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Big Blue View mailbag: Playoffs, kicking questions, more

The mail’s here! Yes, even on a game day

Your New York Giants play the Minnesota Vikings Saturday afternoon, and we will be giving you our usual complete coverage. Still, Saturday is Big Blue View Mailbag day. So, here we go.

Izzy Pludwinski asks: Why didn’t Graham Gano simply kick the ball into the end zone on that final kickoff (vs. Washington)? Do you think he wanted to but just didn’t hit it far enough, or was it intended to fall short and have a return, hoping to pin them deep?

Ed says: Izzy, I wondered the same thing. Unfortunately, I was not at the practice facility Wednesday when special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey spoke to media, and the question was never asked. So, I can’t tell you for certain if the Giants were playing for a return and trying to pin the Commanders deep, or if Gano just didn’t get a solid strike on the ball.

What I will say is that I can’t stand it when the Giants do the intentional short kickoff. It works on occasion, but then there are other times when it backfires and the opposing offense gets better field position that it should have had. As far as I’m concerned, Gano should just kick it into the end zone and play for the touchback every time. That’s the safe play.

Mike Rothenberg asks: Based on what we have been seeing this season, and how much the Giants have invested in O-line, how comfortable are you with a potential 2023 starting line of (left to right) Thomas, Bredeson, Gates, Ezeudu, Neal?

Ed says: Mike, let me start with this. I am not “comfortable” at this point with any configuration that hands a job to Joshua Ezeudu. I think Ezeudu, a 2022 third-round pick, has a chance to be a good player but he remains unproven. Plus, he is on IR now with what coach Brian Daboll has described as a long-term but not career-threatening neck injury. That doesn’t sound great.

Obviously, Andrew Thomas is entrenched at left tackle. Some will disagree because his rookie year has been uneven, but in my view Evan Neal should be at right tackle next season. He deserves another year to show he can be what the Giants drafted him to be before they think about moving him inside.

I would be comfortable with both Bredeson and Gates being on the roster. If they are back I’m not sure either will be a starter.

First, I don’t think the Giants are moving on from right guard Mark Glowinski. That would cost them $8.65 million in dead money with cap savings of only $900,000. That makes no sense. So, pencil in Glowinski at right guard.

I do expect the Giants to move on from center Jon Feliciano. I wouldn’t be shocked if Bredeson is the left guard next season and the Giants find their starting center in the draft. I know Giants fans love Nick Gates. I do, too. I’m not sure, though, that this Giants regime sees Gates as a long-term answer on the offensive line.

So, for me I think the 2023 offensive line is Thomas, Neal, Glowinski and To Be Determined.

Chris Perle asks: Not to get ahead of ourselves, but how does the practice squad work for the playoffs? Does anything change? Seems there could be lots of newly available players from non-playoff teams at least.

Ed says: Chris, I am going to answer this one the best I can. The caveat is that I have not been able to find anything in the Collective Bargaining Agreement or anywhere else that directly relates to this. I have asked around a bit, though, and this is what I have.

The rules don’t change. What does change is that the only teams who truly have practice squads are those who are in the playoffs. Within days of the end of the season, teams usually sign the vast majority of their practice squad players to reserve/futures contracts — meaning they are under contract to the team for the following season. They cannot be signed by another team.

That means there isn’t this vast glut of players suddenly available to playoff teams. Players who are under contract and will be free agents cannot be signed until the offseason free agency period begins, usually in March.

The only players available to be signed are ‘street free agents’ who don’t have a team. These are generally not players who would help playoff teams. A couple of years ago, the Buffalo Bills added running back DeVonta Freeman to their practice squad for the playoffs. He had finished the season on injured reserve for the Giants, but was waived in early January, became a free agent and signed with Buffalo.

Bob Donnelly asks: There is still a ways to go before the Giants are assured of a playoff appearance. That said, what would be your best-case scenario matchups for them in each round should they make playoffs?

Ed says: Bob, as things stand right now the Giants are the No. 6 seed and would have to face the San Francisco 49ers, who are the No. 3 seed at 10-4. Given a choice, I would think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are 6-8 and currently the No. 4 seed, would be a preferable opponent. I would even prefer the Minnesota Vikings, currently 11-3 and the No. 2 seed, to facing the 49ers.

Robert Forgione asks: Leo Williams is due a huge chunk of salary cap in 2023, $32 million I think. Can Giants do anything about this cap hit? i.e. convert to bonus or whatever? Also, after never being injured in his career, Leo has been on injury report last three weeks. Would Giants move on from him because of salary cap? He does seem to have a positive effect on Dex, who plays better along side of him.

Joseph Axisa asks: Leonard Williams’ compensation has a significant salary cap impact next year. Do you think that the Giants live with that or is there another option that they may take to lessen the burden (i.e., spread it over future years)?

Ed says: Robert and Joseph, Leonard Williams does carry a massive $32.26 million cap hit (14.2 percent of the estimated 2023 cap) for next season. He has a 2024 void year that would count as a $5.96 million cap hit that season. What I would expect is some type of contract extension that converts a good chunk of Williams’ $18 million 2023 base salary into a signing bonus to lower the cap hit.

The one thing I would be careful about with Williams is the length of the extension. He is 28, has played a ton of snaps over seven seasons, and this season has dealt with significant injuries that have caused him to miss time for the first time in his career. If that’s a harbinger of things to come as he ages, you don’t want to extend him for more than a couple of years.

Russ Jordan asks: When the “Scottish Hammer” inadvertently dropped the punt to the ground and then kicked it it was deemed an “illegal kick”. I understand if a player intentionally kicks a ball to advance it it can be deemed an illegal kick. This however was instituted by a kicker behind the line of scrimmage so why was it not deemed a drop kick? I checked and it appears drop kicks are still legal even if the only one I have ever seen attempted was by Doug Flutie many many years ago.

Ed says: Russ, drop kicks are legal, but this was not that. A drop kick is an intentional act. What happened with Jamie Gillan against the Philadelphia Eagles was not that. Gillan dropped the snap from center, something that was ruled as a fumble. A player can’t intentionally kick a live ball that is on the ground. That’s a loose ball. Gillan could have picked it up and then drop kicked it.

John Foti asks: I believe that one of the biggest mistakes of the past regime was believing and saying that the answers to the interior O-line problems were already on the roster. That thinking has set the Giants back. While wide receiver has to addressed first in the draft I think a center or guard needs to be drafted on Day 2 of the draft. I never see the kind of gaping holes open up for our running game that I too often see the opposing team open against the Giants. Do they track how many times out running backs are hit behind the line of scrimmage? I wonder where the Giants would rank on that statistic.

Ed says: John, there are some layers to the question you eventually asked. Former GM Dave Gettleman made a mistake in 2020 by not drafting any young offensive lineman as developmental or depth players. I think all Giants fans need to realize Gettleman is gone, and stop worrying about how things were done in the past. GM Joe Schoen drafted three offensive linemen last year — Evan Neal, Joshua Ezeudu and Marcus McKethan.

I would disagree that there are “never” holes for Giants running backs. If there were never holes, the Giants wouldn’t be sixth in the league in rushing yards and Saquon Barkley wouldn’t be well over 1,000 yards.

Now, is there a stat on how many times running backs are hit behind the line of scrimmage? I don’t know about that exactly. What I do know is that Fantasy Pros lists Barkley as the league leader in negative runs this season with 30 for a total of -76 yards lost, also a league-worst. Of course, he is also third in rushing attempts so 30 negative runs is not that egregious.

Football Outsiders has the Giants at 26th in Adjusted Line Yards per rushing attempt at 4.13, so there is definitely room for improvement. But, we knew that would be the case entering the season. There were, and always are, limits to the resources teams have and not ever issue can get fixed in one offseason.

Jay Berman asks: Prior to this season DJ showed outstanding accuracy on passes of 20 yds. or more. He accomplished this behind a terrible Oline. In training camp, Daboll was quoted as saying he wanted DJ to “cut it loose.” Was this intended to encourage pass attempts - but not take shots downfield? Why not give the defense something more to think about - like DJ to Slayton downfield?

Ed says: Jay, Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka are both bright, creative offensive coaches. They come from places where the offense has been wide open. They don’t necessarily want to play offense the way the Giants are playing it. But, they do want to win football games.

The Giants don’t have the talent Daboll had with the Buffalo Bills or Mike Kafka had with the Kansas City Chiefs. They struggle to pass block. They don’t have explosive wide receivers. Slayton is fast, but he struggles to catch the football. Daniel Jones is not Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen — he can’t do as much on his own as those guys do.

The simple reality is that the Giants are playing offense the way they believe they have to play it to win games.

Simon Hines asks: What does it say about the Giants linebacker play over the past few years that a guy like Tae Crowder who earned significant playing time and started a lot of games, went unclaimed on waivers?

Ed says: Simon, it doesn’t say anything we didn’t already know — which is that the linebacker play hasn’t been nearly good enough in recent years.