Let’s open our first Big Blue View mailbag of 2020 and see what New York Giants-related questions we can answer!
Marcus Mewborn asks: There’s always been a saying in the NFL that the best way to gauge what a young player might become doesn’t show until their third year. Giants have a few players on the roster who’ll be going into their third year as a pro. Which one do you believe has the most to prove and why?
Ed says: Marcus, you’re really talking about Saquon Barkley, Will Hernandez, Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill. Truth is, none of them really had the kind of second seasons the Giants hoped for and that is part of the reason why the Giants will soon have a new head coach. I think the guy with the most potential to improve remains Carter. If he ever maximizes his physical skill set he could be a tremendous player. Jamie Collins of the New England Patriots just had his best season at age 30. Shaq Barrett (19.5 sacks) had a breakout season in his sixth year in the league.
Robert Culpepper asks: Over 12 games Daniel Jones managed to set an NFL single season record for fumbles lost. Do you see this as simply a case of bad luck or is there a structural issue that will continue to be a problem?
Ed says: Robert, Jones fumbled a couple of times while he was running and either couldn’t or didn’t get down before he was hit. This isn’t really a “structural” thing, though. This is about Jones’ pocket presence or pocket awareness. It’s about him gaining a sense for the pass rush and learning to get the ball out more quickly so that he isn’t in danger. Per Next Gen Stats, Jones’ time to throw last season was 2.84 seconds. In the four games he played, Eli Manning was at 2.66. Manning was getting the ball out faster. It’s an area where Jones has to improve, and where I believe he will.
Bruce Frazer asks: With the search for the next head coach under way, and given the developmental needs on the defensive side, would it be in the teams best interest to hire a coach with a background in defense vs offense? It has been many years since the Giants had a head coach that was influential and strong willed from a defensive standpoint. Wouldn’t they benefit more by hiring a head coach with a background in defensive development while hiring an offensive coordinator with exceptional skills in QB development and play design?
Ed says: Bruce, I personally don’t give a hoot whether they hire an offensive or defensive head coach. I want them to hire a guy who can coach the whole team. I guy with a strong philosophy who can lead. Players liked Pat Shurmur, but I couldn’t really tell you what Shurmur believed in. That’s part of why he wasn’t a successful head coach. Offense, defense doesn’t matter. Can the new coach attract quality assistant coaches and can he lead men? Can he galvanize a locker room and an organization behind whatever message it is he is trying to sell? That last part is what Tom Coughlin did when he was at his best.
Douglas Mollin asks: We have the #4 pick and lots of cap room. We will have a new coach who we have to assume will get more “juice from the squeeze” of these current players. Danny will have a full training camp as the #1 to build on a promising 2019 rookie season. We also have a tougher schedule than 2019 (which was one of the easiest in the league). Obviously, there are a lot of variables between now and the 2020 season, but is it safe to say that playing competitive .500 football is the hurdle Getty needs to clear? I’m not even saying playoffs, just have more Giant fans than visitors at home games in December. If it’s another five-win season, would Mara be prepared to replace the GM?
Ed says: Douglas, I don’t know what parameters ownership will put on the situation. I think that whoever the head coach is ownership will be watching closely to see how well Dave Gettleman works with that person. John Mara has been clear that the team needs to win more games — they’ve only won 12 in the past three seasons. If it looks like the relationship works, they will ride it out. If it doesn’t look like it will work, Gettleman will probably be out.
Wayne Mirsky asks: What are your thoughts of the new head coach of the team hiring Rex Ryan as the defensive coordinator and turning over the defense to him similar to what the Jets did with Gregg Williams and the Rams did with Wade Phillips? Ryan was not the best head coach when he was one but he is a heck of a defensive mind and a defensive coach.
Ed says: Wayne, I’m not a Rex Ryan fan. I honestly don’t know if he would go back to being a defensive coordinator where he wasn’t the star of the show, the main attraction. That said, if whoever the head coach is has a good relationship with Ryan and it’s something both are comfortable with then whatever works.
BgBlu56 asks: I just finished reading Pat Traina’s article about the Leonard Williams trade, which followed Gettleman’s press conference. Her reading of DG’s logic was that in trading a 3rd and a 4th (if resigned), the Giants felt that they couldn’t get as quality player with that pick entering into his prime as they did with LW ... other than the cost difference between a draft pick and a FA. She even did research showing as much. What’s your take on that?
Ed says: First, if you haven’t read Pat’s piece on the Williams trade, you should. I get what Gettleman was thinking. If you figure you get B.J. Hill, drafted 69th in 2018, with the third-round pick the Giants gave up, Gettleman was thinking Williams, the sixth overall pick in 2015, is a better player. Which is true. Gettleman was also thinking Williams is a 25-year-old player entering his prime who makes the defensive line better. Which is also true.
Still, it’s a matter of degree. A matter of situation. A matter of maximizing your assets or properly allocating your resources. I have no problem with the evaluation that Williams is a good player you would like to have on your team, even though he isn’t a dominant one.
The problem is the cost, especially for an asset there is no guarantee you will be able to keep beyond the time he already spent playing for the Giants in 2019.
First, the Giants spent a lot of time and effort trying to build up draft capital for 2020. Then they spent some of it on a player who might not be a Giant next season. To guarantee that he is a Giant and doesn’t leave them at the altar the Giants are probably going to have to pay him more than he’s worth, using more of the cap space they have built up than they should. They have also hurt Hill’s development, as Williams’ presence drove Hill’s playing time down. So, the asset allocation doesn’t add up.
I think Gettleman was right that Williams, despite the lack of sacks or splash plays, is a good player who helps a team. Where Gettleman was wrong is that the cost of the assets he gave up and the contract he will have to surrender to keep him in a Giants uniform probably outweigh the talent Williams displays on the field.
This is the conundrum with Gettleman. He seems to be a good evaluator of talent. Does he, though, clearly understand how to maximize resources and construct a roster?
Kyle Kilday asks: Is part of the issue with the Giants’ D that DG and Bettcher aren’t on the same page? It seems like base alignment is kind of just an on-paper thing, but it also seems like DG is out there acquiring/drafting guys for a 4-3 scheme. Should they just switch back? Their DL rotation looks pretty good if they consistently ran out a 4-man front.
Ed says: Oh, Kyle, there is so much to unpack with this question. Which is why I’m so happy you asked it. First, let’s forget this “Gettleman and James Bettcher aren’t on the same page” stuff. Remember what Gettleman said this week about the GM and the front office/scouting department really being “support staff” for the coaches? Do you really think so many former Arizona Cardinals would have been signed as free agents if Bettcher hadn’t been the defensive coordinator. You think Gettleman, on his own accord, would have signed the ancient Antoine Bethea instead of former Carolina Panthers safety Tre Boston, a much younger and better player at this point in his career? Kareem Martin? Olsen Pierre? Deone Bucannon? Please. Those guys were all Giants because Bettcher wanted them to be Giants, so Gettleman went out and made that happen. He gave the coach what he wanted, what he felt he needed to succeed. That’s what a good GM tries to do.
Gettleman has also admitted that finding players for Bettcher’s system was different for him, as most of his career was spent finding players who fit in 4-3 systems. Now, the whole 3-4 vs. 4-3 thing. I can’t find the actual snap numbers, but while the 3-4 was considered the Giants base defense I would venture a guess they were in a three-man front alignment on far fewer snaps than they were in a four-man front in 2019. That’s because teams are in sub packages with extra defensive backs so often. So, for me, I don’t want to hear the ‘should the Giants be a 3-4 or 4-3 defense’ debate. Every defense, no matter what it’s called, turns into a hybrid of some sort. I just want good, versatile players who can cover in the back end and rush the passer in the front end.
Jim Moriarity asks: I’m wondering why Nick Gates isn’t being penciled in as a starter next year (likely RT, but could be virtually anywhere). He outplayed his line mates the last 2 weeks at RT then RG (very high PFF grades), and passed the eye test. This is being sent before (I hope) he starts vs. Philly, but he seems to be performing extremely well (I think he played well against the Bears last year as well). The ability to pencil him in at tackle would allow the Giants to adjust free agency and/or draft strategy to some degree (assuming “best player available at position of need” strategy).
I know a few games is not a lot of experience, but rookies get started on day 1 (Flowers) with no NFL experience. Thoughts?
Ed says: Jim, how can we pencil Gates in as a starter when we don’t know who the head coach or offensive line coach will be? When we don’t know what will happen in free agency or who will be selected in the draft? It’s too early for that.
Now, that said I would like to see Gates given an opportunity to earn a starting role next season. The guard spots are set with Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler, provided both are healthy. Gates is not a left tackle. That leaves either right tackle or center.
I’m hopeful that whoever the head coach is Gettleman will prevail upon him to take a loooooong look at Gates at one of those two spots. Truth be told, I think Gates is a better interior lineman than edge lineman. That means I could live with him at right tackle next season depending on how everything else works out. I would, though, really like to see the Giants give him an opportunity at center. It’s a position he has never played, but told me this season that he spent time trying to learn it. Jon Halapio made a similar transition from guard to center during his Giants career, and I would like to see Gates get that chance.
Have questions about the Giants? E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the best ones will be answered in an upcoming mailbag.