Mar 152015
 
Share Button
Jonathan Casillas, New England Patriots (December 14, 2014)

Jonathan Casillas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

By no means is an NFL roster anywhere near finalized by mid-March. There will be additional free agent signings and re-signings. Teams may cut players who the New York Giants have an interest in. And of course, the most important offseason personnel activity remains: the NFL Draft in April. But with the initial flurry of intensive free agency activity over, and almost all of the top free agents now off the market, let’s assess what the Giants have and have not accomplished at each position on the roster.

Quarterback: As expected, the status quo remains here. Eli Manning is the unquestioned starter and Ryan Nassib is the primary back-up. The Giants could still add another cheap arm for training camp.

Shane Vereen, New England Patriots (February 1, 2015)

Shane Vereen – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Running Back: The biggest free agent acquisition looks to be Shane Vereen (3-Years, $12.35 million). While Vereen will likely not start, he should become a critical role player in Ben McAdoo’s West Coast-style of offense as a dynamic and trustworthy pass receiver out of the backfield. Ideally, he should catch 50 passes, ranking him around the #3 or #4 receiver on the roster. In terms of the big picture, barring injury, it looks like the running back position is already largely settled heading into the 2015 season with Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Vereen being the top three backs. The Giants also re-signed Chris Ogbonnaya, who will compete with Michael Cox and Orleans Darkwa in training camp for possibly a spot on the 53-man roster. The team cut Peyton Hillis.

Fullback: The Giants re-signed Henry Hynoski to a 2-year, $2 million deal. He will likely remain the team’s sole fullback on the roster.

Wide Receiver: The key characters still remain. Odell Beckham is the #1. Hopefully Victor Cruz is the #2. Rueben Randle should be the #3. Assuming Cruz can regain much of his old form (a big “if”) and the flashes Randle demonstrated late in the season were not a mirage (another big “if”), then really the main questions are who are the #4 and #5 guys on the roster. Almost assuredly, one will be newly-acquired receiver/returner Dwayne Harris (5-Years, $17.5 million), leaving one game-day active spot on the 53-man roster. Will that spot be for a 2015 draft pick (possibly as high as the first-round pick)? Or will the final spot go to Preston Parker, Kevin Ogletree, Marcus Harris, or Corey Washington?

Tight End: No change. Larry Donnell remains the #1 tight end. Some expect big things from him, others do not. Daniel Fells remains an unrestricted free agent who could be re-signed. The disappointing Adrien Robinson enters the final year of his rookie contract. Jerome Cunningham is a raw but intriguing receiving-type tight end. The Giants could use another body or two here, especially someone who is a reliable blocker.

Offensive Line: Many expected for the Giants to pursue one of the top free agent linemen. They did not. The Giants signed the CFL’s top offensive lineman, center/guard Brett Jones; re-signed journeyman center/guard Dallas Reynolds; re-signed wildly inconsistent guard John Jerry; and signed tackle Marshall Newhouse, a huge lineman who can play both tackle spots but who has also been benched twice by two different teams. The team also cut 2014 starting center J.D. Walton.

For the starting five, as it stands now, Will Beatty will remain the left tackle and Weston Richburg will be the new center. Geoff Schwartz will start at one of the two guard spots. Justin Pugh will start at right tackle or the other guard spot. Unless Newhouse (2-Years, $3 million), Jones, or Jerry surprise, many fans hope the final starting spot will be the first- or second-round pick from the 2015 NFL Draft. They also hope Newhouse is a big upgrade over James Brewer, Jones is an upgrade over Walton, and Jerry stops making so many mistakes. How good the starting five will be, and the overall depth situation, remain huge question marks.

Defensive Line: The Giants franchised Jason Pierre-Paul, released Mathias Kiwanuka, and re-structured Cullen Jenkins’ contract. But no new bodies have been added yet. Will the Giants and JPP be able to agree to a long-term deal? Or does this situation turn ugly? Who will start at end opposite Pierre-Paul? The candidates include Damontre Moore, Kerry Wynn, and Robert Ayers. Will the Giants sign a veteran? Or do the Giants take a defensive end early in the draft? Inside at tackle, Johnathan Hankins will start. Jenkins could remain a starter or be demoted to backup. Does Jay Bromley make a push for serious playing time? Mike Patterson remains unsigned and Marcus Kuhn is still on the roster. There are a lot of open questions at this position.

J.T. Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars (December 18, 2014)

J.T. Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Linebacker: For better or worse, things are clearer at linebacker. The Giants and Beason agreed to a contract re-structure so he will have one more chance to prove that he can stay healthy. The Giants did not cut Jameel McClain before he was due a $400,000 roster bonus on March 12, so he will be back. The team re-signed Mark Herzlich to a 2-year, $2.6 million deal with a $400,000 bonus. Meanwhile the Giants seemingly have decided to replace unrestricted free agents Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger with J.T. Thomas (3-years, $10 million) and Jonathan Casillas (3-years, $8 million). Factoring in impressive rookie Devon Kennard, on paper, the Giants appear to have six linebacker spots already locked up. Of course someone could be drafted who might push one of these veterans off of the roster.

Defensive Backs: What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time, the secondary appeared to be the strength of the team and many were saying one of the best in team history. Now there are a lot of question marks. Corner is not quite as settled as some think. Barring injury, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara form a very strong starting duo. But Amukamara is entering the final year of his contract. In addition, with Walter Thurmond leaving for Philadelphia (1-Year, $4 million), who becomes the all-important nickel corner? And who is the first guy off of the bench if one of the starting two get hurt? The main backups are now Trumaine McBride, re-signed Chykie Brown (2-years, $2 million), Mike Harris, and Chandler Fenner. Not exactly an imposing group. Don’t be shocked if the Giants take a corner high in the draft.

Safety is in far worse shape. Gone is Antrel Rolle to the Bears (3-Years, $11.25 million). Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps remain unsigned, and questionable talents at best even if re-signed. Unless former 5th rounders Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe surprise, the Giants have glaring holes at this position. There isn’t much left available in free agency, and the draft is supposedly weak at this position.

Special Teams: Both kickers remain under contract. The Giants did add kick/punter returner Dwayne Harris, who also is a very good gunner. J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas should help on specials as well.

Mar 052015
 
Share Button
Devin McCourty, New England Patriots (February 1, 2015)

Devin McCourty – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: The New York Giants have clearly been in a downward spiral since winning the team’s eighth NFL title in 2011. In the last three seasons, the Giants have finished in third-place in the NFC East, dropping from 9-7 to 7-9 to 6-10. This despite the team’s huge roster overhaul last offseason that included a free-agent spending spree and a solid draft. After the 2013 season, team President/CEO John Mara asserted the offense was “broken.” While the passing game improved in 2014, the running game remained one of the least productive in the NFL. And the Giants fell to 29th in total defense, giving up over 6,000 yards for the third time in the last four seasons and the only times in franchise history.

Since the end of the 2013 season, both the offensive and defensive coordinator have been fired. Many position coaches have departed too as have player stalwarts from the two Championship teams. But the key actors remain: Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin, and Eli Manning. Nevertheless, the clock is ticking on Coughlin and Manning and their chances for one final ring.

It’s largely been demonstrated that teams can’t build championship-level rosters through free agency. The key roster upgrades must come through the draft. But free agency is an important part of the equation. And the Giants have had to be more active in free agency because of the team has little remaining to show for from the 2008-12 NFL Drafts. The ideal free agent is usually not the 30-something, big “household” name that everyone recognizes, but the 27-28 year old, lesser-known player who is coming off his first contract and entering his prime.

“I think we are in pretty good health. We are headed in the right direction with respect to the cap,” said General Manager Jerry Reese on February 21. “I think we will be able to do what we need to do. I think we will have enough money to do what we need to do in the offseason, as far as free agency goes and whatever we decide to do with the other guys.”

The biggest needs for the New York Giants? To regain control of the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense. To become a tough, physical football team once again.

Quarterback (Minimal Need): Eli Manning is the starter. Ryan Nassib is the back-up. The team prefers to only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Giants might bring another veteran-minimum-type veteran to have an extra arm in camp along with (or to replace) Ricky Stanzi. No one with a legitimate shot to make an NFL roster will want to sign with the Giants because of Manning and Nassib.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • None

UFA’s of Note:

  • Matt Flynn (Green Bay Packers)

Running Back (Moderate Need): It’s likely that Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams are 1a and 1b on the depth chart. Jennings is well-respected and a solid all-around back. But he has been injury prone and is not dynamic. Williams did not flash as much as hoped during his rookie season, but the coaches seem to be very high on his future. What the Giants could use is a quicker, faster change-of-pace back who can pick up the blitz and threaten teams with his pass receiving. Michael Cox and Orleans Darkwa are still under contract. There are some interesting role players in the free agent market such as C.J. Spiller, Shane Vereen, and Roy Helu.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • Chris Ogbonnaya (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • DeMarco Murray (Dallas Cowboys)
  • C.J. Spiller (Buffalo Bills)
  • Shane Vereen (New England Patriots)
  • Roy Helu (Washington Redskins)
  • Mark Ingram (New Orleans Saints)
  • Reggie Bush (Detroit Lions)
  • Pierre Thomas (New Orleans Saints)

Fullback (Minor or Moderate Need): If the Giants re-sign Henry Hynoski, this really is a minor need, especially given the fact that the role of the fullback was minimized in Ben McAdoo’s offense. But if Hynoski leaves in free agency, the Giants will add a body to compete with with him and Nikita Whitlock in training camp.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • Henry Hynoski (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • John Kuhn (Green Bay Packers)

Wide Receivers (Moderate Need): There is a difference of opinion among fans about how pressing a need the team has at wide receiver. Much depends on how one views the likelihood of Victor Cruz returning from a serious knee injury and the immediate prospects for Rueben Randle. But keep in mind that even the Giants have said Cruz may never be the same player. Randle has been inconsistent, and even if he improves, he might want to leave the Giants when he becomes a free agent next offseason. The other seven guys currently under contract are no locks to even be on an NFL roster. There isn’t much out there on the free agent market.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • Jerrel Jernigan (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers)
  • Torrey Smith (Baltimore Ravens)
  • Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia Eagles)

Tight Ends (Substantial Need): Larry Donnell was surprisingly productive in 2014, going from a complete no-name to a 63-catch target in one season. But his blocking still remains suspect. Daniel Fells was just adequate. And while Adrien Robinson took some baby steps forward in 2014, he continues to be a disappointing 4th-round draft pick. Based on his size, Jerome Cunningham is probably strictly an H-Back/receiving type. The problem is the top free agent tight ends are not very good blockers.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • Larry Donnell (Tendered Exclusive Rights Free Agent)
  • Daniel Fells (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • Julius Thomas (Denver Broncos)
  • Jordan Cameron (Cleveland Browns)
  • Charles Clay (Miami Dolphins – Transition Tagged)
  • Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati Bengals)
  • Niles Paul (Washington Redskins)

Offensive Line (Critical Need): Fans also differ in opinion over the true state of the offensive line. Hopefully, the Giants have made the correct personnel evaluations and Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz, Weston Richburg, and Justin Pugh are part of the solution. If not, then this line is really in sad shape. As it stands now, even if you are optimistic about the line, the Giants still desperately need one more starter. And the overall depth situation is not good at all. The big albatross is Will Beatty’s contract. Beatty will be entering the third year of his 5-year, $39 million contract. He will count over $8 million against the cap in 2015, even if the Giants cut him. The Giants need to become a tougher, more physical offensive line. Football games are still won and lost in the trenches. There are some interesting free agent players on the market, especially Mike Iupati, Bryan Bulaga, and Orlando Franklin.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • OT James Brewer (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • OG John Jerry (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • OG Adam Snyder (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • OG Mike Iupati (San Francisco 49ers)
  • OT Bryan Bulaga (Green Bay Packers)
  • OG Orlando Franklin (Denver Broncos)
  • OG Clint Boling (Cincinnati Bengals)
  • OT Derek Newton (Houston Texans)
  • OT Joe Barksdale (St. Louis Rams)
  • OG James Carpenter (Seattle Seahawks)
  • OT Doug Free (Dallas Cowboys)

Defensive Line (Critical Need): On paper, for at least 2015, the Giants appear set at two positions with defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. But major questions remain at the other two starting spots. Who is the starting end opposite JPP? Damontre Moore? Kerry Wynn? Robert Ayers? Who starts alongside Hankins? Cullen Jenkins? Jay Bromley? Markus Kuhn and Mike Patterson played quite a bit in 2015 and did not perform well. The Giants need players here who can play the run and rush the passer. The good news is this is probably the deepest free agent group.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Franchise Player)
  • DT Mike Patterson (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • DT Ndamukong Suh (Detroit Lions)
  • DE Jerry Hughes (Buffalo Bills)
  • DE Greg Hardy (Carolina Panthers)
  • DT Terrance Knighton (Denver Broncos)
  • DT Nick Fairley (Detroit Lions)
  • DT Jared Odrick (Miami Dolphins)
  • DE Jabaal Sheard (Cleveland Browns)
  • DE Pernell McPhee (Baltimore Ravens)
  • DE Brian Orakpo (Washington Redskins)
  • DE Brandon Graham (Philadelphia Eagles)
  • DT Dan Williams (Arizona Cardinals)
  • DT Kendall Langford (St. Louis Rams)
  • DT Barry Cofield (Washington Redskins)
  • DT Vince Wilfork (New England Patriots)
  • DE Trent Cole (Philadelphia Eagles)

Linebackers (Critical Need): You can argue that the Giants haven’t ignored the position, but simply are terrible at scouting or developing linebackers. Or you can argue the Giants have not spent enough resources on the position. Regardless, the chickens have come home to roost. The Giants are in terrible shape at linebacker, lacking overall athleticism, speed, physicality, and most importantly, play makers. Devon Kennard shows signs of real ability but he’s probably best utilized as a line-of-scrimmage linebacker rather than a guy who you want playing in space. And since the game is more pass-oriented than ever, the Giants need better all-around linebackers. The free agent market for linebackers looks dreadful.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • Jacquian Williams (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • Mark Herzlich (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • Spencer Paysinger (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • OLB Derrick Morgan (Tennessee Titans)
  • MLB Rolando McClain (Dallas Cowboys)
  • MLB David Harris (New York Jets)
  • MLB Brandon Spikes (Buffalo Bills)
  • MLB Rey Maualuga (Cincinnati Bengals)
  • MLB Mason Foster (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Defensive Backs (Critical Need): The Giants are in much better shape at cornerback than safety, especially if they can re-sign Walter Thurmond. But if Thurmond leaves, depth becomes a concern since Prince Amukamara has been injury prone and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is coming off an injury-plagued season. The real concern is at safety where in one season the Giants went from a strength (the 2013 version of Antrel Rolle and Will Hill) to a mess (the 2014 version of Rolle, Stevie Brown, and Quintin Demps). The only safeties currently under contract are Nat Behre, Cooper Taylor, and Thomas Gordon. There are only a few defensive backs really worth pursuing in free agency.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • CB Walter Thurmond (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • CB Zack Bowman (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • CB Chandler Fenner (Tendered Exclusive Rights Free Agent)
  • S Antrel Rolle (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • S Stevie Brown (Unrestricted Free Agent)
  • S Quintin Demps (Unrestricted Free Agent)

UFA’s of Note:

  • S Devin McCourty (New England Patriots)
  • CB Bryan Maxwell (Seattle Seahawks)
  • CB Brandon Flowers (San Diego Chargers)
  • CB Kareem Jackson (Houston Texans)
  • S Rahim Moore (Denver Broncos)
  • S Da’Norris Searcy (Buffalo Bills)
  • S Marcus Gilchrist (San Diego Chargers)
  • S Ron Parker (Kansas City Chiefs)
  • S Tyvon Branch (Oakland Raiders)

Kickers (Minor Need): If the Giants release Steve Weatherford, this would become a major need.

New York Giants Free Agents:

  • None

UFA’s of Note:

  • P Brett Kern (Tennessee Titans)
Mar 042015
 
Share Button
Antrel Rolle (26) and Walter Thurmond (24), New York Giants (June 18,2014)

Antrel Rolle and Walter Thurmond – © USA TODAY Sports Images

We are only a few days from the start of the 2015 NFL free agent period. Other teams can begin negotiating with a team’s free agents on March 7 and officially sign those players on March 10. As of March 4, the New York Giants currently have 20 free agents not under contract: 18 unrestricted free agents and two exclusive rights free agents. If the two exclusive rights free agents are tendered, those two players can only re-sign with the Giants.

New York has already re-signed restricted free agent center/guard Dallas Reynolds (1-year, $700,000) and wide receiver Kevin Olgetree (1-year, $745,000). The team has also designated defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul the team’s franchise player. Pierre-Paul has not yet signed that tender, but it currently will count $14,813,000 against the team’s salary cap.

Twenty free agents sounds like a lot. But not surprisingly for a 6-10 team, many of these unsigned New York Giants free agents are not very good. Here is my recommendation on who to re-sign and who to let walk:

Exclusive Rights Free Agents (if tendered):

TE Larry Donnell (Use ‘Em): Tendering Donnell is a no-brainer. He is a cheap, up-and-coming player who finished 9th in the NFL among tight ends in receptions totals in 2014 after only catching three passes in 2013.

CB Chandler Fenner (Lose ‘Em): The ex-Seahawk Fenner was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad in October 2014. While he played in 11 games, he was quickly surpassed on the depth chart by players signed to the roster later in the season. It’s questionable whether the Giants will tender Fenner and unknown if the coaching staff thinks he has any long-term potential.

Restricted Free Agents (if tendered):

OC/OG Dallas Reynolds (Re-Signed – Lose ‘Em): The Giants re-signed Reynolds in February, but why bother? The 30-year old journeyman lineman simply is not very good. The Giants should have moved on.

Unrestricted Free Agents:

RB Chris Ogbonnaya (Lose ‘Em): Ogbonnaya is a 28-year old journeyman back who is currently with his fifth NFL team.

FB Henry Hynoski (Use ‘Em): The fullback role in Ben McAdoo’s offense has been marginalized, but the team still needs one fullback for those times in games that it decides to employ one. Hynoski is a good blocker, but the Giants should only give him a veteran minimum-type deal.

WR Kevin Ogletree (Re-Signed – Use ‘Em): The Giants re-signed Ogletree in February. That seemed like a reasonable move for a team that could use some cheap, veteran competition at wide receiver in training camp. That said, there is a good chance that Ogletree will be cut before the season.

WR Jerrel Jernigan (Lose ‘Em): The Giants are sometimes too patient with draft picks. Jernigan teased at the end of 2013 but reverted back to his previous form in training camp and the preseason, and ended up on Injured Reserve after two games. John Mara’s quip aside, Jerngian is a 2011 3rd-round bust.

TE Daniel Fells (Use ‘Em): Fells is “just a guy” but he knows the system and the team doesn’t currently have a lot of other options at tight end. Re-sign him to a veteran minimum contract and see if someone can beat him out in training camp.

OT James Brewer (Lose ‘Em): Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane. It’s time to move on from this 2011 4th-round bust.

OG John Jerry (Lose ‘Em): Jerry is a “coach killer”, meaning that while there are times when he flashes great ability, his screw ups are so common that they lose football games. Jerry is simply far too inconsistent for a 28-year old veteran. It would be better to move on and use the roster spot on a younger player with an upside.

OG Adam Snyder (Lose ‘Em): An aging, declining veteran with knee problems.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Use ‘Em): The problem with JPP is we really don’t know which way the arrow is pointing with him. He had one great season (2011), two very disappointing seasons (2012-13), and an inconsistent but productive season where he showed flashes of his old outstanding play (2014). How would he react to a big, fat, long-term contract? On the other hand, how many two-way defensive ends with impact ability are there in the NFL? I’d keep JPP, but I would actually not sign him to a long-term deal. I would have him play the entire year under his $15 million franchise tender unless you can re-sign him to a reasonable long-term deal (unlikely). If he has a great season in 2015, then you franchise him again or sign him to a longer team deal. The $15 million is more than 10 percent of the team’s salary cap, but that one-year hit would be better than a multi-year humongous cap-killing error.

DT Mike Patterson (Lose ‘Em): The 31-year old Patterson started eight games on one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. He didn’t make any big plays. It’s time to move on.

LB Jacquian Williams (Lose ‘Em): The Giants linebacking corps sucks. Williams been here four seasons and the Giants have little to show for it. He’s an athlete who makes few plays.

LB Mark Herzlich (Lose ‘Em): See comment above. Herzlich has also been here four years. He’s a big linebacker who struggles in space.

LB Spencer Paysinger (Lose ‘Em): See comment above. Paysinger is also part of the 2011 linebacker class who hasn’t done much. It’s time to move on.

CB Walter Thurmond (Use ‘Em): Thurmond, who proclaims himself to be one of the best corners in football, signed a 1-year “show me” deal with the Giants after violating the NFL’s drug policy in 2013. He tore his pectoral muscle in Week 2 and was lost for the season. In an ideal situation, the Giants would sign him to another “show me” contract this offseason. Will Thurmond bite? He’s probably still the third-best corner on the team, a de facto starter.

CB Chykie Brown (Use ‘Em): Brown was an in-season cut by the Ravens after getting burned once too often in Baltimore. He played surprisingly reasonably well in the eight games he played for the Giants. Chances are he is an inconsistent player who may struggle to make the team, but I would give him a shot in training camp if he signs a veteran minimum deal.

CB Zack Bowman (Lose ‘Em): Bowman is not a terrible player, but he’s 30 and lacks speed. He also started to fall down the depth chart as the season progressed. The Giants should try to get younger and faster at the back-up positions.

S Antrel Rolle (Lose ‘Em): A year after playing arguably his best season at safety, the 32-year old Rolle arguably had his worst. I’d re-sign him to a veteran minimum type deal, but Rolle won’t accept that. He’s an important leader on defense, but that defense finished 29th in the NFL.

S Stevie Brown (Lose ‘Em): As feared, Brown’s big season in 2012 was a mirage. He’s simply not a play-maker.

S Quintin Demps (Lose ‘Em): Demps looks the part but he’s another “coach killer” who has now played for four NFL teams.

So of the 20 free agents, I would prefer to keep only seven, plus Rolle if he would choose to accept a low-end deal. Hopefully the Giants will move on from most of these players and give a chance to new faces coming out of college. Not only will they be cheaper and be locked into playing for the team for 3-4 seasons, but they have a potential upside that most of these guys do not. In particular, the Giants need to clean out the dead weight on the offensive line and defense.

Mar 032015
 
Share Button
Jerry Reese, New York Giants (May 11, 2012)

Jerry Reese – © USA TODAY Sports Images

According to Spotrac.com, the New York Giants currently have approximately $10.879 million in salary cap space. This assumes that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul signs his $14.813 million Franchise tender and does not agree to a longer-term deal that reduces his immediate cap hit.

Overview of the New York Giants salary cap situation:

  • 2015 NFL Salary Cap: $143,280,000
  • New York Giants Adjusted Salary Cap: $143,411,883
  • All Active Contracts: $135,780,248
  • Top 51 Contracts: $123,690,261
  • 2015 NFL Draft Pool: $6,267,498
  • Dead Money: $8,842,893
  • Cap Space (with Top 51 Contracts): $10,878,729

These numbers include the recent releases of running backs David Wilson and Peyton Hillis, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, and center J.D. Walton.

Much of the dead money is coming from:

  • Center David Baas ($3,225,000)
  • Defensive End Mathias Kiwanuka ($2,625,000)
  • Defensive End Jason Pierre-Paul ($1,350,000 – mostly from voided option bonus)
  • Running Back David Wilson ($825,364)
  • Center J.D. Walton ($625,000)

The top-10 players currently counting the most against the team’s 2015 salary cap are:

  1. Quarterback Eli Manning ($19,750,000)
  2. Defensive End Jason Pierre-Paul ($14,813,000)
  3. Wide Receiver Victor Cruz ($8,125,000)
  4. Tackle Will Beatty ($8,050,000)
  5. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($7,250,000)
  6. Cornerback Prince Amukamara ($6,898,000)
  7. Linebacker Jon Beason ($6,691,666)
  8. Guard Geoff Schwartz ($4,975,000)
  9. Linebacker Jameel McClain ($3,400,000)
  10. Punter Steve Weatherford ($3,075,000)
Mar 022015
 
Share Button
Bo Molenda (23), Dale Burnett (18), Ken Strong (50), Harry Newman (12); 1933 New York Giants

Bo Molenda (23), Dale Burnett (18), Ken Strong (50), Harry Newman (12); 1933 New York Giants – Photo Courtesy of Rev. Mike Moran

The 1933 season is the most significant in the National Football League’s early history. While being mired in the depths of the Great Depression, many significant changes were made during the offseason that ensured not only the fledgling league’s survival, but allowed it to prosper and ultimately overtake college football and baseball as the country’s first choice for sporting entertainment. This marked the birth of the modern NFL, and planted the seed that would blossom on December 28, 1958 at Yankee Stadium when the Giants and Baltimore Colts captivated a national television audience in what has become known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

The first major decision was for the league to create its own standard of play. Since the league’s inception in 1920, the rules governing competition were legislated by college football, which had hamstrung the NFL’s growth by preventing the pro game from differentiating itself from the college game. With its own set of rules ready for 1933, the NFL began to establish its own identity and attract new fans with a different style of play. The main intent was to create more excitement on offense and increase scoring.

The Impetus for Innovation

The catalyst for this unprecedented change was spontaneous improvisation. The NFL had no firmly-established tie-breaking procedure in place at the close of the 1932 regular season. The 6-1-6 Chicago Bears and 6-1-4 Portsmouth Spartans finished officially tied for first place, as ties were not factored into winning percentages at the time. Their 6-1 equated as a 0.857 winning percentage, and during the season the two had played one another to 13-13 and 7-7 ties. There had been too many disputed championships in the 1920’s and the owners did not desire another.

For the first time, a playoff game was arranged to decide who would be declared champion. A blizzard followed by subzero temperatures forced the game to hastily be shifted indoors from Wrigley Field to Chicago Stadium, which had a considerably smaller playing surface. Some of the special ground rules put in place for the game gave a glimpse into the future of football, as well as a controversy that arose late in the game.

The confined space only allowed for a field that was 80 yards in length and approximately 50 yards in width, with the sidelines nearly abutted to the grandstands. The actual playing field was 69-yards from goal line to goal line. The end zones were smaller than regulation and rounded along the end line to fit within the contours of the field that was shaped like a hockey rink. As a precaution, inbounds markers were placed on the field to allow play to begin more toward the center of the field instead of right on the sideline following an out-of-bounds play. This proved to be a revelation, as fewer downs were wasted attempting to center the ball, and also allowed for more productive offensive plays with more of the field was available to use. The goal posts were also moved up from the end line to the goal line.

The game was tied 0-0 five minutes into the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-goal from the Spartans two-yard line, Chicago fullback Bronko Nagurski charged toward the line, but abruptly pulled up and lofted a pass into the hands of teammate Red Grange for a touchdown. Portsmouth head coach Potsy Clark immediately stormed the field in protest, claiming Nagurski was not the required five yards behind the line of scrimmage when he passed the ball forward. Referee Bobby Cahn upheld the ruling and the touchdown stood. The Bears held on for a 9-0 victory and were professional football’s champions for 1932.

The NFL declared it would no longer strictly adhere to the college rule book and forged its own code on February 25, 1933. Although the professional parameters were still strongly rooted to the college game, the differences were significant and would ultimately prove to stimulate a more open and entertaining brand of football. Higher scoring games also decreased the likelihood of tie games, a direct response to the fact that the participating teams in the 1932 playoff participated in a total of 10 tie contests.

  • Forward passes were allowed anywhere behind the line of scrimmage, rather than five yards back (the penalty for which had been loss of possession.)
  • The goalposts were moved to the goal line to make field goals a more attractive option.
  • In-bound lines were added to the field to keep plays from being wasted merely to center the ball on the field.
  • The ball carrier was not ruled down unless contacted by a defender.

Structural differentiation occurred by borrowing ideas from major league baseball. Boston Redskins owner George Preston Marshall and Chicago Bears owner George Halas championed the idea of splitting the NFL into Eastern and Western divisions and having the two first-place teams meet in what they conceived as a “World Series of Football.” Splitting into divisions created “pennant races” that fans would follow, stimulating interest in more cities around the league as more teams had the opportunity to qualify for the championship. The annual championship game would also once-and-forever eliminate disputed championships. Everything would be settled on the field. This reorganization was officially implemented on July 8, 1933, and the site of the championship was predetermined on a rotating basis. The Western Division champion would host the game in 1933 and all subsequent odd-numbered years while the Eastern champion would host in 1934 and all further even-numbered years. This system remained unchanged until expansion caused the league to realign into four divisions in 1967.

The NFL expanded to ten teams in 1933, up from its all-time low of eight in 1932. The placement of the new franchises was significant. Beginning in the late 1920’s, NFL President Joe Carr mandated that the league migrate from large towns and small cities into large cities, especially ones that had a major league baseball team. This helped elevate the NFL’s image, as many pro football teams would share stadiums with their baseball counterparts.

The Staten Island Stapes withdrew from the NFL after the 1932 season (but would continue as an independent team and occasionally play NFL teams in exhibition matches.) Three new franchises received league charters and were based in Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The number of franchises that had competed at least one season in the APFA/NFL was now at 51 in the circuit’s 14th season. The realignment featuring two five-team divisions operating from large metropolitan areas gave the NFL much needed stability. The days of impermanent and transient franchises were drawing to a close.

Player statistics were officially recorded by the league for the first time in 1932. Weekly postings of league leaders were distributed to the press and printed in newspapers beginning in 1933. This gave fans an interactive experience, allowing them to follow their favorite players as they would during baseball season by tracking the league-leaders in batting average and ERA.

Reload

The Giants themselves also underwent a transformation prior to the season, having endured back-to-back disappointing seasons as the core of the team that had challenged for the league title in 1929 and 1930 got old.

The core of New York’s team was its perennially-powerful line. Ray Flaherty and Red Badgro were the best pair of ends in pro football. The interior line was anchored by Len Grant, Butch Gibson, Mel Hein, Potsy Jones and Bill Owen. The infusion of new blood took place in the backfield, with fullback Bo Molenda, tailback Harry Newman and halfback Ken Strong, the latter signing with the Giants after the Staten Island Stapes left the league.

Ray Flaherty, New York Giants (1933)

Ray Flaherty, New York Giants (1933)

The Giants struggled to score points in 1932 after Benny Friedman departed for Brooklyn. The new tailback was chosen for his pedigree. Newman had played behind Friedman while at Michigan in college. The hope was his time observing Friedman playing and practicing alongside him would translate into production on the field. Newman could run, pass and kick almost as well as Friedman, and the Giants billed him as the team’s marquis star. Newman said, “’It was Benny who taught me how to pass. I think I may have thrown two passes in high school. Benny felt if I was going to make it to the top in college, I needed to be a good passer as well as a runner.”

Following four weeks of drills and practice in Pompton Lakes, NJ and exhibition games versus the All-Long Island Stars and Patterson Night Hawks, the 1933 New York Football Giants opened the season with a five-game, three-week road trip. The league opener was a Wednesday-night contest, pitting the Giants against the Pittsburgh Pirates in their inaugural football game.

The Pittsburgh Press said Newman “stole the show” and “did everything with the ball but swallow it,” while comparing him to baseball pitching great Carl Hubbell. The crowd of 25,000 remained enthusiastic, despite the Giants dominant performance. Newman scored on a 5-yard rush and threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Dale Burnett. Perhaps most pleasing to Coach Steve Owen, however, was Newman’s successful 39-yard field goal, as no New York kicker successfully made a field goal during the entire 1932 season. Strong also had a good all-around game for the Giants, scoring on an interception return and two point-afters. The Pirates only score came on a safety when the ball skittered though the end zone in the third quarter when Strong’s punt was blocked. The Giants won 23-2.

New York was overwhelmed by the Spartans and 90-degree temperatures four days later in Portsmouth. Tailback Glenn Presnell moved the Spartans offense up and down the field on New York in front of 7,000 fans. Portsmouth had the game well in hand, 17-0 in the fourth quarter, when the Giants avoided a shutout with an unusual play. Newman called his own number on a rush from the Spartans 45-yard line, ran through the line and into the secondary. He fumbled the ball when hit from behind, but teammate Red Badgro was nearby to scoop the loose ball at the 20-yard line and take it the rest of the way for the touchdown. Strong added the point-after from placement and the final score was 17-7. The busy road trip continued with an exhibition contest at the Indianapolis Indians on Wednesday before a league contest versus Green Bay at Milwaukee.

Milwaukee fans had been eager to see the Packers in person, and the game against the Giants was very much anticipated as the two teams had battled one another for league supremacy in 1929 and 1930. Instead they witnessed 60 full minutes of undisciplined execution combined with sloppy ball handling. Strong and Newman had productive game for New York, but The Milwaukee Journal provided a descriptive summary of the Wisconsin team’s performance: “Twelve thousand fans laid it on the line hoping to see the Packers and Giants artistically maul each other around in a National League football game at Borchert Field Sunday afternoon, and 12,000 fans, after seeing the exhibition, quietly left the park gently holding their noses between the forefinger and thumb.”

A first quarter Green Bay fumble led to an impressive 39-yard placement field goal by Strong from a wide angle into a brisk wind. In the second quarter, Hein intercepted a pass at the Packer 25-yard line, and Newman connected with Burnett on a 19-yard touchdown pass shortly thereafter for a 10-0 New York lead. Green Bay scored late in the fourth quarter to make the final 10-7 score look respectable, but those who saw it knew better. The Milwaukee Journal detailed “the Bay’s” comedy of errors: “It wasn’t that the Packers lost, they have lost before. They lost to the Bears last Sunday but still looked like a football team. It was that they fumbled, missed signals, fumbled, missed tackles, fumbled, passed like the Apache A.C. Indians, fumbled, checked signals until they finally resorted to a huddle, fumbled, passed wildly from center, fumbled, used bad judgment in spots, fumbled – and then used butter fingers on the ball some more. It was a sad, sad exhibition all around.”

New York headed back to the East Coast for one last road game in Boston. The newly renamed Redskins were building themselves into a rugged outfit. They were strong on the line of scrimmage and had one of the great young backs in the league in Cliff Battles. After jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, Boston gained control of the tempo and pounded out long drives for a 21-7 lead in the third quarter. New York fought back. Stu Clancy connected with Flaherty on a 35-yard aerial, and then finished the drive with a 15-yard rush into the end zone. However, Glenn “Turk” Edwards pierced the line and blocked Newman’s point-after attempt, leaving New York behind 21-13.

New York Giants at Boston Redskins (October 8, 1933)

New York Giants at Boston Redskins (October 8, 1933)

Late in the fourth quarter, the Giants had the ball on their 20-yard line and were desperate for a quick score. Newman took the snap from center, sprinted toward the edge and flipped a lateral toward a teammate who missed the ball. Newman retrieved the ball on the 10-yard line, reversed field, and traversed the distance for an 80-yard touchdown. His point-after was good, bringing the score to 21-20. Newman’s long run gave him 108 yards for the contest, and earned him the distinction of being the first officially recognized 100-yard rusher in franchise history. Unfortunately for the Giants, this was not the only accolade of the day. The Redskins were able to run out the clock before New York could threaten again. Battles carried the ball 16 times for 215 yards and a touchdown in the first officially recorded 200-yard rushing performance in pro football history. The Giants headed back to Harlem with a 2-2 record.

Home Cooking

The environs of the Polo Grounds definitely agreed with Owen’s team in 1933. If they felt road weary after their five-games-over-three-weeks road trip, they certainly recovered in a hurry. New York opened their home schedule with a record-setting romp in their first-ever meeting with Philadelphia in front of 18,000 fans.

Harry Newman, New York Giants (October 15, 1933)

Harry Newman, New York Giants (October 15, 1933)

Scoring early and often, the Giants set a team record with eight touchdowns and 56 points. The New York Times game summary said: “the red-jerseyed New York team swept ruthlessly through the visiting eleven to register one of the largest scores ever made in professional football. The Giants gave evidence of tremendous power and fine cooperation, unleashing a running and passing attack that completely puzzled the Philadelphia congregation.

The Giants eight touchdowns were scored by six different players: five were rushing and three passing, with Molenda and Kink Richards each going over twice. New York had totaled eight touchdowns in a game against Frankford in 1930 in a 53-0 win, but only converted five point-afters. This time the Giants were eight-for-eight. Jack McBride converted four placements, Strong two, Newman one and Hap Moran passed to Newman for one.

Fifty-point scores were not uncommon in the early days of professional football as mismatches often occurred between the league’s handful of established franchises and the rabble of teams that struggled to hold their rosters together. As the NFL stabilized in the later 1920’s, the level of competition became balanced as there were fewer teams and stronger rosters. One-sided blowouts became less frequent. The Giants two 50-point games in 1929 and 1933 were the only occurrences of that plateau being reached through the six-year span of 1928-1933, and New York would not reach it again until 1950.

The Giants entertained the Dodgers the next week in an inter-borough battle that drew an exuberant 35,000 spectators to the Polo Grounds. Brooklyn featured familiar names to fans of the Giants: Benny Friedman, along with newcomers Chris Cagle and John “Shipwreck” Kelly, who left New York after the 1932 season and acquired a percentage of the Dodgers franchise. Newman again drew praise for his deft passing against Brooklyn’s durable defense, which came into this game off a shut out versus Cincinnati.

A unique play occurred in the second quarter with New York ahead 7-0. Newman punted to the irascible Kelly, who surprisingly punted the ball right back to Newman, giving the Giants a new possession with a net loss of one yard. The Giants lead 14-0 at the half, and after leading another touchdown drive, Newman was given star treatment and was taken out to a standing ovation. Owen sent in Richards to finish the game at tailback. Friedman got the Dodgers on the scoreboard late with a fourth quarter touchdown pass. Brooklyn successfully completed an on-sides kick, but the Giants defense held and the final score was 21-7. After bolstering their record to 4-2, good for first place in the Eastern Division, the Giants boarded the train to Washington for a mid-week exhibition match before heading to the mid-West to meet a familiar foe with a new look.

The Comeback Kings

New York Giants Center/Linebacker Mel Hein in 1933 - Photo Courtesy of Rev. Mike Moran

New York Giants Center/Linebacker Mel Hein in 1933 – Photo Courtesy of Rev. Mike Moran

After winning the NFL title in 1932, Ralph Jones stepped down as coach for the Bears. George Halas, having bought out long-time partner Edward “Dutch” Sternamn, reinstalled himself as head coach. Part of his motivation may have been the desire to work closely with Bronislau “Bronko” Nagurski, who was the embodiment of everything Halas desired in a football player: tough, smart and relentless. Nagurski was a unique specimen. At six feet two inches in height and 235 pounds, he was a nightmare for defender to bring down. On defense he played tackle where he demolished blockers. Hein stated years later, “I learned that if you hit him by yourself, you were in trouble. If you hit him low, he’d trample you to death; if you hit him high, he’d take you about 10 yards. The best way to tackle Bronko was to have your teammates hit him about the same time – one or two low, one or two high. He was the most powerful fullback that I ever played against. Bronko had a knack of running fairly low. He had a big body and he could get that body, that trunk, down and be able to throw his shoulder into you. If you didn’t get under his shoulder, he just knocked you butt over tea kettles.”

The Chicago Daily Tribune boasted the expected crowd was to be the largest ever at Wrigley Field for a professional football game. (The Cardinals occasionally played there when Comiskey Park was unavailable). An added draw was Newman, who had many fans in the area from his time at Michigan University, and his college teammate Bill Hewitt, now on the Bears. Newman was leading the NFL in passing while also averaging five yards per rush. Halas drilled the 5-0 Bears in defensing New York’s diversified attack. Also of note were the three active players who participated in the first Giants – Bears game at the Polo Grounds in 1925: McBride for the Giants and Red Grange and Link Lyman for Chicago, as well as Coach Halas. The Giants and Bears had met 13 times overall with Chicago holding an 8-5 advantage over their Eastern rivals.

The Bears were the cardiac team of the 1933 season, having won four of their five games by coming from behind late in the final period. The Giants controlled much of the action through the first three quarters, keeping the Bears pinned deep in their own end of the field throughout the third quarter. The field position advantage finally paid off for New York when Strong was good on a 26-yard placement for a 10-7 lead. The Giants defense appeared to close the contest after recovering a fumble at mid field. Newman advanced New York to the Bears 35-yard line where the drive stalled. Luke Johnsos tipped the field position advantage and swung the momentum Chicago’s way when he broke through the line and blocked Strong’s punt, Hewitt scooped the ball and wasn’t tackled until he was dragged down from behind by Newman at New York’s 18-yard line. The comeback was on and the 28,000 Chicagoans were on their feet.

Grange, who, along with Hein, played the full 60 minutes, charged forward for a first down at the eight-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 11-yard line, Keith Molesworth received the snap from center, play-faked to Johnny Sisk, and handed off to Bill Hewitt who came around from the end position. Hewitt followed blockers into the line but pulled up as a herd of New York defenders collapsed on him, and lobbed a pass to Bill Karr alone in the end zone. “Automatic” Jack Manders was good on the placement and the Bears went ahead 14-10 with six minutes to play. The Chicago defense held to preserve their perfect record at 6-0. Newman and Strong ran the ball well for the Giants, but Newman completed only two passes while having four intercepted. The Giants held Nagurski in check, but never quite got a handle on Hewitt, who was the game’s top performer.

New York returned home at 4-3, just ahead of 3-3-1 Boston, who was facing the Bears at Fenway Park. The Giants hosted the always tough Spartans, a team owning a three-game winning streak over New York. The first three quarters of the game showed no reversal of fortune for either team. Glenn Presnell ran 81 yards for a touchdown and kicked a field goal for a 10-0 lead. The battle in the trenches was mostly a stalemate. Portsmouth’s front wall was fortified by All-Pro linemen Ox Emerson and George Christensen.

Ken Strong, New York Giants (November 5, 1933)

Ken Strong, New York Giants (November 5, 1933)

New York’s first break came with approximately 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Presnell, who was soon to leave the game from exhaustion, missed an 18-yard placement attempt. Like the blocked punt the previous week in Chicago, the momentum tipped and the door of opportunity opened. Following an exchange of punts, Newman, who had not yet completed a pass, led the Giants on a 68-yard advance. Badgro and Hank Reese began to control the line of scrimmage, clearing space for Strong, Burnett and Newman on plunges and slants. Newman completed a nine-yard pass to Flaherty and completed the drive with a 12-yard aerial to Strong, who fell backward over the goal line for a touchdown. Strong missed the point-after and the deficit remained 10-6.

The aroused New York defense smothered Portsmouth on the ensuing possession and the Giants started on their 48-yard line after receiving a punt. On the first snap, Newman rolled right and lofted a deep ball into the hands of Burnett at the Spartan’s 14-yard line as the Polo Grounds crowd was “galvanized into an excited, roaring mass.” A Spartans defender was penalized for a late hit on Burnett and the ball was set on the one-yard line. The Giants lined up strong to their left and Strong followed a wave of interference to go over for the winning score and added the point-after for a 13-10 victory. Presnell and Strong registered all the points for their respective teams.

The First Pennant Race

The Giants enthusiasm was tempered after receiving news from out of town. Boston had upset the Bears 10-0. The upcoming Redskins game at the Polo Grounds would be a pivotal match for first place in the division. The 5-3 Giants had a half-game lead over 4-3-1 Boston, but the Redskins had won the first game and a sweep would give them a tie-breaking advantage. A large crowd was expected, since the game was billed as a memorial and charity fundraiser for the late Fordham coach Major Frank Cavanaugh. A high scoring game was predicted – the Redskins led the league in rushing and the Giants led the league in passing. That proved not to be the case.

The contest was a savage battle in the trenches. Boston sent Battles into the fray behind Edwards, looking to duplicate the success they enjoyed in the first game. The Giants countered with Strong plunging behind Grant. Neither team passed the ball with great success as the pressure from both defensive fronts was tremendous. It was entirely appropriate that game’s lone touchdown was scored by an unsung member of the pits.

Newman sparked the Giants only sustained drive with a 15-yard return of a Battles’ punt to the New York 44-yard line in the second quarter. Strong plunged three times for a first down at the Boston 44-yard line. Newman connected on a pass to Burnett to the 28-yard line, and then ran a slant off right tackle for a first down at the Redskins 13-yard line. Three rushes left the Giants with a fourth-and-12 on the 15-yard line. Owen passed on the field goal attempt and signaled Newman to run a play.

Newman took the snap from Hein, rolled to his right and fired a high pass toward the goal line. Battles was in position defending the intended receiver. He leapt up and batted the ball down. Tackle Tex Irvin had been running interference for Newman and was in the area. Irvin reached out, grabbed the deflected ball and fell over for the touchdown. Strong’s point-after gave New York a 7-0 advantage and closed out the scoring for the day. The second half was a field-position struggle featuring the punting exploits of Battles and Strong. Neither team advanced beyond the other’s 30-yard line nor there were no serious scoring threats.

With a 6-3 record and a firmer hand on first place, the Giants again found disconcerting news from the out-of-town scoreboard. The Bears had shockingly been played to a 3-3 tie at Philadelphia. Halas’ team would certainly be motivated to get out of their unexpected slump when they visited the Polo Grounds the following week.

In a calculated risk, Owen changed up his line-up, eschewing explosiveness for size. Given that Chicago was the league’s burliest team – their roster averaged 208 pounds, including 215 along the line – this seemed like a questionable strategy. The prospects of a defender staring down the barrel at the 267-pound George Musso running interference for the 235 pound Nagurski must have kept Owen awake at night. Strong and Newman would start the game on the bench in favor of Clancy and McBride. Owen said he would substitute the larger backs for the more dynamic pair when a scoring opportunity presented itself. Richards would also receive significant playing time subbing for Molenda, who was beat up after playing the full sixty minutes of the previous three games.

Owen’s strategy played out exactly as he had envisioned it during the closing moments of the second quarter. The larger lineup played Halas’ eleven to a stalemate through the game’s first 25 minutes. Looking for a spark, Newman and Strong entered the game with the Bears in possession of the ball at their own end of the field. Newman intercepted a Carl Brumbaugh pass and returned it 20 yards to the Chicago 25-yard line. But a clipping penalty during the return moved the ball back to midfield (the penalty for clipping was 25 yards at the time.)

Chicago Bears at New York Giants (November 19, 1933)

Chicago Bears at New York Giants (November 19, 1933)

From the 50-yard line, Newman received the snap, dropped back to pass, and kept retreating under a heavy rush all the way back to New York’s 25-yard line. Side-stepping and weaving through would-be tacklers, Newman headed back up-field. Most of Chicago’s defense was now behind Newman and his receivers took on the role of blockers. He advanced the ball beyond the 50-yard line and wasn’t brought to the ground until he had reached the 15-yard line for a net gain of 35 yards that electrified the 22,000 fans at the Polo Grounds.

Newman completed an eight-yard pass to Turtle Campbell with just over one minute on the clock before halftime. The Giants called their fourth time out of the half and accepted the accompanying five-yard penalty (essentially a delay-of-game infraction). Deciding it was too risky to run another play, Newman called for the field goal try on second down, which Strong sent through the uprights with ease for a 3-0 Giants lead at intermission.

The Bears came back with a vengeance in the third quarter. Nagurski plunged into the line and Brumbaugh flipped laterals to Sisk and delivered aerials to Molesworth during a 66-yard advance. A remarkable 25-yard play included three exchanges of the ball. Brumbaugh passed downfield to Hewitt, who lateralled to Karr. This play was Chicago’s fourth first down of the drive and set the ball goal-to-go on the seven-yard line. But on first down a lateral was mishandled and the Giants recovered the loose ball. The reprieve was temporary however. Strong launched a deep punt but Molesworth evaded several tacklers and returned it back to the New York’s 18-yard line. Sisk and Manders bucked through the line for a first-and-goal from the eight-yard line.

According to The New York Times summary, “Then came the most thrilling moments of the game and a goal line stand by the Giants that had the crowd cheering frenziedly.” On successive plunges Manders, Sisk and Molesworth advanced to the one-yard stripe. Manders was stuffed again on fourth down, but New York was offside and gave Chicago another chance one half-yard from pay dirt. The Giants line penetrated and Molesworth was thrown for a three-yard loss on the fifth attempt. New York took over possession on their own four-yard line. Grant and Ollie Satenstein were cited for their exceptional efforts to come off blocks and repel the forward charge.

Neither team penetrated deep into the other’s territory and Strong’s field goal held up for the 3-0 win. New York was not firmly in control of the division yet as Boston kept pace by defeating Green Bay. And Brooklyn was on an undefeated roll of their own and stood at 4-2-1.

The Giants dispatched the slumping Packers the next week with relative ease, 17-6. The contest was notable for Strong’s unique free kick field goal in the second quarter. You can read more about this historic occurrence here.

The Dodgers vaulted over the Redskins into second place with a 14-0 win over Boston at Ebbets Field. Brooklyn’s defense had been virtually impregnable following the 21-7 loss to New York in October. Since that game, the Dodgers surrendered only three points over five games during a 4-0-1 run (the tie game was 3-3 versus Pittsburgh). They had given up only four touchdowns thus far during the season; one to the Bears and three to the Giants. Standing at 5-2-1, a win over New York on Thanksgiving would put Brooklyn in first place by percentage points over the currently 8-3 Giants.

Owen again altered his strategy for a rugged opponent, this time emphasizing the aerial attack as Brooklyn was the toughest unit to run on. The first half saw the expected physical line play from both units and three missed field goals, two by New York and one by Brooklyn. The second Giants miss was one that had the fans of both teams on their feet in anticipation of a potentially great feat.

New York had the ball on Brooklyn’s 45-yard line with only seconds on the clock before halftime and elected to go for what would be a record long field goal. Newman knelt on the Giants 48-yard line for the hold. The snap and spot were perfect and New York’s front kept the Dodgers out for Strong’s booming placement. It was high and long enough but sailed just outside the right upright. Remarkably, the ball flew over the end zone and hit the Ebbets field grandstand wall before coming back to the turf. Its flight was estimated to have been 65 yards and the 28,000 fans gave Strong an ovation for his effort as the teams walked off the field for intermission.

Dale Burnett (18), Harry Newman (12 - making the tackle), Ken Strong (50), New York Giants (November 30, 1933)

Dale Burnett (18), Harry Newman (12 – making the tackle), Ken Strong (50), New York Giants (November 30, 1933)

A four-play drive in the third quarter, all passes, gained 59 yards to set up Strong’s 16-yard field goal to put the Giants on top 3-0. Following an exchange of punts, New York was on the move again, now with Clancy in for Newman. Clancy plunged for three-yards and McBride completed a nine-yard pass to Flaherty for a first down. Four consecutive rushes moved the chains again and the Giants had the ball on the Dodgers 11-yard line as the game moved into the final period.

Brooklyn crowded the line of scrimmage and Clancy called for a trick play. McBride received the direct snap from Hein and handed off to Molenda, who faked a line buck and tossed a diagonal pass toward Flaherty in the end zone. Flaherty was knocked down by a defender before the ball arrived and the pass interference penalty gave New York a first-and-goal on the one-yard line. Clancy went over for the score on a plunge and the Giants had the game in control after McBride’s placement made it 10-0. Brooklyn never threatened and the Giants returned to the Polo Grounds at 9-3, all but assured of the first Eastern Division title in league history.

Only 10,000 spectators braved a cold rain to watch the Giants clinch the Eastern Division title against Pittsburgh. The 27-3 final score belied the frustration New York endured for most of the first three quarters. Newman passed the ball nearly at will on three long drives in the first half – including a 98-yard march between the one-yard lines – that all came up empty. With three minutes left in the third quarter, the Pirates still lead 3-0. Finally New York’s attack broke free. Newman peppered the Pittsburgh secondary with accurate strikes to sure-handed receivers and Strong capped the drive with a scoring strike of his own for a 7-3 advantage at the end of the penultimate period. Another touchdown drive gave the Giants a 14-3 lead. The Giants intercepted two passes (including one by Newman), giving New York short fields to work with and the rout was on.

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (December 10, 1933); Ken Strong with the Football

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (December 10, 1933); Ken Strong with the Football

A surprisingly-tough Eagles team gave the Giants a run for their money to end the regular season at the snow-covered Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. Given that New York had already clinched the division and had easily rolled over the Eagles in the first meeting, they may not have been sharp. A 61-yard rush by Swede Hanson in the middle of the fourth quarter gave Philadelphia a 14-13 lead and apparent upset victory, but it was to be short lived. The 8,000 fans who withstood the winter weather were stunned to see Newman complete a 61-yard touchdown pass to Richards immediately after. The 20-14 lead held and 11-3 New York closed the season on a seven-game win streak and with a perfect 7-0 record at home. Despite the championship game being held in Chicago, Owen and the Giants were confident.

The First Greatest Game Ever Played

Anticipation was high for the NFL’s first championship game between division winners. Newspaper coverage previewing the event was the most extensive since Grange’s debut in 1925. The Chicago Daily Tribune billed the game as “the football championship of the United States.” Articles were written in both cities portraying the exploits of Newman, Strong, Manders and Nagurski. Point spreads were not published, but The New York Times hinted toward what handicappers might be thinking, “The elevens are so evenly matched defensively that the game probably will be decided on mistakes or ‘breaks,’ with the chance that it will develop into an aerial battle.”

New York Giants - Chicago Bears NFL Championship Game Program (December 17, 1933)

New York Giants – Chicago Bears NFL Championship Game Program (December 17, 1933)

Grange would not start the game for Chicago, but he would see plenty of playing time. In his ninth season of professional ball, Grange no longer possessed the breakaway speed that had earned him the moniker “The Galloping Ghost”. But he was an extremely-intelligent player and was one of Halas’ most dependable defensive backs.

Despite a light rain and fog at the game’s start and chilly temperatures, 30,000 eager fans arrived at Wrigley Field, the largest crowd there in eight years. The game opened at a deliberate pace as the two teams sparred one another. Gradually the tempo increased as they warmed up and before long their engines were humming. The ebb and flow, big plays, momentum swings and rapid lead changes made everyone forget the weather in a hurry. The New York Times summary put it succinctly: “The game was a thrilling combat of forward passing skill, desperate line plunging and gridiron strategy that kept the chilled spectators on their feet in constant excitement.”

On Chicago’s first possession, Molesworth quick-kicked the ball over Newman’s head, and pinned New York deep in their own end. Strong punted for the Giants on third down, and Molesworth returned the ball eight yards to the New York 42-yard line. Nagurski and Gene Ronzani rushes moved the chains twice and set the ball on the 15-yard line. From there the Giants defense stiffened and Manders was good on a 16-yard placement to giving the Bears a 3-0 lead.

New York resorted to deception to try to get on the scoreboard. The ball was spotted on the Bears 45-yard line, where the Giants lined up in an unbalanced formation with both guards and tackles deployed to Hein’s right and only the end on his left. The right end was split approximately 20 yards toward the sideline. Newman stepped up from his tailback position directly under center. On the first signal, the left end stepped back, making Hein eligible, and the wingback stepped up to cover the right tackle and the right end stepped back. Hein snapped the ball into Newman’s hands, who handed it right back to Hein. The line fired off to their right, Newman followed the fullback into the line as if he still possessed the ball and was brought to the ground by Musso. While this was going on, Hein nonchalantly walked forward approximately five yard with the concealed ball. Chicago had been completely fooled. None of the Bears defenders had paid any attention to the center, but Hein suddenly broke into a sprint toward the goal line. Brumbaugh alertly saw Hein take off and chased him down after a 30-yard gain. The Bears held and kept New York off the scoreboard.

Hein said, “This was a play we had to alert the officials about ahead of time. We put all the linemen to my right except the left end. Then he shifted back a yard, making me end man on the line, while the wingback moved up on the line on the right. Harry Newman came right up under me, like a T-formation quarterback. I handed the ball to him between my legs and he immediately put it right back in my hands – the shortest forward pass on record. I was supposed to fake a block and then just stroll down the field waiting for blockers, but after a few yards I got excited and started to run and the Bear safety, Keith Molesworth, saw me and knocked me down. I was about 15 yards from the goal, but we never did score on that drive.”

In the second quarter, Grange returned Richards’ punt to the Giants 46-yard line. Ronzani caught a 15-yard pass on second down at the Giants 29-yard line. A short rush and two incomplete passes brought Manders out for another field goal, which was good from 40-yards and gave Chicago a 6-0 advantage.

1933 NFL Championship Game (December 17, 1933)

1933 NFL Championship Game (December 17, 1933)

New York returned the kickoff to their 38-yard line. On second-and–five, Richards bucked into the line, bounced off Lyman and charged through the secondary until he was brought down at the Chicago 29-yard line. Newman threw a scoring strike to Badgro and Strong’s point-after placement marked the game’s first lead change as New York moved ahead 7-6. The score held to halftime, as a long Chicago drive resulted in a rare Manders’ missed field goal attempt.

In the third quarter, Richards punted out of bounds at the Bears 37-yard line. Nagurski bulled through the line for a 14-yard gain to the Giants 49-yard line. After an incomplete pass and three-yard Ronzani plunge, Nagurski picked up seven yards on a cut back through the line for a first down. George Corbett completed a 27-yard pass to Brumbaugh before New York stuffed three rushes. Manders was good on his third field goal, this one from 18-yards, to put Chicago back on top 9-7.

Newman returned the kickoff to New York’s 27-yard line and completed a pass to Burnett on first down to the 50-yard line and then another pass to Burnett to the Bears 37-yard line. On second-and-10, Richards bucked for six yards and on third down Newman connected with Badgro to Chicago’s nine-yard line for a first-and-goal. New York was penalized for illegal motion, so on first down from the 14-yard line, Newman completed a 13-yard pass to Max Krause who was pushed out of bounds at the one-yard line. Richards was stuffed on a plunge by Lyman, but Krause went over for the score on third down. Strong’s placement put New York ahead 14-9.

The mutual offensive momentum was irresistible. Corbett returned the kickoff to the Bears 23-yard line, then alternated plunges with Nagurski for a combined seven yards. One third-and-three from the 30-yard line, Nagurski was stopped after a gain of one. Chicago was flagged for illegal motion on the play and the Giants accepted the five-yard penalty to give Chicago a third-and-eight. From a punt formation, Corbett passed to Brumbaugh who traversed through open field down to New York’s eight-yard line, a gain of 67 yards which had the Wrigley Field stands in a state of bedlam. Two rushes netted two yards, and on third-and-goal, Nagurski faked a plunge and lobbed a pass over the line to Karr in the end zone – the same exact play that had won the championship in the playoff against Portsmouth the previous season. Manders’ placement put Chicago back ahead, 16-14, the third lead-change of the quarter.

Strong returned the kickoff to the Giants 26-yard line. Three consecutive Newman completions quickly moved New York to Chicago’s 25-yard line. After a false start, Newman completed his fourth consecutive pass, this one to Burnett, and the Giants had a first-and-goal on the Bears eight-yard line as the thrilling third quarter ended.

On the fourth quarter’s first play, Newman handed off to Strong who ran a slant to the left, spun and lateraled the ball back to Newman. Chicago’s defense reacted to the ball and changed direction. Newman spotted Strong alone in the end zone and finished the drive with his fifth completion and a touchdown to regain the lead. Strong said, “Newman handed off to me on a reverse to the left, but the line was jammed up. I turned and saw Newman standing there, so I threw him the ball. He was quite surprised. He took off to his right, but then he got bottled up. By now I had crossed into the end zone and the Bears had forgotten me. Newman saw me wildly waving my hands and threw me the ball. I caught it and fell into the first-base dugout.” Strong’s placement put New York on top again, 21-16.

The Bears received the kickoff and generated two first downs as they advanced to midfield. New York’s defense held its ground and forced a punt. The Bears defense responded in kind and forced a Giants punt after three downs. The Giants got the ball back when Ronzani threw a deep pass that was intercepted by Krause at the Giants 35-yard line. Unable to move the chains, New York went three-and-out again and gave the Bears favorable field position in doing so. Strong received Hein’s true snap, but Chicago pressure quickly penetrated and rushed the punting attempt. The ball went straight up in the air and bounced forward for a net of nine yards.

The Bears started their third possession of the fourth quarter on the Giants 47-yard line. A nine-yard pass and Nagurski run gave Chicago a first down on the Giants 33-yard line. Nagurski faked a plunge and completed a jump pass to Hewitt who raced through the secondary. As two defenders converged on Hewitt at the at the 20-yard line, he lateralled to Karr who continued diagonally toward the sideline, then cut back to pick up a block on a defender, and ran the distance for the go-ahead touchdown. Brumbaugh’s placement put the Bears ahead 23-21 with three minutes on the clock.

The Giants looked to strike fast after receiving the kickoff, and lined up in the same unbalanced formation where Hein had run with the snap-handoff in the first quarter. Only this time, Newman took the snap and pitched to Burnett who ran right, while Hein released as a receiver. The Bears were fooled a second time, but Burnett was pressured by the pass rush and his throw was high and wobbly. The arc of the ball allowed Molesworth to recover and knock the ball to the ground incomplete before Hein could get his hands on it.

After moving the chains there was time left for just one more play, and Newman called for a hook-and-lateral. Newman completed a pass to Badgro who had Burnett trailing him. Grange had been in position and when tackling Badgro, he noticed Burnett looking for the ball. As he wrapped up Badgro, Grange pinned Badgro’s arms to his body. Badgro was unable to release the ball to the wide open Burnett as Grange wrestled him to the ground.

Grange said, “I was alone in the defense and Burnett was coming at me with (Hein) on the side of him. I could see he wanted to lateral, so I didn’t go low. I hit him around the ball and pinned his arms.” Badgro unsuccessfully tried to run through the tackle once he realized he couldn’t deliver the ball. “If I’d gotten by Red Grange, I would have scored. Grange had me around the middle. His arms were around the ball and I couldn’t get rid of it. If I get by him, we win the game.

The clock expired and the final gun went off. Owen overheard an official near the New York bench ask, “Who won?” to which Newman quipped, “How should I know? I was only playing.”

There was no most-valuable-player award at the time. Newman and Manders stood out for their respective teams, but The Chicago Daily Tribune had this to say on the subject after going through a roll call of performers:”…realize that THIS football game belonged to the teams. No better example of teamwork and uniform direction can be found in the history of the sport…and in all mechanics of the game, blocking and tackling, the players left slight chance for criticism. Six times the lead changed. And on each occasion that New York or Chicago went to the fore the tension increased.”

The significance of the moment was not missed in the post-game buzz. Scribes noted the impact of the new rules and realized they had just been treated to a glimpse of the future. And they raved about it. The New York Times said: “The struggle was a revelation to college coaches who advocate no changes in the rules. It was strictly an offensive battle and the professional rule of allowing passes to be thrown from any point behind the line of scrimmage was responsible for most of the thrills.”

For the very first time, pro football was acknowledged as a leader, something to be emulated, not scorned. It would be some time before the tag “post-graduate” would be retired for good, but during that chilly and wet afternoon at Wrigley Field, the pendulum swung in the pros favor and there would be no looking back.

Feb 262015
 
Share Button
Josh Brown, New York Giants (December 7, 2014)

Josh Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

While there were some bright spots, the special teams of the New York Giants continued to under-perform in many key statistical areas in 2014. Consider the following:

Field Goals: The Giants finished 3rd in the NFL as place kicker Josh Brown converted on 24-of-26 attempts for a 92.3 average. This is all the more remarkable when you consider one of those misses was blocked. Brown also hit all 44 extra point tries. Unfortunately, the only real miss by Brown was a factor in the 1-point loss to Jacksonville in November.

Punting: Steve Weatherford, who was impacted by an early-season ankle injury, finished 16th in the NFL in gross average (45.5 yards per punt) and 22nd in the NFL in net average (40.1 yards per punt). He was middle-of-the-pack with punts in the 20-yard line with 25 and touchbacks with six. The Giants also allowed a blocked punt for a touchdown against the Eagles.

Kickoff Returns: The Giants finished 18th in kickoff returns, averaging 23.3 yards per return. They did not return a kickoff for a touchdown and the longest return was only for 45 yards.

Punt Returns: The Giants finished 19th in punt returns, averaging 7.7 yards per return. They did not return a punt for a touchdown and the longest return was for only 25 yards (which was 26th in the NFL). The Giants were 5th in the NFL in fair catches with 27.

Opposing Kickoff Returns: The Giants were very good at covering kickoffs as opposing teams averaged only 18.3 yards per return (2nd best in the NFL), with a long of 33 yards. Forty-six of Josh Brown’s 82 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks (56 percent).

Ted Ginn, Arizona Cardinals (September 14, 2014)

Ted Ginn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Opposing Punt Returns: The Giants were not as strong covering punts as opposing teams averaged 10.6 yards per return and the Giants allowed a punt return to go 71 yards for a touchdown against the Cardinals. In addition, the Giants finished 23rd in the NFL in opposing fair catches with 17.

With the additions of Trindon Holliday, Quintin Demps, and Odell Beckham, plus the expected return of David Wilson, the return game was supposed to be a strength for the Giants in 2014. However, Holliday missed the bulk of camp with a hamstring injury as was placed on Injured Reserve. David Wilson re-injured his neck in training camp and retired. Beckham kept injuring his hamstring and was not a factor in the punt return game until later in the season. Demps never really flashed on kickoff returns like he did in Kansas City.

The kickoff return game was split among Preston Parker (21 returns, 24.2 yard average), Demps (12 returns, 21.3 yard average), and Michael Cox (11 returns, 23.7 yard average). The punt returns were split between Beckham (21 returns, 11 fair catches, 8.1 yard average), Parker (8 returns, 6 fair catches, 6.6 yard average), and Rueben Randle (no returns, 10 fair catches).

Zak DeOssie, New York Giants (August 18, 2013)

Zak DeOssie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

THE KICKERS AND LONG SNAPPER

Steve Weatherford tore ligaments in his left ankle in September and was hobbled with the injury for much of the season. He finished 18th in the NFL in punting average (45.5 yards per punt) and 25th in net punting average (38.6). Twenty-five of Weatherford’s punts were downed inside the 20-yard line and only six resulted in touchbacks. He did suffer his first blocked punt of his career. Before coming to the Giants, Weatherford played for the Saints (2006-08), Chiefs (2008), Jaguars (2008), and Jets (2009-2010). He is a good directional punter with average length strength.

In his 12th season, Josh Brown had his finest season, making 24-of-26 of his field goals (92.3 percent) with one of the misses being blocked. He made all44 extra point attempts. And 45 of his 82 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Brown was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Before coming to the Giants as a free agent in 2013, he kicked for the Seahawks (2003-07), St. Louis Rams (2009-11), and Bengals (2012). Brown now owns the Giants records for both single season and career field goal percentage. In his two seasons with the Giants, Brown has succeeded on 47-of-52 field goal attempts (90.4 percent).

Zak DeOssie is one of the NFL’s most consistent and better long snappers, being voted to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2010. DeOssie was drafted as a linebacker by the Giants in the 4th round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He is now strictly a special teams player. Aside from his long snapping duties, DeOssie also excels in punt coverage.

Feb 232015
 
Share Button
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Before the season, many had anticipated that the secondary might not only be the strength of the defense, but the strength of the entire team. The Giants had parted ways with long-time contributors such as Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, and Terrell Thomas and had reinforced the unit with free agents Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie (DRC), Walter Thurmond, Quintin Demps, and Zack Bowman. The team also re-signed Trumaine McBride and Stevie Brown. As for those already under contract, Prince Amukamara appeared primed for his best season, Antrel Rolle was coming off his best season, and Will Hill appeared to be a budding star.

But these high expectations soon began to turn to dust. Will Hill failed yet another drug test and was cut in early June. Jayron Hosley also failed a drug test and was suspended for the first month of the season; when he returned, guys signed off the street quickly passed him on the depth chart. Cooper Taylor looked sharp in the preseason but broke his foot in August and was lost for the year. Injuries then struck hard at corner once the regular season began. Nickel corner Walter Thurmond was placed on Injured Reserve after only two games, followed by  Trumaine McBride and Prince Amukamara. The loss of Amukamara – who indeed was having his best season – was particularly a hard pill to swallow. Without two of their top three corners, more pressure was placed on DRC, who was also dealing with a litany of injury issues to the point where he could not play a full game. A year after playing his best season, Rolle may have played his worst, failing to make many impact plays. And Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps were both disappointing at the other safety spot, both losing the starting job to the other at different points of the season. Stevie Brown’s 2012 season – where he led the team with eight interceptions – appears to have been a mirage.

The Giants were quickly left to scramble and made in-season roster moves including signing Chykie Brown, Mike Harris, and Chandler Fenner. Chykie Brown and Harris performed reasonably well given the circumstances, but overall, the secondary failed to fulfill their preseason boasts as one of the best units in the NFL. The Giants finished 18th in the NFL in pass defense.

THE CORNERBACKS

Although Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played in all 16 games, hamstring, back, side, and shoulder injuries limited practice and game snaps for much of the season and impacted his play on the field. Nevertheless, Rodgers-Cromartie remained the team’s most physically-talented defensive back and he often shut down his opponent. Rodgers-Cromartie finished the season with 38 tackles, two interceptions, and 12 pass defenses. Rodgers-Cromartie was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 and signed with the Broncos as an unrestricted free agent in 2013 and the Giants in 2014. Rodgers-Cromartie combines superb size and overall athletic ability, including speed, size, and leaping ability. When motivated and focused, Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the better cover corners in the NFL. But he needs to be more consistent, and he s not a very physical player as a hitter or tackler.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Prince Amukamara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Prince Amukamara was having his best season before being placed on Injured Reserve in November 2014 with a torn biceps muscle. Amukamara started eight games and finished the season with 45 tackles, three interceptions, and 11 pass defenses. Amukamara was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants, but his initial season was a virtual wash due to a broken foot that required surgery. Amukamara also battled a high ankle sprain and hamstring injuries in 2012. Amukamara is a well-built corner with good overall athleticism and speed. He usually does a good job of keeping his opponent quiet during a game and he finally started making more plays on the football in 2014. Amukamara flashes in run defense with his hitting and tackling.

Walter Thurmond III was placed on Injured Reserve in September 2014 with a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery after playing in only two games. Thurmond was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Seahawks. He missed much of the 2011 and 2012 seasons recovering from a broken leg (fibula), playing in only eight regular-season games. In November 2013, he was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s drug policy. That year he played in 12 regular-season games, with three starts, and finished with 33 tackles, six pass defenses, and one interception that he returned for a touchdown. The Giants signed Thurmond as an unrestricted free agent in March 2014. Thurmond combines decent size with good speed and quickness. Smooth in coverage, Thurmond is considered one of the better slot corners/nickel backs in the NFL. Thurmond obviously has off-the-field concerns.

Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Trumaine McBride was placed on Injured Reserve in October 2014 after thumb surgery. He finished the 2014 season 21 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 pass defense, and 2 forced fumbles in six games with one start. McBride was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. The Bears waived him in September 2009. He has also spent time with the Cardinals, Saints, and Jaguars. The Giants signed McBride to a Reserve/Future contract in January 2013. That season, McBride played in 15 games with 10 starts, and he finished the season with 37 tackles, 15 pass defenses, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. McBride lacks ideal size and speed, but he plays with good quickness and instincts.

The Giants claimed Chykie Brown off of waivers from the Baltimore Ravens in November 2014. He ended up playing in eight games with four starts and finished the season with 31 tackles and two pass defenses for the Giants. Brown was originally drafted by the Ravens in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL Draft. In four seasons with the Ravens, Brown played in 46 regular-season games with two starts. Brown has decent size and athletic ability. While he struggled in Baltimore, Brown held his own for the Giants in the final month of the season.

The Giants signed Mike Harris off of the Practice Squad of the Detroit Lions in October 2014. He ended up playing in five games with one start, mainly at slot/nickel corner where he performed at a reasonable level. Harris finished the season with 21 tackles, one interception, and two pass defenses. Harris was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In two seasons with Jacksonville, Harris played in 31 games with eight starts. Harris was waived by the Jaguars in August 2014 before signing with the Lions in October. Harris has decent size and athleticism. He is a good tackler and special teams player.

Zack Bowman, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Zack Bowman – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Zack Bowman played in all 16 games with five starts but saw his playing time decrease as the season progressed despite all of the injuries that hit the secondary. He finished the year with 24 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass defenses. Bowman was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Bears. In six seasons with the Bears, Bowman played in 73 regular-season games with 23 starts. The Giants signed Bowman as an unrestricted free agent in March 2014. Bowman is a big, physical corner who can make plays on the football. He lacks ideal speed and quickness and can be beat deep. Bowman is a good special teams player.

Chandler Fenner was signed to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad in October 2014. He played in 11 games, mainly on special teams, and finished the season with seven tackles. Fenner was originally signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2012 NFL Draft. He did not make the team but the Seattle Seahawks signed him to their Practice Squad in December 2012. He missed all of 2013 with a knee injury that landed him on Seattle’s Injured Reserve. The Giants signed Chandler Fenner in August 2014. Fenner has a nice combination of size and athleticism and he plays a physical game.

Jayron Hosley has not developed since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He not only received a 4-game suspension for drug use at the start of the season, but he was quickly by-passed on the depth chart by guys signed off of the street when injuries hit the secondary hard. Hosley ended up playing in just six games with two starts. He finished the season with eight tackles and one pass defense. Hosley lacks ideal stature, but he is athletic with good speed and quickness. However, despite his athletic ability, Hosley’s play against the pass actually seems to have deteriorated since being drafted. He has also been very injury prone, missing significant time in both 2012 and 2013.

Bennett Jackson was signed to the Practice Squad in August 2014 and placed on the Practice Squad/Injured List in October 2014 with cartilage damage knee injury that required microfracture surgery. The Giants drafted Jackson in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Jackson converted to cornerback from wide receiver at Notre Dame and could project to safety. He has good size and decent speed for a corner, but may lack ideal quickness for the position. He is a good hitter and tackler. Jackson was a team captain at Notre Dame and a good special teams player.

Josh Victorian was signed to the Practice Squad in November 2014. Victorian was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Since then, he has spent time with the Patriots (2011), Saints (2012), Steelers (2012-13), Texans (2013), and Lions (2014). He has played in 12 NFL games, four for the Steelers with one start in 2012 and eight for the Texans in 2013. Victorian has average size and lacks ideal overall athleticism, but he is a hard working, instinctive football player.

Travis Howard was waived/injured and placed on Injured Reserve in August 2014. Howard was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Houston Texans after the 2013 NFL Draft. He spent some time on the Practice Squad of the Patriots that season before the Giants signed him to their Practice Squad in December 2013. Howard is a physical corner with good ball skills. He has good size and long arms, but lacks ideal speed and quickness. Howard is a good hitter, but he needs to become a more consistent and reliable tackler.

Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

THE SAFETIES

Despite starting all 16 games, Antrel Rolle did not have the same impact on the playing field that he did in 2013. Rolle finished the season with 87 tackles, three interceptions, nine pass defenses, and one forced fumble. Rolle was steady but did not make many big plays. Rolle was originally drafted as a cornerback in the 1st round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. After three inconsistent seasons at corner, the Cardinals moved him to free safety in 2008. Rolle was signed by the Giants in March 2010 after the Cardinals cut him in a salary-related move. One of the better coverage safeties in the game, Rolle has good speed and range. Due to his experience as a cornerback, unlike most safeties, Rolle can play man coverage and has often been called upon to play the slot corner position. He is a good tackler and run defender. Rolle has become one of the key leaders of the defense. He also has been very durable, never missing a game in his five seasons with the Giants. Rolle has been voted to the Pro Bowl twice (2009 and 2010) and named All-Pro twice (2010 and 2013). He also played in the 2013 Pro Bowl as a second-alternate.

Stevie Brown played in all 16 games. He started the first three games of the season, lost his starting job for eight weeks, then regained it for the last five weeks of the season. Brown finished with 38 tackles, one sack, and one pass defense. Brown was originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 7th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Raiders released him in September 2011 and he then spent time with the Panthers and Colts. The Giants signed him in April 2012. Brown had a tremendous season in 2012, intercepting more passes in a single season by a Giant in 44 years. He was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2013 after tearing the ACL in his left knee in the preseason. Brown has superb size for a safety, but lacks quickness and range. Despite his size, he does not stand out as a run defender and tackler. Against the pass, Brown lacks range and quickness, and is prone to making mental mistakes. Contrary to 2012, he rarely made plays on the football in 2014.

Quintin Demps, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Quintin Demps – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quintin Demps begain the season as the Giants’ third safety, was promoted to the starting job for half the season, then lost it again the final month of the season. Demps finished the year with 57 tackles, four interceptions, seven pass defenses, and one forced fumble. Demps was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has spent time with the Eagles (2008-09), Houston Texans (2010-12), and Chiefs (2013). The Giants signed Demps in March 2014. Demps has a nice combination of size and athletic ability. He’s a frustratingly inconsistent player who flashes play-making ability but also makes too many mistakes in coverage. He does not stand out against the run either.

Nat Berhe, a 5th round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, played in all 16 games. Although he was mainly relegated to special teams, he did see some time on defense and finished the season with 10 tackles. Berhe lacks ideal size and speed, but he is a smart, aggressive competitor who plays hard all of the time. In college, Berhe made a ton of tackles against the run, but was not as active in pass defense.

Cooper Taylor was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2014 with a semasoid bone issue in his foot that required surgery. Cooper was impressing with his play during training camp and the preseason. Cooper was selected in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Giants. A heart condition caused him to slip in the draft. Taylor has an excellent combination of size and athleticism. Taylor missed six games in 2013 with shoulder and hamstring injuries. He played in 10 games that year, serving almost exclusively on special teams.

Thomas Gordon was originally signed by the Giants as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft. The team waived Gordon in August, but re-signed him to the Practice Squad in December 2014. Gordon lacks ideal height, but he is well-built and a decent athlete. He is a good run defender who hits and tackles well. He started 38 games at Michigan.

Feb 172015
 
Share Button
Jameel McClain and Jon Beason, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Jameel McClain and Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Ever since the New York Giants shifted from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense in 1994, there have been some glimpses of outstanding linebacker play from players such as Michael Brooks, Jessie Armstead, Michael Barrow, and Antonio Pierce. But outside of Armstead, New York simply hasn’t been able to draft any long-term impact players at the position. Instead fans have been subjected to a long list busts or journeymen who have included Ben Talley, Scott Galyon, Doug Colman, Pete Monty, Ryan Phillips, O.J. Childress, Dhani Jones, Brandon Short, Quincy Monk, Wesley Mallard, Nick Greisen, Reggie Torbor, Gerris Wilkinson, Zak DeOssie (who was not drafted as a long snapper), Jonathan Goff, Bryan Kehl, Clint Sintim, Phillip Dillard, Jacquian Williams, and Greg Jones. If that list wasn’t so painful, it would be comical. Because the Giants have drafted so poorly at this position, they have repeatedly had to address the linebacker spot in free agency, or in the case of Jon Beason, by trade. While they have had more success there, these older players haven’t remained on the team very long.

Before the season, it was hoped that the linebacking position would be reasonably improved. Jon Beason was a major positive in-season addition to the team in 2013 and it was believed with a full offseason, his impact would increase even more so. The Giants added Jameel McClain in free agency and the coaching staff was talking up the improvements Jacquian Williams had made. But linebacker remained a weakness for the Giants in 2014 and was a significant factor in the team’s near dead-last rankings in overall defense and against the run. Beason broke his foot during June OTA’s and never recovered and was placed on Injured Reserve after playing in only four games. Williams, who also ended the season on IR with a concussion, simply has not developed, along with fellow 2011 rookie class members Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich. All three of those players have been here four years and the Giants have very little to show for it. Jameel McClain was the best of the bunch, but he most likely looked better than he really was simply by being compared to poorer quality teammates.

The only true bright spot on the horizon is Devon Kennard, a defensive end-linebacker tweener who flashed with his ability as a line-of-scrimmage player and pass rusher. However, it remains to be seen if he really can fit in as a true 4-3 linebacker who can cover tight ends and backs.

Mark Herzlich and Devon Kennard, New York Giants (November 16, 2014)

Mark Herzlich and Devon Kennard – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“For a rookie, (Kennard is) very mature,” said Perry Fewell in December. “He’s very serious about his work and his business. He has a very professional attitude every single day in the classroom and on the field about his work and how he can improve for a rookie. We always talk about the rookie wall or what have you. It doesn’t seem to faze him. We’re giving him more in the classroom and he’s able to take it on the field. He loves to talk football and he loves to visualize what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. He takes the critiquing not personally, but he takes it as a learning experience and for a rookie, that’s very mature.

“It’s kind of tough (to determine his ideal position). He’s a powerful man that can play at defensive end and rush and do that type of thing. He’s also skillful enough to play a linebacker position. He’s not as fleet-footed as you would like for him to be and so we put that in the term of a tweener. I think after the season and over the next training period, if he works on his burst and his explosion, that he can be an ideal linebacker. We call him a SAM linebacker. That would be his ideal position and he can also transition and put his hand on the dirt and rush, but I think linebacker would be his natural position.”

THE PLAYERS

Jon Beason’s 2014 NFL season was basically wiped out due to a ligament tear and fracture to the sesamoid bone in his right foot during an OTA practice on June 12. He aggravated the injury in Week 2 against Arizona, missed the next three games, and aggravated the injury again in Week 7 against Dallas. After that, the doctors decided he needed season-ending surgery and Beason was placed on Injured Reserve in October. In the end, he only played and started in four games and finished the season with 11 tackles. Beason was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Panthers. He is a three-time Pro Bowler (2008-2010). Beason missed most of the 2011 season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon. He also missed most of the 2012 season with a torn right ACL, an injury that required microfracture knee surgery. The Giants acquired Beason in a trade with the Panthers in October 2013. He played in 12 games with the Giants in 2013, starting his last 11 at middle linebacker. In those 12 games, he finished with 93 tackles and one interception. Beason lacks ideal size, but he is a decent athlete with very good intangibles. He is smart, instinctive, energetic, and productive, and brought leadership and gravitas to a linebacking corps in 2013 sorely needing all of those qualities. Beason is a better run defender than in coverage, where he sometimes struggles against better athletes in space. Beason is a good hitter and tackler. He obviously has been a very fragile, injury-prone player in recent years.

Jameel McClain, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Jameel McClain – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jameel McClain played in all 16 games in 2014 with 14 starts, primarily at middle linebacker. He finished the season as the team’s leading tackler with 116, and also had 2.5 sacks, three pass defenses, and one forced fumble. McClain was originally signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2008 NFL Draft. In six seasons with the Ravens, McClain started 55 regular-season games. A serious neck injury (spinal contusion) suffered late in 2012 caused him to miss the first six games of the 2013 season on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List. The Ravens released him in February 2014 and the Giants signed him in March. A defensive end in college, McClain has good size and he is versatile, being able to play both inside and outside linebacker. He is an aggressive, hard-working, tough, physical player who is solid against the run and a decent blitzer. McClain lacks ideal overall athleticism, quickness, and speed. He is not as strong in pass coverage. McClain is a good leader.

A fifth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Devon Kennard was a pleasant surprise. Kennard missed three games in September with a hamstring injury and the season-finale with a toe injury, but he played in 12 games, starting six. He finished the season with 43 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one pass defense, and two forced fumbles. A bit of a ‘tweener who lacks ideal speed and quickness for linebacker, Kennard has collegiate experience playing both 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker. He played at outside linebacker in the 4-3 for the Giants. Kennard has good size and strength for linebacker. He is a stout player against the run and flashes as a blitzer. He is not as good in pass coverage. Kennard is a very smart player, but he has been injury prone at both the college and pro level.

Jacquian Williams, New York Giants (July 22, 2013)

Jacquian Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jacquian Williams started the first nine game of the season, but suffered a serious concussion in early November and was placed on Injured Reserve in December 2014. He finished the season with 78 tackles and three pass defenses. Williams was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants. His 2012 season was sabotaged by a PCL knee injury that caused him to miss six games. Williams lacks size, but he is extremely athletic. He is more of a run-and-chase run defender and coverage linebacker than physical presence due to his lack of size and overall physicality. While Williams gets in on a lot of tackles, he rarely makes big plays in any phase of the game.

In his fourth season with the Giants, Mark Herzlich had his most productive season, playing in 15 games with eight starts at outside linebacker. He finished the season with 52 tackles, one sack, and two pass defenses. Herzlich was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft. Herzlich was regarded as one of the better collegiate linebackers in the country before missing the 2009 season with bone cancer, which led to him having a titanium rod inserted into his left femur. Herzlich has very good size but is a sup-par athlete for the position. He is a good run defender, but struggles in coverage and is not much of a blitzer.

Spencer Paysinger, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Spencer Paysinger – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Spencer Paysinger saw his playing time dramatically decrease in 2014. He played in 15 games with one start, but only had 15 tackles. The year before in 2013, Paysinger started 10 games and finished with 74 tackles. Paysinger was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft. Paysinger is a decent athlete who has gotten bigger and stronger. He doesn’t make many plays.

Terrell Manning was placed on Injured Reserve in December 2014 with an ankle injury after playing in only one game with the Giants in Week 13. He was with the Giants in training camp before being waived on August 30. The Giants re-signed him off of the Bengals’ Practice Squad in late November 2014. Manning was originally drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Manning has spent time with the Packers (2012-13), Chargers (2013), Vikings (2014), Dolphins (2014), Bears (2014), and Bengals (2014). In three seasons, Manning has played in 10 NFL games with no starts. Manning lacks ideal overall athleticism and size, but he is an instinctive, aggressive, physical player who hits and tackles well.

The Giants signed James Davidson to the Practice Squad in September 2014 and the 53-man roster in December 2014. Davidson was originally signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as a rookie free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft, but waived in August. Davidson was an undersized collegiate defensive end who projects to linebacker at the pro level. Whether he has the overall athleticism and instincts for the position remains to be seen. Obviously, he is a project.

Uani Unga was signed to the Practice Squad in late December 2014. Unga suffered a serious injury to his right knee (ACL, MCL, and meniscus) his last year in college in 2013 and was not drafted. Unga lacks ideal size and overall athleticism but he is a smart, instinctive, physical, and competitive football player who plays the run well.

Feb 172015
 
Share Button
Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (December 28, 2014)

Le’Veon Bell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

by Brendan Cassidy for BigBlueInteractive.com

The Slow Death of the Fantasy Running Back:

Finding solid fantasy football running backs seems to be a more difficult task each year. As the NFL continues to progress into more of a passing league, reliable fantasy running back options seem to be dwindling. Add in all the running back time-shares across the league, and it is of upmost importance to snag at least one if not two quality running backs in the first few rounds of your draft. The last six years running back carries and touchdowns have decreased, and I see no reason why this trend will end in 2015. Grab the studs while you can, because the drop off will be steep and could ultimately end your fantasy season before it even begins.

The Rankings:

  1. Le’Veon Bell:

Any running back list for 2015 should begin with Le’Veon Bell at the top of it regardless of scoring format. Not only is he the top running back, he is the top overall fantasy player heading in to 2015. Bell finished the season second in rushing yards with 1,361; however, where he really added his value was the receiving game where he lead all running backs with 854 receiving yards and had 83 receptions (second only to Matt Forte.) He is an every down and back and one of Rothlesberger’s favorite targets in the receiving game (behind only Antonio Brown, who, by the way lead the entire NFL with 129 receptions in 2014.) If you have first pick in your draft, I would be confident grabbing him and if you are in an auction league, spending a pretty penny on him may very well be worth it.

  1. Eddie Lacy:

After a promising rookie campaign where Lacy took him Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, the second year back got off to a horrid start in the 2014 season. To the dismay of fantasy owners who invested a first round pick in him, Lacy was barely start-able the first quarter of the season. However, for those who managed to hold on to him through his struggles, it would soon pay off. The biggest reason Lacy was so inadequate the first month was most likely due to the fact Lacy started the season against three of the top run defenses (Seahawks, Jets and Lions.) After the tough stretch, Lacy was able to pick it up, averaging an elite 20.1 PPG the last twelve games of the season. This the type of production you should expect from him in Green Bay’s high powered offense as the feature back. Despite the slow start, Lacy finished 6th in fantasy points in the season in PPR season. Look for him to improve even more going into his third year and be in the running for top fantasy player of 2015.

  1. Jamaal Charles:

Jamaal Charles, the top fantasy player of 2013, took a small step back in 2014, but still finished with a very respectable season. The biggest reason for his regression was the dismantling of his offensive line and an injury that seemed to bother him throughout most of 2014. Despite missing almost two full games, Charles was able to finish 7th overall in fantasy points with 253.4 Charles gets a large chunk of his value through the receiving game (hence increasing his value even more in PPR leagues; whereas, he is around the 5th best option in a standard scoring league. Look for Kansas City to address the offensive line in free agency and/or the draft increasing Charles’s value for 2015.

  1. Demarco Murray:

Murray was the most difficult for me to rank. The Cowboys workhorse is coming off an incredible season where he was the most reliable running back in fantasy football, he scored in the top 12 in fantasy points among running backs every single week; a feat hard to come by, and reliability fantasy owners have to drool at. What scares me is he is coming off a season where he had over 400 touches and there is a good chance he could be suiting up for a different team next season. Aided by the top offensive line in football, Murray was able to rush for a league best 1,845 yards while taking home the AP Offensive Player of the Year Award. The biggest knock against Murray in 2015 will be the wear and tear he endured throughout the season. It truly seemed the Cowboys were running him into the ground in anticipation that he will sign elsewhere next season. Of the last 27 running backs to have 400 or more touches in a season, 22 saw a decrease in fantasy production the following season. Furthermore, of those 27 players, a third suffered an injury the following season leading to a significant amount of time missed. Murray has all the talent in the world, but fantasy owner should have tempered expectations in 2015, especially if Murray signs elsewhere.

  1. Arian Foster:

After missing the majority of the 2013 season due to injury, Arian Foster had a huge rebound campaign in 2014. Despite missing 3 games to injury, Foster finished the 2014 season as a top 5 back. When Foster did play he was elite, and worth every bit the mid 2nd round price tag fantasy owner paid for him. You can expect him to miss a few games each season, making it extremely important to grab his back up as a handcuff in 2015. If relatively healthy in 2015, you can expect Foster to put up another elite fantasy season.

  1. Matt Forte:

Forte is the running back most dependent in the receiving game on this list. Take away his receptions and receiving yards and he is nothing more than a middle of the road running back heading into his age 30 Season with a subpar offensive line. Having said that, Forte finished the 2014 season with an unreal 102 receptions for 808 yards. To put that in perspective, only three wide receivers had more receptions than Forte in 2014 (Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, and Julio Jones.)

While I think his receptions will go down a bit in 2015, there is no reason to believe he wont have 80-90 catches to go with 1,000 rushing yards, making him an elite fantasy option for the upcoming season.

  1. Marshawn Lynch:

Lynch, affectionately known as “Beast Mode” by his fans, is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro finishing with over 1300 yards and 13 TDs. However, questions surrounding his future with the Seahawks and even possible retirement keep him lower on this list than if he had no questions concerning his future. If Lynch, does return with the Seahawks, he is a bona fide first round pick (potentially top 5 overall) who will likely put up 1200 yards and 12-14TDs behind an extremely solid offensive line.

  1. LeSean McCoy:

McCoy was one of the top fantasy players in 2013, and many had high hopes for him in 2014, even drafting him first overall in many cases. Unfortunately for McCoy owners, while his season was solid, it in no way merited a top 3 pick. To put McCoy’s season in perspective, Matt Asiata (yes Matt Aaiata, arguably the least athletic RB in the NFl) finished with only seven fewer fantasy points than McCoy, while in a timeshare with Jerick McKinnon. Furthermore, McCoy was unfortunate to have had a large share of his TDs vultured by Darren Sproles and Chris Polk. Having said that, he is still the lead back for one of the most explosive and up-tempo offenses in the NFL. Look for him to rebound in 2015 with an increase in yards and touchdowns. I would feel comfortable taking him late in the first or early second round.

  1. C.J. Anderson:

In 2014 C.J. Anderson was one of the heroes for fantasy owners in the second half of the season. Undrafted in virtually all leagues, Anderson was able to shine as the lead back after both Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman went down with injuries. While his value as a starter is undeniable, it does worry me that the Broncos could use a running back by committee approach if Ball and Hillman are healthy. Factor in Peyton Manning’s age and health, and a lot of question marks surround this offense. If you feel like gambling, he is a solid pick in the beginning to middle of the second round with top 3 overall fantasy upside if he is the starter throughout the season.

  1. Jeremy Hill:

Jeremy Hill emerged as the top rookie running back (and most likely second most impressive after Odell Beckham Jr.) and a legit RB1 after an injury to Giovanni Bernard. Hill exploded in the second half of the season carrying many teams to fantasy championships. While he is an undeniable talent; the fact they have a talented Giovanni Bernard as a back up and possible sharer of carriers hurts Hill’s value. I would strongly suggest picking up Bernard in the 7th or 8th round if you spend a premium pick on Hill.

Honorable Mentions:

Adrian Peterson:

AP will be three years removed from one of the best seasons ever for a running back. Approaching the wrong side of 30 and having missed virtually the entire 2015 season after a child abuse scandal, I cannot justify spending a premium pick (1st or 2nd round) with Peterson and all the question marks that surround him. If he is around in the 3rd or 4th and you are feeling adventurous, look to nab him, but know the risks involved when you do.

Andre Ellington:

Ellington was having a solid season after leading the NFL in yards per carry in 2013. However, the former seventh round pick’s seasons was derailed with an ACL injury. While his effectiveness coming off an injury will be in doubt, you could do much worse having Ellington as an RB2 considering the upside he has.

Carlos Hyde:

This is somewhat contingent on Frank Gore and the 49ers parting ways in the offseason, which many people expect. In that scenario, Hyde, who was impressive in a limited role is all of a sudden catapulted into the work horse role in the 49ers run heavy offense behind a stout offensive line. He is one of my favorite “value picks” heading into next season if he is indeed the starter.

Lamar Miller:

Miller, the former University of Miami product, has been very boom and bust the past few seasons. Drafted high before the 2013 season, he disappointed many with a very inconsistent season. However, this past season he had a career year while seeing the bulk of the carries. It will be important to monitor the Knowshon Moreno situation, if he does not return to the Dolphins next year, look for Miller to get the bulk of the carries and be a mid to high end RB2.

What have we learned?

As you can see from this list, once you get outside the top 10 RBs there is a steep decline in talent and reliability. On the contrary, the wide receiver position is arguably the deepest it has ever been. You can nab solid WRs as late as the 8th or 9th round. Stack up on the elite RBs early and look to solidify your roster with WRs in the later rounds of the draft.

The guys who get the most carries tend to produce the most. Look to avoid running backs that have strong competition for carries in the earlier rounds, as the value usually isn’t there. Be smart with your running back drafting strategy and you will have a big advantage over your fantasy football foes in 2015.

Brendan Cassidy has over 15 years of fantasy experience, both in league and daily formats. He is also an avid life-long Giants fan.

Feb 162015
 
Share Button
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 3, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants must decide soon whether or not to use the Franchise or Transition tag on soon-to-be unrestricted free agent defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Starting today (February 16), NFL teams have a two-week window to decide on to designate Franchise or Transition players about to become unrestricted free agents. That window closes on March 2. Other teams can begin negotiating with free agents on March 7 and sign the to contracts on March 10.

A Franchise tag binds a player to the team for one year if certain conditions are met. Each team may only designate one player each year as that team’s Franchise player. There are two types of Franchise tags:

  • An “exclusive” franchise player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of a date in April of the current year in which the tag will apply, or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. Exclusive franchise players cannot negotiate with other teams. The player’s team has all the negotiating rights to the exclusive player.
  • A “non-exclusive” franchise player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position for the previous year, or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. A non-exclusive franchise player may negotiate with other NFL teams, but if the player signs an offer sheet from another team, the original team has a right to match the terms of that offer, or if it does not match the offer and thus loses the player, is entitled to receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.

Teams can also use a Transition tag, which also guarantees the original club the right of first refusal to match any offer the player may make with another team. The transition tag can be used once a year by each club. A transition player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top 10 salaries of last season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another club. If the club matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.

The upside to using a Franchise tag on Pierre-Paul is that the team could ensure that he remains with the Giants in 2015. The downside is he would count for about $15 million against the 2015 salary cap.

In his fifth NFL season, Pierre-Paul had his second-best season in 2014, starting all 16 games and finishing with 77 tackles, 12.5 sacks, six pass defenses, and three forced fumbles. Pierre-Paul played the run well most of the year and finished up strong as a pass rusher after a slow start, with nine of his sacks coming in the last five games of the season. Pierre-Paul was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft. His best season came in 2011 when he accrued 86 tackles and 16.5 sacks. 2012 and 2013 were down seasons for him with a total of only 8.5 sacks. Pierre-Paul had surgery in June 2013 to repair a herniated disc in his lower back and suffered a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the last five games of that season.

The Giants have used the Franchise tag twice in recent years, once for running back Brandon Jacobs in 2009 and once for punter Steve Weatherford in 2012. But both were signed to long-term deals soon after being tagged.