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Valentine’s Views: The Eli Manning-Daniel Jones narrative, defensive gamble, more

Let’s discuss a few things on this lazy Sunday

NFL: New York Giants-Minicamp Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have a week to go before their summer vacation. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about as the end of the offseason program nears.

The Eli Manning-Daniel Jones narrative

A few days ago I wrote about the good spring that rookie quarterback Daniel Jones has been putting together. Here is part of what I said:

There are many reasons why New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman fell in “full-bloom love” with quarterback Daniel Jones and made him the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Throughout the spring, from rookie mini-camp to Thursday’s conclusion of the three-day mandatory mini-camp, Jones has displayed many of them. He has answered the arm strength question by showing plenty of zip on deep outs and has thrown a number of excellent deep balls during sessions viewed by the media. He has shown off the maneuverability that allowed him to run for 17 touchdowns at Duke. He has displayed Eli Manning-esque tendencies in his handling of the media.

... to this point Jones has shown legitimate reasons why the organization believes he can be the answer to the “who comes after Manning?” question. Whenever that time comes.

Jones has been everything Dave Gettleman and the Giants could have hoped for so far this spring.

I disagree with some who have written that they believe Manning hasn’t been good this spring, that his arm doesn’t have zip, that he looks like he’s losing it. I think he’s been fine. I think he’s made a lot of good throws, especially some deep balls and long outs. He’s not going to throw the ball with the zip he did 10 years ago, but he can still deliver it on time and on target.

Maybe you will say I’m looking at it through Manning-issued glasses, but I believe there is a narrative being pushed by some who want Manning out of the lineup sooner rather than later.

I need to say two things about this.

First, Jones isn’t starting Week 1 unless Manning is hurt, no matter what narrative some media members try to push. I have said that before.

Second, it has been bothersome to watch some in the media who hated the Jones pick, especially at No. 6, hang on every good throw by the young man and pound the “start Jones, bench Manning” drum.

Carl Banks called attention to that on Twitter recently.

Listen, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I’m bothered, though, by agenda-driven writing aimed at influencing how a team does business.

I have opinions. I will criticize when necessary. I will praise when I think it’s appropriate. I am, however, always going to try to be as analytical and objective as possible. If and when I think there is a time in 2019 when Manning should be replaced, I will say so. I have already laid out the scenarios under which I believe it would be right for Jones to play. I am not, though, going to constantly bang a drum to either a) keep Maning in the lineup or b) take Manning out of said lineup.

Young defense needs to grow up quickly

The Giants knew they had to revamp their defense after the 2018 season. They did. They now have a young defense filled with athleticism and potential. Because of the turnover and the inexperience, though, it is filled with questions.

Can they rush the passer? Do they have enough depth on the line? Can their baby-faced cornerbacks cover people? Can the new safety tandem of Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea come together?

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher says the Giants have “a great mesh of young and old.” He is also aware, however, that the high number of young players means they “need to be further ahead than maybe a year ago or at other places that I have been.”

Head coach Pat Shurmur said the Giants “don’t accept mistakes, but we understand at times they happen.”

They will inevitably happen with the Giants because of the youth of the defense, and because of the fact that there are so many new faces.

How quickly Bettcher is able to bring this group together will have a major impact on how the 2019 season turns out.

NFL: New York Giants-Minicamp
Dave Gettleman on the field during a recent practice. TODAY NETWORK

From the mail

Keith Wilcox asks: I would be curious to get your take on the way I look at the big moves that Gettleman made this off season. I think the best way to look at his moves is to take into account not only the players in the moves, but also the salary cap ramifications of all of the moves over the next three years. In terms of the players in the moves, I prefer getting Peppers and a compensatory third-round pick to Landon Collins (both because of better scheme fit and the pick). I prefer having Zeitler under control for three years over Vernon under control for two years (his contract ends in 2020). You could argue that we need a pass rush, but we also needed a right guard just as much. That leaves OBJ against the picks they got in return and a ton of cap space from his contract and money saved from not signing Collins (even counting the dead cap this year). If you consider who the Giants signed/resigned with that money they essential replaced OBJ with Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate. So is a first-round pick, a third-round pick, Shepard and Tate enough for OBJ? I would say so (even without considering the diva factor). So I think if you look at all of these moves one could make a good case that Gettleman did really well this offseason. I am curious to get your thoughts.

Ed says: I received this as a mailbag question this week. This week’s mailbag was pretty lengthy, so I thought I would pull this out and answer it here.

Bottom line on how well or poorly GM Dave Gettleman has done with his ongoing roster re-construction of the Giants is going to be determined on the field over the next couple of seasons.

We can argue about each of the big moves Gettleman has made in a vacuum and try to pick apart when he got maximum value and when he didn’t.

Would the build (not rebuild since DG won’t use the word) be farther along if he had drafted a quarterback instead of Saquon Barkley a year ago? Or, traded the No. 2 pick in 2018 for a whole pile of draft picks? Maybe, but are you really going to complain about having Barkley to build around?

Could he have gotten more for Odell Beckham Jr.? I don’t think so, but maybe you do. I’m good with Jabrill Peppers and the 17th pick. Should he have used that 17th pick on a pass rusher like Montez Sweat? That’s what I might have done, but let’s see what kind of player Dexter Lawrence turns out to be. I think he’s going to be a good one.

Should he have given up two picks to move and get DeAndre Baker? The Giants could have benefitted from the picks they lost in that trade, but if Baker is as good as his spring has hinted he might be no one will care.

Getting Kevin Zeitler for Olivier Vernon? Highway robbery when you figure there was speculation the Giants were considering releasing OV to save cap space.

Should the Giants have kept Landon Collins? It would have been nice, but in my view the price tag was way too high for what Collins does.

All in all, I think Gettleman has improved roster from the time he took over. I think he has a young defense with a lot of potential, a professional offensive line and receiving corps and a quarterback of the future in place.

The ultimate judge, though, is going to be what happens on the field.

Running back value

I said above that considering how good he is it’s hard to complain about having Saquon Barkley on the Giants. Running back value, though, is a constant source of debate and the Giants’ decision to build around Barkley makes them an outlier in league where the data tells us that passing is more valuable than running.

Geoff Schwartz added his $.02 in a mailbag on Friday, saying “there’s no value in having a highly paid running back if you don’t have a quarterback and offensive line in place beforehand. Even then, I’m not sure you should ever pay a running back past their rookie contract.”

Schwartz also said Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys is the only back in the league he would break his “second contract” rule for.

It is years down the road, but the Giants will eventually face that decision with Barkley. And will probably pony up a huge contract provided he continues to produce like he did in 2018.

As long as Barkley is a Giant they are going to be an interesting case study in whether or not building your offense around a back — and devoting a significant chunk of your salary cap to that back — can be a winning formula in the current NFL.

Jason Witten 2.0?

Remember when Kentucky tight ends coach Vince Marrow compared undrafted free agent tight end C.J. Conrad to Jason Witten? Well, it will be a long time before we know if Conrad can come close to backing up that bit of hyperbole.

I am, however, going to join Patricia Traina in saying this — if he is healthy, Conrad is making the Giants’ 53-man roster. He’s open too often, catches too many balls, moves too well not to.

Experiment grounded?

On the flip side, Eric Dungey may have missed his chance to show the Giants he could transition to a hybrid quarterback/tight end role. The UDFA from Syracuse has spent most of the spring riding the exercise bike, and UDFAs who can’t get on the practice field don’t make the football team.