Jul 142014
 
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Chris Snee (76) and David Baas (64), New York Giants (September 30, 2012)

Can Chris Snee (76, left) be counted on this season? – © USA TODAY Sports Images


Another week, another edition of the Big Blue Breakdown. As has been the case for the last month, BigBlueInteractive.com brings together some of the Giants’ best beat writers in one place to answer fan questions regarding the team.

Thus far, BBI’s panel has broken down the Giants’ tight end situation, the health of Stevie Brown, training camp storylines and more. Today, they turn their attention to guard Chris Snee.

Remember, if you’d like to have your question answered by our panel, simply email it to Connor Hughes (Connor_Hughes@bigblueinteractive.com) and it could be featured next week.

From Dave in East Windsor: I know it’s still early, but I can’t help but get uneasy thinking of the health of guard Chris Snee. If he can’t go during the regular season for injury reasons, who do you believe steps up in his place? Will not having Snee in the lineup bring the same kind of offensive line failures as we saw last year?

Chris Snee and Pat Flaherty, New York Giants (July 27, 2013)

Snee was on the sideline for much of the Giants’ offseason workouts – © USA TODAY Sports Images

CONNOR HUGHES/Big Blue Interactive

When your team’s offensive guard is coming off an injury-riddled season, surgery-filled offseason and then can’t make it through the contact-free portion of the offseason conditioning program without being sidelined…you have every right to worry.

Throughout his tenure with the Giants, Chris Snee has been the ultimate example of everything the team could want in a player. He’s been great within the community, stayed out of trouble and was a staple on the Giants’ offensive line for a decade. But in sports there is one undefeated: Father Time.

Snee’s body isn’t the same and his play has reflected it. He’s beat up, worn down and no where near the player he was when the Giants selected him in the second round out of Boston College. Did the Giants hope he could return in some form this year? Yes. Did they know there was a chance he couldn’t? Yes to that, too.

Should you be uneasy about the health of Chris Snee? Yes. Should you be worried about a possible backup plan? No. To be honest, some of the guys waiting in the wings may be more help to the team than a healthy Snee this year anyway. John Jerry, while nursing an injury of his own, is considered a solid lineman that was in dire need of a scenery change. Brandon Mosley has impressed coaches this offseason. Weston Richburg was drafted in the second round. All three can fill in for Snee if he can’t go and potentially provide an upgrade in performance.

Will not having Snee in the lineup bring the same issues as last year? No, because Snee wasn’t in the lineup in the first place. After the Giants lost to the Carolina Panthers, Snee removed himself from the game and never stepped foot on the field again. The struggles last year were a result of lack-of-depth, an issue the Giants hope to have solidified this offseason.

Snee will be given every opportunity to return to the right side of the Giants’ offensive line during training camp and he’s earned that right, I just don’t think his body will take him there. It’s been a great run for Snee, but I think this is the end of the road.

ED VALENTINE/Big Blue View

You are absolutely correct to have an uneasy feeling about Snee. This is a topic I addressed on Sunday at Big Blue View and we will delve into it again here.

James Brewer, New York Giants (September 29, 2013)

James Brewer struggled as Snee’s replacement last season – © USA TODAY Sports Images

If Snee can’t go, or if he is in and out of the lineup, the Giants are in much better shape this season than last to handle his absence. Last season they tried a fading David Diehl and an under-whelming James Brewer. Neither really held up very well.

This season the Giants have more offensive line depth. John Jerry is a starting-caliber NFL guard, and has started every game the past two seasons. Brandon Mosley continues to develop, and looks like a guy who might be an NFL-caliber lineman. Second-round pick Weston Richburg has been working at both guard and center. In all honesty, all three are probably better options than Brewer. If you are wondering, Brewer has been working at left tackle behind Charles Brown while Will Beatty rehabs.

So, sure, you have to worry about Snee. The Giants, though, are much better prepared to handle his absence this time around.

CONOR ORR/The Star-Ledger

Brandon Mosley, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Brandon Mosley may be the answer at guard if Snee can’t go – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Chris Snee looked awfully trim to me during OTA’s, even to the point where I thought he might be more than 10 pounds underneath his goal weight. If his hips don’t keep him down, it seems the elbow might, which adds to the difficulty of gaining good weight and lifting. If he’s not able to go, I think Pat Flaherty obviously recommends a competition between Brandon Mosley and Weston Richburg for that starting spot.

Mosley has been impressive in camp so far and, after RE-watching some of his snaps against Detroit and Seattle, I can see why the Giants spent a fourth-round pick on him. He makes adjustments naturally and is light on his feet for a 315-pound guard/tackle. He was injured during his rookie year so he’s really in his second season. No sense in rushing Richburg if he’s still developing.

I don’t think Snee is necessarily the key to a successful offensive line. Maybe in years past, when he was a graduate-level scholar in Kevin Gilride’s offense, things would be different. But this is a new offense with new veterans (J.D. Walton, Geoff Schwartz) who can fill that void.

The real question mark, in my opinion, is Will Beatty. If the Giants don’t have a left tackle, there needs to be some serious re-arranging with more than a few players working outside their comfort zones

ART STAPLETON/ THE RECORD

If the Giants made the same mistakes with depth up front offensively as they did last season, that would be the definition of insanity.

John Jerry, Miami Dolphins (November 17, 2013)

Is John Jerry the answer if Chris Snee can’t go?– © USA TODAY Sports Images

Chris Snee’s heart is into making a return. We can’t say for sure whether Snee will be able to go until there’s some contact in camp. While I’m not ready to say Snee is done, his absence in the spring could turn out to be a blessing for Brandon Mosley.

I’m not buying the conspiracy theory some have floated regarding Snee and how the Giants have expected him to retire all along, and they’re just going through the motions. That’s ridiculous. So the big question: is Mosley the heir apparent to Snee at right guard? He’ll get the chance this summer to show he can handle the job. I also wouldn’t rule out Weston Richburg as an option at RG, especially if J.D. Walton impresses at C. And even though his presence this spring has been a mystery, John Jerry has also been rumored to be in the building. We’ll see if he’s healthy enough to make a run at pushing the young guys off that spot.

Jul 132014
 
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Jacquian Williams (57), New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Barring injury, Jacquian Williams will be the Giants starting WILL linebacker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to training camp in just a couple weeks, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at the linebackers.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWNLinebackers

Jon Beason, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Jon Beason was solid in the middle for New York last year – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: In a year of mostly downs, the Giants’ linebackers were one of the team’s few bright spots in 2013. After acquiring Jon Beason via trade from the Carolina Panthers, the middle linebacker established himself as a force in the middle of the Giants’ defense. Beason finished with 93 tackles and an interception in 11 games. Outside Beason, Keith Rivers and Spencer Paysinger were solid in the team’s base 4-3 set while Jacquian Williams continued to establish himself as one of the better coverage linebackers in the game.

In 2012, the Giants defense was one of the worst against the run, finishing 25th in the NFL, but rebounded nicely last year. Coupled with a rebuilt interior defensive unit, the Giants rushed allowed an average of 108.9 rushing yards per game, good for 14th in the NFL.

Against some of the league’s best, the Giants played their strongest. New York held Jamaal Charles (KC) to 65 yards rushing, Matt Forte (CHI) to 67, Adrien Peterson (MIN) to 28, LeSean McCoy (PHI) to 94 in two games, Eddie Lacey (GB) to 27 and Marshawn Lynch (SEA) to 47.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Not much has changed at the linebacker position for the Giants. Beason was re-signed and Rivers was allowed to walk. The lone notable addition via free agency was that of ex-Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain. Devon Kennard was drafted in the fifth round out of USC and has earned early praise from the coaching staff.

Devon Kennard, USC Trojans (September 21, 2013)

Devon Kennard has impressed coaches – © USA TODAY Sports Images

TRAINING CAMP STORYLINES: Little disclaimer early on: not going to count the health/return of Jon Beason (broken bone/torn ligament in foot) as a ‘training camp storyline’ simply because it doesn’t involve camp. If and when he returns will be well after the team breaks on Aug. 14.

Devon Kennard is easily one of the biggest camp storylines this year. Throughout the offseason conditioning program, Giants’ coaches ranted and raved about the progress of the rookie USC linebacker. While words are often meaningless, their faith in the 23-year-old was put on display when Kennard was inserted in as starting linebacker after Beason went down in OTAs.

Injuries have stunted the growth of Jacquian Williams, but it appears he’s ready for a breakout. The former sixth-round pick is no longer a situational player as the Giants have named him their full-time starting WILL. Williams progression, and ability to stay healthy, will be worth following during the summer.

Mark Herzlich, New York Giants (August 18, 2012)

Could this season be Mark Herzlich’s last with the Giants? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ON THE BUBBLE: It looks like the premier camp battle will be between undrafted linebacker Dan Fox and formerly undrafted Mark Herzlich. In the early stages of his career, Herzlich was all but given the keys to the Giants’ MIKE linebacker position, but never capitalized and struggled mightily on defense. When Beason went down during OTAs, it was Kennard that filled in at the middle…not Herzlich. If Dan Fox can match what Herzlich can do on special teams, there’s a chance he’s given the spot on the final 53. Fox has good speed, is very intelligent and versatile.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Linebackers coach Jim Herrmann on Kennard: “His college career he played everywhere. He had like I think three different coordinators at USC. When he was there with Monte Kiffin he was a MIKE. He played in that system. So for him, he’s played all over so he’s got multiple talents and he’s a smart guy so it’s not anything new for him. And he gives us a lot of flexibility. He has some rush ability so on third down he could actually be a rush-type guy. The flexibility helps us. As you go into the season there are 46 guys out there, normally the linebackers get maybe five guys so somebody has to know dual roles and we’ve always had guys that could do that. He’ll give us that ability.”

On progression of Jacquian Williams: “This OTA and mini-camp he did a great job in our base stuff as a WILL. He’s a natural WILL in nickel, he did a great job with our WILL stuff in base. To me he made a big jump and big improvement this spring.”

On UDFA Dan Fox: “To me he’s another guy, one of the young guys who’s got a lot of intelligence. He can play multiple roles. He actually played all three spots this spring, MIKE, SAM, WILL, he plays in our sub. Any time you’ve got a smart guy like that who football just comes natural to him, that gives him a chance. He’s got to make the team on special teams, obviously, that will be his biggest deal when he comes back. For me, as a position coach, being able to say, ‘Hey look, he has multiple roles on defense, he can play a lot of positions,’ that helps his chances. To me, that’s what you want.”

PREDICTIONS:
Connor Hughes - I believe this linebacking unit may be the best (when healthy) that the Giants have had in quite some time. Jameel McClain is a force against the run, intelligent, savvy and a vocal leader. Jacquian Williams (when healthy) has proven he has the raw and natural athletic ability that few at his position possess. Beason (again, when healthy) showed last year he’s an every down linebacker in the NFL and arguably the best in the middle the Giants have had since Antonio Pierce.

Despite all the above, the one player that most intrigues me is the one no one has seen in pads yet: Devon Kennard. The amount of praise Kennard has been given from the coaching staff is noticeable. Everyone from Tom Coughlin, to Perry Fewell, to Jim Herrmann has raved about the rookie. The fact the coaching staff already seems to have locked him in as a starter if McClain is forced to the middle with Beason out is telling. To get Kennard on the field – in pads – against the speed and talent level of the NFL will be a true tell if the Giants snagged a steal in the draft.

Eric Kennedy - Maybe it’s more wishful thinking than a realistic scenario, but I expect Jon Beason to be back by the opener. But obviously, the Giants need him back soon and they need him close to 100 percent. The way he impacted the overall defense with his presence last season was a pretty serious indictment on the Giants’ organization on their de-emphasis of the linebacker spot. If Beason is OK, the good news for the Giants is they now have two confident, cerebral leaders at the position in Beason and Jameel McClain. I’m curious to see McClain on the field. The Ravens said nice things about McClain, but they didn’t make a big effort to keep him. I wasn’t overly impressed in the limited 2013 film I’ve seen of McClain. But he was coming off of a serious neck injury so he may do better a couple of years removed from the injury.

Jacquian Williams has excellent tools but he has to stay healthy and play more physically than he has in the past against the run to prove he is an every-down linebacker. I actually like Spencer Paysinger more than most; at the very least, he is a very good special teams player.

STARTING UNIT WEEK 1?

Stevie Brown and Jon Beason, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

Will Jon Beason be available for Week 1? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Connor Hughes - I’m sticking with the fact I don’t believe Beason will be ready versus the Lions. WILL – Jacquian Williams; MIKE – Jameel McClain; SAM – Devon Kennard.

Eric Kennedy – My gut says Beason will do everything he can to be out there on opening day. Starters will be Jameel McClain, Jon Beason, and Jacquian Williams.

WHO MAKES THE TEAM?
Connor Hughes – Jacquian Williams, Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard, Jon Beason, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger. Dan Fox (PS).

Eric Kennedy – Jacquian Williams, Jameel McClain, Jon Beason, Spencer Paysinger, Devon Kennard, and Dan Fox.

Jul 112014
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (June 18,2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to camp in less than two weeks, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at this year’s defensive line.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Defensive Line

Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Mathias Kiwanuka – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: The 2013 defensive line performed adequately, helping the New York Giants finish 8th in total defense (10th against the pass and 14th against the run). But those figures may have been inflated by the Giants facing some incredibly poor quarterbacks/passing offenses. The chief problem for the Giants was their best player up front, Jason Pierre-Paul, had his second subpar season in a row. Pierre-Paul had surgery in June 2013 to repair a herniated disc in his lower back and he never seemed to fully rebound from that procedure. He flashed some of his old form in Week 10 but also suffered a shoulder injury in that game which caused him to miss the last five games of the season. He finished 2013 with only 27 tackles and 2 sacks in 11 games. Statistically, the most productive player was Justin Tuck, who rebounded with a strong season (63 tackles, 11 sacks, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles) after two down seasons in a row. Mathias Kiwanuka played in all 16 games, with 10 starts at right defensive end. He finished the season with 41 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Damontre Moore was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft. However, an early preseason shoulder injury disrupted his development, and while Moore flashed on special teams, he did not make much noise at defensive end when given a limited number of snaps.

The Giants were pretty stout inside with Linval Joseph (59 tackles, 3 sacks, and 1 forced fumble) and Cullen Jenkins (31 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles). Backing them up were Mike Patterson (23 tackles), Shaun Rogers (9 tackles), Johnathan Hankins (16 tackles), and Markus Kuhn (1 tackle). Rogers started two games but was placed on Injured Reserve in November in a move that appeared to be designed to give Hankins more snaps as well as keep Kuhn, who had been on the PUP recovering from an ACL tear he suffered in 2012.

Overall, the slow-but-sure aging and departure of past stalwarts such as Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck – combined with two down season by JPP – has largely taken the bite out of the once-formidable outside pass rush. Tuck had 11 sacks in 2013, but six of those came against the Redskins. The other ends combined for only eight sacks on the season while the tackles chipped in with only eight as a unit.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants did not show much interest in re-signing 31-year old Justin Tuck and he is now in Oakland. Gone too is the Giants best defensive tackle of the last couple of seasons, Linval Joseph, who signed a big contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Again, it did not appear that the Giants made much of an effort to re-sign him. The Giants also did not choose to re-sign Shaun Rogers, who remains an unrestricted free agent.

Robert Ayers, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

Robert Ayers – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The main additions are DE Robert Ayers (UFA from Denver Broncos) and DT Jay Bromley (3rd round draft pick). The Giants also have brought in rookie free agents ends Kerry Wynn, Emmanuel Dieke, and Jordan Stanton as well as tackle Kelcy Quarles. Practice Squad DE Kendrick Adams, who has spent time with the Jaguars, Buccaneers, Lions, Browns, and Bengals, was re-signed. DT Everett Dawkins, who has spent time with the Vikings, Cowboys, and Buccaneers, was added as street free agent in June 2014.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Will Jason Pierre-Paul regain his 2011 form? Who will start opposite of him – Mathias Kiwanuka, Robert Ayers, or Damontre Moore? Who will start at defensive tackle with Cullen Jenkins? How many defensive tackles will the Giants keep?

“(Moore) made good, steady progress,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin in June. “He’s, naturally, a year later, a year more into it so he’s more comfortable with what’s going on. It’s not one of those things where you don’t notice that he’s out there because he does have a correction here or there. We like what we see. His continued development in the weight room with just some added muscle and strength, a little bit more size is something that will help a lot.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Barring injury, it would seem that JPP, Kiwanuka, Ayers, and Moore are locks to be the four defensive ends. Jenkins, Hankins, and Bromley are probably sure bets at tackle. Do the Giants keep four or five tackles? It could come down to a serious battle between Markus Kuhn and Mike Patterson.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Robert Nunn on Damontre Moore and Johnathan Hankins:  “I thought Damontre really took a step forward (this offseason) and Hankins really took off at the end of last year and has done a great job in the offseason working out, coming in in really good condition…I like where they are at now.”

Mike Patterson (93) and Kelcy Quarles (97), New York Giants (June 5, 2014)

Mike Patterson (93) and Kelcy Quarles (97) – Photo by Connor Hughes

Nunn on Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson: “They’re solid guys, solid veteran guys. And they understand where they are in this stage of their career and we’ll have to take care of them through training camp. Both of those guys have had outstanding offseasons, I thought Mike came in here in really good shape. Cullen’s always been in good shape ever since I’ve been around him. We’ll see where it goes. Again, it’s so hard to tell, we’re so limited in what we can do in the offseason now but they’re in great shape and a really good frame of mind and have done a really good job with leadership with the younger players. We’ll see where it goes.”

Nunn on Markus Kuhn: “He had an outstanding offseason, really outstanding practices. He and Hankins, they’ll definitely get more reps in training camp than Mike P and Cullen if everything goes as planned. He showed up every day. When we go out there and go in team situations Markus was, there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t call his name out in a positive manner.”

Nunn on Jay Bromley: “You know, he’s come in very willing to learn. He’s very green, very raw but hey, he’s got to get started. Those guys are the ones that really suffer as far as how limited we are with what we can do. He needs all the work he can get but he’s shown enough that hey, he’s got to show up when the pads come on. We’ll see when that happens.”

PREDICTIONS:

Eric Kennedy – The Giants will have problems rushing the quarterback. Unless Kiwanuka, Ayers, or Moore can get to the passer on a consistent basis, Jason Pierre-Paul may be in for a rough season. Without a viable threat opposite of him, JPP will be the focal point of other teams’ blocking schemes. Kiwanuka and Ayers have flashed throughout their veteran careers, but they have yet to become (and may never become) guys who the other teams really worry about. To be frank, when Moore played DE last year, he didn’t look good. Perhaps he will show more now that he is healthier and stronger. I think Hankins has the tools to be better than Linval Joseph and if the Giants can get another good, solid season out of Jenkins, they’ll be fine inside. I’d prefer to keep only four defensive tackles, but I think 2014 will be a redshirt season for Bromley and thus the Giants will be forced to keep both Patterson and Kuhn.

Connor Hughes - For all the questions concerning the Giants’ roster heading into training camp, the regular season and beyond, I don’t believe any have as many unknowns as the defensive line. Throughout the course of the offseason, the Giants put their emphasis on the secondary. Gone were the days of loading up on pass rushers. Instead, the team signed and signed again big-name and high profile defenders in the secondary. I agree with the change in philosophy, but I have very little faith in those up front.

Mathias Kiwanuka appears to be in the tail end of his career, who knows what JPP will take the field (if he even gets on it), Cullen Jenkins is older, Johnathan Hankins has yet to be an every-down player and Mike Patterson doesn’t have much ability outside stopping the run. Justin Tuck is in Oakland, Jay Bromley is a rookie. If one or two injuries hit the group…things could get ugly fast.

Granted, things could go the complete other/positive way. Robert Ayers could excel in a new location, JPP could be the Pierre-Paul of 2011, Kiwanuka could revitalize his career, Hankins could be a force and maybe Bromley steps up. I’ve thought long and hard about the positives of the defensive line, and I’ve come up with a bunch, but for every one good there are two negatives. Who knows, maybe the secondary can mask the guys up front. That philosophy certainly worked in the reciprocal fashion over the last seven years.

FINAL DEPTH CHART:

Eric Kennedy – Mathias Kiwanuka (LDE), Johnathan Hankins (LDT), Cullen Jenkins (RDT), and Jason Pierre-Paul (RDE). Reserves: Mike Patterson, Markus Kuhn, Jay Bromley, Robert Ayers, and Damontre Moore.

Connor Hughes – Mathias Kiwanuka (LDE), Johnathan Hankins (LDT), Cullen Jenkins (RDT), Jason Pierre-Paul (RDE). Reserves: Mike Patterson, Markus Kuhn, Jay Bromley, Robert Ayers, and Damontre Moore.

Jul 092014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 10, 2013)

Can the Giants’ line keep Manning upright in 2014? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to training camp in less than two weeks, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at the offensive line.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Offensive Line

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: Years of failing to install a contingency plan up front caught up to Jerry Reese in 2013. As injury after injury hit the offensive line, few, if any, reserves were waiting in the wings to step up. The Giants entered the season with a starting line of: William Beatty, Kevin Boothe, David Baas, Chris Snee and David Diehl. By the end of the season…all had landed on the injury report. Quarterback Eli Manning was sacked a career-high 39 times and the deep passes that the Giants had so much success with in previous seasons were eliminated because there wasn’t time to throw. In the end, even Manning himself suffered an injury. Things were bad, very bad. It was a nightmare that ultimately forced Kevin Gilbride to ‘retire.’

Geoff Schwartz, Kansas City Chiefs (August 24, 2013)

Geoff Schwartz was the Giants big signing in 2014 – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: With how terrible things were last year, changes up front were inevitable. Kevin Boothe left for Oakland, David Baas was released and David Diehl retired. The Giants signed notable free agents: J.D. Walton (C), Geoff Schwartz (G), John Jerry (G) and Charles Brown (T) while drafting Weston Richburg (C/G) in the second round. It was a complete and much-needed overhaul.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: While there are many, the health of guard Chris Snee tops the list. Since being drafted out of Boston College, Snee has been a staple on the Giants’ line and considered one of the best guards in the NFL. But the years in the trenches have taken their toll on the 32-year-old. His 6-3, 310-pound frame is bruised and battered and Snee’s hardly the player he was when entering the league over a decade ago. When the Giants reported for their offseason conditioning program, Snee was a full participant, but that quickly changed. His elbow flared, sidelining Snee for the majority of the workouts.

Even when Snee is healthy, he isn’t the same player he used to be. The fact he’s already being held out of non-contact practices doesn’t bode well. Will Snee make it out of training camp? Will he hang up the cleats? If he realizes he can no longer play, who steps up at right guard? There are many questions on the Giants’ offensive line (William Beatty), but many center around the health of Chris Snee.

Chris Snee and Pat Flaherty, New York Giants (July 27, 2013)

Snee was on the sideline for much of the Giants’ offseason workouts – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ON THE BUBBLE: Two names truly stick out: John Jerry and James Brewer. Since being considered an up-and-coming lineman for the Giants, James Brewer has yet to capitalize on the opportunities the team has given him. Now, he finds himself working with the third unit and his days in blue may be numbered. Jerry, meanwhile, is waiting to hear on his punishment for his involvement in the Miami Dolphins bully scandal. There’s a lot of hype around Jerry and talk he could be perfect in the Giants’ scheme, but his baggage may be enough to have the Giants pull the plug before even flipping the switch.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Pat Flaherty on the new faces in the offensive line meeting room: “Change is going to happen, we all know that. I like it, I really do. I mean, do I miss? You always miss people that you’ve been around for a lot of years, sure. But we all understand in most businesses that there is going to be change on sometimes a daily basis, most of the time on a yearly basis and that’s the profession that we’re in right now. So it’s a challenge because we have a mixture of youth and some veterans that come in from other teams that have to learn a whole new offense, as myself. Any time you have that type of… when you’re a competitor as you are as a player and a coach you kind of grab a hold of that and it’s fun. It is.”

PREDICTIONS:

John Jerry, Miami Dolphins (November 17, 2013)

Is John Jerry the answer if Chris Snee can’t go?– © USA TODAY Sports Images

Connor Hughes - I’m just not sold on the Giants’ offensive line yet. I like the addition of Geoff Schwartz, but that solidifies one of the five question marks from left to right. Of every player that could step foot on the field to protect Eli Manning, I have faith in two: Justin Pugh and Schwartz. J.D. Walton has battled injuries, William Beatty is a huge question mark, who goes for Snee if/when he can’t? John Jerry wasn’t exactly a stud in Miami, Brandon Mosley and others on the line haven’t shown much. The Giants made their splashes in free agency and the draft on the offensive side of the ball, adding weapon, after weapon, after weapon…but none will matter if Eli Manning isn’t protected. Last year, Manning ended up injured in the final game of the season. There’s a big part of me that believes he could end up with the same fate far sooner in 2014.

Eric Kennedy – I have to disagree with Connor a bit here and say the #1 question mark on the offensive line – and one of the top three question marks for the entire team – is Will Beatty. Coming off of a fractured leg and possibly an undisclosed knee injury, it remains to be seen when Beatty will be able to practice with the revamped first-team offensive line. He needs the practice. Not only to rebound from a very poor 2013 campaign, but also to develop chemistry and cohesion with LG Geoff Schwartz. The Giants can survive without Chris Snee, I’m not sure they can perform well without Beatty returning to his 2012 form. The “wild card” here is Charles Brown. He has talent, but was very inconsistent at left tackle in New Orleans.

My prediction is that J.D. Walton turns out to be a much more valuable addition to the team than many initially thought. He is a no-nonsense guy who will get the job done and bring some leadership to the unit. Walton and Geoff Schwartz will settle down the middle of the offensive line. I also look for Brandon Mosley to develop and possibly challenge for a starting spot.

STARTING LINE WEEK 1?
Connor Hughes - William Beatty (LT), Geoff Schwartz (LG), J.D. Walton (C), John Jerry (RG), Justin Pugh (RT).

Eric Kennedy – Will Beatty (LT), Geoff Schwartz (LG), J.D. Walton (C), Chris Snee (RG), Justin Pugh (RT). (I also think John Jerry, Charles Brown, Weston Richburg, and Brandon Mosley make the team).

Jul 082014
 
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Ryan Nassib, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

The Giants have announced their training camp schedule– © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants have announced the team’s 2014 training camp schedule. Camp will be held at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center (formerly Timex Performance Center) in East Rutherford. The team’s first practice will be held on July 22 and conclude August 14. As has been the case for all camps held in East Rutherford, most practices that are held outside are open to the public but may be forced inside due to inclimate weather.

The practices scheduled on Aug. 5 and Aug. 7 are closed to the public due to an ongoing event at Metlife Stadium.

2014 TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE
Tuesday, July 22; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Wednesday, July 23; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Thursday, July 24; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Friday, July 25; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Saturday, July 26; No Practice – Players’ Day Off
Sunday, July 27; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Monday, July 28; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Tuesday, July 29; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Wednesday, July 30; No Practice – Players’ Day Off
Thursday, July 31; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Friday, August 1; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Saturday, August 2; No Practice
Sunday, August 3; Hall of Fame Game vs. Buffalo, 8:00 p.m. Canton, Ohio
Monday, August 4; No Practice – Players’ Day Off
Tuesday, August 5; Closed Practice due to MetLife Stadium Event
Wednesday, August 6; 5:40- 7:50 p.m. – Practice
Thursday, August 7; Closed Practice due to MetLife Stadium Event
Friday, August 8; No Practice
Saturday, August 9; Steelers vs. Giants, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 10; No Practice – Players’ Day Off
Monday, August 11; 3:20-5:30 p.m. – Practice
Tuesday, August 12; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Wednesday, August 13; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice
Thursday, August 14; 1:20-3:30 p.m. – Practice (End Camp)

Jul 082014
 
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Will Beatty, New York Giants (August 10, 2013)

Can William Beatty return to form in 2014? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There’s one thing everyone can agree on when it comes to this year’s New York Giants: There are an awful lot of questions surrounding the team.

From Ben McAdoo’s new offense, to the secondary, to the revamped offensive line and Eli, the list goes on-and-on. Today, the Big Blue Breakdown asks our panel what storyline they are most looking forward to unfolding come July 21 when players are scheduled to report to the New York Giants training camp.

Remember, if you’d like to submit a question for our panel to discus on the next Big Blue Breakdown, please email to Connor Hughes (Connor_Hughes@bigblueinteractive.com).

From Justin in Newark- What’s the storyline that you are most looking forward to unfolding in training camp and why? Is it the progression of Ben McAdoo’s new offense? The new pieces on defense? Or something else? Also, what’s your prediction for how it will pan out?

CONNOR HUGHES/Big Blue Interactive

David Wilson, New York Giants (September 16, 2012)

David Wilson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There’s a lot, and I mean a lot, of questions surrounding the Giants as the team prepares for training camp. I’m intrigued by the new offense and certainly to see how the secondary gels, but more than anything else I want to what David Wilson can do in this new offense and with a new offensive line.

Don’t get me wrong, of all the questions that will be answered or play out, Wilson’s status or role is no where near the top of the list, but personally I see this guy as the ultimate sleeper on the team. His attitude is second to none, he’s dying to get back on the field and I think having Rashad Jennings there to spell him is exactly what he needs to be the best back he can be.

Wilson’s frame (5-9, 205) don’t make him an ideal candidate as an “every-down-back,” but just picture this: Powerful Rashad Jennings/Andre Williams wear down a defense for two-to-three quarters. With the defenders huffing, Wilson comes in to spell the two with fresh legs and his 4.38 40-yard dash time. Wilson is the only player on the team that has the ability to take any carry the distance…couple that with a defense that’s already tired?

Saying that, I don’t believe the Giants will only insert Wilson into the lineup come the third and fourth quarters, but rather his reps will increase as the games go on. This was a tactic used by the Giants when the team had Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. Deal with the 6-5, 260-pound Jacobs for three quarters, then worry about a shifty Bradshaw in the fourth. I could see this situation working out near identical with the three on the team now.

ART STAPLETON/ The Record

Damontre Moore, New York Giants (September 29, 2013)

Damontre Moore – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There will be a lot of focus on the McAdoo offense and the health of the offensive line, Will Beatty and Chris Snee in particular, and for good reason. Those are a given. I’ll go back to what once was the Giants’ bread and butter: the defensive line.

I want to see Damontre Moore show he has taken that next step. I want to see if Robert Ayers is another body or if his analytic performance from 2013 translates on the field. Can Jay Bromley challenge Markus Kuhn? Will Mathias Kiwanuka turn his aggravation related to his pay cut into motivation for a bounce back year? Oh yeah, there’s the most important piece of the defensive puzzle: Jason Pierre-Paul. It’s too easy to say the Giants won’t depend on the pass rush as they have in the past.

If you look beyond the offensive chances that Jerry Reese and the FO has again taken with Beatty and Snee, the defensive line will end up being the difference in the NFC East. The fact we don’t know how it will work out makes this the most intriguing story line: there are no guarantees until the pads come on and the games begin, so it will be fun to watch.

JORDAN RAANAN/NJ.com

The one storyline that really pops out to me is how Eli Manning will fit into the new offense. This is really the No. 1 most important factor for the Giants in 2013. Everything else is secondary.

The defense won’t be great, but it also would take a lot to happen for them to be terrible. So the fate of the 2014 Giants rests on the offense (which ranked an abysmal 28th last year), and their quarterback in particular.

How will Eli take to the faster-paced, quick-throw offense? How will he bounce back from the 27-interception season? How will his surgically-repaired ankle hold up? How well will he work with first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr.? Will he get on the same page as Rueben Randle? Does he have instant chemistry with any of these tight ends?

Everything concerning the Giants’ success this season centers around their quarterback. The reality is this team is going nowhere without Eli playing well. They need him to play well. So, without a doubt, the top training camp storyline is Elisha Nelson Manning, especially with the unproven and so far shaky Ryan Nassib as his backup.

I’ll be watching Eli closely. Very closely.

PATTI TRAINA/Sports XChange, Bleacher Report, Inside Football

I think there are many storylines set to unfold this summer at training camp — probably more than I can remember in recent history. Of course, when a team is coming off a 7-9 season and turns over a large portion of its personnel, both players and coaches, that’s to be expected.

Eli Manning (10) and David Wilson (22), New York Giants (August 7, 2013)

Eli Manning and David Wilson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Obviously, the biggest storyline is going to be the new offense and if it lives up to the offseason hype. At the end of the minicamp, both head coach Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo said that they weren’t quite there yet, but then again I don’t think anyone expected the offense to be functioning like a well-piled machine after just 12 practices.

I think there might be a few hiccups along the way, especially as they finish installing everything, but I’m very optimistic and exited to see how it all comes together and I’m particularly interested to see how Eli Manning functions in McAdoo’s system, which is significantly different from the system Manning has spent his entire pro career running.

Moving to the defense, I’m very interested to see how the revamped secondary works out. One of the stats I’m going to try to keep up with is if there’s an increase of coverage sacks this year as I think that was part of the plan in going after a high-profiled cornerback such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. I have a feeling there might very well be an increase.

There are three position battles I’m looking forward to seeing and those are backup middle linebacker, tight end and fullback.

At backup middle linebacker, I like what I’ve seen of Dan Fox so far and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants end up carrying an extra linebacker until Jon Beason is ready to return (I don’t think Beason will be ready for opening night, by the way).

Devon Kennard has also impressed and I think he could prove to be an absolute steal if he builds on his solid spring. I want to see both Kennard and Fox with pads on and I also want to see how they measure up on special teams before I can definitely say of an extra linebacker will be kept.

At tight end, I think it’s anyone’s game right now. I also wouldn’t be shocked if they add a tight end before the start of the season, maybe someone who’s cut by another team. Two teams I’d keep an eye on in that regard are Arizona and Detroit.

Fullback might not have as big of a role in this offense, at least from what we’ve seen so far and what the players have told us about there being more single back sets in this offense than there were in the previous system. Still, I’m fairly sure they will carry one fullback and right now it’s any man’s game.

John Conner, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

John Conner – © USA TODAY Sports Images

We’ve seen both John Conner and Henry Hynoski work with the starters, which is a good sign that right now both are even in this race. I think once the pads on and they can block and hit, that’s going to separate a winner in this race.

Last thing, I’m very curious to see is how many quarterbacks they end up keeping. I’m sure

that they would like to keep two, but as the coaches have said, the execution from Ryan Nassib needs to be better.

With that said, I’m curious to see just how many reps Nassib gets because remember, this is a new offense and I would think that maybe Eli Manning and the starters probably could benefit from a little more work this preseason to iron out any remaining wrinkles before opening day.

I know the feeling is he will get many chances to work on improving his accuracy, but I’m curious to see if maybe Eli Manning and the starters maybe get a little more work in each preseason game what with the new offense.

Jul 072014
 
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Larry Donnell, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to camp in less than a month, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Tight Ends

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: During the 2013 offseason, the New York Giants decided not to pay big bucks in order to retain Martellus Bennett who signed with the Chicago Bears. To replace Bennett, the Giants signed free agent Brandon Myers from the Oakland Raiders. The undersized, slow, and not overly athletic Myers was a significant step down as a blocker and receiver. He finished 2013 with 47 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns. The #2 tight end was again the hard-working, but physically unimpressive, Bear Pascoe, who had a grand total of 12 catches for 81 yards and no touchdowns. Much was expected of the physically-talented duo of Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell. Neither developed and long-time tight end coach Mike Pope was fired at the end of the season. Robinson, who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft, was only active for two games as a rookie. He missed virtually all of the 2013 season with a foot injury he suffered in the preseason. When he did return in Week 16, he immediately sprained his knee. In two seasons, Robinson has played in three games and he has no career receptions. Donnell went undrafted and unsigned in 2011. The Giants signed him as a street free agent in March 2012 and Donnell spent 2012 on the team’s Practice Squad. Donnell made the 53-man roster in 2013 and was active for all 16 games, starting one contest. He finished the season with only three catches for 31 yards.

Xavier Grimble, USC Trojans (November 3, 2012)

Xavier Grimble – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants had no interest in bringing back Brandon Myers (now with Tampa Bay) and Bear Pascoe (now with Atlanta). Robinson and Donnell return. Publicly, the Giants said they wanted to add a tight end in the draft but there were only so many tight ends who they liked and they regarded Weston Richburg a better value in the second round. In the offseason, the Giants added free agent journeymen Daniel Fells (who has spent time with six other teams but didn’t play in 2013) and Kellen Davis (two other teams; 50 catches in six seasons), as well as undrafted rookie free agent Xavier Grimble (USC).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Is there a legitimate starting-caliber tight end currently on this roster? If so, who is it? The pressure is on new tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride, Jr., who failed as a wide receivers coach in 2012-13 and whose last and only previous tight end coaching experience was with Georgetown University in 2006. Can he help do what Mike Pope was unable to do and that is get Robinson and Donnell to play better?

General Manager Jerry Reese hasn’t given up on the two youngsters. “We expect those two young guys (Robinson and Donnell) to come on, and they can be dynamic if we can get them going,” said Reese in June.

“I think we have a nice group there,” said new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo about the five tight ends currently on the roster. “We have big men in the room, I like the way they think about the game, I like the way they’re moving around on the field. When we get the pads on that’s when we’ll really know where we are.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Everyone. Anyone can become the starter and anyone can be cut.

Adrien Robinson, New York Giants (July 27, 2013)

Adrien Robinson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Kevin Gilbride, Jr. on Adrien Robinson:  “He’s working incredibly hard to learn. That’s something that, going in, just knowing him as a personality not as someone I’ve taught before, I didn’t know. He’s in there, he’s taking copious notes, he’s answering questions very well. What we need to do is we need to get him to be able to transition that onto the field. He’s made strides, there’s no doubt that he’s made strides but there needs to be a lot more. The more in detail we get with him, sometimes he loses some of the basics as far as the techniques are concerned and we’ve got to get some carry-over with it.”

PREDICTIONS:

Eric Kennedy – There isn’t anyone on this roster who currently will scare an opposing defense. But is there even another Jake Ballard type here?

Adrien Robinson has been a major disappointment, but some of that was outside of his control. A very green rookie on college team that rarely threw the football to the tight end, he was forced to miss OTAs his rookie season because of an NFL requirement prohibiting players from universities using trimesters from participating in those activities. Mike Pope said that really set him back. He flashed some last offseason before being sidelined for the entire season with injuries. But both Robinson and Donnell do have intriguing physical tools. They are both big, athletic, and can catch the football. If they have the necessary toughness and desire, and if they can be coached up with the proper technique (all big “ifs”), at the very least, they should become good blockers. Don’t discount Larry Donnell. He could really surprise.

Connor Hughes - Baring an injury, Adrien Robinson is set to have a big, big season in 2014. From what we’ve seen in the early goings from the Giants offense, the days of the tight end being a “safety valve” are far in the past. New coordinator Ben McAdoo wants to use them often and as a focal point of the offense, not an after thought. With that being said, Robinson’s skill set is one I believe perfectly suits what the team is attempting to accomplish. Robinson has size (6-4), speed and the athletic ability to stretch the field. Countless times throughout the Giants’ offseason conditioning program, the tight end flashed what he can do…he just needs to stay healthy. If he can’t? Larry Donnell will be waiting in the wings.

FINAL DEPTH CHART:

Eric KennedyAdrien Robinson (1), Larry Donnell (2), and Xavier Grimble (3), Kellen Davis (Cut), Daniel Fells (Cut)

Connor Hughes – Adrien Robinson (1), Larry Donnell (2), Kellen Davis (3), Xavier Grimble (PS), Daniel Fells (Cut)

Jul 062014
 
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1944 New York Giants

1944 New York Giants

by Larry Schmitt for BigBlueInteractive.com

The NFL was in a struggle for survival as the manpower shortage created by World War II put a strain on the league’s primary resource, healthy young men. The War Manpower Commission had first dibs on able-bodied young men and it did not take long for the depletion to evoke improvisational counter measures.

A player’s physical talent became a secondary characteristic; his availability to his team was paramount. Many of the players signed during this period of belt-tightening had been turned down by the armed services. Fullback Bill “Bazooka” Paschal was one such example. Scar tissue in his knee made him undesirable to the Army, but the New York Giants were happy to have him in for a tryout on the recommendation of Grantland Rice, who had seen him play at Georgia Tech. Paschal set New York’s single-game rushing record with 188 yards in his first season in 1943, and led the NFL in rushing yards in 1943 and ’44, the first man to do so in back-to-back seasons. He also led the NFL in rushing touchdowns both years.

Sometimes healthy specimens made their way to the gridiron, as in the case of tackle Al Blozis. The Army believed his 6’5” 250 pound body was too large to be of use for them. The Giants selected him in the fifth round of the 1942 Draft, and Blozis went to become a consensus All-Pro in 1943. While Blozis usually draws acclaim for his defensive prowess, much of the success Paschal experienced running the ball came from following Blozis’ powerful blocks. Blozis even scored a 15-yard touchdown on a tackle-eligible play that year. Ultimately, Blozis followed his higher calling. After multiple attempts, he finally persuaded the Army to waive their size restrictions for him and Blozis was commissioned in 1944. During a furlough late in the season, he returned to play for the Giants while awaiting deployment. Blozis was killed by German fire in France in January 1945 while searching for members of his squad.

By February 1943, 330 NFL players were in the armed forces. The Brooklyn Dodgers had just seven players return from their 1942 roster when they opened training camp. Among the contingencies enacted by the league to manage the manpower shortage were various forms of contraction. The Cleveland Rams suspended operations and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles merged into the Pitt-Phil Steagles in 1943. Attempting to stay in the good graces of the Office of Defense Transportation, the league lowered roster limits from 33 to 28 (though some teams would choose to carry less), and the schedule was shortened from 11 games to 10.

Bill Paschal, New York Giants (1944)

Bill Paschal, New York Giants (1944)

The Rams resumed operations in 1944, but the talent pool depletion worsened. Of the 330 prospects selected in the NFL Draft, only 12 appeared in a football uniform. The Eagles re-emerged as an independent team and the Steelers merged with the Chicago Cardinals. They were officially known as The Card-Pitt Combine, but the 0-10 team was so dreadful they became tagged as the “Carpets” by fans. The Steelers and Cardinals resumed independently in 1945, but the Brooklyn Tigers (formerly the Dodgers) and Boston Yanks merged into one franchise without a city designation. They played four of their five home games in Boston and the other versus the Giants at Yankee Stadium.

Instituting their own version of a recall, the NFL looked to some of its heroes from the 1930’s. Mel Hein had told the Giants he was retiring after the 1942 season, but Head Coach Steve Owen was amenable to Hein’s request to miss practices during the week, being designated a “Sunday Center.” Hein would spend the next three years working at a Naval training program at Union College in Schenectady, NY for five days, and then riding the Amtrak to New York to meet his team. Ken Strong, who had not played since 1939, returned as a kicking specialist. His terms were that he not be required to wear a helmet or shoulder pads.

Arnie Herber, the former passing great from Green Bay who battled the Giants for the NFL title in 1938 and ’39, was wooed out of a three-year retirement by Owen, who sought to stabilize a roster that was otherwise mainly filled with first- and second-year players (including three who did not play college football.) Only five players remained from the 1941 Eastern Division Championship team: Hein, wingback Ward Cuff, tackle Frank Cope, guard Len Younce and all-purpose back and defensive star Hank Soar. The veteran Soar was an Owen favorite who also had an arrangement where he worked at an Army camp in Pennsylvania during the week and arrived on game day. He would not finish the season, however, as his unit would be deployed overseas. Paschal had enlisted in the Maritime Service, but was granted a special dispensation for leave on game days.

Fighting for Every Inch

New York opened their 1944 regular season with an unremarkable win at Fenway Park against the Boston Yanks. The Giants offense was far from a well-oiled machine as the young, old and slightly-damaged parts had yet to fully integrate. Herber struggled as he was still playing himself into shape. He completed just one pass for 12 yards, was intercepted twice and fumbled once, the latter being returned for Boston’s only touchdown. The Giants defense was its formidable self and the special teams made clutch plays. The defense recorded a safety and Cope blocked a punt that was recovered for a touchdown by Victor Carroll. Strong made both his field goals in the 22-10 victory.

New York Giants at Brooklyn Tigers (October 15, 1944)

Frank Cope (36) and Len Younce (60), New York Giants at Brooklyn Tigers (October 15, 1944)

The Giants offense struggled even more the following week as they gained a paltry four first downs in front of 25,854 fans at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn against the re-christened Tigers. New York completed just six passes on the day, but two were for touchdowns from the arm of Soar. The second came in the fourth quarter and lifted the Giants to a 14-7 win.

New York Giants vs. Card Pitts (October 22, 1944)

Courtesy of Rev. Mike Moran

The Giants opened their home schedule the following Sunday before 40,734 faithful and treated the fans to a feel-good 23-0 win over The Card-Pitt Combine. The passing game improved and the running game was dominant. New York totaled 224 yards on the ground and Paschal rushed for three touchdowns. Cope blocked a punt through the end zone for a safety while the Giants defense recovered five fumbles. If the game felt somewhat like a scrimmage, it was because Card-Pitt was a recent convert to the T-Formation that was gradually gaining favor over the Single and Double Wing throughout the league. While Card-Pitt lacked the talent to run the T-Formation effectively, the next opponent on the schedule did.

The Next Wave

The 1940 NFL Championship Game was a seminal moment. George Halas’ Chicago Bears obliterated the Washington Redskins 73-0 with his new version of the T-Formation with wider line splits and a man-in-motion. Just a few days later, the NCAA’s only T-Formation team, the Stanford Cardinal, headed by Halas associate Clark Shaughnessy, defeated Nebraska in the Rose Bowl 21-13. The Bears led the NFL in scoring from 1941-1943 after winning the 1940 title and coaches everywhere took notice as Halas proved the T-Formation was no fluke. Chicago repeated as champions in 1941 when they defeated the Giants 31-9 in the title game, had an undefeated regular season in 1942, and made it three titles in four years in 1943 when they defeated Washington 41-21 in the NFL Championship Game.

The first NFL team to jump on the T-Formation bandwagon was the Philadelphia Eagles in 1941. The results were not immediate for Earl “Greasy” Neal’s team, as colleges were slow to convert from the Single and Double Wings. But Neal was a believer in the new system and committed to it. The Eagles saw incremental improvement each season.

The 1944 NFL Draft was a major coup for Philadelphia. The talented and relentless halfback Steve Van Buren from LSU vaulted Neal’s offensive attack straight to the top. The T-formation was still primarily a running offense, with two halfbacks and a fullback lined up behind the quarterback under center. Its success came from the balanced offensive line and the added deception provided by a skilled ball-handling quarterback. The Eagles would finish the season first in rushing yards and total points scored. Van Buren was fast, powerful and a team leader. He contributed 444 rushing yards and led the NFL in punt return yards his rookie season.

Owen spent extra time preparing for the Eagles and their T-formation at practices that week. A major challenge for Owen was overcoming the unexpected absence of his best defensive halfback and leader, Hank Soar, who wired Owen the night before the game that his unit was being deployed overseas. The 42,639 fans at the Polo Grounds watched Owen’s preparation pay off beautifully for the game’s first 25 minutes. After the Giants defense spotted Philadelphia a field goal, they stifled the Eagles’ attack. The Eagles fumbled the ensuing punt and Frank Liebel returned the loose ball for a 20-yard touchdown. This ignited a 17-point run for the Giants, who seemed to be getting by without defensive leader Soar. Paschal added a 68-yard touchdown himself and the Giants had a 17-3 lead with about five minutes left before halftime.

However, Philadelphia quarterback Roy Zimmerman found a rhythm and engineered a drive that culminated with a 6-yard Van Buren rushing touchdown to trim the lead to 17-10 at the intermission. Throughout the second half, the Giants offense sputtered in fits and starts while the Eagles T-Formation engine purred, accumulated yards and moved the chains.

Typical of many latter-day Giants-Eagles contests, Philadelphia found an uncommon way to score. Midway through the third quarter, the Eagles had the ball on the New York 22-yard line. Zimmerman connected with end Tom Miller on a 7-yard pass. As Miller was being tackled, he lateraled to the trailing Zimmerman who ran for pay dirt from the 15-yard line. Zimmerman then kicked the point-after to tie the game at 17-17.

The Giants hung on through much of the fourth quarter, and seemed likely to escape with a tie after Zimmerman missed a 48-yard placement attempt. However, Van Buren intercepted a Howie Livingston pass at midfield and returned it to the New York 36-yard line. A handful of Van Buren rushes set up Zimmerman’s 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown. The Giants did not quit, but they had more fight in them than luck. After New York’s desperate advance moved them into Philadelphia territory, the game came to a close with two Herber passes into the end zone. The first seemed like a sure touchdown to Liebel until it was defensed by Ernie Steele at the very last instant. The second was intercepted by Steele off of a tip by receiver O’Neal Adams as the clock expired. The 24-17 loss dropped the previously unbeaten Giants into third place at 3-1 behind Philadelphia and Washington.

Len Calligaro (2), New York Giants (November 5, 1944)

Len Calligaro (2), Boston Yanks at New York Giants (November 5, 1944)

The Giants released their frustrations on the Boston Yanks the following week. The 28,634 fans at the Polo Grounds cheered on as Paschal led the way with 113 rushing yards in the 31-0 win. Owen and his team couldn’t afford to get complacent though; the next game scheduled was a trip to first-place Philadelphia.

Crunch Time

Shibe Park was a raucous, packed stadium with a record 33,248 enthusiastic fans, who reveled in the home team’s performance. Van Buren’s 97-yard first-quarter kickoff return touchdown triggered a 21-point run. The Eagles led the Giants 21-7 after three quarters. The comeback role was reversed in this re-match and Herber finally found the rhythm the Giants passing attack had lacked all season. The stunning rally began with just under 6:00 on the clock, and it occurred with the Giants best offensive threat, Bill Paschal, on the bench with a leg injury. The first score was a 22-yard Herber strike to Livingston, who caught the ball in the middle of the end zone while surrounded by three Philadelphia defenders. Strong’s placement trimmed the lead to 21-14. The New York defense held and Herber went back to work. Another long-ball from the Giants 42-yard line was caught at the Eagles 24-yard line by Liebel, who outraced Steele – the hero from two-weeks earlier – to pay dirt. Strong’s placement was successful and deadlocked the score at 21-21.

New York’s defense again held and the Giants got the ball back quickly. Herber advanced the Giants deep into Philadelphia territory with just seconds left. Strong was good on his field goal from the 43-yard line, but the field goal was waived off on a late flag for delay of game. The next attempt from 48 yards was blocked as time expired. Owen exploded. His first argument was that on the play before Strong’s initial attempt, it appeared that Herber had completed a pass to the 20-yard line after a catch-and-run. However, an official had ruled that the receiver had stepped out on the 35-yard line. Secondly, while Owen argued, the clock mistakenly continued to run. The Giants were forced to attempt the field goal without a huddle. Owen’s third grievance was that Philadelphia had put a soft ball in play before the second try that was blocked.

Although the Giants did not get the win to move up in the standings, Owen at least had to be somewhat satisfied the Giants had avoided a seemingly imminent loss that would have crippled their championship chances. Plus, the passing game which had struggled most of the season finally showed signs of life. Herber was magnificent in the clutch as he completed 5-of-6 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. This was welcome news as the stretch run promised to be a grind.

A season-high crowd of 56,481 jammed the Polo Grounds to watch the 4-1-1 Giants entertain the 7-1-0 Western Division-leading Packers. Most were surprised by the efficiency displayed by the Giants defense as they confounded Green Bay’s prolific offense in a 24-0 shutout. The primary star of the game was Livingston, who Owen challenged by locking him up one-on-one with the NFL’s premier pass catcher, Don Hutson. In past encounters, Owen employed zone configurations to contain the Packer passing attack. But on this occasion he followed a hunch to play man coverage. This handsomely paid off as Hutson was limited to four catches for 31 yards. Livingston also had the first of the Giants five interceptions on the day. The other star for New York was Younce, who plowed open holes for the Giants 221-yard rushing attack. Cuff led the way with 103. Younce also had an interception on defense.

Good news arrived on the out-of-town scoreboard as well; the 5-1-1 Giants moved up to second place as Washington fell to Philadelphia. New York maintained their position in the standings the following Sunday in a tough 7-0 win over Brooklyn at the Polo Grounds. Most of the 28,387 fans would probably agree that the 0-9 Tigers were a feisty unit with a tough defense. After scoring a first-quarter touchdown, the Giants fought for every inch of turf. Strong missed two field goal attempts in the second quarter and the Giants defense twice halted Brooklyn drives inside the 10-yard line. The unsung hero was the newly-commissioned Lt. Blozis, who arrived at practice the Friday before the game. The New York Times said, “It’s doubtful the Giants would have won without him.”

Al Blozis, New York Giants (December 3, 1944)

Courtesy of Rev. Mike Moran

A leaner Blozis, whose weight of 242 was eight pounds lighter than the previous season, was just the boost Owen felt his team needed with back-to-back games against 6-1-1 Washington to close the regular season. Spirits were high in practice as the Giants had moved into a first-place tie with Philadelphia when the Eagles lost to the Bears. Owen acknowledged the Giants had no miracle fixes in store for their inconsistent offense. They spent the week at practice stressing fundamentals and fine tuning their rugged defense that had already shut out four opponents.

The sensational Sammy Baugh split passing duties during 1944 as the Redskins made a mid-year switch from the Double Wing to T-Formation. Statistically, Baugh appeared to be off his game, but as always, he had the Redskins in contention by season’s end. He was backed up ably by Frank Filchock. Not only did the duo combine for the most passing yards in the league, they were most efficient in doing so. Washington’s 56.9 team completion percentage was well ahead of the second-place Bears (49.3). The Giants 37.6 completion percentage placed them in eighth place in the 10-team league.

It was almost always a forgone conclusion that the Giants-Redskins games would decide the Eastern Division title. Since divisional play began in 1933, New York won the Eastern Division six times and Washington five times. The 1943 regular season culminated in the rivals engaging in a playoff. The Giants had chased the Redskins all season and eventually caught them at 6-3-1 after winning the two head-to-head games in the final weeks. The chase apparently drained New York however, as Washington trounced the Giants 28-0 in the Polo Grounds.

The Polo Grounds crowd of 47,457 braved intense cold, ready for revenge. Baugh went most of the way for Washington and had the visitors ahead 13-10 with 5:00 left in the fourth quarter. But Livingston intercepted Baugh and returned the ball to the Washington 35-yard line. Herber once again was strong in the clutch. He completed two passes before Cuff’s 21-yard reverse set up Paschal’s 2-yard touchdown plunge with approximately 3:30 left. However, the Giants did not make the critical point-after. Baugh, who finished 25-of-35 for 273 yards on the day, fearlessly led the Redskins down the field. Joe Aguirre kicked a 36-yard field goal to tie the game, but that kick was nullified by a holding penalty. The subsequent 52-yard attempt (holding was a 15-yard penalty at the time) fell well short. The Giants won 16-13.

Philadelphia defeated Brooklyn and moved up to second place at 6-1-2, while Washington dropped to third at 6-2-1. Nevertheless, the Eastern Division title was still up for grabs. If 7-1-1 New York won the finale at Washington, the Giants would win the Eastern Division title. If Washington won, they would be tied with the Giants at 7-2-1, making the Philadelphia-Cleveland game critical. If the Eagles won, they would take the Eastern crown. If Philadelphia lost, for the second consecutive year, a playoff between New York and Washington would decide who advanced to the NFL Championship Game. In the event of a Philadelphia victory and a tie between Washington and New York, the Giants would play the Eagles in a playoff. Unfortunately, New York would be without Blozis, who was called away for military duty.

The capacity crowd of 35,540 at Griffith Stadium was silenced early. Baugh fumbled on the first two possessions and the Giants capitalized both times. The first was a 25-yard Herber-to-Cuff touchdown connection less than four minutes into the contest. Then Herber connected with Liebel from 11 yards out for a second touchdown. Owen’s defense quashed any hopes of Baugh leading his Redskins in a comeback. Filchock relieved Baugh in a desperate attempt to spark a reversal of momentum, but the results were the same. In all, New York intercepted six passes on the day, en route to their fifth shutout of the season.

Limping to the Finish Line

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, 1944 NFL Championship Ticket Stub

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, 1944 NFL Championship Ticket Stub

The enthusiasm of the 31-0 victory was dampened after the game when the Giants learned that league-leading rusher Bill Paschal had severely sprained his ankle in the second quarter and his availability for the NFL Championship Game was in doubt. Worry increased during the week as Paschal tested the ankle several times during the practice but was unable to go full speed. Rookie Len Calligaro took Paschal’s reps in practice and Owen had the team focus on sharpening the passing game that had shown improvement over the latter course of the season. The good news for the Giants was Blozis was on a short leave and available to play. The Packers on the other hand were healthy and rested, not having played a game in three weeks.

An NFL Championship Game record 46,016 fans nearly filled the Polo Grounds on a crisp but not unpleasant afternoon. Commissioner Elmer Layden declared before the game that if the score was tied after 60 minutes, there would be no overtime period. Green Bay and New York would be declared co-champions.

Owen devised a new scheme to deal with Packer receiver extraordinaire Don Hutson, who had led the NFL in catches and yards for the fourth consecutive season, and who was tied with Paschal for the league-lead in touchdowns with nine. (Hutson’s were all receiving, Paschal’s all rushing.) The Giants deployed a five-man line. But when a pass play was read, Younce would drop back from his middle guard position and assist in covering Hutson.

This strategy worked through the scoreless first quarter while both teams repeatedly exchanged punts. The bad news for the Giants was Calligaro severely injured his shoulder making a tackle on the first play of the game and did not return. Meanwhile, Packers coach Curly Lambeau countered New York’s defensive strategy by sending halfback Ted Fritsch or fullback Joe Laws, who’d had just one carry all year, into Younce’s vacated position in the middle. Fritsch began a long drive with a 21 yard ramble from the Green Bay 25-yard line. Laws followed several plays later with a 15-yard rush to the Giants 27-yard line. On the next play, Fritsch crashed through right tackle to the 1-yard line. New York’s forward wall tightened up for a goal-line stand. Two rushes by Fritsch each lost a yard, and Laws advanced back to original line of scrimmage on third down. Lambeau went for it on fourth down. Fritsch took the ball, found a crease behind Charles “Buckets” Goldenberg and went over for the score. Hutson was good on the point-after and Green Bay led 7-0.

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, 1944 NFL Championship Game Program (December 17, 1944)

1944 NFL Championship Game Program

The Giants offense struggled badly. With Calligaro out, Owen was forced to put the injured Paschal on the field as little more than a decoy. Making matters worse, the passing game was out of sync. New York punted every time they had the ball, netting a paltry 24 yards in the first half with no first downs.

Green Bay began their final possession of the second quarter on their own 38-yard line. On third-and-three, Hutson shook free from coverage and hauled in a 24-yard pass from tailback Irv Comp to the New York 30-yard line. On third-and-eight, the Giants obsessive focus on Hutson would prove costly.

As Comp received the snap, Hutson crossed the New York secondary from his left end position, drawing multiple defenders with him. Noticing this, Fritsch alertly released to the vacated left flat. Comp pump faked right to Hutson, and then lobbed the ball to Fritsch at the 11-yard line where he jogged into the end zone untouched with just over one minute on the clock. Hutson’s point-after was good and the Packers had a seemingly-comfortable 14-0 halftime lead.

Fight to the Finish

The Giants returned to the field in the third quarter with a new urgency. Paschal gave it one more try on the first possession before his ankle gave out and he returned to the bench for good. New York engineered two first downs despite his absence and advanced to midfield before punting. The defense held and the Giants moved from their own 14-yard line to the Green Bay 42 on four plays, including two completions by Herber and one by Cuff. But Laws halted the drive with an interception.

Livingston got the ball right back for the Giants with a pass theft of his own on the New York 45-yard line. Herber kept to the air as New York capitalized on the good field position. Following a pass interference penalty on the Green Bay 42-yard line, Herber launched a deep pass to Liebel, who was initially covered by Comp before the defender lost his footing. Liebel made the catch and was pushed out of bounds on the 1-yard line as the third quarter expired. Cuff finished the drive on the first play of the final quarter. Strong’s point-after was good. The Giants were within one score of at least a share of the NFL title at 14-7.

From this point both teams played the clock. The Packers kept the ball on the ground while Herber valiantly fought for the tying score with his arm. Both defenses held strong for most of the period. Herber led the Giants on one final drive into Packer territory but was intercepted inside the 20-yard line by Paul Duhart with less than five minutes to play. This essentially settled the outcome and preserved the title solely for Green Bay.

1944 NFL Championship Game, Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (December 17, 1944)

1944 NFL Championship Game, Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (December 17, 1944)

Herber and Cuff were valiant in defeat for the short-handed Giants, but both defenses ruled the day. The Packers and Giants combined for seven interceptions against 11 completions. Hutson was limited to just two catches for 47 yards. “Don’t let anyone tell you the Giants are not a good team,” the All-Pro receiver said after the game. “Defensively, they are the best in the league. They always hamper our offense when we play them.”

Blozis and Hein were cited for their powerful line play while Paul Berezney and Charley Brock received similar accolades for the champion Packers. Owen lamented key injuries but was complimentary to Green Bay: “We didn’t have it today. They did. We were bottled in our own territory throughout the first half and had to kick on third down repeatedly. Without Paschal to threaten them, the Packers were able to play wide open. We went as far as we could.”

Looking back on the season as a whole, the 1944 New York Giants performance was historically great for the defense. Over the 10-game regular season, New York surrendered only 75 points. The 7.5 points-per-game average was well below the league average of 18.0. The next closest team from the start of the T-Formation era in 1940 was the unbeaten 1942 Chicago Bears who allowed 7.64 points per game (84 points over 11 games). The Giants defense surrendered only eight touchdowns during the regular season: five rushing and three passing. They were third in total yards surrendered, second in yards-per-play at 3.6 (Philadelphia was first with 3.5), first in rushing yards allowed, and first in take-aways with 45. Paschal and Younce were recognized with All-Pro status for their individual contributions.

The Giants legacy entering their 90th season of play in 2014 includes the most post-season appearances of any franchise with 31. When the NFL was aligned in its two division format from 1933 through 1966, New York won the Eastern Division/Conference 13 times, more than any other team. Their record in the NFL Championship Game was three wins against 10 losses. Those teams that fell just short of the title are woven into the fabric of New York history and are part of the standard to which today’s New York Giants teams are held.

Jul 052014
 
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Victor Cruz, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Can Victor Cruz excel in Ben McAdoo’s offense? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to camp in less than a month, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at this year’s wide receivers.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Wide Receivers

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: Well, it certainly wasn’t pretty. What was expected to be the team’s strength quickly turned into a great weakness. The quarterback wasn’t on the same page as the wide receivers, the receivers weren’t on the same page as the quarterback and when the two did mesh the offensive line didn’t Eli Manning enough time to get them the ball. There’s no other way to put it, the season was a complete disaster. Statistically, Victor Cruz (73-998-4), Hakeem Nicks (56-896-0) and Rueben Randle (41-611-6) never all clicked at the same time. One positive though, Jerrel Jernigan showed promise in the final two games of the season.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants added to the receiver meeting room quite a bit, both in free agency and the draft.

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (September 16, 2012)

Hakeem Nicks left via free agency after a disappointing 2013 – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Mario Manningham returns after two years in San Francisco and Trindon Holliday comes over from Denver. Odell Beckham Jr. was drafted in the first round out of LSU. A few names left via free agency, such as Hakeem Nicks (IND) and Louis Murphy (TB).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Every wide receiver that played in Kevin Gilbride’s offense last year has said the same thing about new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system this year: Less reads, quick passes. In the past, the Giants’ offense was predicated on stretching the field and going deep. Now, it appears as if those deep posts and streaks are quick slants and screens. It will be interesting to see how Gilbride’s wideouts fit into McAdoo’s offense. Cruz, Manningham and Beckham Jr. (in college) have all displayed the ability to make people miss with the ball in their hands; they may excel with McAdoo more than ever.

The use of Trindon Holliday offensively and the health of Mario Manningham will also be interesting. Throughout the offseason conditioning program, Holliday flashed again…and again…and again. He’s very dangerous in space, but has seldom been used on offense. Can McAdoo find a spot on offense? When healthy, Manningham is a dominant deep threat who can cause people to miss in space. But..is he healthy? The 28-year-0ld didn’t participate in OTAs or mini-camp.

ON THE BUBBLE: There’s the normal candidates who are fighting for a practice squad position (Corey Washington, Julian Talley, Preston Parker, Travis Harvey, Marcus Harris), but one name to keep an eye on as a potential cut is Mario Manningham. If the former second-round pick is finally healthy, he has a home with the Giants. If not? He could be cut in favor of another young target. The Giants have never been a team to give a roster spot to someone based on their name.

Odell Beckham (13) and Zack Bowman (31), New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Odell Beckham and Zack Bowman – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Sean Ryan on receiver Odell Beckham Jr.: “I think Beckham is a dynamic, dynamic player. I think he can be very good. We’ve got to, again, help him get rid of the mistakes that young guys make, help him to see the different things coverage-wise and disguise-wise that he’ll face in this league that maybe he didn’t get in college, but he’s got the ability to be a very explosive wide receiver.”

PREDICTIONS:
Connor Hughes - I’m very, very intrigued to see what players like Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr., Trindon Holliday, Jerrel Jernigan and Mario Manningham can do in Ben McAdoo’s new offense. Everything we’ve been told and seen throughout the offseason suggest a high-tempo, fast-paced, quick-pass offense that is predicated on getting the receiver the ball in space. We’ve seen Manningham have success in that role, Cruz too. Beckham Jr. did it all throughout college and Holliday as a returner. Gone are the long developing deep passes, I believe this offense fits these receivers perfectly. Then again, if Manning doesn’t have the time to get them the ball…none of it will matter.

Eric Kennedy – Like Connor, I see a group of wide receivers who run well after the catch. The key will be Eli’s ability to accurately hit them in stride in order for them to do damage after the reception. And while fewer reads reduces the mental strain on the quarterback and receivers, it also reduces the mental strain on the defense. Routes will be more predictable and there will be more pressure on receivers to physically beat opposing defensive backs to get open. The top three will undoubtedly be Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham, and Rueben Randle. With defenses focusing on Cruz early, I look for Beckham and Randle to make a lot of big plays. Randle, more than anyone, seems more at peace with the new system. My “wild card” is Holliday. The Texans and Broncos never really used him on offense (two career catches). My gut tells me Ben McAdoo becomes enthralled with his play-making ability in space and designs a handful of plays for him per game.

WHO MAKES THE CUT?:
Connor Hughes - Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Trindon Holliday, Jerrel Jernigan, Mario Manningham, Rueben Randle. (Marcus Harris ends up on practice squad).

Eric Kennedy – Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Trindon Holliday, Jerrel Jernigan, Marcus Harris.

Jul 022014
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (June 18,2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to camp in less than a month, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Our first article concentrated on the team’s quarterbacks. Now let’s take a look at the running backs and fullbacks.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Running Backs and Fullbacks

Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Brandon Jacobs – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: Just a year ago, the New York Giants appeared to be “set” at running back with a 1-2 punch of Andre Brown and David Wilson. But the injury-prone Brown broke his leg in the preseason, causing him to miss half the season. He started the final eight games and finished with 139 carries for 492 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. The Giants showed no interest in re-signing Brown in the offseason and he is now a Houston Texan. 2012 1st round draft pick David Wilson only played in five games before being placed on Injured Reserve with a career-threatening neck injury that required surgery in January. He started four games and finished 2013 with 146 yards on 44 carries (3.3 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He also fumbled the ball away twice. Da’Rel Scott made the team, was cut, then re-signed, and then placed on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury.  Scott played in five games with one start in 2013, finishing the season with 73 yards on 20 carries (3.7 yards per carry). The Giants chose not to bring him back. Michael Cox, the Giants 7th pick in the 2013 Draft, played in 14 games as a rookie with one start. But he only carried the football 22 times for 43 yards (2.0 yards per carry). With injuries to Brown, Wilson, and Scott, ex-Giant Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis were mid-season roster additions. But Jacobs arrived as damaged goods, started only one game, and was placed on Injured Reserve with a knee condition that forced his retirement in January. Hillis ended up playing in seven games with one start. He finished the season with 73 carries for 247 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.

At fullback, 2013 was a disaster for Henry Hynoski, who missed virtually all of the offseason work with a knee injury (MCL/chip fracture) suffered in an OTA, then fracturing his shoulder and being placed on Injured Reserve in September. John Conner was signed off of the street to replace Hynoski and he performed well as a physical lead blocker in 13 games with seven starts.

Overall, the New York Giants finished 29th in rushing, averaging a paltry 83.2 yards per game and 3.5 yards per rush.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants had no interest in bringing back Andre Brown and Da’Rel Scott, and Brandon Jacobs has retired. David Wilson, Michael Cox, Peyton Hillis, Henry Hynoski, and John Conner return. Kendall Gaskins, who spent time with the Bills and Titans as a rookie, was signed to the Practice Squad in December and returns in 2014. The Giants made a big push to sign ex-Jaguar and ex-Raider Rashad Jennings to a 4-year, $10 million contract. The team drafted the nation’s #1 rusher Andre Williams in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The two main story lines are the health status of David Wilson and the Hynoski-Conner competition at fullback. Wilson is scheduled to undergo another exam on his next the day camp starts – July 21st – to determine if he can be cleared for football contact. If cleared, the explosive Wilson needs to prove he can stay healthy, hold onto the football, protect the QB, and become an instinctive play-maker. Many fans and media types believe Hynoski is the front runner for the fullback spot, but John Conner may be the better blocker, receiver, and yes, runner. The other main question is who will be the #2 back off of the bench behind Rashad Jennings. Will it be Wilson, Peyton Hillis, or Andre Williams?

ON THE BUBBLE: It would appear that Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams are locks to make the team. If he is cleared for contact, and barring a complete lack of development, the former #1 pick David Wilson is likely to make the squad. Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox, and Kendall Gaskins are fighting for one, possibly two roster spots. Don’t automatically write any of these guys off. Even Gaskins has caught the attention of the coaches.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Craig Johnson on Andre Williams:  “A big fit (for our scheme). He’s a big, strong physical runner. He led the nation in rushing last year in college football. He is strong, he’s a very explosive runner. I hear that from the defense, they say, ‘Man, that guy has really got it going.’ I’m really excited to see what he’s all about and you can tell, he runs hard.”

Johnson on David Wilson: “He’s got tremendous talent. It’s obvious to see that that. Good hands. I can’t wait to watch him get out there when he gets cleared to show what he can do.”

Johnson on Michael Cox and Kendall Gaskins: “Two guys you probably haven’t heard much about, Michael Cox, a second-year back that was a late draft choice last year, big, strong, physical, can make plays. I’m looking forward to seeing him and Kendall Gaskins, both of them, in pads. They’re young guys, they want to prove it. They’re hungry and they want to go after it. All the backs are pretty good size and pretty physical so I’m excited about the position.”

PREDICTIONS:

Peyton Hillis, New York Giants (December 1, 2013)

Peyton Hillis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eric Kennedy – Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis, and Andre Williams make this a very big and physical backfield. Considered somewhat of a journeyman running back, I firmly believe that Jennings will blossom in New York not only as a physical, no-nonsense north-south runner, but an incredibly reliable and consistent receiver out of the backfield. He is a natural receiver. I also think he will become a team leader. Some expect Peyton Hillis to be cut, but I see him becoming a John Kuhn-type receiver/runner/pass protector in Ben McAdoo’s scheme. I could see him becoming the third-down back due to his pass pro and receiving skills. I love Henry Hynoski, but I think John Conner is the better blocker, receiver, and runner.

Connor Hughes - I like Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings, too. I believe both are upgrades over Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs. With that being said, I truly believe the ‘X’ factor for the Giants in the backfield is David Wilson.

Wilson spent the offseason in the weight room packing on the muscle, is still lightning in the bottle and the only player at the position that has the ability to break off a touchdown on any carry. If he’s healthy, I see him as a player that can run for 1200-1400 yards annually. Last year, Wilson struggled, but as the season went it became more evident that that was more of a result of the team’s porous offensive line than the former first-round pick.

I love Wilson’s attitude, he never doesn’t have a smile on his face and is more motivated than ever to get back on the field. Once he does? Look out.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Running Backs – Rashad Jennings (1), David Wilson (2), Peyton Hillis (3), Andre Williams (4), Michael Cox (cut), Kendall Gaskins (cut)

Fullbacks – John Conner (1), Henry Hynoski (cut)