Jun 132014
 
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Trindon Holliday, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

Trindon Holliday – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Ever since Kevin Gilbride was replaced as offensive coordinator by Ben McAdoo, there has been much media and fan speculation about what the new offense of the New York Giants might look like. When Head Coach Tom Coughlin came to New York in 2004, he brought along a passing game that featured more of a vertical, down-field passing attack. His first offensive coordinator was John Hufnagel, but Hufnagel was fired near the end of the 2006 season and replaced by Gilbride.

Tom Coughlin has always been about offensive balance. He wants a physical running game combined with a big-play passing game. Coach Coughlin does not want to dink-and-dunk the ball down the field, but gain yardage in big chunks. That formula worked well for him both with the Jaguars and Giants when he had the necessary talent. And it helped the New York Giants to win two NFL Championships.

“I have great respect for Kevin Gilbride winning two Super Bowls,” said former Giants quarterback Phil Simms (1979-1993). “He was worried about hitting four of those big passes every game, and I love that about the Giants’ offense. It wasn’t 17 screens every game.”

Based on comments from current players and observations from the three Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices open to the media, the Giants are changing their style. Ben McAdoo’s background is the West Coast Offense. In a nutshell, the Giants will emphasize stretching the field more horizontally instead of vertically. Though the team will still take its shots down the field, there will be more 3-step drops and an effort to get the ball quickly out of quarterback Eli Manning’s hands. The coaches want to get Eli into a comfortable rhythm throwing the football. More passes will be intended for the running backs and tight ends at the possible expense of the wide receivers.

Ben McAdoo’s background is the West Coast Offense, serving as tight ends and later quarterbacks coach under Mike McCarthy with the Green Bay Packers.

“This offense to me, and I’ve run a lot of West Coast with Mike Shanahan in Denver, a lot of stuff is similar,” said RB Peyton Hillis on Thursday.

Hillis might serve in a similar capacity to John Kuhn in Green Bay, not so much from the standpoint of a traditional fullback, but more of a pass-receiving and rushing one-back.

“(The running back catching the ball is) going to be a big part of it,” said Hillis. “The quarterback’s going to be looking for the check down a lot this year so you have to make sure as a back that you get on your route and make sure we expect it.”

Eli Manning, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

Eli Manning at OTAs – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Making such a drastic change in offensive philosophy and terminology may not be quick and easy. Manning has never played in a West Coast system and neither have most of his offensive teammates.  To date, the strength of Manning’s game has not been the short game, particularly screen and swing passes. And while running backs Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis, and David Wilson could thrive as pass receivers in this offense, the Giants lack proven talent at tight end. The interior of the offensive line has been overhauled and there are still huge health and ability question marks at left tackle and right guard.

“(The offensive progress has been) slow, to be honest with you,” said Coughlin on Thursday. “Progress is slow but steady. Some days, of course, are better than others. But, you know, we’re getting there…There’s a lot of things that have to be converted in the guys who have been here, in their minds and the new people who have not been in a system such as this, you’ve got a lot to learn. It’s a work in progress.”

“It’s different,” said Manning. “We haven’t gotten everything down. I’m not 100 percent on everything going on. There are still some learning curves and things I gotta digest and think through…I feel good about what our offense can do and the potential of it. It’s just getting to the point where we have a great mastery of it from the mental capacity.”

So the key question is when will the players become comfortable enough with the new system to where the learning curve does not cost them on the playing field? It could take the entire preseason. Worse, it could take the first half or even a full season of actual game experience.

But once the system is learned, it could make life a lot easier for Eli and his receivers.

“I would think the West Coast Offense and some of (that philosophy) will help (Manning),” said Simms. “Give the quarterback 50 percent of his completions as ‘gimmies.’ There are other times you want to make those four or five special throws.”

In the new system, run-after-the-catch ability will be paramount. The good news is the Giants have some extremely dangerous receivers with the football in their hands, including Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham, Jerrell Jernigan, and Trindon Holliday.

“The ball is coming out quick,” said Manning. “It does fit my style of play, getting in rhythm, knowing where to go, making smart decisions. Getting the ball into receivers’ hands, let them be the athletes. Throw the little 6 or 7 yard pass and let them make big plays.”

While all pro offenses use pre-snap and post-snap reads, based on early comments from the players, there will be fewer reads in this offense. That should make it more likely that quarterback and receivers are on the same page, causing fewer mental mistakes that turn into turnovers for the opposition. In particular, receivers such as Randle and Jernigan, who were very inconsistent in the old Coughlin-Gilbride system, may perform much better with fewer reads.

Jernigan was asked if there were as many reads as under the old system, “Not at all. We’ve got a couple reads but we don’t have that many reads…you can go out and play faster and get the thing going and don’t have to think that much.”

“I’m liking (the new offense), it’s going to be pretty exciting,” said Randle on Thursday. “Coach McAdoo has done a great job putting us in positions to make plays and using our abilities…Everything is pretty much black and white, it’s simple. What you have is what you run. Just take a lot of things off our minds and go out there and play football and just use your ability to get open.”

“(There are) not as many reads,” continued Randle. “When you can go out there and maintain that focus on one specific thing it allows you to go out there and play a lot faster. That’s what we’re doing here. I think that’s going to be key for us pushing forward to make more plays… We just want to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

“(The new offense) frees me up a lot,” said Randle. “Just go out there and do what I do, just create separation and make plays. I had to really focus on reading than looking all over the field, just running routes. I think we’re all happy to be a part of that type of offense.”

Beckham, Jernigan, and Holliday are all particularly dangerous after the catch. Again, the learning curve will be an important factor. Beckham’s growth has been stymied somewhat by an early hamstring injury that caused him to miss most of the OTAs.

“It’s been tough to go from such an easier offense at LSU with the digit system and stuff like that and then going back to the concepts, which I was in my freshman year,” said Beckham. “It’s actually not that bad once you get into it and you break it down by formation and things like that. It’s really not that bad. It’s just a lot of memorization.”

While the West Coast Offense does place more emphasis on throws to the running backs and tight ends, one would think that Coach McAdoo is drawing up plays that would have Randle and Beckham outside with Cruz, Jernigan, and/or Holliday in the slot.

“(The offense is) a lot different but it goes back to some of the same concepts I had in college in the spread (offense) with Troy (University), so it’s going good, just learning different signals and stuff,” said Jernigan. “We used to go five-wide the whole time (at Troy University) so it’s back to what I’m really used to.”

“I think it’s an offense that fits my game and also spreads the ball out to everyone and gives everybody the chance to make plays,” said Jernigan. “Just get the ball to your playmakers and let them do the rest in open space against defenders.”

“(The spread offense) just allows you to use your playmakers instead of just going with your traditional two-wide set,” said Beckham. “You have four receivers on the field and you’re running routes and you’re all working with each other to get each other open. It definitely makes it a lot more fun for us.”

Jun 132014
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (May 8, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

When reporters and media showed up for the Giants’ second Organized Team Activity two weeks ago, there was excitement in the air.

Sure, some of it was normal. The hype and anticipation of football was building and this year’s Giants were going to be seen on the field again, albeit without pads. But more importantly, rookie Odell Beckham Jr. would take the field in front of reporters for the first time after missing the initial OTA.

Was Beckham really as explosive as Jerry Reese proclaimed? Was he a deep threat? Did he have a firm grasp of the playbook?

All watched Beckham warmed up and then jogged over to positional coach Sean Ryan where he stood for the practice’s duration. When head coach Tom Coughlin spoke, he alerted all Beckham had tweaked his hamstring.

None should have been shocked.

It’s not that Beckham is injury prone, inherited the hamstrings of Miles Austin or came in unconditioned. It’s just he was a drafted by the New York Giants at a position that has been snake bitten with injuries.

Since 2006, the Giants have drafted a combined eight wide receivers between rounds one and three. Not one has escaped without suffering an injury in his first year.

Sinorice Moss (second round) injured his quadriceps. Steve Smith (second round) and Mario Manningham (third round) injured their hamstrings.

In 2009, the Giants selected Hakeem Nicks in the first round and Ramses Barden in the third. Neither avoided the injury report. Nicks hurt his foot and Barden missed time in camp with a barrage of injuries.

2011 third-round pick Jerrel Jernigan injured his hip and 2012 second-round pick Rueben Randle his hamstring. Even undrafted Victor Cruz was unable to escape the curse, landing on the injured reserve his rookie year.

When Beckham’s injury was announced, both Coughlin and Beckham himself gave conflicting reports. Coughlin said it could be a bit more than day-to-day, Beckham thought he’d be out on the practice field 24 hours later.

A week and three practices later, Beckham has still not seen the field.

“I don’t know it’s still in the training room,” Beckham said when asked a date he’d return. “I’m pretty sure next week I’ll be back up and running. Just looking forward to it and keep day-by-day progressing.

“I’m not really concerned. Just as long as you’re learning the playbook, when you get back where you’re used to being it will be more of a comfortable situation.”

While mental reps are one thing, the Giants need Beckham on the field. The LSU alum was considered as ‘pro ready’ as a rookie can be and expected to be plugged into the starting lineup. Ideally, New York wanted to feature a lineup with Beckham and Randle on the outside, with Cruz in the slot.

An early contribution from a rookie wide out would be a welcome change in East Rutherford. Aside from Hakeem Nicks, who finished his rookie season with 790 yards, no other receiver had more than Steve Smith’s 131 in 2012.

Unlike previous years, new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s offense seems to be easier to pick up by wide outs. Under former coordinator Kevin Gilbride, the position was required to read the defense the same way the quarterback did, making decisions on the fly.

When the system worked, the Giants had one of the best offenses in the NFL. When it didn’t, and the quarterback and receiver weren’t on the same page? Well, there were 16 games to display how that went last year.

But those reads are now gone. Rueben Randle believes that alone can lead to Beckham making an impact this season…as long as he can get on the field.

“I think he’s picking it up pretty well,” Randle said. “Even though he’s not practicing, he’s on the sideline listening to the plays and getting mental reps so he’s picking it up. He just has to get back out there.”

‘Get back out there.’ A task in New York many have found is easier said, than done.

Jun 122014
 
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New York Giants Defensive Backs (June 12, 2014)

New York Giants Defensive Backs – Photo by Connor Hughes

The second-to-last Organized Team Activity (OTA) for the New York Giants may have been the most impactful yet.

With media in attendance for the last time before next week’s mandatory 3-day mini-camp, the Giants worked on special teams, offense, defense, the two-minute drill and full 11-on-11. During the-two minute portion of practice, middle linebacker Jon Beason jumped in the air in an attempt to bat down a pass for wideout Rueben Randle. Beason landed awkwardly, instantly limping off of the field.

After reaching the sideline, with help from Stevie Brown, Beason sat on an equipment box while being evaluated by trainers. After roughly 10 minutes, a cart was brought out to take Beason back to the locker room.

Coughlin addressed the media after practice, but knew little in terms of the linebacker’s health, saying nothing more than it was a “foot” injury. Beason is undergoing tests to determine the severity of the injury. No more information is known at this time.

Below you will find the complete practice report, followed by your questions answered.

With rain hitting East Rutherford throughout yesterday evening and overnight, the Giants elected to practice in their field house. As was the case during the team’s last OTA open to the media, this made observing practice a bit easier. Also, some local referees were brought in for the first time during a media-open session.

MISSING FACES

  • Peyton Hills, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

    Peyton Hillis – Photo by Connor Hughes

    The same players were absent from practice today. Mario Manningham, John Jerry and Will Beatty are out until training camp. Odell Beckham Jr. continues to be sidelined with a hamstring issue, although he did attempt to field one punt. Chris Snee had another scheduled day off.

  • One “new” addition to the injury report was running back Peyton Hillis. Apparently in the first set of OTAs, the RB injured a muscle. He practiced through it for a week and a half before the injury worsened. He expects to be back by soon and did not seem very worried after practice.

SPECIAL TEAMS

As was the case last week, the Giants opened their OTA with a full 11-on-11 punt drill. The team worked what appeared to be the starting units for both squads.

  • Returner rotation was a little different this week from last. Trindon Holliday got the first rep, followed by Walter Thurmond III, Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz. During the second “rotation” of this, Odell Beckham Jr. jumped in after Randle, but Steve Weatherford’s punt hit the roof and was not returned. Beckham was then removed.
  • Looks like the starting “gunners” for the Giants on punt return are Zack Bowman and Bennett Jackson. Bowman has always specialized in special teams and Jackson excelled at it at Notre Dame. Bowman made a nice play when he jumped at the goal line, turned around in mid air and batted the ball backwards. The ball was then downed at the 1/2-yard-line. I’m not terribly sure, but Bowman’s foot “may” have touched the endzone line, thus making it a touchback.
  • The Giants ran an interesting drill after a few reps in which the punt team kicked from the 40-yard-line, but the gunners lined up at the 20. The team worked through a bunch of different rotations with the gunners. Guys that saw reps included: Bowman, Jackson, Preston Parker, Charles James, Travis Howard, Marcus Harris, Julian Talley and Jayron Hosley.

DEFENSE

Jacquian Williams, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

Jacquian Williams – Photo by Connor Hughes

Following the special teams session, all teams split up. The offense set up on the far end of the field, the special teams (including OBJ) went outside and the defense worked directly in front of us. We’ll start with the D.

  • Not too much to go around here. The team worked on some stripping drills. Jacquian Williams stood out a bit there. He’s a guy that has all the physical tools to be a real good player in the league.
  • Jameel McClain is a talker. His voice is loud, carries and you can sense how passionate he is about the game. He may be the biggest, and most underrated, addition to the team this year.

OFFENSE

The Giants’ offense worked out with quarterbacks, tight ends and wideouts running similar patterns and simply working through the lineups. Basically how you see the team warmup prior to a game.

  • The Giants have worked a tight end by committee approach during practice, making sure everyone gets their reps. That didn’t change today. In nearly every drill, Kellen Davis was the first on the field. Joining him at the skill positions were Jerrel Jernigan and Rueben Randle on the outside, Victor Cruz in the slot and David Wilson at RB. This portion of practice featured no defense, thus Wilson participated.
  • The wideouts continued with the quick-pass trend we’re seeing early on. They’d start by taking one step up field, then instantly coming back. It wasn’t so much a curl as it looked like a screen. Either way, I didn’t see a drop.
  • The running backs also did this pattern and two players made some impressive grabs. David Wilson had one sail a bit behind him, but he jumped up and reached behind to make the grab. John Conner did something similar. Both showed some nice hands.
  • Andre Williams continues to catch the ball with his body. He doesn’t have much experience catching the ball and it shows a bit.
  • After running everyone through the same routes, the RBs split and took handoffs while the WRs and TEs continued to run routes. Interesting little double-moves displayed as the WRs had to get around the coach, make one step outside before cutting inside and up the field on a short post.
  • The offense then gathered again near the goal line (5/10-yard-line) and ran through several shot gun formations. One thing that really stood out was how the RBs were used in the passing game. On one play, Wilson came out of the backfield and darted out, then instantly made a hard cut and came inside to catch a pass over the middle. On another play, he cut inside first, before changing direction and going out. Wilson looked pretty good out of the backfield, running nice routes and displaying good hands.

TWO MINUTE DRILL

As has been the case in each OTA, the Giants moved from the split practice to the two-minute drill. Matching first team versus first team.

  • I’ll set the scene first offensively for both first- and second-team offensive lines. First unit read from left to right – Charles Brown, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Brandon Mosley, Justin Pugh. Second unit – James Brewer, Weston Richburg, Dallas Reynolds, Troy Kropog, Steven Baker.
  • Starting skill positions were the same as the just offense drill, Randle and Jernigan outside, Cruz slot and Davis at tight end. Only change was Rashad Jennings taking over at RB for Wilson.
  • Davis saw some action early, catching a couple balls in the flat. The play was open and Manning hit him pretty quickly. Both looked well designed and set to pick up eight or so yards.
  • The offense sputtered a bit around the 40 and was replaced by the second unit. Nassib started off well, making a few really quick decisions and looking calm in the pocket. That quickly changed, more on that later.
  • First time we saw the “shuffle pass” with the Giants and it really couldn’t have gone much worse. Nassib attempted to get it to Andre Williams, who had it bounce off his hands and nearly into those of a defender. Again, he tried to catch with his body.
  • After a few passes looked very good, Nassib began to look very…very bad. He was rushed, forced passes and missed others. When the dust settled, he had been intercepted three times. His first was by C.J. Barnett, who jumped a deep pass down the sideline. The second was by Charles James, who jumped one on a roll out. The third was by Cooper Taylor, who picked one off after it bounced off the hands of Larry Donnell.
  • Charles James, by the way, is looking as good as a football player can without pads on. He flies around the ball, is constantly talking and has great ball skills. He may be one to keep an eye on. If it comes down to James or Jayron Hosley, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the last year’s undrafted rookie get the nod.

  • Brandon Mosley and Weston Richburg were switching in and out at guard with the first team.
  • J.D. Walton had a snap that went over the head of Eli Manning.
  • Eli Manning drove the Giants down the field to roughly the five, but missed Jernigan on what I believe was a fourth down. Following the play, the team reset at the other end of the field. Jernigan ran along the back of the endzone and the pass came a bit low.
  • Trindon Holliday continues to impress on offense. He is very, very shifty and his juke is LeSean McCoy-like. He caught a screen and caused a few yips from teammates as he maneuvered his way in and out of the defense.
  • During this drill is when Beason went down. He was replaced by rookie Devon Kennard, not Mark Herzlich.

GOAL LINE

After the two-minute drill, the Giants worked goal line for the first time in front of media.

  • Not too much was able to be made out from the offense as they lined up at the end of the field. One play that did stick out was a pass to Hynoski out of the backfield. It looks like every back is going to be involved in the passing game.
  • Got our first look at the Giants’ goal line defense. From right to left (looking back at the defense) the line read as follows: Robert Ayers, Jason Pierre-Paul, Mike Patterson, Johnathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins and Mathias Kiwanuka. Backers were Spencer Paysinger, Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard and Jacquian Williams.

11-ON-11

Giants ran some 11-on-11, matching the starting offense with sometimes the starting defense, other times the third stringers. Really no consistency when it came to that.

  • Kennard continued to fill in entirely for Beason. Even in the nickel formation, he joined Williams. I’m not sure this would continue if the injury is serious. I’d expect McClain to get the MIKE reps.
  • The defensive line looked pretty good. JPP batted one down in the face of Manning while Mathias Kiwanuka and Damontre Moore each had would-be sacks.
  • Saw a couple neat formations from the offense. The team lined up in a trips right, but it wasn’t three wide receivers. Victor Cruz was in the middle and to his left and right were tight ends. Earlier in practice, the team lined up with three wideouts to the right, and a tight end split out wide to the left.

  • Second team defensive line was as follows from left to right looking at the defense’s back: Damontre Moore, Marcus Kuhn, Johnathan Hankins and Robert Ayers.
  • Adrien Robinson was a little quiet today. He caught a few in the flat, but dropped one too. Nothing bad, nothing great.

TWO-MINUTE DRILL (round two)

  • The Giants ended practice with what was supposed to be another two-minute drill, but it lasted just one play. Eli Manning dropped back and fired a beautiful pass to Rueben Randle on an out for what would have been a 50-yard touchdown. The pass split three defenders.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

As is the case each week, we asked you what we wanted BBI to look out for in practice. You asked, we answered.

FROM LINHB – I’d love to hear how the WR feel about the new offensive system.

  • Jerrel Jernigan and Rueben Randle each spoke today and echoed that they enjoy it. Jernigan caught himself when asked if he likes this offense more than last year and if it’s easier, but both did say there are not nearly as many “reads.”

FROM FAST ADAM – Interested to see how the Tom Crabtree workout goes.

  • He wasn’t signed and for now it was most likely testing the waters.

FROM DCGIANTS – What’s the real situation with OBD?

  • He tweaked his hammy and is waiting for medical clearance. He did more today than last week.

FROM ED A – How is the DT rotation shaping up?

  •  Tough to see when it gets to third team, but starters are Jenkins and Patterson, second team Hankins and Kuhn.

FROM GMEN9892 – How have Walton and Richburg faired? Who would you consider the early favorite to start?

  • It’s going to take an injury or something unforeseen to not have Walton the center for game No. 1. Richburg is the future, potentially at guard, but right now it’s Walton’s job. Tough to say how each has played because it’s all non contact. Walton did have a snap over Eli’s head today.

FROM SECTION125 – Has Pugh seen action at LT?

  • Not that I’ve seen.

FROM RIVER MIKE – How is Xavier Grimble progressing with playbook?

  • Didn’t talk to media.

FROM RPTl530 – What does fall mean for William Beatty?

  • Coughlin said that the plan from day one has been to have Beatty a go for training camp. That apparently hasn’t changed.

FROM MARTY IN ALBANY – If the new offensive scheme is easier to learn and to run will it also be easier for defenders to recognize and defend?

  • Not really. It’s not “easier” in terms of picking it up. It’s easier because there aren’t as many on-the-fly decisions made by the WR. In the past, the option routes would need to be read the same by Eli Manning and his target. If one sees something the other doesn’t, it’s an interception.

FROM SHAOLIN SHADOWBOXIN – How is Nassib progressing compared to Painter? How about Damontre Moore?

  • Moore continues to flash, he just needs to be consistent. Nassib has gotten nearly all the reps. I think Painter saw a combined six today? I’ve heard conflicting reports on him from the team, but I have not been impressed with Nassib. Looks rattled, inaccurate and hasn’t made good decisions.

FROM G-BABY – Motioning WRs?

  • Yup, similar to TE, the wideout is in motion a lot.

THE GIANTS WILL HAVE MINI CAMP ON JUNE 17, 18 and 19. BBI WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE FOR THE 17 AND 19 PRACTICES.

Jun 062014
 
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Cooper Taylor (30), New York Giants (November 10, 2013)

Cooper Taylor returning a blocked punt for a TD – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The news broke and slowly but surely it made its way down the grapevine. Tweeted out by the team’s official account, the New York Giants had parted ways with safety Will Hill following his third failed drug test.

The move was met by both praise and criticism. For Cooper Taylor, it was a chance.

“You see an opportunity,” Taylor said. “The NFL, it’s a competition. It’s between me and everyone else other than Antrel (Rolle) and Stevie (Brown). Everybody else is fighting for their jobs to get on this roster.”

Following Hill’s release, Taylor was the immediate beneficiary. Last year’s fifth-round pick got an immediate jump up the depth chart. After taking nearly all reps with the third team, Taylor assumed Hill’s role opposite Quintin Demps with the 2’s.

Taylor says he’s faster than he was last year, bigger too. Following the culmination of last season, coaches advised Taylor to put on muscle, wanting him to be more of a “physical presence.” After playing 2013 at 226 pounds, he’s up to 232. The Richmond alum spent the majority of the offseason in the weight room.

At 6-4, 232-pounds, Taylor represents one of the ‘bigger’ safeties in the NFL, drawing comparisons to Seattle Seahawks big man Kam Chancellor. In his mind, Taylor believes his height give him an advantage guarding some of the league’s top tight ends.

“I’m not one of the smaller guys, I’m taller,” Taylor said. “I’m able to jump a little bit better with the guys that are 6-6, 6-7, those tight end guys that are running down the field.

“Being a little bit taller, bigger, than the normal size safety lets me be the type of defensive back to get matched up with those guys regularly.”

Hill’s release isn’t the first time Taylor has been given an opportunity because of an absence. Last year, Stevie Brown was lost for the season following an ACL tear, but Taylor was unable to capitalize after dealing with his own injury issues.

Taylor tweaked his hamstring early on and was hampered by the injury throughout the year, never capitalizing on his potential. The safety never showed what he could do on the field, partially because he was very rarely on it.

When asked about the difference for Taylor between year two from year one, defensive captain Antrel Rolle said bluntly, “Cooper didn’t play much last year.”

“I think being healthy is just the key especially at this level,” Taylor said. “If you’re playing out there hurt it’s hard to compete. It’s definitely something being healthy, and understanding the playbook, has helped out.”

The Giants hope Taylor can fill the role Hill once occupied. He has the size to match up with tight ends down the field, while also representing a physical presence in the box. If New York elects to go with a three-safety package, Taylor could be extremely useful in a Deon Grant-type position.

“He’s a much bigger human being right now,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “He’s worked hard in the offseason. He’s stronger, he’s bigger and he’s in his second go-around. He has an excellent opportunity to contribute in a lot of ways.”

Jun 062014
 
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Antrel Rolle and Trindon Holliday, New York Giants (June 5, 2014)

Antrel Rolle and Trindon Holliday – Photo by Connor Hughes

Antrel Rolle didn’t have an answer.

Standing in front of cameras, microphones and reporters following the culmination of yesterday’s Organized Team Activity, the Giants’ Pro-Bowl safety seemed stunned.

Not at the fact Jayron Hosley was suspended for four games, or at the fact Will Hill had just been cut. Heck, Rolle admitted he saw it coming. But what had the 31-year-old shocked was a simple three-letter question.

Why?

“It’s too easy to do right, than to keep doing wrong,” Rolle said.

For the better part of eight minutes, Rolle fielded questions without backing down or shying away from one. Whatever was thrown on the table, he answered with the same veracity and sincerity that had often times got him in trouble.

But today was different. The safety wasn’t looking to make headlines or light a fire under his teammates. Rolle was speaking from his heart on a situation few knew the true light of.

There was disappointment in his voice, embarrassment. Shock that what he had done for a decade others were not able to replicate. There was a sense that he was holding back, while also fully letting go. Hill was troubled, yes, but the Giants had done everything possible to help the situation. Still, it wasn’t enough.

When you heard the Will Hill news, it was probably disappointing.

“Will knew what situation he had put the Giants in, he kind of forced their hand,” Rolle said. “At that point in time you can’t really depend on Will to help us out and to really do anything for us if you’re suspended repeatedly. Season after season after season.”

With Will and Jayron (Hosley) coming back-to-back, do you feel like something needs to be said?

“No, I don’t feel anything needs to be said,” Rolle said. “Every individual has to be accountable for his own action. They’re both adults. They’re both men.”

The normally peppy and high-energy Rolle was anything but. There was something about the situation that seemed truly troubling. Throughout his entire career, Rolle had embodied the correct way for an athlete to carry himself.

During the offseason, Rolle lives in Miami. He goes out with friends to clubs in the area, has a good time and his personality often makes him the life of the party. Yet he knows when enough is enough. Not once has Rolle been suspended for any off-the-field antics.

“This is my 10th year and I’ve lived it,” Rolle said. “Not every guy is going to be like myself. I’m not going to be like every other guy.”

The same message with the same disappointed mannerisms was echoed when Tom Coughlin took his place in front of the media. There was nothing else the coach could have done. At the end of the day, both for Hosley and Hill, it comes down to the player maturing enough to know what’s right and what’s wrong.

“If this is your job and you’re willing to jeopardize your job for some other reason,” Coughlin said. “Then perhaps you don’t have your mind and priorities where they should be in the first place.”

Jun 052014
 
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Mike Patterson (93) and Kelcy Quarles (97), New York Giants (June 5, 2014)

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

Please note, after practice a lot during was discussed in regards to ex-New York Giant safety Will Hill. We will have a separate article coming recapping all of that. “Quick hits and tidbits” is designed for your practice overview.

Organized Team Activity (OTA) practice No. 6 – the second available to the New York media – wrapped up Thursday afternoon as the New York Giants continued their offseason program. Unlike the first, rain and wind forced the Giants into their “field house.” Located directly next to their outdoor practice facilities, the field house is an enclosed building with two full-length football fields.

With practice being held inside and on two field as opposed to nearly half a dozen, most, if not all, of practice was visible.

As was the case last week, we asked you, the fans, what you wanted BBI to keep an eye on at practice. At the end of our practice report, you will find your questions answered. First, lets set the stage.

Missing faces…

  • There were a few absences from practice today. The regular candidates – OG John Jerry, WR Mario Manningham, LT William Beatty - missed practice again and will be out until training camp. RG Chris Snee missed practice as a precautionary/planned measure.
  • There was a new addition to the injury report: WR Odell Beckham Jr. New York’s first-round pick tweaked his hamstring near the end of practice on Tuesday and sat out today. There were mixed reviews on when the Giants expect him back. Tom Coughlin said “it could be more than one day,” meanwhile Beckham seemed to think he’d be out there tomorrow if there was practice.
  • Jerrel Jernigan was another absentee, missing practice due to a death in the family.

The starters…

As was a huge plus with the practice being held indoors and the players being closer for the visible eye, starting lineups were more evident.

The starting offensive:

  • Justin Pugh (RT), Brandon Mosley (RG), J.D. Walton (C), Geoff Schwartz (LG), Charles Brown (LT), Rueben Randle (OWR), Victor Cruz (SWR), Adrien Robinson (TE), Marcus Harris (OWR), Eli Manning (QB), Rashad Jennings (RB).

The starting defense:

  • Jason Pierre-Paul (DE), Mike Patterson (DT), Cullen Jenkins (DT), Mathias Kiwanuka (DE), Jameel McClain (SAM), Jon Beason (MIKE), Spencer Paysinger (WILL), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB), Antrel Rolle (SS), Stevie Brown (FS), Walter Thurmond III (Nickle), Prince Amukamara (CB).

Now on to practice…

Special Teams:

  • The Giants opened practice with a full 11-on-11 punt return drill. Unlike the first OTA, the media was allowed to stand near where the returners fielded from a machine. Today Steve Weatherford was kicking them back. New York worked in a three-man rotation for returners: Trindon Holliday started, followed by Randle,Thurmond and Victor Cruz. Thurmond muffed the last punt of the day.
  • The Giants’ field house doesn’t really have the highest of roofs, so fielding for the returners was a bit annoying. I counted five of Weatherford’s kicks that smacked the ceiling, then came straight down.
  • The Giants starting “gunners,” or those that line up outside and chase down the punts, worked in two teams. The first featured Charles James and Travis Howard; the second Zack Bowman and Bennett Jackson. Jackson, the Giants’ sixth-round pick, downed one off a bounce at the five-yard-line.

Offense:

  • After the initial special teams drill, the Giants split up between offense and defense. Running backs, quarterbacks, wideouts and tight ends all went on one field; the defense to the other.
  • The offense ran through your basic warm-up drill with the QB’s tossing passes to their receiving options. I took note of the types of patterns the targets were running. Each started on the left side of the field, ran a drag before instantly turning it into a curl in front of the quarterback. After catching the pass, the player turned up field, ran through a few players with bags and then either hurdled, or darted around, bags lying on the ground. I didn’t witness any drops occur during this drill.
  • During his college career, RB Andre Williams wasn’t exactly a threat out of the backfield, so I tried to keep an eye on him during this drill. From what I saw, he went through one rotation and caught the ball. The one thing that I noticed was how he caught the ball: no hands, pure body.
  • Not sure if this was a drill, or just Eli Manning messing around, but after the above drill broke, the quarterbacks gathered together. Manning stood as if he was lunging forward, then took the football and proceeded to hand it off between his right and left hands quickly between his legs. He did this roughly 20 times, then passed it off to Ryan Nassib followed by Curtis Painter. After one rotation, the QB’s switched it up going between both legs, then behind the back. Not that it counts for anything, but Manning moved the ball in-and-out the fastest of the bunch.
  • After that basketball dribble drill, the the receivers (TEs included) split from the running backs. Most likely nothing, but Nassib went with the running backs and practiced handoffs while Manning and Painter threw passes.
  • Offensively, the ball certainly comes out of the quarterback’s hand quick. Curls, roll-outs, ins and outs looks to have replaced New York’s signature double moves from years past. Comparing this week and last, Manning looks much more comfortable with who he is throwing the ball to. Although, that could have been because there were no defenders.

Two-Minute Drill:

  • Granted there is no contact, but one player that really jumped out was RB Rashaad Jennings. The free-agent acquisition made a couple real nice moves in the hole to dart free to daylight. Jennings has a nice second gear too, pulling away from defenders.
  • As was mentioned above, the offense seems to feature a lot of draws, outs, curls and screens. Compared to the first practice, we didn’t see nearly as many running-back screens, but instead only three or four to tight ends and wide receivers.
  • Kelcy Quarles, a rookie free agent defensive tackle, came up with what would have been a sack on Eli Manning. He got a nice jump to get past I believe Geoff Schwartz.
  • The first time we saw Manning in the 2-minute drill last week, the quarterback was a bit timid with the ball. Nearly everything was a check-down, screen or dump off. Today, Manning took a few more shots down the field. He made a really nice throw to Marcus Harris on a deep out 15-20 yards down the field. Following the pass, he was replaced by Nassib.
  • Nassib and Manning took all of the reps in the two minute drill. Maybe Nassib just doesn’t like the media because once again he wasn’t very impressive. He was nearly intercepted a few times, including one by CB Jayron Hosley in which the ball was ripped away. The Syracuse alum does show some good quickness out of the pocket, moving and extending place pretty regularly.

  • One thing to keep a big eye on as we go forward is the use of WR Trindon Holliday, not just on special teams, but on offense. The former Denver Bronco and Houston Texan is seeing a lot of action and impressing. Last week, he caught a pass on a drag and had a lot of room to run. Today, Holliday caught what would have been a 40-50 yard touchdown on a wheel route. The 5-5, 166-pound LSU alum got behind the secondary and Nassib found him.
  • Shortly after the pass to Holliday, Manning came back in for Nassib. WR Julian Talley replaced Harris and TE Kellen Davis replaced Adrien Robinson. The TE’s sub in and out for each other pretty regularly, but Robinson is normally the first one out. He seems to have an early edge.
  • Speaking of Adrien Robinson, he continues to flash. He made a couple nice grabs including one down the seam for 10-12 yards. I asked Tom Coughlin after practice what he thought of the former fourth-round pick and he said he’s been “impressed.”
  • One thing we saw a lot during the two-minute drill was the movement of the tight end. One time, the position lined up in the backfield, once in the slot. One particular formation had a TE in the normal position (Robinson), and then one (Daniel Fells) in the slot. That certainly isn’t something that has been seen recently.
  • Antrel Rolle had a good practice, nearly coming away with an interception. We saw a couple different variations of the safety rotation during this portion of practice. Combinations included: Rolle and Cooper Taylor, Rolle and Stevie Brown, Taylor and Quintin Demps, and Thomas Gordon and Demps.
  • For those that were wondering, Cooper Taylor has replaced Will Hill on the second team.
  • Probably the highlight of practice: Eli Manning found Victor Cruz on an out after the Pro-Bowl wideout got wide open. After hauling in the pass, Cruz went full-steam up the sideline… you would have thought it was the Super Bowl. Seeing this as a challenge, Prince Amukamara, Jon Beason and Antrel Rolle sprinted after him laughing each step of the way.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was beaten twice by my count. Once by Julian Talley, once by Holliday (seriously, Holliday is impressing as WR).
  • On a draw, Andre Williams had a nice juke to get to the next level.
  • Kellen Davis made a real nice grab down the seam. That’s an area we’ve seen the TE’s attacking pretty frequently.
  • We had a Damontre Moore flash. The DE jolted into the backfield and disrupted a toss play. Showed great speed and jump.

Special Teams/Kick Return:

  • After the two-minute drill, the Giants transitioned to kickoffs. Brandon McManus handled the KO duties. The rotation for returners worked as follows: Quintin Demps – Trindon Holliday – David Wilson. Demps has a real nice burst when he hits the extra gear.

The Defense:

  • After the kickoff/return practice, the Giants split up practice again with offense and defense. Having previously watched the offense, I turned my intention to the ‘D.’
  • The second-team safeties were Quintin Demps and Cooper Taylor. Third team were C.J. Burnett/Nat Berhe and Thomas Gordon. Newly acquired CB/S Kyle Sebetic worked entirely as a corner.
  • The Giants split up the starting defense into a “nickel” base during one portion. In this package, Jacquain Williams entered as a LB with Jon Beason. Also, Stevie Brown spent a few reps up in the box. The second-team nickel LB’s were Jameel McClain and Spencer Paysinger.
  • CB Charles James has been very active in the two practices the media have seen. The second-year player in constantly talking, moving, running and just looks to be having a blast on the field. In the two-minute drill, James nearly came away with an interception off Nassib.
  • One funny situation occurred during the above drill, several starters played “offense” with caps on just to mimic offensive moves. Rodgers-Cromartie, who lined up in front of James, didn’t take this too lightly. The free-agent acquisition showed some good burst off the line and actually got a few steps on an unexpecting James. This didn’t sit well with Demps, who called James over for a few words. Nice leadership shown by Demps.

11-on-11 Drills:

  • Not too much excitement in this portion of practice. RB Peyton Hillis made a few nice moves and showed a good burst. More quick passes and curls.
  • Manning hit Cruz over the middle on a nice pass. Eli drove the ball pretty well and it had some zip.
  • Curtis Painter got a few reps here. On one, he tried to find a target (couldn’t make out who) over the middle but Jacquian Williams flashed across for the bat-down at the line.
  • Harris flashed once on a real nice play over the middle from Nassib. He made a few catches with some additional reps.

Overall Impressions…

  • In just a week, you can tell Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo is installing more and more of his offense. We saw a few deep shots, some nice variations and different formations. It’s going to be fun to watch the offense evolve over the offseason.
  • I mentioned it before, but Trindon Holliday may be a very nice addition to the offense. He showed a few times that he has some game-breaking ability. If you get him in space…look out. Rueben Randle is also having a pretty good offseason.
  • The offensive line looked a lot better this afternoon than it did last week. Looks like they’re starting to jell together.
  • Charles James continues to flash showing he has made some significant improvements from a year ago.

Your Questions Answered…

FROM SNEAKERS O’TOOLE - I’d like to know how comfortable Eli looks on his feet after coming off the ankle thing. I know he was taking snaps, a lot of short throws apparently. I’d like to know if he looks comfortable planting and driving the way a QB must to deliver a ball with power.
– He looked a lot better today than he did last week. Drove on a few and put some nice zip on the ball. He’s getting better and better with each passing day.

FROM BLUE42 - Can you please detail how Andre Williams is doing catching the ball and if the screen pass is still a W.I.P.?
– Believe it or not, we didn’t see many screen passes to RBs worked on today, mostly just to TEs and WRs. I saw Williams catch one pass with his body. He wasn’t target on anything else.

FROM GREAT WHITE GHOST – Who looks like they have the edge in the Fullback competition?
— It’s very difficult to tell this early on. Most of the formations the Giants have been running don’t feature a FB (shotgun). The few times Eli has been under center, Henry Hynoski has gotten the first reps.

FROM WEATHERMAN – Are they showing more 4 CB alignments with the newly acquired quality depth at the position?
– I haven’t seen any four-corner sets yet.

FROM KEOWEEFAN – Cooper Taylor, is he showing progress?
– Taylor looks decent. Only reason I say that is because he hasn’t done anything to really stand out – nothing negative or positive. He says he’s put on weight and spent a lot of time in the weight room.

FROM RASBUTANT – See if you can get any quotes from players about Will Hill
– Antrel Rolle put it best that he wasn’t “surprised” at the situation and you can’t depend on a player that is getting suspended “year, after year, after year.”

FROM DAVIDINBMNY – The strongest position on paper for the team is CB. As opposed to the 3 safety look, are there any signs or indications that the 3 CB / 2 LB package will be used more often?
– Yup, all nickel package is three corner, two backer.

FROM ATL_GIANT – Please let us know if Snee looks healthy. Is he practicing fully? Is there any indication of where his performance level may be at the start of the season?
– He was out today. Precautionary reasons. Coughlin said it was part of the plan.

FROM JOEGUIDO - How does Eli like the new offensive scheme in comparison to what he had been running and does he think the new offense will produce?
– Much better from a week ago. He didn’t speak today.

FROM JAY IN TORONTO – I’d like to know who (either by your observation or what you’ve heard) is demonstrating accelerated development (esp Robinson, Nassib etc).
– Coughlin said he’s impressed with Robinson and Donnell.

THE NEXT MEDIA DAY IS THURSDAY, JUNE 12. BBI WILL ONCE AGAIN BE IN ATTENDANCE.

Jun 022014
 
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Will Hill, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Will Hill – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Will Hill is not a bad guy.

He’s never been charged with a murder, like a certain someone up in New England. He’s never mistreated a woman, like a certain quarterback in Pittsburgh. Will Hill has never harmed an animal, like a certain someone in New York.

He’s never been malicious, violent or barbarous. Will Hill simply smoked a joint, got caught, and suspended in back-to-back years. He’s gone for six games, not a season. So why cut him? Why let walk for free a player with immense talent, the potential to be one of the game’s best?

Because it’s not about the pot. It’s not about marijuana. It’s not because of first hand, second hand, or third hand smoke. It’s because Will Hill was told by his boss not to do something. Then he did it anyway.

Three times.

On Monday afternoon, the New York Giants released a statement through the team’s twitter account. It came across subtle, with a picture and link to a press release. A move that was once rumored and assumed for six weeks finally came to fruition. Will Hill, the hard-hitting troubled safety, was released. The team, which was the only one to give him a shot three years ago, had given up. Thrown in the towel on the talent-limitless Jersey City native.

Since his early years, “talent” was never an issue with the 24-year-old. Hill grew up in New Jersey and quickly earned fame as a triple threat at St. Peter’s Prep High School. Hill starred as the team’s returner, quarterback and safety. In his senior season, Hill ran for 682 yards, threw for 758, intercepted three passes, recorded 68 tackles and had 444 receiving yards.

The Star-Ledger named Hill its New Jersey Offensive Player of the Year and he was given a five-star recruit rating by Rivals.com. ESPN ranked him as the second overall football prospect and top athlete in the nation. Hill committed to Florida.

While Hill’s talent on the field was demonstrated to the nation, his life off it was not.

According to The Star-Ledger’s Conor Orr, while in high school, Hill would sleep at head coach Rich Hansen’s house the night before games. Hansen saw the talent that Hill had, knew the only thing that could stop him from reaching fame and glory were those in his life.

Growing up in Orange, New Jersey, Hill constantly found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. While Hill was a good kid, those in his life were anything but. Coaches, fellow teammates and advisers worked to keep Hill out of trouble during his high school days. But when the safety arrived at Florida, those voices were not there. Hill was on his own.

During his three years in Gainesville, Hill’s career was plagued with disappointment. He flashed potential, showed the game-breaking ability he once displayed on Friday nights in Jersey, but his off-the-field life was now as in the spotlight as his play.

Hill was suspended following his junior year after being caught with marijuana. He tweeted out messages with graphic sexual references, mentions of drug use and prostitutes. Hill claimed to have had his account hacked.

The safety fathered four children with three different women, got married then divorced. According to Ebenezer Samuel of The New York Daily News, he struggled with drugs and “pondered leaving the game.”

Despite the above, Hill declared for the NFL Draft, but performed poorly both during NFL Combine interviews and private workouts. The one that was once thought of as a sure-fire NFL player went undrafted and wound up with the Arizona Football League’s Arena Rattlers.

After that short stint, the team that played 18 miles from his high school school’s stadium gave him a call. Hill would work out for the New York Giants.

Hill showed up and appeared to have turned a corner, appeared to be more mature and ready to take his life into his own hands. He was told he’d be on a short leash and showed enough during a workout to be signed to the roster for training camp. Then on October 8, 2012, Hill’s off-the-field life caught up to him again.

The safety was suspended for Adderall, strike one, but the Giants stood by him. Hill played 12 games, registering 38 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He was brought back for the following season, before swinging and missing at strike No. 2.

On July 20, 2013, the NFL announced that Hill will be suspended four more games, this time for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He openly stated he smoked marijuana in order to cope with some of the stresses of his off-the-field life.

“It’s from family members, everyone reaching their hand out and thinking I’m an ATM, and people who think you owe them something,” Hill told John Breech of CBS Sports. “It was just a situation where I was visiting back to my hometown and a guy pulled a shotgun on me then and wanted money. How do you deal with those situations? I really can’t so I dealt with it the best way I knew how.”

As was the case before, the Giants stood by Hill, but this time issued a warning.

“The Giants just told me that they had my back, they had my support, but another slip-up and that’s that,” Hill told The Star-Ledger.

Not even 12 months after uttering those words out of his mouth, Hill slipped again.

On May 30, 2014, the NFL suspended Hill for six games of the 2014 season for violating the policy and program for substance abuse. Hill reportedly told friends that he had not smoked marijuana, that the positive urine test was derived from second-hand smoke.

It doesn’t matter. And it shouldn’t.

Anyone who has stumbled upon Hill’s Instagram account know the safety has put himself in less than ideal situations. Clubs, photos of him with liquor and females litter the social media account.

For someone down 0-2 in the bottom of the ninth, why start swinging at chase-me pitches out of the zone?

While no drug arrested was made, Hill was arrested on Dec. 20, 2013 on a warrant for outstanding child-support payments. The officer detected an odor of marijuana and found cigar shavings in the vehicle. The report stated “suggesting that marijuana was prepared and smoke in the vehicle.”

Why is Hill in the vehicle? Why are those shavings in the car? Despite this, the Giants stood by Hill. That was, until, their hands were forced.

Hill’s release from the Giants is not because he did, or didn’t, smoke marijuana. It’s not because Jerry Reese believes pot is bad, is illegal, or is a ‘gateway drug.’ It’s not because Tom Coughlin is too old fashioned or straight edge.

It’s because Hill was warned. He was warned over, and over, and over again, yet he still continued to put himself in these positions. Wrong place, wrong time? Sure. But when you know you are one step away from being cut from the only team that was willing to give you a shot, why are you around marijuana in the first place?

Whether Hill put the joint to his lips or not, it got in his system. You don’t fail a test by sitting in on a Friday night with close friends and not allowing any to light up. You don’t fail a test by going to a club, noticing marijuana, then leaving the location.

You don’t fail a drug test unless you put yourself in the situation to do so. The Giants gave Hill three strikes, and he went down on the first three pitches he saw.

One in 2012. One in 2013. One in 2014.

Will Hill is not a bad guy. He is not a murderer, child molester or animal abuser. Will Hill is a troubled child who has continually put himself in situations that could jeopardize his career. Will Hill is a talented safety who can’t follow the rules.

It doesn’t matter that Will Hill smoked pot. It matters that he was told not to do these things, and proceeded to do them anyway.

Jun 022014
 
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Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have been linked at the hip ever since they both joined the New York Giants organization in 2004. It’s hard to believe but they now enter their 11th season with the team in 2014. Clearly time is running down on the tenure of the 67-year old coach and the 33-year old quarterback. But two questions persist: (1) how many more years will each remain with the team, and (2) will they each leave on good or bad terms?

While there were some highlights and two playoff appearances, Act I (2004-2006) of the Coughlin-Manning saga was not well received by audience members, which included fans, media, and even teammates. Coughlin was considered a rules-oriented tyrant who pushed his players too hard, a relic of a by-gone coaching era. Team leaders such as Michael Strahan, Jeremy Shockey, and Tiki Barber questioned his policies and tactics. Coughlin failed to recognize that being constantly rude to the media was not part of his job description. Most troubling, Coughlin’s teams had a nasty habit of starting strong and finishing weak. By the end of 2006, Coughlin’s act had seemingly worn thin with everyone. Barber may have saved Coughlin’s job at the end of the regular-season with a career- and franchise-high 234 rushing yards against the Redskins. Still, Coughlin was forced to dump both his offensive and defensive coordinators, and ownership’s voice of support after a second one-and-done playoff appearance seemed lukewarm at best.

After a couple of poor quarterback performances by Kurt Warner, Coughlin decided to use the final seven regular-season games of 2004 on the development of then-rookie Eli Manning. A somewhat promising 5-4 season quickly turned into a 6-10 disappointment with Eli looking absolutely dreadful at times. The low point came in Baltimore with Eli’s 0.0 quarterback rating performance. What made matters worse was that rookie Ben Roethlisberger, who would have been New York’s pick without the trade for Manning, was helping the Steelers to a 15-1 regular-season record and an AFC Championship Game appearance in his rookie season. With Manning entrenched as the full-time starter in 2005, the team won the NFC East with an 11-5 record, but Eli’s 113-yard, 3-interception performance against the Panthers in the first-round of the playoffs soured many. Support for Manning grew and waned with the Giants frustratingly-inconsistent 2006 season as a 6-2 start turned into a gut-wrenching 8-8 finish and another first-round playoff loss. Shockey demanded the ball more from Manning, and Barber – as we would later find out – considered his quarterback “comical.”

Act II (2007-2011) brought the house down as the New York Giants earned one Wild Card playoff spot, two NFC East Championships, two NFC Championships, and two NFL Championships. One-fourth of the team’s eight NFL titles came during this five-season span. During two of the most thrilling and unlikely playoff runs, the Giants knocked off  four #1 seeds and two #2 two seeds, vanquishing teams with records of 13-3, 14-3, 18-0, 15-1, 14-3, and 15-3 in the process.

During this team renaissance, Coughlin and Manning morphed into franchise legends. Coughlin softened his approach and trusted his players more, delegating more responsibility to a players’ council. By showing his more human side and allowing the players to have fun, the team began to understand and respect him more. Just as importantly, Coughlin and his staff out-worked and out-coached most of their opponents, including the great Bill Belichick (not once, but twice). Coughlin became the 13th head coach in NFL history to win two or more Super Bowl titles.

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, New York Giants (January 8, 2012)

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Manning continued to putter along for much of 2007, with other low points coming with his 4-interception day against the Minnesota Vikings and his NFL-record 34 incompletions against the Washington Redskins. But some switch turned on inside Manning, starting with the regular-season finale against the Patriots, as Eli out-dueled Jeff Garcia, Tony Romo, Brett Favre, and Tom Brady in the 2007 playoffs. His performance in -23 degree wind chill at Lambeau Field may have been the best of his career and he followed that up with two 4th quarter touchdown drives against Bill Belichick’s defense, including combining with David Tyree on the greatest play in NFL history. 2008 and 2011 were both Pro Bowl seasons for Eli. In the latter, Manning practically single-handily willed a New York Giants team with a dreadful running game and defense into the playoffs with six 4th-quarter come-from-behind regular-season victories (plus two more in the post-season). Indeed, Manning has become somewhat of a master late-game heroics with twenty-five 4th-quarter comebacks. In the 2011 playoffs, Manning out-dueled Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, and Tom Brady again. The only players in the history of the NFL to win a Super Bowl MVP more than once are Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, and Eli Manning.

This brings us to Act III, the final act. If you are a pessimist, the final act began in 2012 and now the only question that remains is how soon will the curtain fall? If you are an optimist, 2012-2013 was an uncomfortable intermission and the Coughlin-Manning duo has one more run in them sometime in the next 4-5 years.

Despite being one of the top three coaches in team history, along with Steve Owen and Bill Parcells, Tom Coughlin once again finds himself on the hot seat. Playing in a weak division, the Giants have missed the playoffs four out of the last five seasons. Massive structural changes were made to the team in the 2014 offseason, adding 35 new players, tearing apart the offensive coaching staff, and converting the vertical passing offense to a hybrid West Coast Offense system. If you are being objective, you could make the argument that the window has already closed on a declining team, suffering from poor drafting, and undergoing a fairly substantial rebuild. Even if the arrow is pointing upwards again on this team, all this change may be too difficult to overcome in the short-term in 2014. The Giants will not be favored to make the playoffs this season. If they don’t, cries for Coughlin’s head will become louder and louder. It may not be fair, but it is the nature of sports culture in the United States.

Though he is not all to blame given the rapid drastic demise of the surrounding offensive talent, Eli Manning is coming off of his worst season as a full-time starter. Many expect him to dramatically rebound in 2014, but what if he doesn’t?  What if 2011 was the high point and Eli has lost that edge that all great athletes need? Or what if Eli has been now miscast into a West Coach offense, still lacking a viable left tackle and tight end? Manning will be entering his final contract year in 2015 with $17 million in base salary and an almost $20 million overall cap number. The current $133 million salary cap is expected to rise in 2015, but can the Giants dedicate one-seventh of the cap to a then 34-year old player who is not performing? It’s difficult to see the Giants cutting Eli Manning or allowing him to walk away in free agency after 2015, but it is not an impossible scenario.

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, New York Giants (February 7, 2012)

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Ironically, the two faces of the franchise that arrived together in 2004, the two most important components of a team – coach and quarterback – may also end up leaving the franchise together at the same time over a decade later. It could be in 2015 or 2016. The media and the fans are fickle. Others still carry grudges and are simply lying in the weeds so they can eventually come out and say, “I told you so!” Only years after their departure will fans sit back and reminisce, “Remember the good old days with Coughlin and Manning?”

But the Coughlin-Manning era does not have to end on a negative note. What if there is one more magical run left in these two? One more opportunity to prove they are two of the very best in the game, perhaps both Hall of Famers, and arguably the best head coach and quarterback in franchise history? That run doesn’t have to come in 2014, but they have to do enough in 2014 to make sure that they both still have that opportunity with the New York Giants in 2015, 2016, or 2017.

True Blue New York Giants fans are hoping that Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning get one more opportunity to hold up the Vince Lombardi Trophy. That way, they can both leave on their own terms.

May 312014
 
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Stevie Brown (27), Antrel Rolle (26), New York Giants (August 4, 2013)

Stevie Brown and Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There’s one name that often gets omitted when the new faces that will be donning blue in 2014 are talked about.

There’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the high profile, prized free agent acquisition of General Manager Jerry Reese. Lining up next to him is Walter Thurmond III, a player whose talk seems to emulate that of a corner whom he shared Seattle’s secondary with. There’s Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton and draftee Odell Beckham Jr., too.

But one player has gone near unnoticed, sliding quietly back to the position he held two years ago.

“I know what I can do,” Stevie Brown said. “It’s just continuing to prove it.”

In 2012, Brown proved that not only did he have the potential to be a starting safety in the NFL, but a pretty good one at that. After signing with the Giants following two sub-par years in Oakland and Indianapolis, Brown broke out. Playing in all 16 games for the first time in his career, the former seventh-round pick recorded 76 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recovers and tied for the league lead in interceptions with eight.

Brown was a key component in New York feeling comfortable letting former first-round pick Kenny Phillips walk in free agency, all but penciling the 26-year-old in opposite Antrel Rolle atop the depth chart.

Entering last season, Rolle and Brown began to talk, boasting claims the two had the potential to be the best safety tandem in the NFL, but versus the Jets in the third preseason game of the season, all that chatter was put on hold. Brown intercepted a Geno Smith that sailed high and behind intended target Kellen Winslow.

As he had done so many times the season before, Brown began to work his way up the field. The safety picked up 15 yards, attempted to cut at the 28 yard line, but immediately dropped to the ground without being touched.

“Just a routine play really. I was returning an interception and kind of hit the turf wrong,” Brown said. “It was one of those things where I thought I would just be able to walk off and then I noticed it was kind of burning a little big longer than normal.

“The doctor came out there and looked at me and told me, ‘Your ACL is probably torn.’ I just kind of looked at him and said, ‘Don’t tell me that.’”

An MRI the next day confirmed the doctor’s early prognosis. Brown had ruptured his ACL; his season was over.

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

Stevie Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“It was one of those things where I may have been down for about two days, but you can’t get better being down on yourself. ” Brown said. “I flipped it into getting back into rehab mode and getting back for this year.”

Despite knowing his contract expired following the conclusion of 2013, Brown continued to rehab and be a prominent figure around the Giants’ organization. He was with the team week in, and week out, feeling even more pain than the burning sensation in his knee knowing his team needed him, but he couldn’t help.

When the season concluded, and the Giants missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year, Brown was free to sign with any team he wanted. His agent fielded a few calls, tested the waters, but when a decision needed to be made, Brown had no hesitation in returning to the Giants.

“At the end of the day, this is where I wanted to be,” Brown said.

With Will Hill continuing to struggle with the words, “No thanks,” the decision is one that has the Giants’ front office doing cartwheels. The troubled safety, who filled in admirably when Brown went down, is facing a six-game suspension and his career with the Giants is in question. In three seasons, Hill has faced suspensions in each. This season marks his second consecutive following a positive test for marijuana.

While still early, Brown doesn’t appear to be limited and has stated he’s been a full participant in all aspects of practice. The Michigan alum is medically cleared and is moving well both in and out of breaks.

When the Giants took the field for the first on-field practices of their organized team activities, Brown was back next to Rolle taking the majority of the first-team reps. During the second practice, which was open to reporters, Brown lined up next to Rolle for all but two snaps.

“I didn’t really expect anything, but I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” Brown said. “I knew that I was going to work and wherever I fell on the depth chart is where I fell. Just keep going from there.

“Right now they have me next to ‘Trel so I’m staying next to ‘Trel.”

May 302014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (May 29, 2014)

Eli Manning – Photo by Connor Hughes

Eli Manning exited the dual doors at the Quest Diagnostics Performance Center, stepped foot on the patio that overlooked the practice fields and began the short trip to the podium some 30 feet away.

There was no limp, no boot and no sign that the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback had undergone ankle surgery seven weeks before, just a member from every major media outlet waiting for words to come out of his mouth.

“I’m excited to be back out there, learning the offense and getting going,” Manning said.

Having Manning’s presence on the field may have shocked everyone but himself. The sturdy and stable signal caller underwent the knife for the first time in his football career following a dismal display from those protecting him in 2013.

As injuries began to deplete the Giants’ offensive line, Eli began to hit the ground at a far more frequent basis. No longer could the quarterback sit in the pocket and wait for the likes of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to get down the field, there simply wasn’t the time.

Manning was sacked a career-high 39 times, nine more than his previous high in 2009, but it wasn’t No. 40 that left a mark. On his second to last pass of the 2013 season, Manning felt pressure from Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker.

The quarterback attempted to avoid the sack by throwing the ball away, but was brought down by Baker shortly after releasing the ball. His left ankle rolled underneath the defensive tackle’s 333-pound frame. Manning stayed in the ball game, throwing an interception on his next pass attempt, before limping off the field and to the locker room.

The 33-year-old opted not for surgery, but following the “Manning Passing Academy,” a camp for quarterback hopefuls he holds with brother Peyton, Manning went under the knife.

“I was still experiencing some discomfort as I began my normal offseason preparation, and after consultation, we felt the right thing was to have Dr. Anderson clean out the ankle,” Manning told The New York Times’ Ken Belson after the surgery.

Having never undergone surgery before, neither Manning, Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin or General Manager Jerry Reese knew how long it would take Manning to rehab. At a pre-draft press conference, Reese declared Manning “out for spring ball,” and that he’d “Be back when he gets back.”

But Manning remained more optimistic, knowing the six-to-seven week recovery timetable he was given put him ‘medically cleared’ for the first day of organized team activities (OTA).

“This was my goal, to be back by OTAs,” Manning said. “They said six weeks, so I kind of had it in my head that I should be ready. I knew early on after three weeks that I was feeling pretty good and could do a few things.”

Manning got a sense his goal could realistically be accomplished over the last four weeks. The former No. 1 overall pick began running and rolling out before taking a day or two off to gauge swelling and soreness.

“You try not to overdo it,” Manning said. “Not trying to have consecutive days where you’re doing a lot of pounding, a lot of jumping and landing on it.”

The initial decision to have surgery was based on the discomfort Manning felt during the “Manning Passing Academy.” Comparing how he felt then to how he feels now is night and day, solidifying in Manning’s mind the decision for surgery was the correct call.

“It feels a lot better,” Manning said. “In running and doing drills, I would notice it at times where, at this point, I didn’t notice it. I’m out there worried about football and not thinking one bit about my ankle.”

Yesterday’s practice was the second straight for Manning who said the coaching staff and trainers tested his ankle after it concluded for soreness. For the second day, Manning had no swelling or discomfort. The plan now is to avoid taking days off.

The more Manning is on the field, the more joy it fills his 67-year-old head coach. For the first time in six years, Manning is no longer running Kevin Gilbride’s offense. The long developing deep shots are gone, replaced by Ben McAdoo’s quick-hitting, fast-paced West Coast scheme.

Manning admitted having the new offense made him want to get on the field as soon as possible, and now that he’s there, he’s intrigued.

“We’re at the very early stages,” Manning said. “I like where we’re heading and the options that this offense gives the quarterback and the whole team to be successful.”

As for Coughlin, he’s just happy to see No. 10 lining up under center.

“It’s huge,” Coughlin said of having Manning on the field. “He can get the reps during the spring here and he will have the offense down by the time we break. Then come back and he’ll be comfortable with it.”

Big Blue Interactive was live and in person for yesterday’s OTAs, check out our complete recap here.