Sep 202020
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 20, 2020)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO BEARS 17 – NEW YORK GIANTS 13…
The New York Giants battled back from a 17-0 first-half deficit against the Chicago Bears and almost stole the game late, being stopped 10 yards short from the go-head touchdown. The Giants lost 17-13 to the Bears and fell to 0-2 on the season. Worse for the Giants, running back Saquon Barkley may have suffered a very serious injury to his right knee. The NFL Network is reporting that Barkley suffered an ACL tear, ending his season. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard was also forced from the game with a toe injury.

The Bears received the ball to start the game and immediately drove 82 yards in 12 plays to take a 7-0 early lead on quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s 28-yard touchdown pass to running back David Montgomery. Chicago converted on four 3rd-down attempts on the drive including on 3rd-and-7 on the touchdown. Matters got immediately worse for the Giants when quarterback Daniel Jones was sacked and stripped of the football on 3rd-and-6 on the ensuing drive, setting up the Bears at the Giants’ 20-yard line. Chicago could not pick up a first down but went up 10-0 on the 34-yard field goal.

The Giants went three-and-out on their second drive. After a Chicago punt, the Giants drove to the Bears’ 28-yard line, but on 3rd-and-8, Jones threw an interception to halt the scoring threat. It was on this drive, on the first play of the 2nd quarter, when Barkley was hurt.

Both teams exchanged punts and the Bears took a commanding 17-0 lead on their final possession of the half by driving 80 yards in 11 plays, with Trubisky throwing a 15-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-8. With 14 seconds left, the Giants did gain 36 yards on two plays to set up a last-second 57-yard field goal attempt, but the kick failed.  The Giants gained only seven first downs and no points in the first half.

The Giants received the ball to start the 3rd quarter, picked up one first down, but were then forced to punt again. However, two plays later, cornerback James Bradberry tipped a pass that was intercepted by safety Julian Love and returned to the Chicago 25-yard line. New York had to settle for a 39-yard field goal as the Giants could not pick up even one first down. Bears 17 – Giants 3.

The Bears moved the ball 33 yards on their second possession of the half, but were forced to punt, pinning New York at the 5-yard line. However, the Giants responded with an impressive 11-play, 95-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-goal by running back Dion Lewis early in the 4th quarter. Bears 17 – Giants 10.

The Giants got the ball back again with Bradberry picked off a deep sideline pass at the New York 34-yard line. The Giants were able to drive 47 yards in 10 plays to set up a 37-yard field goal to cut the score to 17-13. Fortunately for the Giants and Jones, a 54-yard pick-6 interception was erased by a defensive pass interference penalty on this possession.

With 7:43 left in the game, the Bears were able to drive 44 yards in 12 plays to take off 5:41 from the clock and set up a 50-yard field goal. However, the Bears missed the kick. Frustratingly for New York, Chicago was able to pick up a key 1st down on 4th-and-2 when a pass deflected by the Giants was caught for a 1st down by a Chicago offensive lineman.

Nevertheless, with 2:02 left in the game, New York had the ball at their own 40-yard line, down 17-13.  Jones threw a 22-yard pass to tight end Evan Engram on 3rd-and-10. Then on 4th-and-4, he connected with Lewis for six yards to keep the drive alive at the Chicago 26-yard line with just over half a minute to play. On 4th-and-1, Jones threw a 3-yard pass to wide receiver Darius Slayton. After Jones spiked the ball to stop the clock, New York was facing a 2nd-and-10 at the Chicago 14-yard line with eight seconds left in the game. Jones threw a 4-yard pass to Lewis. With four seconds left, Jones’ pass intended for wide receiver  Golden Tate fell incomplete as Tate was flagged with offensive pass interference. Game over.

Offensively, the Giants gained 295 yards (75 yards rushing, 220 yards passing). The team only held the football for 25:31. The Giants were 3-of-13 (23 percent) on 3rd down and 3-of-3 on 4th down. Jones completed 25-of-40 passes for 241 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He also was sacked four times and fumbled the ball away once. The leading receiver was Engram with six catches for 65 yards. Barkley was the leading rusher with 28 yards on four carries.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 304 yards (135 yards rushing, 169 yards passing), controlling the ball for 34:29. The Bears were 9-of-16 (56 percent) on 3rd down and 1-of-1 on 4th down. The defense picked off two passes (Love and Bradberry) and garnered four sacks (defensive lineman B.J. Hill and linebackers Blake Martinez, Lorenzo Carter, and Kyler Fackrell).

Video highlights are available on Giants.com.

PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
With teams now allowed to activate two players from the Practice Squad on game day, the Giants activated CB Ryan Lewis and S Sean Chandler.

Inactive for the game were RB Wayne Gallman, TE Eric Tomlinson, OT Jackson Barton, DE R.J. McIntosh, LB T.J. Brunson, LB Carter Coughlin (hamstring), and S Adrian Colbert (quad).

RB Saquon Barkley (right knee) and WR Sterling Shepard (toe) were injured and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Sep 142020
 
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Darius Slayton, New York Giants (September 14, 2020)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 26 – NEW YORK GIANTS 16…
Despite the game remaining close for three quarters, the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled away in the 4th quarter and soundly defeated the New York Giants on Monday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants begin the 2020 NFL season 0-1.

What killed the Giants was their inability to run the football combined with two very costly interceptions by quarterback Daniel Jones. The defense also crumbled at inopportune times, including after both turnovers and late in the first half. Running back Saquon Barkley was held to an abysmal six yards on 15 carries. Indeed, Jones was the team’s leading rusher with 22 yards as Giants’ running backs only combined for seven yards rushing.

The Giants received the football to start the game, picked up two first downs, but were then forced to punt. However, New York was handed a golden opportunity when Pittsburgh’s returner muffed the punt and the Giants recovered the loose ball at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line. But the Giants could not get the ball into the endzone after a 1-yard run and two incomplete passes as they settled for a 21-yard field goal.

After both teams exchanged three-and-outs, the Steelers tied the game at 3-3 when their 13-play, 59-yard second drive resulted in a 41-yard field goal. The Giants responded with an impressive 6-play, 75-yard possession that culminated in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Jones to wide receiver Darius Slayton. Early in the second quarter, the Giants led 10-3.

The Giants forced another three-and-out by the Steelers. With momentum clearly in New York’s favor, Jones threw his first bad interception on the first play of the subsequent drive. Linebacker T.J. Watt fooled Jones when he dropped into coverage and the Steelers had the ball at the New York 36-yard line. Six plays later, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a 10-yard touchdown. Pittsburgh missed the extra point and the Giants led 10-9.

After two punts by the Giants and one by the Steelers, Pittsburgh got the ball back at their own 22-yard line with 1:32 left before halftime. Unfortunately, the New York defense could not prevent the Steelers from easily marching 78 yards in eight plays to take a morale-sapping 16-10 lead into halftime. Roethlisberger threw a 13-yard touchdown pass with just seven seconds left on the clock.

Nevertheless, the Giants were still very much in the game. After the Steelers picked up one first down to start the third quarter, they were forced to punt. The Giants then began a marathon 19-play possession that started at their own 9-yard line. Despite no running game whatsoever, the Giants converted on 3rd-and-14, 3rd-and-1, 4th-and-1, 3rd-and-6, and 3rd-and-3 to keep the drive alive. Disaster struck when on 2nd-and-3 from the Pittsburgh 4-yard line, Jones scrambled to his left, was hit as he threw, and the pass was picked off in the end zone by a defensive lineman for a touchback. The 19-play, 87-yard, almost 9-minute possession resulted in no points. It was a devastating turn of events.

Predictably, the Steelers took advantage of the huge momentum switch as they drove 62 yards in nine plays to set up a 36-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Steelers now led 19-10 and the Giants were clearly in trouble.

The game was all-but-officially decided on the next two series. Despite starting their next possession at their own 40-yard line, the Giants went three-and-out. The Steelers then drove 75 yards in 11 plays to take a commanding 26-10 lead with 5:23 to play. New York drove for a garbage-time touchdown, ending with Slayton’s second touchdown catch on 3rd-and-goal from the 7-yard line with less than two minutes to play. The two-point conversion and subsequent onside kick failed. The Steelers then ran out the clock to preserve the win.

Offensively, the Giants were held to 291 total net yards (29 rushing, 262 passing). The team did convert 8-of-15 times on third down (53 percent) and 1-of-1 on 4th down. Jones completed 26-of-41 passes for 279 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was the leading rusher with 22 yards on four carries. The leading receivers were Slayton (6 catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns), Barkley (6 catches for 60 yards), and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (6 catches for 47 yards).

Defensively, the Giants allowed 349 total net yards (141 yards rushing, 208 yards passing). Pittsburgh scored on five of their 10 offensive possessions (three touchdowns and two field goals). The Giants did not force a turnover on defense. Defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence each had sacks.

Video highlights are available on Giants.com.

PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
With teams now allowed to activate two players from the Practice Squad on game day, the Giants activated OL Chad Slade and S Sean Chandler.

Inactive for the game were WR Golden Tate (hamstring), OG Shane Lemieux, OT Jackson Barton, DE R.J. McIntosh, LB T.J. Brunson, LB Cam Brown, and LB Tae Crowder (hamstring).

The Giants reported no injuries from the game.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge will address the media by conference call on Tuesday afternoon.

Sep 102020
 
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Markus Golden, New York Giants (August 2020)

Markus Golden – Courtesy of New York Giants

SEPTEMBER 10, 2020 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
LB Markus Golden (illness) was the only player to not practice on Thursday.

WR Golden Tate (hamstring), TE Levine Toilolo (hamstring), LB Tae Crowder (hamstring), and DB Adrian Colbert (illness) were limited.

THE COACHES SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and on YouTube:

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at YouTube:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The New York Giants practice on Friday (11:30AM-1:15PM). Head Coach Joe Judge and select players will also address the media.

Sep 082020
 
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Deandre Baker, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Deandre Baker – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS WAIVE DEANDRE BAKER…
The New York Giants have waived cornerback Deandre Baker, who has been on the Commissioner’s Exempt List since July 27th due to his legal troubles. At the team’s request, Baker had not participated in any team workouts this offseason. Baker was charged with four counts of robbery with a firearm from an incident that occurred in Florida in May. If convicted, Baker faces a minimum prison sentence of 10 years up to life.

The Giants drafted Baker in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Baker had an up-and-down rookie season for the Giants. He started 15 of the 16 games he played in, receiving 87 percent of defensive snaps, and finishing the year with 61 tackles and 8 pass defenses. He did not intercept a pass.

GIANTS VOTE FOR TEAM CAPTAINS…
New York Giants players voted six of their teammates to represent the squad in 2020:

Offense: QB Daniel Jones, RB Saquon Barkley

Defense: DL Dalvin Tomlinson, LB Blake Martinez

Special Teams: S Jabrill Peppers, S Nate Ebner

GIANTS SIGN TWO, CUT ONE FROM PRACTICE SQUAD…
The Giants have signed RB Rod Smith and CB Ryan Lewis to their Practice Squad, and terminated the Practice Squad contract of WR Derrick Dillon.

The 28-year old, 6’3”, 236-pound Smith was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Seattle Seahawks after the 2015 NFL Draft. He was released by Seattle in October 2015. The Cowboys claimed him off of waivers and he played with the Cowboys until the end of the 2018 season. The Giants signed Smith as an unrestricted free agent in May 2019 and waived him from Injured Reserve in September 2019. He then spent time with both the Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders in 2019. Smith has played in 55 regular-season games with two starts, rushing 101 times for 364 yards (3.6 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. He also has caught 30 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown.

The 26-year old, 6’0”, 195-pound Lewis was originally signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Cardinals (2017), New England Patriots (2017-2018), Buffalo Bills (2018), Indianapolis Colts (2019), Philadelphia Eagles (2019), Miami Dolphins (2019), and Washington Football Team (2020). Lewis has played in 20 NFL regular-season games with two starts, accruing 43 tackles, eight pass defenses, and one interception.

The Giants signed Dillon as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft.

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The New York Giants practice on Wednesday afternoon (12:30-2:30PM). Head Coach Joe Judge and select players will also address the media.

Aug 062020
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (August 6, 2020)

Daniel Jones – Courtesy of New York Giants

AUGUST 6, 2020 DANIEL JONES CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones addressed the media on Thursday (see video at Giants.com and YouTube):

Q: I guess the most important question I have to ask today is do you plan to opt out?

A: No, I do not plan to opt out.

Q: You did a bunch of workouts with teammates during the offseason. What did you get out of those and how valuable were they?

A: I think they were valuable for us. Obviously, this year we did all our meetings and installs virtually through Zoom, which I thought went well and we did a good job of learning and picking up through that. Getting on the field together helped and we kind of worked on some things we had discussed in meetings in trying to get guys ready for this camp and make sure we were ready to roll.

Q: When you look at this offense, are you saying to yourself that you have seen all this before, or how much do you have to learn?

A: I think we’re all trying to learn and there are obviously some similar concepts and similar ideas, but it’s a new system and we are all learning it and putting it together. That is kind of what we’re focused on. Comparing it to last year, I’m not sure how much that helps in learning it. We’re taking it day by day and install by install and trying to learn it as quickly as we can and as well as we can.

Q: In terms of 2020, what are the goals? What are you trying to accomplish?

A: Right now, I think my focus is on this camp and trying to make sure I am as prepared as possible mentally. We have talked about a new system and a new offense to learn and pick up. So I think my focus right now is what we’re doing day to day here and trying to make sure we take the right steps forward and improving every single day. For me personally, I am doing a good job of picking up the offense and understanding what the coaches expect. Obviously want to improve on a lot of things from last year personally and as a team. In order to get there and to get there the right way, I think we want to focus on what we’re doing day to day in this camp.

Q: You have your five main targets back this year (Tate, Shepard, Slayton, Saquon, Engram). How has that continuity been beneficial to this point?

A: Just spending time with guys, and like we talked about, getting together in the offseason a little bit. Knowing how guys are going to get in and out of breaks is obvious and something you would expect, but that continuity helps. Also, just having a relationship with guys and me knowing how they learn and how they communicate as we all try to learn this system and try to work through it and make sure we’re on the same page. I think that continuity definitely helps with that process.

Q: Seeing photos and videos of you, it has been talked about how different you look. What was your training like and what was it about this offseason?

A: I feel good. I feel like I’m as strong as I’ve been. I feel like I’m in good shape. I was in Charlotte for most of the offseason and training there. I wanted to get stronger and wanted to gain some weight for what that does for every part of my game, standing in the pocket, running when I need to, and obviously throwing the ball as efficiently as I can using my strength, my lower body. Each piece of that was part of the goal of the offseason in my training.

Q: What are you weighing right now?

A: 229, 228.

Q: Is that up from what, 220?

A: Yeah, I was at 220.

Q: It has to be different for you walking in without Eli Manning here and you being the starter. What is the biggest difference for you walking in as the starter? And how would you describe your collaboration and relationship with Jason Garrett and what are his qualities as an offensive coordinator and a coach?

A: The biggest thing is not being a rookie and having relationships with people in the building and my teammates. Obviously we have a new staff and I’m certainly learning and going through that process like I did last year. There is a certain level of comfort in it being my second year and it’s been good. With Coach Garrett, I have enjoyed learning from him so far. He is extremely detailed in his thinking and what he expects on the field, and I think that is probably what has stood out the most. I look forward to working with him and continuing to learn this system.

Q: You kind of laughed off that first question about opting out, but I’m curious if that is something you gave any thought to it and how do you approach teammates who are considering it or who have chosen that option?

A: It’s important to realize that everyone has different circumstances, whether it be family related or personally or whatever it may be. I certainly don’t have those situations. I live by myself and I’m healthy, but everyone has got to consider their own personal situation and I certainly respect that and expect people to do that and do what’s best for them and certainly don’t hold that against them. Obviously Nate (Solder) made a decision to opt out and he’s got an extremely tough circumstance and he’s got to do what’s best for his family. All the respect in the world, all the support in the world to him.

Q: Are you surprised at how many players around the league have decided to opt out?

A: I don’t know. I’m not really sure I had an expectation. Like I said, you’ve got to look at everyone individually and personally and you have no way of knowing exactly what’s going on and why they made that decision. That’s up to them, so like I said, I certainly respect it and support it for all the people who made that decision.

Q: You and Darius Slayton came into the league at the same time. How would you describe your relationship with him and what is it like throwing to one of the faster guys on the team?

A: I’ve certainly enjoyed playing with Darius and working with Darius. He’s a guy that comes to work everyday and knows what to do and knows what’s expected of him from the coaches and does his best to do that. Obviously he’s a talented guy. Like you said, he can really get out and run. He has a big frame, he’s a big target. I’ve really enjoyed working with him and I know he’s excited going into this year and has attacked this offseason and this new system the right way, so I’m excited to continue working with him.

Q: How difficult an adjustment has it been getting used to the new protocols, especially as you are trying to become a leader of this team?

A: It has definitely been different, but I think our organization, the Giants, the medical staff, the operation people have done an unbelievable job of setting up the facility here at the stadium and making sure it is clear what they expect from us, wearing a mask and socially distancing and doing all those things. It’s different, but it’s not hard and it’s not getting in the way of us doing our work. As long as we’re conscientious about it, I think we haven’t had any problems with the policies and the procedures.

Q: Has anything been a bigger adjustment than others?

A: Not really. Just being here, just being in the stadium is different, but like I said, our organization has done a great job of setting it up and we’re lucky to have this space and do as much as we can do over here with all the space we have.

Q: As you look to the start of the season, how difficult do you envision it will be to go into that first game in a new system without having played a preseason game?

A: When you look at it, a lot of other teams have that situation. Obviously no one is playing a preseason. We’re all operating under the same rules, the same outline as far as practice and into the season. All we can do is prepare as well as we can in the time we have and make sure we’re getting the most out of every single day and those practices leading up to the first game. I think that’s our approach as a team and we’ll make sure we do that and prepare as well as possible.

Q: As a second-year quarterback going into a new system, does that put you at a little bit of a disadvantage as opposed to some veterans in the same system?

A: I don’t think so. I think it’s on me to learn the system as quick as I can and as effectively as I can. Use the time we have, use the practices we have to do that and come in prepared and ready to go.

AUGUST 6, 2020 DALVIN TOMLINSON CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson addressed the media on Thursday (see video at Giants.com and YouTube):

Q: How ready can a defensive lineman be to play football with no offseason program?

A: We’ve been thinking about it with everything going on, but it’s something that you must mentally prepare for as well as try to as much as possible physically prepare for the practices for when we do get to practice with the pads on.

Q: What is your reaction to the number of optouts around the league and did you ever consider it?

A: I can’t react to them because I’ve been so locked into the playbook. I just have been trying to get the plays down with training camp going on and meetings. I’ve just been so locked in here just trying to improve and help everyone else improve. I really haven’t thought too much about opting out because I Just want to be with my teammates.

Q: Obviously this is a different offseason, a different training camp, how different does it feel to you?

A: It’s super different. Social distancing is the biggest thing to get used to, making sure you’re always six feet apart and things like that. It’s super different, different location, you’re used to being in the facility just right there with everyone and everything is super close. Things are a lot more spread out now.

Q: Obviously in the locker room you guys sit close to each other and there’s a lot of joking around. You guys really have to be conscious of that now?

A: Yeah, everyone is spread out and we’re yelling over to make sure everyone can hear you through the mask. You might lose your voice every now and again.

Q: We were just on with Blake (Martinez) and he talked about wanting to come in and be the quarterback of the defense, the guy everyone turns to when they need to know what’s going on. I know it’s really early in the process and you probably just met him in person. Have you seen him developing into that role for this defense?

A: Blake’s a great guy, a great teammate. I feel like as a linebacker, that’s what linebackers do. They coach the defense up and stuff like that. It’s super early and we have only been out here for a couple days now, I feel like our roles and things like that are going to develop a lot more in the coming weeks.

Q: What are the roadblocks that you see as you guys move through the season? Where might you guys slip up and have an outbreak that could end the season? How different is the defense you are running this year as opposed to last year? Coach Judge talks a lot about versatility? If you are going to be versatile, I’m assuming there are going to be some similarities to last year.

A: For the roadblock question, pretty much everyone just needs to follow the protocols and hopefully we can stay safe as possible, that’s the number one priority right now. The new defense, I’m just trying to pick up everything. I really haven’t been able to compare it to last year simply because it’s still pretty new for the most part. We’ve been able to walk through stuff and everything. Just trying to take it day by day and continue to improve on the things we are installing each day.

Q: What’s the biggest difference watching Dexter Lawrence now compared to where he was a year ago?

A: The biggest difference is you get used to the NFL, the meetings and things like that. I guess you get a little but more comfortable going into your second year. Everybody, as a rookie coming in, you are nervous because you are a rookie. Now he is a second-year player. He comes in with his work hat on every day ready to work. I love the energy he brings and just how excited he is to come to work and get better each day.

Q: You are going into your fourth year here. What are your expectations this year for yourself? How do you think this new defense is going to help you reach those?

A: I am super excited about the new defense. I want to be able to help in the run and pass game this year and just keep improving across the whole board. Help out and be disruptive in the middle as much as possible throughout the whole season.

Q: What do you like about the defense and how does it apply to you specifically?

A: I feel like I am super aggressive on the inside. The scheme is fun. It reminds me of the Alabama defense and the Alabama days and the techniques I used to use and stuff like that.

Q: You are not the oldest player on this team, but you are the longest tenured defensive player. What does that tell you about the business, about yourself, about the Giants? That you can be such a young guy and the elder statesman as far as time served with Giants on the defense?

A: Everybody knows it’s a business. You have to be able to understand that coming in. I just keep my head down and focus on getting better each and every day and keep working. That’s all you can do. I’m just blessed to be in the position I’m in and be in this chair talking to you guys. Come in each and every day and don’t take a day for granted.

Q: Do you ever look around and say where did all those guys go?

A: I guess you could say that sometimes. Not really, though, I have been so locked in on everything we are installing and stuff like that. Trying to get me and everyone around me better, just trying to improve everybody.

Q: You were here last time Coach Graham was here as the D-line coach. Are you seeing some carryover in what he taught when he was the defensive line coach versus what he is teaching now? How has he grown since he last here a defensive line coach?

A: He is a great guy who has grown a lot. You can just tell it’s a lot of pretty much the same techniques. I always catch him coming into the D-line room and talking to us all the time. We are his favorite group, I guess you could say, because he used to be a D-line coach. He’s always teaching us different techniques that remind me of the stuff he used to teach my rookie year. A lot of great stuff going on and we just keep improving on the techniques he’s teaching us.

Q: Does that make it easier for you transitioning to this new defense because there is some familiarity?

A: It does make it a little bit easier because the techniques are similar.

AUGUST 6, 2020 BLAKE MARTINEZ CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants linebacker Blake Martinez addressed the media on Thursday (see video at Giants.com and YouTube):

Q: Coach talked about using the spring to make sure there were no strangers once you guys finally do get on the field. How quickly have you come together in the last week or so? Do you feel like there is anything that’s missing from not having that spring?

A: Especially me being a new guy, I thought about the OTA’s portion, especially if you are a rookie or new a free agent, as that earning the respect portion. I think that’s a big miss. You can work out together and you get to see everybody’s work ethic, you get to see the guys doing extra. See the guys take control in certain tough situations, whether it’s conditioning, meetings, walk throughs and things like that. I think overall we did a great job as a team making sure we took advantage of what we were given. The zoom meetings, being able to add in video games at nighttime with guys, just chatting with guys after the meetings ended. Overall, walking in it was just having to see the guy’s face for the first time in person. Being like, oh sweet, that’s what you look like, it’s not just your face, I get your whole body now. That portion was different, but overall, it was cool to walk in and make it seem like we have been friends for the last six months.

Q: Being the guy who is going to be in the middle of the huddle making all the calls and checks. How do you simulate that? Without any preseason games, are there things you will do with your defense between now and September 14 to make sure you’re ready for when the lights go on?

A: For us, right now our big focus is everyone focusing on the fundamentals of doing what we need to do each day to grow as individuals. Overall, for me it’s just being able to allow those guys to understand that I’m going to be on top of everything from checks, making sure people are lined up in the right position, that I am that calming factor. For me, I take every single day to keep chipping at that. Whether it’s walk throughs, talking in meetings, guys start to recognize this guy knows what going on, this guy is going to allow me to not have any freak moments. If things are moving fast, he’s the guy that I can turn to and calm myself down.

Q: Who is the guy you look to, to calm you down if you start to get a little antsy?

A: That’s the reason I am here, to be that guy. For me, I pride myself on not being too flustered in any moments and being that rock for the defense. Especially obviously for me being the quote, unquote, quarterback on the defense. Being that guy that’s always calm, cool, and collected.

Q: From a player perspective, what roadblocks do you see that could potentially end the season?

A: I try to not look at the negative aspects. For me, I think Coach Judge has hit it on us and probably spoke to you guys about it. It’s just focusing on what we can control. Following every protocol that’s necessary. Doing everything, whether it’s showing up on time, doing our test every single day, walking in making sure we are wearing our masks, wearing the certain things to know we are distanced apart. Following certain protocols put on the ground, whatever is put in place in every aspect. Whether it’s on the field or in the meeting rooms. As long as everyone starts the day focusing on that and ends the day focusing on that, I think we are going to be in a good spot.

Q: You were in Arizona for the entirety of this pandemic and it got hit pretty hard by the virus. What has this stretch of months been like for you where you have been forced to stay at home and not be able to go play football like you would have wanted to? What do you make of all the guys that have been opting out?

A: For me, I was extremely blessed and lucky that my dad ended up building the facility that we had. I think I left that facility maybe four times. Once I realized Whole Foods delivered, I think I cut down to zero times. That was a blessing in disguise. Overall, my offseason was safe and controlled and I always made sure there wasn’t any more than maybe five people in there at a time with me at least. The opting out with everyone else, for me, everyone has their individual decision. I respect their decision, I’m not living their life, I’m living my own life. I made my own decision to obviously play.

Q: This last week here in camp, away from the facility, how have you structured your nights as opposed to training camps in the past?

A: Right now, we are here so late, and we have all the stuff. Our nutritionist Pratik (Patel) has been awesome, making sure we have all the meals. Before we leave, we have snack handed to us. Food wise, I’m good. Once I get home, I basically spend an hour doing a normal life out of football. Whether I’m watching a tv show with my wife or playing video games for thirty minutes or so. Just something where I can decompress. The other night my daughter woke up right as I got home, and I played with her for 30 minutes and it was awesome to see her.

Q: How much value do you think there is in the preseason? How much will you lose not having it this year?

A: Overall, an easy one is guys trying to make the team and having those live reps against another team and things like that. For me, I don’t know exactly what we are going to do to change it. Right now, we are still in phase one. Once it gets there, I’m projecting there will be some type of way to get a competitive aspect and get those reps that can match a preseason some way. I think that’s kind of the big thing for preseason. For me, looking at the preseason, like you said, this will be my fifth year in the league, and for me I should know how to tackle and do all these things. Overall, for practice it’s just working on those fundamentals. Whether it’s the fundamentals of the right feet, the right stance, the right approach to tackle and the perfect drops and things like that. Once you get on the football field, you know how to tackle and how to go play.

Q: In any other year of your career, you would have been in the same system, know the system cold and it just would have been dealing with this craziness. For someone like you who needs to know the whole defense and tell your defense everything, is this a special challenge for you? Whereas another guy who is going into a system who has been there three, four or five years, he can sit back and get ready at his own pace. You have to learn this all in a very unusual situation.

A: Definitely, that’s the challenge of this. Everything right now, challenges pop up every single day. The playbook aspect is just nailing down things and doing whatever is necessary. We have an hour break right now so instead spending the whole hour chatting, okay let’s spend 30 minutes watching film or going through certain installs and things like that. Talking to Pat (Graham) about certain checks and things, what he’s thinking. It’s just going to take that much more effort, just kind of chipping away like I said earlier to get where I need to be when the season gets going.

Q: How much easier is it for you, as the guy who going to make all the calls, that you played under Patrick Graham? You have that trust built in there. What is the dynamic like between you two? Does your past experience with Graham make this summer a little bit easier?

A: We have great relationship. We grew it my third year in Green Bay and it makes it a lot easier to walk into his office anytime. Any concerns I have, or certain questions I have, I can go straight to him and we chat just like anybody else. It’s made it a lot easier to get new updates on anything that he is changing throughout the day.

JOSIAH TAUAEFA COMES OFF OF RESERVE/COVID-19 LIST …
Linebacker Josiah Tauaefa was activated off of the Reserve/COVID-19 List on Wednesday, a day after he was placed on it. Players who are placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List either test positive for the virus or have come into contact with someone who did. The Giants originally signed Tauaefa as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft. They then signed Tauaefa to the Practice Squad in September 2019 and the 53-man roster in October 2019. He played in 12 games with no starts as almost all of his playing time came on special teams.

The Giants currently have no other player on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.

Jun 082020
 
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Blake Martinez, Green Bay Packers (December 29, 2019)

Blake Martinez – © USA TODAY Sports

With New York Giants training camp hopefully beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Keep in mind that some of the players discussed may be cut as the 2020 NFL draft class signs their rookie contracts.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Linebackers

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: If we go back in time one year, many believed that while the defensive line and secondary would improve, it was the linebacking unit that still seemed very much unsettled. After all, the 3-4 defense relies on the linebackers to be the play-makers. The Giants had traded away their best pass rusher, Olivier Vernon. Markus Golden was signed in free agency, but he had yet to return to his pre-injury form from 2016 (12.5 sacks). There was a desperate hope and need for second-year player Lorenzo Carter to beat out disappointing free agent Kareem Martin, relegating the latter to reserve duty. The Giants had also drafted Oshane Ximines in the 3rd round.

Inside linebacker was also a bit confused. The Giants were hoping that Alec Ogletree would become more consistent. It wasn’t clear if B.J. Goodson or Tae Davis would start alongside him. Much wasn’t expected immediately of 5th rounder Ryan Connelly.

So what happened? Golden actually ended up being a good signing, starting all 16 games and accruing a career-high 72 tackles, and team-high 10 sacks. On the other hand, Carter disappointed. Despite starting 12 games, he finished the year with just 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Martin was placed on Injured Reserve in September 2019 with a knee injury that he suffered in the regular-season opener. He was activated back to the active roster in December and finished the year with only three tackles in five games, with no starts. Ximines had a mixed performance as a rookie, receiving significant playing time (45 percent of all defensive snaps). While he flashed at times as a pass rusher (4.5 sacks), he struggled against the run. The Giants also added some in-season pick-ups who saw limited playing time such Devante Downs, Chris Peace, and Tuzar Skipper.

Inside, it was worse. Goodson was traded to the Packers before the season started. Davis was cut during the season in October. Ogletree missed three games and his overall play noticeably declined. At times, he simply appeared to be going through the motions. The brief bright spot was rookie Connelly, but he tore his ACL in Week 4. The Giants signed David Mayo in September after he was cut by the 49ers and surprisingly ended up starting 13 games. He played just OK. Special teams player Nate Stupar was waived, re-signed, and waived again. Undrafted rookie free agent Josiah Tauaefa made the team but saw most of his action on special teams. Deone Bucannon was signed in October after he was cut by the Buccaneers, starting one game, but playing mostly in a reserve role.

Overall, except for Golden and a brief couple of games from Connelly, the linebacking corps once again was a disappointment in all phases: run defense, rushing the passer, and coverage. The Giants finished 20th in run defense. The team generated 36 sacks with 23.5 coming from the linebackers (10 of those from Golden alone). Coverage on opposing tight ends and running backs remained abysmal.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The revolving door at this position continues. The team’s best linebacker in 2019, Markus Golden, remains in limbo as an unsigned unrestricted free agent. Joe Judge says the team would like him back. Expensive David Gettleman mistakes Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin were let go in February. Deone Bucannon signed with the Falcons in May. The Steelers re-signed Skipper from the Giants’ Practice Squad in November.

Devante Downs and David Mayo were re-signed. The Giants signed free agents inside linebacker Blake Martinez ($31 million) and outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell ($4.6 million). An influx of rookies arrived in April, including Cam Brown (6th round), Carter Coughlin (7th round), T.J. Brunson (7th round), Tae Crowder (7th round), Dominique Ross (UDFA), Dana Levine (UDFA), and Oluwole Betiku (UDFA).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: There are a lot of bodies (17), but how many are good players? The team’s most productive pass rusher, Golden, remains unsigned. As of now, the Giants are relying on Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and a late draft pick/rookie free agent to supply the outside pass rush. While the first three players have flashed at times, that’s asking a lot. The belief by many is that new Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham will have to scheme the pass rush.

Inside, much depends on the performance of Blake Martinez and how well Ryan Connelly comes back from a serious knee injury. Opinions on Martinez vary wildly. And Connelly has to prove he hasn’t lost speed/agility. Mayo provides depth and insurance.

Did the Giants find gold with any of the late four draft picks or three undrafted rookie free agents?

ON THE BUBBLE: When you have 17 players at one position, a lot of people are on the bubble. Barring injury, one would think that Fackrell, Carter, and Ximines are safe outside and Martinez and Connelly will make it inside. Mayo has an experience advantage, but he faces competition from at least two rookies (Brunson and Crowder). Will the Giants re-sign Golden? All five rookie outside linebackers have intriguing characteristics, but they all can’t make it. Special teams play probably will be a significant factor.

PREDICTIONS: Stating the obvious, the Giants don’t have an edge rusher who scares the heck out of the opposition and demands potential double-team attention. Even if the team re-signs Golden, he’s more of a complimentary piece than headliner. Fackrell could surprise as he did have a double-digit sack season in 2018 under Patrick Graham. So much depends on whether or not new outside linebacker coach Bret Bielema can develop Carter and Ximines. (Incidentally, a nice addition for Carter was that he former college coach is now coaching the inside linebackers). The pass rush could be aided if the inside linebackers and safeties can improve their coverage against tight ends. The longer a QB has to hold the football, the more time the pass rushers will have to get to the QB. Barring an unlikely breakout season by someone, the Giants are not likely to be a strong pass rushing team in 2020.

On the other hand, contrary to many, I’m a bit more bullish on the inside guys as long as Ryan Connelly can fully recover from his ACL injury. Martinez and Connelly are two smart, heady, better-athletes-than-advertised players who could form a very respectable duo inside.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin, Blake Martinez, Ryan Connelly, David Mayo, T.J. Brunson

I’m throwing darts at a dartboard when it comes to predicting rookies at this point. For example, who knows if Brunson or Crowder will show more? The heart of any special teams unit are the reserve linebackers and defensive backs so a lot of these guys could make it. I would not be shocked to see one or even two of the undrafted rookie free agents really push for a roster spot. Don’t sleep on guys like Ross, Levine, and Betiku.

Apr 082020
 
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Blake Martinez, Green Bay Packers (December 15, 2019)

Blake Martinez – © USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have been an active player in free agency during the 2020 offseason. Through the beginning of April, the team has thus far signed 11 free agents. However, the Giants only made big investments on two of these players: cornerback James Bradberry (who was signed to a 3-year, $43.5 million contract) and Blake Martinez (who was signed to a 3-year, $30.75 million contract). Both were the first two free agents the team signed. Given that fact and the money doled out, it is obvious that these two were high-priority targets for the franchise. Let me emphasize that point again, Bradberry and Martinez were THE major “gets” for General Manager Dave Gettleman and new Head Coach Joe Judge in free agency this offseason.

While media and fan reaction to the signing of Bradberry was largely positive, many were underwhelmed by the acquisition of Martinez. “Overrated”, “he can’t cover”, “too many of his tackles were downfield”, and “the Packers and their fans don’t seem to be upset that he’s gone” were commonly heard refrains. Right or wrong, the widely-held perception is that Martinez is a smart, quarterback-of-the-defense type who lacks ideal physicality and overall athleticism for the position.

However, upon closer inspection, some of these claims don’t seem to hold up. Martinez was not a two-down linebacker for the Packers. He played in 98.46 percent of all defensive snaps in 2019, third most on the team. In 2018, he played in 98.59 percent of all defensive snaps. In 2017, he played in 93.06 percent of all defensive snaps. These are absurdly high numbers for an inside linebacker. It means that Martinez doesn’t miss games. But it also means he rarely comes off of the field. For three straight years, Martinez has been the linebacker the Green Bay Packers coaching staff kept on the field in third-down situations.

Martinez strongly believes he is an asset on the field in coverage. “There were probably two times last year… (in) man coverage somebody that I made my own mental mistakes on… my coach last year, he (said) ‘Oh yeah, you’re one of the best, if not the best, zone coverage linebackers I’ve ever been around’. Being able to see the field, see crossing routes, being able to communicate, do all those types of things… I can go and cover tight ends, I can go and cover running backs, I can play in zones, I can do all of the things that you need to do as an inside linebacker.”

The tackles argument doesn’t seem to hold up either. In the last three years, Martinez has averaged 148 tackles per season, with an average of 95 of those being solo tackles. Again, these are exceptionally high numbers. And they are consistent (144, 144, 155). The tackle totals are not an anomaly. For the sake of comparison, Alec Ogletree (the player Martinez is replacing) averaged 89 tackles per season the past three years, with 56 of them being solo. That’s a 40 percent difference in production. The Giants cut Ogletree in late February and signed Martinez two weeks later. That’s no coincidence. The team sees this as a major upgrade.

Martinez also seems to chaff a bit at the notion that he can’t make plays in the hole against the run. “I think that’s the one misconception of me, I guess the public view,” said Martinez. “The way we ran the defense, at least the last two years, is I’m kind of put into the clean-up crew guy. There’s a lot of situations where you see numerous other defenses where… you have A-B gap responsibility as an inside linebacker, you have one-gap responsibility. In our defense no matter what it was, since I was the only linebacker on the field, I was taught and told once again, to be the clean up crew guy. There wasn’t any gap responsibilities for me… I know there’s been things like you make tackles down the field, you make tackles here, you make tackles there. For the majority of the time there that’s what I was told to do. It’s just me I guess doing my job in that sense. Going into this defense, once I learn being whatever it ends up being how we play. I hope I am able to trigger it, solo gaps, do those type of things and make those type of impact plays.”

The Giants new defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham, coached Martinez in 2018 as Green Bay’s linebacker coach and run-game coordinator. That season, Martinez compiled 144 tackles and five sacks. And Martinez is thrilled to be back with Graham.

“We had that year together and we became super close, he was my inside linebacker coach,” said Martinez. “For me, what made me so excited to work with him this year and the following years is how smart he is. I think he is probably the smartest coach I’ve ever been around. The preparation he puts in every week, his intensity, just how much he cares about the game of football. It just allowed me to go in every Sunday or Monday or Thursday games fully prepared. I never felt like I didn’t know what play was going to happen next.”

Martinez is still a young, rising player. He turned 26 in January. Though a tad undersized (6’2”, 237 pounds), he can play the run. He has led the entire NFL in tackles since 2017. While we still don’t know how much 3-4 versus 4-3 defense the Giants will play, it is clear that Graham sees Martinez as a three-down player who will direct his unit on the field. The Giants also have the big bodies up front to help keep blockers from getting clean shots on Martinez. This includes Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Austin Johnson.

If and when the Giants employ a base 3-4, Martinez’s inside flankmate is likely to be Ryan Connelly, who was extremely impressive starting three games before tearing his ACL. In reserve and serving as insurance is David Mayo, who the Giants re-signed to a 3-year, $8.4 million contract.

Outside, before the draft, the chief candidates at linebacker are Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and Martinez’s teammate and roommate in Green Bay, Kyler Fackrell.

“I’m thrilled,” said Fackrell. “We came into Green Bay together and we were roommates all four years of training camp and during rookie mini-camp. We have a good relationship and he’s a great player. I was really excited to hear that he was going to the Giants as well… He does a great job. At inside linebacker, a big part of their job is kind of controlling everything and making calls and all that. He does a great job of that. He’s very versatile as well. He can do a lot of different things. Blitzing, there’s a lot of different things we can do, especially in those third down packages with the two of us and kind of trying to confuse quarterbacks.”

Martinez is also thrilled. “We were both excited we are going to be teammates again,” said Martinez. “He’s an amazing player and I think there is a lot of things that he hasn’t been able to show because of certain kind of depth chart things, certain roles he was placed into. Obviously, he had a 10-sack season two years ago. This last year he was a role player that stepped in and did a lot of great things. I think he is one of the best zone coverage linebackers in the NFL in my opinion. What he has been able to do for us and what he’s been asked to do, he’s done a phenomenal job and I know he is going to be a great asset to this team and show people a lot of great things this year.”

The challenge for Judge, Graham, Martinez, Fackrell, and company is turn around a defense that, outside of 2016, has been a bottom dweller for years. Martinez believes he knows what Graham’s defense will be like. And he knows he will be the quarterback of the unit.

“I think it’s just the aggressive nature. Everyone working together, everyone on the same page, everyone communicating. Everyone is going to know exactly where to be and what to do on every given call. There’s not going to be much, if any, mental errors at all. I know he stressed that a bunch. I don’t know if it is going to be simple but it will be understood by all 11 that are out there. Overall, there is going to be a lot of freedom for me to make checks, make calls and adjustments on a given play pre-snap to give guys chances to make plays. There is going to be a lot of communication across the board. I think it is going to be an awesome defense and I’m just waiting to finally be able to get to learn and see what he has for us.”

Mar 302020
 
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Blake Martinez, Green Bay Packers (December 29, 2019)

Blake Martinez – © USA TODAY Sports

CONFERENCE CALL WITH LINEBACKER BLAKE MARTINEZ…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with linebacker Blake Martinez, who the New York Giants signed on March 16th to a 3-year, $30.75 million contract:

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Patrick Graham? What can you tell us about what the defense will look like and what your role will be?
A: We had that year together and we became super close, he was my inside linebacker coach. For me, what made me so excited to work with him this year and the following years is how smart he is. I think he is probably the smartest coach I’ve ever been around. The preparation he puts in every week, his intensity, just how much he cares about the game of football. It just allowed me to go in every Sunday or Monday or Thursday games fully prepared. I never felt like I didn’t know what play was going to happen next. He put that much into it and that’s how it easy it was us to understand what he was communicating to us that made everything so much easier. Throughout the week he would basically emphasize on little things whether it was this team runs routes at 10 to 12 yards and break or this team runs at 14 yards. This team runs a lot of short routes, this team does a lot of crossing routes. This team runs outside zone, inside zone, toss, stretch whatever it ends up being. You knew that you can emphasize that throughout the week. We would do little drills whether it was in individual or on the side that would allow you to get those game-like reps and find advantages throughout the week that you could use on that given game. Once again, it made it that much easier to make plays and be successful in that given week.

Q: What’s going to be the biggest difference between Patrick Graham’s defense and what you just came away from in Mike Pettine’s defense?
A: I don’t know the exact answer to that just because we haven’t gotten to the X’s and O’s of Pat’s defense. Basically, when I was working with Pat I was working within Coach Pettine’s defense. Just from understanding Pat and what he is looking for and how he put forth certain things in Coach Pettine’s defense, I think it’s just the aggressive nature. Everyone working together, everyone on the same page, everyone communicating. Everyone is going to know exactly where to be and what to do on every given call. There’s not going to be much, if any, mental errors at all. I know he stressed that a bunch. I don’t know if it is going to be simple but it will be understood by all 11 that are out there. Overall, there is going to be a lot of freedom for me to make checks, make calls and adjustments on a given play pre-snap to give guys chances to make plays. There is going to be a lot of communication across the board. I think it is going to be an awesome defense and I’m just waiting to finally be able to get to learn and see what he has for us.

Q: Can you take us through the free agency process? I know this was the first time for you.
A: It was interesting. I think it was one of those things where you are waiting for Christmas to happen and it took forever it seemed like, to finally figure out where I was going to be, what team I  was going to be on and how it was going to be situated. When it first started on that Monday, I was kind of anxious waiting to hear from my agent what teams reached out officially. Going throughout the process it was a waiting game. I had a couple of other options too, but the Giants were the best option for me. Just the market, obviously Pat Graham and a great young team. It was a no brainer for me at a certain point throughout the free agency process that Monday. My agent laid my options on the table and I was like honestly let’s get this thing done with the Giants. That’s where I want to be, that’s where I think my best opportunity is to be successful and be successful as a team. So I went through that process and at night time it kind of got close to finalizing and then it was official once we figured out the small little logistic things.

Q: You mentioned you are joining a young team and a young defense. Did you view that as a positive? Last year, being so young, they didn’t perform up to the standards they had hoped right away. There is a lot of growing still to do.
A: That’s a positive to me. I think they have a group that is extremely talented smart guys, great players all across the board on offense and defense. It’s going to be cool to grow that group together. For me, going from last year or I guess two years ago when we were 6-9-1 to all of the sudden going 13-3. Seeing the little things you had to change and adapt to and incorporate within a given week, a given offseason, within a different training camp that just allowed the defense to mesh in a certain way that allowed us to be so successful last year. I think I can incorporate those things into this defense and this team and I think it will be an awesome thing that we are going to do throughout this next season.

Q: What was your reaction when you saw Kyler Fackrell was joining you in New York? What is he going to bring to the table for the Giants?
A: It was awesome. I texted him when I saw on Twitter. I reached out to him and we were both excited we are going to be teammates again. He’s an amazing player and I think there is a lot of things that he hasn’t been able to show because of certain kind of depth chart things, certain roles he was placed into. Obviously, he had a 10-sack season two years ago. This last year he was a role player that stepped in and did a lot of great things. I think he is one of the best zone coverage linebackers in the NFL in my opinion. What he has been able to do for us and what he’s been asked to do, he’s done a phenomenal job and I know he is going to be a great asset to this team and show people a lot of great things this year.

Q: Did you sign your contract in a weight room?
A: We started this project last year. We built a facility that has a living area, it has a weight room, turf field and it has a basketball court. Me and my dad made this project together. It was weirdly at a perfect time because we have to be quarantined. So I’m basically quarantined in a weight room. It’s been awesome for me. The picture was taken in the weight room part of the facility.

Q: So you are in Arizona for the time being then?
A: Yes.

Q: Were you surprised that the Packers didn’t want you back? Did you see any reason why you shouldn’t have returned there to continue what you started?
A: It was 50/50 of a surprise and not a surprise. I think the way they value the inside linebacker position especially in that defense, it wasn’t as valued as other places I guess in my opinion. Overall, it was one of the things where they offered me, and we were just in different wave lengths on where I valued myself and where they valued it. At the end of the day, it was one of the decisions that had to be made on both sides. It’s a business and right now I am extremely happy where I am and can’t wait to start playing for the Giants and finally get into the facility.

Q: I just want to back track to the facility. I know your dad is a contractor. Did you and your dad put it together?
A: Yea. The only thing I helped with was the foundation part because that was the only thing I could be here for. During the season was when he was building it this last year. It was pretty much done when I came back. All we had to do was put the weight room equipment in and turf field down. Right now, it is completely done. It’s been amazing to have.

Q: Did you have to pick up all the nails again?
A: Everyone knows that story. It’s been designated down to my little brother, he is the nail picking up guy. He gets the 10 bucks if he finishes it all.

Q: You mentioned that the Packers didn’t value inside linebacker the way other teams might. I assume you are thinking the Giants value that position. Do you think that the way they will play up front will help you make more impact plays than you have in previous years?
A: I think that’s the one misconception of me, I guess the public view. The way we ran the defense, at least the last two years, is I’m kind of put into the clean-up crew guy. There’s a lot of situations where you see numerous other defenses where its like okay you have A-B gap responsibility as an inside linebacker, you have one gap responsibility – not to get too much into football stuff but there’s two high, you have two gap responsibility on certain plays, as other people split safety. In our defense no matter what it was, since I was the only linebacker on the field, I was taught and told once again, to be the clean up crew guy. There wasn’t any gap responsibilities for me it was just kind of “hey play off Kenny (Clark), play off Za’Darius (Smith), play off Preston (Smith), play off Dean (Lowry)” play off these guys and basically make them right. They were able to do whatever they wanted to do and then I would go make the plays depending on that. I know there’s been things like you make tackles down the field, you make tackles here, you make tackles there. For the majority of the time there that’s what I was told to do. It’s just me I guess doing my job in that sense. Going into this defense, once I learn being whatever it ends up being how we play. I hope I am able to trigger it, solo gaps, do those type of things and make those type of impact plays.

Q: You hear so much now about the modern-day linebacker and more emphasis on coverage versus going up and making plays at the line of scrimmage. I’m just curious, when you view your game, where do you fit into that I guess profile or stereotype or whatever people think the modern-day linebacker needs to be?
A: In my opinion, I think I fit that completely. There were probably two times last year that I was called to, I guess, man coverage somebody that I made my own mental mistakes on. I think it was an eight-yard gain on an angle route against the Broncos, or nine or 10, whatever it ends up being. Basically, I just went too far outside, cut back inside. Then last year against the 49ers, where I played too heavy outside leverage, should have played inside leverage on (Raheem) Mostert, and he got a 20-yard burst route across the line of scrimmage. But for the most part, other than that, my coach last year, he basically was like ‘Oh yeah, you’re one of the best, if not the best, zone coverage linebackers I’ve ever been around’. Being able to see the field, see crossing routes, being able to communicate, do all those types of things. I think the tough part that obviously, same thing, where it’s been like ‘Oh yeah, Blake, coverage this thing, blah blah blah,’ whatever it ends up being, whatever critics or those types of things. It’s been certain situations where within those given calls or zone calls, because last year we played a lot of match coverage zone, so it looks like we’re in man coverage but technically we have inside help or outside help or being able to pass off and those types of things. There were small communication lapses and misunderstandings, where we were able to pass off, which totally understood from the public perception, you look at it and be like ‘Oh what the heck? Shouldn’t this guy be covering him? Or shouldn’t Blake be covering him?’ Those types of things. But overall, I think I am able to do whatever I’m asked to do. I can go and cover tight ends, I can go and cover running backs, I can play in zones, I can do all of the things that you need to do as an inside linebacker.

Q: Two quick questions. One is the facility, your gym, that’s connected to your home?
Martinez: Yeah. Basically, downstairs is a weight room and all that stuff. Then upstairs is the living area.

Q: Second question is a little bit more complex. This is an odd offseason with the Coronavirus. How different is the preparing for the season at this point? Have you gotten a playbook or how much can you work out? Have you talked to the coaches much?
A: Good question. Basically, I’ve talked to Joe Judge, the head coach. Obviously, you guys know that. We’ve kind of had short conversations, I got kind of an introduction from him, and I gave him an introduction about myself, little things like that. Excited, obviously, to be a Giant. I can’t wait to finally get over there. Then I talked to Pat Graham. Then I talked to my inside linebacker coach. I talked to different people within the facility at the Giants and things like that. They were able to send over an iPad, so I have an iPad that only has the games from last year. No playbook or anything yet, because I don’t think they’re allowed to send stuff over yet or whatever the rule is for that. Kind of in limbo right now, just kind of working out and those types of things and kind of waiting for the next steps within the virus protocol of what we’re allowed to do, whether it’s meetings with coaches and things like that, and just try to soak up as much information. I know once I’m able to get the playbook, it’ll kind of be my starting point of writing the notes down, doing the things necessary to make sure I know all the plays and checks and everything.

Q: What do you think it’s going to be like to have to do meetings and stuff and learn the playbook through teleconferences basically?
A: It’ll be interesting, but I think it’ll be something that I’ve kind of been used to, just within schooling and stuff. At Stanford, we did a lot of video stuff, conference things, so I kind of have an understanding of how I thrive learning through that. It’ll be weird not being able to obviously sit in the same room, get to know each other that way. But it’s one of the things that you just make the most of it. It’ll be interesting to work through, but I think the coaches right now are setting up a good kind of regiment on a way to allow us to thrive in that kind of environment.

Q: Given this new remote learning, do you think it’s going to be a disadvantage for people like you who are new to a system and new to a team? The second part to that question is do you think it will be an advantage to guys who are bright and sharp and can pick things up quickly?
A: Yeah, I think both of those things. I think it’ll be a decent disadvantage for me just not being able to… I think you grow a lot, whether it’s even just working out as a team, running as a team, maybe grow that comradery of ‘Ok, this guy next to me is working his butt off to get better,’ and it’s helping the team out. You can tell their work ethic. I think you grow that respect, just not even having to say anything, but by just working. I think that will be a big disadvantage just relationship-wise. Also yeah, same thing. It’ll be a big advantage to guys that are able to pick up things quickly, take good notes, understand what the coach is telling him without having to be able to take rests on those types of things. Overall, I think that’s the biggest disadvantage of this whole thing, is I think OTA reps and just that ability to walk through things as a group or whatever it ends up being, helps you out so much.

Q: I know the relationship with Pat Graham and obviously Kyler, but are you familiar, did you have any previous relationship, with any of the guys on the Giants, especially the defense?
A: No, actually I haven’t. The first one I kind of knew prior is Michael Thomas. We didn’t play together at Stanford, but we kind of knew each other from certain events and things that happened at Stanford. We did the NFLPA event one year together. So, it’ll be cool to kind of re-connect with him. Then Riley Dixon is part of my agency and we have the same agent, so we knew each other from small kinds of things that we’ve done with our agency. But overall, not too many familiar faces for me.

Q: I would imagine from your perspective then, you’re the guy in the middle of the defense, at some point, even if you guys are distancing away from the facility, you’re going to try to get guys together, whether it’s video conferencing or whatever, to kind of get to know some of these guys?
A: Oh yeah, 100 percent. I think just kind of using interesting ways to kind of have fun and interact without having to be with each other, whether it’s playing video games or like you said, chatting on a Zoom call or a Skype call, whatever it ends up being, just to kind of get to know each other and bond that way so when we do step in the facility for the first time, it’s not something that’s ‘Oh hey, I’m Blake’ or whatever it ends up being.

Mar 172020
 
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Blake Martinez, Green Bay Packers (December 29, 2019)

Blake Martinez – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS SIGN BLAKE MARTINEZ TO 3-YEAR, $30-MILLION DEAL…
Multiple press outlets are reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent inside linebacker Blake Martinez (Green Bay Packers) to a 3-year, $30 million contract that includes $19 million in guaranteed money.

The 26-year old, 6’2”, 237-pound Martinez was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Packers. In four seasons with Green Bay, Martinez has played in 61 regular-season games with 57 starts, accruing 512 tackles, 10 sacks, 17 pass defenses, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. In 2019, he was credited with 155 tackles, three sacks, two pass defenses, one interception, and one forced fumble.

Martinez lacks ideal size and range for the position, but he is a heady player who can make the defensive calls and gets in on lot of tackles. He is better against the run than the pass.

GIANTS SIGN LEVINE TOILOLO…
ESPN is reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent tight end Levine Toilolo (San Francisco 49ers). Terms of the contract are not currently publicly known.

The 28-year old, 6’8”, 268-pound Toilolo was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He spent five seasons with the Falcons before being cut in March 2018. Toilolo then spent 2018 with the Detroit Lions and 2019 with the 49ers. In seven NFL seasons, Toilolo has played in 108 regular-season games with 67 starts, catching 97 passes for 996 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught just two passes for 10 yards during the 2019 regular season. Toilolo is a huge tight end known for his blocking.