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Big Blue View mailbag: Training camp, Kayvon Thibodeaux, more

The mail’s here!

Another summer Saturday, another Big Blue View Mailbag. Let’s answer some New York Giants questions.

David Kaplan asks: I saw that rookies will be reporting to training camp on July 16, 10 days before the veterans do. Do you know what activities will be permitted during this 10-day period? Will you have access to these activities and be able to report them?

Ed says: David, first let’s clarify the dates. Giants rookies report on July 18 and veterans report on July 25, so it is a seven-day period.

Media will not have access to the rookies only portion of camp. We won’t have access until July 26th, the first day of full team activities.

As for what happens during the rookie phase, my understanding is that it is mostly conditioning and playbook install, probably at a walk-thru pace. The first five days of actual training camp with veterans is an acclimation phase where pads won’t be worn, so what the rookies do prior to that won’t be any more difficult than that.

If you recall, Elerson Smith suffered a hamstring injury during this portion of camp in 2021 and missed half the season. So, it is possible for something to go awry.

Brian Walsh asks: When Kayvon Thibodeaux got in the field after his injury last season he seemed to have a high motor and was disruptive. His play didn’t always make the stat line but did impact the play. To me it seemed he was everywhere on the field. Do you think he has the potential to be the next in a long line of great Giants pass rushers? Does his lack of sacks concern you or will they come if he keeps being disruptive?

Ed says: Brian, no, I’m not concerned about Thibodeaux’s rookie sack numbers. He sustained a preseason injury that slowed him down, and he was a rookie adjusting to the NFL.

Thibodeaux got better as his rookie season went along, which is what you want. He had 10 of his 13 quarterback hits in the final six games, along with two of his four sacks. He had 26 of 45 total pressures in his final eight games, including the Giants’ two playoff games.

Thibodeaux admitted this spring that there was a learning curve, perhaps more of one than he had anticipated.

“When you haven’t played against NFL-caliber guys, you don’t really know how big, how strong you need to be, how fast you need to be. Once you kind of get that down and you start to really learn the ins and outs of the games, which is what I started to do at the end of the season last year, going into this year, it becomes a lot easier,” he said. “Now I can focus on the offense and not so much focus on myself but figure out the different tips and tricks I can give going into training camp.”

Thibodeaux added that “what I started to learn was more of the application of my strengths, start to figure out how to use my leverage and use the things I have to my advantage.”

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is a huge believer in Thibodeaux.

“He has no ceiling,” Martindale said. “I believe that. He can do whatever he puts his mind to.”

I think Thibodeaux will be more impactful in 2023 than he was as a rookie. How many sacks will he get? I don’t know. I think that if you are expecting double-digit sack numbers from Thibodeaux on an annual basis you might be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be years he reaches that total.

I think he is going to be a force for years to come.

Ted Willard asks: As a Giant fan, I am obviously happy with the number of Super Bowls the team has one. That said, the more that I watch coverage of the NFL and comments on bulletin boards, the more I wonder whether there is too much preoccupation with winning the Super Bowl. It seems like more and more, everyone considers a team a failure unless they win the big game.

As a long time observer of the sport, I am wondering whether you agree that this has become a greater focus over time and whether you think it is a healthy perspective. Is it better to win a Super Bowl and then have losing records for 5-10 years, or would it be better to have year after year of winning records and play off appearances but not being able to bring the Lombardi Trophy home?

Ed says: Ted, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to that question. I think that what makes you happy as a fan is your own personal preference, and no one should tell you that is right or wrong.

Personally, I do believe that you can have a successful season without winning a Super Bowl. As a Yankees fan, I was brainwashed with the ‘win the World Series or the season is a bust,’ philosophy that many Yankee fans still cling to despite baseball having changed drastically in the last 20 years.

Let’s use the 2022 Giants as an example. I’m sure there are some who will think otherwise, but I don’t know how you look at what the Giants accomplished in 2022 and see the season as anything but a success. It was the team’s best year since 2016, and a lot of things happened that should bode well for the future.

Is it better to compete every year or win a Super Bowl and then be bad for a decade? Well, the Giants are again the perfect example. They have won four Super Bowls, and only four teams have won more. Yet, since the mid-1960s the Giants have had three long periods of mediocrity — or worse.

Those awful stretches are not easy to endure, yet I think a lot of fan bases would take the four titles and not worry about the rest of it. From my perspective, those lean stretches make it even sweeter when everything does fall into place.

Matthew Annunziata asks: I’m sure this has been answered before, but I am trying to wrap my brain around why there is a 53-man roster when only 46 can be active? Why can’t all 53 be active? Have the owners ever tried to get this changed during the off-season?

Ed says: Matthew, I get the frustration with this rule. I have thought the same thing myself, especially since those inactive players still get their game checks. That means you are paying players not to play.

Yet, I also understand why can only have 46 active players each week — 48 if they have practice squad elevations. It is a competitive balance thing. We all know that each week there are likely to be players on an active roster who cannot — or should not — play. What the NFL does not want is one team showing up with 55 healthy players and its opponent to have only, say, 49 or 50, players available on a given week. That would put the team with fewer available players at a tremendous disadvantage. Limiting the active roster levels the playing field.

Now, because I said I understand it doesn’t mean I like it. I would honestly prefer to see each team dress 53 — or 55 with standard elevations — each week. I think it would make the game better, leaving teams with more maneuverability when in-game injuries occur.

I would like to see a baseball style IL — maybe with two-week, four-week, six-week and eight-week designations. Each player on the IL could be replaced for that time period by a player from the practice squad or a street free agent. Practice squad players could then be returned to that group without having to pass through waivers.

ctscan asks: With the numbers game at wide receiver and Bryce Ford-Wheaton’s status as an upside “project” it’s hard to see a place for him on the roster. Given his acknowledged potential, it’s equally hard to imagine him passing through waivers and making it to the practice squad. with that in mind, Is there a case to be made that we just make him our kick/punt returner and get him on the roster that way? If the guy can catch the ball, run forward a few yards and not fumble, why do I need Gary Brightwell who essentially caught the ball stumbled forward a few yards and didn’t fumble? BFW is a professional catcher of the ball so that should be OK and he’s fast as lightning. How much worse than Brightwell could HE be?

This brings me to a broader question. Given the rule changes, how valuable is your average punt or kick returner? Obviously someone like Devin Hester was valuable. But how many of those guys are there? Does your typical returner add enough value to justify a roster spot?

Ed says: CT, when it comes to Ford-Wheaton I wouldn’t be sure that the Giants would not be able to get him through waivers. Remember, if a team claims him on waivers they MUST put him on their 53-man roster. If the Giants, who went all-out to get him as an undrafted free agent, don’t see him as roster worthy what makes you certain that another team or teams will?

As for returning, that is not something Ford-Wheaton has ever done. Returning is not easy. There is a lot going, especially returning punts. You have to locate the ball, you have to be able to catch kicks will all sorts of weird spin — and do that in traffic. You have to have the guts to take some big hits. You have to be able to make defenders miss. Having watched practices in the spring, I can tell you Ford-Wheaton is not being looked at as an option in the return game.

I am not enamored with Gary Brightwell as a kickoff returner. Considering the continued de-emphasis on the kickoff, though, I’m not spending time obsessing about who has that job.

It would be a bummer if Ford-Wheaton were lost via waivers. Seriously, though, I think fans are going overboard worrying about it. There were 33 wide receivers drafted and BFW was not one of them. If he was that good, or that highly thought of around the league, that would not be the case.

As for the value of a punt or kickoff returner, the reality is that those guys have to be able to do something else for your team. He doesn’t have to be a starter, but he has to have some value on offense or defense.

David Silver asks: I was wondering if you could take us back to training camp in 2007, before the Giants would go on to win the Super Bowl. I remember before 2007 Tom Coughlin was told by management to cool his temper, and Eli had been criticized for his body language, and Tiki and Michael Strahan hated each other. What was the vibe of the team as they got together for the 2007 training camp, compared to now?

Ed says: David, I did cover the 2007 training camp in Albany. I can’t, however, give you any real insight. That was my first time covering an NFL training camp, and the brutal truth is I had no idea what was really going on or how to do it properly. I was just trying not to embarrass myself.

What I can tell you is that training camp in Albany was an awesome fan experience. The limited training camp access offered now in East Rutherford is the opposite of fan friendly. It’s pretty awful.

Kölnerbigblue asks: Ed, can you be specific on the franchise deadline? I understand that a multi-year deal cannot be signed after the deadline. Specifically, any deal going longer than one year (I do not consider a 2-year deal being “long term”). So, here are my questions:

  • Can the two parties agree to a one year deal that has Terms and Conditions that do not match the CBA rules for the tag (i.e. no 2024 tag)?
  • Can the two parties agree to a sign and trade? If so, can the other team renegotiate the deal with Barkley?

Do we have ANY information about the Terms and Conditions beyond the rumored AAV of a potential deal (which is a BS number with bloated backend money)? Have you heard about ANY level of guaranteed money in the Giants proposal to Barkley? Maybe I missed some information on the contract Ts&Cs. I don’t claim to have perfect information.

Ed says: Kolner, here is what I know:

  • Yes, after the July 17 the two sides can agree on a one-year deal that is different than the franchise tag total. Why would the team, though, do that? They negotiated with the player for months and the player has said no to their offers. The team has the hammer. The player either plays for the tag amount or he doesn’t. They aren’t going to give him more than the tag amount, thus costing themselves even more cap space. The only exception would be if the player sits out until some time into the season. At that point, the sides might work out some type of pro-rated deal that is less than the tag value. So, again, the team still has the hammer.
  • Yes, sign-and-trade has happened many times. Here are a few. The acquiring team can renegotiate a contract with the player. If, however, the sign and trade comes after the July 17 deadline for a long-term deal, the player can only sign a one-year deal.
  • We don’t know any more about the potential terms of a Barkley deal than we did a few weeks ago.

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