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Questions about Chad Wheeler, offensive line dominate Big Blue View mailbag

Let’s see what else is in the mail

New York Giants v Houston Texans
Chad Wheeler celebrates a touchdown vs. the Texans.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Questions, questions, questions. There are always questions about the New York Giants and helping to answer them is what our Big Blue View mailbag is for. So, let’s open it up and get to it!

Ed says: We have talked about this a bunch of times this week both at Big Blue View and on the ‘Locked on Giants’ podcast. Wheeler gave up three sacks to J.J Watt and a couple of hits on Eli Manning. By the numbers, the grades, whatever, he didn’t play very well.

But ...

The offensive line as a whole did. And Wheeler was a part of that. He didn’t commit any penalties, the Giants didn’t have the basic assignment errors and with Wheeler next to him rather than Ereck Flowers right guard Patrick Omameh had his best game of the season.

John Greco at center was also part of that. Greco played well and I do believe his experience and the fact that he has now played for Shurmur three times helped settle the line.

Ed says: Of course he could get yanked. The question is, for who? Flowers is the only reserve offensive tackle on the roster. The Giants have already made their decision in regards to that, and unless an injury necessitates it I doubt we see Flowers in the lineup for the Giants again.

The Giants have two tackles on the practice squad, Victor Salako and Brian Mihalik. Salako has never played an NFL game. Mihalik had two starts for the Detroit Lions last year, and they cut him this year. Realistically, what is the chance that either of those guys is better than Wheeler?

There are free agents with names you probably recognize available. Remember, though, those guys are on the street for a reason. Because they have been found wanting by their former team, or in some cases teams, and no one has yet deemed them worthy of a roster spot this season. If one of them was, in the eyes of the scouts who do this for a living, an upgrade over what the Giants have he would already be on the roster.

Tim Gilfien asks: When are we going to see (center) Spencer Pulley be added into the O Line? Last year he was the center of an O-line (Chargers) that had the least amount of sacks in the league. The Chargers also have the same “vintage” of QB that does not run away from pressure.

Ed says: Tim, I don’t know that we’re ever going to see Pulley as the starting center. Unless, that is, there is an injury to current starter John Greco. The Giants were awarded Pulley off waivers, and I always remind people that there is a reason guys are available off waivers and via free agency during the season. Someone else has judged them as not good enough.

Yes, Pulley started 16 games for the Los Angeles Chargers a year ago. The Chargers then went out, signed Mike Pouncey to play that spot and cut Pulley. They judged him not good enough to be their starting center.

Pulley was ranked No. 45 out of 50 qualifying centers by Pro Football Focus last season. He allowed 38 pass pressures last, one every 16.8 pass-blocking snaps and 12 more than any other center in the league. Those numbers aren’t exactly encouraging, and they tell you why the Chargers moved on.

He might be a good player. He might not be. We don’t know. What we do know is that Greco, in his 11th season, has been a good NFL player for a very long time. He did a good job in limited duty for the Giants last season. He played well, and so did the offensive line as a whole, vs. the Houston Texans last week. Don’t be in a hurry to boot him out of the lineup.

Ed says: Charlie, I won’t tell you there aren’t guys available. There are. Did you see that the Carolina Panthers recently traded for Marshall Newhouse? I seem to remember no one thinking he was very good when he was with the Giants.

Here is a list of currently available tackles. I don’t find anyone on that list I would bang the table for and say “this guy is obviously better than Ereck Flowers or Chad Wheeler.” If the Giants thought one of them was an obvious upgrade they would have signed him already.

Maybe the guy they like is Brian Mihalik. He was with Pat Shurmur in Philadelphia, played some with the Detroit Lions last season, and was added to the Giants practice squad a couple of weeks ago. Let’s see if he’s the guy who gets the next opportunity should Wheeler not measure up.

Ed says: The Kyle Lauletta part of that question is impossible to answer. Media is only allowed to watch the first few minutes of practice. We get to see the team stretch, and we get to see individual drills. Which means we see Lauletta throw a half-dozen passes, maybe, with no defense as part of a glorified warm-up. Also, full disclosure — I’m there one day per week.

As for the draft, again difficult to answer. Let’s see how this year plays out. Eli Manning is signed for another year past this one. If he plays well I think the Giants will continue on the path they have established — continue to build around him and try to help him rather than use a first-round pick on a guy who would replace him.

If he plays poorly and the Giants win three or four games? That becomes a different conversation. We just aren’t there yet, so there is no way to know how it will play out.

Ed says: Vin, there are two parts to this answer. First, I have said repeatedly that I think the only way we see Ereck Flowers return to the Giants lineup is if there is an injury at tackle that necessitates it. Second, I continue to be amazed by the ongoing belief from some that Flowers can play guard. He has never done it. There’s no evidence it would work. Every NFL offensive line analyst I have ever communicated with, including guys who have played the position at the NFL level, believes Flowers would be an absolute disaster at guard. He doesn’t bend well enough to get leverage, which means he would be getting driven backwards all the time. The Giants have guys who can step in at guard. Flowers won’t be one of them, unless there is an absolute disaster and he’s forced to play there.

Ed says: What makes you believe Pat Shurmur calling the plays is a problem. I don’t see any evidence that it’s an issue.

Ben McAdoo never had experience calling offensive plays before he came to the Giants. The only offensive system he knew was the one he learned in Green Bay. He was a very young, very green coach when the Giants tapped him to replace Tom Coughlin. What he showed over two seasons was that he often couldn’t see beyond his play sheet. He couldn’t call plays, communicate with players, and successfully oversee what was going on with all facets of the team.

Shurmur has been a successful offensive coordinator in a variety of systems with a variety of teams. He has been a head coach before, albeit without a whole lot of success in Cleveland. He is a 53-year-old man who has been coaching since 1988, that’s far more experience than McAdoo had.

Many coaches successfully call plays and run their teams. McAdoo was in over his head trying to do it. There is no evidence to this point whatsoever that Shurmur can’t handle both tasks.

Ed says: To me, the idea that the coaches took the foot off the gas is absurd. The Giants didn’t play as well offensively in the second half, but not because of any desire to go into a shell. Let’s examine the drives.

Third quarter, 14:55, starting at their own 22-yard line with a 20-6 lead

The Giants pass on first down. Eli Manning looks deep, doesn’t like and checks down to Rhett Ellison. Aggressive play call that didn’t work out.

Eventually, facing third-and-5 at their own 37, Manning goes deep for Cody Latimer and misses. Nothing conservative there, just an incomplete pass.

Third quarter, 8:35, starting at their own 9-yard line with a 20-9 lead

Run by Saquon Barkley for no gain, check down to Barkley for a loss of a yard. Facing third-and-11 the Giants run an inside handoff out of shotgun to Wayne Gallman. They get 8 yards and punt.

This WAS a conservative play call, and I’m, 100 percent fine with it. You are winning. You are on the road. You are at your own 8-yard line where a sack means a safety and a turnover probably means a Houston touchdown. Sometimes a punt is OK. This was one of those times.

Third quarter, 3:47, starting at own 25-yard line with a 20-9 lead

The Giants go incomplete pass, pass to Odell Beckham that is negated by a holding penalty on Nate Solder that makes it second-and-15. The Giants stay aggressive and try to pass here, but a 10-yard J.J. Watt sack makes it third-and-25 from their own 10-yard line. There are no good plays for third-and-25 at your own 10. The Giants run with Barkley, then punt. That’s OK here, far better than being foolish and turning the ball over. A poorly executed series by the offense but not a conservative one.

Fourth quarter, 14:05, starting at their own 20-yard line and still holding a 20-9 lead

The Giants complete a pass to Beckham for 13 yards and a first down. They stay aggressive, but go sack, short pass, sack before having to punt again.

Once again a poorly executed — really poorly blocked — series, but not a conservative one.

After the Texans scored to make it 20-15 the Giants go 77 yards in 9 plays for a touchdown to re-establish a 12-point lead.

I don’t believe the Giants were conservative at all in the second half, with the exception of the third-and-25 Barkley run where I believe that was the right decision. They simply did not perform as well as they had in the first half.

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