Did Giants’ GM Joe Schoen clean house or just tidy up a bit?

Now that the New York Giants’ 53-man roster has been announced, it’s a good time to take a bird’s-eye view and ask: What did general manager Joe Schoen do? One would think that, like the Giants, a perennial losing team must be ripe for a complete makeover. Is that so?

To Giants fans, that may seem so, but it’s all relative. An interesting comparison is the Chicago Bears, another embarrassingly bad team in 2021 (but dominating the Giants when they play). The Bears hired Ryan Poles as their general manager, and he was one of the other finalists for the general manager position interviewed by the Giants. Here’s how the Bears’ original 53-man roster looked like last year before the waiver statement, from Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Nagy’s Bears went 12-4, 8-8, 8-8 and 6-11, but the Pole’s surgery on the roster was intense. What has Schoen done this year against a Giants team of 5-11, 4-12, 6-10 and 4-13?

Meet the new team. Same as the old team (to a certain extent)

NFL: New York Giants vs. New England Patriots

Darius Slayton in Giants’ preseason game with New England
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

How many of the 2022 New York Giants are left over from last season? Here’s my count, including anyone who was on the 53 or the practice team at any time last season:

quarterback: Daniel Jones
run back: Saquin Barkley, Gary Brewell
nervous ending: Chris Myarrick
wide receiver: Kenny Galadi, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, David Hills, Darius Slayton
offensive line: Andrew Thomas, Sean Lemieux, Ben Bredesen, DeVry Hamilton
defensive line: Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence
edge: Azeez Ojulari, Elerson Smith, Oshane Ximines
Off the Ball: Tae Crowder, Carter Coughlin, Cam Brown
cornerback: Adori Jackson, Aaron Robinson, Darnay Holmes, Rodarius Williams
Safety: Xavier McKinney, Julian Love
special group: Graham Garneau, Kathy Clayett

That’s 29 returning players (for now), much more than the 22 returning as the Chicago Bears this season at the time of writing. If Marcus McKesson and Darian Beavers hadn’t suffered season-ending injuries, that number could have been two lower. On the other hand, if Matt Peart is able to return early in the season, that number could be even higher.

Despite some major departures, notably the release of Blake Martinez, no outright turmoil has really occurred in any positional group other than tight end. Even the much-maligned offensive line has four returning players, two of whom could start in Week 1.

Potash attributes some of the Bears’ turmoil to their changing offensive and defensive plans under new head coach Matt Eberflus. But it’s hard to think of anything more aggressive than going from Patrick Graham’s passive zone defense to Wink Martindale’s favored dribbling defense (perhaps the reason for Martinez’s cuts) and attacking from Jason’s conservative isolation lane Scenario changes Garrett vs. Mike Kafka and Brian Dabore seem to be concocting pre-quick action, RPO-heavy, cross-pattern, line-combination offenses. However, many players remain the same.

Why no more turnover?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants

Oshane Ximines rushes to Bengals QB Brandon Allen in the Giants’ second preseason game.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

There may not be a single answer, but here are some guesses:

  1. The poor salary constraints that Schon inherited limited his ability to sign free agents. Of course, that’s part of it. Schon has had to shop in the bargain bins most of this winter. As of now, however, 15 of the 24 new Giants are undrafted. That’s a pretty decent number. The upper bound space argument goes both ways. Schoen had to release James Bradberry because he couldn’t afford his cap, not because he was a bad player.
  2. Dave Gettleman’s draft wasn’t as bad as we thought? (BBV reviewers, please accept. this is for you. ) Poles and Eberflus have waived two of the Bears’ 2021 rookies (Dazz Newsome and Thomas Graham). The Minnesota Vikings have cut 11 of their 2021 draft picks, including three third-round picks (one of which is Wyatt), under new general manager Quesey Adolfo-Mensah. Davis, now a Giant). By contrast, all six of Hetman’s 2021 rookies are on the 53-man roster. Schoen has only waived one of Gettleman’s 2020 rookies (seventh-round pick TJ Brunson), while the rest of the 2019 rookie has not been waived (for now). This leads to…
  3. Maybe these players will get better with better coaching. Patrick Graham did a great job with what he got. Jerome Henderson and Thomas McGaughey did such a good job that Daboll rehired them for his staff. Otherwise, the Giants’ coaches over the past few years haven’t quite gotten a resounding endorsement. On the other hand, the current Giants coaching staff looks pretty impressive, maybe they see something they can develop and are developing that the previous coach didn’t.

This might be a good example. Former Giants great Carl Banks surprised everyone by tweeting about the Giants’ cut. You did mention Quincy Roach, who was waived with former third-round pick Oshane Ximines on hold, and asked for his opinion:

Is this what the Giants coach saw? Can they translate that into game production? What about Matt Peart, who seemed promising as a rookie but fell out of favor in his second year? And Darius Slayton, who has been largely ignored in training camp and appears to be on the verge of being out, but at least making it to the initial 53? The Bears have waived their 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins as offensive tackle and are trying to save him as a guard. The Raiders waived their 2021 first-round pick, No. 17, Alex Leatherwood as offensive tackle, moved him to guard and eventually waived him yesterday. The Giants haven’t made any disastrous draft-day mistakes since Deandre Baker’s misfortune in 2019.

Now Quincy Roach (along with Davis Webb) is back in training, so they’re not giving up on him either:

The 53 players who are Giants today may not be Giants tomorrow or when the season starts. The Giants have been dazzling in their waiver claim campaign, and it may not be over yet. Ultimately, the Giants players (Shane Lemieux, Elerson Smith, Rodarius Williams) that were placed on IR will return and replace the current 53-year-old. Finally, the Giants are now over the cap as they fill out and revise their practice lineup. As he conceded on Thursday, unless Schone restructures his contract and creates future dead money, that will also affect the roster in some way.

The Bears initially made six waiver claims and then added one more, so their roster could be on the verge of more turnover. Maybe Ryan Poles sees it differently than Joe Schoen. Maybe they see things the same way, and Schone will clean up next year when he has more cap space. Or – it could be – maybe the Giants’ roster isn’t as bad at some positions as many think?

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