Dec 272013
 
 December 27, 2013  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Ra'Shede Hageman. Minnesota Golden Gophers (October 26, 2013)

Ra’Shede Hageman – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 27, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

MARSHALL

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#26 Gator Hoskins – TE – 6’2/244
#76 Garrett Scott – LT – 6’5/294

MARYLAND

#17 Goins, Isaac – CB – 5’11/190

Under the radar cover corner that I saw twice in 2013.  I had no intention of scouting him but his speed and acceleration caught my eye a few times.  After a closer look, I came away thinking Goins could be a diamond in the rough.  He has such fluid and agile hips.  Combining that with his deep speed leads me to believe he can handle the pace of the NFL as a cover man.  He won’t be a fit for the physical defenses.  He is an aggressive player and is not afraid to mix it up, but he simply doesn’t show the presence of when taking on blocks from receivers nor does he make an impact as a tackler.  I think Goins has a shot at being a late round pick that makes an impact at the next level.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#41 Marcus Whitfield – OLB – 6’2/240
#16 CJ Brown – QB – 6’3/210

SYRACUSE

#96 Jay Bromley – DT – 6’3/280

Undersized when it comes to weight and girth, but has the length to make up for it.  Can easily add weight if he gets put in to a scheme that needs him to anchor more.  But Bromley is a solid, penetrating interior defender that makes plays behind the line of scrimmage (18.5 TFL and 10.5 sacks over past two years).  I question his ability to play in a gap controlled scheme because he can be overwhelmed by power and size.  I think a limited amount of teams will be interested in him, making him a late round pick.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#11 Marcus Spruill – LB – 6’0/224
#59 Mackly MacPherson – C – 6’2/286

MINNESOTA

#99 Ra’Shede Hageman – DT – 6’6/311

Fifth year senior that started off as a TE, but moved to the DL in his redshirt season.  By far the top prospect in this game.  Hageman was a bit of a late bloomer, as he did not make much of an impact until last season.  With that said, he has come a long way and some consider him to be a top 45 prospect.  He has shown flashes on tape of sheer dominance at the point of attack.  He has tremendous movement ability for a player his size.  When his pad level is right and he fires out of his stance at the right time, he creates a new line of scrimmage whenever he wants.  The upside here is about as high as any defensive tackle in this class, and it could end up getting his name called in the first round.

#21 Brock Vereen – CB – 6’0/202

Fourth year starter that has played mostly at cornerback, but played safety for the final six games of the 2012 season and had some action there this season as well.  Vereen’s best trait is the versatility he brings to the table as a result of his size/speed combination.  He is a strong 200+ pounds and plays a physical brand of football.  He can attack downhill and make tackles in the open field.  He can line up at the point of attack across from a receiver and play solid press coverage.  I think he ends up being a 4th-6th round guy when all is said and done.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#57 Aaron Hill – OLB – 6’2/231

BYU

#3 Kyle Van Noy – OLB – 6’3/245

Highly decorated fourth year senior that almost came out after an impressive 2012 season.  Van Noy is an edge rusher that makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage (37.5 TFL 17 sacks past two years).  Some project him to be a top 45 talent although I think he is a notch or two below that tier.  Van Noy has outstanding quickness and movement ability.  He bends well and can change direction with ease.  I question his ability to play a power game, however.  Too often did I see him overpowered by a lone blocker.  He was be ridden out of a plays and be neutralized by guys that won’t be playing in the NFL.  He doesn’t have a lot of experience dropping in to coverage and when he did, it didn’t look like a natural role for him.  I think Van Noy is a limited player that needs a very specific role to succeed.  I will likely have him graded in the 3rd-4th round area.

#55 Eathyn Manumaleuna – DT – 6’2/305

Versatile player that started his career in 2007.  Has played a NT in the 3-4, DE in the 3-4, and DT in the 4-3 in games I’ve seen.  Solid movement ability for a 300+ pounder.  Strong against the run, can anchor his position and use his hands to free himself of blockers.  Will make a lot of plays between the tackles against the run.  I think Manumaleuna’s best position at the next level is at 3-4 DE.  He is a stout run defender that can be a solid role player at the next level.  I think he ends being taken between rounds 5-7.

#2 Cody Hoffman – WR – 6’4/213

Fifth year senior that has started all four years.  All time BYU leader in catches, yards, and touchdowns.  Highly decorated that some have projected to the top 100 overall.  I’ve seen Hoffman four times this year and was never impressed.  He failed to stand out and I think he will struggle to make an impact in the NFL.  At his size, I’d expect a player to be more physical but Hoffman was often tossed around by the stronger defensive backs he was matched up against.  In addition, he doesn’t have deep speed and struggles to run himself open underneath.  Hoffman is a solid hands catcher that will get drafted at some point, but there are too many important factors to the position that I don’t like about him.

#41 Uani’ Unga – ILB – 6’1/233

Under the radar linebacker that always caught my attention while scouting Van Noy.  Unga started off at Oregon State before transferring in 2010, sitting out the 2011 season.  2013 is really the first season that he has made an impact, thus why you rarely see his name out there.  He has very good movement ability, showing top tier balance and short area quickness.  He is a linebacker that gets off blocks well and will get his hat in on a lot of action.  Drops in to a deep zone coverage with ease and there were times where he actually matched up with slot receivers and stuck with them on seam routes 20-30 yards down the field.  Unga may not be a top tier prospect, but I think he is a guy that should be drafted late to see if he can evolve in to a rotational and/or quality backup.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#9 Daniel Sorenson – S – 6’1/215
#82 Kaneakua Friel – TE – 6’5/250

WASHINGTON

*#25 Bishop Sankey – RB – 5’10/203

Third year junior that is expected to leave school this offseason.  I’ve seen Sankey a lot in 2013 and I think he may end up being the top running back from this class when all is said and done.  Don’t be mistaken by his lack of elite size, Sankey is a tough ball carrier to bring to the ground.  He breaks a lot of tackles by missing the meat of a hit from tacklers.  His low center of gravity, elite balance, and ability to change direction allow him to gain extra yards every time he touches the ball.  Once in the open field he has shown the ability to run away from defensive backs.  I’m not sure he will show the elite speed at workouts, but he makes it happen on gameday.  Sankey should be a taken somewhere in the first two rounds with the possibility of sneaking in to the end of round one.

*#88 Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TE – 6’6/266

When a tight end prospect with Division I basketball experience at this size is coming in to the NFL, everyone perks up.  Seferian-Jenkins had a big year in 2012 but failed to take the leap this year.  I was disappointed in the games of his that I saw.  He lacks the quick twitch and movement skills that I like in receivers.  In addition, he doesn’t make an impact as a blocker.  At his size, I have to believe there is an issue with his desire to mix it up in the trenches.  I would advise him to go back for his senior year because the upside is there, he simply needs to show that he can improve on his weaknesses.  Coming out now could result in him being a 3rd or 4th round pick.  If he can put out some better tape in 2014, he could be a 1st rounder in the 2015 class easily.

#1 Sean Parker – S – 5’10/190

Fourth year senior that has started every game since the start of 2011.  If it weren’t for his lack of ideal size, Parker would be considered a first round pick.  He is a consistently productive defensive back that can play multiple roles.  He actually has the movement ability to play cornerback at the next level in most schemes and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up there.  Parker has great ball skills and anticipates the action as good as any safety in the nation.  He is rarely fooled, rarely caught out of position.  I like his game a lot in a league where the passing game has completely taken over the offensive game.  There is a lot you can do with him.  I view him as a 3rd-4th rounder that will play at a level that exceeds his draft position.

#17 Keith Price – QB – 6’1/202

Fifth year senior that has a shot at getting drafted late.  Price is a thick-framed signal caller that can rifle the ball in to tight gaps.  He is a smart player that takes calculated risks.  Athletic player that doesn’t look to run first in most cases but makes an impact with his legs.  Price has had some bad games, however.  Bad to the point where I think there is a shot he won’t be in the league within 2-3 years.  His accuracy woes when throwing the ball deep are scary.  He doesn’t have the necessary touch when throwing in the intermediate window either.  A QB coach may want a kid with more tools than Price when looking for a project, but I think the toughness and arm strength will get him drafted somewhere in the later rounds.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#37 Princeton Fuiamano – ILB – 6’1/217
#8 Kevin Smith – WR – 5’11/214

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Dec 262013
 
 December 26, 2013  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Devin Street, Pittsburgh Panthers (November 16, 2013)

Devin Street – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 26, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

PITTSBURGH

#15 Devin Street – WR – 6’4/195

Fifth year senior that has missed just 2 games over his career. Street has been the go to receiver for a few years now, and is now ready for the NFL. I can see him being a day two pick and might be considered even higher because of his size, fluidity, and ball skills. He’s an easy mover, easy catcher and can make things happen all over the field. I’m very impressed with the body control and his decision to go back to Pitt for his senior season was a good one. Don’t be surprised to see him sneak in to the end of round one.

#97 Aaron Donald – DT – 6’0/285

One of the most productive players statistically speaking that you will find in this draft class. 60.5 tackles for loss over the past three years, including 26.5 this season alone. Donald is a bit undersized when thinking about the prototypical defensive tackle, but he has freakishly long arms and incredibly strong legs. He’s an active player that plays low with heavy hands. I think he can do well at the next level in the right scheme. He has played every spot along the 3-4 front and if you can get a creative defensive mind to create packages for his unique ability, he can be a difference maker.

#7 Tom Savage – QB – 6’5/230

Savage took a rather complicated path to the position he is in right now. He started off at Rutgers, playing there for two years. He then transferred to Arizona for less than a year, never taking a snap. After sitting out 2012 when he transferred to Pitt, he took over the starting job in 2013 and displayed a lot of NFL-caliber ability. He is a classic pocket passer with a big frame and even bigger arm. He had a few games where he looked like a draft-able player, most notably against Florida State. While his state line was nothing to brag about, I was impressed with his poise and ability to maintain his presence and mechanics under pressure. I also saw his games against Duke and Notre Dame, both performances being something scouts will love to watch. I think he can project as a Charlie Whitehurst-caliber backup at the next level.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#25 Jason Hendricks – S – 6’0/190

BOWLING GREEN

#82 Alex Bayer – TE – 6’4/253

I’ve only seen Bowling Green once in 2013, this I have some catching up to do on Bayer. He is a fifth year senior that has been the starter for three years now. In his matchup against Northern Illinois, he absolutely shined. He shows good hands and good enough speed to get up the seam and split a defense. Against the lower level of competition, his power as a blocker was solid. He is a thick 253 pounds with a strong and athletic lower half. Bayer is a traditional tight end that has a shot at being drafted late day three.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#24 Jerry Gates – S – 5’11/209

UTAH STATE

#58 Tyler Larsen – C – 6’4/312

I saw Larsen twice in 2013. He is widely considered to be one of the top three or four centers in this draft class. Most project him to be taken somewhere in the rounds 3-5 area. I can see why he dominates his level of competition. He is a comfortable 310+ pounds with great athletic ability. He can move laterally and can hang with linebackers in space. He struggles to control defensive linemen, however. While he doesn’t get pushed back, he doesn’t exactly create space with his power, nor does he lock on to defenders and ride them out of plays. I am hesitant to believe he can handle the physical side of NFL defensive tackles right away. I see Larsen as a developmental prospect that could start a couple years down the road.

#1 Nevin Lawson – CB – 5’10/187

I saw a lot of Derek Carr & DeVante Adams (Fresno State) this year, one of the nation’s top QB/WR duos. Lawson had one of the best performances of the entire year against them, and I think he has mid round-potential. Despite being smaller than I like, Lawson is one of the top press corners I’ve seen. Very aggressive jams at the line combined with the ability to quickly turn and accelerate make him a tough matchup for any receiver. Again, being physical in college is almost completely different than what it demands in the NFL, but the foundation is there. I think Lawson can be a player at the next level. At the very least he can be an effective nickel defender.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#28 Joey DeMartino – RB – 5’11/200

NORTHERN ILLINOIS

#15 Jimmie Ward – S – 5’11/192

Fourth year senior, three year starter that has been very productive. Ward is an undersized safety that lacks a physical presence. While he is aggressive and consistently hustles all over the field, he fails to make an impact on the game as a power player. He has made a lot of tackles over the past three years, but he is an ankle diver and won’t send any jolt to the ball carrier. I think he is the kind of defensive back that misses a lot of tackles at the next level, which isn’t the end of the world for his potential but I tend to stay away from safeties like this. As a cover man he man, he has the tools and plays the position like a cornerback sometimes. Very quick feet and agile hips. Diagnoses well and has made some tremendous plays on the ball in the three games I’ve watched. I think Ward ends up going between rounds 3 and 5….I am likely going to have him grade out a bit lower.

#93 Ken Bishop – DT – 6’1/308

Another undersized defender that plays a position that requires a little more power presence than he currently has. Bishop is a fun player to watch though. He has a high motor, always playing amped up and with plenty of aggression. He does a nice job of pursuing down the line and gets in on a lot of action. I think he could be a solid prospect for a team that runs a scheme with bigger bodies playing outside of the guard/tackle gaps. He needs to bulk up his lower half, but I think he is draft-able player late day three.

#6 Jordan Lynch – QB – 6’0/212

Lynch is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in MAC history when it comes to production and wins. However, I don’t see him making at the next level as a signal caller. I think Lynch has some tools that teams look for when building backfield, however. He is a very good runner with vision and toughness. I think he could be turned in to a Michael Robinson-type fullback that is used for more than just blocking, but also some rushes and short passes. Lynch is a football player, plain and simple. I think if he can throw away the responsibilities a quarterback has to deal with, he can add some weight and be made in to a quality role player.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#79 Matt Krempel – RT – 6’5/307

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Dec 242013
 
 December 24, 2013  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State Beavers (November 23, 2013)

Brandin Cooks – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 24, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

BOISE STATE

#65 Matt Paradis – C – 6’3/300

Fifth year senior that made the move to offensive line in year two. Three year starter. I saw one game of his in 2013 and was impressed with the athletic ability at 300 pounds. He looks like a candidate for a zone blocking scheme that likes to have their centers pull out laterally and lead block. He maintains power on the move and should have little issue adjusting to the speed of the NFL. When it comes to one on one blocking against bigger, more physical nose tackles, I think Paradis struggles. I need to see some more tape before making a definitive statement there, however. Late day three prospect.

#78 Charles Leno Jr. – LT – 6’4/298

I only got one look at Leno this year, thus I’ll need to do more work on him in the coming months. I saw him against Washington and took down a few notes. He has a physical presence about him. Very good run blocker at the second level. He struggles in pass protection, however. The further out to the edge he got, the worse he looked. He was losing balance and often reaching for the defender. For his size and the minimal tape I have seen on him, I think he will move to guard at the next level. He has a decent shot at hearing his name called late day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#43 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe – NT – 6’3/300
#48 Kharyee Marshall – OLB – 6’2/240

OREGON STATE

*#7 Brandin Cooks – WR – 5’10/182

Winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top wide receiver. He had a huge year, going for 120/1,670/13 and 31 catches over 20 yards. Statistics aside, Cooks will be one of my top receivers in the class if he decides to forego his senior season. He is such an aggressive, efficient mover that runs outstanding routes. He can run himself open from the slot play in, play out. In addition, he has NFL-ready ball skills. He attacks the ball with his hands and showed the ability to make plenty of tough catches in traffic. It’s impressive to see a receiver at his height win so many one on one battles down the field. He has a lot of Steve Smith in him, especially after gaining 12 pounds of muscle to his frame last offseason. He is a guy that gets it, plain and simple. He’ll be an impact player.

*#95 Scott Crichton – DE – 6’3/265

Fourth year junior that has had a lot of success on the stat sheet but hasn’t impressed me on tape. He has not yet declared, but many think he will. He is a high-energy player that makes a lot of plays based on his relentless pursuit of playing through the whistle. While I love to see that kind of attitude this day and age, I think there is a lack of overall talent here. He has an average burst off the ball and doesn’t do much other than a pure bull rush. He has strong hands and good instincts, but I think he is the kind of player the really struggles to make an impact at the next level. I felt this way about Bjoern Werner (Florida State) last year, and I don’t think it will change between now and then.

#16 Rashaad Reynolds – CB – 5’11/187

Three year starter with good size and speed down the field. Part of the OSU track team in the 60M event. Reynolds is a tools-rich prospect that I think could sneak his way in to the 4th/5th round area. He has sloppy mechanics in man coverage. He backpedals too high without balance and his jams at the line are often soft and uncalculated. But he has the length and speed to attract the scouts eye He has the much-needed fluidity in his hips. In the games I saw, he was avoided by opposing QBs for the most part. Was that by design, or pure coincidence? I’ll try to find that out in the coming months but he has shown enough to prove he can be a player.

#77 Michael Philipp – LT – Oregon State – 6’4/328

4 year starter at left tackle in an offense that throws the ball a ton. Missed all of 2011 because of a torn ACL. Philipp has played at a high level the past two years. While he lacks the ideal length for tackle, I think he can stick there if need be. But where I think his future resides is inside at guard. Very powerful body that plays low and strong, Philipp knows how to move his feet and hips to get himself in to proper position. I’ve seen him struggle with quick lateral movers, which will be an issue in the NFL. With that said, I think he could be an end of day2/early day 3 guy that makes a roster and molds himself in to a starter down the road.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#69 Josh Andrews – LG – 6’3/304
#71 Grant Enger – RG – 6’6/291

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Dec 232013
 
 December 23, 2013  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Derrell Johnson (56), East Carolina (October 4, 2012)

Derrell Johnson (#56) – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 23, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

EAST CAROLINA 

#56 Derrell Johnson – OLB – 6’2/262

Productive edge talent that caught my eye the one time I saw East Carolina this year. Thick frame with huge legs. Bends well and tries to get under the pads of his opponent. He has strong hands and understands how to get off blocks in a tight space. His issue is a lack of explosion after the snap. He takes too long to change direction and once faced with a stronger offensive lineman, he appears ineffective. Johnson has a good chance at getting drafted however. An edge talent, in a weak edge talent class, with his kind of year and power output will be worth gambling on late day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#21 Vintavious Cooper – RB – 5’9/200
#78 Will Simmons – RG – 6’5/342

OHIO 

#18 Travis Carrie – CB – 6’0/212

One of my favorite under-the-radar prospects in the nation. Few will talk about this kid, but I think he sticks in the NFL and ends up being an impact player. Carrie has great size for the position and brings a physical style of play. Despite his thick frame, he can turn his hips with explosion and his feet are light and agile. He shows minimal stiffness in man coverage. I first noticed him early in the year when he matched up against Louisville. He was across from NFL prospects DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland, catching balls from arguably the top QB prospect in the nation Terry Bridgewater. He shined in that game and since then, I’ve made it a point to watch him as much as I could. After missing all of 2012 with a shoulder injury, he came back on fire and seems to really understand the subtle, but vital, nuances to the position. He has top tier intangibles to boot and combining that with what he has on tape leads me to believe he’ll grade out as a top 100 player on my board.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#22 Beau Blankenship – RB – 5’9/206
#3 Donte Foster – WR – 6’1/200

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Dec 212013
 
 December 21, 2013  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Khalil Mack, Ohio State Bobcats (November 5, 2013)

Khalil Mack – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 21, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WASHINGTON STATE

#20 Deone Bucannon – S – 6’1/198

Bucannon is one of the most well rounded safeties in the nation. However, few have ever heard his name because of the school he plays for. Make no mistake, this kid is a legit NFL prospect that has starter potential. He is a four year starter that led the team in tackles in 2010, 2012, and 2013 while snagging 14 career interceptions. His playing strength and power are elite for his position. He can close a 10-15 yard window as fast as any safety in the country and he knows how to finish once he reaches the ball carrier. He doesn’t have the ability to turn and run with receivers down the field, but he is a savvy zone defender that can anticipate and pounce. He is an asset against both the run and pass. He has the potential to be a legit day two prospect.

#1 Vince Mayle – WR – 6’3/240

Mayle has one of the more interesting paths to the draft that you will find in 2014. He played basketball for a community college in 2009 and 2010 before sitting out in 2011 because of a family sickness and academic issues. He then proceeded to Sierra College where he dominated for a season, getting him multiple offers from schools around the country. He settled on Mike Leach’s offense at Washington State and has had a solid, but unspectacular year. He didn’t put together any eye-popping games statistically, but I saw some things on tape against California, Arizona State, and Oregon that raised my eyebrows. He has a natural tool set that NFL coaches want to work with. He has a unique ability to high point the football, using his body and timing to his advantage. He lacks the quick twitch that I look for and his ball skills need some work, but he has a few things that cannot be taught nor acquired by others. He is a late round project type that teams will look at when considering adding a versatile weapon to the passing game.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#77 John Fullington – RT – 6’5/301
#6 Damante Horton – CB – 5’10/178
#95 Ioane Gauta – NT – 6’3/285

COLORADO STATE

#70 Weston Richburg – C – 6’4/300

4 Year starter that has played Center, Guard, and Tackle with the most of them being at Center. Richburg is a good mover that can be attractive to teams that like to move their interior linemen laterally. He is an all out hustler that will play through the whistle for the entire game, every week. He lacks the ideal tools and doesn’t display a lot of ability but he produces and gets the job done. He’ll need more power and girth before he can handle the NFL defenders, making him a late round/UDFA prospect. Teams like guys in the wings that can play multiple spots and have the frame for more comfortable weight. Those will help him in his grading process.

Shaquil Barrett – OLB – 6’2/250

4th year senior that exploded on to the scene in 2013 with 20.5 TFL and 12 sacks. I saw him play against Alabama and Utah State and his ability to disrupt the opposing passing game is legit. He is strong and explosive and plays with a low center of gravity, making him a tough block for any kind of offensive lineman. He understands how to play the game with his hands and feet. He lacks the ideal length and size for the edge and won’t jump off the tape when it comes to speed and agility. But I think Barrett is a prospect worth taking late in the draft and seeing if he can develop in to a situation player against the pass. In a draft class that lacks depth at the pass rushing positions, Barrett could surprise some and be taken in the middle rounds.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#10 Crockett Gilmore – TE – 6’6/255
#78 Jared Blair – RT – 6’7/315

FRESNO STATE

#4 Derek Carr – QB – 6’3/218

Three year starter that has a legit shot at being the first overall selection. From what I’ve seen in 5 games, Carr has the best arm talent of any quarterback in this upcoming class. The power and accuracy are there, but what stood out to me in studying his tape was the ability to maintain that accuracy with altered arm angles depending on what was going on around him. He has great athletic ability within the pocket and understands how to avoid the pressure. Carr is a fiery athlete that is constantly praised for his leadership and toughness. The brother of former number one overall pick David, Carr comes from a strong football background and you have to think he has it all together between the ears. Combine that with some elite throwing ability and big time production, Carr has the opportunity to be a big time player at the next level.

*#15 Davante Adams – WR – 6’2/215

Redshirt sophomore that appears to be all but declared for the 201 Draft. Has had two monster years statistically in Fresno State’s pass-happy offense. He has been the go-to guy for Derek Carr over the past two seasons, showing the ability to make tough catches against single coverage down the field as well as dynamic run-after-the-catch skills. He has long speed but can make guys miss with quick cuts a decisive movement. There is a lot to like here and he is one of the receivers in this class that has Pro-Bowl potential. However his lack of physical play and hustle stood out to me. Little-to-no effort as a blocker in a scheme filled with screen plays and a lack of willingness to get after it with safeties bearing down on him stick out in my mind. Can he handle the physical side of the NFL? Speed helps but it will only go so far. Likely a second day pick should he come out.

#89 Marcel Jensen – TE – 6’6/270

2 year starter. At first glance, most will think Jensen played the role of the blocking tight end for Fresno State. But he was far from a single-role player and I think there will be several teams attracted to his potential. He’s tall, thick, strong, and has surprising speed up the seam. He can be a tough guy to cover and even tougher to bring down in the open field. His production won’t jump out at you but keep in mind the scheme he played which was very wide receiver-friendly. The upcoming months will be huge for Jensen. He needs to show he can start with his hand in the dirt and effectively control a defender at the point of attack. His athleticism and receiving skills are on tape, but the other nuances to the tight end position need to be worked on. I view Jensen as a mid rounder at the moment but this tight end class as a whole has a ton of question marks. Jensen has a legit shot at being a day two pick.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#1 Isaiah Burse – WR – 6’0/187
#72 Austin Wentworth – LT – 6’5/306

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

*#9 Marqise Lee – WR – 6’0/195

Lee is a classic “used to be overrated, but is now underrated” story. His career got off to a special start, especially in 2012 when he went 118/1,721/14 while nearly averaging 30 yards per kick return. He was being discussed as a top 5 pick prior to the 2013 season but inconsistent QB play and a knee sprain has put him in to the shadows of some receivers that simply don’t grade out the way he does. Lee has elite acceleration and agility. He has shown the ability to run away from defensive backs once he gets the ball in his hands. He can also run pro-caliber routes and run himself open all over the route tree. He is an every down weapon that can fill multiple roles within the passing and return games. His knee will have to check out in the coming months, but expect to see him taken somewhere in the first round, most likely in the top 20.

#25 Silas Redd – RB – 5’10/200

Well known for his transfer from Penn State to USC following the 2011 season as a result of the Sandusky scandal. Came to USC with high expectations after a promising start to his career, but has failed to stand out among a crowded USC backfield. He has had injuries to both knees over the past year but neither has been too serious. On tape, Redd doesn’t stand out in any facet of the game but he is a solid all around back. He is decisive and can locate running lanes quickly. He may be best suited for a zone-blocking scheme because of that. He lacks game breaking speed and doesn’t break a lot of tackles. That’s a tough combination to work with in the NFL. Some believe he still has some untapped upside that is worth gambling on later in the draft.

#77 Kevin Graf – RT – 6’6/295

Fifth year senior that has been starting since 2011 at right tackle. Has come a long way since his freshman year. Has developed big time weight room strength and has the frame for more bulk. He will need it before he can handle the physical side of the NFL trenches. Graf doesn’t make it look pretty, but he gets the job done more often than not. He is a hard nosed, gritty player that can move his feet and keep himself between the defender and the ball carrier. As a pass blocker, he doesn’t reach the edge well and lacks controlling power in his hands. I don’t see a lot of upside here so if Graf gets drafted at all, it will be late.

*#18 Dion Bailey – S – 6’0/200

Third year junior that has not yet declared, but I think he will. While I scouted safety TJ McDonald last year (71st overall selection by St. Louis), Bailey was a guy hat kept jumping out at me. He is nicely put together and has the blend of size, speed, and power that you want in a guy in the middle of the secondary. He defends the run well but can also turn his hips and cover receivers one on one. I think there is an upside here that a lot of safety prospects don’t have. If he comes out, I think he could be a day two pick.

*#90 George Uko – DT – 6’3/295

Another junior that hasn’t declared yet. Personally, I think he should return to USC for his senior season because he has the tools to be a very good player, but has yet to put a lot of quality tape out there for scouts. Uko is a long and almost slender 295. The frame is there for more bulk and combining that with his athletic ability, most notable speed and explosion, he can be molded in to a first round caliber player. The one thing he lacks the most is the ability to anchor himself in to the ground against double teams. Too often was he knocked back a few yards. He can rush the passer and disrupt the backfield though. Very good hands and feet allow him to win a lot of one on one battles throughout a game. Right now I see him as a 4th/5th rounder with enormous upside.

#42 Devon Kennard – OLB – 6’3/255

Coming in to 2013, the one thing Kennard had to prove was that he was at least capable of playing an entire season at one position while maintaining a starting spot. He has been bounced around from defensive end, to middle linebacker, to outside linebacker, and back to defensive end. In addition, he has a long list of serious injuries in his past including torn knee ligaments, torn cartilage in his hip, a torn pectoral muscle (forced him to miss all of 2012), and a thumb injury that required surgery. There is a lot to look in to with Kennard, but at the end of the day he has had an impressive 2013 campaign. He is physical player that has good power presence and range as a run defender. He gets off blocks well and can close a gap with speed and explosion. Kennard won’t test out in workouts exceptionally well nor does he jump off the tape but I liked what I saw in what was his first real complete season since 2011. Edge players with potential always get a second look and I think some 3-4 fronts will look at him late in day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#24 Demetrius Wright – S – 6’1/295
#4 Torin Harris – CB – 6’0/190

BUFFALO

#46 Khalil Mack – OLB – 6’3/248

One of the best players to ever come out of the University of Buffalo. Has 75 TFL for his career, which is tied the NCAA all time record. Mack has played the hybrid OLB/DE role over his four year career and developed in to a potential top 10 pick in 2014. Mack has the short area burst/explosion that you almost always see in the elite edge rushers in the NFL. In addition to that, he has a strong base that bends well with light feet and heavy hands. Those tools combined with his ability to use a wide variety of rush moves leads me to believe he will be highly sought after on day one of the draft. This is a class without a lot of edge rushing talent, thus there could be a lot of teams looking to gamble on him earlier than you would think. He is coming from a lower level of college football and he may need some more power output before he can be thrown in to the NFL trenches, but his upside is enormous. I see some Cameron Wake in him down the road.

#32 Branden Oliver – RB – 5’8/208

Under the radar prospect based on the lower level of college football and his size. I watched Oliver four times this year and I simply can’t ignore him. He is a hard nosed runner that is tough to tackle. I compare him to another overlooked back (for the same reasons) that I really liked coming out of Western Kentucky 2012, Bobby Rainey. Oliver runs with a similar style where he can diagnose running lanes before they really open up and has the burst to sneak through them. His low center of gravity is used to his advantage and he will surprise some with his willingness to lower his shoulder and break tackles. Oliver finished the season among the nation’s leading rushers despite missing one game early in the year. I think his performance has pushed him in to late round consideration.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#19 Alex Neutz – WR – 6’3/205
#34 Colby Way – DE – 6’4/293
#30 Okoye Houston – S – 6’0/209

SAN DIEGO STATE

#27 Eric Pinkins – S – 6’3/215

Some believe that Nat Berhe is the only draft-able player on this team, but I think Pinkins has a better shot at having his name called. Pinkins plays a lot of safety, but I saw him play a good amount of CB in two games this year and I liked what I saw. Pretty fluid hips and solid press coverage at this size can open eyes when scouts are looking for developmental defensive backs. The pre-draft process will be very important for him.

#78 Bryce Quigley – LT – 6’5/300

Well balanced athlete with the length and frame to be a developmental guy for the offensive line. I really like Quigley’s technique and understanding of mechanics. He almost always seems to be in the right position. The learning curve for him at the next level will be less mental, more physical. That is a safer gamble more often than not when drafting guys in the later rounds.

Potential UDFA to Look For

#20 Nat Berhe – S – 5’10/200

TULANE

#3 Ryan Grant – WR – 6’0/191

I have only seen Tulane once this year, hoping to get another couple tapes in the coming months. Grant is a quick, easy change of direction guy that can make things happen after the catch. He lacks the size/speed that you look for in an ideal NFL prospect, but he has a good chance to stick somewhere. Good hands and good routes from what I saw. Looking forward to seeing another game of his tonight.

#19 Cairo Santos – K – 5’8/160

I don’t scout kickers but Santos is considered to be the top, if not one of the top kickers in this draft class.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#26 Orleans Darkwa – RB – 6’0/210

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#34 Justin Anderson – LB – 6’2/235

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Dec 192013
 
 December 19, 2013  Posted by  Articles, The Salary Cap
CAP # RANK
PLAYER
POSITION
CAP NUMBER
1Eli ManningQB $20,850,000.00
2Antrel RolleSS $9,250,000.00
3Justin TuckDE $6,150,000.00
4Mathias KiwanukaDE $4,125,000.00
5Hakeem NicksWR $3,705,000.00
6William BeattyOLT $3,550,000.00
7David DiehlOT/OG $3,125,000.00
8Jason Pierre-PaulDE $2,825,000.00
9Victor CruzWR $2,530,000.00
10Prince AmukamaraCB $2,231,154.00
11Andre BrownRB $2,023,000.00
12Steve WeatherfordP $1,825,000.00
13Cullen JenkinsDT $1,816,666.00
14Justin PughOT/OG $1,517,436.00
15Terrell ThomasCB $1,450,000.00
16Brandon MyersTE/H-BACK $1,125,000.00
17Zak DeOssieLONG SNAPPER $1,049,000.00
18Linval JosephDT $1,012,000.00
19Bear PascoeTE/H-BACK $892,500.00
20Keith RiversOLB $800,000.00
21Jon BeasonMLB $764,706.00
22Rueben RandleWR $748,166.00
23Johnathan HankinsDT $732,852.00
24Jerrel JerniganWR $723,813.00
25James BrewerOG/OT $663,023.00
26Trumaine McBrideCB $630,000.00
27Curtis PainterQB $630,000.00
28-32Kevin BootheOG $620,000.00
28-32Josh BrownK $620,000.00
28-32Louis Murphy, Jr.WR $620,000.00
28-32Ryan MundyS $620,000.00
28-32Mike PattersonDT $620,000.00
33Jayron HosleyCB $616,250.00
34Adrien RobinsonTE $576,413.00
35Jacquian WilliamsOLB $574,670.00
36Mark HerzlichOLB/MLB $560,000.00
37Spencer PaysingerOLB $556,000.00
38Brandon MosleyOG/OT $555,146.00
39Damontre MooreDE $548,813.00
40John ConnerFB $518,823.00
41Ryan NassibQB $518,400.00
42Cooper TaylorS $451,813.00
43Allen BradfordMLB $451,765.00
44Markus KuhnDT $418,591.00
45Michael CoxRB $416,474.00
46Larry DonnellTE $405,000.00
47Will HillFS $367,059.00
48Peyton HillisRB $359,118.00
49Charles JamesCB $309,706.00
50Dallas ReynoldsOG/C $282,353.00
51Stephen GoodinOG/C $119,118.00
52Marcus DowtinLB $84,706.00
53Julian TalleyWR $47,647.00
$88,582,181.00

December 19, 2013 New York Giants Salary Cap Update: The New York Giants are last in the NFL in available cap space for the 2013 season, as per the NFLPA’s League Cap Report website. They are $41,888 under the cap as of December 19, 2013, with 2 games remaining. This figure, and the cap numbers posted in this article reflect the three roster moves made two days ago. Here is a breakdown of all the players on the 53-man roster by position:

Giants roster - Positional breakdown of 53-man roster - December 19, 2013

The only new additions to the list are WR Julian Talley (just activated off of the Practice Squad), and RB Kendall Gaskins (just signed to the Practice Squad). CB Corey Webster’s cap number will remain the same, with him simply going from the 53-man roster to Injured Reserve. These cap figures are courtesy of the Giants’ Team Salary Cap page from OverTheCap.com run by Jason Fitzgerald (he can be followed on Twitter @Jason_OTC). The only player that he and I differed on cap number-wise is DT Markus Kuhn, who spent a large chunk of time this season on the PUP List. I then noticed a mistake that I made in calculating Kuhn’s cap number. I wrote about it on my Giants cap blog (click HERE to read about it towards the bottom of the post). I mistakenly listed Kuhn’s cap number in the table above as being $418,591. It should be $429,003.

Currently, the Giants have 73 players who count towards their adjusted salary cap total of $124,049,396 for the 2013 season, not counting the estimated Dead Money total of $9,016,510 for this season, which I wrote about five days ago (click HERE to read that article). The 73 player breakdown is as follows:

  • the players on the 53-man roster.
  • the 12 players currently on Injured Reserve.
  • the players on the 8-man Practice Squad.

Keep in mind that not all of these 73 players have cap numbers that are equivalent to their salaries for the 2013 season. As a matter of fact, only about 34% of them do. Many fans often confuse a player’s salary with his cap number. The two are not the same. Non-vested veteran players – those with less than four accrued seasons credited towards free agency – who went undrafted without receiving signing bonuses, or who were cut at least one time prior to signing or re-signing with the Giants often have cap numbers that are equivalent to their salaries. That’s what these 25 players listed below have in common. They are as follows:

14 players on the 53-man roster:

  • Andre Brown
  • McKenna “Bear” Pascoe
  • Keith Rivers
  • Trumaine McBride
  • Curtis Painter
  • John Conner
  • Allen Bradford
  • Larry Donnell
  • Will Hill
  • Charles James
  • Dallas Reynolds
  • Stephen Goodin
  • Marcus Dowtin
  • Julian Talley

4 of the 12 players on season-ending Injured Reserve:

  • Stevie Brown
  • Jim Cordle
  • Kris Adams
  • Da’Rel Scott

7 of the 8 players on the Practice Squad:

  • The only one whose cap number isn’t the same as his salary in this category is OG Eric Herman.
  • Herman was drafted by the Giants this year in the 7th round, and received a signing bonus before being cut, clearing waivers, and then being re-signed by the Giants again as a member of their Practice Squad.

Here are the cap numbers for the 12 players on Injured Reserve:

Injured Reserve - Giants - December 19, 2013

 Finally, here is the list of cap numbers for the players on the 8-man Practice Squad:

Practice-Squad-official-as-of-December-19-2013

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Dec 182013
 
 December 18, 2013  Posted by  Articles, The Salary Cap
Corey Webster, New York Giants (September 8, 2013)

Corey Webster – © USA TODAY Sports Images

CAP SPACE RANK
TEAM
PREVIOUS YEAR CARRYOVER
TOTAL CAP SPACE
1Cleveland$14,339,575.00 $24,206,764.00
2Jacksonville$19,563,231.00 $19,977,549.00
3Buffalo$9,817,628.00 $18,941,156.00
4Miami$5,380,246.00 $17,780,846.00
5Philadelphia$23,046,035.00 $17,216,344.00
6Carolina$3,654,825.00 $11,637,268.00
7Green Bay$7,010,832.00 $9,841,383.00
8Cincinnati$8,579,575.00 $8,187,854.00
9Tennessee$12,867,893.00 $6,927,090.00
10Tampa Bay$8,527,866.00 $6,901,956.00
11Denver$11,537,924.00 $6,445,644.00
12Arizona$3,600,110.00 $5,750,006.00
13New England$5,607,914.00 $4,160,574.00
14Atlanta$307,540.00 $3,170,482.00
15Seattle$13,265,802.00 $2,963,806.00
16Kansas City$14,079,650.00 $2,608,881.00
17San Francisco$859,734.00 $2,600,957.00
18Oakland$4,504,761.00 $2,535,286.00
19San Diego$995,893.00 $2,367,666.00
20Detroit$466,992.00 $1,755,729.00
21Chicago$3,236,965.00 $1,713,800.00
22Washington$4,270,296.00 $1,577,486.00
23NY Jets$3,400,000.00 $1,510,437.00
24Houston$2,422,689.00 $1,505,569.00
25Baltimore$1,182,377.00 $1,500,876.00
26Pittsburgh$758,811.00 $1,319,803.00
27Dallas$2,335,379.00 $1,304,694.00
28Minnesota$8,004,734.00 $937,149.00
29Indianapolis$3,500,000.00 $713,497.00
30New Orleans$2,700,000.00 $644,991.00
31St. Louis$247,347.00 $126,397.00
32NY Giants$1,000,000.00 $41,888.00

December 18, 2013 NFL Salary Cap Update: In a little less than two weeks, the final carryover figures for the 20 non-playoff teams will be in, of which the Giants will unfortunately be one. I’ll write up another league-wide team cap report update then in order to reflect those figures. The Giants rank 32nd out of 32 clubs at the moment. The Rams ceded the title of team with the least amount of available cap space to the Giants a few days ago when they restructured the contract of DE Chris Long to the tune $200,000 to be able to make it through the rest of the regular season with respect to operational cap expenses sometimes known as “fudge money.”

As per the NFLPA’s League Cap Report website, the Giants are $41,888 under the salary cap. They placed Corey Webster on I.R. two days ago, and promoted WR Julian Talley to the 53-man roster from their Practice Squad, followed by signing RB Kendall Gaskins to fill the Practice Squad vacancy created by the promotion of Talley. Talley’s cap number is $47,647. The Giants’ cap number prior to these three roster moves was $89,535 – also last in the league.

The Giants can’t make any other roster moves this week without having to be forced to restructure a player contract in order to stay under the cap. As long as nothing freakish happens in practice injury-wise, and they get out of Detroit game reasonably unscathed, they’ll make it through the season without having to tweak a contract in order to make it through the last two weeks of the season. They’ll be able to I.R. someone next week (just 1) since the prorated cost to sign a player will decrease compared to this week. If Detroit lays a physical beating on the Giants, then things could get ugly.

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Nov 202013
 
 November 20, 2013  Posted by  Articles, The Salary Cap

November 20, 2013 NFL Salary Cap Update: Here is the latest update for all 32 teams in the league with regard to available salary cap space (courtesy of the NFLPA’s League Cap Report website):

CAP SPACE RANK
TEAM
PREVIOUS YEAR CARRYOVER
TOTAL CAP SPACE
12Arizona$3,600,110.00 $5,780,006.00
14Atlanta$307,540.00 $3,184,011.00
26Baltimore$1,182,377.00 $1,504,228.00
3Buffalo$9,817,628.00 $19,069,281.00
6Carolina$3,654,825.00 $11,607,268.00
22Chicago$3,236,965.00 $1,794,800.00
8Cincinnati$8,579,575.00 $8,237,179.00
1Cleveland$14,339,575.00 $24,388,412.00
27Dallas$2,335,379.00 $1,462,282.00
11Denver$11,537,924.00 $6,650,879.00
23Detroit$466,992.00 $1,729,611.00
7Green Bay$7,010,832.00 $9,916,149.00
25Houston$2,422,689.00 $1,532,158.00
28Indianapolis$3,500,000.00 $1,101,439.00
2Jacksonville$19,563,231.00 $20,344,446.00
17Kansas City$14,079,650.00 $2,845,270.00
4Miami$5,380,246.00 $18,233,200.00
29Minnesota$8,004,734.00 $685,150.00
13New England$5,607,914.00 $4,423,986.00
30New Orleans$2,700,000.00 $682,491.00
31NY Giants$1,000,000.00 $251,536.00
20NY Jets$3,400,000.00 $1,950,056.00
16Oakland$4,504,761.00 $2,953,594.00
5Philadelphia$23,046,035.00 $17,158,574.00
24Pittsburgh$758,811.00 $1,576,037.00
19San Diego$995,893.00 $2,414,431.00
15San Francisco$859,734.00 $3,130,547.00
18Seattle$13,265,802.00 $2,818,454.00
32St. Louis$247,347.00 $103,482.00
9Tampa Bay$8,527,866.00 $7,170,367.00
10Tennessee$12,867,893.00 $7,138,089.00
21Washington$4,270,296.00 $1,945,457.00
Total cap numbers for all teams as of November 20th, 2013

As can be seen above, the Giants are $251,536 under the cap. They are ranked 31st in the league in available salary cap space. Only the St. Louis Rams have less room under the cap now than the Giants do with $103,482 in available cap dollars.

As I usually state, these figures are the closest that we can possibly know of publicly since the NFL Management Council is the only body that is truly 100% accurate. Those numbers are very difficult to get a hold of, as Jason Fitzgerald from OverTheCap.com has said over the past summer. The figures that the NFLPA shares on it’s public website are sometimes subject to data entry errors, and slow processing of actual numbers that have already been put in with the league itself. For our purposes though, they are sufficient (knowing where teams stand in proximity to each other as well as themselves in the recent past).

Incredibly enough, we’re coming up on week 12. There are only five weeks remaining in the regular season after this week’s upcoming games. With the season being approximately two thirds of the way over, the Giants have enough room to barely skate by. If they have a rash of injuries that forces them to place three or more players on Injured Reserve in the next two weeks, then they’ll have to make some more room under the cap. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.

The least amount of cap space that a player would cost after this week, from week 13 through the end of the season (5 weeks) would be $119,118. This figure is the result of prorating the bare league minimum of $405,000 for five weeks (I’m not counting this upcoming 12th week). The most that a player could count is $185,294. This figure is obtained by prorating the amount of $630,000 over the 5 weeks between week 13 & week 17. This figure of $630,000 is the minimum paragraph 5 salary for players with 3 years of experience, as per the table below:

 

NFL league minimum salaries for 2013

Players with four or more years of accrued service are also listed above. The reason they don’t count at the rates listed above is because of the Minimum Salary Benefit (MSB). What the MSB does is that it allows vested veterans (players with four or more accrued years) whose minimum paragraph 5 salary figures are between $715,000 and $940,000 in 2013 to still receive their salaries if they sign with a team, but only count against the cap at rate of $555,000 – the rate of a player who only has two vested years. That’s why I didn’t go above $630,000 when I was calculating the possible range of rates that the Giants would have to give players in week 13 if they were forced into signing someone due to injury to somebody on their active 53-man roster. For a more comprehensive look at how the Minimum Salary Benefit works. please click on the link below:

Teams don’t give out bonuses to anyone at this point that they’re bringing in off the street, or off of waivers after they’ve cleared it (a la Ed Reed and the Jets last week). If they happened to give a player a signing bonus of more than $65,000 then the MSB designation goes away. That’s not happening until the off-season, but it’s something to keep in mind as a general matter of fact regarding caponomics in the NFL. As transactions occur in-season, they almost always only are paragraph salary transactions, and usually involve players with less than 4 accrued season.

The following five players currently on the the 53-man roster who were in-season acquisitions either claimed off of waivers, or signed as “street free agents” are as follows (only Bradford wa claimed off of waivers): Brandon Jacobs, Peyton Hillis, Dallas Reynolds, Allen Bradford, and John Conner. Only Jacobs and Hillis are vested veterans out of this group. Termination Pay is potential problem with only Jacobs though out of these two since Hillis will receive it from the league as a result of being released by Tampa Bay after being on their 53-man roster on week 1 of this season. Here is an article on the subject:

Jacobs would have less incentive than usual to use his one-time only claim to termination pay if the Giants waive him for some reason in the coming weeks (doubtful since he’d sooner wind up in I.R. first, and because he has a salary split in his contract). The Giants would probably go to a player that is on the cheaper side of the options they have open to them if push actually came to shove. This is part of the reason that you see Practice Squad players being lured to sign on with other teams in-season, joining their 53-man rosters. This is why the Packers paid QB Scott Tolzien as if he was a member of their 53-man roster when he was on their Practice Squad.

The Packers promoted him to their 53-man roster on November 5th, as per this article from two weeks ago on NFL.com. As indicated in that article, Green Bay also increased Tolzien’s salary from the Practice Squad minimum of $6,000 per week to a base salary of player on the 53-man roster – $544,999 to be exact. This was done so as to make sure that he would not be tempted to sign elsewhere. If any more moves are made, they may very well be made with the Giants’ pro personnel department looking at players who stand out on other teams first before bringing in a “name player” to fill a hole. Let’s hope that the injury bug has taken a little vacation for this club for a while as they continue to try and climb back into the NFC East race.

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Nov 042013
 
 November 4, 2013  Posted by  Articles, History
Y.A. Tittle, Cleveland Browns at New York Giants (December 17, 1961)

Y.A. Tittle, Cleveland Browns at New York Giants (December 17, 1961)

Y.A. Tittle’s Incomparable 1962 and 1963 Seasons

by Larry Schmitt for BigBlueInteractive.com

The potential of a tree exists inside every seed. Unbeknownst to all, the seed of the Giants offensive explosion of the early 1960’s was planted in 1948 and began to take root simultaneously on opposite coasts during the 1950’s.

Frustrated by the Giants’ inability to adequately replace retired Mel Hein at center, Head Coach Steve Owen reluctantly conceded to integrate the burgeoning T-Formation into New York’s playbook. The Giants had almost exclusively run the A-Formation for over 15 years, which was Owen’s brain child. Deception and accuracy of the center snap was the key to its success, as the uncertainty of which member of the backfield would receive the ball kept defenses tentative. The T-Formation eliminated that problem as the quarterback received the snap directly from the center.

Owen had a great mind for defensive strategy. He strongly believed in power football and winning on the line of scrimmage, but struggled greatly to keep up with current trends in offensive football. Having recently invested in a quarterback via a trade with Washington, Owen created a position on his staff devoted exclusively for the purpose of tutoring Charley Conerly on the finer points of quarterbacking.

Specialist Allie Sherman received inspiration directly from the source. As a teenager he had read the Rosetta Stone on the subject: “The Modern T- Formation with Man-in-Motion” by Clark Shaughnessy, George Halas and Ralph Jones, and was eager to pass along that knowledge. Conerly had a magnificent rookie season under Sherman’s tutelage, setting a record with 22 touchdown passes for a rookie, which stood for 50 years until it was broken by Peyton Manning in 1998.

Owen, however, was impatient with the T-Formation and never fully committed to it. The Giants frequently reverted to the familiar and comfortable A-formation. After two seasons of decline in 1952 and ’53, Giants management made the difficult decision to relieve Owen of his position. The major impetus behind the move was Paul Brown’s juggernaut from Cleveland that had merged into the NFL from the AAFC in 1950. The Browns dominated the NFL’s American/Eastern Conference with creative offensive concepts that featured passing as a primary weapon. After being passed up for the head coach position for Jim Lee Howell, Sherman left New York and took a coordinator’s position in the CFL.

Vince Lombardi joined Howell’s staff as the offensive coordinator and brought Army Black Knights Earl “Red” Blaik’s T-Formation playbook with him. It was primarily a run-heavy offense, but still versatile. Lombardi added a wrinkle that used Single Wing blocking schemes for the offensive line. The pulling guards led the way for the multi-talented halfback Frank Gifford, and brought the Giants back on equal footing with Cleveland. The two teams clashed for conference supremacy for the next 10 seasons.

Sherman returned to the Giants in 1957 as a scout. When Lombardi departed for Green Bay following the 1958 campaign, Sherman took over the vacated offensive coordinator position. The results were immediate and profound. Conerly, at age 38 and in his 12th season, experienced a renaissance. He led the league in yards-per-attempt while throwing just four interceptions, and the Giants catapulted from 10th in points scored in 1958 to 2nd in 1959. Conerly enjoyed his finest season since his rookie year and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.

Integration

Howell retired after the 1960 season and Sherman finally received the head coach position he had coveted. Conerly was two years older now and the wear of 14 years in the NFL was becoming evident. In moves that surprised many, the Giants traded for two veteran players deemed past their prime by their respective Western Conference clubs.

The first move was getting a quarterback who was not much younger than Conerly himself: Y.A. Tittle. The 34-year old passer had begun his career in professional football with the AAFC Baltimore Colts in 1948. When the franchise folded after the 1950 season, Tittle went to San Francisco where he was a member of the 49’ers famed “Million Dollar Backfield” with Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson. Tittle’s signature play was the “Alley Oop” pass to receiver R.C. Owens, would run a deep route and attempt to out-leap the defender for the ball. However, new coach Red Hickey installed the shotgun offense in 1961, which was better suited for the younger and more mobile John Brodie.

Despite his age, Tittle still had a very strong arm and was an exceptionally accurate passer. His quick release was regarded as second only to that of Johnny Unitas. Tittle also was a resourceful diagnostician of defenses; he called brilliant games and possessed rare leadership skills. “Here was a 34-year-old quarterback,” Giants president Wellington Mara said. “But we knew he would be a top hand for us. He’s been in the league a long time and he knows defenses and he would fit in with our club real well.”

Next was a trade for a receiver fast enough to get down the field vertically in Del Shofner. Once timed at 9.8 in the 100, Shofner stretched the field like few other receivers from the split end position. Mara said the veteran receiver “fitted a need of ours precisely.”

On-field colleagues agreed with that assessment. Giants veteran receiver Kyle Rote said, “Other receivers may have better moves, but Del has great speed, wonderful hands and good leg drive.” Defender Dick Lynch said, “I couldn’t cover him man on man in 1958 or 1959. I couldn’t cover him in 1960 either. He’s as good as he ever was.”

Tittle was equally impressed, “We both came here at the same time, and we both were traded from West Coast teams. I’d never thrown to someone with the speed he had – along with such a good pair of hands.”

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1961)

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1961)

Tittle and Conerly began 1961 sharing the signal calling duties. The trend was for Conerly to start, then be relieved at some point by Tittle, who was still learning the nuances of Sherman’s complex, detailed system. Following a string of come-from-behind victories the starting job was assumed full time by Tittle. Fullback Alex Webster remembered, “Conerly was our leader. Then, when Tittle came in, we’d never seen anything like him before.” New York won the Eastern Conference, but lost badly in the Championship Game at Green Bay 37-0.

Fruition

Prior to the 1962 season, prognosticators predicted a fall off for the Giants. Sherman recalled a meeting with the press during the pre season, “Some said, ‘It’s a shame, Allie. You’re taking over a club that’s beginning to fall apart from old age.’ The Giants were supposed to be growing old. I could evaluate the performance of the old players over a stretch of three years. I could see how much they had slipped, if they had slipped at all. I could decide which old players to keep and which old players had to be replaced. You can’t replace players wholesale, you know. You have to do it gradually.”

There was turnover on the New York roster though. Conerly and Rote retired. However, one veteran returned from a season-long hiatus. Frank Gifford moved to the flanker position and complimented Shofner’s talents perfectly. The former halfback lacked Shofner’s speed, but he made up for it with elusiveness, deception and sharp route running. Gifford clicked with his new quarterback and complimented both his smarts and ability. “Y.A. is like a high school kid with a Univac brain and a great passing arm,” said Gifford. Shofner and Gifford would exceed 20 yards per catch in 1962.

Y.A. Tittle (14), New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (September 16, 1962)

Y.A. Tittle (14), New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (September 16, 1962)

The first game of the campaign was a disappointment. A limping Tittle tossed three interceptions in an ugly 17-7 loss at rival Cleveland. Potential morphed into results for Sherman’s creative, and sometimes ingenious, offense in Week 2’s impressive passing duel between Tittle and Philadelphia’s young hot shot quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. Although Jurgensen finished with the impressive stats: 33-of-57 for 381 yards, the Giants won 29-13 with Shofner hauling in two long touchdown bombs. The following week, Tittle threw for 332 yards and four scoring strikes at Pittsburgh in a 31-27 win.

“[The game] has changed a lot since I came up in 1948,” said Tittle as he reflected on his late career success. “It’s changed a lot since 1953. You spend 10 times as much time on preparation. You go over defenses and reactions and keys and how you read. You learn little things about the other team, or about certain players you didn’t even consider 10 years ago.”

This was the first season the Giants sold out every home game before the season started. The largest crowd to date showed up for the highly anticipated contest with the 4-1 Detroit Lions. The aerial fireworks may have been at a minimum versus the defensive power from the Western Conference, but the game was thrilling nonetheless. Tittle sat our much of first half, after being shaken up on a 1st quarter touchdown run. He returned to the field in second half, and led the Giants to a 17-14 victory. His gritty performance sparked a 9-game win streak.

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1962)

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1962)

Tittle struggled during practice that week, and was a game time decision to dress against the Eastern Conference leading 4-0-2 Redskins. After convincing Sherman he was fit to play, Tittle started poorly, completing only two of his first eight attempts. The Giants trailed 7-0 and faced a third-and-ten on their own 10-yard line when their fortunes turned. Tittle completed a short pass to Gifford for the first down, and a roughing the passer penalty on the defense was added on. Tittle hit on four consecutive attempts afterward, the final being a 22-yard touchdown to Joe Morrison. Tittle led the Giants on two more scoring drives before halftime, and the Giants took a 21-13 lead. Tittle’s already had 236 yards passing and three touchdown passes despite the cold start.

Washington kept the pressure on New York with a quick strike. The first play from scrimmage of the third quarter was an 80-yard Norm Snead-to-Bobby Mitchell touchdown completion, where Mitchell caught the ball, juked his defender and outraced the Giants secondary to the end zone. Tittle answered with a seven-play scoring drive, going five-for-five passing. The Giants led 28-20 and Tittle couldn’t miss. He reached 12 consecutive completions as the Giants lead extended to 35-20. On the next possession Tittle missed on a pass and failed to match Fran Tarkenton’s record of 13 straight. Unfazed, Tittle’s next throw was good for a 63-yard touchdown to Gifford. The Giants lead 42-20 and that lead grew to 49-20 in the fourth quarter on Tittle’s record-tying seventh touchdown pass.

Tittle had a chance to try for an eighth touchdown late in the game. Despite the vocal encouragement from both the Yankee Stadium crowd and Giants teammates, Tittle called for rushing plays to run out the clock in Washington territory, content with the 49-34 victory.

The humble closing belied the superlative virtuoso performance. Tittle completed 27-of-39 attempts, nearly 70%, impressive for any game, but even more so when his bad start is taken into account. The seven touchdowns tied the record shared by Sid Luckman, Adrian Burke, and George Blanda. The 505 passing yards were second only to Norm van Brocklin’s 554, and was just the third 500-yard passing game to-date. Shofner’s 269 receiving yards was the fourth highest single-game total at that time, and remains a Giants’ club record today.

Tittle and the Giants maintained the momentum from that afternoon through most of the season and established new standards across all passing categories as they won the Eastern Conference with a 12-2 record. In the season finale versus Dallas, Tittle threw six touchdowns and established an NFL record with 33 scoring strikes for the season. Unitas had thrown 32 in 1959 and Jurgensen tied that mark in 1961. (George Blanda threw 36 in 1961, but the NFL did not recognize AFL records until after the 1970 merger.)

His 3,224 yards easily eclipsed his team record 2,272 from 1961 and Conerly’s career high of 2,175 in 1948. This mark would stand until 1984 when Phil Simms threw for 4,044 yards in a 16-game season. UPI voted Tittle and the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the season, but the Giants lost the NFL championship game to Green Bay 16-7.

Acclamation

The 1963 season began with Tittle out-dueling Unitas in a come-from-behind thriller in Baltimore. After falling behind 21-3 early in the second quarter, Tittle threw three touchdowns to bring the Giants to within 28-24 at the half. On his third quarter touchdown run to give the Giants the lead at 31-28, Tittle was injured and left the game. Ralph Guglielmi was 0-2 in relief, but the Giants held on for a 37-28 win. The Giants were no match for the Steelers the next week without Tittle and lost 31-0, managing a meager seven first downs.

Y.A. Tittle (14), Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (October 20, 1963)

Y.A. Tittle (14), Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (October 20, 1963)

Tittle returned in Week 3 and the offense did not miss a beat. The Giants went 3-1 after that loss, losing at home to unbeaten Cleveland, and never scored less than 24 points. The rematch with the 6-0 Browns was highly anticipated, but the standing room only crowd of 84,213 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium was silenced early when Jim Brown fumbled on his first carry and Sam Huff recovered for New York on Cleveland’s 30-yard line. The Giants settled for a field goal, but did not panic. In fact, the game plan was a departure from the usually vertical attack. Sherman’s reigned-in plan charged Tittle with managing the game with pre-snap reads and to win the time-of-possession battle. “We threw out the bomb,” Sherman said. “We never went for the long one. We wanted to control the ball. Short passes and running. That’s what we planned and that’s what we did. We showed how the Browns can be beaten.”

The Giants scored on all five possessions in the first half as Tittle changed the call on almost every play at the line of scrimmage. “They were in an odd line,” Tittle explained. “We expected them to be in a four-three most of the time, so I had to change off. If the crowd had been noisy, I might have had trouble. But they were pretty quiet.”

Tittle’s individual statistics were not flashy: 214 yards on 31 attempts and two touchdowns with one interception. As a team, the Giants totaled 387 yards on 78 offensive snaps; the Browns 142 yards on 38 snaps. Tittle received an ovation from his teammates on the New York bench when he was taken out of the game midway through the fourth quarter and the Giants comfortably ahead 33-0. It was well deserved because his decision making was the critical difference in the contest.

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants at St. Louis Cardinals (November 3, 1963)

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants at St. Louis Cardinals (November 3, 1963)

Wisdom and insight continued to serve the veteran signal caller two weeks later when he achieved a statistically perfect game for a passer in a 42-14 win over Philadelphia. Nobody knew it at the time though, the NFL’s contrived formula for passer rating was not rolled out until 1971. Although the formula has its share of critics – in particular the heavy weight it places on completion percentage – it can be a useful tool for determining a quarterback’s passing efficiency. How 16 completions on 20 attempts for 261 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions equals the number 158.3 is not easily explained without a deep background in calculus. Tittle attributed to his success to the variable of time and intuition.

“After every game people ask me questions about how I figured the other team,” he said. “You have to be in the league a long lime and remember things, and at last you get a feel about it. If you could learn it by studying movies, a good smart college quarterback could learn all you’ve got to learn in three weeks and then come in and be as good as the old heads. But they can’t. Because you look at seven or eight different teams each year and they have a different feel and a different look.

“You learn to look for little things. Not obvious things like the linebacker coming right up on the line of scrimmage. But say my tight end is split out a little, maybe four yards from the tackle. The corner linebacker should be right out there with him, playing right in front of him so he can chuck him at the line. But if he has cheated into the gap between the end and the tackle, I read blitz. Or maybe the weak-side safety is intent on the A back—the offensive back on his side. Instead of being relaxed and at ease, he’s crouched over, and maybe unconsciously he’s moved a step or two closer to the line of scrimmage. I read blitz again. That means the weak-side linebacker is coming. He’s the man who would take the A back in a pass pattern, and the weak-side safety is going to have to cover for him, so I read blitz from the way the safety is acting.”

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1963)

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1963)

New York confidently rolled into the season finale at Yankee Stadium with a 10-3 record. Their opponent was second place 7-3-3 Pittsburgh, who could take the Eastern Conference crown with a victory via win percentage (ties did not count in the standings at that time.) A win against the rugged Steelers would require all of Tittle’s tangible attributes: a strong arm, accuracy and experience. The intangible quality of being clutch: exhibiting the uncanny ability to make a big play at a defining moment when the outcome hangs in the balance, would be the catalyst for realization.

Brains and speed combined for New York’s first big strike. Already ahead 3-0, Tittle noticed a change in the defense. After attempting a sideline hookup with Shofner, the Pittsburgh cornerback was cheating toward the boundary, after starting the game playing off Shofner to guard against the split end’s speed. Reading the defender after the snap, Tittle lured him with a pump-fake to the sideline as Shofner streaked past. Tittle lofted a deep arching throw to Shofner who coasted for the 41-yard touchdown.

Shofner left the game in the second quarter with an injury, but the Giants controlled the first half and led 16-3 at the intermission. The Steelers surged in the third quarter and cut the deficit to 16-10 while their defense stifled the Giants’ offense. Faced with a precarious situation, third-and-eight on their own 24-yard line, Tittle collaborated with Gifford to pull New York out of its rut.

Gifford separated from his defender on a deep in-cut as Tittle stood tall in the pocket under a heavy rush. The pass was low and out in front, but Gifford stretched out with one arm. As he attempted to tip the ball to himself, it stuck in his hand, and fell to the ground with it secured for a completion at Pittsburgh’s 47-yard line. “I dived for the ball and I thought, ‘Well we blew it,’” Gifford recalled. “I stuck my hand out just to make the motion of going through with it – and the damn thing stuck in my hand!” While the 63,240 fans in Yankee Stadium erupted in bedlam, Tittle picked himself off the dirt. He never saw the remarkable catch as he was knocked onto his back after the release.

Tittle immediately went back to Gifford on the next play, moving to the Steelers 22-yard line with a sideline completion. The next play was a touchdown pass to Joe Morrison off a play action fake. The Giants regained the two-score cushion 23-10 and momentum that had seemingly been lost. New York held on for the Eastern Conference title with a 33-17 victory. Afterward, there was little doubt on the game’s turning point: “That Gifford catch was the end for us,” Steelers’ Coach Buddy Parker said. “It looked then like we were beginning to pick up and they were sliding. But you could see the whole club come alive after that play.”

The Giants lost the NFL Title Game in Chicago the following week 14-10, but the 1963 season was still a great success. Tittle broke his own NFL record with 36 touchdown passes – and threw a score in all 13 games he played while doing it – a feat that earned him the AP NFL Most Valuable Player award. Including the final game of 1962 and the first of 1964, Tittle threw a touchdown pass in 15 consecutive games, a New York club record that still stands today.

Appendices: Looking over Numbers

Despite playing in New York for only four seasons, Tittle still holds a place of prominence in the Giants annals. He is 17th in games played at 54, but vaults ahead significantly in the categories of performance. He is 7th in passes completed, 6th in passing yards and 5th in touchdowns thrown. Most impressive is his yards-per-attempt of 8.0, which is highest of all Giants passers who attempted at least 250 passes.

When looking over career statistics and assessing a passer’s efficiency, the most useful are yards-per-attempt and touchdown-to-interception ratio. Subjectively, 300-yard passing games are interesting. Usually when a quarterbacks throw for over 300 yards, the win-loss record hovers around .500. Y.A. Tittle was a remarkably undefeated during his Giants’ tenure when reaching that plateau. In essence, when the Giants needed Tittle to carry the team, he delivered. Another good indicator of Tittle carrying the Giants is the number of three-touchdown passing games he had. Tittle had 18 for the Giants in 48 starts – the team record until Phil Simms equaled it, but it took him 154 starts to do so.

YAT STATS1

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Oct 142013
 
 October 14, 2013  Posted by  Articles, History
1938 New York Giants celebrate their NFL Championship

1938 New York Giants celebrate their NFL Championship

The 1938 New York Giants

by Larry Schmitt for BigBlueInteractive.com

Anyone who watched NFL football during the 1980’s and 90’s is undoubtedly familiar with this phrase stated by John Madden, “Big players make big plays in big games.” Many of those “big players” would be later named to his All-Madden team the week prior to the Super Bowl, alongside some lesser known names who displayed characteristics that won the broadcaster over, like toughness, grit and heart. They were lunch-pail types who wore blood on their pants and their jerseys un-tucked. In December 1938 Madden was all of two years old, but there was a football team in New York with players fitting those descriptions, displaying all those attributes and more in the biggest game of the season.

The New Commodity

The quick-strike potential of throwing the football was starting to be realized by the mid 1930’s. Green Bay Packer founder Earl “Curly” Lambeau was one of the early proponents of the passing game, adding regimented passing drills into the team’s practices long before anyone else. His first great passer was Arnie Herber, who helped the Packers to pre-championship game NFL titles in 1930 and 1931by throwing passes to Johnny “Blood” McNally from the tailback position in the Notre Dame Box formation. Herber also led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns in 1932 and 1934.

The catalyst for Green Bay’s quantum leap in the forward pass arrived in 1935. Don Hutson was the NFL’s first true wide receiver, and his arrival shook the NFL. On the first play of his first game, Hutson caught an 83-yard touchdown pass from Herber, which held up for a 7-0 victory against the Chicago Bears. The Herber-to-Hutson combination was as familiar to sports fans as Montana-to-Rice would be two generations later. The Green Bay passing game was so far ahead of its time, many of the standards Herber and Hutson set lasted 30 years or longer.

Although Hutson possessed good speed, it was the precision of his routes that enabled Lambeau to advance his concepts. Packer practices became a laboratory to experiment with route trees and the response of coverages. Herber loved throwing the long ball, when he and Hutson were in sync, defenses were rendered helpless. From his split wide position, Hutson lead the NFL in touchdown receptions every season from 1935 through 1938. In two of those seasons he also led the league in yards receiving. In 1936 Green Bay led the NFL in scoring and defeated the Boston Redskins in the championship game.

The Redskins relocated to Washington DC in 1937, and beat the Chicago Bears for the championship with a fourth-quarter-comeback by the NFL’s sensational rookie Sammy Baugh. Baugh was more than a great passer; he was a prodigy and became a star attraction for the league. As if to underscore his stature, the NFL created a new rule for the 1938 season: the personal foul for roughing-the-passer penalty was born.

1938 New York Giants Training Camp, Hank Soar with the ball.

1938 New York Giants Training Camp, Hank Soar with the ball.

By 1938, the New York Giants rivalry with the Redskins was white hot. From the time the NFL split into two divisions in 1933 through 1946, the Giants and Redskins battled for the right to represent the Eastern Division in the championship game. The schedule makers took note, and even added a little fuel to the fire by routinely scheduling their meetings at the end of the year, often with the season finale at the Polo Grounds in front of huge crowds. The Giants won the East in 1933, ‘34, ‘35, ‘38, ‘39, ‘41, ‘44, ‘46 and the Redskins in 1936, ‘37, ‘40, ‘42, ‘43 (after a playoff with the Giants) and’45.

Old Indestructible

The New York Giants had a respectable offense in their own right. Ed Danowski led the league in passing yards for the 1935 season, but this was balanced by a powerful rushing attack featuring fullback Tuffy Leemans and halfback Hank Soar. The Giants real strength came from the one player Head coach Steve Owen built both sides of the ball around: Mel Hein.

Hein came to the NFL from Washington State in 1931 with no notoriety at all. It was five years before the first draft and scouting was still largely regional. The Pacific Northwest was a long way from the professional league, whose furthest outpost toward the Pacific Coast was Wisconsin. Hein took it upon himself to write letters of interest to three franchises: the Portsmouth Spartans, Providence Steam Rollers, and New York Giants. Providence offered him a contract for $125 per game and Hein accepted it. However, upon meeting with Giant end Ray Flaherty who told Hein the Giants would pay him $150 per game; Hein wired the post office in Providence to return the letter of acceptance to him so he could get the bigger contract.

Early in his rookie season, injuries to the Giants line necessitated Hein’s promotion to starter, and his iron-man streak of playing 60 minutes in 172 consecutive games began. It did not take long before the rangy Hein made an impression on even the most distinguished opponents. “Even as a rookie in 1931 there was no one like him,” said the Chicago Bears’ George Halas, “Usually you look for the rookies on another team and try to take advantage of them. We tried working on Hein, but from the beginning, he was too smart.” Hein matched his intelligence with grit. Bears tackle George Musso, who outweighed Hein in the vicinity of 40 pounds, gave Hein a blow to his unprotected nose after a snap. He cautioned Musso to knock it off, but the warning went unheeded. Hein said, “So on the following play, I was ready. I snapped the ball with one hand and got him with an uppercut square in the face. I could tell he really felt it. He never tried it again.”

Mel Hein, New York Giants (1940)

Mel Hein, New York Giants (1940)

Hein was the lynchpin in Owen’s versatile A-Formation, which featured the line strong to one side and the backs strong to the opposite side. The uncertainty to which position the snap was directed is what made it effective. Hein’s unerring accuracy was critical. An early admirer of his work was future Hall of Famer, Alex Wojciechowicz. While playing college football at Fordham as one of the famed Seven Blocks of Granite, Wojciechowicz would attend Giants games on Sundays for inspiration. “Hein was my idol,” Wojciechowicz said. “Sometimes there would be only 10,000 at a Giants game at the Polo Grounds after Fordham had outdrawn them by at least two to one, sometimes four to one, but I always went to the Giants games because I wanted to get all the pointers I could get and Mel Hein was my man.”

Many years later, another coaching legend offered his adulation: ”Hein developed techniques of snapping the ball and blocking that have been passed on from center to center ever since,” said George Allen, who regarded Hein as the NFL’s all-time best center.

On defense, Hein was equally impressive. Chicago Bear Bronko Nagurski recalled Hein as being “the surest, cleanest and most effective tackler” he’d ever faced. When he wasn’t delivering a bone jarring hit, Hein was dropping into coverage. He was one of the few players capable of staying with Hutson, and snared 17 career interceptions. Hein was named team captain in 1935, and served in that capacity until his retirement a decade later. In 1938, Hein led a defense that over 11 games surrendered just eight touchdowns and a league-low 79 points in total. Those efforts earned Hein the first Joe F. Carr Trophy as league MVP.

Owen instituted the unique two-platoon system in 1937, where he’d change out nearly complete units of 10 players at the end of the first and third quarters. The lone exception was Hein. “He was too good to take out,” the coach said. Hein never missed a game, and only called a time out once. In 1941 he suffered a broken nose in a game against the Bears. After receiving an adjustment he returned and finished the game.

Hein played 15 seasons for the Giants, a franchise mark matched only by Phil Simms and Michael Strahan. Long after Hein’s playing days had ended, Giants patriarch Wellington Mara reminisced on Hein’s importance. Mara said that Hein was the number one player of the Giants’ first 50 years, and that he was equaled only by Lawrence Taylor.

Even in his final campaign at the age of 36, Mel was still playing every game from the opening kickoff to the final gun. “I can’t prove this with any statistics,” Hein once said, “but I may have played more minutes than anybody in pro football history.” Owen said, “He played longer than any other Giant, and was coached less. Coaching him was like telling Babe Ruth how to hit.”

Oakland Raider founder Al Davis, who worked alongside Hein as assistant coaches at the University of Southern California in the 1950′s, said, “He was truly a football legend and a giant among men. Mel was one of the greatest football players who ever lived.”

The Irresistible Force versus the Immovable Object

Hein and his 1938 New York Giants found themselves atop the NFL Eastern Division in mid November with a 6-2 record. The most satisfying moment for New York thus far was a 10-7 revenge-laced victory at Washington in October (the Redskins had embarrassed the Giants 49-14 in the 1937 season finale at the Polo Grounds.) A quirk in the unbalanced schedule brought Green Bay to the Polo Grounds at 8-2. Their schedule had been uninterrupted, while the Giants had taken two bye weeks in September to accommodate their professional baseball co-tenants.

The Packers brimmed with confidence after defeating their two closest contenders in the Western Division, the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions on the road. The game at Wrigley had been a tense, physical test of will, where the Green Bay defense rose to the occasion. The Packers led 21-17 at the half, and extended to a 24-17 lead in the third quarter. From there, the Packers stout defense held their ground with stand after stand, and kept Chicago off the scoreboard for the win. The final stats were unusually skewed against Green Bay. Chicago held significant advantages in first downs, 16-7, and total yards, 274-178. The 28-7 win at Detroit the following week was a costly one however; Hutson injured his knee and missed the game in New York.

Although still potent as ever on offense, Green Bay was in transition, personnel wise. Herber had shown signs of wear, so Lambeau implemented a tailback-by-committee system. Veterans Herber and Bob Monnett rotated with rookie sensation Cecil Isbell, and the results may have been better than ever. Hutson led the NFL in yards receiving and touchdowns yet again, and Isbell added a new dimension to the Packer attack. He led the team in both passing and rushing, as the Packers led the league in scoring, total yards and plays from scrimmage.

The Giants offense was effective, if somewhat more modest. The only category leaders for New York were halfback/kicker Ward Cuff in field goals and PATs, and tailback Ed Danowski with 70 pass completions. The latter, is somewhat misleading, however. Given that Green Bay’s trio of passers combined for 91 completions as a unit, and despite having the most completions, Danowski was just third in yardage. Defensively New York yielded the fewest points and yards, and while compiling the most interceptions.

The Giants needed that type of balance as they entered the second half of the contest of strengths against Green Bay deadlocked 0-0. Fittingly, the first points scored came on a safety for the Giants defense when full back Clarke Hinkle was tackled in his own end zone. The Packers regrouped, and took a 3-2 lead on a field goal. Green Bay’s offense found a rhythm, and moved the ball deep into Giants territory on their next possession, but missed a field goal attempt. On the Giants first play from scrimmage on the ensuing possession, Leemans slipped around right tackle, followed a block, then cut left and outran the secondary on a 75-yard touchdown gallop that brought the throng of 48,279 in the Polo Grounds to their feet. Green Bay controlled the ball the rest of the way, but the Giants defense put the game out of reach when Hein intercepted a pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown, sealing the crucial 15-3 victory.

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (November 20, 1938)

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (November 20, 1938)

New York played their local rival Brooklyn Dodgers to a 7-7 tie on Thanksgiving four days later, which meant their final game against the Redskins would decide the Eastern Division title. One of the largest crowds to watch the Giants play to that date, 57,461 rowdy fans showed up in full vocal force to root their team on against Washington, and they were not disappointed. New York thoroughly romped the Redskins 36-0. Although the line score might give the impression the Redskins gave up late, the opposite was true. The more points the Giants scored against their feisty but error prone foe, the more physical and nasty the action became. Every pile became a scrum, with pushing and shoving after the whistle that put the officials under great strain to maintain order. After the teams retired to their respective locker-rooms, the Giants physical condition could easily have caused them to be mistaken as the team on the wrong end of the score. There was very little celebration taking place, as the Giants were, bruised, battered and exhausted. The training staff had their work cut out for them to get their players ready for the championship game.

The Last Men Standing

Aside from Hutson favoring his injured knee, Green Bay arrived in New York rested and ready. The Giants were another story entirely. All Pros Cuff and guard Johnny del Isola sat out of practice all week. Many of the Giants who were able work looked like walking wounded after a disaster, wrapped in assorted bandages and tape. Giants’ trainer Francis Sweeney said, “I don’t think I ever saw so tough a team. They were all determined to play, and if some of them had been private patients, I would have sent them to bed or the hospital.”

Two things the Giants had going for them were their running game and Hein’s unique skill set. Owen devised a defensive plan for the championship game that emphasized patience. The onus was on Hein, whose responsibility was to stay near the line of scrimmage after the snap, diagnose the play, then pursue and tackle the ball carrier.

The crowd of 48,120 was smaller than the turnout for the Redskin game the week prior, but was still big enough to be the largest to attend a title game to that point. The game started as the defensive standoff the Giants had hoped for. An exchange of punts pinned Green Bay on their 12-yard line. New York stuffed rushes on first and second down, and on third down the Packers elected to punt (a common strategy in precarious situations at that time.) Future Giant head coach Jim Lee Howell broke through the line and blocked Hinkle’s punt, which the Giants recovered inside the 10-yard line. Green Bay’s rugged defense held and the Giants settled for a Cuff field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Tuffy Leemans (4) and Ward Cuff (14), New York Giants (1941)

Tuffy Leemans (4) and Ward Cuff (14), New York Giants (1941)

Following the kickoff, New York’s defense held again and blocked another punt, this time Jim Poole deflected an Isbell attempt. Starting from the Packer 30 yard line, fullback Tuffy Leemans caught a Danowski pass then rushed three times before hitting pay dirt from nine-yards out on a counter play for a 9-0 lead. The score held when Johnny Gildea hooked the point after attempt wide left.

Another exchange of punts found the Packers pinned deep in their own end of the field again. Lambeau opted to punt on first down, and the Giants received the ball at mid field with a chance to take a surprising and commanding lead. Disaster struck for New York when Leeman’spass was intercepted by Tiny Engerbresten, giving Green Bay not only the ball in favorable field position, but a much needed reversal of momentum. The Packers took advantage quickly. After rushing for a first down, Herber connected on a 40-yard touchdown bomb to Carl Mulleneaux, trimming New York’s lead to 9-7.

Green Bay seized control of the game. They forced the Giants to punt then began another march that seemed destined to end with another touchdown until full back Ed Jankowski’s fumble was recovered by Hein. New York slugged its way back up the field, until Danowski capitalized with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Charles Barnard, ostensibly giving the Giants a comfortable 16-7 just before halftime. Green Bay had other ideas though. Wayland Becker caught a short pass underneath the Giants soft coverage and navigated his way to a 66-yard gain, stunning the Polo Grounds’ faithful. Hinkle capped the lightning-quick drive with a one-yard plunge for the touchdown.

Despite having a 16-14 lead after 30 minutes of play, Owen felt a sense of dread heading into the locker room. Hein, who uncharacteristically left the game for several moments in the second period after getting kicked in the head, reassured Owen, “It’s working coach. I give them the short stuff and Hutson doesn’t beat us.” Whether Owen took the pep talk from his captain to heart is questionable. Aside from seeing his team manhandled for most of the second quarter, the injury situation worsened as blocking back Lee Schaeffer exited the game with a broken leg.

The third quarter began with Green Bay receiving the kickoff without the gallant Hutson, who rested his aching knee on the bench. Regardless, the Packers continued their surge without their best player, driving into Giants territory and took the lead 17-16 with 15-yard Engerbresten field goal. Gildea was inconsolable on the New York sideline, “All I could think was that my missed kick was going to cost us the title.”

The Giants received the kick off and began from their own 38-yard line. Half back Hank Soar was the featured man, rushing four times on cutback runs against the Green Bay slanting defense for 19 yards. After a sack on Danowski, Soar received a pass that left New York with a 4th-and-1 on the Packer 44-yard line. Owen sensed this might be his exhausted team’s last opportunity for a score and elected to gamble. Soar knifed into the line and fell forward for a two-yard gain to covert, allowing the Giants drive to continue. Five plays later, Soar caught a pass between two defenders in front of the goal posts, and dragged Hinkle across the goal line for a 23-yard touchdown, regaining the lead 23-17. “I was near the goal line, and when I came down with the ball, I had three of four Packers all around me,” said Soar. “Clarke Hinkle grabbed me by one leg, but I pulled and pulled and jerked loose and went in.”

1938 NFL Championship Game, Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (December 11, 1938)

1938 NFL Championship Game, Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (December 11, 1938)

Having already abandoned his normally conservative philosophy, Owen scrapped his platoon system next. He chose his best (and healthiest) 11 players and put them on the field for the duration of the battle of attrition. Green Bay drove to the New York 33-yard line, but their scoring opportunity was thwarted when Danowski intercepted an Isbell pass. An exchange of punts spanned the expiration of the third quarter and left the Giants at their own two-yard line. Danowski punted on first down, but the Giants did not gain much as the play netted only 33 yards.

Hutson returned to the field, and on the first play Green Bay went for the kill, but Cuff broke up Herber’s bomb in the end zone. Following a short run, Herber threw for the end zone but the pass was defended again. On fourth down, Herber completed a pass for the first down, but Becker fumbled and New York recovered.

The Giants could not move the ball and punted again. Green Bay, however, lost possession on an ineligible receiver call. Herber completed a pass to Milt Ganterbein at the New York 40-yard line. However, Ganterbein was ruled ineligible after stepping up to the line of scrimmage, the penalty for which resulted in the Giants receiving possession at the previous line of scrimmage, Green Bay’s 43-yard line. Lambeau vehemently protested the call, but to no avail. The Packers followed that mistake by giving New York’s struggling offense a first down via penalty (their first since Soar’s touchdown catch). The Giants could not capitalize, and missed an opportunity to go ahead by two scores when Cuff’s 36-yard field goal attempt sailed wide.

Isbell took charge for the Packers on their ensuing possession. He passed and rushed the ball to the Giants 46 yard-line, but the New York defense held from there on downs. Soar picked up a rushing first down across the midfield stripe, but the Giants punted for a touchback with just over one minute left on the clock.

After a 16-yard scramble, Herber completed a pass to Mulleneaux, who lateraled to Hutson. With a seemingly clear path to the end zone, Soar caught Hutson from behind, 40 yards away from the end zone. Time remained for just one final play. Owen sent a blitz at Herber, who heaved the ball into the end zone where it fell to the ground incomplete. The Giants were finally able to exhale with the 23-17 lead finally secured.

Not all the Giants were available to celebrate the victory however. Del Isola and Cuff were transported to the hospital with possible fractured vertebrae and Hein for a concussion.

Many Giants gave heroic efforts with their performances; Soar was the most impressive on the stat sheet. His 106 total yards came largely in the second half, 65 yards rushing on 21 attempts and 41 yards on three receptions. He recollected years later, “After [the score giving the Giants the 23-17 lead], Ward Cuff kicked the point and Steve took me out of the game, and he said, ‘I want you to go back in again. You call the plays and don’t call anybody’s plays but your own. You carry the ball every goddamned time.’ Well, they hit me with everything except the stands, and that was because they couldn’t move the stands. It seemed like six years before the clock ran out. I think that game was the biggest thrill as far as football is concerned.”

All the writers covering the game agreed with New York’s hero of the moment. Superlatives reigned supreme in the Monday papers:

Arthur Daley of The New York Times: “The play for the full sixty vibrant minutes was absolutely ferocious. No such blocking and tackling by two football teams ever had been seen at the Polo Grounds. Tempers were so frayed and tattered that stray punches were tossed around all afternoon. This was the gridiron sport at its primitive best.”

Arthur Boer of The International News Service: “It was mostly a barroom fight outdoors. Close to 50,000 innocent bystanders looked upon the resumption of gang warfare in America. It was terrific.”

Jack Mahon of The New York Daily News: “In a story book game that had the crowd roaring from start to finish, the Giants struck fast, built up an early lead, lost it, and surged back through the gathering shadows for a sensational touchdown – and victory! No movie director could have staged a better thriller.”

Owen attributed the victory to his player’s grit and a few small changes in strategy. “They tore us apart and ran through us the other time [the 15-3 regular season meeting], but not this time. Those kids of mine just made up their minds that famous Packer attack was going to be stopped. And how they stopped it!” He also revealed that he had changed the blocking assignments and tendencies on offense, “Then, too, we didn’t throw as many passes as usual. When we found out early in the game we didn’t have to pitch ‘em, well, we just didn’t.”

Those combined elements earned the Giants the distinction of becoming the first team to win two Championship Games, but their highest praise came years later from the man who fretted on the sidelines that day. After his retirement, Owen said the 1938 Giants were, “The finest group I ever coached.”

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