Reader Mailbag: O-line, Defense, the Draft and More

What’s on your minds, Giants fans?

It’s time for another reader mailbag. This week, we have some different questions mixed in with the usual “who will they draft?” ones (spoiler alert: we need to see how the board shakes out before we can make an intelligent and informed guess).

With that said, let’s go ahead and jump in.

From Charlie V.

Why is competition good for every position except for LT?

What’s up Charlie? I know my answer isn’t going to satisfy you, but here’s the situation, as I understand it. Flowers does have competition this year. D.J. Fluker can play either tackle or either guard spot.

They are also probably going to add another player to the mix, but above all, Flowers is really competing against himself, meaning that it’s on him to take several steps forward I justifying his draft pedigree.

Whether people like it or not, this team isn’t about to cut bait after two seasons on the No. 9 overall pick. I highly recommend you and anyone else interested it the offensive line and Ereck Flowers’ potential progress, listen to the latest podcast Ed Valentine and I recorded (No. 114) this week.

We had Duke Manyweather, a renowned offensive line consultant and scout, as a guest, and he dropped some excellent insight about Flowers and the offensive tackle draft class.

From Mike:

Explain to fans the relationship between owners and their GMs. Was Jerry Reese happy that he was saving the Giants big bucks for a few years, and then shocked to find out that they cared more about winning? Let’s face it, NFL owners have all the money they need. What they want is the best football organization their money can buy to at least have a shot at the playoffs every year. Reese finally got that message from the ownership last season and bought the team a defense. What do you think the right balance is for a General Manager?

Great question, Mike. When I look back objectively at Jerry Reese and the job he’s done, I see a few things.

First, I think he had to grow into the job. I think when you’re a scout you tend to look at things one way whereas when you’re a general manager responsible for the big picture, e.g. the draft, free agency AND the management of the salary cap, you have to strike a balance between those three.

I do not believe Reese’s objective, at any point in his career as general manager, has been to “save money” for the organization. There are no trophies given out to the team that spends the least amount of money (plus the CBA mandates that a certain percentage of the salary cap be spent by teams).

I think you partially answered your question when you said NFL owners want “the best football organization their money can buy.” The trick is to find the right fits for the club that meet three criteria: financial value, locker room chemistry and skill. It’s a tough balance to strike, but not one that’s impossible.

Similarly, the good general managers know when to cut their losses. This is a big reason Bill Belichick is successful year after year. I thought Reese was guilty in the past of hanging on to draft picks that clearly weren’t going anywhere for far too long; lately, he’s been better about cutting bait on those guys before their rookie contracts expire.

I think part of the issues early on was that they weren’t necessarily marrying the three criteria when it came to the draft and some of the free agent decisions they made as well as they could have.

As I hate to re-open an old wound, the consecutive years of bad drafts (2010-2012) and the lackluster free agency spending binge of 2014 put this organization in a hole from which they’re still trying to emerge.

I don’t know if this really answers your question, but I do like the direction in which the franchise has taken the last three years.

From Eric N.:

The Giants starting defense looks like it should be a dominant unit again, especially if we can resign Hankins. Seems to me depth at DT, DE, LB, and CB (after the top 3) may be a concern. How do you feel about our depth and/or how the Giants can address it in FA and the draft?

Eric, thanks for the question. Let me break down the depth on defense by position.

Defensive End: I’d really like to see one or more of Kerry Wynn, Owa Odighizuwa and Romeo Okwara step up and be that third defensive end who can take some of the workload off Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul. I don’t think you can give up on those three guys yet, but I do think they need to really show something more than what they have thus far, else I see defensive end becoming a stronger need next year.

Defensive Tackle: Other than Damon Harrison, no one is signed at this position beyond this year.  Regardless if they re-sign Hankins, this position is a need NOW.

Linebacker:  Same situation at defensive tackle. Other than B.J. Goodson, no one at this spot is signed beyond this year. Yes, they have numbers this year, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they draft a linebacker to start grooming for a potential starting job next year.

Safety: This is a bit of a gray area for me because I don’t know the health statuses of Mykkele Thompson and Nat Berhe. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned with all the time both of those guys missed due to their respective injury histories. I thought Andrew Adams did well when pressed into a larger role for which many didn’t think he was ready, but again, I think they might be wise to add to this position if Thompson and/or Berhe can’t turn the corner with their injury issues.

Cornerback: I think they’re okay here, given the addition of Valentino Blake. I think come next year they’ll probably need to address this position, especially if they decide to move on from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but I think for this year they should be in good shape barring injuries. I also think they’ll add a fifth cornerback to the roster, either a draft pick or undrafted free agent.

From Austin D.

Do you see the Giants taking Joe Mixon in the first, or if he falls to them in the second? Also, do you see them potentially trading up in the second if a guy like Cam Robinson is available?

Austin, I strongly doubt Mixon is even on their draft board. I would also be surprised if Cam Robinson falls to the second round. with that said, let’s see what shakes out in the first round before we start worrying about the second round.

From Frank C.

If Trubisky is there at 23, do you think Jerry selects him?

Frank, I would be stunned if the Giants take a quarterback at No. 23. I believe the Giants are gearing up to make a serious push to win it all in these final years of Eli Manning’s tenure. I think they have a big piece of the puzzle on defense after keeping most of what was a top-10 unit last year together. But I also think if they’re going to take that next step they MUST add playmakers on the offensive side of the ball who can start from Day 1.

I realize a quarterback is a need, but I ask you if you would place quarterback as being a higher need than tight end or offensive line or running back? If your answer is no, then it’s probably safe to assume they might wait until Day 2 to draft a quarterback–if they draft one at all this year.

From Dave S.

Out of the players on the practice squad and UDFAS from last year, which player has the highest ceiling and which player do you think will make the most meaningful contribution next season?

Dave, really a great question and probably the first time I’ve ever gotten such a question. Now with that said, I can’t yet give you an answer because I need to see how the rest of the roster shapes up and how these guys have improved from last yer to this year.

I’m going to ask you to hold on to this question and give it to me again in June once I’ve seen a few OTA and minicamp practices and we have a better ides of the makeup of the 90-man training camp roster.

From Martin J.:

Do you think Nat Berhe will come back this season, change his tackling style to avoid further concussions, and make the roster?

Thanks for the question Martin.  I sincerely hope that whatever decision Nat Berhe makes, it’s done so with his long-term well-being in mind. Personally, I wouldn’t come back if I dealt with two concussions in as short a time span as he did, but that’s me talking; I don’t know what Nat is thinking.

If he does come back, I would hope that he no longer has to deal with concussions and that if he does change how he tackles, he can find a method that affords him the success that got him to the NFL to begin with.

From Rich

Did I misinterpret Dukes analysis that Ramczyk and Robinson have fewer technique flaws to start with than flowers does even now? Also, I was wondering if something changed in 2006/07 about who in the organization analyzes the o-line draftees, it seems like they had a better o-line draft success rate prior to 2006.

Rich, I don’t want to speak for Duke Manyweather—you might want to reach out to him on Twitter (@BigDuke50), to ask him for any clarification.

As for your second question, I think the Giants moved away from drafting “athletes” and “projects” at offensive line, and went more toward drafting football players and guys who have a more solid foundation as far as skill set.

From Mike C.

Last season this team was close to dead last in rushing and ranked 25th overall offensively, yet still reached 11 wins and made the playoffs. My question to you is if they add another offensive piece, plus the addition of Marshall and this defense entering year 2; with the cowboys losing so many defensive pieces should this team be favored in the NFC East?

Mike, that’s a great question. I think if you were to base everything on where the rosters stand now, then yes, you could make that argument.

However, just as the Giants are going to add a piece or two on offense, I fully expect the Cowboys to add to their defense. We saw how quickly the giants defense came together as a unit despite all the new pieces, so who’s to say the same can’t happen for the Cowboys?

So really, until we see what everyone does in the draft, and until we see how it all comes together in training camp, I think it’s way too premature to make predictions about who is going to have what kind of record in 2017.

From Carl S.

An excellent FG kicker can be the difference in winning or losing more than a few games during the season. Do you think Giants have any interest in drafting Zane Gonzalez?

Carl, I would be very surprised if the Giants draft a kicker. I think they will add competition for Aldrick Rosas, but I also think should Rosas and whoever competes against him doesn’t get the job done in the summer,