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Big Blue View mailbag: Special teams, Joe Schoen, cuts, Tommy DeVito, more

The mail’s here!

While we wait for the New York Giants to host the New York Jets Saturday night in their preseason finale, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and answer some Giants-related questions.

Eric Chavis asks: Just listened to your piece on offensive position battles. In regards to the WR position, what’s stopping a guy like Crowder, Beasley, Shep, etc to say they’d be willing to play more special teams snaps in order to make the team? Do they not do that because they’re vets, skills sets, risk of injury, something else?

Ed says: Eric, it’s not as easy as just raising your hand and saying “I’ll cover punts.” It’s a skill. Just like playing positions on offense or defense. These guys don’t just run down the field and hope.

If you are going to be able to cover punts or kickoffs you have to be able to tackle. Do you really think Sterling Shepard or Cole Beasley would be a reliable tackler? A punt gunner has to have the strength to get through a double team at the line of scrimmage and the ability to fight off a player trying to block him all the way down the field. Guys who play on the punt team have to be able identify the right guys to block, be able to block them, then be able to get down the field and make a play. Each player on a kickoff coverage team has specific responsibilities, as does each player on a punt or kickoff return team. The same holds true with the field goal and field goal block teams.

Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said this week that it is “rare” for a veteran player who did not play on special teams at the beginning of his career to play them at the end of his career.

“It’s not easy. It’s never too late for anything, but it’s definitely not easy,” McGaughey said. “When you get to that point, it’s more of a desire thing, and then just being able to learn that skillset. It’s a different kind of skillset.

“Normally the guys that play teams later in their career played it early in their career. It’s rare when you see a guy that hasn’t played on teams then just start doing it years seven, eight, or whatever it is. You don’t see it a lot. But I mean, it definitely happens. I haven’t seen it a lot, but it definitely happens.”

Doug Mollin asks: Every time Daboll, Schoen, Brandon Brown speak, it’s such a breath of fresh air hearing intelligent and competent people in charge of the Giants.

Granted it’s only season two, but in your time covering the Giants, does this feel like the best collection of talent running the team that you’ve seen from top to bottom?

Ed says: Yes. Absolutely. No question about it.

There was a time when Jerry Reese was a very good scout, and that helped him in the early years of his tenure as GM. As Reese got farther away from his scouting roots, he had to rely on Marc Ross as his right hand man. He also had Kevin Abrams as assistant GM, and Abrams is a cap guy without real personnel chops.

The other problem with the Reese tenure is that he was a forward-thinking GM who had one vision for what he wanted the Giants to be, while he had an old-school coaching staff headed by Tom Coughlin that had a different vision. To me, Reese drafted too many players that fit his vision, and weren’t what the coaching staff really needed or wanted. That led to an awkwardly-constructed roster.

A little bit like Reese, Dave Gettleman was a really good scout. When that was his job. I never really thought Gettleman understood resource management and how to fit the pieces together to build a quality roster.

The other problem is that Gettleman was in arranged marriages with head coaches Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge. He didn’t hire either guy. Ownership did. Particularly in the case of Judge, it eventually became obvious that the GM and head coach did not see things the same way. Gettleman brought in a few of his own front office people, but he was also largely saddled with the stale front office that had been in place for a long time.

Joe Schoen hired Brian Daboll. My belief is that if John Mara made that hire Brian Flores would be the Giants’ head coach. He let Schoen hire his head coach, though. He has also let Schoen re-organize the front office, and Schoen has brought in a lot of quality people.

Because Daboll and Schoen are on the same page, and because Schoen understands that he and his scouts have to know exactly what the coaching staff needs at each position and try to give it to them, the Giants know what skills they are searching for when they look for players. That leads to better decisions. It leads to finding players like Jordon Riley or Tre Hawkins at the end of the draft. It leads to the many successful waiver claims the Giants made a year ago.

It should make Giants fans feel good about the future.

Larry Malakian asks: Brandon Brown (I’m so glad we got him from the Eagles) talked about the CLAIM ORDER in a recent interview. With nearly 1,200 players being released this week, how does that work? Is it like the draft where each team claims one player at a time, or does the first team claim all the players they want, and the the next team goes and does the same?

Ed says: Larry, at this time of year the waiver claim order is the same at the draft order. That means that the Giants are 26th in waiver priority right now. That means that the Giants won’t be awarded a player they claim unless none of the 25 teams in front of them claim that player. A team can claim as many players as it wants, and it is then awarded players based on the claim order. If two teams claim a player, the team highest in the waiver priority are awarded that player.

The waiver priority changes after Week 3 of the regular season. From that point on it is based on team records going worst to best. That means it will change each week during the season.

The more interesting part was Brown talking about “defensive guys having a higher hit rate of being claimed and playing on a 53 after the cutdown then maybe some offensive guys.” That is an interesting note. I’m not sure why that is, but it could have something to do with the volume of an offensive playbook.

Louis Rolston-Cregler asks: Obviously it’s that time where we’ll see a ton of roster cut downs. Do you see the Giants trading away a guy like Peart who hasn’t impressed, to an OL needy team like the Jets for a 5th-7th round pick who might be willing to take a flyer on him in desperation? I think odds are he just gets cut but I’m hoping Schoen can flip him for a future asset as he’s shown with this year’s class he can find a viable player late in the draft.

Ed says: Louis, I keep hearing about the idea that the Giants could trade a wide receiver or a depth tackle, or maybe someone from another position who won’t make the roster. I’m sure GM Joe Schoen would like to, and I’m sure he will try, but it’s not that easy.

There are 32 NFL teams trimming rosters from 90 to 53 players over the next few days. That means almost 1,200 players will be out of jobs and available to every team in the league next week. There will be a lot of offensive linemen similar to Peart, a lot of experienced cornerbacks, wide receivers, etc., available. Why would a team give up a draft asset for a player like Peart when they can claim or sign a similarly-skilled player without giving up anything? For a team to trade for a player right now, they have to believe that player stands well above any player they could claim off the waiver wire.

Paul Laveault asks: I’m a little confused and I hope you can clear this up. With the new emergency QB rule, can the Giants put Tommy DeVito on the practice squad and still dress him for every game or does he have to be on the 53 man roster and not count as a rostered player. Either way they need to keep this kid.

Ed says: Paul, for a player to be used on game day as the third quarterback he must be part of the 53-man roster. A practice squad player can be elevated three times during a season. So, the Giants could elevate DeVito — if he is on the practice squad — three times. I don’t know why a team would elevate a practice squad quarterback, though, unless they entered a game knowing that one of their two primary quarterbacks was injured.

As for needing to keep DeVito, I will say this. He has shown me more recently than I thought we were going to see. When training camp started, I figured he had no chance to stick around. Now, I won’t be surprised if they keep him. If they find someone on the waiver wire they like better, they will move on. DeVito, though, has certainly made a case for himself.

Bob Donnelly asks: Ed, you have mentioned in the past that it takes time for an O line to gel. The guard position appears up in the air with some talk of a rotation to start the year. The center is a rookie, and will no doubt have a bit of a learning curve. The right tackle needs to improve on his 2022 rookie performance.

With their 2023 schedule, the O line will be tested early and often by the NFL’s 10 best D lines. Dallas, Philly and Washington 2X each, along with SF, NYJ, Buffalo, and Miami. Throw in the Patriots for good measure. That’s 11 of 17 games going up against the best.

In your view, how concerned should we be about the ability of the O line to sufficiently protect DJ and how will that impact the play calling?

Ed says: Bob, the reality is that how much the offensive line improves from last season depends on the play of Evan Neal. What we have seen so fair indicate he will be better, but how much better? It’s not fair to expect him to go from one of the worst right tackles in the league to one of the best in a single season — the Andrew Thomas leap is the exception, not the rule. If he is league average in Year 2, that’s a big jump. And it will make the offensive line as a whole much better.

The guard play will be acceptable, in my view. Mark Glowinski and Ben Bredeson are adequate players, and — like Neal — Josh Ezeudu should be better in Year 2. However that plays out, I’m not worried about it. Fascinated, but not worried.

John Michael Schmitz gives every indication that he will be a good NFL player. It can’t get harder for him than blocking Dexter Lawrence every day, and he’s done OK. Will he be a top tier center right away? Maybe, maybe not. The 2023 bar for Schmitz isn’t really all that high. Jon Feliciano was a bottom tier center a year ago, with his 58.2 Pro Football Focus grade ranking 27th among 32 qualifying centers. If Schmitz is better than that as a rookie, that is another upgrade.

Spencer Gross asks: I am excited about the acquisition of (Isaiah) Simmons as I was a fan of him coming out of Clemson but I am concerned on reports he played poorly against the Chiefs last Sunday. Do you believe a change of scenery along with Wink’s philosophy of a “position-less” defense playing into his skill set produces better results than he had in Arizona?

Ed says: Spencer, what does how the guy played in a preseason game have to do with anything? That doesn’t matter. We know what Simmons is. He is an incredible athlete, and that athleticism allows him to play a number of roles and — at times — make some spectacular plays. There are also flaws in his game, in how he used, or doesn’t use, that athleticism that have held him back from being the player many thought he would be. Nick Falato did a great job breaking all of that down.

The Giants would not have acquired Simmons unless they had a plan for him. If you have paid attention to Schoen, they don’t acquire any player without a plan for how they would use him. They know what Simmons can do. They also know what he can’t do, or hasn’t done well. Most importantly, they know all of that AND what they hope to see him do for their defense.

I said this on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast on Friday. Simmons does not have to play like a top 10 pick in the draft, which is what he was, to help the Giants. He has to be better than Tomon Fox and Oshane Ximines. He has to be better in coverage than Micah McFadden. He has to be better than Darrian Beavers or Carter Coughlin. He is probably going to be a sub-package defender for the Giants. He has to impact the quarterback when given the opportunity. Wink Martindale will try to accentuate Simmons’ strengths, hide his weaknesses, and see if that athleticism translates into plays that help them win games.

Muzicdad asks: First time question. The trade for Simmons raised a question for me. How do these trades get started? Is the current team secretly shopping the player or are teams randomly calling other teams to see who is available? There is no apparent connection between the Giants and the Cards.

Ed says: Muzic, Eli Manning used to say that every interception had its own story. He would always then go on to say every one of them was his fault — even the ones that obviously were not. But, that’s another story. Back to the Simmons trade.

Every trade also has its own story. General managers talk to each other all the time, and there is always some chatter about who might be available and what areas in which teams might be looking for help. These things don’t happen on a whim.

Assistant GM Brandon Brown described recently how the Giants pro personnel department prepares for the upcoming roster cuts, saying this is that department’s “Super Bowl.” He described how the Giants have a preseason board of players on other teams they believe could become available, and have done work ahead of time to identify the players they feel could upgrade their roster.

My guess is the Giants had identified Simmons as a player who could help them, and when they found out Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort was ready to sell before the deadline to cut rosters to 53 players, they made an offer.

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