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Mailbag: Next safety up after McKinney injury?


Ramon in Georgia: With the injury to Xavier McKinney, how does that change the use of a three-safety package in Patrick Graham's defense?

John Schmeelk: I'm not sure we are ever going to know because we don't know how Graham was planning on using McKinney in conjunction with Julian Love and Jabrill Peppers. It will be difficult to find someone with the combination of skills and versatility of McKinney who can play deep safety, slot cornerback and box safety to replace him. I imagine it will put some sort of limitation on the tactics Graham can use, since he would not ask another player to do the things he might have asked of McKinney.

Tony in North Carolina: Does the current team roster of linebackers create more pressure out of a 3-4 lineup or a 4-3 formation?

John Schmeelk: Outside linebackers will always have a chance to rush the passer more frequently in a 3-4 alignment since they are edge rushers in a five-man front. It is similar to the role defensive ends play in a standard four-man front in a base defense.

Harold in New York: Are the coaches working with Saquon Barkley to improve his blocking?

John Schmeelk: The team often runs 1-on-1 blocking drills for running backs and tight ends against blitzing linebackers and safeties during practice. Barkley has been involved in these drills.

Joe in New York: Watching highlights of Barkley, I began to notice Darius Slayton flying in, making all-out efforts to make a block. Is there a stat for a downfield block on a touchdown run?

John Schmeelk: There are no metrics I am aware of to measure that, but I do know Dave Gettleman has been cognizant of bringing in complete wide receivers willing to block. Sterling Shepard, for example, made some key blocks on Barkley's long runs against the Redskins in his rookie year. The value of blocking at the position has been ingrained into Shepard, too.

Damasus in New Jersey: I have seen most of our coaches give updates on the Giants' practice, thus far .... except for Jason Garrett. Any reason?

John Schmeelk: Garrett has spoken to the media as much as the other coordinators and assistant coaches. Here is Garrett’s latest media session from Tuesday.

Pete in Pennsylvania: I'm reading and hearing stories from the media and former NFL players about the way Coach Joe Judge has players run for mistakes. I, for one, appreciate his stance as a disciplinarian. What are the current players saying about the coach's style? Are the happy?

John Schmeelk: Most of the roster is young and should allow Judge to put his imprint on how the team since they don't have NFL experience anywhere else. In other words, the youth will help him install his program since the players don't have other styles to compare it to. Besides, hitting in practice this year is more essential than in past seasons since there are no preseason games.

Way too much has been made about how Judge is running his practices. These "laps" people are lamenting only happen after a mental or focus mistake that would result in a penalty (or turnover) in a game. Good examples would be fumbled snaps, a player committing a pre-snap penalty or not knowing the play, his assignment or alignment. Maybe two or three guys will run a lap during a practice, and I haven't seen an assistant coach or entire group run in more than a week.

It is also important to note that these laps are more like leisurely strolls than full-speed sprints. The player loses his next rep, which is the most important factor, and something Tom Coughlin did all the time. The actual "running" part of it has really turned out to be like a slow jog on the treadmill. It is a mental exercise to help the players remember there are consequences to these kinds of avoidable (and often mental) mistakes. It is not about physical punishment.

The other outside criticism is that Judge is trying to imitate Bill Belichick. Judge has clearly taken some of his philosophy and practice methods from Belichick and Nick Saban. He would be foolish not to, given their success.

But Judge is not copying Bill Belichick's personality. Judge went out of his way at his introductory press conference to say it would be a bad idea to copy anyone's demeanor and that he would be himself. A locker room will figure it out fast if a head coach is not being authentic. And anyone who has interacted with Judge, so far, would see his personality is nothing like the two coaches he learned from.

Finally, even in the modern age, it is possible for a coach to train his team with intensity. Great players want to be coached hard so they can improve. The leaders of this team - Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley are perfect examples - will not cringe at instruction or coaching that makes them better at their craft.

Players will buy in if the coach shows he cares about them by building individual relationships with each player, which Judge has already stressed. Players will follow when the coach explains the 'how and why" to his players – another thing Judge has been careful to do. Based on everything the players have said publicly, the team is buying in to Judge's methods.

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


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