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Big Blue View mailbag: The focus turns to 2024

The mail’s here!

With the New York Giants back from their bye and ready to face the Green Bay Packers on Monday, let’s open the Big Blue View mailbag and answer some Giants questions.

Robert Forgione asks: With all the talk about Wink leaving the Giants, a question about personnel. What dangers do teams face when they draft/sign a “Wink” type player and then that coach leaves and new coach runs a completely different style? Isn’t it a problem to only draft scheme specific players when coaches are always changing?

Ed says: Robert, this is a good question. It is one GM Joe Schoen has been asked, and said always has to be a consideration. It’s a tricky balance. You want to give the coaching staff what they want/need, but you also don’t want a roster full of guys who only fit one scheme. You want a mix of good players who can do a variety of things. Wink Martindale’s defense obviously requires certain things of players. So does the Brian Daboll/Mike Kafka offense.

To expand on this, it is one of the reasons why teams spin their wheels when they keep changing head coaches every couple of years. The coordinators and schemes, and the type of players wanted, continually changes. It’s impossible to build anything that lasts. The other issue is you are constantly asking players to adjust.

Jeff Marx asks: Are there many examples of players who were collegiate studs as a left tackle who switched sides as a pro and reached their expected full potential? Do you believe the struggles of Evan Neal (regardless of reason) is more about Evan Neal or do we far too often take for granted that switching sides as a pro and being successful isn’t a gimme?

Ed says: Jeff, I don’t know what you would consider “full potential,” but there are a lot of right tackles in the league currently who were collegiate left tackles. Here are a few:

Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints
Jonah Williams, Cincinnati Bengals
Brian O’Neill, Minnesota Vikings
Mike McGlinchey, Denver Broncos
Paris Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
Penei Sewell, Detroit Lions

The switch is not a rare thing. Some players struggle with it more than others. It is learning to do everything in the exact opposite sequence than you did it on the other side. It’s not a layup, especially on the outside at tackle. In terms of Neal, some might argue he is more comfortable on the left side. I don’t know that to be true. He played successfully on both sides at Alabama. I would argue, and have done so many times, that this is more about Neal the athlete than which side he is playing. It’s more about the fact that he doesn’t seem to be as smooth an athlete as most evaluators thought. The deficiencies evaluators saw and believed were correctable have continued to be troublesome.

Doug Mollin asks: Even if Neal can return at some point this season, what will Schoen and Daboll have possibly learned from this lost 2023 to give them confidence in what to do with Neal and the right tackle position?

Aren’t they almost forced at a minimum to sign a veteran right tackle in free agency to compete with Neal for the starting job? Perhaps even immediately plan for Neal to play guard and devote premium salary cap resources to a quality RT.

I can’t see them using a high draft pick on another tackle and live through that learning curve again in 2024.

There’s no chance the starting OL next season will be Thomas, Bredeson, JMS, McKethan, Neal, right?

Ed says: Doug, I think the organization would love to see if Neal could string together three or four quality games at the end of the season.

Just because Joe Schoen said he still believes in Neal’s ability to play right tackle doesn’t mean Neal will be handed that job. They still might move him to guard this offseason, no matter what Neal thinks of that idea.

At the very least, he has to be given real competition for the job. If the Giants think that is Tyre Phillips, fine. If they think it is a free agent signing or draft pick, fine. Inside or outside, after the way the last two seasons have gone Neal should have to come into 2024 and compete for a spot.

I am sure the Giants would prefer not to use another high pick on a tackle, but if that is what they have to do then that is what they will do.

As for your suggested starting lineup, there is always a chance. I think there is at least one starter on that line who is not on the roster right now, but it is impossible to rule out the alignment you list.

Bob Donnelly asks: As the sayings go:

Players don’t tank
Coaches don’t tank
You Play To Win The Game
You Are What Your Record Says You Are
It’s not over till it’s over.

To your earlier point, the Giants are not mathematically eliminated, they are playing hard, and we should expect to see some additional wins.

You have also made the point that the remainder of this season is now more about the development of some of the younger players. My question is which players are you looking to see more development with, and given the primary goal of winning, do you think that they will be given the opportunity to get valuable in game experience?

Ed says: Bob, the whole ‘let the young kids play’ narrative is something that always happens at the end of the season with teams that won’t make the playoffs.

Thing is, by snap-weighted age rankings, the only team in the league already playing a younger roster than the Giants is the Green Bay Packers. I am not sure how much more the Giants can do. They are playing Tommy DeVito instead of Tyrod Taylor, and most of the young players already have some type of role. When guys like Marcus McKethan and Jordon Riley have gotten opportunities, it hasn’t looked good.

Obviously, you want to see all of these young players continue to grow. I’m just not sure how much more the Giants can do beyond what they are already doing.

I would love to see more from players like Jalin Hyatt and Wan’Dale Robinson, who are keys to the future of the offense. Getting a few more games to look at Evan Neal would be good. Seeing Azeez Ojulari be productive would be nice.

ctscan123 asks: Hey Ed, I’m not one of those people who has a super strong opinion about PFF one way or the other. That said, Tae Banks currently has a 48 grade. That pegs him as being pretty darn atrocious and nowhere near starter level competence. He had a couple of bumpy games, but overall I feel like he’s done quite a bit better than that score reflects.

If you were to imagine that your solid, utility starter might receive a grade of 65, what score would you give Banks’ overall body of work so far?

Ed says: CT, I wouldn’t put a numeric grade on Banks. What I will say is that I think the Giants are, and should be, happy with Banks regardless of whatever grade Pro Football Focus gives him.

Banks is a good young player. He gets it. He is aggressive. He competes like crazy. He will hit and defend the run. He has made some savvy plays. The Giants have put him in some difficult situations he probably wasn’t ready for and he has been beaten sometimes, but very few rookie cornerbacks make covering NFL wide receivers as easy as Sauce Gardner did.

Banks is a building block for the future and a guy who should be a good player for a long time in the NFL. That, for me, is the bottom line.

Gary Williams asks: A recent question regarding potential assistant coaching changes suggested Mike Munchak as the new OL coach. I think this would be a terrific hire, though I agree it’s probably a long shot. However, if both Wink Martindale and Mike Kafka were to depart after this season, what would you think about replacing them with Leslie Frazier and Ken Dorsey, respectively?

Ed says: Gary, I think both of those names would merit consideration. In no way, though, would hiring either be a slam dunk.

Frazier and Daboll were together in Buffalo, but I don’t know the nature of the relationship between the two. Maybe Patrick Graham, who had first dibs on the defensive coordinator job when Daboll was hired, would be interested in a return if the Las Vegas Raiders clean out their coaching staff. I don’t know if bridges were burned between Graham and the Giants. Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson or defensive line coach Andre Patterson might be internal candidates.

Daboll was reportedly interested in bringing Dorsey to the Giants before he took the offensive coordinator job with the Buffalo Bills. Would a reunion make sense? I would not be shocked at all if Daboll takes the reigns of the offense next season, including calling plays. Would Dorsey take a non-play calling coordinator job? Would the Giants just promote quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney, a trusted Daboll assistant who has been with him since 2017 at Alabama?

These are just a few of the possibilities. We will find out in January who will, and will not, be available.

Scott Merrick asks: So with the majority of questions now dealing with what to do in the upcoming offseason, my question is what do the Giants do with Saquon Barkley? Do they just offer him a similar contract to this year’s and hope he signs or does Barkley get a more lucrative deal elsewhere? Despite the offensive woes, he is still their best offensive player and will make any QB better whomever that may be next year. How valuable does NYG view him going forward?

Ed says: Scott, I don’t know how this is going to play out. A few months ago I figured that if the Giants were not willing to pay Barkley last offseason they probably wouldn’t be willing to do so this coming offseason. Now, I’m not so sure.

He is still their best offensive player. If they take a quarterback early in the 2024 NFL Draft he would be a nice security blanket. Considering how much he does on the field, how he is viewed in the locker room and by ownership, how his teammates feel about him and how much he does off the field that reflects well on the franchise I think the Giants have a lot more to consider than just ‘he’s a running back so we can easily replace him.’

If it’s me, I think I would be OK with a three-year, $39 million deal with the first two years guaranteed. That’s what I advocated for last year, and I think that would get the job done this time around, as well.

What will the Giants do? I don’t know. I do know they don’t want to build around a running back, but I don’t think guaranteeing two years to your best offensive player is a bad investment. We write a lot about how the locker room reacts to certain moves, and I can’t imagine pushing Barkley out the door would play well with his teammates.

Robert Lucarelli asks: Let’s say the Giants play well down the stretch and Tommy DeVito keeps improving each game. Do the Giants still use a Day 1 pick on a quarterback? I know Jones is back next season but is there any chance DeVito could be QB1 going forward? It would be great to see a fellow Italian kid from New Jersey become the Giants quarterback of the future.

Ed says: Robert, I’ve learned to never say never. That said, I think there is very little chance Tommy DeVito becomes a true QB1 franchise-type quarterback for the Giants or anyone else. He is riding a Linsanity style wave right now, and for the sake of the Giants I hope it lasts a while. The bubble eventually bursts on those things, though, and my guess is this one will eventually follow that script.

DeVito is under contract for next year and I think he will be part of the roster. Will be QB2, QB3 or on the practice squad? Could he, or someone else, start a couple of games at the beginning of the season if Daniel Jones is going to be QB1 and he’s not ready Week 1? Sure.

Right now, though, I would think DeVito will have no impact on what the Giants do in the draft. If Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll believe someone like Jayden Daniels of LSU is a franchise quarterback they won’t let anything DeVito has done, or does in the next five weeks, impact the draft.

Now, it might impact what they do in free agency. I think they probably need to add a veteran quarterback to help them get through the spring and summer because the earliest Jones will practice is training camp in August. Is that Tyrod Taylor? Is it another veteran with significant starting experience? Is it a lesser guy, a Jacob Eason type, who can just get them through preseason?

Vinny Bove asks: I have a practical question concerning the guys on the fringes of the roster. Every year I see certain players who are constantly ping-ponging between being on the practice squad, the active roster, and out on the street. A guy will get signed on a Tuesday, get cut on a Thursday, signed to the practice squad Friday, get elevated on Sunday, then get cut again on Monday, rinse, repeat.

What I wonder is, how do they pay their bills? Their income is unpredictable and inconsistent, and it must be nearly impossible to find non-football jobs that let you take time off every time you get signed by a team, or when you attend a workout that may or may not even lead to a contract. Are they driving Ubers when not in a football uniform? Are they gig workers? Are they hoarding every NFL paycheck they can, surviving on ramen and beans? What’s the life of an average end-of-the-bencher like?

I feel for those aspiring athletes that are just scrapping every day, sometimes for years, just to hang on to the bottom rung of the NFL ladder. I doubt their landlords are as sympathetic, though.

Ed says: Vinny, don’t feel bad for these guys. At least not because of the financial ramifications of being ping-ponged around. The days of NFL players, even the ones on the bottom rung, needing jobs in the offseason to pay their bills is looooooong gone.

Practice squad players make a minimum of $12,000 a week, or $216,000 a year if they are on a practice squad all 18 weeks of the season. Veteran players make between $16,100 a week ($289,800 for 18 weeks) to $20,600 per week ($370,800 for 18 weeks). So, they are making a good living.

Incidentally, when they get elevated they get a pay bump to whatever the minimum weekly salary is for being on an active roster based on their experience.

Matthew Minasian asks: In my estimation Laremy Tunsil might be the most egregious example of the Giants passing on a player they desperately needed. He was the highest rated tackle prospect in the 2016 draft. The conservative Giants, and a few other tackle needy teams passed on him due to a silly social media post. Here we are in 2024 and the man is a dominant force in the league.

Who did the Giants end up selecting? Eli Apple. So they passed on the better player because of concerns around maturity. Then proceeded to draft an immature Eli Apple. I know this going back to the Jerry Reese days, but that draft misstep still has a lingering affect in 2024.

Ed says: Matthew, when are Giants fans going to let this go? That ‘silly social media post’ was an awful-looking, unexplained gas mask bong video that surfaced just minutes before the draft began. A number of teams passed on Tunsil, who probably would have been the first offensive lineman selected.

Have you heard of the Mara family? There was no chance the Giants would be the team that took that risk without time to vet what this was or get an explanation from Tunsil. The Miami Dolphins took the risk and it worked out. As much time, effort and energy as teams pour into the draft it’s not a surprise at all that a conservative organization like the Giants would not make that move when information like this surfaces without time to investigate. Call it a “draft misstep” if you have to, but taking Tunsil was never a realistic choice for the Giants under the circumstances.

There is no doubt they messed up that draft. It seems the entire NFL world knew the two players the Giants wanted at No. 10 were Jack Conklin and Leonard Floyd. They watched as the Titans and Bears jumped them to take those two players, and then made the unfortunate Eli Apple mistake.

Tunsil, though, was never going to be a Giant.

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