Apr 032018
 
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Michael Gallup, Colorado State Rams (August 26, 2017)

Michael Gallup – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

1 – Michael Gallup – Colorado State – 6’1/205

Grade: 82

Strong Points:

-Smooth and easy approach but plays fast and aggressive
-A weapon after the catch that fights through tackles and displays good vision
-Adjusts to the ball with full balance, control, concentration

Weak Points:

-Effort and energy output can be inconsistent
-Doesn’t track the deep ball well
-Ran a limited route tree and will have an uphill climb mentally

Summary:

Spent two years at Colorado State after a two year stint in junior college. Was originally committed to Georgia out of high school but didn’t have the grades. Gallup isn’t a household name but his game translates to the next level very well. He is physical, explosive, and an excellent hands-catcher. If he can learn the offensive system he is drafted in to, he can be a stud. Everything else is there.

NFL Comparison: DeAndre Hopkins / HOU

2 – Courtland Sutton – SMU – 6’3/218

Grade: 81

Strong Points:

-Overly physical and a borderline bully that wants to beat up defensive backs
-Pure hands catcher, swallows the ball on contact
-Effective and experienced with yards after the catch, can create on his own

Weak Points:

-Struggles to separate down field because of a lack of long speed
-Route running needs a lot of work
-Relied on being more talented rather than doing things right

Summary:

Fourth year junior entry. Enters the league with a massive amount of production, mainly a result of the scheme he played in. Caught a lot of uncontested passes, ran a lot of easy routes. Sutton is a gamble because of how much progression and learning he will need to under go, but the upside is enormous. He already has the ability to come down with the ball in traffic and he has shown the ability to burst, change direction, and jump. He may need more time than the common first round WR, but his potential is elite.

NFL Comparison: Dez Bryant / DAL

3 – Calvin Ridley – Alabama – 6’0/189

Grade: 80

Strong Points

-Lightening quick off the line, in and out of hs breaks, immediate separation
-Attacks the ball with his hands, very goo mechanically
-Competitive, fiery player that will play with an edge

Weak Points:

-Weak presence against the press, can be tossed around
-Too may drops over his entire career, ongoing issue
-Doesn’t win enough of the 1 on 1 battles downfield

Summary:

¬Junior entry. It has been a rough ride for Ridley. He came in with really high expectations and everyone labeled him the next Amari Cooper, but he never quite reached that level. Part of why that was the case was the Alabama offense and inconsistent passing game. I was looking to give this kid a top 10 overall grade but too many things kept popping up. A lack of presence and inconsistent hands stood out to me. Still a 1st round talent that is NFL ready right now, but I don’t see a star.

NFL Comparison: Malcolm Mitchell / NE

4 – Equanimeous St. Brown – Notre Dame – 6’5/214

Grade: 80

Strong Points:

-Long but easy moving limbs, very fluid
-High points the ball, times his leaps and lunges for the ball
-Has the long stride speed to be a factor in the open field

Weak Points:

-Struggles to get off the strong jam at the point of attack, not very physical
-Needs more core strength, his lack of it shows up on tape
-Needs more urgency as a route runner

Summary:

Junior entry. Had a strong 2016 season with Kizer throwing the ball and everyone as excited about him heading in to 2017, but the horrid QB play took away a third of his production. St. Brown is an upside based pick, as he just doesn’t look ready to handle the physical side of the NFL yet. But Gettleman loves big WRs that display ball skills and smoothness to their moving, and those are stand out traits with St. Brown.

NFL Comparison: Tyrell Williams / LAC

5 – DJ Moore – Maryland – 6’0/210

Grade: 80

Strong Points:

-Tough, hard nosed, fiery player that wants it
-Has a running back type mentality and ability after the catch
-Can shoot out of a cannon, excellent burst straight line and laterally

Weak Points:

-Lack of height and length limit him in traffic, especially downfield
-Ran a limited route tree
-Separation as a route runner isn’t near what it should be

Summary:

Junior entry. 2017 Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year. Moore turned in to one of my favorite players to watch towards the end of the year. He wasn’t really on my radar, then I saw 3 straight games and just loved how how competed. He has some of the Steve Smith (CAR/BAL) fire in him. He checked a lot of boxes, then I got some really good information on his intangibles and attitude, and then he crushed the combine. Put him with a real QB and I think you are talking about a big time difference maker over time.

NFL Comparison: Sammy Watkins / KC

6 – Anthony Miller – Memphis – 5’11/201

Grade: 80

Strong Points:

-Feisty, tough, and hard nosed with and without the ball, he will compete
-Explosive in short areas, can burst from a standstill both as a runner and jumper
-Hard to hang with as a route runner, consistently separates

Weak Points:

-Lack of size shows up on tape
-Too many drops on easy, catchable balls
-Saw a lot of production come on uncontested catches

Summary:

Fifth year senior. It took me 2-3 games to really convince myself that Miller was more than a gimmicky pass catcher. Once I did come around, I was sold hard. Miller looks small but can play big in certain situations. His movement and toughness stand out, as he is a guy that will succeed in the slot early but could make plays on the outside as well once he learns the NFL game. You may need to be patient with him, but I also don’t bet against talent that plays with passion.

NFL Comparison: Antonio Brown / PIT

7 – Daesean Hamilton – Penn State – 6’1/203

Grade: 80

Strong Points:

-Excellent route runner with explosive, quick feet and powerful re-direction
-Aggressive and brave in traffic
-Hard worker on and off the field that understands the game and his role

Weak Points:

-Too many concentration drops on easy throws
-Lacks the final gear to outrun corners on deep routes
-Isn’t a natural-vision ball carrier after the catch, will leave some yards on the table

Summary:

Fifth year senior that left Penn State as one of the most accomplished receivers in the program’s history. Hamilton is made for the slot initially, but can be a playmaker on the outside as well. His ball skills are very good, but just a bit inconsistent. Hamilton is a first class, mature beyond his years individual that you know will come in and work his butt off. The talent is there, as he will be a kid tat can get open right away and he is tough over the middle. In the right situation, he is the kind of WR that caches 80+ passes in year one.

NFL Comparison: Randall Cobb / GB

8 – Trey Quinn – SMU – 5’11/203

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Pro caliber route runner and hands catcher right now
-Light feet and easy change of direction, can explode in small areas
-Crafty and smart, understands how to create space and take advantage of it

Weak Points:

-Might be an underneath threat-only, doesn’t get behind corners downfield
-Lacks range as a pass catcher, not a big one on one guy
-Ran a limited route tree, will have a lot to learn

Summary:

Fourth year junior. Began his career at LSU after setting the national high school record for catches in high school. Had a hard time breaking in to the regular rotation and transferred to SMU, sitting out 2016. In his one year there, he led the nation in catches despite sharing the field with fellow prospect Courtland Sutton Quinn has top-tier slot receiver written all over him. He is one of the more reliable hands catchers, changes direction on a dime, and simply plays smarter than others. He won’t be stat anywhere, but he can be a big difference maker.

9 – Dylan Cantrell – Texas Tech – 6’3/226

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Physical pass catcher that wins the majority of his one on one battles
-Top tier athlete, both straight line and short area agility
-Tough matchup in space with the ball in his hands, breaks tackles with ease

Weak Points:

-Coming from a WR-friendly offense, needs time to adjust
-Needs to get out of his breaks better
-Doesn’t have a natural sense of vision and escapability

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Missed 2015 with a back injury but played all but 2 games over 2016 and 2017. Cantrell was on my radar heading in to 2017 as a potential day 3 pick, but he quickly grew on me with his straight line burst at 220+ pounds and physical style. Cantrell toys around with defensive backs like he is a 250 pound tight end. He always wins the physical battle and his athleticism leads me to believe there is a lot of untapped potential as a route runner.

NFL Comparison: Demaryius Thomas – DEN

10 – Christian Kirk – Texas A& M – 5’10/201

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Elite straight line burst with the ball
-Good concentration in traffic, plays bigger than he is
-Route running has come a long way, he is very detailed and advanced

Weak Points:

-Too much of a straight line athlete that struggles to adjust on the fly
-Limited range as a pass catcher
-May be a slot-only receiver

Summary:

Junior entry. Burst on to the scene in 2015 as a record setting freshman, looked like the next big thing. After catching 80 passes for 1,009 yards and 8 TDs in addition to 3 punt return TDs, Kirk was labeled a 1st rounder too early. He did have to deal with inconsistent QB play, but he never developed some of the top tier physical traits you want out of a slot WR. Those guys need to have more short area quickness and ability change direction, while think Kirk is more of a straight-line guy. He is a solid day 2 guy that can add value as a returner, but I don’t see enough to put a 1st round grade on him at WR.

NFL Comparison: Kenny Stills / MIA

11 – James Washington – Oklahoma State – 5’11/213

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Powerfully built with long arms and big hands, and he plays like it too
-Tracks the deep ball exceptionally well, with balance and accuracy
-Can play at different speeds, good at playing the mental game with DBs

Weak Points:

-Ran a very limited route tree in college
-Doesn’t have the true runaway speed as a deep threat
-Doesn’t explode out of his breaks, separation isn’t always there

Summary:

Ultra-productive 4 year career that made a living on catching the deep ball. Has been the top downfield receiver over the past 2 seasons. Washington benefited from the scheme and conference he played n when considering his production, but there is still plenty of quality tape here. He may even be a guy that is better made for the NFL because of how strong he can play in traffic. Washington isn’t a blazer, but his ball tracking and power presence make him a threat in one on one situations. Interesting prospect here.

NFL Comparison: Mohamed Sanu / ATL

12 – Braxton Berrios – Miami – 5’9/184

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Dangerous from the slot with his easy, top notch agility and route running
-Adjust to the poorly thrown ball, always has full control of his body
-Feisty competitor that will find ways to create on his own

Weak Points:

-He is at the bottom tier of size in the NFL
-Doesn’t have the deep speed to put a corner on his heels
-Hips don’t fluidly change direction

Summary:

The kind of guy you want playing the slot is smart, quick, reliable, consistent, and tough. Berrios checks all those boxes with flying colors. He will be a limited contributor in the passing game, but a valuable one. He can also bring value as a punt returner.

NFL Comparison: Trent Taylor / SF

13 – Simmie Cobbs – Indiana – 6’3/220

Grade: 76

Strong Points:

-Physical, plays the role of a bully when the ball is in the air
-Excels with the back shoulder throws, able to control his body while adjusting
-Able to win in traffic often

Weak Points:

-Lacks both the short area burst and long speed to create separation
-Isn’t very explosive way to get in and of breaks laterally
-Lacks the quickness and looseness in his hips after the catch

Summary:

Has been the downfield threat in the IU offense for 3 years in a row. There are holes in his athleticism but he doesn’t have to be open to make the impact. Cobbs makes a lot of catches with defenders draped all over him, he wins more than his fair share of 50/50 balls. He is an interesting outside WR in a class that doesn’t have a lot of them.

NFL Comparison: Mike Evans / TB

14 – Javon Wims – Georgia – 6’3/215

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-No hesitation in playing the physical game
-Boxes out defenders from the ball, knows how to use his body
-Tracks the ball well, good balance and accuracy

Weak Points:

-Drops too many of the easy passes
-Lacks the over the top speed, may be limited on the route tree
-Seemed to struggle making reads against zone coverage

Summary:

Junior college transfer that really broke out in 2017, leading the Bulldogs in catches, yards, and TDs. The former basketball player is a solid possession receiver prospect that is very body and space aware, something you need to see for someone that lacks deep speed. Backup early on in his career that still comes across raw and therefore a higher ceiling than most.

NFL Comparison: Allen Robinson / CHI

15 – DJ Chark – LSU – 6’3/199

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Top tier long speed, immediate deep threat
-Good vision with the ball in his hands
-Has a smoothness to his game that makes things look easy

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t play physical enough, gets tossed around
-Struggles to locate, track, and attack the ball with balance
-Sloppy route runner

Summary:

Suffered through some poor QB play at LSU in an offense that always favored the running game. Chark had his moments of brilliance and then went to the combine and tore it up. There is a lot of excitement surrounding him but I went back and watched all the LSU tape I had and I just don’t see the ball skills. It is hard to be a deep threat without ball skills…maybe he can be like Ted Ginn and evolve as his career goes, but there is too low of a floor here for me to consider him early day 2.

NFL Comparison: Torrey Smith / SF

16 = Antonio Callaway – Florida – 5’11/200 – GRADE: 75
17 – Deon Cain – Clemson – 6’2/202 – GRADE: 75
18 – Dante Pettis – Washington – 6’0/186 – GRADE: 75
19 – Auden Tate – Florida State – 6’5/228 – GRADE: 75
20 – Korey Robertson – Southern Miss – 6’1/212 – GRADE: 73
21 – Justin Watson – Pennsylvania – 6’3/225 – GRADE: 73
22 – Cam Phillips – Virginia Tech – 6’0/195 – GRADE: 73
23 – J’Mon Moore – Missouri – 6’3/207 – GRADE: 73
24 – Jordan Lasley – UCLA – 6’1/203 – GRADE: 72
25 – Byron Pringle – Kansas State – 6’1/205 – GRADE: 71

Apr 022018
 
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Saquon Barkley, Penn State Nittany Lions (December 30, 2017)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

“NFL Comparisons” are more about playing style, not career projections.

1 – Saquon Barkley – Penn State – 6’0/233

Grade: 94

Strong Points:

-Top tier movement when it comes to agility, explosion, speed
-Able to see diagnose and adjust on the fly, balance and control are at a rare level
-A big time factor as a pass catcher

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t take what the defense gives, too often looking for the home run
-Too much dancing as he approaches the inside running lanes
-Doesn’t impact pass rushers the way he can

Summary:

Junior entry. The top player in this draft, something I have been saying since early October. Barkley is a generational talent that does almost everything at the top level. He is built to carry a load when he has to and has the versatility to impact the game in several ways. He can be a focal point of an offense much like what Elliot and Gurley have provided for DAL and LAR, respectively.

NFL Comparison: Marshall Faulk / RET

2 – Sony Michel – Georgia – 5’11/214

Grade: 81

Strong Points:

-Violent, competitive, and fearless runner that can run through anyone
-Has a knack for finding windows and lanes, has a nose for space
-Can accelerate in a blink once he reaches the open field

Weak Points:

-Can be caught from behind, long speed is limited
-Can be a little stiff as a lateral runner
-Needs to hold the ball tighter to his body

Summary:

An overlooked senior because of the superstar status of Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb a few years ago. He finally got the attention he deserved in 2017 after he broke the 1,000 yard mark for the second time in three years. Michel is a blue collar runner. No-nonsense, hits the hole hard, plays with the proper blend of wiggle and toughness. Won’t ever be a superstar but he is the kind of back that sticks around for a long time and is appreciated more and more later in his career, a la Frank Gore.

NFL Comparison: Frank Gore / IND

3 – Ronald Jones – USC – 5’11/205

Grade: 80

Strong Points:

-Easy, natural explosion that reaches a top speed (sub 4.4) in a blink
-Easily adjusts his intentions, loose hipped and top tier balance
-Consistently shakes off initial contact

Weak Points:

-Slight frame, likely can’t handle a full load
-Made no impact as a receiver or blocker in college
-Runs with his feet too close together, needs a sturdier base

Summary:

Junior entry. Former track athlete. One of the top RBs in USC history. One of my favorite backs to watch all year, he just screams “big play” when he gets the ball in his hands. Jones isn’t an every down guy, but that doesn’t matter too much. Pair him with a bruiser and he might be one of the most dangerous players in the league. If he can prove to be a pass catcher, this could be the next Kamara.

NFL Comparison: Chris Johnson / FA

4 – Nick Chubb – Georgia – 5’11/227

Grade: 79

Strong Points:

-Ideal frame, thickness all around with some extra muscle throughout his legs
-Excellent vision, can anticipate and react equally fast
-Balance and control are always there through traffic

Weak Points:

-Struggles to quickly adjust his weight laterally, not an outside runner
-Doesn’t miss contact
-Injury history can cause some shelf life concerns

Summary:

Had a start to his career that immediately labeled him a future first round pick, a high one. Chubb suffered a gruesome knee injury in 2015 but he came back and put together two quality years. He finished as the 2nd all time leading rusher in the SEC. He did have 3+ years to compile, but I can see a similar career in the NFL. Productive, consistent, reliable. Not a superstar but I think you know what you are getting here.

NFL Comparison: Mark Ingram / NO

5 – Derrius Guice – LSU – 5’10/224

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Aggressive running style that will fight for every inch on every carry
-Runs with the forward lean but shows the ability to stop and go to avoid contact
-Impacts the game as a pass catcher and blocker, a true every down back

Weak Points:

-Vision isn’t always there, delayed reactions, struggles to adjust
-Takes too many hits and it has created credible concern of durability
-Stiff hips, lacks wiggle

Summary:

Junior entry. Looked much better in 2016 than he did in 2017, partially because of injuries and a broken offense. Well documented from rags to riches type story, a good kid that will work his tail off. Guice has a sturdy frame and hard nosed style that could be a big factor early, but can he stay on the field? Is there enough diversity to his game?

NFL Comparison: Thomas Rawls / FA

6 – Kerryon Johnson – Auburn – 5’11/213

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Smooth and easy mover with a loose lower body, great balance
-Patient but assertive, knows when to pounce and when to wait
-Top tier blocker

Weak Points

-Inconsistent lean and pad level, slows himself down and vulnerable to big hits
-Needs to add bulk, doesn’t push the pile, lacks lower body power
-Doesn’t break enough tackles in the box

Summary:

Junior entry. Took over the top tailback spot for Auburn in 2017 because of an injured and troubled Kamryn Pettway. He really turned it on over the second half of the year and showed 3-down ability. Johnson can slither in and out of contact, he is very agile for a tall, high hipped runner. He needs more strength on that frame though, as Alabama showed him what a pro-caliber defense can do to him. Upside is big here for a day 2 back.

NFL Comparison: Damien Williams / FA

7 – Jaylen Samuels – NC State – 5’11/224

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Versatile, has played every skill position for NC State
-Smart and savvy, played at a different IQ level than his opponents
-Doesn’t go down easy, will break tackles via strength, desire, and quickness

Weak Points:

-Average athlete across the board, won’t be a big play threat
-Slow to diagnose running lanes outside the tackle
-Tight hipped and doesn’t adjust to lanes that disappear, not innovative

Summary:

You won’t find many players like this. Samuels was a running back at the Senior Bowl, tight end at the combine, and Mr. Everything at NC State. I wouldn’t call him a gimmick guy though, I think his best role is at RB where he can impact the game as a receiver and inside runner. There isn’t a natural feel or flow to him, but he is just a gamer that plays smart situational football. This is the kind of kid that goes to NE and tears it up. Right system makes this kid a stud.

NFL Comparison: Ty Montgomery / GB

8 – Royce Freeman – Oregon – 5’11/229

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Consistently gains yard after initial contact
-Quick north/south acceleration, can shoot out of a cannon
-Can wear different hats as a ball carrier, power back or space friendly

Weak Points:

-Stiff lower body as he approaches traffic, needs the extra step
-Poor blocker, doesn’t play physical and doesn’t sustain
-Runs too high and too hesitant

Summary:

A productive four year career, the Pac 12’s all time leading rusher. A couple years ago Freeman was being discussed as a soon-to-be top 15 pick. His production tailed off, he started to get nicked up, and the warts in his game arrived. Freeman is a dangerous runner in the open field because of his sneaky speed and violent power. He is the kind of back that wears a defense down and force tacklers to make business decisions. Give him a quality OL and he will take advantage more than most.

NFL Comparison: CJ Anderson / DEN

9 – Nyheim Hines – NC State – 5’8/198

Grade: 76

Strong Points:

-Track speed that shows up on the field
-Stop and go quickness is top tier, reacts to the defense
-Excellent feel on outside zone runs, instinctive runner

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t have the frame to handle a full load of touches
-Won’t factor between the tackles, lacks power and inside vision
-Won’t break tackles, goes down on initial contact too easily

Summary:

Junior entry. Hines has been used all over the field. He has been a returner, a slot receiver, and mostly a RB in 2017. His performance this past season really put him on the radar and one must think what this grade could have been had they committed to him in this role earlier in his career. Hines is one of the better big play offensive weapons in this draft.

NFL Comparison: Dion Lewis / TEN

10 – Rashaad Penny – San Diego State – 5’11/220

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Excellent straight line speed for his size
-Excels at breaking through initial contact and gaining the extra yards
-Anticipates running lanes and will burst to them before they open up

Weak Points:

-Stiff lateral movement, doesn’t have a lot of wiggle to his game
-Struggles to miss contact, runs high
-Poor blocking presence and technique

Summary

After three years of backing up NCAA all time rushing leader Donnell Pumphrey, Penny got his shot to prove he was more than return specialist in 2017. He excelled, winning the conference player of the year award and finishing 5th in the Heisman voting. Penny has the frame and toughness but I question the short area quickness and ability to adjust. The up tick in competition he will experience wil expose that, but this is still a back worth getting excited about when it comes to potential.

NFL Comparison: Jeremy Hill / NE

11 – Kalen Ballage – Arizona State – 6’1/228

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Violent downhill runner capable of sending tacklers in to tomorrow
-Light feet that can dance and plant with power and explosion
-Easy hands catcher that has untapped ability as a receiver

Weak Points:

-Inconsistent production and habits
-Not a quick decision maker, struggles to make timely reads
-Doesn’t run hungry, too often settles

Summary::

A physical specimen that has some tape that will remind Giants fans of Brandon Jacobs. A downhill runner that will make defenders think twice about sticking their pads in front of him. Ballage didn’t fulfill his potential at ASU, as he struggled with the mental side of the game. If he can be put in to a simple role, there are things he can make happen that other backs cannot. He was one of the more impressive players at the Senior Bowl.

NFL Comparison: Chris Carson / SEA

12 – Darrel Williams – LSU – 6’0/229

Grade: 73

Strong Points:

-Downhill bruiser capable of delivering the violent blow to tacklers
-Surprising jump cut and acceleration ability for his size
-Quick and easy vision inside, natural

Weak Points:

-Gets heavy footed on the outside runs, takes too long to reach his point
-Will run high and slow when looking for space
-Isnt very innovative, won’t create on his own

Summary:

Played behind Fournette and Guice but because both had stretches of being banged up, Williams got his fair share of looks and produced. He averaged 5 yards per carry and has enough quality tape spread out over his career to prove he can be a rotational back. He is a simple bruiser. Give him the ball between the tackles, keep his role simple, and he can get the job done.

NFL Comparison: Zach Zenner / DET

13 – Bo Scarborough – Alabama – 6’1/223

Grade: 73

Strong Points:

-Long stride speed that can run away from defenders once in the open field
-Explosive, big play potential
-A violent downhill force that can make defenders think twice

Weak Points:

-Long limbed, making it very hard for him to run with proper pad level
-Takes a lot of hits to his legs, gets nicked up often
-Takes too long to get going, lacks quick and agile lower half

Summary:

Junior entry. Has missed time all three years with separate lower body injuries. It is almost a given he is going to struggle to stay on the field with a full workload, but his rare abilities are enough to get me excited. He plays faster than he runs and I think there is a high upside with his pass catching and blocking. Could be a very non-traditional but very effective 3rd down back.

NFL Comparison: Darren McFadden / FA

14 – Josh Adams – Notre Dame – 6’2/213

Grade: 72

Strong Points:

-Good straight line burst and acceleration to break off the big run
-Good feel between the tackles, has the blend of patience and aggression
-Good ball security, protects the ball always

Weak Points:

-Slow to make decisions on outside runs, too indecisive
-Needs too many recovery steps when forced to adjust
-Not a physical runner, seems hesitant and can be shaken off his game easily

Summary:

Junior entry. Leading rusher for the Irish in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Was in the Heisman discussion for awhile this past year. As the year went on and the more taped I watched, I think it was obvious Adams was the beneficiary to a dominant offensive line more than anything. A guy with this kind of frame and long speed looks god at first, but a lot of running back traits I look for simply aren’t there. He really disappointed against some of their more physical opponents.

NFL Comparison: Alfred Blue / HOU

15 – Ito Smith – Southern Miss – 5’9/195

Grade: 72

Strong Points:

-Tough to get a hold of with his low pad level and quick feet
-Very balanced and under control through traffic
-Fast decision maker and reaction runner

Weak Points:

¬-Has a hard time pushing piles and break tackles that have him squared up
-Long speed is average at best, can be caught from behind
-Not enough wiggle in his hips in relation to his footwork

Summary:

A fourth year senior that has carried the ball over 800 times in his career, a high number. Also coming from a lower level of college football and his quickness may not be enough at this level. What I like about Smith is how feisty he is. He plays tough, runs angry, and moves like he has something to prove. Smith is a back-of-the-depth-chart player but I’ll be curious to see what he can do after a year of pro strength work.

16 – John Kelly Tennessee – 5’10/217 – GRADE: 72
17 – Mark Walton – Miami – 5’11/202 – GRADE: 72
18 – Akrum Wadley – Iowa – 5’10/197 – GRADE: 70
19 – Ryan Nall – Oregon State – 6’2/232 – GRADE: 70
20 – Jeffrey Wilson – North Texas – 5’11/210 – GRADE: 68
21 – Justin Jackson – Northwestern – 6’0/193 – GRADE: 67
22 – Lavon Coleman – Washington – 5’11/223 – GRADE: 66
23 – Chris Warren – Texas – 6’2/250 – GRADE: 66
24 – Chase Edmonds – Fordham – 5’9/205: 66
25 – Justin Crawford – West Virginia – 5’11/203: 66

Mar 052018
 
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Andrew Norwell, Carolina Panthers (December 17, 2017)

Andrew Norwell – © USA TODAY Sports

2017 was an utter disaster for the New York Giants. The 13 losses were a team record for a team that has suffered through some horrific seasons in its 93-year old history. It was so bad that team ownership took the incredibly rare steps (for them) of firing the general manager and head coach a month before the season ended.

What made this all the more shocking is that in many quarters, the Giants were expected to be a Super Bowl contender. Instead, they became arguably the worst team in the NFL with atrocious play on offense, defense, and special teams. It wasn’t just bad. It was really, really bad. And the demise began well before the injury bug hit once again.

Enter Dave Gettleman as the new general manager and Pat Shurmur as the new head coach. Both are uninspiring, safe, conservative choices. And for better or worse, the Giants did not completely break with their institutional past that was created by George Young in 1979. The GM search was largely telegraphed and settled as soon as the team hired former George Young-disciple Ernie Accorsi to consult in the selection process. It’s probably the easiest money Accorsi ever made. Gettleman is experienced and well-traveled, but spent 14 years with the Giants from 1999-2012 under both Accorsi and Reese. While the Giants fired Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross, everyone else in the personnel department (at least for now) has been retained. This is hardly any sort of institutional change in thinking.

The field of head-coaching candidates this offseason seemed underwhelming. Two Bill Belichick disciples, the relatively-inexperienced Panthers defensive coordinator, and the previously-fired, milk toast Shurmur. In hindsight, thank God the Giants passed on Josh McDaniels (or he passed on them) as he unbelievably screwed the Colts at the last minute. Shurmur may be bland, but he is respected around the league as probably has the highest floor. The question is how high is his ceiling? Can he manage, lead, and inspire an NFL team towards greatness? Or is he a middle-of-the-pack-type of coach? And while there were significant changes in the assistant coaching staff, Shurmur did keep a few Tom Coughlin-Ben McAdoo holdovers to not completely break with the past here either.

Then there is the third most important figure in the equation: the quarterback. For better or worse, the Giants are going to continue to hitch their wagon to the seemingly fading 37-year old Eli Manning. Gettleman and Shurmur keep pointing to the second game against Philadelphia as somehow indicative of Eli’s still-current vitality, while apparently ignoring the other 15 contests. Of course, the ultimate proof of their continued faith (or lack thereof) will be what the Giants do with the #2 pick in the draft. But that is a topic of discussion best suited for another day.

In sum, though not to the serious degree of January 2016, this still has the feel of somewhat half-assed approach to it. This was somewhat predictable in that it would be difficult to see John Mara completely breaking with the almost 40-year old institutional structure. He simply wasn’t willing to blow it all up. It’s not in his DNA. Only future results will determine if this was the correct decision or not.

On the surface, the biggest change appears to be the hiring of a new defensive coordinator (James Bettcher) who may shift the Giants back to the 3-4 defense that they abandoned in 1994. Honestly, at this point, we don’t really know what Bettcher and the Giants will do on defense. And that obviously will determine which type of players they pursue in free agency and in the draft.

“We had a meeting with all the college personnel and all the pro personnel and we sat in there for an hour and a half and James gave us a clinic,” Gettleman said recently. “He did a great job and now I feel like we really have a full understanding of what we’re looking for… There’s not a huge change (in the secondary). It’s the front seven.”

QUARTERBACKS: Much depends on whether or not Pat Shurmur wants to keep two or three quarterbacks on the roster and if the Giants plan on drafting a quarterback. Unless he is traded, which appears unlikely at this point, Eli Manning will be the starting quarterback in 2018. And unless he is traded, Davis Webb will be a back-up. If the Giants don’t plan on drafting a quarterback and want to carry three quarterbacks, signing a cheap veteran as insurance is a likely possibility. Geno “the Earth is flat” Smith is an unrestricted free agent and probably will be moving on. (Need Level – Low to Medium)

RUNNING BACKS: There could be significant changes at this position. Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen are both unrestricted free agents and could be moving on. That leaves only Wayne Gallman (who played decently as a rookie), Paul Perkins (who had a very disappointing sophomore season), and a couple of long shots (Jalen Simmons and Terrell Watson). This is an area to watch in free agency and the draft. This looks like a strong and deep draft class at running back. Yet the Giants may choose to sign a veteran presence in free agency too. The question is how much money do they want to spend? For example, do you want to spend more on Carlos Hyde (49ers) or a cheaper alternative such as Alfred Morris (Cowboys)? It remains to be seen how important the fullback position is to Shurmur; Shane Smith is still on the roster. (Need Level – High)

WIDE RECEIVERS: It will be interesting to see the working relationship between Shurmur and the diva Odell Beckham, who is showing signs of restricting his on-field time until he gets a mega $20 million per season deal. Assuming Odell plays and plays well, the focus really is on the complimentary pieces. Sterling Shepard will be the slot receiver. But who will start opposite of Beckham and what about depth? Brandon Marshall was extremely disappointing before he got hurt and probably will be let go. Dwayne Harris has had two injury-plagued years since his stellar 2015 debut with the Giants. He also makes too much money. Harris could return if he accepts a pay cut for the second year in a row. Behind them are 10 no-names who are easily replaceable. One of them could surprise, but that is doubtful and it might be smarter to move on. (Indeed, it is surprising that some of these players haven’t already been cut). Long story short, this is a VERY thin position where the Giants could use a lot of help. Don’t think so? Imagine the state of the position if Beckham gets hurt again. Don’t be surprised if the Giants both sign a veteran and draft a rookie at this position. (Need Level – High)

TIGHT ENDS: A year after the Giants spent big bucks on Rhett Ellison and selected Evan Engram in the first round, this is one position where the Giants are in good shape. Ellison was overpaid and underutilized, but he is a solid, versatile player. If Engram can cut down on the drops, he has All-Star potential. Jerell Adams is a good third tight end and the Giants claimed H-Back Kyle Carter off of waivers from the Vikings in January. Ryan O’Malley is an exclusive rights free agent. (Need Level – Low)

OFFENSIVE LINE: This position is a mess. The Giants have invested three high draft picks on the OL and so far none of them have panned out. Justin Pugh has been solid, but injury prone and may be looking for greener pastures. Weston Richburg had a very good year at center in 2015 but has struggled since then. And the Giants still don’t know what they really have in the very inconsistent and often awful Ereck Flowers. Guard John Jerry is an overpriced, average-at-best player. D.J. Fluker can maul in the run game but has had issues in pass protection; he also is a free agent. Brett Jones is an undersized player who struggled at times. The Giants re-signed 33-year old John Greco to a 1-year contract. The Giants may have found a player in Chad Wheeler, but that remains to be seen as the rookie was also up and down. The problem for the Giants is the offensive line free agent market is extremely thin as evidenced by the fact that Pugh and Richburg are widely considered two of the better players available. The offensive linemen reaching the market will be overpriced and mostly overrated. The Giants may need to add as many as four potential starters. Making matters worse is that almost every team will be looking to sign a lineman and most teams have have far more cap room than the Giants. My expectation is the Giants may make a push to sign one high-profile lineman (Andrew Norwell) but after that they will have to bargain-basement shop for older, over-achieving types who have serious warts to their game. The 2018 NYG line is likely to be a patchwork affair. (Need Level – Desperate)

DEFENSIVE LINE: Analyzing the defensive line needs is extremely difficult in that we don’t know what kind of defensive base James Bettcher will employ. While he will be multiple in his fronts, will the emphasis be on the 4-3 or 3-4 defense? If the latter, then things could get confusing and messy. Even messier if it simply some sort of chaotic hybrid. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon are coming off of disappointing seasons. Both are vastly overpaid, to the point where the the cap hit may prohibit them from being cut or traded. Worse, neither is physically suited to play defensive end in a 3-4 system. Bettcher does have a history of converting athletic defensive ends to 3-4 linebacker. So there is a possibility that JPP and Vernon may be changing positions. If so, that is a risky proposition as it remains to be seen if they can handle the switch. If the Giants make the conversion to the 3-4, restricted free agent Kerry Wynn will probably be moving on and Romeo Okwara is not a good fit. On the other hand, the athletic Avery Moss can probably handle the transition to linebacker. The good news is that Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson can play in the 3-4, Harrison on the nose and Tomlinson at end. But the Giants would need to add more 3-4-type players at both positions. (Need Level for 3-4 – Extremely High)

If the Giants choose to remain in the 4-3, the Giants would ideally like to bring in talented defensive ends to compete with Pierre-Paul and Vernon. At some point in the future, the team will have to move on from JPP, and perhaps Vernon, unless they dramatically improve their play. However, that influx in talent would more likely come from the draft than free agency. Good defensive ends rarely hit the open market, including this year. At tackle, the question is one of depth. Jay Bromley will be a free agent and may be moving on. Robert Thomas is replaceable. I could see the Giants adding a veteran defensive tackle in free agency. (Need Level for 4-3 – Average)

LINEBACKERS: Right now, only five of the team’s 12 linebackers are under contact. And they are the injury-prone B.J. Goodson, Calvin Munson, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Derrick Mathews, and Thurston Armbrister. Yikes! That’s as bad as it gets. It also may be time to move on from free agents Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson, Kelvin Sheppard, and Mark Herzlich.

Like the defensive line, this position is confused because of the 4-3 vs. 3-4 issue. If the Giants shift to the 3-4, as mentioned above, Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, and Avery Moss become linebacking candidates. Unrestricted free agent Devon Kennard’s worth increases as well as he has always been better suited to the 3-4. The issue at that point becomes adding additional inside linebacker to compete with B.J. Goodson and Calvin Munson unless the team wants to re-sign Sheppard or Herzlich for cheap veteran depth. (Need Level for 3-4 – Average assuming DEs can handle transition)

If the Giants stay in the 4-3, it means Pierre-Paul, Vernon, and Moss are staying put on the defensive line. It also means that Kennard is less likely to re-sign. In that case, the cupboard looks awfully barren, particularly at both outside linebacking spots. Given that there are very few impact 4-3-type linebackers in the NFL that ever hit the open market, the Giants would most likely have to take the bargain-basement approach here as well in free agency unless they want to make a strong  play for Nigel Bradham of the Eagles. (Need Level for 4-3 – Desperate)

CORNERBACKS: The Giants appear much thinner at this position with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie moving to free safety. Much now depends on how the Giants truly feel about Eli Apple and whether or not Apple is going to mature. When focused, Apple can play. The problem is that he wasn’t focused for most of 2017 and his play deteriorated significantly. Worse, he pissed off his teammates with his shitty attitude. For a new GM who harps on team chemistry, Apple is probably on a very short leash. Janoris Jenkins was also suspended last year for detrimental conduct, but he’s only a year removed from a Pro Bowl/All-Pro season and there has been no indication that the Giants are moving on from him. Ross Cockrell was a pleasant surprise last year and probably had his best season as a pro. Ironically, he’s probably the team’s most important free agent. He could sign elsewhere. Brandon Dixon flashed a little bit but is still a long shot. So are Donte Deayon, Jeremiah McKinnon, and Tim Scott. (Need Level – Average to Very High depending on the status of Apple and Cockrell)

SAFETIES: The strong safety position is in good hands with Landon Collins. Darian Thompson was serviceable at free safety but he had his ups and downs, and the Giants are now reportedly moving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) to free safety to compete for the starting job. DRC has always been a bit of an odd fish. Some coaching staffs have put up with him; others have not. (He was also suspended last season for detrimental conduct). DRC is aging, expensive ($8.5 million cap hit in 2018), and while he doesn’t miss many games, he’s a fragile player whose snaps have been managed. It remains to be seen if he can handle the physical nature of the safety position. That said, the switch is intriguing as DRC could thrive as a ball-hawk in the middle of the field. Andrew Adams is replaceable. Nat Berhe is an injury-prone free agent who simply hasn’t worked out here. Ryan Murphy is a journeyman. Look for the Giants to address this position in free agency or the draft. (Need Level – Average)

KICKERS: Brad Wing’s game declined markedly in 2017 as he became one of the NFL’s least effective punters. Austin Rehkow has already been signed for competition but do the Giants bring in a veteran punter or hope Wing rebounds? A media report said the Giants are interested in place kicker Graham Gano, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season. If true, Aldrick Rosas may be toast. Rosas has exceptional ability but simply missed too many kicks. The patience level with the Giants doesn’t appear to be there. That’s hurt the Giants in the past with some green kickers who have moved on to have very good careers. Incidentally, the Giants have already added another place kicker in Marshall Koehn. (Need Level – Above Average)

SUMMARY: This roster is not in good shape. The offensive line is a mess. The Giants are thin at wide receiver and running back. The front seven has talent problems regardless if the team plays the 3-4 or 4-3. And a secondary that was once considered a team strength is now an issue because of attitude concerns. If that wasn’t enough, the kicking and return games are up the air. While the Giants are about $24 million under the cap, they have a lot of unsigned players, and relative to the rest of the NFL, their cap shape isn’t that great. Worse, the available talent pool in free agency once against appears shallow.

Jan 032018
 
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Steve Spagnuolo and Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 31, 2017)

Steve Spagnuolo and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 18 – Washington Redskins 10

RECAP

The best part about turning the calendar to 2018 is the fact that the Giants 2017 season is officially done with. I have never been so wrong when it came to forecasting a Giants season and it seemed like forever ago when we were at training camp labeling this team a Super Bowl contender. And here we are, week 17 and the duo of John Jerry and Eli Manning were the only 2 offensive starters left on the field against the Redskins.

In front of a half-empty stadium, the Giants and Redskins played through a painful game to watch. An early touchdown by the Giants was the peak of the action as both teams seemed more interested in getting out alive than trying to win a game. The small sense of urgency by NYG stemming from a new General Manager aided the team towards their 18-10 bleeder and 3rd win of the season.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 10/28 – 132 yards – 1 TD/1 INT. If this were a game full of meaning, the outlook on Manning might be a little lesser. But considering he was playing behind, and throwing the ball to, players who see the majority of their time in the 4th quarter of preseason games, he gets a slight pass. Manning had a season high 8 passes dropped in this one, lengthening his lead among all NFL quarterbacks in that category. Was this Manning’s last game with NYG? My gut says no, he will be back for at least one more year. Whether anyone thinks he still has it or not, there is no denying the fact evaluating his 2017 without acknowledging the fact he had the worst situation to deal with across the board in the NFL this year is not fair. Manning didn’t play well, I will say that. But I’m not sure who would have in this mess of a season.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 20 att/154 yards – 1 TD. On the game’s second play, Darkwa ran right and cut back inside thanks to two pre-snap audibles by Eli Manning at the line of scrimmage. It was the longest run of his career and 5th TD of the season. Darkwa averaged 4.1 yards per carry throughout the rest of the game and, as usual, dropped a pass. Where the team goes with him from here is very much up in the air, but I respect how hard he runs. This was a breakout year for Darkwa, as prior to this game, his career SEASON high was 153 yards, 1 less than he gained in this game alone.
  • Wayne Gallman: 15 att/89 yards – The explosive, quick accelerator had his share of big runs and outstanding adjustments to the defense. Gallman’s speed and elusiveness were one of the best surprises of 2017 and he needs to be factored into what this team plans on doing in 2018. If they bring in a back, it should be someone who excels in the play-to-play pounding and short-yardage situations. Gallman should have the change-of-pace spot locked up for a couple years, at least. Two things he absolutely needs to clean up, however, both occurred in this game. He had a drop and a fumble. Time to get in the weight room, too.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Hunter Sharp: 3 rec/29 yards – 1 TD. Overall a very solid game for the second-year pro who was signed just 3 weeks prior. He brought in his first career touchdown pass on the second drive of the game. He showed quality routes throughout but also suffered two drops on consecutive plays later.
  • Travis Rudolph: 1 rec/29 yards. I was hoping to see more opportunities for one of the training camp studs who has been inching his way towards more and more playing time. His one play was an excellent catch and turn up field for a 29 yard gain, the biggest passing gain of the day.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison: 5 rec/63 yards. A career-high 5 catches for Ellison, a guy the Giants underused all year. He was making catches and plays most are unaware he can make. This guy is much more than a blocking tight end who works hard and the next play caller needs to understand he can be a valuable weapon next year.
  • Jerrell Adams: 0 rec/0 yards. Adams looks the part and will occasionally make the catch in practice that can get you excited. But he had two opportunities, one of which was for a touchdown, and he dropped both. Two years in and looks like he won’t ever be anything more than a quality blocker. That is fine, but it won’t give him a ton of long-term security here.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: The two long-haired rookies who I got mixed up a few times during training camp were the starters for this game. A rookie 6th round pick on the right side and an UDFA on the left side – that is who was in charge of protecting the immobile Giants quarterback. As run blockers, they both graded out above average. Bisnowaty had a bad game elsewhere. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures in addition to 2 holding penalties. It was the second-worse RT performance of the year only to former Giant Bobby Hart. And boy does it sound good to say former Giant there. Wheeler didn’t play as badly on the left side, but still was shaky with a slightly below average performance. He exceeded what almost every UDFA did in the NFL this year, thus nobody can look down on him. I do think he is in the picture for RT next year.
  • Interior: After a few bad weeks by OC Brett Jones, he put together a very solid performance. He was borderline dominant in the run game and didn’t have any mishaps as a pass blocker. John Greco subbed for John Jerry (concussion) at LG and I’ll tell you what, he played well. The 32-year old had 66 starts to his name prior to this game and he graded out right there with Jones. Right Guard Jon Halapio finished right below the average mark. He allowed 2 pressures and led the line in allowed tackles. Overall a solid year but he won’t be more than a backup moving forward.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Very solid game from the ends for the second week in a row. Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul combined for 2 sacks and 4 pressures. They were up against backup tackles and provided good gap integrity against the run as well. Neither had a good year or came even close to earning their high cap numbers. With this team being locked into those contracts for at least another year, they are going to be the 2018 starters.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison ended his second straight season of dominance with NYG. He has been the best player on this team since the beginning of 2016 and will be a building block for next year. If this team runs a 4-3 or a 3-4, he will be the guy in the middle who makes other players better no matter what. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson had his second best game of the season, totaling 4 tackles and 2 pressures. He had arguably the best year of all the rookie DTs in the league and will be a reliable starter on this team for a long time, no matter the scheme.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Sheppard intercepted 2 passes and finished with 6 tackles. For a guy who was a street free agent during the beginning of the season, he had a very solid year with the Giants. He probably won’t be a guy that sticks to the roster moving forward, but he had a very respectable year here. Solid inside defender who brings a physical presence to the defense.
  • Devon Kennard recorded his 4th sack of the season and broke up a pass. The versatility this kid has shown all year needs to be factored into his place on this team moving forward. He made a big impact as a pass rusher but is very limited in coverage. If this defense needs an edge presence who can fill LB roles here and there, Kennard will be a keeper.
  • Ray-Ray Armstrong and Calvin Munson are opposite linebackers. Armstrong is a plus athlete who lacks instincts and discipline while Munson is a step slow but has mightily improved his movement post-snap via reads and awareness from the beginning of the season. Neither are guys you make future personnel decisions around, but they do have a shot to stick around.

CORNERBACKS

  • In all honesty with no bias, Ross Cockrell may have played the CB position better than anyone in the NFL over the past 4 weeks. While he hasn’t been overly tested when it comes to quality of his opponent, Cockrell has been dominant. He broke up 4 passes and intercepted another one. He is in the running for a starting job next year and it would be a help when it comes to their approach in FA and the draft if they know he is gonna be the guy.
  • Brandon Dixon and Darryl Morris played the majority of the snaps at CB otherwise, as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played just about a third of the snaps. Cromartie has a valuable role on this defense, but if his playing is going to hover around 50% or less of the plays, he may not be worth keeping considering his cap number. Dixon earned a right to fight for a roster spot next year with his impressive size, speed, and aggression. He doesn’t have the feel though, as every week I noticed him getting beat by double routes and lacking the balance and body control as he turned.

SAFETIES

  • With Landon Collins out, Andrew Adams took his place. Adams is impressive when the action is in front of him. Other than him missing a tackle, he finished with an impact across the board. He had 6 tackles, one TFL, and a pass breakup. Adams also added a pressure. His coverage is solid underneath, but his stiffness and lack of speed makes him a liability against WRs on an island and in deep coverage. Darian Thompson finished with 7 tackles and no misses. He has been solid in his first season as the starter, but the upside with him is limited. He doesn’t make an impact as a tackler and the deep coverage responsibilities are somewhat hampered by a lack of long speed and acceleration. He would be a very good third safety, but merely an average starter.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 23,28). Rosas had yet another extra point blocked early in the game. Hard to say if it his fault or the guys up front blocking. Rosas did not have a good year, too many misses. Kicker might need to be a priority this offseason if a reliable veteran shakes free.
  • P Brad Wing: 9 Punts – 40.3 avg / 33.0 net. A quiet game from Wing with a couple ducks. This was a bad year for Wing overall, especially the stretch early in the year where his late-game mishaps heavily contributed to multiple NYG losses. He should be put on notice.

3 STUDS

  • CB Ross Cockrell, LB Kelvin Sheppard, RB Orleans Darkwa

3 DUDS

  • OT Adam Bisnowaty, TE Jerell Adams, OG Jon Halapio

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  • Kirk Cousins had a very poor game. While the surrounding cast can be somewhat blamed, it is games like this that lead some to believe he just cant be the guy a team spend $20+ million on per year.
  • WAS has been in the middle of the pack for 3 straight years. Their progress has been halted and they always seem to be the team that is merely solid, but not scary. It looks like Gruden will get another year, but what is going to change? This is a team that is very well put together in the trenches but there isn’t enough star power at the playmaking positions. At some point Gruden needs to push for an aggressive move personnel wise.
  • Ryan Kerrigan has 47 sacks over the past 4 years and has never missed a game in his career. In 14 career NFC East games, he has 29 sacks which is over 2 per game. If there was one edge rusher in the league who I would call overlooked, it is him. I think he is one of the best players in the NFL. WAS has him locked up through 2020.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Initially I was indifferent about the Dave Gettleman hiring but the more I study his tenure in CAR and hear him speak, I think he is exactly what the team needs. Back to “old school”, no-nonsense type approaches on both sides of the ball and in the locker room. He is a guy huge on team culture and laser focus on the big picture. Get the bad apples out, the guys that don’t want to work, and slowly but surely increase the quality of people and players. Odell Beckham will be the most interesting case here. He will definitely will be here in 2018 but if the antics worsen, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him playing elsewhere in 2019. For the record, I want ODB here long term if he can mature at least a little bit.
  • The #2 pick discussion is now the main focus of NYG talk. This has the potential to be a monumental pick for the franchise. It will somewhat be based on what the team does in FA leading up to it. This is my thought, though a lot of us will over-think it and over-complicate it. This is a simple situation, really. Get the best player and I don’t care what position it is. RB, QB, WR, OT, DE…etc. If  a QB meets the grade, it will likely be the best decision for the future of this team over the other spots. If one doesn’t meet the grade, all bets are off. Get a special player and don’t look back.
  • Let’s not overlook that NYG is potentially heading into the offseason without any starting caliber OTs. Flowers had a solid year, but does he want to be here? Is he going to work hard for 365 days? Is he better suited at RG or RT? Wheeler, is he a 3rd tackle or a starter? Remember this, Gettleman values the trenches as much as anyone. With this current group in shambles, he may put a ton of resources into it via FA and the draft before he tries to plug other holes.
Dec 292017
 
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John Mara, New York Giants (December 29, 2017)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 31, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The most disappointing season in the 93-year old history of the New York Giants finally ends on Sunday. 2017 was an utter disaster on every level, causing the conservative franchise to take steps it rarely has done such as firing a general manager and firing a head coach in-season.

And while many fans want to forget 2017 and focus on the future, it is important to understand the magnitude of the organization’s ineptness. Ownership failed. Team management failed. The coaching staff failed. The public relations staff failed. The training staff failed. Offense, defense, special teams failed. The players behaved like immature assholes from Odell Beckham to Eli Apple to Landon Collins.

The organization failed, from top to bottom. And that does not bode well moving forward. Don’t think so? Keep this in mind:

  • Ownership picked and Ernie Accorsi lobbied for Jerry Reese over Dave Gettleman as the team’s next GM in early 2007. Fast forward a decade later and Accorsi lobbied Mara and Tisch for Gettleman. Oh the irony.
  • In early 2016, ownership decided Tom Coughlin, and not Jerry Reese, was the problem. Ouch.
  • Ownership rushed to hire Ben McAdoo, a man who was clearly over his head, fearing the Philadelphia Eagles would snag him. In hindsight, the Eagles may have successfully goaded the Giants into making a disastrous coaching move. On top of that, McAdoo’s assistant coaching staff was virtually identical to Coughlin’s. Did ownership meddle and mandate the retention of coaches like Steve Spagnuolo, Mike Sullivan, and Tom Quinn?
  • Ownership/management were convinced the 2017 New York Giants were a Super Bowl contender. Instead, no team in Giants’ history has lost more games in one season. If the Giants and Browns played on Sunday, the Browns would probably win. One would hope that the leaders of the franchise would have a better capability for self-analysis.
  • Ben McAdoo was made the scapegoat for the Eli Manning benching, a move that both ownership and management signed off on, but then hid from. The disastrous PR handling of this move caused the Giants to backtrack on a decision that actually had merit, resulting the worst possible outcome. Eli Manning saw his consecutive game streak end and felt pissed on, yet the team still didn’t get a read on Davis Webb. What a waste!

Dave Gettleman has been hired as the team’s next general manager. He may be the perfect selection, the worst, or something in between. Only time will tell. What we do know is the GM search was a farce. Three of the four candidates interviewed were intimately connected to the Giants’ organization and existing culture. Marc Ross was a courtesy and Rooney Rule interviewee. Louis Riddick has been out of the NFL since 2013. Kevin Abrams may have been the only other serious candidate considered, and that’s not a given. Right or wrong, ownership decided to not even seriously consider other options.

  • Pros: No surprises. Gettleman worked for the Giants from 1998 to 2012. He knows the team’s culture from the owners down to the secretaries and janitors. Gettleman is experienced and knows how to evaluate talent. He’s been a GM in the league and knows how to do the job. He was the safe pick. If Gettleman was the pick all along, delaying the inevitable through a dog-and-pony show would have been a waste of time and could have cost the Giants an opportunity to hire a head coach of their choosing.
  • Cons: While he may tweak things here and there, Gettleman is a product, and therefore a representative, of the current team culture. It is highly unlikely there will be many – if any – structural changes in the way the Giants conduct their business. This was clear to many as soon as it was announced that Accorsi would be consulting ownership. It is somewhat disturbing that no outside candidates/approaches were even seriously considered. Mara should not insult our intelligence in claiming that all options were on the table. While Gettleman was the safe choice, he may not have been the best. And at 66, his age is a factor and he will likely only be a short-term solution, which in itself could influence the way he approaches his job.

An interesting indicator to watch will be Marc Ross, the team’s Vice President of Player Evaluation (really Director of College Scouting). If he stays, be worried.

Let’s be clear about one thing: other than ownership, nothing matters more than the general manager. If the Giants have picked the right general manager, they will be OK. If they have picked the wrong guy, the Giants may be entering the 1970s again. But the risks don’t stop there. Gettleman has to pick the right coaching staff and make the right decision at quarterback, including with what to do with either the #2 or #3 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Making the wrong decisions with the coaches or quarterback could set this team back years. And in 2022 or so, we may be going through all of this again as the Giants remain a laughing stock. This is the most critical phase the Giants have gone through since 1979. That year, Pete Rozelle forced George Young on the Giants, which led to Ray Perkins and then Bill Parcells, and Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor.

So as of late December 2017, here’s where we are at in terms of the big picture:

  1. General Manager: Dave Gettleman
  2. Head Coach: ???
  3. Quarterback: ???

The success of those three selections will ultimately determine the fate of the team possibly for the next decade.

Dec 292017
 
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Sam Darnold, USC Trojans (December 1, 2017)

Sam Darnold – © USA TODAY Sports

2018 NFL Draft Prospects: December 29, 2017 Bowl Games

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WAKE FOREST

#85 TE Cam Serigne – 6’3/240

5th year senior. Leaves WF and the ACC as the all time leader in receiving yards and catches among TEs. He isn’t a very dynamic athlete, but he catches everything thrown his way. Has a knack for finding extra yards after contact via awareness and toughness. Blue collar guy that will stick somewhere, albeit with a limited upside. 5th/6th rounder.

#53 DE Duke Ejiofor – 6’4/275

5th year senior. 2nd Team All ACC. Top tier run defender, plays the inside gap of the tackle really well. May want to bulk up and play a 3-4 DE type role, he can excel there. Crafty, excellent technique, nose for the ball. Some teams will have a 3rd round grade on him, not a pure edge guy though.

Other Notables:

#10 QB John Wolford – 6’1/200
#14 DE Wendell Dunn – 6’3/250
#6 LB Jaboree Williams – 6’0/245
#50 LB Grant Dawson – 6’1/225

TEXAS A& M

#92 DT Zaycovern Henderson – 6’2/300 (WIL NOT PLAY – Suspended)

*#3 WR Christian Kirk – 5’11/200

Junior that hasn’t declared yet, many expect him to. Was one of the top playmakers in the country from beginning of 2015 through end of 2016. As a returner and receiver, he was as electric as it got. 7 return TDs over his career.Led the SEC with 83 catches in 2016. There is some Odell Beckham in him when it comes to the explosion he has in and out of his breaks and the toughness he plays with. Production saw a dip in 2017 with such poor QB and OL play. But when looking at this kid move with the ball, he has 1st round talent written all over him.

#7 RB Keith Ford – 5’11/215

5th year senior, began career at Oklahoma but transferred when he saw he wasn’t going to be the guy. Effective downhill, short yardage back. Consistently breaks through initial contact but a limited athlete that won’t create on his own. Late rounder.

#4 WR Damion Ratley – 6’3/190

Fourth year senior that had a hard time seeing action in his first three years. Entered 2017 with 17 career catches, finished 2017 with 26-603-6. Legit deep speed, has always been a guy that would get people excited in training camp. Maybe someone gets a late rounder that is about to blossom?

#23 Armani Watts – 5’11/200

Four year starter, one of my favorite players in the draft. Likely will finish as my #1 or #2 safety in the class. I want to see how he tests athletically, if he is truly a 4.4 guy, I am putting him in my top 10 overall. This kid is all over the field, plenty of TFL, INTs, PDs, blocked kicks…etc. Just an incredibly smart player that tackles well. Not a big thumper, but he gets the man down. Would be an ideal fit next to Landon Collins in all likelihood.

#40 DE Jarrett Johnson – 6’3/260

Fourth year senior, played behind Daeshon Hall and Myles Garrett, got to show what he has in 2017. Looks like a pass rusher-only, but with upside. Love the body and pad level, has some natural tools that can be worked with. Just didn’t get a ton of playing time in college. Late rounder, maybe UDFA that is worth taking a chance on.

Other Notables:

#24 CB Priest Willis – 6’2/205
#9 DE Qualen Cunningham – 6’3/245

________________________________________________________

NC STATE

*#15 QB Ryan Finley – 6’4/210

Fourth year junior. Hasn’t declared yet, I am leaning towards him going back to school. He doesn’t have 1st round talent and in a somewhat crowded QB class, he could be the guy that gets bumped down to round 3-4. Finley is a pro style passer, excellent footwork and release. Very accurate, poised, consistent. Doesn’t have the live arm that some of these other guys do and his athletic ability is average at best. That said, I think he can be very solid in the NFL. Alex Smith type passer.

#1 WR/RB Jaylen Samuels – 5’11/236

In all honesty, one of my favorite players in the class. This guy may be as versatile as any offensive sklll position player I have ever scouted. He averaged 6+ yards per carry with 2017 being majority short yardage and goal line attempts, caught 195 passes, and scored 47 touchdowns over his 4 years. I’ve seen him 11 times over the past 2 years, and I think he can play both WR and RB in the NFL, a la Ty Montgomery. Samuels plays as hard as anyone, loves the game, total team player. He is a gamer that understands situational football very well. I think he is a 2nd rounder and it will be on the coaches to find the proper ways to use him.

*#7 Nyheim Hines – 5’9/197

Undeclared junior, guys that grade out round 3 or better are usually pushed to go to the NFL, legs only have so many mileage. Hines has already been banged up and with a strong 2017 where he had flashes of big play ability inside and out, he could definitely come out. He is really quick and explosive, runs physical. I think he has a better career in the NFL that he did in college.

#50 OG Tony Adams – 6’2/300

Four year starter. Powerfully built, specializes in run blocking with his initial punch and low center of gravity. Good straight line mover that equally struggles to move laterally with balance and quickness. Smart guy, leader of the line, makes the calls. Needs work on sustaining blocks. 4th/5th rounder.

#9 DE Bradley Chubb – 6’4/260

Fourth year senior that was very solid leading up to 2017, then broke out in a big way. Chubb was 2nd in the nation with 25 TFL. An equally dominant player against the run and pass, does all the little things right. Excellent hands, feet, and leverage. Mean dude, wants to obliterate his opponent. This can be a guy that changes the entire outlook of a defense. May not be the explosive edge guy some want, but he is a big time player with a probable top 10 overall grade.

#98 DT BJ Hill – 6’4/300

Fourth year senior with a lot of experience, started games every year of his career. Coaches say he is one of the most important players on that team, gets overlooked a lot. Really good at holding his ground, massive lower body power. Showed some penetration skills in 2017, he is a safe player to draft and put in to action right away.

#35 DE Kentavius Street – 6’2/290

Fourth year senior, little underwhelming career wise. Has experience at DT and DE, I think he may be best suited for DT at the next level, maybe a 3-4 DE role. Freakish athletic ability for a 290 pounder, will blow up the combine. He shows glimpses, he is more than an athlete. 4th rounder somewhat based on good workout numbers.

#27 DT Justin Jones – 6’2/312

Big guy with speed and hustles. Makes a lot of plays via secondary movement and pursuit, which I always like to see. Doesn’t do much at the point of attack, needs to work on initial positioning and hand placement. But guys this big that make as many tackles as he does (62 over past 2 years, 15 of which went for loss) are always worth looking at Day 3.

Other Notables:

#4 LB Jerod Fernandez – 6’0/227
#24 CB Shawn Boone – 5’10/206
#58 LB Airius Moore – 6’0/235

ARIZONA STATE

#7 RB Kalen Ballage – 6’3/230

4th year senior, was a goal line back early in his career and evolved in to more of an every down guy. Rare combination of size and speed, might see a big boost in his stock when the workouts happen. Has shown flashes of dominance, but consistency isn’t there. Doesn’t run with a feel, lacks vision and reaction ability. Limited in terms of what you can do with him scheme wise, 4th rounder.

#4 RB Demario Richard – 5’10/219

4th year senior. Gets overlooked because Ballage is the more sexy prospect based on tools, but Richard might be better suited for the NFL. He is quicker, just as hard to bring down, and has more vision and easy-ness to him. Creates more on his own. Has had some issues with drops and ball security, blocking is sub-par. 4th/5th rounder.

#3 LB DJ Calhoun – 6’0/236

4th year senior that was in and out of the starting lineup early in his career, had some discipline issues assignment wise. Cleaned things up in 2017, played very well. Led the team with 22.5 TFL over past two years. Physical and rangy wrap up tackler that is all over the field. Struggles in traffic. 4th/5th rounder.

Other Notables:

#44 LB Alani Latu – 6’2/248
#90 DT Tashon Smalwood – 6’0/279
#17 S J’Marcus Rhodes – 6’1/214
#65 OC AJ McCollum – 6’2/311

_________________________________________________________

KENTUCKY

*#41 OLB Josh Allen – 6’5/230

Junior that hasn’t declared yet, seems like he is coming out though. Really, just a 1 year starter/contributor that has really good tools. Explosive and fast, easy bender, that can both rush the passer an factor in coverage. Seems like a natural at both and his best days are ahead of him. He doesn’t make a physical impact on contact, not a powerful guy. Another year in school could make him a 1st rounder, while right now I see a 5th rounder.

Other Notables:

#9 WR Garrett Johnson – 5’11/175
#73 OT Kyle Meadows – 6’5/303
#68 OG Nick Haynes – 6’3/308
#70 OT Jordan Swindle – 6’7/313
#51 LB Courtney Love – 6’2/242

NORTHWESTERN

#9 TE Garrett Dickerson – 6’3/248

4th year senior, saw a spike in production in 2016. Has had a knack for making plays downfield and after the catch. Really interesting athlete that can sneak by guys. Foot speed and body control are a plus, but ball skills and hands have been inconsistent. 6th rounder.

#21 RB Justin Jackson – 5’11/193

4th year senior, has had a very productive career. Burst on to the scene as a freshman in 2014. 4 straight years of 1,000+ yards, but also 1,000+ career carries. I see a quality back with vision and instincts being his strengths but an inability to run through tacklers and break tackles Poor blocker. Just don’t see the presence of an NFL back, but I bet he makes a team with his plus-receiving ability 7th rounder. He will be at the Senior Bowl.

#1 DT Tyler Lancaster – 6’4/315

5th year senior. A ton of experience, team captain that coaches and teammates rave about. If you like enormous, long armed, big handed, country strong players this is your guy. He is going to put on a show at the combine with his bench press. He is functionally powerful as well, a major force inside. Can eat up space and make some plays at the point of attack. Not really a pass rusher but a reliable 2 down defender that will factor right away. 4th rounder, safe pick.

#16 S Godwin Igwebuike – 6’0/212

Fifth year senior, 3 year starter. Has been among the team’s leaders in tackles and interceptions since 2015. Some guys view him as a top tier, maybe top overall, safety in the class. I don’t see it because he has a hard time seeing things transpire before they do. Doesn’t forecast well. Fooled by playaction a lot, double routes kill him. He tackles well and shows excellent agility, but a safety needs the 6th sense. I say 4th/5th rounder.

#21 S Kyle Queiro – 6’2/221

Fifth year senior. Missed some time earlier in his career with an injury. Broke out in a big way in 2017, leading the team with 4 INTs. Has more upside than Igwebuike considering his frame and versatility. He can match up in man coverage against slot corners, has a better feel for the game. Right now I have him in round 5, but I am going to se more of him in the coming months and he has top 100 potential.

Other Notables:

#69 OC Brad North – 6’2/290
#15 WR Macan Wilson – 6’0/185

_____________________________________________________

USC

*#14 QB Sam Darnold – 6’4/225

Third year junior. Broke out in 2016, more in particular in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. Entered the year as the top prospect in the nation, everyone assumed he would be the guy the #1 overall team would take. That isn’t as clear now. Darnold had a rough year and if I am going to be honest, a really rough year. We already knew the arm strength, body, toughness, athletic ability…all of that was there. Darnold turned the ball over way too many times and looked terrible in the pocket for the majority of the year. Just a young kid trying to do too much. Trying to fit balls in to windows that didn’t exist, didn’t protect the ball with defenders around him. The chatter of his OL being poor is a weak argument. Darnold played poorly and there isn’t any way around it. There is a ways to go with him and maybe this ends up being a good thing for him, maybe it doesn’t. But I know this right now, I am nervous about drafting him that high.

*#25 RB Ronald Jones – 6’0/200

A few months ago I was under the impression there was no shot anyone would over take Saquon Barkley as the class’ top running back. Well, I still have him up there but Ronald Jones is making things difficult. Jones might be the most explosive, best moving back I’ve scouted in years. The former USC track athlete has the forward lean and top tier balance that make him a threat to reach his elite top speed in a blink. He leaves school as one of the top rushers in program history and is a 1st rounder in my book, maybe a top 10 talent.

*#80 WR Deontay Burnett – 6’0/175

Junior that hasn’t declared. If Darnold comes out, Burnett probably will too. His stock isn’t anything special right now, but his QB play will likely drop next year and he may not want to risk playing a year with lesser talent around him. He is very slight-framed, doesn’t have a ton of deep speed. He does move very well underneath, showing excellent slot potential. But can a guy under 180 pounds hack it physically? I prefer more strength potential. 3rd/4th rounder.

*#94 DT Rasheem Green – 6’4/275

Junior that hasn’t declared yet, I think he will. He stood out to me from week 1, a guy that looks like an NFL player on a college field. Just massive everywhere, has pro-caliber technique and movement. His ideal fit is 3-4 DE and I think he can be one of the best in the league. This is a guy that PIT or NE drafts and goes on to a stable and consistent 10 year career. Safe pick with big upside.

#42 OLB Uchenna Nwosu – 6’2/240

Fourth year senior, 2 year starter. Very active 3-4 OLB type that checks all the technique boxes. Excellent with his hands and leverage, wins a lot of 1 on 1 battles that way. He is a step too slow when it comes to pure edge rushing speed and doesn’t carry a ton of presence physically. I think 4th/5th rounder.

#98 DT Josh Fatu – 6’2/315

Senior that started off at junior college. Broke out in 2017, carries tremendous power and short area quickness. He can be a factor between the tackles. Actually had 6.5 sacks this year, didn’t see that coming but he is so good off the ball and after initial contact. I think he can be a 4th rounder that contributes early.

Other Notables:

#4 WR Steven Mitchell – 5’10/195
#74 OC Nico Falah – 6’4/285
#4 S Chris Hawkins – 5’11/190

OHIO STATE

#74 OT Jamarco Jones – 6’5/310

Senior, 2 year starter. He is the one guy I am targeting right now that can likely be had in round 2 that I think is a week 1 starter at LT in the NFL. If NYG doesn’t want to move forward with Flowers at that spot, Jones is interesting to me. Excellent footwork and hand placement, stays under control. Has some trouble sustaining in space and will be slow out of his stance at times. I like him.

#54 OC Billy Price – 6’4/312

Fifth year senior. Leader of the line, All American. Widely considered the best OC in the draft, maybe the top interior guy in the class behind Quenton Nelson. Coaches love this kid, as hard a worker as you will find and always gets the job done. Has plenty of experience at OG and OC. Gets a little sluggish in there, feet will get stuck. I would be a little worried with him at guard, but at OC I think he is plug and play.

*#21 WR Paris Campbell – 6’1/208

Undeclared junior. Raw but exciting player that would likely be a 1st rounder next year. Right now he is viewed more as a gamble, just hasn’t gotten a lot of looks. 52 career catches. Can really shoot out of a cannon and he tracks the ball exceptionally well.

#16 QB JT Barrett – 6’2/230

A lot of people like to overlook this kid. He isn’t among the top QBs in the class, not close, but as a late round shot in the dark he might be one of my favorite QBs. Has a ton of experience in big situations, has responded really well in the majority of them. Has a lot of work to do on his footwork but he reads the defense well, has mightily improved his throwing, and has shown to be very innovative. Barrett doesn’t project as a starter in the NFL right now, but he is very coachable, tough, and talented. For a day 3 pick, what more can you want?

*#12 CB Denzel Ward – 5’10/191

Undeclared junior. May have been the team’s 2nd best CB last year behind Lattimore, but a little overlooked because of tools-rich Gareon Conley. Ward is very good at playing the ball. A lot of PDs despite teams rarely throwing his way. Excellent slot defender, a growing role in the NFL. Doesn’t tackle well, but does make an impact on special teams as well.

#7 S Damon Webb – 5’11/195

Senior that has played CB and S. I am looking forward to studying him more. I often discuss the need for a safety to have the 6th sense, Webb has it. He is very smart and quick to react. Has true, legit sideline range from the CF spot. Size is a little bit of a worry for the position, doesn’t impact the game much as a tackler. When I talk about what the Giants need next to Landon Collins, Webb is it.

*#86 DT Dre’Mont Jones – 6’3/295

Third year sophomore. Scouts love this guy, upside through the roof. Hasn’t really put everything together yet but I bet if he comes out, he ends up being a top 45 pick. Has the NFL body right now and when he turns it on, rare athletic ability. A gamble because he hasn’t produced consistently yet.

#59 DE Tyuan Lewis – 6’4/266

5th year senior, a lot of experience. Powerful, has had NFL calibe strength and power for 2 years now. Led the team with 8 sacks in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Doesn’t have the initial explosion off the edge, but he can make up for it somewhat with what he does post engagement. Strong hands, aggressive nature, pursues hard. Projects as a starter or #3 guy that plays a lot.

*#6 DE Sam Hubbard – 6’5/265

Undeclared fourth year junior. Was tabbed as the next Joey Bosa, probably unfairly. He hasn’t reached anywhere near that level but the tools still excite me. Big and nimble, bends well, can play the hands game very well. The quick twitch and explosion are average though. I think he is a solid rotational guy in the NFL, safe pick, but a limited player.

#11 DE Jalyn Holmes – 6’5/274

Overlooked senior. Nick Bosa has made it tough for Holmes to get on the field a lot, but don’t take that as Holmes not being good. I think his potential is just as high as Hubbard and Lewis. Has the frame, has the moves, has the quick feet. He may be the most attractive DL on this team when it comes to long term progression.

#35 LB Chris Worley – 6’2/230

Senior with 2 years of starting experience. I’m not wild about him, kind of average across the board. Has played with more talent in front of him than maybe any LB in the country but still struggles to produce a lot. Weak contact as a tackler, speed is OK. Coverage OK.

Other Notables:

#85 TE Marcus Baugh – 6’5/250
#93 DT Tracy Sprinkle – 6’3/293

Dec 272017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (December 24, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals 23 – New York Giants 0

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 27/45 – 263 yards – 0 TD/2 INT. Manning also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. It was a rough day for Manning, as his 57.9 QB rating was his second lowest of the year. Manning’s footwork and release points were just simply off for the majority of the game. The NFL’s best defense over the past 2 months appeared to be in his head more than it should have been, as he was sidestepping pressure that wasn’t always there and rushing throws that he didn’t need to. His accuracy was an issue for almost the entire game.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 10 att/18 yards – 6 rec/44 yards. There weren’t enough opportunities for Gallman to find his groove. They were playing from behind for the majority of the game and the fast, physical defensive front was too much for the Giants OL to handle. Seeing him take big hits week after week and getting right back up is a good sign. He has plenty of toughness and with another couple of years of NFL weight training, he can be our guy. His movement and vision are very good.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 6 att/10 yards. Darkwa didn’t have any luck against this defensive front, either. Darkwa has really disappeared in the second half of the season. He hasn’t averaged over 3 yards per carry since November 19 against the Chiefs. Bad hands, bad vision, won’t create much on his own.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 5 rec/45 yards. Also had a drop on a poorly thrown, but catchable 3rd-down pass from Manning. After a career game last week, Shepard didn’t factor much before aggravating a neck injury that forced him to miss most of the 4th quarter. They tried sending him deep on a couple of occasions, but him and Manning just couldn’t connect. And Shepard isn’t a deep separation guy, doesn’t have that next gear.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec/40 yards. Lewis was the most targeted receiver of the day, getting 11 looks from Manning. He responded with his worst performance of the season. He had 3 drops and ran poor routes, struggling to gain separation on simple routes. Lewis is catching the ball with his body too often and has proven that despite more opportunity in 2017, he is a #5 WR at best. He did not take a jump up that totem pole this season.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison: 4 rec/60 yards. With Engram going down early with a rib injury, Ellison saw a spike in playing time and targets. In my end of year review, I will discuss Ellison as one of the most underused players on this team. He responds well to his targets percentage wise as much as any pass catcher on this team and he has a way of always finding extra yards.
  • Jerrell Adams: 4 rec/31 yards. Adams also saw a spike in playing time and caught all of his targets. Adams is a slow-twitch athlete who doesn’t dominate as a blocker the way he should, but he has done well in his limited opportunities as well. The tight end position appears to be set for the next few years.
  • Evan Engram: 1 rec/12 yards. Went down with a rib injury early, sat out the rest of the game and will likely sit next week. Capped an outstanding rookie season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers went backwards, especially in the 2nd half. He had a terrible series, allowing 1 pressure and 2 holds within one drive. He had 2 other pressures in addition, struggling to stick with stunts and late movement. His game seemed off in comparison to what we have seen over the past 3 months. He needs to finish strong, because that LT spot is far from securely his. Bobby Hart allowed 2 pressures and a sack. Not much needs to be said here; he is not a starting caliber OL in this league and I’m not sure he backup caliber, either.
  • Interior: Brett Jones had another below average performance, as did Jon Halapio. They were unable to hold the point-of-attack or lock on to their respective defenders. John Jerry allowed a TFL and 1 pressure, but graded out as the top OL in this game with a mark right at the average point. He isn’t a guy who played bad enough to lose his job but he also isn’t a guy who played well enough to keep it heading in to the 2018 offseason.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Damon Harrison continued his All-Pro caliber play. I don’t spend much time even looking at the Pro Bowl rosters, but I will say it again, there is not a better DT in the NFL. He had 2 TFL, 2 pressures, and continued to make plays sideline to sideline. His impact within the tackle box is as dominant as any player in the league at their respective position. Dalvin Tomlinson was quiet, but also effective at controlling the inside gaps. Jay Bromley did record a TFL, but he led the DL in negative plays mainly from him getting pushed back 2+ yards multiple times.
  • Ends: A very solid performance from the starting duo. One thing that can be tough to do is take the previous disappointments and not let them impact the current evaluation. Jason Pierre-Paul has been the most underperforming player on this 2017 team, but he was very disruptive in this game. Blowing up tight ends and tackles at the point-of-attack and finishing with 4 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pressures. Olivier Vernon added a sack/fumble of his own along with a pressure and 3 tackles.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Sheppard led the team with 9 tackles. More of the same with him, solid play between the tackles with a lot of physical presence behind his hits, but anything in to space and he gets exposed badly.
  • This was the first extended look I got at the newly signed Ray-Ray Armstrong. He played 40% of the team’s snaps and flashed some of the athleticism and power this LB corps has lacked for a long time. He still doesn’t look like a natural linebacker out there, showing hesitation on his reads and too many recovery steps.

CORNERBACKS

  • Ross Cockrell continues to show he deserves a long term spot on this team, meaning he needs to be on this team in 2018. He brought in 2 interceptions, both of which he showed excellent body control and ball skills, 1 of which was in the end zone. This will be one of the major positives that comes out of the 2017 season; he has played exceptionally well and has steadily improved with the more playing time he got.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has impressed me. Not necessarily in that his level of play has been what it used to, although he has been more than solid, but in his constant hustle, leadership and effort. After his suspension earlier in the year, I thought this was going to end ugly in NY for him, but he plays as hard as anyone on this team.
  • Brandon Dixon went through some growing pains in this one, being outclassed by Larry Fitzgerald on multiple occasions. Outclassed to the point that on double routes, Dixon couldn’t stay within 4-5 yards of him. He allowed a touchdown to Fitzgerald and John Brown.

SAFETIES

  • After one of his most physical tackles of the year, Landon Collins went down with a broken arm which will end his season. He had a good, but far from great, season. Collins needs to be used carefully, because there is a lot he simply cannot do in coverage.
  • Andrew Adams received more playing time via the Collins injury, and he did not respond well. The sixth sense I talk about when looking at safeties is something he just doesn’t have. Far too many times he is dropping into zone coverage unaware of who and what is around him. He also missed 2 tackles. Darian Thompson had 4 tackles and picked up deep routes well, although he wasn’t challenged much.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Aldrick Rosas: 0/1. Rosas missed his lone opportunity of the day, a 33-yard attempt that sailed wide left.
  • Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 43.8 avg – 39.0 net. Wing suffered an ankle injury on an uncalled roughing the kicker penalty.

3 STUDS

  • DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell, DE Jason Pierre-Paul

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, WR Roger Lewis, OG Jon Halapio

3 THOUGHTS ON ARI

  • This team is built to win a lot of games right now, if only they had an accomplished QB who can stay on the field and throw the ball down field with success. Yes, Eli Manning would be an ideal fit for that team while they groom a long-term answer. The defense is top 5 in the NFL and is loaded with young talent who will be around for the next few years. If Manning doesn’t shake free, this would be an ideal landing spot for Kirk Cousins.
  • Larry Fitzgerald is not a veteran WR who should hang it up. He is one of the top WRs in the game and I place him right under the Jones/Brown/Beckham tier. How he runs routes, catches the ball with his hands, and controls his body is something every young WR should study. He does everything at a high level and continues to work hard to improve, not just sustain, his skill set. He has multiple years left, no doubt.
  • Bruce Arians has always been one of my favorite coaches since his days as an OC in Pittsburgh. He has a sense of realness to him, but still a guy who grown men playing in the NFL will fear. He is a guy who I would take in NY right now if he were to ever get out of ARI. He gets the most out of his players, especially QBs.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • These games are painful and there are certain players you can’t get a fair evaluation on. Manning played poorly, made some mistakes a veteran like him should not make. But can we consider who he is throwing the ball to? And the line that is blocking in front of him? I wouldn’t call them excuses, but it has to be considered when trying to figure out if he should still be the guy moving forward. I am on record as saying that I think this team can still win with Manning but that doesn’t mean I would look past QB at #2 overall.
  • The Landon Collins/Eli Apple saga is going too far now. Collins shouldn’t be saying what he is saying to the media, the whole cancer comment was a bit too much. At this point, with how public the team’s distaste for Apple is, the trade value couldn’t be lower. So with that said, they may be forced in to keeping him another year and hoping he grows up and/or gets stimulated with the new coaching staff.
  • At this point, there is still a possibility 1 or 2 OT’s can be in the running for the #2 overall pick. Has Ereck Flowers proven he deserves to be the guy there? Or do you take his skill set and move it to RT and draft Connor Williams (Texas) or Brian O’Neill (Pittsburgh)? If Manning is going to play out this contract, the OL may have to become priority A and B this offseason and if a new shiny rookie can hack it at LT, Pugh comes back strong, and Flowers sustains this level of play at RT, we have something to work with – something much better than what we have seen in recent years. At this point, anything is and should be considered possible.
Dec 222017
 
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New York Giants Defense (January 11, 1987)

New York Giants Defense (January 11, 1987)

Game Preview: New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals, December 24, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
For the first time in 23 years of writing game previews, I’ve got nothing. This is the nightmare season that simply won’t end. So while the Giants are set to establish a new franchise record for losses in one season, in the spirit of the Ghost of Christmas Past, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and remember happier times. Merry Christmas and a belated Happy Hanukkah!

(NOTE: Since the NFL/YouTube have blocked NFL-related content from BBI, you may have to click on the link to watch).

Dec 202017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (December 17, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 34 – New York Giants 29

RECAP

With each week comes a gap that is that much shorter before this horrendous 2017 season is over for the bottom-feeder Giants, the second worst team in the NFL. What was destined to be a blowout-type projection with the Eagles aiming at a first round bye in the playoffs behind their MVP candidate QB Carson Wentz quickly became a closer-to-even match-up as Wentz tore his ACL last week. Nick Foles, former Eagles backup, was back in the saddle after a few unsuccessful seasons with the Rams and Chiefs, respectively.

The Giants’ 31st-ranked scoring offense came out, surprisingly, on fire. Eli Manning was spreading the ball out, hitting his targets on the numbers, and looking confident. They opened with a 13 play drive that ended with an Orleans Darkwa 1-yard touchdown run, the first time NYG scored 6 on their first drive of the game all season. Aldrick Rosas had his PAT blocked, leaving the score at 6-0. PHI responded with a touchdown drive of their own, with the biggest play being at the hands of a missed sack by Jason Pierre-Paul and a 32-yard pass interference penalty on Darian Thompson. Two plays later, Foles found the newly-signed long-term receiver Alshon Jeffrey for 6, his ninth TD catch of the year. There isn’t a single 3-WR combination on the Giants that have 9 TDs on the year.

Manning was out to prove that first drive wasn’t a fluke, as he engineered another touchdown via 10 plays. The Giants’ no-huddle offense sent the PHI defense scrambling, as the pass rush substitutes weren’t able to get on the field and the PHI defensive backs looked lost. Tavarres King brought in his 2nd TD catch of the year.

After a quick PHI possession, it took NYG 3 plays to get in the end zone again, this time a short pitch to Sterling Shepard and a 63 yard-after-catch scamper down the sideline aided by good downfield blocking and porous tackling by the PHI secondary. It was early in the 2nd quarter and NYG held a commanding 20-7 lead with the Eagles looking lost with a backup QB leading the charge. They had to stop the bleeding first, then figure how they were going to dig out of this deep hole on the road.

All within the last 6 minutes of the first half, a Manning interception to Ronald Darby led to a quick touchdown pass from Foles to Zach Ertz (a tight end scoring a TD, surprise, surprise) and then a blocked punt in NYG territory led to a touchdown pass from Foles to Trey Burton (a tight end scoring a TD, surprise, surprise). In 2:30 of game clock, the score went from 20-7 NYG to 21-20 PHI. The nightmares of 2017 continue. NYG did put together a quick and efficient 11 play drive at the end of the half capped by a 28-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas to take a 23-21 lead at halftime, however.

PHI took the lead back on the first possession of the second half via a field goal by Jake Elliot, a likely Pro Bowler. Foles was inconsistent, as he was for the rest of the half, but he made key throws and/or the NYG defense failed to step up in key situations. The second PHI possession of the second half yielded more points, this time a touchdown from Foles to Nelson Agholor after newly-acquired Jay Ajayi picked up a combined 54 yards on 2 straight plays, the second of which was another low-ball effort by Eli Apple. It was 31-23 just like that.

PHI offered a couple of mistakes themselves with an offsides on a NYG punt that led to a re-birth of a drive and a missed tackle by Darby that enabled King to scamper into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day, bringing NYG back with 2 of the Eagles towards the end of the 3rd quarter. NYG lined up for a 48-yard field goal attempt at the beginning of the fourth, but for the 3rd time a NYG kick was blocked. This time Malcolm Jenkins snuck around the outside and got just enough of it. The 4th quarter woes appeared to be following this team yet again.

PHI marched down the field, ate up 7:30 of game clock, and hit a short field goal to extend their lead to 5. It was now touchdown or bust for the 2-11 Giants. Manning, yet again, led this offense down the field and was looking like his old, clutch self. With replacement-level receivers, he was spreading the ball out, escaping pressure, and making several changes at the point-of-attack in their solid no-huddle offense. It was 4th-and-goal from the 6-yard line and…right tackle Bobby Hart proved it again. The worst right tackle in the league was flagged for a false start, pushing NYG back to the 11-yard line, a major difference. Manning was forced to throw the ball before he wanted to and it was out of the reach of Engram. Game over, Giants fall to 2-12.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 37/57 – 434 yards – 3 TD/1 INT. In 2 games this year, Manning has passed for 700 yards and 6 touchdowns against PHI. His 434 in this game were the most he has had in one game since week 4 of 2015. The play-calling called for more downfield passing than we have seen all year and it begs the question, why wasn’t this approach earlier in the year? Manning’s greatest strength has always been downfield passing and this was the first week we saw him do it consistently.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 8 att/39 yards – 6 rec/40 yards. More of the same from the 4th-round rookie. Gallman has a burst and change of direction that continues to create on its own that the other NYG backs don’t have, plain and simple. He is running hard and tough, in addition. His play, his improvement, and his approach each week is a good sign for the future.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 9 att/7 yards – 1 TD – 1 rec/9 yards. Rightfully so, Darkwa is being slightly phased out of the offense as this team needs to see what Gallman can present. We know what we have in Darkwa. An average between-the-tackles rusher who can break tackles, which is important, but can’t do anything else at a high level.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 11 rec/139 yards – 1 TD. Shepard was targeted early and often, 16 times. That is the most Manning has targeted any pass catcher all year. Shepard did have another drop, however. This kid is a tough player who is starting to show he is more than a 3rd-and-5 slot receiver. He can make some things happen and excels at getting himself open. He is a keeper, but won’t ever be more than a #3 on a good passing offense.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec – 74 yards. Lewis was targeted 10 times and is developing in a positive way before our eyes. I’m not ready to say he needs to be a part of the 2018 group, but he is closer than he was since Beckham and Marshall were injured. Lewis is showing more body control and speed as a route runner and when he is attacking a 50/50 ball. Good signs.
  • Tavarres King: 2 rec – 70 yards – 2 TD. King made the most of his day, getting in the end zone twice despite only having a couple catches and leaving the game early via injury. His body control is upper tier, but elsewhere is game is very limited. Plus with that frame, not sure he will ever be durable.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 8 rec/87 yards. The second-most targeted pass catcher on the day is on a mini hot streak. He did have another drop, but this kid is just getting more and more confident each week. It is enabling him to play faster, which is hard to believe because he was already the most impressive athlete in the NFL at TE. He was manhandled by DE Vinny Curry twice, so there is still a blocking deficiency there but he has done better than most thought this year.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: With Manning dropping back deeper in the pocket and holding onto the ball longer, it put more on the OL’s shoulders. For the most part, they responded well against a pass rush that has been more than solid this year. Ereck Flowers had a another below average game, allowing 2 sacks (1 of which was on a 2 pt conversion), 2 pressures, and recorded a holding penalty. He saved himself with some quality run blocking, however. Bobby Hart is still in the starting lineup for some reason. He allowed 2 pressures and 2 TFL while recording an atrocious false start penalty at the end of the game. Chad Wheeler deserves playing time over these next 2 weeks.
  • Interior: Pleasantly surprised by this group. They didn’t do a good job run blocking, but they held up well against an interior pass rush that has been among the best in football this year. You could see the frustration boiling in Timmy Jernigan late in the game. John Jerry had his second-best game of the year and third game where he was above average. Brett Jones and Jon Halapio were right at the slightly above average mark.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Another woefully quiet game by Jason Pierre-Paul. He was over-matched by Lane Johnson, arguably the top RT in the league. He had a free sack put in front of him in the first quarter but Nick Foles, not known for his movement ability at all, pump faked and juked him badly which led to Thompson’s 32-yard pass interference penalty. Olivier Vernon was disruptive, as he was up against the backup left tackle for PHI. He recorded a sack-fumble and a season high 6 pressures. It was his best game of the year.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison played a season high 75% of the team’s snaps, good to see a guy like him who has been banged up almost all year continue to play his heart out. His grades have been sky high all season. Dalvin Tomlinson recorded 3 tackles and continues to improve his hand techniques. This DT unit is going to be a major strength moving forward, among the best in the league. Jay Bromley recorded a TFL in limited action and he has been a pleasant surprise over the past 5-6 games.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson was back in the lineup, but ended up leaving the game with another injury. He has had a very hard time staying on the field and whether it is luck or not, it will have to be considered when evaluating how to approach the LBs this offseason. He did have 7 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. His speed and range looks limited, as he just doesn’t carry any sort of fluidity unless he is attacking downhill. That can be a problem.
  • Kelvin Sheppard is an older, slightly less athletic version of Goodson. Not dismissing him, as he does make an impact between the tackles and plays with a physical brand. However he, Calvin Munson, and Devon Kennard simply take away from the speed of the defense. Kennard gets a pass because of his pass rush versatility, but this team needs more speed in this unit. No doubt. And you know who is a free agent this upcoming offseason? Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham.

CORNERBACKS

  • Another solid game by Ross Cockrell. I am curious to see the numbers on him over the past 5-6 weeks when it comes to QB rating on balls thrown his way. He had another solid PD and looked excellent on the All-22. Coverage strengths against all levels of the passing tree.
  • Eli Apple was back in action and showed a few flashes of his talent, which is certainly first-round caliber. He was involved in some very physical plays and after that, his hustle and intensity dwindled. When I see things like that, I just think this kid isn’t a football player. Very poor effort on the Jay Ajayi screen play that went for a big gain. Maybe the new coaching staff will give him the reboot he needs, but I’m not optimistic there.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made an aggressive mistake that led to an Eagles touchdown. He jumped the wrong route and left his man sitting in the end zone all alone. Mistake? Yes. But if he guessed right and came away with a pick 6, he would have been praised for it. I don’t mind things like that happening to be honest.

SAFETIES

  • Darian Thompson finished with 9 tackles and a PD. He didn’t make a lot of mistakes but the two that he did make were game-changing. He had a deep pass interference call that put PHI inside the 5-yard line and a horrid missed tackle on Zach Ertz. The situations exaggerated the mistakes a tad, but that is the name of the game. Those two mistakes led to 10 points for PHI.
  • Landon Collins only played about a quarter of the team’s snaps. Andrew Adams was his replacement and finished with 6 tackles, but also missed 2 others. After a surprising rookie season in 2016, he appears to have gone backwards. He can be beat by quickness too often and that is simply the name of the game in the NFL now. Not sure he deserves to be here long term.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/2 (Made 28, 48 blocked). Rosas had an extra point blocked as well as a 48-yard attempt late in the game. Looking back, it looks like he was a hair slow getting to the ball and the blocking was poor on the field goal. Rough year for this kid.
  • P Brad Wing: 2 Punts – 37.0 avg. Quiet day for the most used punter in the league this season.

3 STUDS

  • QB Eli Manning, WR Sterling Shepard, DE Olivier Vernon

3 DUDS

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul, OT Bobby Hart, FS Darian Thompson

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

  • I said this before the Wentz injury, but this PHI secondary is going to hold this team back in the postseason. If and when they get matched up against a quality air attack, they’re finished. I’ve heard some commentators speak highly of Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby…etc. These guys are not good at all.
  • Unfortunate for PHI fans that they won’t be able to see what their young franchise QB can do in the playoffs. It is a huge part of whether or not they have “The One”. Postseason play is huge in terms of evaluating QB play and they are going to have to wait now.
  • The PHI pass rush has the makings of something that can be special. Rookie Derek Barnett, the underrated Brandon Graham, and interior forces of Timmy Jernigan and Fletcher Cox may be one of the best 3rd-down rushing groups in the league. And they are all going to be there for at least another few seasons. Another reason to stock up on OL talent for NYG.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Touching on this again…but why wasn’t the passing offense approached like this all year? Throw the ball downfield. Let Eli take his chances, even if it means more INTs. I think this game proves he has plenty left in the tank and he should be the guy next year. But it also proves that when McAdoo was here, the approach was very flawed. It was extremely easy to predict and defend against. This was the best the passing game looked in 2 years and Manning had Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, and Kalif Raymond running routes!
  • I still have a thought of considering Saquon Barkley, RB out of Penn State, with the NYG first pick. I see a lot of “special” in him. Yes, if the next franchise QB is there grade-wise you take him, but what if he isn’t? You can’t force that pick and you could get a guy that helps this team win games next year. I can see a combination of Barkley and Wayne Gallman just running wild. Objective A, B, and C after that is building the OL. I think it is a good plan for the last year or two of Manning’s career here.
  • Is the defense that bad? I don’t think so. I think there are legit worries at two spots. One, the edge rushing. This team needs a new, young fresh force at DE or pass rushing OLB. Two, the depth at CB is going to look thin if Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t back. He has another year left I think, but he is frail and behind him, there is next to nothing. CBs are very hard to find. Cockrell is a keeper, Jenkins can be very good if his head is on straight, Apple is such a wildcard. That isn’t a spot you want to struggle at. But if they can bring in one more feasible talent and build the edge rush, I think this defense can quickly be back in the top-10 discussion.
Dec 152017
 
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Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 17, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
At this point, I suspect everyone would like to fast-forward to January in anticipation of the intrigue surrounding the selection of the new general manager and coaching staff. But we have three torturous games left, including the Giants’ annual humiliation at home by the Philadelphia Eagles. This one-sided “rivalry” gets worse with each passing year. The Eagles have won an astounding 15 of the last 18 games dating back to 2008. Last year was the first time the Giants had won a home game against the Eagles in 10 years!!!

The Giants-Eagles decade-long mismatch is perhaps one of the best indications that this franchise needs a cultural shift… a spiritual enema if you will. Steve Spagnuolo can’t and shouldn’t be the next head coach. We saw more of the same in his inaugural game as NYG head coach last week. His defense – which was second in scoring defense last season – is DEAD LAST in yards allowed in 2017. And it sucked before injuries started hitting that side of the ball. And this isn’t the first time his defenses have been dead last in the NFL and among the worst in NFL history. It’s time to part ways. Nice guy. Not a consistently good coach.

The bigger issue is what to do at GM. Most expect Dave Gettleman will get the job. Those calling for dramatic change – a cultural shift – are uneasy about that prospect because of Gettleman’s long ties with the existing organizational (group think?) structure that dates all the way back to 1979. Hiring Gettleman would be the “safe” move. And it would probably allow for a Gettleman-Kevin Abrams marriage that would eventually morph into Abrams taking over when the 66-year old Gettleman is ready to retire. If this occurs, one would suspect that most (if not all) of the scouting staff would retain their jobs. The key figure to watch in such a scenario would be Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross (really Director of College Scouting). If Ross stays, that would be a major red flag to many.

There are those who argue that it can’t get worse than it is now and that the whole thing should be blown up and completely new faces introduced. The problem is it can always get worse. There is risk with staying the course and there is risk with changing things completely. The important thing is make the right decisions and not be terribly wed to how dramatic the change is or isn’t.

Let’s cut through the bullshit. The Giants need to recognize one important thing: IT ISN’T WORKING! This team hasn’t been right in six years. It’s been poorly constructed. Drafting is always a bit of a crapshoot, but you have to hit on more than you miss. And it is quite telling that very few Giants players drafted are re-signed when their initial contracts are up. Rather than building a roster, it feels like the Giants are constantly trying to fill holes because of crappy drafting and poor free agent decisions. The team has not been able to put together a viable offensive line despite spending significant resources in that area (including three premium draft picks). The Giants are not mentally or physically tough. They are a finesse team that is annually plagued by injuries. They can’t pick up an inch in short-yardage. They can’t run the football. They can’t rush the passer or create enough turnovers. They can’t stop the opposing team when it matters. They start and end games poorly. And special teams are an annual disaster.

If the Giants can’t see this, then the franchise is in real trouble. It’s becoming more and more clear that 2017 was an iceberg that was slowly approaching that the Giants couldn’t see. But it was an iceberg created by their own mismanagement of the roster and coaching staff.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Roger Lewis (ankle – questionable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Travis Rudolph (hamstring – questionable)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (finger – probable)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger – probable)
  • DT Damon Harrison (not injury related – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – probable)
  • CB Brandon Dixon (heel/hamstring – questionable)
  • S Landon Collins (ankle – doubtful)
  • S Nat Berhe (hamstring – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
If you asked me what I want the next version of the New York Giants offense to be, I would answer with one word: TOUGH. I’m tired of finesse. I want to turn back the clock and have a team that may not have a lot of pretty highlight plays but will physically hurt the other team and be able to run the football. That’s not the direction the game is headed, but I’m a dinosaur and a contrarian. I can’t stand having a team that you know can’t pick up an inch on 3rd-and-short. The Giants have four rushing touchdowns this year, and one of those are by the quarterback. They had six rushing touchdowns in 2016. Those stats are ridiculous.

Other than sentimental reasons and possibly as a transitional bridge to the new quarterback, it makes little sense for Eli Manning to remain with the team much longer. New GM, new coaching staff, needing a roster rebuild. Soon-to-be 37-year old, declining quarterback? The longer they hold on, the longer the rebuild is going to take. Excuse my French, the Giants fucked up the last six years of Manning’s career here. But they can’t go back in time and fix it. It sucks but dwelling on it won’t make things better. You have to move forward.

Some other quick roster thoughts:

  • As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, Davis Webb hasn’t played because they Giants never gave him enough reps to get ready. This goes all the way back to training camp. I hope he plays in the last two games but he hasn’t been prepped correctly and it’s too late to learn anything of note that will affect the 2018 NFL Draft. Another screw up.
  • As I’ve mentioned for weeks, the Giants are wasting snaps on Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen. Neither will be with the team in 2017 (if they are, another major red flag). The Giants need to know what they have in Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins. Too many snaps have been wasted here on guys who are not part of the future. Screw up.
  • Other than Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard, there isn’t anything at wide receiver. And Beckham’s future contract status is a major question mark and Shepard has been hot-and-cold (and a bit injury-prone).
  • Tight ends are good.
  • I don’t think the Giants can re-sign the injury-prone Justin Pugh. If he leaves, there is another hole. Time to part ways with guys like John Jerry and Bobby Hart. Tough call on Weston Richburg but I’d offer him a prove-it type deal. I still see more upside with him than Brett Jones, who I don’t think is a starting-caliber center. If the new coaching staff wants to run the football, bringing back D.J. Fluker and Ereck Flowers makes some sense. Long story short – this aspect of the team is still a shit show despite three premium draft picks. That alone was reason enough to fire Jerry Reese.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
In terms of personnel decisions, the biggest issue other than quarterback the Giants face is what to do with over-priced, under-performing Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon? If they are going for a major rebuild, it might be best to take their medicine, swallow the painfully expensive cap hits, and clear the decks more for 2019 and 2020. JPP is a coach killer. There was a hope/thought that the fireworks accident may have woken him up to take the game more seriously, but whether it is his physical limitations or his mental approach, he’s just a guy out there who teases. Vernon is a tougher call because when healthy, he’s played well. But he seems to be nicked up a lot and isn’t as effective when he is. What we do know is that the Giants are not getting the pass rush they expected out of him. The offensive line may have been reason #1a why Reese was let go, but his free agent decisions on JPP and Vernon are a close second.

  • Damon Harrison is the kind of football player you can build around. He was Reese’s greatest free agent decision. The Giants can win with Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson at defensive tackle.
  • The help wanted sign is out at linebacker. This unit needs a complete rebuild. The only two the new coaching staff may consider retaining are the injury-prone B.J. Goodson and the smart, versatile, but athletically limited Devon Kennard.
  • Landon Collins is a very good STRONG safety – please note the word strong. Darian Thompson has had an up-and-down season in what basically is his rookie year. They need better depth here.
  • Corner is going to be an interesting area to watch. Janoris Jenkins has All-Pro ability. Much depends on how the new coaching staff feels about his personality. Same with the aging and somewhat fragile Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Then there is Eli Apple. Many fans think he isn’t a good player. When his head is screwed on right, he is. Apple has shut-down ability. But the fucker needs to grow up and stop acting like an entitled little bitch. Football careers are short and momma isn’t going to be around to pick up the pieces at some point. Grow up. Football is a job. Good news is that Reese may have stolen Ross Cockrell from the Steelers.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I suspect this game will be the final nail in the Tom Quinn story.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
(What Steve Spagnuolo says at this point really doesn’t matter. He’s a place holder).

THE FINAL WORD
This “rivalry” has become a one-sided joke. Nothing changes on Sunday.