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Big Blue View mailbag: Saquon Barkley, James Bradberry trade, David Sills, more

The mail’s here!

It’s time once again for the Big Blue View Mailbag. I enjoyed this one as there are a range of different, interesting questions. Let’s get to it.

Ronald Buchheim asks: Why has Davis Sills disappeared? He’s been one of the best receivers in training camp for two consecutive years, and seemed to be ahead of both John Ross and Dante Pettis. But the Giants chose Ross, elevated Collins, and protected Pettis, not Sills. Do you think they’ve concluded that Sills is not an NFL receiver, despite his production in preseason games?

Ed says: Ronald, I understand that Sills has become a fan favorite. I root for him, too. Still, think about all of the underdog players who became training camp fan favorites over the years and then did nothing as players or didn’t make the team at all. I can think of Corey Washington, Alonzo Russell, Alex Bachman just at the wide receiver position. Maybe running back Javon Leake a year ago. None of those players did anything for the Giants, or for anyone else in the NFL. Yet, all were training camp stars. There are a lot more examples, but you get the point.

Training camp when players like this are going all-out on every rep and the established players they might be going against are not is not always a good indicator. Neither are preseason games when guys are often going up against other players who won’t make their teams.

Dante Pettis is a former second-round pick who has had some production in the league. There is a reason the Giants protect him most weeks on the practice squad and leave Sills available to be poached by other teams, which tellingly has not happened. Collin Johnson is a former fifth-round pick who has also had production in the league. John Ross is a former first-round pick with unmatched speed and production in the league. C.J. Board might not be a better receiver than Sills, but he is a good kickoff and punt returner and a useful player on coverage teams. Sills is none of those things.

These guys are better players. It really is that simple.

Douglas asks: A couple of weeks ago I asked about Steve Tisch and the problems that flow from the dual ownership structure. I thought your answer was fair and didn’t duck a question in order to preserve your relationship with management. Here is a related question. Over the past ten years, the Giants have not drafted well and this weakness is reflected in their long term record. The success stories seem few and far between. Yet is the scouting department held accountable? I genuinely don’t know, but given John Mara’s well known, and in a sense commendable, emphasis on loyalty-once a Giant always a Giant-is there any turnover among the scouts or are the same people doing the scouting and evaluation of prospects year after year? I am not talking about Reese and Gettleman, but the people who are a level or two down.

Ed says: Douglas, there is no true grading system for scouts. What I can tell you is that teams can and do analyze reports and player evaluations by scouts, and they know who is right or wrong most of the time.

Dave Gettleman does have long-established Giants ties, but it has been fairly well-documented that he brought some things he learned in Carolina to the Giants in terms of how players are evaluated. There has also been a fair amount of turnover in the Giants’ personnel department under Gettleman’s watch.

Marc Ross, right-hand man for Jerry Reese, was fired. Marc Koncz was brought in as co-director of player personnel. There are a couple of old-timers in the scouting department like Jeremiah Davis (32 years as a Giant scout) and Ken Sternfeld (20 years with the team). There are a couple of other personnel people who have 15 or more years with the organization, but there are also a lot of new faces.

BLESTO scout Blaise Bell is in his second season; In 2020, Hannah Burnett (college area scout) became the Giants’ first female scout; Marcus Cooper is in his fourth year as a college area scout; Chad Klunder (college scouting coordinator) is in his third year; Senior Personnel Executive Kyle O’Brien is in his first year with the Giants; Marquis Pendleton is in his second year as a college area scout after four years as the BLESTO scout; Brendan Prophett is in his third year as a college area scout; Corey Lockett is in his third year as a pro personnel scout.

I think that shows that, yes, there is turnover and the Giants are trying to bring new faces and new perspective to their personnel department.

Seth Weissman asks: My question is about the defense. Do think that Leonard Williams is just “fat and happy” now that he got his big contract and isn’t doing the same things as last season? Also, when the Giants gave up Dalvin Tomlinson to free agency, I was very concerned. How much do you think losing him to the Vikings has affected both the pass rush and the run defense?

Ed says: No, I don’t think Williams is “fat and happy.” As I wrote on Wednesday, I think Williams had a career year rushing the passer in 2020 and is playing this season more like the player that he truly is. A good one, but not a game-changing great one. The Tomlinson question was also addressed there. In short, Austin Johnson has played really well and I don’t think the loss of Tomlinson really has anything to do with the defensive issues.

Douglas Mollin asks: Did the Giants get “lucky” in a sense with the injuries to Shepard, Slayton and Golladay? I have a feeling that without those injuries, Toney doesn’t get off the bench much and spends the first 5 weeks learning the playbook and earning his reps.

I wonder if they got him some plays in the WFT and ATL games, if maybe we flip them to wins? Season would feel a lot different.

Ed says: Douglas, let’s be real. The Giants beat the Washington Football Team if Darius Slayton doesn’t drop a wide-open touchdown pass and Dexter Lawrence doesn’t jump offside on what should have been the game-ending play. They beat the Atlanta Falcons if they don’t drop three interceptions, one in the end zone by Adoree’ Jackson and two by Logan Ryan. Simple as that. They should be 3-2, regardless of anything to do with Kadarius Toney.

Now, to answer your question. No, they didn’t “get lucky” with any injuries. It is an absolute reality that Toney had barely practiced when the season began. No one just walks on to an NFL field with virtually no practice after the rest of the league has been working day-in and day-out for months and starts to dominate.

Toney’s snaps increased as he became physically and mentally capable of handling more. He went from five snaps Week 1 to 19 snaps Week 2 and actually played 46 snaps (66 percent) Week 3 against the Falcons. To finish that out, he played 49 snaps (78 percent) against New Orleans and only 37 snaps (54 percent) against Dallas.

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was asked this week if he regretted not getting Toney more involved in the first few games.

“I just think it was a function of missing all the time. He missed all the time in the spring and then really virtually all throughout training camp. He practiced for about three days before that first game, so we had talked about it,” Garrett said. “We’re for him and we like him a lot as a guy and as a player. It was just a matter of getting some practice time, getting him comfortable doing some different things and he’s responded really well.”

It would be nice if the Giants could get all of their pass-catching weapons on the field at the same time. They threw the ball to Toney 13 times in his 37 snaps, had him throw it once and run it once. He’s on the injury report this week. As much fun as his 10-catch, 189-yard performance was to watch, they’re going to get the young man killed if they have to keep giving him the ball that often.

Joseph Rivage asks: I’m not a DG hater nor am I a coaching staff hater. I want my team to succeed and I can’t help but feel like this coaching staff just isn’t going to be able to get the job done. I had high hopes when Judge came on board and assembled his staff but now it just seems like a lot of regression or just wheel spinning and no progress. I don’t think DG is any worse than a lot of GM’s out there and I think he’s had more hits than misses but the coaching staff has lost my confidence. Do you think this is the beginning of the end and we’ll be seeing a new coaching staff after this season?

Ed says: Joseph, I have said a number of times that I do not think Joe Judge is going anywhere. Ben McAdoo lasted less than two years. Pat Shurmur lasted two years. John Mara said when Judge was hired that the organization knew they would have to give him more time than that. I think they will. Is Judge ultimately going to succeed? I honestly don’t know. I do know you can’t keep blowing up the coaching staff, changing the philosophy and the schemes, and blowing up the roster every two years. Unless there is a mutiny and Judge somehow loses the locker room the way McAdoo did, I can’t see him going anywhere.

Mike Bigel asks: Perhaps this question needs no answer other than: hahaha, you can’t be serious. But, what would a Barkley (health pending) trade look like? This is most likely another lost Giants season, and a lot would have to break right to truly contend next year. Could a SB trade actually be a big net positive for the team?

Ed says: Mike, I think you might see the Giants be sellers at the upcoming NFL trade deadline. I do not think Barkley is one of the pieces you try to sell. At least not now. I don’t honestly know what the return would be in a Barkley trade. I do know that coming off his torn ACL and now another injury that it wouldn’t be anywhere near what you might get if you let him play this year out, he has a big second half of the season to show he still has the magic, and you look to deal him before the 2022 draft.

I am not saying the Giants should trade him. If they were going to do that, and I think it is a legitimate debate they need to have internally, don’t rush to do it. Let him re-establish his value first.

JColburn asks: Is it possible Barkley was picked to extend Eli’s career?

Ed says: J, I don’t think Barkley was picked necessarily to extend Eli Manning’s career. What I have said in the past and will say again is that I believe Dave Gettleman and John Mara really thought they could make one final playoff run with Manning before having to find a replacement. I do not believe they were thinking “rebuild” when they drafted Barkley. I believe they were thinking Manning, Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. together would be dynamic enough to give them a chance to reach the playoffs while they worked to fortify the rest of the roster.

Jesse Sorel asks: With the Giants season looking pretty much over and secondary looking over paid and not so good. I’m currently watching the Thursday night game and Tampa Bay could use a serviceable CB. I know the Giants just reworked James Bradberry’s contract, but what are the chances of the Giants trading Bradberry, and getting out of the back end of his contract?

Ed says: Well, if you believe a recent report from ESPN about trade deadline possibilities, the chances of trading Bradberry might be better than you think. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes that the Giants are one of the teams that has been monitoring — as potential sellers — the cornerback market.

Bradberry, who is under-performing this season and carries a massive $20.5 million cap hit in 2022, is the cornerback who might really be of interest to other teams. He has been a good player for a number of years, and would likely help a contending team. The Giants have admitted that their offseason spending splurge might leave them with a cap issue net season, and trading Bradberry could save them $13.5 million against the cap.

The problem is that Rodarius Williams is out for the season, Aaron Robinson has yet to even practice and Darnay Holmes has been buried on the bench. Trade Bradberry and the Giants have to figure out who plays the second outside cornerback spot. Julian Love? Sam Beal? Josh Jackson? I have no idea.

Eric Chavis asks: How do you think the future for the Giants and Eli Manning would have changed if the Giants signed Andrew Whitworth back in 2017? He appears to still be playing at a high level for the Rams now, and in my opinion, could have helped extend the good times of Eli’s career.

Ed says: Eric, this is just another in a long line of offensive line decisions that turned out badly for the Giants. If Jerry Reese had signed Whitworth, Ereck Flowers would have been moved to right tackle and Nate Solder never would have been signed. I think we can see that as a domino.

Now, I have to say this. I wanted the Giants to sign Whitworth. I thought that if they were going forward with an aging, immobile quarterback they need to prioritize fixing the offensive line. I did not believe Whitworth’s age should have mattered. If you were all in for a year or two with Manning, why not be all-in on Whitworth, who was entering his age 36 season and playing the best football of his career? It made sense to me, and in hindsight would have been the right thing to do. The Giants signed guys like Brandon Marshall, Shane Vereen and Rhett Ellison that offseason. Taking that money and putting it into Whitworth would have been a better idea.

All of that said, I can’t crush Reese for this decision. In hindsight, an obvious mistake. Whitworth, though, is an anamoly. How many offensive tackles actually get better in their mid- to late-30s? Whitworth is the Tom Brady of quarterbacks. What he’s doing at his age simply does not happen. It’s unheard of. This guy has given up three sacks in the last three years.

I can understand thinking that spending big dollars on an offensive tackle entering his age 36 season would be a bad idea. Whitworth, though, has made that thinking look silly.