Jun 222020
 
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Nate Ebner, New England Patriots (February 3, 2019)

Nate Ebner – © 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: Special Teams

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: For the second year in a row, the New York Giants special teams unit was arguably the strongest part of the team. The Giants were tied for 3rd in the NFL in punt returns (9.8 yards per return) and 10th in kickoff returns (23.5 yards per return). The Giants were 6th in the NFL in covering punts (5.67 yards per opponent return) and 1st in covering kickoffs (18.05 yards per opponent return). Cody Core (8 tackles) and Michael Thomas (7 tackles) were particularly active in covering punts and kicks. For the second year in a row, the Giants did not return a punt or kick for a touchdown and they did not allow a punt or kick to be returned against them for a touchdown. The Giants did block a punt for a touchdown.

The return game was by handled by committee. Golden Tate, T.J. Jones, Da’Mari Scott, and Jabrill Peppers returned punts while Cody Latimer, Corey Ballentine, Darius Slayton, and Da’Mari Scott returned kicks. Jones was cut during the season.

Punter Riley Dixon had a solid season, averaging 46.1 yards per punt (13th in the NFL) and 42.3 net yards per punt (9th in the NFL), with 29 of his punts being downed inside the 20-yard line. However, two of his punts were blocked.

After a stellar sophomore pro season in 2018, place kicker Aldrick Rosas regressed in 2019. Rosas was 12-of-17 (70.6 percent) on field goal attempts and missed four of his 39 extra point attempts (89.7 percent). Seventy percent of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. In 2018, Rosas made the Pro Bowl after making 32-of-33 field goal attempts, including a team-record 57 yarder.

The Giants placed long-time long snapper Zak DeOssie on Injured Reserve in late November 2019 with knee and wrist issues. He was replaced by Colin Holba for the last five games.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: It appears Zak DeOssie’s tenure with the Giants is over as he remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent. Colin Holba was cut in late April. The Giants signed long-snapper Casey Kreiter as an unrestricted free agent from the Denver Broncos in April.

Special teamers Cody Latimer (Washington Redskins), Michael Thomas (Houston Texans), and Antonio Hamilton (Kansas City Chiefs) signed elsewhere while the Giants added special teams ace Nate Ebner (New England Patriots). The Giants also drafted and signed a bunch of rookie linebackers and defensive backs who could significantly contribute on special teams.

Aldrick Rosas (1-year, $3.259 million), Cody Core (2-years, $4 million), and Corey Coleman (1-year, $1.1 million) were re-signed in the offseason.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: After John Harbaugh in Baltimore, Joe Judge became the second special teams coordinator in NFL history to make the jump directly to head coach. And almost all of Judge’s coaching experience is limited to special teams. Obviously, his heart and soul will likely remain with that part of the team and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact he has on the unit. Judge rewarded Thomas McGaughey for his solid work as special teams coordinator under Pat Shurmur by retaining him in the same position. Tom Quinn, who has been with the Giants since 2006, was also kept on as assistant special teams coach. McGaughey’s other assistant, Anthony Blevins, was moved to assistant defensive backs coach.

A major wrench was thrown into things when Aldrick Rosas, currently the only place kicker on the roster, was arrested in June for allegedly being involved in a hit-and-run accident and driving with a suspended license. Police also report Rosas was allegedly under the influence of alcohol at the time. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that Rosas was arrested in 2016 for also driving under the influence. At best, Rosas is likely facing suspension from the NFL. At worst, he could receive jail time and/or the team may simply decide to let him go. The Giants had just re-signed him to a 1-year, $3.259 million contract as a restricted free agent.

Once again, the Giants do not have a clear-cut favorite to return punts and kickoffs. Potential candidates include WR Golden Tate, WR Darius Slayton, WR Corey Coleman, WR Da’Mari Scott, WR Alex Bachman, RB Dion Lewis, RB Javon Leake, CB Darnay Holmes, CB Corey Ballentine, and S Jabrill Peppers. The Giants could also try WR Derrick Dillon as a returner.

In the punt and kick coverage department, the Giants gave Nate Ebner a 1-year, $2 million contract simply to play special teams. Cody Core’s stellar special teams play in 2019 was reminiscent of past Giants special teams studs Reyna Thompson, Larry Flowers, and David Tyree. It will be interesting to see if he can replicate and even improve on his gunner skills.

ON THE BUBBLE: Aldrick Rosas. What a dumbass!

PREDICTIONS: Don’t discount the impact special teams can have on the win-loss record. Thomas McGaughey has done a fine job with this unit the past two years, but Joe Judge was so impressive as a young special teams coordinator that he is now the head coach of one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. A stellar special teams unit can turn a 6-10 team into a 10-6 team with timely blocked punts/kicks, big returns, winning the field position war, and the kicking game.

Even though on the surface CB Deandre Baker’s legal charges are far more serious, I think Aldrick Rosas’ roster spot with the Giants is in more jeopardy. Even in the best-case scenario, I have a hard time seeing Rosas avoiding a 4-game suspension. The NFL’s policy on “substances of abuse” includes alcohol-related incidents. If that is the case, he won’t begin the season on the 53-man roster. Do the Giants use a roster spot on him in training camp? Rosas may just have kissed $3 million goodbye.

Trying to predict who will be the primary kick and punt returners in June from among the existing list of candidates is probably an exercise in futility. But I’m going to guess Corey Coleman is the kickoff returner and Golden Tate and Darnay Holmes will split the punt return duties.

Keep an eye on Cody Core. He deserved more attention than he received last year for his special teams play. Also, the Giants added seven rookie linebackers and six rookie defensive backs. Not all of them will make the team, but many of them could form the core of the specials units.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Barring some unforeseen event, Riley Dixon will be the punter and Casey Kreiter the long-snapper. I already predicted in my wide receiver overview that Corey Coleman will make the team; if so, he has a good shot to be the kickoff returner. Golden Tate and Darnay Holmes are the obvious candidates to return punts. It’s pretty obvious that Nate Ebner was signed by Judge to lead this entire unit.

I don’t think the team’s opening-day place kicker is on the roster. I think Rosas will be suspended and may not even be a New York Giant. It depends on whether the team wants to wait out the likely suspension.

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Kyler Fackrell, Green Bay Packers (August 8, 2019)

Kyler Fackrell – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN LONG SNAPPER CASEY KREITER…
The New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent long snapper Casey Kreiter (Denver Bronocs). Terms of the deal are not currently publicly known.

The 29-year old, 6’1”, 250-pound Kreiter was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Dallas Cowboys after the 2014 NFL Draft. After spending two camps with the Cowboys, Kreiter made the Denver Broncos in 2016. He made the Pro Bowl for his performance in 2018. In all, Kreiter, served as Denver’s long snapper in 58 regular-season games.

CONFERENCE CALL WITH LINEBACKER KYLER FACKRELL…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who the New York Giants signed on March 17th:

Q: What was it like for you to have a breakout year and then the Packers go out and sign two guys at your position?
A: It was obviously not ideal. I’ve said before that I definitely got better this year. I think I played better this year than I did the year before, despite not getting the numbers that I would have liked. If you look at percentages and pressures per rush, I think I had 200 less rushes but ended up with more pressures than the year I had 10.5 sacks. I think as far as the way I play and getting better as a player, I think I took a step forward this year.

Q: You are joining a pretty young pass rush, a couple of second- and third-year guys. What can you do as the veteran in the room to help them develop?
A: I’m excited to come into the situation that the Giants are in. I know there are a lot of great players there. Being the veteran in the room, I think there are some good habits and some good things like footwork and handwork. I’m sure they already do stuff like that but that’s definitely something that I think has made me better. I know that’s something I will definitely want to pass on to the guys in the room.

Q: Patrick Graham was your position coach in 2018 when you had a good season number wise. Have you discussed what type of role he has envisioned for you, is it going to be much different than it was in Green Bay?
A: I haven’t discussed specifics with Coach Graham too much. I know that he liked my versatility of being able to rush and drop. I’ll do whatever they ask me to do and whatever they view as best for the defense. I really look forward to what Coach Graham is going to do with the defense. I have a lot of trust in his ability, he is a really sharp dude. I haven’t talked specifically with him, but I will do whatever the defense asks of me.

Q: Is there one thing in particular that Coach Graham unlocked from you in your skillset that you didn’t have before?
A: Honestly, I think that the only thing I would say about Coach Graham is he is a great coach. The thing that I like most about him is just his passion and love for football. He’ll get up on the table and scream and yell if he needs to, but it all comes from a great place. It comes from him being grateful for the life he’s living and what he gets to do to provide for his family. That’s something that I always loved coming into work and working with Coach Graham. That was a big thing coming to the Giants, that he was here and the respect that I have for him.

Q: Do you know at this stage of your career what exactly you are? You had that one breakout year, you like a lot of the things you did last year even though you didn’t have the numbers. Do you have a handle on what you are and what you can be moving forward?
A: I have the utmost confidence in myself. I think that I am a very versatile 3-4 Sam outside linebacker. I love to rush, and I think I am good at it. I take a lot of pride in dropping and making plays in space as well. I think in the 3-4 defense that we played in Green Bay, and Patrick Graham runs a similar style defense, having a versatile outside linebacker is very valuable. I know that I didn’t produce the way I wanted to last year, but I think I have a great opportunity to do that this year and I’m looking forward to it.

Q:  How excited are you to play with Blake (Martinez)?
A: I’m thrilled. We came into Green Bay together and we were roommates all four years of training camp and during rookie minicamp. 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.

Q: How do you guys complement each other out there on the field skill-wise?
A: 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.

Q: You mentioned how the sack numbers last year weren’t what you wanted them to be. With so much focus on those numbers, did you worry that that was going to hurt you in free agency? Do you think it did, or do you think that enough people knew what kind of player you were, even without the numbers?
A: I don’t know. I think there’s both sides of it. I know that there’s a lot of analytics and stuff that’s done. I think as far as percentages and all that, I played really well last year. Obviously, just bottom line production is probably the biggest factor. I wasn’t happy with the production that I had. As far as hurting me in free agency, I’m not sure about that. All I can really say is that I’m glad. I think I’m in a great situation. I’m very happy to be coming to the Giants. I just really look forward to getting out there and getting into the building and getting to work.

Q: How do you approach this upcoming season with a one-year contract? We tend to talk about it as sort of a prove-it contract. How do you see that working, and how do you see working under that?
A: I think I view it kind of in a similar way. I believe that I’m better than a one-sack guy, so that’s really what I’m going to try to prove. Again, like I said, I got better this last year. I think I’m a better player last year than I was the year before, and I’ll be a better player this upcoming year just with continuing to work and trying to perfect my craft. I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily any more pressure this year than there was last year, kind of going into a contract year. Honestly, I think it’s just a great situation, a great opportunity for me to be with the Giants and I look forward to it.

Q: Everybody is being affected right now, their offseason work changing. I’m just curious what your regimen looks like now with everybody social distancing?
A: I’ve reached out to the Giants. I’ve been in contact with the head strength coach, and he’s given me some really good stuff to work on. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff just trying to stay in shape. Even from home, doing what I can while also trying to be safe with all of this.

Q: Does having the familiarity you have with Blake and obviously with Coach Graham, does that give you any kind of advantage going in learning this defense with the rest of your teammates?
A: Yeah, I’m not sure. I know it’s a similar defense. It’s not exactly the same. But yeah, I think definitely having been a 3-4 outside linebacker and played in kind of a similar system, even since college, I think that’s a big advantage, especially compared to some other guys that maybe played more of a 4-3 defensive end or haven’t played at standing outside linebacker before. I think that’s going to be really huge. It’s going to be nice for me to have that familiarity. Again, I think that was one of the big things with coming to the Giants and working with Coach Graham, was that familiarity and being able to hopefully be used in that versatile way.

Q: How will you measure this season? People always talk about sack numbers, those are kind of obvious. Are there other ways that you think your season could be measured?
A: Definitely just the way that I affect the quarterback, at least as far as rushing, how often I affect the quarterback. I think pressures are a big thing, and I think the league is kind of trending towards recognizing that. That maybe a guy gets 10 sacks but he has half the pressures of a guy that maybe gets eight sacks but he’s in the quarterback’s face and he’s affecting the quarterback, getting him off the spot a lot. As a rusher, I think you’re more valuable when you can do that more consistently. Obviously, I want the sacks, I want the pressures. Ideally, those things would kind of go hand in hand. But again, I think there are a lot of things that I definitely want to improve on. TFL’s, being a little bit more of a factor in the run game as well. I haven’t sat down and set specific goals yet for this upcoming season. I’m just going to continue to work, and I’ll be able to, in the way that I work and the way that I’m able to be consistent and affect the quarterback and make plays in the run game. Those will be some of the big factors that determine whether I feel like this year was a success.

CONFERENCE CALL WITH OFFENSIVE TACKLE CAM FLEMING…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with offensive tackle Cam Fleming, who the New York Giants signed on March 18th:

Q: Obviously you have a previous relationship with Jason Garrett and Marc Colombo. Can you talk about your bond with them and how much that drew you to the Giants?
A: I think it played a pretty big factor when I was deciding to come here. I think that when you see two people that you worked closely with for two years and they get another job and they want you to come with them, it says they have some kind of confidence about your play, your attitude and all that stuff.

Q: Did Coach Garrett, Coach Colombo and Coach Judge reach out to you before you signed?
A: I was able to talk to a couple coaches before I signed. Without me being able to take visits and stuff like that, I had to communicate with the coaches somehow.

Q: They Cowboys have had one of the best offensive lines in the league. Between what Coach Garrett has run on offense and what Coach Colombo has taught, what is it about what they teach offensive linemen that makes the offensive line so good?
A: It’s hard to say what exactly they teach that makes it so good. I think one of their best attributes is teaching that mentality. In those offenses, the offensive line is a little bit more revered. Some of the best players on the Dallas Cowboys are on the O-line. You feel a little bit more of the weight on your back as an offensive lineman. Hopefully we can bring that here and carry a whole bunch of weight for the Giants as well.

Q:  How important was it to stay in the NFC East where you know the pass rush personnel on the other teams?
A: Not at all. There really wasn’t a consideration of what division I would be in when I was choosing. I was worried about staying employed and being in this league another year. Wherever the opportunity came I was going to follow it.

Q: What can you tell us about Marc Colombo as an offensive line coach? What does he bring to the table and why do you like playing for him?
A: I really like playing for him because he really does love what he does. He comes in with so much energy, so much juice every single day, week after week throughout the whole season. I don’t think there is ever a lull in it for him. I really appreciate his passion and electricity every day. He’s just a damn good coach. He helped me a lot with my technique in Dallas and I look forward to continuing working with him.

Q: Have they told you what your role is going to be here on the Giants? I know you can play both sides, but did they define for you what you’re going to do or are you just going to come in and compete?
A:  Definitely just going to come in and compete. Wherever they need me, I’ll be there. I’ll be there and I’ll try to be my best.

Q: Do you think it’s possible to re-create the atmosphere and the philosophy of the offensive line within Dallas here with the Giants, or was that more personnel-driven because of the players you had there?
A: I don’t think that’s something that we’ll want to do, even if we could. We definitely want to form our own identity of the Giants and build a culture that brings success. But we don’t want to, for lack of a better term, copy what they’re doing in Dallas. There are definitely elements that you can pick out from every team in the league, but you definitely have to build your own identity as the Giants.

Q: Remembering back to your time in New England, obviously, Joe Judge was not your position coach, but you did interact with him I’m sure for several years. What do you remember about him? And back then as the Special Teams Coach and Coordinator, did you ever foresee at all that he would ever be a head coach in the NFL?
A: I was so young back then, I didn’t even really think about all that stuff. But I’m glad to see he’s with the Giants now. I’m glad to see he’s our head coach. I know him probably not as well as some of the special teamers in New England did, but we definitely interacted. He’s a really great dude, brings a lot of intensity. I’m excited to have him.

Q: You guys down in Dallas have some experience with a young quarterback in Dak Prescott as he was coming along. What lessons can you take from working with a young quarterback that maybe you can apply with Daniel Jones as he enters his second year?
A: Whether it’s a young quarterback or an old quarterback, you’re there to make his life easier when it comes to pass protection. The more comfortable he can feel in the pocket, the more he can do what he does. That’s what I plan on doing for him.