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Mailbag: Role of tight ends in new offense


Chris in Tennessee: Which side of the ball do you think will become more acclimated first to what the new coaches will ask of them?

John Schmeelk: My typical answer to this question is the defense since the playbook is thinner. Early in training camp, the defense is often further along than the offense. I'm not so sure that will be the case this season for a few different reasons.

The offense will have continuity from a personnel perspective from last season. They will have a new starting right tackle and potentially a new starting center, otherwise, the group remains largely unchanged. Daniel Jones is only a second-year quarterback learning a new offense, but he is smart and diligent as a student. The players' familiarity with each other could make the acclimation process go a bit more quickly.

However, there could be new starters who are young and relatively inexperienced in the back half of the defense. The unite also might have a lot more to learn than is typical because coordinator Patrick Graham wants to be able to adjust his schemes weekly. There's no way to know for sure, and I can't wait to find out.

Chuck in West Virginia: I've asked this before but it hasn't been posted or answered. I have been a Giants fan for five decades. The Giants used to use their tight ends very effectively. I think back to Bob Tucker, Mark Bavaro, and Jeremy Shockey. Since the Shockey trade, it seems we've gotten away from the TE being an integral part of the offense, regardless of the coordinator. Do you think the TE, regardless of who happens to be on the field (Kaden Smith, Evan Engram, etc.), will be a key weapon or just a blocker and situational receiver in the red zone?

John Schmeelk: Thanks for asking the question again, Chuck. We actually have an overflow of questions in the mailbag right now. I finally liquidated the final questions from May in this mailbag. I pick randomly whenever I choose questions in terms of submission date, so don't take it personally if you've sent in a question and it hasn't gotten answered. I will get to it at some point. Thank you to everyone that has sent in so many questions. Keep them coming!

Evan Engram, when healthy, has been an integral part of the offense. In only eight games last year, he had 44 catches for 467 yards. If you extrapolate that production to a 16-game schedule, it's 88 catches for 934 yards and a monster season for a tight end! If Engram can stay on the field, I expect Jason Garrett to use him often as a mismatch weapon to attack the seams. My bold prediction is Engram will lead the Giants in touchdown catches if he's able play a full season.

Luke in New Jersey: Do we finally have the TE's to effectively run 12 personnel? I am so sick of 11 personnel. It seems like we run that 80 percent of the time.

John Schmeelk: Last year, the Giants were in 11 personnel 73.8% of the time, which was the second-highest percentage in the league. Your instincts were right. The reason, however, is simple: that personnel group allowed their best players to be on the field together. Between injuries to Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison and the late arrival of Kaden Smith, the Giants were short at tight end for much of the season. Once Engram got hurt, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Golden Tate were the Giants' best weapons and it made sense to get them on the field as much as possible.

With the arrival of Levine Toilolo and a full season of an emerging of Kaden Smith, I expect the offense to use 12 personnel more frequently, as long as Engram remains healthy. One other player to keep an eye is Daniel Jones. Last year, his quarterback rating was nearly 20 points higher when the Giants were in 11 personnel versus 12 personnel. The team should use whatever personnel that allows the quarterback to play his best football.

Richard in Florida: How many offensive linemen will the team carry and how many are likely to be rookies?

John Schmeelk: In a normal season, a team will carry eight or nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. I think a safe bet for the Giants, barring injuries will be: Nate Solder, Andrew Thomas, Cameron Fleming, Matt Peart, Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler, Nick Gates, Shane Lemieux, and Spencer Pulley. Depending on what kind of special roster exemptions the league makes for COVID-19, if any, there could be even more.

John in New York: Barring injuries, I see the Giants as a formidable team this year. Am I buying into the Dave Gettleman/Joe Judge combo too much?

John Schmeelk: I learned long ago not to get into the prediction business, but I don't think this season's success is as much about Judge and Gettleman as it is about how much improvement they get from their young players. The players drafted from 2017-19 need to come into their own and make this THEIR team. They need to play like good NFL starters. If that happens, the Giants will be good.

View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.


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