Let’s start another NFL weekend without a New York Giants game by opening up the Big Blue View Mailbag and answering some questions.
Jason Byam asks: How long is Isaiah Wilson under contract for? My fingers are crossed that he can be a great player for the Giants in the future. I am also afraid he is going to use this year to get into football shape, get his act together, and then sign somewhere else next year.
Ed says: Jason, Wilson is a practice squad player on a practice squad contract. He is earning $9,200 per week, the negotiated amount per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Based on when he signed, he will make $138,000 if he remains on the practice squad through the end of the season.
If Wilson shows the Giants enough, maybe we see him get some playing time at the end of the season. If the Giants like what they see, whether it is on the practice squad or on the field, they will sign him to a contract for next year. If they don’t, they won’t.
I have seen some fans worrying about teams poaching him off the practice squad this season. I wouldn’t worry about that just yet. The Giants are the only team that knows what kind of condition he is in right now. I don’t think anyone is going to poach him and put him on their 53-man roster for the rest of the season with no clue what they are actually getting.
Dave Pakenham asks: Any update on Wilsons progress? Given all the challenges the O line has faced and will be facing going forward, is there any indication he is progressing towards being part of a potential contributor?
Ed says: Wow, two Isaiah Wilson questions. The Giants are currently using Wilson at guard, not right tackle. Why? Offensive line coach Rob Sale told us this week that Wilson is still working his way back into football shape — it sounds like he was significantly out of condition when the Giants signed him. Sale said it is simply easier for Wilson to work right now with protection on both sides than it is for him to be out on an island at tackle. Maybe that changes as Wilson’s conditioning improves. It certainly sounds, though, like the Giants are thinking more long-term than short-term with Wilson.
Alex Sunderland asks: Azeez slipped so deep in the 2nd round because of concerns about the health of his knee. Not remembering specifics, was it expected that the health of his knee was going to deteriorate faster than normal (a la myles jack falling to the jags when he got drafted)? Or was it just an injury that teams felt would cost him time to heal in year 1? I love what I’ve seen from his this season and it just doesn’t seem like he’s injured at all.
Ed says: Alex, Azeez Ojulari suffered a torn ACL during his final high school season. He spent most of his freshman season rehabbing the injury, but played in two games at the end of that season. The knee caused him no issues in his two full seasons at Georgia.
The fear from some doctors, as I understand it, is long term. How long before the knee becomes arthritic? Could it shorten his career? The Giants apparently did not share those concerns.
Robert Forgione asks: It seemed Daniel Jones did really well throwing the ball in his rookie year. He had multiple games with two plus touchdowns, and performed pretty well. Was this because of Shurmur, teams not having any tape on him or all the above? Also, watching Dallas and Kellen Moore calling plays, then watching Garrett and Giants call plays is like watching two different sports. What do you think?
Ed says: Robert, it’s funny how some fans want to glorify Pat Shurmur’s offensive play-calling. Fans of the Denver Broncos, where he is now offensive coordinator, can’t be rid of Shurmur fast enough.
If you really compare 2019 to 2021, Jones is equal or marginally better in every statistical category except touchdown passes.
I understand that there is a big difference watching the Dallas Cowboys’ offense vs. the Giants’ offense. Or, any of the other top-scoring teams in the league. Using the Cowboys as an example, though, you have to be realistic.
- Dallas has one of the best offensive lines in the league. The Giants are, for the most part, playing a collection of backups.
- None of these Dallas play-makers — Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Dalton Schultz — has missed a game. The only Giants receivers/running backs to play in every game are Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith and Elijhaa Penny. None of those players are generally first options. So, yeah, it is going to look different.
When you have to protect your offensive line because you have three starters on injured reserve, you throw the ball quicker and shorter. When your playmakers are sitting on the trainers’ table, your offense is going to suffer. It doesn’t matter who is calling the plays or what the scheme is, if you can’t protect or block for the run and you don’t have playmakers to get the ball to you aren’t going to score many points.
Dave asks: Ed, many people point to the field as the source of our injuries. I have a couple of questions.
1- Is the turf new this season?
2- What is the Jets’ injury situation since they play on the same field? I assume the practice fields are the same too.
Ed says: Dave, I don’t know about “many people” complaining about the MetLife Stadium turf. I do know that members of the San Francisco 49ers complained about the turf early in the 2020 season when they had several players injured in a game at MetLife against the New York Jets.
I know that the turf, which was newly-installed in 2020, was inspected and certified it as in compliance with NFL policies. I know that Logan Ryan of the Giants voiced concerns about turf fields in general earlier this year. Players would prefer to play on grass, and I don’t blame them.
I don’t really know the Jets’ injury situation, at least as far as it relates to injuries suffered at MetLife.
The practice fields have nothing to do with it. The teams do not practice at the stadium. The Giants’ practice facility is in the Meadowlands Sports Complex where the stadium is, but it is a separate facility. For what it’s worth, the Giants have 3½ outdoor grass practice fields at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center and an indoor turf field. The Jets’ practice facility is in Florham Park. They also have grass fields outdoors and a turf field indoors.
Bob Donnelly asks: It’s no secret the Giants have a severe scoring issue. They have yet to record more than 2 offensive TDS in regulation this season (3 TDs were in OT vs NO). They rank dead last in red-zone efficiency.
In terms of root causes, how would you rank the following:
- Play-calling/scheme issues
- QB performance
- O Line performance
- Receiver/RB injuries
- Execution (Penalties, dropped passes, route running/adjustments, ball security)
Ed says: Bob, I’m not sure if you are asking about overall root causes, or purely root causes for the red zone issues. I’m going to answer in an over-arching way, including the red zone. All of the factors you mentioned are inter-related, meaning that there is crossover. I don’t think I can rank them, but I will try to touch on each.
Of course there have been times when I have disagreed with Jason Garrett’s play-calling. It feels like the Giants haven’t targeted Kyle Rudolph enough in the red zone, but he has eight red zone targets and only Sterling Shepard with nine has more. It is partly because of injury, but it is annoying that Kenny Golladay has one red zone target all season.
I didn’t like handing the ball to Devontae Booker twice up the middle from the 1-yard line vs. the Carolina Panthers with an offensive line that can’t get a push. I have thought some trick plays were called at curious times.
Scheme-wise, though, one thing to remember is that how aggressive/conservative the Giants are is not Garrett’s decision. That is Joe Judge’s decision. I have said consistently that I think Judge has been too conservative in fourth down and game-on-the-line situations all season.
There is a made-up word we use in my house, the origins of which I do not remember, but I think it applies when I look at Daniel Jones. He is “confuzzling” to me. Confusing. Puzzling. Confounding. Whatever. He’s just hard to figure. He shows you so many good things. Toughness, ability to make plays with his legs, the arm to make every throw, a good temperament. Yet, the Giants don’t score. Jones rarely puts up big numbers. The Giants don’t win.
Quarterbacks always get more blame than they deserve when teams lose, and more credit than they deserve when teams win.
You can’t fumble on the opposing team’s 13-yard line, like Jones did against the Denver Broncos in Week 1. I’m sure some folks are still arguing that the Darius Slayton dropped touchdown in Week 2 was an overthrow by Jones. In Week 3, Jones mishandled a red zone shotgun snap, costing the Giants 11 yards. You can’t stare down receivers and throw easy picks like Jones did Week 6 against Kansas City, gifting the Chiefs possession in the red zone.
Daniel Jones is NOT the problem with the Giants’ offense. I would be silly, though, to argue that he is blameless.
Offensive line performance
In its injured state, the offensive line is of course part of the reason for the Giants’ struggles on offense.
Despite having run the ball somewhat better in recent weeks, the Giants are still 30th in Adjusted Line yards per Football Outsiders and 25th in overall run-blocking grade per Pro Football Focus. We have seen the Giants fail when trying to run the ball in short-yardage situations around the goal line.
The Giants are 27th in the league in rushing first downs. When you can’t get enough push from your offensive line to get a yard that is a problem, especially in the red zone where passing windows are so condensed.
In the passing game, the Giants have been increasingly throwing the ball quickly. In the Giants’ first five games, Daniel Jones averaged 7.22, 7.78, 7.60, 10.05 and 7.54 yards per attempt. Jones has not averaged more than 6.94 yards per attempt since. Much of that, of course, has to do with the absence of left tackle Andrew Thomas.
The Giants are trying to protect their line, and their quarterback, with quick, short passes. They’re hoping for yards after catch. Problem is, the guys who might give that to them either haven’t been on the field or have been playing at less than 100 percent. Which brings us to the next category.
Receiver/running back injuries
Devontae Booker and Elijhaa Penny are capable players who have done a nice job since Saquon Barkley injured his ankle Week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys. Don’t kid yourself, though. Neither player can make players miss at the second level or do the extraordinary things a healthy Barkley can do.
The Giants averaged 20.75 points with a less-than-100 percent Barkley in the lineup over their first four games. Since Week 5, they have averaged 19.2 points per game. It’s not a huge difference, and not all attributable to Barkley being out as there have been other players missing. Still, it’s a difference.
Sterling Shepard has missed four games, Kenny Golladay, John Ross, Darius Slayton and C.J. Board, who is on season-ending IR have missed three, Kadarius Toney missed one, Evan Engram missed two.
I went through the lineup combination charts at NFLGSIS, a site used by media for game and season statistical tracking. I can find SIX plays this season where the Giants have had Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay on the field at the same time. Six plays! Complain about whatever else you want, but not having the players on the field that your offense is built around matters.
Execution (Penalties, dropped passes, route running/adjustments, ball security)
Yes, all of these have been part of the problem.
The Giants are 20th in the league in penalties per game at 6.44. That’s pretty good. The problem has been that so many offensive penalties have come at awful times, and their league-worst 12 special teams penalties have cost them 105 yards, third-most by an special teams unit in the league.
Against Washington, an Andrew Thomas false start stopped a drive that had reached the Football Team’s 27-yard line. The Giants got no points. In that same game, a C.J. Board holding penalty (maybe a phantom one) negated a touchdown and cost the Giants four points. In the fourth quarter, back-to-back false starts by Nate Solder and Thomas pushed the Giants from Washington’s 38 to the 48-yard line. The Giants ended up with a 55-yard Graham Gano field goal.
Against Atlanta, offensive penalties impacted three drives.
Against Kansas City, the Giants’ offense committed three penalties in the final 1:36 of the first half to wreck a scoring opportunity.
Per STATS.com the Giants are fifth in the league in dropped passes with 14. We have talked about some inopportune fumbles. Sterling Shepard’s 2-yard pass route on a third-and-4 from the Chiefs’ 7-yard line is an example of poor execution.
So, it isn’t just one thing holding the offense back. It’s a combination of many things.