Camp Covid

The impact of Covid on the NFL has been significant. Posting within Covid has been resisted here because the general information vacuum is much larger. We would already be finished with two preseason games by now, but have none. Instead we get to comment on a good play in scrimmage by a random player. Jumping to conclusions without at least seeing some contact in preseason games makes no sense. Even with preseason it’s a fool’s errand. Trivia question- In 2008 the Detroit Lions went 0-16. What was their preseason record? Yes it was 4-0. So all you want to do is look for individual performances, and we don’t even have that this year.

This season is one large question mark. September will be scrimmage and October will be rounding into form. There simply is no substitute for live action. Since football injuries are such a huge concern for coaches, they’ll forego the contact as much as possible. Fans are thus left with guessing and extrapolation. Noise.

With that qualification, we’ll make some observations that we think are correct but admit are part conjecture. At least we’re warning you of the greater chance for error in what is here.

Judge vs Shurmur. Judge’s words have everyone excited. His actions are clearly sourced from the Parcells-Belichick tree. The failure of the past 2 years can be sourced to Shurmur and Gettleman. More on Gettleman later.

Shurmur is a stark reminder of the difference between a (good) coordinator and a (bad) head coach. There were 3 things that disappointed me greatly last year. 1. Daniel Jones’ ball protection. 2. Will Hernandez’s run blocking. 3. Lorenzo Carter’s disappearing act. My sense was that all three things listed were addressable and correctable. This was palpable underachievement. I believe that Judge has the ability to fix at least one, possibly two, and hopefully all three things. Just imagine where the Giants can be with those added improvements?!

Gettleman made a lot of moves in 2018 which said “win now.” I don’t want to rehash them. This year he went for youth and depth at Offensive Line, which showed more patience and deliberate focus on the future than rushing for high priced Free Agents (“B” players at “A” prices) right now. The team still lacks a pass rusher. Markus Golden compromises pocket integrity in order to get sacks, so the team still lacks the true consistent ability to get to the QB. That’s ok. It’s a genuine rebuild, where the team will ideally get that player in the 2021 Draft. This path is more robust. It comes with a more lasting payoff.

Addition by Subtraction. We tweeted about this when the news hit that Nate Solder would be opting out due to Covid. I genuinely hope this does not come off as being callous. I’m sure Solder is doing what is right by his family.

Solder sitting out is a big win for the Giants. The Giants are in a rebuild. You may as well get Andrew Thomas started at Left Tackle as soon as possible. I wasn’t happy about Thomas taking Right Tackle and switching once Solder was done. Thomas is the future. Solder is the past. Onward.

The opportunity of 2020. Fans are trying to envision a way to go 9-7 and make the playoffs. They are hopeful that Judge will put the discipline back into the team. They are hopeful that position coaches like Marc Columbo will turn around the OL. They want tangible results in the won-loss column. I am as well, BUT NOT IN 2020. Manage your expectations. The opportunity of 2020 is getting snaps and experience for this younger roster. This season will be a success if Covid doesn’t interrupt the opportunity of the Giants to get these young players to learn the new system, to communicate with one another and PLAY in the NFL. If we get a 12-14 game season where the Giants players are competitive by the end of the season, that will be a successful year. As modest as those goals are for 2020, the following season the expectations from this NY Giants blogger will rise considerably. I’m excited about the 2020* asterisk paying off big in 2021.

Surveying the 2020 Giants

In the last 3 years, the Giants are 12-36, which is THE SINGLE WORST RECORD IN THE NFL over that period of time. Consider that the Browns were 0-16 in that period.

Giants fans are optimistic. We put out a poll for what fans expect from the first 5 games of 2020. This way we are able to gauge sentiment. I clipped that coupon because the Giants will be underdogs in all 5 games.

PIT. At Chi. SF. At Lar. At Dal.

Here are the results.

The expectation from the mode and majority of fans is a 2-3 record. If the Giants go 2-3 I’ll be pleasantly surprised. This is a tougher portion of the schedule. I believe their best chances are the first 2 games, where they face PIT and at Chi. I expect them to be bigger underdogs in the other 3 games.

The pure math based on a sum of expected value for the moneyline gives the following (games 1&2 available, estimated for Games 3-5) chances for victory- 36%, 31%, 28%, 36%, and 25% = 1.56 games. So the math says they’ll win between 1 & 2 games. The bright side of a tough start to the season is that if the Giants can somehow pull out a 3-2 record, they will most likely be playoff bound.

Not so fast, says Wonder: “The Giants are 50% to win 0 games and 50% to win 1 game, there is no chance they win 2 games.” I think the only opponent Wonder (at this early juncture) does not respect very much is the Bears, so he is counting the other 4 games as a loss.

This entire exercise is a reminder that the Giants are young and their schedule is not easy. They face the NFC West, who was a combined 38-25-1 last season. One of the 3rd  place teams they draw, TB, now has a veteran presence in Brady and Gronk, so that game will not be easy. Dallas and Philadelphia have swept the Giants the last 3 seasons.

Where are the Giants as they head into 2020? Rebuilding. That’s where they are. Everyone is excited about Joe Judge. Count me among them. People around the league are in consensus that he’s got the Belichick/Saban right stuff. He’s certainly saying the right things. And he’s got the Giants new draft picks saying the right things.

Get to work.

Is a new head coach going to make a difference in Season 1? I tend to think not. He’s inheriting the single weakest team of the last 3 years. I won’t be very popular with this remark, but Gettleman needed to take Darnold and then he’d have DE Josh Allen the following year. That was the way to rebuild. We said Barkley was a luxury the Giants could not afford. Two losing seasons later I think we can all acknowledge that RB does not rebuild. QB OL and DE rebuilds. The 3 fundamentals are QB, protect QB, and rush the QB.

It was a major effort from Mr. Hogmollie, Dave Gettleman, who noted after selecting Tackle Andrew Thomas that

“We want to fix this Offensive Line once and for all.”

Where was this focus in 2018-2019? Beyond free agency salvage (sorry, we said Solder was a 2 year patch and that’s exactly what he was), it’s been Hernandez and little else. This year we got Thomas, Peart and Lemieux, R1 R3 & R5 concentrated focus. This is how you rebuild. These are the lasting changes that were needed in 2018 which are coming 2 years later. Better late than never.

In 2018 Gettleman got a grownup as his head coach and a hood ornament at 1.02. Win now.

In 2020 Gettleman got a Belichick disciple and a reload at OL. Rebuild.

This is a future I can believe in. Just do me one favor. When Barkley is doing amazing things in 2021 in the 4th year of his rookie deal, please don’t tell me that he was the pick. Gettleman put the cart before the horse and now he’s finally getting the horses. Once and for all.

2020 NFL Draft: 7 Round + UFA Review

Two parts to this post. Part 1 is a review of Day 3 and the early UDFA signings. Part 2 are general comments from the weekend’s Draft.

Part 1

It is a good reminder for regular readers and a good moment for new ones to explain what is happening in later rounds.

  • Once you get past Round 3 and into Round 4 the talent level starts to drop off precipitously
  • ESPN had a statistic which is worth noting- 65% of NFL rosters are comprised of Round 4+ PLUS UDFA signings
  • This lot is a continuing turnstile, so while many rosters will perpetually contain these names, few will “survive” beyond a few years
  • For our draft analyst, Wonder, he is looking for any signs of potential.. the pros are just much bigger and much faster

I am setting the table for a reason. Our draft analyst does not typically get excited about many of these players, but when he does, it is worth paying attention.

Without further ado, here are the few that drew comment from Wonder.

4.110 CB Darnay Holmes: I like the pick.

7.218 LB Carter Coughlin (pictured above): I kind of like Coughlin in 7th rd… May be a long shot, but worth a try IF he can be a “situational pass rusher.”

UDFA WR Austin Mack: I kind of like Austin Mack as an UDFA.

UDFA RB Javon Leake: I LOVE LEAKE AS AN UDFA !!! I think he can play.

Part 2

There have been 4 draft picks that really excited me in the past ~20 years. I was trying to distill what these guys had in common, and I think it was a combination of special talent, perceived value, and a fit for need. Those 4 players:

2002 1.14 TE Jeremy Shockey

2015 2.33 S Landon Collins

2018 2.34 G Will Hernandez

2020 2.36 S Xavier McKinney

These 4 picks were guys who I thought were fantastic selections for where they were taken and what they would deliver for the franchise. While Hernandez has started all 32 games in his first 2 seasons, frankly his second year has been well below where I was expecting to see him. His run blocking is disappointing. Considering all of the coaching failures at this positional unit, I am (pardon the pun) guardedly hopeful that new OL coach Marc Colombo can help Hernandez reach some of the potential which I saw at the time of the Draft.

Landon Collins was everything I hoped for and more. He became all Pro in 2016 but injuries have slowed him down. We always knew he was limited in coverage skills, and that has held him back from being an elite player. In 2016, he was elite.

I have opined on Jeremy Shockey numerous times over the years. My only filter on this player is that he needed a Bill Parcells coach in the worst way. This elite TE wanted the ball on every play. What does it mean when you are All-Pro in your rookie year and then Pro Bowl in a few more yet do not reach your career potential? It means to me that you underachieved because coaching failed you. Fassel let the rookie flourish in 2002.  2003 was a disaster and the coach was gone. Pope failed to teach Shockey to MISS the other player to protect his body, with the garbage idea that you weren’t playing hard enough if you weren’t playing hurt. Importantly, Coughlin ‘the rules guy’ did not have a different set of rules for this alpha. I am reminded of a great story that Bill Belichick told about Lawrence Taylor.

The greatness of Parcells was that he knew how to get greatness out of his special players. He DID have a different set of rules for these players. It wasn’t to placate them. Parcells was never a “players coach.” It was to make compromises with them and manage them so that they delivered what they could every Sunday. Taylor said of Parcells in hindsight, “that’s my boy.” Parcells had Taylor’s back. Taylor had Parcells’ back. They both supported one another. That’s what the alphas need to reach greatness.

And now we get to McKinney. Was McKinney the best player in the Draft? Certainly not. He was #19 on our Top 50 Board. If the Giants picked him at 1.04 I would be pissed. That would be a colossal waste of value. What gets me excited about McKinney is that the Giants got two Round 1 picks (him and Thomas) for the price of one. Frankly, I believe that getting McKinney in Round 2 made this draft. If we can get one of these late rounders/UDFAs like Holmes, Coughlin, Mack, or Leake to hit, then it will be excellent.

A couple of extra comments on Wonder’s Draft Board et al. He did not have Ross Blacklock, Yetur Gross-Matos, Zach Baun, and AJ Epenesa on his Top 50 despite consensus mocks having these players significantly higher. When the dust settled, NONE ended up being drafted in Round 1 and they were selected at 2.40 , 2.38, 3.74, and 2.54. His #1 Biggest Underrated Player of 2020, WR Chase Claypool, went 2.49 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.


NFL Draft Day 1 & 2 Recap

The Giants drafted T Andrew Thomas at 1.04, S Xavier McKinney at 2.36 and T Matt Peart at 3.99. Gettleman, whom we are no fans of, did well. Very well. Here’s why.

  1. Gettleman recognized correctly that it was paramount to draft a stud Tackle in Round 1. He stayed away from Simmons, who while not a bad pick at 1.04, was a luxury at this spot. Protect your QB. Could Gettleman have traded down? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt by noting that there were ZERO trades in the Top 10, the first time that’s happened in 5 years. It indicates there simply wasn’t enough to demand to move up the top. It was uniformly understood that all 4 elite Tackle prospects were close in rating, so getting more value by trading down was the best route… if someone was going to pay. The Giants took one (Thomas), and it’s good for the organization. He can be a 10 year fixture.
  2. The Giants unequivocally scored big BIG in Round 2 with Safety Xavier McKinney at 2.36. McKinney fell and fell. Next thing it’s Day 2 and he fell some more. Now it was the Giants turn to let him fall again or say welcome to E Rutherford. They took him. So why did McKinney fall? Gettleman believes the only reason they came up with was that his 40 time (4.63) was too slow for Round 1. TAKEM. Wonder: “Production. Production. Production. Watch the goddamn film. All is good in Giants land.” So let’s review what the UltimateNYG draft analyst said about the player before he was a Giant…

19. S Xavier McKinney. Alabama had a great back 7. McKinney was a big part of that. He is solid everywhere. Experienced, can play Tampa 2 two high zone, single high 8 in the box, can cover the slot, takes great angles, knows the football field, can make a play. Plays faster because he knows where to go. Good hitter for his size. Can blitz. Floor is 2.5 (solid starter-pro bowl) and ceiling is All-Pro. Comparison: Jamal Adams.

This is a special player who will also be a locker room leader. Getting him at 2.36 is really good value, as it gives playmaking ability on top of Thomas’s security. Anyone can hit at 1.04, but we believe this is another Round 1 impact player. The pairing with Peppers makes it even more dynamic. Wonder also pointed out that in today’s NFL, Safety is more important than CB, and here you can see that with the flexibility of McKinney to cover the slot if needed.

Addendum: Subsequent to posting, I read that McKinney said he had cramps, he was timed at 4.52 or even lower, and looking forward to cleaning that up on his Pro Day (which of course didn’t happen because of Covid). When I read these things, it just gives me more confidence in Wonder’s independent eval. He scrutinizes Combine numbers as much as anyone, but didn’t let that bad time move him off of his eval because he produced in the game and “plays faster.” Wonder’s ranking was in line with what the Giants saw TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE PICK, which is why we would have loved the pick for whoever got him after ~1.25. Our draft group was asking aloud with every passing team what was going on. Great for the Giants to put an end to the slide and collect this player. The Patriots picked immediately after the Giants and selected a Safety (Dugger, also in our Top 50). What odds would you like that Belichick would have taken McKinney at 2.37?!!

3. T Matt Peart. Our analyst admits he wasn’t able to see a lot of film on Peart because of the smaller program. “Bad system, bad competition, limited experience.” A set of scouts making a field trip to Storrs has an advantage in gathering info here. If the Giants OL coach can develop him, there is an opportunity. “We want to fix this Offensive Line, once and for all,” said Gettleman after taking Thomas. If Peart can be developed it would go a very long way to fixing what ails the Giants. This pick at Tackle reenforces our outspoken desire to see the Giants take TWO TACKLES in the first 3 rounds. Only when McKinney kept falling did we pivot and put him in the mix with two others at 2.36.

The Giants got two very credible players with high ceilings and another potential answer at OL. Daniel Jones is the future. The pieces being assembled can rebuild this franchise and ideally get a foundation of competitiveness. No skill players in the first 3 rounds. Works for me.

Onto Round 4- Round 7 tomorrow. This is where you can really make your draft. Last year Gettleman hit on Slayton in Round 5. Here’s a way to hit in Round 4: LB Troy Dye. See you on Twitter.