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Big Blue View mailbag: From Kenny Golladay to Kadarius Toney, it’s all about wide receiver

The mail’s here!

It’s Saturday, and you know what that means. It is Big Blue View Mailbag day. So, let’s answer some New York Giants questions.

Brian Misdom asks: It is clear one of the priorities this offseason will be WR. With Golladay on his way to being cut, Shepard recovering from another injury and our hodgepodge of PS players, I see Wan’Dale as the only sure thing going into next year.

One person who I thought might not even survive the initial 53 was Slayton given our cap. He has, though, stepped up and come back from the doghouse. With another solid game under his belt vs. Houston, has Slayton played his way into a second contract with us?

I’d like to have him back but perhaps he looks elsewhere. Given how the beginning of the year started for him by being buried on the depth chart, forced to take a pay cut and lack of reps, I could see him being interested in moving on. How do you think this plays out?

Ed says: Darius Slayton is, in some ways, playing the best football of his career. He is averaging career bests in yards per catch (17.2), catch percentage (67.9 percent of passes thrown to him), yards per target (11.1), yards after catch per reception (6.4), and passer rating when targeted (116.2).

All of this is amazing since Slayton seemed like an obvious cut/trade target all spring and summer given the Giants’ salary cap issues. Since he spent the summer buried with the second- and third-teams, and did not catch a pass until Week 4, it was also clear that the Giants’ new regime did not see the 2019 fifth-round pick as the answer to their need for play-making at the wide receiver spot. He really didn’t get his chance until there were no other alternatives.

Like you, Brian, I would think Slayton has played himself into the Giants’ plans for next season. Problem is, he has also made himself attractive to other teams should he choose free agency.

Honestly, if I’m Slayton I choose free agency and see what happens. This might be his only chance as an NFL player at a pay day, and I wouldn’t blame him if he takes it. If I’m Slayton I wouldn’t close the door on the Giants, but I would want to test free agency and see what might be out there.

Ronald Buchheim asks: I’m sure I’m not the only person wondering about this now, but can you comment in retrospect on the Giants decision to trade Toney? He’s been doing great for the Chiefs and has won rave reviews from the coach and quarterback. We don’t know yet whether he will prove to be injury prone, as the Giants probably thought. But what perplexes me about the decision is that they traded him just as he was returning to health and at a time when the Giants desperately needed a wide receiver of his ability. Did he perhaps have attitude problems that influenced the trade decision? Is it possible that he’s working harder in Kansas City because he learned his lesson in New York?

Ed says: Ronald, when a team trades a talented player like Kadarius Toney who has under-performed it always runs the risk of seeing that player succeed in his next stop.

Maybe that is what will happen with Toney in Kansas City. It should have happened with the Giants, especially this season. The way the Giants want to play offense with a lot of catch-and-run short, quick throws is tailor-made for Toney’s skill set.

The reality is that GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll came to the conclusion that it simply wasn’t going to work for Toney in New York under their regime.

Did Toney have attitude problems? What I know is that the previous regime talked about Toney needing to learn to be a pro and gain the respect of teammates and coaches pretty much from the moment he walked in the door last season. Joe Judge was still talking about that in the final stretch of the season.

The new Giants’ regime said all the right things, but had to be frustrated with Toney. They could never get the guy on the field. I don’t know what the day-to-day dealings between Toney, Schoen, Daboll, and the rest of the coaching staff were like but I can guess that things were not nearly as warm and fuzzy as the public comments by the Giants tried to portray.

There was a report that the day before the Giants traded him Toney had been unhappy with the Giants keeping him out of practice and perhaps asking him to stay in New Jersey during the bye week to continue treatment on his balky hamstring.

The Giants concluded the situation was untenable, that Toney was not a player they could work successfully with, and moved on.

It is unfortunate in the sense that a player with Toney’s skills should have been a big part of what the Giants are doing. It just didn’t happen.

nailuj11 asks: I understand that Azeez Ojulari is on IR yet he is never listed on the clubs list of players that are unable to play; do you have any update as to when he will be available.

Ed says: Just to clarify something in case you or anyone else does not understand the rule, players who are on injured reserve are not listed on an injury report. They are not part of the roster and already known to be unavailable to play. Teams will give scant updates that usually amount to “he’s making progress” when asked about a specific player on IR, but that is all.

Ojulari is eligible to come off injured reserve after this Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. That does not mean he will come off IR. The next game is against the Dallas Cowboys on a short week, which means that even if he is able to practice the Giants really wouldn’t be able to get him on the field and give him a full test.

Just a guess here, but I would think the earliest we see Ojulari is Week 13 against the Washington Commanders. That, of course, depends on his health — and the Giants aren’t going to give us any truly useful information.

Todd Kuehn asks: I think it is safe to say that wide receiver is one of our weakest position groups. Let’s assume that the Giants sign Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley to extensions. Wouldn’t you think the Giants would select a receiver in the first or second round? But that won’t be enough. Assuming they cut Kenny Golladay, they will need more than a high draft pick to have more talent on that side of the ball. Recently ESPN ranked the top 25 free agents and only two wide receivers were listed. What free-agent wide receivers will there be out there that the Giants might be interested in? Which ones fit Daboll and Kafka’s system but also fit into the culture? Or would it be fitting to pull off a trade like the Eagles did for a premier receiver on draft day?

Ed says: Todd, I think the Giants will do whatever they can to upgrade the wide receiver position. I’m not going to assume anything about their draft — it all depends on who is available when they draft and how they see the draft board and their needs. I also would not assume they will spend gobs of money on a free-agent wide receiver.

I saw the ESPN story you referenced, and it lists Jakobi Meyers of the New England Patriots and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Kansas City Chiefs in the top 25 potential free agents. Both have been good players, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Giants would be potential suitors in the offseason.

We will really dive into this topic during the offseason, but I will give you a couple of names of guys I would be curious about. One is Mecole Hardman. He fits the type of smaller wide receiver Brian Daboll has had success with, and has a connection from the Chiefs to offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. Another former Chief, currently with the Baltimore Ravens, is DeMarcus Robinson.

Want a different type of receiver? How about 6-foot-5, 227-pound Allen Lazard of the Green Bay Packers?

None of these guys are franchise-changing No. 1 receivers, but they could be upgrades.

As for a trade, I’m not sure the Giants are yet in position to be making trades that would cost them significant draft assets.

John Zahuta asks: There’s been many questions already about the Giants’ offensive line, however do you think the dream of Roy Mbaeteka in the NFL is over? Last I’ve heard, he was cut from the practice squad which isn’t surprising for an undrafted free agent, but disappointing for all the pre-season hype and feel good story.

Ed says: Yes, Mbaeteka was and is a feel-good story. I thought perhaps when the Giants added him to the practice squad that they would just carry him there all season and try to develop him. A desire to have more experienced players who could help the 53-man roster if needed, though, caused the Giants to move on.

I would not despair, though. Just a guess on my part, but I would not be surprised at all if Mbaeteka gets a reserve/futures contract from the Giants for next season as soon as the current one ends. The Giants could then spend the offseason program and perhaps the 2023 training camp assessing whether or not Mbaeteka had made enough progress to be kept around.

Marc Ericehsen asks: This is question that is long overdue and needs immediate attention.

I feel we need to settle this once and for all.

I see a lot of confusion over Daboll’s nickname... as far as how it’s written. I feel it should be spelled “Dabe’s since that is how it’s pronounced.

I do see many spelling it Dabs, which makes sense since there is no E in his name, but you need to add the E to make the A long.

To me it is clearly Dabes not Dabs, but want to see where you stand on this. (I see you are in the Dabs camp BTW and hoping you rethink your position.)

I look to you to clarify the confusion before this turns into all out chaos.

Ed says: Ah, the hard-hitting questions for which I need to put on my reporter cap and uncover the nitty-gritty details!

In all honesty, this is a thing that has also bugged me. The nickname is pronounced ‘Dabes’ and that is the way I would prefer to spell it. In all of their communication, though, the Giants spell it ‘Dabs.’

I asked Giants Senior Vice President of Communications Pat Hanlon why, and he said that Daboll wants it spelled ‘Dabs.’ So, like it or not, that’s that.

Warren Joscelyn asks: This year for the first time in a long time I have been trying not to question the coaches etc. We are winning and I am happy. But one thing that stands out is the Giants lack of a screen game. No one will argue that the Giants have been conservative on offense. One look at the Slayton TD demonstrates we aren’t super adept at pass blocking. Why no screen game? And I’m not talking about a WR/TE screen either, old fashion let them loose and screen to Barkley. Seems rare?

Ed says: Warren, it is absolutely true that the Giants have not leaned into the screen game — including the wide receiver screen game — as much as I thought they would this season. Of course, I thought those screens would largely go to a wide receiver who now plays in Kansas City and to Wan’Dale Robinson, who missed a bunch of time with a knee injury.

Daniel Jones has thrown only 23 screen passes, 22nd in the NFL.

One thing that has surprised me is that the Giants have not used Saquon Barkley as a receiver as much as I thought they might. He has a team-leading 29 receptions on 36 targets. The Los Angeles Chargers have targeted Austin Ekeler 77 times, and Christian McCaffrey has been targeted as a receiver 57 times. I thought Barkley might be closer to those numbers.

Barkley has, though, been used a decent number of times on screen passes. He has been targeted 11 times on screens, seventh-most among running backs. His nine screen receptions are ninth-most among running backs. Among backs targeted on at least 11 screens, of which there are only 10, Barkley is fifth in the league at 6.6 yards per catch.

So, it really isn’t the running back screen game where the Giants appear to be lacking. They are utilizing it. To me, it’s the wide receiver screen game that hasn’t been as big a part of the offense as I thought it might be.

Steve Harrington asks: Has the NFC East balance of power shifted? Are Dallas and Philadelphia sliding a bit? Is Washington ascending a tad? Where, in your opinion, do the Giants stack up against the opposition?

The run game seems to be making a comeback across the league. Anomaly or trend?

How do you solve a problem like Golladay?

Ed says: Sneaky, Steve, sliding three quick questions in there. I will briefly hit all three.

[NOTE TO READERS: Want a better chance of having your question answered in the mailbag? Don’t make a six-paragraph speech before asking it. Just ask your question. If you have five or six paragraphs worth of thoughts to unload, drop that in a ‘Fanpost.’]

  • NFC East: Balance of power isn’t shifting. It’s just that the division is good. No terrible teams. Giants can beat anyone in the division. They can, though, also lose to anyone in the division.
  • Run game: Not an anomaly. Read this and pay particular attention to the video with Dan Orlovsky.
  • Golladay: All you can do right now is keep working with him, and giving him chances when it’s appropriate. In the offseason, you move on. Can’t do it now.

Rich asks: Evan Neal has played in 7 games at RT. How does his stats compare to Andrew Thomas’ first 7 games at LT?

Ed says: Rich, first I will say that comparing the two is really unfair. They play different positions, the offenses are different, and there are different coaching staffs with Thomas stuck in the middle of Joe Judge-Marc Colombo conflict.

That said, here are some of the raw numbers:

Andrew Thomas — In his first seven games, Thomas gave up five sacks and 36 total pressures in 273 pass-blocking snaps. He never had a Pro Football Focus grade below 53.6, however.

Evan Neal — Neal has surrendered five sacks and 16 pressures in 236 pass-blocking snaps. He has twice graded in the 40s, with a low of 40.1.