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Big Blue View mailbag: Roster, cap, offensive line questions

The mail’s here!

Let’s open up this week’s Big Blue View mailbag and answer some New York Giants questions.

Will Edwards asks: Based on reading all of the comment boards, there are lots of people suggesting that it’s time to embrace the tank and we should have been doing that since before the season began. First question is if the Giants had been embracing the tank, what, if anything, would you have done differently over this past offseason? We still needed to sign someone to play QB and DJ on a 4-year deal gave us more flexibility to sign others than DJ on the franchise tag would have. Maybe a do-over on the Waller deal, but how do any of the other moves preclude them from continuing to build for a future with or without DJ? Second question is that given how often teams whiff on top draft picks, what’s the point of tanking at all when a high draft pick hardly guarantees a franchise QB or any other great player? I’m certainly glad we ended up with Andrew Thomas over Chase Young, if you catch my drift.

Ed says: First of all, an organization run by John Mara will never intentionally embrace tanking. And tanking in the NFL is stupid, with the Andrew Thomas-Chase Young thing being an example. Not to mention how many times have team gotten the No. 1 overall pick wrong?

I would have done exactly what the Giants did with Daniel Jones, and I have said many times I would have prioritized quarterback over running back.

As for the Waller deal, I have no problem with the Giants taking that shot. Players with Waller’s upside are hard to find.

Peter Buscemi asks: So much to say, but I’d like to focus on just one topic.

At least three times in this game, the Giants had to start inside their own 5-yard line due to excellent punts by the Jets.

Meanwhile, the Giants’ punting was repeatedly poor. This is not new. For whatever reason, the Giants don’t seem to appreciate the importance of good and sensible punting. Pin the opponent back deep, kick it out of bounds to avoid returns, etc. Do they really think this doesn’t matter?

Ed says: Peter, the Giants of course understand that field position matters. It’s one of the reasons they — finally — signed an experienced return man in Gunner Olszewski before the game against the Jets.

Let’s give credit where it is due. Thomas Morstead of the Jets had an insanely good game. He punted 11 times, had those three punts inside the 5-yard line, had four total punts downed inside the 20-yard line and had a net average of 43.0.

Giants’ punter Jamie Gillan also had a good day. He punted 13 times and had five punts downed inside the 20-yard line, forced four fair catches and had a net average of 40.0 yards per punt. Unfortunately, with so many punts the incredible day Morstead had meant the Jets gained about 30 yards of field position in the punt game.

Gillan had one or two sub-par punts among the 13, but it’s hard to kill the guy when he punted that often. Gillan is having an outstanding year. He is average career bests in net yards per punt (43.7) and percentage of kicks that go for touchbacks (2.2). Last season, those numbers were 39.7 and 12.2.

So, really nothing to complain about.

Jon Tessler asks: To piggyback off of James Stoll’s question (last week) about Tomon Fox, what is up with Oshane Ximines, He hasn’t been on the injury report, but he also hasn’t played over the last few weeks. Is he back in Wink’s doghouse? With Ward and Basham bringing ‘less than nothing” to the defense, and Ojulari coming off another Injury, wouldn’t it make sense to add Ximines to the rotation?

Ed says: Jon, Ximines is not part of the 53-man roster. He is on the practice squad. He has been elevated for games three times now and would have to be added to the 53-man roster at this point if the Giants want/need to play him.

I understand the question because there is a need for more edge depth. It is something we pointed out way back in the offseason, probably before the draft, and it never got adequately addressed. Boogie Basham isn’t helping the defense at all and is not the answer. Ximines isn’t the answer, either. He has 2.0 sacks, both coming last season, since compiling 4.5 as a rookie in 2019. He’s a great guy and I enjoy talking to him, but after five years I think we know he isn’t a real answer on the edge.

The Giants do need more on the edge, but that isn’t going to happen until the offseason.

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Robert Forgione asks: Hi Ed, love your work. My question is about the salary cap. I know Joe Schoen’s first job was to get the cap under control when he took over. Giants were up against the cap in year one, better in year two. Kept hearing all these crazy numbers about Giants having between 50-60 million going into this year. Now I see they have about 1.50 in space for rest of the year. Also saw how Washington will have 90 million next year. Question is, how can a team with zero stars have less than $2 million in cap space?

Ed says: Robert, let’s accurately reflect where the Giants are cap-wise after the Leonard Williams trade. Over The Cap shows them with $6.37 million in cap space, 17th-most in the league. Before that deal, they were last with less than $1 million. So, trading Williams made a massive difference, even though they ate most of the salary and pushed some of the money into next season’s void year.

Now, how did they get into the mess they were in?

Well, to start with the contract Dave Gettleman gave Williams counted for a $32.3 million cap hit this season before the deal. There is still $14.7 million in dead money on the books this season for Kenny Golladay. Dead money is a huge issue. Here is the full list of dead money for the Giants, per OTC:

That is $53.75 million in dead money, almost 25% of the $224.8 million cap, most of which Joe Schoen had nothing to do with.

They signed Daniel Jones to a big contract. Having to franchise tag Saquon Barkley means every penny of his $10.091 million 2023 salary counts against the cap. Adoree’ Jackson, again thanks to Gettleman, has a $19.076 million cap hit.

So, mostly, Schoen is still working to get out from under some of the bad contracts he was handed. When you spend money poorly it has long-term ramifications.

Matthew Minasian asks: I’m a big fan of your podcast. Since there’s been so much chatter around Joe Schoen’s first draft class, I still wonder why Charles Cross wasn’t selected. Even then, Cross was considered the more technically sound of the two, and when you consider Neal wouldn’t even participate in any of the drills measuring agility and quickness, the red flag should have been noticed by the front office.

The selection of Neal seems to be one of the biggest headwinds surrounding the offensive line for the past 1.5 seasons. How much longer before he slides inside to the guard position?

Ed says: Matthew, we have been over the whole ‘didn’t test’ thing a number of times. Maybe it should have been given more weight, but pretty much every time in the league considered Neal a worthwhile top 10 pick entering the draft. The Giants were far from alone.

As for Cross, I think it came down to the fact that the Giants were going to use whichever tackle they drafted on the right side. Neal had significant college experience on the right side. I believe Ickey Ekwonu did, as well. Cross was, and is, a pure left tackle. To my knowledge, I think the belief was that Neal was a more natural fit for how the Giants intended to use him.

As for how much longer before he slides into guard, my guess is that doesn’t happen this season. The Giants have Justin Pugh, Ben Bredeson, Mark Glowinski and even Marcus McKethan. I think they give Neal the final nine games to show once and for all whether or not he can play right tackle, then make the guard/tackle decision in the offseason. If he is terrible when he returns from his ankle injury I guess it is possible he gets moved sooner. I just thinks odds he gets the rest of the season at right tackle.

Jerome James Jr. asks: I get the fan’s frustration (10 years no offensive line etc.), but the reality is this GM has only had two years of trying to develop an offensive line. They saw what they had in Thomas and picked their added pieces they believed would gradually get them to an effective line. Thomas and all four of their recent draft choices have had injuries, which means we have yet to see what a potential line of Thomas, Ezeudu, Schmitz, McKethan and Neal could do. If hypothetically there are no more injuries, do you think they have the resolve to see if that particular grouping can come together and be what I assume the staff thinks it could be? What’s your sense of how that line would do?

Ed says: Jerome, that line is currently an impossibility because Josh Ezeudu is on IR and Brian Daboll has said that he believes Ezeudu’s injury to be season-ending. As for Marcus McKethan, I like the young man’s promise but right now Mark Glowinski, Ben Bredeson and Justin Pugh are all better players. When Andrew Thomas returns, some combination of those three will be at the guard spots.

I know the organization likes Ezeudu, but Bredeson was clearly better last season. The same was true all summer during training camp. McKethan needs experience, but the Giants’ priority has to be keeping Daniel Jones in one piece and running a functional offense. Right now Glowinski, Pugh and Bredeson give them a better chance than McKethan.

Jacob Willett asks: Why do you think the Giants have been so terrible at scouting offensive linemen out of college? Outside of the 3-5 year run during the Coughlin years the offensive line has consistently been one of weakest units on the team for the past 30 years. Since 1990 only 3 offensive linemen drafted by the Giants have made the Pro Bowl (Snee 4, Diehl 1, and Jumbo Elliott 1). Guys like O’Hara, McKenzie, and Ron Stone were free agent acquisitions brought in to help struggling units. This problem is obviously deeper then the just the GM so what could it be and how does it span 3 decades?

Ed says: Jacob, I can’t dissect 30 years worth of decisions. I can look at the last 10-15 years. Long-time readers have probably seen my go through this before, but I will do it again.

The Giants got into this offensive line mess in the first place because they went from 2009 when they selected Will Beatty in Round 2 until 2013 when they took Justin Pugh in Round 1 without using premium resources on an offensive lineman. They let a once-great offensive line break down without adequately supplementing it.

Since then, they have certainly tried to fix it. Pugh, Ereck Flowers and Andrew Thomas have been drafted in Round 1. Weston Richburg, Will Hernandez and John Michael Schmitz have been drafted in Round 2. Jozhua Ezeudu and Matt Peart have been drafted in Round 3.

Flowers was a mistake. Drafting Evan Engram instead of quality right tackle Ryan Ramczyk in 2017 was a mistake. Thomas is a great player. Pugh, Richburg and Hernandez were, or are, good ones.

There have been free agent mistakes. Singing Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh. Not signing Andrew Whitworth.

A big part of it, to me, is the revolving doors in the front office and the coaching staffs. The Giants have had three GMs since 2017. They have had four head coaches since Tom Coughlin. They have had a series of offensive line coaches, many of them poor ones.

Consistency in the front office, cohesion between the GM, scouts and coaching staff in terms of what they want, and quality coaching go a long way. The Giants have had none of those things for a long time. Everyone has their opinion about offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, but I think the Giants are in a much better place than they have been in quite a while.

Chris Chianese asks: Ed, Gano plays. Missed two FGs, one being the game winner. Gano says he’s hurt after the game. Put on IR now and needs surgery. What’s going on with the medical staff? And the Daniel Jones was cleared to play late Sunday morning is just too hard for me to believe to think what is being said is actually true.

Ed says: Chris, let’s clarify something about Graham Gano. He acknowledged before last week’s game that he was hurt and would need post-season surgery on his left knee. He’s been on the injury report for a few weeks, so it was known he was less than 100%.

Everybody always wants to blame somebody when things don’t go right. I’m soooo tired of the criticism of the medical staff that has gone on probably as long as I have run this site. I’m also tired of the online vitriol that has been directed at Gano, an accountable, class act who was been great for the Giants for several years and was simply trying to do his job.

Obviously, the Giants knew Gano was hurt. The medical opinion most likely was that he couldn’t make the issue worse by playing. The Giants watched him kick in practice each week and believed he could do the job. Gano did as well. As many years as he has been in the league and as good as he has been he has earned some trust.

Every NFL player gets hurt. Many of them deal with week-to-week things we never know about. If every NFL player who had some type of injury or was less than 100% healthy didn’t play, I’m not sure who would play.

As for Jones, I have said again and again that passing those tests and being cleared on Sunday morning made zero difference for last week. He could not pass them in time to be cleared by Friday and was ruled OUT. I asked Brian Daboll about this and league rules say once a player is ruled out that can’t be changed.

Jones and Daboll have both said his clearance was for Week 9. Now, could the Giants have listed Jones as ‘doubtful’ and kept the door open? Perhaps. They made the best decision they could with the information they had at the time.

As for what Daboll tells us about injuries, he tells us as little as possible. I wish he would tell us more, but I understand why he doesn’t.

Andy Engel asks: One thing that’s be bugging me all season, and now especially does after the Jet game (-8 yards passing!) is that the Giants let go of Richie James after last season. He was their best receiver last year. Yes, he fumbled those 2 times returning the ball on special teams but that just tells me don’t use him on special teams. I don’t like using skill players to return kick-off/punt returns anyway. Remember Jason Sehorn? Ruined his career. I also know he dropped a few passes but also saw him get open a lot and catch many third down conversions in critical drives. They thought Hodgins was going to step in and take his place? It hasn’t happened. Since you’re in the know, can you say anything to make me feel better about this or was it just a bad decision? We’re desperate for a passing game!

Ed says: Andy, I thought Richie James had done enough to be brought back by the Giants on a one-year deal. Daniel Jones developed some trust in him, and I think that should have garnered more consideration. But, let’s be real. He had 57 catches last season, 34 more than he had ever had in any of his other four seasons. It is unlikely he ever approaches that production again.

Truth is, James would currently be the backup to Wan’Dale Robinson. That is what he was last year, and he played mostly because of the injuries to Robinson and Sterling Shepard. He would barely be playing this year because the Giants are committed to Robinson.

Now, the signing of Parris Campbell has not paid dividends yet. You can argue, rightly, that the Giants could have re-signed James for less than they signed Campbell. But, I seriously doubt James would supplant the four receivers getting the bulk of the playing time — Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins.

The Giants’ issues in the passing game aren’t because James isn’t on the team.

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