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Big Blue View mailbag: Joe Schoen, Darius Slayton, Giants vs. Jets, more questions

The mail’s here!

It is time once again for the Big Blue View Mailbag. So, let’s open it up and see what New York Giants’ questions we can answer.

Donald Poucher asks: My question is on special teams; we know three as the K, P, LS are set, but what about the rest? Do you have a prediction for PR, KR, gunner, and other primarily ST players? They are often unsung but “essential” parts of the team.

Ed says: Donald, special teams are always fluid. As special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey always points out, there are a lot of moving parts and what he works with varies from week to week.

That said, there are a handful of core special teamers returning from last season. Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin are two. Gary Brightwell in another. I know that I left Brightwell off my way-too-early 53-man roster projection, but his special teams’ value could lead to him keeping a spot. Jason Pinnock and Nick McCloud are good special teams players.

Rookie defensive backs Tre Hawkins III and Gervarrius Owens will likely have big special teams roles if they make the 53-man roster. Wide receiver Jeff Smith was signed mostly because of his value on kickoff and punt coverage.

As for returners, here are some of the potential options:

Kickoff return: Brightwell, Jashaun Corbin, Jaydon Mickens, Eric Gray, Darnay Holmes, Kalil Pimpleton

Punt return: Holmes, Gray, Mickens, Jamison Crowder

They might mix and match that group. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Corbin, Brightwell, and Pimpleton work as punt returners. Maybe someone from the group of undrafted free agents steps up. Maybe they keep looking for return options.

The thing is, as valuable as roster spots are now players have to do more than just return to have value.

CTscanlon asks: With the draft in the rearview mirror, and what a draft it was, I am wondering about the situation at wide receiver. With the addition of Campbell and/or Hyatt has Slayton become expendable? Hyatt has been billed as playing a similar role to Slayton but with better hands and the ability to separate. This is to say nothing of Collin Johnson who outperformed Slayton in camp last year. Assuming that some combination of Hyatt, Johnson, and Campbell looks good in camp, would you consider trying to trade Slayton? We could use the cap savings on what could be a bit of a redundant player if things break well. If so, what do you think we might get for him in this scenario?

Ed says: No, I don’t think Darius Slayton is expendable. I think at some point down the line, maybe in 2024, he could become expendable. To me, that isn’t the case now.

Yes, it is easy to compare Slayton and Jalin Hyatt. Both are vertical threats. Neither is considered a great technician as a route runner. Hyatt is thought to have better hands, but not perfect ones. Maybe Hyatt someday makes Slayton expendable, but he enters 2023 as a rookie coming from a simplistic offense with a large learning curve. He will be asked to play outside instead of in the slot and to learn a more varied route tree. His speed will always be valued, but there will be a learning curve.

Don’t forget that as deep as the wide receiver room looks on paper, there are injury concerns about many of those players. No one is sure whether Wan’Dale Robinson (ACL) or Sterling Shepard (ACL) will be available when the season begins. Collin Johnson is coming off an Achilles tear. The 2022 season was Parris Campbell’s first healthy one after three injury-riddled years.

Let’s see who makes it to the starting line before we start thinking the Giants have more wide receivers than they can use.

Kölnerbigblue asks: Ed, What is going on with the 3rd QB rule? After the draft, I read that a run on QBs in the middle rounds was due to teams believing the league would revert to the 3rd QB designee rule particularly after the 49ers’ issues last year. What’s the buzz with that?

Ed says: All I can tell you is there is currently “a lot of support” for returning to the days when teams could dress a third quarterback who would only be able to play if the first two quarterbacks were ruled out by injuries and that might still happen for 2023. It has not, though, happened yet.

I would fully support the change. It seems silly to put teams at the highest level of football in situations where they have to play without a quarterback.

Noah Stetler asks: With the NFL schedule soon to be announced, it seems likely that the Giants vs. Jets will end up on prime time (Monday Night Football on 9/11 possibly). Even though they play each other in the pre-season, I can’t remember the last time both teams came into a season with legitimate playoff expectations. Considering they were tied for the worst record in the league from 2017-2021, it’s a remarkable turnaround. I was curious as to your general thoughts on the game, and if you think this can be the first year since 2006 where both make the postseason?

Ed says: It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if the NFL puts Giants-Jets in a marquee slot. I would, honestly, be shocked if they don’t. As I sit here today in the first week of May, I honestly haven’t given that game — or any individual 2023 game — a single second of thought. There are so many variables between now and then that individual games aren’t on my radar screen.

I do think the scrutiny on each team will be turned up — the Jets because of Aaron Rodgers and the Giants because of last season’s success. They could both make the playoffs, which would be fun. They could both disappoint, which would have the tabloids — and the BBV community — in an uproar. We’ll see.

Douglas Mollin asks: How do you compare Schoen’s first draft to this draft? Any traits that can be gleaned? They seem pretty different, which is not a bad thing.

I love that Schoen has already shown a willingness to both trade down last year and trade up this year.

Every draft is a unique, living, breathing thing that you have to approach with fresh eyes. I don’t think it pays to bring some rigid formula to follow year in and year out. Be diligent, logical, and flexible.

I also like that while he went off-chalk last year he seemed to go with chalk values this draft for the most part:

  • Banks 24/20 (pick/big board)
  • Schmitz 57/40
  • Hyatt 73/39
  • Gray 172/139
  • Hawkins 209/unlisted (CB#43 by Brugler)
  • Riley 243/unlisted (unranked by Brugler)
  • Owens 254/247 (5th-6th rounder by Brugler)

Every GM is going to get picks wrong but I’m very optimistic with the overall approach I’ve seen these past two years — especially going more “mainstream” with the selections in this draft.

Ed says: I think we have learned a few things.

First, Schoen doesn’t like to sit around and hope things fall his way. He is willing to move around the board — up or down — based on his conviction for what the right thing is to do in that circumstance.

I think we have also learned to pay attention to the ‘30’ visits, the workouts the Giants attend, the players they meet with, and the players Schoen scouts in person. He values all of those touchpoints.

Finally, he values athleticism. I think the picks of Tre Hawkins III and Gervarrius Owens are indicators that when in doubt Schoen will bet on athletic traits.

The drafts are different, Doug, as you pointed out. Schoen admitted as much. In his first draft, he traded down to accumulate picks because he felt the Giants needed bodies. This time, after a surprisingly good season in which he learned there was perhaps a little more talent on hand than he first thought, he abandoned the volume approach and went after potential difference-makers. He ended up with three players in the top 73 some thought would go on Day 1.

Robert Forgione asks: Hi Ed, I keep hearing about this guy “fits what Wink likes to do”, or he’s a ‘perfect fit” for a Wink defense. What happens when Wink decides he wants to leave? Isn’t it dangerous to draft only players that fit a specific skill set or defense?

Ed says: Robert, that is something that the Giants are aware of. They know that offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale have drawn and will likely continue to draw interest when head-coaching vacancies open up.

Here is what Schoen said about that in his pre-draft press conference:

“It’s actually something that Coach Parcells told me a long time ago. He told me, “Coaches come and go. You need to draft good football players.” Yeah, you don’t want to get too pigeonholed into scheme-specific, because then, you’re right, if Wink gets a head job a year from now and you bring somebody else in that runs a totally different defense, you’re a scheme-specific player. Part of our job is to balance that. Like is this guy, again, add value. Like, he’s only going to fit this one scheme. And yeah, Wink’s got a really good chance to get a head coaching job. If he moves on and we change things up, then yeah, you definitely have to balance that and be aware of that.”

I think cornerback Deonte Banks is an example of that. Yes, Martindale will love his press-man ability and that is what he was primarily drafted for. He can also defend the run, is said to be solid in off-man coverage, and should have the reactionary skills and athleticism to become proficient as a zone coverage defender.

Vince Nicolosi asks: I am very pleased with the Giants 2023 draft and look forward to seeing our newest players take the field. However, I’m disappointed that we failed to upgrade the edge defender position. Edge defenders have played an important role in all Giant successful playoff teams. Do you know of any plans to upgrade this position? And do you have any information on the status of Oshane Ximines?

Ed says: Since the time this question arrived in the ‘mailbag’ the Giants have re-signed Ximines to a one-year deal.

That, honestly, is exactly what I expected. The Giants, I believe, went into the draft knowing that if need met value they would add an edge defender somewhere in the middle to late rounds. They chose to do other things and then brought Ximines back as what seems like a fall-back option.

I went back and looked at the complete draft results. Had the Giants kept their fourth-round pick (No. 128) they might have selected San Jose State edge defender Viliami Fehoko. He went No. 129 to the Dallas Cowboys. I have no qualms with the Jalin Hyatt move, though. If they kept pick 160, used in the Deonte Banks deal, Appalachian State edge defender Nick Hampton (161, Los Angeles Rams) was a possibility.

I’m fine with what the Giants did. Adding another young pass rusher at some point in the 2024 draft will likely be on the agenda, but Ximines might be more useful in 2023 than any potential Day 3 pick the Giants could have made.

Derick Gross asks: Looking at the list of UDFAs for each team, the Giants signed nine players. Some teams have signed twice as many, and others less than half. Does the number of UDFAs signed tell us anything about what players think of different organizations?

Ed says: Derick, I don’t read anything into those numbers as far as what players think. They will go where they think they have an opportunity — in some cases wherever they get their only opportunity.

Circumstances change every year. I can recall years where the Giants signed only three or four players and other years where they signed a dozen or more. Teams have a fixed amount they can spend on undrafted free agents. Dan Duggan reported that the Giants used a significant amount of their allotment on wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton. Thus, they will likely end up with fewer signed UDFAs than some other teams. I have no issue with that. You are looking for one or two gems from that pool, you’re not looking for 8-10 guys who can make your roster.

David Silver asks: Now that the Giants have drafted a rookie to start at center, and Evan Neal is one year wiser, do the Giants have a better offensive line than they did last year? Where would you rank them in the NFL?

Ed says: David, let’s start with where the Giants ranked in 2022. Pro Football Focus ranked them No. 30. Football Outsiders ranked them No. 24. I tend to think the Football Outsiders’ ranking was a bit more accurate. I never thought the Giants had a horrible offensive line last season, which a ranking of 30th would indicate.

First and foremost, let’s not put John Michael Schmitz in the Pro Bowl (such as that hot mess is) already.

Jon Feliciano ranked 27th out of 31 centers who played at least 679 snaps in the 2022 PFF rankings with an overall grade of 57.4. For argument’s sake, let’s say that as a rookie Schmitz at least equals that performance.

You have the same guards competing for time as the Giants had last season. Mark Glowinski is adequate. Ben Bredeson did a good job when healthy. Josh Ezeudu should be better.

The difference, to me, really will come down to the amount of improvement Evan Neal makes.

I think if the Giants have an average or overall adequate line in 2023 that is a step forward. There is upside with Neal, Schmitz, and some of the young guards they have. So, reason for optimism.

Bob Donnelly asks: In 2022 with 39 TDs the Giants were 16th the exact middle of the pack. That’s an average of 2.3 TDs per game. Two of their NFC East rivals were in the top 5 averaging 3 TDs per game. In your view, how much better will the 2023 version of the Giants be?

Ed says: Bob, I prefer to look at it in terms of points per game. The Giants were at 21.2 points per game in 2022, 18th in the league. The Philadelphia Eagles were No. 2 at 29.1 ppg. and the Dallas Cowboys No. 4 at 26.8 ppg.

Do I think the Giants have gotten to that level? That’s doubtful, but on paper, the talent is better and maybe they get to 24 or 25 points per game. That would give them a better chance to compete.

This is all, of course, on paper. There are so many variables. What will happen with Saquon Barkley? Will Daniel Jones take another step forward? Will the Giants’ playmakers remain healthy? How well will rookie John Michael Schmitz and second-year man Evan Neal play? What if the defense takes a step back?

The Giants have gotten better — on paper. Let’s see if it translates on the field this fall.

Chris Chianese asks: Ed, at the time of this email, Over The Cap, has the NYG in the red. What should we expect to see from the Giants to get them to where they want to be and where is that?

Ed says: Chris, you will see a Dexter Lawrence contract extension that lowers his 2023 cap hit. You might see a Saquon Barkley contract extension that lowers his cap hit — if the sides can agree on the numbers. You might see something done with Leonard Williams’ $32 million cap hit, though the Giants seem resistant to touching that.

I am sure they have ideas on a couple of other places they can go for cap relief, but I don’t think any of them are obvious. Extending Adoree’ Jackson to lower his $19.076 million cap hit is a possibility. Like Williams, though, I’m not sure they want to do that.

The need for some cap space is one of the reasons I think Darnay Holmes might be on the bubble. The Giants have some options in the slot and cutting Holmes, which might not be ideal, would save the $2.94 million.

Where would they like to get to cap-wise for 2023? A place where they can go out and get a veteran player to fill a hole during the season like the Eagles did midseason last year when they gave defensive tackle Linval Joseph a contract that carried a $2 million cap hit. The Giants needed defensive line help, too, and all they could afford was to add a player like Vernon Butler to the practice squad.

What’s that number? Dave Gettleman could never get there, but if memory serves he used to say that ideally, it was $15-20 million entering the year. To my recollection, Schoen has yet to verbalize his ideal number but I would think it’s in that same range.