I visited with Scouting Academy Director Dan Hatman, one of my favorite NFL analysts, on an episode of the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast a few days ago. We were talking about the job Dave Gettleman has done as GM and the quality of the roster, and Hatman had an interesting observation.
Hatman is a scout at heart, and he looks at talent the way I scout would. Scouts often use color-coded charting to categorize players, and Hatman offered this chart:
- Blue — Blue-chip or star players
- Purple — Ascending players ... could turn into blue ones
- Red — Solid starter, gets the job done, not actively looking to replace but not a difference-maker.
With that chart in mind, how does Hatman see the Giants’ roster?
“There’s a lot of red players on the roster. There’s a lot of guys that can get things done ... the Dalvin Tomlinson’s and Dexter Lawrence’s, even the [Lorenzo] Carter’s are turning into red players. Will Hernandez is looking like a red player,” Hatman said. “The problem is I just don’t know where the blue guys are. When you look at the roster I don’t know where the blue guys are and I don’t necessarily see a bunch of purple guys that are right there on the cusp of becoming blue players.
“It’s not a roster devoid of players by any stretch of the imagination. But if you were to sit down and say who are the three guys you know in every game are going to be on par with the other explosive players in the league, chance to be All-Pro types, who are the blue guys on the roster I’m not sure who I’m jumping up and down to put on that list.”
I tend to think Hatman is right. I look up and down the roster and I don’t necessarily see bad players, or guys who absolutely shouldn’t be on the field or on NFL rosters. With exceptions at a couple of spots, of course, and the reality is almost every team has a couple of spots that need to be upgraded.
The difficulty is that right now the Giants’ only game-changing “blue” player is on crutches waiting for knee surgery.
Jason Garrett’s offense
I started with the “Blue-Purple-Red” discussion because it plays into the topic of Jason Garrett and the struggling Giants’ offense.
The Saquon-Barkley less Giants are averaging 12.7 points per game, which is now last in the league and 3.5 points behind the No. 31 New York Jets after they scored 28 points Thursday night to raise their season average to 16.2 points per game.
To be fair, of course, the Giants weren’t doing anything on offense before Barkley got hurt.
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who is used to this sort of thing after dealing with owner Jerry Jones and the Dallas media for more than a decade, is under fire. He’s taken fire for not using enough pre-snap motion against the Pittsburgh Steelers, to which he explained you really don’t have much motion when you’re in five-wide empty sets. He’s taken fire for not using enough play action last week against the San Francisco 49ers, to which he explained that play-action is pretty much useless when you are behind by multiple scores in the fourth quarter.
He’s taken fire for the lack of a running game ... for Daniel Jones’ turnovers ... for the lack of blocking ... for not using Evan Engram correctly (fire from me, incidentally) ... for, well, for being Jason Garrett.
What fire is justified? What fire is just frustrated fans — and media members who think they could be offensive coordinators — poking the bear (shooting the Cowboy?) because they need a target?
There are things I wish Garrett would do. I wish he would use play-action a little more. I wish he would dust off a Pat Shurmur thing and get Daniel Jones outside the pocket (to his right, please) a little more. I wish he would find some deeper targets for Evan Engram, averaging a ridiculously puny 4.8 yards on 20 targets thus far. I wish Garrett would be a bit more creative.
Yet, there’s part of me that gets the problem Garrett has — and will continue to have. You have to crawl before you can walk. You have to be able to execute the basics — you have to pass elementary school before you go to grad school. In other words, it’s unfair to expect Garrett — if it’s even in his DNA — to be as creative as teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams with the wounded, inexperienced group he currently has. Shoot, the Giants couldn’t execute an end-around vs. the 49ers.
Garrett knows the Giants need more big plays.
“You have to be able to make explosive plays both in the run game and in the pass game. We haven’t been able to do that,” Garrett said during the week. “At different times, we’ve done a good job sustaining drives. We’ve had some long drives in each of the games. We have to do that more consistently, but we have to make some explosive plays. Explosive plays typically give you great opportunities to score on those drives. We haven’t done a good enough job of that. Across the board, we just have to do a better job.”
Head coach Joe Judge said right from the beginning that he wants schemes that are flexible, that can be multiple, and that he wants coaches who are able to make adjustments. Garrett is now charged with adjusting. He doesn’t have the players to simply call a play, line up and beat the opposition.
How is Garrett going to adapt? Whether he wants to or not, whether he thinks his young charges are ready to handle it or not, Garrett may have to dig deeper into his playbook than he intended to.
“That becomes Garrett’s undertaking,” Hatman said on my show the other day. ‘If you’re going to have red players then you have to create the explosives schematically if they’re not going to be there just because your guys are better than the other team’s guys.”
Garrett needs to be better. I’m willing, though, to give him some rope because of the circumstances. With Daniel Jones’ development remaining the Giants’ biggest priority, though, this is going to get interesting. Does Garrett have the imagination and flexibility that appears to be needed? We’ll see.
‘Kudos’ to Patrick Graham
Consider this a bonus “Kudos.”
I love what Graham, the first-year defensive coordinator said on Thursday about coaching young players. Let me give you the full, somewhat lengthy quote, then I will tell you why I love it.
“When you’re dealing with young players and this is my experience over 11 or 12 years whatever it’s been, when you’re dealing with young players, hey let’s play for this. In this situation let’s play for this. When they get out there on the field and all of the sudden it’s something else and they’re not sure, or they think it’s something else, I’m like if I tell you to play for something, if it’s something else then it’s on me. When you’re a young player and you don’t have as many years of experience or plays in this league, I’m asking them to trust me. Obviously, you go through not having a spring, a shortened training camp or no games. It’s a process to learn that trust. I’m not saying the guys are out there like I don’t trust Pat. Just as a young player it’s natural that you’re thinking about all the variables. I’m saying listen, I’m anticipating this variable right here, you play for that. If something else happens, it’s on me. I think as young players when they start believing in that and again, I have to be right or they have to be right and we have to have some success with it. They ask Jerome [Henderson], they ask Blev [Anthony Blevins] or Mike Treier, how did you get to that conclusion. Once they figure that out, then they start looking for it then they start trusting themselves to identify that stuff. It works out pretty well.”
I love it because Graham is telling his young players to get out of their heads, not to think. He will do the thinking. He will take the responsibility if it goes right, or if it blows up and goes wrong. He’s not asking them to figure stuff out that they probably aren’t ready to figure out.
It’s the defensive coach asking players to just play the responsibility he gives them, and taking the blame if that doesn’t work out. It’s what a coach should do.