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Big Blue View mailbag, 5/22: 2021 expectations, offensive line, more questions

The mail’s here!

We are now deep into the NFL offseason, but there are always New York Giants questions to ponder. so, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and do that.

Bob Donnelly asks: We know there are many doubters, detractors and haters spouting reasons why the Giants are going to fall short again in 2021. Can we take a moment and think positively?

What if Dave Gettleman and company are right that Daniel Jones will have his breakout season the “O” line is fixed and the “D” is improved, how good can this team be? How do you envision this season unfolding for them?

Ed says: Bob, Emory Hunt and I were discussing this topic on Friday’s ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast. My general feeling is this — the over/under you generally see for the Giants is 7 victories. Anything can happen, and I think you can peg every team in the NFC East somewhere between 6 and 10 victories.

Still, I don’t believe the Giants are getting enough credit. If the over/under is 7, I think you have to take the over. I know the schedule isn’t easy and that oddsmakers have the Giants favored in just 5 games, but I don’t care about any of that. This is a team that has made massive improvements in personnel on both offense and defense, and gets its best player in Saquon Barkley back in 2021. If healthy, this team should win 8 games or more. How many more — or less — probably depends on what we see from Daniel Jones.

If he makes progress and helps the Giants win games, maybe they get to double-digit victories. If he holds them back and they win only 6 or 7 games, you could well see the Giants packaging those two first-round picks they have next season to go get a new quarterback.


Dave Smith asks: Every article I read from other sources bashes the O-line. But none of them mention Thomas having ankle problem or Hernandez having COVID. I have never played sports at a high level but I know that even a small injury can affect play. I know covid can cause fatigue for weeks and could affect play. Certainly Cam Newton did not play the same after COVID. I was wondering if you had heard anything about how these things had affected the line play.

Ed says: Dave, I don’t know if it’s “every article,” but I know there have been a lot. Let’s talk specifically about the two players you referenced.

I’m not buying that Andrew Thomas was impacted as a rookie by any type of ankle issue. Did we ever see him limp? Did we ever see him miss practice time or appear on the injury report? The answer is no.

I do think a lot of things impacted Thomas. I believe Nate Solder opting out is one of them. I can’t prove it, but I believe Thomas spent his summer preparing to play right tackle, and was then forced to throw all of that away and go back to working as a left tackle when Solder opted out right before training camp.

I think the severely restricted practice time hurt Thomas. I think Marc Colombo messing with his technique, and all of the offensive line coaching uncertainty, hurt Thomas. I think stability in the coaching structure, a real offseason where he gets a full training camp, and the idea that maybe they just allow him to be the player he was at Georgia rather than ask him to change will help him.

As for Will Hernandez, we have never and probably will never get a straight answer from the Giants as to why Hernandez was really an afterthought once he returned from COVID-19. I wouldn’t doubt, though, the possibility that Hernandez was never physically 100 percent after missing time with COVID.

Hernandez isn’t a bad player. He’s been a decent one. It’s just that when the Giants drafted him they sold fans on the idea that Hernandez would be more than that, and he hasn’t been. There are a lot of starting guards in the NFL worse than Will Hernandez.


Jim Moriarty asks: One of the more “under the radar” issues for the Giants offense over the last 2 years has been the inconsistent/poor passing protection from the backs. Can you give us a rundown of how well the Giants backfield options (include Toney, if you would) can provide protection on passing downs when necessary?

Ed says: Jim, let’s start with some statistical data. I’m using the last two full seasons played by each player. Ryquell Armstead only has one season of data, having missed the 2020 season.

Saquon Barkley
2019

PFF pass blocking grade: 63.4 (69th out of 144)
Pass blocking snaps: 92
Pressures allowed: 6 (2 sacks, 1 hit, 3 hurries)

2018

PFF pass blocking grade: 54.0 (100th out of 148)
Pass blocking snaps: 72
Pressures allowed: 7 (3 sacks, 1 hit, 3 hurries)

Corey Clement
2020
PFF pass blocking grade: 17.5 (145th out of 172 graded backs)
Pass blocking snaps: 14
Pressures allowed; 3 (1 sacks, 2 QB hits)

2018
PFF pass blocking grade: 66.3
Pass blocking snaps: 27
Pressures allowed: 3 (1 hit, 2 hurries)

Devontae Booker
2020
PFF pass blocking grade: 64.0 (48th out of 172)
Pass blocking snaps: 23
Pressures allowed: 1

2018
PFF pass blocking grade: 14.1 (133rd out of 148)
Pass blocking snaps: 39
Pressures allowed: 7 (3 sacks, 4 hurries)

Ryquell Armstead
2019

PFF pass blocking grade: 43.0 (116th out of 144)
Pass blocking snaps: 11
Pressures allowed: 3 (1 sack, 2 hurries)

Elijhaa Penny
2019

PFF pass blocking grade: 57.8
Pass blocking snaps: 17
Pressures allowed: 2

** Penny had only four pass blocking snaps in 2020

We have no NFL data on rookie running back Gary Brightwell. What I do know about Brightwell is that he has the size at 6-foot-1, 218 pounds and the physical demeanor to be a willing blocker, and develop into a capable one. There is always a learning curve for young backs in both technique and reading defenses to understand where their assignments are.

As for Toney, blocking out of the backfield isn’t something he’s been asked to do. There’s no real evidence of whether he can or cannot. What I do know is the Giants shouldn’t be asking him to try. If they line him up in the backfield it should be to create a matchup. Toney should not be a guy kept in the backfield to try and protect Daniel Jones.

Here are some of my other takeaways.

  • Barkley’s pass protection has been criticized. He has the biggest sample size, though, and the numbers tell you he isn’t horrible. He could be, and needs to be, better. He has, though, shown the ability to do it.
  • The data is mixed on both Clement and Booker, but the sample sizes are fairly small. Penny can do it, as a fullback he just hasn’t been asked to handle pass protection regularly.

Something else to note: All of the Giants backs are roughly 220 pounds or more — they should all be big enough and physical enough to be capable of handling pass protection. Can they read their assignments, work in concert with the offensive line and use proper technique to slow down a charging pass rusher? That’s what we will have to find out.


Bruce Frazer: Here is an off season question for you.

In today’s NFL what do you think Lawrence Taylor in his prime would be worth contract wise?

Ed says: Oh, geez! A lot! I think LT would be the game’s highest-paid non-quarterback. Joey Bosa has a five-year, $135M deal with the Los Angeles Chargers. DeAndre Hopkins is averaging $27.25M per year. I think that’s where you would start if you were Taylor’s agent. Shoot, you might start at the $33.5M annually that Jared Goff makes. it’s not hard to argue that Lawrence Taylor would be more impactful than Goff.