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Big Blue View mailbag, 12/26: Daniel Jones, playoffs, draft questions, more

The mail’s here!

Mass Mailings Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT via Getty Images

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Will Santa bring the New York Giants an upset victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday? While we ponder that, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and see what pops out.

Ronald Balsamo asks: As a Gator fan I love their tight end Pitts. He has a great catch radius. What do you think of the Giants drafting him even though we have Engram. I think he is a great weapon for the offense.

Ed says: Ronald, I’m going to be honest. You know more about Kyle Pitts than I do. I simply don’t crave the draft the way Chris, Nick and Joe do and I have only done some cursory studying. That said, to get Pitts it would appear the Giants would have to use their first pick on him — if he’s even still on the board. That’s just not something I can see them doing.

I do believe strongly that they need to upgrade their receiving corps. I think, though, if they do it in Round 1 of the draft it would be with a wide receiver like Devonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase or Jaylen Waddle.

Now, if they think Pitts is better than all of those guys and they have a plan for how to use both Pitts and Evan Engram that would be a possibility. I just don’t think it’s a likely one.

Douglas Mollin asks: The Browns (0-16) and Giants (3-13) both had a terrible 2017 season and ended up picking 1 and 2 in the 2018 draft.

Since that time, the Giants are 14-32 while the Browns are 23-22-1 and likely heading to the playoffs.

It wasn’t an easy three seasons for the Browns, either — three HCs and two GMs, plus the OBJ trade to overcome. And they developed their own rookie QB over that time.

How did they go from 0-16 to the playoffs? Where did they go right and we go wrong?

Ed says: Douglas, this is a fair question. Let’s examine it.

It is true that the Browns were 0-16 in 2017. When you look closely, though, they were in better position to enact a quick turnaround than the Giants were.

The Browns were coming out of their fully analytics driven ‘Moneyball’ experiment with Sashi Brown as GM. With Brown in control the Browns knew how to accumulate draft capital. They just didn’t have a clue how to evaluate talent and use it properly.

John Dorsey came in as GM and was gifted with four picks in the first 35. He landed Baker Mayfield No. 1, star cornerback Denzel Ward No. 4, offensive lineman Austin Corbett No. 33 and star running back Nick Chubb No. 35.

He also used fourth- and seventh-round picks to trade for Jarvis Landry, and still ended up with nine selections in the draft. That’s how you kick start a rebuild!

What Cleveland did is why I was a proponent of trading the No. 2 overall pick if the Giants weren’t going to use it on a quarterback like Sam Darnold or Josh Allen.

The Giants took Saquon Barkley No. 2 and Will Hernandez No. 34. A great player and a good one, but not nearly the franchise-changing haul the Browns landed. Throw in the fact that the 2018 free-agent signings didn’t bring the Giants what they had hoped. The Mayfield selection also put Cleveland a year ahead of the Giants in the installation of the future franchise quarterback.

The Browns have also rebuilt their offensive line more quickly than the Giants. They signed Jack Conklin and drafted Jedrick Wills, but got lucky with Wyatt Teller. A fifth-round pick by Buffalo in 2018, the Browns gave up fifth- and sixth-round picks to get Teller a year ago. The Bills would probably like to have that one back. A year from now, maybe Shane Lemieux will have become the Giants’ version of Teller.

The Browns also were willing to give Kareem Hunt a chance when no one else was.

The marriage of Kevin Stefanski’s play-calling philosophy with Mayfield and the pieces the Browns have on offense has also been perfect.

Mostly, when I look through all of this, the genesis of all of the Browns’ current success came from what Dorsey was able to do in 2018 with all of the assets that had been accumulated before he came on board.

The Giants are a year behind the Browns in the development of their quarterback, and they have not benefitted from a 2018-like draft haul the way Cleveland did. So, the process is taking longer. They are making progress, but more painstakingly.

At least, that’s how I see it.

Bob Donnelly asks: As we prepare for the final two weeks of the season the NFC East could finish with a half game between first and last with a three-way tie for first. That of course would require the Football Team to lose the last two, the Eagles to lose to Dallas and beat the Football Team, Dallas to beat Philly and lose to the Giants and the Giants to lose to Baltimore and beat Dallas. As improbable as that may be it would leave result in standings of:

Washington 6 - 10: division 3 - 3
Dallas 6 - 10: division 2 - 4
New York 6 -10: division 3 - 3
Philly 5 - 9 1: division 3 - 3

Tiebreaker gives the division crown to NY with a better division record than Dallas and the head to head over Washington.

While there is something to be said for the title and playoff experience as a fan should I be happy with the progress made and root for the best draft position possible by dropping the last two games? (As painful as another loss to Dallas would be) or should I root for the title?

Ed says: Bob, you probably already know that I am never a proponent of rooting for your team not to win. I think I have been clear about that over the years.

Of course you — and all Giants fans — should be rooting for the team to make the playoffs. Maybe the Giants would get crushed in an opening-round playoff game. But, maybe they wouldn’t. Don’t you want a memory like the one Seattle Seahawks’ fans have from 2010, when they made the playoffs at 7-9 and beat the New Orleans Saints in the wild-card game, 41-36? Can’t get that without getting to the playoffs.

I get so tired of the ‘but we get a higher draft pick if we lose’ malarkey. Sure, you can draft a great player at, say, No. 5. You can also draft a bust. You can also draft a great player — or a bust — at No. 19.

Players always use the “control what I can control” cliche, and I get tired of it. It’s kind of applicable here, though. Root for your team to be the best that it can be, and then to do a good job scouting and selecting the best players it possibly can whenever their turn comes up in the draft. An earlier pick doesn’t guarantee a better player, so why obsess about it?

Jim Moriarty asks: How do you evaluate a quarterback with poor receivers and a poor offensive line? Yes, he fumbles too much, but we haven’t seen him with good receivers and line. Agreed?

Ed says: Jim, obviously you are asking about Daniel Jones. I agree that we haven’t seen Jones perform in optimal circumstances. There are, though, things we can evaluate. Including how he has handled those less than optimal circumstances.

We know there are issues on the Giants’ offense. The offensive line has improved throughout the course of the season, but there is still work to be done. The receivers haven’t helped him enough. Without Saquon Barkley there isn’t a single “special” player on offense to help the quarterback. So, no, we don’t know what Jones would look like with a perfectly-functioning group around him. Let’s be real, though. Not everyone can have the Kansas City Chiefs’ personnel. Every team — and every quarterback — has issues to deal with.

I think you have to go beyond the pure numbers to evaluate Jones. I also think you have to factor in that while has had fumbled the ball far too often in his short career he was doing much better in this area during the stretch immediately before he got hurt. I’m discounting the three-fumble game against Arizona because the guy was a sitting duck who, in my estimation, couldn’t adequately protect himself and shouldn’t have been out there.

I thought this was revealing from Jones the other day:

“In the games we’ve won, we’ve protected the ball better. I think at times, particularly early in the year, I felt like I was pressing to make a play when it wasn’t there. Learning when it’s not there, when the best decision is to protect the ball and make sure you’re controlling that. I’ve learned a lot through certain situations and situations we’ve played in in different games.”

I think when you evaluate Jones you factor in the fumbles and the poor decisions, but also the progress he was showing in those area. It’s one of the reasons his injuries were so frustrating. Seeing if that upward arc would have continued would have been telling. It leaves the evaluation somewhat incomplete.

Still, there’s a lot to like. The arm talent. The mobility. The toughness. It’s apparent he has the respect of his teammates and his coach. Which is a lot more than you can say for Dwayne Haskins.

It’s pretty clear from what coach Joe Judge said on Wednesday that the Giants intend to go forward with Jones. That’s really the only evaluation that matters.

Matt Totaro asks: What are your thoughts on if the Giants would have hired Matt Rhule instead of Judge? Just about everyone had Rhule going to the Giants and some even had said it was a done deal. Do you feel the Giants would be worse, better or the same position now and future trajectory? What if Nate Solder would’ve played this year, how do you think the line play would be and development? What if Ross Cockrell actually signed, who is hardly being used in Tampa, would the defense be better off?

Ed says: Matt, the Carolina Panthers are 4-10. Matt Rhule is not the greatest thing since sliced bread. Yes, he was the odds-on favorite to become coach of the Giants. Yes, the Panthers swooped in before the Giants had a chance to interview him. I think if Rhule really wanted the Giants job, he’d have it. He wanted the best deal with the most authority, and he found it in Carolina. Good for him. I think the Giants are very happy with Joe Judge, I think he has them pointed in the right direction and if he can build on what he’s done this year he could enjoy a long run as Giants head coach.

Solder? Is he any better or worse than Cam Fleming? I don’t think he would have made much difference, to be honest. In the end, Andrew Thomas is probably going to be farther along because he had to play left tackle all season.

Ross Cockrell? I think the Giants are very happy to have ended up with Logan Ryan, which might not have happened if Cockrell signed. Ryan is a better player, and his leadership has been invaluable.

Michael Schack asks: Is something wrong with Corey Coleman? Coach Judge (on who I share your opinions) seems to have a problem with Coleman and it makes no sense. Dion Lewis does not have the burst Coleman showed (pre-injury) and Lewis has not taken care of the football. I recall no instance the last few seasons when Coleman had fumbling issues. I get that Lewis is a former Patriot with whom Judge has a connection, and is a RB, whereas Coleman is neither (I don’t count his brief tenure on the Pats) and there is perhaps less need for a WR on the current active roster. However, Gallman has shown he can catch the ball and block, so he should be able to handle the 3rd down duties Lewis keeps getting (and rarely producing on), and Gallman hits holes better and faster than either Lewis or Morris. Coleman can return kicks and in the abbreviated “pre-season” Coleman looked good as a receiver. Unless his speed is gone, I would much rather see Coleman out there than Dion Lewis. Your thoughts? Are we fans missing something?

Ed says: Michael, you aren’t necessarily missing something. I think, though, you are forgetting something when it comes to Coleman and a lot of physically talented players. There are lot of fast guys who never make it in the NFL. A lot of big, strong guys who can’t make it as NFL linemen. A lot of great athletes who aren’t great football players.

Corey Coleman flopped in Cleveland. He flopped in Buffalo. He flopped in New England. He did a nice job in 2018 for the Giants returning a few kickoffs. That’s all he has ever done in his NFL career.

Have you noticed that he’s not even in the league? Even with expanded practice squads that allow more veteran players to be included, Coleman can’t find an NFL job.

He can run fast in a straight line. Big deal. Can he run pass routes adequately? Can he learn a playbook? Is he a good teammate? Does he work at his craft? I don’t know the answers to a lot of those questions, but the organizations he has been in and the coaches he has had do. They have been exposed to him every day, and they know a lot more about him than the rest of us do.

The league is telling you it doesn’t believe Corey Coleman is a very good football player. That’s really all there is to it.

As for the Giants and kickoff returns, yes I believe they need someone more explosive than Dion Lewis returning kickoffs. There are times when it feels like there is an alley and Lewis can’t quite get to it, but he is still 13th in the league in kickoff returns at 23.2 yards per attempt. That’s not horrible. I’m not sure the Giants have a better option on the roster. For what it’s worth, Corey Ballentine has averaged 29.0 yards per return since being claimed on waives by the New York Jets. As for the third-down back stuff, I have no problem with Lewis in that role.

JM asks: In one of your columns this week you mentioned that Jones had exhibited solid play prior to his injury. I’m trying to figure out what you mean by this? Prior to the injury his statistics were dead last for QB production in the league (9 passing and rushing TDs) in 11 games. As was accurately stated by another columnist, “Jones hasn’t been the reason why the Giants have won football games but has been the reason why they have lost games”. To me it seems his biggest contribution in the wins is not turning the ball over. Is this how low the Giants have set the bar for the QB position? How can the least productive starting QB in the league be looked at with such certainty as next year’s starting QB? With all the young QB’s that have looked good right out of college (Herbert, Hurts, Jackson, Murray, Allen, Watson, etc) why are the Giants content with Jones? I have to believe that what we currently hear from the Giants concerning Jones is not to be taken in earnest as at this time that is their only option. If you believe what you see with your eyes and that numbers don’t lie, one has to suspect that next year’s QB has not been finalized and following the season there will be some interesting meetings between the coach, GM and owner. Your thoughts?

Ed says: JM, what I meant by that is very simple. Before he was injured, Jones was in a stretch of games where he was making better decisions and turning the ball over much less frequently. he had a six-game stretch before the hamstring injury where he fumbled only three times. From Weeks 6 to 9 he threw 6 of his 8 touchdown passes.

I’m not going to rehash a lot of what I have said in other answers, but Jones is not solely responsible for the Giants’ offensive struggles. He is still a developing, young quarterback without enough help.

If you can absolutely 100 percent guarantee that you can put a quarterback in place who will be better than Jones from Day 1, fine. If not, the Giants seem to believe in his talent and his intangibles and I don’t blame them for wanting to play this out and see exactly where it goes. It’s not easy to find the right quarterback. The Giants still believe they might have that guy.