Dec 302014
 
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Andrus Peat, Stanford Cardinal (October 18, 2014)

Andrus Peat – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 30, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

NOTRE DAME

*#78 – LT – Ronnie Stanley – 6’5/315

Two year starter. One year at RT, one year at LT. Similar situation to Greg Robinson last year, an underclassman that has not been talked up much by the main talking heads this year but also a guy that scouts have been raving about. Stanley, if he comes out, has a legit shot at being the first OT taken in this draft. Potential top 3 overall grade here. He is a great run blocker with a powerful first few steps. Looks unbeatable at times when you consider the strength and movement skills. Gets sloppy with his footwork and hand placement but his weaknesses are little things that can be corrected. He is an elite prospect if he comes out.

#18 – TE – Ben Koyack – 6’4/261

Was primarily a blocking TE over his first three years. Used as a TE, FB, H-Back. I like his ability to be a complete TE in the NFL. The physical side is there. Really good effort blocker with plenty of strength to his game. Shows soft hands, long arms, toughness as a receiver. Limited upside and he isn’t the prospect that Niklas was last year but he can stick in the NFL for sure. 4th or 5th rounder that can be depended on to fill a role.

#74 – RT – Christian Lombard – 6’5/315

Has played plenty of RT, RG, even a little bit of LT over his career. Had an injury shortened 2013 (back). Came back strong in 2014 and cemented himself as a classic ND offensive line prospect. Quality run blocker that shows limited athletcism as a pass blocker. I think his future is inside, the foot quickness just isn’t there for him to play OT. The issue with him inside however is a lack of quality knee bend. He does’t play a low game. I don’t like his potential but we can get drafted late.

*#91 – DT – Sheldon Day – 6’2/285

Junior that hasn’t declared. I expect him to return, he had a rough 2014. He played DE in the old 3-4 scheme, made gthe switch to 4-3 DT this year. Many thought he would break out in to a pass rush machine but it didn’t happen. He gets overwhelmed and controlled at the point of attack too easily. He is an interesting player, can show signs of being a guy that OL have a hard time blocking with his quickness and low center of gravity but he is a one trick pony at this point. He sprained his MCL in November as well. Overall a disappointing year for him and I can’t imagine his grade being anything better than a 4th rounder.

#2 – CB – Cody Riggs – 5’9/185

Undersized and lack of presence in man coverage. Has some good movement ablilty. Light feet and can change direction well with the action in front of him. Limited cover man when he has to turn his backs, a little too tight-hipped for a player his size. Late rounder that has been unspectacular his whole career.

Other Notables:

#33 – RB – Cam McDaniel – 5’9/194
#77 – C – Matt Hegarty – 6’4/300

LSU

#70 LT – La’el Collins – 6’5/315

One of my favorite OL prospects in the nation. Could have come out last year and I would have had a top 20 grade on him. Former LG, made move to LT prior to 2013 season. He is a punishing, controlling OL. He looks a lot leaner this year and moves a lot better, but still has the road grader mentality. He can beat defenders multiple ways. Really adjusts well, good reaction. He is a true leader, looks out for teammates and takes a lot of pride in being the enforcer. I love guys like that and he has all the ability. He may finish in my top 10 overall. Should be a top 20 pick when all is said and done at worst.

*#59 – DE – Jermauria Rasco – 6’3/247

Disruptive two year starter. Was constantly around the action in the two games I saw. Would like to see more of this kid. Reminds me of the other edeg rushers we’ve seen out of LSU over the past few years that have been OK at best in the NFL. May not have the frame for a 4-3 DE. The first step quickness is there but he doesn’t do much afterward to beat a blocker consistently. I like the hustle though. 5th or 6th rounder.

#26 – S – Ronald Martin – 6’2/220

Physical, versatile safety. Can fly in to the box and make the tackle. But also a much better cover safety than you would think. Showed the range to play in deep coverage. Fast reaction and makes plays on the ball. Little under the radar safety here that I think could work his way in to the first 5 or 6 rounds.

Other Notables:

#18 – RB – Terrence Magee – 5’9/217
#27 – RB – Kenny Hilliard – 6’0/232
#43 – FB – Connor Neighbors – 5’11/229

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GEORGIA

#51 – ILB – Ramik Wilson – 6’2/232

One of my favorite MLB prospects in the nation. 235 tackles, 17 TFL, 5 sacks over past two years. He isn’t a compiler by any means. Wilson is all over the field and I think he may be one of the best athletes in this LB class. He shows a big time presence as tackler, consistently delivers a violent pop to the ball carrier. Shows a lot of range to the sidelines, he can run with anyone. He does struggle in coverage, not the same athlete when dropping back as he is when playing the run. But for a 4-3 LB prospect, Wilson is a good one. Possible 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#5 – CB – Damian Swann – 5’11/178

2 year starter, has a knack for being involved in big plays. 11 INT, 10 FF, 5 FR over past three seasons. Play to play, Swann is an average CB prospect. He moves well but doesn’t do some of the smaller but important things. High and sloppy backpedal, gambles too much, won’t read the action. Still an interesting prospect that can likely be had on day three. There is something about him that I like. Defenders that are constantly around the action can end up being good players in the league. Swann fits in to that discussion.

#52 – ILB – Amario Herrera – 6’2/231

Four year contributor, solid inside linebacker. Limited range though and he just seems to be a step behind anything outside of the tackle box. Could be a very good 3-4 ILB prospect but I think he is limited otherwise. Sound tackler, led UGA in 2014 with 112. Not a 3 down guy. Late rounder.

#31 – WR – Chris Conley – 6’2/206

Leading receiver in 2014. Not a special athlete by any means but it’s hard not to appreciate how smooth he is. Very reliable hands, good body control. Excels near the sidelines and in the end zone. Has some sneaky speed to him too. Comparible to a WR I really liked in the 2014 Class that flew under the radar, Kevin Norwood, whom is making his way up the depth chart in Seattle right now. Conley is a guy that gets it, quality football player and really good kid off the field.

#82 – Michael Bennett – 6’3/202

Another less than stellar athlete that is a smart enough receiver to make an impact. Led UGA in receptions in 2014. Tough as nails over the middle. Struggles to separate but he has a good chance of coming down with the ball in traffic. Physical guy that will out-perform guys drafted ahead of him. Late rounder but a guy that can be reliable to find a role for himself and perform it well.

#61 – C – David Andrews – 6’2/295

Third year starter, leader of the OL. Makes all the line calls. Smart and a hard worker. Talent wise I don’t see anything here to warrant much. The coaches rave about him and his quiet but vital impact on their running game. I have failed a few years in a row with a few centers that were a lot better than where I had them graded, so I want to put him in here. Andrews Can swing his hips in to the hole well, always appears balanced and strong. But there aren’t any overly impressive traits to his game.

Other Notables:

#61 – DE – Ray Drew – 6’4/276
#14 – QB – Hutson Mason – 6’3/202

LOUISVILLE

#9 – WR – DeVante Parker – 6’3/209

The best player in this game. First round caliber WR, some say he should be a top 15 guy. I don’t have him in the same breath as Strong/Cooper/White but he’s a quality prospect. Missed 6 games in 2014 but still finished as the team’s leading receiver with 35 catches for 735 yards. Had a couple dominant performances. Big play threat. Long and lean but strong upper body.

#70 – LG – John Miller – 6’2/325

Over 40 career starts. Team captain. Thumper that is at his best as a straight ahead run blocker. Miller has the typical body of a guard, bowling ball type that packs a lot of power. Shows signs of dominance here and there. Doesn’t move to his left very well. He can react well but the foot quickness isn’t always there. 4th-5th rounder at best.

#79 – LT – Jamon Brown – 6’5/326

Mammoth left tackle that has played some at RT as well. Lost weight prior to the 2014 season and it certainly made a difference as a pass blocker. He appears to be more fluid moving to the outside, he can move pretty well. The power presence is there, strong hands and a long reach. Brown is a guy that looks worse the longer the play goes but he is good right off the snap. I think he is a RT in the pros but he can be a good one, starting caliber eventually. 4th or 5th rounder.

#18 – TE – Gerald Christian – 6’3/242

Started off at Florida, played for Lousiville in 2013 for the first time. Has some really explosive traits to his game, can be a big play threat from the TE spot. Aggressive blocker, may need more strength. I think he can be an important piece to a passing game in the league. A lot of talent but some quality football skills as well. Late rounder worth going after for sure.

#10 – RB – Dominique Brown – 6’2/216

One of my favorite under the radar RBs in the nation. Really explosive downhill speed. Missed 2012 with a knee, came back strong in 2013. He has tools to work wth and a nice skill set that looks pretty far developed when it comes to pad level, lean, and ball security. Maybe doesn’t have the vision/awareness yet. Late rounder I would gamble on.

#94 – OLB – Lorenzo Mauldin – 6’4/244

Was a 4-3 DE prior to the 2014 season. Team made a switch to the 3-4 and he is now at OLB, a better spot for him in the NFL. He can change direction with ease, really athletic lower body from a flexibility and quickness perspective. He has a high ceiling and I think he has an outside shot at being a 1st rounder. May not be as strong as some teams want but he can rush the edge. High potential here, I’ll have him graded out in the top 50 overall.

*#8 – S – Gerod Holliman – 6’2/213

Nation’s leader in INTs with a stunning 14 in just 12 games. Some will look at the stats and say he is up there with Landon Collins as the top S in this class. I don’t think he’s that good. We see several prospects over the years with big INT numbers that simply aren’t that good. He obviously has the ball skills and he can play to his size in coverage. But he isn’t a physical guy and his tackling is poor in every game I watch. He may be a 1st rounder but hell be a 3rd rounder on my board. Still a solid prospect, just not elite at all.

*#3 – CB – Charles Gaines – 5’11/174

Hasn’t declared yet. Haven’t heard anything but I think he is worth talking about. One of the best movers of the CB class. Looks like he plays on ice skates. Really easy change of direction guy with the deep speed as well. There is a physical style to him but teams will question if he is strong enough, and rightfully so. I like Gaines but will need to see more before I label him a 1st rounder.

Other Notables:

#26 – RB – Michael Dyer – 5’9/215
#53 – RG – Jake Smith – 6’3/305
#6 – WR – Eli Rogers – 5’10/182
#11 – DE – BJ Dubose – 6’5/263
#48 – OLB – Deiontre Mount – 6’5/243

*****************************************************************

MARYLAND

#97 – DT – Darius Kilgo – 6’2/310

3-4 Nose Tackle type. Has some sneaky short area quickness to him, can be an anchor. Limited player though, 5th or 6th rounder for specific schemes.

#6 Deon Long – WR – 6’0/195

Hidden weapon here that has good movement. Can run himself open and catch the tough passes. Circuitious route to where he is now but there is some hidden talent here.

Other Notables:

#40 – OLB – Matt Robinson – 6’2/240
#47 – ILB – Cole Farrand – 6’3/245
#14 – CB – Jeremiah Johnson – 5’11/195

STANFORD

*#70 – LT – Andrus Peat – 6’6/312

My favorite LT prospect in the nation. Hasn’t declared yet Has true “Blue Goose” potential Dominant physical guy but has the feet to skate his way to the edge. He can block anyone the league throws at him.

#7 – WR – Ty Montgomery – 6’2/220

Versatile player with a tool set that scouts drool over. Great speed and quickness. Has elite yard after the catch potential, good return man. Underwhelming 2014 season will knock his grade down. Inconsistent hands. Could be one of the bargains of the 2015 class if he can be had in round 3.

#58 – NT – David Parry – 6’2/303

Noticed him early in the year and is one my favorite DT prospects in the nation. Wrestler-type with his low center of gravity and easy quickness. Tough guy to block that can make a big impact in any scheme. Might be a late rounder be he may make my top 75 overall.

#9 – OLB – James Vaughters – 6’2/258

May be resticted to the 3-4. Power player with a long frame, a lot of muscle. Smart player that can move quick in a phone booth. Could be an impact guy in the NFL.

Other Notables:

#91 – DE – Henry Anderson – 6’5/295
#8 – S – Jordan Richards – 5’11/210
#2 – CB – Wayne Lyons – 6’1/196
#17 – ILB – AJ Tarpley – 6’1/238

Dec 292014
 
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Kevin White, West Virginia Mountaineers (November 29, 2014)

Kevin White – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 29, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

TEXAS A& M

#70 – RT – Cedric Ogbuehi – 6’5/305

The next Aggie left tackle that will end up in the first round, making it three in a row for the program. Has played RG, RT, and LT. Surprisingly, he showed the biggest signs of struggle this year at LT. Because of injuries to the OL, they moved him back to his more natural position, RT a few weeks ago. He struggled with a couple vital components to the position, mainly being body control and hand strength. He isn’t the top 5 prospect that many thought he would be prior to the season, but we are still talking about a top 25 guy. Teams still draft right tackles in the first round and rightfully so. All said and done I still think he’ll be called at some point in round 1 and play a Michael Oher type RT.

#51 – LT – Jarvis Harrison – 6’4/325

Interesting story here. Has been moved to LT from his guard spot. Coaches say it was because of injuries elsewhere on the OL but Harrison appears to be a better LT than Ogbuehi. He is a very good athlete, better than Ogbuehi. May not be that tall but he has length. All said and done I think he plays LG in the NFL but wouldn’t surprised if a few teams like him at LT. I only saw him in the beginning of the year and at the end. He was night and day different because his offseason was hampered by calf/shoulder issues. I just think he was out of shape when I first saw him. He looked great late in the year and I look forward to a tough matchup for him here.

#84 – WR – Malcome Kennedy – 6’0/205

Slot receiver, didn’t have the 2014 that many were hoping for. I don’t see the high upside here althought a lot of guys think he’ll be drafted somewhere in the top 150 overall. He is a quick twitch athlete that catches the ball in traffic. Gets open quickly. I just don’t see the route running ability. Better athlete than football player type. Had it easy in that offensive scheme. Maybe a top 250 overall guy on my board.

#85 – TE – Cameron Clear – 6’6/270

Quite the opposite of Kennedy. I think he has the potential to be a much better NFL player than college player. He was mainly a blocker in their scheme and a very good one at that. Problem for him is that the A& M offense is sp spread-heavy that his role wasn’t used a lot. But when he is on the field. Clear played at a high level. There are some ball skills and movement ability to his game that is hidden. I think he can be a player. Late rounder worth taking a shot on because at the very least, he will be a good blocking TE.

#29 – CB – Deshazor Everett – 6’0/193
Under the radar cover corner, three year starter. Has the height/length/speed that teams love to gamble on at the position. Has a lot of experience in man coverage, can hang with anyone downfield. Tighter hips than you would think for such a good athlete. Needs work on skill aspects of the position but the top tier athleticism is there. He is the kind of guy that will workout well and boost his stock a couple rounds. Still more of a 4th/5th round type at best but there is a lot of upside there.

Other Notables:

#31 – S – Howard Matthews – 6’1/215
#5 – S – Floyd Raven – 6’2/200

WEST VIRGINIA

#11 – WR – Kevin White – 6’3/211

If I had to pick one prospect that boosted his stock the most via level of play this season, it’s this guy. He has height, length, and ridiculous hand size. He is one of those guys that you watch over the course of a few weeks and find it really difficult to pinpoint an actual weakness in his game. White is every part of an elite WR prospect and should be taken in the top 15 overall, if not top 10. He had a pretty indirect path to where he stands now but if anything, it may help his draft outlook across the league. His size as I noted is near a top tier grade. But White shows tremendous ball skills and ability after the catch as well. May not have the elite speed, but he always seems to play faster than the defense, including Alabama week 1. White is one of my favorite WRs in this class and still has a shot at finishing at the top.

#5 – WR – Mario Alford – 5’9/177

The other half of the WR duo. Not the prospect that White is obviously, but Alford is a very good player himself. Undersized but very fast and explosive. Some are comparing him to Stedman Bailey but he isn’t as polished. Needs to run better routes and catch the ball better. I actually think he compares more to Tavon Austin with his movement ability. Not a first rounder but still a guy that can do a lot for an offense based purely on his speed/quickness/agility. 4th or 5th rounder.

#67 – LG – Quinton Spain – 6’5/335

Under the radar OL that I’ve been talking up since the beginning of the season. Fifth year senior. Huge frame. Has plenty of experience at LT and LG. I think his NFL future will be inside where he just seems more comfortable. His weaknesses are exposed in space. Classic road grader that can make a lengthy highlight film full of knockdown blocks. Drives guys through the ground. Really good at getting his paws inside and locking on. He is a quick decision maker, reacts well to the blitz and stunt games. His biggest issues derive from being out of shape, which is a bg concern for me. He needs to be lighter. He is rotated in and out of the game a lot. He also gets top heavy and will get lazy with his technique. Still a guy that may be worth a gamble late in the draft. He can be a good one.

#4 – DE – Shaquille Riddick – 6’6/242

Potential diamond in the rough here. Played his whole career at Gardner-Webb until 2014. Had 6 sacks and 9 TFL. Nothing dominant by any means but he is tools-rich and plays the game hard. He can bend well and cut the corner, plays with strong hands. Good tackler, good pursuit. His issue is body related. He has gained 75 pounds since high school but there is still more that he needs to put on. He has wide receiver legs, definitely needs more girth there. Can his frame handle another 20+ pounds. Interesting edge athlete here that I would think should be taken in the top 200 picks.

Other Notables:

#64 – RG – Mark Glowinski – 6’5/305
________________________________________________________________

OKLAHOMA

*#3 – WR – Sterling Shepard – 5’10/195

Junior that has not yet declared. Someone told me is going, someone told me he is staying. I trust both guys so I really have no idea. He is worth talking about though. Really explosive route runner with good top end speed. Will remind Giants fans of Victor Cruz. He is a shorter guy but there is some thickness to him. Big play threat that can get behind a defense and compete for the ball. Love his ability to get open. Really quick mover and fearless in traffic. If he comes out he has a shot to be a 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#79 – RT – Daryl Williams – 6’5/325

Huge frame. One of my favorite RT prospects in the nation. I think he is made for the NFL. Big and tough, a lot of functional power to his game. He can get low enough and really drive block. Defenders are tossed around by Williams when the body control and balance are there. Effective against linebackers in space. His wide-ness certainly helps. Sure he struggles with some speed to the outside but nothing that should kill his grade. I like him a lot…similar to Phil Loadholt who I loved years back. I’ll have him graded higher than most, somewhere in the top 60-90 overall.

#71 – LT – Tyrus Thompson – 6’5/320

Most like Thompson more than Williams, calling him a potential rise between now and the draft. I’m not huge on him. He does have the size/length/foot speed to play LT. Very athletically gifted. I just don’t like the lack of power and strength to his game. Too often I saw him driven back by bigger defenders. Really thin lower half that I think limits his potential power output. I would label him a 6th or 7th rounder at this point. Not sure what I am not seeing that others do.

#10 – TE – Blake Bell – 6’5/252

You may remember Bell as a rushing QB for the Sooners. Very popular with the fans. He was a short yardage back that could throw a little. He switched over to TE to help the team out and may have carved himself a spot in the NFL. Good power and functional strength. Doesn’t offer much speed wise but he does a lot of little things well. If he gets drafted it will be late. Late rounder with limited upside but a lot of teams, including NYG, like guys that made a position change late in their career.

*#19 Eric Striker – OLB – 6’0/221

Junior that hasn’t declared yet. He gets a lot of national hype but when you really sit down and grade him, he’s not much of an NFL prospect. He blew on to the national scene against Alabama last year in the bowl game where he abused Kouandijo for 3 sacks and more QB hurries. I think that was simply a tough matchup for Kouandijo more than anything. You don’t see edge rushers in the NFL playing at 220 pounds. Striker is an OK prospect and I think he can contribute, but he isn’t nearly the star that some make him out to be. If he comes out I think he is looking at a mid-round slot. Just not sure teams would know what to do with him.

#98 – DE – Chuka Ndulue – 6’3/289

Steady contributor over the years with over 30 starts. Not a big guy but does a lot of the dirty work really well. Most likely a 3-4 DE prospect but could possibly slip inside the 4-3 scheme. He is really quick in short spaces. Really strong, low center of gravity. These guys are a headache for blockers. Ndulue won’t ever be an elite guy but he can be a contributor to a good NFL defense is the scheme is right. 6th or 7th rounder that I like a lot for some teams.

Other Notables:

#48 – FB – Aaron Ripkowski – 6’1/257
#74 – LG – Adam Shead – 6’4/339
#77 – RG – Dionte Savage – 6’4/335
#10 – SS – Quentin Hayes – 6’0/193

CLEMSON

#3 – OLB – Vic Beasley – 6’2/235

Fifth year senior. One of the top defensive players in the country. Has a legit shot at being a top 10 pick. Incredible first step and ability to bend and turn the corner. 41.5 TFL over the past two years. Almost always gets the initial advantage off the snap because of the explosion and underrated strength. Beasley needs to add more weight and by the look of his frame, he may be close to maxing out. We’ll see though. Not a fit for every scheme and he might be a situational player in the NFL. Not sure he can play all three downs. That said, his pass rush potential is really high and in this league, he’ll get taken early because of that. 1st rounder for sure, maybe top 10 but I will have him somewhere in the 20-25 range I think.

#50 – DT – Grady Jarrett – 6’1/295

This 1st Team All ACC defender won’t get the attention while walking off the bus because of his lack of size and length. Jarrett may stand close to under 6 feet tall with short arms but has been a consistently productive player for three years in a row. He is a bowling ball inside that can be a horror to deal with for linemen throughout a game. His low center of gravity and good usage of knee bend and power from his base can be a handful for blockers to deal with. His best fit is in a scheme where he can penetrate the inside gaps with minimal anchor responsibilities. 4th or 5th round.

#43 – MLB – Stephone Anthony – 6’2/245

1st Team All ACC defender that builds his game off of awareness, strength, and tackling ability. Anthony is a quality inside run defender with quick, powerful downhill ability. While he is athletic enough to play in the NFL, he may not be considered a 3 down linebacker. This brand of NFL defense has taken a slight step backward but he can still carve a nice niche for himself at the next level. Smart defenders with strength, power, and downhill ability will always be in demand. Possible starter for some schemes but most likely a special teamer and situational defender. Guys like this are usually taken in the 5th or 6th round.

#26 – CB – Garry Peters – 6’0/190

Had a strong 2012 season and created some hype, but injury riddled 2013 set him back. 2014 treated him well, earning 1st Team All ACC over the likes of PJ Wlliams (FSU) and Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest). Peters is as smooth as it gets. Really good awareness and reaction time. Has the length and height to factor. My question is speed and physicality. Can be match up one on one in man coverage? I think he may be a zone-only corner but I’ll be curious to see how well he runs. 5th or 6th rounder that could get in to day 2 with a few good workouts.

#93 – DE – Corey Crawford

More traditional DE prospect than Beasley, but doesn’t have half the potential. Height/length/strength are all there but he isn’t explosive off the snap. He doesn’t play the game with any sort of skill set. Kind of slow reacting, unaware. He does get his fair share of QB pressures though and he can anchor his position against the run. Not a bad prospect but I don’t see the upside. 6th or 7th rounder.

Other Notables:

#67 – RT – Kalon Davis – 6’5/340
#68 – LG – David Beasley – 6’4/329
________________________________________________________________

ARKANSAS

#86 – DE – Trey Flowers – 6’4/268

A coach-favorite type guy. Really clean off the field, team captain type. Gets a decent amount of attention nationally but lacks the superstar ability. He doesn’t have the quick pop out of his stance, struggles to reach the corner and get by a good OT. Flowers does play the game low and strong with good mechanics though. He is really consistent and reliable. One of the better run defending DEs that I’ve seen this year, something that is still really important to NFL coaches. Flowers won’t be a star but I guarantee he out-performs a few DL that get drafted ahead of him. Most likely a top 100 guy, maybe a little lower but not much.

#47 – MLB – Martrell Spaight – 6’0/228

Every year I get sort of attached to a LB prospect before his name gets out there. This year, it’s been Spaight, the SEC’s leader in tackles. He was a JUCO All American in 2011 and 2012, and spent most of 2013 as a backup and rotational LB. He broke in 2014 and I still think people overlook him. Not that tall, not that fast, not that big. But Spaight plays the game with his eyes as good as any LB in the country. He is always moving in the right direction with balance and power. He consistently finds his way to the action. Spaight is a limited athlete that shows weakness in coverage but I’ve noticed an improvement from September to now. He is a football player, plain and simple. He may go 5 rounds without hearing his name called but I’ll have him in the top 100 overall, maybe top 65.

#23 – CB – Tevin Mitchel – 6’0/188

Has been in and out of the starting lineup for a few years, but emerged as their top CB in 2013 and some things have clicked for him. He moves well with the action in front of him. Quick reaction, good eyes. Doesn’t have the deep speed to hang with the fast WRs. Limited scheme wise but he can play. Late rounder.

#74 – RT – Brey Cook – 6’7/328

Mammoth right tackle with almost 30 career starts. Already has the NFL body from head to toe. Really strong hands. Sound technique and skill set. His feet are made for the RT spot only but they move well enough. He has such a long reach and good balance, he can get away with being on the slow side. He delivers a powerful punch and his hips are quick as a run blocker. I like him more than most. He’ll go somewhere day 3, might finish top 150 on my board.

#11 – TE – AJ Derby – 6’5/245

One of my favorite darkhorse, diamond in the rough prospects. Former QB at Iowa and JUCO. Started 1 game at QB for Arkansas in 2013. Made the move to TE in 2014 and his athletic ability caught my eye. Showed some big time speed and accleration on a TD against Alabama that stands out. He can play strong when blocking but is obviously still rough around the edges. Late round project that I think will pay off for someone.

Other Notables:

#34 – OLB – Braylon Mitchell – 6’3/231
#27 – S – Alan Turner – 6’0/205

TEXAS

*#90 – DT – Malcom Brown – 6’3/320

Junior that hasn’t declared yet. Many expect him to. He is married with 2 kids. Might be the top prospect in this game. Brown shows dominant traits to his game. Really powerful and explosive off the ball and he can toss guys aside with ease at times. Plays a little hot and cold but his upside can’t be denied. All around DT that can fit in to any scheme.

#3 – OLB – Jordan Hicks – 6’1/234

Finally Hicks tapped in to his sky high potential in 2014. Has always been a source of excitement and disappointment for the Longhorns. Physically gifted, former top tier HS recruit. Showed all the football skills you want out of a LB with Strong calling the shots. He can do everything. Pursue the run, blitz, pass rush, cover. A true 3 down LB. Struggles a bit with the action coming right at him but he played his way to a top 100 pick, maybe even top 75.

#6 – DB – Quandre Diggs – 5’10/195

I had high hopes for Diggs in 2013 as he was replacing Kenny Vaccaro after showing gamebreaking ability in 2012. He hasn’t gotten to the level I thought he would but I still think be an impact guy. He is a really quick mover that plays zone and man equally well. Really aggressive player. Diggs doesn’t tackle well and he is constantly guessing/gambling. Easily fooled. I’m not sure where he plays in the NFL but he’ll be drafted somewhere day 3.

#88 – DE – Cedric Reed – 6’5/272

Quality edge rusher, has had a productive career. Lacks the quick twitch you want and there isn’t a lot of staying power to his game. He is crafty with refined rush moves but there isn’t anything about him that stands out. Most likely drafted but late.
#9 – WR – John Harris – 6’2/218

This will be my first time scouting Harris. Led Texas with 64 catches/1,015 yards. Size and long speed are both there. Had a couple games where he took over.

#28 – RB – Malcolm Brown – 5’11/225

Part of the Texas loaded backfield. Hasn’t lived up to the hype but he always showes glimpses. He has all the ability as a rusher. Big, strong, fast. Runs high and doesn’t see the running lanes well though. He’ll get drafted late but needs to show he can do more than run the inside gaps if he wants anything in the first 5 rounds.

Other Notables:

#8 – WR – Jaxon Shipley – 6’0/190
#80 – TE – Geoff Swaim – 6’4/250
#33 – LB – Steve Edmond – 6’2/258

Dec 272014
 
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Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and safety Antrel Rolle both joined the New York Giants in the 2010 offseason. Now after five seasons, with their contracts set to expire after Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, both may be leaving Big Blue during the same upcoming offseason. Free agency begins on March 7 and JPP and Rolle will surely test the free agent waters if not re-signed by that date.

Rolle signed a 5-year, $37 million contract with the Giants as a free agent in March 2010 after being cut by the Arizona Cardinals in a salary cap-related move. Pierre-Paul was the 15th player selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Both were a critical part of the 2011 Giants defense that finished 27th in term of yards allowed during the regular season but got hot by year’s end. In the last six games that season – including four playoff games – the Giants held opponents to an average of less than 14 points per contest and won an NFL Championship.

Initially Rolle had difficult accepting Tom Coughlin’s coaching methods. Yet he eventually warmed up to Coughlin and became an important leader of the defense. In five seasons, Rolle has never missed a game with the Giants. He has intercepted 14 passes and averaged over 90 tackles per season in 79 regular-season games. Rolle received All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2010 and 2013, the latter being arguably the best season of his career.

2014 has been a down season for Rolle, who turned 32 this month. While he has accrued 79 tackles and three interceptions, he has not made many big plays on a defense that is currently ranked 28th in the NFL. Rolle still has talent, but he is an aging, 10-year veteran on a defensive team that needs a shake-up, an infusion of talent and speed, and may have a new defensive coordinator in 2015.

“I would love to finish my career here,’’ says Rolle. “That’s not my call to make. This is a great fit. I feel like next year, when we get all our guys healthy and we can get on the same page at the same time, I think it’s going to be wonderful… It would be great to stay here with these guys and build something.

“I want to be with JPP and (Odell) Beckham and I can’t wait to see (Victor) Cruz come back. These are all my boys, these are my brothers who I’ve shared (the) battlefield with. (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) is someone I helped bring here, and he always tells me I ain’t going anywhere.’’

Despite his down season, Rolle firmly believes he can stay play at a high level. And because of that, the odds are he will want to be paid well in what could be his final pro contract.

“I feel like I can still go out there and definitely be one of the best safeties in this league,” said Rolle. “I’ve never worried about age. I’ll put myself up against any 32-year-old.”

How long does Rolle think he can play? “Who knows? Maybe at 13 (seasons),” said Rolle, “I’ll say two more (years). I’m just going with the flow and whatever my body tells me at this point.

“Outside looking in, I don’t know how people are going to say what, or view what. Is this my best season? No, it is not my best season. Am I playing ball? Yes, I am definitely playing ball. I am not giving up touchdowns. I am not giving up huge plays. I am playing the way I am supposed to be playing. I am playing multiple roles.’’

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Pierre-Paul situation is different. JPP turns 26 in January. His best football clearly could still be in front him. That said, Pierre-Paul has had difficulty recapturing his tremendous productivity from his sophomore NFL season in 2011 when he accrued 86 tackles and 16.5 sacks. Those numbers plummeted to 66 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2012 and 27 tackles and 2 sacks in 2013.

Pierre-Paul had surgery in June 2013 to repair a herniated disc in his lower back and he never seemed to fully rebound from that procedure during the 2013 season. He flashed some of his old form in Week 10 that year but also suffered a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the last five games of the season.

JPP has rebounded in 2014 with 72 tackles and 10.5 sacks. Though he can be vulnerable to misdirection, Pierre-Paul is a very stout player at the point-of-attack against the run. And after a slow start in terms of rushing the passer, Pierre-Paul has sacked opposing quarterbacks seven times in the last four games.

Much more was hoped for and expected in 2014, but JPP remains the one player in the front seven that other teams need to account for. If he leaves, the Giants will have a major hole to fill on a defense already pot-marked with holes. But bringing him back is not a no-brainer. There is a salary cap and JPP clearly believes he is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL and wants to be paid like it. The Giants know Pierre-Paul has had inconsistent productivity the last three years, as well as back surgery and shoulder issues.

JPP sounds much more intent on testing the free agent market and does not seem to be overly concerned with remaining in Giants Blue. On Friday, Pierre-Paul was asked if he expected to re-sign with the Giants.

“I don’t know,” responded JPP. “Everybody asks me that question and I really can’t answer that question truthfully. I don’t know what my future holds. Who knows if I am going to be in a Giant uniform, who knows where I am going to be in the offseason. Like I said, now, the numbers are there, I had a great season, and everybody sees it. There really is nothing else to say, just negotiations and it is coming.

“At the end of the day, it’s business, it’s business. Everyone knows that, even the fans know that, my family members know it, and I am going to make the best decision to better me and my family.

“I‘d love to be a Giant for the rest of my career, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t always fold like that. Look at Justin Tuck, look at Osi Umenyiora, look at Brandon Jacobs, it doesn’t matter.

“I think I am worth a lot of money.”

Pierre-Paul was asked if he would give the Giants a hometown discount.

“Like I said, it is going to be a business situation, it’s going to be about my family, and what I want to pursue,” replied Pierre-Paul. “At the end of the day, I’m here. Like I said earlier in the season, if I am a Giant, then I will be a Giant for my whole life. I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Changes are coming on defense. At least they ought to be. In the last four years, the Giants defense has finished 28th, 31st, 8th, and is currently projected to finish 28th. Will Rolle and Pierre-Paul be a part of the rebuilding project moving forward? Should they be? The answers to those questions will be discovered in the next two months.

Dec 272014
 
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Jaelen Strong, Arizona State Sun Sun Devils (November 28, 2014)

Jaelen Strong – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 27, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

CINCINNATI

#71 – LT – Eric Lefeld – 6’5/309

Long time starter and underrated player. Has been 1st Team All conference three years in a row. Lefeld is an average athlete in pass protection, but does a good job of staying square to the defender. Gets his hands on you quick. Can stick to a guy. Nice frame for the position. All around solid player that should be drafted day 3.

#1 – MLB – Jeff Luc – 6’1/253

1st Team All AAC. Really thick, physical run defender that can make his presence known every week. He is really quick between the tackles and can actually do a nice job of making himself small to blockers and sneak in to running lanes. Physically he can lay the lumber every play. He is the kind of guy that backs look out for and that linemen can get beat up by. Strictly a run defender though, as he has trouble performing well in space, especially coverage. Limited player but one that could be worked with in a blitz heavy scheme. 6th/7th rounder.

Other Notables:

#93 – DT – Brad Harrah – 6’3/260
#43 – LB – Nick Temple – 5’10/218

VIRGINIA TECH

#34 – S – Kyshoen Jarrett – 5’11/192

Versatile defensive back, almost entered the 2014 Draft. Plays all over the field. If he were just a little bigger he could have been a top 45 overall prospect. I love the game speed here. He has the quickness to cover slot receivers man to man, the rangy speed to play a CF role in deep coverage, and the explosion to fly in to the box and defend the run. I see him as a 3rd or 4th rounder that every team will be interested in. He can do so many different things.

#8 – S – Detrick Bonner – 6’0/194

The other safety on this defense. Some actually view him as a better prospect than Jarrett, but not me. He has more size and more straight line speed, but he doesn’t move with instincts directing the way. He doesn’t react the way I wan a safety to. Poor tackler in space, doesn’t cover well at all. All he has is superb straight line speed. Maybe he gets drafted late because of it.

*#90 – DE – Dadi Nicolas – 6’4/231

Fourth year junior that has not yet declared. Workout warrior that has run a 4.4 40 and set records for vertical jump and broad jump. Broke out in a big way this year with 17 TFL. Has 10 TFL since Oct 23 (5 games). I watch him and see a guy that needs another year of college. He needs to fill out if he is going to play any pass rushing role at the next level. More of an athlete than a football player…a trend I’ve seen with Virginia Tech players.

Other Notables:

#63 – LT – Laurence Gibson – 6’6/297
#79 – RG – Caleb Farris – 6’3/307
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ARIZONA STATE

#21 – WR – Jaelen Strong – 6’4/212

The best prospect of the day if you ask me. Consider me in the small group of people that think Strong has a shot at the top 10 overall. Of the top WRs in this class, Strong has the best size factor. He is tall and long with big hands. I see some Brandon Marshall in him. He can dominate underneath with his strength, getting off the ohysical corners and putting himself between them and the ball. Really good at positioning his body and getting to the ball first. He can also get behind a defense and burn them for a long TD. Very reliable 3rd down and red zone target. I think he is still very much in the learning phase of the game and if/when he figures it out, he can be a star in the NFL. 1st rounder for sure, maybe top 10 if he runs well.

#74 – LT – Jamil Douglas – 6’4/300

Versatile lineman that has a ton of experience. He played LT for all of 2014 but I think his future is inside at guard. He struggles to maintain speed and balance when he is out in space. However he can drive straight ahead really well. Has the combination of foot quickness and hand power to mix it up with bigger defenders. I always think Oniel Cousins when I watch him. A solid backup that could play a few spots in a pinch and not kill an OL. 4th/5th rounder.

#1 – DE – Marcus Hardison – 6’4/300

Really interesting player here. Was a JUCO transfer prior to 2013, was heavily sought after. Plays mostly DE but will shift inside from time to time. Has a different body type, really short and stocky torso but thinner legs than you think. He is a legit 300 pound athlete that runs a 4.7, which is pretty rare. He is a hustler that likes tp pursue across the field. Can pack a punch. He had a strong finish to his season and in the 4 games I saw, he always did something that raised my eyebrows. I think a 3-4 or hybrid defensive front scheme could do wonders with this kid. Hard to project, but could see him going as early as round 2 if he works out well.

Other Notables:

#10 – QB – Taylor Kelly – 6’2/211
#3 – S – Damarious Randall – 6’0/189

DUKE

*#16 – S – Jeremy Cash – 6’2/203

Junior that hasn’t declared, been in school 4 years though. Transfer from Ohio State in 2012, led Duke in tackles last season. I only scouted him once in 2014 because I didn’t really notice his production until halfway through the year. Cash is a S/LB hybrid for Duke, hence all the TFL and Sack numbers. He uses his speed and quickness to beat the OL in space. Good tackler and pretty smart with quick reaction. But I want to see what he can do in coverage. He can’t play LB in the NFL at that size. Sounds like he will return to school but he is seeking a grade from the Advisory Board. Maybe a top 100 guy if he comes out.

#77 – RG – Laken Tomlinson – 6’3/320

One of my favorite guard prospects in the nation. Has the body and power presence I want. Bends pretty well. Has over 50 career starts. Because he is on Duke, he won’t get the media attention that the guys from FSU get, but Tomlinson is just as good as them. He is strong from head to toe and his feet are really active. I’ll have him graded somewhere in the top 75 overall.

#3 – WR – Jamison Crowder – 5’9/175

Record setting WR. Obviously there is a size deficiency here but Crowder is one of the few slot guys that I think can really make it at the next level. Every year we see ultra-productive WRs come out that are under 5’10 and end up fading out in the NFL. I think Crowder sticks. He is one of the best route runners you’ll find. Sets defenders up and explodes by them. Will catch anything within arms distance. Strong and tough with the ball in his hands. There is some top tier return ability here as well and it will only enhance his grade. I think he has a good shot at being a top 100 overall player.

#17 – WR – Issac Blakeney – 6’6/225

High upside prospect here that hasn’t made a ton of plays at Duke over his career. But a WR with this size and speed will always get attention from scouts. He moves in and out of breaks better than you would think, and can probably run his 40 in the 4.5-4.6 range. There are a lot of raw/rough edges to his skill game though. Late rounder if he gets drafted at all.

Other Notables:

#7 – QB – Anthony Boone – 6’0/225
#73 – LT – Takoby Cofield – 6’4/310
#47 – MLB – David Helton – 6’4/240
_______________________________________________________________________

MIAMI

#52 – LB – Denzel Perryman – 5’11/242

Ultra productive weak side/middle linebacker. Will likely finish as my top graded LB (3-4 OLBs excluded) in this class. Might be shorter than the ideal prospect but he is a pure football player. Very smart and good instincts. Gets himself in to the right position after the snap to make plays. Incredible power as a tackler between the tackles and in space. Really send a violent jolt to the ball carrier. Gets lost in traffic though and has had stretches where he couldn’t make even a small impact on the game. I like Perryman, he can fit in to any scheme and give you 100+ tackles every year. Is he a guy that leads the NFL in tackles every year? Probably not. But he can be a very good 2nd or 3rd round pick.

#37 – CB – LaDarius Gunter – 6’2/198

One of the more underrated corners in the nation. Gunter is a tall and long with really good movement. He can turn and run with the fastest receivers, but also showed a physical side in 2014. He can beat guys up at the line of scrimmage. Not a very good tackler and will struggle to make reads. But ask him to sit on an island and cover a WR man to man, he can do it. 3rd rounder right now that could sneak his way in to the top 45.

#34 – OLB – Thurston Armbister – 6’3/241

Solid LB prospect that probably doesn’t get the attention he deserves. Good measurables, the height/speed/agility are all there. Might be a better athlete than football player at the moment but he offers some high upside. Had a few nice games in 2014.

#91 – Olsen Pierre – DT – 6’5/305

There isn’t a lot of production here but Pierre has some tools that the NFL scouts love. He is really long. Holds 300+ pounds really well. Has the quick twitch, sudden-ness to his game. He can be a versatile guy that wears a couple hats for a DL. Late rounder.

#71 – DE – Anthony Chickillo – 6’4/282

Fourth year senior, was a top tier recruit out of high school. Played right away, has a ton of experience. Didn’t have the career that most thought he would, but was still a solid player. Versatile, can fit in to multiple schemes. He is a relentless hustler, motor is always on. I think he is a limited athlete though, that popped off the screen multiple times. He is pretty strong though, could be a guy that adds some weight and stars as a 3-4 DE. 5th-6th round.

*#8 – RB – Duke Johnson – 5’9/206

Junior that hasn’t made the declaration yet. I’ve given a lot of extra attention to Johnson over the past month. He will finish as one of the top backs on my board, right up there with Gurley and Coleman. He is incredibly explosive and agile. Such a good change of direction mover, shows you signs of McCoy really. He put 10 punds on from last year which was a good move for him, backs need to be 200+ in the NFL. Johnson can be a starter at the next level, no question. He is a great ball carrier, great pass catcher, great blocker. I think the 2nd or 3rd round here.

*#74 – LT – Ereck Flowers – 6’6/334

Junior, hasn’t made a decision yet. Interesting prospect here. A lot of people think he could be a top 15 overall pick if he comes out. Tore his meniscus in October (nothing serious) but came back and played really well. Mammoth OT that has experience on both sides. Flowers needs another year in college I think. He has a lot of sloppy parts to his game that simply need seasoning. Loses his center of gravity/balance too often. Doesn’t get his hands inside. Crosses his feet when moving laterally. Everything can be coached up so there will still be plenty of teams with a high grade on him. There is a big time power presence and he plays a mean style. The upside is big, this I could see him being a top 45 pick if he comes out. I just won’t have him graded up there.

#4 – WR – Phillip Dorsett – 5’10/195

Might be the fastest player at the combine this year. Rumor has it he may run in the 4.2 5 range. He plays fast too, he isn’t just track star. I can remember watching him play in 2013, thinking he was a definite early declaration guy. He then tore up his knee. Came back strong in 2014, led Miami in receiving yards. Had an amazing 26+ yards per catch. He has legit deep speed but also a good change of direction guy. He may not make the play to play impact, but that speed is a weapon. Decent ball skills, has some return ability. Could be a 4th/5th rounder but watch out if he actually does run a 4.25 forty.

Other Notables:

#62 – C – Shane McDermott – 6’4/300

SOUTH CAROLINA

#50 – LG – AJ Cann – 6’3/318

Fifth year senior. All American. Hs started 50 of 51 games since his redshirt season in 2010. Will likely finish as one of my top 2 or 3 guards in this class. Classic road grader with big power and short area explosion. SC loved to run behind him the past two years. Very rarely do you see his man make a tackle. There are a couple holes in his game s a pass blocker, but most college guards are that way. He’ll be a starter in the NFL. Top 45 pick, good shot at being the first guard taken.

*#28 – RB – Mike Davis – 5’9/220

Junior that has said he plans to declare for the draft. Some view him as a big time back that could land somewhere in the top 45 overall. He had a huge 2013, finally being out of the Lattimore shadow. Davis is a little like Ed Lacy. He is built low to the ground, has a power approach to the game but can be sneaky fast. I see him as a grinder like Lacy. Just a guy that continues to pick up positive yards, pushes the pike forward. But when you don’t expect it, he’ll break off a big run. I’ve felt a few times that he could benefit from losing some weight and adding more quickness to his game. Most likely a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

#53 – LT – Corey Robinson – 6’7/348

Mammoth three year starter that started of his career bouncing back and forth between the OL/DL. Robinson moves a lot like a RT prospect. He can swallow up a lot of space but his feet and knee bend are sub-par for the position. He is a powerful kid though that excels as a run blocker. He has the ability to start in the NFL but will need to be coached up on his technique. I could see him being a top 100 overall guy at best.

#81 – TE Rory Anderson – 6’5/232

Athletic pass catcher that will remind some of former Gamecock Jared Cook. He is really athletic when going after the ball in traffic. He can turn his body and reach the ball at the apex of his leap. Really good ball skills. There isn’t much of a power presence here but he loves to hit. He is a physical guy. Anderson never really got to the level that some thought he could but he fought some injuries and poor QB play. Late rounder that could get his name called in the 4th/5th round he if works out well.

#97 – DT – JT Surratt – 6’2/305

One of the more consistent DTs I have seen this year. Not a star and won’t be one in the NFL, but he can be a reliable, Barry Cofield type guy for a 4-3 defense. Very emotional/passionate player that delivers a punch at the point of attack. Violent hands, strong tree trunk legs. He can swallow up space and blockers but will hustle to the sidelines. Limited upside but again, he’ll be a reliable player. 4th-5th round.

Other Notables:

#17 – QB – Dylan Thompson – 6’3/218
#12 – SS – Brison Williams – 5’11/208
#3 – WR – Nick Jones – 5’6/168
_______________________________________________________________________

BOSTON COLLEGE

#59 – C – Andy Gallik – 6’3/299

Has a shot at being the first center taken. Will finish as one of my top 2 guys at the position I think. 4 year starter. Technically sound, uses his feet and hips really well. Really good bender, can produce a lot of power from a low position. Gallik is one of those super-centers that pulls out in to space and leads the running back outside of the tight ends. Really good athlete. Overall a very good player here that teams will look to towards the back end of round 2.

#75 – RT – Ian Silberman – 6’5/293

Former Florida Gator. Played just one year at BC after a backup-duty career at Florida. I liked Silberman every time I watched BC play. He has a nice frame. A little undersized girth wise but he has the height and length. I like how he moves. Quick feet, can explode out of his stance. Really well balanced. There is a power deficit here as you would probably expect. He cant lock on to guys. The better DL he faced off against got off his blocks with ease. Late round project with more upside that people think.

#25 – OLB – Josh Keyes – 6’2/223

Every year I have a grade on a few guys that is much higher than what we see out there. Keyes will be one of those guys this season. He was a backup until this season. He was put in to an edge rushing role and thrived. He finished with 11.5 TFL and 4 sacks. Nothing eye popping but I watched his game against USC where he had 5.5 TFL. I loved how easily he changed direction. He is technically sound, finishes tackles. There is a size/strength issue and it will likely keep him as a late day three prospect, but he is a guy I would take a flyer on. There is some hidden talent here.

Other Notables:

#2 – QB – Tyler Murphy – 6’2/214
#67 – LT – Seth Betancourt – 6’5/300
#99 – DE – Brian Mihalik – 6’9/288

PENN STATE

#65 – LG – Miles Deiffenbach – 6’3/303

3 year starter. Nothing special about his game but he gets the job done. He isn’t a pretty prospect, but he can be reliable interior guy. Could likely play some center as well. Not sure he has the quick twitch to start in the NFL, but could be a backup type for most schemes. Late rounder.

#1 – RB – Bill Belton – 5’10/205

Won’t jump off the stat sheet and I really don’t know if he will even get drafted. But I liked him every time I saw PSU play. He is really good change of direction ball carrier. Plays pretty tough, bigger than his frame would indicate. Good receiver good blocker. For where you can get him, I think Belton can be one of the better values at RB in this class.

#43 – MLB – Josh Hull – 6’0/227

Another season, another PSU linebacker in the conversation. 4th year senior with some big tackle numbers. I saw him a few times, but I was so impressed with her performance against Ohio State (19 tack/2.5 TFL/1 INT). He is an average athlete to the outside but he can be explosive between the tackles. Closes a gap real fast. He is one of those LBs that appear slippery to blockers. Really good movement after the snap and gets himself in position. Strong and powerful tackler that can really stone a ball carrier. May not be on the same level as some of the other PSU linebackers in the NFL but he can get drafted in the round 4-6 area.

#86 – DE – CJ Olaniyan – 6’3/244

Second year starter. Has long limbs and a frame that hand handle more weight. Average movement in space but he shows some pop out of his stance. Really good at playing with his hands. Shows some pass rushing potential from both a tools and skills perspective. PSU likes to move him around a little. Late rounder at best.

____________________________________________________________________

NEBRASKA

#8 – RB – Ameer Abdullah -5’9/200

One of the more underrated players overall in this draft class. Ultra-productive back that showed the ability to do it all. Will be viewed as an undersized back but Abdullah spent the past two years putting on some quality weight. He is a lot stronger and tougher than you think. He can run with a violent style when he needs to. Hard guy for a lone tackler to being down. He runs with such a low pad level and his late movement is top tier. Showed plenty of ability to block and catch the ball over the past two years. I see a Pierre Thomas type player here. I view him as a top 45 guy, but may last until the 3rd round.

#68 – LG – Jake Cotton – 6’6/305

One of my favorite under the radar OL in the nation. Excellent athlete, moves like a tight end. He can deliver plenty of pop on the move, could be a perfect fit for teams that have some zone blocking schemes. There is some strength needed though. He doesn’t lock on to guys, won’t control bigger defenders. The athleticism is something to watch though. Late rounder with a lot of upside if he can get stronger.

#80 – WR – Kenny Bell – 6’1/185

One of the top WRs in Nebraska history. 4 year starter. Led the Cornhuskers in either catches or yards every year of his career. Run-heavy program though. Bell is a little bit of a compiler and may not be the best NFL receiver prospect. He has decent speed and acceleration, OK route runner. His ball skills are the best part of his game. He has strong, big hands. I question his toughness in traffic over the middle. His game may be limited downfield. Seems like the kind of guy that is good enough at everything to be a factor on college, but doesn’t have the ability to translate the success to the NFL. Day three guy.

*#4 – DE – Randy Gregory – 6’5/245

Widely considered the top edge talent in this class. Gregory has all tools that every scout looks for. He’s long and lean with explosive movement and functional strength. He bends so well, it is almost freaky, and it allows him to get under the blocker’s pads and win the leverage battle. He had a rough 2014 injury wise, they really piled up (knee, foot, toe, concussion). But many of the scouts that have seen him play label him the top edge guy by a wide margin. I am a little hesitant because of his body type. Like Barkevious Mingo a few years back, I question his strength and power presence. I don’t care how fast you are, you need to have a power element to your game. I’m not sure Gregory can anchor a spot or do anything with his inside shoulder. I’ll have him in the top 20 overall just not sure about top 5.

#13 – OLB – Zaire Anderson – 5’11/220

Leading tackler. Squatty frame that delivers a violent pop to ball carriers and blockers. Very strong. Good instincts, gets in to position. He has a natural flow to the ball and that is the top thing I look for in linebackers. Probably a limited athlete in space and may be too small for some schemes. But I like this guy a lot. Late rounder that could end up working his way up to a starting spot down the road a la Chase Blackburn.

Other Notables:

#74 – RT – Mike Moudy – 6’5/305
#6 – S – Corey Cooper – 6’0/216

USC

*#94 – DT – Leonard Williams – 6’4/290

The top prospect in this game. Might be the top overall prospect in the nation. Freak of nature type guy when you consider his size/strength/speed. Has some football skills too, not just an athlete. All American that could probably play 4-3 DT or DE. Played a 3-4 DE type role at USC but he was moved around a lot. Started 2014 off with an ankle injury that hampered him quite a bit. Finished with a few strong performances. He has elite power from his legs and hands. He really is a matchup nightmare for any kind of blocker. Williams can beat you in so many ways. I have a hard time finding a comparison for him, but I could see a Mario Williams or JJ Watt type. Top 5 pick I think.

#10 – MLB – Hayes Pullard – 6’1/235

Fifth year senior. Really productive career. Has been the leading or 2nd leading tackler all four years. Can be a MLB or WLB prospect for 4-3 teams. Really good speed from sideline to sideline but also explosive downhill in to traffic. He can lay the lumber. He is a quick thinker, plays the game with his eyes, beats blockers to a spot. He can really be swallowed up by OL though. When a blocker reaches him, he can’t get off without running out of position. Not a dominant LB by any means but he can play in the NFL. Maybe similar to Jonathan Casillas, a guy I’ve always liked as a rotational LB. 4th or 5th round.

#58 – OLB – JR Tavai – 6’2/250

Rush LB with plenty of versatility and experience. Hyper player, gets by on constant effort and a non stop motor. Led the team with 7 sacks. Will drop in to coverage and play the run well. Solid all around player. Most likely a 3-4 guy. Few injuries to ankles/feet but nothing too serious. Most likely a 6th or 7th rounder.

*#15 – WR – Nelson Agholor – 6’0/185

Junior that has not yet declared. Was one of my favorite WRs coming in to 2014. When Marquis Lee was hampered with injuries in 2013, it was Agholor that stepped up and showed glimpses of domination. Agholor is a god athlete, but his best feature is between the ears. Really good at reading the defense and wiggling his way open. Really good after the catch. Has the late quickness and agility to miss tacklers. He has elite skills and above average tools. Might not run that fast or measure that tall/long, but he is a player. I might have him in my top 5 WR, but he will most likely be drafted somewhere around #75 overall.

*#6 – QB – Cody Kessler – 6’1/215

I talked about Kessler in November as a guy that people should watch for as a potential QB that shoots up the board in the coming months. There are questions with Winston and Mariota, serious ones. After them, the QB class is pretty bad. Kessler could swoop in and sneak in to the 1st round. He lacks the height that most want but you know what, I really see some Drew Brees type throwing ability here. Tough as nails. Really accurate no matter where he is or where he is throwing the ball. Quick decisions, quick release. Kessler played in an NFL type offense, threw almost 40 TDs with just 4 INTs while completing 70+% of his passes. If I had to guess, I say he goes back to school but he is a guy you should watch out for.

*#37 – RB – Javarious Allen – 6’1/220

I have to be honest. Even though I’ve seen USC plenty this year, I only scouted Allen once. It wasn’t a very good game for him. I don’t have a good feel for him yet other than what some guys have told me. A lot of people like Allen as much as Coleman and Yeldon. He is a junior that may not declare though, so we’ll see. He is a physical back with surprising speed on the open field. He can run away from a defense. I noticed tight hips and lack of ability to miss contact. Runs a little too high. Really good pass catcher though with good skills. Some say he could be a 1st rounder, but I would peg him somewhere in the 3rd.

Dec 202014
 
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Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State Rams (October 11, 2014)

Ty Sambrailo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 20, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

NEVADA

#17 – QB – Cody Fajardo – 6’2/215

Fifth year senior that has been starting since his redshirt freshman season. Dual threat type with a really strong arm. Led the team in rushing. Runs the ball a lot. A very cheap version of Kaepernick. Only saw him once and that was against Arizona. He played really well in that game, showing some toughness/grit/comeback ability. Projects to be a late rounder but he should get drafted. He is a runner because the scheme called him to be, but there is legit arm talent there. Not just a gimmick guy.

#53 – DE – Brock Hekking – 6’4/255

Probably mostly know because of his WWF type hair style. Not the prospect that some labeled him to be earlier in the year. Lacks some of the more important tools that you look for in a 4-3 DE. Had a down year in 2014 after leading this team in sacks and TFL in 2012 and 2013. His game is based purely on energy/hustle/aggression. Saw some tape against Colorado State’s 1st round caliber OT. His lack of physical talent was apparent but he brings it every play. Doesn’t stop until that whistle blows and can make plays based on effort alone every game. Late round prospect at best but he will be in demand. Coaches like this kind of guy.

#24 – DB – Charles Garrett – 5’11/205

Versatile DB that has a lot of experience split between S and CB. May be too thick for the CB spot in the NFL, lacks that quick twitch and reaction. I actually have some intrigue here with Garrett, I want to see more of him. He plays a fast and aggressive game, physical player. Wore a fee hats for this team and performed well across the board. Does he have the movement ability? There is some trouble off the field that needs to be looked in to as well.

#2 – WR – Richy Turner – 5’11/180

Slot receiver prospect with good quickness in and out of his breaks. Really smooth catcher and route runner. Unspectacular prospect but does enough of the little things well to get a late round look. He will likely test out well athletically. Would have liked to see more production but he can play. Limited player but a lot of good slot WRs in the NFL looked like this guy in college.

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

#8 – QB – Terrance Broadway – 6’2/221

Only saw Broadway once in 2014, wasn’t really impressed. Another dual threat QB that has some arm talent to him. Strong player that can run with some power but wouldn’t call him a guy that keeps opposing coaches up at night. Inaccurate on simple throws. Sloppy mechanics. Will leave school near or at the top of many all time passing records. Not really interested in him but will put an eyeball on him tonight.

#67 – RT – Daniel Quave – 6’3/324

Fifth year senior that has started every game of his career. Has played RG and RT. Projects to be a G at the next level. Only have one look at him on my sheet so I need to see more. Typical squatty guard that packs a punch but struggles to move with faster defenders at a lower level of college football. Really strong upper body. Could project to be a late day three guy.

#46 – RB – Alonzo Harris – 6’1/238

In between the tackles runner that needs to be a downhill guy in the NFL. Can’t be an outside runner. Most likely limited to short yardage/goal line duty. Will struggle to make it at the next level, just doesn’t have that quick twitch and vision to make things happen. Pretty basic player and athlete that lost carries to a talented sophomore they have. Doesn’t catch a lot of balls. Unspectacular guy that will likely get a look late in the draft or in free agency from a team that wants a power back.

#6 – DT – Justin Hamilton – 6’2/310

First team all Sun Belt. Probably the highest upside player in this game. Hamilton carries 300+ pounds with ease. Athletic mover in space but also plays a violent game. Angry player that beats guys up, plain and simple. I think he could be a solid 3-4 DE and/or 4-3 DT. The hybrid defensive schemes will love him.

#7 – CB – Corey Trim – 5’11/192

Again, I have not gotten a lot of looks at Trim. He is a good sized corner that was avoided for the most part in the game I saw. Looking forward to seeing if he has a physical side to him because he isn’t much of a speed guy.

****************************

UTAH STATE

#74 – OT – Kevin Whimpey – 6’5/295

Fifth year senior. Wide-shouldered team captain with a lot of strength. Needs to gain mass. Has the feet to play in the NFL but lacks the technique. His feet get stuck too often and his hand placement is too high. Late rounder at best here but I think he gets a look from someone based on his frame and experience.

#52 – LB – Zach Vigil – 6’/240

Probably the top prospect in this game. Productive and experienced leader. Fun guy to watch because he’ll do anything. Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year (19.5 TFL and 9.5 sacks) He shows ability to run with tight ends down the seam that are more athletic than him. But he can also blitz inside/out and push linemen through the pocket. Just a quality football guy that teams like to have on their team. I think he has an outside shot at being a top 100 pick if he can grade out well in workouts.

#99 – DE – BJ Larsen – 6’5/275

Another guy I like based on frame/speed alone. Larsen is a strong presence outside with a violent style. He shows some intriguing athletic ability as well. Reads and flows towards the action. Demands a lot of attention from the opposition but still makes an impact. Guys at this size with his movement ability almost always get drafted. I think he could be a 5th rounder.

UTEP

#14 – WR – Ian Hamilton – 6’5/229

Team’s leading receiver in 2014. Upside guy that will draw the attention of scouts based purely on long term upside. He has the tools. Big, tall, and long with some speed. Averaged over 20 yards per catch in 2014. I want to get another look at him, looking forward to looking at more position-specific traits here.

*******************************************

UTAH

#8 – DE – Nate Orchard – 6’4/255

All American. Led the nation in sacks per game, finished with a total of 17.5. Not just a pass risher though, he has a complete game to him. Initially came to Utah as a WR, has added 60 pounds since high school. He won’t test out in the top tier athletically, but he is a football player. Does so many things really well. Gravitates towards the action better than most pass rushers. Functionally strong. Uses his long arms and strong hands well. He could be a sneaky 4-3 DE prospect. He was considered a raw guy with upside heading in to 2014 and then he blew up. Tough matchup against the Colorado State LT, huge game for his draft grade. Could be a 3rd rounder.

#18 – DB – Eric Rowe – 6’1/201

4 year starter. Over 45 career starts on his resume, most of them at FS. Played CB this year and I think it really increased his draft grade. He has the height/length that the NFL looks for, but also legit sub 4.4 speed. Ball skills are there, as are the reaction times and instincts. Get involved often. Active player with a lot of aggression. Not sure he has the functional speed downfield, he’ll be tested by an All American WR in this game. Probably a round 3 or 4 guy.

#80 – TE – Westlee Tonga – 6’4/244

Will be an old rookie (27). Has a laundry list of injuries over his college career. Missed all of 2013 with a knee. He was a question mark for 2014 but he played really well. I saw him against USC and he was able to get open against their athletic LBs. Quick twitch guy in fort and intermediate routes that catches the ball when it’s near him. Physical guy with a lot of effort to his game. Works hard as a blocker, can control guys and at the very least stay between them and the ball carrier. Late round prospect that would be drafted if it weren’t for his age.

COLORADO STATE

#51 – OT – Ty Sambrailo – 6’5/315

The top prospect in this game. Big matchup for him being against Orchard for most of the game. Sambrallo has 1st round tools, traits, and skills but he isn’t mentioned with the top guys. I can remember seeing him whole scouting Richburg last year and thinking he had 1st round ability. His game is all about consistent body control and technique. He isn’t a power guy, but he is powerfull/strong enough. Easy mover that always looks balanced. You see some left tackles that lack body control when going after a blocker, not this guy. Sambrailo has the size and movement to be a 1st rounder. Just a consistent, no-nonsense kind of blocker that you rarely see make mistakes. NYG should be giving him a hard look.

#18 – QB – Garrett Grayson – 6’2/220

One of the day 2 or 3 QBs that could shoot up the draft boards in the coming months. Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. Very strong arm, good decision maker and can make all the throws. Footwork and throwing mechanics are all there. Would love to see what he can do at the Senior Bowl. I think he is just as talented as Ryan Nassib but with more upside.

#37 – LB – Aaron Davis – 6’1/221

A lot of guys like Davis, but I haven’t seen a good game yet. He is a poor tackler that doesn’t have a major physical impact on the game. There is a lack of size and power here and he doesn’t exactly have superb athletic ability. At best I see him as a late rounder.

#23 – CB – Bernard Blake – 6’0/185

Average corner with some height and length. Gets thrown at a lot, hence why he has some quality pass break up numbers. He isn’t a guy that strikes fear in to the opposing offense. Just another guy that could be drafted somewhere on day 3.

Nov 262014
 
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Amari Cooper, Alabama Crimson Tide (November 8, 2014)

Amari Cooper – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft – November 26, 2014 Report

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

After posting some draft comments last weekend, a couple of erstwhile, not to mention discerning, BigBlueInteractive.com regulars asked if I would consider posting some draft thoughts based on where the Giants stood regarding the 2015 draft between now and the end of the season given there isn’t much else to really get excited about in Big Blue land. Along the way, I’d also hope that at least when it comes to the draft that folks really try and think like a pro rather than carry on like a pampered frat house sophomore or a drunk hollering in a bar.

First off, people just have to stop talking about Jerry Reese’s draft picks. JERRY REESE DOESN’T MAKE THE PICKS! Neither does Marc Ross for that matter. The fact is that the Giants invest literally millions of dollars and hundred of man hours putting a grade on every draft eligible player out there and then coalescing as a collective around the guys they like.

Second, if guys are going to talk about the draft, it would be nice if they understood how it really works. In particular, when people say the it’s a lottery or a crapshoot what they mean is that the draft IS a lottery or a crapshoot. It is like flipping coins. George Young probably said it best when he said that when it comes to the draft you gather as much information as you can get, make the best picks you can, and then you cross your fingers. Hit a bunch of heads and they call you a genius; hit too many tails and they start calling your 4th round picks – that only had a 25% or so probability of ever working out in the first place – that don’t work out BLUNDERS!

Thirdly, folks could really humor this old draft guy by not posting who they’d take. Trust me, nobody cares! Fact is nobody should care who I’d take. Folks might care a tad, though, who I think the Giants might be looking because I have a pretty good track record of dissecting and predicting what they might be thinking, although nobody’s perfect!

Where we stand … If the draft were held this week the Giants would have the 7th pick in the opening round, the same as last week as each of the team’s just ahead of the Giants also lost. Of course, the lay of the land could change for the Giants as the next couple of weeks as they head into what can only be described as the ‘easy’ part of the schedule. Indeed, the Giants next four opponents have a combined record of 10-34, whereas during the current 6-game losing streak the opponents combined W-L record was 45-21. In fact, if its any small consolation to Giants’ fans, the 8 losses so far this year came against teams with a combined winning % of almost 70%; indeed, even throw out the wins against the Giants and they are still 53-27 or 66% against the rest of the league.

The good news for the Giants is that even if they are able to win the majority of their remaining games, although that’s hardly a given, they won’t lose all that many draft spots as there are just aren’t a whole lot of teams within striking distance ahead of them in the standings. In fact, even were the Giants able to run the table the rest of the year, they aren’t likely to draft much higher than the 13-14 range.

The less good news for the Giants if indeed their 2015 first round pick is to be in the #7 range is, at least how looks right now (although of course a whole bunch is going to change between now and April 30), that it appears that there is a major drop-off after the top 4-5  players in this year’s draft which right now look to be QBs Mariota and Winston (assuming he doesn’t get red-flagged), DEs Williams and Gregory and WR Cooper. Of that group, Alabama WR Amari Cooper is the most likely to somehow slip down to the 7th spot – and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise that if the Giants had their druthers they would love to add a big-play receiver like Cooper to pair with Beckham and hopefully Cruz, but it could very well take a trade up to guarantee getting the Tide star.

At the same time, again at least at this point in time, it does not appear as if there would be a particularly neat match between the top players available and the Giants’ draft priorities. The next best guys, at least on a consensus NFL board, for example, look like Alabama SS Landon Collins and OTs Brandon Scherff of Iowa and A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi. Each would fill a need, but none is the kind of real impact player that a team like the Giants would likely like to add if they were to get a top 10 pick this year. Collins, for example, is more an in-the-box type SS and the Giants would almost certainly prefer a rangy FS type. Of course, the Giants would be very intrigued by a so-called Blue Goose-can’t miss OT, but I am not sure there is such an animal in this year’s draft. Scherff, who has been described as this year’s Zach Martin, might be the most interesting OL option if it came to that. He’s not that athletic, but is a big, really tough, physical guy who you could start out at OG, but ultimately move to either OT if the need arose.

That said, I don’t see the Giants entering the draft with the OL the #1 priority. The one real gap they have is RG and there other ways to address that than use the highest pick you have had in almost two decades. My best guess is that heading into the 2015 draft the Giants top priorities will be a) upgrading the pass rush; b) adding some more weapons on offense including another WR and RB; and c) adding some speed and athleticism to the defensive back 7, along with the OL. Obviously, they likely won’t be able to accomplish everything with just three premium picks, but obviously some of those issues can be addressed just as well in free agency.

In fact, in the end, if the Giants were ultimately to pick around #7, there is a very good chance that the player they take isn’t rated quite in that area at this time as there are a bunch of players hovering just outside the top 10-15 right now with the upside to go higher. That group includes WRs Kevin White of West Virginia, Michigan tweener Devin Funchess, Davante Parker of Louisville, Jaelen Strong of Arizona State, along with enigmatic 6-5 Dorial Green-Beckham of Oklahoma, 6-9 Baylor DE Shawn Oakman, and dynamic Washington OLB Shaq Thompson. Time will tell.

Of course, the draft runs more than one round and if the draft were held this week the Giants would also have the 38th and 71st picks. And if there is some good 2015 draft news for the Giants its that it appears there will be excellent depth at several positions of interest including RB, WR, and safety, while there should also be some decent depth at positions like OG, OT and MLB. There could also be a couple or three DE prospects available in the second round, including Nate Orchard of Utah, Kentucky’s Bud Dupree and LSU junior Danielle Hunter; however, DE does not look like it will be particularly strong at the 2015 draft and any team that wants to upgrade at the position won‘t want to dawdle.

Meanwhile, the list of other players that could be on the Giants’ radar in the second round include RBs Tevin Coleman of Indiana, Miami’s Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska; WRs Sammie Coates of Auburn and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, South Carolina OG A.J. Cann; and safeties Gerod Hollimon of Lousiville, Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss and Derron Smith of Fresno State. For the record, there could also be a number of very good OT candidates in the 2nd round including Tyrus Thompson of Oklahoma, Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State, Ereck Flowers of Miami, and Spencer Drango of Baylor.

Oct 262014
 
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Perry Fewell, New York Giants (January 8, 2012)

Perry Fewell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Outsider’s Report: Special Defensive Pressure Package Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

The warden finally allowed us to watch the tape of the Giants-Cowboys game now that we have been released from the Hole. (Editor’s Note: When your job is in the prison cafeteria, people need to be specific when they ask for a tossed salad. ‘Nuff said.) The Outsider Report (TOSR) staff carefully examined the tape, and then asked to be put back in the Hole. That request denied, we decided to write up our report. As always, although we lack any contacts, inside information, derrière millinery, or media passes, we nevertheless bring you the truth beyond the facts. Although much of what we write is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over pedestrian media in two important ways: 1) it’s free; and 2) we use only the most effervescent fonts.

In our view, the key to this game was the inability of the Giants to get any pass rush. Some observers astutely note that when you give quarterbacks 8-10 minutes in the pocket, they tend to find open WRs. It seemed like no matter what the Giants did, there was little pass rush. This was especially true in the second half when Dallas QB Tony Romo had exactly zero incomplete passes. (This, sadly, negated the usual Giants second half D motto, “It could have been worse!”)

So, it was gratifying for TOSR sources to learn that the league this week launched an investigation into the whereabouts of the Giants LBs and what happens to them when they rush the passer. At a press conference held by Rodger Goodell he said,

It has come to my attention that during games, defensive players for the New York Football Giants seem to be disappearing from the field of play. Our film analysis shows that this is taking place on plays in which Linebackers rush the passer. They leave the defensive backfield toward the opposing Quarterback and then… just, well, vanish. It has happened game after game. Fans have asked us to look into it, and we are responding. We have used the chips embedded in their pads this year to try and track them with telemetry, but the signals just go blank. It’s as if they enter the Bermuda Triangle on the field. Then after the pass is complete, the data begin again as the player appears jogging to the new line of scrimmage, typically 8 or more yards downfield.

To try and learn more, we asked Giants LB Jacquian Williams some incisive questions:

TOSR: What kind of name is Jacquian?

JW: What? I don’t know, it’s just what my parents named me. I thought you wanted to talk about pass rush?

TOSR: Ok, ok. What do you experience when you rush the passer?

JW: It’s very spooky. I begin to rush. I see an offensive player, usually a lineman or back, and then, it all just kind of goes blank. There’s flashes of light, I see sky sometimes, or turf, I hear weird grunting noises. Then, nothing. The play is over and they’ve made another first down. I can’t really remember anything that happened.

TOSR: And, do you think you’ve been abducted? Do you get anal probed at any point?

JW: What?

TOSR: Nothing, never mind. Do you see a QB at any point during this process?

JW: I thought I saw one once. I can’t be sure. It was blurry.

TOSR: Can you show me on this doll where they blocked you?

JW: Here and here. And, sometimes, …here.

TOSR: So, shoulders, chest, and sometimes legs?

JW: I think so. I like I said, it’s all sort of a blur. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

TOSR: And, do you ever try and avoid these blocks? How do we know you’re really trying to get to the QB?

JW: What are you saying? That I’m ‘asking for it’ by the way I rush? That it didn’t really happen? Look, I don’t know what happens out there! It’s not my fault. IT’S NOT MY FAULT!

TOSR: Just one more question. Seriously, what kind of name is Jacquian? Do we pronounce the “i” or…

JW: I’m outta here.

Looking to go more in depth, we caught up with Giants DC Perry Fewell to ask him more about this mystery. We asked him whether he had any insight into the disappearance of his pass rushing LBs. “We had veteran players. We run a sophisticated pass rush scheme. You have to take into account and communicate a lot out there — the down, distance, game clock, opponent tendencies, the QB, the personnel package, the field conditions, the strong side of the formation, wind speed, barometric pressure, biorhythms, astrological charts, whether there’s an ebb tide, polling results, electrical resistance, shear stress, the partial pressure of nitrogen, hydrostatic pressure, ovulation, market fluctuation, centripetal force, and charmed quarks.” We suggested that it seemed complex. He responded, “It is! It’s much harder than rocket science, it’s football. But, as a coach you simplify it for the players to help them understand. I have boiled it all down to easy to understand three point schemes for pass and run pressures.”

To validate this information, I got my hacker roommate who is part of the mysterious group known only as Anonymous — but whose name is Ed Tergarian, and he lives in his mom’s basement in West Caldwell — to hack Coach Fewell’s computer, and steal a copy of the defensive playbook. (Editor’s note: “password123” is not a secure password, Perry) In a TOSR exclusive, here for the first time is the Giants LB blitz package reproduced in its entirety. We ask you to PLEASE do not share this information for obvious reasons, to avoid giving away our strategies. Once this is published, our sources will leave for Russia like that NSA leaker guy. (Although, in this case, it’s just to pick up the mail-order bride. Welcome, Anastasia!)

NY Football Giants Pressure Packages for SAM, MIKE, and WILL

Passing Pressure Package: Three-Step Plan
A) Directly engage opposing blockers
B) ???
C) Really big sacks!

Run Blitz: Three-Step Plan
A) Synergy
B) Think Outside the Box
C) Empowerment!

That’s it. That’s the whole damn thing. Well, he definitely boiled it down. I see why they disappear now. I want to disappear now, too.

Tune in next week when we examine the Giants run blocking scheme. Spoiler alert: “Just kinda get in the way of someone if you can” could be in there! Until then, thank goodness it’s a bye week so we can pretend we’re fans of a functional football team. “They just look like the Broncos, but really that was the Giants. See? Manning is the QB.”

Sep 302014
 
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Todd Gurley, Georgia Bulldogs (September 27, 2014)

Todd Gurley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft: Quarter-Point Thoughts

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

What have we learned so far… Truth is we may not have actually learned a whole lot through the New York Giants first four games of the year. We did learn that the weeks after wins are a whole lot more fun than the weeks after losses.  We also learned that if the Giants are plus multiple turnovers (Houston, Washington) they probably win, but if they are a net minus multiple turnovers (Detroit, Arizona) they most likely lose.  Now the test for the Giants will be can win their share of games where there is no real difference in the turnovers.

And it is going to be a test because there are no gimmies over the next 7-8 weeks on the Giants’ schedule. However, with a offense that appears to be getting into sync – although they’d probably still like to see a few more big plays – and a defense that has guys who can rush the passer and other guys that can cover – although they’ll likely be having to paper over weaknesses at both linebacker and safety – the Giants figure to be reasonably competitive the rest of the way, again assuming they don’t end up -2 or more too many weeks in turnovers. At the same time, they may have just a few too many deficiencies (see above), not to mention the SOS difficulty, to win more than 9-10 games.

As such we are kind of thinking the Giants currently look like a team that will end up with a mid-round pick at the 2015 NFL Draft – say somewhere between 14 and 18 – although that’s why they actually play the games. We also note the qualifiers that (a) team needs can change quite literally from week to week, and (b) that the ultimate quality of the upcoming draft is still to be determined based on a number of factors including how many underclassmen opt to turn pro this winter. However, the draft is a process and to paraphrase “we are where we are!”

For starters, it certainly appears that much of the doom and gloom about Eli, the TEs and the offensive line – not that some of it wasn’t warranted at the time – may have been somewhat overblown hysteria. Certainly, the emergence of Larry Donnell as a legitimate receiving threat – for the record, he’s on pace to catch over 100 passes this season – has arguably been the best storyline for the Giants so far this season. If nothing else, should the emergence of Donnell continue the rest of the season, it will almost certainly take TE off the board for the Giants early at the 2015 Draft, although it is still possible the team could address the position in later rounds this coming May.

There is something of a similar story along the offensive line. Indeed, heading into the season it appeared that the Giants #1 priority heading into the 2015 off-season would be to figure out to do at LT with incumbent starter Will Beatty continuing to struggle through the pre-season. However, after a somewhat rocky start in the season opener against Detroit, Beatty has been pitching shutouts. And breaking down the game tape suggests that there are indeed some things Beatty appears to be doing differently of late. For starters, Beatty appears to be getting off the snap much more crisply that he did last year and in the pre-season. In particular, Beatty had been tending to just stand up off the snap before moving toward his assignment, whereas this year he‘s coming off the snap much lower and more assertively toward the point of attack. Beatty also appears to be taking somewhat better angles in the pocket. In the past, for example, Beatty has tended to drift out toward the DE when the latter takes a wide route, which in effect shortened the distance the DE had to go to get around him; this year, though, Beatty has been staying tighter to the pocket and has been letting the DE come to him. It also appears that Beatty has simply been battling harder his year. Against Washington, for example, he had his knees buckled on 2-3 occasions, but he still managed to throw his body between the rusher and the QB and disrupt the rush.

At the same time, though, Beatty still displays some really labored footwork, especially when back-peddling. Indeed, Beatty’s feet look like a couple of pistons when he’s moving in reverse; in particular, there’s just way too much up and down movement in his footwork which tends to limit his lateral range. And because he lifts his feet so far off the ground when back-peddling, Beatty struggles to maintain his balance when he has to absorb contact from a defensive linemen when one of his feet is off the ground. Meanwhile, anyone who wants to see how its supposed to be done only needs to look down the line at RT Justin Pugh who has a smooth, easy slide step and really does kind of glide around the pocket without a whole lot of wasted motion.

What it all may mean is that OT may not be quite the priority at the 2015 draft that it appeared to be at the start of the season. While he’s far from the most polished guy at the position, Beatty likely won’t be going anywhere – at least in the short term – this off-season, and even if the Giants did decide that #65 wasn’t worth the cap figure, it appears that Pugh is likely the LT in waiting. That doesn’t mean the Giants won’t address the position at the 2015 draft, it just may mean that it may be more a RT/depth type player rather than a pure LT with a premium pick. And that may be a good thing because the 2015 OT draft class hasn’t developed as well had been expected. Its still likely that the top LT prospects like Ogbuehi, Scherff and Peat will be off the board by the middle of the opening round, but there is something of a drop-off to the next level. And that may have the Giants looking at RT prospects like Corey Robinson of South Carolina, Oklahoma‘s Tyrus Thompson or Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State in the 3rd or 4th rounds. (And for anyone actually checking out Robinson, #50 next to him is A.J. Cann, arguably the best OG prospect in this year’s draft, who’d bring a little of that old Chris Snee intensity to the unit were he still there in the second round, although that’s probably a longshot.)

In fact, assuming that the Giants pick somewhere toward the middle of this year’s opening round, its not clear that there will necessarily be a great match between their needs and the talent available. Of course, the one thing about the draft is that its hardly static and a whole bunch can and likely will change between now and May. Right now, though, it also looks like there won’t be any mid-first round locks at DE to fill the Giants other big need for a quality edge rusher to pair with Jason Pierre-Paul. Again the elite DE prospects like Leonard Williams and Randy Gregory look like they will be long gone by the time the Giants get on the clock, and while the second tier group has some talent including guys like Mario Edwards of Florida State, Florida’s Dante Fowler or Shilique Calhoun of Michigan State there are no locks at the position outside the top 2-3 guys and the team might be just as well served looking at one of several underrated emerging prospects at the position rising like BYU junior or Alvin Dupree of Kentucky.

Of course, its almost impossible to project what other general goals a team like the Giants might have entering an off-season that is still months away. However, it would not be a surprise at all here if the Giants head into 2015 looking to upgrade both the speed and athleticism in the back seven, especially at WLB and at safety, on defense, as well as continue to add impact players on offense. Unfortunately, for a team like the Giants, it does not look like 2015 is going to be a very good year at all at either safety or linebacker. Alabama’s Landen Collins is a potential top ten pick at safety, but he’s another player likely to be off the board when the Giants make their opening round pick and there is a real drop-off at the position after that, although a team could get lucky  in the 3rd round with someone like Derron Smith of Fresno State, Ole Miss’ Cody Prewitt, Kurt Drummond of Michigan State or Syracuse junior Durrell Eskridge. Meanwhile, there’s a better than even chance no LB will be chosen at all in this year’s opening round, although Washington WLB Shaq Thompson and Miami ILB Denzel Perryman look to be good value in the middle of the second round.

On the other hand, the 2015 Draft looks like it will be very deep at the offensive skill positions. Indeed, WR is quietly emerging as the deepest position in this year’s draft. And while the Giants did select Odell Beckham with their #1 pick this past May, they are hardly set at the position behind Beckham and Cruz. In fact, if there is a player who could be described as a perfect fit for the Giants’ offensive scheme it could very well be Stanford WR Ty Montgomery, a bigger (6-1, 215), faster version of what the Giants had hoped they’d get in Jerrel Jernigan. For the record, Montgomery has already scored receiving, rushing and return TDs this fall, after catching 61 passes in 2013 when he also was #2 in the country in KO returns with an average of over 30 yards per pop. Like last ear, though, the 2015 draft looks like it will be rich with receivers such that teams should be able to get players who can contribute right through the second day and into the 4th round.

Meanwhile, the $64K question for the Giants at the 2015 draft just might be whether they pull the trigger if Georgia RB Todd Gurley were still available when they make their opening round pick. For those that don’t follow college football, Gurley is being described as the best player in all of college football this fall with AP type ability (as a football player not a parent!). Its possible, however, that he slips out of the top 10 because of the position he plays. You’d have to figure, though, that while Rashad Jennings has been solid enough this year, new OC Ben McAdoo would just love to get his hands on a big back like Gurley who can break tackles in the open field and really put pressure on opposing defenses to really have to think about devoting extra resources to stopping the Giants running game, in the process hopefully opening things up even more for the passing attack. And while ending up with a stud like Gurley is probably still something of a longshot, we’d still expect the Giants to look to add another back with a premium pick next year from a draft that like the situation at WR. is exceptionally deep at the position.

Sep 222014
 
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New York Giants at Washington Redskins (September 22, 1940); Tuffy Leemans with the ball.

New York Giants at Washington Redskins (September 22, 1940); Tuffy Leemans with the ball.

by Larry Schmitt for BigBlueInteractive.com

Part of the early NFL’s success in distinguishing itself from the more popular college game was splitting the league into two divisions and having the first place finishers meet to decide the league championship. Fan interest spiked, newspaper coverage increased, statistical documentation improved and the league stabilized.

In their eight seasons prior to the divisional format, the New York Giants had two sets of rivals. The first was the teams they regularly competed with for first place, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. The second set was the various geographical rivals within the New York City area. Most were short lived incarnations: the New York Yankees (1926-1928), the Brooklyn Lions/Horsemen (1927), the Staten Island Stapletons (1929-32), and the Newark Tornadoes (1929-30). The longest-tenured and most-viable franchise was the Brooklyn Dodgers/Tigers (1930-44).

Most of those local teams were unsuccessful and not much of a threat to the Giants on the field, but they were more than a nuisance. They competed with the Giants for talent and occasionally were successful in outbidding the established franchise for players. They also were an unneeded distraction when home dates conflicted. It was hard enough getting fans to come to the Polo Grounds without having games coincide within the city limits.

At the outset of divisional play in 1933, the usual teams were at the top. The Giants won the Eastern Division title and the Bears won the Western. In fact, over the first 14 seasons of this format, there was very little variety in the NFL Championship game. The Western Division was represented by the Bears eight times, the Packers four times and the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Rams once each. The domination in the East was even more stringent; all 14 titles belonged to just two teams. The Giants represented the East eight times and the other six by their first true rival, the Boston/Washington Redskins.

The 1933-35 seasons saw the Giants dominate the Eastern Division with little competition. Although New York’s record against Boston was 5-1 in that span, the rivalry with the Redskins grew to be so spectacular in the late 1930’s through the mid 1940’s that it was compared to famed college clashes in the vein of Yale-Harvard and Army-Navy. The league schedule-makers wisely capitalized on this feud, and often scheduled the Giants and Redskins to meet in the final week of the regular season. The December Giants-Redskins games at the Polo Grounds regularly had larger crowds than their Championship Games against the Bears or Packers the following week. The Redskins final season in Boston was the launch point, and it featured what would become almost an annual rite of passage to the Championship match – a winner-take-all, head-to-head season finale.

The New Contender Emerges

In 1936, former Giant end Ray Flaherty, who served as Steve Owen’s assistant coach in 1935, was in his first season as head coach of Boston and he had his team playing sharply, physically and confidently. Joining Flaherty was rookie Wayne Millner, a strong two-way end who proved to be a clutch receiver. The Redskins arrived in New York with a 6-5 record while the Giants stood at 5-5-1, which included a 7-0 win at Boston in October. Only a victory would vault the Giants into first place.

Much of the hype leading up to the game included a subplot of who would lead the NFL in rushing. Giants’ rookie sensation Tuffy Leemans entered the final week with 806 yards. New York’s practices were shortened in the early part of the week, first due to the Polo Grounds field being frozen, later from torrential rains falling. One of the practice reports from midweek described the scene of the Giants sloughing through ankle-deep mud in the patch of field close to the center field bleachers, as the grounds crew had the field of play covered with a tarp. “The ball carriers slipped and passes found the water-soaked pigskin wobbling through the air.”

The weather was not much better on game day, and kept what was expected to be a near capacity crowd to 18,000. The New York Times described the contest as not “even being a football game, but rather a parody of one.” Ball carriers “skidded as far as they ran” in “the clammiest mud imaginable.” The downpour lasted through the first three quarters and floodlights were turned on in the second half to illuminate the mud caked players through the foggy haze that settled inside the dreary Polo Grounds. The pileups became dangerous as the field deteriorated. The hazardous conditions were blamed for Les Corzine’s broken ankle and Tony Sarausky’s concussion “that narrowly missed being a fracture of the skull.”

The Redskins put the Giants in a hole early and held the field-position advantage throughout. Future Hall of Fame tackle Glen “Turk” Edwards partially blocked Ed Danowksi’s punt from the Giants end zone, setting up Boston on the New York four-yard line. Three plays later Don Irwin plunged over from one-yard out to put the Redskins ahead 7-0.

Boston Redskins at New York Giants (December 6, 1936)

Boston Redskins at New York Giants (December 6, 1936)

New York’s offense never found any tread. Passing the ball was a near impossibility, and Boston played a virtual 10-man line to clog the line of scrimmage and stuff the New York rushing attack in the “veritable quagmire.” Boston threatened twice more in the first half, but failed to capitalize as their scoring chances failed with a missed a field goal and lost fumble. Battles’ 74-yard sloshing punt return in the third quarter sealed the Giants fate.

Ironically, despite the Giants 14-0 loss, the Polo Grounds would still host the NFL Championship Game the following Sunday. Redskins Owner George Preston Marshall was dissatisfied with the small crowds at Fenway Park and decided his team would not return to Boston. Green Bay defeated the Redskins 21-6 in a defensive slugfest. After the game, Marshall told his team (which had three All-Pros in Battles, Edwards and center Frank Bausch) they were good enough to win a championship, all they needed was a quality passer.

That passer was taken with the Redskins first pick of the draft: tailback Sammy Baugh, whom Marshall personally scouted. Baugh was more than a ground breaking passer, he was an all-round player who also was a hard tackling safety on defense and exceptional punter. Meanwhile, Owen and the Giants believed they were more than one player away from going back to the Championship Game, and populated their roster with a significant number of rookies, including backs Ward Cuff and Hank Soar, ends Will Walls, Jim Poole and Jim Lee Howell, and guard Orville Tuttle.

In 1937, the new-look teams met under the flood lights for a night contest in front of 25,000 Washingtonians. They marveled at Baugh’s aerials, which twice drove the home team to field goals. The real ace for the Redskins though was back Riley Smith, who not only accounted for all of Washington’s points in the 13-3 victory, but who also made the game-altering play on defense. New York trailed 6-3 in the fourth quarter and was advancing on Washington’s rugged defense. Twice earlier, New York had been stopped on downs in goal-to-go situations. Riley intercepted Danowski’s pass and returned it 58 yards for the clinching score.

Despite the loss, Owen had to be encouraged with his young team’s performance on a big stage against one of the best outfits in the league. New York actually had the statistical advantage in most categories, including a lop-sided rushing-yards advantage of 226-105. The teams were almost even in the forward passing department. Baugh was 11-17 for 116 yards and Danowski 9-17 for 85 yards, but Danowski threw two interceptions, the second of which being the most costly.

Busy at the Blackboard

New York won their next four games and entered the season finale with a 6-2-2 record. Part of their success was a new two-platoon system where Owen had his team divided into interchangeable sub units. Beginning with the home opener in October versus Philadelphia, Owen swapped out 10 players at the end of the first and third quarters – the lone exception being Mel Hein who usually played the full 60 minutes. Not only did this keep his team fresh, it gave all the young players plenty of game experience.

A friendly rivalry known as “the soda pop derby” developed between the two squads (known as Team A and Team B) and they charted their net score throughout the season. The team with the highest net point differential would be treated to a round of sodas (or perhaps a more adult beverage) by the other.

The 7-3 Redskins won five of six following a 2-2 start. Rookie Baugh hit his stride in mid-October and led the league in forward completions and passing yards. He was most comfortable operating from the Double Wing formation. This formation featured the Single Wing’s unbalanced line, but had the quarterback or blocking back moved just outside the end, potentially giving the tailback four receiving options on every snap. Since the backfield was more balanced in this setup, the defense had a more difficult time anticipating where the ball would go after the snap. Flaherty also devised a new strategy where a back moved laterally to receive a pass behind a group of pulling linemen, which would later become known as a screen pass. Washington also featured the league’s #1 defense and leading rusher, Battles, who became the first player to lead the league in rushing twice (having first done so in 1932.)

T-Formation and Single WingThe Giants-Washington game at the Polo Grounds again fell on the final Sunday of the regular-season schedule and would determine which team played the Western Division Champion for the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy. The anticipation was high and ticket demand heavy – the Giants had hopes for a sellout. Marshall did his part to drum up interest in his own pompous way. He brought a caravan of approximately 10,000 football crazy fanatics from the DC region north on the Amtrak to Manhattan, including the Redskins 75-piece matching band, who paraded from Penn Station to the Giants offices at Columbus Circle. New York had never seen anything like it.

The Redskins boasted of being at both psychological and physical peaks for the December showdown, not a man on their roster missed practice. The press highlighted the fact that Flaherty held a 2-1 advantage against his mentor Owen.  The Giants had several key personnel nursing injuries, including Leemans, but had a statistical advantage in the standings. New York would be awarded first place in the event of a tie. Owen was also ready to fully deploy a scheme he’d been experimenting with throughout the season – a twist on the Single Wing that he called the A-Formation.

The A-Formation had three aspects that made it unique:

  • First, the line was unbalanced to one side and the backfield strong to the opposite side. The Single Wing was a power formation that attacked the edges of the defense with slant runs. The line and backfield were always strong to the same side, having the intent of delivering the most men to the point-of-attack as possible. The A-Formation’s asymmetry offered more opportunity for deception.
  • Second, the line splits were very unusual. The ends were moved a few yards further way from the tackles (a tactic Owen no doubt observed in November when the Giants hosted Green Bay, as Earl “Curly” Lambeau moved end Don Hutson further away from the collisions at the line of scrimmage to take advantage of his speed and route running ability) and spread the defense laterally. The over and under guards were close to Hein at center, but the right tackle took a wider split, almost as an end would. This created natural running and passing lanes and caused confusion in the defense’s pre-snap alignment.
  • Third, Hein was the multi-talented catalyst for the execution. His unique combination of range and strength allowed the line to deploy in this unorthodox manner. No other center possessed the capability of snapping the ball (Hein was the only center at the time to snap with his head up looking at the defense), getting out of his stance and engaging a defender effectively.  Every man in the backfield was eligible to take the snap. In Single Wing and Double Wing schemes, the snap almost always went to the tailback. In the A-Formation, Hein would snap the ball to the tailback, halfback or fullback on any given play. Not only did the defense have little idea where the play would be going, they did not know from where it would originate.  Being a highly-regarded defensive strategist throughout his career, Owen’s offensive system was derived from the places that gave defenses the most trouble, uncertainty and hesitation.

Double Wing and A-FormationNew York would also prepare with a new defensive alignment to deal with Baugh’s aerial assault: a 5-3-2-1 defense instead of their usual 6-4-1. The Giants practices were lively and the team brimmed with confidence. They had extra time to prepare as their last game was against Brooklyn on Thanksgiving Day (a disappointing 13-13 tie, a win would have clinched the East.) A case of beer was present at the Sunday practice as players were ready to celebrate the anticipated Green Bay victory over Washington. When word spread that the Redskins upset the Packers 14-6, guard Johnny Dell Isola told Owen, “Don’t let that bother you Steve. We’ll get that championship for you next Sunday anyway.”

Despite all the preparation, conceptualization and scheming, football games are decided on the field of play.  The second largest crowd in pro football history to that point, 58,285, witnessed a masterful performance by the visitors. The New York Times described the scene eloquently: “There is not a superlative in the English langue that can quite describe the magnificence of the Washingtonians. Their charging had the New Yorkers rocked back on their heels, their passing had them absolutely bewildered and the running was a gem of football perfection.”

Despite all Owens best intentions, the Redskins were clearly the better team, and dominated the game 49-14.  Although the Giants passers actually accrued more yards than Baugh, they were far less efficient. Baugh was 12-of-17 for 212 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception while the Giants combined for 18-of-33 for 154 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. The real story of the domination was told in the trenches. Edwards and his crew were powerful along both fronts. Washington outrushed New York 238-18, including -5 for the Giants in the second half. Battles had 165 yards rushing and also a 75-yard interception return.

The Redskins caravan traveled to Chicago, where they upset the favored Bears at frozen Wrigley Field in 15 degree temperatures, 28-21, to win the NFL Championship.

The Giants exacted revenge on their new favorite team to hate in 1938. New York upset the Redskins in Washington 10-7 in a fourth-quarter comeback in October, then throttled them 36-0 in the season finale at the Polo Grounds. The Giants defeated Green Bay 23-17 for the NFL Title the following week.

 

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (December 4, 1938); Mel Hein (#7)

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (December 4, 1938); Mel Hein (#7)

(See “The 1938 New York Giants” for more detail.) 

In 1939, the meeting of the NFL’s previous two champions took place at Griffith Stadium in the first week of October. Both teams were 1-0, with wins over Philadelphia (Washington entered the game on a week’s rest) and New York was riding a 10-game unbeaten streak that had begun with the fourth quarter come-from-behind victory over the Redskins the previous year. This game would be played without one of the heroes of that win, end Jim Lee Howell was sidelined with an injury, as well as Leemans, Soar and guard Tarzan White.

The anticipated capacity crowd was held to 26,341 by driving rains that turned the field “into a miniature lake,” but they were treated to a primal battle featuring “bone shattering line play” as described in The New York Times. The Giants defense kept New York’s unbeaten string to eleven games with opportunistic play, as Washington controlled the field position and the ball throughout. The Redskins had the advantage in first downs 12-7 and total yards 208-74 (the Giants had -3 yards passing.) Three interceptions, a fumble recovery and a goal-line stand resulting in a missed 15-yard field goal by Washington enabled the Giants to survive with a 0-0 tie.

Ascending Tension

New York continued clutch play throughout the season. They did not usually dominate, but big plays at key moments earned them the moniker of “money team.” At 8-1-1 entering the season finale, the Giants only blemish was an 18-14 loss at Detroit in November. Washington was equally impressive and also 8-1-1. Their only loss was a 24-14 setback to the Packers, who had already clinched the Western Division. Both teams were confident, and the demand for tickets was so strong 4,000 bleacher seats were installed at the Polo Grounds. The Redskins were expected to arrive with approximately 15,000 in tow.

An interesting development from Washington this season was the addition of tailback Frank Filchock to their roster. While Filchock favored running, he was very capable throwing the ball and at times performed as a near equal with Baugh. “We made the defenses change,” Flaherty explains. “They’d get all set for Baugh’s passing and then would have to change when we put the running unit in. We tried to keep them constantly off balance and usually succeeded.” Filchock not only led the NFL in scoring strikes in 1939 with 11, he also earned the distinction of throwing the first 99-yard touchdown in NFL history (to Andy Farkas at Pittsburgh.) Balancing out the throwing tandem of Slingin’ Sammy and Flingin’ Frank, as they were known as in Washington, was fullback Farkas leading the league in scoring with 68 points (five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns, a kickoff return touchdown and two point afters.)

The Giants clutch defense would be put to the test. New York led the league in key categories of fewest points surrendered and most takeaways, and was second in yards yielded. Most of the Giants were in good health, save for Leemans who continued to nurse nagging injuries that he tried to keep discreet, “I’m not going to let them know where I’m banged up. They’ll have to find that out themselves.”

Refusing to take a cue from his boastful owner Marshall, Washington coach Flaherty only predicted “a good, close game.” Owen was equally guarded, “We’ve got a tough ballgame ahead of us. The boys are ready for it and I know they’ll do their best. That is all.” In the event of a tie, a playoff would be held the following Sunday in Washington.

The weather was not ideal. A chilly rain fell and the field was somewhat muddy, but would hold up well.  The crowd of 62,530 jammed into the Polo Grounds was the second largest in NFL history to that point (the largest was the Red Grange at the Polo Grounds in 1925 that exceeded 70,000) and they were treated to an intense, thrilling contest that ended with a legendary controversy.

The Giants dominated the first 30 minutes. Their physical play limited Washington to four rushing yards and sent several key Redskins to the sidelines with injuries, including Baugh, Farkas and Edwards.  Despite their dominance, the lead was just six, coming on Cuff and Strong field goal placements. Washington’s lone drive into New York territory ended with a Leemans’ interception of a Filchock pass in the end zone just before the half.

While the Redskins offense remained in capable hands with Filchock, Baugh was missed in the punting game. A poor third quarter punt set the Giants up with a short field at the Washington 40-yard line. After Danowski completed a pass Soar, two rushes placed the ball on the 16-yard line. The drive stalled and New York came up empty when Cuff’s 21-yard field goal attempt missed. The Giants came right back. Soar intercepted Filchock and returned the ball 25 yards to the Redskin 19-yard line. Washington’s defense was stout again, but this time Cuff’s 15-yard placement was good. New York led 9-0 going into the fourth quarter.

Filchock led Washington on their first advance of the second half, but New York put the threat to a close when Leemans, on his bad leg, intercepted his second pass of the afternoon.  Washington held and forced a New York punt. The Giants intercepted another Filchock pass, but it was the Redskins who were about to alter the tenor of the contest. They held New York again. Then Willie Wilkin blocked Len Barnum’s punt, giving Washington possession on the Giants’ 19-yard line with hope and a jolt of momentum.

After a run lost a yard, Filchock went back to the aerial attack. Fading to his right as he dropped back, Filchock launched a high arcing long ball to the left, which was timed perfectly to miss being deflected by the diving Barnum into the hands of Masterson just across the goal line. Masterson added the point-after and Washington was very much alive, trailing 9-7 with 5:34 on the clock.

Detonation

The rejuvenated Washington defense held the Giants to another three-and-out. Dick Todd returned the punt 30 yards to the New York 47-yard line. Filchock and Todd each advanced the ball once while their line creased New York’s forward wall. On first and ten from the Giants 19-yard line, Filchock completed a pass to Frank Spirida inside the eight-yard line. Filchock ran a keeper to the five and Washington called time out with 45 seconds left. Flaherty was penalized for calling consecutive time outs as he sent Bo Russell out for the placement attempt and the ball was moved back to the 10-yard line. Those five yards would prove to be critical.

There were no hash marks visible on the field to judge where the ball was spotted, but the spot was right-of-center, and Russell’s straight-ahead kick from short range went up in a straight line and appeared to pass almost directly over the right upright. It is impossible to tell with any degree of certainty whether or not it was inside, as the goalposts were much shorter in this era. The ball cleared the field of play and landed in the Polo Grounds grandstand. It appeared to have traveled a diagonal line of trajectory, but the possibility remains that it may have been just good enough.

The fans in the end zone seats celebrated as the ball landed among them while some of the Washington players also celebrated on the field. The mood changed dramatically as referee Bill Halloran walked into the middle of the players, waving his arms indicating the kick was no good. Several Redskins players stomped behind Halloran who conferred with umpire Tom Thorp.  Players and coaches from the Washington sideline swarmed around the officials.

Order was restored long enough for Danowski to twice hand off to John “Bull” Karcis, who was assaulted by enraged defenders each time he went into the line, and run the remaining time off of the clock. When the final gun sounded, seemingly every man from the Redskins sideline went right for Halloran while Giants fans stormed the north end zone and dismantled the goal posts. A mob of Washington players allegedly threatened Halloran and Thorp who were surrounded by police and Polo Grounds ushers, while the enraged Flaherty gesticulated that the kick was good. Wingback Ed Justice was alleged to have thrown several punches at Halloran (without any landing) and was dragged off of the field by several officers. The scene was riotous, brawls broke out amongst the horde of fans running rampant on the field, while the argumentative mob followed the officials into the tunnel toward the dressing rooms. It was a full half hour before the Polo Grounds was settled again.

Several spectators stated the kick was wide – by anywhere from two feet to a few inches – while in the locker room Washington players insisted it was good. In the post-game press conference, Flaherty seethed, “If that Halloran has a conscience, he’ll never have a sound night’s sleep again.” The kicker Russell himself said, “It was close; it could’ve been called either way.” Most surprising was the refusal to comment from owner Marshall.

The day after the game, NFL President Carl Storck revealed that if an investigation revealed Justice had thrown a punch he would be banned from the league for life, “If Justice was guilty of attacking an official, as has been alleged, he is deserving of the most serious penalty we can impose. Our officials must be protected.” Justice was ultimately exonerated and played with Washington through the 1942 season. Regarding the field goal decision, Storck said, “The decision on a play of that type must rest entirely on the referee’s judgment, and I have every confidence in Bill Halloran’s judgment. He is highly competent.”

At the press conference opening championship week, Owen said, “I was in no position to see whether it was good or not. No one on the sideline is in a position to see. Bill Halloran never hesitated in giving his decision.” The Giants went on to play the Packers in Milwaukee for the NFL title but were handled ruthlessly in a 27-0 rout.

The 1940 season saw the emergence of a new contender in the East. The young Brooklyn Dodgers with their star tailback Clarence “Ace” Parker found themselves on equal footing with the two dominant teams. New head coach Jock Sutherland had them operating an efficient, and at times explosive, offense and rugged defense. They were no longer a team to be taken for granted as an easy win.

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (November 24, 1940)

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (November 24, 1940)

While the Giants and Redskins split a pair of 21-7 home wins between one another, the Dodgers handed New York a 21-6 defeat at the Polo Grounds on December 1, burying the Giants in third place, their lowest finish in four years. It was their first loss to Brooklyn since 1930, ending a 17-0-3 unbeaten run versus their inter-borough rivals. Despite leading the NFL is scoring during the regular season (and forging the distinction of being the last Wing-style team to do so) Washington found out firsthand what the future of the professional football was going to look like when the Chicago Bears unleashed George Halas’ new version of the T-Formation. The final score of 73-0 remains the most one sided score in NFL history.

A Period of Perseverance

In 1941, the Giants swept Washington, including the second game where the Giants scored 10 points in the final 53 seconds for a come-from-behind win at the Polo Grounds to clinch the Eastern Division. The Dodgers, however, swept the Giants, including the game on December 7th when a chill went through the crowd as the PA called upon all active duty servicemen report immediately for duty. Nobody knew at the time that Japan had just attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor. Brooklyn’s victory also knocked the Redskins into third place. New York played an anti-climactic championship game in front of a small crowd at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Bears the next week. The Monsters of the Midway gave New York their own dose of the modern T-Formation and won the game 37-9.

By the time the 1942 training camps rolled around, the NFL landscape was very different. The most able bodied young men were called to duty in service of their country. Young men from college who were deemed undesirable for service mixed with aged veterans coaxed out of retirement, including Hein.

The Giants opened their season at 1-0 Washington in one of the most peculiar and unexpectedly significant outcomes in NFL history. The game conditions were miserable: blustery winds, heavy rain and a muddy field. The Giants won the coin toss and the normally conservative Owen elected to receive (he was the first coach to ever win the toss then elect to kick, being more comfortable with his defense to open a game). The first play from scrimmage was a 30-yard pass from Leemans to end Will Walls, who caught the ball at the 20, evaded a defender and sloshed his way into the end zone for a surprising 7-0 lead. Owen said later, “When the game opened, it seemed sure to rain, and I instructed Tuffy Leemans to try for a touchdown pass as soon as he got the ball.” That was New York’s only pass attempt of the game. The Giants were seemingly comfortable with the touchdown lead and content to run into the line a few times before punting and playing defense.

Baugh’s short passing game worked fairly well given the conditions. Several completions moved his team to the Giants 5-yard line where halfback Bob Seymour would go over for the score on his second plunge. Despite controlling the ball and amassing a huge advantage in yardage – Washington would end up outrushing New York 113-1 – the game remained deadlocked 7-7 late into the third quarter. Owen rolled the dice a second time and adjusted his defensive backfield during a Redskin advance. O’Neal Adams snared a Dick Poillon pass and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown to give the Giants a 14-7 advantage. It was a lead that would hold up, despite the Giants inability to register a single first down over the game’s 60 minutes. [Note: In modern scoring a touchdown is recorded as a first down.]A final Washington drive ended with another interception in New York territory in the fourth quarter.

The final statistics belied logic. Washington’s advantages of 15 first downs to 0 and 233 total yards to 51 left seemingly intelligent observers flummoxed. Members of the press corps credited the Giants with playing “smart football,” noting New York did win the turnover battle 3-0. Owen said of the game changing Adams interception, “That was not luck; we had gambled on stealing a favorite play of the Redskins, a wide flat pass, and had our ends play inside their ends.” New York’s strong punting game also served them well, as they forced Washington to drive long distances on the soft, muddy Griffith Stadium field. Marshall remained incredulous however: “One yard! Gadzooks, I could make more yardage than that just by falling down!”

Marshall was likely placated by the rest of Washington’s dominant season. This proved to be the Redskins lone loss of the campaign as they were hardly tested the remainder of the season. The roll to a 10-1 record included a 14-7 win at the Polo Grounds in November. The Giants meanwhile had a mediocre 5-5-1 year, only good enough for third in the East. The Redskins hosted the most impressive Bears team of the period for the NFL Championship. Chicago led the NFL in total offense and defense while boasting an average margin of victory that was nearly 27 points (one of those wins was a 26-7 decision over the Giants at the Polo Grounds) despite having lost Halas to the Navy mid-season (Hunk Anderson and Luke Johnsos served as co-coaches for the final six games ).

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (November 15, 1942)

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (November 15, 1942)

Baugh, and the other Washington players who were embarrassed two years earlier, earned a semblance of revenge as they deprived the Bears of a perfect season in a 14-6 upset. The end result, given the Giants unlikely September victory, was that the NFL would have to wait another 30 years before it would see a perfect team, when Don Shula’s 1972 Dolphins emerged 17-0 after beating George Allen’s Redskins in Super Bowl VII.

Reinvigorated Competition

In 1943, the manpower drain from World War II forced the NFL to trim roster size, shorten the season schedule and loosen restrictions on in-game substitution to allow coaches game management flexibility. Cleveland lost its team for the season, as the league granted the Rams request to suspend operations for a year as they had lost too many players as well as their owner to the armed services. Washington lost its coach Flaherty to the Navy as well, and was now lead by Dutch Bergman.  The Redskins didn’t seem to notice the difference as the reigning NFL Champs picked up where they left off the year before. They extended their unbeaten streak to 17 games before losing to the Pitt-Phil amalgamation. The Giants meanwhile still hovered around 0.500. Back-to-back wins over two of the league’s weakest teams, Brooklyn and the Chicago Cardinals, boosted New York’s record to 4-3-1 and gave them a longshot opportunity to steal the Eastern Division title from Washington if they could sweep the final home-and-home series with the Redskins. The first game at the Polo Grounds was originally scheduled to be the season finale, but a conflict forced the game at Griffith Stadium to be tacked on at the end of the season.

New York entered the game in mostly good shape. Walls, who had been out since injuring his knee in a game against the Bears three weeks earlier, was tentatively scheduled to return, which was just in time as Adams broke his jaw in the Dodgers game. Second year man Frank Liebel would also be relied upon heavily. Owen was counting on a good performance from his battle tested veterans like Hein, Cuff, Leemans, Cope and Soar to lead the mostly inexperienced team against the tough Redskins. Very few of the young players had ever faced a passer the caliber of Baugh, who would end the season as the league leader in three categories: passing, punting and interceptions, to become the first “Triple Crown” winner. Baugh though, would miss the protection from his All-Pro guard Dick Farman, who had injured his knee a week earlier, and wingback Wilbur Moore.

The crowd of 51,308 was treated to another Giants-Redskins late-season thriller. Early on there did not seem to be much potential for drama. Washington controlled the ball for most of the first half but did not take the lead until 18 seconds before the intermission with a 26-yard Masterson field goal. New York’s sound defense kept Washington out of the end zone. Owen explained his strategy for Baugh, who completed 16 passes for only 154 yards, “The Giants had good luck with Baugh because, unlike other teams, we figured out it was a waste of manpower trying to rush him. He could throw too fast to be stopped. We didn’t try to stop him. Instead, we covered his receivers closely to hold all gains to short ones and to tackle those receivers so hard that they had to pay full price for every yard.”

Washington seemed to solve the Giants scheme on the first drive of the third quarter. Farkas carried the load, pounding the ball eight times for 63 yards before landing on pay dirt to give the Redskins a 10-0 advantage.  The Giants responded with a revived running game of their own, starting from their 28-yard line. Two Paschal rushes totaled 31 yards; a Cuff reverse advanced another 21 yards to the Washington 20-yard line. Paschal carried the ball four consecutive plays before going over for the score to bring the Giants back to 10-7.

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (December 5, 1943); Al Blozis (#32), Len Younce (#60), Frank Cope (#36)

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (December 5, 1943); Al Blozis (#32), Len Younce (#60), Frank Cope (#36)

The New York defense held and the Paschal-Cuff tandem went back to work while the buzz in the Polo Grounds grandstands grew to a roar. The Giants marched from their 34-yard line to the Redskins 21 on three rushes, with only a touchdown-saving tackle from Baugh on Paschal preventing New York from taking the lead. Ultimately Baugh’s defensive effort kept Washington ahead, as the drive stalled and Wilkin blocked Cuff’s 22-yard placement.

Both defenses tightened, the two teams repeatedly traded punts as the game became a struggle for field position. Tackle Al Blozis in particular was a force in New York’s clampdown on the Redskins futile advances while Masterson spearheaded the Washington resistance. Time became an ally for Washington, as even escaping with a tie would lock up the division. Just over five minutes remained when Paschal returned a punt 20 yards to the New York 44-yard line. Paschal plunged once for three yards to set up what Owen later described as the “perfect” play.

Paschal took the hand-off from Leemans after an end-around fake, charged through right tackle, paused, then outraced Baugh to the end zone. The play’s success was a result of both scheme and slick ball handling. Owen said, “Emery Nix was the left half, Dave Brown the wingback. Brown faked his end-run reverse so well he drew off the Redskins secondary. Meanwhile, Paschal roared through the quick opener hole over guard after their guard had been trapped. All Bill had to do was sprint – along the shortest distance to the touchdown, a straight line – to win the game.” Baugh explained his reaction from the safety position, “I expected a pass, particularly since Brown a fast runner and a fresh man, had just been put in there. I wasn’t fooled by the ball-handling, but was going over on pass defense assignment to pick up either the end or the wingback.”

New York was ahead for the first time 14-10 and every fan in the Polo Grounds was on their feet in a state of bedlam. Washington returned the kickoff to their 45-yard line, but the excellent starting field position went for naught as the Giants secondary defensed four Baugh aerials in a  row, allowing New York to take over on downs. “Baugh was seldom dangerous on the long ones because he lofted the ball so high,” said Owen.

Karcis and Leemans took turns on line plunges and moved the chains once for a first down before kneeling down to expire the game clock. Paschal had earned the reprieve, his work for the day established a franchise record with 188 rushing yards on 24 carries, most of which came in the second half. No doubt Owen wanted to preserve him for the next game. His two touchdowns gave him 10 on the season, good for a first place tie with Green Bay’s prodigious Hutson. More good news for the Giants arrived from out of town, the Packers defeated Pitt-Phil, allowing New York to ascend to second place.

Owen stated he was “delighted” with the Giants line as they limited Washington’s ground game to 69 yards on defense while opening holes in the Redskins front for 270 yards on offense.  However, the New York passing game was dreadful – seven attempts yielded a meager two completions for seven yards. The Giants won the league’s coin flip, enabling them to host the divisional playoff in the event they were able to upset Washington again. It would be the second playoff since divisional play began in 1933 and the first in the East (the Packers and Bears participated in the first playoff in 1941). Owen said he did not expect a let down from his team, “I think most of the boys realize next Sunday’s battle is merely the second half of one and the same ballgame. We’re leading at the end of the first half.”

While Masterson of the Redskins boasted his enthusiasm toward a championship rematch with the Bears, Chicago co-coach Anderson offered his observation, “I saw the Giants play Washington in New York Sunday. It was such a viciously fought game… officials told me afterward that it was one of the toughest games they worked all year.” The Giants appeared in relatively good health for the week of practice, while the Redskins training staff was busy tending to several key players, including Farkas, Wilkin and Masterson who nursed an assortment of injuries incurred the previous week. Farman and Moore would also miss their second consecutive games.

Griffith Stadium was filled to the brim with 35,504 rabid fans anticipating a blowout. They got one, but it was the Redskins who were on the receiving end. The New York Times stated “the once-haughty champions of the National Football League were bounced all over Griffith Stadium” and “were thoroughly outplayed in every department, including that of effective passing.” There was little mystery as the statistics told the complete story. After Washington took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter on a Baugh touchdown pass, the tide turned quickly. Frank Cope blocked a Baugh punt that was recovered by Steve Pritko for the tying touchdown. Emery Nix completed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Frank Liebel soon after for a 14-7 halftime lead. All told, New York intercepted five of Baugh’s 28 attempts over the course of the game, and they capitalized often in the 31-7 romp. Paschal churned out 92 yards rushing for the Giants as they dealt Washington their third consecutive loss, the first time they had endured such a streak since 1937.

First Playoff in the East

Practices at the Polo Grounds included lineup shuffling, as they hoped to extend the Redskins doldrums one more week in the playoff. Liebel was out for the playoff, having suffered a broken nose in the season finale. Guard Charley Avedisian had his arm in a sling after suffering a shoulder separation. Adams, who had missed the first two Washington games was being fit with a special face guard for his still healing broken jaw. The Redskins hoped to change their fortunes by altering their normal routine. They arrived two days earlier than normal for a road game, and sequestered themselves in Westchester County rather than Manhattan. Despite Farman and Moore being out of the lineup again, Bergman said his team was in overall better shape.

Commissioner Elmer Layden decreed the game required a victor. Should the score be tied after 60 minutes, there would be a 15-minute sudden death overtime period following a three-minute period of rest. If the game remained tied after the initial overtime, the process would repeat itself until a team scored.

The advance planning for such a contingency proved completely unnecessary. Much to the dismay of most of the 42,800 fans in attendance, the Redskins returned the previous week’s favor by whipping the Giants in front of their own fans, 28-0.

Owen believed that “as Baugh goes, so go the Redskins.” That proved to be true once again. In the first game, Baugh played well but not spectacularly. In the second game he was dreadful. In the playoff he was magnificent, completing 16-of-21 for 199 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on offense. He also intercepted one he returned 38 yards to set up a score, and added a 65-yard punt for good measure. His sharp passing forged three scoring drives that were capped off by short Farkas touchdown plunges.  Overall, the Washington defense held New York to eight first downs and 112 total yards. Leemans was 4-of-20 passing with three interceptions while the Giants three-headed rushing attack was held in check.

Despite the disappointment of the one-sided defeat, the Giants were lauded for coming from seemingly nowhere and extending their season while pushing the defending champions to the brink. The conjecture was they were spent by the chase and had little left, while Washington shook off their malaise and finally performed to their full capability. The Redskins won the Eastern Division for the third time in four years, but failed in their attempt to become the first team to win consecutive championship games, as the Bears – who were on a week’s rest – defeated them handily in Wrigley Field 41-21.

The 1944 season saw more change in the NFL. The Pitt-Phil combine ceased and the Card-Pitt was formed, the Rams resumed operations and the Brooklyn Dodgers were now known as the Tigers. More significantly though, was the catching on of the T-Formation. The Bears had led the league in scoring three consecutive seasons and convincingly won three of the last four championships running the system that was now spreading through the colleges. Washington was now on the bandwagon, although their chief operator was reluctant at first, “I hated the T when we went to it on 1944,”said Baugh years later, “but my body loved it. I probably could have lasted a year or two more as a single wing tailback, my body was so beat up, but the T gave me nine more seasons.”

Power T-Formation

The Giants and Redskins were involved in another back-to-back season-closing pressure cooker that set the fate for three teams in the East. New York won out and lost to Green Bay in the NFL Championship Game at the Polo Grounds 14-7. That game holds the distinction of being the last time two Wing-style teams squared off in a title game (the Giants base set was the A-Formation and the Packers the Notre Dame Box.)

(See “Missing Rings: The 1944 New York Football Giants” for more detail.)

Washington represented the East in the championship game for the sixth time in 10 seasons in 1945 with an 8-2 record as Baugh became comfortable operating from the T-Formation. They swept the Giants, who declined significantly to a 3-6-1 record. The Redskins lost the Championship Game at frozen Cleveland Municipal Stadium against the Rams where a safety proved the difference in a 15-14 game, forging a significant rule change. In the first quarter, the Redskins had the ball on their own five-yard line. Baugh dropped back to pass from his own end zone, but the attempt struck the goal post and the ball bounced dead in the end zone. The rules at the time declared this to be a safety and gave the Rams a 2-0 lead. The following off season the rule was changed so any pass striking the goal post was called incomplete.

Ignominious End

The Giants revamped their roster for 1946. Hein retired for good after a record 15 seasons, tied with Jack Blood who played with Green Bay and Pittsburgh from 1925-39. Tailback Arnie Herber also retired, so New York signed Filchock away from Washington to the very first multi-year contract in New York’s history – three years for $35,000. Filchock had made a smooth transition from the Double Wing to the T-Formation in 1944, Owen hoped he could do the same learning the nuances of the unique A-Formation.

Filchock did, and he led the Giants in both passing (1,262 yards with 12 touchdowns) and rushing (371 yards and two touchdowns). New York won the East with a 7-3-1 record while Washington slumped to 5-5-1. Washington won the October match-up at Griffith Stadium 24-14 and had a chance to force a playoff with the Giants with a win in the season finale at the Polo Grounds.

The most notable points from New York’s 31-0 whipping of their rivals was the crowd of 60,337, the Polo Grounds largest since the 1939 Redskins game; Ken Strong tying Ward Cuff as the Giants career leading scorer; and Filchock outplaying former teammate Baugh. Although Baugh accrued more yards through the air (240-142), Filchock was more efficient, threw two touchdown passes and was on the receiving end of one of Baugh’s three interceptions. The Giants won the Eastern Division for the eighth time in its 14 years.

Unfortunately for Filchock, his legacy is usually focused on an attempted fix of the Championship Game with the Bears. Fluctuation in the point spread triggered an investigation; undercover police observed Giants practices and wiretaps were installed on the business phone of a known gambler, Alvin J. Paris. No New York players were ever heard on the phone, but Paris mentioned Filchock and Merle Hapes by name to his associates.

Mara and NFL Commissioner Bert Bell were summoned to New York City Mayor William O’Dwyer’s office Saturday afternoon to meet with Police Commissioner Arthur Wallander. The two players were interrogated there at 2:00 AM. Filchock denied any involvement, while Hapes admitted to being offered $2,500, the profits of a $1,000 bet that Chicago would cover the 10-point spread and an offseason job that would earn him $15,000.

Both players were cleared by the police and Paris was arrested and held on $25,000 bail (he ultimately served one year in prison after testifying against other members of his syndicate). Bell publically stated the morning of the game that the NFL would continue with its own investigation into the offers. Hapes was barred from playing in the game for failure to report the bribe offer being made.

Fans heard of the late night intrigue over the radio that morning, and Filchock was robustly booed and hackled when he stepped on the Polo Grounds field. According to all reports he played valiantly in defeat, even if his statistics may not have born this out. His six interceptions were detrimental in the Giants 24-14 loss, rendering the 10-point spread a push. Angry Chicago players took umbrage in dealing extra punishment to Filchock whenever the opportunity allowed, but he played just over 50 minutes of the contest.

Flichock ultimately acknowledged he did receive a bribe offer from Paris. Both he and Hapes received lifetime bans from the NFL for being “guilty of actions detrimental to the welfare of the National Football League and of professional football.” Hapes retired from football altogether and Filchock, after being rejected by the AAFC, played seven more seasons in the CFL.

New York and Washington’s shared reign in the Eastern Division came to a close in 1947. Earl “Greasy” Neal’s Philadelphia team, whose version of the T-Formation was powered by the dynamic Steve Van Buren, won out the final three seasons of the decade, capturing the NFL title the last two. The Giants began an uneasy transition to the T-Formation in 1949, but never fully committed to it until Owen’s departure after the 1953 season as he routinely reverted to his A-Formation.

A new rivalry for the Giants was born in the new decade. The merger of the NFL and AAFC introduced New York to the Cleveland Browns, whose innovative coach Paul Brown explored the Halas T-Formation further and developed it into a pass-first scheme. The Eastern Division was renamed the American Conference for three seasons, then the Eastern Conference through 1966. Over the 17-season span from 1950 through 1966 Cleveland and New York dominated their half of the league, as the Giants and Redskins had previously. New York and Washington would renew their battles for division supremacy in the post AFL-NFL merger in the mid 1980’s.


Overall Regular-Season Record: Giants led series 13-8-1

Overall Playoff Series Record: Washington led series 1-0 (1943 Divisional Playoff)

1936

10/4       Giants 7               at            Boston 0

12/6       Giants 0                vs            Boston 14

1937

9/16       Giants 3                at            Washington 13

12/5       Giants 14             vs            Washington 49

1938

10/9       Giants 10             at            Washington 7

12/4       Giants 36             vs            Washington 0

1939

10/1       Giants 0                at            Washington 0

12/4       Giants 9               vs            Washington 7

1940

9/22       Giants 7                at            Washington 21

11/24     Giants 21             vs            Washington 7

1941

9/28       Giants 17             at            Washington 10

11/23     Giants 20             vs            Washington 13

1942

9/28       Giants 14             at            Washington 7

11/15     Giants 7                vs            Washington 14

1943

12/5         Giants 14             vs            Washington 10

12/12     Giants 31             at            Washington 7

*12/19  Giants 0                vs            Washington 28

1944

12/5       Giants 14             vs            Washington 10

12/12     Giants 31             at            Washington 7

1945

10/28     Giants 14             vs            Washington 24

12/12     Giants 0                at            Washington 17

1946

10/13     Giants 14             at            Washington 24

12/12     Giants 31             vs            Washington 0

Sep 182014
 
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Trumaine McBride and Jon Beason, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Trumaine McBride and Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It didn’t take long for the phone call to be made.

Shortly after New York Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond III found out his injured pectoral muscle was torn, sidelining him for rest of the 2014 season, the self-proclaimed best nickel corner in the game dialed fellow corner Trumaine McBride.

Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (December 15, 2013)

Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

McBride, who last saw sporadic nickel snaps six years ago, saw his phone light up with Thurmond’s name and answered.

“He just told me if I need anything, as far as tips about playing nickel, to reach out to him,” McBride said.

While McBride may be lacking experience as a nickel cornerback, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been preparing for this moment throughout the offseason.

Back on March 12, after enjoying a breakout season, McBride re-signed with the New York Giants. With Corey Webster and Aaron Ross gone, McBride was expected to compete for the starting position opposite Prince Amukamara.

But the ensuing months were filled with moves that pushed McBride further and further down the depth chart. Zack Bowman, Thurmond and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were signed and Bennett Jackson drafted.

The group of Amukamara, Thurmond and Rodgers-Cromartie began boasting claims as the league’s best trio. Last year’s surprise star was suddenly rendered an afterthought.

With every addition the Giants made to the secondary’s meeting room, McBride took notice. Despite playing nearly his entire career as an outside cornerback, he knew his opportunity to play may not be at the place he’d been most comfortable at. During the offseason, McBride began studying some of the best nickel cornerbacks in the league and working specifically with the group. He wanted to be prepared for anything.

If Amukamara went down, McBride wanted to fill in outside. If Thurmond went down, he wanted to have his named called there, too. One of the best ways to do that? Watch and learn from Thurmond himself.

“Walt’s a guy that plays hard every down and is a very smart, physical cornerback,” McBride said. “Just watching the way he approaches the game. He’s a great guy and a great player on the field.”

McBride said that playing nickel, as opposed to outside cornerback, is vastly different. While cornerbacks have the sideline to their advantage, nickel cornerbacks need to guard both the inside, and outside, portions of the field.

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

Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Not to mention, being a nickel corner requires a different physicality. Being closer to the line of scrimmage, McBride knows he’ll have to stick his head in on some running plays, comparing nickel cornerback to a “cornerback-linebacker” hybrid position.

“It’s just an overall different game plan,” McBride said. “You aren’t going up anymore against guys that are 6-foot-2, you’re going up against guys that are 6-feet and shifty. You have to adjust to the shiftiness of an inside slot receiver.”

While Thurmond has offered help, McBride admits what may be the biggest beneficiary to him learning nickel is the fact he gets to face receiver Victor Cruz every day in practice. During his five-year NFL career, Cruz has established himself as one of the league’s best slot receivers.

“Going up against him every day definitely helps you,” McBride said. “There aren’t many guys out there better than Vic.”

The Houston Texans, who McBride and the Giants will face on Sunday, like to move each of their receivers in and out of the slot in Bill O’Brien’s new offensive scheme. Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and Demarius Johnson have all seen over 20 reps inside this year.

There isn’t a set player McBride can expect. Does that make his life harder? Not at all.

“I’ve been preparing for this since the offseason,” McBride said. “I knew it could be a possibility of me moving inside. So as far as mentally, I have no issues.”