One of the first moves the new Giants regime made was parting ways with Logan Ryan, the team captain and starting safety.
One of the final moves the new Giants regime made before the actual season began was to part ways with Blake Martinez, best remembered as a team captain, and start at linebacker.
From franchise faces to ex-franchise faces.
There’s no doubt that Ryan and Martinez were “Joe Judge people,” card-carrying members of the culture and leadership ideals he wanted to create. Jettisoning them was not part of a thinly veiled conspiracy to purge the roster of any remnants of the old coaching staff’s liking. .It’s more of a sometimes drastic but often redeeming approach that a new front office and new coaching staff must work with. Out with the old. In with the new.
As you go to battle on the field each week, rise or fall with your own players as much as possible.
The vision of general managers Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll is slowly coming into greater focus. The first iteration of what their first roster was supposed to look like was a hodgepodge, leftovers from the Giants’ losing squad, colorful fresh-faced draft picks and strategically placed (and fairly cheap) budding veterans, many of whom had former ties to Schoen, Daboll. Or someone — often defensive coordinator Wink Martindale — on Daboll’s staff.
Daboll allowed Martindale to play a key role in recruiting the 59-year-old defensive assistants. Daboll felt that Martindale would work so closely with the group that it made sense to give Martindale a lot of input. Martindale brought in outside linebackers coach Dean Wilkins and inside linebackers coach John Egorgwu, both from the Ravens, after a decade in Baltimore.
When it finally came down to scouting players, Daboll and Martindale went with those they knew.
On offense, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and practice squad quarterback Davis Webb were with Duboll and Schoen in Buffalo. Running backs center John Feliciano, Matt Breda 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, Martindale’s former Ravens players 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 people you know.
That was the expectation of Giants ownership, the 2022 team will have a Bills/Ravens flavor and will require patience.
“John [Mara, co-owner] and I had a really good conversation,” Schoen said. “The advantage is that he is in the building every day. He is present. We have a really good communication. In every move we make, we kind of tell him what we’re thinking and why, and he’s a great sounding board. He has a lot of experience. He lets Dabs and I do our thing and we keep him in the loop and the communication is great. So, he understands what we are trying to do.”
Schoen and Daboll ran into a difficult situation. Of course, reaching out and delegating work to fix a stifled program is par for the course in rebuilding. Often, this first year brings 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 reach the 53-man limit.
There were few—few—gems left to keep and cultivate. Left Andrew Thomas. Xavier McKinney at free safety. Azeez Oljulari as a pass rusher, possibly. Two first-round picks, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, should be fixtures on defense and offense, respectively. Quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley are the two most prominent returners, both in the final years of their contracts, and Schoen and Daboll have a season to convince they are part of the plan and not just stopgap placeholders.
“All those guys have done everything we’ve asked,” Schoen said. “They’re really good teammates. Some of the guys you mentioned are captains, which I think is important. That’s an important part of what we’re trying to build here. And his leadership is very important because we are trying to make some changes. I look forward to all those guys. I wish them to do well. It’s good for everyone.”
Health and production will be especially good for Jones and Barkley to be on the lookout for. The odds are against him. This time next year, will any of them still be on the roster as the “Schoen and Daboll guys?’’