Jun 302014
 
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Ryan Nassib (9) and Eli Manning (10), New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Ryan Nassib and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With players scheduled to report to New York Giants training camp on July 21, the anticipation is building for the upcoming 2014 NFL season. What exactly does 2014 have in store for the New York Giants?

Forty new players have been added to the roster. Will big-name free-agent acquisitions live up to their potential, or crash and burn? Which of the rookies will make an impact in their initial season? Will Eli Manning rebound from a disastrous 2013? What are the strengths of this team? Where are the areas of concern?

It’s time to get the answers to all of those questions and more. Over the next few weeks, we’re gonna get you set for all you need to know heading into training camp with our ‘Positional Breakdowns.’ From July 1 – July 21, we’ll be checking out a few positions each week.

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN SCHEDULE:

We recommend that bookmark this page. For each positional breakdown we run, we’ll link to it above. This will make it easier for you to see all of the positional breakdowns in one spot.

Jun 302014
 
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Stevie Brown (27), Antrel Rolle (26), New York Giants (August 4, 2013)

Can Stevie Brown (left) fill the void left by Will Hill? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Big Blue Breakdown enters into week No. 3 as today our panel takes a look at safety Stevie Brown.

HEALTHY AND MOTIVATED, STEVIE BROWN READY TO MAKE IMPACT ON GIANTS

Remember, if you’d like to submit a question to be put into consideration for the next BBB, simply email it to Connor Hughes (Connor_Hughes@bigblueinteractive.com).

QUESTION (From James in Morristown): With addition, after addition after addition made to the Giants’ secondary, the return of Stevie Brown has flown a bit under the radar. Do you believe the Giants’ safety can return to the form he displayed in 2012 when he hauled in a league-high eight interceptions? How important is it that he appears healthy and ready to go?

CONNOR HUGHES/ Big Blue Interactive

Stevie Brown, New York Giants (August 24, 2013)

Stevie Brown injured his knee in the third preseason game of 2013 – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It’s really tough to gauge exactly what should be expected from a player returning from a serious knee injury, especially the season directly after. While most players return the next year after they are injured, it usually takes two full seasosn to see the ‘old’ version of the player back on the field. With that being said, the fact Brown was injured in the preseason certainly favors him returning to form.

But that ‘form’ is what is in question. Before joining the Giants, Brown played a combined 23 games for the Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts… he never recorded a single interception. Brown then burst onto the scene for the Giants with eight, tying for a league-lead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pulling for Brown, think he’s a player with a great attitude who does everything the right way…but I’m not sold just yet. In 2012, Brown filled in quite often for an injured Kenny Phillips. When Phillips was with the Giants, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell adjusted his scheme to let Phillips roam 15-20 yards beyond the defense tracking down deep balls. When Phillips was injured, Brown took his place.

Brown’s eight interceptions were impressive, but more of a result of offensive coordinators testing him. Quarterbacks  forced some his way, Brown made them pay.

Theoretically, the Giants’ ‘best case scenario’ would have been a safety tandem of Antrel Rolle and Will Hill with Brown roaming deep. With Hill gone, can Brown become a complete safety? Can he play in the box?

The fact Brown is healthy is big, very big, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves as it’s not Charles or Rod Woodson stepping back on the field. I hope Brown proves he’s a top-tier safety in the NFL, I just don’t know exactly who Brown is yet..healthy or not.

JORDAN RAANAN/NJ.com

Having Brown back is huge for the Giants now that Will Hill has been exiled to unemployment. Brown gives them a starting-caliber safety to play alongside Antrel Rolle, if he returns to previous form.

Stevie Brown, New York Giants (May 29, 2014)

Stevie Brown – Photo by Connor Hughes

But that’s a big if. It often takes until the second season off injury for most players (Adrian Peterson not included) to really get back. Brown is only nine months removed from surgery and was still slightly limited at OTAs and minicamp.

Even when Brown is at full strength, Hill is the better, more complete, player. Hill did it all last season, and was the perfect complement to Rolle with his impressive range. To expect Brown, off a serious knee injury, to provide similar sideline-to-sideline coverage is unrealistic. To expect him to have that good a year is wishful thinking.

And then there is the question of whether Brown really was that good in the first place. He had a nice 2012 season with the Giants, no doubt. But that was his fourth team in three years in the NFL. In four professional seasons, Brown has 12 career starts. He’s far from a given even if he’s healthy.

Considering the Giants situation, they’re hoping Brown is back. They’re praying he was for real. I have my doubts.

ART STAPLETON/The Record

The best development out of the spring for the Giants is without question the health of Stevie Brown. The fact he’s where he is must be considered a huge positive step, but cautiously it remains just the first one. Toss in Will Hill’s release and Brown’s pairing with Antrel Rolle could emerge as a potential strength on a transitioning team in search of them rather than what would be a weakness without him.

Go back to Brown’s interception against the Jets last August and prior to that, when he fell to the turf with that ACL injury: he was locked in as a starter and Will Hill was an afterthought because of his pending suspension, relegated to working with the third and fourth string in training camp. Brown broke out in 2012 and in some ways I believe some still view his performance was a fluke. We’re not talking about Brown returning to an All-Pro level, because despite those interceptions, there were clearly some flaws in his game (coverage especially).

But in reality, Brown and Rolle can be as effective as Rolle and Hill, and the Giants need that kind of play from their safeties to solidify a secondary whose greatest strength – at least on paper – will be in its ability to cover. Brown and Rolle can roam if Amukamara, DRC and Thurmond do their jobs at CB.

With all the uncertainty involved with the rehab of injuries for Will Beatty, Chris Snee and Mario Manningham, not to mention Jon Beason’s foot, the presence of Brown is just as important and maybe more so than any of them. Brown’s absence would leave a gaping hole that the Giants would have an even harder time filing a year later.

CONOR ORR/The Star-Ledger

I think it’s completely reasonable to expect Stevie Brown to be on a pitch count this summer. He started jogging toward the end of last season and could cut and sprint by the Super Bowl, but the first year following an ACL tear is always the toughest. Just ask Terrell Thomas. Brown was lucky that his happened when it did, which allowed him a full season under team supervision to rehab, but it’s still less than a year removed from the injury.

Brown is extremely important to what the Giants are trying to do on defense this season. The three safety look will be in heavy rotation to make up for the loss of Will Hill. That’s why they will be careful with Brown and will space out his workload during training camp and in the preseason. Behind him are a pair of safeties, Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor, who aren’t likely ready for that much responsibility.

PATRICIA TRAINA/Inside Football, Bleacher Report, Sports Exchange

Stevie Brown appears to have made amazing progress in his return from ACL surgery. I’ll admit that I was surprised to see him do as much as he did this spring given the nature of his injury. I thought he might be limited until training camp.

With that said, it’s important that he not try to overdo things as that’s how you can reinjure yourself. I think the training staff is going to closely monitor Brown’s progress and put him on a “pitch count” for the summer so that he doesn’t overdo it.

Can Brown return to his 2012 form? The optimist in me says, “Yes,” but the realist in me says that’s a tough question to answer right now considering the spring practices were run at half speed.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that you’re never quite the same once you’ve had surgery, so I don’t quite know how to answer that question right now. I would need to see how he does when the practice tempo cranks up and we see how he responds to that.

Regarding the importance of him being ready to go, I think that can be said of all players. If Brown passes the litmus test, that would be huge because it would allow Perry Fewell to run the three-safety set that he so enjoys using.

If Brown suffers a setback, then they’re left with just Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps as their veterans with any significant experience, which means the three-safety set probably gets put on the back burner (unless Cooper Taylor has a strong showing).

So yes, it’s definitely important for Brown to be on the field, and for that to happen, I suspect they’ll be managing his reps very carefully because they are counting on him this year.

ED VALENTINE/Big Blue View

For the Giants’ secondary to be as good as advertised, the answer to this question has to be yes. The Giants absolutely need Brown to play full-time and to play well, in 2014. That doesn’t mean we have any clue how healthy Brown will be, or how well he will play.

Stevie Brown, New York Giants (December 9, 2012)

Stevie Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Fact is, we really don’t know how good Brown is. He had a nice run in 2012, with those eight interceptions in just 11 starts. He was, however, also part of a defense that surrendered 13 plays of 40 yards or more through the air, second-worst in the league. How much of that was on Brown? We don’t know, but the primary job of the safety is to prevent the big play. The Giants did not do that well in 2012.

There is also the fact that Brown was released by the Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts after single seasons during which he never really received an opportunity.

The question really shouldn’t be will Brown return to his 2012 form? Aside from his health, the question really is what kind of player Brown actually is.The Giants will find out. For their sake, Brown’s 2012 performance better not have been a mirage.

Jun 292014
 
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1929 New York Giants

1929 New York Giants

by Larry Schmitt for BigBlueInteractive.com

The New York Football Giants have won eight world championships in their 90 seasons in the National Football League, and trail only the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers in that regard. The three franchises post-season histories are intertwined so deeply with one another that they share some of the same DNA. One cannot recount the history of one of these teams without including the others.

The Giants have tangled in the post-season eight times with the Bears and seven times with the Packers. In the 30 year span from the start of divisional play in 1933 until 1963, New York met these two ancient Western Division/Conference rivals 11 times in NFL Championship Games. Unfortunately for the Giants, they only won three of those games. They were twice victorious over Chicago (1934 and 1956) and once over Green Bay (1938). All three wins were in New York. The first two occurred in their original home, the Polo Grounds, and the third in venerable old Yankee Stadium. But the competitive roots of these three flagship franchises go even deeper.

Prior to divisional play, the NFL was stacked top-to-bottom in a heap of random, unbalanced, make-it-up-as-you-go scheduling that was sometimes interspersed with non-league exhibitions. It was such a mess at times that the league didn’t even calculate ties in win percentages. Disputes over final standings were commonplace and interested parties often resorted to politicking for several months after the season closed, lobbying for votes at the spring owners meeting where a ballot was cast to officially declare the previous season’s champion.

The Giants fate was often determined during November and December contests with Chicago and Green Bay. The Giants earned their first NFL title in 1927 after a pivotal December Polo Grounds slugfest against the Bears that was such an epic struggle it rendered the subsequent sweep of the hated New York Yankees anti-climactic.

Some of the Giants strongest teams, ones that set records and had the biggest stars of their day, fell just short of the ultimate goal. This is the story of one of those bitter disappointments. The 1929 New York Giants were remarkable in their own unique way and are worthy of remembrance and celebration of their accomplishments.

The Rising Star

There is little wonder why Giant co-owners Tim Mara and Dr. Harry March were obsessed with passing sensation Benny Friedman. While his NFL-best 20 touchdown passes his first two years in the league may not seem impressive, consider the league’s next highest scoring team in 1927-28, the Frankford Yellow Jackets. Their leading passer, Ken Mercer, combined for nine touchdown passes in those two seasons. Moreover, the Yellow Jackets played 34 games during that timeframe while Friedman’s two teams played 23. Yardage statistics from this era are incomplete and unreliable, but the box scores don’t lie. Nobody has ever questioned the value of a passer who gets the ball into the end zone.

Even more impressive was the fact that Friedman accomplished this with two different franchises. In his rookie season, Friedman and the 1927 Cleveland Bulldogs led the NFL in scoring. However, the financially strapped Bulldogs disbanded after the season. Friedman and several of his teammates signed on with the Detroit Wolverines (most player contracts were one-year deals anyway), where they led the NFL in scoring again in 1928. In those two years, Friedman and his rag-tag squads squared off with the defensive-minded Giants four times without a loss; the best New York managed was two ties. One of the defeats was thoroughly embarrassing, as Friedman torched the Giants with his legs and arm in a 28-0 blowout at the Polo Grounds. Mara resolved this problem with his purchase of the entire Wolverines franchise in early 1929. To ensure Friedman would agree to play for the Giants, Detroit coach LeRoy Andrews was installed as the head man of the Giants squad.

Jack Hagerty, Benny Friedman, and LeRoy Andrews; New York Giants (1929)

Courtesy of Rev. Mike Moran

In an era dominated by power struggles on the line of scrimmage, punts and drop-kicks, it did not take long for Friedman to become noticed with his passing wizardry. He was the lead man in newsreel highlights with the NFL’s two other transcendent stars, halfback Harold “Red” Grange of the Chicago Bears and fullback Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals. While all three played defense as well as offense, Friedman and Nevers were triple threats who handled the bulk of their respective teams kicking duties.

The Giants gained one star but lost another. The indomitable Cal Hubbard, who was a catalyst for the Giants championship 1927 season, was unhappy living amongst the hustle and bustle of New York City. He preferred a quieter and simpler existence. After playing in a Giants-Packers game in Green Bay in 1928, Hubbard decided that was the place for him. He requested a trade after the season and was accommodated.

Warming Up the Engine

The Giants opened the 1929 regular season in front of 9,000 fans at Knights of Columbus Stadium when they visited the Orange Tornados. The results were familiar in that the defensive battle lacked any portent of offensive genius. New York had a golden opportunity to take the lead early in the second quarter when Ray Flaherty, who jumped from the Yankees to the Giants late in 1928, intercepted a pass at the Giants 45-yard line and returned it to the Orange 10. The Tornados thwarted New York on second-and-goal when they intercepted a Friedman throw. The Giants star had an opportunity to redeem himself in the closing minutes of the game. Friedman drove New York into Orange territory, but his attempted field goal was blocked as time expired, and the game ended in a 0-0 tie.

New York Giants Roster (October 20, 1929)

New York Giants Roster – Courtesy of Rev. Mike Moran

Another defensive battle took place in front of a record throng of 14,000 in Providence when the Giants visited the defending champion Steam Roller. The Providence Journal described the contest as “one of the most bitterly fought games ever seen at the Cycledrome.” The Giants first touchdown of the year came early in the first quarter, and it was mostly a Friedman effort. He set the drive up with a 25-yard punt return before completing successive passes totaling 43 yards. Len Sedbrook then scored from nine-yards out and Friedman’s point-after was successful. That was all of the scoring for the day, but there was plenty of action on the field. First-hand accounts described the Steam Rollers defense as being “savage.” The Giants drove twice more into goal-to-go situations, many of the advances coming from Friedman off-tackle slants, but the Giants were halted on the 1- and 6-yard lines, respectively. Providence was never able to harness any momentum offensively, as New York limited them to just 10 first downs. The Giants won 7-0.

Friedman shared the spotlight with Jack Hagerty the following week at the Polo Grounds for the home opener versus the Staten Island Stapletons. Of the 30,000 spectators, approximately 5,000 enthusiastically supported the visitors. Friedman threw the Giants first touchdown pass of the year in the second quarter, but Ken Strong’s 50-yard touchdown rush and point-after gave Staten Island a 9-7 lead at the half. Hagerty sparked New York with a second-half kickoff return to the 30-yard line and two rushes for 11 and 25 yards, setting up a Friedman-to-Hap Moran touchdown connection. In the fourth quarter, Moran caught a scoring aerial from Hagerty to cap off the 19-9 win. So impressive was Hagerty that The New York Times tagged him as “Ghost Hagerty,” a moniker closely associated with the legendary Grange. Future Giant Ken Strong (1933-35, 1939, 1944-47) drew acclaim for his effort both running and kicking. At the close of the third quarter, his punt from the Stapleton’s 18-yard line flipped field position as the ball was downed on the New York 20. The New York Times estimated the ball traveled close to 75 yards in the air.

Frankford Yellow Jackets at New York Giants (October 20, 1929)

Frankford Yellow Jackets at New York Giants (October 20, 1929)

The Giants momentum carried over to next week’s game against the Frankford Yellow Jackets. Former New York Governor Al Smith was among the 30,000 fans at the Polo Grounds who were treated to a rare offensive showcase. “Friedman, the Giants passing wizard, was the man behind the New York surge,” wrote The New York Times. In the second quarter, Friedman “suddenly began to complete passes all over the lot,” which included scoring strikes of 18, 43 and 25 yards. Leading 19-0 at the half, the Giants switched to the ground game, but the big plays kept coming. Mule Wilson romped 55 yards for a touchdown and in the fourth quarter. Then center Mickey Murtagh was given a turn in the backfield and rambled for a 33-yard touchdown. Frankford only completed two passes for 12 yards on the afternoon while the Giants front stonewalled the run in the 32-0 victory.

Frankford Yellow Jackets at New York Giants (October 20, 1929)

Frankford Yellow Jackets at New York Giants (October 20, 1929)

Full Throttle

Big scoring plays and one-sided wins now became the norm for the Giants. The first four games in November were dominated by Friedman’s passing and an unyielding defensive front wall. Shutouts over aforementioned Frankford (32-0) and Providence (19-0) preceded a tough 26-14 win at Cubs Park over the 4-1-1 Chicago Bears. The road trip resumed just two days later in Buffalo for a Tuesday 45-6 win at Bison Stadium. New York’s first scoring drive took two plays, both Friedman-to-Flaherty connections. Sedbrook later scored on a 70-yard pass from Friedman and Flaherty caught a 50-yard scoring pass from Moran. Things were so bleak for the Bisons that after they scored their only touchdown, Hagerty returned the kickoff 97 yards for another Giants tally. Five days later, the Giants soundly defeated the Orange Tornados 22-0. The Giants overall record now stood at 7-0-1.

The re-match with the Bears at the Polo Grounds was shockingly similar to the game against the Bisons. Chicago came to New York on a skid, having lost to Green Bay and Frankford, and nobody expected anything but a stout effort from George Halas’ squad. The looming threat of bad weather limited the crowd to 15,000, but the ones who braved the elements were rewarded with a record performance. The Friedman aerial circus was unstoppable. The heavy air above the Polo Grounds was filled with 49 New York pass attempts, five resulting in touchdowns. Four of those scoring tosses came from the arm of Friedman, and one by Moran, who was also on the receiving end of two scores.

Glenn Campbell (no helmet, with ball), New York Giants (November 17, 1929)

Glenn Campbell (no helmet, with ball), Chicago Bears at New York Giants (November 17, 1929)

Early on though, Chicago had the edge. The action was mostly on the New York side of the field and Grange, who played with a dislocated shoulder, looked to be the star of the game. After a catch-and-run by the Galloping Ghost gave Chicago a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line, New York forced a fumble and recovered. The momentum swing sparked the Giants, whose drive carried over into the second quarter, and ended with Friedman’s first scoring pass. The remainder of the first half saw numerous punt exchanges, including a 70-yarder by the Giants off of the foot of Tony Plansky. The Giants 20-point third-quarter eruption quickly put the game out of reach. Unofficially, Friedman was 13-of-25, four touchdowns, and no interceptions while the Bears as a team were 11-of-24 and intercepted four times. When it was over, New York won 34-0.

Showdown

There was considerable buzz anticipating next week’s match-up against Green Bay. The 9-0 Packers were tied atop the standings with the 8-0-1 Giants (ties did not factor into win percentage.) Green Bay’s strength was their defense. Cal Hubbard had been moved inside to the tackle position where he continued to wreak havoc. Also on the line were future Hall of Fame guard Mike Michalske and All-Pro end Lavvie Dilweg. Halfback Johnny “Blood” McNally, who played end on defense, would also be enshrined in Canton, along with head coach Curly Lambeau, who had finally hung up his cleats and was on the sideline full time.

Benny Friedman, New York Giants vs Green Bay Packers Game Program (November 24, 1929)

New York Giants vs Green Bay Packers Game Program – Courtesy of Rev. Mike Moran

Green Bay went straight at the Giants on the cold, muddy field. Hubbard punched holes in his former team’s first line of defense for fullback Bo Molenda’s advances. The Polo Grounds crowd of 25,000 remained enthusiastic despite Green Bay taking an early 7-0 on a Verne Lewellen touchdown pass to Herdis McCrary. The Giants had an opportunity to answer when Friedman connected with Flaherty for a 65-yard gain. Flaherty was headed for the end zone until he was caught from behind by McNally and dragged down at the 10-yard line. It was a significant play as Freidman’s next attempt was intercepted and the 7-0 score held. The remainder of the first half was scoreless while both powerful lines slugged it out. Lewellen kept the Packers out of danger with 60- and 70-yard punts. Friedman and the Giants struggled to find the rhythm of their passing game that had propelled their success over the past seven games. Even when Friedman wasn’t feeling the rush of Green Bay’s line, his favorite target, Flaherty, struggled to find open space against his counterpart McNally.

Green Bay controlled most of the first 30 minutes of action, but New York fought back. In the third quarter, Friedman completed three passes, interspersed with several line plunges, on a 70-yard drive. Plansky caught the final pass in the end zone to trim the lead to 7-6, as Friedman missed the point-after attempt. The game resumed its tenor from the first half as the lines engaged in their contest of will. The New York passing attack struggled under the Packers pass rush while Green Bay ran plunges and slants into the Giants defense.

The balance of the game tipped suddenly in the fourth quarter. New York seemed to have stopped an advance on third down and set up for a return. Having witnessed Lewellen boom punts consistently all day, the Giants dropped back on fourth down to ready themselves for a return. Lewellen received the snap, skillfully mimed a punting motion, and then connected with McNally on a 26-yard pass. The gain in field position was secondary to the emotional blow dealt to the Giants – they sagged while Green Bay surged. Molenda and McRary ran with confidence through the Giants front wall and finished the 80-yard drive with a touchdown run and a 14-6 lead.

Friedman’s comeback bid ended in disaster. Harassed in a collapsing pocket, he was intercepted by middle guard Jug Earp. The Packers kept the ball on the ground, consuming both time and yards . They put the game away when McNally went over for the touchdown, finishing the 37-yard drive and the Giants bid for first place. Green Bay left the Polo Grounds with a 20-6 victory and 10-0 record while the Giants slipped to 8-1-1.

Finishing Strong

Bruised and beaten, but not without hope, the Giants had a chance to force a tie if they won out and Green Bay dropped a game. It was a short week for both teams as they both played four days later on Thanksgiving. The Giants handled rival Staten Island 21-7, while Green Bay showed some signs of exhaustion as their road trip continued. The game account from Frankford noted the Packers exhibited signs of fatigue after their strenuous effort at the Polo Grounds. The Yellow Jackets advanced to the Packer 2-yard line in the first quarter before turning the ball over. In the fourth quarter, a final promising drive by Frankford ended with a blocked field goal. The game ended in a 0-0 tie and the Packers still sported a perfect 1.000 winning percentage.

1929 New York Giants

Courtesy of Rev. Mike Moran

The race continued three days later. Green Bay romped over the Steam Roller in Providence 25-0, while the Giants entertained the Polo Grounds faithful in a thriller against Ernie Nevers and the Chicago Cardinals. Bitter cold temperatures held the crowd to 5,000 but New York turned up the heat early with two Friedman scoring passes. Nevers brought his squad back, throwing a touchdown pass of his own. Chicago added a safety just before the half, and trailed at the break 14-9.

Gene Rose went over for a touchdown in the third quarter to give the Cardinals a 15-14 lead as the point-after attempt failed. Nevers extended the lead to 21-14 with his plunge early in the fourth quarter, again, the point-after failed. Led by Plansky, the Giants came back. When he wasn’t carrying the ball on the 80-yard march, Plansky was leading the way with clear-out blocks. He carried the ball on three of the four first-down conversions and went over for the touchdown to complete the drive. Friedman’s placement was good and the game was tied at 21. Although a tie score would not hurt the Giants in their race against Green Bay, a victory could only help their cause.

After forcing a Cardinals punt, New York advanced on a long drive. As the clock ran under five minutes, Friedman was intercepted by Rose at the Chicago 10-yard line. After moving the chains for a first down on two line plunges, Chicago lost a chance to run the clock out when Rose fumbled and Joe Westoupal recovered at the 22-yard line for New York. Friedman was thrown for a 13-yard loss on first down, which pushed the Giants out of sure field-goal range. A completion to Len Sedbrook moved the ball to the 24-yard line. Friedman connected with Sedbrook again at the nine-yard line while the clock ran under one minute to play. On first-and-goal, Friedman was thrown for a loss at the 20. There was time left for just one play. Plansky received the snap from center and booted a drop-kick from the left hash on the 32-yard line, which went through the uprights as the timekeeper’s whistle blew. The Giants escaped, pulling out the 24-21 win.

New York rolled through the remainder of their schedule. Back-to-back shutouts over Frankford (12-0 and 31-0) preceded a 14-9 win at Cubs Park again over the Bears. Unfortunately for the Giants, Green Bay held serve and finished their schedule with a 25-0 romp over the Bears to close their unbeaten campaign 12-0-1, just ahead of New York’s 13-1-1 tally. In a league yet without a championship game, the Green Bay Packers were crowned NFL Champions.

The Giants still had much to be proud of. Friedman’s 20 touchdown passes set a standard that would stand until 1942. For the third season in a row, Friedman’s team led the NFL is scoring. The Giants scored 312 points (no other team reached 200), averaging 20.8 points per game while the league as a whole averaged 9.6. The output was the second-highest total in NFL history up until that point. The record of 326 had been set by Frankford in 1924, but they accomplished it in a very different style. Of their 43 offensive touchdowns, 38 came on the ground and only five through the air. The 1929 New York Giants scored 45 touchdowns from scrimmage, 19 rushing and 26 passing. The Giants scoring differential was the best in the NFL at +226. The champion Packers were second with +176.

Ray Flaherty, New York Giants (1929)

Ray Flaherty, New York Giants (1929)

It is not surprising that the top three scoring receivers in the NFL were all Giants. Flaherty was first with eight, Sedbrook second with six and Moran third with five. Individual honors were bestowed upon four Giants. Named first-team All-Pro were center Joe Wostoupal, tailback Benny Friedman, fullback Tony Plansky and end Ray Flaherty.

The difference in the season was the November meeting between what were clearly the two best teams that year. The balance of power undoubtedly swung with the offseason trade of future Hall of Famer Cal Hubbard. Green Bay was able to control the tempo of much of that 20-6 win with their line play. It was the only contest that season where the Giants were outplayed on the line of scrimmage. Their front could not contain the Packers running game nor protect their passer. It is no stretch to believe that had Hubbard been amiable to staying in New York, the Giants would have won their second title in 1929.

History would repeat itself as Green Bay and New York continued to be the top two teams in the NFL again in 1930. The Giants led the NFL in scoring on Friedman’s right arm while they chased the methodical Packers in the standings. They split their head-to-head meetings that year, with each team victorious on its home field. At season’s end, Green Bay was first at 10-3-1 and the Giants second at 13-4-0. The NFL’s preposterous practice of not counting tie games was significant here. Not counting the tie, the Packers finished with a 0.769 win percentage and the Giants with a 0.765 win percentage. Retroactive application of the current method of calculation where a tie game is treated as a half-win and half loss, the Packer’s win percentage drops them into second place at 0.750. In other words, the Giants would have been crowned NFL Champions using the current formula.

The Giants slipped to 7-6-1 in 1931. Friedman suffered a serious knee injury that forced him to miss six games and limited his effectiveness the remainder of his career. He left the Giants during the offseason in 1932 after a contract squabble with Tim Mara. Friedman wanted the interest in the team that had been surrendered by Dr. March. Friedman moved on to become player/coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers for the next three seasons, while also serving as the head coach for the Yale football team. The Giants drafted tailback Harry Newman from the University of Michigan in 1933 as Friedman’s replacement. The Giants would play in the NFL’s first Championship Game that same year against the Chicago Bears.

Jun 252014
 
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John Conner, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

John Conner thinks he has what it takes to be the Giants’ fullback – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Don’t get John Conner wrong; he loves every part of his game that led to the nickname ‘The Terminator.’

He loves blocking, knocking opponents over and being his team’s personal battering ram. But there’s a part of his game that is often omitted when his skill set is brought up. A talent that may be exactly what he needs to fend off Henry Hynoski as the Giants’ fullback on the final 53-man roster.

“I can catch the ball a little bit, too,” Conner said. “And I can run.”

Since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, Conner’s ball skills have never truly been on display. As Rex Ryan’s personal draft pick, Conner was labeled a hard-nosed fullback destined to pave the way for whomever lined up in the Jets’ backfield. But before he played a down in the NFL, he earned Hollywood fame for his role in HBO’s Hard Knocks his rookie season.

John Conner, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Conner wants to show he’s as a weapon with the ball in his hands – © USA TODAY Sports Images

On the show, which follows an NFL team throughout its training camp, Ryan told a story about a time he was scouting a linebacker. While watching film, a fullback from Kentucky stood out, blocking and knocking over everyone in his way. Each draft, the Jets would give Rex Ryan one pick to select anyone he liked. He fell in love with the fullback, making Conner his selection.

HBO’s cameras ate up the story, making Conner one of the spotlighted players on the series. He was nicknamed ‘The Terminator,” a name that still holds today.

“It was cool as a rookie to get all that publicity,” Conner said before being interrupted by teammates who all growled ‘Terminator,’ causing the 27-year-old to attempt to hide a smile.

Conner made the Jets roster his first two seasons, but was waived in 2012 via injury settlement. The fullback sprained his MCL and Lex Hilliard played well enough in his absence for the Jets to feel confident cutting ties.

He then signed with the Cincinnati Bengals where he once again found himself on Hard Knocks. This time, the story didn’t have a Cinderella ending. Conner was cut when the Bengals decided the team didn’t need a prototypical fullback, electing to go with former tight end Orson Charles.

John Conner, Cincinnati Bengals (July 28, 2013)

Conner failed to make the Bengals roster last year – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“I’m shocked,” Conner said on the show. “But it’s a business.”

Conner worked out for the Bills before agreeing to a two-year contract with the Giants four weeks into last season. The Ohio native filled in admirably for an injured Henry Hynoski in an offense that perfectly suited his talents. There was an abundance of two-back sets in former coordinator Kevin Gilbride’s offense.

Then the season ended, Gilbride retired and Ben McAdoo was hired. A new offense – one Conner admits doesn’t appear to use the fullback as much – is in the process of being implemented and Hynoski is back and healthy. Once again, ‘The Terminator’ finds himself in a position battle.

“I love competition, it brings out the best in people. As long as it’s fair, I love it,” said Conner, who spent noticeable time in the weight room this offseason. “Being a fullback, you kind of expect that you’re going to compete every year.

“I feel like the last few years in the NFL I’ve reached the point where I’ve become a top-tier fullback in the league. I just want to go out there and have a healthy competition, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy competition.”

Throughout OTAs and the Giants’ mandatory mini-camp, there’s been no clear indication of who exactly is atop the depth chart. At times, Hynoski is the first one out. Other times, it’s Conner.

“Henry and John have both done a nice job,” McAdoo said. “We mix, we’re in and out of personnel groups and those types of things at this point. You like to use the fullback. The way I was raised, a fullback’s a big part of the things you do.”

While the fullback will be guaranteed to have a role in the new offense, what exactly it will be asked to do is anyone’s guess. McAdoo has never called plays in his NFL coaching career. Neither Hynoski nor Conner has been asked in their career to be a ‘weapon’ on offense.

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

John Conner – © USA TODAY Sports Images

No matter what is asked of the position, Conner believes he can do it.

“I absolutely think I can be a weapon,” Conner said. “A lot of people just don’t get a chance to see that part of my game because I’ve always been seen as a lumberer.”

Unlike Conner’s past competitions, no matter how this one shapes up, HBO won’t be there to document it. While the Giants were one of eight teams that could potentially be ‘forced’ to do the show, the Atlanta Falcons stepped up and volunteered.

Conner was well aware New York was eligible to be featured. In fact, he was almost preparing for it.

“It seemed like they just followed me around,” Conner said, laughing. “I kept thinking like, man, three times? That would have been crazy.”

Jun 242014
 
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Jacquian Williams (57) and Larry Donnell (84), New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Jacquian Williams and Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Larry Donnell thought back to the first time he got his hands on Giants’ new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s playbook. It didn’t take long for the tight end’s eyes to begin to grow.

Excitement almost instantly set in. Gone were the days of blocking and outlet routes. No longer would the tight end position be a ‘safety valve.’ Its role now? Well, Donnell couldn’t talk without an ear-to-ear smile forming across his face.

“There’s plenty of reads where we’re the first read,” Donnell said “We’re the first option.”

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

Larry Donnell has flashed throughout OTAs and mini-camp – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The fact the Giants have new plans for the position is hardly a shock. From the first time this year’s corps of tight ends met the media, each gushed about how much more “moving” they would be doing. The tight end wouldn’t just be lining up outside the tackle; it could be anywhere.

During the team’s OTAs and mini-camp, the early talk was put on display. There were formations where three tight ends lined up on the field at once, one that had the tight end split out wide as a receiver, and even in the backfield. It was anyone’s guess as to where the position would be found.

“It’s fun when we put all of those tight ends in the game,” Donnell said. “It’s fun lining up in different spots. They can’t really ‘key’ on any one of us because you don’t know what we’re gonna give you.”

Labeled a ‘position of need’ this offseason, New York did very little to add to the tight end meeting room. Daniel Fells and Kellen Davis were signed as free agents while Xavier Grimble was added as an undrafted rookie. Donnell and former fourth-round pick Adrien Robinson returned.

General Manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin both proclaimed it would be an open competition with each player getting their shot to earn a spot atop the depth chart. Early on, it’s looking like nothing could be more true.

Maybe a bigger question as to where the tight end will be lining up is whom exactly will be the player taking the field?

Larry Donnell, New York Giants (September 15, 2013)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“Everyone is getting a chance to go out there and make plays. Everyone is getting a chance to play,” Donnell said. “Right now everyone is rotating in and that’s how it’s going.”

One day it’ll be Robinson. The next? Davis. Or Grimble, or Donnell, or Fells. There’s no set order. No sign of a front runner. Each player has flashed.

“I think we have a nice group there,” McAdoo said. “We have big men in that room. I like the way they think about the game and I like the way they’re moving around on the field.”

Donnell is the living definition of a ‘physical specimen.’ He has the size (6-6, 269-pounds) to overpower defenders and possesses deceptive quickness. A near identical description to position-mate Adrien Robinson, who was once famously dubbed the ‘JPP of tight ends’ by Reese.

In a recent interview with WFAN, Reese hinted the team had high expectations for the duo last year before injures marred both their seasons. If Robinson and Donnell stay healthy, the ‘position of need’ may already be filled.

“We have some athletic, big guys who can run and catch the football,” Reese said. “(Robinson and Donnell) can be dynamic if we can get them going.”

While the coaching staff and front office have their questions, Donnell is counting down the days until he can put on pads and supply an answer. He knows what he’s capable of. Finally, he has an opportunity to show it.

“I can do all the things they ask. I think I’m versatile,” Donnell said. “I can line up in the backfield and play that role, then I can split out wide and play there.

“I’m learning the game more each day and becoming a better student. I understand the game better than when I first entered the league and have a good grasp on it. I’m learning, I’m growing and I’m becoming a better player.”

Jun 232014
 
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Ryan Nassib, New York Giants (August 24, 2013)

Is Ryan Nassib ready to be the Giants’ No. 2? Our panel weighs in.  – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Big Blue Interactive is dedicated to being your No. 1 source for Giants’ news on the web. If it involves Big Blue, we’ve got you covered. What better way to do that than bring some of the Giants’ best beat writers together for a panel discussion each week. Thus, we give you, the Big Blue Breakdown.

Last week, our panel took a look at the Giants tight end situation. This week, it’s Ryan Nassib. We also went to the waiver wire and acquired a new voice. We’re pleased to have the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz join the discussion.

Have something you want discussed? Email your open-ended question to Connor Hughes (Connor_Hughes@bigblueinteractive.com) and it could be featured on the next Big Blue Breakdown.

QUESTION (from Jessica in East Hampton): The Giants appear to be doing everything they can to let Ryan Nassib take the No. 2 quarterback position behind Eli Manning, but the second-year pro struggled throughout OTAs. What’s your opinion on Nassib? Do you believe he can be the team’s No. 2, or should the Giants look for another option?

CONNOR HUGHES/Big Blue Interactive

The entire ‘Ryan Nassib’ concept to me is interesting. Initially when the Giants’ traded up for the Syracuse alum, I assumed it wasn’t to be the quarterback of the future, but trade bait. Here was a player who had quite the rep entering the draft, but happened to fall. The idea of drafting a player, developing him for a year or two and then trading him away for a higher pick than you selected him isn’t unheard of. Matt Schaub anyone?

Ryan Nassib, New York Giants (May 20, 2014)

Ryan Nassib – Photo by Connor Hughes

But since trading in his orange and navy for blue and white, Nassib really hasn’t shown much at all. He wasn’t given too many chances during the preseason last year, being hidden away and forced into “mental reps.” This season, the Giants appear to be making up for it. From OTAs to mini-camp, Nassib has been given every chance to grab hold of the No. 2 position, but in my eyes just hasn’t impressed.

I know, it’s OTAs. I know, no one has pads on. I know, the defense is almost always ahead of the offense at this point. But it’s not the fact Nassib isn’t firing bombs over Antrel Rolle’s head that is concerning to me, it’s the little things. He looks very flustered in the pocket. When the play breaks down, he panics. When simply working with wideouts, he doesn’t have much touch. Could it all change? Yes. But if something happens to Eli Manning this year… and Ryan Nassib goes in…

ART STAPLETON/ Daily Record

I’m not buying the assertion that Nassib is struggling based on three OTA practices open to the media. I have heard nothing yet from the Giants that they have given up on the second-year pro, and if anything, their moves of releasing Josh Freeman and Rusty Smith spoke more of their confidence that he was making strides. Obviously Eli’s recovery from ankle surgery played a part in that, but don’t overlook their commitment to Nassib to step up and take this role.

The defense is always ahead of the offense in OTAs and mini-camp – does anyone remember the Brandon Bing highlight reel? While this defense is running the same familiar playbook, the offense is continuing to install on the fly. That’s why assessing Nassib based on a few practices is short-sighted. Has he looked great? No. But neither has Eli, truth be told. I think Nassib looks more comfortable with his surroundings so far and his body language has been good, from what I’ve seen. Does he need to ramp things up? Absolutely. I’m not ready to say he’s a bust because Charles James has jumped a few routes on him in what amounts to passing drills as the Giants continue to put this offense on the field – with no running game yet, I might add.

Should the Giants have drafted Nassib in the fourth round last year? Would they have been better served addressing another position? At this point, because of the way things fell apart in 2013, you’d say yes. But this offense remains a work-in-progress, as does Nassib. Can he be the No. 2? Unless he is a disaster in the preseason, Nassib will be Eli’s backup. And if he’s playing in 2014, then the Giants have bigger problems than his perceived struggles.

PAT TRAINA/ Inside Football, Bleacher Report & Sports XChange

I think it’s too soon to state whether Nassib can be the No. 2 quarterback because right now, we’ve seen them work in shorts and shells. Let’s see how Nassib does with a live defense in front of him. Things we’ll need to see include if he’s making the right reads, how he’s handling pressure and if he’s running the offense efficiently.

Regarding how he’s looked in the spring workouts, quite honestly other than maybe Victor Cruz, no one has really jumped out as far as being consistent just yet. Remember, everyone’s learning the new system so there’s probably a bit more thinking going n rather than just doing.

While it’s true that Nassib has thrown few interceptions this spring (at least when the media’s been in attendance), I don’t believe all of those picks have been his fault – of the two he threw in the last OTA we had access to, I think maybe one was his fault.

I think it is a positive sign that Nassib has earned more snaps this spring – that to me shows that he is grasping the concepts in the classroom. However, as I’ve said before, grasping the concepts and executing them are two very different things. Until the speed of the on-field activity increases, I think it’s probably a good idea to reserve judgment regarding whether Nassib has a good chance of emerging as Eli Manning’s backup.

PAUL SCHWARTZ/ New York Post

The whole Ryan Nassib situation was messy from the start, as the Giants traded up to get him in the fourth round in 2013 and GM Jerry Reese immediately said he hoped Nassib never took a snap. We get it, no one wants anything to happen to Eli Manning and the No. 2 quarterback on the Giants is one of those “meaningless’’ positions, as Eli has never missed anything and the backup quarterback doesn’t do a thing except hold the clipboard. Of course, if the backup is ever needed he instantly goes from the least significant to the most important player on the roster.

Ryan Nassib (9), Eli Manning (10), Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (May 29, 2014)

Ryan Nassib, Eli Manning, and Ben McAdoo – Photo by Connor Hughes

There’s no doubt Tom Coughlin wants to keep only two quarterbacks and that he and the front office want the depth chart to be Manning and then Nassib. They will force-feed Nassib to get him the reps he needs to make an impression and only if he proves unworthy will Curtis Painter enter into the discussion. If the Giants want to keep a bonus player on the roster – say, return specialist Trindon Holliday – they need to save a spot by keeping only two quarterbacks.

Can Nassib play? So far, not so good but it’s too soon to make that determination. There’s been no evidence that he’s a real NFL quarterback. His arm looks fine but nothing special. His command of the offense looks okay but nothing special. His decision-making looks to be adequate and it’s probably asking too much for it to be any better than that. At this point, it would be a real leap of faith to state the Giants should be confident Nassib can emerge as a legit No. 2 behind Manning. Nassib will be given every opportunity to claim the job, as cutting a fourth-round pick in his second season doesn’t look good for anyone associated with the draft choice.

Figure to see plenty of Nassib this summer. It’s a good year for the Giants to have five preseason games, as they will feature plenty of Nassib and his trial under fire will be on display for all to see.

JORDAN RAANAN/ NJ.com

The Giants appear to be doing everything they can to let Ryan Nassib take the No. 2 quarterback position behind Eli Manning, but the second-year pro struggled throughout OTAs. What’s your opinion on Nassib? Do you believe he can be the team’s No. 2, or should the Giants look for another option?

I came into this offseason with basically no preconceived opinion on Nassib. I wasn’t covering the team during training camp last season and the few moments Nassib threw passes during practices in November and December weren’t nearly enough to make any sort of evaluation (although I wasn’t impressed then either). So I gave him the benefit of the doubt that being inactive for all 16 games was one of those Tom Coughlin specials where rookies sometimes get buried because he can’t trust them.

But after watching Nassib in OTAs and minicamp, I couldn’t be any less impressed. He didn’t throw the ball particularly well (lots of wobblers), didn’t throw with much accuracy (there were 5-yard passes into the ground and 10-yard passes overthrown by 10 yards), and didn’t seem to be very comfortable in the pocket, even when the pass rushers weren’t allowed to hit him. Nassib didn’t look good at all in my eyes.

I know it’s a new offense and there is a learning curve. Eli Manning has that same learning curve though, and he looked exponentially better than Nassib. This clearly leaves me with serious doubts that Nassib should be the Giants’ backup quarterback. But, at the same time, they want him to be their backup and will give him every chance possible. And they should. No way the Giants’ should give up on their 2013 fourth-round pick before ever seeing him in real game action. You have to give quarterbacks a chance in the NFL. Sometimes, it takes several years before they get it. Nassib may be one of those guys.

But it doesn’t mean I don’t have my doubts. Nick Foles never looked like Nassib did this spring when I was covering the Eagles the past few years, and he was learning a new offense each of his first two years as well. Nassib looked bad this offseason. To describe his performance as shaky would be generous.

ED VALENTINE/ Big Blue View

The Giants are undoubtedly giving Nassib every opportunity to take the backup job. During OTAs and mini-camp he took the majority of second- and third-team reps, with Curtis Painter hardly seeing any action.

The question with Nassib is simply whether or not he can execute. He appears to be able to line up the offense and to recognize where the ball needs to go — he has simply been inaccurate and had difficulty delivering the ball there. If he is having trouble delivering the ball while practicing is shorts and a t-shirt with no press coverage I can’t be terribly optimistic that he will look better in the preseason games. The Giants have to hope he can, because otherwise he becomes a wasted draft pick and the Giants have wasted two seasons trying to develop him.

If Nassib proves he can’t do the job, the question then is whether or not there is a better option available than Curtis Painter. Guys like Kevin Kolb, Rex Grossman and Seneca Wallace are available — but are those guys really appealing options? Maybe the Packers will cut Scott Tolzien, who played against the Giants last season. Again, though, is he better than Painter?

If Nassib can’t step up, Painter would seem likely to end up with the job by default.

Jun 212014
 
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Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (August 18, 2013)

Prince Amukamara is ready to breakout in 2014 – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It’s been a good time to be Prince Amukamara.

Over the last 12 months, the former first-round pick proposed to his now-wife Pillar Davis while dressed as a member of the dance group Jabbawockeez, got married and then had his fifth-year option on his rookie contract picked up.

He’s quite literally a ‘Prince’ of a village in Nigeria and is a key component to a defensive secondary that is boasting claims as potentially the league’s best.

Reiterating: It’s a good time to be Prince Amukamara.

“It’s been really good,” Amukamara said. “Marriage is amazing, especially with my wife, she makes it easy. It can be a lot of work, but right now I’m definitely enjoying it.”

Since being selected with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Amukamara’s play on the field hasn’t necessarily matched his life off of it. He’s flashed the ability to be considered one of the league’s best, but has yet to do it on a consistent basis.

Injuries have marred the promising career. In his first practice his rookie year, he broke his foot. In year two, a hamstring injury cost him time. After finally remaining healthy last season, reports surfaced the Giants were ‘unsure’ if they’d exercise their option on his rookie contract.

Per the new collective bargaining agreement, each first-round pick is signed to a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth. If the team sees enough in a player and wants him back, they can have him for the fifth year. If not, the player enters free agency.

In Amukamara’s mind, the Giants’ hesitation was warranted.

“I felt I was kind of in the gray area,” Amukamara said. “I didn’t do enough like a Patrick Peterson to assure that option, but I haven’t done so small that they can count me out. I thought I was in the middle, but I’m glad they picked it up.”

Now, Amukamara hopes to pay back the Giants’ faith with his play on the field.

Tom Coughlin, Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Tom Coughlin hopes Amukamara can be the ball-hawking cornerback they envisioned coming out of the 2011 draft – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Since hauling in an interception on his first defensive snap of his career, Amukamara’s ball-hawking capabilities haven’t necessarily been displayed. He’s recorded just one interception in each of his three seasons. The goal this year is simple: change that.

“I just want to make more plays on the ball,” Amukamara said. “What I’ve been averaging is consistent, but not consistent enough.”

Cornerbacks’ coach Peter Giunta saw a monumental jump from Amukamara last year and sees no reason why it won’t continue this season. The fourth-year player is beginning to take gambles that he hadn’t in years past. Those risks are paying off.

Giunta said he’s seen Amukamara develop a confidence in himself throughout mini-camp and OTAs. During a two-minute drill practice, Amukamara jumped a route causing quarterback Eli Manning to throw to another target. Antrel Rolle intercepted the pass.

“He read the combination, saw it and jumped inside,” Giunta said. “Antrel intercepted it because Prince cut the route off. He knew it was coming because he felt it.”

In the past, the Giants have put an emphasis on the defensive line, rendering the secondary an after thought. In the front office and coaching staff’s minds, if the line could get to the quarterback before he could release the ball, weaknesses in the secondary could be masked.

The theory worked exceptionally well in both of the Giants’ two Super Bowl runs. But then offenses adjusted. Quarterbacks started getting rid of the ball faster, quicker. The holes in the secondary were no longer hidden.

This offseason, the philosophy changed. Gone were the second-tier secondary players; in came big name, after big name. Amukamara joins Antrel Rolle as the lone starter returning in the secondary.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

Prince Amukamara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Free-agent signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will play opposite Amukamara. Walter Thurmond III will be in the nickel. Stevie Brown steps in for the recently departed Will Hill.

“We’re trying to be the No. 1 secondary, just like every secondary, in the league,” Amukamara said. “I think we have a good chance of doing that.”

Helping prepare the team for what they’ll face on Sunday are the Giants’ own group of wide receivers. A corps that has Amukamara impressed. The new offense is up-tempo, fast paced and different than in recent history. Gone are the big bodies. In their place? Speed.

“They’re all fast,” Amukamara said. “It’s like we have six different Cruzs out there. They’re just being fast and they’re able to take the top off of defenses. It’s been great working against them.”

Jun 202014
 
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Dan Fox, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (March 20, 2014)

Dan Fox – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It’s been a game of “Where’s Waldo” throughout the Giants’ offseason conditioning program. It’s not that undrafted linebacker Dan Fox has been hidden, but where exactly he lines up is anyone’s guess.

“I’ve worked at MIKE, WILL and SAM,” Fox said. “I work all over.”

Versatility is nothing new for the Notre Dame alum. Last year, the senior saw significant time at both the middle and weak side linebacker positions in the Fighting Irish’s 3-4 defense. The Giants – as most know – operate out of the 4-3 defense.

Fox admitted the change in scheme is different. Having been used to playing with just three defensive linemen in front of him, the 6-3, 233-pound Fox got used to taking on offensive linemen.

“You don’t have to be so aggressive,” Fox said. “You can wait and see where your fit is. Some plays it has its advantages, some plays its disadvantages. I honestly like both defenses.”

Fox admitted there’s a difficulty in learning a brand new concept, but it’s not nearly as tough as the season he endured last year. As a senior, Fox suffered a knee injury that forced him to wear a donjoy knee brace, a brace normally worn by offensive linemen.

While the brace prevented him from further injuring his knee, it also kept him from extending his leg. The linebacker that once roamed sideline-to-sideline suddenly couldn’t “open up his stride.” The way Fox described it, he was simply “pitter-pattering around.”

The injury forced Fox to endure the most frustrating time of his career. At one point, he lost his starting position. When the year ended, his draft stock had plummeted despite finishing with a team-high 95 tackles. Fox wasn’t invited to participate in the NFL Combine.

The Indianapolis snub was enough to motivate Fox. The Cleveland native ran a 4.59 40-yard dash time at his pro day, gaining the attention of several pro scouts, but he still went undrafted.

Dan Fox, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (November 12, 2011)

Dan Fox – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“I definitely think the injury affected me when it came to the draft,” Fox said. “First of all, it affected my performance on the field. I gave everything I had, but I wasn’t even close to being 100 percent.”

Once the draft concluded, Fox’s phone began to light up with teams interested in signing him. The Giants were one of the first to call. Fox weighed his options, knowing throughout his career he had played in a 3-4 defense and the Giants ran a 4-3. Was the change in scheme worth the risk?

Others reached out letting Fox know about the reputation the Giants’ organization held. Shortly thereafter, he signed on the dotted line. Then, he got another call, this time from former teammate and Giants sixth-round pick cornerback Bennett Jackson.

“He was really excited about it,” Fox said. “We were both excited to be on the same team again.”

How long that remains is now the question. Jon Beason’s 12-week injury helps Fox’s chances, at least in the short term. He’s gained valuable extra reps and earned praise from the coaching staff.

Perry Fewell, New York Giants (June 19, 2014)

Perry Fewell talked in length about Dan Fox – Photo by Connor Hughes

Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell:

“He’s a smart football player. I think he’ll be good on special teams for us and just a solid player that you can develop and build on.”

Linebackers coach Jim Hermann:

“Anytime you have a smart guy like that who football just comes natural to, that gives him a chance. He’s got to make the team on special teams, obviously, that will be his biggest deal when he comes back. For me, as a position coach, to be able to say, ‘Hey look, he has multiple roles on defense, he can play a lot of positions,’ that helps his chances.”

History favors Fox. The Giants have long found spots on their roster for undrafted rookies. Spencer Paysinger, who is splitting time with the starting unit, went undrafted in 2011. Mark Herzlich, too.

Chase Blackburn, who signed with the Carolina Panthers last offseason, played eight years with the Giants after going undrafted in 2005.

“I was so excited to choose the Giants,” Fox said. “I know there are opportunities. If you give good effort and make plays, you’ll make the team. That’s really all you can ask for as an undrafted guy.”

Jun 192014
 
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Charles James, New York Giants (August 24, 2013)

Charles James – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Charles James sat at his locker, fielding question, after question, after question.

The second-year corner gave his opinion on new teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the changes from a year ago and his expectations for 2014. Then, a voice chirped in from a few feet away.

“You’ve gotten a lot better at this from last year,” running back David Wilson said, laughing.

James flashed his signature smile and let out a chuckle before continuing his prognosis of the Giants. The truth is the 23-year-old’s media relations aren’t the only part of his game that has taken a step to the next level.

On the field, James has flashed throughout the Giants’ offseason program. Last year’s undrafted long shot from Charleston Southern has recorded two interceptions and impressed with blanket coverage. When his play isn’t getting him noticed, his voice is. James is one of the more vocal players on the Giants’ roster, often times seen jumping, running and yelling his way across the practice fields.

“You’ve gotta have fun with the game, man,” James said. “It’s a serious game, but if you don’t have fun with it, I don’t think you’re living. This is a dream come true for me and I enjoy being around these guys.”

This year’s boisterous, bubbly James is a bit different than the one that showed up in East Rutherford last year as little known undersized corner from Florida.

Standing at 5-9 and weighing in at 179-pounds, James hardly fit the ideal build of an NFL corner. At his pro day, he ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and was given a 6th-7th round grade by scouts. He went undrafted.

After weighing his options, he signed with the Giants. He flashed in the preseason, but was cut on the final cut-down day. He went unclaimed before the Giants signed him to their practice squad. Despite not being active, James credits the time spent practicing against the likes of Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks as the cause for monumental strides in his progression.

Sure, he wasn’t suiting up on game days, but he was matching up against some of the better wideouts in the league on a day-in, day-out basis.

Charles James, Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (December 8, 2013)

Charles James and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“To be able to go up against guys like that last year, it helped slow the game down for me,” James said. “It got to the point where I could play fast.”

Prior to the Giants’ game versus the Eagles in early October, James was promoted to the active roster following a slew of injuries to the team’s secondary. He finished out the season on the active 53, seeing action in 12 games, primarily on special teams. James finished with four combined tackles.

During the offseason, the Giants wasted no time bringing in bodies to occupy the same meeting room as James. Rodgers-Cromartie is a corner, Walter Thurmond III, too. Zack Bowman has value both as a defender and on special teams. Trumaine McBride was re-signed.

And you know what? That’s perfectly fine with James.

“It’s a business, I expect them to do things like that,” James said. “The cornerback position doesn’t just stop with me. I mean, I just see it as motivation for everybody. We’re all working here to get a spot.

“I see it as nobody is safe. If you think you’re safe, you’re wrong.”

James spent the offseason working to improve better himself from a year ago. The corner called himself a “student of the game,” has dedicated himself to the film room and soaked up every bit of knowledge from the veterans on the team.

This year, he’s playing more with his instincts than thoughts. The game is no longer fast, he is. James is flashing, ball-hawking.

“You either get better, or you get worse. You never stay the same,” James said. “For me as a player, I want to continue to get better and put myself in a position to make this team and help the team win.”

So far, he’s off to a pretty good start.

Jun 192014
 
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Ryan Nassib, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Ryan Nassib – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Well, that was quick. In the final installment of the New York Giants mandatory, three-day mini-camp, practice was over essentially before it began. The Giants took the field, practiced kick return, stretched, huddled and broke. It also began to rain.

Off went Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and others for a 32-day break before the team comes together again for training camp on July 21. Without further ado, here is your practice report:

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (June 5, 2014)

Odell Beckham – Photo by Connor Hughes

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • The Giants practiced a full-team kickoff. The returners? David Wilson, Michael Cox, Odell Beckham Jr., Trindon Holliday and Quintin Demps. I guess, because this was the only portion of practice other than stretching, you could say Beckham and Wilson were full participants. So, there’s that.
  • Coughlin spoke to the media afterwards and said that the team did a walk-through before the media got out there.

THE INTERVIEWS While many players ran out with heel clicks knowing their summer vacation started a couple hours early, a few stuck around. As was the case this week, everyone headed on into the locker room to catch whomever was still around.

  • Coughlin talked at length and said he plans on taking a vacation with his family. He also made a really nice quote that stuck out: “The NY never comes off.” He said he told the players to make sure they didn’t get in trouble. Essentially, if Will Hill would do it, don’t you do it.
  • I had a great conversation with undrafted Notre Dame linebacker Dan Fox, who is loving every second of being a Giant. Fox said when the team called and he signed, he got a second call from Bennett Jackson, his teammate who the Giants drafted in the sixth round. Fox, who suffered a knee injury his senior year, said that playing hurt last year was one of the reasons he went undrafted. We’ll have much more on him later this evening.
  • Talked to Prince Amukamara as well for a few minutes who said he is enjoying the married life. As far as his proposal, see below, not many on the team got on him too much aside from Jason Pierre-Paul and Eli Manning. Amukamara also said the secondary is striving to be the best in the NFL.

  • Michael Cox said he was “hoping” to get a chance to play as a rookie last season, but didn’t really know. This year, Cox said the biggest difference is he understands the game and “knows everything a lot better.” He also is around the same weight as last season. Didn’t gain much more, or lose anything.

THE COACHES For the first time this offseason, the Giants made their assistant coaches available to the media. From new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, to linebacker’s coach Jim Herrmann, all spent time with reporters. Below you will find some interesting tidbits pulled from those interviews.

TOM QUINN (Special Teams Coordinator)

  • Quinn seemed extremely happy about not only his new returners, but gunners as well. The coach spent time praising free-agent acquisition Zack Bowman, along with Trindon Holliday and Quintin Demps.
  • Holliday, who has struggled holding onto the ball throughout his career, is being taught “high and tight” according to Quinn.
  • It seems as if all returners are going to be dual returners, working both on kicks and punts.
  • Personally, when I saw Temple rookie Brandon McManus’ name on the Giants’ roster, I assumed it was nothing more than a leg to give Josh Brown a break. According to Quinn, that isn’t really the case. It looks like McManus will be given every chance to win the kicking job. Quinn raved about the 22-year-old’s accuracy and ability to kick in cold weather.
Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Ben McAdoo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

BEN McADOO (Offensive Coordinator)

  • McAdoo seemed to echo what Tom Coughlin said a few weeks ago, the offense is a work in progress. Has there been progress? Yes. Is it “mastered?” No. It’s going to take time, but the first-year play caller seemed excited about where things are headed.
  • As of right now, McAdoo isn’t exactly sure where he will be calling plays, just that he will be. McAdoo said he expects to be on the field, but that’s not certain.
  • Trindon Holliday, who has impressed in camp, hasn’t just taken reporters by surprise, but the coaching staff, too. McAdoo said he’s making plays and looked good as a slot receiver. “He’s been a pleasant surprise.”
  • In offenses across the NFL, the fullback position has slowly but surely been disappearing. That apparently won’t be the case in New York. While the exact role is in the air, a fullback will be used: “The way I was raised, the full back was a big part of the things you do.”

KEVIN GILBRIDE JR. (Tight Ends Coach)

  • Gilbride, the son of former Giants’ offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride Sr., said his dad is doing well and enjoying life away from football. Jr. said his dad has been taking time to speak at football clinics and high schools, something he always wanted to do but wasn’t able to when coaching.
  • As far as Adrien Robinson, Gilbride said he’s been extremely active in the meeting rooms. The biggest issue with Robinson is that when the coaching staff tries to teach him too much, he forgets some of the basics.

DANNY LANGSDORF (Quarterbacks Coach)

  • Langsdorf said that he has been excited and pleased with Eli Manning. The coaching staff has worked with Manning on improving some of his footwork, accuracy, ball fakes and other mechanics.
  • Ryan Nassib has impressed Langsdorf with his intelligence and praised the quarterback for getting people lined up correctly. Another attribute that Langsdorf credited was Nassib’s mobility, saying he has the ability to extend plays and take off.

PAT FLAHERTY (Offensive Line Coach)

  • The Giants’ offensive line has been one of the more revamped positions in the offseason and Flaherty said it’s been a little different not seeing the same faces. As of today, the coach still doesn’t know who will start versus Detroit. It seems like an open competition.
  • John Jerry, who has been sidelined with an injury, was brought in with an opportunity to potentially start according to Flaherty. If Snee isn’t able to go, looks like position is his. Side note, Flaherty did say he doesn’t know what he has with the line simply because the team isn’t in pads. He doesn’t seem to like the “no contact” rules.
Perry Fewell, New York Giants (June 19, 2014)

Perry Fewell – Photo by Connor Hughes

PERRY FEWELL (Defensive Coordinator)

  • Perry Fewell seems very excited about the secondary and what he’ll be able to do with it. The coach mentioned multiple times about the potential the group has with all the new acquisitions.
  • Another area Fewell seems excited for is the linebacking unit, and in particular, the rookies. Fewell is very intrigued by rookies Devon Kennard and Dan Fox, saying both are extremely intelligent.
  • Two players that have stuck out to Fewell: Johnathan Hankins & Marcus Kuhn.

JIM HERRMANN (Linebackers Coach)

  • After three years, it looks like Jacquian Williams is finally starting to put everything together. Herrmann offered high praise to the linebacker saying he has taken the next step during the offseason. After playing strictly in the nickel package, Williams is now the starter in the base 4-3 as well. “He made a big jump this spring.”
  • Herrmann, similar to Fewell, credited Dan Fox’s intelligence as a strong part of his game.

DAVID MERRITT (Safeties Coach)

  • Merritt offered two big pieces of information: 1- Antrel Rolle has just begun to reach his true potential 2- Quintin Demps wants to play more in the box. Apparently when Demps signed, he went to Merritt with the goal and the coach told him he’d help him get there. After watching players like Eric Berry have success, Demps wants to try it out too.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED With practice essentially cancelled, questions regarding how certain players performed aren’t really able to be answered.

FROM MILTON – Which of the rookies have impressed them the most?

  • Not too many players were made available, but from a coaching stand point it looks like it’s Devon Kennard. The fifth-round pick is presently running with the 1′s and few offer anything other than praise.

FROM GEORGE FROM PA – What position in your opinion still needs to be improved?

  • It’s tough to say with these drills being zero contact. From a pure “paper” perspective, I still say offensive line. I like Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton a lot, but without Chris Snee or William Beatty… I still see a lot of holes.

FROM BOB IN TX – Does the staff see Ryan Nassib ready to be the No. 2 QB?

  • Right now, yes. Nassib is getting all of the No. 2 reps and it’s really not close. Curtis Painter, the only other QB on the roster, get’s anywhere from 3-4 per drill.

FROM BC4LIFE – Once healthy where does Pat Flaherty see John Jerry?

  • Asked him this question myself, his answer surprised me. Flaherty said that Jerry signed with the Giants because of his chance to start. From talking to him, looks like they view him as a starter. Where? That’s yet to be seen.

FROM AFNAVY – Will Ben McAdoo be calling plays from the field or from the booth?

  • That’s yet to be decided. McAdoo did said they’re leaning towards having him on the field.

  • McAdoo avoided any real questions about anyone specific, instead saying he likes the player’s in the tight end room. Said they’re “Big bodies.”

  • From my understanding, he’s impressing everywhere. The kid is looking very much like a steal in the draft.

  • He’s moving all over the field. No one set position.