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Cover 4

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Cover 4: Takeaways from GM Joe Schoen at the break

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General manager Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll gave their State of the Giants address before the team went on the bye week. Here are the major takeaways from the Giants.com crew:

John Schmeelk: Listening to Joe Schoen's press conference on Monday, one thing came to mind: the NFL Draft. When the general manager was asked about significant resources available to spend in free agency next season, he talked about the inherent risks of doing so and the value of building through the draft. When he was asked about where the franchise is in terms of franchise-building, he talked about the Giants being the second-youngest team in the league and needing multiple drafts to put together a talent base to develop a winning team. When he was asked why he made the Leonard Williams trade, he focused on the second-round pick acquired from the Seahawks in exchange.

Schoen was also asked specifically about the Giants' first-round pick, and he would not rule out any position as a possible pick, including quarterback, saying the team would take the best player available. The Giants sit with three picks in the first two rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft and, depending on how the remaining five games go, could have a top 10 pick. There will be an opportunity to draft the type of elite player to change the course of the franchise in the first round, and then two more chances to find starters with their second-round picks. When Schoen and Daboll arrived, this was not considered a short-term project, and it will be the draft that determines the timetable of the turnaround.

Dan Salomone: From now until late April, the Giants will have a lot of discussions about the most important position in sports with respect to the short-term and long-term future of the team. First, they have a decision to make for Monday night, Dec. 11, when they next take the field against the Green Bay Packers. Undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito has proven that he is more than a good story; he is 2-1 as a starter and has thrown seven touchdowns in five appearances, more than Daniel Jones and backup Tyrod Taylor combined in 2023. Taylor, whose rib cage injury led to DeVito's emergence, is eligible to return after the bye week depending on his health.

"We're just getting started here," Daboll said Monday. "We're just finishing up, still got a little bit to go finishing up with the coaches on this game and work as a coaching staff and discuss a lot of things, look at a lot of things and try to fix some things. That'll be something we talk about as well."

They have even more to talk about when they zoom out a little.

While Schoen said the "expectation" is that Jones will be the starter in 2024 when healthy, the general manager made it clear "there's no guarantee he's going to be back Week 1." With Taylor's contract up, there are decisions to be made this offseason. "So, that's how you've got to approach it," Schoen said. "Who can we bring in that can maybe help us win a couple of games while Daniel gets healthy, or maybe Daniel will be ready Week 1."

Zoom out even further, Schoen said they would draft the best player available when asked about the first round specifically.

"If the best player available for our team is at a certain position, we'll take it," he said. "I mean, we won't shy away from it."

Lance Medow: When Schoen addressed the media Monday, the underlying theme he emphasized is patience and how a roster can't be fully transformed in the span of a season or one draft. Instead, it requires the plural version of both, especially when you're simultaneously battling multiple injuries.  The problem with today's NFL is there's not enough patience as the push for instantaneous gratification, more often than not, overshadows the former.  Schoen provided some rationale behind why he made certain roster decisions this season and how the volume of injuries is a constant reminder that the overall quality of the roster must continue to improve as opposed to simply addressing the main starters.  Injuries are guaranteed to happen, but it's just a matter of when and how you can navigate them to remain competitive. 

When Schoen was asked about the state of the offensive line and the problems that group ran into this season, he referenced how deep they had to go into the depth chart, which led to nine different starting combinations.  The plan was to bring back the 2022 crew to maintain continuity while upgrading the center position with the addition of rookie John Michael Schmitz, but the injury bug had other plans. Schoen had to weigh the pros and cons of addressing specific positions last offseason with respect to the salary cap and short-term and long-term plans because it's impossible to spread resources across the board: "And again, as you are building this, was it more weapons for Daniel, was it outside backers, was it corner? We are trying to build this thing, as much as we want instant gratification and instant results, there is an element of patience as you build it and try to build it the right way and you just can't address everything overnight, and we are going to continue to work on it and I do believe in building it up front and offensive line is important." 

This philosophy came into play at punt returner as the team parted ways with veteran wide receiver/return specialist Jamison Crowder as it was finalizing the 53-man roster and instead turned to rookie running back Eric Gray, who had some experience in college but not nearly as much as Crowder.  Schoen was faced with a numbers game: "We kept seven receivers; we couldn't keep eight. Do the math, who do you move on from, from the group if you kept Crowder? So, there was some moving parts in there and that's me being candid with you and that's on me, the returner. I'm glad we got (wide receiver) Gunner (Olszewski) here, though. He's done a really good job for us." 

Constructing a roster doesn't operate in a vacuum.  One decision influences and shapes several others, as demonstrated on special teams.

Matt Citak: One of the topics that stood out was Schoen's approach to free agency. Looking back at last year's cycle, it's easy to see that the Giants hit on one of their biggest signings with linebacker Bobby Okereke. The veteran linebacker, who was voted a team captain, has been a dominant and consistent anchor in the middle of the defense. For starters, he has played 100 percent of the team's defensive snaps, despite dealing with hip and rib injuries the last few weeks. On top of that, he has also already set several new career-highs with five games remaining in forced fumbles (four), passes defensed (eight), and tackles for loss (nine) while matching his previous best of two interceptions. Schoen mentioned how Okereke embodies the team's "smart, tough, dependable" mantra, and indicated they will be looking to add more players like that this upcoming offseason. Speaking of, Schoen also touched on the 2024 cap situation, which he described as "healthy." The Giants appear to have a significant chunk of cap space to use how they see fit this offseason, and if they can hit on a few more free agents like Okereke, then the roster could make a big jump in 2024.

"Obviously, I'd like to draft and develop and sign our own, which we did some of those guys that had been here in the offseason, retained some of the guys that were here previously and we got some good foundational pieces in some of the draft picks that are here, but to hit on a guy like Bobby O, who fits everything that we are talking about – smart, tough, dependable, and a good player," Schoen said Monday. "When you are divvying up those type of financial resources outside the building, you got to really make sure you are bringing in the right type of people as well. Their work ethic, the ability to learn the scheme. So, there is some risk in free agency, but we'll do our homework, and we are in a relatively healthy cap situation, and we can move some things around if we need to open up more, but I think we'll be judicious in our process in terms of the free agency market."

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