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Notebook: GM Joe Schoen looking at 'all options'


ORLANDO – As legalized gambling has become more prevalent throughout the country in the last three years, bettors might have been wise to ignore the Giants.

In 2021, their record sank to 4-13. The following year, with a new general manager in Joe Schoen and first-time head coach in Brian Daboll, they unpredictably improved to 9-7-1 and tacked on a victory in the wild card round of the playoffs. But the ascent was interrupted last year, when the Giants' victory total unexpectedly fell to just six.

Now, as they enter a seemingly pivotal third season under the current regime, what exactly is the state of the Giants?

"I think we're still progressing," Schoen said in a news conference at the NFL owners meeting. "I just looked at this the other day, the 2021 roster when I got here. I went back and looked at that. We're always evaluating ourselves.

"The first offseason, what could you do to really improve the roster? We didn't have any money (available under the salary cap), so it was (quarterback) Tyrod (Taylor), (center) Jon Feliciano, and (guard Mark) Glowinski. As I started going through the decisions we made and where we are salary cap-wise and trying to make sure we're in good health from a salary cap standpoint building a young foundation."

Patience might be a virtue, but for an NFL general manager it is also an extreme challenge. Schoen learned that as an assistant general manager of the Buffalo Bills from 2017-21; the team didn't win a playoff game until his fourth season.

"It takes time, as much as you want instant gratification, and nobody wants that more than me," Schoen said. "I think you have to believe in the principles and in terms of how to build the team, and we're going on our third draft. It takes time.

"When I look back at the 2021 roster and where we are now, I just think we're heading in the right direction, and we'll continue to head in the right direction in terms of bringing in our type of players and what we're looking for schematically, what Dabs (coach Brian Daboll) is looking at for his offense, and we'll keep making progress."

Schoen has had a busy offseason, particularly since mid-March. The Giants have nine new assistant coaches. Twelve veteran players have been acquired, 11 via free agency and standout pass rusher Brian Burns in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. The Giants have lost running back Saquon Barkley, safety Xavier McKinney, and Taylor, among others.

Burns is expected to team with third-year pro Kayvon Thibodeaux to give the Giants an excellent pass rush tandem.

"I view him as a good young player that we're looking forward to getting in," Schoen said. "He's been in the building for one day, so we're looking forward to him coming in the offseason program and working hard and doing the best he can to help our defense and help us win games."

One area that Schoen has focused on is the offensive line, where five players have been added. The unit endured numerous injuries last season, most notably to tackles Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal, and center John Michael Schmitz. Their absences contributed to the Giants allowing a league-high 85 sacks.

"I would say '22 obviously won a lot of games, won a playoff game," Schoen said. "Last year, again, I think anything that could have went wrong out there went wrong from the opening drive of the season when Andrew does his hamstring and then the next week (Ben) Bredeson) gets a concussion and then John Michael has - I mean, you just go on and on.

"We go to Buffalo, and (Joshua) Ezeudu does his toe, and then bring in (Justin) Pugh straight off the couch. You start going through it. I mean, there was a time there where I think it was Miami where three practice squad guys were playing for us. Fortunately, I've never run into a situation like that before where we've been decimated at the offensive line. You've seen a lot of the signings that we've had, a lot of guys that have played in the league and have started games and have versatility. That's always going to be a priority. It was a perfect storm last year unfortunately in terms of injuries and then Andrew re-injuring as he was coming back.

Newcomers Jon Runyan and Jermaine Eluemunor could be the new starting guards and fellow newcomers Matt Nelson, Austin Schlottmann, and Aaron Stinnie will get a chance to contribute.

"The offensive line is going to be important," Schoen said. "Is it starts there. I truly believe that. We have to be better up front."

Although the Giants also signed veteran quarterback Drew Lock – and have not ruled out selecting a quarterback No. 6 overall in the draft – Daniel Jones is projected to be the starter.

"I got an update on Friday," Schoen said. "He is running on land now. So, he's off the Ultra-G (anti-gravity treadmill), and he is throwing. Yeah, knock on wood, no setbacks, but he is in there attacking it every day and doing a good job.

Every patient is different, and you can't really predict if swelling is going to occur or if there's a setback. He's on the right track right now. Again, we just have to – it's day-by-day and week-by-week. You just don't know how he's going to react as we ramp it up and he starts to do more. Hopefully, there's no setbacks."

View photos of the newest members of the Giants touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the first time.

More Schoen thoughts:

*He does not know if Darren Waller will retire. The former Pro Bowl tight end, acquired last year in a trade, has said publicly he might end his career.

"I talked to his agent," Schoen said. "Darren is going to take time and make his decision. He's still undecided. I'm not going to get into the details. I've talked to him. He is undecided."

The Giants recently signed tight ends Jack Stoll and Chris Manhertz.

"We're excited about those guys," Schoen said. "We still have the draft. We don't play until September. You just have to be patient.

"There's ways to acquire players throughout the process. We did it with Jason Pinnock. We got him at the final cutdown. There's different times of the year when you can acquire players, and we're going to give Darren his time and I'm going to keep mine and Darren's conversations between us. But we're looking forward to the players that are going to be there in April, and we'll keep building."

*On Saquon Barkley joining the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent.

"I wish Saquon nothing but the best," Schoen said. "You can't keep them all. He did a lot for the franchise. Walter Payton Man of the Year, a lot of production. I enjoyed working with him for two years and everything he did for Dabs and I in that playoff run. I wish him nothing but the best."

*Schoen was predictably evasive about his draft plans.

"We'll look at all options, whether it's going up, back, staying," he said. "Ultimately, I think we'll end up with a good player."

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2024 cycle.