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Big Blue View mailbag: Evan Neal, the future at quarterback, more questions

The mail’s here

Jim Merrill asks: The talk about Evan Neal needing to be more consistent is coach-speak.

One glaring deficiency is his issues with balance in his sets and mirroring D-lineman and LBs. That does not seem to have improved from last year. And his ankle injuries suggest he can’t handle the huge weight and momentum shifts with movement.

His mental processing may also be a problem.

I was wary of his ability to improve when I thought I heard he had only lost 10+ pounds from 2022, so he was at 330+ pounds. That to me was a big red flag on dealing with edge rushers!

Is there the possibility of a lose weight ultimatum, to say down to less than 320 pounds, if he wants to remain a serious candidate to remain at right tackle?

Ed says: Jim, I don’t know exactly what Evan Neal weighs. The Giants list the 6-foot-7 Neal at 340 pounds. I can tell you this — whatever the weight is, Neal is not pudgy. I have seen him with his shirt off and I have never thought he was dragging around a bunch of extra weight.

Here is what he said at the beginning of training camp about his offseason regimen:

“I definitely put on more muscle and got leaner,” Neal said. “I’m in a lot better shape, I feel a lot healthier, and I feel a lot more confident in the offense as well, for sure.

Neal changed his eating habits this offseason.

“I’ve always worked out hard, I’ve always trained extremely hard,” he said. “I was a lot more conscious about my diet. I hired a chef and it was really helpful in terms of what I was putting in my body.”

Neal indicated he lost 10-15 pounds.

I don’t think his struggles have been about weight. I don’t think his ankle issues are about weight, either. They are just about the hazards playing the offensive line and having people roll up on your legs.

Theodore Morehouse asks: What ever happened to Tomon Fox? He made some plays last year, and had a great record at North Carolina.

Ed says: Theodore, the Giants have spent the season telling us they don’t think Tomon Fox is part of the solution at the edge defender position. Fox has been on the practice squad all season without being elevated for a single game.

Oshane Ximines was elevated three times before he was released. Benton Whitley was signed off the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad and added to the 53-man roster. Justin Hollins, a former Giants practice squad player who signed with the Los Angeles Chargers, was elevated before Fox.

Brian Misdom asks: Hi Ed, watching the Eagles get blown out in consecutive weeks has been a delight in this lost season. Until two weeks ago, the eagles were largely viewed as the best team in the NFL, but they’ve thankfully been humbled some by the 49ers and Cowboys.

Taking these events into context, it seems the NFL gave the Giants a very tough hill to climb to start the season. And maybe, just maybe, we aren’t as bad as media or our fanbase might think?

Granted our margin of defeat was greater vs. both but I can’t help but feel this shows even an “elite” team struggled against these two. A team with more middling talent (like the Giants) would need all the breaks to pull off an upset.

What, if any, takeaways does this have for you on the Giants opening stretch which sunk our season basically as soon as it began?

Ed says: Brian, I have always said the six-game stretch to begin the season was brutal. Three games in 11 days to open the season, two on the West Coast, a stretch that included Dallas at home, Arizona on the road, San Francisco on the road, Seattle at home, then Miami and Buffalo on the road.

Honestly, 2-4 in that stretch would have been good. The Giants went 1-5. I also feel as though the way the Giants lost to Dallas in Week 1, being blown off the field before halftime and ending up completely embarrassed, had a lingering effect.

To me, right now the Giants are a middle of the pack team.

Jeff Newman asks: Ed, with DJ’s contract, we know he will be here next year. If he seems to be on track health wise, what are the odds that the Giants just take a flier on a late round QB and/or lower tier free agent QB and roll into the 2024 season with DJ and Tommy as their top two QBs and essentially punt on finding their franchise QB another year? I’m not advocating for this by the way.

Ed says: Jeff, like you I am not going to advocate for that strategy. Or, at this point, any strategy. There is certainly an argument to be made for taking quarterback in the top 10. There’s an argument to be made for taking the best non-quarterback on your board in the top 10 and taking a quarterback on Day 2. There is an argument to be made for the strategy you mention, just taking a Day 3 flier on a quarterback you like who falls into that range of the draft.

To me, what the Giants do will reveal a lot when it comes to their true feelings about Daniel Jones and Tommy DeVito.

Chesapeake Blue asks: Now that the OL seems to have come together as a unit, does it make sense to put Neal into the lineup, once he’s ready, now that he’s practicing again? Seems like there’s a lot to untangle.

First off, he’d have to show he was ready with practice snaps, mostly with the 2s at first. I don’t think there’s a chance he could show that kind of progress in time for Sunday’s game; we can hope he’s far enough along to dress as a backup.

So, that takes us to Christmas in Philadelphia. That really doesn’t feel like a game to start experimenting, and it’s hard to see that changing over the last two weeks as well, barring injury.

The situation makes earning snaps that much harder; Daboll has to stick to that earn-it mode for his credibility. Right now, you have to think Phillips is earning the starter’s snaps.

Meanwhile, the less he plays, the less the team can learn about where his development is going, the less he’s going to develop. Schoen and Daboll have to figure out the plan for OT for ‘24, and the OL in general, and right now it isn’t at all clear where Neal can fit into that.

One more: 2024 is Neal’s 3rd year. It’s career-critical; the team has to decide on his option after the season.

Whatever you actually know about OL coaching, I know less. What are your thoughts? Have you heard anything?

Ed says: Whoa, Chesapeake, that’s a long-winded question. I believe that if Neal is healthy enough to play, he has to play. Maybe that’s in a rotation with Tyre Phillips, who has done an acceptable job at right tackle in Neal’s absence.

It sounds like Neal won’t play against the New Orleans Saints, leaving only three games remaining in the season.

I know playing Neal messes with the continuity the Giants have finally established on the offensive line, with the same group having started the last four games. The Giants have too much invested in Neal and too big of a decision to make this offseason in terms of the future construction of the offensive line to be short-sighted.

All this fancy playoff talk is nice, and we’ll cater to it because it’s a nice story and something to talk about. But, they are not making the playoffs. Organizationally, I think they understand that.

Neal has lost a lot of valuable time. In my view, the Giants can’t chain him to the bench at this point and cause him to miss more. He needs to play, simply because whatever decision the Giants ultimately make with him is important to their future. They need to see as many snaps as they can.

Now, next season if you want to put him in a competition for a starting spot that I could support. He hasn’t earned guaranteed time from Day 1.

Jerry Panza asks: Despite the close back and forth game with the Pack Monday, this was an entertaining Giants game as I’ve enjoyed in a long time. So, I’m happy you get to write positive stories and it’s a good week to field Giants fans queries.

A - I would like to know if Tommy Cutlets will be a free agent at the end of this season. B - Do you will there be a quarterback controversy next year.

Ed says: Jerry, no, Tommy DeVito will not be a free agent at season’s end. Undrafted players sign three-year contracts. DeVito has a three-year, $2.705 million contract with the Giants. This is the biggest reason it would be great for them if he can at least be a viable backup. That would mean that for 2024 and 2025 (when the Giants hold his exclusive free agent rights) they would have a No. 2 quarterback costing them almost nothing.

As for a quarterback controversy next year, maybe. Let’s see how the rest of this year unfolds, how quickly Daniel Jones heals and how the Giants approach the draft. We have seen so many of these ‘QB from nowhere’ feel-good stories come up and then die — like Josh Dobbs in Minnesota — that I would say proceed with caution. DeVito is a great story, a lot of fun, is playing better than I ever thought he could, but I’m not willing to go to the ‘he can be a QB1’ level yet.

Mike Rosenberger asks: John Mara came under withering criticism at the time Gettleman and Judge were fired for too much meddling in the football ops. While there are some in the comment section who continue to blast the Giants’ D, and blame Wink for it, the GB game seems like Exhibit A in the argument that Wink is doing a fine job. Personally, I think the D’s shortcomings have been more personnel related (no edge rusher other than KT, inexperienced corners, less than expected out of the Nacho and Robinson, among others). Assuming for the moment that Glazer’s reporting was accurate, do you think this is a situation where the owner needs to step in and tell Daboll “you need to fix this, because Wink isn’t going anywhere”? You correctly state that in a football team, the principals (GM and HC; HC and coordinators) need to be on the same page. But, where you have a talented DC, who the players clearly respond to, it would be a shame to lose him over a personality conflict. This may be a time where some meddling by the owner is both necessary and appropriate. Thoughts?

Ed says: Mike, I recently wrote that the best thing for the Giants would be for Martindale to stay on as defensive coordinator. That would allow the Giants to continue building what they have without having to alter philosophies and adjust personnel. If it takes intervention from ownership to facilitate that, so be it.

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