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Mailbag: Questions About Devon Kennard, Cornerbacks, More

Let’s see what is in the mail this week

NFL: Preseason-Miami Dolphins at New York Giants
Devon Kennard
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL season is crawling ever closer. Teams, including the New York Giants, are stepping through voluntary OTAs at this time of year, a pre-cursor to mandatory mini-camp and, eventually, training camp.

Let’s open up the Big Blue View mailbag and see what is on your mind as we cross days off the calendar until football starts again.

Ed says: I’m not sure what Kennard’s “ceiling” is. He flashed pass-rushing potential (4.5 sacks in 12 games/six starts) as a rookie in 2014 that we haven’t seen since. He didn’t get a ton of true “linebacker” snaps last season because of all the nickel and dime sets the change were in. Kennard is OK in pass coverage, but Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson are better. Many of Kennard’s snaps last season were as a hand in the ground pass rusher, where he did an OK job. With Avery Moss, Romeo Okwara and the newly-signed Devin Taylor, though, I wonder if Kennard will be replaced there.

The beginning of Kennard’s career hinted that he could be something special, but that hasn’t materialized. Maybe it still will, but at this point it’s fair to wonder. I think he’s a useful player who is good, but not great at a lot of things. He’s been really good value for the Giants as a fifth-round pick. No reason that won’t be the case in 2017.

Ed says: Just because they haven’t (aside from the terrifically-named Valentino Blake) doesn’t mean they won’t. There really hasn’t been anyone on the market who fits what the Giants need. Jason McCourty wasn’t going to accept a job as a fourth corner. Darrelle Revis won’t, either, and the Giants probably wouldn’t go near him, anyway. There will be guys cut by their teams later this summer. There will also, of course, be guys cut during training camp and at the end of the preseason. I’m sure the Giants will be watching those transactions.

As for young guys they like, Michael Hunter played a couple of games last season and had a really, really nice OTA on Thursday. The diminutive Donte Deayon has everything an NFL team could want in a slot corner, if he can prove he’s big enough to play in the league at just a tad above 160 pounds. Interestingly, Mykkele Thompson also did a little work at corner on Thursday.

Ed says: Of course, Engram “could” win Offensive Rookie of the Year. He would have to put up monster numbers to do it, though, and no matter how much he helps the Giants I don’t think that’s going to happen. There are only so many touches to go around, and with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen as other primary weapons I just don’t see 80-90 catches for Engram as a rookie. With the addition of Marshall and a healthy Vereen, no matter how good Engram is he might be hard-pressed to match the 65 receptions Shepard got a year ago.

Ed says: I don’t necessarily think either of those is true. Granted, being the head coach carries an entirely different type of pressure than being the offensive coordinator and maybe adjusting to calling plays AND being a head coach affected Ben McAdoo some last season. I don’t think it “killed his creativity,” though. I do believe the Giants could have, and should have, been more flexible offensively last year. I believe, though, that McAdoo wasn’t entirely comfortable with his tight ends or his depth at wide receiver. The Giants also didn’t have a fullback, and lost Vereen for most of the season. I think lack of faith in some of his personnel (which he will never admit to) and his belief in the Giants’ defense had more to do with the vanilla nature of the Giants’ offense.

As for the decline of Eli Manning, I’m not buying into the idea that he is declining. Yet. Let’s see how he plays this year. I think Manning was hurt by the lack of creativity last year, by poor play from his tackles and tight ends, by the inability of Victor Cruz to get open on the outside, by the problems with the running game. He missed some throws and made some mistakes, sure, but that happens every year. I believe Manning still has some good football left.

Ed says: When rumors first circulated that Brandon Marshall could be the joining the Giants I expressed my reservations about Marshall and whether or not he would be a problem in the locker room. His fault or not, trouble has always managed to find him in some way during each of his four previous NFL stops. If he’s with the Giants for both of the two years on his contract, I wouldn’t be shocked if there is some sort of a bump in the road during that time.

That said, Marshall is an impressive individual. Stand in front of him and listen to him speak — which I did this week — about his journey, about what he’s learned about himself, about his desire to win and be the best teammate he can be and you know that he means it.

Marshall and Odell Beckham Jr. are both passionate, sometimes volatile, “alpha” players. They are used to being the focal point. I think, though, that ultimately both guys want to win and they will realize they can help each other do that. As long as the Giants win games, the offense functions well, and both guys are consistently involved I think everything will be fine.

If the Giants are bad, the offense is again dysfunctional and one of those guys is getting left behind, who knows? For now, let’s just think good thoughts.