Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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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
 
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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…

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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 202021
 
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