Jan 292021
 
Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants (November 8, 2020)

Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence – © USA TODAY Sports

Except for two outliers seasons (2013 and 1016), the New York Giants have struggled on defense for the past decade. The challenge for the team through four head coaches (Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur, Joe Judge) and four defensive coordinators (Perry Fewell, Steve Spagnuolo, James Bettcher, Patrick Graham) has simply to move New York out of the bottom tier of the NFL on defense:

  • 2011: 27th
  • 2012: 31st
  • 2013: 8th
  • 2014: 29th
  • 2015: 32nd
  • 2016: 10th
  • 2017: 31st
  • 2018: 24th
  • 2019: 25th

With the fourth new regime coming in six years and serious personnel issues in the defensive back seven, it seemed unlikely the Giants would be able to improve their defensive team ranking in 2020. There was also viable media and fan concern about new Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham. In his first season as defensive coordinator in Miami in 2019, the Dolphins had finished 31st on defense. Miami Head Coach Brian Flores had also let Graham out of his contract to join Judge in New York, which seemed like a curious move.

To the credit of the entire coaching staff, the New York Giants finished the year 12th in yards allowed an 9th in points allowed. This was a major accomplishment for a team with no dangerous edge rushers or starting-caliber cornerback opposite of James Bradberry. While the two major free agent additions (Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez) were the two best players on the defense, the best overall unit was the defensive line.

The line benefitted from the coaching of Sean Spencer, the highly-regarded defensive line coach who Joe Judge lured away from Penn State. But it’s also important to note that Graham himself was a defensive line coach with the Patriots (2012-2013) and Giants (2016-2017).

Graham had his defense run out of multiple fronts, but the bread-and-butter was still a 3-4 system that remarkably employed only five defensive lineman all season. The sixth man (R.J. McIntosh) spent the whole year inactive. As a whole, the Giants were big, strong, powerful group that was tough to move off of the line of scrimmage. They were generally better against the run (10th in the NFL) than rushing the passer (21 of the team’s 40 sacks).

Ironically, the headliner ended up being the team’s most controversial defensive acquisition in years. Leonard Williams had a career year, accruing over one-fourth of the team’s sacks (11.5) and regularly being a disruptive presences as indicated by his team-high quarterback hits (30) and tackles for loss (14). He was also tied for fifth in combined tackles with 57.

The other two year-long starters were second-year defensive end Dexter Lawrence and third-year nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. While Williams received 74 percent of all defensive snaps, Lawrence and Tomlinson each saw 60 percent of all defensive snaps. These two finished with almost 100 combined tackles, 7.5 sacks, 20 quarterback hits, and 14 tackles for losses. Williams, Lawrence, and Tomlinson represented almost 1,000 pounds of beef up front, making life easier for the linebackers.

It’s also important to note the yeoman’s work of the only two reserves who saw action all year: B.J. Hill (34 percent of all defensive snaps) and Austin Johnson (21 percent of all defensive snaps). Both have started in this league, yet they accepted their back-up roles without complaint.

Looking past 2020, the offseason challenge for the Giants will be the retention of free agents Williams and Tomlinson.

THE STARTERS

In his sixth NFL season, Leonard Williams had his best season as a pro in 2020. Williams played in all 16 games with 12 starts (74 percent of defensive snaps) and finished the year with 57 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery. The 6’5”, 302-pound Williams was the sixth player taken overall in the 2015 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. The Giants acquired Williams by trade from the in late October 2019. Williams is a stout, strong, physical run defender. While he lacks classic quick-twitch outside pass-rush skills, Williams can pressure the passer due to his combination of power and overall athleticism. He has the ability to line up inside or outside to create match-up problems.

In his second season with the Giants in 2020, Dexter Lawrence played in all 16 games with 15 starts (60 percent of defensive snaps) and finished the year with 53 tackles, six tackles for a loss, four sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and two pass defenses. The Giants drafted Lawrence in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He was named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team. Built like a prototypical run-stuffing nose tackle with excellent size and strength, the Giants play him more at defensive end. His size and power often force other teams to double-team him. While Lawrence can generate a power rush, he lacks dynamic pass rush moves to consistently reach the quarterback.

For the second year in a row, Dalvin Tomlinson served as the team’s primary nose tackle. He started all 16 games, playing 60 percent of all defensive snaps, and was credited with 49 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and four pass defenses. The Giants drafted Tomlinson in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Tomlinson has started all 64 games since he was drafted and has played both 3- and 1-technique roles with the Giants. Tomlinson is a big, strong, physical defender who flashes the ability to disrupt plays in the backfield.

THE RESERVES

In his third NFL season, B.J. Hill continued to see his playing time decline. He played in all 16 games with no starts, playing 34 percent of all defensive snaps (down from 59 percent in 2018 and 44 percent in 2019). Hill was credited with 32 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, three quarterback hits, and one pass defense. The Giants drafted Hill in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Hill has a nice combination of size and athleticism. He is a better run defender than pass rusher.

The Giants signed Austin Johnson as an unrestricted free agent from the Tennessee Titans in March 2020. He played in all 16 games, with no starts (21 percent of all defensive snaps), and was credited with 18 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, one quarterback hit, one pass defense, and one forced fumble. The 6’4”, 314-pound Johnson was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Titans. In four seasons in Tennessee, Johnson played in 58 regular-season games with 13 starts, compiling 83 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and five pass defenses. Johnson is a big, strong run defender who never lived up to expectations in Tennessee.

In his third year with the Giants in 2020, R.J. McIntosh spent the entire season on the inactive list. The Giants selected McIntosh in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. After missing most of his rookie season with unpublicized medical condition, McIntosh played in 12 games as a reserve in 2019, playing 10 percent of all defensive snaps, and finishing the year with 13 tackles and two sacks. McIntosh combines good size and overall athleticism.

PRACTICE SQUAD

The Giants signed David Moa to the Practice Squad in early October 2020. The 6’3”, 296-pound Moa was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Minnesota Vikings after the 2020 NFL Draft. The Vikings waived him in early September and he then spent a week on the Practice Squad on the Atlanta Falcons.

Jan 272021
 
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 11, 2020)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks and head coaches will always be lightning rods for the media and fans. That’s just the way it is. Winning championships will silence most critics. But only for a limited time, and they will then soon return. We saw this with Phil Simms and Eli Manning. Simms’ regular-season record was a 95-64; Manning’s regular-season record was 117-117. Other modern era NYG quarterbacks of note, Dave Brown was 23-30 and Kerry Collins was 35-33 when they played for the Giants.

Through two seasons, Daniel Jones is 8-18.

So fan ire directed at Jones is as predictable as the sun rising in the east, especially with Joe Judge just finishing his introductory honeymoon season. Is the criticism justified? Passionate opinions vary. And everyone has an opinion. I will simply point to something Sy’56 wrote in his second-to-last game review of the 2020 campaign:

It is OK if you believe Jones is not the answer. It is OK if you think Jones is the answer. Nobody can objectively determine that right now. One thing we all can and should agree on: you don’t know. I don’t know. He doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. The kid has played TWENTY-FIVE games behind a bottom-5 offensive line, the worst set of receivers in football, a tight end who is among league leaders in drops, and a star running back who has missed 14 of 25 games in which Jones started. He needs to be better and I have been vocal about that. You can even argue NYG should start over at QB in the upcoming draft. But to say Jones and NYG should be better because he was the #6 pick (means almost nothing, do some research), or that Jones is a definitive bust, you just sound foolish. This kid has shown more in 25 games than SO MANY quality quarterbacks. That is a fact.

Piggybacking on what Sy’56 wrote, I’m not going to try to convince you that Jones is a good or bad NFL quarterback. Opinions are far too set in concrete. I will simply remind you that many, if not most, New York Giants fans were convinced Phil Simms was a dog as late as the 1986 season (the Giants passing game really struggled much of that year) and the same of Eli Manning in 2007 (just remember the mood after the November game against the Vikings). At the time, Simms was in his 8th NFL season and Manning in his 4th NFL season and fans were still calling both bums.

Big picture. Other than the ridiculous number of fumbles, Jones had an incredible rookie season. His sophomore season in the NFL was a major disappointment. Despite starting two more games, Jones’ touchdown productivity fell from 24 to 11. Interceptions have not been a big problem for him, but the fumbling is still an issue even though it dropped from 18 to 11 (one of those was on Wayne Gallman).

Jones struggled early. The offensive line and running backs did not play well and Jones ended up being the leading rusher for the team in four of the first seven games. Once the offensive line started to improve and the running game picked up, Jones stopped turning the ball over, he played better, and the team began to win games. Unfortunately, just as Jones seemed to be hitting his stride, he suffered a hamstring injury, missed a game, came back too soon, injured his ankle, and missed another game. Jones’ rough start and finish overshadowed the brief positive stretch in November. In some ways, the season feels like an “incomplete” grade for Jones.

My biggest take-away from 2020 regarding Daniel Jones is what Joe Judge (unprompted) said about him on December 28th after a rough loss against the Baltimore Ravens:

We have to make sure we avoid the hits on the quarterback. But there are times you’re protecting with just five and they’re bringing six or seven, and Daniel did a very good job yesterday of really controlling it and operating it and getting the ball out. You look at yesterday, there are a lot of situations where Daniel knew there were going to be free runners. You just know it by scheme. That’s part of how you design getting the ball out. We had some hot reads, some sight adjustments, and just some plays schemed for a quick gain. I really like the way Daniel handled it yesterday. You kind of talk about what level of improvement have we seen throughout the year, I think there are a lot of things that show up on the tape yesterday with #8. You watch him from the start of the year to through yesterday and how he handled a lot of the situations with the pressure, the ball security and the decision-making. He did a lot of things that demonstrate a lot of growth. There are a lot of things you guys ask me all the time. What are you really looking at with this team as you go forward?

Well, I’ll start with a key piece right there with Daniel. You always want to know about is Daniel our guy? Are we going forward with Daniel? The answer is absolutely. What gives us that confidence is even in games like yesterday where it didn’t come out perfectly, you can turn the tape on and you can say, ‘hey listen, in games one through whatever, that wasn’t the guy we were looking at.’ You watch the tape yesterday and you see that guy in there operating, executing, understanding the pressure and not just standing in there with courage like he’s done all along and taken a hit but understanding how to take the hit and deliver an accurate pass and move the sticks down the field. These are things that as he grows in this league and develops in his craft, he’s going to be able to do. As we get going and we build more into this scheme, he’ll be able to handle it different ways as well and take some hits off himself. You see a lot of growth in these guys. I thought Daniel yesterday played well. There are some plays I’m sure he’d like to have back, some plays we’d like to do differently. That’s natural in any game. We’re going to coach it to eliminate those plays on the front end. But at the same time, there was a lot of growth that I saw with Daniel that’s really showed up in terms of how he had to play the game yesterday and what he’s able to do.

THE STARTER

In his second NFL season, Daniel Jones did not have the type of year hoped for or expected. Missing two games due to leg injuries (hamstring and ankle), Jones started 14 games and completing 62.5 percent of his passes for just 2,943 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. On the positive side, he rushed the ball 65 times for 423 yards (6.5 yards per attempt) and one touchdown. Jones’ productivity fell from his somewhat stellar rookie season, when he started 12 games, completing 61.9 percent of his passes for 3,027 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. While Jones markedly decreased his fumbling in 2020, it still remained an issue. In two seasons, Jones has fumbled the ball 29 times, losing 17. The Giants drafted Jones in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Jones has classic quarterback size and is a good athlete who can hurt teams with his feet. He has good but not great arm strength. Encumbered with poor surrounding talent, Jones was not quick and decisive with his reads at times in 2020, holding the ball too long, and was inconsistent with his accuracy. However, Jones still continued to flash as both a passer and runner. In a nutshell, Jones is still too hot and cold. He is competitive, smart, tough, and hard-working. The coaching staff thinks very highly of him.

THE BACK-UP

Colt McCoy easily won the back-up quarterback spot for the Giants in 2020 and ended up playing in four games with two starts, completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 375 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The 6’1”, 212-pound McCoy was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He has spent time with the Browns (2010-2012), San Francisco 49ers (2013), and Washington Redskins (2014-2019). The Giants signed McCoy as an unrestricted free agent from the Redskins in March 2020. In 11 NFL seasons, McCoy has only started 30 games, 21 of which came with the Browns in 2010-2011. McCoy lacks ideal size and arm strength, which limit his ability to threaten NFL defenses. He’s a typical back-up type quarterback who usually will not hurt his team, but also is incapable of elevating its play. McCoy is smart and a positive influence in the locker room.

ON THE PRACTICE SQUAD

The Giants signed Joe Webb to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in December 2020. The team waived him and then re-signed him in January 2021. The 6’4”, 231-pound Webb was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He has spent time with the Vikings (2010-2013), Carolina Panthers (2014-2016), Buffalo Bills (2017), Houston Texans (2018-2019), and Detroit Lions (2020). Webb has played in 104 regular-season games with four starts, completing 90-of-159 passes (56.6 percent) for 888 yards, three touchdowns, and six interceptions. He also has caught 10 passes in his career and returned 18 kickoffs.

The Giants signed Clayton Thorson to the Practice Squad in late September 2020. The 6’4”, 222-pound Thorson was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles cut him in August 2019 and he was then signed to the Practice Squad of the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys cut him in early September 2020.

The Giants signed Alex Tanney to the Practice Squad in early December 2020. The 6’3”, 208-pound Tanney was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2012 NFL Draft. The well-traveled journeyman has spent time with the Chiefs (2012), Dallas Cowboys (2013), Cleveland Browns (2013), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014), Tennessee Titans (2014), Buffalo Bills (2015), Indianapolis Colts (2015), and Titans again (2015–2018). The Giants signed Tanney in May 2018 after after he was cut by the Titans. He surprisingly won the back-up quarterback job to Eli Manning in 2018, but was moved to third-string in 2019, being active for only one game.  The Giants cut him in early September 2020. Tanney has only played in two regular-season games, coming off the bench for the Titans in 2015 and the Giants in 2019.

The Giants claimed Cooper Rush off of waivers from the Dallas Cowboys in May 2020. He spent three weeks on the Giants’ Practice Squad in September before the Giants cut him. Rush spent the rest of the 2020 season back with the Cowboys. The 6’3”, 225-pound Rush originally signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft.

Jan 252021
 
Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (November 29, 2020)

Wayne Gallman – © USA TODAY Sports

The potential trajectory of New York Giants’ 2020 season changed on September 20th. On that day, the team lost its best player, and arguably one of the top 10 players in the NFL, for the season. Many fans still don’t fully understand what a massive loss that was for the team. Saquon Barkley changes the way other teams defend an entire offense. He was the only player on the Giants who was a threat to score every time he touched the football as a runner or receiver.

Unfortunately, there is a growing group of fans who argue that Barkley was not worthy of the #2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft based on talent alone. This is revisionist thinking. Very few were saying that after his historic rookie season where he gained over 2,000 yards on an offensive team otherwise devoid of talent, especially on the offensive line. Before we proceed further, please watch his rookie highlights. Now one can argue that a rebuilding club should not take a running back with the #2 pick, that the Giants should have traded down for more picks, or selected a position with a longer shelf life, but there is no disputing Barkley’s talent. Once he was removed from the 2020 New York Giants line-up, the entire complexion of the team’s offense changed for the worse.

The franchise seemed somewhat unprepared for the potential loss of Barkley. They did not seem enamored with the other options on the roster and immediately signed Devonta Freeman off of the street. In Week 3, Freeman, Wayne Gallman, and Dion Lewis embarrassingly carried the ball 10 times for 17 yards. The coaching staff instantly favored Freeman over Gallman. Freeman carried the ball 11 times for 33 yards in Week 4, 17 times for 60 yards in Week 5, and 18 times for 61 yards in Week 6. Then Freeman hurt his ankle early in Week 7 and was also effectively lost for the season. The Giants signed Alfred Morris off of the scrapheap and were forced to turn to Gallman, who started each of the final nine games.

Gallman’s story is a curious one. Drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo, Gallman fell out of favor with Pat Shurmur and then early on with Joe Judge. But when Judge finally turned to Gallman, the 4th-year pro responded by rushing 147 times for 682 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. This despite only carrying the ball more than 12 times in a game just four times and more than 18 times just once. Indeed, it seemed as if Gallman was being underutilized for much of the second half of the season.

After Gallman’s 147 carries, quarterback Daniel Jones was the second leading rusher on the team, both in terms of carries (65) and yardage (423). The over-the-hill Alfred Morris become Gallman’s primary backup, averaging six carries per game in the final nine games. He finished with 55 carries for 238 yards and one touchdown, surprisingly averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Dion Lewis served as the 3rd-down back, carrying the ball just 29 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Fullback Eli Penny only played in seven percent of all offensive snaps, touching the ball just eight times.

Overall, the Giants finished 19th in rushing, averaging 110.5 yards per game. The ground game was abysmal to start the season and improved markedly as the year progressed until December. No Giant had more than 28 yards rushing in the first two games and no Giant had more than 49 yards rushing in the first four games. Jones was the team’s leading rusher in four of the first seven games of the season. When the Giants ran for over 100 yards in a game, their record was 6-3. When the Giants ran for less than 100 yards, their record was 0-7, including the 0-3 stretch in December. Long story short, when the offensive line played well, the Giants were able to run the football and won football games. When the offensive line faltered, the Giants lost. Team running backs only scored nine rushing touchdowns.

One thing to keep in mind as we move forward: since Gallman, Morris, and Lewis are all now free agents, it is quite possible that none of New York’s top three running back ground gainers in 2020 will be on the roster in a few months.

THE DEVASTATING LOSS

The Giants placed Saquon Barkley on Injured Reserve in late September 2020 after he tore the ACL, partially tore the meniscus, and sprained the MCL in his right knee in Week 2. He finished the season with 19 carries for 34 yards (1.8 yards per carry) and six catches for 60 yards. The Giants drafted Barkley with the #2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He became only the third rookie in NFL history to accrue 2,000 yards from scrimmage and breaking a number of franchise records. He also was voted to the Pro Bowl and named “Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year”, “FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Year”, “Pro Football Writers of America Offensive Rookie of the Year”, and “Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year.” Barkley started all 16 games, rushing 261 times for 1,307 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 91 passes for 721 yards and four touchdowns. Overall, Barkley led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage. Barkley also led the NFL with seven 40+ yard runs and six 50+ yard runs. The latter figure is the highest single-season total by a Giants player since the 1970 merger. All of this despite playing behind a subpar offensive line.

After that stellar rookie season, Barkley endured a forgettable sophomore season as a pro. The high ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 3 nagged him much of the remainder of the season. Playing soft and tentative at times, Barkley did not show signs of his old self until December. Nevertheless, Barkley still rushed 217 times for 1,003 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. He also caught 52 passes for 438 yards and two touchdowns. Barkley is a complete three-down back who can make an impact running and catching the football. If healthy, he has an outstanding combination of size, quickness, and speed. A home-run threat every time he touches the football, Barkley has great vision, instincts, and balance. He makes defenders miss and can accelerate to full speed in a heartbeat. Barkley is big enough to run through and athletic enough to leap over tackle attempts. Barkley is a very good pass receiver who can hurt a defense down the field in the passing game. He has only fumbled the ball once in his career. His biggest negative is that he will sometimes try to do too much and dance around instead of taking what the defense gives him. Excellent intangibles. Team leader with a good work ethic. It remains to be seen if he can regain his old form after his serious 2020 knee injuries. And after two injury-plagued seasons in a row, Barkley needs to prove he can stay healthy.

THE STAND-INS

The Giants placed Devonta Freeman on Injured Reserve in November 2020 with ankle and hamstring injuries. He was also placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List in December. The 5’8”, 206-pound Freeman was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. In six years with the Falcons, Freeman played in 77 regular-season games with 59 starts, rushing 951 times for 3,972 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and 32 touchdowns. He also caught 257 passes for 2,015 yards and 11 touchdowns. Freeman missed most of the 2018 season with knee and groin injuries. His productivity fell to 656 yards on 184 carries (3.6 yards per carry) and two touchdowns in 2019. The Falcons cut Freeman in March 2020 and the Giants signed him in late September 2020. Freeman played in five games with the Giants, starting four, and finished 2020 with 54 carries for 172 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He also caught seven passes for 58 yards.

In his fourth NFL season, Wayne Gallman had his best campaign despite starting the season as an afterthought. It was only after injuries to Saquon Barkley and the newly-signed Devonta Freeman that the coaching staff turned to Gallman. He ended up playing in 15 games with 10 starts, carrying the ball 147 times for 682 yards (4.6 yards per rush) and six touchdowns. Gallman also caught 21 passes for 114 yards. Gallman was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Giants. As a rookie, Gallman played in 13 games with one start and carried the football 111 times for 476 yards (4.3 yards per carry). But Gallman saw his playing time drop significant during Pat Shurmur’s reign, carrying the ball only 80 times for 286 yards in 2018-2019. Gallman is a well-rounded cutback runner with decent vision, elusiveness, strength for his size, and speed. He has good hands as a receiver, but he will fumble (seven career fumbles).

The Giants signed Alfred Morris to the Practice Squad in late September 2020 and the 53-man roster in November 2020. Morris ended up playing in nine games for the Giants with no starts, carrying the ball 55 times for 238 yards (4.3 yards per rush). The 5’10”, 222-pound Morris was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. He has spent time with the Redskins (2012-2015), Dallas Cowboys (2016-2017, 2019), San Francisco 49ers (2018), and Arizona Cardinals (2019). Morris has played in 114 regular-season games with 70 starts. Morris was second-team All-Pro in 2012 and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014. Nearing the end of his career, Morris has good size and power, but what movement skills he once had have clearly faded. He is not used much in the passing game.

Dion Lewis played in all 16 games for the Giants in 2020 with no starts. He finished the year with 29 carries for 115 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for for 127 yards and one touchdown. Lewis served as the team’s primary kickoff returner, averaging 22.4 yards per return and fumbling twice. The 5’8”, 195-pound Lewis was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Lewis has spent time with the Eagles (2011-2012), Cleveland Browns (2013), Indianapolis Colts (2014), New England Patriots (2015-2017), and Tennessee Titans (2018-2019). The Giants signed Lewis in March 2020 after he was cut by the Titans. Strictly a smaller, 3rd-down-type back, Lewis has good quickness but lacks the overall dynamism for the role he plays. He also had an issue with fumbling in 2020.

THE LONELY FULLBACK

Eli Penny was placed on Injured Reserve in early January 2021 due to an undisclosed illness. The sole fullback on the team for the past three seasons, Penny played in 14 games in 2020, rushing the ball six times for 15 yards (2.5 yards per carry) and catching two passes for 20 yards. The 6’2”, 234-pound Penny was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Cardinals after the 2016 NFL Draft. The Giants signed Penny off of the Practice Squad of the Arizona Cardinals in September 2018. He has played in 44 regular-season games for the Giants with four starts. Though Penny lacks classic fullback size, he is a well-rounded player who can block, run, and catch the football.

PRACTICE SQUAD

The Giants signed Taquan Mizzell to the Practice Squad in November 2020. The 5’10”, 185-pound Mizzell originally signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Ravens (2017), Chicago Bears (2017-2018), and New Orleans Saints (2019-2020). Mizzell has played in 12 regular-season games, serving as a running back, wide receiver, and kick returner.

Sandro Platzgummer was allocated to the Giants in April 2020 as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, which also allowed him to remain on the team’s Practice Squad in 2020 without counting towards the Practice Squad limit. Platzgummer played for the Swarco Raiders Tirol of the Austrian Football League.

The Giants signed Rod Smith to the Practice Squad in early September 2020 and cut him three weeks later. The 6’3”, 236-pound Smith was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Seattle Seahawks after the 2015 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Seahawks (2015), Dallas Cowboys (2015-2018), Giants (2019), Tennessee Titans (2019), and Oakland Raiders (2019).

Jan 222021
 
Darius Slayton, New York Giants (September 14, 2020)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the single most disappointing unit on the New York Giants in 2020 was the wide receivers. Leading up to the season, there was much fan debate about just how good this group would be in 2020. The optimists pointed to Darius Slayton’s impressive 8-touchdown rookie season in which he averaged over 15 yards per catch. As long as he could stay healthy, Sterling Shepard had proven to be a reliable slot receiver who could move the chains. And despite missing four games due to a PED suspension and another due to a concussion, Golden Tate had gained 676 yards and six touchdowns in just 11 games in 2019. On the other hand, the naysayers claimed this group was way overrated. Most agreed that quality depth was non-existent.

The naysayers were right and the optimists were wrong. Slayton had a season to forget. He dropped six passes and saw his touchdown total fall to three (two of which came in the opener). Worse, Slayton all but disappeared from the offense for long stretches, catching only 12 passes for 167 yards and no touchdowns after the bye week. Shepard missed a quarter of the season with yet another injury, a turf toe that likely nagged him much of the year. While he led the team in receptions, Shepard only scored three touchdowns and averaged less than 10 yards per catch. Tate was most disappointing of all. He missed a quarter of the season (three to injuries and one for disciplinary reasons), and finished with just 388 yards receiving. No other wide receiver caught more than 11 passes. And as a unit, this group only scored an embarrassing nine touchdowns. NINE!

So what happened? It’s likely that the absence of Saquon Barkley from the line-up had a dramatic impact on the rest of the offense. Opposing defenses no longer had to worry about Barkley as a runner and receiver, someone who often received double-team and/or special attention. Teams could now spend more resources on defending Slayton, Shepard, or tight end Evan Engram. Golden Tate’s play fell off dramatically and he is clearly nearing the end of his career. Shepard (again) missed significant time due injury and Slayton was also dealing with a foot issue. Whatever the reasons, the top three receivers rarely created much separation from defensive backs. Every throw always seemed to be contested. And with no depth, the coaching staff had few replacement options. In the end, this group simply proved to be a bottom tier group, perhaps even the worst in the NFL.

THE STARTERS

In his fifth NFL season, Sterling Shepard caught a career-high and team-leading 66 passes, but 2020 represented yet another somewhat disappointing campaign. Shepard has now missed significant time due to injury in three seasons, spending four games on Injured Reserve in 2020 with a turf toe injury that he suffered in Week 2. He finished the year with just 656 yards (a career-low 9.9 yards per catch) and three touchdowns. Shepard was selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Giants. Shepard started all 16 games in 2016 and 2018, but missed five games in 2017 and six games in 2019, the latter with two serious concussions. He has never come close to cracking the 1,000-yard mark in a single season or duplicating his 8-touchdown season of his rookie campaign (he now has 20 career touchdowns). Shepard lacks ideal size and speed, but he is a fluid athlete with good quickness. Shepard runs good routes, is tough going over the middle, and adjusts well to the football. Shepard is not a consistent deep threat, but more of a move-the-chains underneath target who is ideally suited for the slot position. He needs to make more big plays. Good blocker.

After an impressive rookie season, Darius Slayton did not play as well in 2020. He played in all 16 games, starting 15, and finished the year with 50 catches for 751 yards and three touchdowns. While his reception and yardage numbers were similar to his rookie season, he played in two fewer games in 2019 while scoring eight touchdowns. Slayton also was second on the team in dropped passes with six in 2020. A nagging foot injury could have been an issue for him. The Giants drafted Slayton in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He combines good size with very good overall athleticism and speed. Slayton can stretch the field and get deep. He runs good routes, adjusts well to the football, and is dangerous after the catch. To reach the next level, he must become a more physical receiver, including beating press coverage, and more consistent catching the football.

The play of Golden Tate really fell off a cliff in 2020. He missed three games to various leg injuries and was benched another game for disciplinary reasons. Yet despite playing in one more game than he did in 2019, Tate’s reception figures fell from 49 to 35, his yardage figures fell from 676 to 388, and his touchdown figures fell from six to two. The 5’10”, 197-pound Tate was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He has spent time with the Seahawks (2010-2013), Detroit Lions (2014-2018), and Philadelphia Eagles (2018). He made the Pro Bowl in 2014.  The Giants signed Tate as an unrestricted free agent from the Eagles in March 2019. In his first season with the Giants, Tate missed five games (four due to suspension and one due to a concussion). Tate is ideally suited for the slot position, but he appears to be slowing down. He is capable of making the tough catch in traffic and can be dangerous after the catch. Tate has a history of wearing out his welcome with teams in the NFL.

THE RESERVES

The Giants claimed C.J. Board off of waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars in August 2020. He surprisingly played in 14 games, including four starts, but only finished with 11 catches for 101 yards and no touchdowns. The 6’1”, 181-pound Board was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Baltimore Ravens after the 2017 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Ravens (2017), Tennessee Titans (2017), Cleveland Browns (2017-2018), and Jaguars (2018-2019). Before coming to the Giants, his only regular-season experience came in 2019 when his played in four games for the Jaguars and finished the year with just two catches for 31 yards.

The Giants signed Austin Mack as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. He played in 11 games as a rookie with one start, finishing the year with just seven catches for 91 yards and no touchdowns. Mack is a muscular wideout with good size, but he lacks ideal speed and quickness. Strictly a possession-type receiver, Mack is capable of making the tough grab in traffic.

The Giants claimed Dante Pettis off of waivers from the San Francisco 49ers in early November 2020. He played in the final two games of the season for the Giants, catching four passes for 76 yards and one touchdown. The 6’1”, 195-pound Pettis was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the 49ers. He has played in 30 regular-season games, with 12 starts. Pettis has experience returning kickoffs and punts. He’s a good athlete who has struggled with some of the mental aspects of the game.

The Giants claimed Damion Ratley off of waivers from the Cleveland Browns in early September 2020 and cut him in October. He ended up playing in five games, catching four passes for 63 yards. The 6’2”, 200-pound Ratley was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Browns. In 2018-2019, Ratley played in 26 regular-season games with six starts, accruing 25 catches for 344 yards and one touchdown.

PRACTICE SQUAD

The 6’0”, 190-pound Alex Bachman was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Los Angeles Rams after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Rams cut him before the season started and the Giants signed him to their Practice Squad in November 2019. Bachman began the 2020 season on the Giants’ Practice Squad, was cut, and then re-sign to the Practice Squad again. Bachman is an average-sized receiver with good quickness.

The Giants signed Derrick Dillon to a future/reserve contract in January 2021. The 5’11”, 185-pound Dillon was signed by the Giants as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent much of the season on the team’s Practice Squad, but was cut in early December. Dillon is a smaller, speedy wide receiver with limited collegiate production.

The Giants signed Binjimen Victor as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent the entire season on the team’s Practice Squad but was signed by the Baltimore Ravens in January 2021.

The Giants signed Corey Coleman to the Practice Squad in late October 2020 and cut him a month late in late November. The 5’11”, 185-pound Coleman was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. The Giants signed Coleman to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in October 2018. He ended up playing in eight games with one start, finishing with five catches for 71 yards. Coleman missed all of 2019 with a torn ACL knee injury. The Giants cut him in early September 2020. The NFL just announced Coleman will be suspended for six games in 2021 for a PED violation.

The Giants signed Johnny Holton in early September 2020. He spent a month on the Practice Squad before being cut in October. The 6’3”, 190-pound Holton was originally signed by the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft.

INJURED RESERVE

Cody Core was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2020 after tearing his Achilles during a training camp practice. While Core only had three catches for 28 yards in 2019, he was arguably the team’s best special teams player, excelling on punt coverage. He was credited with eight tackles and was a big factor in downing punts inside the 20-yard line. The 6’3”, 205-pound Core was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. In three seasons with the Bengals, he played in 35 regular-season games with seven starts, accumulating 30 catches for 360 yards and one touchdown. The Giants claimed  Core off of waivers from the Bengals in September 2019.

David Sills was placed on Injured Reserve before the season started in early September with a broken right foot. The 6’3”, 211-pound Sills was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Buffalo Bills after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Giants signed Sills to the Practice Squad in September 2019 after he was cut by the Bills. The Giants then signed him to the 53-man roster in mid-December 2019. He did not play in a game however.

COVID-19 OPT-OUT

Da’Mari Scott opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the COVID-19 issue. The Giants claimed Scott off of waivers from the Buffalo Bills in July 2019. They waived him in August but Scott spent time on both the team’s Practice Squad and 53-man roster during the season. In all, Scott played in five games with two starts. He finished the year with just two catches for 22 yards. He also returned four kickoffs (27.5 yards per return) and six punts (5.3 yards per return). The 6’0”, 205-pound Scott was originally signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns waived him in December 2018 and he was then signed by the Bills.

Jan 222021
 
Dave DeGuglielmo, Indianapolis Colts (August 9, 2018)

Dave DeGuglielmo – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS SEARCHING FOR NEW OFFENSIVE LINE COACH…
The New York Post is reporting that the New York Giants are searching for a new offensive line coach. The team fired Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo in mid-November and replaced him with Dave DeGuglielmo for the final eight games of the season. DeGuglielmo’s contract expired earlier this month. The Athletic is reporting that the Giants wanted DeGuglielmo to return, but the two sides could not reach an agreement on a new deal. That could still happen according to The Post, but for now, the Giants are searching for other options.

GIANTS SIGN THREE MORE TO RESERVE/FUTURE CONTRACTS…
The New York Giants have signed defensive end Breeland Speaks to reserve/future contract. The 25-year old, 6’3”, 285-pound Speaks was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. As a rookie in 2018, Speaks played in all 16 regular-season games, with four starts, and was credited with 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. He missed all of 2019 with a knee injury and was cut by the Chiefs in early September 2020. Speaks then spent time on the Practice Squads of the Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys.

FOUR GIANTS RECEIVE SALARY INCREASE…
Due to the Proven Performance Escalator (PPE) in the the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the following four Giants will receive additional compensation that will count against the team’s 2021 salary cap. PPE is is based on how much playing time a drafted player earns through their first three seasons of their rookie contract. If a player meets the threshold based on where they were drafted, the player will receive a salary increase in their fourth year.

  • OG Will Hernandez: Salary increase from $1,496,010 to $2,183,000 ($686,990 increase)
  • DE B.J. Hill: Salary increase from $1,025,329 to $2,183,000 ($1,157,671 increase)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter: Salary increase from $1,036,839 to $2,183,000 ($1,146,161 increase)
  • CB Isaac Yiadom: Salary increase from $750,000 to $2,183,000 ($1,433,000 increase)

ARTICLES…

Jan 202021
 
Evan Engram, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

As an offensive mind, former Dallas Cowboys head coach and current New York Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett had his advocates and detractors. But one of the areas that most agreed upon was that Garrett knew how to employ tight ends to maximum benefit in a pro offense. For years, Jason Witten and a host of other Cowboys’ tight ends have tormented the Giants and other teams. In addition, Freddie Kitchens may have been a failure as a head coach in Cleveland, but the new tight ends coach of the Giants had a strong reputation for coaching tight ends in Dallas (2006) and Arizona (2007-2012). The hope and expectation was that Garrett and Kitchens would finally be able to get 2017 1st-round draft pick Evan Engram to play up to his tremendous potential.

It didn’t happen.

In his fourth NFL season, Engram once again proved he is who he is: a very athletic tight end/receiver hybrid who flashes big-play ability but disappears for long stretches and can’t be counted on in the clutch. He’s the very definition of a “coach killer,” the guy you keep longer than you should because he is a perennial tease but who ends up losing you football games. There is no greater example of that than the Week 7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Leading 21-16 late in the 4th quarter, the Giants were well on their way to their second victory in a row as Wayne Gallman had run for 27 yards in an effort to run out the clock. On 3rd-and-7, Daniel Jones hit Engram in the hands down the field with just over 2 minutes left in the game. He dropped it. If Engram catches that pass, the Giants walk off the field victorious. If Engram catches that pass, the Giants probably win the NFC East. You can also legitimately blame the defense for not holding the lead, but it never should have come to that.

If all of this sounds a bit harsh, it is. But the Giants have turned down multiple trade offers for Engram because of his supposed upside. The truth is that once the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley with the #2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, which committed the Giants to a more run-centric offense, Engram seemed miscast on this team. Because of his body type, he’ll never been more than a subpar blocker. But you accept that if he is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses, a receiver who consistently catches 5-8 passes per game and approaches 8-10 touchdown receptions per season. Engram is not that guy. He had ONE touchdown in 2020. His Pro Bowl invite seems like a bad joke.

Obviously there were other tight ends on the roster. Kaden Smith (45 percent of all offensive snaps) and Levine Toilolo (27 percent of all offensive snaps) saw extensive playing time as Garrett often employed 2- and 3-tight end packages. But both served more as complementary blockers, as in total Smith and Toilolo had only 23 catches and no touchdowns. Eric Tomlinson spent some time on the 53-man roster and practice squad, but was waived for good in November. He only played in one game.

Let that sink in for one moment. As a group, New York Giants tight ends caught ONE touchdown pass in 2020. Pathetic doesn’t seem like strong enough of a word.

ON THE 53-MAN ROSTER

In his fourth NFL season, Evan Engram had yet another disappointing year in 2020 despite being voted to the Pro Bowl. He was second on the team with 63 catches for 654 yards (10.4 yards per catch) and just one touchdown. Engram also had a team-high eight dropped passes. He played 83 percent of all offensive snaps. The Giants drafted Engram in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Engram had a solid rookie year, but missed five games in 2018 (knee and hamstring) and eight games in 2019 (knee and foot) with injuries. Engram is not built like a traditional tight end, but more like an H-Back/wide receiver ‘tweener. He is very athletic with excellent speed and quickness for the position, and flashes big play-making ability. However, he is not a reliable player. Engram tends to disappear for long stretches of games and the season. He drops too many passes cannot be counted on in the clutch. Due to his size, he is not a good blocker.

Kaden Smith served as the team’s top reserve tight end for the second year in a row. While his playing time increased, playing in 15 games with 12 starts, Smith’s pass-catching productivity fell from 31 catches, 268 yards, and three touchdowns in 2019 to 18 catches, 112 yards, and no touchdowns in 2020. He missed one game in late November due to COVID-19. He played 45 percent of all offensive snaps. Smith was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. The Giants claimed Smith off of waivers from the San Francisco 49ers in September 2019. While not a dynamic athlete, Smith has good size (6’5”, 249 pounds), runs good routes, and catches the ball well. He is decent blocker.

The team’s third tight end in 2020, Levine Toilolo played in all 16 games with two starts (27 percent of all offensive snaps). He finished with just five catches for 46 yards. The 6’8”, 268-pound Toilolo was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He has spent time with the Falcons (2013-2017), Detroit Lions (2018), and San Francisco 49ers (2019). The Giants signed Toilolo as an unrestricted free agent from the 49ers in March 2020. In eight NFL seasons, Toilolo has played in 124 regular-season games with 69 starts. Toilolo is a huge tight end who is a better blocker than receiver.

Eric Tomlinson spent most of September and October on the 53-man roster, but was waived in November. He only played in one game with a couple of offensive snaps. The Ravens picked him up and he actually played in six games with two starts for Baltimore. The Giants signed Tomlinson as an unrestricted free agent from the Las Vegas Raiders in March 2020. This was Tomlinson’s second stint with the Giants as the team also signed him in September 2019 after he was cut by the New York Jets. Tomlinson was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2015 NFL Draft.

ON THE PRACTICE SQUAD

The Giants signed Rysen John to the Practice Squad in late October 2020. The Giants originally signed John as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. The Giants waived/injured John in early September 2020 with a hamstring injury. The 6’7”, 220-pound John was a receiver in college.

The Giants re-signed Nakia Griffin-Stewart to a future/reserve contract in January 2021. The Giants signed Griffin-Stewart to the Practice Squad in November 2020 and cut him in December. The 6’5”, 260-pound Griffin-Stewart was originally signed as rookie free agent by the Minnesota Vikings after the 2020 NFL Draft. He also spent time on the Practice Squad of the Green Bay Packers that year before signing with the Giants.

The Giants re-signed Nate Wieting to a future/reserve contract in January 2021. The Giants originally signed Wieting to the Practice Squad in November 2020 and cut him in December. The 6’4”, 250-pound Wieting went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent some time with the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins before signing with the Giants.

Jan 182021
 
Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates, New York Giants (November 2, 2020)

Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates – © USA TODAY Sports

New Head Coach Joe Judge was hired by the New York Giants in early January 2020. After an atypically long vetting process, the team announced its complete staff a month later in early February. The extremely well-organized new head coach was all set to initiate his program to turn the franchise around. Then disaster struck. COVID-19 forced the league to shut down in the spring and much of the summer. The challenges for a new head coach trying to rebuild most of the roster seemed almost insurmountable.

Probably the position most affected by these developments was the offensive line. The Giants entered 2020 knowing they would have to have new starters at center and at least one of the tackle spots. That quickly became three starters when left tackle Nate Solder decided to sit out 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. Right tackle Mike Remmers had already signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. The only free agent addition was journeyman swing tackle Cam Fleming. It was obvious that most of the help would have to come from the draft, where the Giants selected Andrew Thomas in the 1st round, Matt Peart in the 3rd round, and Shane Lemieux in the 5th round. Despite those additions, there was still a glaring hole at center, with no obvious candidate to start other than the disappointing Spencer Pulley and talk of possible conversion projects.

With the desperate need to sort all of this out, Joe Judge was being told he could have no mini-camps, no Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices, a dramatically scaled back training camp, and no preseason. Teams were told they could only hold 14 padded practices before the season. 14 practices to get rookie Andrew Thomas ready at left tackle. 14 practices to find and name a starting center. 14 practices to figure out who to start at right tackle. 14 practices to build cohesion and chemistry for a group largely unfamiliar with each other.

The early returns were predictable. The line struggled. Converted guard/tackle Nick Gates was moved to center, a position that he had never played, and he had a rough start. Andrew Thomas did not look like the 4th player taken in the draft and fans began to question the pick, arguing the team drafted the wrong lineman. There was no time for Matt Peart to seriously challenge Cam Fleming for the right tackle job, and Fleming continued to demonstrate he really wasn’t an ideal starter. All of this was made worse by the fact that the two guys who the team needed to rely on, guards Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez, were once again not playing as well as expected.

Saquon Barkley was lost in Week 2 and the Giants had no ground game early in the season outside of Daniel Jones running for his life. No Giant had more than 30 yards rushing in the first two games and no Giant had more than 50 yards rushing in the first four games. Jones was the team’s leading rusher in four of the first seven games of the season. Jones was also getting sacked early and often, something that never really totally abated as he was sacked 45 times and NYG quarterbacks sacked 50 times on the season (or over three per game).

Despite all of this negativity and an 0-5 start, something began to change in October. A hodgepodge group of backs and Jones began to hurt teams on the ground as the offensive line began playing better. In eight of their next nine games, the Giants ran for over 100 yards or more. In seven of these games, they ran for over 130 yards or more. The high point was a 190-yard rushing effort against the Seattle Seahawks on December 6th. The line appeared to be developing into a physical, smash-mouth unit almost overnight.

Why? First, Nick Gates made a miraculous transformation from an undrafted tackle to a big, feisty, physical presence at center. In just a few games, he clearly became the team’s best offensive lineman. Second, Andrew Thomas settled down and started playing much, much better. Third, the Giants replaced Will Hernandez with Shane Lemieux at left guard, and while that created some pass protection issues, Lemieux’s presence seemed to be an upgrade in the run-blocking department. Finally, Kevin Zeitler started to play better. Matt Peart did receive increased playing time, receiving significant snaps in half of the games, but right tackle remained a bit of a sore spot with Cam Fleming.

In mid-November, Joe Judge surprisingly fired Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo, bringing onboard outsider Dave DeGuglielmo, who ironically had served under Tom Coughlin from 2004 to 2008. DeGuglielmo would later miss the last week of the season due to COVID-19.

The line struggled in three-game stretch in December before finishing strong in the season finale against Dallas. In those three games, New York never rushed for more than 80 yards and Giants’ quarterbacks were sacked 13 times. Nevertheless, the overall impression was despite all of COVID-19-related handicaps, the Giants actually finally made progress in rebuilding the offensive line in 2020. There appears to be a young, talented foundation to work with.

THE STARTERS

Despite having no prior experience at playing the position, and after a rough start, Nick Gates not only solidified the center position for the Giants but rapidly became the team’s best lineman. Gates started all 16 games at center. He was flagged with five penalties (two holding, one false start, one unnecessary roughness, and one illegal block). The Giants signed Gates as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He missed all of 2018 with a foot injury that caused him to be placed on Injured Reserve before the season started. In 2019, Gates was active for all 16 games with three starts (two starts at right tackle and one start at right guard). Gates is a versatile player, able to play tackle, guard, and center. He has good size and brings toughness and attitude to the offensive line. Gates is a solid pass and run blocker.

The Giants drafted Andrew Thomas in the 1st round of the 2020 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Thomas started 15 games at left tackle despite playing on a left ankle injury that required offseason surgery in January 2021. Thomas was benched for the start of one game for being late to a team meeting. In terms of his overall play, Thomas struggled early, but markedly improved as both a pass and run blocker as the year progressed. He was flagged with five penalties (three false start and two holding penalties) on the season. Thomas has a big frame (6’5”, 315lbs) and long arms. He is a strong, physical run blocker who can get movement at the point-of-attack. He is athletic enough to get to the second level and works to finish his blocks. Thomas is a good athlete and he flashes excellent pass protection skills, but he needs to improve his overall technique and consistency in that department.

The Giants signed Cam Fleming as an unrestricted free agent from the Dallas Cowboys in March 2020. He ended up starting all 16 games at right tackle, by far the most in his career in a single season. But Fleming was arguably the weak link up front, regularly missing blocks. Fleming was also credited with four false starts and two holding penalties. The 6’5”, 320-pound Fleming was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. After four years in New England, he played two seasons with the Cowboys. In seven NFL seasons, Fleming has played in 91 regular-season games with 42 starts. Fleming is versatile lineman who can play both tackle spots. He has good size. However, Fleming seems better suited to a reserve, swing-tackle type role than starter.

While the overall play of Kevin Zeitler improved in his second season with the Giants, he still did not meet expectations in 2020. Zeitler started all 16 games at right guard. He was flagged four times on the year (one holding, three false starts). Zeitler was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He signed a 5-year, $60 million contract with the Browns in March 2017, which at the time made him the highest-paid guard in the NFL. The Giants acquired Zeitler by trade from the Cleveland Browns in March 2019 in exchange for linebacker Olivier Vernon. In eight seasons, Zeitler has started 134 of the 135 regular-season games he has played in. Zeitler has good size (6’4”, 315lbs). Once regarded as one of the best guards in the game as both a run and pass blocker, Zeitler’s play in recent years has been more inconsistent. Nevertheless, he is still a solid, steady, veteran presence up front.

The Giants drafted Shane Lemieux in the 5th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He surprisingly ended up playing in 12 games with nine starts starts at left guard, stealing Will Hernandez’s position. He was only flagged once (false start) all year. The 6’4”, 310-pound Lemieux started an incredible 52 games in college, never missing a game. He is a tough, feisty, blue-collar lineman with some athletic limitations. Lemieux needs to get stronger, but he is a physical presence in the ground game with a feel for blocking angles. He struggled at times as a pass protector.

After starting every game in his first two years in the league in 2018 and 2019, Will Hernandez lost his starting left guard job to Shane Lemieux after the seventh game of the season. Hernandez missed two games in early November due to COVID-19. He was flagged only once (one holding penalty) all year. The Giants selected Hernandez in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was named named to Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team. Hernandez has good size, strength, and toughness for the guard position, but he appears to lack ideal lateral agility. This hampers his play as a run blocker on the move and as a pass blocker when isolated against quick defenders. He can move defenders with his strength and power.

THE RESERVES

The Giants selected Matt Peart in the 3rd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Peart played in 11 games with one start at left tackle. He did play in 15 percent of all offensive snaps, receiving some quality playing time. He missed one game in late November due to COVID-19. The 6’7”, 318-pound Peart was a 4-year starter in college with experience at both tackle spots. Peart combines excellent size, long arms, and good overall athletic ability. He has the frame to get bigger and stronger. As expected, Peart was inconsistent as a rookie and needs more technique refinement.

Spencer Pulley spent all of 2020 as the team’s primary reserve center, but he did not play. Pulley was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the San Diego Chargers after the 2016 NFL Draft. Spencer started all 16 regular-season games for the Chargers in 2017 at center. The Giants claimed Pulley off of waivers from the Chargers in September 2018. That season, Pulley was inserted into the starting line-up in late October. He struggled in his nine starts at center and missed one game due to an injury. In 2019, Pulley played in four games with one start in which he again struggled. He also is able to play guard.

The Giants claimed Jackson Barton off of waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs in early September 2020. Despite remaining on the 53-man roster all season, Barton never played in 2020. The 6’7”, 302-pound Barton was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs signed him off of the Colts’ Practice Squad in 2019. He has yet to play in a regular-season NFL game.

The Giants signed Kyle Murphy as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. He was signed to the Practice Squad in early September and then signed to the 53-man roster in mid November. Murphy did not play in a regular-season game in 2020. Murphy was a 3-year starter in college with experience all along the offensive line.

The 6’5”, 315-pound Chad Slade was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Houston Texans after the 2015 NFL Draft. Slade spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve, and the 2016 and 2018 seasons on the Practice Squad of the Texans. In 2017, Slade played in five games with three starts (two at right guard and one at tight end) for the Texans. The Giants signed Slade to a reserve/futures contract in January 2019. While he surprisingly made the team, he wasn’t active for any game. Slade spent all of 2020 on New York’s Practice Squad.

The 6’6”, 315-pound Kenny Wiggins was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Baltimore Ravens after the 2011 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Ravens (2011), San Francisco 49ers (2012-2013), San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers (2013-2017), and Lions (2018-2020). The Lions cut Wiggins in late October 2020. The Giants signed Wiggins to the 53-man roster in November, cut him 10 days later, and then signed him to the Practice Squad for the remainder of the season. Overall, Wiggins has played in 79 regular-season games with 38 starts.

COVID-19 OPT-OUT

Nate Solder opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the COVID-19 issue. In March 2018, the Giants made Solder the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL when they signed him away from the New England Patriots as unrestricted free agent. However, despite 32 straight starts at left tackle for New York, Solder has not played well at all with the Giants. He really struggled during the first half of 2018 before settling down a bit during the second half of the season. In 2019, his inconsistent play throughout the year both as a pass protector and run blocker was a significant factor in the team’s struggles. The 6’8”, 325-pound Solder was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Patriots. In nine seasons, Solder has started 127 of the 130 regular-season games he has played in. He is a long, lean tackle with good overall athleticism. However, off-the-field issues with a sick child could understandably be affecting his focus and play.

Jan 142021
 
Andrew Thomas, New York Giants (September 14, 2020)

Andrew Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

ANKLE SURGERY FOR ANDREW THOMAS…
New York Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas had ankle surgery this week. The New York Post is reporting that the surgery was “to correct an issue that was known when he entered the league and had nagged him since training camp. He waited to get it fixed without fear of doing further damage.” Thomas is expected to recover by March.

GIANTS SIGN THREE MORE TO RESERVE/FUTURE CONTRACTS…
The New York Giants have re-signed tight ends Nakia Griffin-Stewart and Nate Wieting, and signed linebacker Cale Garrett to reserve/future contracts.

The Giants signed Griffin-Stewart to the Practice Squad in November 2020 and cut him in December. The 6’5”, 260-pound Griffin-Stewart was signed as rookie free agent by the Minnesota Vikings after the 2020 NFL Draft. He also spent time on the Practice Squad of the Green Bay Packers that year before signing with the Giants.

The Giants signed Wieting to the Practice Squad in November 2020 and cut him in December. The 6’4”, 250-pound Wieting went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent some time with the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins before signing with the Giants.

The 23-year old, 6’3”, 230-pound Garrett was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Tennessee Titans after the 2020 NFL Draft. Garrett also spent time on the Practice Squad of the Minnesota Vikings.

Jan 082021
 
Jason Garrett, New York Giants (August 23, 2020)

Jason Garrett – © USA TODAY Sports

CHARGERS INTERVIEWING JASON GARRETT…
The NFL Network is reporting that the Los Angeles Chargers will interview New York Giants Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett on Friday for their head-coaching vacancy. The Giants reportedly would like to retain Garrett despite the team finishing 31st in offense.

GIANTS CUT DEVONTA FREEMAN, RE-SIGN JOE WEBB AND DAVID SILLS…
The New York Giants have waived running back Devonta Freeman from Injured Reserve. The team has also re-signed quarterback Joe Webb and wide receiver David Sills.

The Giants placed Freeman on Injured Reserve in November 2020 with ankle and hamstring injuries. The 5’8”, 206-pound Freeman was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. In six years with the Falcons, Freeman played in 77 regular-season games with 59 starts, rushing 951 times for 3,972 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and 32 touchdowns. He also caught 257 passes for 2,015 yards and 11 touchdowns. Freeman missed most of the 2018 season with knee and groin injuries. His productivity fell to 656 yards on 184 carries (3.6 yards per carry) and two touchdowns in 2019. The Falcons cut Freeman in March 2020 and the Giants signed him in late September 2020. Freeman played in five games with the Giants, starting four, and finished 2020 with 54 carries for 172 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He also caught seven passes for 58 yards.

The Giants signed Webb to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in December 2020. The team waived him on January 2. The 6’4”, 231-pound Webb was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He has spent time with the Vikings (2010-2013), Carolina Panthers (2014-2016), Buffalo Bills (2017), Houston Texans (2018-2019), and Detroit Lions (2020). Webb has played in 104 regular-season games with four starts, completing 90-of-159 passes (56.6 percent) for 888 yards, three touchdowns, and six interceptions. He also has caught 10 passes in his career and returned 18 kickoffs.

Sills was placed on Injured Reserve before the season started in early September with a broken right foot. The 6’3”, 211-pound Sills was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Buffalo Bills after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Giants signed Sills to the Practice Squad in September 2019 after he was cut by the Bills. The Giants then signed him to the 53-man roster in mid-December 2019. He did not play in a game however.

Jan 072021
 
John Mara, New York Giants (December 13, 2020)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports

JOHN MARA ADDRESSES THE MEDIA…
New York Giants President and Chief Executive Officer John Mara addressed the media on Wednesday (video):

Opening Statement: Good morning everybody. Let me just start out by saying how proud I am of our staff, our entire organization and particularly our players for the way they handled this past season. The effort and patience and discipline and sacrifice that everybody went through, not seeing their families and all of the protocols that kept changing seemingly on a weekly basis. We were able to get through and play the whole season with relatively few bumps in the road, and that was no small feat.

In terms of the season itself, looking back a year ago, I can tell you that we’re very pleased with the selection that we made at head coach. I thought Joe (Judge) did a very good job considering what he had to deal with. When you think about it, here you have a brand new head coach at 38 years of age and look what he was asked to deal with: a pandemic, no offseason program, no minicamps, no preseason games, virtual meetings, protocols that kept changing, and he loses his best player in Week 2. I thought he showed great leadership and great adaptability. Nothing seemed to faze him during the year. If something had to change, he just made the change and went from there. I thought he showed real leadership, grit and determination the entire time. I thought he represented our franchise very well, the way I want our head coach to represent our franchise. I thought he established a great foundation and a great culture here. I know that culture word is overused, but I think it’s so important and I think we have the beginnings of a very good culture here. I also thought that he and Dave (Gettleman) worked very well together. All of our personnel decisions I thought improved significantly this year. They were able to agree on basically every decision that we made. I thought our draft was solid, our free agency moves were solid, and I think we have the foundation for something that could be very successful going forward.

Obviously, I’m not pleased with the number of games we won. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t do better than 6-10. But I do see progress in the building here. I think that the quality of people that we have in the locker room has improved a great deal. I think we have some great leaders down there. I think we’ve established a basis for a foundation that can have continued success going forward. I’m excited about the future of this team. I think the fact that we went 5-3 over the second half of the season gives me some reason for encouragement. I’m obviously disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs. We had every opportunity to do that only needing one more game, and we didn’t get that done. But I think what I wanted to see this year was some progress and some reason for some optimism going forward, and I did see that and that’s what I’m optimistic about what we can do in the future. With that, I’m happy to take whatever questions you have.

Q: Back in September, you didn’t want to put a win total on this season. You cited a vision that you wanted to create with Joe and obviously what you just said in your opening statement. I’m curious how much of it is a leap of faith compared to what you’ve done in the last couple of years following losing seasons? How much is it tangible? Is there tangible evidence that you’ve seen beyond the record that you could describe as to why you’re as confident in this season, maybe more so than you were in the last couple years?

A: I think it’s both of that. I think there’s always a certain leap of faith when you’re coming off a season when you only won six games. But just the quality of the players that we have in the locker room, the fact that they all seemed to buy in to Joe’s philosophy and Joe’s message. The effort was really good all year long, the discipline was really good all year long. I just think there’s a different feeling in the building now then there has been in a number of years, and I think that’s why I’m optimistic going forward.

Q: You didn’t actually come out and make an announcement today that Dave Gettleman is coming back as general manager. Is that because that was not a decision that you made, it was just something that was naturally happening? Why is Dave coming back for another year as general manager?

A: He is coming back if you want a formal announcement about that. I don’t think there was any particular reason why we didn’t make any formal announcement. I think the way Dave and Joe worked together, I thought our personnel decisions were really sound this year. I feel better about our roster than I have in years, and I think the two of them working together have started the building process with something that can have sustained success going forward. I just didn’t think that making a change at this point in time was something that was going to be beneficial. I said they worked really well together, and I’m really pleased with the players that they brought in here. I think that gives us a chance going forward.

Q: Is there any change to the structure at all? Or this is the same structure that it’s always been? There was some speculation of Joe’s going to have a lot more power now or something.

A: It’s the same structure it’s always been. The general manager and head coach collaborate on personnel decisions. What I’ve been really pleased about is, now they haven’t agreed 100 percent of the time. My father used to have a saying, ‘if you both agree all the time, then I don’t need both of you.’ I haven’t had to intercede on one occasion to break any ties. They managed to talk it through and work it out, showed good communication and at the end of the day, the decision that gets made is the New York Giants’ decision. It’s not Joe’s decision or Dave’s decision. They collaborate really well together, and that’s one of the reasons why, again, I’m optimistic about our future.

Q: I know you’re happy here with the progress and optimistic about the future, but my question is how long do the fans need to wait for a winning team to emerge?

A: Hopefully not too much longer because I can’t wait too much longer quite frankly. I’m tired of sitting up here at the end of the year trying to explain what went wrong and why I feel optimistic about the future. I want to do it after a winning season. I do believe that we have the right people in the building, we have a much better locker room than we’ve ever had before, and I think there’s reason for optimism. I feel good about the way the personnel decisions were made this year. We have some opportunities now in the draft and in free agency to improve the roster even further. I think if our fans continue to stay patient with us, that they will see a winning team pretty soon.

Q: I have two questions related to the NFC East. The first is did you reach out to Eagles ownership at all, either before Joe said what he said or after about how they handled their last game? The second one is in evaluating your season, did you have to take into account the reason you were playing meaningful games in December was the rest of the division struggled so much? You guys would have been four games out of first in any other division.

A: The answer to your first question is no, I did not reach out to the Eagles organization either before or after. The reason we didn’t make the playoffs is we didn’t win enough games. We had to win one more game to get into the playoffs. That’s on us. We can’t blame that on anybody else. I’m very conscious of where the division was this year, what the final record was. But I think you’ll see a much stronger division next year. Listen, we didn’t win enough games, but I do feel like we’re making progress. Some people may dispute that, and time will tell if I’m right or not. But I believe very strongly we did make enough progress to warrant staying the course with the people we have in the building.

Q: I have two questions also. The first is what was the season like for you watching games in empty stadiums and in your empty stadium?

A: It was a very strange feeling, and not a good one and not one I hope to repeat. Just coming into our stadium and not feeling any energy from the crowd I think was pretty difficult. Hopefully that’s not going to be the case next year. It was an eerie feeling each week walking into, really every stadium you’d walk into, even those that had limited capacity. It just didn’t feel the same. It’s just not the same having your fans there to support you. I think the players feed off that energy, and not having that I think hurt us this year.

Q: My second question is Joe has obviously expressed his conviction about Daniel (Jones) as the quarterback moving forward. Do you share that and why?

A: I do share that. I think Daniel before he got hurt was playing really well during that winning streak that we had. Then he got hurt, I think it was in Cincinnati, and then he wasn’t quite the same for the next few weeks. I thought he played very well this past Sunday, and also played well in the Baltimore game. Our coaches, all of them, are very high on Daniel, and I feel the same way. I think he has what it takes to lead us to where we want to go.

Q: I just wanted to circle back to the decision with Dave real quick. I understand you say you’re seeing progress with him and Joe, but what do you say to fans who say in his third year, you guys won six games, then in three years, you won 15 and they just feel that’s not enough progress?

A: I can understand that and there’s no defending the record. There’s no defending that at all. We haven’t won enough games. But listen, we made some miscalculations in 2018 with some of our personnel decisions. But I think the last two years, particularly this past year, we’ve seen significant improvement. I just felt like to break that up now and bring in somebody new from the outside was not going to be beneficial for us. I think Dave and Joe work very well together. Our personnel decisions I think were very sound, and I have every reason to think that will be the case going forward.

Q: You mentioned 2018, this notion has kind of been out there that there was a mandate from ownership that you had to make one more run with Eli (Manning). Is that true?

A: That’s absolute nonsense. We have never made any such orders or directions whatnot. I want the general manager and the coach to agree on the roster and the players that should be on the roster. I’ll give my opinion, but I want them to have a conviction about it going forward. Listen, we definitely made some miscalculations in a number of areas in 2018. But it was never any direction from ownership one way or another.

Q: Is there any kind of contract extension going on with Dave, or are you leaving his contract situation as is?

A: I don’t comment on people’s contracts and how much longer they have or anything. I’m not going to start by doing that now.

Q: If you consider this year progress, then what is your barometer for progress for Dave as general manager and for your team in 2021?

A: Well, I’d like to see our team win more games. I’d like to see us get back into the playoffs, but I’m not ever going to set a minimum number of games that we have to win or make any kind of determination like that. Again, I want to feel at the end of next year that we’ve taken a significant step forward. It’s not another six-win season or something like that. We need to win more games. But I’m not going to give you a required minimum.

Q: How did you weigh or count the facts that mistakes that Dave has made as GM, including DeAndre Baker, Golden Tate, I’m not going to list all of them, but do you connect those mistakes with your 6-10 record this year from the previous two years? Why do you not think that’s an indictment of the general manager?

A: You used the word indictment. We made some miscalculations in 2018, and I think we, to a certain extent, paid for that this year by not having some of those players available. No question about it. I thought in 2019, things got a little bit better. Certainly, this past offseason, I thought the personnel decisions that we made, both in the draft and in free agency, were significantly better. I like the combination that we have here right now. I didn’t see any reason to break that up.

Q: How much did you even contemplate making a change at general manager?

A: I really didn’t contemplate that. Listen, when you go through a season, any season, your feelings change from week to week depending on how you’re doing. I certainly didn’t feel very good midway through the season when we were sitting there at 1-7. I kept thinking that I’m seeing a team that’s practicing hard, I’m seeing a good attitude out there, nobody’s quitting, but where are the results? Where are the results? Then we started to win a little bit in the second half of the season and things started to look a little bit better. I just like the feeling we have in the locker room. I went to more team meetings than I ever had in the past. Players are so attentive and so tuned in to the message that’s coming from the head coach. It just seemed like we were on the right track. Now we just have to win some games to prove that we’re on the right track. We did a little bit better in the second half of the season. Then Daniel gets hurt, and I think that certainly hurt us a little bit. I think the fact that we did go 5-3 in the second half of the season gave me some reason for some optimism about what we have in the locker room. Obviously, we need to do better going forward.

Q: How much did you factor in, you obviously would have probably felt differently I would assume if you were in another division. I think every other division winner won 11 games. Obviously, you were in the division race until the final week. How much did that kind of factor into your overall feeling for the team?

A: It really didn’t. We were 6-10, we didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs at 6-10. We would have taken it, but we didn’t deserve to be there. I think the fact that we started to win some games in the second half of the season, and some of the younger guys that we brought in here were starting to play and show some talent. It was really the overall feeling that we’re making progress as opposed to whether we were playing meaningful games or not. We were playing meaningful games because our division is what it is. But I think it was more of a factor our younger players and some of our new players we brought in here were showing why we either took them in free agency or picked them in the draft. I think our talent level finally started to show itself a little bit. Now we’re far from a finished product. There are a lot more pieces that we need here. But I think we’re in much better shape now than we were a year ago.

Q: Just to keep on the topic of Dave, a year ago when you said his batting average had to improve, it was viewed as if it didn’t, you would consider a change. I know you just said you want to see another significant step forward. Is Dave’s status still essentially year to year, or have you seen enough now where you’re thinking more long-term with him?

A: Everything in this business is year to year. I’m not going to speculate on that. I think his batting average certainly improved this year. Our personnel decisions I thought were very sound this year and gives us some reason for optimism going forward. I’m not going to get into contractual situations with either staff people or players at this point.

Q: Given his age and obviously retirement is coming at some point with him, is there any internal succession plan under consideration or is that something you just put off until he actually does retire?

A: Listen, you’re always thinking about things like that. But there’s nothing that I’d want to comment on publicly at this point.

Q: Obviously, the defense had a pretty good season. But the offense finished 31st in scoring, 31st in yardage. I think it was the highest scoring year in NFL history. How do you feel about where the team is at in terms of that, being kind of behind the curve when it comes to being able to compete with teams?

A: I think we certainly need to help our offense a little bit this offseason, be it free agency and the draft. I think we need some more pieces there. Part of the problem that we had is we had a brand new offensive line with new guys playing new positions, they had never played together before, we had no offseason, we had no preseason games for them to get to know each other and get the feel for playing with one another, and they struggled, particularly early in the year, no question about it. I thought they started to play better in the second half of the season. But there’s no question that we need to help our offense going forward and add some more pieces. That will be a priority for us.

Q: You asked fans to be patient again after missing the playoffs three years in a row under Dave Gettleman. It seems like even dating back to 2018, some of those decisions were short-sided decisions, and some of the decisions that were made in the draft, you only have three players left each in 2019. How do you ask fans to be patient when (audio cut out)?

A: (Jokingly) The sound went out about halfway through that question and I had nothing to do with that. I’ll try to answer. The first part of the question was how do I ask fans to be patient. I feel like that’s the only thing I can ask them to do right now. I feel like we’re making progress. I think that given the fan mail that I’ve received, which tends to peak during the losing streak and then after we win a couple of games, it tends to die down. I think most of our fans believe we’re making progress. There are always going to be fans that are going to be critical, and rightfully so. I do believe we’re making progress. I am going to ask them to be patient again. I know it’s a tough ask, I know they’re tired of me saying that. But I am sincere in the belief that we are making progress here.

Q: What was it like for you to watch your team play 14 full games without Saquon (Barkley)? How do you look at decisions that are going to have to be made in the relative near future, not immediately perhaps but in the relative near future, about his tenure with the organization?

A: It was brutal to watch him go down in Week 2. He’s such an important part of this team, not only for what he does on the field but the leadership and all of the intangibles he brings to us off the field. That was really a gut-punch. Listen, I’m still happy that we have him. I think knowing him, he’s going to come back stronger than ever and be a big part of this team next year. In terms of what the time table is, it’s hard to predict that right now. I know our medical people are very pleased with the progress he’s made. I certainly expect him to be a Giant for a very long time.

Q: This year with no fans and everything, how much of a hit did the Giants take as an organization, and how much did the league take?

A: Well, it was a huge financial hit for us this year, no question about it. We did suffer some pretty significant financial losses, but it’s not going to affect our ability to be active in free agency or to do what we have to do to improve the team. Hopefully this is a one year thing and we’ll be able to have fans back in the building next season. I don’t think there’s any guarantee about that, but we’re optimistic that particularly as these vaccines get rolled out, people will start to feel comfortable about coming back into the building again. That would be a big boost to our players, I know that, being able to play in front of fans again.

Q: Is there any way you have to reach out to get more money, or is that not a problem at this point?

A: We’ll be ok. We’re not ready to put a padlock on the door just yet. I think we’ll survive just fine. It’s been a tough year from that point of view. But listen, there are people all over this country that are suffering. I’m not out here complaining or anything. We’ll be fine as an organization going forward.

DAVE GETTLEMAN ADDRESSES THE MEDIA…
New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman addressed the media on Wednesday (video):

Opening Statement: Good morning everybody. I hope everyone’s holiday season was joyful and that your families are all safe and healthy. I want to take this time to thank all the people who made the 2020 NFL season happen. There’s so many people behind the scenes whose tireless efforts, the players, the coaches, football ops folks, enabling us to get this done. First, I want to thank ownership for allowing us to do what was financially necessary to allow us to operate as close to the norm as possible. Given a new head coach and some of the situations that other people had. We were able to go over to MetLife (Stadium) and have as normal a training camp as we could. I can’t thank ownership enough for that. Specifically, in our building, I want to thank Christine Procops, Bill Heller, Justin Warren, Victor McLoughlin, Jerry Meade, Kevin Abrams and of course Ronnie Barnes. Their efforts enabled our season to happen as close to normal, whatever that is now, as possible. We owe them all a debt of gratitude. Our football team made quality strides from beginning to end. We certainly have areas to improve upon. Joe (Judge) and his staff had a very productive year. Now as we enter our roster building season, we have full realization there is more work to do.

Q: We just got off with John (Mara) obviously and he kind of echoed some of your sentiments, but also pointed to 2018 which was obviously your first year as General Manager. He said as an organization you guys have acknowledged some miscalculations that you guys made. Have those miscalculations set you up for success now because of what you learned from what you did back then? Do you feel confident that the lessons learned in the last couple years have put you guys in a position to succeed?

A: I’ll tell you this, we’re always learning. The short answer to your question is yes. You’re always going to learn. I go over every final decision we make. I review it in my head over and over again, good or bad, oh by the way. I review it over and over again because you certainly don’t want to repeat mistakes. You do that and you have to be honest with yourself. You have to debrief, and you have to be brutally honest with yourself. As I’ve already admitted, ‘18 was not a stellar year, personnel-wise. We’ve learned from our mistakes. Our processes are better. I think this past year showed the fruits of that, both in free agency and in the draft. I really believe strongly we’ll continue in that way.

Q: Can you be specific about the things you saw in Joe Judge this year? What was your reaction to his reaction to what went down in Philly on the last night of the year?

A: The bottom line is, with Joe, is his big picture view and then the follow up on the attention to detail. That’s what’s really critical. He starts at A and gets to Z. That is huge, that is really huge. Obviously, he is a very bright guy. That’s what really sticks out in my mind. Just the big picture and the attention to detail. No detail is too small, the old saying, ‘the devil is in the details’. He and his staff, he is really tuned into that. As far as what he said the other day, he said what he said. At the end of the day, it is what it is. Obviously, it’s about playing 60 minutes. It’s about giving the fans their money’s worth. It’s really how you live your life. He said what he said and it’s time to move on.

Q: What does Dave Gettleman – almost 70 – how long do you want to stick around for?

A: It really is dependent upon the Lord how long I stick around for. We’re all day to day, by the way, in case anybody missed that point. I feel fine, I feel good, I’m excited. I just want to keep going. I don’t know where this retirement stuff came from. I have no idea what that’s all about. There are probably some people that… at the end of the day, I feel great. So, let’s keep going.

Q: Do you feel like you have the ability to keep your defensive line intact or will you have to make a decision on one or the other there?

A: The toughest thing for us right now frankly is we don’t know what the cap number is going to look like. That’s a problem. We’re not going to know for a while. That’s going to dictate obviously how you operate. We’ve got cap space, we’ve got room. You never have as much room as you want to have. We’ve got cap space, we’ve got room to do the things we feel like we need to do initially. A lot of it is going to be about the drop it’s going to take. How far of a plunge is it going to take? We don’t know. They’re talking 175, who knows. We’ll plan and then once we know the number, we’ll get moving.

Q: Your team had one win against a team with a winning record this year and was outscored 73-26 during a three-game losing streak in December. I guess for fans who aren’t seeing what you call quality strides, where would you say the quality strides are?

A: Well I think first of all the culture piece. I know it’s talked about but it’s important. You have to learn how to win, you have to know how to win and we’ve made progress there. The locker room is terrific. We’ve got great leadership. We’ve got a young club, a new young team. I understand that. At the end of the day, this is an important offseason, roster building offseason for us. We’ve got some solid pieces. We’ve built up the lines. We’ve done some things. We have to continue to get good players and part of it is getting playmakers, because that’s what you’re referring to. This is a goal of ours obviously for the offseason.

Q: I was going to ask you about the playmakers but you kind of addressed that a little bit. Let me you ask about Daniel (Jones). Where do you see him two years into his tenure as Giants quarterback?

A: Obviously, he flashed last year. He had some big games and played well. Then he had games that weren’t so great. This year, early in the season he was struggling with his ball protection. We all know that. The second half of the year unfortunately he had that blip with the hamstring. He finished the season very strong. He played well against Baltimore despite getting chased all over the place to a degree. Made some big-time throws. Really and truly, it may sound trite, but obviously the last game of the year was a playoff game for us. It really was. We have to win that game to force Washington to win their game. Daniel played very well. He made a couple of big-time throws. Protected the ball for the most part. The one pick was off of Evan’s (Engram) hands. He’s done a lot of really good stuff. He’s made of the right stuff mentally and physically. Again, we’re talking about a young quarterback who has had two different offensive coordinators in the NFL. Two different systems. Obviously, he had a different one at Duke so he got three different systems in three years. I thought he got beyond the hamstring the last two games and he played well. We have complete confidence in him moving forward.

Q: You mentioned you feel good and you want to continue but I have to ask you about the conditions that the pandemic brought on. Obviously, your job changed or how you did the job I should say. I’m wondering how did that affect your energy and have you thought about that moving forward?

A: For everybody, I don’t care if you’re a football GM or you’re a carpenter or whatever. This pandemic is a load. It is a flat load. It makes everything an event. You have to consider everything. You have to consider going to the grocery store. You have to consider just everything, absolutely everything. Everything is an event. It takes energy from everybody. It took energy from you guys. There were days you’re looking at four walls. You can’t come to practice, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. It puts a mental load on you. I feel good, I feel strong. I had my 24-month review with my lymphoma doctor. He says you’re as healthy as a horse. Let’s just keep moving, so I’m ready to rock.

Q: Two-part question, number one, thanks for doing this. When you mentioned Daniel a few minutes ago, the idea of three offensive coordinators in three years and the potential teams asking to talk to Jason (Garrett) that you might have to go to a fourth, how does that affect the evaluation process? Also, with hindsight being 20/20, when you look back at how the injury was handled, would things have been better served if you had held back another week and maybe not played him against Arizona?

A: You can always look at everything – in hindsight, you can reevaluate everything and take a look at it. We felt good about it. We felt that he could protect himself and that he could do the things he needed to do and that’s why he played against Arizona. I really understand what you’re saying, but we felt strong. Obviously, we had the conversation with Ronnie (Barnes) and his staff and we felt good about it. During that week of practice, he moved around pretty darn good. Being as it may, we’re fine with that decision. He didn’t do any more damage. It is what it is. As far as the potential of Jason leaving, of course it makes you a little antsy. Just imagine, anybody, any of you guys, having your fourth editor in four years. It’s the same thing. It’s no different. We’ll adjust and adapt and do what we have to do and obviously anything we do moving forward, Daniel is a big part of it. We’re certainly conscious of that piece, to answer your question.

Q: I know you’re a trenches guy and the game is won upfront and you like defense, but the team just didn’t score enough points. It’s obvious. 20, 17 points a game just can’t win in the NFL. What do you say to address that? How much of it is you having to study everything that happens on offense. I know there was no Saquon (Barkley), the offensive line and everything, do you look at everything and say we need to find better players to score more points coming up?

A: You can never have too many good players. Bottom line. That’s a stock answer that every GM is going to tell you. At the end of the day, we need to find playmakers. That’s all there is to it. I’m not sugar coating it. If you talk about philosophically doing roster building, it’s the Q (quarterback), it’s the big men allow you to compete. On offense, it’s play makers. We have to be very conscious of it. We’re going to find the right guys to help Daniel get us over that hump.

Q: I have a big picture question for you. Obviously, there is a lot of talk of progress today, but how disappointing is it for you that after year three, you guys haven’t topped six wins and you only needed to get seven to make playoffs this year?

A: Of course, it’s disappointing. It’s disappointing not just for me personally, but I’m disappointed for the organization. I’m disappointed for the players and the fans. Sure, it’s disappointing. Listen, last time I double checked, it’s about winning. I’m very disappointed. I guess the best thing I can say is – John said in 2018 we didn’t have a stellar year, didn’t have a stellar roster building season, it’s affected us. We’re on the right track right now. We’ve done some really good stuff the last two years. We’re going to fix this. We are going to fix this.

Q: You’re going to enjoy this question because it’s worded a lot differently than it would have been last year. Leonard Williams, the season he had – do you almost wish you had gotten something done with him last year rather than giving him the franchise tag because it certainly seems like the price went up this year?

A: It doesn’t make a difference – you’re killing me either way. At the end of the day, I’m not going to discuss contracts, negotiations, did we do anything last year or did we not? No, the bottom line is we are where we are. Leonard deserves a lot of credit for how he prepared this year. Sean Spencer working with him as the D-line coach, the scheme that Pat (Graham) had for him, you know? As I said to you guys, before, he was a – I don’t even remember when he was taken, he was a top five pick – number two or four or something like that. There was a reason that happened, you know what I’m saying? Leonard did a great job. He did a great job of working his fanny off. Again, the atmosphere for our players – one of hard work, you can have fun, you can enjoy yourself and Leonard did a heck of a job and his position coach, Sean Spencer, Pat Graham and Joe. The bottom line is he thrived in our atmosphere. I’m ecstatic. It’s like I tell players all the time, ‘I only want you to be successful and I want you to make me cry when it comes to negotiations’.

Q: I know you just said that, ‘We’re going to fix this,’ but fans are saying in three years, we’re at 15 wins. How much does it have to be now? At what point do the wins have to come?

A: Obviously, they have to come soon. The idea is to win. Like I said, a lot of things have happened. We’re definitely on the right track. I’d like to believe finishing – starting at the 1-7- we finished 6-10. We finished 5-3 over the last eight games. There are a lot arrows pointing up for us. We’ll have a good season, a good roster building season right now and we’ll feel a lot better. We’re getting there.

Q: Your top priority when you came, well at least one of them, was to rebuild the offensive line. I’m curious after three years, where are you in your estimation with that rebuild of the offensive line?

A: We’ve got some really nice, young pieces. Nick Gates stepped in there. He’d never played offensive center before. We drafted Will (Hernandez) and Shane Lemieux. You have (Kevin) Zeitler and Andrew Thomas who acquitted himself very well when he had that rough patch and then he got himself rolling again. I think this offensive line can compete. You can cherry pick here, cherry pick there, in terms of which game you want to pick and how the offense did. The offensive line showed very good progress. They’re big, they’re young, they’re strong and they’re tough and smart. This O-Line has a chance to be pretty damn good.

Q: You know a thing or two about evaluating talent. How would you evaluate the job you did this year as GM?

A: I don’t want to evaluate myself. We made some really solid progress. I know everyone is tired of hearing it. Joe and I worked together very well and it was thrill. It was fun. He’s collaborative, communicative, we’re on the same page. As John said, we don’t agree on everything, but if we’d agree on everything, as John said, he doesn’t need both of us. The bottom line is that we had a good solid year. We hit on free agency. We hit on draft picks as of right now. Again, I always say that you know about a draft three years later. You can really quantify and evaluate on what you’ve done. We had a lot of those young kids step in and help us and show us that they’re legitimate NFL players. They have legitimate NFL talent as long as they continue to blossom and improve and progress. So anyhow, for what that’s worth, what we’ve done here in the three years that we’ve been here, is about sustained success. That’s what it’s about.

Q: You and John had both made several references to 2018 as a mistake. It seems like you’re calling 2019 in the draft and free agency a success. I was wondering if you actually feel that way? What do you think in 2019 were the team moves that set you up so well for this year?

A: You have the quarterback. You have Dexter Lawrence. There’s a start. Obviously, we had no clue that Deandre (Baker) could get in that kind of issue. It’s just a constant build and a constant blend and we feel like the last three years have been solid personnel-wise.

Q: Do you look at the last couple drafts at quarterback for example, there are guys like Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert who look excellent and score a lot of points. Then this year, at offensive tackle, Andrew had a rough patch, whereas, some people would say some of the other guys played a little bit better. I was wondering if you look at not taking several players at those two positions and looking at what you have. Do you reconsider whether you made the right choice?

A: You guys are going to call me doubling down, I’m very happy with what we’ve done with Daniel and Andrew Thomas. I’m not even going to blink.

Q: You mentioned off the top, a lot of people top be thankful for that you guys have reached this point in the season because there was a lot of uncontrollable factors. Did you scale back any of the expectations this year because a pandemic was happening? This was the first year of no preseason game etc.

A: No, not really. This was a crazy year obviously. Like I said at the top, ownership financially supported us. We were one of the few teams in the league that was able to work out of a stadium and be socially distanced properly, have the locker room space, everything that we did over there. It allowed us to have as close to a normal preseason as you could have. Not having the preseason games obviously hurt, it hurt everybody. Our situation wasn’t any different than anybody else. Nobody had preseason. When you have a really young team, that creates issues when you’re trying to figure out what you have. Not having the preseason games was difficult. At that point in time, everybody is trying to negotiate the protocols. Things were changing constantly. I just thought ownership gave us the ability to do some things and it was really important that we do that for Joe and the staff. We came back from Indianapolis last year, the first week in March. Ronnie Barnes came to me three times and said, ‘Dave this is going to be really bad, really bad’. By then it was I believe in Italy, it hit there. Ronnie told me, Ronnie said, ‘Dave this is going to be bad’. I walked down the hall to (Director of College Scouting) Chris Pettit and I said, ‘Chris get ready for us to draft remotely. Get ready for our meetings’. I walked down to Joe and I said, ‘Joe you’re not going to see your players until August, I’m telling you. That’s what we have to plan for’. Thank God for Ronnie for having that foresight. I felt like we were ahead of the curve with a lot of the things we did in terms of how we were set up for training camp and how we were set up when got back here. That’s where Victor McLoughlin, our buildings guy, and Justin Warren, our IT guy, just did an unbelievable job. Getting us set up to be able to do things remotely and be spaced out and all the other stuff. We actually had setups for all the coaches that we installed in their homes so if something happened, they could work remotely. That paid off for us. There’s a lot of things that people behind the scenes warned us about and we heeded their warnings and it enabled us to do what we did. No, we didn’t scale back any expectations.

Q: You talked about how the salary cap may hit one of those air pockets. I’m just wondering how creative will you have to be in maybe reworking contracts? Making do with what you have, and have you talked to guys like Nate Solder and things like that and figure out what’s his status going to be next year?

A: We haven’t started that. I haven’t had that conversation with Nate. The season just ended Sunday here and it’s Wednesday. The bottom line is until we have a good idea of what the number is, what the number is going to be, we’ll plan as best we can. Obviously, we know who our UFA’s (unrestricted free agents) are. We’ll get moving and we’re going to have to make some decisions on a number of players. That piece is going to be interesting to work with and work through. We’re going to make the best decisions we can for the New York Football Giants and for our fans.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

  • LT Andrew Thomas (Video)
  • LB Blake Martinez (Video)
  • CB James Bradberry (Video)
  • CB/S Julian Love (Video)
  • S Xavier McKinney (Video)