he's done. He's been slightly outmatched on the chess board a bit more often than Kafka (vs. Dallas' Kellen Moore, vs. Jacksonville's Doug Pederson, vs. Seattle's Shane Waldron), but the offense has the advantage so winning five of eight chess battles against the opposing coordinator is still a major win. Martindale schemes up pressures and more importantly the simulated pressures that consistently fool opposing offensive pass-protection calls resulting in two offensive linemen blocking in space against Giants players they expected to rush the passer but instead dropped. And that leads to advantages on the other side of the formation with multiple Giants pass rushers against fewer offensive linemen.

Offense: B-

If you skipped ahead just to look at grades for every area you might be thinking -- WAIT A MINUTE -- did he just give the offense a better grade than the defense? It's not a typo. You read that right. Despite what the final box score shows from a total scoring standpoint, the offense has been a more consistent unit than the defense through the first eight games. This is backed up by Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings where the Giants rank 14th overall on offense but just 28th on defense.

Although the Giants pass game hasn't been anything special, and the NFL is known as a passing league, the run game has been as impactful as all but maybe a handful of NFL teams. Saquon Barkley has the second-most rushing yards in the NFL (779) and he's averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Daniel Jones has the third-most rushing yards among all quarterbacks and the 27th-most among all players in the NFL with 363 -- a 5.7-yards-per-carry average. 

In the pass game, the Giants have created red zone success from misdirection and from moving the pocket with designed quarterback bootlegs. Darius Slayton was cast off by fans, but has some of the most impressive tape of any Giants player since he took over a starting job -- even if fans don't want to admit that -- the tape tells the real story. There are even several plays on film where Slayton created vertical separation but Jones opted not to pull the trigger. Those are plays Jones wants back and he'll look to pull the trigger on in the second half as he gets more comfortable in the system. Rookie receiver Wan'Dale Robinson will play a big factor in whether or not this offense can make a second-half jump

Defense: C+

The Giants defense has taken a lot of credit for the team's 6-2 start, but on a drive-to-drive basis, they haven't been nearly as effective as they're given credit for. The Giants rank 28th overall in Football Outsiders' DVOA and a big factor in that is the struggles they've had stopping the run. The Giants have allowed the seventh-most rushing yards per game this season. While they've done an excellent job defending zone-heavy rushing schemes (Seahawks, Titans), they've struggled against teams that look to beat them with power/gap concepts like pin-pull (Cowboys, Jaguars, Ravens) because those concepts put stress on the inside linebackers to scrape and make sideline-to-sideline plays. Starting linebackers Tae Crowder and Jaylon Smith have also struggled in pass coverage and that has impacted the defense as well. The good news is the Giants made a change in Week 8 -- swapping positions with Smith and Crowder -- moving Smith into the Mike. The result was the best game of the season from the Giants linebackers.

Special Teams: C-

The special teams have been an abject disaster with the exception of one major factor -- kicker Graham Gano. On one hand, you have arguably the NFC's All-Pro kicker and on the other you have a punt-return team that has already lost three fumbles on the season -- including two back breakers in one game. They choose too often to return kickoffs and don't even always get back to the 25-yard line (as we collectively hold our breaths that they don't fumble) and this hasn't been a strength of the team overall. The Giants will likely look to move out current punt returner Richie James in the second half and replace him with a more sure-handed returner.