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Big Blue View mailbag: Giants offensive line, NFL Draft, Leonard Williams, more

The mail’s here!

“Kudos” to New York Giants fans who keep filling the Big Blue View Mailbag with quality questions. Let’s open it up and see what we can answer this week.

ctscan123 asks: As we continue on in amateur GM mode, I’d like to say that I am a bit concerned with my fellow amateur GMs. The Giants ended last season with the worst pass blocking offensive line in the NFL according to PFF and didn’t do much better run blocking. Granted, the line improved at the end of the season, but I don’t think we are anywhere near an adequate unit. This inadequacy is even more troubling considering the amount of draft capital that we have tied up in two players, Barkley and Jones who’s play is most directly reliant on the line. when people complain about Joneses play, I can’t even wrap my head around it. How could you possibly judge the success of a second year quarterback with the worst offensive line in the league?

Which brings me to my issues with my fellow armchair GM’s… Where are the mock drafts where we address guard and or tackle in the first or second day? Where are the free agency reviews that don’t have us spending all of our space on a wide receiver? For Pete’s sake, I’ve seen credible journalists suggest that we both lure in one of the top free agent wide receivers AND use our first-round pick on a receiver as well!

What good is a wide receiver streaking open down the field if your quarterbacks face is planted in the turf?

Edge? Corner? With no influx of talent, our defense was top 15. Did I mention that our offensive line was ranked last in the NFL?

I would be very disappointed if we did not add solid starting caliber talent at either left guard or right tackle. Why do you think it is so rare to hear anyone banging a drum for this course of action? Is Allen Robinson just too damn sexy?

Ed says: CT, I’ll dive into this. I am not, though, commenting on the sexiness of Allen Robinson!

Listen, reasonable minds, amateur GMs, hack writers and knowledgeable draft analysts are all entitled to disagree.

Everyone who has studied the Giants knows their offense wasn’t good enough in 2020, and that they need to add receiving weapons for Daniel Jones. How they get that done, and how they try to upgrade areas like the offensive line, the pass rush, cornerback opposite James Bradberry and anything else they deem appropriate nobody knows.

The focus is on wide receiver, I think, for a couple of reasons. It’s the most obvious. Not to mention that wide receiver is a glory position — fans know who these guys are. It’s a lot easier to drool over a wide receiver’s highlights than an inside linebacker’s highlights.

Whether the Giants are able to sign a big-time wide receiver like Kenny Golladay in free agency or not, there is a perfectly logical and history-based argument for NOT taking a receiver at No. 11.

Look at the past few drafts and there are any number of examples first-round receivers not panning out while receivers selected on Day 2 or Day 3 have become stars.

Let’s say, for example, the Giants think Patrick Surtain of Alabama and Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech are clearly the best two cornerbacks in the draft and one is there at No. 11. Maybe, and I’m being hypothetical, they think there are 8-10 Day 2 wide receivers they would be thrilled to land. That’s easy — take the cornerback and grab the receiver later.

I have long had the “build a team from inside out” philosophy. Weapons don’t matter if you can’t use them — like Patrick Mahomes couldn’t while running for his life in the Super Bowl. After quarterback play, protecting and rushing the passer are the two most important things in football.

If the Giants think edge rusher Gregory Rousseau is the next Jason Pierre-Paul or Shaq Barrett, or that Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater is a must-have to complete their line, fine. Rousseau makes me nervous, but my opinion doesn’t matter.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I tend to agree. Wide receiver has to be addressed, but not to the detriment of other areas that could use upgrades.

Jim Moriarty asks: Ed, concerned about redundancy if we draft Jaylen Waddle or, to a lesser extent, DeVonta Smith, and the Giants are not deep enough for that at this time. I think Sterling Shepard is by far more effective in the slot than outside. If we draft Waddle, for instance, who plays when there are 2 tight ends? Do we force Shepard outside in 3 WR packages? This applies only if we don’t grab someone else in free agency.

Ed says: Jim, it is true that most analysts believe that both Waddle and Smith will be better in the slot than outside at the NFL level. it’s also true that Shepard is better in the slot than outside. That said, the Giants need playmakers. I would love a big “X” receiver like Ja’Marr Chase, Kyle Pitts if you want to use him that way, or maybe Nico Collins on Day 2.

That said, I’m not going to tear out what’s left of my hair trying to figure out what the Giants will do with all those slot receivers. That’s up to Jason Garrett, Joe Judge and Freddie Kitchens. All of these guys are capable of moving in and out, and NFL teams use all sorts of bunch formations, trips formations and schemed crossing or “rub” routes to get guys open. I have said this about other players, but it applies here as well. The Giants are not going to draft a player, specifically at No. 11, without exhaustive study of what the guy can and cannot do, and without a plan for how they want to utilize him.

Ralph Gonzalez asks: Wouldn’t you agree that the best way for the Giants to proceed is to have good faith negotiations first. If negotiations fail I would then apply the transition tag over the franchise tag. And that way he knows we still want him back but allow him to set the market rate from other teams before we decide to match or let go. It would be better financially for us and allow the market to set the price for him. Don’t you agree this would be the best way to proceed?

Ed says: Ralph, I’m going to answer this Williams question basically the same way I answered a similar question last week.

Of course the Giants and Williams will have, and probably are having, good-faith negotiations. Reality is that as far as I know both sides want a long-term deal that will keep Williams with the Giants.

When it comes to the tag — franchise or transition — neither one is a good play for the Giants. Since they tagged Williams last year the cost of tagging him again is a 20 percent raise from 2020, which means roughly $19.4 million.

That’s a bad play for the Giants. Every penny of that would count toward the 2021 salary cap. That would mean you could almost certainly forget having any shot at keeping Dalvin Tomlinson. It might make it extremely difficult to sign a top-tier free-agent wide receiver.

The best play is to get a deal done before free agency that allows the team to back-load the contract to keep the 2021 cap number down, giving them a better chance to sign other players.

Carl Wittenberg asks: Forgive me if this is an ignorant question, but would it be worth considering trying out Evan Engram out as a cornerback? His size and speed would be an asset in matchups and his job would be to prevent passes from being caught, so his drop problem wouldn’t be the issue. Am I grossly underestimating how difficult it would be to train him for what is certainly one of the most challenging positions to play?

Ed says: Carl, I don’t see this as an ignorant question. Every so often I get questions like “why can’t the Giants move so-and-so to such-and-such position” that has completely nothing to do with where they currently play. The question does, though, completely underestimate the difficulty of being a professional football player. And the vastly different skill sets and mentalities needed to play different positions.

In other major sports, players must have at least some skills on both offense and defense. In football, there are many positions and skill sets. Players train for years to play whatever position they play and it is incredibly difficult for many of them to transition from cornerback to safety or tackle to guard or left side to right side on the offensive line.

There are very few athletes like Jabrill Peppers who played some on both sides of the ball at Michigan. Just because a player like Engram is a professional football player does not mean he can play at an NFL level at any position on the field. It doesn’t work that way. What evidence do we have that he has the skills to be a defensive back?

First of all, Engram is 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. He’s bigger than a lot of linebackers and way too big to play cornerback. Second of all, whether it is Engram or anyone else you would be asking a player to do something that is unrealistic for most of them. To change sides of the ball and play at an NFL level with little to no training against players who had been playing and training at their positions for years.

It just makes no sense.

Jerry Panza: Ed, I am wondering what your view is of the Giants O-line going forward. Clearly I am hoping the Mara’s/Tisch and DG haven’t lost sight of the 8 years Eli had to run for his life due to poor vision and drafts. Possibly may have cost them another title with Eli. I’m also wondering about how you really feel about Daniel Jones chances for success as the leader of the offense. Many Giants fans are calling for Daniel Jones to be ousted, I really don’t understand how all this ill will for this young man by Giants fans can be helpful or positive for him or this team. I, however, think DJ has the ability and talent to be a very good long term QB for the Giants but if he has to run for his life as Eli did year after year many fans will get their wish and we will be back in the dreaded QB hell all over again. How could fans want that?

Ed says: Jerry, nice job sneaking two questions into one. The Jones question I’m just going to leave for now. We’ve talked about that a ton already and anyone who has paid attention knows I think the Giants are right to give Jones the 2021 season to prove whether or not he’s the guy.

Let’s deal with the offensive line question. I’m bullish on this group. That’s not to say I would be against adding a player like Rashawn Slater of Northwestern, who could play tackle or guard, or continuing to add players to the mix in the middle rounds of the draft. I think it’s always important to continue adding, and if you can land a difference-maker I’m good with that.

I’m optimistic about Andrew Thomas. His rookie year struggles were obvious, but I think he’s going to be a really good left tackle. I think Nick Gates is a solid young center. I really want to see Matt Peart get a full opportunity at right tackle. That’s what the Giants drafted him for, so I’d like to see them go all-in and give him that chance.

Kevin Zeitler is a good player, and it would be nice if the Giants could keep him. If salary cap concerns mean they can’t, that ups the urgency of adding to their guard spot.

As for Will Hernandez and Shane Lemieux, I’m not sure what to think. Hernandez is a good, but not great, player. Why he played so little down the stretch last season after returning from COVID-19 has never been adequately explained by the Giants. I like Lemieux, but his pass blocking was atrocious last season and that’s a huge problem.

So, I like a lot of what they have. I think the line is on the right path. I can, though, easily see why the Giants might try to add at least one more piece capable of quickly competing for a starting job — especially at guard.

Bruce Frazer asks: The Giants will have to do some serious finagling to sign some of their own free agents. Providing they are able to retain Williams and Tomlinson, what position would you prefer them to address via free agency vs. using one of their few draft picks? What position is better suited for development in a drafted player?

Ed says: Bruce, first I don’t think there is any guarantee they will be able to keep both Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson. More likely, it’s an either/or, and I have been clear in my preference for Williams.

I don’t know that there is position I would prefer them to address in free agency. There are certain players at a couple of positions — Kenny Golladay and Curtis Samuel at wide receiver, Carl Lawson and Haason Reddick on the edge among them — I would like to see the team pursue. I don’t want them to sign a receiver just to sign a receiver. I want it to be the right guy.

As for the developed vs. drafted player, I guess I would lean toward a free agent pass rusher. Because pass rush ability travels. We see receivers, cornerbacks and others struggle when they go from scheme to scheme. Pass rushers? They can always do that, and if a coach can’t figure out how to use a good pass rusher that’s on him.