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7 ‘things I think’ 7 days before Giants’ football

The Giants have a game in week, and here are some of my thoughts entering the season

NFL: AUG 28 Preseason - Giants at Jets Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants have a regular-season game in seven days. So, here are seven ‘things I think’ about the 2022 Giants.

Final word about Blake Martinez

I really don’t want to write about the Giants’ decision to release Martinez anymore. But, I’m going to. Hopefully for the final time.

There has been way too much gnashing of teeth over a player — albeit a good one — who was never going to be a Giant beyond 2023, anyway.

Yes, perhaps if GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll had a crystal ball and could have foreseen this outcome they would have just cut ties with Martinez in the offseason rather than bring him back with a steep pay cut.

The Giants have said this was a mutual decision. Martinez has acknowledged as much. He saw the writing on the wall. He knew his role was going to be reduced. He was no longer a captain. He was no longer the defensive signal caller. All indications were he was not going to be an every down player.

Yeah, I get it. Martinez has a better resume than Tae Crowder, Micah McFadden, Cam Brown, Austin Calitro and Carter Coughlin. He is a good player. Not a great one, but a good one. He wasn’t part of the future. He wasn’t what this coaching staff wanted. So the two sides are moving on a year earlier than we figured.

Maybe that clears a path for McFadden to play more. Maybe Dane Belton or Tony Jefferson get on the field more in sub packages. Let’s just see how it plays out.

I honestly don’t think it is going to end up changing all that much for the 2022 Giants.

It’s about the eye test

The subject of what would constitute a good season for the 2022 Giants always comes up. I do not think you can put a number on it, or make a specific “this is exactly would a good season would be” kind of statement.

Well, sure, winning the Super Bowl would be pretty good. Even making the playoffs would work. But, let’s walk before we run here.

It’s about competence. It’s about finding out if the Giants have building blocks. It is about feeling like the Giants are competing, like they are challenging opponents and trying to win, rather than aiming for the least embarrassing outcome.

It’s about how you feel watching this team play. Are you proud of the effort? Do they make you hopeful they are on their way to a better future? Or, do they leave you embarrassed to be a Giants fan?

We have been fooled before. Three times in a row, in fact. The first years of the Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge eras left us hopeful that things were getting better. They weren’t.

Let’s hope we don’t get fooled again.

25 is the magic number

Preseason stats are meaningless. If they weren’t, Alex Bachman, who led the NFL with 19 preseason receptions, would be a starting wide receiver for the Giants instead of a free agent without an employer. For that matter, Davis Webb would be the starting quarterback.

Still, there is one preseason number the Giants compiled that I find interesting enough to mention. The Giants scored 25.0 points per game. For what that’s worth, it was fifth in the league in preseason scoring.

I bring it up because 25.0 is an interesting number. Why? Last season, the Minnesota Vikings were 13th in the league in scoring at that exact number 25.0 points per game. In 2020, the Atlanta Falcons were 16th, the exact middle of the league, at 24.8 points per game.

The Giants averaged 17.5 points per game in 2020 and just 15.2 last season, 31st in the league both seasons. I do not think anyone should expect miracles in Year 1 of the Brian Daboll-Mike Kafka offense, but if the Giants can get to 25 points per game — league average — I think that would make them competitive more often than not.

Take the OVER on Saquon

The last over/under number I saw from Draft Kings on 2022 total yards from scrimmage for Saquon Barkley was 1300.5. If I were a betting man — and I am most certainly not — I think I would absolutely plunk down a few dollars on the ‘over.’

Barkley has looked healthier and more explosive this summer than at any time since his 2019 high ankle sprain. He has also been absolutely defiant, on multiple occasions, in taking on those who doubt his ability or criticize his running style.

The big question, of course, is health. Barkley has not played an injury-free, full season since 2018. If he can do that in 2022 I believe 1,300 total yards (76.4 per game) is pretty much a lock for Barkley. He averaged 65.8 last season with a miserable offensive line, an unimaginative offense and playing six games behind quarterbacks who did not belong in the league. I absolutely think Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka will get more out of Barkley than that.

So, you won’t often get betting advice from yours truly. That, though, is my thought on a Barkley bet.

Wrecking games

Giants’ defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence told me during training camp that stats don’t matter, he just wants to wreck games.

I think Lawrence is going to do a lot of that in 2022.

If you asked me for a single “breakout” candidate for the Giants, I would give you Lawrence. The way I have framed the Lawrence discussion is that he has been good during his first three seasons, but has not been great.

I think there is another level Lawrence can reach, and I feel good about his chances of getting there this season. He is now being tutored by Andre Patterson, one of the best defensive line coaches in the business. Lawrence had a dominant summer. I loved his attitude when I had a chance to sit 1-on-1 with him last month.

If he stays healthy, signs point to this being Lawrence’s best season to date.

Out of the wreckage

The injury suffered by Shane Lemieux begat the question of who would be the Giants’ left guard to start the season. Of course, the answer got even more confusing when rookie third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu and Ben Bredeson, the most likely replacements, suffered injuries of their own.

The Giants found veterans Jamil Douglas and Max Garcia wanting, leading to untested Devery Hamilton getting first-team reps at that spot the last couple of weeks of preseason.

The Giants have recently added Jack Anderson (Philadelphia Eagles) and Tyre Phillips (Baltimore Ravens) via waiver claims.

Short-term, that’s a mess. Out of all of that, though, whether it is Lemieux or someone else I think the Giants will end up just fine at that spot.

To be honest, I’m more worried long-term about the center spot. Jon Feliciano is a pure short-term solution.

Who’s calling the plays?

Head coach Brian Daboll allowed offensive coordinator Mike Kafka to do that throughout the spring, training camp and the preseason. Yet, Daboll has still not committed to whether he will call offensive plays himself or allow Kafka to do so during the regular season.

GM Joe Schoen has said he would prefer the head coach did not call plays, but that the choice would be Daboll’s. The head coach has been the play caller during stops in Buffalo, Miami, Kansas City and Cleveland. His work in Buffalo is a big part of what got him this opportunity with the Giants.

I think Daboll is going to have a hard time letting that responsibility go, even though I also believe Kafka would/will do an en excellent job.

I am not sure what Daboll will ultimately decide, but I am interesting in learning the answer.