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Mailbag: Most improved rookies; Leonard Williams' future with the Giants


Luke in New York: Which rookie on offense and defense do you think made the most progression from Week 1 to Week 17?

John Schmeelk: On offense, the answer is easy: Andrew Thomas. Thomas had a very rough first seven games of the season. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed four or more pressures in six of them. In the final nine games he played, he only allowed four pressures in a game three times. Overall, 39 of the 60 pressures he allowed came in the first seven games of the season. He allowed no pressures at all in three of his final six games. Thomas was consistently getting beat inside in September and October, but improved some of his fundamental techniques, which fixed that issue.

The answer on defense is tougher. Darnay Holmes did not take a jump toward the end of the season, partly because he was battling a knee injury. Carter Coughlin, Cam Brown and Tae Crowder earned more playing time and flashed some ability, but it's not possible to see any vast progress that can be backed up by data. So, go with Xavier McKinney, who showed he could not only play deep safety in the season's final three games but also nickel cornerback. He finished the year playing 84 snaps in the slot and 82 at free safety. It was impressive and it will be interesting to see how the Giants decide to use him as a versatile piece moving forward.

Brian in New York: Is franchising Leonard Williams a second time an option this off-season if a long-term deal isn't reached?

John Schmeelk: It is an option, but a second tag could be costly under the shrinking salary cap. If the Giants decide to tag Williams, he will receive a 20% raise on his previous year's salary. If the cap drops by as much as $20 million, he would be making a much larger percentage of the team's cap in 2021. It doesn't mean the Giants won't pursue that option if they can't figure out a long-term deal, but it complicates matters a bit more.


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