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Big Blue View mailbag: Quarterback, coaching staff, draft offensive line questions

The mail’s here!

Robert Forgione asks: I know there has been speculation about Wink and Mike Kafka and their job security, what about Daboll? Would Schoen ever pull the plug on his buddy, or is that out of the question?

Ed says: Robert, Brian Daboll isn’t going anywhere. Players are still playing hard. There has been no locker room mutiny. Schoen and Daboll came in as a tandem, and that will still be the case in 2024.

That move would come from John Mara and Steve Tisch. While they can’t be happy about this season, I think they know that starting over again is not the right path.

Alan Marks asks: Tommy DeVito had no interceptions in his last 4.5 games. He also threw mainly short passes, took a long time to throw, left the pocket quickly, all indicators of extreme caution. How does this reflect on Daboll’s coaching style and his short fuse for quarterback mistakes? In other words, was DeVito intimidated?

Ed says: Alan, did you actually watch Tommy DeVito play? Did his on-field mannerisms give you the idea he was intimidated by anything?

Reality is, he is an undrafted free agent rookie quarterback. He doesn’t have a big arm. He doesn’t have the experience to know exactly what he is looking at from the defense every time he lines up to run a play. He doesn’t have the experience to know exactly what his best options will be each time his primary read on a play isn’t available.

The first job of every quarterback, especially backups, is to not hurt the team. Don’t turn the ball over. Don’t make bad plays or bad situations worse. DeVito, with help from what Daboll and Mike Kafka asked him to do, generally accomplished that. He took too many sacks, but he protected the football.

The Giants were largely cautious in what they asked DeVito to do because they didn’t want to put him in situations that would set him up to fail, and by extension hurt the team.

DeVito did what he was asked to do. In the end, though, there weren’t enough points being generated and the Giants made a move to a more experienced quarterback with a bigger arm and a bigger arsenal of weapons he can use because of his mobility and knowledge.

Gregory Riley asks: After the 2023 season has finished and Joe Schoen is reviewing his personnel decisions do you think he would like to have gone in a different direction on some of them?

Ed says: Gregory, of course I do. Jerry Reese used to say no GM bats 1.000% in personnel. I’m sure Schoen would like do-overs on some of the choices that were made. We’ve been over them, so I’m not going to go through the litany of questionable decisions again. Only he and Daboll know the full reasons for why some decisions were made.

Anthony Cantore asks: Ed, it appears that everyone has written off Daniel Jones including you. My feeling [is] Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen are more to blame for Daniel Jones terrible season. Daboll didn’t have his team ready to play this year from the first game on and never had a plan how to win like he did last year. Joe Schoen never tried to improve the offensive line either by the draft or free agency and he failed to have a quality backup for Saquon. Daniel Jones was literally getting mauled early in the season. I’m not sure any QB would’ve survived. This reminds me of another QB the Giants drafted in the first round. He played great his first year and then struggled with inconsistent play and injuries but as the team improved he improved. He went on to win a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP. (Phil Simms). Maybe Daniel Jones isn’t a franchise QB but why are you so sure he isn’t?

Ed says: Anthony, hopefully you have the Daboll-Schoen rant out of your system now and you feel better.

I have not “written off” Daniel Jones. I am not sure of anything with Jones, other than the fact that he is a good guy and works hard at his craft. I have said many times that I believe the circumstances the Giants have put him in year after year have been detrimental to Jones, and that he is probably better than he has shown. Or, should have turned into a better quarterback than he has shown. And no, for those of you who want to read it this way, I am not absolving Jones of blame for this season. He wasn’t good enough, for whatever reason.

But, we all have to face reality. Maybe it can still work with Jones and the Giants. Maybe it can’t. Maybe he goes elsewhere in a couple of years and finds the kind of success everyone hoped he would have as a Giant.

None of that matters. The reasons for why Jones hasn’t been the quarterback the Giants hoped he would be — at least most of the time — no longer matter. At least not in my view.

What matters is that we are five years in with Jones, and we are still trying to figure out what he is, what he isn’t, and what he could or should be. What matters is that he has one year of guaranteed money left on his contract, and right now the Giants can’t be comfortable with committing to him beyond 2024 given both his 2023 performance and his injury history. What matters is that they are likely to be in a 2024 NFL Draft slot that puts one of the top quarterbacks in the draft class within their grasp.

What matters is that when you aren’t sure you have a difference-making quarterback, and none of us can be sure Jones is that because he has only been that guy in one of five NFL seasons, you have to take the swing if you believe a difference-making quarterback could be there for the taking.

Patrick Morris: We’ll keep it short. Jayden Daniels, Malik Nabers, or Olu Fashanu?

Ed says: I’ll keep my answer short. Daniels.

Chris White asks: Could you ever see the coaching staff trial the idea of moving Thomas to the right side so Neal could go back to his original position on the left? I know it has to sound crazy with how well Thomas has played on the left but this o-line has to be figured out.

Ed says: Chris, why would they do that? And why do some fans always think the way to fix a player is to either move him to a position he has never played, or move a player like Thomas off a position where he is outstanding to hope that maybe Evan Neal would be OK at left tackle and Thomas would be fine on the right?

First and foremost, you don’t move a great NFL left tackle off of the left tackle spot. That’s what Thomas is. Secondly, do we know for sure that Neal would be good at left tackle? Or that Thomas would be good at left tackle, or would even accept such a switch?

Left tackle is not a problem for the Giants. So, why would they take the risk of making it one?

KWright112 asks: Is it just my imagination or is the offensive line playing better in the last 4 or 5 games? Not good certainly, but better than it did in the first 6 or 7 games this season.

Ed says: No, it’s not your imagination. First, Andrew Thomas has been at left tackle since Week 9 instead of the overmatched Joshua Ezeudu and Justin Pugh. Second, the Giants have started the same offensive line — Thomas (LT), Pugh (LG), John Michael Schmitz (C), Ben Bredeson (RG), Tyre Phillips (RT) since Week 10. That’s seven straight games. The continuity matters.

The offensive line play still hasn’t been great, but it’s been better. Of course, this week Matt Peart plays in place of Phillips and as I type this I’m not sure of Schmitz’ availability for Sunday.

Scott Meyer asks: Converting on fourth downs and being able to keep a drive alive is an important part of most successful teams. My view might be skewed at this point as it seems like everything that can go wrong this season has but it seems like the Giants are rarely able to convert on their fourth-and-1 opportunities. What is the NFL average conversion rate for fourth-and-1 and what is the Giants? If the Giants are below average, which I will assume that they are what do you think is the leading reason? Personnel, execution, play calling?

Ed says: Geez, Scott, what’s the big idea making me do research? Ha! Anyway, here you go.

The Giants have converted 18 of 37 fourth-down opportunities overall, 48.65%. That is 19th in the NFL, roughly middle of the pack. The median fourth-down efficiency in the NFL is 50%, with the 49ers, Lions, Packers and Jaguars all hitting that number. The Giants are next in line, so I think you can conclude they have been roughly league average on fourth down.

Specifically on fourth-and-1, data from NFLGSIS, the league’s media stats site, shows them as 7 of 14 (50%). The play breakdown goes like this.

  • Fourth-and-1 run plays: 6 of 11 (54.55%, fifth in the NFL)
  • Fourth-and-1 pass plays: 0 of 2 (22nd)
  • Fourth-and-1 scrambles: (1 of 1)

Giants’ opponents have converted on 10 of 18 fourth downs (55.6%).

Here is a chart from NFLGSIS showing the Giants’ complete fourth-down play breakdown:

That’s what I have. My personal conclusion is that the Giants are middle of the pack. They aren’t the Eagles, who lead the league at 76% conversions, but they haven’t been awful at converting on fourth downs. They have plenty of bigger problems.

Douglas Mollin asks: Hi Ed — an easy question to start off 2024. How would you approach fixing the Giant OL?

Sadly, we likely only have 2 starting OL locked in next season (Thomas and JMS) and that assumes JMS improves in Year 2.

Neal will get another shot at RT and/or RG in camp but cannot be penciled in as a starter anywhere IMO. Same with Ezeudu and McKethan.

Can you get three new starters through free agency and the draft?

Even if we do, are Neal, Eze, McKethan and maybe Bredeson returning any kind of trustworthy backup group?

Walk us off the ledge Ed that we will not have another bottom 5 OL in 2024.

Ed says: You’re killing me, Doug. Easy question? About fixing the offensive line? Thanks a lot!

There are no easy answers to fixing the offensive line. The Giants have been trying since 2013, when they drafted Justin Pugh in the first round.

The Giants need to determine how much culpability offensive line coach Bobby Johnson has for what has gone on. If they feel coaching has been an issue — I know fans do — they should make a change.

As you indicated, they need to decide what to do with Evan Neal. My guess? Fans won’t like it, but I think he comes back next year as a right tackle. But, Doug, you are correct. He has to face legitimate competition for the job, and the Tyre Phillips injury complicates that.

The Giants have to honestly assess the players they have. Who can be part of the solution?

Free agency is not always a panacea for the offensive line — Giants fans should know that by now. So, I would spend carefully.

If you’re the Giants, you almost have to use a high pick — probably Day 2 — on the offensive line regardless of whatever else you do.

There is no easy answer. You just have to honestly assess everything, coaches, players, the decisions that were made about the roster that was constructed, and keep swinging.

Paul Miller asks: All the fun drafts have begun as to who the Giants might pick and whether they should trade up to get their quarterback. Won’t whatever they do in free agency dictate what they do in the draft? Do you have any thoughts about the amount of money they’d have for free agents specifically online and edge rusher that might make it easier to draft a QB?

Ed says: Paul, of course free agency impacts what the Giants will do in the draft. What players will they lose? What players will they add? Teams say they don’t draft for need, but that’s nonsense. Need always impacts draft decisions.

As for cap space, right now Over The Cap says the Giants have $34.073 million to spend on an estimated $242 million salary cap. That is obviously fluid, and will change based on decisions made about their own players. As of today, that is 17th in terms of teams with the most 2024 cap space. So, middle of the pack.

Jacob Willett asks: I get that opposing coaches and players have a tough time preparing for Winks defensive scheme, but is it a realistic approach for a 60 min game against an elite offense? How many corners are there on earth are that can execute that assignment? They not only have to excel in man coverage but they also have to be solid tacklers because they are usually on an island so if they miss a tackle it’s a big gain. I feel like Adoree, Flott, and Tae are good at coverage part and McCloud and Darnay are good at getting their man down after the catch or run support. Do you need corners made in a lab and hope none of them get hurt.

Ed says: Jacob, fans are hilarious sometimes. And no, Jacob, before I am accused of being condescending I’m not picking on you personally. I find it funny that Giants fans always used to complain about how soft Patrick Graham’s defense were, because he played primarily zone and tried to use disguising coverage schemes to fool quarterbacks rather than relying mainly on pressure and man coverage.

Fans were excited about Martindale’s aggressive schemes. Now, because the defense isn’t perfect and the Giants had a bad season, the scheme isn’t right.

The Giants blitz 45.3% of the time, second to the Minnesota Vikings. Where, by the way, everyone is singing the praises of defensive coordinator Brian Flores.

Guess what? Really good offenses with top-tier quarterbacks are going to slice up soft zone coverages schemes. With good offensive line play, those top-tier quarterbacks are almost always going to find a favorable matchup against blitzing man coverage teams.

There is no perfect defensive scheme.

The problem for the Giants is not Martindale’s scheme. It’s the fact that they don’t have enough dynamic players. They are second-highest in blitz rate, but 11th in quarterback hurry percentage and 30th in sacks. That tells you they don’t have enough players who win, even when they send extra rushers. Even Kayvon Thibodeaux, having a productive year with a team-high 11.5 sacks, is not an efficient pass rusher. Of 58 edge defenders graded by Pro Football Focus, Thibodeaux’s pass rush win rate of 6.4% ranks 55th. Not good. Azeez Ojulari, who hasn’t played enough snaps to qualify, has a win rate of 5.7%. Even worse.

Only five teams in the league have missed more tackles than the Giants. Micah McFadden has missed 25 tackles (21.9% of his attempts). Adoree’ Jackson has missed 16.1% of his tackles. Jason Pinnock has missed 13.7%. That’s not scheme. That’s about players. A coach can only put players in positions to make plays. The players have to make them.

Jason LaBombard asks: This is random and I’m not trying to make too much of it, but has Daniel Jones been on the sidelines at games since his injury? I have not watched every live second of every game but I haven’t seen him, and while it doesn’t necessarily mean anything if he hasn’t been there, it does seem a little odd.

Ed says: Yes, Jones has been around. He was in Philadelphia two weeks ago for that game. I do not know for sure if he was on the sideline last Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, but I saw him in the locker room after the game talking to Saquon Barkley. He is always around.

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