Big Blue View mailbag: Yards after catch, long-term decisions among this week’s questions

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The mail’s here!

As we wait for Sunday’s New York Giants vs. Atlanta Falcons game, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag. I didn’t choose a lot of questions this week, but I the ones I did answer provoke a little thought.

Matt asks: I played a little game with my friends during the game on Thursday. I noticed that: Nearly. Every. Single. Giants. Reception. Ended. After. Catch. (See what I did there…frustrating isn’t it). I would text them “No YAC” if the pass completed lead to no extra yards and it was every catch. My IM thread was littered with “No YAC” it actually wound up being hilarious. Over and over, and we laughed that technically the TD was “No YAC” since it was caught in the end zone!

You have noted the lack of separation for WRs especially Golladay. Yet we all watch NFL football elsewhere and including our opponents, and they all seem to find space and get play makers in position to make plays on the run. But Jones is just sticking the pass with players draped all over the receivers and they are tackled immediately. Is this by design? Does Jones have a problem leading receivers for a catch and run? Or, and this is my fear, the Giants’ routes are so predictable defenses always seem to know the play (feels like this in the run game too). Thoughts?

Ed says: Matt, this is an interesting topic. I’m glad you had fun with it the other day, but is decidedly unfunny. The Giants are 31st in the league in yards after catch through two games, with 129. The New Orleans Saints (90) are last. The Dallas Cowboys (356) are first.

In my view, there are several factors.

Mark Schofield always says that yards after catch is a quarterback stat. Quarterbacks have to place the ball in a way so that receivers can run without breaking stride. I scrolled through the tape of the Washington game and, as well as Daniel Jones played, you can find a throw here and there that could have gone for more yardage with a perfectly-placed ball. Of course, not everyone is Drew Brees and not every throw is going to be Manning to Manningham in Super Bowl 46.

Next, we have to talk about scheme. Schofield said this about Jason Garrett’s passing attack when I asked him about the lack of yards after catch:

“My off-the-cuff is that it’s due to scheme. We know a lot of their quick game concepts have receivers near-stationary or working back to the ball at the catch point. Then their vertical stuff doesn’t always allow for YAC.”

There is truth to this. We talked a lot last season about Garrett’s love for the stick route. Watch the Giants’ passing attack and many of their completions are on routes where the receiver is stationary or working back to the football. If the Giants need 5 yards, his offense is filled with concepts that have the receiver run 7 yards, work back to the ball, make the catch, then get tackled for the first down.

Those fulfill their purpose. Thrown on time and on target, they give the quarterback an easy completion. They get the first down. They don’t give a fairly tightly covered receiver an opportunity to create once the ball is in his hands.

There is also another factor that has to be recognized — personnel.

Saquon Barkley is still not SAQUON BARKLEY. Has he actually made a defender miss yet? That’s how Barkley makes his living. What the Giants want from Barkley as a receiver is to get him the ball and let him create. Barkley averages 8.39 yards after catch for his career. He is averaging 5.0 on just 3 catches so far.

Evan Engram has not played yet. Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith are reliable targets. Neither, though, is ever going to outrun players in the open field the way Engram can. Unless, of course, Engram is running a stick route.

Kadarius Toney has not made an impact yet. Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are not players who make a living off run after catch. That is what the Giants drafted Toney for — to take short completions and make something bigger out of them. Hopefully, we begin to see some of that sooner rather than later.

Undoubtedly, the Giants need more yards after catch in the passing game. To me, this combination of factors contributes to why they haven’t yet gotten them.

Hy Katz asks: People have been asking why can’t the Giants get stops when they need them. How much of this is due to the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson?

Ed says: In my view, none of it. The problem has not been run defense, which was Tomlinson’s primary contribution. The problems have been lack of consistent pass rush and unexpectedly suspect coverage, neither of which Tomlinson really had anything to do with.

Matt Totaro asks: Hey Ed, Giants have anointed you to run the show, congrats!, and now you must decide are you keeping Gettleman, Judge, picking up Jones 5th year option and are you going to give Barkley an extension in the neighborhood of Elliot’s and McCaffrey’s contract. In this way too early sample size of 2 games, what are you doing? Giants are drafting 7th, Bears pick 11, but the Lions, Texans, Eagles, Falcons are all ahead in the draft who potentially will be looking to add a QB in the draft.

Ed says: Matt, I have to start with this video. Just because I can.

Checking in with Dave Gettleman at Giants practice pic.twitter.com/8eXgmSJeUi

— Giants Videos (@SNYGiants) September 22, 2021

Apparently, I have now stumbled into enough money to buy the Giants from John Mara and Steve Tisch, because that is the only way I would get to decide Gettleman’s fate. For what it’s worth, if I ever did stumble into that kind of money a) You wouldn’t see me writing this drivel any more and b) I wouldn’t buy a football team.

Since I theoretically own this own, though, I’m politely asking Dave Gettleman to retire. I like Gettleman and don’t think he is anywhere close to the buffoon many make him out to be. The franchise is spinning its wheels, though, so let’s try something else.

Jones is going nowhere. Despite my recent expressions of annoyance with him, I happen to believe that given time he will get this right.

You’re asking me about Jones off what is arguably the best game of his career. Today, I am absolutely picking up his fifth-year option, then I’m using those two first-round picks next year to target the best offensive lineman and the best defensive player regardless of position that I can get my hands on.

As for Saquon Barkley, I love the guy. As things stand today? Not a chance he’s getting McCaffrey/Elliott/Kamara/Cook/Henry kind of money. Show me over the next 15 games that you are worth that, then we’ll talk. Even then, I want a contract structure that gives me some sort of reasonable out three years or so down the road.

Spencer Gross asks: I’m curious on your beliefs regarding the 1st round pick. In your article discussing Coach Garrett and his use with Toney, Garrett says, “ You said it, he played some more snaps in the game the other day. He did a good job with his work.” 24 snaps, -2 yards? -2 yards really? I get his OC isn’t going to come out and blast him but isn’t everyone around him saying “he isn’t ready” the same thing in just a more professional manner? I’ve looked at the young mans social media and he certainly seems just as much if not more interested in his music career than playing meaningful team football. I don’t know the young man, I’m sure he’s a good person but all these things emerging as not being ready and his odd interactions with media seems like a nightmare in its infancy saying what market his team is in.

Ed says: Spencer, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the young man. His Thursday media session was just strange. I think he was trying to put the social media thing to bed, and I think the Giants had coached him to try and give generic answers. Unfortunately, though, I came away with more questions about Toney.

I’m concerned by the fact that for months now almost every coach has spoken about Toney needing to earn the trust of both players and coaches. There is an easy and obvious message in there — they do not trust him yet. Which is a massive concern.

There were maturity concerns about Toney coming out of Florida. This is part of the scouting report from Dabe Brugler of The Athletic:

… underwhelming production over his first three seasons, partially because it took time to develop trust with the coaches…some NFL scouts have voiced concern that he is more passionate about rapping than football (his stage name is Yung Joka)…off-field decision- making requires vetting due to multiple off-field incidents: suspended for the 2018 season opener after his involvement in an on-campus confrontation between players and Gainesville locals where he painted an air-soft gun to look like an AR-15 assault rifle (May 2018); Pulled over by Gainesville Police, which revealed an authentic and loaded AR-15 rifle in his back seat (July 2018) that Toney had “for protection because of the locals” (no charges filed)…missed chunks of playing time due to injuries, sitting out multiple games as a freshman due to shoulder and shin issues (October 2017); missed half of his junior season with a left shoulder injury (September 2019).

Those maturity issues may be manifesting themselves. The word “trust,” which I mentione dearlier, shows up in Brugler’s report. Thursday’s performance with the media left me shaking my head, to be honest. He didn’t seem to know how to phrase some of his answers, and didn’t really seem to understand what he was being asked at other times.

Toney is a 22-year-old kid. And, yes, he’s a kid. I talked to Andrew Thomas 1-on-1 on Thursday. Thomas is also 22, but he’s a MAN. Well-spoken. Sure of what he is. Comfortable in his own skin and with talking to the media about his successes and his failures. Toney isn’t there yet.

I have no doubt that Toney has tremendous talent. The Giants, though, are really going to have to invest the time and effort it is going to take to bring it out of him.

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