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Big Blue View mailbag: Offensive line, Wink Martindale, quarterback (of course) and more

The mail’s here!

As the New York Giants season continues to spiral, questions keep pouring in to the Big Blue View mailbag. Let’s open this week’s edition and see what we have.

James Butkiewicz asks: Do you feel the trade of Leonard Williams is at least part of the reason for the defensive decline since his trade, or is it just coincidence?

Ed says: James, Leonard Williams is a good player. Any time you subtract a good player like Williams who plays a high volume of snaps that is going to hurt. Losing Williams, though, isn’t why the Giants don’t have a sack in two weeks. It’s not why they gave up 640 yards to the Dallas Cowboys and couldn’t cover anyone.

The Giants were losing those games with or without Williams. And they almost certainly were not going to re-sign him this offseason. Honestly, no matter what the short-term impact they would have been foolish to turn down the second-round pick they got in exchange for him.

Christopher White asks: Ed, turning away from the woeful offense for a moment, is it fair to question whether Wink’s scheme fits the team’s personnel or is still completely relevant in today’s passing game? Clearly last year’s defense was a success relative to expectations. Wink got the most out of a modestly talented crew with clear gaps at LB and against the run game. I get that sack totals aren’t necessarily the defining statistic, but our constant blitz pressure doesn’t seem to be “breaking many pipes” this year, and leaving rookie CB’s to man-cover the likes of CeeDee Lamb or A.J. Brown seems almost cruel and confidence-draining. Am I right in suggesting the defense is not progressing or adjusting as much as opposition offenses are? Might our issue be as much the scheme as our relative talent level? Or am I biased by our very poor performances against top teams with sturdy offensive lines? Then, looking at the upcoming draft and free agency (with more cap space now), how would you rank our priority needs on defense between CB (ex-Adoree?), S (ex-McKinney?), DL (ex-Leo), and Edge (ex-Ward, ex-Ximines, and w/Ojulari sometimes)?

Ed says: Christopher, Martindale is under some fire right now and I get it. I even talked about it on a podcast this week. Right now, I think Martindale’s relationship with Daboll and perhaps the players is what is really worth watching.

In terms of scheme, I think Martindale is between a rock and a hard place. We know he loves the blitz and, as a result, man coverage. All the advanced stats back that up.

The Giants don’t have enough pass rushers. Dexter Lawrence creates pressure. Kayvon Thibodeaux creates pressure. Azeez Ojulari hasn’t played enough to do anything. The Giants don’t get pressure without sending more than four rushers. If you send four and get no pressure it doesn’t matter whether you play zone or man — offenses will carve you up.

If you blitz to try and create that pressure, you have to be able to cover man-to-man. The Giants don’t have the people to do that consistently yet. Adoree’ Jackson is hurt. Deonte Banks is experiencing rookie growing pains. Cor’Dale Flott’s been good, but now he’s hurt. Tre Hawkins has been exposed. Nick McCloud and Darnay Holmes are backups.

If you’re Martindale, do you want to die a slow death and let defenses pick the secondary apart? Or, do you want to throw caution to the wind and try to force the action?

I honestly think it’s less about scheme than it is about the Giants needing more good players on defense. Get enough good players, they will make the coach right no matter what he calls.

Doug Mollin asks: Hard to evaluate much during this season, but it only looks like we have about 11 likely starters for 2024 currently on the roster: Thomas, JMS, Hyatt, Wan’Dale, Thibs, Dex, Okereke, McFadden, Banks, Flott, Pinnock. Saquon and Waller may or may not be back. Neal may or may not be starting. Bellinger is looking like a TE2.

With four high draft picks in the first three rounds and some money to get two players in free agency, what are your six highest priority positions to fill? QB, RT, WR1, DL, CB, G?

Still need help at Edge, CB, Safety, TE and RB too. Maybe 2025 is really the target to compete?

Ed says: Doug, I don’t know that I can give you six in any order. The Giants have to handle the quarterback question. They need to figure out the offensive line. They need to add more at wide receiver. They need to add pass rush. They need to add in the secondary.

Basically, there isn’t anyplace on the roster — except maybe inside linebacker — where you can look and say you wouldn’t understand why they would add at that position.

I don’t get into the whole ‘what is the target year to compete?’ stuff. Years like last season happen unexpectedly. You just keep building the best you can.

Scott Meyer asks: Like most Giants fans I had high hopes coming into this year. At this point those high hopes are long gone. Each week watching this team feels more and more like reliving the final weeks of the 2021 season where 1st downs started to feel like touchdowns they were so rare. My question is what positives should we be taking from the season to this point if any? The only one that I can think of is the play of the linebackers. Okereke and McFadden seem to be playing well and hopefully that will continue through into next season.

Ed says: Scott, I think you always look at the development of young players at times like this. Which ones look like part of the future.

On offense, I think you look at center John Michael Schmitz. He hasn’t been great, but I think he’s a keeper. Wan’Dale Robinson shows flashes, but the Giants can’t get him the ball consistently. Same with Jalin Hyatt. Marcus McKethan isn’t ready, but he flashes talent.

On defense, Kayvon Thibodeaux has taken a big step forward. Micah McFadden has been terrific. Tae Banks has had ups and downs, but he’s a player. Cor’Dale Flott and Jason Pinnock are players to build with in the secondary.

Wayne Mirsky asks: I know that it is five months until the draft but it is no secret that the Giants will be getting a top pick and while I am sure that you have not scouted the college players intensively I am sure you are aware of the top ones.

Here is my scenario: Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Marvin Harrison Jr. are off the board. The Giants draft next. On the board now is Joe Alt tackle from Notre Dame, Brock Bowers TE from Georgia, Laiatu Latu, edge rusher from UCLA, Olu Fashanu, tackle from Penn State, J.J. McCarthy QB from Michigan, Bo Nix, QB from Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. QB from Washington.

Who is your choice?

Ed says: Wayne, it is possible the Giants are in this situation. For me, the choice is easy — whichever offensive lineman is considered the best in the country. Right now, evaluators think that is Fashanu. If that means Evan Neal gets kicked inside to guard, so be it.

John Ian Briody asks: So, with DJ now out for the season and the second-tier quarterback we’ll have behind a banged up struggling offensive line odds are we are projected to land anywhere from the 1st to 5th pick in next years draft. Now I know getting the first pick is slim, and I know people are chomping at the bit for a new QB (as am I despite my respect for DJ). If we land the 1st-3rd pick do we DEFINITELY take a QB? Pros have been gushing what a “generational” talent Marvin Harrison Jr. is. To the point where they say he is far beyond the other expected top wide receivers in the draft. With this year’s QB class being so deep with talent would it make more sense to grab Harrison first then a QB in the second round or do you feel Williams or Maye are still the better call even though they may not have “a true WR1” to throw to behind an O Line still in flux?

I feel we should grab Harrison (if he’s available) even if we have the No. 1 pick.


Ed says: John, I don’t know where I will eventually land on the question of whether Caleb Williams or Drake Maye is QB1. I haven’t really studied them yet, just watched on TV and done some reading. I know that’s not the question you asked, but I figured I would put it out there.

Now, to answer your question. I think Marvin Harrison Jr. could be a great NFL player. If I think, though, that either Williams or Maye is a franchise-altering quarterback I can’t in good conscience pass on one of them to select Harrison.

As I sit here right now this far out in front of the draft, the whole ‘take Harrison instead of a quarterback’ thing feels a little bit like the Saquon Barkley at No. 2 debate. It’s hard to pass if you love one or both of those quarterbacks.

Lots of readers wrote in this week asking basically the same question about offensive line over quarterback. My answer is the same. If the organization believes Williams and Maye can be franchise quarterbacks and has a chance to select one, you have to do that. Quarterback is the most important position in football. Shame on you if you need a franchise quarterback, have a chance to get one and pass it by.

Martin Hand asks: Ed, I just read that the decision makers with the Giants still believe in DJ… so do I… everyone thinks Giants should draft a QB in the first round… what do you think about trading down, obtaining draft capital, and taking a QB in second or third round while using ALL other picks on OL and DL? We will build from the inside out and I think we have enough skill players to stand pat… add in free agency where prudent…thoughts?

Ed says: Martin, I get everyone looking toward the future and trying to figure out the draft. It’s sooooo early for all of these questions, though. A lot can change. Key to all of it is where the Giants end up in the draft order because that determines whether or not they will have a shot at a quarterback who deserves to be selected in the first few picks.

I don’t think everyone in the organization still believes in Daniel Jones. I would guess some do, and some are ready to move on. In the end, what matters is what Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll think.

Again, trading down depends on who you are leaving on the table. When Dave Gettleman traded down everybody loved it, myself included. Except that he ended up leaving a great defensive player, Micah Parsons, and a top-tier offensive tackle, Rashawn Slater, on the board.

If you’re the Giants and you have a shot at wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., or the best edge defender or offensive lineman in the draft it’s hard to pass up on that. The Giants do not have enough difference makers.

I wouldn’t mind using the first pick on a non-quarterback and then targeting a guy later — but you better get your guy. Can’t be left holding the bag.

And, no, you can’t just say we’re using all of our picks at a certain position or two. See who is on the board and react accordingly.

David Brenner asks: I don’t get why Bobby Johnson is still the O-line coordinator after such abysmal o-line play this year. I have a set of folding chairs that can block better than these guys. What’s strange is that except for Feliciano, it’s basically the same group from last year, who did a passable job (unintentional pun). I don’t get it. How did the line go from average to horrid? And shouldn’t that largely fall on the position coach? I am mystified as to why Johnson hasn’t gotten the boot.

Ed says: David, first and foremost everyone needs to acknowledge the role injuries have played. Andrew Thomas is a GREAT player. He has played in just three games. He has been fully healthy and playing the way he is capable of playing in ZERO of those games. That is a major factor.

Center John Michael Schmitz missed three games right in the middle of his rookie season — devastating to the development of a rookie. Evan Neal keeps getting hurt and missing time, making it impossible to see if he can sustain the glimpses of improvement he sometimes shows.

The Giants have juggled the line. They have had guys playing out of position — like Justin Pugh and Josh Ezeudu at left tackle and Ben Bredeson at center. They tried to force Marcus McKethan into the lineup when he wasn’t ready. I’m not sure how one bad game got Mark Glowinski pretty much permanently exiled.

I haven’t understood a lot of what has happened on the line this year. I also understand the ‘Johnson must go’ sentiment. I am not sure, though, how much Johnson has had to do with any of the decisions about who is on the roster, who is in the lineup and who plays where. Those things are usually above the position coach’s pay grade.

Robert Goodman asks: Would you begin playing the young players more than the vets; Owens, Belton, Hawkins, Davidson, Riley, McKethan, Wheaton, Gray (when healthy)?

Ed says: Robert, I understand this question as it is a standard line of thinking in the situation the Giants are in. Problem is, the Giants are already playing the second-youngest roster in the league:

Let me go player-by-player through the games you mentioned:

Bryce-Ford Wheaton is on season-ending IR. Eric Gray is also on IR, and I don’t know if he will play again.

Dane Belton is already playing some. If you try to play Gervarrius Owens, who’s snaps are you taking? Belton’s? Jason Pinnock is a 24-year-old third-year player and maybe the best safety the Giants have. Are you taking his snaps?

Tre Hawkins is already playing a fair amount. D.J. Davidson is a nose tackle who backs up Dexter Lawrence. Are you taking Lawrence off the field more often? I’d like to see Jordon Riley get a chance, but he is also a nose tackle. Maybe you could get Riley and Davidson some snaps in place of A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches, but not many.

I like Marcus McKethan and think he has potential, but we have already seen enough of him this season to know he’s really not ready to be out there.

So, I’m really not sure how much more the Giants can do in the ‘play the young guys’ department.

Mark P. Lynch asks: This past week a columnist in a major newspaper said that the Giants were a disaster [no surprise there.] Mentioned of course were the QB injuries and the horrible OL but it went on to say that the Giants had created bad karma in the locker room because of the “Hardball” negotiations with Barkley. Do you see any evidence of type of attitude from the players or are they are bad because they just are not playing very well and have had injuries to key players?

Ed says: Mark, that whole “the Barkley negotiations created bad karma” is nonsense. Dexter Lawrence, Andrew Thomas and Daniel Jones got paid. Darius Slayton got a new contract. Losing creates frustration, and frustration leads people to say and do things they probably shouldn’t. The Giants aren’t bad because they wouldn’t give Saquon Barkley a long-term deal. They’re bad because they don’t have enough good players.

Bob Donnelly asks: There’s no question that the Giants will not see the playoffs this year. However, it may be premature to start expecting a top five draft pick. While the Defense got spanked by Dallas on Sunday they have shown up big time in some other games. Washington is the next opponent and they have traded away their two best pass rushers. This may allow our O line to have a respectable day. Not saying DeVito is going to light it up, but with a solid performance by the defense he may be able to do just enough to earn the W.

The following week is New England, and given their recent performances a 4th W on the back of the D is a possibility. Now if the schedule had a different order, and at the end of week 10 the Giants were 4 and 6 they would be sitting in the 12 slot for the 2024 draft right in front of the Jets. The have Green Bay - who has 1 more win - after the bye, and LA in week 11 either of which could result in an almost inconceivable 5th W.

So my question is if the Jekyll and Hyde Defense plays to the level we saw vs Buffalo, Washington and NY Jets and the Giants earn 2/3 more wins what does that do to the prospect of drafting a QB in 2024? Do you still view the Daniel Jones era ending in 2024?

Ed says: Bob, Daniel Jones is going to be a Giant next season. So, his ‘era’ won’t necessarily be over. His contract and his torn ACL pretty much guarantee he isn’t going anywhere.

Now, it is absolutely possible the Giants win at least a couple more games. Especially if Tyrod Taylor returns at quarterback for the final few games. What that does to the idea of drafting a quarterback is currently impossible to determine. Out of Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy and Michael Penix Jr., how many of those quarterbacks will be viewed as top-10 worthy selections? If the Giants don’t think any of them are worth a top 10 pick, could they get a quarterback early in Round 2 or by trading back up into the latter part of Round 1?

Those scenarios are possible, but we don’t know yet how NFL teams will end up valuing those players.

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