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Big Blue View mailbag: Running game, playoff money, Landon Collins, more questions

The mail’s here!

New York Giants fans have a long weekend ahead of waiting for the Giants to face the Washington Commanders on Sunday night. Let’s fill some of the void by opening the Big Blue View Mailbag.

Bob Donnelly asks: The Giants early success was in large part due to the success on the ground. Barkley and Jones both had impressive numbers. In your view what must the Giants do to see a resurgence of the ground game, and do you think that they can make it happen?

Ed says: Bob, we have written about that quite a bit this week.

Saquon Barkley being fully healthy, which he says he is, would help. The Giants need a big game from him. Reality, though, is that much of the struggle on the ground has come because of the offensive line issues. The Giants started the same offensive line in each of the first seven games. They have started four left guards, two center and two right tackles since, and rookie right tackle Evan Neal had an awful game vs. the Eagles. They need to block better.

I have also said I would like to see more creativity from offensive coordinator Mike Kafka in the run calls. We haven’t seen the Wildcat or much in the way of two-back formations lately. Anything in terms of motion or formation that would give Washington something to think about.

Teams have also done a better job in recent weeks taking the zone read keeper away from Jones, something that was a big part of the running game early in the season.

Paul Fuller asks: What difference does it make financially if the Giants make the playoffs? Bonus/playoff pool for players? Bonuses for coaches? Extra money for the owners? I know that it would great experience for the team to make it to a playoff game and great for the fans, just wondering about the money.

Ed says: Here is your answer in terms of player money, straight from the Collective Bargaining Agreement (thanks to Giants’ PR boss Pat Hanlon for knocking me over the head and reminding me it was in there):

Anything additional for coaches would have been negotiated as part of their contracts.

As for teams, Hanlon said there isn’t any tremendous financial windfall for teams making the playoffs. This article from Sportico explains why:

The NFL’s economic model spreads the wealth. Its massive media contracts, along with a large chunk of gate receipts, are divided equally among the 32 teams. The playoffs are no different. The league collects almost all ticket revenue from playoff games and simply provides a stipend for home and away teams that cover costs for travel and stadium operations. Home teams keep their share of concession and parking revenue, which typically ranges from $1 million to $2 million combined, per game, but it is a rounding error for teams who can expect a check next season from the NFL for shared revenue of roughly $400 million. A Super Bowl run boosts merchandise sales for teams, but much of that revenue is shared equally, as well.

Meanwhile, playoff expenses can add up. Qualifying for the Super Bowl is rare for most teams, with New England the obvious outlier, so ownership often blows past its allotted travel stipend to bring employees to the Big Game. When you also factor in coach and player playoff incentives—the Bucs owed Tom Brady $2.25 million for his Super Bowl win last year—teams can end up with a financial loss during the playoffs.

“The centralized revenue sharing gives NFL teams less control over playoff dollars than their counterparts in other leagues,” said Sean Clemens, director of sports investment banking at Park Lane. “But it’s the same system and revenue base that see them ending with the highest profit margins in sports, so you don’t see owners complaining.”

Kölnerbigblue asks: Concerning our safeties, what the heck is going on with Dane Belton? I know that he is a rookie and there will be growing pains but he started the season so promising and then seemed to fall off the radar. It just seems odd.

Ed says: Kolner, Belton is a rookie fourth-round pick. What’s going on with Belton is that he was drafted in Day 3 and still has a learning curve as he develops into an NFL player. Per Pro Football Focus, Belton (29.4) is the lowest-graded Giants’ defender. Yes, lower than the often-scorned Tae Crowder.

Belton is losing snaps to veteran safety Tony Jefferson, who is back from an early-season foot injury. The Giants are trying to win games, and right now Jefferson is a better player. He also has several years of experience playing for Martindale, so he knows the defense perhaps better than anyone on the roster.

Belton may develop into a good player. Right now, though, the Giants don’t seem to feel like using him gives them their best chance to win.

Walker Joyce asks: Why can’t Xavier McKinney just cover his hand with a club and play?

Ed says: Walker, your question was really a long-winded rant. I’m not going to subject everyone to that, so I just boiled it down to what you were really asking.

First and foremost, everyone who has been thinking this needs to understand the extent of McKinney’s injury. He did not just incur a simple broken finger, in which case he might tape it up or cover it and go out and play.

McKinney injured multiple fingers on his left hand. I do not know the exact extent/nature of the injury, but it required surgery and multiple pins to hold the bones in his fingers together to allow it to heal post-surgery. Whatever the injury, it was not just a broken finger. I have a guess as to what actually happened, but I’m not going to put speculation out there that might be incorrect.

McKinney has said multiple times since the injury that he is willing to “club up” and play. I’m sure the Giants would love to have him play. The medical staff, obviously, has not signed off on allowing that — even with a club. To me, that means the surgically-repaired bones in his hand are not yet stable/strong enough to withstand NFL punishment — even with a club.

Here are a pair of Landon Collins questions

Edwin Gommers asks: How are the Giants using Landon Collins currently? I read some articles that Washington in the past used him as Buffalo Nickel, a role in which he apparently did quite well. My understanding is currently he’s used, limited, in dime packages as a LB/S hybrid, but he doesn’t really want to be called a LB. Where do you see this going and do you expect him back on the team next season and if so at what position?

Bill Virginia asks: Our current DBs can’t cover or tackle except for Love. True, Collins is weak at coverage but he is a tackling machine. Is he in the doghouse already or what gives with his practice squad position?

Ed says: Edwin and Bill, the answer is the Giants are not using him at all. Collins is on the practice squad, and has appeared in two games. He played a total of 30 snaps vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks, and has not appeared in a game since Week 8.

Head coach Brian Daboll was asked after Xavier McKinney was injured if Collins was an option at safety. He indicated that he was not, because he was actually spending most of his time learning the linebacker position.

If Tae Crowder is active every week and Collins is sitting on the practice squad not being elevated, what does that tell you about how the coaching staff sees Collins’ progress at that spot? That doesn’t mean he’s in some fictitious ‘doghouse,’ it just means that they don’t believe he is better than what they are currently running out there.

That might change this week, with Collins now having had several weeks of practice to learn the linebacker position.

I don’t know if Collins will be brought back to compete for a roster spot next season. I say this all the time, and it applies to Bill’s “tackling machine” remark — I know people remember what Collins did for the Giants early in his career. That was a long time ago. He isn’t the same player. If he was, he wouldn’t have been out of a job the first four weeks of the season, and he wouldn’t be languishing on the practice squad. Just because a player was something five or six years ago doesn’t mean he is that same thing now.

Bill, I also think you are being a tad harsh on the guys in the secondary. The Giants miss Xavier McKinney and Adoree’ Jackson, but the guys they are using have not been that bad.

Mark Cicio asks: I’ve been reading quite a bit how Evan Neal has disappointed (especially after the Washington game), and how he doesn’t track like Andrew Thomas’s first season. I seem to remember before he was injured a few weeks ago that many were talking about how he was improving and it seemed as if the bookends were covered, and the interior was what needed attention this offseason.

I would love to get your opinion… is this just fickle fans or are there any facts to the claim? Also, isn’t it a bit much to compare to someone who is regarded now as one of the best at his position (AT), rather than hope we have a good to very good RT for the future?

Ed says: Neal had a rough go Sunday against the Eagles, really his worst overall game of season as he allowed a sack and a season-worst eight pressures.

Mark, you should know by now that fans always react (overreact?) to the last thing they see. This week, Neal is a complete bust who never should have been drafted No. 7 overall. He will never be any good. He should be benched or moved to guard. Reality is, he is a good young player who should get better over time and be a quality NFL player. Nick Falato and I have talked about this, and Neal’s problems come down to one main issue — not staying on balance.

Neal is 54th out of 59 qualifying tackles graded by Pro Football Focus, with a 45.9 overall score. The other rookie tackles drafted before him (Ickey Ekwonu, 34th at 64.9) and Charles Cross (46th at 61.7) have been better thus far. That doesn’t mean they will be long term. The way Andrew Thomas developed, after a rookie season in which he might have been the worst tackle in the league, should be a reminder of that.

Douglas Furth asks: In my opinion, Sunday night’s game against Washington is a big game. When you evaluate Daniel Jones’s season, how will you weight big games and big moments?

Ed says: Newsflash, Douglas! Sunday’s game is a big game in everyone’s opinion. The short answer on Jones is this — quarterbacks are always judged on how they perform in the biggest moments, so of course Sunday night and what happens the rest of the way will be a major factor in how the Giants view Jones.

Just look at Eli Manning’s career. His two Super Bowl titles, and his great performances during those two title runs, carry a lot more weight than some of the pedestrian regular-season work he did.

Jeff Newman asks: Ed, If we were to franchise tag Barkley and not be able to come to terms and have to trade him what type of compensation could we expect? When would it happen?

Ed says: Jeff, I don’t know when a Saquon Barkley trade would happen. That might depend on whether or not Barkley were to sign the tag and agree to play under it if no long-term deal is reached, or if he refuses to sign it and forces the Giants’ hand.

Compensation? I am looking at the Christian McCaffrey trade as a baseline. The Carolina Panthers got second- and third-round picks in 2023 and third- and fourth-round picks in 2024 from the San Francisco 49ers. The Giants might not be able to get quite that much in return for Barkley, but I would like to believe a second-round pick and a collection of other picks would be available in a Barkley deal.