The New York Giants open their 2023-24 NFL season a week from today. Here are some ‘things I think’ as we wait for the beginning of a new season.
Starting off with a big one
The Giants made the playoffs in 2022 despite going 1-4-1 in the NFC East. That really isn’t a sustainable formula. Asked about that, and the importance of starting off the 2023 season with a victory at home against the Dallas Cowboys, GM Joe Schoen downplayed the significance of that stat.
“We were 1-4-1 in the division last year and we made the playoffs,” Schoen said. “They are all important.
“I would just say every week is important. Every team we play, we’re going to want to win those games, so whether it’s Dallas, Philadelphia, whoever it is, each game is equally important.”
Schoen is, of course, saying what he needs to say. What he is supposed to say. Still, to be considered a true, consistent contender the Giants need to show that they have closed the gap on the Cowboys and Eagles.
So, no matter what Schoen says, Sunday night’s season-opener is important.
Rooting for players
“There is no cheering in the press box.”
The press box is a place of work. Not a place for rooting. That is commonly known among working media members covering professional sporting events. Perhaps, that is, with the exception of media members who cover the Philadelphia Eagles.
I was a Giants’ fan when I was a kid. I can remember wearing my full Giants uniform with the Fran Tarkenton No. 10, and sitting with my dad on Sundays to watch games — at least until he got thoroughly disgusted by halftime and went to putter around in the garage.
These days? While Big Blue View is, technically, a fan site I honestly don’t look at myself as a fan. I have written about this team almost every day since February of 2007. This is a job. I have to be objective. I have to be able to analyze with my brain and not with my heart. I can’t stand in front of players and coaches and be a fan. I put that away a long time ago. I have to be a pro doing a job.
Do I like it when the Giants win? Of course. The mood of the BBV community is better. It is easier to talk to players and coaches. It is easier to do my job.
All of that said, I admitted to Wan’Dale Robinson the other day that I do root for players. Robinson, a truly nice young man with a great smile, is one of them. So is Sterling Shepard. Dexter Lawrence, Jalin Hyatt, Evan Neal, Micah McFadden, Graham Gano and a bunch of other Giants fit in that category.
This Giants team is filled with good people. It is one of the things that makes this team fun to cover.
All seven Giants’ 2023 draft picks are part of the 53-man roster. Ten of the 11 players who were drafted by the Giants a year ago are also on the roster, with linebacker Darrian Beavers on the team’s practice squad.
This is not how things have been during the last decade or so for the Giants.
Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap recently totaled the number of players still in the league who started their careers with each franchise. There are 50 players in the NFL who started their careers with the Giants. Only two teams, the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers, have fewer.
For too long we have watched the Giants draft players, watch too many of them fail, then quickly fade out of the league as the rest of the NFL ignored players not good enough to make it with the Giants.
With the drafts we have seen the past couple of years, it certainly feels like that is beginning to change.
About Tyre Phillips
Yes, I was surprised by the Giants’ decision to cut backup offensive lineman Tyre Phillips not only once, but twice, resulting in Phillips landing on the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad.
I think, though, that the ‘oh my God, the Giants are doomed without Phillips if they have injuries at offensive tackle’ mindset so many fans seem to have is, to put it nicely, overly dramatic.
Phillips did a decent job for the Giants a year ago. Decent as in compiling a 50.5 Pro Football Focus grade, which is barely acceptable. He gave up three sacks and 16 pressures in 199 pass-blocking snaps, a less than acceptable 94.8 pass-blocking efficiency score.
I honestly don’t feel great about Matt Peart as the only true backup tackle on the 53-man roster. I doubt there are more than a handful of teams who are really comfortable with their backup tackles — that’s why they are backups.
The Giants preferred Shane Lemieux, who can play guard and center, to Phillips. They preferred the upside of Jalen Mayfield, a 23-year-old 2021 third-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons. They preferred to work with the five-position versatility of undrafted free agent offensive lineman Jaylon Thomas.
I don’t know how it will all work out. Surprised or not, though, I think it’s time to let the Phillips angst go. I think maybe we have seen enough from this front office over two seasons that there should be some trust that they know how to evaluate players.
A few quick hitters
- Saquon Barkley has had 352 touches in each of his two fully-healthy seasons (2018 and 2022). I think the changing Giants’ offense, and perhaps the presence of Eric Gray, will mean Barkley doesn’t get near that number this season.
- I am really looking forward to seeing how Evan Neal handles his matchup with DeMarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. Neal has admitted the three-sack game Lawrence had against him last year was the worst game of his football life. We will learn a lot about Neal next Sunday.
- I am not surprised by the Giants not extending Xavier McKinney’s contract. McKinney needs a good season if he wants to be a Giant in 2024.
- I have no idea how well John Michael Schmitz will play against Dallas, or for the entirety of his rookie season. I just know that trying to block Dexter Lawrence every day, and dealing with Wink Martindale’s blitz schemes is pretty good prep.
- I think I have to share this quick Jalin Hyatt story. You might recall during training camp I teased the baby-faced Hyatt about his weak effort to grow a mustache. I saw him in the locker room Thursday and told him I had the most important question he’d be asked all week. What did I ask? “How’s the mustache coming?” Hyatt burst out laughing, pointed at his upper lip and said ‘You see it, right?” It’s there. Sort of.