Feb 052021
 
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Riley Dixon and Graham Gano, New York Giants (October 11, 2020)

Riley Dixon and Graham Gano – © USA TODAY Sports

It is exceptionally rare for a special teams coach to become an NFL head coach. So when John Mara hired Joe Judge as the next head coach of the New York Giants, it shocked many in the media and fanbase. However, Judge quickly won over many with his fiery inaugural press conference and the composition of his coaching staff. That initial luster began to dim after an 0-5 start, culminating with a Dallas Cowboys come-from-behind victory.

Judge and the Giants began turning it around in mid-October. Their first victory came against Washington, and was followed by two very close, heart-breaking losses to the Eagles and Buccaneers in games where the Giants also held 4th-quarter leads. Then came the high-point of the season, a 4-game winning streak against Washington, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Seattle. The Giants were 5-7 and remarkably still very much alive for the division title. Judge began receiving praise from all quarters.

The emotional high of soundly defeating the Seahawks was immediately dampened by a 3-game losing streak against clearly better teams. At 5-10, the Giants needed to beat the Cowboys and pray that the Eagles would upset Washington. The Giants accomplished the former, but the Eagles laid down like dogs against Washington and the 6-10 Giants missed the playoffs.

Through all of this, the irony is that the New York Giants special teams did not improve under Judge. To be fair, the special teams unit under Thomas McGaughey had actually been the strength of the team in recent years. Judge smartly decided to retain McGaughey. The team was also left scrambling when 2018 Pro Bowl/All-Pro place kicker Aldrick Rosas was cut in July after a hit-and-run arrest. The Giants decided to sign 32-year old Graham Gano who had missed 2019 with a knee injury. Unexpectedly, Gano ended up having one of the greatest seasons in franchise history as a kicker.

Overall, the Giants special teams played decently during the first half of the season, and there was a feeling that Judge, McGaughey, and the special teams unit were improving and building to a stronger second half. The reverse occurred. Against the Bengals, the Giants allowed a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 29-yard punt return that almost cost them the game, and a fake punt conversion for a 1st down. Seattle blocked a Riley Dixon punt for a safety and Gano missed his first extra point of the season. Against Arizona, Dion Lewis fumbled away a kickoff return that set up a touchdown. Judge decided to run an odd fake field goal attempt against the Browns that failed miserably when the score was still 0-0. The Ravens hurt the Giants with both punt and kickoff returns.

Statistically, the Giants finished:

  • Field Goal Percentage: 3rd (up from 30th in 2019)
  • Kickoff Returns: 16th (down from 10th in 2019)
  • Punt Returns: 6th (down from 3rd in 2019)
  • Kickoff Coverage: 16th (down from 1st in 2019)
  • Punting: 26th (down from 23rd in 2019)
  • Punt Coverage: 21st (down from 6th in 2019)

As you can see, other than field goal percentage, the Giants were down in every other special teams category. The team was significantly worse in kickoff and punt coverage. The Giants never really replaced Cody Core, their extraordinary punt/kick coverage specialist who tore his Achilles’ tendon in training camp.

The star of the entire unit was clearly Gano. He only missed one field goal all season and was 5-of-6 from 50+ yards.

KICKERS

The Giants signed Graham Gano in August 2020. Gano had a superlative season for the Giants in 2020, converting on 31-of-32 field goal attempts (96.9 percent – second highest in team history) and 21-of-23 extra point attempts (91.3 percent). He was 5-of-6 from 50+ yards out (single-season franchise record), with a long of 55 yards. Gano converted on 30 consecutive field goals, which also was a franchise record. Thirty of his 73 kickoffs (41 percent) resulted in touchbacks. Gano spent most of his NFL career with the Washington Redskins (2009-2011) and Carolina Panthers (2012-2019). However, he missed the last four games of the 2018 season and all of the 2019 season with a knee injury. The Panthers released him in late July 2020. Gano made the Pro Bowl in 2017.

Punter Riley Dixon saw his gross (44.8 yards per punt) and net (38.8 net yards per punt) fall in 2020, with 28 of his punts being downed inside the 20-yard line and one blocked. The 6’5”, 226-pound Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He was named to the All-Rookie team. The Giants traded with the Broncos for Dixon in April 2018, giving the Broncos a conditional 7th-round draft pick.

Ryan Santoso spent 2020 on the Giants’ Practice Squad after the team signed him in early September. Santoso was originally signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Lions (2018-2019), Montreal Alouettes (2019, 2020), and Tennessee Titans (2019). Santoso has only played in three NFL games, solely as a kickoff specialist.

LONG SNAPPERS

The Giants signed long snapper Casey Kreiter as an unrestricted free agent from the Denver Broncos in April 2020. The 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.

The Giants signed long snapper Carson Tinker in early September 2020. He spent the year on the team’s Practice Squad. The 6’0”, 237-pound Tinker was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2013 NFL Draft. He played in 69 regular-season games for the Jaguars from 2013-2018. The Jaguars cut him in March 2019 and he did not play that year.

RETURNERS

The Giants did not return a punt or kickoff for a touchdown. The leading punt returner was Jabrill Peppers, who only returned 15 punts all season, but who averaged a very respectable 12.5 yards per return and came close to breaking a couple. His long return was 20 yards. On the flip side, some of his decision-making on when and when not to field a punt was questionable.

Dion Lewis did not impress on his 24 kickoff returns, fumbling three (two of which he lost). He averaged 22.4 yards per return with a long return of 48 yards. Corey Ballentine also returned nine kickoffs before he was cut.

LEADING SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS SNAP COUNT PERCENTAGE

  • S Nate Ebner: 74.27%
  • LB Cam Brown: 70.87%
  • FB Eli Penny: 59.47%
  • LB Devante Downs: 57.77%
  • LB David Mayo: 46.36%
  • S/CB Julian Love: 42.96%
  • CB Corey Ballentine: 34.47%
  • TE Levine Toilolo: 34.22%
  • DL Dexter Lawrence: 33.74%
  • LB Carter Coughlin: 33.50%

Nate Ebner had a quiet year despite playing 3/4ths off all special team snaps. The Giants signed him as an unrestricted free agent from the New England Patriots in March 2020 to a 1-year, $2 million contract strictly to be a special teams stud. The leading special teams tacklers were David Mayo (8), Eli Penny (7), Cam Brown (6), and Devante Downs (6).

Feb 032021
 
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James Bradberry, New York Giants (October 18, 2020)

James Bradberry – © USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants pass defense improved from 28th in 2019 to 17th in 2020. This 11 spot jump is quite the accomplishment given the year-long swirling personnel changes at linebacker and defensive back. The Giants were tied for 4th for the fewest passing touchdowns allowed with 22 and tied for 12th in yards per passing attempt with 6.2. New York was also 2nd in red zone scoring defense. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham and his defensive assistants deserve a lot of credit for getting both units to play at a respectable level despite significant personnel issues.

Tied in with the pass defense is the pass rush. Remarkably, despite no viable outside edge rushers, the Giants somehow finished tied for 12th in sacks with 40. Much of that had to be schemed, including blitzes from defensive backs. On the down side, the Giants only picked off 11 passes on the year, with only one player (CB James Bradberry) intercepting more than one pass.

Only three of the team’s five primary defensive back positions were set throughout the year. Free agent acquisition James Bradberry was arguably the team’s best player, locking down one corner spot. He did miss one game due to COVID-19. Rookie Darnay Holmes won the nickel slot position, but missed four games due to injury. Strong safety Jabrill Peppers missed one game due to injury, but was also a fixture in the defensive backfield, often being utilized as a hybrid linebacker.

The other two spots were revolving doors. At corner opposite of Bradberry, Corey Ballentine (Weeks 1-2), Isaac Yiadom (Weeks 3-4), Ryan Lewis (5-7), Yiadom again (Weeks 8-16), and Julian Love (Week 17) all started. At free safety, Love started the first two weeks, followed by Logan Ryan for the bulk of the season, until rookie Xavier McKinney started in the final weeks.

Graham and Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson were hampered by a number of early personnel hits. 2019 1st-round cornerback Deandre Baker was cut after his legal troubles in Florida surfaced. That was a major blow to the team as Baker was being penciled in to start opposite of Bradberry. 2018 3rd-round pick Sam Beal then surprisingly decided to sit out the season due to COVID-19. Rookie 2nd-round pick Xavier McKinney broke his foot before the season started and wasn’t available until almost December.

The primary play-makers were Bradberry, Peppers, and Ryan. Despite many teams not throwing in his direction, Bradberry led the team with interceptions (3) and pass defenses (18). He also forced two fumbles and recovered one. Peppers was third on the team in tackles (91) and second in pass defenses (11). He picked off one pass, forced one fumble, recovered one fumble, and led defensive backs with 2.5 sacks. Ryan was second on the team in tackles (94) and third in pass defenses (9). He picked off one pass, forced three fumbles, and recovered two. He also had one sack.

Bradberry was the stud of the group. Peppers improved as the year progressed with the coaching staff seemingly having a better feel for his strengths and weaknesses. He remained an inconsistent player however. Ryan quickly became a team leader and his tremendous versatility was desperately needed at safety and corner. That said, he missed plays against the run and pass at times.

It was an up and down year for the rookie Holmes. He did help to settle the secondary and his absence was noticed during the four games he missed due to injury. But his five penalties in coverage always seemed to come at the most inopportune times and he didn’t make many plays on the football (contrary to his collegiate reputation). The other corner spot was a a bit of a mess. Ballentine simply couldn’t handle the job and was eventually cut. Yiadom and Lewis were up-and-down, with Lewis missing most of the season due to injury. Love was a bit of an enigma. His playing time varied wildly on a game-to-game basis. He started the season at safety and finished at corner.

THE CORE GROUP

The Giants signed James Bradberry as an unrestricted free agent from the Carolina Panthers in March 2020. He had a major impact on the defense, arguably being the unit’s best player, and was voted to his first Pro Bowl. Bradberry started 15 games, missing one game due to COVID-19, and finished the year with 54 tackles, 18 pass defenses, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. He played in 94 percent of all defensive snaps. The 6’1”, 212-pound Bradberry was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Panthers. Bradberry is a big corner (6’1”, 212 pounds) with good speed and agility. He plays a physical game both against the run and pressing opposing corners off of the line. Outstanding in coverage, Bradberry can erase even top receivers.

The play of Jabrill Peppers improved markedly as the 2020 season progressed as he seemed to become more comfortable with the team’s new defensive schemes and the coaches learned better how to use him. At times, he was a real difference maker on the field. However, there was still some annoying inconsistency in his play, particularly in coverage. Peppers played in 15 games with 14 starts (84 percent of all defensive snaps), missing one game with an ankle injury. He finished the season with 91 tackles, 19 tackles for losses, 2.5 sacks, nine quarterback hits, 11 pass defenses, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Peppers also served as the team’s primary punt returner, returning 15 punts for 187 yards (12.5 yards per punt). Peppers was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He was traded to the Giants as part of the Odell Beckham deal in March 2019. He started 11 games for the Giants in 2019 before being placed on Injured Reserve with a transverse process fracture in his back. Peppers combines good size (5’11”, 215 pounds) and overall athleticism. Still a better athlete than football player, Peppers flashes signs of being an impact safety, but he must become a more consistent player, especially against the pass. He does his best work when moving forward and attacking the line of scrimmage.

The Giants signed Logan Ryan in late August 2020. He ended up being a very important, jack-of-all-trades defensive back who was used at both safety and corner. Ryan also quickly became a team leader and solid presence in the locker room. In all, Ryan played in all 16 games with 15 starts (96 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the season with 94 tackles, one sack, nine pass defenses, one interception, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. The 5’11”, 195-pound Ryan was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. He has spent time with the Patriots (2013-2016) and Titans (2017-2019), playing 109 regular-season games with 85 starts. Ryan has spent most of his career at corner, but now prefers to play safety. While Ryan has history of being an instinctive, play-maker, he also still misses too many tackles and can be exposed in coverage at times.

The Giants drafted Darnay Holmes in the 4th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Serving as the team’s primary slot corner, he played in 12 games, with five starts, missing four games due to injuries (neck and knee). Holmes finished the season with 30 tackles, 0.5 sacks, five pass defenses, one interception, and one fumble recovery. He played in 41 percent of all defensive snaps. Holmes lacks ideal height, but he is well-built with good speed and quickness. He is overly aggressive at times, as indicated by his five penalties in coverage. While Holmes had a solid rookie season in coverage, he needs to make more plays on the ball. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs, but did not do so in 2020.

THE UNFORTUNATE INJURY

The Giants placed Xavier McKinney on Injured Reserve in early September 2020 with a fractured left foot that required surgery. The team activated him off of IR in late November 2020. McKinney ended up playing in six games with four starts (19 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the season with 25 tackles, one tackle for a loss, one interception, and one pass defense. The Giants drafted McKinney in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The 6’0”, 201-pound McKinney is versatile performer, who is capable of playing multiple positions. He is a good athlete with fine instincts for the position, but he needs to become a more consistent tackler. Most of his rookie season was a wash due to his broken foot.

IN-AND-OUT OF THE STARTING LINE-UP

The Giants traded a 7th-round pick to the Denver Broncos for Isaac Yiadom in early September 2020. Yiadom eventually won the starting corner spot opposite of James Bradberry, playing in all 16 games with 10 starts (58 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the year with 46 tackles, 0.5 sacks, five pass defenses, and one forced fumble. The 6’1”, 190-pound Yiadom was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Broncos. In two years with Denver, Yiadom played in 29-regular season games with nine starts. Yiadom has good size and plays a physical game. However, after some decent performances, his play really deteriorated down the stretch, and he was benched for Julian Love in the regular-season finale. Yiadom also did not make many plays on the football.

Julian Love spent most of 2020 playing safety but was shifted to cornerback late in the year, starting two of the final three games at the position (one in the slot). He also saw his playing time dramatically fluctuate on a per-game basis. In all, Love played in all 16 games with six starts (66 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the year with 64 tackles, three pass defenses, and one interception. A collegiate corner, the Giants drafted Love in the 4th round of the 2019 NFL Draft and moved him to safety. He played in 15 games with five starts as a rookie. A bit of a cornerback/safety tweener, Love lacks ideal physicality for safety and ideal speed/quickness for cornerback. But he is a versatile performer who played well at the corner spot late in 2020. Love needs to improve his tackling and make more plays on the football.

The Giants placed Ryan Lewis on Injured Reserve in early November 2020 with a hamstring injury. Before that, he had played in five games for the Giants, starting three (25 percent of defensive snaps). Lewis finished the year with 13 tackles and one pass defense. 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). The Giants signed Lewis to the Practice Squad in early September 2020 and to the 53-man roster two weeks later. Lewis has played in 25 NFL regular-season games with nine starts. Lewis had a mixed performance in his three consecutive starts in October, playing well at times and struggling in one game.

The Giants placed Adrian Colbert on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury in early November 2020 and reactivated him to the 53-man roster in mid-December. He ended up playing in six games with two starts (10 percent of all defensive snaps) and finished the year with 13 tackles. The 6’2”, 205-pound Colbert was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Colbert has spent time with the 49ers (2017-2019), Seattle Seahawks (2019), Miami Dolphins (2019), and Kansas City Chiefs (2020). The Giants claimed Colbert off of waivers from the Chiefs in early September 2020. He has played in 33 regular-season games with 19 starts, accruing 74 tackles and eight pass defenses. Colbert has also played cornerback and is a good gunner on special teams. He had mixed reviews in his two starts in 2020.

The Giants drafted Corey Ballentine in the 6th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Ballentine played in 13 games with two starts, receiving 27 percent of all defensive snaps. He finished with 26 tackles and two pass defenses, often struggling in coverage. Ballentine won the starting corner spot opposite of James Bradberry to start the 2020 season, but was benched after just two games. He played in seven more games, returning 10 kickoffs, before the Giants waived him in November. He spent the rest of the season with the New York Jets.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND PRACTICE SQUAD

The Giants signed Nate Ebner as an unrestricted free agent from the New England Patriots in March 2020. Almost exclusively a special teams player, Ebner only saw limited snaps on defense in five games, finishing with eight tackles and one pass defense. The 6’0”, 215-pound Ebner was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Patriots. In eight seasons in New England, Ebner has played in 111 regular-season games with no starts.

The Giants signed Madre Harper off of the Practice Squad of the Las Vegas Raiders in late September 2020. He was placed on Injured Reserve in mid-December with a knee injury after playing in nine games with no starts. The Giants activated him to the 53-man roster in early January 2021, but he did not play in the season finale. Harper ended up playing in just three percent of all defensive snaps and was credited with five tackles and one fumble recovery. The 6’1”, 196-pound Harper was signed by the Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft.

Montre Hartage alternated between the Giants’ Practice Squad and the 53-man roster a number of times in 2020. He only played in two games (two percent of all defensive snaps) and was not credited with a single tackle or pass defense. Hartage originally signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Giants claimed Hartage off of waivers from the Dolphins in April 2020. Hartage has played in six NFL games.

The Giants signed Jarren Williams in early August 2020 after he was waived by the Arizona Cardinals. He spent most of the year on the Practice Squad, but did play in two games exclusively on special teams. The 5’10”, 187-pound Williams was signed by the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Giants signed Quincy Wilson to the Practice Squad in November 2020. The 6’2”, 193-pound Wilson was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He has spent time with Colts (2017-2019) and New York Jets (2020). Wilson has played in 32 regular-season games with 11 starts, accruing 59 tackles, 8 pass defenses, and 2 interceptions.

The Giants placed Brandon Williams on Injured Reserve in late September 2020 with a groin injury and reactivated him to the 53-man roster in early November. The team cut him a month later. In all, Williams played in six games, exclusively on special teams. Williams was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The Giants signed him in late August 2020.

The Giants originally signed Sean Chandler as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent all of 2018 and parts of 2019 on the team’s 53-man roster. He began 2020 on the team’s Practice Squad, but was activated for three games, playing almost exclusively on special teams. The Carolina Panthers signed him off of the Giants’ Practice Squad in October.

The Giants selected Chris Williamson in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent most of the season on the team’s Practice Squad until he was cut in December.

COVID-19 OPT-OUT

Sam Beal opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the COVID-19 issue. Beal has had a rough start to his pro career. The Giants selected Beal in the 3rd round of the Supplemental Draft in July 2018. He missed all of his rookie season when he was placed on Injured Reserve in July 2018 with a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Giants placed Beal on Injured Reserve again in September 2019 with hamstring and groin injuries, but added him to the 53-man roster in early November. Beal missed the last game with another shoulder issue. In all, Beal played in six games with three starts, receiving 26 percent of defensive snaps, and accruing 26 tackles and one pass defense. Beal combines good size (6’1”, 177 pounds) and overall athleticism. Stating the obvious, Beal needs to stay healthy. But he flashes the ability to be a solid coverman when he does play.

Nov 112020
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (August 8, 2019)

Will Hernandez and Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

WILL HERNANDEZ COMES OFF OF COVID LIST; COREY BALLENTINE WAIVED…
New York Giants left guard Will Hernandez was activated off of the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 List on Tuesday. He had missed two games after testing positive for the disease. To make room, the Giants waived cornerback Corey Ballentine.

The Giants selected Hernandez in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Until his positive COVID-19 test, Hernandez had started 39 consecutive games at left guard. The Giants drafted Ballentine in the 6th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The past two seasons, he has played in 22 games with four starts, including two starts this year.

NEW YORK GIANTS ASSISTANT COACHES ADDRESS THE MEDIA…
A video clip compilation of the media sessions with the following New York Giants assistant coaches on Tuesday is available at Giants.com:

  • Quarterback Coach Jerry Schuplinski
  • Running Backs Coach Burton Burns
  • Wide Receivers Coach Tyke Tolbert
  • Tight Ends Coach Freddie Kitchens
  • Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo
  • Defensive Line Coach Sean Spencer
  • Outside Linebackers Coach/Senior Assistant Bret Bielema
  • Inside Linebackers Coach Coach Kevin Sherrer
  • Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson

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 252020
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (August 25, 2020)

Daniel Jones – Courtesy of New York Giants

AUGUST 25, 2020 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP MEDIA PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media and team sources:

  • Giants started practice outside, moved inside due to lightning, and then returned outside again.
  • Quarterback Daniel Jones and offensive lineman Nick Gates ran laps for a fumbled exchange in the red zone.
  • Linebacker Lorenzo Carter also ran a lap after he and tight end Evan Engram jawed at each other and Carter threw Engram’s helmet.
  • Defensive lineman B.J. Hill intercepted a quarterback Daniel Jones pass at the line of scrimmage.
  • With Spencer Pulley out, Nick Gates was the starting center. Tyler Haycraft also saw reps at center.
  • Linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who had an active practice, batted down a pass from quarterback Colt McCoy.
  • Cornerback Darnay Holmes had excellent deep coverage on a long pass intended for wide receiver Derrick Dillon.
  • In the 2-minute drill, quarterback Daniel Jones threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Sterling Shepard in the corner of the end zone against cornerback James Bradberry.
  • In 2-minute drill, quarterback Cooper Rush threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Corey Coleman against cornerback Prince Smith.
  • Linebacker Markus Golden beat offensive tackle Cam Fleming for a “sack.”
  • Linebacker Blake Martinez broke up a quarterback Daniel Jones pass intended for tight end Evan Engram.
  • On 4th-and-long, wide receiver Sterling Shepard dropped a long sideline pass.
  • Tight end Kaden Smith and wide receiver Alex Bachman each had a couple of catches during the 2-minute drill.
  • Running back Dion Lewis picked up a 1st down on 4th-and-short.
  • Running back Dion Lewis and cornerbacks Corey Ballentine and Darnay Holmes returned kickoffs.
  • The Giants provided a 20-minute overview of today’s practice on YouTube.

INJURY REPORT…
Fullback Eli Penny (unknown), center Spencer Pulley (unknown), linebacker Ryan Connelly (knee?), linebacker Devante Downs (unknown), and safety Nate Ebner (unknown) did not practice.

Safety Jabrill Peppers (unknown), linebacker Cam Brown (knee?), and tight end Rysen John (unknown) left the field early again today.

GIANTS EXPECTED TO SIGN BRANDON WILLIAMS…
According to media reports, the Giants are expected to sign unrestricted free agent cornerback Brandon Williams, who is currently going through the team’s COVID-19 protocol. The 27-year old, 6’0”, 200-pound Williams was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. In four seasons with the Cardinals, Williams played in 45 regular-season games with three starts, accruing 38 tackles and five pass defenses. He missed all of 2019 with a shoulder injury. Williams has mainly played on special teams.

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 on YouTube:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Giants practice on Wednesday afternoon (1:15-2:30 PM). Head Coach Joe Judge and several assistant coaches and players will also address the media.

Jun 152020
 
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Jabrill Peppers, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

Jabrill Peppers – © 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: Defensive Backs

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Heading into 2019, fans were generally upbeat about a secondary that was clearly in transition. The Giants had heavily invested in the position by drafting corners Deandre Baker (1st round), Julian Love (4th round), and Corey Ballentine (6th round) in the 2019 NFL Draft. At safety, the team had effectively swapped out Landon Collins (signed by Washington Redskins) and Curtis Riley (signed by Oakland Raiders) for Jabrill Peppers (part of Odell Beckham trade) and Antoine Bethea (signed after he was cut by the Arizona Cardinals). It was expected that Janoris Jenkins would rebound from a somewhat disappointing 2018 season and that Sam Beal (who missed his rookie season due to a shoulder injury) and Grant Haley (who started nine games as an undrafted rookie) would develop and improve. Michael Thomas provided depth and special teams value.

But it was a case of the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Once again, the Giants were one of the NFL’s worst in pass defense, finishing 28th. In the “you can’t make this shit up” category, the team’s best defensive back, Jenkins, was cut in December after calling a fan a “retard” on Twitter. Baker started 15-of-16 games as a rookie, but was very inconsistent with his work ethic being questioned. Nickel corner Haley regressed and was eventually benched. The injury-prone Beal was placed on IR in September with hamstring and groin injuries, added to the 53-man roster in early November, and missed the last game with another shoulder issue. Ballentine had to deal with being shot right after he was drafted and then being thrust into a nickel corner spot that he was clearly ill-suited to play.

At safety, despite being told by team officials that Bethea still had it, he clearly did not and was a significant liability at free safety both against the pass and the run. Peppers did not make much of impact and was lost for the season in November as his overall play was improving. Michael Thomas played in all 16 games with two starts but clearly wasn’t the answer. Julian Love was moved from cornerback to safety early. He ended up starting five games late in the season, flashing at times but also experiencing growing pains as a rookie.

Overall, the unit was a collective disappointment and a major reason the overall defense finished 25th in yards and 30th in points allowed.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: As mentioned, Janoris Jenkins was waived in December. S Michael Thomas was signed by the Texans and CB Antonio Hamilton was signed by the Chiefs. Safety Antoine Bethea remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent.

Grant Haley was re-signed as an exclusive rights free agent in January. The first player the Giants signed in free agency in March was CB James Bradberry (3-year, $43.5 million contract). S/special teams player Nate Ebner (UFA from Patriots) and CB Dravon Askew-Henry (cut by Steelers last year) were also signed.

The Giants drafted S Xavier McKinney (2nd round), CB Darnay Holmes (4th round), and CB/S Chris Williamson (7th round) in the 2020 NFL Draft. After the draft, rookie free agent additions included CB Christian Angulo, CB Malcolm Elmore, and S Jaquarius Landrews. S Montre Hartage was claimed off of waivers from the Dolphins after the draft as well.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: There is a lot going on here and thus each fan probably has their own top story line. Clearly, one is the offseason drama surrounding 2019 1st-round draft pick Deandre Baker, who may or may not make it to training camp depending on the outcome of his offseason legal troubles (four counts of armed robbery and four counts of armed aggravated assault with a firearm from a bizarre incident in Florida). My personal belief is that the Giants were counting on Baker to form a solid starting CB duo alongside high-priced James Bradberry. Will Baker even be a Giant in 2020? If he is, will he be suspended by the team or the NFL? Did he get scared straight and will he commit himself to the game? If Baker is not part of the equation, the pressure increases to find his replacement among Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, Darnay Holmes, and possibly Julian Love. Are they up to the task? Can Beal stay healthy? Is Love athletic enough to handle corner at the NFL level? Will Ballentine shine more at outside corner rather than inside at nickel?

Speaking of the nickel spot, one would think the Giants would want Holmes to nail down the position if the rookie can handle it. But there are others possibly in the equation, including Love and maybe Williamson.

At safety, it would appear that Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney will have the inside shot at starting, but the coaches may want to configure packages to get Love on the field as either a third safety or additional corner. Depth is still needed here with Sean Chandler (holdover from 2018/2019), Rashaan Gaulden (added late in 2019), Montre Hartage, Chris Williamson, and Jaquarius Landrews all competing to make the roster.

Big picture is this: for the past three seasons, the Giants have invested a tremendous amount of resources into the defensive backfield, including a trading for a former 1st-round pick (Peppers); spending $43 million on a corner in free agency (Bradberry); and drafting players in the 1st (Baker), 2nd (McKinney), 3rd (Beal),  4th (Love, Holmes), 6th (Ballentine), and 7th (Williamson) rounds. It’s time for the investment to deliver returns and for the Giants to get out of the NFL basement in pass defense.

ON THE BUBBLE: There are currently 18 defensive backs on the roster. Probably only nine or ten will make the final roster. The only sure bets are probably Bradberry, Holmes, Peppers, Love, and McKinney. Baker obviously isn’t safe. Beal has to prove he can be a reliable player.

PREDICTIONS: So much here depends on the new coaching staff, not just Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham but Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson, the latter coming from Atlanta where his unit struggled at times. It’s also interesting to note that Pat Shurmur holdover Anthony Blevins was moved from assistant special teams coach to assistant defensive backs coach. These three men have to develop all of the talent that been acquired in recent years.

In addition, so much depends on the legal and emotional status of Deandre Baker. He was (and still may be) and important piece of the puzzle. The expectation is that versatile Xavier McKinney, who many felt was the best safety in the draft, will be able to handle the starting free safety spot as a rookie.

My prediction is that if Baker is available and truly focused (two big ifs), this unit could be poised for a big turnaround. There were games last year where Baker did shut down his opponent. He can do it. But how important is the game to him? Usually you can’t count on a person to change their ways, but if anything was going to scare Baker straight, facing a long prison sentence might do the trick. Bradberry should be able to more than adequately handle the other corner spot, replacing Jenkins with less drama. The nickel corner should improve with Holmes, Love, or maybe Williamson an improvement over Haley and Ballentine.

At safety, the closer Peppers plays to the line of scrimmage, the more impact he makes. The drafting of McKinney should enable the coaching staff to play Peppers in a role best suited to his skills. I would not be shocked to see packages that get Peppers, McKinney, and Love all on the field together.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: James Bradberry, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, Darnay Holmes, Corey Ballentine, Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Nate Ebner, Chris Williamson

I’m making some bold assumptions here: Baker being a Giant, Beal staying healthy, and Ballentine and Williamson showing enough to stick. Ebner is strictly a core special teams player who Joe Judge obviously targeted in free agency to lead his unit.

Aug 272019
 
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Daniel Jones, Kyle Lauletta, and Eli Manning; New York Giants (July 25, 2019)

Daniel Jones, Kyle Lauletta, and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

AUGUST 27, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their twenty-first and last full-team summer training camp practice of this summer on Tuesday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Officially, the team’s summer training camp is over.

INJURY REPORT…
Running back Rod Smith (adductor), wide receiver Darius Slayton (hamstring), tight end Garrett Dickerson (quad), offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), and safety Kenny Ladler (hamstring) did not practice on Tuesday.

Cornerback Antonio Hamilton (groin), cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring), and offensive tackle Chad Wheeler (back) were limited to individual drills.

Wide receiver Alex Wesley (left ankle) had to be carted off of the field after injuring himself in a non-contact drill. “Ankle,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “His ankle has been a little sore. They’re checking it out.”

Left tackle Nate Solder was excused from practice for personal reasons.

MEDIA PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Today’s practice was more of a 3/4 speed preparation for Thursday’s game.
  • Chad Slade and Paul Adams both took reps as the first-team left tackle.
  • WR Alonzo Russell caught three long passes, including two from QB Daniel Jones and one from QB Alex Tanney.
  • In red-zone drills, QB Daniel Jones threw touchdown passes to WR Brittan Golden (twice), TE Jake Powell, and WR Alonzo Russell.
  • In red-zone drills, QB Alex Tanney threw a touchdown pass to TE C.J. Conrad.

HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR…
The transcript of Pat Shurmur’s press conference on Tuesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

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

  • CB Corey Ballentine (Video)
Aug 112019
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (July 25, 2019)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

AUGUST 11, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their twelfth full-team summer training camp practice on Sunday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The complete public training camp schedule is available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Running back Jon Hilliman (concussion), offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), offensive tackle Brian Mihalik (burner), linebacker Alec Ogletree (calf), cornerback Deandre Baker (knee), and cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring) did not practice on Sunday.

“Just in his individual warmup type stuff, something with (Baker’s) knee,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “We’re just checking it out (with) an MRI. I have no information on that right now. (It happened) just kind of in the warmup drills. He just felt something so he’s getting that checked out.”

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (thumb) and cornerback Grant Haley (shoulder) participated with non-contact jerseys. Wide receiver Darius Slayton (hamstring) saw some reps but was limited.

TRAINING CAMP OBSERVATIONS FROM SY’56…
Today was a “top 5” day of the year when it comes down to weather. Sunny and a very comfortable 80 degrees.

-There was a lot more action with the 1’s and 2’s today. Eli Manning and Daniel Jones took ALL of the meaningful snaps in both team and 7-on-7 drills. Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta stood by and watched.

-Manning and the first-team offense were VERY sharp. Timing was on, accuracy was on, and they were connecting on all three levels. Manning had a nice string of plays where he completed a deep ball to Saquon Barkley down the right sideline for a 60+ yard TD and two nice sideline connections with one being to Golden Tate who leapt high into the air and Evan Engram came down with a catch in traffic with Jabrill Peppers on top of him. Some were saying this was Manning’s best day of the summer so far.

-Jones took one of his rookie-year lumps today. He threw the ball into traffic multiple times and had a hard time adjusting off his initial read. He ended up throwing a pick and then another that luckily wasn’t intercepted. Also another play where the overall arm power doesn’t seem to be there. He was in a crowded pocket, trying to get the ball downfield. He was able to about half-step into the toss but the ball was probably 7-10 yards shy of where it needed to be. Again, his arm is strong enough. But I do think there are some limitations with his downfield passing, that’s all.

-I watched a lot of Kevin Zeitler today. Other than just looking like a fire hydrant in relation to his build and ability to anchor, he is as involved as any player on the team after each play. Constant communication with teammates and coaches. Very emotional and demonstrative (whether it be positive or negative). Getting the guys back to the huddle. He is the leader of this line, no doubt.

-Speaking of the line, Chad Slade was running with the first-team offensive line at RT. Not sure if there is a report on Remmers? Although I am pretty sure Remmers was out there between team sessions, as he and Golden Tate managed to trip over each other during the “install” period where they are moving at half speed. Curious to see if Slade is in the running out there.

-Got to speak with Jordan Ranaan today after practice. We share a similar (and I’m sure many of you agree) worry that the amount of touches Saquon Barkley is going to have to get in this offense if they are ever going to move the ball. Personally, I would like to see him split out wide more often like we saw today. He really does run routes like a WR and he is usually matched up against a LB, sometimes a S. I understand he still needs to get his touches, but I think the team may be better off throwing him the ball more, running him less. I am thinking 15-20 carries per week and 7-10 targets per week. I think it can preserve him a tad while also maintaining the upside he brings to the table as a playmaker.

-My favorite defensive front was out there with the ones. Lorenzo Carter-Dexter Lawrence-Dalvin Tomlinson-B.J. Hill-Markus Golden. The question will be pass rush, but when it comes to run defense and controlling the point-of-attack, that group has enormous upside. It’s going to be hard to move those guys.

-With Alec Ogletree out, Ryan Connelly was running with the first team defense next to Tae Davis. That is noteworthy because it confirms where he stands with the coaching staff and same with B.J. Goodson, who continues to play with the backups.

Tae Davis had a really hard time covering Barkley and Engram in coverage. I think that will be the case for any linebacker trying to move with those two, but Davis doesn’t seem to react as well as a former safety should. He can run, but that initial separation he allows is concerning. This guy needs to be the athlete of the group and it has to go further than just pursuing the football sideline-to-sideline.

Corey Ballentine was out there with the ones. I put a lot of attention on him, as I said a couple weeks ago there is simply something about him. And like I said before, I think he ends up being a big piece to the puzzle this year. Hoping it is not at the expense of a Deandre Baker injury. Anyway, Ballentine was visibly beat twice. Once by Cody Latimer for a touchdown on a fade-type route and on another one by Golden Tate, although not for TD. He was (literally) a half second too late and/or a couple inches short. He and the coaches knew it. They were half praising him and half-getting on him for not being more physical at the point-of-attack. Once this kid can make the subtle nuances to the position second nature, I think he is going to be a player.

Jabrill Peppers showed some blue-collar toughness today, and I loved it. This kid loves to practice and brings the heat every play. He came down hard on his left hand/wrist and was in obvious pain. He didn’t motion to the sideline, he didn’t come out. The very next play he was sent through line on a blitz that, in my opinion, would have resulted in a sack. He didn’t favor it at all. He ended up getting it taped between sessions and was right back out there soon after. He had a really nice pass break up intended for Engram later in practice.

Janoris Jenkins was solid in underneath coverage. Not an easy role but he stuck with Sterling Shepard well and had a nice pass break up. His tackling has been inconsistent in recent years but he is a really good player at a position that is hard to find OK players.

MEDIA PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Rookies LB Ryan Connelly and CB Corey Ballentine lined up with the first-team defense.
  • Chris Slade received some first-team reps at right tackle.
  • RB Saquon Barkley made an over-the-shoulder catch on a deep pass from QB Eli Manning against the blitz for a 60+ yard touchdown. Barkley was lined up wide on the play.
  • RB Wayne Gallman picked up a blitz on a play where QB Eli Manning fired a pass to TE Evan Engram, who made a sliding catch.
  • QB Eli Manning threw another touchdown to RB Saquon Barkley on a wheel route in the redzone. Barkley beat LB Tae Davis, who had decent coverage.
  • Giants’ linebackers and safeties had issues covering RB Saquon Barkley.
  • QB Eli Manning threw a touchdown pass to WR Cody Latimer in the left corner of the end zone against CB Corey Ballentine. At this point in practice, Eli was 11-of-12 with three touchdowns.
  • S Sean Chandler intercepted a pass from QB Daniel Jones in the back of the end zone intended for WR Da’Mari Scott, who was double-covered.
  • QB Eli Manning hit WR Cody Latimer on a long pass down the left sideline.
  • RB Rod Smith and QB Daniel Jones mishandled an exchange, leading to a fumble recovered by DL John Jenkins.
  • S Jabrill Peppers knocked away a pass from QB Eli Manning to TE Evan Engram on an out-route.
  • WR Alex Wesley made a juggling catch on a pass from QB Daniel Jones that S/CB Julian Love tried to break up.

HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR…
The transcript of Pat Shurmur’s press conference on Sunday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

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

Aug 082019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (August 8, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 31 – NEW YORK JETS 22…
The New York Giants soundly defeated the New York Jets 31-22 in the first preseason game of the year for both teams. The game was elongated by a 60-minute, first-half storm delay. But the three back-up quarterbacks on the Giants shined, cumulatively completing 28-of-36 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram were healthy scratches from the contest.

The game started off poorly for the Giants with the Jets’ first-team offense easily driving the length of the field, going 75 yards in seven plays for a touchdown (the extra point was missed). Safety Jabrill Peppers had a chance to stop the drive early but a potential interception sailed through his hands. The Giants’ offense followed that up with a disappointing three-and-out by the starting offense, led by quarterback Eli Manning.

The game began to turn after those first two series. The Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out against back-up quarterback Trevor Siemian of the Jets. On the Giants’ second offensive possession, quarterback Daniel Jones took over and impressively drove the Giants for a touchdown with pinpoint passing, going 5-of-5 for 67 yards. The drive culminated with a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bennie Fowler. Giants 7 – Jets 6.

The Giants’ defense then forced another three-and-out. But before Jones could come back on the field, the game was delayed 60 minutes due to the weather. When the teams finally returned to the field, both teams sat their starters and important reserves because of the delay. Jones was done for the night.

Alex Tanney took over at quarterback for the Giants and promptly led the team to its second scoring drive. Tanney threw a 14-yard completion to wide receiver T.J. Jones on 3rd-and-10. Two plays later, he connected with wide receiver Russell Shepard on a 51-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. Giants 14 – Jets 6.

The Jets responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-1 to cut the score to 14-12 (the extra point was missed again). After both teams exchanged punts, running back Paul Perkins fumbled the ball away at the Giants’ 16-yard line after a short completion. The Jets converted this turnover into a 34-yard field goal and a 15-14 lead.

With 1:41 left before halftime, Tanney led the Giants on an 8-play, 70-yard drive to set up a 23-yard field goal. At the half, the Giants led 17-15.

Much of the 3rd quarter was taken up by two Giants’ and one Jets’ drive that did not result in points. With about 4:30 left in the quarter, linebacker Jake Carlock batted a pass from ex-Giants’ quarterback Davis Webb, intercepted his own deflection, and returned the pick for a 59-yard touchdown. Giants 24 – Jets 15.

Cornerback Corey Ballentine made an excellent leaping interception on the next series. After an exchange of punts, quarterback Kyle Lauletta led the Giants on a 10-play, 86-yard drive in the 4th quarter that ended with a 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver T.J. Jones. Lauletta made two crucial 3rd-down completions on this drive before the touchdown on 3rd-and-7. Giants 31 – Jets 15.

The final Jets’ score came in garbage time, with the Jets driving 75 yards in 15 plays.

On offense, Manning finished 1-of-1 for 3 yards, Jones 5-of-5 for 67 yards and a touchdown, Tanney 14-of-19 for 190 yards and a touchdown, and Lauletta 9-of-12 for 116 yards and a touchdown. The leading receivers were T.J. Jones with 6 catches for 72 yards and Reggie White, Jr. with 4 catches for 60 yards. Giants’ running backs only rushed for 24 yards.

Defensively, the Giants picked off two passes. They also had two sacks but had issues rushing the passer.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
WR Sterling Shepard (thumb), WR Darius Slayton (hamstring), WR Brittan Golden (groin), WR Amba Etta-Tawo (hamstring), OT Chad Wheeler (back), OT Brian Mihalik (burner), OT George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), LB Avery Moss (hip flexor), CB Grant Haley (shoulder), CB Antonio Hamilton (groin), and CB Sam Beal (hamstring) did not play.

RB Jon Hilliman left the game with a concussion.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur will address the media by conference call on Friday. The players are off on Saturday and return to training camp practice on Sunday.

ARTICLES…

Jul 282019
 
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Pat Shurmur, New York Giants (July 25, 2019)

Pat Shurmur – © USA TODAY Sports

JULY 28, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their fourth full-team summer training camp practice on Sunday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The complete public training camp schedule is available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Wide receiver Darius Slayton (hamstring), wide receiver Brittan Golden (groin), wide receiver Alex Wesley (PUP List – unknown), offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), linebacker Mark McLaurin (broken foot), cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring/groin), and cornerback Henre’ Toliver (ankle) did not practice on Sunday.

“(Beal has) got a groin and a hamstring he’s just dealing with,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “It’s nothing serious. We anticipate he’ll be back soon. Maybe not today, but soon.”

“(Slayton has) made really good progress the last couple of days,” said Shurmur. “He’ll be back soon.”

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (thumb) was limited to individual drills in practice, not catching any passes. Safety Jabrill Peppers (“workload management”) was also limited.

PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • In 1-on-1 drills, LB Oshane Ximines blew past LT Nate Solder; LB Markus Golden beat RT Mike Remmers to the inside. But overall, the offensive line did well in these drills.
  • RB Saquon Barkley bounced a red-zone run to the left side and scored.
  • RB Rod Smith easily scored up the middle on a red-zone rushing attempt.
  • WR Bennie Fowler caught two red-zone touchdowns from QB Daniel Jones.
  • TE Rhett Ellison caught a 5-yard touchdown from QB Eli Manning.
  • QB Kyle Lauletta rolled to his right and threw a touchdown pass to TE C.J. Conrad.
  • With S Jabrill Peppers not in pads, the first-team safeties were Antoine Bethea and Michael Thomas.
  • TE C.J. Conrad out-fought S Tenny Adewusi for a deep sideline pass from QB Alex Tanney.
  • WR Alonzo Russell and WR Cody Latimer were active catching the football.
  • QB Kyle Lauletta found WR Reggie White in the left corner of the end zone against CB Corey Ballentine.
  • LB Oshane Ximines knocked down a QB Daniel Jones pass at the line of scrimmage.
  • QB Alex Tanney hit WR Reggie White for a long touchdown down the left sideline.
  • S Jabrill Peppers, WR Cody Latimer, and CB Corey Ballentine were returning kickoffs; Peppers and WR Golden Tate were returning punts.
  • QB Eli Manning was 8-of-10 while QB Daniel Jones was 5-of-12.

THE COACHES SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

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

Jul 092019
 
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Deandre Baker and Julian Love, New York Giants (June 5, 2019)

Deandre Baker and Julian Love – © USA TODAY Sports

With New York Giants training camp 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.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Defensive Backs

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: In just three seasons, the Giants went from having one of the best secondaries in the NFL in 2016 to one of the worst in 2018. Three Giants were named to the All-Pro team in 2016. In 2018, the Giants had arguably the worst starting free safety (Curtis Riley) and worst starting cornerback (B.W. Webb) in the League. For the second year in a row, overrated strong safety Landon Collins could not replicate his 2016 performance and finished the year on Injured Reserve. The best player in the secondary, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, gave up too many big plays. The Giants decided they had seen enough of top-10 draft pick Eli Apple and traded him in October to the Saints.

The rest of the unit was manned by players such as Grant Haley, Antonio Hamilton, Tony Lippett, Donte Deayon (waived in October), Michael Thomas, Sean Chandler, Kenny Ladler, and Kamrin Moore. Who? Most fans never heard of any of these guys before 2018. In a way, encumbered with one of the worst pass rush units in the NFL, it’s a minor miracle that the secondary was not more abused than it actually was. The Giants finished 23rd in pass defense.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants re-signed cornerbacks Tony Lippett and Antonio Hamilton in free agency as well as Practice Squad cornerback Ronald Zamort. Landon Collins signed a huge, 6-year, $84 million contract with the Washington Redskins. Curtis Riley signed with the Oakland Raiders and B.W. Webb signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Giants obtained safety Jabrill Peppers in a trade from the Cleveland Browns. They signed safety Antoine Bethea after he was cut by the Arizona Cardinals. Street free agent cornerback Henre’ Toliver was also signed.

The Giants selected cornerbacks Deandre Baker (1st round), Julian Love (4th round), and Corey Ballentine (6th round) in the 2019 NFL Draft. Rookie free agents safety Tenny Adewusi, safety Jacob Thieneman, linebacker/safety Jake Carlock, and linebacker/safety Mark McLaurin were all signed after the draft. Thieneman has since been waived due to an injury.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The Giants have almost completely revamped their secondary. Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea replace Landon Collins and Curtis Riley as the starting safeties. 2018 3rd-round Supplemental Draft pick Sam Beal, who missed his rookie season due to an injury, as well as three 2019 draft picks will have the inside track at making the roster at cornerback. Deandre Baker has already been moved into the starting line-up. Aside from Bethea, Jenkins, and reserve safety Michael Thomas, this is a very young group.

On paper, the Giants are better set at cornerback. Jenkins and Baker should be one of the better starting cornerback duos in the NFL. By all accounts, Baker was one of the most impressive newcomers during Spring workouts. Both will be pressed by Julian Love and Sam Beal. Perhaps the best battle will be for the starting nickel corner spot between Grant Haley and Julian Love.

Safety is a bit more unsettled. Jabrill Peppers played much better during his second year in Cleveland and the belief is that Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher sees him as a cornerstone to the team’s rebuilt defense and will employ him in a variety of ways to take advantage of his physical attributes. Bethea turns 35 in July and is obviously nearing the end. But he will provide leadership and inside knowledge on Bettcher’s schemes, making sure everyone is lined up properly. Depth at safety is a concern as there are no clear up-and-coming players behind the starting two.

Keep in mind that both defensive backs coaches are new with Everett Withers and Henry Baker coming from the collegiate ranks.

ON THE BUBBLE: As I discussed in my linebacker preview, the Giants may view some of these players as hybrid linebackers/safeties such as Jake Carlock and Mark McLaurin. So one of these guys could make the roster as a “linebacker.”

The Giants are likely to carry 9, 10, or 11 defensive backs. Some think Janoris Jenkins could be traded. My belief is that Jenkins, Deandre Baker, Julian Love, Sam Beal, Jabrill Peppers, and Antoine Bethea are the sure bets to make the team. Others with a good shot are Grant Haley, Corey Ballentine, and Michael Thomas, but they are not completely safe. Everyone else is on the bubble.

FROM THE COACHES: Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Deandre Baker: “He has been (making plays) on a pretty steady basis. I think he has made a play or two at each practice. Again, just learning how to compete at this level. Unfortunately, you can’t do a whole bunch of bump-and-run and press coverage, so the corners are at a little bit of a disadvantage. However, you need to learn to play off and for him to be able to make plays in those situations is good.”

Shurmur on Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea: “They are doing a good job. You saw Antoine had an interception today. They communicate extremely well. They are very strong guys. Typically, one guy takes the lead on that, but they both can do it. When I watch, they are getting us in the right coverages and pressures. They are in the right spots and trying to play the techniques within the defenses that are called. That is the thing that you can work on this time of year defensively. All the communication. We are really pleased with where they are. It is only going to get better.”

Shurmur on Jabrill Peppers: “He has a very charismatic personality and he loves to play the game. He picked up quickly what we were doing on defense well and he is extremely smart. He is very tough and very competitive. When you see guys like that on the field, you feel their presence immediately. He got to it quickly… He is very vocal. Sometimes you don’t have to be very vocal and you can be a leader. You can look to him and see that he has that about him. He has a great presence. If you are around him on a day-to-day basis, you can see that he will quickly become one of the guys where you say, ‘OK, he’s got it.’ He loves playing football and has a lot of fun doing it and a lot of fun competing. I think that is part of his charm and what makes him special. He is so darn competitive. It shows up naturally.”

Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on Jabrill Peppers: “Jabrill is a highly talented and ascending player in this league. A guy that has the flexibility to play strong safety and could come down in the box and play some money. He is a really talented blitzer and when you watched his tape in Cleveland, you saw all the different roles he played. You saw snaps where he plays nickel, high in the middle of the field, high and outside, where he plays down low. A guy that has a lot of versatility. A guy that when he learns this system, he is going to have a lot of fun playing in this system… I flew from Arizona to Michigan and spent a bunch of time with him when he was coming out (in the draft). I thought he was a dynamic kid and the people that were around him loved him. I got multiple texts from coaches that worked with him in Cleveland and it was not something I asked for, this was after we traded for him and they said that we were going to love him. He is going to work exceptionally hard and is going to be about what it is supposed to be about. You see him out here, we are doing stuff against the air and he is moving, sliding and running around. He is in a stance and sometimes you want to be like, slow down, this is on air. He is exciting.”

Bettcher on Antoine Bethea: “We have a chance to add Antoine Bethea, a guy who is one of the highest character players I have ever been around, smart, intelligent and an unbelievable leader. As you have an opportunity to wrap your hands around him and embrace him a little bit, you will see what I am talking about with him. I was talking to him the other day and I was joking with him telling him that as time goes on, I get more gray hair. As time goes on, he gets younger. That is just when you see his play, that is what it has been. The years in the league have progressed for him. He has played fast and played young. That what impresses me about him.”

Bettcher on Deandre Baker: “The thing I would say about Baker is that he played in a very, very tough league. We all know how long it was before he gave up a touchdown pass. He competed and covered some of the best players that have come out of that league on offense. His tape speaks for itself. One of the best, if not the best, tackling corner in the draft, period. Excited to have him. He did an outstanding job at camp this past week.”

Bettcher on Janoris Jenkins: “Janoris has been not great but unbelievable with our young guys. He has had great, teachable moments where as a coach you just have to let it go. You are starting to go coach the young guys and he is already on it. I see the ownership in year two that he is starting to take with those guys. It is outstanding and it is going to help us be a better defense and not just those guys be better players themselves.”

Bettcher on Julian Love: “Naturally, he is a nickel. What is the second position, is he a safety or a corner? Time tells with that and more reps tell us that. You have to be smart and pretty intelligent like he is to be able to handle that.”

Defensive Backs Coach Everett Withers on his cornerbacks: “It is exciting when you bring in all these young men. That is the biggest thing. Talented guys that can play. We are adding Sam Beal into the mix too. You take a guy like Janoris Jenkins, a guy that has been in the league for 10 years and look at him more as an assistant coach. He has taken that role so far this offseason and has done a really good job.”

Withers on Janoris Jenkins: “I think when he is in the meetings, he has such a vast amount of experience in this league that he can help guys not only schematically but understanding the game, splits of receivers and those things. He has done a really good job in the meeting rooms and on the field so far… He has been awesome.”

Withers on Jabrill Peppers: “I am excited. He has a lot of ability and does a lot of things. Our role right now is to try and help Jabrill schematically. Help him grow into what we do and add things into his playbook. He is a guy that comes to work everyday with a lot of energy. He has been really fun to watch so far.”

Withers on Deandre Baker: “He is a really talented guy. When you watch his tape, he is a guy with a lot of competitive experience. To have another guy over there next to Janoris, he is talented enough to go over there and be a factor over there opposite Janoris.”

Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey on Jabrill Peppers: “High energy, the guy is a for sure ball handler. Can make all the cuts full speed. He just brings juice. I’ve known the kid since he was 16 years old. I recruited him when I was at LSU. Jabrill is a special athlete. He can do anything – run the football, catch the football, whatever. He’s just a great athlete.”

PREDICTIONS: The guy who is flying under the radar is Deandre Baker. Keep in mind that despite drafting him late in the first round, he was the first cornerback selected in the draft. In other words, the Giants believe he was the best corner in this draft class. Thus far, he has not disappointed. Baker has the look of an old school, aggressive, physical corner who likes to mix it up both against the run and the pass. Janoris Jenkins has always done better when his team is playing better. I expect him to regain his 2016 All-Pro form as long as he stays healthy. Grant Haley remained the first-team nickel throughout the Spring practices. However, it is difficult to see him holding off Julian Love for long. Love may lack ideal long speed, but he a smart, aggressive player who makes plays on the football. Sam Beal provides quality depth provided he is over his shoulder issues.

The Giants also look to be upgraded at safety. Landon Collins was not as good as advertised. Most Giants fans know he had issues in coverage. He never regained his 2016 form. Curtis Riley was a train wreck at free safety. James Bettcher insists that Antoine Bethea can still play. At the very least, the team is already thrilled with the leadership and guidance he is providing. He’s like having a coach on the field. The real question mark here is what is Jabrill Peppers’ upside? Is he another one of those better-athlete-than-player types or is he about to experience his breakout season in his third year? It’s obvious the Giants are going to use him in a variety of ways, moving him around quite a bit and even have him blitz. The good news, again, is his attitude. The team is thrilled with his character. Depth at safety is a concern. Michael Thomas is a solid reserve/special teams type who also provides a good locker room presence. But it would be great if one of the young safeties came out of nowhere to surprise.

Don’t be surprised to see the Giants play with a lot of five and six defensive back packages throughout the year. Because of that, I would not be shocked to see the team keep as many as 11 defensive backs. Special teams will also be a big factor in deciding who stays and could help a guy like Antonio Hamilton.

This secondary has a chance to be very good for a number of years.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Janoris Jenkins, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, Julian Love, Grant Haley, Corey Ballentine, Jabrill Peppers, Antoine Bethea, Michael Thomas, Sean Chandler