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Big Blue View mailbag: Holiday weekend edition

The mail’s here!

The Big Blue View Mailbag was a tad light this week. Let’s open it up, though, and see what we can do.

Matthew Pecararo asks: I think the Daniel Jones career is perfectly summed up by his big 80+ yard run against the Eagles that ended with a clear path to the end zone and the moment just being too big for him as he stumbled to the ground on his own just yards short. You can see he has all the physical attributes you could ever want in a QB, not to mention the media presence to represent the franchise, and it sounds like the accountability and leadership that comes with that in the locker room based on his Post interview. It’s just, it doesn’t come together in between the lines. When moments get too big ... the red zone ... the 2 minute drill in either half, he comes up empty. At other moments in the game he can put together a masterful drive and come up with a big pass or run. But he just can’t be counted on when a play needs to be extended or on a big moment drive in a game. I’ve never witnessed a moment of his play or press conferences that display an attitude and hunger to win at all costs. That’s an intangible that cannot be taught and frankly why I think he is destined for and best suited for being a good NFL backup. Could this be why he was not highly recruited out of high school? Could the Duke program’s lack of reliance on wins create his complacency with mediocrity? What do you think could be most attributed to his failure on the big stage? Or is the game just too fast for him? I believe coaches have had to coach around this deficiency and did not contribute to it to the extent a new regime can just fix the problem. Hope I’m wrong!

Ed says: Matthew, I don’t know how many more ways there are to ask — or answer — the Daniel Jones question.

I am going to start with this, though. Are you seriously going to tell me that Jones running over 300+ pound defensive tackle Grady Jarrett for a two-point conversion Week 3 of last season didn’t display a hunger to win? Or, lowering his head to try and score when he ended up concussed vs. the Dallas Cowboys didn’t show a will to win? Or, playing several games in 2020 on one leg? I think to say that Jones doesn’t have a “hunger to win” is just making up ways to criticize him. One of the reasons he gets hurt is that he is absolutely willing to put his body on the line, sometimes when he shouldn’t.

Now, obviously he and the Giants have not been able to win enough. The offense has not been good enough. How many quarterbacks, though, could have been truly successful trying to play through the hand Jones has been dealt? How many quarterbacks could have taken the Giants teams of the past three seasons to the playoffs? You think Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes look like the Rodgers, Allen and Mahomes we know with the hands Jones has been dealt the past three years? I certainly don’t.

When your offensive line can’t block, when your playmakers spend more time in street clothes than in uniform, when your offensive scheme is antiquated and your head coach is ultra-conservative it’s hard to look like a competent quarterback, much less a really good one.

I don’t know what Jones can do with a relatively healthy group of playmakers, with a functional offensive line, with creative play-calling. Maybe he still won’t be able to do enough. Point is, though, he has never had any of that. He’s not Mahomes or Josh Allen, but I’m not going to crucify the guy considering what he has worked with. There’s a big difference between throwing to Stefon Diggs or throwing to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce than to guys like Pharoh Cooper, Collin Johnson, David Sills and Alex Bachman. Oh, and a big difference between Andy Reid and Jason Garrett in designing offenses.


John Ferraro asks: I started watching (fell in love with) the Giants during the Harry Carson, Brad Van Pelt days, so obviously I am a big linebackers fan. One thing has always confused me however, especially during the PFF era, is how a guy can be considered a “tackling machine” and still be also considered a marginal player. To take a couple of recent Giants players as examples, Alex Ogletree a few years ago and Tae Crowder fit this mold. Both have tackles north of 130 in a season and both are not highly thought of. In the case of Crowder, his PFF grade is south of a terrible 30. I know coverage skills must be part of this but what else plays into the evaluation? Your thoughts. Thanks.

Ed says: John, I have said for years that number of tackles is not the right way to judge linebacker play. I don’t know who could watch Alec Ogletree play and conclude that he was a quality NFL linebacker. Linebackers are supposed to make tackles. Run defenses are often designed in such a way that defensive lines are clearing paths for linebackers to stay clean, or unblocked, and make tackles. A linebacker who is on the field for a high percentage of plays should make a lot of tackles.

It’s more about the type of tackles players make. Are they making impact tackles, or compiling tackles well down the field?

Let’s focus purely on run defense and use Crowder as an example.

In 2021, Crowder made 130 tackles. Nice number, sure. But his Pro Football Focus grade in run defense was 28.4, 93rd out of 98 qualifying inside linebackers. Let’s look deeper to figure out why.

Crowder missed 11.9 percent of his tackle attempts, with 65 of those 98 qualifying linebackers being more efficient tacklers. His STOP percentage (percentage of tackles causing a failed offensive play) was 73rd out of 98. Crowder’s average depth of tackle on run plays (how far from the line of scrimmage his tackles were made) was 4.3 yards, 71st out of 98.

So, he missed a high percentage of plays he should have made and many of the plays he did make came down the field after the offense had accumulated enough yardage to consider their play successful. Thus, he is making tackles but he isn’t really having much positive impact on getting the defense off the field.

Just for the sake of comparison, Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys had a 10.4 STOP percentage, and an average depth of tackle of 2.5 yards in 2021. That’s a big difference in the quality of plays being made.


Julian Roberts asks: Can you please explain in detail the difference between; OTA, minicamp, and training camp.

Ed says: Certainly, Julian.

OTAs

That stands for “organized training activities.” The offseason program, with the exception of the mandatory three-day minicamp at its conclusion, is entirely voluntary for players per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. OTAs are commonly the on-field practices held during the final four weeks of the offseason program.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says this about the offseason program:

Clubs may schedule or conduct offseason workout programs as follows. If a Club hires a new head coach after the end of the prior regular season, that Club may schedule or conduct an offseason workout program for no more than nine total weeks, with eight of the weeks required to be consecutive and subject to Article 22, Section 3, to be completed over a twelve-week period. All other Clubs may schedule or conduct offseason workout programs for no more than nine consecutive total weeks, to be completed over a ten-week period. In either case, Clubs may schedule no more than four workouts per week for any individual player. Such workout programs shall not be permitted on weekends.

The offseason program breaks down like this, again directly from the CBA:

Phase One. Phase One shall consist of the first two weeks of the Club’s offseason workout program ... Phase One activities shall be limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.

Phase Two. Phase Two shall consist of the next three weeks of the Club’s offseason workout program ... On-field workouts may include (1) individual or group instruction and drills during which offensive players may hold shields or bags for offensive players and defensive players may hold shields or bags for defensive players; (2) “perfect play” drills (e.g., offense or defense only, but not offense vs. defense), or special teams drills on a “separates” basis (e.g.., kicking team or return team only, but not kicking team vs. return team); (3) drills and plays conducted with offensive players lining up across from offensive players and defensive players lining up across from defensive players with each group permitted to align eleven or fewer players across from eleven or fewer players. Players on one side of the ball may execute a play, but players on the opposite side of the ball may not initiate contact with, or attempt to impede the progress of, players who are running the play (such drills and plays shall be conducted at an acceptable walkthrough pace (i.e., Pro Bowl practice pace), as demonstrated in a video jointly approved by the parties); and (4) JUGGS machines may be used for pass catching, punt returns, and kickoff returns. No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted. No offense vs. defense drills are permitted.

Basically, these are walk-through practices during which plays are installed. Little more.

Phase Three. Phase Three shall consist of the next four weeks of the Club’s offseason workout program. Subject to the additional rules set forth in Subsections 5(a) and 5(c) of this Article and Appendix G to this Agreement, during Phase Three each Club may conduct a total of ten days of organized team practice activity (“OTAs” or “OTA days”) ... No live contact is permitted. No one-on-one offense vs. defense drills are permitted (i.e., no offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen pass rush or pass protection drills, no wide receivers vs. defensive backs bump-and-run drills, and no one-on-one special teams drills involving both offense and defense are permitted) except that, outside of the 10-yard line, simulated press coverage is permitted using hand placement (versus jamming) during 11-on-11 drills and related position group one-on-one drills (e.g., footwork and release work (no “live-contact” or “bump-and-run”).

These are practices held in shorts and t-shirts where there is some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work done, but not at a high intensity. No tackling, no real blocking, no physical play in the secondary.

Minicamp

At the end of the 10-week offseason program, a three-day mandatory minicamp is held. These are the only offseason practices players are required by the CBA to attend. Phase 3 rules apply in terms of practices, meaning shorts and t-shirts and no live contact. There are also collectively bargained time limits as to how many hours players can spend both on the field and in the team facility doing work.

When this minicamp ends, usually in early- to mid-June, players are then off until training camp. They are on their own for roughly six weeks.

Training camp

This is what starts July 26 for the Giants this year (July 19 for rookies). This is the start of the season, and is mandatory.

There are collectively bargained rules that apply to training camp, as well. There is a five-day acclimation period before live contact is allowed. There are mandatory days off. There are limits on the number of fully-padded practices.


Ed says: No offensive line gets “years” to come together. It is true that the Diehl-Seubert-O’Hara-Snee-McKenzie line of yesteryear benefitted from years of playing together, but that is just not realistic in today’s NFL. Because of free agency and the salary cap, change is constant. There will almost always be a new piece each season.

Yes, it takes time. That, though, I believe is one reason why teams run less and throw a lot more quick passes these days. The hardest thing to accomplish offensively is synchronizing run blocks and running back timing, and that is almost impossible to practice today because of the rules limiting contact. Still, you either get it or you don’t.

As for Evan Neal, Duke Manyweather of OLine Performance trains both players during the offseason. He explained on a ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast this offseason why Thomas was in such a rough situation as a rookie and why Neal should have a smoother NFL transition. Let’s hope he’s right.

As for judging Daniel Jones, I talked about him plenty above.


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