You ask, we answer. The Post is fielding questions from readers about New York’s biggest pro sports teams and getting our beat writers to answer them in a series of regularly published mailbags. In today’s installment: the Giants.
I love Joe Judge doing the muddy fumble drill (and can’t imagine Adam Gase doing it in a million years). Is Joe Judge really a good guy? — Steve Greenberg
Well Steve, the video of Judge diving for the football in the mud to end Tuesday’s practice was viewed more than 1.5 million times on the Giants’ social media platforms. It seems everyone loved it. You could tell from the expressions on the faces of the players that they loved it. Seeing big defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson spraying his head coach with water from a hose was priceless.
Does this mean Judge is a good guy or that he knows the right time to allow his team to let off some steam? Look, Judge is a big advocate of “hard coaching,’’ and I am sure some players find him irritating or at least ultra-demanding. That is fine. The Giants lost an NFL-high 36 games the past three years. They can use some tough love. I also believe players can sense when a guy is genuine, when he is trying to be somebody he is not, and when he has the goods to improve those around him. No one can deny Judge is uber-detailed, and he does explain himself to his players. I think Judge comes out of his first camp as a head coach with high marks in several categories. It is too soon to stamp him as a “good guy’’ just yet, but the signs are encouraging. “Good coach’’ is more important than “good guy’’ to the Giants, anyway.
Will Nick Gates be a good, sound center this year? — John Voelker
Good question, tough answer. It is an interesting thing with Gates. The Giants liked his versatility in that he has played tackle and guard. He never played center — so, of course, that is where he lands. He is bigger than most centers, at least taller, at 6-foot-5. Marc Colombo, the new offensive line coach, says he always liked big centers with the Cowboys. Gates seems strong and tough enough. In training camp, the center-quarterback exchanges were fine.
Not flawless, but fine. The real key will be how Gates handles the decision-making that takes place at the line of scrimmage, and then the quick-act decision-making that takes place immediately after the snap. First, Gates must decipher what the defense is in and communicate that to the rest of the offensive line. Then, after the snap, he has to pick which defender to block, as often, the center is left unblocked and must be a “helper’’ to his guards and tackles. Opponents are sure to test Gates’ ability to recognize all this. The Giants tried to simulate these tests in camp, but the real thing will be far more challenging.
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Has Daniel Jones been working on sliding? If so, with whom? — Angelo
As a matter of fact, Angelo, Jones has worked on his sliding. New offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and, especially, new quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski dissected every aspect of Jones’ game and came up with ways to maintain and improve. In the second intrasquad scrimmage, Jones took off on a scramble, slid and carried the ball too far away from his body.
The ball came loose. On the sideline, Judge told Jones he liked 99 percent of what he did on the field, and asked Jones to guess what was lacking. Jones knew immediately, identifying the fumble. Jones is athletic and surprisingly fast — his legs are an asset and should be used, judiciously, of course. If he cannot protect the ball on the run it is going to be a big problem. Jones has no issues getting into a slide, but when he does he cannot forget to tuck the ball away. Ball security was his greatest failing as a rookie and it must be cleaned up in year No. 2.
What should be the realistic expectations for a Giants fan going into this year? — Kyle
Play hard, play smart, be competitive every week, win more games than they lose when they are in position to win. This is young team with a first-year head coach. Fans do not want to hear it, but there will be growing pains. By the end of December, the Giants must give off the vibe that the arrow is pointing up and better days are ahead. If that translates to nine, eight, seven or six wins, so be it. Any more than that will be a shocker. Any less than that will be a disappointment.