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Big Blue View mailbag: Xavier McKinney, Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, more

The mail’s here!

As the New York Giants continue to get ready for the 2022 NFL season, let’s open up the Big Blue View Mailbag and see what questions we can answer.

Leo Daverde asks: Time for my second naive BBV query about football. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has assigned the task of relaying the defensive calls to safety Xavier McKinney (instead of a linebacker, Martinez or Crowder), so McKinney wears the “helmet with the green dot,” which has a radio transceiver. Nobody seems to assign any significance to this change in protocol, but it got me to wondering, what is the deeper tactical rational??

McKinney played it down “’s not something new to me..” ... ”.. have to run 30 yards and back to get the play to everybody ..” as the new play caller etc. McKinney was put in contact with Pro Bowl safety afety Eric Weddle who knows Martindale’s play calling stuff and has a lot of insight.

So, my question (finally) is, what is likely driving Martindale’s preference for the change?

A safety has a larger field of view, certainly, and could more efficiently call a coverage change perhaps. Opposing offenses would be quite accustomed to seeing the safety running all over the field (as he is the play caller), could that disguise blitzes, too? So this change could have strategic as well as a tactical implications? What are your thoughts?

Ed says: Leo, it’s not a naive question. In my view this is also not as big a deal as some want to make of it. Sure, it is traditional that a middle linebacker calls the defense. But, why? Because in the old days the middle linebacker — Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke, Ray Lewis, Jack Lambert — was the heart and soul of the defense. That isn’t really the case any longer. Inside linebackers are guys who come off the field in passing situations. Safeties can see everything, and they are already calling signals for the secondary.

That, to me, is the crux of this for the Giants. Martindale and the Giants are absolutely turning this defense over to McKinney. He is now the leader, a young, rising star. Martinez? A guy coming off an ACL who is not playing every snap in training camp, and this moves screams from the mountaintop that Martinez will not be playing every snap in regular-season games. He will likely be one of those guys being shuttled in and out based on package. Same with Tae Crowder. Or, whoever is at inside linebacker.

Don’t forget also that Martinez is in the last year of his contract. He is unlikely to be a Giant next year, so cutting the cord now and making the transition away from him as the brain of the defense makes sense.

Scott S. asks: If Saquon has a sub-par year, he’s let go after the season. If he plays great, they can’t afford to sign him, and again he’s gone. Do you see a scenario where if he is playing lights out this season, the Giants trade him mid-year to a contender to get some value for him?

Ed says: Absolutely. That’s a potential scenario I have been raising since Dan Duggan of The Athletic and I did a podcast together at the NFL Combine, if not before then. Am I predicting that is how things will unfold? Absolutely not.

I just think that it could happen should the Giants determine that they can’t/won’t pay him long-term. It’s a possibility, until the trade deadline passes and it’s not. As for what they would consider value, I would need to ask around. They probably wouldn’t get as much as fans might like judging from the history of running back trades.

Kolnerbigblue asks: Given that we (and all teams) are dealing with injuries, can somebody on the staff remind us of the rules for players coming back from IR?

Ed says: Certainly. First and foremost, any player placed on IR now — before 53-man rosters are initially set — is on IR for the entire season. The only exception is if he is waived with an injury settlement. So, rookie guard Marcus McKethan is done for the season and, since he has been placed on IR, can and has been replaced on the 90-man training camp roster.

Dane Belton (broken collarbone) and Andre Miller (broken forearm) have not been placed on IR and still count against the 90-man roster. Belton is expected to return early in the regular season. Not sure about Miller.

Now, the regular season.

The IR rule has been modified for the 2022 season.

Players placed on IR during the season are now eligible to return to action after missing four games. In another alteration, teams will now be permitted to have eight players return from IR and/or the reserve/non-football injury/illness list to the 53-man active roster or the practice squad, per season. An individual player can return from IR a maximum of twice per season, with each counting against the total of eight returning players.

This is why you will see any player the team thinks can help them during the regular season not placed on IR until after the 53-man roster is initially set. For example, depending on when they believe he will be ready, you could see Belton make the 53-man roster and then, a day later, be placed on IR.

Matt Reilly asks: I feel like this season will end up either vindicating or further condemning Judge or Gettleman and I’m curious who you think will end up looking better/worse. If the team performs well (unless it’s all because of the rookies drafted this year/newly signed free agents, which is unlikely) then wouldn’t Getty get some props since a majority of the team would be guys he selected/brought in? This would end up condemning Judge as it would be clear that his coaching style was unable to get production out of the same guys Daboll could. Conversely, if the team stinks because of poor play/execution at the player level would people look differently at Judge and his tenure as head coach, that he never had a chance to win with subpar personnel. Personally I think it was both of them that led to such underperforming teams just curious who you think has a better chance of vindication, or at least a little less hate from the Big Blue faithful by the end of the season.

Ed says: Matt, does it really matter? Joe Judge coached and talked his way out of a job. Dave Gettleman’s decisions did nothing over four years to pull the Giants out of the hole they were in when he was hired. I like and respect both guys, but the truth is their performances meant both deserved to be shown the door.

If the Giants execute better all-around and show a better offensive scheme, it will confirm some things we think we already know. Judge hiring a coaching staff filled with friends from the college ranks who did not have NFL experience turned out to be a mistake. Jason Garrett was a mistake as offensive coordinator. And, Judge was too conservative.

There are players Gettleman drafted who are, and will be, good NFL players. Andrew Thomas. Xavier McKinney. Saquon Barkley. Dexter Lawrence. Kadarius Toney. Daniel Jones might yet be a quality quarterback. Gettleman was right about trading for Leonard Williams. It’s just that overall Gettleman was wrong about too many things, and his decisions did not make the team better.

Brian Misdom asks: Have a more ominous question that I hope never comes to pass.

I’ve seen some chatter on the board around the circumstances that would need to occur for Tyrod Taylor to usurp Jones as the starter. Most believe there is no legitimate, justifiable reason for him to take over from Jones as he has been largely a journeyman QB — and if Jones is that bad, continue the losing for a premium pick.

I personally think Daboll and Schoen will provide DJ every chance to prove whether he is or isn’t the franchise QB and that it will be a long leash. It would need to be disastrous to make the switch but I do think they would pull the plug if it becomes obvious TT gives them a better chance to win games. Daboll and staff still need to build credibility and I don’t think intentionally keeping DJ in over TT is going to do them any favors. On principle, the players need to know the staff is doing everything they can to build a winning program.

So my question to you is, do you think Daboll and co. would bench DJ? And if so, how bad would it need to be for them to arrive at this decision? 0-8,1-7, etc. with a middling offense going into the bye?

Ed says: Brian, I absolutely think Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen would bench Daniel Jones. Does that mean I am predicting that they will? No, it absolutely does not.

First and foremost, everyone needs to understand that Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll are not tied to Jones. They did not draft him, and their legacies are not going to be defined by him failing to become a top-tier quarterback. Dave Gettleman’s is, if that’s what happens.

If the season goes south, the offense isn’t functioning and it’s clear that Jones isn’t the answer, the Giants would certainly make the short-term move to Tyrod Taylor.

Remember something else. Schoen and Daboll know the NFL is a results business. John Mara knows he needs to have patience, but the losing has gone on for a decade and the reality is he ran out of it long ago.

Joe Judge was promised time to get the Giants turned around. He pretty much ran himself out of town, true, but he got two years. Same as Pat Shurmur. Same as Ben McAdoo. That’s not being patient.

Schoen and Daboll know that, like they don’t have allegiance to Jones, Mara and Steve Tisch don’t have allegiance to them. A couple of four-win seasons and they’ll both be out the door. They are not going to sit around and pass on making a quarterback switch just because the owner likes Jones. If they come to the conclusion Taylor gives them a better chance to win, Taylor will play.

Gino Phillips asks: I had to watch the game at a noisy sports bar with the Pats broadcasters, and I did not have the benefit of the Giants’ commentators. I did not read anything yet addressing these questions:

  • What did you see form Ezeudu in his play, as well as the other backup OTs?
  • How did the Roche-Ximines competition play out in the game. I saw them on the field at the same time often.

Ed says: Gino, watching a preseason game in a bar with the other team’s announcers is dedication.

Joshua Ezeudu played well. He spent the night at left guard after Shane Lemieux got hurt. I think this kid is going to be a good player.

Backup offensive tackles? Devery Hamilton played 70 snaps at left tackle and ended up with a 90.1 Pro Football Focus grade. Also noteworthy that backup center Ben Bredeson was at 90.0 in 64 snaps.

Oshane Ximines played 25 snaps, Quincy Roche played 24. Roche was active in the second half, but that was largely against players who won’t make the New England roster. So, tough to tell.

Edwin Gommers asks: Kind of a multipart question for the mailbag. Looking back at the first pre-season game where the debuts of Neal and Thibodeaux were at least somewhat underwhelming, quality depth seems to become an issue at multiple positions: OL, DB just to name a few. With roster cut down dates quickly approaching, which players are you keeping an eye on that may hit the waiver wire and would you be willing to move/cut any current players to create cap space (e.g. would you be willing to move on from Martinez now McKinney is the defensive signal caller and LBs aren’t as important in Wink’s defense or say Shepard) to sign quality additions?

Ed says: Edwin, I’m going to push back against the idea that Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal were “underwhelming.” What did you, or anyone, expect from these guys? To look like they deserve gold jackets the first time they step on an NFL field?

Thibodeaux played 14 snaps. He had one assist. I think every player in the NFL has proibably gone 14 snaps without a tackle. He drew a penalty. He was credited by Pro Football Focus with winning 14.3 percent of his pass rush attempts. That’s not bad at all. He got his feet wet, he didn’t get hurt and it’s fine. If you want to go nuts because he wasn’t a star of the game, then go nuts. I’m not getting worked up about it.

Neal had a so-so PFF grade of 54.2 in 18 snaps. Again, it’s 18 snaps in his first-ever NFL preseason action. He did fine blocking for the run and gave up one pressure — ONE!! — in 12 pass-blocking snaps. Everybody needs to calm down and stop making judgments off of what is basically nothing.

As for waiver wire players, I have no idea. I don’t spend a ton of time studying other team’s rosters. I’m sure the Giants will be looking for help at cornerback, offensive line and perhaps tight end. As Joe Schoen said the other day, pretty soon there will be 1,300 players out of jobs.

As for moving on from Blake Martinez or Sterling Shepard, neither move would make any sense this year.

Cutting/trading Martinez would leave $6.25 million in dead money on the books and save just $1.426 million, per Over The Cap.

Cutting/trading Shepard would leave $4.245 million in dead money on the books for 2022 and save just $2.058 million.