Jul 272013
 
 July 27, 2013  Posted by  Articles, Training Camp
Eli Manning, New York Giants (July 27, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

July 27, 2013 New York Giants Training Camp Report

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor UberAlias

My apologies for lack of details in this 2013 New York Giants training camp report – I took my six year old, so needless to say, I was often distracted. To make things worse, much of the team stuff was done on the far field so was very hard to see. But here are a few observations.

Just before practice started some idiot walked in wearing an Eagles Jersey and drew lots of boos and shouts from the crowd.

What was closest to me was the offense, so most of my observations were on that side of the ball. As we know, the first few days will be no pads.

The first drop came early – Bear Pascoe had a drop in warm-up, LOL.

When they ran drills passing, Hakeem and Victor were with the first group, obviously. Next was Randle and Murphy. Not much to say about Cruz and Nicks –we know what they are, and if anyone is worried about any lost time, don’t. You can see what they are talking about with Randle. Even during the season he looked off to me a year ago – especially his timing. It’s hard to comment on the timing from today, but he just looks crisper and more polished than a year ago. Murphy had a drop and may have had another later on (was hard to see if it was a drop or uncatchable as they were at the far field at the time) but I saw him make up for it with a good catch a bit later.

There wasn’t much I noticed beyond the first four except they had Barden in the very last group, even after camp fodder guys. I will say this of him, they guy is huge. It is a shame he never mastered the little things the team wanted in him because seeing up close you can see how easy throwing to such a big target makes on a QB. He caught the ball well today.

David Wilson can fly. And I don’t mean just running straight, I mean he zips around with a quickness that is just a different level. No one moves out there like he does. I wish I could have paid more attention to the RB rotation, but was distracted often. It did seem as though Wilson may be first one in ahead of Brown. I am still forming opinions on Michael Cox. He looks to have good size and enough speed. My initial impression was fairly favorable.

I was a little surprised at the number of reps for Ryan Nassib. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but it did seem like he was getting a bit more than I would have expected. I wonder if they are not serious about giving him a shot to compete for the back up job in hopes of freeing a roster spot. I thought he looked pretty good and decent zip.

Specials were done on the far field and very hard for me to see. I say Wilson take punts and KR. I saw Hosley return a punt and looked very quick.

That is mostly it. Unfortunately there was very little on the defensive side I could see well enough to comment on as they worked on the far field. This was also the case for team drills. The one thing I can add there was some info I heard about Will Hill that has not been reported. As I understand, the issue with him was that he missed his drug test. I guess you have a certain amount of time from when the league reaches out to you to respond and get tested. He was away in Georgia and for whatever reason (don’t know if he didn’t get the message, or got it but something else happened), but whatever the reason, he did not take his test. The league has places all over the country so even in Georgia they could have given him a test, but he either didn’t check messages, screwed something up and missed it, or flat out skipped it. But he didn’t take the test. This is what I heard, so take it for what it’s worth. If true, not smart for a guy with such potential, and such history.

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Jul 262013
 
 July 26, 2013  Posted by  Articles, Roster Thoughts
Corey Webster, New York Giants (October 28, 2012)

Corey Webster – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Offseason Breakdown: New York Giants Cornerbacks

In the first few paragraphs of part one, we discussed how poorly the Giants’ secondary has played in the past two years within the confines of the equally-disappointing overall defensive performance. We then broke down the safety prospects currently on the roster. In this article, we will focus on the cornerbacks.

There are currently 10 cornerbacks on the training camp roster. The Giants are likely to keep five or possibly six at most on the 53-man roster.

Corey Webster: The Giants need Webster to rebound from a disappointing 2012 season. Webster, who accepted a pay cut in the offseason, also needs to rebound well for personal financial reasons. He is entering the final year of his current contract (he has a voidable year in 2014). There is a good chance this is Corey’s last season with the Giants.

Webster’s career has been a bit of a roller coaster. He seemed like a bust the first two years of his career until he came on late during the 2007 Super Bowl run. Since then, he’s had some outstanding seasons and a couple of sub par ones, including 2012. In his worst moments from last season, sometimes he got cleanly burned, sometimes he was in position to make a play but did not. Webster did not miss a game despite a nagging hamstring injury that plagued him much of the season and breaking his hand in September. Webster finished 2012 with 58 tackles, 13 pass defenses (most on the team), and four interceptions (second most on the team).

Webster has a nice combination of size (6’0”, 200 pounds) and athleticism. While not a blazer, he is smooth and fluid with good quickness and speed. Webster can play both man and zone coverage although he seems more comfortable in man. He is a confident and instinctive player. Webster is not terribly aggressive or physical against the run. Was 2012 an aberration for the 31-year old Webster, or the beginning of the downside of his career?

“We had a lot of errors all across the field and that’s everywhere – coaches, players, and the whole strategy,” said Webster. “So we have to use that film to try and get better. It’s always hard to use film when you lose to get better, but there’s always a silver lining. We’re doing just that. We’re correcting those mistakes, those communication errors, and those misplays so we can eliminate them now and not go into the season trying to eliminate them.”

“Corey will be better,” said Cornerbacks Coach Peter Giunta. “He’s been working very hard to come back and be a better player, become more like he was more at the end of the 2011 season when we had that run and he was very consistent in his performance. And that’s what we’re looking for, for Corey to be a consistent performer for us this year.”

“When he broke his hand, it hurt him with his press technique because he wasn’t able to put his hand on the receiver so he tried to compensate,” said Giunta. “He battled through injuries because he knew we needed him on the field for all 16 games.”

“We put him on the opponent’s best receiver most of the time (in 2011),” said Giunta. “Hopefully this year he will be able to stay at the left corner spot and provide us with the consistency that we are looking for.”

“I do know that (Corey is) coming back with a purpose and so it will be fun to see him come back in the fall,” said Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell.

Prince Amukamara: Amukamara was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants, but his initial season was a virtual wash due to him suffering a broken foot that required surgery very early in training camp. Amukamara missed most of camp, all of the preseason, and nine regular-season games because of the injury. When he did return in November, he did not appear mentally or physically comfortable on the playing field and was burned on several occasions.

2012 did not start off well either when Amukamara suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason and missed the first two games of the regular season. He also missed a game and was limited in two others in December with a hamstring injury. But when Amukamara played, he was a very steady performer and arguably the team’s best corner. He ended up playing in 13 games, with 11 starts, and finished with 53 tackles, seven pass defenses, and one interception.

Amukamara is a well-built (6’0”, 207 pounds), aggressive, and physical corner. He has good speed and quickness. He has the tools, but what is his upside? The most important thing for him is to stay healthy.

“He’s had a very good offseason program,” said Giunta.” He’s done a great job in the strength program getting himself into the kind of shape he needs to be in and in improving his durability. He’s been here for every OTA and has made every practice. He hasn’t missed any time at all. If he continues to show that kind of devotion, he’ll continue to get better and better as a player. We want him to become a productive performer for us. We want him to make big plays and big hits and big plays for us. He has that ability to do that.”

“He understands the system well now and can go out there and execute it,” continued Giunta. “He feels so much more comfortable because he’s able to do it with his teammates now. He’s not on the sideline watching. He feels like he’s truly a part of it. Last year for him was basically his rookie season, so to have that and to build on that, to be able to come into training camp this year, he’s a different guy who’s much more confident.”

“I’d say the more I play the more confidence I get,” said Amukamara. “Now, during this offseason, just having Terrell (Thomas) just next to me and learning how much knowledge he has, that just took my game to a whole other level. He’s like a player-coach and every time he’s critiquing me on my technique or my back-pedal, just telling me, ‘You need to understand the defense. You don’t need to just worry about you’re doing, but know what the nickel is doing. That’s first-year stuff. You know what you’re doing now. Now you’re in your third year, so now know what the safety is doing and know what the nickel is doing and it will make you play a lot better and a lot faster.’”

“I think he’s still a little wet behind the ears as far as his mentality, how he attacks his daily job,’’ said Thomas. “Me and Corey have been working on him with that, letting him know just doing your job is not enough, we need more out of you. I think he’ll get it. Sometimes it takes some people a little longer than others…With Prince he’s just happy doing his job and we’re trying to get him that we need more. ‘Yeah, you had a good game, nobody caught the ball on you, but you had no pass breakups, you had no interceptions, no big plays, that’s the next step.’ He stays healthy this year, he can be very productive for us.’’

To his credit, Amukamara has high personal goals heading into 2013.

“I really want to be the number one corner on this team and I feel like right now Corey is and my goal is to always just try to beat him out and I think as soon as I establish myself as the number one corner, then hopefully just become the number one corner in the whole league,” said Amukamara. “ I know that’s going to take work, but guys that came out of my draft class are doing great: Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman, and those are the guys I kind of compare myself to and I’m just trying to exceed all of them.”

Jayron Hosley:  The Giants drafted Hosley in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Hosley played in 12 games with six starts, and finished the season with 40 tackles, five pass defenses, one interception, and one forced fumble. He did miss four games with hamstring, shoulder, and quadriceps injuries. The Giants seem to really like Hosley’s game, but he had an injury-prone, inconsistent, and sometimes rough rookie season, being thrust into the nickel back role perhaps sooner than he was ready.

Hosley lacks ideal stature (5’10’’, 178 pounds), but he is athletic with good speed and quickness. Hosley has good ball skills as he reacts well to the football and can make play on the ball in the air. In college, Hosley did have drug issues. If he keeps his nose clean and remains focused on football, Hosley should improve with improved technique and increased playing time. But he also needs to stay healthy. He got dinged a lot as a rookie, causing him to miss valuable practice and playing time.

“I think what happened with him, every time he started to make progress, he’d be injured and would be out 2-3 weeks, and wasn’t able to practice or compete and play in games,” said Giunta. “That’ sets you back, especially as a rookie. So take the Jets game, every time he starts to make progress, he gets hurt. Carolina game, he has a really good game making plays, and then he gets hurt. That’s unfortunate for him, so he has to learn to take care of his body better, get himself in shape and do the kind of things that he needs to do to become a more durable player because he has the talent to be a good football player at this level.”

“He’s learning,” said Giunta. “He’s becoming a better technician, playing inside and playing outside, so he’s developing those skills to play both the nickel and corner spot, and he got experience doing both last year. There’s a lot playing the nickel spot…it’s hard that way when you lose that time. You need experience to play that spot. The more experience you get, the better you’ll get. He can play any of the corner spots we need him to, so that’s huge.”

Terrell Thomas: Thomas was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2012 after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee for the third time in seven years. The first tear occurred in college and the second tear happened during the 2011 preseason. The injuries obviously put his football career in doubt.

Before suffering the second injury in the 2011 preseason, Thomas looked primed for perhaps his best season. Thomas was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Giants. In 2009 and 2010, Thomas was a very solid starting corner who made a lot of big plays but also occasionally gave up a few. In the 31 games he started during that time frame, Thomas accrued 186 tackles, 34 pass defenses, and 10 interceptions.

Thomas is a big (6’0”, 191 pound), physical corner who matches up well with bigger receivers. Pre-injury, while not a blazer, he was a good athlete with fine speed and quickness for his size. Thomas is very good in run support and a good blitzer.

The big question is obvious. Even if Thomas can stay on the field, how much ability has he lost from the back-to-back ACL tears? It is doubtful he can regain his old form, but can he come close?

“I don’t think (Thomas is) an unknown for us,” said Fewell. “We do have plans, but I don’t think he’s an unknown because he’s been with us, he’s been in our program. We understand what his skill set was. Now when he comes back what will his skill set be?”

“He’s making progress,” said Giunta. “Terrell is making good progress…We’re going to do what the offense did with Domenik Hixon, try to bring him along slowly. Give him a certain number of reps each practice to get him from the practices to the first preseason game. We’re going to try and manage him well and just give him a very limited role to start.”

“I’m able to do everything,” Thomas said in June. “It’s more just about getting comfortable and trusting myself without hesitating, without thinking, and just reacting, and I’m almost there. Physically, I haven’t swelled up in the last four months and I’ve been progressing every week. Each week I get better and faster and stronger, so it’s just a progression. I have to be realistic with myself knowing that I had two ACLs in one year and it’s a long journey. But I’ll be back and I’m going to shock a lot of people.”

“I will be ready for training camp without limitation,” Thomas said. “The amount of work I do (in training camp), I don’t know…I’m already cleared for training camp. I got three months (before the season begins) to keep getting stronger and healthy and rehab.”

“Right now, to be honest with you I feel great,” said Thomas on his website in July. “The last (few) weeks, my confidence is getting better and better. I am not 100%; I would say I am 85% to 90%. The only thing missing is real field work; going against my teammates, the grind of practice, and seeing how my knee handles all that.”

“I am excited about camp starting this week,” Thomas said. “I feel like a big question mark on defense and I love it. That makes me feel like a rookie again, nobody knows what to expect from me other than that I was a good player. Just like when I was coming into the league as a good player coming out of college, so I love that feeling. I feel like I am the X factor for the defense, I think I can be a big key for our defense this year as far as my physical play combined with my knowledge, communication, and leadership skills.”

Earlier in the offseason, General Manager Jerry Reese raised the possibility of moving Thomas to safety. That’s still a possibility but it appears the Giants and Thomas want to see if he can still play at corner. The problem is the cornerback position puts a lot of stress on the knees.

“All that safety talk, that was just based on my knee, how I come back,” Thomas said. “In that safety role, it’s kind of like the nickel. When we had the three-safety look, it’s pretty much nickel, it’s just a bigger nickel position. So I already know that position. That’s a position I played my first and second year at the nickel spot so it wouldn’t be a hard transition. I played a little safety in 2010. We had a package where I would go into the post. I had an interception, a couple tackles as well.”

“(Playing corner) it’s more being on an island,” Thomas said. “Your knee is in a more unstable situation. You have to react to the receiver. Safety is more you’re dictating. So I think that’s why Jerry Reese said that. But I already knew I’d switch to safety later in my career just because of my body type, the way I play. So I’m not scared at all. If they tell me I’m going to play kicker, I’ll play kicker.”

“(Moving Thomas to safety is) always a consideration,” said Fewell. “We’d like to find out, obviously, what his skill set is like when he comes back and how comfortable he feels in his movements.”

Aaron Ross: Ross signed with the Giants in March 2013 after he was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2012, Ross played in 14 games with nine starts for the Jaguars. He finished the year with 46 tackles and three pass defenses.

Ross was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Giants. In five seasons with the Giants, Ross started 41 regular-season games, including 15 starts in 2011, when he finished with career highs in tackles (60), pass defenses (12), and interceptions (four). Ross missed a lot of time in 2009 (hamstring) and 2010 (plantar fascia tear) with injuries.

Ross combines good size (6’0”, 197 pounds) and athleticism. He is fluid and smooth in coverage, but lacks ideal speed and quickness. There seems to be a few games every season where Ross struggles in coverage. He can be aggressive and physical in run support.

One thing is definitely clear – Ross is thrilled to be back with the Giants. And the Giants seem glad to have him back as well.

“I missed the guys, I missed the coaches, I missed the organization and it seems like everybody else missed me just as well so it seems like a mutual thing,” said Ross. “It brings a smile to my face when I came in knowing that it wasn’t just me that was missing the Giants. It was vice-versa…I am happy to be home where I feel like I belong.”

“He has done a great job at the nickel spot for us,” said Giunta. “He did a great job in the Super Bowl run playing right corner. He can play right, left, nickel. His flexibility is huge for us. We are so excited to have him back.”

“He (has) picked up where he left off,” said Giunta. “He looks really focused. His quickness is better than it was when he left. Being away for a while…It showed him how much he missed this place and missed the guys he was with and the way we run the operation here at the Giants. It’s been a breath of fresh air having him back because he really appreciates what we have here and some of the guys take it for granted, but he hasn’t and it comes across to the other guys. Hey, this is important. You guys don’t know how lucky you have it here.”

Like Webster, Ross suggests that coaches and players have needed to work together to prevent mental errors that lead to big plays.

“Where we struggle is where we make mental busts, but I think we’re doing a better job in getting the fundamentals down, learning the defense in and out and taking it rep by rep instead of moving too fast to learn the defense,” said Ross. “I think the coaches sat down this whole offseason and seen that on film. They’re doing a great job in really breaking down the defense in and out, making sure the safeties know exactly what the corners are doing and the corners know what the safeties are doing.”

Ross also thinks he can help in the leadership department.

“I feel like I’m already taking some of the younger guys under my wing and just teaching them the little things that they may not know like myself,” said Ross. “R.W. (McQuarters) and Sam (Madison) did a great job with me and Corey and Terrell Thomas just taking us in and showing us the ropes.”

Trumaine McBride: McBride was an under-the-radar signing for the Giants in January 2013. McBride was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. The Bears waived him in September 2009. Since then, he has spent time with the Cardinals, Saints, and Jaguars. Nine of McBride’s 10 NFL starts came as a rookie. He has played in 48 NFL games but only one last season with the Jaguars. McBride lacks ideal size (5’9’’, 185 pounds), but he is very quick and the Giants appear to like what they’ve seen out of him.

“We’re counting on (Webster, Amukamara, Hosley, Thomas, Ross) plus Trumaine McBride has done a tremendous job in the OTAs so far and we’re looking forward to seeing him compete in training camp,” said Giunta. “He’s a veteran. He’s played in the league and played at Chicago and has a lot of experience and a lot of quickness.”

Terrence Frederick: Frederick spent most of 2012 on the Giants’ Practice Squad but was added to the 53-man roster in December and played in two games. Frederick was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers waived him in August. Frederick lacks ideal size (5’10’’, 187 pounds) and speed, but he is an aggressive, instinctive player who has experience playing in the slot.

Laron Scott: Scott spent 2012 on the Giants’ Practice Squad. He was signed by the Giants in August 2012 after being waived by the New Orleans Saints. The Saints had signed Scott as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2012 NFL Draft. Scott lacks ideal size for a corner (5’9’’, 184 pounds). He can return kicks and punts and had a 67-yard kickoff return for the Saints in their first preseason game.

Charles James: James was signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. James lacks ideal size (5’9’’, 179 pounds) and speed, but he is a quick, tough, instinctive corner who makes plays on the football. He has experience as a punt returner.

“Very quick athlete,” Giunta said of James. “Very good change of direction. Very good ball skills, like his toughness.”

Junior Mertile: The Giants signed Mertile in May 2013 after he impressed at the rookie mini-camp as tryout player. Mertile has good size (6’1’’, 197 pounds) and excellent speed.

Summary: Giunta says the top five guys are Webster, Amukamara, Hosley, Thomas, and Ross. The Giants need Webster to bounce back, Amukamara to stay healthy and take that next step, and Hosley to stay healthy and develop. If not, then the Giants are going to have issues at corner. Thomas is the wild card. It’s probably not realistic to expect him to be able to play at a high level again, but if he does, that will help tremendously. The return of Ross may be a bigger deal than most fans realize. McBride, Frederick, Scott, James, and Mertile are the longshots. But Giunta did have good things to say about McBride and James.

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Jul 212013
 
 July 21, 2013  Posted by  Articles, Roster Thoughts
Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (October 14, 2012)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Offseason Breakdown: New York Giants Safeties

Aside from the 6-game run to finish the 2011 season, and a game here or there, the New York Giants’ defense has been brutally bad the last two seasons. The statistics don’t lie. In 2012, the Giants finished 31st in total defense. The defense allowed 6,134 yards, or 383.4 yards a game, both the highest figures in franchise history. The defense also gave up 6,022 yards in the 2011. These are the only two seasons in which the Giants allowed 6,000 yards in their history.

In 2012, the New York Giants allowed 60 passes of 20 or more yards (the NFL’s fourth-highest total), 29 passes of at least 30 yards (led the NFL), and 13 passes of 40 or more yards (second in the league).

The Giants have invested a lot of resources in terms of draft picks, free agent acquisitions, and salary cap space in the secondary. But the returns have not been good. The Giants were 29th in pass defense in 2011 and 28th in pass defense in 2012. Now to be fair, good pass defense encompasses all three levels of the defense: pass rush, linebacker coverage, and defensive back coverage. But there is no denying the New York Giants secondary has not performed up to expectations. Over-hyped and inconsistent players, questionable coaching, injuries, or a combination may be to blame, but quarterbacks on other teams have looked forward to throwing against this secondary.

Do the Giants have the players to improve their pass coverage? Can the coaching staff put these players in best position to succeed? The defense first needs to stop the run to get opposing offenses into more predictable passing situations. But to be blunt, the secondary has not done a good job of covering people. It’s scary to think just how much worse the pass defense would have been had it not been for New York’s 21 interceptions last season (more than a third of them from bargain-basement surprise safety Stevie Brown).

There are currently eight safeties on the Giants’ training camp roster. At most, the Giants will keep five on the 53-man roster. Former 1st-rounder Kenny Phillips signed a relatively cheap deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. While it’s clear the Giants were worried about the long-term health viability of his reconstructed knee, his departure is also a cause for concern. The Giants need to find an adequate replacement.

Antrel Rolle: Rolle was originally drafted as a cornerback in the 1st round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. After three inconsistent seasons at corner, the Cardinals moved him to free safety in 2008, where he excelled. Rolle was signed by the Giants in March 2010 after the Cardinals cut him in a salary-related move.

Rolle has never missed a game with the Giants. For the second season in a row, he finished with 96 tackles, two interceptions, and one forced fumble. He also had five pass defenses in 2012 (four in 2011). One of the better coverage safeties in the game, Rolle has good speed and range. Due to his experience as a cornerback, unlike most safeties, Rolle can play man coverage and has often been called upon to play the slot corner position. That said, Rolle hasn’t made a lot of plays on the football with the Giants (a total of five interceptions and 13 pass defenses in three seasons). Somewhat of a mouthy malcontent when he came to New York, Rolle has become one of the leaders of the defense.

“What’s helping ’Trel now is understanding the Giants’ way, the Giants’ system,’’ said DE Justin Tuck. “He wasn’t accustomed to that when he came in. He was more accustomed to (University of) Miami, things of that nature. Now I think he’s a lot smarter with some of the things he says in the media and some of the things he says in the locker room, and I think he’s gonna be a huge part of our leadership and success of the football team.’’

Rolle’s biggest problem? By far, he’s the highest paid defensive player on the team with $7 million in salary (and a $9.25 million overall cap hit) in both 2013 and 2014. In the latter year, only Eli Manning is currently scheduled to take up more cap space.

The Giants are hoping that they can play Rolle more at free safety this year. Injuries to other players have forced him to play both strong safety and nickel back.

“I truly believe that Antrel needs to get back to playing with great depth and vision off the quarterback,” said Safeties Coach David Merritt. “Because he’s not going to be down in that nickel role. I say that right now, but you know how that’s gone the past two years when he’s been forced down there with injuries. Hopefully Antrel can do what we paid him to come here to do, which is to play safety and be a playmaker back there for us.”

“We always shoot for (me concentrating on safety) each and every year,” said Rolle. “We always shoot for me to play the safety role and stay at the safety role but it’s never happened, unfortunately. At one point in time I would get frustrated…It’s a part of growing up, a part of being professional and most important a part of just being a team player and doing whatever you have to do in order for this team to be successful.’’

“With him wearing 15 different hats on the field and he’s able to make plays from all 15 spots, just imagine what he can do if he’s able to concentrate on one,” said Stevie Brown. “There’s no limit to what he can do.”

Perry Fewell is obviously counting on Rolle to be the leaders of the secondary. “He’s got to be the glue that keeps us together,” said Fewell.

“At safety I have to be a little more disciplined playing the position being that I’m the last guy in the line of defense so I just transfer my mind to understand my role and understand where my help is going to be and where I need to be the protector and where you can take those little slight chances and gambles,” said Rolle.

“My defensive mantra is just to be more consistent,” said Rolle. “To be more consistent and have more dog in us on a daily basis, on an every down basis. There were times out there, I felt, that as a defensive unit we went out there and we played exceptional, we played like the Super Bowl caliber team that we were. Then there were times we went out there and played like the 9-7 team that we were. As a defensive unit you can’t have the ups and downs because we all know that defense wins the game. We all know that. With the quarterback that we have, with the offense we have, they are always going to put points on the board. We expect that. So we just have to make sure we limit (the other team’s scoring).”

Stevie Brown: Brown came out of nowhere and had a tremendous season in 2012, intercepting more passes in a single season by a Giant in 44 years. Brown played in all 16 games, started 11, and finished with 76 tackles, 11 pass defenses, eight interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Brown was originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 7th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Raiders cut him the following year and he signed with the Colts. The Colts declined to tender him in 2012 and he then signed with the Giants.

Brown has excellent size and strength for a safety. He’s got pretty good speed for his size, but he lacks overall quickness and agility that you see in smaller safeties. In 2012, the ball just seemed to find its way into Brown’s hands. Sometimes it was a lucky bounce or bad throw, but to his credit, Brown also made aggressive plays on the football. The million dollar question is was 2012 a fluke? Right now, Brown is penciled in as the starting strong safety.

“I look at it as my spot,” said Brown. “It’s my spot to keep.”

Brown needs to become more consistent and avoid mental breakdowns that lead to big plays by the opposing team. As a big, physical safety, he should also be a bigger factor in run defense than he was in 2012.

“Stevie and I have been hanging out a lot more just outside of football, talking and communicating, whether it’s going to watch a basketball game or a movie,” said Rolle. “I’m just trying to get a feel for what kind of guy he is and he’s trying to get a feel for what kind of guy I am because at the end of the day, we’re going to be married back there, free safety and strong safety. We have to make this marriage last.”

“His study and his ability to take coaching, he was a sponge last year,” said Merritt of Brown. “His film study and understanding that the post safety plays at a certain depth and the post safety has to be able play between a certain parts of the field.  I am very impressed with Stevie and I truly believe that he can continue making those types of plays for us.”

Ryan Mundy: Mundy was signed by the Giants as an unrestricted free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers in March 2013. Mundy was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Steelers.  After spending his rookie season on Pittsburgh’s Practice Squad, Mundy hasn’t missed a game in the last four seasons, and has started five times.

Mundy was an under-the-radar signing by the Giants. The word on him coming out of Pittsburgh is that he a very physical safety who hits hard and plays well on special teams, but who also struggled at times against the pass.

That said, David Merritt has talked about Mundy with great enthusiasm. Merritt says that Mundy is the leading candidate for the third safety position that Deon Grant played so well for the Giants in 2010-11. ”Ryan Mundy, that’s a guy who I’m impressed with,” said Merritt. “With his ability and his smarts, he would be the third (safety).”

Merritt also likes Mundy’s leadership. “If the season at all starts to dip and players start to slack, I’m gonna lean on him,” said Merritt of Mundy.

“I think I’m a physical player,” said Mundy. “I like to get in the box and mix it up with the bigger guys, knock around a running back, the tight ends, fullbacks.”

Mundy says being with the Steelers has prepared him well. “I know how to work, I know how to practice, I know how to focus in meetings,” said Mundy.

“Mundy’s definitely a professional, definitely a student of the game also. He wants to learn,” said Rolle. “He’s another guy who asks a lot of questions because he’s not so familiar with this defense…I think he plays the safety position extremely well…I’m happy to have him here.”

Will Hill: Hill was a top-ranked athlete coming out of high school in New Jersey, but off-the-field issues at the University of Florida caused him to go undrafted and unsigned as a junior entry in 2011. The Giants invited him to the May 2012 rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis and signed him after that camp ended. Hill not only made the 53-man roster last season, but he became an important reserve, despite being suspended for four games by the NFL for using Adderall. Hill played in 12 games and finished 2012 with 38 tackles, two pass defenses, and one forced fumble.

Hill has average size for the position, but he is a very good athlete with fine speed and quickness. He is a physical player and tackles well. He also is a very good special teams player. Physically, Hill looks and plays like an NFL starter. The questions with him are mental. Can he stay focused on football? Can he keep his nose clean? That is looking more unlikely as it was announced on July 20 that Hill has been suspended by the NFL for four regular-season games again, this time for apparently using illegal drugs. Hill’s future with the Giants and the NFL is now very much in doubt.

“Will is an excellent talent,” said Merritt. “He’s athletic. He’s fast. He will strike you. Will brings a lot to the table. Hopefully he steps up. He is able to produce and we can put him in special roles that will help us out.”

Cooper Taylor: Taylor was selected in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Giants.  Taylor is a huge safety with very good timed-speed, agility, and overall athleticism for his size.

“He has played strong and free safety, and we are playing him as the WILL (weakside) linebacker in sub defense,” said Merritt. “Runs a 4.4. He is just a big man and very smart. Right now (his head) is spinning because he is playing multiple positions.”

“I think what he’s going to bring to it is a lot of special teams play hopefully, a lot of production for us on special teams,” said Merritt. “If he has to go in the game right now, he would be the fourth safety because Ryan Mundy is doing pretty well. But this kid is going to be good for us. I think he’s at that point right now where he’s overloaded because he’s trying to play safety and linebacker which is a lot, so it’s a little overwhelming for him but he has the metal capacity to where he can actually learn it and produce.”

Taylor says there are key differences when playing the weakside linebacker in the sub-defense and safety roles. “There’s definitely some differences in terms of the drops,” said Taylor. “Playing from top–down rather than bottom-up in terms of the safeties trying to read the quarterback; and coming from the topside where the WILL is doing something a little different reading route combinations and getting underneath routes. So it’s definitely two different learning processes. But it’s good. The coaches teach us to do stuff well, so it’s been a good learning curve so far.”

“More than anything, he’s shown that he’s a guy who’s eager to learn,” said Rolle. “He wants to learn. He’s a guy who’s very intrigued by this defense. He wants to understand this defense without making mistakes. And everyone is going to make a mistake. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a 15-year veteran. You’re going to make mistakes in this league. He is a guy who’s athletic and big. He moves around extremely well. So we’re definitely going to look for him to come in on certain kind of packages and just be a playmaker for us wherever they put him.”

“To be able to get a young man like that who also has the mental capacity and is very smart, that’s the type of guy we had a couple of years ago in Craig Dahl,” said Merritt. “(Dahl) was able to line up the defense, which is what Cooper Taylor is doing already. He can line up the defense. He understands rotations. It is James Butler all over again as well, yet he is a better athlete than those guys were.”

Tyler Sash:  Sash saw his playing time significantly decrease in 2012. First, he was suspended for four games by the NFL for using Adderall. In early December, he suffered a hamstring and despite being able to return to practice, Sash did not play in the last four games of the season. Sash played in just seven games and finished with only eight tackles.

Sash was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants. As a rookie, he played in every game and finished the regular season with 17 tackles and one forced fumble on defense. He also was one of team’s better special teams players. Sash is more of a strong safety-type who plays better closer to the line. He has good size, but lacks ideal speed and agility.

David Caldwell: The Giants signed Caldwell to a Reserve/Future deal in January 2013. Caldwell was originally signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2010 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve. In 2011, he played in 16 games with 13 starts and accrued 67 tackles and four pass defenses. The Colts waived him in August 2012.

Caldwell lacks ideal height but he is well-built and a good athlete. He’s a smart player and a reliable tackler. Caldwell did not make many plays on the football when starting for the Colts.

Alonzo Tweedy: Tweedy was signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. Tweedy was a part-time starter in a linebacker/safety role at Virginia Tech. He has a nice size/speed combination, but was primarily known more for his excellent special teams play in college.

Summary: Until Will Hill’s suspension, the early favorites to make the 53-man roster were Rolle, Brown, Mundy, Hill, and Taylor. Rolle will obviously start at one safety spot, but one wonders if he will become a cap casualty in 2014. It’s hard to see Brown duplicating his turnover production again, but it may be more important for him to simply become a more consistent, reliable player on a down-to-down basis against the pass and the run. Mundy seemed like a ho-hum signing in March, but Merritt has been raving about him. Still, Steelers fans were underwhelmed. Hill and Taylor both have excellent physical tools. Taylor is extremely smart, but Hill’s second drug suspension raises serious questions about his future with the team. Hill’s troubles may have opened the door for Sash, Caldwell, or Tweedy, three players who are going to have to fight and scratch to make the team.

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Jul 152013
 
 July 15, 2013  Posted by  Articles, Roster Thoughts
Bear Pascoe, New York Giants (October 28, 2012)

Bear Pascoe – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Offseason Breakdown: New York Giants Tight Ends

If a tight end can’t block, he won’t play for the New York Giants. It’s that simple. In the Giants’ system, blocking is as critical, if not more important, than pass receiving. The traditional down tight end (hand in the dirt, lined up next to the offensive tackle) is often called upon to block not only linebackers, but defensive ends as well. The problem is that quality two-way tight ends are hard to find. With the proliferation of spread offenses in college, the two-way tight end is disappearing at many schools. There are 32 NFL teams and a very limited supply of quality prospects coming out in the NFL Draft. One-dimensional, pass-receiving, H-Back types (motion tight ends who often do not line up in a down position) are more plentiful, but the Giants’ offense does not tend to feature these types of players.

The good news is the Giants have 71-year old Mike Pope, arguably the best tight ends coach in the NFL. He’s been with the Giants seemingly forever (1984-1991, 2000-present) under head coaches Bill Parcells, Ray Handley, Jim Fassel, and Tom Coughlin. Pope has a history of developing players with good size and just enough athletic ability into solid, two-way tight ends.

The tight end position has been a bit of turnstile for the Giants since Jeremy Shockey (2002-2007) was traded to the Saints in July 2008. Since then, the primary tight end on the Giants has changed from Kevin Boss (2008-2010) to Jake Ballard (2011) to Martellus Bennett (2012) and now to Brandon Myers (2013).

Including Myers, there are six tight ends on the Giants’ current training camp roster. Historically, the team tends to keep three tight ends on the 53-man roster.

Brandon Myers: Myers was signed by the Giants as an unrestricted free agent from the Oakland Raiders in March 2013. He was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Raiders. Myers had a breakout season for the Raiders in 2012, catching 79 passes for 806 yards and four touchdowns. His 16 regular-season starts in 2012 were more than all of the starts he had combined his first three years in the NFL. His 79 catches also dwarfed the 32 he had from 2009-2011.

Myers lacks the size that the Giants usually look for in their primary tight end. He’s only listed at 6’3’’, 256 pounds. The Giants usually like their tight ends an inch or two taller and 15-20 pounds heavier. He’s also not very fast or quick for the position – the Raiders used him more as a short- to intermediate-receiver. But Myers seems to be a smart, heady player with just enough athleticism, a feel for getting open, and good hands. His blocking was reportedly subpar in Oakland last year. A painful shoulder injury (sprained AC joint) could have been a factor. Still his lack of size and strength is worrisome in the blocking department.

“We think he’ll be a great piece to our offense and I think (Eli Manning) will have a relationship with him really quickly,” said General Manager Jerry Reese.

“He is a good receiver,” said Pope. “I think at the Raiders he was more of an intermediate receiver. And now our passing game does allow the tight end to get more vertically down the field – flag routes – double seam routes – post routes – that kind of thing. And he appears to have the skills to get those balls. He has a little bit of a jet that can accelerate and go get a ball that is a little deeper. You may not think he is going to reach it, but he has that little bit. So we are very interested to see him in pads.”

“I’m with a great organization, a proven team with a proven quarterback, in an offense that if you’re a tight end and you can get open, you’ll get a lot of opportunities to catch the ball,” said Myers.

“Obviously, my blocking (in Oakland) wasn’t up to par,” said Myers. “But we kind of went over some things, (Pope’s) technique that he could teach me to help me out, so I think it will be a good fit.”

Coughlin doesn’t appear concerned about his blocking. “He’s a well-rounded tight end,” said Coughlin. “He’s a blocker in the running game as well. We’re looking forward to that.”

Bear Pascoe: The Giants picked up Pascoe in 2009 after the 49ers cut him as a rookie. Pascoe is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type of player whose strength is his overall versatility. Pascoe plays tight end, H-Back, and even some fullback for the Giants. In fact, he filled in at fullback for the bulk of the 2010 season when Madison Hedgecock was placed on Injured Reserve. And Pascoe may have to do so again in 2013 with Henry Hynoski’s knee injury casting doubt on his availability.

Pascoe does not really stand out as a blocker or receiver, and needs to improve his productivity and consistency in both areas. But Pascoe is big (6’5”, 283 pounds), solid, and dependable. Pascoe finished the 2012 with only four catches for 35 yards and one touchdown. In four seasons with the Giants, he has 26 catches for 252 yards and one score.

“We’re very confident that Bear, no matter what role we place him in, he does an outstanding job,” said Coughlin. “Bear has had opportunities to play in that slot, B tight end, Y tight end, and he’s always done a nice job.”

“This is kind of what I do. This is my role,” Pascoe said. “The more I can do, the better it is for the team. It’s one of the reason I’ve been here for five years, is I have versatility.”

“(Pascoe) has had to do that for us whenever the fullback has been hurt,” said Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride. “It hasn’t been Henry (Hynoski) but it was Madison Hedgecock before. And so he has done a great job with that. It is not an easy thing. He is not a natural fullback but he is one of those guys that just whatever you ask him to do, he goes out and does it with as much courage and determination as anybody. As a result of that he plays above – sometimes – what your expectations might be. We asked him to do a very difficult role – he does it very well.”

Pope thinks having Pascoe playing fullback may make the Giants’ offense less predictable. “Bear has played a good bit of fullback for us,” said Pope. “Actually he played about 160 snaps at fullback last season. So he is aware of the assignments. There are still some finite things that he can get better at there. But it gives us a great deal of flexibility because when Hynoski is in the game they pretty well know that there are some limitations as to where he will line up. He is pretty much a backfield player. When we can put Bear in with one of these other guys, now we can do a lot more things as far as open formations – a little more difficult for the defense to predict where they can’t just key on one of the those guys and say the ball is going there. So that helps us.”

Adrien Robinson: 2012 was mainly a redshirt year for Adrien Robinson, who the Giants drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Robinson made the 53-man roster, but was only activated for two games. He did not catch a single pass. Robinson combines good size with excellent athleticism. He has very good speed and agility for a big tight end. However, he is a very raw player who will need a lot of coaching up. He was not targeted much in college (only 29 receptions in four years), but he displayed an ability to get down the field, adjust to the football, and make the difficult catch. Robinson has the physical ability to be a good blocker.

Because Robinson’s college has trimesters, he missed Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices his rookie season. “I think going through OTAs this year, seeing how slowly the coaches install the plays and understanding how everything feeds off each other, I realize that I did miss a lot last year by coming in so late and trying to jumpstart everything,” Robinson said. “I’ve been here since the (offseason) program started, and it’s a new year. I’m just trying to work my way up.”

“I think the biggest improvement I’ve made is in my understanding of the offense and knowing the plays, my assignments, where to line up, and how to read the defenses,” said Robinson. “Last year, I didn’t get many game reps, so I had to watch a lot, which helped, but it’s not the same as lining up on the field.”

“The biggest thing I want to show the coaches is that I fully understand the offense,” said Robinson. “I understand everything that’s going on, and I want to earn their trust. Once they are confident that you know what you’re doing, you’ll get on the field.”

“Adrien Robinson appears to have gone into the Land of the Believers and yes he has been making some good progress,” said Pope. “He is understanding assignment-wise. But the plays are still not the lines on the page that we give them for instruction. So he is doing a lot of the assignment things correctly. Now we have to get him to adjust to the way the defense is playing on each particular play and to make the best decisions based on how the defense is playing. But he is running well and he has his weight down some. The quarterback is starting to find him. He is hard to miss – he is the tallest tree in the forest out there. So he is a good target. But we are more than mildly pleased with the progress that he has made from an assignment standpoint.”

“Adrien was in that group of guys who came in, didn’t really know much about working with an offensive tackle on a double team block or how do you read coverages, what happens if they blitz here, what do I do?” said Pope in June. “It has taken him some time to learn and feel a little more comfortable. His speed and athletic skills did not surface as quickly as we hoped because he was thinking his way through every single play which slowed him down. Now he’s developing some confidence and he knows a little bit more about what he is doing. These last three or four weeks have been the very best weeks of his Giant career.”

“Wish we could have gotten him in some games more last year, but it just didn’t work out for us to get him in some games,” said Reese. “But we really think – the guy is 280 pounds, he ran a 4.57 (40-yard dash) at his Pro Day, and we think he can really develop into a terrific blocker. In practice, he flashed some things that were really like some ‘Wow’ things in practice. So we’re expecting him to make a jump this season and get in and get going and give us some contributions as our big blocking tight end. And he can catch the ball really nice. So we expect to bring him along, and hopefully he’ll contribute for us.”

Larry Donnell: Donnell went undrafted and unsigned in 2011. The Giants signed him as a street free agent in March 2012 and Donnell spent 2012 on the Giants’ Practice Squad. Donnell has excellent size (6’6”, 270 pounds) and is a good athlete. However, he is raw and needs a lot of coaching. Unfortunately, Donnell missed most of the spring work with a right foot or ankle injury that forced him to wear a walking boot.

Jamie Childers: The Giants signed Jamie Childers to a Reserve/Future contract in January 2013. Childers was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the St. Louis Rams after the 2012 NFL Draft. The Rams waived him in August. Childers needs a lot of technique work not only because of his small school background but because he played both quarterback and tight end in college. Lacking bulk (6’5”, 250 pounds), Childers is built more like an H-Back than true tight end. He’s athletic and has good hands. He probably will never be more than a finesse blocker. According to press reports, Childers did flash as a receiver in spring workouts.

Chase Clement: Clement was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Giants after the 2013 NFL Draft. In college, Clement converted to tight from defensive end. He has good size (6’6”, 262 pounds) and strength and could develop as a blocking-type tight end with better technique. He was not used much as a receiver in college with only 14 career receptions in four seasons. Clement isn’t overly fast.

“When I first looked at (Clement) I had visions of Jake Ballard,” said Pope. “Just because he was a good blocker on the goal line. (LSU) seldom ever threw him the ball. But when the ball was snapped he had kind of that tough-guy mentality – old school. But he really had a motor…He is not going to be an all-world receiver way down the field as far as being explosive and flexible, but he has pretty good football savvy…I think there is something to work with there.”

Summary: Brandon Myers is clearly the #1 guy heading into training camp and will likely be the Giants’ primary tight end, though due to his size, it would be easy to see the Giants using him some at H-Back too. Myers could be the type of receiver who Manning quickly develops chemistry with. But Myers needs to block better than he did last year in Oakland. Pascoe is a limited athlete and his attention will be split between fullback, H-Back, and tight end. The real question is how fast can Adrien Robinson develop? He has the size to be a good blocker and the athletic abiity to be a good receiver. Can he put it all together, and if so, how quickly? Don’t completely discount Donnell (two-way tools), Childers (receiver), and Clement (blocker) either, but their best shot is probably the Practice Squad unless someone gets hurt.

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Jul 082013
 
 July 8, 2013  Posted by  Articles, History

Graphic images courtesy of Bill Schaefer, artist, and Tim Brulia, historian, of the Gridiron Uniform Database.

Becoming Big Blue – A History of the New York Giants Uniforms

by Larry Schmitt for BigBlueInteractive.com

1925 – 1936: Basic Beginnings

A fact obscured by history is that the New York Football Giants were anything but the “Big Blue” Giants we root for today. Red was the team’s primary color for the majority of their first 31 years in the NFL, including their entire residence at The Polo Grounds.

When the Giants took the field in Providence to face the Steamrollers, they wore an outfit that looked nothing like the modern uniform system worn by football players today. Most teams in 1925 looked very similar with unadorned brown leather helmets and baggy, tan or beige pants that included hip pads high above the waist. The only distinguishing elements between opponents in this era were the team colors displayed on the jerseys and socks. The Giants wore red bodied jerseys that featured royal blue shoulders and a broad blue band around the body. White block numbers were only on the back of the jersey. The socks were red with the blue band trimmed by white stripes. Midway through the season the helmets changed to white. This uniform set would be the Giants primary look (save for some minor modifications) for the majority of their first eight seasons, including their first NFL Championship in 1927.

A new pair of jerseys were introduced in 1928. One was solid blue, the other solid red. Both featured oval leather patches covering the player’s ribs. The patches on the blue jerseys were plain brown leather, the patches on the red jersey were blue.

Hap Moran (22), New York Giants (October 19, 1930)

The Giants added numbers to the front of the jerseys in 1929.

Through these years the Giants rotated helmet styles, often in mid season. The plain brown helmets and white helmets gave way to a red shelled helmet in 1929 that featured a blue crest and blue cross pattern over the crown. The blue banded red jersey returned in 1930 with a white number half in and half out of the band. This was supplemented in 1932 by a similar one that had a small white number centered in the band and trimmed with white stripes. A new helmet was introduced, which featured a blue shell with eight red stripes covering the crown (sometimes called “spider stripes”).

The Giants won their second NFL Championship in 1934, the season they made their first significant uniform overhaul. The new white helmets featured a blue crest and rear base. The red jerseys had a blue collar with white vertical stripes running the length of the sleeves. The side panels were royal blue, and the small white block numbers had a royal blue outline. The pants no longer had the high hip pads, but did have black stripes down the back of the legs (a feature common to many teams of this era). The red socks had blue and white stripes lower down the calf.

Chicago Cardinals at New York Giants (October 27, 1935)

The Giants first white jersey appeared during the 1935 season as an alternate.

After defeating the powerful 13-0 Chicago Bears in the frozen Polo Grounds in the NFL’s second-ever Championship Game, the 1935 Giants supplemented the red jersey with a white one. It was basically a negative of the red version: a white body with red sleeve stripes, blue side panels and red-trimmed blue block numbers. In 1936, this was the Giants full-time jersey, but the new pants, colorful for that season, were royal blue with white and red stripes down the back of the legs, and the socks were white with red and blue stripes.

1937 – 1952: Honing in on an Identity

Following 11 seasons of experimentation and discovery, the Giants began to find what would become their signature look. The helmet was a royal blue shell with a red “Michigan Wing” pattern. The primary jersey was solid red with plain white block numbers. The pants were beige and the socks were solid red. This is what the Giants wore in 1938 when they became the first NFL team to win two Championship Games, defeating the Green Bay Packers in the Polo Grounds, and Center/Linebacker Mel Hein won the NFL’s first MVP Award. A blue alternate jersey and socks were worn occasionally, usually when the Giants opposed a team that also wore red like the Chicago Cardinals or Washington Redskins. This uniform set remained mostly unchanged through the next 15 years, save for a set of grey pants joining the rotation (initially worn with the blue jerseys before becoming full-time), and evolutions in helmet technology.

Blue and red jerseys, along with tan and grey pants, alternated throughout the 1940′s.

In 1948 the “Michigan Wing” was replaced with the Giants final leather helmet. This model featured a more robust base to protect the player for impacts to the side of the head. The base was red, the crown blue with a red cross-pattern. Charley Conerly wore this uniform when he set a rookie record that would last for 50 years: most touchdown passes in a season with 22.

The majority of the NFL changed over to hard, plastic-shelled helmets in 1950. Immediately the Giants found another major component of their appearance: a solid blue shell (navy blue for many decades) with a single, red stripe down the center.

1953 – 1960: The Classic Era

Television began to have an impact on how teams presented themselves on the field so viewership following on black-and-white screens could easily tell the teams apart. More teams instituted the use of a second jersey in their rotation that was white. To accommodate their fans at home, the Giants inverted their primary jersey: red numbers on white with solid red socks. Although the alternate blue jersey would still appear a few times each season, the Giants were primarily a white-at-home team from 1953 through 1956 (including all home games in 1954).

In 1954 the Giants added “Northwestern Stripes” to the sleeves and in 1956 “TV Numbers” to the sleeves and red numbers flanking the red stripe on the back of the helmets. The Giants defeated the Chicago Bears in Yankee Stadium wearing these uniforms, and halfback Frank Gifford was the NFL’s MVP.

The NFL mandated all teams equip their uniform ensemble with two jerseys in 1957: one a primary color and the second white. The Giants took this opportunity to augment their uniforms with more classic features.

Frank Gifford (16), New York Giants (November 29, 1959)

The Giants were the first team to prominently display player numbers on the front of the helmet in 1957.

The helmets now featured bold, white player numbers both in front and back, and the grey pants had three thin separated stripes, red – blue – red, down the side. This was also the season the Giants became “Big Blue.” The Giants (like most NFL teams) wore their primary color jerseys at home full-time over the next 10 seasons, including two famous games with Yankee Stadium as their back drop in 1958 that created their now iconic look: Pat Summerall booting his 49-yard in the snow against the rival Cleveland Browns to force a playoff to decide the Eastern Conference Champion. Two weeks later the Giants heroically bowed to Johnny Unitas’ Baltimore Colts in the NFL’s first sudden-death Championship Game.

1961 – 1965: Continuing Refinements

Following on the heels of a growing trend, the Giants introduced their first helmet logo in 1961, the lowercase “ny”. For most of their existence, the Football Giants official logo was a Giants sized football player towering over the Manhattan skyline, while they borrowed the varying uppercase, interlocking “NY” logos of the baseball Giants and Yankees for the players and coaches sideline overcoats. Now they had one of their own. The Giants would win the NFL Eastern Division the first three seasons with this new logo, as Y.A. Tittle set team and NFL records that would last over 20 years. The pants also had a new stripe pattern, two slightly broader red stripes.

Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, New York Giants (1958)

Vince Lombardi wearing the Yankees “NY” and Tom Landry wearing the Baseball Giants “NY” in 1958.

In 1962 the pants stripes changed again, three contiguous red-blue-red stripes. The “Northwestern Stripes” were removed from the white jerseys in 1964.

Red remained the prominent accent color on the Giants white uniforms through the 1965 season.

1966 – 1974: Red Takes a Back Seat

The Giants made some significant changes in 1966. The home uniform did not change much. The helmet and blue jersey did not change, but the pants were now white with a reversed blue-red-blue stripe pattern. The away uniform featuredwhite jerseys with blue numbers, the sleeves had a broad blue-red-blue stripe pattern that matched the pants. White socks with that same stripe pattern were worn through 1967, when this was the Giants uniform of choice for home games.

Minor changes for the 1968 season included solid blue socks worn with the white jersey, and the helmet numbers changed to a thinner but much larger font (to the point where the players’ numbers were almost as prominent as the “ny” logo). Along with the rest of the league, the Giants wore “NFL 50” shield patches on their jersey shoulders the shoulders of their jerseys for the 1969 season.

Fred Dryer, New York Giants (December 21, 1969)

Large helmet numbers, white pants, and the “NFL 50″ shield patch were part of the Giants look in 1969.

In the early 1970’s many NFL teams had two jersey sets of jerseys. One was durene, for cold weather games and the other mesh. Often there were differences between the two. For the Giants, the noticeable difference was the sleeve stripes. The durene jersey was unchanged, 3/4 length sleeves with broad stripes, until it was eventually phased out after the 1972 season. The mesh jersey had thinner blue-red-blue stripes at the bottom of the short sleeve and was a permanent away jersey through 1974.

1975 -1979: Stripes and Logos

The Giants appeared to experience a bit of an identity crisis during the mid to late ‘70’s. To say the uniforms were a drastic departure from the norm is an understatement.

In an attempt to appear more modern, the classic “ny” was replaced with a double-line, uppercase “NY”. White stripes bracketed the helmet’s red center stripe, and the player’s numbers were removed from the front of the helmet.

Doug Kotar, San Diego Chargers at New York Giants (November 1, 1975)

The uniform overhaul of 1975 was a radical departure from the Giants traditional look.

The blue jersey had a five-stripe pattern, two broad white stripes flanked by three thin red stripes, and the white numbers had red trim. The pants had an extra-wide blue stripe that was bordered by two red stripes. The blue socks had a matching stripe pattern as the sleeves for most of the season, until they were replaced late in the season by a white sock with a somewhat inverted blue-red-blue-red-blue pattern.

The white jerseys were a negative version of the blue, and were the Giants first set of blue pants in 40 years. The white socks worn with the blue pants had a set of stripes that matched the sleeves stripes.

Phil Simms, New York Giants (October 14, 1979)

The Giants uniforms of the late ’70′s featured an abundance of stripes.

The “NY” helmet logo was short lived. In 1976, when the team first stepped onto the field at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, they had another new logo, the italicized and underlined “GIANTS”. It was somewhat reminiscent of the simpler “ny” of the Yankee Stadium era, though the rest of the uniform was not. Some refinements and changes occurred with the socks during the next four seasons. Stripe patterns inverted, white socks were interchanged with red ones (worn with the blue pants only), before blue was settled on permanently in 1977. In 1979 the blue pants were gone and the socks were adorned with an 11-stripe white-red-white pattern.

1980 – 1999: Revision and Stability

Simplicity returned in 1980 as the New York Giants uniforms reflected their early 1970’s look but still retained a modern feel. The white stripes were removed from the helmets and the socks were once again solid blue. The blue jerseys had red-white-red piping along their V-necks and sleeve cuffs. The white pants returned to their familiar blue-red-blue pattern. The blue jerseys had a blue-red-blue pattern. This basic uniform, save for minor number font changes and ceremonial patches, would go unchanged for 20 years. The Giants worn white-at-home for the entire 1980 season, before settling on blue for good, and would wear those blue jerseys as they won Super Bowls XXI and XXV following the 1986 and 1990 seasons.

Mark Bavaro, New York Giants (September 21, 1986)

The Giants first full-season memorial patch was the “Spider 43″ worn during the championship year of1986.

Variations occurred that served as memorials – black shoulder stripe was sewn onto the jerseys in 1983 in honor of late RB Coach Bob Ledbetter, and the “Spider 43” patches worn during Lawrence Taylor’s MVP 1986 season (with a white background on the blue jersey and a blue background on the white jersey), or anniversaries – the Super Bowl XXV patch, the “NFL 75” patch in 1994, and the Giants “75th Silver Anniversary” patch in 1999.

The entire NFL wore throwback uniforms in 1994. The Giants chose replicas of their 1962 season, and they were mostly authentically replicated. White pants were used with the blue jerseys instead of the traditional grey, changed at the last moment at the league’s behest.

2000 – 2013: Echoes of the Past

 Similar in theme to the previous uniform overhaul, the Giants looked to the past while still maintaining a current feel. A mostly traditional “ny” logo returned to the helmet (it was slightly larger and bolder than the original), as well as the player numbers (now block style matching the jerseys). The matte, navy blue shell was now a metallic royal blue.

The blue jerseys were free of all striping and the numbers were solid white. Given the trend of constantly shortening sleeves, the “TV numbers” moved up to the shoulders. The pants were grey but kept the blue-red-blue stripe pattern. The white jerseys had red numbers again, but now featured blue trim. Solid red socks were worn with the white jersey through 2001, when the Giants added a white “GBY” patch for the late George Young. The Giants wore an “80th Anniversary” patch on the blue jerseys for the 2004 season, and also the new alternate red jersey they would wear once each season the next four years.

Jessie Armstead, New York Giants (September 30, 2001)

The Giants have featured a classic-but-modern look since 2000.

New retro white jerseys were introduced for the 2005 season. Plain red block numbers were accompanied with “Northwestern Stripes” on the sleeves. Two memorial patches were worn to honor the passing of owners Wellington Mara and Robert Tisch. The grey pants worn with the white jerseys also had the thin, separated red-blue-red stripes last worn in 1960. These are the uniforms the Giants wore when they twice upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI following the 2007 and 2011 seasons.

These pants received a full-time road designation and were also worn with the blue jersey during away games beginning in 2009, before they became the Giants sole pants in 2012. An alternate set of white pants, with an inverted blue-grey-red-grey-blue stripe pattern, will be worn on occasion with the blue jerseys beginning in 2013.

(To see the Giants uniform history in greater detail, please see the Giants page at the Gridiron Uniform Database.)

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Jul 082013
 
 July 8, 2013  Posted by  Articles, The Salary Cap
Jerry Reese, New York Giants (May 11, 2012)

Jerry Reese – © USA TODAY Sports Images

July 8, 2013 NFL Salary Cap Update: Here are the NFL salary cap space rankings for all 32 teams in the league as of Monday morning, July 8, 2013. The New York Giants are $3,308,682 under the NFL salary cap as of this date:

Click on column to sort

CAP SPACE RANK
TEAM
PREVIOUS YEAR CARRYOVER
TOTAL CAP SPACE
10Arizona$3,600,110.00 $10,640,331.00
20Atlanta$307,540.00 $6,299,287.00
21Baltimore$1,182,377.00 $6,049,823.00
5Buffalo$9,817,628.00 $18,665,064.00
12Carolina$3,654,825.00 $9,716,115.00
30Chicago$3,236,965.00 $1,637,767.00
4Cincinnati$8,579,575.00 $19,967,981.00
1Cleveland$14,339,575.00 $31,739,610.00
15Dallas$2,335,379.00 $8,124,208.00
9Denver$11,537,924.00 $10,697,563.00
29Detroit$466,992.00 $1,894,653.00
8Green Bay$7,010,832.00 $16,327,631.00
28Houston$2,422,689.00 $2,808,949.00
18Indianapolis$3,500,000.00 $6,935,290.00
2Jacksonville$19,563,231.00 $23,035,816.00
25Kansas City$14,079,650.00 $3,562,128.00
7Miami$5,380,246.00 $17,635,103.00
17Minnesota$8,004,734.00 $7,011,654.00
14New England$5,607,914.00 $9,215,519.00
22New Orleans$2,700,000.00 $5,173,260.00
26NY Giants$1,000,000.00 $3,308,682.00
11NY Jets$3,400,000.00 $9,964,235.00
16Oakland$4,504,761.00 $7,628,004.00
3Philadelphia$23,046,035.00 $22,466,188.00
23Pittsburgh$758,811.00 $4,403,813.00
27San Diego$995,893.00 $3,127,666.00
19San Francisco$859,734.00 $6,423,721.00
24Seattle$13,265,802.00 $3,712,328.00
32St. Louis$247,347.00 $214,088.00
6Tampa Bay$8,527,866.00 $18,278,471.00
13Tennessee$12,867,893.00 $9,245,356.00
31Washington$4,270,296.00 $1,413,440.00

What can we look forward to between now and the start of training camp?

There are 18 days left until the start of training camp on July 26th, and there are exactly 59 days left until the Top 51 rule expires on Thursday, September 5th at 12:00 am New York time.

The Giants are reportedly thisclose to signing Victor Cruz before the start of training camp. The odds are that both sides will officially come to terms at the last minute on July 24th or 25th, so that Cruz’s agent (Tom Condon, also the agent for Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning) can get as much as he possibly can out of the Giants before the team  is allowed to fine Cruz $30,000 per day for missing training camp if he doesn’t report on time on July 26th. They’ll likely get it done by then, rendering the possibility of fines moot. Cruz is patiently playing this as expected so far, as are the Giants.

The Giants will also need to sign their remaining two unsigned draft picks (1st rounder Justin Pugh, and 4th rounder Ryan Nassib). Approximately 87% of the draft picks in the league have signed contracts as of June 30th, 8 days ago according to this tweet by Ralph Vacchiano:

Here are the contract figures for most of these players from overthecap.com.

These two rookie deals should be finalized before the start of training camp, with Pugh’s deal being the only one of the two to have an effect on the team’s salary cap now since we’re still in the Top 51 phase of salary cap accounting. Both will eventually count against the Giants’ cap though once the Top 51 rule expires on September 5th since Nassib is a shoe-in to make the team, pending an act of God, or a season-ending injury during the preseason thereby causing his salary to split.

I would also expect to see a move made by the club with respect to clearing more space under the salary cap before the Cruz signing is announced. I’d expect to see a restructure done to either punter Steve Weatherford’s contract (which ends after the 2016 season) and/or Eli Manning’s contract at some point within the next three weeks. This would allow more space for the Cruz signing and to give the Giants the added cap space that they need in order to cover regular season expenses. If Eli’s deal is restructured now, then you can bet your bottom dollar that his contract – which ends after the 2015 season – will be extended in 2014 in order to make more room for Cruz and Nicks, and in anticipation of JPP’s unrestricted free agency in 2016.

To keep informed of the latest salary cap news as it impacts the Giants, follow my Giants salary cap blog (nygcapcentral.com), or me on Twitter (@NYGCapCentral) as the offseason continues, and we head into training camp and the preseason. It is likely that we will see  more cap moves made, not only by the Giants, but the entire league. Some clubs that are approximately $5 million or less under the cap now still need to clear up more room in order to sign some of their remaining first round picks and prepare for additional regular season operational expenses starting on September 5th. These regular season operational expenses include the following:

  • 52nd and 53rd players on the 53-man roster
  • the Practice Squad
  • players on Injured Reserve
  • the PUP list
  • additional Dead money incurred in training camp as the result of cuts
  • grievances & injury settlements
  • extra money (“fudge money”) needed in case of emergencies during the regular season

Check out this YouTube video by Jason Fitzgerald from overthecap.com which gives an excellent synopsis of how the salary cap works, particularly this section (starting at the 33:06 mark to the 34:42 mark) which describes what I just mentioned above with respect to how the salary cap rules change once the Top 51 rule ceases:

We will also likely see the remaining free agents of note, like fullback Vonta Leach and defensive end John Abraham, sign with teams that have cap room to spare. Check out the following lists of remaining free agents:

You can keep an eye on the Salary Cap as it continues to change here (NFLPA Top 51 League Cap Report). We’re going to see more moves made to the Giants’ roster, as noted above (the signings of Pugh, Nassib; new deal for Cruz; & the very likely restructures for Eli and/or Weatherford). Here are the cap numbers for almost every player on the Giants’ roster as of this time, courtesy of overthecap.com:

The fact that Tom Condon is the agent for Victor Cruz and Eli Manning (as well Tom Coughlin incidentally) is an important factor to keep in consideration as contract negotiations take place and are then put in effect through the supposedly soon-to-be-made announcement with regard to Cruz’s new deal, and the probable contract restructuring of Eli’s contract that would be needed to help make more room for Cruz, and give the Giants the cap-breathing room they’ll need once the Top 51 Rule ceases on September 5th, heading into the regular season.

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Jul 012013
 
 July 1, 2013  Posted by  Articles, Roster Thoughts
David Wilson, New York Giants (November 4, 2012)

David Wilson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Offseason Breakdown: New York Giants Running Backs

In the long and storied history of the Giants, five of the franchise’s top six all-time rushers have played in the last 30 years. There was the Joe Morris (5,296 yards) era, the Rodney Hampton (6,897) era, the Tiki Barber (10,449) era, and the Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw (9,081) era.

Are David Wilson and Andre Brown mentally and physically prepared to pick up the mantel? Not only were Jacobs and Bradshaw productive running backs, but they provided a lot of emotion and leadership to the team. “We’ve got a tradition of great running backs here that have established themselves as leaders on this team,” said Running Backs Coach Jerald Ingram.

In addition, who else will round out the backfield? There are currently five running backs (not counting fullback Henry Hynoski) vying for three or four roster spots. Let’s look at the candidates:

Andre Brown: Many assume David Wilson will start, but Andre Brown was ahead of him on the depth chart last year and Head Coach Tom Coughlin may feel that Wilson is better suited as a change-of-pace back and someone who should get fewer touches given his size. On the other hand, Coughlin may trust Brown more with blitz pick-ups on third down and thus Brown may be the one coming off of the bench.

After rupturing his Achilles’ tendon with the Giants in 2009, spending time with four different teams in 2010, and spending all of 2011 on the Giants’ practice squad, Brown surprised everyone by winning the Giants’ #2 running back job in 2012. Indeed, at times, Brown seemed more productive running the football than Ahmad Bradshaw. Before Brown broke his leg in November, he had accrued 385 yards and eight touchdowns on 73 carries, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Brown has a nice combination of size (6’0’’, 227 pounds) and athletic ability. He is no-nonsense, north-south, downhill runner with some power to his game. Brown performed well in short-yardage and goal line situations last season. He has good hands as a receiver. Brown’s biggest issue right now is that he has to prove he can stay healthy.

“Andre is healthy,” said Ingram. “(Vice President of Medical Services) Ronnie Barnes has done a great job with him right now. He’s motivated. It’s an opportunity for him. He’s been waiting a lifetime around here for that. We brought him in here because he can catch the ball, he can run, he can do a lot of things and be a complete running back here and he’s definitely a true every down kind of guy because he’s got size, speed and quickness. We saw some things out of him a year ago, which was great and it’s a great opportunity for him.”

“Andre has continued to grow,” said Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride. “And he has continued to get better (this spring). You feel more and more confident (about him). He has actually gotten to a point where you feel better about third-down. First and second-down is one important step. But the next step is can you be a third-down back because of the complexity of what people are doing with their defensive schemes?”

Brown realizes the tremendous opportunity in front of him. “I still feel like I’ve got a lot to prove and first I just want to have a healthy season and then go out there and just be productive and help this team win games and championships and that’s what it’s all about,” said Brown.

Early in the offseason, Brown stated that he wanted to rush for 1,300 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2013. He has since toned down his remarks. “I ain’t worried about the carries, I’m not worried about yards, or who’s got the most touchdowns,” said Brown. “I’m just worried about both of us (Wilson and Brown) working together and being effective for the team and having a positive running game.”

But Brown still thinks the Giants are capable of having two 1,000-yard rushers on the same team, a feat accomplished by Jacobs and Derrick Ward in 2008. “It ain’t like they haven’t produced two 1,000-yard backs before in the same season,” said Brown. “I believe that we’re capable of doing that.”

Brown also recognizes there is a leadership void that needs to be filled. “The first couple years we had Brandon, we had Ahmad – those guys were more of the vocal leaders in the room,” Brown said. “I’d just sit back and watch and listen. But now it’s like OK, they showed me the way, and now I’ve gotta step up and be more talkative in the room.”

David Wilson: Last season, Wilson did not see double-digit carries until December and finished the season with 358 yards and four touchdowns on 71 carries (5.0 yards per carry). He only caught four passes for 34 yards and a touchdown. Most of Wilson’s damage came on special teams where he set a team record with 1,533 kickoff return yards, averaging 26.9 yards per return.

David Wilson is very young, having just turned 22 in June. Wilson did not play as much as expected his rookie season, but when he did, he flashed great explosive ability. He also demonstrated a more physical running style than you would anticipate from a 5’9’’, 205 pound running back. And that’s the biggest worry with Wilson – is he big enough not only to take the pounding at the pro level as a ball carrier, but is he big and physical enough to take on blitzing linebackers? The coaches also won’t play him a lot until they believe that he is mentally ready to decipher the complicated blitz packages opposing teams will throw at him, especially on third down.

“I have to be really precise in practice and give the coaches confidence,” said Wilson. “Pass blocking…that’s an area that I definitely need to show the coaches that I can handle.”

“You see a guy like David Wilson who started with no clue on who to block, much less how to block, to a pretty good understanding of what it is that he has to do (during spring practices),” said Gilbride. “Now it is a matter of doing it. And it is a matter of getting better at it. He is still not 100%. He still makes mistakes but there has certainly been some significant, some significant growth. Now until you get the pads on – and he has to show that he, as a smaller guy, can do the things necessary that other small backs in this league have done – you are still kind of holding your breath when you see him.

“But his approach has been great; his attitude in terms of trying to work on that aspect of the game. As a running back, what do you want to do? You want to run the ball. That is all you want to do. You don’t want to do anything else. But he realizes that in order to get the playing time that he wants to get that he is going to have to become a pass receiver; he is going to have to become a good pass protector. And he is going to have to do the things that maybe don’t fall into the strict definition of running the football. But the good thing is that he has been working his tail off.”

“I definitely see progress (in his pass protection),” said Ingram. “I think he’s got a clear understanding as far as what our protections are, what is expected of him, but until you actually physically ask that individual to do that full speed and full gear, we’re not exactly doing that right now. But I think when we go to camp, he knows what his goals are right now and what he has to accomplish to be a complete running back and contribute on our team. I think we’ll get that out of him. He’ll be a much improved player from that situation this year.

“(Wilson) has the talent, has the speed, has a few plays from a year ago underneath his belt. Once we put the pads on, we’ll see who is physical, who’s determined to make plays out there… I think he’s a playmaker… I think we’ll take advantage of his natural ability as much as we can…He’s got to be a guy that Eli can trust in every situation possible and we’ll go from there, but right now I think he’s on track.”

“I’m a lot less nervous, and more comfortable with the offense,” Wilson said. “Going out there now, I can just play football, and run the play that’s called, and not really have to stress as much.”

Speaking of his friendly competition with Brown, Wilson said, “We’re both working hard, and we’re going to play off each other. He’s a bigger back, and I’ve got breakaway speed. We can make things happen.”

Wilson does want to continue to return kicks, but it is unknown whether the Giants will give him that role in 2013. “On kickoff return I definitely want to be a part of that,” said Wilson. “I really enjoy that part of the game and any way I can help the team I’m willing to do it and I definitely want to be back there.”

“(Wilson) would like to (return kicks),” said Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn. “He’s done it very well, but we’ll have to see how it all comes down with where he is on the depth chart and what he’s doing on offense… I don’t think it’s too much to do both, but I’m not making all the decisions.”

Da’Rel Scott: Andre Brown and David Wilson are clearly 1a and 1b in terms of the running back pecking order (and it’s not clear who “a” and “b” are at this point). The #3 job is wide open. Da’Rel Scott is the forgotten back on this team, mostly because he has hardly played in the last two seasons since being drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants.  In two years, he has a total of 25 yards on 11 carries. Scott was placed on Injured Reserve in October 2012 after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee.

Scott has adequate size (5’11’’, 210 pounds). He is very fast and is a threat to break a big play every time he touches the ball. However, it still remains to be seen if Scott has the instincts, toughness, elusiveness, and power to succeed at the NFL level on a consistent basis. There simply is not enough to go on yet in order to fully evaluate him.

Coughlin did mention Scott during the June mini-camp. “Da’Rel Scott has had a few good days,” said Coughlin.

Last August, Ingram was asked about Scott. “We saw some things out of Da’Rel (in 2011),” said Ingram. “He’s linear, he can get up field, he’s got good finish speed when he gets going. Where he is right now, he hasn’t been on the field an awful lot. We haven’t played him in a game. Hopefully, we can get him in the game and see what he can do. I want, and we want to see an every down kind of guy, who has some size, who has some quickness, who has some finish speed, who can catch the ball out of the backfield, but can he be a continuous play maker? Can he take care of our quarterback? That’s what we want to see out of him. Until we actually get into these games, who knows?”

Ryan Torain: The Giants signed Ryan Torain in November 2012 as a street free agent. He played in two games but did not touch the football. Torain was originally drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Torain was waived by the Broncos in August 2009. He signed with the Washington Redskins in 2010 and spent time on both Washington’s 53-man roster and Practice Squad. The Redskins waived Torain in December 2011. Torain’s best year was in 2010 with the Redskins when he rushed for 742 yards and four touchdowns on 164 carries (4.5 yards per carry) and caught 18 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns.

Torain is a tough, physical runner with good size (6’0’’, 220 pounds). He lacks ideal speed and elusiveness. Torain also has been somewhat injury prone, something that popped up again in the spring as Torain was sidelined with a hamstring issue.

Michael Cox: Michael Cox was drafted in the 7th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Giants. He originally played at the University of Michigan before transferring to the University of Massachusetts. Cox is a big (6’0’’, 220 pounds), strong back with decent speed and elusiveness. He catches the ball well.

“He’s a big and powerful elusive guy with speed, so he’s got a lot of things that we like about him,” said General Manager Jerry Reese on the day the Giants drafted Cox.

“Runs hard, he’s got size, he’s got really, really good hands, excellent hands, got a little burst to him,” said Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross. “Real good kid. Our coaches were impressed with him so we were happy we’re getting a big, fast guy who runs hard that late in the draft.”

Cox was regularly mentioned by the Giants’ beat writers as someone who flashed during the spring workouts, showing more nimbleness than anticipated. Coughlin also mentioned him the June mini-camp. “The young kid (Cox) continues to do some good things,” said Coughlin.

Summary: There really are two running back competitions heading into training camp. The first is to determine the “starter” – David Wilson or Andre Brown – though in reality, both will play a lot so the label probably does not mean as much to the team as it does to the fans. The second competition is who will be the #3 back and will someone show enough to convince the Giants to keep four running backs?

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Jun 242013
 
 June 24, 2013  Posted by  Articles, History
Steve Owen

Steve Owen

Steve Owen: The Rock The New York Giants Were Built On

When Steve Owen, who coached the New York Giants from 1931 through 1953, died of a cerebral hemorrhage at his home in Oneida, New York, I debated for a day whether to make the trip south for the funeral. For a long time I had felt that I owed Owen such homage, and I’d never again be able to pay it… I had wanted to make the pilgrimage because it was Owen, as much as any other, who had brought me round to the Giants and made me a fan. Unable to conceive what my life would have been without football to cushion the knocks, I was sure I owed him sorrow. – Frederick  Exley, A Fan’s Notes

Other than Wellington Mara, no other individual in the history of the New York Football Giants has had a bigger impact on the franchise than Stephen Joseph Owen. Yet sadly, Steve Owen is largely unknown and rarely remembered by fans.

Steve Owen was a four-time All-NFL, two-way tackle who played for the Giants from 1926 to 1931. Continuing as a player-coach, Owen became co-head coach with Benny Friedman for the final two games of the 1930 season. In 1931, he assumed sole head-coaching duties of the Giants for the next 23 years until 1953. In 1954 and 1966, Owen served as a scout with the Giants.

Thus for 30 years, during the crucial formative years of the franchise, Owen was the most pivotal figure within the organization not named Mara. As a player, he captained the 1927 team that won the team’s first NFL title and held opposing teams to a single-season, record-low total of 20 points. Then an entire generation of Giants’ fans grew up knowing no other head coach than Steve Owen. The first “golden age” of Giants’ football was not from 1956-63, but from 1933-46 when, during that 14-season time span under Owen, the Giants played in eight NFL Championship games, winning two.

“Steve Owen was really the rock that we built on,” said Wellington Mara. “He was like my second father…I admired him, was greatly attached to him, and respected him. He kind of brought me up in the football business.”

A Wrassler from the Indian Territory

Steve Owen was born on the same day – April 21, 1898 – that President William McKinley asked Congress to declare war on Spain. Owen was born in Cleo Springs in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), where his father had claimed land when the Cherokee Strip was opened to settlers. Owen’s father farmed the land while his mother became the area’s first schoolmarm.

Owen’s high school did not have a football team. “Outside of wrasslin’, we didn’t have any time for sports,” said Owen. “We were too busy with chores and schoolin’ and watchin’ the marshals chase outlaws across the Cimarron River.”

By the time he was 16, Owen already weighed 220 pounds. Apparently, his father was so proud of his strength that he would wake up Steve in the middle of the night to wrestle some stranger he had brought home. “I wasn’t allowed to go back to bed until I whipped the fellow Pop brought home,” said Owen.

In the summer as a high school teenager, Owen would travel to Texas to work the oil fields, making $3 a day for 12 hours of work. Owen wanted to return to Texas after graduating. However, Owen’s mom convinced him to attend Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma where Owen enlisted in the Student Army Training Corps with America’s entry into the First World War. In college, Owen wrestled professionally under the alias “Jack O’Brien” in order to protect his amateur standing.

It was also at college where Owen was introduced to football. His college coach told him, “Son, you now have the secret. It’s a rough game and you’ll get hurt if you let the other fellow hit you harder than you hit him. That’s why football is a good game. It won’t let a man play easy. You’ll learn the rules fast enough. Just remember this: respect every other boy on this squad and work with him. Never lose respect for your opponent or he’ll hit you harder than you hit him.”

A Champion as a Giants Player

In 1924, Owen signed with the Kansas City Blues for $50 per game. He also played for the Cleveland Bulldogs and Kansas City Cowboys in 1925. The Giants were so impressed with Owen that they bought Owen from the Cowboys in 1926 for $500.

“I had seen a lot of fat hogs go for more than they paid for me,” said Owen, “but in those days a fat hog was a lot more valuable than a fat tackle. I was going to New York even if I had to walk there.”

Steve Owen

Steve Owen

Owen rapidly became one of the best players on the Giants. He played for the Giants from 1926-1931, plus a one-game return in 1933. ”Stout Steve” captained the 1927 Championship team that went 11-1-1. He anchored a defense that incredibly held opposing offenses to 20 points all season. The Giants shutout 10 teams that year and out-scored their opponents 197-20.  Owen was named All-NFL four times during an era when tough men played 60 minutes on both offense and defense. Depending on the source, Owen ranged anywhere from 5’10’’ to 6’2’’ and 215 pounds to 260 pounds. (Most sources say 5’10” and around 245 pounds). “Stout Steve” Owen was known as a brutal tackler.

“If a boy isn’t willing to get off the ground and hit back a little harder than he was hit, no coach can help him,” said Owen.

“It was a one-platoon game then,” said Wellington Mara. “As Steve Owen used to say, men were men in those days.”

“Football was a different game then,” said Owen. “The ball was bigger and harder to pass, you couldn’t pass from closer than five yards behind the line of scrimmage, and, in 1927, they moved the goal posts back ten yards from the goal line. But the big difference was the way we played the game. We were pretty much a smash-and-shove gang. We were bone crushers, not fancy Dans.”

A Champion as a Giants Coach

Owen and QB Benny Friedman took over head coaching duties from LeRoy Andrews for the last two games of the 1930 season. In 1931, Owen became the Giants’ sole head coach, despite sometimes still putting on the uniform.

“Steve Owen was the Giants’ head coach when I joined the team in 1931,” said Hall of Fame Giants’ center/linebacker Mel Hein. “It was his first full year as head coach. Actually, Steve was player-coach that year, but he only suited up for about three games. He was about 33 or 34 then. Steve was a very good coach, though, and all the players respected him.”

As a head coach, Owen never signed a contract with the Mara family. At the end of each season, from 1931 to 1953, he coached on a simple handshake agreement.

“Life and football were similar to Owen,” said journalist and author Gerald Eskenazi. “Neither was complicated. Appearances were not deceiving. He judged a man by his actions, and it was as simple as that.”

Owen was the first NFL coach to emphasize defense, and thus, Owen really is the grandfather of the franchise’s defensive tradition. Upsetting fans, Owen would often go for the sure field goal rather than gamble on the touchdown. “Steve was the first to stress the importance of defense and the advantage of settling for field goals instead of touchdowns,” said the Chicago Bears’ legendary George Halas in 1953. “Every team strives today to do what Owen was doing twenty years ago.”

Owen believed in solid, physical, fundamental football. He made sure his players knew how to block and tackle. Owen was not splashy and his run-oriented offenses were criticized as being too conservative.

“If it’s new,” wrote a sportswriter, “Close-to-the-Vest Owen won’t try it.”

“Football is a game played down in the dirt and it always will be,” said Owen. “There’s no use getting fancy about it.”

The NFL did not start playing championship games until 1933. Owen’s first two seasons as head coach were underwhelming as New York finished 7-6-1 in 1931 (fifth in the NFL) and 4-6-2 in 1932 (fifth in the NFL).

Everything changed in 1933. The NFL inaugurated the divisional structure combined with the NFL Championship Game. Under Owen, the Giants became perennial contenders and would play in eight of NFL’s first 14 championship games.

In 1933 and 1934, the Giants finished first in the NFL’s new Eastern Division with 11-3 and 8-5 records, respectively. The Giants lost the 1933 Championship to the Chicago Bears in a nail biter 23-21. The following season, New York enacted their revenge on the undefeated 13-0 Chicago Bears by winning 30-13 in the famous “sneakers” 1934 Championship Game. The Giants won the Eastern Division again in 1935 with a 9-3 record, but lost the 1935 Championship Game to the Detroit Lions 26-7.

1934 New York Giants

1934 New York Giants

After a two year hiatus from the playoffs, the Giants won Eastern Division in 1938 (8-2-1) and 1939 (9-1-1). The Giants beat the Packers 23-17 in a thrilling Championship Game in New York in 1938, but lost the 1939 Championship Game in Milwaukee to the Packers 27-0.

In the next seven seasons, the Giants would win the Eastern Division three more times and tie for the division lead in another season. But the Giants would lose all four post-season games, including the three Championship Games and the division tie-breaker. The Bears beat the Giants in the Championship Game in 1941 (39-7) and 1946 (24-14), and the Packers beat the Giants in the 1944 Championship Game (14-7). The Giants also lost the divisional tie-breaker 28-0 to the Redskins in 1943. From 1942-45, many of the Giants’ best players had gone off to fight the Germans and Japanese.

Appearing in eight NFL Championships in 14 years was a remarkable run. However, Owen’s luster began to fade after the 1946 season. The Giants fell to 2-8-2 in 1947, 4-8 in 1948, and 6-6 in 1949.

“I still didn’t know much about football,” said Giants’ owner Tim Mara, “but I knew from what my sons told me that what was happening to us wasn’t the coach’s fault. We just weren’t giving Owen the players to win, and that was our fault, not his.”

Steve Owen, New York Giants, 1941 Pro Bowl

Steve Owen (Middle) at 1941 Pro Bowl

Despite the introduction of the powerhouse Cleveland Browns into the Giants’ division, Owen’s Giants rebounded in 1950 (10-2, first-place divisional tie), 1951 (9-2-1, second place), and 1952 (7-5, second place). Nevertheless, when the Giants fell to 3-9 in 1953, the writing was on the wall for Owen and the Giants. It had been seven years since the Giants played in a Championship Game and 15 years without a post-season victory. The game was entering the modern era, with more attention to detail and complex new offensive innovations. It was clear the NFL was changing but Owen wasn’t. It was time to go.

In the waning moments of his last game as head coach of the Giants – a 27-16 loss to the Detroit Lions in December 1953 – television cameras showed Owen standing alone on the sidelines in tears.

Officially, Owen “resigned” but he was forced to do so. Wellington Mara said the decision to let Owen go was extremely difficult. “It was like telling your father you’re putting him out of your home,” said Mara.

“You’ve got a place with the Giants as long as you live, Steve,” said Jack Mara to Owen. “I hope you know that.”

Owen served as a scout with the Giants briefly, but then he moved on. “He was hurt and wanted no part of that,” said Wellington Mara.

The Innovator

Owen was criticized for being unimaginative. But not only is he recognized as the first NFL head coach to focus on defense, Owen is credited with several important innovations.

In the old NFL, player substitution was restricted. If a player left the field, he couldn’t return until the next quarter. There were no separate offensive, defensive, and special teams units. Most teams played their 11 two-way starters until they dropped. By the fourth quarter, the best players were usually hurt or out of gas. In 1937, Owen was the first head coach to develop a two-platoon system by maintaining two relatively equal squads and substituting 10 starters at the end of the first and third quarters. (Because he was so valuable, center/linebacker Mel Hein continued to play a full 60 minutes).

Steve Owen, Ken Strong, Ward Cuff, New York Giants (1939)

Steve Owen, Ken Strong, and Ward Cuff in 1939

“To start with, (the two-platoon system) lessens the wear and tear on the individual player,” said Owen. “He doesn’t play enough to get tired and therefore is better able to absorb the bumps that go with the play. But more important I think is the effect on team morale. I find that a rivalry has risen between my A and B squads. Each one wants to outdo the other and that’s incentive to keep ‘em driving. So long as I can keep my two squads intact, I’m convinced the Giants will continue to win.”

Owen also devised the A-formation in 1937, which at the time was considered a radical offensive concept. After showing one offensive set, the Giants would then shift into the single wing, double wing, punt formation, or the A-formation. In the A-formation, the Giants would unbalance their line to one side and overbalance the backfield to the other side.

“He split his lineman and placed four on the right side of the center and just an end and tackle on the left,” said Giants’ fullback/safety Hank Soar. “He put the wingback behind the weak side end, the blocker behind the weak side tackle, the tailback four yards behind the center with the quarterback a yard in front of him and to his right.”

The A-formation was difficult to defend because the center could snap the football to one of three players – the quarterback, fullback, or blocking back. And either the quarterback or fullback could throw the football. The Giants were the only team to use the A-formation because it required having a great center, and the Giants were fortunate enough to have the best in the game, Mel Hein.

Steve Owen, New York Giants (1939)

Steve Owen at the Blackboard in 1939

Owen was at heart a defensive coach and he was not afraid to innovate on defense. Teams traditionally used seven-man defensive lines, but Owen experimented with six- and five-man fronts. In 1937, he moved the Giants to a 5-3-3 defense.

“Even as a player Steve was conscious of the importance of a good defense,” said Soar. “He tried to convince his coach to use such radical departures from the standard defenses as five and six-man lines. When he became coach of the Giants he put his ideas into action. We had stunting linemen, rushing linebackers although we did not call it the blitz, and as the safety man I often performed what is now called the safety blitz. We had a very good pass defense and fellows like (Sammy) Baugh, (Cecil) Isbell, and (Don) Hutson seldom had good days against us.”

In 1950, Owen is also credited with creating the umbrella defense, which was largely designed to stop the dynamic passing attack of QB Otto Graham and the Cleveland Browns. The umbrella employed a 6-1-4 formation that would have the ends drop into coverage, placing the defensive emphasis on coverage rather than the pass rush. It was a novel concept at the time and it worked like a charm against the super-talented Browns for a few years. In fact, Owen’s Giants won four of their six regular-season meetings against the Browns from 1950-52. The 10-2 Giants were the only team to beat the Browns (twice) in 1950, including shutting Cleveland out for the first time ever, but New York lost the divisional playoff to the Cleveland 8-3. This was the start of the great Giants-Browns rivalry of the 1950′s as New York proved to be Cleveland’s greatest nemesis.

Tom Landry was a defensive back in Owen’s umbrella defense, along with Hall of Fame defensive back Emlen Tunnell. A few years later, as Giants’ defensive coordinator, Landry would tweak Owen’s umbrella defense, creating the modern 4-3 defense.

Owen Comes Home

After Owen “resigned,” he remained with the Giants briefly as a scout in 1954. He went on to do some coaching with South Carolina, Baylor, and the Eagles. Owen then served as head coach for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts (1959), Calgary Stampeders (1960), and Saskatchewan Roughriders (1961-62). Owen was named CFL Coach of the Year in 1962.

Owen suffered a heart attack late in 1962 and he resigned from the Roughriders in January 1963. Unable to stay away from football, Owen became the head coach of the United Football League’s Syracuse Stormers in March 1963. But the Stormers finished the season winless at 0-12.

After coaching the Stormers, Owen came home. “Do you think you could find a job for a broken down old coach?” Owen asked Jack Mara. “I know we can,” said Mara. “We can always make room for another scout.”

Steve Owen died on May 17, 1964 at the age of 66 after suffering a terminal cerebral hemorrhage. He was survived by his second wife Miriam who passed away in 2001 at the age of 90. Both are buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Oneida, New York. (Owen’s first wife Florence passed away in 1933 in Boston, during training camp).

Steve Owen and Miriam Sweeney in 1935

Steve Owen and Miriam Sweeney in 1935

At the time of his death, Arthur Daley of The New York Times wrote, “It was only fitting that stout Steve should have been a member of the Giant organization when he died yesterday…It is quite possible that no professional coach ever inspired more love, devotion, and admiration among his players than did Steve. The only counterpart was Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. A might stout fella was Owen. The Giants and all professional football owe him much for his contributions.”

Owen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame two years later in 1966. The Hall later named him to the “All-NFL Team of the 1920′s.”

As a player, Steve Owen anchored and captained the Giants’ 1927 Championship team. As head coach for nearly a quarter century, Owen’s Giants accrued a 153-100-17 regular-season record. No other Giants’ head coach comes close to matching Owen’s win total. His Giants won eight division titles and two NFL Championships. He began New York’s storied defensive tradition, and created the two-platoon system, the A-formation, and the umbrella defense.

As a Hall of Fame player and a coach, Steve Owen was a Giant among men.

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Jun 172013
 
 June 17, 2013  Posted by  Articles, Roster Thoughts
Mark Herzlich, New York Giants (August 18, 2012)

Mark Herzlich – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Offseason Breakdown: New York Giants Linebackers

The linebacker position on the Giants has been unsettled for quite some time. For the older fans, who had the pleasure to watch players such as Sam Huff, Harry Carson, Brad Van Pelt, Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, and Jessie Armstead, it has been frustrating.

When the Giants shifted from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense in the 1990s, the personnel emphasis naturally shifted from spending premium resources on linebackers to defensive linemen. And that trend has continued under General Manager Jerry Reese.

Since Reese became general manager of the Giants in 2007, in seven drafts, the Giants have drafted seven linebackers, including players in the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds. Only two remain on the roster – sixth-rounders Adrian Tracy and Jacquian Williams. Tracy, a defensive end in college, was drafted as a linebacker and has since been moved back to defensive end. Gone by the wayside are Bryan Kehl, Jonathan Goff, Clint Sintim, Phillip Dillard, and Greg Jones.

In free agency under Reese, the Giants have signed Kawika Mitchell, Danny Clark, Michael Boley, Keith Bulluck, Dan Connor, Aaron Curry, and Kyle Bosworth. The latter three were signed this offseason.

The Giants also traded away their fifth round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft for Keith Rivers.

It’s obviously too early to comment on Connor, Curry, and Bosworth, but of all of the rest, since 2007, only Boley became an established, multi-year starter for the Giants. (After four seasons as a starter, Boley was released this offseason). If we’re being honest, to date, Reese’s track record in addressing the linebacking position has not been good.

With Boley and free agent departure Chase Blackburn no longer on the roster, and Mathias Kiwanuka moving back to defensive end, the Giants will have three new starters at linebacker in 2013. That’s quite a turnover. And it is conceivable that the three new starters in 2013 will be castoffs Rivers, Connor, and Curry. In fact, if you could turn back the clock and tell a Giants fan in April 2008 that the Rivers, Connor, and Curry would be starting for Big Blue in few years, the response would have been, “How the hell did Reese pull that off?” We’ll have to see if they can turn their careers around and regain former collegiate glory.

The Giants currently have nine linebackers on the roster. They will probably keep seven on the 53-man roster, especially since linebackers usually make good special teams players. But it is possible that they could keep as few as six.

“(Our linebackers) actually had a good spring,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin at the end of mini-camp. “And the good thing about them, they are very unselfish. They work hard; they study hard. If I called for a one hour meeting, those guys were probably going to meet for an hour and a half to two. It is just the way that group is. They have been good. So we’ll see. I have seen some growth and I have seen a lot of good things happen out here. They are going to have to. It’s going to have to happen.”

Let’s look at each of these nine players:

Dan Connor: A highly-regarded Penn State linebacker coming out of the 2008 NFL Draft, Connor was originally selected in the 3rd round by the Carolina Panthers. He signed with the Cowboys as a free agent in March 2012. Connor was then signed by the Giants in March 2013 after he was released by the Dallas. In five NFL seasons, Connor has played in 56 regular-season games with 27 starts. In 2012, Connor started eight games for the Cowboys and finished the season with 56 tackles and one pass defense. Connor has decent size, but lacks athleticism. He is more of a tough, blue-collar, two-down run defender who sometimes struggles in pass coverage. Connor is not overly physical at the point-of-attack, but he is quick to locate the ball, avoids blocks well, and is a good, solid tackler. He can play inside or outside, but he definitely is more comfortable in a 4-3 scheme. Connor’s biggest problem has been staying healthy.

“I think (middle linebacker is my best) position,” Connor said. “That’s the position where I’m comfortable. I played it in college, I was in the middle of a 4-3 in Carolina. So I feel most comfortable in the middle. But I do have some experience on the outside.”

“It’s all about being technique-perfect and being able to call the defense, make the checks and be spot on,” Connor said. “As a new guy in the locker room, that’s how I’m going to earn respect – by knowing not only my position but everyone else’s position. So studying is big for me right now, being vocal on the field, and basically earn the respect of guys who I met (only recently).”

Connor’s chief competition at middle linebacker, Mark Herzlich, has been impressed by Connor. “Dan is a very intelligent player,” said Herzlich. “He’s very good with his reads and his fits. He’s very precise.”

“Run fits have been a point of emphasis, making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time,” said Connor. “The coaches have done a great job teaching us the mistakes that were made last season.”

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” said Connor. “We have a lot of young guys. They’re hungry. Each one of us feels like we want to put our name on the map. I really like this defense. It lets you play fast and play aggressive.”

Aaron Curry: In the 2009 NFL Draft, Curry was widely-regarded as one of the best linebacking prospects in years and “the safest pick” in the draft. The Seattle Seahawks made him the fourth player selected overall in that draft, but Curry never lived up to his draft hype and was traded to the Raiders during the 2011 season for a 7th round pick and conditional 5th round pick. Curry played better in Oakland, but he was hampered by chronic knee issues and was cut.

Physically, Curry has excellent size and strength. Although he lacks ideal lateral agility, when healthy, he is a very good athlete who runs well. For some reason, it hasn’t come together for Curry at the pro level. Critics have pointed to the lack of big plays, inconsistency, poor coverage, and too often being out of position.

Curry says his problem in Seattle was that he was not focused on football. “Early in my career, I was just selfish and self-centered,” said Curry. “I was more about me than I was about the Seahawks. It was immaturity, and I’m glad I got past that stage…It was like I knew I could do it and I knew I would do it. I just don’t think at the time I was interested in doing it. I think I was interested in other things and at the time football just wasn’t my top priority, just to be honest…(Now) I approach everything differently. I see details now. Football is important now. It has a priority in my life that I’m willing to do whatever it takes that’s going to help the Giants be successful and I’m not so selfish…Now I’m more about finding a way to just put out a lot of effort and a lot of energy and just cause havoc.”

Curry’s biggest issue now may be the health of his knees. Curry underwent stem-cell therapy on both of his knees during the 2012 offseason. He only played two games before he was cut in November. He then underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in December.

Curry’s former linebacker coach in Seattle, Ken Norton, is still a believer if Curry is healthy. “He was a 4-3 linebacker playing off the ball and you’re not going to get sacks,” Norton said. “He’s probably the best linebacker I’ve ever had to play over the tight end and just dominate him. There were a whole lot of expectations. You don’t see the sack numbers and people say this guy isn’t doing what he’s supposed to be doing. At the end, his legs and knees were hurting a lot and he was unable to stop on a dime. He couldn’t do all the things he was supposed to do.”

“If Aaron’s health isn’t an issue, if he can run and stop and hit, I mean, this kid hasn’t scratched the surface,” Norton said. “He can do a lot of amazing things. He does things that Carl Banks used to do on the tight end. Once he gets his mind set on something, he can do it. The only issue with him has been what’s going on between the ears. If everything is in order and he’s to the point where he has something to prove, the Giants might have caught him at the right time.”

“I hope to be able to offer some positive energy (to the defense),” said Curry. “I just want to run around and hit things that are moving and I want my teammates to get excited. I want the defense to be excited at all times and I hope to be able to just uplift everybody and do what’s asked of me and do it full speed…My job and my only motivation is to go out there, play hard, play fast, be physical and get my teammates to just be fired up with me and just bring a positive energy every day.”

Keith Rivers: If Curry was supposed to be a “sure thing”, then Rivers was pretty damn close. Rivers was the ninth player taken in the 2008 NFL Draft. But the injury-prone linebacker was traded by the Bengals to the Giants in 2012 for a 5th round draft pick.

While Rivers never lived up to his draft hype in Cincinnati, he was a solid player for the Bengals when he played. The problem was that he couldn’t stay healthy and that trend continued with the Giants in 2012. Last season, hamstring and calf injuries caused him to miss five games and limited his playing time and effectiveness. Rivers finished the season with six starts and accrued 44 tackles. In four seasons in Cincinnati, Rivers started 33-of-35 regular-season games he played in. But he missed 29 regular-season games with injuries – including nine games in 2008 with a broken jaw and all of the 2011 season with a wrist injury that required surgery. Rivers also missed time in 2009 with a calf injury and in 2010 with plantar fasciitis. Rivers is an athletic, three-down linebacker. He is more of the run-and-hit type than physical presence at the point-of-attack against the run. Rivers has the overall athletic ability and range to do well in coverage, but he needs to become more consistent in that area of his game. He only has two career sacks.

Interestingly, Giants’ beat reporter Paul Dottino, who also does some work for the Giants, says Rivers was clearly the best linebacker in training camp last year. During spring workouts, Rivers was starting at weakside linebacker in Mathias Kiwanuka’s old position. (Note: In Perry Fewell’s system, the weakside linebacker is called the strongside linebacker).

During OTAs, Coughlin said, “The other day Keith Rivers made a heck of a play.” Rivers has the ability to be a very steady performer for New York if he can just stay on the football field.

Mark Herzlich: Herzlich was regarded as one of the better collegiate linebackers in the country before missing the 2009 season at Boston College with bone cancer. Because of the illness, a titanium rod was inserted into Herzlich’s left femur. Herzlich has very good size, but the key question is whether Herzlich now has the overall athletic ability to excel at the pro level. Last year, it was anticipated that Herzlich would provide more of a serious challenge to Chase Blackburn for the starting middle linebacker position, but Herzlich underwhelmed.

Herzlich has had a very good spring. It was Herzlich, not Dan Connor, who started at middle linebacker during spring workouts and the coaches appear to have come away impressed.

“Very commanding,” said Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell. “He’s taken a leadership role out there and I think he has some good respect from his teammates in some of the things he’s done in the OTAs. Obviously, we want to find out what happens when the pads come on.”

“After the first OTA, (Spencer Paysinger and I) always go and watch the films,” said Herzlich. “Me and Spence were watching film, and we’re like, ‘We’re gonna know this defense better than the coaches.’ So we went to Costco that day, got dry erase boards. I was on the dry erase board all day, just reviewing everything from OTAs, getting ready for mini-camp. That way, when you eliminate the mental mistakes, you can play faster and more physical.”

“As linebackers, you never want to be called ‘soft,’” said Herzlich. “There were some people saying that we were playing soft last year. So we have a mentality to change that this season…We’ve talked about how we couldn’t stop the run when we needed to last season. People say, ‘It’s the defensive line.’ But it starts with the linebackers. We have to fill our gaps and play downhill.”

Connor may overtake Herzlich in training camp and the preseason, but right now, it’s Herzlich’s job to lose.

Spencer Paysinger: Paysinger was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft. While serving primarily as one of the Giants’ best special teams players, Paysinger has seen his playing time on the defense increase. He actually started three games in 2012 and finished the season with 39 tackles and one forced fumble. Paysinger has a nice combination of size and athleticism.

Paysinger appears to be flying under the radar scope of many fans. In spring workouts, Paysinger has been starting in Michael Boley’s old strongside linebacker spot. If Paysinger fails, it will not be for lack of hard work. In the offseason, he initiated an intense workout program that not only included weight training, but hot yoga, acupuncture, stretching, and martial arts.

“I came into the league two years ago at 233 pounds and now I’m about 245 pounds and I feel like I haven’t lost a step,” said Paysinger. “When you get heavier, bigger, and bulkier, it’s natural for you to lose a step or two when it comes to agility. By doing yoga and acupuncture and revving up my on-field work, it’s allowed me to counteract any lost steps.”

“(Paysinger) is doing a good job,” said Linebackers Coach Jim Herrmann. “He has a great opportunity to get snaps. And he is competing for the job. He has matured over the last two years. To me, the biggest thing I have seen was his maturity level, because he is comfortable with the formation. Now he is going to go out and take the next step forward because he is anticipating the plays faster and faster. He’s not worried about ‘What do I do in this defense – What do I do in that defense?’ It is, ‘Okay, I know what I am doing – now what is the offense going to do?’ And he is anticipating. And all of those guys have done a much better job of that.”

“Me and Mark (Herzlich), we’ve taken it upon ourselves to learn the defense in and out, studying together,” said Paysinger. “Buying dry erase boards to take home and just draw up plays. Pretty much internalizing the playbook to where it becomes second nature – cause if you know your stuff, you can play that much better.”

“I feel like it’s my time, Mark’s time, even Keith (Rivers’) time to step up and show we can handle this,” said Paysinger.

Jacquian Williams: Williams was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants. He was a very raw player coming out of the University of South Florida, having started only one season. Williams lacks bulk, but he is extremely athletic, fast, and quick for the position. However, Williams is not very physical and due to his size, he can get mauled at the point-of-attack against the run. Williams flashes as a blitzer and he could develop into a good coverage linebacker with added experience.

Williams’ 2012 season was sabotaged by a PCL knee injury he suffered in October that caused him to miss six games. He finished the year with just 30 tackles, down from the 78 he accrued in 2011. Though Williams returned to the playing field in December 2012, the PCL injury surprisingly limited him in the spring workouts this year. Hopefully, he will be closer to 100 percent when training camp starts.

Kyle Bosworth: The nephew of former Seahawks’ linebacker Brian Bosworth, Kyle was signed by the Giants as an unrestricted free agent from the Jaguars in May 2013. Eligible to be a restricted free agent, Bosworth was not tendered by Jacksonville. Bosworth was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jaguars after the 2010 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury. He also missed much of 2011 after being placed on Injured Reserve in November with a broken hand. In 2012, Bosworth played in all 16 games. He started five games but was later benched. He finished 2012 with 37 tackles and one interception.

Bosworth is smart, hard-working, and versatile – he can play all three linebacking spots. However, despite having decent size, strength, and some speed, Bosworth is a limited athlete who struggles in space. Bosworth is a very good special teams player and that – combined with his versatility and intelligence – may give him a leg up in the competition for backup spots.

“We felt like he would make a nice fit as a linebacker and a special-teamer,” said Coughlin after Bosworth was signed.

“I can definitely play all the (linebacker) positions,” Bosworth said. “I’ve still got to do a lot of learning in the playbook, but I’m able to fit in with the (weakside, middle, and strongside linebacker). I’m very versatile. I’ve played and started. I’ve been on every single special team, so basically wherever they need me I’ll be able to do it. Whatever they ask and I’ll be ready to go.”

Jake Muasau: Muasau was originally signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent after the May 2012 rookie mini-camp. The Giants waived him in late August, but decided to give him another shot in training camp this year and re-signed him in January 2013. Muasau was voted Georgia State University’s most valuable defensive player by his teammates in 2010 and 2011 when he played the “bandit” DE/LB hybrid position. Muasau has good size and plays with good intensity.

Etienne Sabino: Sabino was signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. Sabino was a highly-recruited high school linebacker who had a disappointing overall career at Ohio State, but he started to come on as a senior despite breaking his leg. He could project to either middle or outside linebacker. Sabino is a well-built athlete with good agility, quickness, and speed. He flashes ability to run-and-hit as well as take-on-and-shed. There are conflicting scouting reports on his instincts. Sabino should do well on special teams. He supposedly has good intangibles – mature and coachable.

Summary: The starters heading into training camp are Rivers, Herzlich, and Paysinger. But they will be challenged by Curry, Connor, and Williams. It will be interesting to see if there are three viable starters and play-makers within this group, and if the three new starters can integrate themselves with each other and the other eight members of the defense quickly. Not many teams completely revamp their starting linebacking corps in one offseason. For a defense that finished 31st in 2012 and was equally bad against the run and the pass, it is imperative that the linebacking play improve.

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May 282013
 
 May 28, 2013  Posted by  Articles, Roster Thoughts
Kris Adams, New York Giants (May 22, 2013)

WR Kris Adams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Offseason Breakdown: New York Giants Wide Receivers (Part II)

In Part I, we covered the three New York Giants wide receivers who are likely to make the team behind stalwarts Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, namely Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, and Louis Murphy. Now we’ll turn our focus to the remaining five challengers: Ramses Barden, Brandon Collins, Kevin Hardy, Kris Adams, and Jeremy Horne.

It is not set in stone how many wide receivers the New York Giants will carry on the 53-man roster. But the team usually keeps six. That might be harder to do this year if the Giants keep three quarterbacks. Nevertheless, for now, let’s assume the Giants keep six. That means barring injury or something unforeseen, Barden, Collins, Hardy, Adams, and Horne will be fighting for one roster spot. It’s easy to dismiss the relevance of the sixth receiver. But just keep in mind that Victor Cruz was once considered “camp fodder” too.

Ramses Barden:

Drafted in 3rd round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Ramses Barden has been a disappointment. In four seasons, Barden has only had 29 receptions for 394 yards and no touchdowns. His best game as a pro came in Week 3 of the 2012 season, when he started against the Panthers and caught nine passes for 138 yards. But he only had five catches the rest of the season.

So why was Barden re-signed by the Giants? For one, you need bodies in camp to throw to, and the Giants usually carry at least 10 wide receivers heading into camp. Secondly, Barden knows the offense. If someone gets hurt and can’t play, it’s easier for him to come in and contribute more quickly because of that. Third, Barden does have some talent. He is a huge receiver (6-6, 224lbs) with long arms and decent athleticism. He has flashed as a player on the practice field and in regular-season games.

But for some reason, Barden simply hasn’t been able to be consistent contributor once the games count. He’s only been on the active regular-season roster 29 times in 64 chances. Some of that is due to injuries, but Barden also has never stood out as a special teams performer. It’s very tough to activate your fifth or sixth receiver on game day if he doesn’t contribute on special teams. In addition, as a receiver, Barden lacks ideal speed and quickness, and appears to have difficulty separating from tight, aggressive coverage, especially off of the line of scrimmage. Most importantly, with the exception of Week 3 in 2012, Barden simply has not consistently delivered on the playing field.

Barden will have to fight to make the 2013 team. He has a decent chance to make it if none of the other wide receivers impress because, again, he knows the system and therefore would be a good insurance policy if someone gets hurt. Even if he makes it, however, unless he dramatically improves or someone gets hurt, he’ll likely be inactive for most games once again.

Brandon Collins:

Brandon Collins lacks ideal size (5-11, 180lbs) but he has very good speed (4.4) and quickness. Collins also has collegiate experience returning punts.

The Giants originally signed Brandon Collins as a rookie free agent after he impressed at the May 2012 rookie mini-camp. Collins stood out again a month later at the full-team mini-camp in June 2012. “I think Brandon Collins has looked really, really impressive in practices,” said Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride. “That has been fun to see, because I didn’t know much about him…I have seen better quickness than anything…more quickness than speed. Good speed, great quickness, but also picking up the offense pretty quick.”

Raised expectations fizzled out shortly thereafter as Collins did not have a catch in the first three preseason games and was waived before the last preseason contest. He spent some time on the Giants’ Practice Squad in September but was not with the team for most of the season. Nevertheless, it appears that the Giants saw enough in Collins to bring him back for one more go-around as they re-signed him in January.

Kevin Hardy:

Kevin Hardy was originally signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2012 NFL Draft. The Saints waived him in August 2012. The Giants signed him in January 2013. Hardy has ordinary size (6-0, 182lbs), but he has very good speed (4.4 range) and leaping ability (37 inch vertical). He also has collegiate experience as a kickoff returner. Hardy is very raw, having played in a college offense at the Citadel that only threw the ball 75 times his senior season. Hardy only had four catches for 53 yards and one touchdown in 2011.

Kris Adams:

Kris Adams was originally signed by the Chicago Bears and an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft. He did not make the team but spent time on the Practice Squads of the Bears, Rams, and Vikings in 2011. The Colts signed him in June 2012. Adams impressed in offseason workouts and caught five passes for 90 yards for Indianapolis in the preseason. He made the team and caught two passes for 26 yards in September, but the Colts then moved Adams to the Practice Squad in October. The Giants signed Adams in January 2013.

Adams has a nice combination of size (6-3, 194lbs) and athletic ability (4.4-range in the 40, 39.5 vertical jump, 6.97 3-cone), but he needs a lot of technique work, especially with his route running. Nevertheless, Adams has demonstrated an ability to threaten defenses down the field with his speed. Although he is capable of the circus catch, he needs to become more consistent catching the football. Adams has not stood on on special teams at the pro level.

Jeremy Horne:

The Giants signed Jeremy Horne in May 2013 after he impressed at the rookie mini-camp as tryout player. Indeed, Horne convinced the Giants to waive very talented undrafted rookie free agent WR Marcus Davis out of Virginia Tech, deciding to swallow the $15,000 signing bonus they gave Davis.

Horne played at the University of Massachusetts with Victor Cruz and was considered by some to be the better NFL prospect. Horne was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2010 NFL Draft. Horne spent time on both the Chiefs’ practice squad and 53-man roster until he was finally released in August 2012. He has only played in 12 games with no catches. Horne has good size (6-2, 193lbs) and athletic ability (4.4 speed). He also has experience returning kickoffs.

“This guy’s a young player that has a certain skill set that is unique at times,” said former Chiefs’ Head Coach Todd Haley.

(Warning: Explicit Lyrics)

On the surface, these five do not look like an overly impressive group. One gets the strong impression that Barden only came back to the Giants when the other 31 teams in the NFL expressed little interest. Collins was waived by the Giants last year and Hardy, Adams, and Horne have been waived by other teams. Yet the Giants have seen enough in each to at least give all five a legitimate shot at a spot on the 53-man roster. And they liked these five over any other available undrafted rookies. Will any one of these five players make a strong impression at training camp and the preseason? Special teams play could be the determining factor.

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