Training camp is getting close, less than two weeks away now. With that in mind, let’s open the Big Blue View mailbag and answer some New York Giants questions.
David Weissman asks: What is your gut tell you about Hart versus Bisnowaty? I know Hart is still developing but if Bisnowaty shows more effort and skill, would Mac make the move? Also Wheeler - thoughts on him and have you watched his USC film ?
Ed says: Bobby Hart vs. Adam Bisnowaty for the right tackle job? My gut tells me that the only competition there is the one in fans’ imaginations. Bisnowaty is pretty much where Hart was as a rookie seventh-round pick in 2015 — a young kid with some ability, but a lot to learn. When asked about Bisnowaty in the spring, coach Ben McAdoo said that the rookie sixth-round pick knew his assignments. That’s code for “he knows what he’s supposed to do, but I’m not at all sure yet that he can do it.”
I’d say there is a very slim chance Bisnowaty starts instead of Hart. If the Giants were really looking for an immediate replacement for Hart or left tackle Ereck Flowers they would have drafted one in the first couple of rounds.
In my view, it’s MUCH more likely that D.J. Fluker forces the Giants to play him somewhere.
Barbara Bennett Chumsky asks: There's been a lot of talk about what Engram and Marshall will add to the team, but I'm curious about Rhett Ellison. He's been dealing with an injury, so we really haven't seen him work, even in non-contact drills. Is it looking like we'll see him in training camp or in preseason games? Is the injury more serious than we have been thinking it is? And will he be the weapon we've been needing and wanting?
[NOTE: There were a couple of Ellison-related questions. I chose to post this one, but I will try to give a broad enough answer to cover as much ground as I can.]
Ed says: I’ve written many times that Ellison’s injury is the one that concerns me most among players who were dealing with injuries this spring. We have seen before that recovering from calf injuries is tricky, and doesn’t happen quickly. We won’t know his status until camp begins.
As for him being a “weapon,” or how he will be used, let’s realize that the Giants didn’t sign him to be some sort of dynamic pass catcher. Ellison has 51 receptions in five years, with a single-season high of 19. He isn’t suddenly going to morph into a pass-catching wizard who gets 50-60 receptions.
Ellison’s role is to be what Bear Pascoe used to be for the Giants. He will be a blocking tight end, a lead blocker out of the backfield who sometimes functions as a true fullback. He will be a guy who helps the running game, helps the tackles in pass protection and gets used primarily as a safety valve in the passing game. The Giants have other guys to make the big plays. Ellison’s job will be to help Eli Manning get time to find those guys.
Martyn Henson asks: Should the O-line prove to be the reason why the Giants don't succeed this year do you think it'll cost Reese his job?
Ed says: No, no, no and NO again! Can I be any more emphatic than that? The Giants have had three general managers since 1979. The Giants don’t fire GMs, that’s not how they do business. Plain and simple. They chose to keep Reese after the 2015 season and sent Tom Coughlin, a two-time Super Bowl-winning (both with underdog teams that had no business winning, BTW) coach who was still one of the best in the business packing.
I certainly have my issues with Reese, which I won’t delve deeply into here. He has two rings, though. With pressure put squarely on him by ownership last season, he delivered an 11-5 team with a rookie coach. He had made a number of quality moves in recent years, and he isn’t going anywhere.
As for the OL, it’s easy to blame Reese. I have wondered what he’s thinking myself. Do we know, though, what role McAdoo played in leaving the offensive line status quo? We really don’t. Maybe McAdoo told Reese he thought he could win with the linemen they had. I really couldn’t tell you.
Leaving the offensive line alone is a decision the Giants made, a controversial one. The success or failure of Ereck Flowers, though, is not going to determine whether or not Reese keeps his job.
Edwin Gommers asks: Ed, will Jerry Reese still make a (blockbuster) trade this offseason? If so who should they be looking at/what position?
Ed says: For who? For what? What would the Giants give up? Major trades in the NFL do not happen at this time of the year. Nor do they happen in training camp or during the season. Big trades generally happen around the draft, that’s it. There might be a few minor free-agent moves, but what you see is pretty much what you will get with the current Giants roster.
Mike Korschek asks a verrrrrrrrrry long question: We often hear that RBs aren't worth the money/high draft picks they have earned on the past. The league is becoming more pass friendly and there is little to differentiate most running backs from each other. If they can catch or pass protect all the better but the general consensus seems to be just about any RB can be plugged into a system and deliver the same results.
Then we see what the Cowboys have achieved with Elliot. He was arguably the player teams had to game plan around and even then he more than got his share of yardage. Adrian Peterson in his prime strikes me as another example of a dominant RB that forces teams to game plan around them. I don't think you could just plug in a random running back into their situation and expect statistically similar results.
So my question is if there is some middle ground between the two extremes: the few, elite running backs that force opponents to dedicate time to stopping and the run of the mill RB that do little to differentiate themselves from the masses of RBs and would such a RB fit into the Giants' scheme? Are we seeing the last days of RBs has being a significant part of offenses and will they go the way of the FB?
Ed says: Oh, where to begin? I don’t think it’s true at all that “just about any RB can be plugged into a system and deliver the same results.” Remember the 2013 Giants? What sort of results did they get from Andre Brown, Peyton Hillis, Brandon Jacobs, David Wilson, Da’Rel Scott and Michael Cox, all of whom started games at running back? They got diddly, basically.
You DO have to have running backs — yes, more than one — with talent.
My view, one that I have expressed consistently for years now, is that if you are going to draft a running back early in the draft — say the top half of Round 1 — he darn well better turn out to be Adrian Peterson. If, for example, Leonard Fournette is not a bona-fide superstar the Jacksonville Jaguars just wasted the fourth overall pick in the draft. Even “good” might not be good enough value in the later portions of Round 1.
First of all, the Earl Campbell workhorse-style running back who is going to carry 25-30 times every game is history. Teams still run the ball and throw it to their backs, but they use committees of two, three, sometimes four guys in the process of doing it. Even the best backs come off the field in certain situations, be they goal line or obvious passing downs. Backs play fewer snaps, touch the ball less often and, consequently, have less chances to impact games than in the past.
There are exceptions like Ezekiel Elliott. Look all around the league over the past 10-15 years, though. You see teams doing quite well with backs drafted on the second or third day of the draft. Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers was a second-round pick. Jordan Howard was a fifth-round pick by the Chicago Bears last year, and gained 1,300 yards. Paul Perkins was a fifth-round selection by the Giants, one pick ahead of Howard.
Unless you are absolutely convinced that a running back is going to be a star, the value isn’t there in Round 1. Take a player who is going to eventually be an every-down guy, not one who will end up as part of a three-man rotation.
As for the idea that running backs will go the way of fullbacks, I think that’s silly. Even those insane college Air Raid offenses rely on running backs. Besides, as defenses get smaller and faster to deal with the extra wide receivers and hybrid tight ends, the pendulum might swing. You might see offenses look for big backs who can beat up those smaller defenses with safeties pretending to be linebackers.