Reader Mailbag: The “Is it Time to Panic Yet?” Edition

Three games, three losses. New York Giants fans have certainly had better football seasons, that’s for sure.

Whereas  last year the defense carried the team to an 11-5 record, this year, it seems that the Giants are falling apart at every corner. Or are they? Let’s see what’s on the minds this week of Giants fans and try to address some of the concerns.

From Joe M. (via e-mail):

John Mara needs to look into a mirror and admit the following: (1) he made a terrible decision to retain Jerry Reese as GM; (2) he made a mistake in signing Ben McAdoo as the coach; (3) he made a mistake in signing JPP to that contract; (4) he needs to complete an evaluation of his personnel & scouting systems: reason: Giants have not drafted enough quality players.

Reese has committed management malpractice in constructing this team. McAdoo appears to be in over his head and is being outcoached.

JPP did not deserve the size of the contract for a one-way player who takes off too many plays during a game. The history of the past decade of Giant drafts is abysmal which should be enough reason to review those departments. Your thoughts, please.

Pat Says: Thanks for the letter Joe. Funny, but I don’t recall anyone questioning the decision to hire Ben McAdoo last year when this team was 11-5. With that said, I think the biggest poor decision management has made was not shaking up the folks who run the draft.

I said way back when that the consecutive bad drafts this team has had would come back to haunt them and sadly I was right. I just do not understand why this team continues to build from the draft from the outside in.

And I will say this about McAdoo. While it is his right to call plays, I never liked the decision and I still don’t.  McAdoo talks about being his own man, but from the outside looking in, he’s sure trying hard to be Mike McCarthy, and it’s not going to work.

Regarding Jason Pierre-Paul had they let him go, who would have taken his place? The guy they drafted, Owa Odighizuwa, is out of the league. So who was the next best alternative? Pierre-Paul knows the system and they wanted to hit the ground running so I don’t necessarily fault management for resigning him.

Pat Says: Jimmy, Steve Spagnuolo has already said that Andrew Adams is going to see a bump in his snaps starting this week. Quite honestly, I’m not sure what he did to lose the starting job last year.

The only thing I can think of was he didn’t come up with interceptions, but you know what? Darian Thompson hasn’t either, nor has he shown me in what snaps he’s played that he is as good against the run as Adams. With Adams and Thompson on a level playing field, I’m surprised this competition wasn’t closer.

Pat Says: Thanks for the question Mike. I share in your sentiments. At times, you’d think that the front office and the coaching staff aren’t on the same page given the players management brings in and the usage of said players by the coaching staff.

The only explanation I can come up with makes sense is that Giants are a pass-first team—it’s as if the running game is an afterthought. They rarely run on back-to-back plays and as such Ellison’s chances to help with the running game are reduced.

As for Fluker, I’ll have more on him in another response, but I do think we’ll see him this weekend.

Pat Says: Thanks for the question Chris. Ben McAdoo always talks about making good with the fundamentals. I believe that if you’re going to do that consistently, you need to practice them every chance you get, not just if a problem pops up.

Now understand that the media doesn’t get to see the entire practice during the season, so I could be wrong here, but I question how often they practice tackling, even if it’s with that big donut they have, every chance they get. I get it that tackling is part of football 101, but you have to master Football 101 before you can move on to other levels.

Pat Says: Thanks for the question Ben. No, I don’t think they’re going to pull Eli Apple out of the lineup. I have a theory which is probably a wild one, but here goes.

Apple, remember, had two bad ankles in the summer. Now I realize he’s well enough to play and hasn’t been on the injury report, but I wonder if those injuries affected his speed? And if they did, as Apple has shown in the past, he tends to get grabby.

Again, it’s just a theory about why he’s suddenly having trouble out there, but again, they’re going to let him work through it because at this point, who do they have to replace him with? They’re trying to keep Rodgers-Cromartie healthy for the entire year and Ross Cockrell is learning the system on the fly. So it’s sink or swim with Apple.

Pat Says: I don’t think it’s that easy, to be honest. there are certain things Fluker does well for example, run him straight ahead and hey, good luck moving him out of the way to get to the back who’s trying to come out of the backfield.

Angles though are another story, at least what I remember in the preseason. Again, the media can no longer watch practice during the season, so it’s hard to say if guys have improved or regressed, but I think it’s been rather telling that when they had to shuffle the offensive line after the Hart injury, they went for the smaller Brett Jones over Fluker.

Pat Says: Thanks for the question, Joe. I do think that despite the fact Bobby Hart is off the injury report, Pugh will get the start at right tackle. Why?

History has shown that when a player is coming back from an injury that kept him out of action multiple weeks, he is usually put on a pitch count. Well, with the offensive line, it’s difficult to put a guy on a pitch count because you want the line to get and get into a rhythm as quickly as possible during the game.

Had Hart practiced in full all week, then I might have said yes, he’s back in the starting lineup. But I think it just makes sense at this point to leave Pugh at right tackle for the time being, and have Hart be your swing guard/tackle backup for this week.

And I know you didn’t ask about this, but I think we might see D.J. Fluker at left guard this week. Something to keep in mind about Fluker which no one is discussing yet. Next week his old team, the Chargers, comes into town.

If I’m Fluker and I get an opportunity to play this week, I play my tail off to convince the coaches that I’m good enough to leave in the starting lineup so I can seek revenge next week against the Chargers.

We’ll find out soon enough if that’s how things play out.

From George D. (via email)

How optimistic are you about Olivier Vernon playing and if he can’t go, who takes his place?

Pat Says: Thanks for the question George. My gut feeling is that barring a miracle, Olivier Vernon, who has never missed a game in his pro career due to injury, will not play Sunday.

I know there are some folks who say, “Well he played through a broken wrist last year, so why wouldn’t he play through this injury.” My answer is that you can compensate some for a broken wrist, but when you have a bad wheel, that’s a bigger challenge.

Why do I think Vernon won’t play? I’m looking at the evidence from the past week.  During the open part of practice, Vernon was with the defensive linemen as they went through their drills (I don’t recall him doing much that day).

Thursday, he went right to work with a trainer following warm ups instead of going back with his unit for the individual drills.

Now on Friday, I know he was projected to be limited had there been a practice, but  I’m not about to say he’s turned the corner yet.

Last week we saw Vernon valiantly try to play through a sprained ankle. It was obvious after a while he couldn’t go, and he came out of the game. Vernon never comes out of games unless it’s a coach’s decision, and since he’s been here, he’s played just about every defensive snap.

With all that said, Vernon will be a game-time decision. He’ll go out there and test his ankle, same as how Odell Beckham Jr. did the first two weeks of the season. And was the case with Beckham, the question that needs to be addressed is if Vernon does play on it, even if it’s a pitch count, will set him back in his recovery?

Vernon is a smart man and a guy who doesn’t like to make excuses, who doesn’t like to miss practice and who sure as heck doesn’t want to miss games. I do believe that if the trainers express concern that his injury could be made worse, he’ll swallow his pride and sit this one out with a focus on being ready for next week.

As for who would replace Vernon if he can’t go, I suspect it will be a committee approach consisting of Kerry Wynn, Romeo Okwara and, perhaps Avery Moss with Cap Capi, signed off the practice squad Thursday, maybe getting in there for those 3-4 hybrid looks the Giants sometimes run.

Pat Says: Thanks for the question, Steven. There is no question that Ereck Flowers isn’t a brute force strength wise. His problem continues to be inconsistent technique. Strength is a great attribute for offensive linemen, but if your technique isn’t there to where you don’t put it to work for you, then it won’t matter where a guy lines up.

Pat Says: Excellent question Richard. I think itdepends on how Darkwa and Vereen are come game time. My guess is one of those two will not be active as I can’t see them carrying four running backs (I do think Wayne Gallman will be active this week) when they need extra bodies at linebacker, offensive line and, potentially defensive end.

My guess is Paul Perkins will continue to start, and if Darkwa plays, he’ll go back on a pitch count just to make sure he’s okay. I’m thinking maybe Vereen is inactive given his injury happened early in the week.

Pat Says: Thanks for the question, Frank. I think the entire defense is underperforming, not just the defensive secondary, and I can’t understand why. I look at the pass rush up front and I question whether they’re getting lined up properly to where they’re getting the best angles to defeat the man in front of them.

I look at the back-end of the defense and I see balls that last year would have been picks end up completed or on the ground because the defender was a step too late.

And I see lots of missed tackles and guys being stonewalled at the point of attack. Again, I don’t know what the issue is other than to say that opposing offensive coordinators had an entire offseason to decode the Giants’ revamped defense so it’s up to Steve Spagnuolo to figure out the right wrinkles to make it happen.