Jul 172014
 
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Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (November 17, 2013)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to camp next week, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at this year’s safeties.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWNS: Safeties

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

Will Hill – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: Things truly couldn’t have started much worse for the Giants’ safety unit in 2013. In the team’s third preseason game versus the Jets, Stevie Brown injured his knee returning an interception and was lost for the year.

Shades of C.C. Brown began to dance in the minds of fans… then Will Hill happened.

Hill returned from a four-game suspension to take over as the Giants’ starting safety opposite Antrel Rolle. Hill recorded 77 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and scored a game-winning touchdown versus the Lions. For 12 weeks, Hill flashed the play-making ability that made him one of the more coveted recruits out of high school. The safety played with reckless abandon, a never-ending motor and was constantly around the ball. As was the case versus the Redskins when Hill ripped the ball out of the hands of Pierre Garcon on fourth-and-1, preserving a Giants victory.

While the 24-year-old’s season was impressive, so was that of his safety counterpart.

Finally being allowed to play safety full time, Antrel Rolle put together his best season in a Giants’ uniform. The former first-round pick earned Pro-Bowl honors, finished with the team lead in tackles (98) and interceptions (6), recorded two sacks and forced fumble a fumble.

Behind Hill and Rolle, Ryan Mundy was solid in Perry Fewell’s signature three-safety package. The 29-year-old was a force down in the box and recorded 77 tackles, good for fifth on the team. Rookie Cooper Taylor saw limited action, mostly on special teams.

Quintin Demps, Kansas City Chiefs (December 15, 2013)

Quintin Demps – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Get this one out of the way early: After captivating the hearts of fans, Will Hill’s unbelievable season won’t get an encore. For the third consecutive year, Hill faced a drug-related suspension after his urine came up positive for marijuana. While the third-year player claimed it was for ‘second-hand pot,’ the six-game suspension was the last straw in a troubled career. The Giants cut ties with Hill, having warned him over and over again he was on his last strike. Ryan Mundy also left when the Giants’ chose not to renew his one-year contract.

The team re-signed Stevie Brown, who looks to have slid back into his starting safety position. Quintin Demps was brought over from Kansas City and Nat Berhe was drafted in the fifth round. C.J. Barnett and Thomas Gordon were brought in as undrafted rookies.

TRAINING CAMP STORYLINES: The health of Stevie Brown and his ability to ‘replace’ Will Hill may be the No. 1 question heading into camp. While Brown did record a league-high eight interceptions in 2012, many were a result of being in the right place at the right time and teams wanted to test the unproven Brown. Does he have the natural athletic ability that Hill has? No. Can he be serviceable? Yes. How serviceable? No one knows.

Cooper Taylor’s progression and the overall talent of Nat Berhe will worth keeping an eye on. Taylor has added muscle in the offseason, per the coaches request, and may be a sleeper to see increased playing time in his second year. In college, Berhe played San Diego State’s ‘Aztec’ position, a hybrid mix of the linebacker and safety positions. If he develops, he may make an immediate impact, but will need to climb the depth chart first.

ON THE BUBBLE: There really isn’t any big-name player that is in jeopardy of being cut. Right now, the Giants have seven safeties on the roster and figure to keep four or five. The odd men out? Most likely C.J. Barnett and Thomas Gordon. Cooper Taylor may be in warm water, but the odds of Jerry Reese cutting last year’s fifth-round pick are slim-to-none.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: David Merritt on what makes Quintin Demps a good candidate as the team’s third safety: “His speed, his ability to actually change directions and burst. Quintin has played back in the post for most of his career. One of the things that he told me when he first arrived was, ‘Coach, I want to be down near the box.’ So when he said that I said, ‘Well you know what, I’m going to give you all of the tools to hopefully help you be successful down around the box.’ His speed, his ability to change directions and burst is one of the valuable assets that he brings to the table.

“Because he’s played back so many years as a deep safety, being back 20 yards. When you’ve been back there for that amount of years you want to get down around the action. I think he probably has seen guys being down around the action, Berry that he played with in Kansas City, Pollard, the kid that was with him in Houston so he’s see all of these guys down around the action where he’s been back just as a safety valve. Now he’s down close to the box and he’s learning the linebacker aspect of it.”

PREDICTIONS:
Connor Hughes – I’m very, very concerned with Stevie Brown heading into the 2014 season. Not necessarily for his health, but simply because I’m not convinced he’s a starting-caliber player in the NFL.

Stevie Brown, New York Giants (October 7, 2012)

Stevie Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

What made Brown so good for the majority of the 2012 season was that he was allowed to play back in the ‘Kenny Phillips’ role. Brown would line up 15-20 yards behind the defense, wait for the deep ball and then track it down in the air. When Phillips played the position, teams stayed away from the deep pass. When Brown played it, they attacked him. The result? Eight interceptions.

If Quintin Demps can develop into a player that can play down in the box, as Merritt suggested he wants to do, then Brown can go back to playing the ‘Kenny Phillips’ role. It best suits him as he’s not an incredible player in the box. With that being said, can Demps play in the box? He’s unproven, just like every Giants’ safety not named ‘Antrel.’

I agreed entirely with the Giants decision to cut Will Hill. It was time. You can’t send that message to the locker room keeping him on the team. But looking over the roster, I just don’t see a viable replacement. The revamped and retooled cornerback position is going to have to carry the load. With their paychecks, that shouldn’t be a problem.

With that being said, there will be times Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie guesses wrong, it’s part of his game. Will there be a player behind him to catch his mistake? We’ll see.

Eric Kennedy – Losing Will Hill was a huge blow. The defense dramatically improved in 2013 once Jon Beason and Will Hill were inserted into the starting line-up. Hill looked like a future Pro Bowl free safety. He might have been the best player on the team last season. Now he’s bagging groceries. Stupid is as stupid does. Like Connor, I have my doubts about Stevie Brown. In 2012, he definitely had a nose for the football, but he also was missing in action on some big pass plays. In addition, he doesn’t hit or play the run like a big safety. I’d accept fewer interceptions if you could guarantee fewer big coverage breakdowns and better run defense.

The coaches have been talking up Quintin Demps more than his reputation in Philadelphia and Kansas City should indicate. Demps thinks he is better suited closer to the line of scrimmage and he may be right. Demps has the inside track on the third safety position in the Giants three-safety package. If he stumbles, Cooper Taylor has the physical tools to steal playing time.

My prediction is that 31-year old Antrel Rolle hasn’t peaked and will have an even better season in 2014. He’s the unquestioned leader of the strongest part of the defense. I expect that to motivate him, as well the fact that he’s entering the final year of his current contract. And I expect the talent at cornerback to allow him to take more chances to make plays on the football. He hasn’t returned a pick for a touchdown yet as a Giant (four times with Cardinals), but I believe he will do that twice in 2014.

FINAL DEPTH CHART
Connor Hughes – Antrel Rolle/Stevie Brown start. Quintin Demps third safety. Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe reserve. C.J. Barnett, and Thomas Gordon cut.

Eric Kennedy – Antrel Rolle/Stevie Brown start. Quintin Demps third safety. Cooper Taylor reserve. Nat Berhe, C.J. Barnett, and Thomas Gordon cut. My biggest problem is figuring out how the Giants get from 54 to 53. My gut says Nat Berhe makes the team, but I can’t see how the Giants can carry 11 defensive backs in addition to nine defensive linemen, six wide receivers, and five running backs/fullback. Something has to give. I’m guessing they try to sneak Berhe onto the Practice Squad. C.J. Barnett and Thomas Gordon have some talent too.

Jul 152014
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With New York Giants training camp beginning next week, BigBlueInteractive.com continues to break down each of the team’s positional groups until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at this year’s cornerbacks.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Cornerbacks

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

Prince Amukamara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: The one steady constant at cornerback in 2013 was Prince Amukamara at right corner. In his third year with the Giants, and his second as a full-time starter, Amukamara developed into the team’s best corner. Amukamara started all 16 games and finished the year with 85 tackles, 14 pass defenses, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles. Things did not go as planned at left corner. Corey Webster had issues with his hip, groin, and ankle. He only started two games before the Giants finally gave up on him and placed him on Injured Reserve in December. His primary back-up, Aaron Ross, only started two games before being placed on Injured Reserve in October with a back injury. Jayron Hosley was next in line but he suffered a significant hamstring in jury in Week 4 that sidelined him for the next five games and nagged him much of the rest of the season. Hosley played in 11 games with one start, finishing the season with just 9 tackles and 2 pass defenses. The player who benefited the most from these injuries was Trumaine McBride. McBride was an under-the-radar street free agent signing who ended up playing in 15 games with 10 starts. He finished 2013 with 37 tackles, 15 pass defenses, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. Terrell Thomas, coming off back-to-back ACL tears in 2011 and 2012, was primarily used as the nickel slot corner. Though limited all year in practice, he played in all 16 games with seven starts and finished the season with 67 tackles, 1 sack, 7 pass defenses, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. Charles James was a rookie free agent who played in 12 games, almost exclusively on special teams.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Massive changes occurred at cornerback in the offseason. The only ones returning are Prince Amukamara, Trumaine McBride, Jayron Hosley, and Charles James. The Giants have also decided to invite 2013 Practice Squad players Ross Weaver and Travis Howard to training camp.

Gone are former stalwarts Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, and Terrell Thomas. 2013 Practice Squaders Junior Mertile and Chaz Powell were also waived after initially being re-signed in January.

The major new additions are Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (from Denver, 5-years, $35 million), Walter Thurmond III (from Seattle, 1-year, $3 million), and Zack Bowman (from Chicago, 1-year, $730,000). The Giants also drafted Bennett Jackson in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: How good is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC)? Some believe he is capable of being one of the NFL’s elite corners, others say he is overrated. The Giants are expecting (and paying) him to be core impact player. If DRC plays as well as hoped, teams that avoided Prince Amukamara in 2013 will now come after him in 2014. How will he respond? Is he capable of making more plays in the football (only 1 interception per year in three seasons). Is Walter Thurmond as good as advertised as a slot corner? If DRC, Amukamara, and Thurmond live up to the hype, along the expected strong play of the safeties, the major overall storyline is the shifting of the strength of the defense from the front-end to the back-end.

ON THE BUBBLE: The Giants will definitely carry five, and quite possibly six cornerbacks. Barring injury, Rodgers-Cromartie, Amukamara, and Thurmond are locks. Another under-the-radar signing, Zack Bowman, who looked very sharp in the OTAs. Trumaine McBride had hip surgery in January and missed all of the offseason work. He may be on shakier ground than many realize. Continued injury (injury plagued in both 2012 and 2013) and drug issues (upcoming 4-game suspension) have really hurt Jayron Hosley’s chances to make the team. Charles James and Bennett Jackson have talent but will have to fight tooth-and-nail to make the team. Both are helped by their special teams ability however.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Peter Giunta on the Giants depth at cornerback:  “We’ve got 10 quality corners right now in the program…Bringing in two guys that started in the Super Bowl obviously helps…We have great depth at that position, the deepest I’ve ever had in my years in the league.

Giunta on DRC and Amukamara: “Yes (they can both cover another team’s top receiver). They both have the skill set and both have done it in their careers, gone out and played on the best guy. They’ll battle, they’ll compete and we’ll be able to have an advantage I think playing those guy.”

Giunta on Rodgers-Cromartie: “He’s got that other gear. He can run as fast as he needs to run to get up on top of a receiver, catch up to a receiver. He’s got that gear that’s incredible. He’s such a smooth athlete. His length is so good and his ball skills are fantastic. He’s got that great skill set where he’s got the speed to recover if he does beat, he’s got the quickness to recover. He’s got the length to reach out and knock balls away that other corners wouldn’t be able to get to and he’s got great hands to make plays on the ball in the air. He’s got what you’re looking for in a corner.”

Giunta on Amukamara: “He improved, he understands well, he communicates well, his instincts, his awareness are really developing. You can really see it in (OTAs) now, he’s on top of all of the stuff. Now he’s starting to gamble a bit and take some chances, which you like to see because you’re taking calculated guesses and risking, ‘Hey, I’m going to go make a play.’ That’s what you want. He’s developed that confidence in himself and the defense, he knows what’s coming.”

Giunta on Thurmond: “He does a great job of studying, he has a great awareness of what people are trying to do to him. He plays with great leverage, understands his drops as an underneath defender. He’s able to get there, get breaks off the quarterback. He’s got great vision and to play inside like that you have to have great vision of everything that’s going on around you, it happens so much quicker. Corner you’re using the sideline to help you but in (the slot) you have so much space, especially covering guys. He’s done a great job. He’s got great quickness and he’s a great (technician). You’ll see that when we’re able to put our hands on people in training camp.”

PREDICTIONS:

Zack Bowman, Chicago Bears (October 10, 2013)

Zack Bowman – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eric Kennedy – On paper, this is the deepest unit on the team strongest group of corners the Giants have had in my lifetime. Of course, the proof is in the pudding. Moreover, each year, we have seen mental breakdowns in Perry Fewell’s secondary, often followed by a mid-season “dumbing down” in order to reduce blown coverages. Will that same issue rear its ugly head again in 2014 or will the Giants’ secondary carry this defense from the get-go?

Predictions? DRC and Thurmond become fan favorites with their play. Bowman becomes a more important addition than fans currently realize. I think Charles James is underrated but stuck behind the quality guys in front of him.

Connor Hughes – I am incredibly optimistic about the Giants’ cornerbacks heading into this season. More so this year than any year I can remember in recent memory. In the past, veterans on the last leg of their careers, bargain-bought free agents and low-end draft picks occupied the Giants’ secondary as the vaunted defensive line pressured the quarterback. As teams countered with quick-passes to reveal holes in the secondary, the Giants have countered by putting more money into the cornerback position.

I believe Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara can form one of the top three cornerback tandems in the NFL. I love the return of Trumaine McBride and the potential of Charles James. More than anything else, I can’t wait to see what Walter Thurmond III has to offer.

The first time Thurmond talked to the media, he told them he was the best slot corner in the league. He comes from a secondary the Giants’ believe they can collectively be as good and has an attitude to be the best. Of every acquisition the Giants made, the biggest I truly believe will be Thurmond.

FINAL DEPTH CHART:

Eric Kennedy – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman, Charles James, Bennett Jackson.

Jayron Hosley misses the first four games due to the drug suspension and could still be brought back depending on injuries. My longshot prediction is Bennett Jackson making it over Trumaine McBride, who was re-signed to a 2-year, $2.875 million contract this offseason. I think Jackson’s special teams play and overall potential keeps him on the roster.

Connor Hughes – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (RCB), Prince Amukamara (LCB), Walter Thurmond III (nickel), Trumaine McBride (dime), Zack Bowman (reserve), Charles James (reserve).

Jul 132014
 
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Jacquian Williams (57), New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Barring injury, Jacquian Williams will be the Giants starting WILL linebacker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to training camp in just a couple weeks, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at the linebackers.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWNLinebackers

Jon Beason, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Jon Beason was solid in the middle for New York last year – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: In a year of mostly downs, the Giants’ linebackers were one of the team’s few bright spots in 2013. After acquiring Jon Beason via trade from the Carolina Panthers, the middle linebacker established himself as a force in the middle of the Giants’ defense. Beason finished with 93 tackles and an interception in 11 games. Outside Beason, Keith Rivers and Spencer Paysinger were solid in the team’s base 4-3 set while Jacquian Williams continued to establish himself as one of the better coverage linebackers in the game.

In 2012, the Giants defense was one of the worst against the run, finishing 25th in the NFL, but rebounded nicely last year. Coupled with a rebuilt interior defensive unit, the Giants rushed allowed an average of 108.9 rushing yards per game, good for 14th in the NFL.

Against some of the league’s best, the Giants played their strongest. New York held Jamaal Charles (KC) to 65 yards rushing, Matt Forte (CHI) to 67, Adrien Peterson (MIN) to 28, LeSean McCoy (PHI) to 94 in two games, Eddie Lacey (GB) to 27 and Marshawn Lynch (SEA) to 47.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Not much has changed at the linebacker position for the Giants. Beason was re-signed and Rivers was allowed to walk. The lone notable addition via free agency was that of ex-Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain. Devon Kennard was drafted in the fifth round out of USC and has earned early praise from the coaching staff.

Devon Kennard, USC Trojans (September 21, 2013)

Devon Kennard has impressed coaches – © USA TODAY Sports Images

TRAINING CAMP STORYLINES: Little disclaimer early on: not going to count the health/return of Jon Beason (broken bone/torn ligament in foot) as a ‘training camp storyline’ simply because it doesn’t involve camp. If and when he returns will be well after the team breaks on Aug. 14.

Devon Kennard is easily one of the biggest camp storylines this year. Throughout the offseason conditioning program, Giants’ coaches ranted and raved about the progress of the rookie USC linebacker. While words are often meaningless, their faith in the 23-year-old was put on display when Kennard was inserted in as starting linebacker after Beason went down in OTAs.

Injuries have stunted the growth of Jacquian Williams, but it appears he’s ready for a breakout. The former sixth-round pick is no longer a situational player as the Giants have named him their full-time starting WILL. Williams progression, and ability to stay healthy, will be worth following during the summer.

Mark Herzlich, New York Giants (August 18, 2012)

Could this season be Mark Herzlich’s last with the Giants? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ON THE BUBBLE: It looks like the premier camp battle will be between undrafted linebacker Dan Fox and formerly undrafted Mark Herzlich. In the early stages of his career, Herzlich was all but given the keys to the Giants’ MIKE linebacker position, but never capitalized and struggled mightily on defense. When Beason went down during OTAs, it was Kennard that filled in at the middle…not Herzlich. If Dan Fox can match what Herzlich can do on special teams, there’s a chance he’s given the spot on the final 53. Fox has good speed, is very intelligent and versatile.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Linebackers coach Jim Herrmann on Kennard: “His college career he played everywhere. He had like I think three different coordinators at USC. When he was there with Monte Kiffin he was a MIKE. He played in that system. So for him, he’s played all over so he’s got multiple talents and he’s a smart guy so it’s not anything new for him. And he gives us a lot of flexibility. He has some rush ability so on third down he could actually be a rush-type guy. The flexibility helps us. As you go into the season there are 46 guys out there, normally the linebackers get maybe five guys so somebody has to know dual roles and we’ve always had guys that could do that. He’ll give us that ability.”

On progression of Jacquian Williams: “This OTA and mini-camp he did a great job in our base stuff as a WILL. He’s a natural WILL in nickel, he did a great job with our WILL stuff in base. To me he made a big jump and big improvement this spring.”

On UDFA Dan Fox: “To me he’s another guy, one of the young guys who’s got a lot of intelligence. He can play multiple roles. He actually played all three spots this spring, MIKE, SAM, WILL, he plays in our sub. Any time you’ve got a smart guy like that who football just comes natural to him, that gives him a chance. He’s got to make the team on special teams, obviously, that will be his biggest deal when he comes back. For me, as a position coach, being able to say, ‘Hey look, he has multiple roles on defense, he can play a lot of positions,’ that helps his chances. To me, that’s what you want.”

PREDICTIONS:
Connor Hughes – I believe this linebacking unit may be the best (when healthy) that the Giants have had in quite some time. Jameel McClain is a force against the run, intelligent, savvy and a vocal leader. Jacquian Williams (when healthy) has proven he has the raw and natural athletic ability that few at his position possess. Beason (again, when healthy) showed last year he’s an every down linebacker in the NFL and arguably the best in the middle the Giants have had since Antonio Pierce.

Despite all the above, the one player that most intrigues me is the one no one has seen in pads yet: Devon Kennard. The amount of praise Kennard has been given from the coaching staff is noticeable. Everyone from Tom Coughlin, to Perry Fewell, to Jim Herrmann has raved about the rookie. The fact the coaching staff already seems to have locked him in as a starter if McClain is forced to the middle with Beason out is telling. To get Kennard on the field – in pads – against the speed and talent level of the NFL will be a true tell if the Giants snagged a steal in the draft.

Eric Kennedy – Maybe it’s more wishful thinking than a realistic scenario, but I expect Jon Beason to be back by the opener. But obviously, the Giants need him back soon and they need him close to 100 percent. The way he impacted the overall defense with his presence last season was a pretty serious indictment on the Giants’ organization on their de-emphasis of the linebacker spot. If Beason is OK, the good news for the Giants is they now have two confident, cerebral leaders at the position in Beason and Jameel McClain. I’m curious to see McClain on the field. The Ravens said nice things about McClain, but they didn’t make a big effort to keep him. I wasn’t overly impressed in the limited 2013 film I’ve seen of McClain. But he was coming off of a serious neck injury so he may do better a couple of years removed from the injury.

Jacquian Williams has excellent tools but he has to stay healthy and play more physically than he has in the past against the run to prove he is an every-down linebacker. I actually like Spencer Paysinger more than most; at the very least, he is a very good special teams player.

STARTING UNIT WEEK 1?

Stevie Brown and Jon Beason, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

Will Jon Beason be available for Week 1? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Connor Hughes – I’m sticking with the fact I don’t believe Beason will be ready versus the Lions. WILL – Jacquian Williams; MIKE – Jameel McClain; SAM – Devon Kennard.

Eric Kennedy – My gut says Beason will do everything he can to be out there on opening day. Starters will be Jameel McClain, Jon Beason, and Jacquian Williams.

WHO MAKES THE TEAM?
Connor Hughes – Jacquian Williams, Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard, Jon Beason, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger. Dan Fox (PS).

Eric Kennedy – Jacquian Williams, Jameel McClain, Jon Beason, Spencer Paysinger, Devon Kennard, and Dan Fox.

Jul 112014
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (June 18,2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to camp in less than two weeks, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at this year’s defensive line.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Defensive Line

Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Mathias Kiwanuka – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: The 2013 defensive line performed adequately, helping the New York Giants finish 8th in total defense (10th against the pass and 14th against the run). But those figures may have been inflated by the Giants facing some incredibly poor quarterbacks/passing offenses. The chief problem for the Giants was their best player up front, Jason Pierre-Paul, had his second subpar season in a row. Pierre-Paul had surgery in June 2013 to repair a herniated disc in his lower back and he never seemed to fully rebound from that procedure. He flashed some of his old form in Week 10 but also suffered a shoulder injury in that game which caused him to miss the last five games of the season. He finished 2013 with only 27 tackles and 2 sacks in 11 games. Statistically, the most productive player was Justin Tuck, who rebounded with a strong season (63 tackles, 11 sacks, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles) after two down seasons in a row. Mathias Kiwanuka played in all 16 games, with 10 starts at right defensive end. He finished the season with 41 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Damontre Moore was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft. However, an early preseason shoulder injury disrupted his development, and while Moore flashed on special teams, he did not make much noise at defensive end when given a limited number of snaps.

The Giants were pretty stout inside with Linval Joseph (59 tackles, 3 sacks, and 1 forced fumble) and Cullen Jenkins (31 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles). Backing them up were Mike Patterson (23 tackles), Shaun Rogers (9 tackles), Johnathan Hankins (16 tackles), and Markus Kuhn (1 tackle). Rogers started two games but was placed on Injured Reserve in November in a move that appeared to be designed to give Hankins more snaps as well as keep Kuhn, who had been on the PUP recovering from an ACL tear he suffered in 2012.

Overall, the slow-but-sure aging and departure of past stalwarts such as Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck – combined with two down season by JPP – has largely taken the bite out of the once-formidable outside pass rush. Tuck had 11 sacks in 2013, but six of those came against the Redskins. The other ends combined for only eight sacks on the season while the tackles chipped in with only eight as a unit.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants did not show much interest in re-signing 31-year old Justin Tuck and he is now in Oakland. Gone too is the Giants best defensive tackle of the last couple of seasons, Linval Joseph, who signed a big contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Again, it did not appear that the Giants made much of an effort to re-sign him. The Giants also did not choose to re-sign Shaun Rogers, who remains an unrestricted free agent.

Robert Ayers, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

Robert Ayers – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The main additions are DE Robert Ayers (UFA from Denver Broncos) and DT Jay Bromley (3rd round draft pick). The Giants also have brought in rookie free agents ends Kerry Wynn, Emmanuel Dieke, and Jordan Stanton as well as tackle Kelcy Quarles. Practice Squad DE Kendrick Adams, who has spent time with the Jaguars, Buccaneers, Lions, Browns, and Bengals, was re-signed. DT Everett Dawkins, who has spent time with the Vikings, Cowboys, and Buccaneers, was added as street free agent in June 2014.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Will Jason Pierre-Paul regain his 2011 form? Who will start opposite of him – Mathias Kiwanuka, Robert Ayers, or Damontre Moore? Who will start at defensive tackle with Cullen Jenkins? How many defensive tackles will the Giants keep?

“(Moore) made good, steady progress,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin in June. “He’s, naturally, a year later, a year more into it so he’s more comfortable with what’s going on. It’s not one of those things where you don’t notice that he’s out there because he does have a correction here or there. We like what we see. His continued development in the weight room with just some added muscle and strength, a little bit more size is something that will help a lot.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Barring injury, it would seem that JPP, Kiwanuka, Ayers, and Moore are locks to be the four defensive ends. Jenkins, Hankins, and Bromley are probably sure bets at tackle. Do the Giants keep four or five tackles? It could come down to a serious battle between Markus Kuhn and Mike Patterson.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Robert Nunn on Damontre Moore and Johnathan Hankins:  “I thought Damontre really took a step forward (this offseason) and Hankins really took off at the end of last year and has done a great job in the offseason working out, coming in in really good condition…I like where they are at now.”

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

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

Nunn on Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson: “They’re solid guys, solid veteran guys. And they understand where they are in this stage of their career and we’ll have to take care of them through training camp. Both of those guys have had outstanding offseasons, I thought Mike came in here in really good shape. Cullen’s always been in good shape ever since I’ve been around him. We’ll see where it goes. Again, it’s so hard to tell, we’re so limited in what we can do in the offseason now but they’re in great shape and a really good frame of mind and have done a really good job with leadership with the younger players. We’ll see where it goes.”

Nunn on Markus Kuhn: “He had an outstanding offseason, really outstanding practices. He and Hankins, they’ll definitely get more reps in training camp than Mike P and Cullen if everything goes as planned. He showed up every day. When we go out there and go in team situations Markus was, there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t call his name out in a positive manner.”

Nunn on Jay Bromley: “You know, he’s come in very willing to learn. He’s very green, very raw but hey, he’s got to get started. Those guys are the ones that really suffer as far as how limited we are with what we can do. He needs all the work he can get but he’s shown enough that hey, he’s got to show up when the pads come on. We’ll see when that happens.”

PREDICTIONS:

Eric Kennedy – The Giants will have problems rushing the quarterback. Unless Kiwanuka, Ayers, or Moore can get to the passer on a consistent basis, Jason Pierre-Paul may be in for a rough season. Without a viable threat opposite of him, JPP will be the focal point of other teams’ blocking schemes. Kiwanuka and Ayers have flashed throughout their veteran careers, but they have yet to become (and may never become) guys who the other teams really worry about. To be frank, when Moore played DE last year, he didn’t look good. Perhaps he will show more now that he is healthier and stronger. I think Hankins has the tools to be better than Linval Joseph and if the Giants can get another good, solid season out of Jenkins, they’ll be fine inside. I’d prefer to keep only four defensive tackles, but I think 2014 will be a redshirt season for Bromley and thus the Giants will be forced to keep both Patterson and Kuhn.

Connor Hughes – For all the questions concerning the Giants’ roster heading into training camp, the regular season and beyond, I don’t believe any have as many unknowns as the defensive line. Throughout the course of the offseason, the Giants put their emphasis on the secondary. Gone were the days of loading up on pass rushers. Instead, the team signed and signed again big-name and high profile defenders in the secondary. I agree with the change in philosophy, but I have very little faith in those up front.

Mathias Kiwanuka appears to be in the tail end of his career, who knows what JPP will take the field (if he even gets on it), Cullen Jenkins is older, Johnathan Hankins has yet to be an every-down player and Mike Patterson doesn’t have much ability outside stopping the run. Justin Tuck is in Oakland, Jay Bromley is a rookie. If one or two injuries hit the group…things could get ugly fast.

Granted, things could go the complete other/positive way. Robert Ayers could excel in a new location, JPP could be the Pierre-Paul of 2011, Kiwanuka could revitalize his career, Hankins could be a force and maybe Bromley steps up. I’ve thought long and hard about the positives of the defensive line, and I’ve come up with a bunch, but for every one good there are two negatives. Who knows, maybe the secondary can mask the guys up front. That philosophy certainly worked in the reciprocal fashion over the last seven years.

FINAL DEPTH CHART:

Eric Kennedy – Mathias Kiwanuka (LDE), Johnathan Hankins (LDT), Cullen Jenkins (RDT), and Jason Pierre-Paul (RDE). Reserves: Mike Patterson, Markus Kuhn, Jay Bromley, Robert Ayers, and Damontre Moore.

Connor Hughes – Mathias Kiwanuka (LDE), Johnathan Hankins (LDT), Cullen Jenkins (RDT), Jason Pierre-Paul (RDE). Reserves: Mike Patterson, Markus Kuhn, Jay Bromley, Robert Ayers, and Damontre Moore.

Jul 092014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 10, 2013)

Can the Giants’ line keep Manning upright in 2014? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to training camp in less than two weeks, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at the offensive line.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Offensive Line

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: Years of failing to install a contingency plan up front caught up to Jerry Reese in 2013. As injury after injury hit the offensive line, few, if any, reserves were waiting in the wings to step up. The Giants entered the season with a starting line of: William Beatty, Kevin Boothe, David Baas, Chris Snee and David Diehl. By the end of the season…all had landed on the injury report. Quarterback Eli Manning was sacked a career-high 39 times and the deep passes that the Giants had so much success with in previous seasons were eliminated because there wasn’t time to throw. In the end, even Manning himself suffered an injury. Things were bad, very bad. It was a nightmare that ultimately forced Kevin Gilbride to ‘retire.’

Geoff Schwartz, Kansas City Chiefs (August 24, 2013)

Geoff Schwartz was the Giants big signing in 2014 – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: With how terrible things were last year, changes up front were inevitable. Kevin Boothe left for Oakland, David Baas was released and David Diehl retired. The Giants signed notable free agents: J.D. Walton (C), Geoff Schwartz (G), John Jerry (G) and Charles Brown (T) while drafting Weston Richburg (C/G) in the second round. It was a complete and much-needed overhaul.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: While there are many, the health of guard Chris Snee tops the list. Since being drafted out of Boston College, Snee has been a staple on the Giants’ line and considered one of the best guards in the NFL. But the years in the trenches have taken their toll on the 32-year-old. His 6-3, 310-pound frame is bruised and battered and Snee’s hardly the player he was when entering the league over a decade ago. When the Giants reported for their offseason conditioning program, Snee was a full participant, but that quickly changed. His elbow flared, sidelining Snee for the majority of the workouts.

Even when Snee is healthy, he isn’t the same player he used to be. The fact he’s already being held out of non-contact practices doesn’t bode well. Will Snee make it out of training camp? Will he hang up the cleats? If he realizes he can no longer play, who steps up at right guard? There are many questions on the Giants’ offensive line (William Beatty), but many center around the health of Chris Snee.

Chris Snee and Pat Flaherty, New York Giants (July 27, 2013)

Snee was on the sideline for much of the Giants’ offseason workouts – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ON THE BUBBLE: Two names truly stick out: John Jerry and James Brewer. Since being considered an up-and-coming lineman for the Giants, James Brewer has yet to capitalize on the opportunities the team has given him. Now, he finds himself working with the third unit and his days in blue may be numbered. Jerry, meanwhile, is waiting to hear on his punishment for his involvement in the Miami Dolphins bully scandal. There’s a lot of hype around Jerry and talk he could be perfect in the Giants’ scheme, but his baggage may be enough to have the Giants pull the plug before even flipping the switch.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Pat Flaherty on the new faces in the offensive line meeting room: “Change is going to happen, we all know that. I like it, I really do. I mean, do I miss? You always miss people that you’ve been around for a lot of years, sure. But we all understand in most businesses that there is going to be change on sometimes a daily basis, most of the time on a yearly basis and that’s the profession that we’re in right now. So it’s a challenge because we have a mixture of youth and some veterans that come in from other teams that have to learn a whole new offense, as myself. Any time you have that type of… when you’re a competitor as you are as a player and a coach you kind of grab a hold of that and it’s fun. It is.”

PREDICTIONS:

John Jerry, Miami Dolphins (November 17, 2013)

Is John Jerry the answer if Chris Snee can’t go?– © USA TODAY Sports Images

Connor Hughes – I’m just not sold on the Giants’ offensive line yet. I like the addition of Geoff Schwartz, but that solidifies one of the five question marks from left to right. Of every player that could step foot on the field to protect Eli Manning, I have faith in two: Justin Pugh and Schwartz. J.D. Walton has battled injuries, William Beatty is a huge question mark, who goes for Snee if/when he can’t? John Jerry wasn’t exactly a stud in Miami, Brandon Mosley and others on the line haven’t shown much. The Giants made their splashes in free agency and the draft on the offensive side of the ball, adding weapon, after weapon, after weapon…but none will matter if Eli Manning isn’t protected. Last year, Manning ended up injured in the final game of the season. There’s a big part of me that believes he could end up with the same fate far sooner in 2014.

Eric Kennedy – I have to disagree with Connor a bit here and say the #1 question mark on the offensive line – and one of the top three question marks for the entire team – is Will Beatty. Coming off of a fractured leg and possibly an undisclosed knee injury, it remains to be seen when Beatty will be able to practice with the revamped first-team offensive line. He needs the practice. Not only to rebound from a very poor 2013 campaign, but also to develop chemistry and cohesion with LG Geoff Schwartz. The Giants can survive without Chris Snee, I’m not sure they can perform well without Beatty returning to his 2012 form. The “wild card” here is Charles Brown. He has talent, but was very inconsistent at left tackle in New Orleans.

My prediction is that J.D. Walton turns out to be a much more valuable addition to the team than many initially thought. He is a no-nonsense guy who will get the job done and bring some leadership to the unit. Walton and Geoff Schwartz will settle down the middle of the offensive line. I also look for Brandon Mosley to develop and possibly challenge for a starting spot.

STARTING LINE WEEK 1?
Connor Hughes – William Beatty (LT), Geoff Schwartz (LG), J.D. Walton (C), John Jerry (RG), Justin Pugh (RT).

Eric Kennedy – Will Beatty (LT), Geoff Schwartz (LG), J.D. Walton (C), Chris Snee (RG), Justin Pugh (RT). (I also think John Jerry, Charles Brown, Weston Richburg, and Brandon Mosley make the team).

Jul 072014
 
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Larry Donnell, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to camp in less than a month, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Tight Ends

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: During the 2013 offseason, the New York Giants decided not to pay big bucks in order to retain Martellus Bennett who signed with the Chicago Bears. To replace Bennett, the Giants signed free agent Brandon Myers from the Oakland Raiders. The undersized, slow, and not overly athletic Myers was a significant step down as a blocker and receiver. He finished 2013 with 47 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns. The #2 tight end was again the hard-working, but physically unimpressive, Bear Pascoe, who had a grand total of 12 catches for 81 yards and no touchdowns. Much was expected of the physically-talented duo of Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell. Neither developed and long-time tight end coach Mike Pope was fired at the end of the season. Robinson, who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft, was only active for two games as a rookie. He missed virtually all of the 2013 season with a foot injury he suffered in the preseason. When he did return in Week 16, he immediately sprained his knee. In two seasons, Robinson has played in three games and he has no career receptions. 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 team’s Practice Squad. Donnell made the 53-man roster in 2013 and was active for all 16 games, starting one contest. He finished the season with only three catches for 31 yards.

Xavier Grimble, USC Trojans (November 3, 2012)

Xavier Grimble – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants had no interest in bringing back Brandon Myers (now with Tampa Bay) and Bear Pascoe (now with Atlanta). Robinson and Donnell return. Publicly, the Giants said they wanted to add a tight end in the draft but there were only so many tight ends who they liked and they regarded Weston Richburg a better value in the second round. In the offseason, the Giants added free agent journeymen Daniel Fells (who has spent time with six other teams but didn’t play in 2013) and Kellen Davis (two other teams; 50 catches in six seasons), as well as undrafted rookie free agent Xavier Grimble (USC).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Is there a legitimate starting-caliber tight end currently on this roster? If so, who is it? The pressure is on new tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride, Jr., who failed as a wide receivers coach in 2012-13 and whose last and only previous tight end coaching experience was with Georgetown University in 2006. Can he help do what Mike Pope was unable to do and that is get Robinson and Donnell to play better?

General Manager Jerry Reese hasn’t given up on the two youngsters. “We expect those two young guys (Robinson and Donnell) to come on, and they can be dynamic if we can get them going,” said Reese in June.

“I think we have a nice group there,” said new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo about the five tight ends currently on the roster. “We have big men in the room, I like the way they think about the game, I like the way they’re moving around on the field. When we get the pads on that’s when we’ll really know where we are.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Everyone. Anyone can become the starter and anyone can be cut.

Adrien Robinson, New York Giants (July 27, 2013)

Adrien Robinson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Kevin Gilbride, Jr. on Adrien Robinson:  “He’s working incredibly hard to learn. That’s something that, going in, just knowing him as a personality not as someone I’ve taught before, I didn’t know. He’s in there, he’s taking copious notes, he’s answering questions very well. What we need to do is we need to get him to be able to transition that onto the field. He’s made strides, there’s no doubt that he’s made strides but there needs to be a lot more. The more in detail we get with him, sometimes he loses some of the basics as far as the techniques are concerned and we’ve got to get some carry-over with it.”

PREDICTIONS:

Eric Kennedy – There isn’t anyone on this roster who currently will scare an opposing defense. But is there even another Jake Ballard type here?

Adrien Robinson has been a major disappointment, but some of that was outside of his control. A very green rookie on college team that rarely threw the football to the tight end, he was forced to miss OTAs his rookie season because of an NFL requirement prohibiting players from universities using trimesters from participating in those activities. Mike Pope said that really set him back. He flashed some last offseason before being sidelined for the entire season with injuries. But both Robinson and Donnell do have intriguing physical tools. They are both big, athletic, and can catch the football. If they have the necessary toughness and desire, and if they can be coached up with the proper technique (all big “ifs”), at the very least, they should become good blockers. Don’t discount Larry Donnell. He could really surprise.

Connor Hughes – Baring an injury, Adrien Robinson is set to have a big, big season in 2014. From what we’ve seen in the early goings from the Giants offense, the days of the tight end being a “safety valve” are far in the past. New coordinator Ben McAdoo wants to use them often and as a focal point of the offense, not an after thought. With that being said, Robinson’s skill set is one I believe perfectly suits what the team is attempting to accomplish. Robinson has size (6-4), speed and the athletic ability to stretch the field. Countless times throughout the Giants’ offseason conditioning program, the tight end flashed what he can do…he just needs to stay healthy. If he can’t? Larry Donnell will be waiting in the wings.

FINAL DEPTH CHART:

Eric KennedyAdrien Robinson (1), Larry Donnell (2), and Xavier Grimble (3), Kellen Davis (Cut), Daniel Fells (Cut)

Connor Hughes – Adrien Robinson (1), Larry Donnell (2), Kellen Davis (3), Xavier Grimble (PS), Daniel Fells (Cut)

Jul 052014
 
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Victor Cruz, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Can Victor Cruz excel in Ben McAdoo’s offense? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to camp in less than a month, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at this year’s wide receivers.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Wide Receivers

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: Well, it certainly wasn’t pretty. What was expected to be the team’s strength quickly turned into a great weakness. The quarterback wasn’t on the same page as the wide receivers, the receivers weren’t on the same page as the quarterback and when the two did mesh the offensive line didn’t Eli Manning enough time to get them the ball. There’s no other way to put it, the season was a complete disaster. Statistically, Victor Cruz (73-998-4), Hakeem Nicks (56-896-0) and Rueben Randle (41-611-6) never all clicked at the same time. One positive though, Jerrel Jernigan showed promise in the final two games of the season.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants added to the receiver meeting room quite a bit, both in free agency and the draft.

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (September 16, 2012)

Hakeem Nicks left via free agency after a disappointing 2013 – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Mario Manningham returns after two years in San Francisco and Trindon Holliday comes over from Denver. Odell Beckham Jr. was drafted in the first round out of LSU. A few names left via free agency, such as Hakeem Nicks (IND) and Louis Murphy (TB).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Every wide receiver that played in Kevin Gilbride’s offense last year has said the same thing about new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system this year: Less reads, quick passes. In the past, the Giants’ offense was predicated on stretching the field and going deep. Now, it appears as if those deep posts and streaks are quick slants and screens. It will be interesting to see how Gilbride’s wideouts fit into McAdoo’s offense. Cruz, Manningham and Beckham Jr. (in college) have all displayed the ability to make people miss with the ball in their hands; they may excel with McAdoo more than ever.

The use of Trindon Holliday offensively and the health of Mario Manningham will also be interesting. Throughout the offseason conditioning program, Holliday flashed again…and again…and again. He’s very dangerous in space, but has seldom been used on offense. Can McAdoo find a spot on offense? When healthy, Manningham is a dominant deep threat who can cause people to miss in space. But..is he healthy? The 28-year-0ld didn’t participate in OTAs or mini-camp.

ON THE BUBBLE: There’s the normal candidates who are fighting for a practice squad position (Corey Washington, Julian Talley, Preston Parker, Travis Harvey, Marcus Harris), but one name to keep an eye on as a potential cut is Mario Manningham. If the former second-round pick is finally healthy, he has a home with the Giants. If not? He could be cut in favor of another young target. The Giants have never been a team to give a roster spot to someone based on their name.

Odell Beckham (13) and Zack Bowman (31), New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Odell Beckham and Zack Bowman – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Sean Ryan on receiver Odell Beckham Jr.: “I think Beckham is a dynamic, dynamic player. I think he can be very good. We’ve got to, again, help him get rid of the mistakes that young guys make, help him to see the different things coverage-wise and disguise-wise that he’ll face in this league that maybe he didn’t get in college, but he’s got the ability to be a very explosive wide receiver.”

PREDICTIONS:
Connor Hughes – I’m very, very intrigued to see what players like Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr., Trindon Holliday, Jerrel Jernigan and Mario Manningham can do in Ben McAdoo’s new offense. Everything we’ve been told and seen throughout the offseason suggest a high-tempo, fast-paced, quick-pass offense that is predicated on getting the receiver the ball in space. We’ve seen Manningham have success in that role, Cruz too. Beckham Jr. did it all throughout college and Holliday as a returner. Gone are the long developing deep passes, I believe this offense fits these receivers perfectly. Then again, if Manning doesn’t have the time to get them the ball…none of it will matter.

Eric Kennedy – Like Connor, I see a group of wide receivers who run well after the catch. The key will be Eli’s ability to accurately hit them in stride in order for them to do damage after the reception. And while fewer reads reduces the mental strain on the quarterback and receivers, it also reduces the mental strain on the defense. Routes will be more predictable and there will be more pressure on receivers to physically beat opposing defensive backs to get open. The top three will undoubtedly be Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham, and Rueben Randle. With defenses focusing on Cruz early, I look for Beckham and Randle to make a lot of big plays. Randle, more than anyone, seems more at peace with the new system. My “wild card” is Holliday. The Texans and Broncos never really used him on offense (two career catches). My gut tells me Ben McAdoo becomes enthralled with his play-making ability in space and designs a handful of plays for him per game.

WHO MAKES THE CUT?:
Connor Hughes – Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Trindon Holliday, Jerrel Jernigan, Mario Manningham, Rueben Randle. (Marcus Harris ends up on practice squad).

Eric Kennedy – Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Trindon Holliday, Jerrel Jernigan, Marcus Harris.

Jul 022014
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (June 18,2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to camp in less than a month, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Our first article concentrated on the team’s quarterbacks. Now let’s take a look at the running backs and fullbacks.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Running Backs and Fullbacks

Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Brandon Jacobs – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: Just a year ago, the New York Giants appeared to be “set” at running back with a 1-2 punch of Andre Brown and David Wilson. But the injury-prone Brown broke his leg in the preseason, causing him to miss half the season. He started the final eight games and finished with 139 carries for 492 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. The Giants showed no interest in re-signing Brown in the offseason and he is now a Houston Texan. 2012 1st round draft pick David Wilson only played in five games before being placed on Injured Reserve with a career-threatening neck injury that required surgery in January. He started four games and finished 2013 with 146 yards on 44 carries (3.3 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He also fumbled the ball away twice. Da’Rel Scott made the team, was cut, then re-signed, and then placed on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury.  Scott played in five games with one start in 2013, finishing the season with 73 yards on 20 carries (3.7 yards per carry). The Giants chose not to bring him back. Michael Cox, the Giants 7th pick in the 2013 Draft, played in 14 games as a rookie with one start. But he only carried the football 22 times for 43 yards (2.0 yards per carry). With injuries to Brown, Wilson, and Scott, ex-Giant Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis were mid-season roster additions. But Jacobs arrived as damaged goods, started only one game, and was placed on Injured Reserve with a knee condition that forced his retirement in January. Hillis ended up playing in seven games with one start. He finished the season with 73 carries for 247 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.

At fullback, 2013 was a disaster for Henry Hynoski, who missed virtually all of the offseason work with a knee injury (MCL/chip fracture) suffered in an OTA, then fracturing his shoulder and being placed on Injured Reserve in September. John Conner was signed off of the street to replace Hynoski and he performed well as a physical lead blocker in 13 games with seven starts.

Overall, the New York Giants finished 29th in rushing, averaging a paltry 83.2 yards per game and 3.5 yards per rush.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants had no interest in bringing back Andre Brown and Da’Rel Scott, and Brandon Jacobs has retired. David Wilson, Michael Cox, Peyton Hillis, Henry Hynoski, and John Conner return. Kendall Gaskins, who spent time with the Bills and Titans as a rookie, was signed to the Practice Squad in December and returns in 2014. The Giants made a big push to sign ex-Jaguar and ex-Raider Rashad Jennings to a 4-year, $10 million contract. The team drafted the nation’s #1 rusher Andre Williams in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The two main story lines are the health status of David Wilson and the Hynoski-Conner competition at fullback. Wilson is scheduled to undergo another exam on his next the day camp starts – July 21st – to determine if he can be cleared for football contact. If cleared, the explosive Wilson needs to prove he can stay healthy, hold onto the football, protect the QB, and become an instinctive play-maker. Many fans and media types believe Hynoski is the front runner for the fullback spot, but John Conner may be the better blocker, receiver, and yes, runner. The other main question is who will be the #2 back off of the bench behind Rashad Jennings. Will it be Wilson, Peyton Hillis, or Andre Williams?

ON THE BUBBLE: It would appear that Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams are locks to make the team. If he is cleared for contact, and barring a complete lack of development, the former #1 pick David Wilson is likely to make the squad. Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox, and Kendall Gaskins are fighting for one, possibly two roster spots. Don’t automatically write any of these guys off. Even Gaskins has caught the attention of the coaches.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Craig Johnson on Andre Williams:  “A big fit (for our scheme). He’s a big, strong physical runner. He led the nation in rushing last year in college football. He is strong, he’s a very explosive runner. I hear that from the defense, they say, ‘Man, that guy has really got it going.’ I’m really excited to see what he’s all about and you can tell, he runs hard.”

Johnson on David Wilson: “He’s got tremendous talent. It’s obvious to see that that. Good hands. I can’t wait to watch him get out there when he gets cleared to show what he can do.”

Johnson on Michael Cox and Kendall Gaskins: “Two guys you probably haven’t heard much about, Michael Cox, a second-year back that was a late draft choice last year, big, strong, physical, can make plays. I’m looking forward to seeing him and Kendall Gaskins, both of them, in pads. They’re young guys, they want to prove it. They’re hungry and they want to go after it. All the backs are pretty good size and pretty physical so I’m excited about the position.”

PREDICTIONS:

Peyton Hillis, New York Giants (December 1, 2013)

Peyton Hillis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eric Kennedy – Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis, and Andre Williams make this a very big and physical backfield. Considered somewhat of a journeyman running back, I firmly believe that Jennings will blossom in New York not only as a physical, no-nonsense north-south runner, but an incredibly reliable and consistent receiver out of the backfield. He is a natural receiver. I also think he will become a team leader. Some expect Peyton Hillis to be cut, but I see him becoming a John Kuhn-type receiver/runner/pass protector in Ben McAdoo’s scheme. I could see him becoming the third-down back due to his pass pro and receiving skills. I love Henry Hynoski, but I think John Conner is the better blocker, receiver, and runner.

Connor Hughes – I like Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings, too. I believe both are upgrades over Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs. With that being said, I truly believe the ‘X’ factor for the Giants in the backfield is David Wilson.

Wilson spent the offseason in the weight room packing on the muscle, is still lightning in the bottle and the only player at the position that has the ability to break off a touchdown on any carry. If he’s healthy, I see him as a player that can run for 1200-1400 yards annually. Last year, Wilson struggled, but as the season went it became more evident that that was more of a result of the team’s porous offensive line than the former first-round pick.

I love Wilson’s attitude, he never doesn’t have a smile on his face and is more motivated than ever to get back on the field. Once he does? Look out.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Running Backs – Rashad Jennings (1), David Wilson (2), Peyton Hillis (3), Andre Williams (4), Michael Cox (cut), Kendall Gaskins (cut)

Fullbacks – John Conner (1), Henry Hynoski (cut)

Jul 012014
 
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Ryan Nassib (9), Eli Manning (10), Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (May 29, 2014)

Can Ryan Nassib (No. 9/left) be Eli Manning (Right) backup in 2014? – Photo by Connor Hughes

With the New York Giants reporting to camp in less than a month, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. First, let’s kick things off with the quarterbacks.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Quarterbacks

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

Ryan Nassib and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: Yuck. Eli Manning suffered through arguably the worst season of his career leading experts to question if the once-elite Eli was on decline. Manning endured career-highs in sacks (39) and interceptions (27). His yards-per-game were the fewest since 2008 and completion percentage since 2007. Behind him, Ryan Nassib never played a down and Curtis Painter left very little to be desired, finishing 8-of-16 for 57 yards and two interceptions.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Not much has changed from a year ago. At one point, the Giants had Josh Freeman (MIN) and Rusty Smith (TEN), but both were cut during the offseason conditioning program. The team ended last year with Manning-Painter-Nassib on the depth chart and enter training camp with the same three names.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: There’s a ton. Can Manning return to form? Can Nassib be the No. 2? Is Painter a viable option if Nassib can’t? Also, how does new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s offense fit the skill set of each. Training camp and preaseason should answer quite a bit of questions surrounding the quarterbacks.

Curtis Painter, New York Giants (December 29, 2013)

Curtis Painter – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ON THE BUBBLE: Manning is the starter, obviously, but whomever wins the No. 2 quarterback position may signal the end of QB No. 3. The only foreseeable situation where the Giants keep all three would be that Nassib struggles mightily, the team isn’t willing to cut him yet, so it’s a near identical depth chart as last year. The more likely scenario? The Giants show faith in Nassib and cut Painter.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Danny Langsdorf on monitoring QB reps:  “It was hard to rep five guys for sure. Three is a good number. You’d like to be able to develop that fourth if you have enough spots. Without the extra spot, having three gets some pretty good work and you know what everybody gets. The starter and the backup get the majority of the snaps, but the third guy gets a few reps here and there.”

PREDICTIONS:
Connor Hughes – I think a new offense is exactly what Eli Manning needed at this point in his career. It wasn’t that Kevin Gilbride was a bad offensive coordinator or his offense terrible (They did win two Super Bowl’s during his tenure), he just needed a breath of fresh air. I think Eli could be in for a big 2014, he certainly showed flashes during OTAs/mini-camp of excelling in the new offense. As far as Nassib? I’m far less certain.

Eric Kennedy – A misleading narrative (some would say false bill of goods) is being told by some that all Eli Manning needed this offseason was a new offensive coordinator with some new- fangled scheme based on West Coast Offense principles. Ironically, 10 years ago fans were ready to dump Jim Fassel’s West Coast system in favor of Tom Coughlin’s vertical attack. What Eli really needs it better running backs, better receivers, better tight ends, and most importantly, better blockers than he had in 2013. He also needs to get his head out of his ass and stop making stupid decisions that a 10-year veteran of his caliber (two-time Super Bowl MVP) should not be making. There will be a learning curve with the new offensive system, including terminology that almost all of the offensive players has mentioned as being an issue. Combine that with three new offensive coaches, two coaches switching positions, and dramatic offensive personnel changes, it will be a shock if the Giants offense looks like a well-oiled machine in September and October. Expect growing pains and increasing calls for Eli’s head early. Eli was weened on a vertical passing attack. It will be interesting to see if he can develop the ability to be a much better short-range thrower, particularly to the running backs and tight ends.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Manning (1), Nassib (2), Painter (Cut/3)

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

Ryan Nassib and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN SCHEDULE:

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