Apr 152014
 April 15, 2014  Posted by  News and Notes
LaRon Byrd, Arizona Cardinals (May 14, 2013)

LaRon Byrd – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Kevin Williams, Josh Freeman, and LaRon Byrd Visit Giants But No Deals Yet: Following up on earlier updates, unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Kevin Williams (Minnesota Vikings), unrestricted free agent quarterback Josh Freeman (Minnesota Vikings), and street free agent wide receiver LaRon Byrd (cut by Arizona Cardinals) all met with the New York Giants on Tuesday. But none of the three signed contracts with the Giants.

Williams, who spent two days with the Giants, told The Star Tribune that he had “nothing really to report.” He then said by text message, “Had a good visit and gonna see what happens!” That message obviously implies that Williams may still sign with the Giants.

The New York Daily News says Freeman did meet with the Giants but no deal was reached. The paper speculated a deal could still be possible or the Giants may be still evaluating the inconsistent quarterback.

The New York Daily News is reporting that Byrd left the area and will next meet with the Dallas Cowboys.

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Apr 152014
 April 15, 2014  Posted by  Articles, Roster Thoughts
Jerry Reese, New York Giants (February 22, 2014)

Jerry Reese at the NFL Combine – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NFL Draft Struggles Catching Up to Big Blue

Connor Hughes/Big Blue Interactive (Follow me on twitter: @92Hughes02)

On the outside, the frantic, fast-paced offseason that has descended upon East Rutherford has cleansed the pallet of most Giants’ fans. After two years of bargain buying, New York finally had the cap to spend, and spend they did.

Yet spending money this offseason wasn’t an option, rather a necessity. New York saw 21 unrestricted free agent contracts expire at the end of the season and two other players retire. Holes needed to be filled with the majority of these players not returning. With only seven draft picks, general manager Jerry Reese had his hand forced when it came to free agency.

But why? Where were the draftees that were meant to replace the wily veterans that had seen their skills diminish over the years? Where’s the replacement for Justin Tuck? David Baas? David Diehl?

New York’s spending-spree in the offseason is as a much a sign of draft dysfunction, as it is free agency-frenzy.

Since taking over as General Manager of the Giants in 2007, Jerry Reese has built two Super Bowl champions. Sure, he inherited some pieces from predecessor Ernie Accorsi (Eli Manning, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Plaxico Burress), but smart first-round picks and key free-agent acquisitions helped construct a team that defeated the all-mighty New England Patriots not once, but twice, on the biggest of stages.

Nevertheless, what happened in the middle of each championship is what’s alarming. Since finishing 12-4 in 2008, a season that ended in the first round of the playoffs, New York has never been better than 10-6. There was an 8-8 season, two 9-7’s and last year’s disappointing 7-9 campaign. The Giants have not made the playoff four of the last five seasons. Whenever an injury hit, there were few capable players ready to step up.

When the Giants lost Kenny Phillips, he was replaced by C.C. Brown. When Plaxico Burress shot himself, there was no other reliable deep threat. There has been a revolving door at middle linebacker ever since Antonio Pierce was let go. As the line of David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie aged and faded, their replacements were often found lacking and depth was a major issue.

Reese has hit singles, doubles, triples and home runs in the first round of drafts. During their present or past time in blue, Aaron Ross, Kenny Phillips, Hakeem Nicks, Jason Pierre-Paul and Prince Amukamara have all experienced success and played critical roles on the team. The jury is still out on David Wilson and Justin Pugh.

But what of rounds two through seven? What of the draft picks that are meant to build depth? Contribute on special teams? Be groomed to start? How have they fared?

Since 2007, the Giants have made 46 selections after the first round. Excluding the last two draft classes, for belief they are still developing, that number decreases to 34. Of those 34 players, six are still on the Giants present roster. More damning is that of the 12 players drafted in the second and third rounds from 2007-2011, only three remain with the team.

There is one certainty in all of professional sports. His name is Father Time. As players fade or retire, it is those mid-to-late picks who are expected to fill in, plug the holes and make the loss of departed players more manageable. There is no guarantee that you’ll nab a Pro-Bowler, but a contributor is expected.

Who are those six non-first rounders drafted between 2007-2011? Designated long-snapper Zak DeOssie, wide receiver Mario Manningham, offensive tackle William Beatty, wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan, offensive lineman James Brewer and linebacker Jacquian Williams. The 28 other players drafted in rounds 2-7 during that time period are no longer New York Giants.

When injuries struck the established starters, where were those 28 players to help lessen the blow? Where was Chris Snee’s understudy? David Baas’? Will Beatty’s? Justin Tuck’s?

The Giants’ special teams have been one of the leagues worst over the last few seasons, coming to a glaring low this past year. The Giants allowed three touchdowns and 13.6 yards per punt return while only averaging 7.2 yards per return themselves. You don’t draft players in the first round to play special teams. Those players are selected later in the draft. The ineptitude in this area has led to such struggles; Tom Quinn can only take so much of the blame.

So as the Giants watched 21 contracts expire and two other players retire, creating 23 holes that needed to be filled…why was there no one waiting in the wings? No one waiting for a chance?

Some arguments can be made: Rueben Randle is there for Hakeem Nicks, Johnathan Hankins for Linval Joseph. Maybe Damontre Moore becomes a factor at defensive end. But there’s not much in-house help on the horizon.

Steve DeOssie is the only player that remains from the 2007 class, Mario Manningham from the 2008 class, Will Beatty from the 2009 class, and Jason Pierre-Paul from the 2010 class. Four drafts – four players left. And James Brewer is holding on for dear life from the “successful” 2011 class that has four players remaining.

Injuries have ruined some once-promising careers. Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boss, Steve Smith, Terrell Thomas, and Kenny Phillips immediately come to mind. But mostly there has been simply poor drafting.

Reese is one of the best GM’s in the game, there is no denying that. When you hold up a hand with two gleaming Super Bowl rings on it, you earn that label. Reese knows exactly when to let go of a player (Jeremy Shockey, Steve Smith, Kenny Phillips) and is incredible and making sure not to over pay in free agency, although Baas can be considered an exception.

No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, but having only eight players remain from 39 selections from 2007-11 (20.5 percent) is one of the reasons the team had 23 holes to fill this offseason.

As the Giants prepare for the offseason conditioning program, there may be even more questions than new faces.

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Apr 152014
 April 15, 2014  Posted by  Corner Forum Highlights
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Apr 152014
 April 15, 2014  Posted by  Corner Forum Highlights
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Apr 152014
 April 15, 2014  Posted by  Corner Forum Highlights
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Apr 152014
 April 15, 2014  Posted by  News and Notes
Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride, New York Giants (September 8, 2013)

Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Kevin Gilbride Defends Eli Manning: Former New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who retired from the NFL in January, defended quarterback Eli Manning during an interview with ProFootballTalk on Tuesday. ESPN.com recently ran a story stating that the question of whether Eli is in decline “has not gone unasked” in the team’s front office.

“There’s been no deterioration of his arm strength, there’s been no lack of preparation and effort,” Gilbride said. “I think he’s going to be fine as soon as they solidify the offensive line. They certainly made a move to do that by bringing in three interior offensive linemen and as soon as they get somebody that’s going to be productive for them as an outside receiver. Victor Cruz is terrific, but they need somebody that when they go match up, bump-and-run (and) go win for them.”

Gilbride was also asked about Manning’s recent ankle surgery.

“If this (ankle injury) is just another minor procedure, which he’s had many before, he’s never been a guy that is dependent on his legs,” said Gilbride. “He’s never had to run to escape problems. He’s always solved the problems with his arm, his accuracy, his brain. None of that has changed.”

“I think that’s, to be honest with you, ludicrous,” Gilbride said of the notion that Manning is declining. “I think he’s going to be fine…He’s going to throw the ball to the right person and he’s going to throw it accurately.”

Matt Flynn Re-Signs With the Green Bay Packers: Unrestricted free agent quarterback Matt Flynn (Green Bay Packers) had been scheduled to visit with the New York Giants on Tuesday, but Flynn cancelled his visit and re-signed with the Packers on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, according to press accounts, unrestricted free agent quarterback Josh Freeman (Minnesota Vikings) was still expected to visit the Giants on Tuesday.

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Apr 152014
 April 15, 2014  Posted by  News and Notes

Kevin Williams, Minnesota Vikings (November 3, 2013)

Kevin Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants Meeting with DT Kevin Williams: According The Star Tribune, unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Kevin Williams met with the New York Giants on Monday. Williams will continue to meet with the Giants on Tuesday and could be close to reaching a deal. The 33-year old Williams was drafted in the 1st round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Vikings. He is a six-time Pro Bowler who is on the downside of his career.

According to The Star Tribune,  Williams had dinner with Giants Defensive Line Coach Robert Nunn and other Giants defensive coaches on Monday. He will reportedly meet with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and members of the Giants front office on Tuesday.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” Williams said. “I played 11 years in Minnesota. It didn’t work out there and this is my first visit with another team. I’m not sure how to feel. It’s all new to me.”

Williams was the Vikings’ first-round draft pick in 2003. A five-time All-Pro pick and six-time Pro Bowl selection, Williams has missed only five games, including just three because of injuries. He had 60 sacks, five interceptions and seven forced fumbles as a Viking.

“I knew eventually a team would reach out and show interest,” Williams said. “But I wasn’t worried about it. Either way, whether something works out [Tuesday] or doesn’t work out and I retire, I’m comfortable with that. I’m not a guy who’s worried about going home and leaving football behind. Football isn’t everything.”

“I had a good visit (Monday night with the Giants),” Williams said. “It’s different. That’s for sure. But I would like to keep playing, so we’ll see how it goes (on Tuesday).”

New York Giants Meeting with WR LaRon Byrd: According to The New York Daily News, the Giants will work out unrestricted free agent wide receiver LaRon Byrd on Tuesday. Byrd was waived by the Arizona Cardinals on April 4.

The 24-year old Byrd was originally signed by the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2012 NFL Draft. He made the team as a rookie but only played in four games, catching one pass for eight yards. He was waived/injured and later placed on Injured Reserve by the Cardinals in August 2013 with a concussion.

Byrd has excellent size (6’4”, 220 pounds) and is a good athlete, but he has been very inconsistent, including catching the football.

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Apr 152014
 April 15, 2014  Posted by  Corner Forum Highlights
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Apr 152014
 April 15, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Travis Swanon, Arkansas Razorbacks (November 17, 2012)

Travis Swanson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Guards and Centers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

DISCLCAIMER:  I broke the OL previews in to two categories, guards/centers and tackles.  This can be difficult to organize because a few of these guys have the skill set to play different positions.  But keep in mind that versatility is part of their grade and I am grading these guys where I think they would best fit for NYG.

Current G/C on NYG Roster:

Geoff Schwartz – 28 – Signed through 2017

Chris Snee – 32 – Signed through 2014

John Jerry – 28 – Signed through 2014

James Brewer – 27 – Signed through 2014

Brandon Mosley – 26 – Signed through 2015

Stephen Goodin – 26 – Signed through 2014

Eric Herman – 25 – Signed through 2015

JD Walton – 27 – Signed through 2015

Dallas Reynolds – 30 – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

Not so long ago, the inside of the NYG offensive line was a major strength that paved the way for a powerful, reliable unit.  While they lacked the superstars, their presence was often overlooked by many, even fans.  Last season’s struggle on offense was largely because of poor performance inside.  The signing of Schwartz and hopeful resurgence of Snee could lead to the needed confidence of the starting pair of guards.  However the issue resides behind them on the depth chart and between them at the starting center spot.  JD Walton has some impressive tape attached to his name and I think he could be the guy in the middle, but there needs to be a better secondary option should his injuries arise or his level of play doesn’t return.  When it comes to the depth, NYG has a bunch of guys with limited upside.  It would be a major gamble to go in to the season with this current group.  They have enough bodies for sure, but is the quality there?  I don’t think so.

Top 10 Grades:

1 – David Yankey – Stanford – 6’6/315: 79

2 – Travis Swanson – Arkansas: 6’5/312: 78

3 – Cyril Richardson – Baylor – 6’5/329: 77

4 – Trai Turner – LSU – 6’3/310: 77

5 – Xavier Su’a-Filo – UCLA – 6’4/307: 77

6 – Gabe Jackson – Mississippi State – 6’3/336: 76

7 – Conor Boffeli – Iowa – 6’4/298: 76

8 – Dakota Dozier – Furman – 6’4/313: 76

9 – Gabe Ikard – Oklahoma – 6’4/304: 75

10 – Weston Richburg – Colorado State – 6’3/298: 74

Day One Target:

David Yankey – Stanford

Before I discuss Yankey, just know that I don’t have any guards or centers with a first round grade.  I would only support a selection here after a trade down in to the late 20s.  But that aside, I do really like Yankey for the Giants offense.  His versatility is a plus, as he played tackle and guard at a really high level.  Yankey’s greatest trait is his straight and run blocking.  He is a well-put-together 315 pounds with a strong base and heavy hands.  He was heading towards a first round grade late in the year, but I noticed a deficiency in his pass blocking on closer examination.  He struggles to keep his balance and his feet will get stagnant.  Yankey may not be the day one starter that I initially thought he would be, but the high ceiling is certainly there.  If he can be had, one way or another via trade, at the end of round 1, it may be worth it down the road.

Runner Up: Cyril Richardson

Day Two Target:

Travis Swanson – Arkansas

I have a much higher grade on Swanson than most.  Although he graded out as a 2nd rounder, I think he could be there for the Giants 3rd pick.  He is a huge body inside that moves exceptionally well at the second level against linebackers.  I am most impressed by his ability to neutralize pass rushers up the middle though.  That was a major problem for NYG this past year and I’m not so sure it has been solved.  Swanson could make a move to guard, as he showed the movement ability necessary to do so at the Senior Bowl.  If NYG wants to get bigger up front, Swanson would be the ideal center to bring in.

Runner Up: Trai Turner – LSU

Day Three Target:

Conor Boffeli – Iowa

I recently finished up my scouting of Boffeli; he almost slipped under the radar.  I was really impressed with his ability to both anchor his position against bigger defensive linemen as well as move in space in a zone blocking scheme.  His performance against Minnesota’s Rashede Hageman left an impression on me.  He is a blue collar guy that I think would have fit in perfectly with the NYG offensive line a few years ago when it was considered one of the best in football.  He is undersized and may need some extra time before he can be thrown in to the mix.  That said, I would want a guy like him developing behind the starters more so than Brewer or Mosley.

Runner Up: Trey Hopkins – G – Texas (74)

Most Overrated:

Marcus Martin – C – USC (66)

I’ve seen it in a few different places that Martin is being considered the top center in this class.  I didn’t see much of him during the season, but I have seen 4 games of his in the past two months.  I don’t see a guy that can handle the NFL speed or power.  He gets stood up way too easily and his feet are very heavy.  Martin is not an impact run blocker, but merely a guy that just tries to get in the way.  It worked at USC, but I think he’ll struggle to succeed that way in the league.  Poor center play can be exploited really fast.  I have him graded as a day three guy, round 5 or 6.

Runner Up: Jon Hilapio – Florida (52)

NYG Approach:

As I stated earlier, I don’t see a round one value with any of these guys.  By no means does that mean I am down on this group though, as I see a lot of potential value throughout the draft here.  NYG needs to bring in another interior guy from what I can see.  I understand they are trying to develop Mosley, Brewer, and Herman but I would be fine with one of them getting the boot after training camp if a rookie comes in a shows more upside.  The center position would be a main focus here if the value presents itself, as there talent there is questionable at best.  If NYG wants to get back to a quality rushing attack as well as keep Manning upright for the back nine of his career, the situation inside needs to be addressed.  Waiting too long could end up being a major limiting factor for this team.

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Apr 142014
 April 14, 2014  Posted by  Corner Forum Highlights
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