Feb 272021
 
Nate Solder, New York Giants (October 7, 2018)

Nate Solder – © USA TODAY Sports

NATE SOLDER MAY HAVE TO ACCEPT PAY CUT TO RETURN TO GIANTS…
New York Giants left tackle Nate Solder, who sat out the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, has reportedly told ESPN that he would like to return to the team in 2021. However, the NFL Network is also reporting that the Giants intend to ask Solder to re-structure his contract. How those talks go may determine if Solder remains with the team.

The 32-year old Solder is currently scheduled to make $9.9 million in base salary in both 2021 and 2022 and will cost $16.5 million against the 2021 salary cap. If the Giants cut him before June 1st, the team will take a $10.5 million cap hit and “save” $6 million in cap space. If they designate him a post-June 1st cut, the team will “save” $10 million in 2021 but push a $4 million of the $10.5 million dead money into 2022.

Solder was replaced in 2021 by the team’s 2021 1st-round draft pick, Andrew Thomas.

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 lived up to his contract, struggling at times at the position. The 6’8”, 325-pound Solder was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Patriots.

GIANTS CUT TWO PLAYERS…
The New York Giants have waived wide receiver Da’Mari Scott and cornerback Shakial Taylor, two players who opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns.

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. 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 2019 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 Giants claimed Shakial Taylor off of waivers from the Denver Broncos in late July 2020 and attempted to waive him a few days later. However, Taylor requested a COVID-19 opt-out and spent the year on the team’s Reserve/Covid-19 Opt-Out List. Taylor was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Indianapolis Colts after the 2019 NFL Draft. He was then claimed off of waivers by the Broncos in November 2019.

Feb 102021
 
Alex Tanney, New York Giants (August 28, 2020)

Alex Tanney – © USA TODAY Sports

ALEX TANNEY RETIRES…
New York Giants quarterback Alex Tanney, who the team re-signed to a reserve/future contact last month, has retired from the NFL. The 33-year old back-up spent nine years in the NFL and had been with the Giants since 2018. Tanney has only played in two regular-season games, coming off the bench for the Titans in 2015 and the Giants in 2019.

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 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 and re-signed him to the Practice Squad in early December 2020.

The Giants currently have three quarterbacks under contract for 2021: Daniel Jones, Joe Webb, and Clayton Thorson. Colt McCoy is currently scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

Feb 082021
 
New York Giants Helmet (November 24, 2019)

© USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS HIRE ROB SALE AS NEW OFFENSIVE LINE COACH…
The NFL Network is reporting that the New York Giants have hired University of Louisiana at Lafayette Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Rob Sale as the team’s new offensive line coach. Sale replaces Dave DeGuglielmo, who was just hired by Louisiana Tech University as their new offensive line coach. The Giants fired Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo in November 2020 and replaced him with DeGuglielmo for the final eight games of the season. DeGuglielmo’s contract expired in January.

The 41-year old Sale has never coached at the pro level. He has experience coaching offensive lines at McNeese State, Georgia, University of Louisiana at Monroe, Arizona State, and at his most recent position, University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

  • 2021-Present: Offensive Line Coach, New York Giants
  • 2018-2020: Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
  • 2017: Offensive Line Coach/Running Game Coordinator, Arizona State University
  • 2016: Offensive Line Coach, University of Louisiana at Monroe
  • 2015: Offensive Line Coach, University of Georgia
  • 2014: Offensive Coordinator, McNeese State University
  • 2012-2013: Offensive Line Coach, McNeese State University
  • 2007-2011: Strength and Conditioning Assistant/Offensive Analyst, University of Alabama
  • 2006: Offensive Line Coach, Catholic High School of Pointe Coupee (Louisiana)
  • Pro Experience: None
  • Collegiate Experience: Offensive Lineman, LSU (1998-2002)
  • Born July 1, 1979
    Feb 062021
     
    Jason Garrett, New York Giants (August 9, 2020)

    Jason Garrett – Courtesy of New York Giants

    GIANTS TO RETAIN JASON GARRETT…
    ESPN is reporting that the New York Giants are expected to retain Jason Garrett as the team’s offensive coordinator. Head Coach Joe Judge hired the former Dallas Cowboys head coach last year. The Giants finished the 2020 season 31st in offense in terms of both yardage and points scored.

    LOUISIANA TECH HIRES DAVE DeGUGLIELMO…
    Louisiana Tech University has hired New York Giants Offensive Line Coach Dave DeGuglielmo as their new offensive line coach. The Giants fired Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo in November 2020 and replaced him with DeGuglielmo for the final eight games of the season. DeGuglielmo’s contract expired in January.

    GIANTS LOSE ASSISTANT STRENGTH COACH TO FALCONS…
    The Athletic is reporting that the Atlanta Falcons have hired New York Giants Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Thomas Stallworth to be the team’s new strength coach. Stallworth had been with the Giants since 2018, when then Head Coach Pat Shurmur hired him. Craig Fitzgerald remains the Director of Strength and Performance for the Giants. He was hired by Joe Judge last year.

    Feb 052021
     
    Riley Dixon and Graham Gano, New York Giants (October 11, 2020)

    Riley Dixon and Graham Gano – © USA TODAY Sports

    It is exceptionally rare for a special teams coach to become an NFL head coach. So when John Mara hired Joe Judge as the next head coach of the New York Giants, it shocked many in the media and fanbase. However, Judge quickly won over many with his fiery inaugural press conference and the composition of his coaching staff. That initial luster began to dim after an 0-5 start, culminating with a Dallas Cowboys come-from-behind victory.

    Judge and the Giants began turning it around in mid-October. Their first victory came against Washington, and was followed by two very close, heart-breaking losses to the Eagles and Buccaneers in games where the Giants also held 4th-quarter leads. Then came the high-point of the season, a 4-game winning streak against Washington, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Seattle. The Giants were 5-7 and remarkably still very much alive for the division title. Judge began receiving praise from all quarters.

    The emotional high of soundly defeating the Seahawks was immediately dampened by a 3-game losing streak against clearly better teams. At 5-10, the Giants needed to beat the Cowboys and pray that the Eagles would upset Washington. The Giants accomplished the former, but the Eagles laid down like dogs against Washington and the 6-10 Giants missed the playoffs.

    Through all of this, the irony is that the New York Giants special teams did not improve under Judge. To be fair, the special teams unit under Thomas McGaughey had actually been the strength of the team in recent years. Judge smartly decided to retain McGaughey. The team was also left scrambling when 2018 Pro Bowl/All-Pro place kicker Aldrick Rosas was cut in July after a hit-and-run arrest. The Giants decided to sign 32-year old Graham Gano who had missed 2019 with a knee injury. Unexpectedly, Gano ended up having one of the greatest seasons in franchise history as a kicker.

    Overall, the Giants special teams played decently during the first half of the season, and there was a feeling that Judge, McGaughey, and the special teams unit were improving and building to a stronger second half. The reverse occurred. Against the Bengals, the Giants allowed a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 29-yard punt return that almost cost them the game, and a fake punt conversion for a 1st down. Seattle blocked a Riley Dixon punt for a safety and Gano missed his first extra point of the season. Against Arizona, Dion Lewis fumbled away a kickoff return that set up a touchdown. Judge decided to run an odd fake field goal attempt against the Browns that failed miserably when the score was still 0-0. The Ravens hurt the Giants with both punt and kickoff returns.

    Statistically, the Giants finished:

    • Field Goal Percentage: 3rd (up from 30th in 2019)
    • Kickoff Returns: 16th (down from 10th in 2019)
    • Punt Returns: 6th (down from 3rd in 2019)
    • Kickoff Coverage: 16th (down from 1st in 2019)
    • Punting: 26th (down from 23rd in 2019)
    • Punt Coverage: 21st (down from 6th in 2019)

    As you can see, other than field goal percentage, the Giants were down in every other special teams category. The team was significantly worse in kickoff and punt coverage. The Giants never really replaced Cody Core, their extraordinary punt/kick coverage specialist who tore his Achilles’ tendon in training camp.

    The star of the entire unit was clearly Gano. He only missed one field goal all season and was 5-of-6 from 50+ yards.

    KICKERS

    The Giants signed Graham Gano in August 2020. Gano had a superlative season for the Giants in 2020, converting on 31-of-32 field goal attempts (96.9 percent – second highest in team history) and 21-of-23 extra point attempts (91.3 percent). He was 5-of-6 from 50+ yards out (single-season franchise record), with a long of 55 yards. Gano converted on 30 consecutive field goals, which also was a franchise record. Thirty of his 73 kickoffs (41 percent) resulted in touchbacks. Gano spent most of his NFL career with the Washington Redskins (2009-2011) and Carolina Panthers (2012-2019). However, he missed the last four games of the 2018 season and all of the 2019 season with a knee injury. The Panthers released him in late July 2020. Gano made the Pro Bowl in 2017.

    Punter Riley Dixon saw his gross (44.8 yards per punt) and net (38.8 net yards per punt) fall in 2020, with 28 of his punts being downed inside the 20-yard line and one blocked. The 6’5”, 226-pound Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He was named to the All-Rookie team. The Giants traded with the Broncos for Dixon in April 2018, giving the Broncos a conditional 7th-round draft pick.

    Ryan Santoso spent 2020 on the Giants’ Practice Squad after the team signed him in early September. Santoso was originally signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Lions (2018-2019), Montreal Alouettes (2019, 2020), and Tennessee Titans (2019). Santoso has only played in three NFL games, solely as a kickoff specialist.

    LONG SNAPPERS

    The Giants signed long snapper Casey Kreiter as an unrestricted free agent from the Denver Broncos in April 2020. The 6’1”, 250-pound Kreiter was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Dallas Cowboys after the 2014 NFL Draft. After spending two camps with the Cowboys, Kreiter made the Denver Broncos in 2016. He made the Pro Bowl for his performance in 2018.

    The Giants signed long snapper Carson Tinker in early September 2020. He spent the year on the team’s Practice Squad. The 6’0”, 237-pound Tinker was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2013 NFL Draft. He played in 69 regular-season games for the Jaguars from 2013-2018. The Jaguars cut him in March 2019 and he did not play that year.

    RETURNERS

    The Giants did not return a punt or kickoff for a touchdown. The leading punt returner was Jabrill Peppers, who only returned 15 punts all season, but who averaged a very respectable 12.5 yards per return and came close to breaking a couple. His long return was 20 yards. On the flip side, some of his decision-making on when and when not to field a punt was questionable.

    Dion Lewis did not impress on his 24 kickoff returns, fumbling three (two of which he lost). He averaged 22.4 yards per return with a long return of 48 yards. Corey Ballentine also returned nine kickoffs before he was cut.

    LEADING SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS SNAP COUNT PERCENTAGE

    • S Nate Ebner: 74.27%
    • LB Cam Brown: 70.87%
    • FB Eli Penny: 59.47%
    • LB Devante Downs: 57.77%
    • LB David Mayo: 46.36%
    • S/CB Julian Love: 42.96%
    • CB Corey Ballentine: 34.47%
    • TE Levine Toilolo: 34.22%
    • DL Dexter Lawrence: 33.74%
    • LB Carter Coughlin: 33.50%

    Nate Ebner had a quiet year despite playing 3/4ths off all special team snaps. The Giants signed him as an unrestricted free agent from the New England Patriots in March 2020 to a 1-year, $2 million contract strictly to be a special teams stud. The leading special teams tacklers were David Mayo (8), Eli Penny (7), Cam Brown (6), and Devante Downs (6).

    Feb 032021
     
    James Bradberry, New York Giants (October 18, 2020)

    James Bradberry – © USA TODAY Sports

    The New York Giants pass defense improved from 28th in 2019 to 17th in 2020. This 11 spot jump is quite the accomplishment given the year-long swirling personnel changes at linebacker and defensive back. The Giants were tied for 4th for the fewest passing touchdowns allowed with 22 and tied for 12th in yards per passing attempt with 6.2. New York was also 2nd in red zone scoring defense. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham and his defensive assistants deserve a lot of credit for getting both units to play at a respectable level despite significant personnel issues.

    Tied in with the pass defense is the pass rush. Remarkably, despite no viable outside edge rushers, the Giants somehow finished tied for 12th in sacks with 40. Much of that had to be schemed, including blitzes from defensive backs. On the down side, the Giants only picked off 11 passes on the year, with only one player (CB James Bradberry) intercepting more than one pass.

    Only three of the team’s five primary defensive back positions were set throughout the year. Free agent acquisition James Bradberry was arguably the team’s best player, locking down one corner spot. He did miss one game due to COVID-19. Rookie Darnay Holmes won the nickel slot position, but missed four games due to injury. Strong safety Jabrill Peppers missed one game due to injury, but was also a fixture in the defensive backfield, often being utilized as a hybrid linebacker.

    The other two spots were revolving doors. At corner opposite of Bradberry, Corey Ballentine (Weeks 1-2), Isaac Yiadom (Weeks 3-4), Ryan Lewis (5-7), Yiadom again (Weeks 8-16), and Julian Love (Week 17) all started. At free safety, Love started the first two weeks, followed by Logan Ryan for the bulk of the season, until rookie Xavier McKinney started in the final weeks.

    Graham and Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson were hampered by a number of early personnel hits. 2019 1st-round cornerback Deandre Baker was cut after his legal troubles in Florida surfaced. That was a major blow to the team as Baker was being penciled in to start opposite of Bradberry. 2018 3rd-round pick Sam Beal then surprisingly decided to sit out the season due to COVID-19. Rookie 2nd-round pick Xavier McKinney broke his foot before the season started and wasn’t available until almost December.

    The primary play-makers were Bradberry, Peppers, and Ryan. Despite many teams not throwing in his direction, Bradberry led the team with interceptions (3) and pass defenses (18). He also forced two fumbles and recovered one. Peppers was third on the team in tackles (91) and second in pass defenses (11). He picked off one pass, forced one fumble, recovered one fumble, and led defensive backs with 2.5 sacks. Ryan was second on the team in tackles (94) and third in pass defenses (9). He picked off one pass, forced three fumbles, and recovered two. He also had one sack.

    Bradberry was the stud of the group. Peppers improved as the year progressed with the coaching staff seemingly having a better feel for his strengths and weaknesses. He remained an inconsistent player however. Ryan quickly became a team leader and his tremendous versatility was desperately needed at safety and corner. That said, he missed plays against the run and pass at times.

    It was an up and down year for the rookie Holmes. He did help to settle the secondary and his absence was noticed during the four games he missed due to injury. But his five penalties in coverage always seemed to come at the most inopportune times and he didn’t make many plays on the football (contrary to his collegiate reputation). The other corner spot was a a bit of a mess. Ballentine simply couldn’t handle the job and was eventually cut. Yiadom and Lewis were up-and-down, with Lewis missing most of the season due to injury. Love was a bit of an enigma. His playing time varied wildly on a game-to-game basis. He started the season at safety and finished at corner.

    THE CORE GROUP

    The Giants signed James Bradberry as an unrestricted free agent from the Carolina Panthers in March 2020. He had a major impact on the defense, arguably being the unit’s best player, and was voted to his first Pro Bowl. Bradberry started 15 games, missing one game due to COVID-19, and finished the year with 54 tackles, 18 pass defenses, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. He played in 94 percent of all defensive snaps. The 6’1”, 212-pound Bradberry was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Panthers. Bradberry is a big corner (6’1”, 212 pounds) with good speed and agility. He plays a physical game both against the run and pressing opposing corners off of the line. Outstanding in coverage, Bradberry can erase even top receivers.

    The play of Jabrill Peppers improved markedly as the 2020 season progressed as he seemed to become more comfortable with the team’s new defensive schemes and the coaches learned better how to use him. At times, he was a real difference maker on the field. However, there was still some annoying inconsistency in his play, particularly in coverage. Peppers played in 15 games with 14 starts (84 percent of all defensive snaps), missing one game with an ankle injury. He finished the season with 91 tackles, 19 tackles for losses, 2.5 sacks, nine quarterback hits, 11 pass defenses, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Peppers also served as the team’s primary punt returner, returning 15 punts for 187 yards (12.5 yards per punt). Peppers was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He was traded to the Giants as part of the Odell Beckham deal in March 2019. He started 11 games for the Giants in 2019 before being placed on Injured Reserve with a transverse process fracture in his back. Peppers combines good size (5’11”, 215 pounds) and overall athleticism. Still a better athlete than football player, Peppers flashes signs of being an impact safety, but he must become a more consistent player, especially against the pass. He does his best work when moving forward and attacking the line of scrimmage.

    The Giants signed Logan Ryan in late August 2020. He ended up being a very important, jack-of-all-trades defensive back who was used at both safety and corner. Ryan also quickly became a team leader and solid presence in the locker room. In all, Ryan played in all 16 games with 15 starts (96 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the season with 94 tackles, one sack, nine pass defenses, one interception, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. The 5’11”, 195-pound Ryan was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. He has spent time with the Patriots (2013-2016) and Titans (2017-2019), playing 109 regular-season games with 85 starts. Ryan has spent most of his career at corner, but now prefers to play safety. While Ryan has history of being an instinctive, play-maker, he also still misses too many tackles and can be exposed in coverage at times.

    The Giants drafted Darnay Holmes in the 4th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Serving as the team’s primary slot corner, he played in 12 games, with five starts, missing four games due to injuries (neck and knee). Holmes finished the season with 30 tackles, 0.5 sacks, five pass defenses, one interception, and one fumble recovery. He played in 41 percent of all defensive snaps. Holmes lacks ideal height, but he is well-built with good speed and quickness. He is overly aggressive at times, as indicated by his five penalties in coverage. While Holmes had a solid rookie season in coverage, he needs to make more plays on the ball. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs, but did not do so in 2020.

    THE UNFORTUNATE INJURY

    The Giants placed Xavier McKinney on Injured Reserve in early September 2020 with a fractured left foot that required surgery. The team activated him off of IR in late November 2020. McKinney ended up playing in six games with four starts (19 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the season with 25 tackles, one tackle for a loss, one interception, and one pass defense. The Giants drafted McKinney in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The 6’0”, 201-pound McKinney is versatile performer, who is capable of playing multiple positions. He is a good athlete with fine instincts for the position, but he needs to become a more consistent tackler. Most of his rookie season was a wash due to his broken foot.

    IN-AND-OUT OF THE STARTING LINE-UP

    The Giants traded a 7th-round pick to the Denver Broncos for Isaac Yiadom in early September 2020. Yiadom eventually won the starting corner spot opposite of James Bradberry, playing in all 16 games with 10 starts (58 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the year with 46 tackles, 0.5 sacks, five pass defenses, and one forced fumble. The 6’1”, 190-pound Yiadom was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Broncos. In two years with Denver, Yiadom played in 29-regular season games with nine starts. Yiadom has good size and plays a physical game. However, after some decent performances, his play really deteriorated down the stretch, and he was benched for Julian Love in the regular-season finale. Yiadom also did not make many plays on the football.

    Julian Love spent most of 2020 playing safety but was shifted to cornerback late in the year, starting two of the final three games at the position (one in the slot). He also saw his playing time dramatically fluctuate on a per-game basis. In all, Love played in all 16 games with six starts (66 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the year with 64 tackles, three pass defenses, and one interception. A collegiate corner, the Giants drafted Love in the 4th round of the 2019 NFL Draft and moved him to safety. He played in 15 games with five starts as a rookie. A bit of a cornerback/safety tweener, Love lacks ideal physicality for safety and ideal speed/quickness for cornerback. But he is a versatile performer who played well at the corner spot late in 2020. Love needs to improve his tackling and make more plays on the football.

    The Giants placed Ryan Lewis on Injured Reserve in early November 2020 with a hamstring injury. Before that, he had played in five games for the Giants, starting three (25 percent of defensive snaps). Lewis finished the year with 13 tackles and one pass defense. Lewis was originally signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Cardinals (2017), New England Patriots (2017-2018), Buffalo Bills (2018), Indianapolis Colts (2019), Philadelphia Eagles (2019), Miami Dolphins (2019), and Washington Football Team (2020). The Giants signed Lewis to the Practice Squad in early September 2020 and to the 53-man roster two weeks later. Lewis has played in 25 NFL regular-season games with nine starts. Lewis had a mixed performance in his three consecutive starts in October, playing well at times and struggling in one game.

    The Giants placed Adrian Colbert on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury in early November 2020 and reactivated him to the 53-man roster in mid-December. He ended up playing in six games with two starts (10 percent of all defensive snaps) and finished the year with 13 tackles. The 6’2”, 205-pound Colbert was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Colbert has spent time with the 49ers (2017-2019), Seattle Seahawks (2019), Miami Dolphins (2019), and Kansas City Chiefs (2020). The Giants claimed Colbert off of waivers from the Chiefs in early September 2020. He has played in 33 regular-season games with 19 starts, accruing 74 tackles and eight pass defenses. Colbert has also played cornerback and is a good gunner on special teams. He had mixed reviews in his two starts in 2020.

    The Giants drafted Corey Ballentine in the 6th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Ballentine played in 13 games with two starts, receiving 27 percent of all defensive snaps. He finished with 26 tackles and two pass defenses, often struggling in coverage. Ballentine won the starting corner spot opposite of James Bradberry to start the 2020 season, but was benched after just two games. He played in seven more games, returning 10 kickoffs, before the Giants waived him in November. He spent the rest of the season with the New York Jets.

    SPECIAL TEAMS AND PRACTICE SQUAD

    The Giants signed Nate Ebner as an unrestricted free agent from the New England Patriots in March 2020. Almost exclusively a special teams player, Ebner only saw limited snaps on defense in five games, finishing with eight tackles and one pass defense. The 6’0”, 215-pound Ebner was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Patriots. In eight seasons in New England, Ebner has played in 111 regular-season games with no starts.

    The Giants signed Madre Harper off of the Practice Squad of the Las Vegas Raiders in late September 2020. He was placed on Injured Reserve in mid-December with a knee injury after playing in nine games with no starts. The Giants activated him to the 53-man roster in early January 2021, but he did not play in the season finale. Harper ended up playing in just three percent of all defensive snaps and was credited with five tackles and one fumble recovery. The 6’1”, 196-pound Harper was signed by the Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft.

    Montre Hartage alternated between the Giants’ Practice Squad and the 53-man roster a number of times in 2020. He only played in two games (two percent of all defensive snaps) and was not credited with a single tackle or pass defense. Hartage originally signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Giants claimed Hartage off of waivers from the Dolphins in April 2020. Hartage has played in six NFL games.

    The Giants signed Jarren Williams in early August 2020 after he was waived by the Arizona Cardinals. He spent most of the year on the Practice Squad, but did play in two games exclusively on special teams. The 5’10”, 187-pound Williams was signed by the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft.

    The Giants signed Quincy Wilson to the Practice Squad in November 2020. The 6’2”, 193-pound Wilson was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He has spent time with Colts (2017-2019) and New York Jets (2020). Wilson has played in 32 regular-season games with 11 starts, accruing 59 tackles, 8 pass defenses, and 2 interceptions.

    The Giants placed Brandon Williams on Injured Reserve in late September 2020 with a groin injury and reactivated him to the 53-man roster in early November. The team cut him a month later. In all, Williams played in six games, exclusively on special teams. Williams was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The Giants signed him in late August 2020.

    The Giants originally signed Sean Chandler as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent all of 2018 and parts of 2019 on the team’s 53-man roster. He began 2020 on the team’s Practice Squad, but was activated for three games, playing almost exclusively on special teams. The Carolina Panthers signed him off of the Giants’ Practice Squad in October.

    The Giants selected Chris Williamson in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent most of the season on the team’s Practice Squad until he was cut in December.

    COVID-19 OPT-OUT

    Sam Beal opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the COVID-19 issue. Beal has had a rough start to his pro career. The Giants selected Beal in the 3rd round of the Supplemental Draft in July 2018. He missed all of his rookie season when he was placed on Injured Reserve in July 2018 with a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Giants placed Beal on Injured Reserve again in September 2019 with hamstring and groin injuries, but added him to the 53-man roster in early November. Beal missed the last game with another shoulder issue. In all, Beal played in six games with three starts, receiving 26 percent of defensive snaps, and accruing 26 tackles and one pass defense. Beal combines good size (6’1”, 177 pounds) and overall athleticism. Stating the obvious, Beal needs to stay healthy. But he flashes the ability to be a solid coverman when he does play.

    Feb 012021
     
    Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee Volunteers (December 12, 2020)

    Jeremy Pruitt – © USA TODAY Sports

    GIANTS HIRE JEREMY PRUITT…
    Although not officially announced, the New York Giants have reportedly hired former University of Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt in an unidentified capacity. Pruitt was fired by the University of Tennessee on January 18 for recruiting violations. Before serving as head coach at Tennessee, the 46-year old Pruitt was the defensive coordinator at Florida (2013), Georgia (2014-2015), and Alabama (2016-2017).

    • 2018-2020: Head Coach, University of Tennessee
    • 2016-2017: Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach, University of Alabama
    • 2014-2015: Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach, University of Georgia
    • 2013: Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach, University of Florida
    • 2010-2012: Defensive Backs Coach, University of Alabama
    • 2007-2009: Director of Player Development, University of Alabama
    • 2005-2006: Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach, Hoover High School (Alabama)
    • 2004: Defensive Backs Coach, Hoover High School (Alabama)
    • 2001-2003: Assistant Coach, Fort Payne High School (Alabama)
    • 2000: Defensive Coordinator, Plainview High School (Alabama)
    • 1999: Defensive Backs Coach, University of West Alabama
    • 1998: Defensive Backs Coach, Plainview High School (Alabama)
    • 1997: Graduate Assistant, University of Alabama
    • Pro Experience: None
    • Collegiate Experience: Defensive Back, Middle Tennessee State University (1993-1994)/University of Alabama (1995-1996)
    • Born: May 28, 1974

    GIANTS INTERVIEW MIKE DEVLIN…
    The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the New York Giants have interviewed Mike Devlin for the team’s vacant offensive line coaching position. The 51-year old Devlin has served as offensive line coach of the New York Jets (2013-2014) and Houston Texans (2015-2020) in recent years. Before that, he was the tight ends coach on the Jets (2006-2012). 

    The Giants fired Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo in mid-November 2020 and replaced him with Dave DeGuglielmo for the final eight games of the season. DeGuglielmo’s contract expired in January. The Athletic reported 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 New York Post, but for now, the Giants are searching for other options.

    VIKINGS INTERESTED IN TYKE TOLBERT…
    The NFL Network is reporting that the Minnesota Vikings will interview New York Giants Wide Receiver Coach Tyke Tolbert for the team’s offensive coordinator vacancy. Tolbert has coached the Giants’ wide receivers since 2018, under both head coaches Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge.

    LIONS AND VIKINGS INTERESTED IN ANTHONY BLEVINS…
    ESPN is reporting that the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings recently interviewed New York Giants Assistant Defensive Backs Coach Anthony Blevins for special teams coach vacancies. Blevins served as a special teams assistant coach with the Cardinals (2013-2017) and Giants (2018-2019) in recent years. Head Coach Joe Judge moved him to assistant defensive backs coach in 2020.

    GIANTS SIGN CENTER…
    The New York Giants have signed center Jonotthan Harrison to a reserve/future contract. The deal is reportedly a 1-year, $2 million contract. The 29-year old, 6’4”, 300-pound Harrison was originally signed by the Indianapolis Colts as undrafted rookie free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Colts (2014-2016), New York Jets (2017-2019), and Buffalo Bills (2020). Harrison has played in 84 regular-season games with 42 starts.

    GIANTS RE-SIGN PUNTER/KICKER…
    The New York Giants have re-signed punter/kicker Ryan Santoso to reserve/future contract. Santoso was originally signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Lions (2018-2019), Montreal Alouettes (2019, 2020), and Tennessee Titans (2019). Santoso spent 2020 on the Giants’ Practice Squad after the team signed him in early September. Santoso has only played in three NFL games, solely as a kickoff specialist.

    Feb 012021
     
    Blake Martinez, New York Giants (September 27, 2020)

    Blake Martinez – © USA TODAY Sports

    As we covered in our defensive line review, the New York Giants defense significantly improved from 25th in 2019 to 12th in 2020 in terms of yards allowed. It was a remarkable achievement given the year-long personnel changes in the back seven on defense. There were no adjustments on the defensive line. The same three starters and two back-ups played in every game. The same could not be said for the linebackers and defensive backs.

    In today’s 3-4 defenses, the outside linebackers are more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, increasingly commonly referred to as “edge” players. The two Giants who won the starting edge jobs (Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines) were both lost for the season in early October with 3/4ths of the season left to play. Their primary back-up (Markus Golden) was traded to the Cardinals a few weeks later with half the season left to play. The next man up (OLB/ILB hybrid Kyler Fackrell) missed four games due to a calf injury. The Giants were forced to rely on three rookies (7th rounder Carter Coughlin, 6th rounder Cam Brown, and undrafted free agent Niko Lalos) and two retreads (Jabaal Sheard and Trent Harris).

    There was chaos too at one of the inside linebacker spots. Devonta Downs started the season but was unimpressive and lost his job to rookie Tae Crowder, the very last player taken in the draft. But after starting two games, Crowder landed on Injured Reserve with a groin injury for five games. Downs was reinserted into the starting line-up, but now David Mayo, who missed the first five games of the season with a knee injury, also saw increased playing time and two starts. Crowder returned in late November and reclaimed the starting job.

    Whew. Just typing that was confusing. The only constants were free agent godsend Blake Martinez and the coaching staff.

    Martinez was the glue that held the defense together. He directed the defense, played virtually every defensive snap (97 percent), and was a tackling machine (team-high 151 tackles). Long story short, Martinez is the best inside linebacker the Giants have had since Antonio Pierce was cut a decade ago.

    Inside Linebackers Coach Kevin Sherrer and Outside Linebackers Coach Bret Bielema did a marvelous job of mixing and matching on a week-to-week basis. Look no further than the edge position where the Giants were left scrambling. At one point, the available players to use were Sheard, Coughlin, Brown, and Lalos. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham, who coached linebackers with the Patriots and Packers, also employed defensive backs at linebacker in various packages. But there was a bit of chaos even in the coaching ranks when Bielema left the Giants with three games left to play to become head coach at the University of Illinois. Sherrer then handled both positions.

    Aside from Martinez, what really stands out is that all four of the team’s late-round draft picks at linebacker made the team in addition to a rookie free agent. All five of these rookies played. The Giants were hammered by injuries at the outside linebacker position – down to their 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th options – and yet the coaching staff held the unit together. The biggest negative was the lack of pass rush, particularly from the edge spots. Of the team’s 40 sacks, 13.5 came from the linebackers (and four of them were from inside backers Martinez and Crowder). Fackrell led the linebacking corps with just four sacks.

    INSIDE LINEBACKERS

    The Giants signed Blake Martinez as an unrestricted free agent from the Green Bay Packers in March 2020. He had a major impact on the defense, starting all 16 games and playing in 97 percent of all defensive snaps. Martinez finished the season with a team-high 151 tackles and also accrued nine tackles for losses, three sacks, six quarterback hits, five pass defenses, one interception, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. The 6’2”, 237-pound Martinez was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Packers. In four seasons with Green Bay, Martinez has played in 61 regular-season games with 57 starts, accruing 512 tackles and 10 sacks. Martinez lacks ideal size and range for the position, but he is a heady player who can make the defensive calls and gets in on lot of tackles. He is better against the run than the pass.

    The Giants selected Tae Crowder in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He surprisingly moved into the starting line-up in Week 5 and 6 before suffering a groin injury that landed him on Injured Reserve for five games. Crowder returned in late November, starting four of his final six games. In all, Crowder played in 11 games with six starts (37 percent of all defensive snaps), and was credited with 57 tackles, three tackles for losses, one sack, three quarterback hits, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery that he returned for a game-winning touchdown. The 6’3”, 235-pound Crowder was moved from running back to linebacker in college and thus is still learning the position. Only a 1-year starter in college. While Crowder lacks ideal size, he is a good athlete and seems to have good instincts for the position. He must improve his tackling consistency.

    Devante Downs began the season as a starter, but saw his playing time give way to Tae Crowder. Downs played in all 16 games with eight starts (21 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the season with 33 tackles, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery. The 6’2”, 252-pound Downs was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings waived him in late September 2019 and he was then signed by the Giants to their Practice Squad and 53-man roster in October 2019. Downs played in seven games for the Giants in 2019 on special teams. Downs has good size, but he did not impress against the run or pass in 2020 despite his eight starts.

    The Giants placed David Mayo on Injured Reserve in early September 2020 with a torn meniscus in his left knee that required surgery. He was activated from Injured Reserve in mid-October. Mayo ended up playing in 11 games with two starts (18 percent of all defensive snaps). He was credited with 29 tackles, two tackles for losses, and one forced fumble. The Giants signed Mayo in September 2019 after he was cut by the San Francisco 49ers. He surprisingly ended up playing in all 16 games with 13 starts, playing in 57 percent of all defensive snaps, and finishing with 82 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 pass defenses. The 6’2”, 240-pound Mayo was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. After four seasons in Carolina, Mayo signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2019. Before coming to the Giants, Mayo only had started four NFL games in four seasons. Mayo lacks ideal tools which limits his ability defend the run and cover receivers, but he plays hard.

    The Giants selected T.J. Brunson in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Brunson spent most of the season on the inactive list, but he did play in five games, almost exclusively on special teams. He was credited with three tackles. The 6’1”, 230-pound Brunson is an undersized inside linebacker with decent but not ideal athleticism. He is very physical and aggressive.

    EDGE

    The Giants placed Lorenzo Carter on Injured Reserve with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon that he suffered in Week 5 in October 2020. He underwent surgery and missed the rest of the season after starting all five games and finishing with 14 tackles and one sack. The Giants drafted Carter in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Carter played in 15 games as a rookie with two starts, finishing the season with 43 tackles, 4 sacks, and 4 pass defenses. In 2019, Carter started 12 of the 15 games he played in, finishing the year with 45 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 5 pass defenses, and 1 forced fumble. Carter is a tall, athletic, disruptive forward mover. Carter looks the part, combining good size (6’5”, 255 pounds) and overall athletic ability. He flashes the ability to disrupt, but must do a better job of disengaging from blockers and making more plays. Versatile, he can play with his hand in the dirt.

    Oshane Ximines was placed on Injured Reserve in early October 2020 with a shoulder injury that he suffered in Week 4. He returned to practice in late November, but his season ended when it was determined he would need rotator cuff surgery. Ximines started three of the four games he played in and finished the season with just four tackles. The Giants drafted Ximines in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He played at end in college. Ximines had a mixed performance in his rookie season in 2019. He received significant playing time, playing in all 16 games with two starts, playing in 45 percent of all defensive snaps, and accruing 25 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and one pass defense. Ximines has a nice combination of size (6’4”, 254 pounds) and overall athletic-ability. Ximines flashed at times as a pass rusher, but he must become a more physical run defender and more consistent, dynamic performer when rushing the passer. He also needs work in coverage.

    2020 was an odd year for Markus Golden. Coming off of a superlative debut season for the Giants as a 1-year free agent rental in 2019 (career-high 72 tackles and team-high 10 sacks), Golden did not receive much interest in 2020 free agency. He re-signed with the Giants very late in the offseason in early August, but did not regain his starting position when the season started. The Giants then traded him to the Cardinals in late October. Golden ended up having a much bigger impact with the Cardinals than the Giants in 2020. With the Giants, he played in seven games with one start (16 percent of all defensive snaps) and finished with just 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Golden was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Cardinals. After rejoining the Cardinals, Golden started the final eight games, including a 1-sack, 1-fumble recovery performance against the Giants in Week 14. 

    The Giants placed Kyler Fackrell on Injured Reserve in early December 2020 with a calf injury and activated him to the 53-man roster in early January 2021. In all, Fackrell played in 12 games with nine starts. He played in 56 percent of all defensive snaps and finished the season with 34 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, four sacks, 10 quarterback hits, two pass defenses, one interception that he returned for a touchdown, and one forced fumble. The 6’5”, 245-pound Fackrell was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. In four seasons with Green Bay, Fackrell played in 61 regular-season games with nine starts, compiling 111 tackles, 16.5 sacks, one pass defense, and one forced fumble. Fackrell’s best season was in 2018 when he started seven games and accrued 42 tackles and 10.5 sacks. The Giants signed Fackrell an unrestricted free agent from the Packers in March 2020. Although not a dynamic athlete, Fackrell is a big, versatile linebacker who can play outside or inside linebacker. He flashes as a pass rusher.

    The Giants signed Jabaal Sheard off of the Practice Squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars in October 2020. He ended up playing in nine games for the Giants with three starts (24 percent of all defensive snaps), and finished with 19 tackles, two tackles for losses, 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, and one forced fumble. The 6’3”, 268-pound Sheard was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He has spent time with the Browns (2011-2014), New England Patriots (2015-2016), Indianapolis Colts (2017-2019), and Jaguars (2020). Sheard has played in 144 regular-season games with 106 starts. While not a dynamic performer, Sheard is a steady, veteran presence who is solid against the run and will occasionally make some noise as a pass rusher.

    The Giants selected Carter Coughlin in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He played in 14 games as a rookie with two starts (18 percent of all defensive snaps). Coughlin finished the season with 17 tackles, two tackles for losses, one sack, and two quarterback hits. The 6’3”, 236-pound Coughlin is not a top athlete, but he is a tough, competitive, and reliable linebacker who plays hard.

    The Giants selected Cam Brown in the 6th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He played in 15 games as a rookie with no starts (8 percent of all defensive snaps). Brown finished the year with 12 tackles, three quarterback hits, and one forced fumble. The 6’5”, 233-pound Brown is a tall and lanky outside backer with long arms and decent speed. His size and solid athletic ability assist him coverage but he needs to improve his run defense at the point-of-attack and overall tackling consistency.

    The Giants signed Niko Lalos as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. Lalos spent most of the season on the Practice Squad but was elevated to the 53-man roster in December. He played in six games with no starts as a rookie (7 percent of all defensive snaps). Lalos finished the season with six tackles, one interception, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery. The 6’5”, 270-pound Lalos played defensive end in college but was moved to the outside linebacker position by the Giants. He has good size for the position, but is not a dynamic athlete. Over-achiever who plays hard.

    The Giants signed Trent Harris to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in October 2020; he was re-signed to the Practice Squad in December after playing in four games with two starts (6 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished they year with five tackles and 0.5 sacks. The 6’2”, 255-pound Harris was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the New England Patriots after the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on the Practice Squad of the Patriots. The Miami Dolphins claimed Harris off of waivers in September 2019. He played in 11 games with three starts with the Dolphins, accruing 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The Dolphins cut him in early September 2020.