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Big Blue View mailbag: Two games, four days, lots of questions

The mail’s here!

No New York Giants football. Let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag, though, and fill at least part of your weekend with Giants-related thoughts.

Brian Misdom asks: Hi Ed, it’s Friday morning and I’m still sitting in the loss to SF. As I try to avoid overreacting, I am stuck with this feeling I can’t shake - the obvious coaching advantage I saw last year seems to not be nearly as pronounced this year.

On paper, this team looked to be improved from a season ago. And yet, I’m watching undisciplined, sloppy football. I saw Daboll and Co. squeeze every bit they could out of last year’s team. And now I feel like we are leaving meat on the bone. Terrible tackling, routinely giving up long third downs and an offense that has just 2 good quarters in 3 games.

I’m not surprised at 1-2 as this is the record I expected 3 weeks in but it’s the way we’ve arrived here that is a concern. The talent added by this regime aren’t difference makers yet and I’m not seeing the same flexible leaning into players’ strengths on the field.

So am I overreacting or do you see the same? How might the coaching staff make for more competitive games this season?

Ed says: Brian, I think you are right about the 1-2 record. That is right where the Giants should have been expected to be. I do think they haven’t gotten there in exactly the way people thought. I wouldn’t be in full-blown panic mode at this point, though.

The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers are two of the best three teams in the NFC, with the 49ers ‘maybe’ being the best. They are probably among the top six or seven teams in the league. The Giants aren’t in their class yet, and were seriously undermanned against the 49ers due to injuries.

On offense, the fear has always been that the offensive line would not improve and that would render all the shiny new receiving toys irrelevant. That is playing out as Evan Neal is still struggling and the left side of the offensive line has been injured for the past two weeks. I think that will stabilize.

I do think it is OK to wonder if Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal are going to become what the Nos. 5 and 7 picks in the draft should become. I don’t know that they won’t, and if you are applying the ‘bust’ label at this point it is too soon.

I do think there are some players underperforming on the defensive side of the ball — I’m looking at you Xavier McKinney and Bobby Okereke. I am not, though, at the point of screaming about players not being used correctly. I think the sample size is too small.

I am concerned about the fact that week after week the Giants are having difficulty getting the right personnel on the field — they had 10 players on the field Thursday on one offensive play. This personnel/substitution issue has been a problem going all the way back to spring practices. That’s on the coaching staff, and I’m surprised by it because this is a veteran coaching staff with a lot of guys who have been good at their jobs for a long time.

Gregory Hart asks: Watching the season open it was clear that many teams were woefully unprepared (Giants being one). The three-week preseason looks more like evaluating the players that will be rotational and special teams. That’s great, but the starters are not in the game. What are your thoughts on the lack of contact and the preseason?

Ed says: Gregory, I’m old school. I hate the way the preseason and training camp are now. I get protecting players and limiting the old two-a-days, but players now spend way too much time practicing in shorts and t-shirts and barely touching each other. I would like to see more padded practice and more hitting because I believe you can’t get ready for football without playing football, especially when it comes to offensive line play and the defensive front seven. Those guys almost never get to practice what they actually have to do in a game. As for preseason games, I understand the injury risk and the money tied up in players now. The lack of playing time in preseason, though, leaves many of these guys unprepared.

ctscan123 asks: Hey Ed, one of the through lines of Brian Daboll’s tenure thus far has been a willingness to put players in a position to succeed by adapting the scheme to their talents. I’m wondering if this is happening with Isaiah Simmons, though, and if not, why not? The rhetoric from Martindale and Simmons himself is that he’s playing in a truly positionless defense and isn’t that so great?

Wasn’t the diagnosis a few weeks back that he was trending towards being a bust because he never had the opportunity to play a well-defined position? Slot corner, safety, linebacker … I thought that the essence of our rehabilitation project was to give him the chance to learn and to experience some continuity and a narrower scope of responsibilities?

How do you reconcile his seeming need to actually learn a position with continuing to use him all over the place? Aren’t we just doing exactly what Arizona did and what resulted in his lack of development?

Ed says: CT, I’m not passing any judgment at this point. It’s been two games and 28 defensive snaps. They will use him mostly in passing situations (23 of his 28 snaps thus far have come in pass defense).

No one ever said Simmons would, or should, play a single position and be anchored there. Martindale has said they will use him wherever they think they need him. Now, he can play a little at safety or in the slot. I think one mistake Arizona made was trying to make safety his primary position.

I have talked to Simmons. He is loving being a Giant so far, and loving what Martindale is asking him to do. Let it play out and see how his role expands, and how well he handles it.

Eric Chavis says: My question is kind of two-fold. You see a speed guy like Tyreek Hill and then think back to someone like DeSean Jackson. It just feels like Tyreek is much more dynamic as a complete receiver compared to how DeSean was. However, both guys are known as “speed guys.” With Jalin Hyatt as a speed guy, do you think he’s going to be more home run like DeSean or a complete receiver like Tyreek?

Ed says: Eric, the guy who most players talk about when they compare Hyatt to someone is DeSean Jackson. I had a few guys bring up Jackson’s name when talking about Hyatt during training camp.

I’m not sure I would compare Hyatt to Hill. Your question, though, is valid in that what everyone wants to know is whether Hyatt can be a complete receiver and not just a ‘take the top off’ guy.

We don’t have that answer yet. He did a lot of things during the summer that show he is more advanced as a route runner than many thought, and the 31-yard contested catch Sunday against Arizona wasn’t about speed. That was about being athletic, physical and using proper technique to go high-point the ball. So, there are signs he can be more than Jackson. We just have to wait and see.

David Kanter asks: I was late turning the (Arizona) game on and only got to watch the second half. Lucky me. I was asking myself where some of our recent draft classes were. As we are in year three for ‘21 class I am pretty disappointed in the below. list. Are you seeing one player on that list you’d resign? Could this potentially be one of our worst draft classes? I didn’t see a single player take a snap.

  • Round 1 - Kadarius Toney (WR) Grade: D- ...
  • Round 2 - Azeez Ojulari (EDGE) ...
  • Round 3 - Aaron Robinson (CB) ...
  • Round 4 - Elerson Smith (EDGE) ...
  • Round 6 - Gary Brightwell (RB) ...
  • Round 6 - Rodarius Williams (DB) ...
  • Round 6 (waiver claim) - Quincy Roche (EDGE) ...
  • UDFA - Raymond Johnson III (iDL)

Ed says: David, this is one of the reasons Dave Gettleman (and Joe Judge) got fired. There really isn’t much to say beyond that.

Mark Cicio asks: On 10-11-2020, we lost to the Cowboys by a score of 34-37. Since then we went 46 games before breaking the 30 point mark, beating the hapless Colts on New Years Day this year before dropping 31 on the Vikings in the playoffs 2 weeks later.

Yea, we got hammered by the Cowboys, but then just scored 31 in a half against the (not so great) Cardinals. I guess what I saying is we went 46 games under 30 points, then had 3 of our past 6 breaking it. We still have a way to go before we’re a real threat again, but am I foolish to think we are seeing progress? That maybe the sunshine isn’t that far off into our future?

I think Daboll and Schoen are our way out of the latest wilderness we’ve been in. I think DJ can win, as he just had his 7th come from behind heroics in his short career. Or am I just seeing through the proverbial “blue tinted glasses”?

Ed says: Mark, of course your glasses are “blue tinted.” You are a fan. I think, though, that you are seeing this correctly.

The Giants are better. They made the playoffs a year ago. They are no longer a bottom feeder. They are probably middle of the pack. If things go well, maybe they make another playoff appearance. If things don’t go well — they keep getting injuries to key players, for example — maybe they fall short. Either way, in my view the long-term arrow is pointing up for the franchise.

Seth Weissman asks: When the Giants drafted Azeez Ojulari, the concern was that he might have had a bad knee. Since then, he has missed considerable time with injuries of different varieties. It seems like he’s one of those guys - much like Aaron Robinson - who has talent but will probably have a limited career because he just can’t get on the field. Do you have any insight as to the amount of time he is expected to miss because of the hamstring? If you were the Giants, would you spend a first-round pick on the edge position in April?

Ed says: Seth, I don’t have any inside info on whether or not Ojulari will be back on the field Week 4 against the Seattle Seahawks. I do think it is concerning that ever since he added 10-15 pounds before last season he has not been able to keep his legs healthy. He modified his training this past offseason to include yoga and a modified weightlifting routine. Yet, he is dealing with another soft-tissue leg injury.

As for the 2024 draft, we’re three games into this season. I have no idea what I would do. I haven’t even begun to study players and there are 14 games to play in the Giants’ season. I wouldn’t rule that out. I wouldn’t say it’s what the Giants should do, either. There is no way to know right now.

Charles Calabria asks: The focus this off season being explosive plays there is no evidence the team is any better in that department. The defense still can’t stop the run. What would you do to correct those failings?

Ed says: Charles, these are two topics worth exploring. Let’s do that.

Explosive plays: The reason for this is simple — the offensive line play hasn’t been good enough. You can’t get explosive plays when the receivers don’t have time to get down the field and quarterback doesn’t have time to deliver the ball. We can all point to a miss here or there by Daniel Jones, but for the most part this is an offensive line problem. The returns of Andrew Thomas and Ben Bredeson will help. I don’t know if signing Justin Pugh would help. I have said all along the improvement of lack of improvement on the offensive line over the long haul of 2023 comes down to Evan Neal. Maybe now that also includes whether or not Marcus McKethan is a starting guard. No easy answers.

Run defense: The issue is not necessarily the run defense. The issue is more about poor tackling at all levels of the defense. The Giants have been physically knocked around and run through, over and around in pretty much each game. This graphic from NextGenStats is ridiculous:

Unfortunately, in the NFL you can either tackle or you can’t. You’re tough enough to bring your pads and throw your body in there, or you aren’t and you just try to grab cloth and hope for help. The way NFL teams practice in this era you can practice tackling technique, but you can’t practice tackling.

The Giants missed 12 tackles against the Arizona Cardinals and 16 against the San Francisco 49ers. In some cases you move on to the next guy when a player doesn’t perform. In other cases, all you can do is hope that players like Xavier McKinney and Bobby Okereke — players you expect to be better — start making the plays you expect them to make.

Martin Hand asks: Ed, why do we wear red trim on our white uniforms when we want to be considered Big Blue?

Ed says: I honestly don’t know, but I don’t like the red striping. I also dislike the lowercase ‘ny’ on the helmets. Just put ‘GIANTS’ on there, especially since they are playing in New Jersey. Someday when there is time I will reach out to the Giants for more information on their design choices.

Doug Mollin asks: If Wink had Micah Parsons on the roster, would he use him differently than he’s using Thibs?

Would he make Parsons the “can opener” to help other teammates succeed? The sort of complementary role player Thibs seems to be right now.

Or, alter his scheme and let Parsons create havoc? As he’s been doing with Dallas.

Ed says: Doug, Martindale doesn’t have Parsons. Shoot, very few coaches have ever had a player that good. Martindale has never had a guy like that. What I know is what I wrote the other day — that Martindale uses edge defenders as chess pieces. He doesn’t build his defense to turn them into stars. He uses them in a variety of ways he feels makes the entire defense successful.

Thibodeaux is not Parsons. He does not have the same explosion off the edge or the same natural pass-rushing ability. Would Martindale turn Parsons loose as a pass rusher if he had him? I’d hope so, but there is no way to know for sure.

Max Bernstein asks: Can we keep a running total of Interceptions that were not DJ’s fault? So far 3 out of 4 were on drops. I would hate to see that be forgotten at the end of the year when he’s deemed a “failure” for “regressing” on ball security.

Ed says: Max, you asked three questions. I will touch on this one because you aren’t the only person who brought it up. You are correct that three of the four interceptions Jones has thrown have not been his fault. You know what else is true? When it’s all said and done no one will care. How many interceptions that Eli Manning threw were someone else’s fault? Wherever you are, I’m looking at you, Rueben Randle. Nobody cares. Dak Prescott threw 15 interceptions a year ago. Nobody cares how many weren’t his fault.

Quarterbacks get too much credit and too much blame. We may know the truth, but that is not going to change the narrative.

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