We are less than two weeks from New York Giants training camp, and there are plenty of things to discuss when it comes to the Giants. So, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and discuss some of them.
Doug Mollin asks: There’s been a lot of enthusiasm about Wink’s defense putting more pressure on the QB this season. Obviously that’s a huge factor in today’s NFL. But I haven’t heard a lot about how his run defense operates.
Last year with Baltimore, they ranked second best in yards per rush attempt. But they also faced the third fewest rushing attempts in the NFL, as teams threw the ball much more against their injury ravaged defense (they gave up the most passing yards in the NFL last year).
Any thoughts on how the run defense will look this year? Any worries about teams taking advantage of the aggressive defense by running the ball more?
Ed says: Doug, rather than give a generic opinion on this one I turned to BBV’s Nick Falato, who has done extensive film study regarding Martindale’s defense. You can find a lot of that on the Big Blue View YouTube page.
Here is what Nick said:
“According to pro-football-reference.com, Martindale’s defense ranked first in “expected points contributed by rushing defense.” There are many reasons for Wink’s defense finishing in the top -10 of RYPG in every season since he took over as DC. For starters, and more broadly speaking, his personnel up front was good. Between Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Calais Campbell, and Derek Wolfe, the Ravens had studs up front. Another broad reason is due to the Ravens’ ability to take and sustain leads, forcing the opposing offense to pass.
“The fine details within the defense are more interesting as to why the defense was so stout. Martindale employs big-bodied run stuffers who are strong enough to occupy blocks and allow linebackers to flow and who are quick enough to stunt (exchange gaps in the run game) and penetrate upfield through gaps when necessary. Martindale’s defense also frequently aligns in middle of the field closed defenses that have one safety high. He rotates safeties a lot, and sometimes will rotate them down to the LOS as the play-clock expires, adding an extra defender into the blocking count.
“Baltimore could load the box if they so desired and trust their coverage on the backend, or they could bring the blitz to immediately occupy gaps and force TFLs. The EDGE rushers were big and physical; they could set an EDGE and force/spill depending on the construct and design of the defense.
“In short, the combination of Martindale’s tendencies, scheme up front & on the backend, the Ravens’ offense’s ability to possess the football, and the defensive personnel helped him maintain a very good run defense while he was the DC in Baltimore.”
Taj Siddiqi asks: I have been hearing that both DJ and Azeez O has put on some extra mass and muscle to their bodies. Some people say this bulking up in a short time period makes the person more vulnerable to injuries.
Are there any studies done by NFL or any other athletic/sports organizations on this subject? What to your knowledge are the recommendations? Plus does the coaches and team trainers have the authority to instruct the players who are under contract on how to maintain their bodies?
Ed says: Taj, I don’t know if Daniel Jones added more weight this offseason. I know that last year he checked in around 230 pounds, 10 more than when he was drafted. Ojulari admitted adding 10-15 pounds this offseason, and looks fantastic at his new weight of about 255 pounds.
Players often come into the league, play a year and realize they really need to get into the weight room and add strength and bulk. The season is longer, the players are older, bigger and better. So, that is not unusual. It is, really, quite normal.
I do know that NFL teams do have player weigh-ins, with the interludes varying from team to team. I have gotten different answers from those I have asked. Some teams may do it weekly, some may do it a few times times per season. Sometimes players who tend to gain or lose too much weight might be asked to weigh in twice per week. There are fines that can be levied for players above their expected weights. That generally might apply to bigger players who struggle to maintain weight. Mekhi Becton, I’m looking at you. The CBA says:
Overweight— Progressive Discipline, up to a maximum fine of $752 per pound [for 2022 season], which fine may be assessed no more than twice per week, with each week beginning on Monday and ending on Sunday, and with each fine at least three days apart (e.g., Monday–Thursday, Tuesday–Friday, etc.).
The way it has been described to me, players generally have a weight range they are expected to be in.
There are also some players who have weight clauses in their contracts. Trent Brown of the New England Patriots has one of these. By the way, if you are interested in a look at what a standard NFL player contract looks like, here you go.
Teams might send a player home after one season and suggest that they would like the player to be, say, 10 pounds heavier or lighter the next year. Remember the Kelvin Benjamin story a year ago? After signing him following a rookie minicamp tryout, the Giants asked him to drop weight from 265 pounds and report to training camp at 251. Instead, he reported at 268. He didn’t last a day.
In Ojulari’s case, the Giants had a new coaching staff. He made the offseason decision to add the weight on his own. The Giants approve.
This was outside linebackers coach Dean Wilkins talking about Ojulari in the spring:
“Any time you add lean muscle mass like that it just makes you a bigger, stronger, better football player … right now he’s moving around really well. He put on the right type of weight. If I looked like that I don’t know if I’d ever wear a shirt.”
Scott Coghlan asks: I was reading your story on Kitchens and a question occurred to me. Do new coaching staffs ever reach out to the staffs they replaced for insight into current players and what went wrong? Obviously this would be awkward, and you’d have to consider personal biases/motives, but I could see the value in doing so. I would have to think Judge and Garrett gave a lot of thought to mistakes made, and what they’d do differently.
Ed says: Scott, that is an awkward thing and I would think that it depends on prior relationships. Coaches like to talk about giving players a “clean slate” when they arrive in a new place. That applies to the coach, too. A coach wants to be able to make his (or her) own judgment about a player, and not have that muddied by what a prior coach might say — especially if you aren’t sure of that prior coach’s motivations.
Joe Judge and Brian Daboll have a prior working relationship from New England, but they also have very different philosophies and ways of doing things. They might talk in generalities about the organization, but I’m not sure how productive a personnel-related conversation between them would be. I’m not sure a former coach would even want to drill down into that type of stuff.
Edwin Gommers asks: We have seen a lot of articles including here on BBV that argue, handing out a big money contract to RBs makes little to no sense from a business perspective. Do you/could you see something similar happen to the WR position? With the market for WR salaries recently exploding, does it makes more sense to not give a WR a second contract but trade him instead? GB got a 1st and 2nd for Adams. Miami gave up 5 picks for Tyreek including a 1st and 2nd. Neither was a first round pick. Could you see any other positions going into the same direction?
Ed says: Edwin, I think this is a trend we are already beginning to see. Baltimore traded Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals after three years. Tennessee traded A.J. Brown to Philadelphia after three seasons. The Tyreek Hill trade from Kansas City to Miami. DaVante Adams was traded by the Packers and Amari Cooper by the Cowboys rather than give them big-money deals. The Detroit Lions let the Giants give Kenny Golladay a big-money free agent deal rather than signing him to a second contract.
The depth and quality of wide receivers coming out of college now makes this a sound financial and roster-building strategy.
There has been an increasing amount of research in the Fantasy Football world about the most productive years for wide receivers in terms of age. Much of it [like this and this] generally shows that wide receivers best years come between ages 25 and 30, around the time of that second contract. So, if you are a contending team that needs that one playmaker maybe a trade for a player in that age range. If you are not a contending team, or even if you are and you need financial or draft resources for other things, dealing a player in that range might be a wise move.
Mark Lynch asks: If Elerson Smith were to have an outstanding camp would you entertain the possibility of moving Ojulari to ILB. The idea as always is to get as many good players on the field, whats your thoughts? Also if Gettleman was so enamored with Justin Herbert why didn’t he wait a year, use his extra draft capital in 2019 to move back. Pick up an extra 1st rd. pick in 2020 in case you had to move up. You could have squeezed another year out Eli. And in the end he had a chance to draft him instead of Thomas, I guess I’m saying if he’s the guy why did you pass on him? Off his rookie season it is more than possible that you could have traded Jones for A late 1st or a future 1st. I know its water over the dam but it’s always irked me a little and I wonder if ever caused pause among you and your colleagues.
Ed says: Mark, that’s cheating. It’s two questions. I will answer both, anyway.
No. Zero chance if Elerson Smith has an impressive training camp that I would consider moving Azeez Ojulari from the edge to inside linebacker. Ojulari was a first-round talent who slipped to Round 2 a year ago, and he set the Giants’ rookie record for sacks. He accomplished those things as an edge — because that is what he is. With Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux the Giants have a pair of young edge defenders who could be defensive cornerstones for years to come.
Why mess with that? What evidence does anyone have that Ojulari could play inside linebacker successfully? Also, a good training camp doesn’t mean Smith is ready for full-time duty as a starting NFL edge. He is still a fourth-round pick from an FCS school who has not played much football since 2019. If Smith earns the time, you get him on the field as a situational pass rusher and let him develop from there. You do not mess with Ojulari, who could be one of your building block players.
I thought this was a settled debate that we have gone through a number of times. I am learning, though, that apparently nothing is ever truly settled. So, let’s talk about Herbert.
You asked ‘why did Dave Gettleman pass on Herbert?’ For what feels like the umpteenth time, Gettleman did not pass on Herbert.
From everything I know, and from how much time the Giants spent back in 2019 watching him play, Gettleman LOVED Herbert. There is no doubt in my mind he would have selected Herbert over Daniel Jones if he had a choice between the two. But, he did not have that choice. Herbert, as we all know, chose to return to Oregon.
The Giants at that point felt/knew/understood that they had probably already waited too long to draft a potential successor for Eli Manning. The organization loved Jones. Everything about him reminded them of a young Manning with the added ability to make plays with his legs. So, they made the move. Whether the critics thought that was the right move or not.
I still support the move. Whether it has worked, or will work, is not the point. They thought he was the right guy, and when you have that conviction — like Ernie Accorsi did back in the day with Manning — you move heaven and earth to make it happen.
Why didn’t the Giants just wait a year for Herbert? Well, sitting there in 2019 with a chance to grab a quarterback they felt good about in Jones, how could they possibly predict that a year later they would have a chance at Herbert? There is no way they could have predicted that.
Years ago, I wrote a computer column for a newspaper in upstate New York. A question I used to always get is “should I buy now or wait for the next shiny, new model?” My answer always was that if you need it now, buy it now. Get the best model you can that is within your budget and don’t worry about what comes out later.
That is what the Giants did. They could not have known they would sit with the No. 4 pick a year later with a chance to draft Herbert.
Since they had that chance in 2020, why didn’t they take it?
This was not a Josh Rosen/Arizona Cardinals situation. The Cardinals knew after 2018 that hiring Steve Wilks as head coach had been a mistake, and Rosen wasn’t going to cut it as their quarterback of the future. Plus, if they were hiring Kliff Kingsbury as head coach they needed Kyler Murray — a quarterback who could run the offense Kingsbury was bringing with him.
Jones had a promising rookie season, even with the fumbles. There were flashes of brilliance. There were 24 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions and a more than acceptable 87.2 passer rating for a rookie quarterback. There were five games in which he threw for more than 300 yards and four in which he had passer ratings well above 100.0.
He looked for all the world like a young quarterback who had a chance to develop into a star. The organization loved him. They thought he was their guy. Why blow that up and start again when you already believe you have the guy? Shoot, we know the organization STILL loves Jones.
Plus, I think the idea that the Giants could have gotten a first-round pick for Jones is nonsense. You draft over him in that situation and you are trading from a position of weakness. Trade a quarterback after a year, regardless of whether you draft a new one, and you are trading from a position of weakness. You aren’t getting anywhere near equal value to his perceived ability or what you spent to get him.
The Cardinals got a second-round pick (No. 62 overall) and a fifth-round pick from the Miami Dolphins for Rosen. The Giants would have done well to get that in return for Jones had they drafted over him in 2020.