The Giants’ goal for the 2019 season is to lift the Lombardi Trophy on stage in Miami come February 2020. But there’s a lot of work to do, and it starts with learning from the reigning champion New England Patriots and making key roster decisions.
Our readers’ questions this week highlight many of those important issues.
Question from Gary via email: “Imagine if the Giants used OBJ like Julian Edelman. Get open in flat, get the first down and keep drives alive. No one could guard that guy on short 6- or 7-yard passes.”
Answer: The Patriots’ Edelman, named Super Bowl MVP, is a slot receiver by trade whose strength is operating in the middle of the field and underneath. And that’s primarily where he is used. Odell Beckham Jr. is much more explosive, so he had for the most part lined up outside prior to 2018. And he always will take more shots downfield than Edelman, as he also creates space for talented teammates catching passes underneath including Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. But Pat Shurmur did move Beckham around the formation often this season, inside and outside, because he is aware how dangerous Beckham is with the ball in his hands. Sometimes it’s just about getting the ball to him in space quickly and letting OBJ operate, and creating mismatches by putting him in the slot.
If you look at the NFL NextGen Stats charts of Beckham’s routes, you will see a web of dramatically different starting points, and numerous short routes to give OBJ a ‘catch-and-run’ scenario. So Shurmur sees what you see. The problem is execution: either the offensive line isn’t buying enough time, or Eli Manning is inaccurate, or a steep down and distance is rendering even a successful completion insignificant or altering the play call. But you’re correct: These plays can be effective, and the Giants need to become more efficient with them.
Question from @Broomblossem: “Is ‘mentor’ the new Giants PR term for a free agent bust?”
Answer: I understand your point. Dave Gettleman’s 2018 free agent signings such as Patrick Omameh, Connor Barwin and Jonathan Stewart, all of whom the Giants are moving on from, are being chalked up as mentors. In reality, Gettleman signed them to contribute and help the team on the field, which they weren’t able to sufficiently do. These players all were signed to be mentors for younger players on the roster and to steady the locker room, too, though. Both things can be true. And in some ways the Giants believe the vets have had a positive impact, such as Barwin’s tutelage of rookie pass rusher Lorenzo Carter and Stewart’s advice for young backs Barkley and Wayne Gallman. But no doubt the plan for Omameh to mentor Ereck Flowers and improve the right side of the offensive line backfired terribly. And to your point, both Omameh and Stewart were brought here also to contribute on the field, no matter what the Giants say, and they failed. They had hoped Barwin could contribute, also, but I do think Barwin’s value behind the scenes was greater than what they had expected to get on it.
Question from Mike via email: “Are the Giants really going to move on from Eli if Nick Foles hits free agency, or is this report about the Eagles trying to keep him from the Giants not true?”
Answer: Wednesday’s report from FanSided’s Jason Cole was an important one. Cole reported that the Eagles are actively trying to keep Foles from landing with the Giants because Philly believes if Foles hits free agency, the Giants would move on from their two-time Super Bowl MVP in Manning to sign a more recent Super Bowl MVP in Foles. And answer to you is yes, as I wrote in November, this marriage has made sense for a while. And what Cole’s report also should tell you is this: The Eagles also consider it possible that Foles would want to sign with the Giants, not just that Shurmur and Big Blue would be courting him. I continue to believe that Gettleman is more likely to draft a position player at No. 6 overall, but it’s undeniable that the Giants need a QB upgrade for both now and years to come. I consider Foles the Giants’ No. 1 option this offseason — that would make waiting until 2020 to draft the QB of the future palatable.
Question from John via email: “Pat, who do you think will win the NFC East next season?”
Answer: Tough for me to say, John, without knowing the specific composition of these teams after they get through free agency and the draft, especially since the Giants may have a new quarterback. But we know the Eagles have at least one playoff win the last two years, won Super Bowl LII in the 2018 season, and have a franchise QB in Carson Wentz. We know the reigning division champion Dallas Cowboys reached the playoffs this year, have a strong and young defense, and a more complete offense. So those two are the favorites. But hey, if the Giants get Foles and upgrade their roster significantly in the draft, that equation probably changes dramatically. It’s impossible to say, though. All I can for sure is this: It won’t be Washington.
Question from Jason via email: “How do you think the refs did in the Super Bowl?”