One of the first moves made by the new Giants regime was to part ways with Logan Ryan, team captain and starting safety.
One of the final moves made by the new Giants regime prior to the start of the real season was to part ways with Blake Martinez, best remembered as a team captain and starting inside linebacker.
From franchise faces to former franchise faces.
There is no doubt Ryan and Martinez were “Joe Judge guys,’’ card-carrying members of the culture and leadership ideals he wanted to instill. Jettisoning them was not part of a thinly veiled plot to purge the roster of any remnants of the old coaching staff favorites. It is more so the sometimes callous yet often redeeming manner in which a new front office and new coaching staff must operate. Out with the old. In with the new.
When you go to battle on the field each week, might as well rise or fall with as many of your own players as possible.
The vision of general manager Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll is slowly coming into greater focus. The first iteration of what they want their first roster to look like is a hodgepodge, remnants from losing Giants squads, fresh-faced rookie draft picks and strategically placed (and quite inexpensive) newcomer veterans, many of whom have previous ties to Schoen, Daboll or someone — often defensive coordinator Wink Martindale — on Daboll’s staff.
Daboll empowered Martindale by allowing the 59-year-old to have a major say in hiring defensive assistants. Daboll figured Martindale would work so closely with this group that it made sense to give Martindale plenty of input. Martindale, after a decade in Baltimore, brought in outside linebackers coach Dean Wilkins and inside linebackers coach John Egorugwu, both from the Ravens.
When it came to sifting through players to ultimately keep around, Daboll and Martindale went with who they know, more often than not.
On offense, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and practice squad quarterback Davis Webb were with Daboll and Schoen in Buffalo. So was center Jon Feliciano, running backs Matt Breida and Antonio Williams, and new waiver-claim offensive lineman Jack Anderson. Offensive lineman Tyre Phillips, another waiver claim, was a Ravens draft pick. On defense, former Ravens players for Martindale include defensive end Jihad Ward, defensive tackle Justin Ellis and new additions to the practice squad, safety Tony Jefferson and linebacker Chuck Wiley.
Whenever possible, go with who you know.
This is what Giants ownership had to expect, that the 2022 team would have a Bills/Ravens flavor to it and that patience is required.
“John [Mara, co-owner] and I have really good conversations,’’ Schoen said. “The advantage is that he’s in the building every day. He’s present. We have really good communication. In every move that we make, we kind of tell him what we’re thinking and the why, and he’s a good sounding board. He’s got a lot of experience. He has let Dabs and I do our job, and we keep him in the loop, and the communication’s great. So, he understands what we’re trying to do.’’
Schoen and Daboll walked into a rough situation. Sure, arriving and being tasked to fix a downtrodden program is par for the rebuilding course. Often, this first year comes with enough resources to at least have a fighting chance. Schoen’s salary-cap budget was minimal, and he shopped for bargains and mid-level talent to get to the 53-man limit.
There were some — few — gems left over to keep and cultivate. Andrew Thomas at left tackle. Xavier McKinney at free safety. Azeez Oljulari as a pass rusher, possibly. The two first-round picks, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, must be fixtures on defense and offense, respectively. The two most prominent returnees, quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley, are on the final year of their contracts, and have one season to convince Schoen and Daboll that they are part of the plan and not merely stopgap placeholders.
“All those guys have done everything we’ve asked,’’ Schoen said. “They’ve been really good teammates. Some of those guys you mentioned are captains, which I think is important. It’s an important part of what we’re trying to build here. And their leadership has been very important as we’re trying to make some changes. I’m excited for all those guys. I want them to do well. That’s good for everybody.’’
Health and production would be especially good for Jones and Barkley in their quests to stay around. The odds are against it. At this time next year, will either of them survive on the roster as “Schoen and Daboll guys?’’
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