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Big Blue View mailbag: MetLife Stadium turf, Evan Neal, Giants’ offense, more

The mail’s here!

It is time for this week’s Big Blue View Mailbag. It feels like I was pretty feisty this week in answering New York Giants-related questions. So, be warned, as you embark on reading the mail.

Ronald Buchheim asks: Ed, studies have shown a greater risk of injury on turf, especially ACL, and players say it’s harder on their bodies even without injuries like the one Shepard sustained. Owners are making tons of money, and 17 teams play on grass. Why can’t the giants? The players association has urged the owners to eliminate turf, but I wonder why they can’t do more, such as threatening to strike. It was heartbreaking to watch Shepherd get injured without any contact, just because his cleats caught in the turf.

Ed says: Ronald, I have to say this. I get the complaints about the MetLife Stadium turf. Fine. You hate it. You think it has to go. Everybody hates it. We all wish the games were played on grass. What on God’s green earth, though, does the Shepard injury have to do with the turf? Show me where, in the video below, he gets his feet caught in the turf? He’s running straight ahead, actually just jogging, and the ACL pops. There is no misstep. No catching of his cleats. Nothing. The turf had NOTHING to do with this play.

Odell Beckham can rip the turf. You can rip the turf. Everybody knows that the injury rate on FieldTurf is higher than it is on grass.

MetLife Stadium is a multi-use facility. Two teams play on it. They have concerts there. I have to believe that if the Giants, Jets and stadium management felt grass was feasible, they would have a grass playing field. Can you have grass in New Jersey and have it look and play better than the Soldier Field mess in November, December and January? I don’t know.

I know that at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas the Raiders use removable grass trays. Here is more on how that works. I honestly don’t know if that is possible at MetLife.

I know there are non-contact injuries that happen on Field Turf that would not happen on grass. If you want to blame the MetLife turf for an injury, though, find a much better example than the Shepard one.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: There were a number of similar “just plant grass” questions. Answering this on, I hope, let’s everyone know where I stand].

Wayne Mirsky asks: After watching last night, every defensive coordinator playing The Giants would put a speed rusher on the left side of their line because unless things change, Evan Neal right now does not seem capable of handling it. This is not to say that all the other OL, with the exception of Thomas are playing very well, but Neal’s play is glaring .

All the pro scouts cannot be wrong in their evaluation of Neal, he is going to be an excellent offensive lineman, maybe even All-Pro, but not now.

What about moving him to guard for the year so he can get accustomed to the speed of the Pro Game and then move him to RT next year. If I am correct but aren’t the Panthers playing Ikem Ekwonu at guard? Haven’t other teams in the past done that with their high OL draft players for at least one year?

Is he too tall to be a guard? More importantly, is there anyone on the roster who could play RT or is there any FA around who could for the year?

If Neal will stay at RT, then my only other suggestion would be to play a two-tight end scheme with one of them helping Neal. Do you have any other thoughts?

Ed says: Wayne, read the piece I wrote Thursday about Neal and Andrew Thomas. Neal has played THREE NFL games. What he is going through right now is absolutely normal for a rookie tackle. Neither Ickey Ekwonu nor Charles Cross, the other top-rated tackles in the 2022 NFL draft, are faring any better.

My biggest suggestion? Relax. Let it play out. The second half of Thomas’s rookie year was far better than the first half. His second year was better than the first. This year, it looks like even more improvement has been made. Let’s see where it goes. I know it’s not easy to watch sometimes.

The other suggestion? Let the coaching staff figure out how to help Neal. The Giants tried to chip edge rushers on Monday, and comments from Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka seem to indicate they didn’t do a very good job. They will provide Thomas with a tight end to help or a running back to help when they can. There are times, though, when NFL tackles have to be on an island. That’s the job.

By the way, here is your list of available right tackles. Cross off Mike Remmers, since he just signed with the New York Jets. Bryan Bulaga was a good player once upon a time. Now? If teams thought he was a starting-caliber tackle, he’d have a job. Honestly, there’s nobody on the list who inspires confidence.

Ray Kochert asks: I am not surprised that the Giants signed Jaylon Smith. I thought the Giants would sign him after the 53 player cut down. In 4 games last year I thought he played well. What does this signing tell us? Veteran presence or not sure about current Mike linebackers?

Ed says: Ray, I don’t think it tells us much other than the Giants were intrigued enough by his workout to want to see more. Obviously, they think he might be able to help them at some point. For what it’s worth, I, too, thought Smith played well enough at the end of last year to deserve a chance. I think we will see him soon.

Keith Wilcox asks: Is it possible that despite his salary Leonard Williams doesn’t get enough credit? When I heard he was going to be out for the Cowboys game I immediately felt the defense was going to have problems. Even though the defense generally held it seemed that with him off the field Dallas was able to run the ball more effectively down the middle than in years past. Also the lack of a pass rush seems like it could also be due to him. Everyone talks about whether his sacks are worth the money but I think his effect on the run game and the way he takes up blockers to free everyone else is far more valuable. Curious to hear your thoughts.

Ed says: Keith, I don’t know if Williams gets enough credit or not. Reality is, though, that he has been the Giants’ best defensive lineman for the last two years. He defends both the run and the pass well. He is on the field for nearly every snap. He can move up and down the line and play multiple spots. He draws attention and makes the guys around him better. He’s not Aaron Donald, but neither is anyone else.

Here are the non-Dexter Lawrence defensive line snap counts for the Giants on Monday:

Nick Williams (35); Henry Mondeaux (29); Justin Ellis (29); D.J. Davidson (12).

Last time I checked, none of those players can do anywhere close to the things Williams can do. Whether he gets enough credit or not, Williams not playing is a huge problem for the Giants’ defense.

Michael Schack asks: A big thing that has bothered me about the Giants offense the last probably 7 years is the number of delay of game penalties or Giants offensive plays where the ball is snapped just barely before the play clock runs out. I thought maybe its taking too long to get the play in, Eli is trying to look at things and game plan on the fly, DJ maybe overthinking things because he was young (and I am a believer in DJ, he just needs protection, but his passes seem to be consistently accurate, even under pressure, especially this past Monday night). I did a little research and found the Giants have not had a significant number of delay of game penalties, but I cannot help but notice this season has been different so far (including the preseason). I am not seeing the clock tick down to zero anywhere near the frequency of the past. It is not a hurry up offense, so my only conclusion is the coaching communication is different. Did Judge/Garrett debate plays too much? Did Shurmur and McAdoo overthink what they wanted to call and just got it in at the last second? Are my observations just wrong? Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Ed says: Michael, I don’t think your observations are entirely wrong. It also frustrates me to watch the play clock dwindle and the ball get snapped as the clock hits :01 or :00.

Every delay of game penalty comes with its own story. Some are on the sideline — perhaps with the coordinator not getting the play in quickly enough. Some can be because of personnel — with the proper players for the play called not getting into the game quickly enough. Sometimes, the problem can be the quarterback either losing track of the clock or simply trying to do too much at the line of scrimmage.

What I do know is that head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka are placing a heavy emphasis on getting the play called, getting the personnel in and getting to the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible. They have talked about that a lot. That gives the quarterback his best chance to look at the defense, gather some information and get the play off comfortably.

Brian Misdom asks: Hi Ed, as we see our receiving corps continue to be decimated by injury, I’m left wondering how Daboll and Kafka will adapt. When they first opened with OTAs and offseason practices, they preached putting the players in the best positions for success.

As much as I like what our HC is doing, some of this appears to be lip service as both Golladay and Slayton have been relegated to limited snaps due to perceived lack of scheme fit. Do you see them adjusting the scheme to better tap into what KG brings to the table? We need more production and the current set up leaves very few appealing options unless Robinson and Toney can get back (and stay) on the field.

I’m resigning myself to limited production from KG, but as our options dwindle, how do you see this unfolding?

Ed says: Brian, there is no easy answer. Odell Beckham isn’t coming back to the Giants. Alex Bachman is not better than what the Giants have now. Has anyone noticed he isn’t even on anyone’s practice squad currently?

This ‘adjusting the scheme’ for Kenny Golladay stuff is silly. How about Golladay catch the balls that are thrown to him? When he does that, the passing offense will look better — and he might get on the field more. Golladay is a player who is supposed to be able to win at all three levels, and is paid to make difficult contested catches in key situations — like the fourth-and-2 he couldn’t haul in Monday night.

There is an opportunity here for Darius Slayton. Let’s see if he can grab it.

I’m not buying the ‘lip service’ comment. Scheme-wise, the Giants are light years ahead of where they were a year ago. If players can’t get healthy, they can’t get healthy. If the healthy ones can’t perform, there isn’t much the coach can do.

Jeff Newman asks: Ed, I know the modern NFL is predominantly a passing league, and Daboll and Kafka offensive systems they want to run. However, in light of the current wide receiver situation (Shep out for the year, Robinson injured, Golladay not what he was and not we paid for, Slayton apparently in the doghouse, and Toney allergic to the playing field), and lack the cap space to bring in a real difference maker at WR, would it make sense to change to more of a run first/run heavy approach for the remainder of the year? Barkley is by far our best offensive weapon, our O-line is better at run blocking than pass blocking, and DJ’s legs are probably his best asset so we’d be playing to the strength of the team. We could ride Barkley and run RPO’s/play action with Barkley, Breida, and Robinson and Toney (when healthy) both running and catching the ball out of the backfield along with some designed runs for DJ. We could line up Golladay and Slayton on the outside to block and to keep defenses honest and James to move the chains in the slot until Robinson/Toney are back. What are your thoughts, Ed?

Ed says: So much doom and gloom around here. Does anyone not remember that the Giants are 2-1 and off to a better start than was anticipated? Does anyone not remember that the Giants are at the beginning of what will be a multi-year rebuild after ownership finally realized they weren’t one or two moves away from a magic fix? This Giants team was always going to be imperfect, always going to have some glaring flaws, always going to be a work in progress.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, Jeff, I will answer your question.

In all honesty, what you describe is pretty much exactly what the Giants have already been doing.

Daniel Jones has attempted only four passes of 20+ yards down field in three games, 32nd in the league. Most of what the Giants are doing is what I call catch-and-release — RPOs, quick, short throws designed to get the ball out of Jones’ hands. That’s partially because of the offensive line and partially because of the receivers they have.

Yes, the line has been better at run blocking so far this season. I don’t know how much more, though, the Giants can rely on the run game.

The Giants (162.3) are 30th in the league in yards passing per game. They have not reached 200 yards passing in a game yet. They are tied for 25th in the league in passing attempts — only six teams have thrown the ball less often.

I have made the point a number of times that playing winning offense that way is not sustainable. I don’t know how they are going to do it, or if it really even realistic to expect it to happen this season, but to remain competitive the Giants need to get more out of their passing offense. Not less.

Joseph Marrongelle asks: if a team exceeds their salary cap figure on the deadline date, what is the penalty by the league?

Ed says: Joseph, first of all teams cannot exceed the salary cap without doing something under-handed. All contracts are approved by the NFL, and the league won’t approve a deal that pushes a team over the salary cap during the league year.

Now, teams have on a few occasions been found guilty of circumventing the salary cap with payments to players that were outside the rules. The CBA says, in part:

“Neither the parties hereto, nor any Club or player shall enter into any agreement, Player Contract, Offer Sheet or other transaction which includes any terms that are designed to serve the purpose of defeating or circumventing the intention of the parties as reflected by the provisions of this Agreement.”

If the Commissioner disapproves of a contract, it can go to an arbitrator. The CBA says that teams can be fined up to $6.5 million and lose draft picks. The CBA reads:

Clubs. In the event that the System Arbitrator finds a violation of Subsection 1(a) of this Article, for each such violation, the Commissioner shall be authorized to: (i) impose a fine of up to $6,500,000, payable to the NFL, upon any Club found to have committed such violation; (ii) order the forfeiture of up to a maximum of two draft choices (without limitation as to round) by the Club found to have committed such violation; (iii) impose a fine of up to $500,000 on any Club executive or other Club personnel found to have committed such violation; and/or (iv) suspend for up to one year any Club executive or other Club personnel found to have committed such violation.

Players and their agents can be fined up to $500,000.

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