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.