Feb 262014
 
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Chris Snee and Pat Flaherty, New York Giants (July 27, 2013)

Chris Snee and Pat Flaherty – © USA TODAY Sports Images

February 26, 2014 New York Giants Free Agency News and Rumors: According to NJ.com, the New York Giants will target offensive guards in free agency. Free agency begins officially on March 11. NJ.com speculates that the Giants may be interested in Jon Asamoah (Kansas City Chiefs), Geoff Schwartz (Kansas City Chiefs), Chad Rinehart (San Diego Chargers), Zane Beadles (Denver Broncos), and Shawn Lauvao (Cleveland Browns).

According to an unidentified source, NJ.com also reports there is a good chance that guard Kevin Booth, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, will re-sign. What is not clear is how much the Giants are relying on left tackle Will Beatty, right guard Chris Snee, and center David Baas. All three players have significant injury and high salary-cap concerns. Beatty ($7.4 million 2014 cap number) broke his leg in the season finale, Snee ($11.3 million) has had serious problems with both hips and his elbow, and Baas ($8.225 million) had knee and neck issues.

Corey Webster Still Wants to Play: Cornerback According to The Star-Ledger, cornerback Corey Webster has no intention of retiring and wants to continue to play football. The Giants voided the last year of Webster’s contract earlier this month, a move that will make Webster an unrestricted free agent.

New York Giants Cornerbacks Coach Peter Giunta at the NFL Combine: A video of New York Giants Cornerbacks Coach Peter Giunta working with the defensive backs at the 2014 NFL Combine is available at Giants.com.

Feb 082014
 
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Corey Webster, New York Giants (August 22, 2012)

Corey Webster’s Giants Career May Be Over – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Contracts of Corey Webster and Brandon Myers Voided: According to The New York Post and The New York Daily News, the contracts of cornerback Corey Webster and tight end Brandon Myers were automatically voided on Friday. Webster had one year remaining on his contract and was scheduled to make $1 million in salary in 2014. Myers had three years remaining on his contract and was scheduled to make $4 million in salary in 2014. Both players will now be unrestricted free agents when free agency begins on March 11.

Article on the New York Giants Defense: Giants defensive problems this past season starting to get exposed by Jordan Raanan of The Star-Ledger

Article on Tight Jermichael Finley: Agent: Jermichael Finley would consider Giants after Packers by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Giants.com Inside the Film Room: Video breakdowns of the following Giants players are available at Giants.com:

Dec 172013
 
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Julian Talley, New York Giants (August 10, 2013)

Julian Talley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants Place CB Corey Webster on Injured Reserve, Sign WR Julian Talley from Practice Squad: The Giants placed CB Corey Webster (ankle) on season-ending Injured Reserve on Tuesday. Webster only played in four games in 2013. To fill Webster’s roster spot, the Giants signed WR Julian Talley from the Practice Squad.

New York Giants Sign RB Kendall Gaskins to Practice Squad: To fill the vacancy created with the promotion of WR Julian Talley to the 53- man roster, the Giants signed RB Kendall Gaskins to the Practice Squad. 

DE Mathias Kiwanuka on ESPN Radio: The audio of Tuesday’s ESPN Radio interview with DE Mathias Kiwanuka is available at ESPN.com.

S Antrel Rolle on WFAN: The audio of Tuesday’s WFAN interview with S Antrel Rolle is available at CBSNewYork.com

Articles on the New York Giants Coaching Staff:

Articles on QB Eli Manning:

Article on the New York Giants Wide Receivers: The state of the Giants at wide receiver by Dan Graziano of ESPN.com

Article on DE Mathias Kiwanuka: Mathias Kiwanuka says ‘absolutely’ there was tension between off. & def. vs. Seahawks by Dave Hutchinson of The Star-Ledger

Article on S Antrel Rolle: Giants’ Antrel Rolle says this season has been an ‘eye-opener’ for everyone by Dave Hutchinson of The Star-Ledger

Article on Former Giants QB Phil Simms: Simms to Giants, Eli: Welcome to ‘rock bottom’ by Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News

Nov 082013
 
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Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants (October 10, 2013)

Brandon Jacobs – © USA TODAY Sports Images

November 8, 2013 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing on Friday were RB Brandon Jacobs (hamstring/knee) and CB Corey Webster (groin/ankle). Webster has officially been ruled “out” of the game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday; Jacobs is “doubtful.”

The Star-Ledger is reporting that the issue keeping Jacobs from practicing and playing is a chronic knee condition that flared up this week.

CB Terrell Thomas (knee), CB Trumaine McBride (groin), and CB Jayron Hosley (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis. McBride and Hosley are “questionable” for the game; Thomas is “probable.”

“I feel good right now,” said McBride after practice. “I went out there today and I felt good running. I felt good turning. I felt good playing, so I’m ready to go for Sunday.”

WR Victor Cruz (neck) and TE Adrien Robinson (foot) fully practiced and are both “probable” for the game.

November 8, 2013 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Friday media session are available at Giants.com

Giants.com Q&A With Head Coach Tom Coughlin: The Coughlin Corner: Eight-game schedule by Michael Eisen of Giants.com

November 8, 2013 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Friday’s media sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Articles on New York Giants Running Backs:

Articles on the New York Giants Offensive Line:

Article on DT Johnathan Hankins: Hankins hankering for bigger role by Matt Ehalt of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on the New York Giants and Bullying: Giants team meeting on bullying: What was said, what does it mean by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com

Oct 022013
 
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Cullen Jenkins, New York Giants (September 29, 2013)

Cullen Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

October 2, 2013 New York Giants Injury Update – 15 on Injury Report: Not practicing on Wednesday were DT Linval Joseph (ankle/knee), DT Cullen Jenkins (knee/achilles), DT Shaun Rogers (back), LB Mark Herzlich (toe), CB Terrell Thomas (knee), CB Aaron Ross (back), CB Jayron Hosley (hamstring), OC David Baas (neck), OG Chris Snee (hip), and TE Adrien Robinson (foot)

CB Corey Webster (hip) practiced on a limited basis.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee), LB Jacquian Williams (knee), S Cooper Taylor (shoulder), and OT David Diehl (thumb) fully practiced.

“With David Baas and Chris Snee, it doesn’t look like a whole lot of improvement there,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “We’re holding our breath as we move into this week. David Diehl will practice. Mark Herzlich seems to be a lot better today with the toe, and hopefully by tomorrow, he’ll be ready to go. (Jayron) Hosley’s hamstring is probably going to be an issue. (Cullen) Jenkins looked better today. He won’t practice, but he did look better today. Jason Pierre-Paul will practice. Shaun Rogers should be able to go tomorrow. Aaron (Ross) probably can’t make it. Cooper Taylor is practicing. Terrell Thomas is going to have one day a week off now. He’ll have this day. Corey Webster is going to practice and Jacquian (Williams) will practice.”

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Press Conference: The transcript of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Wednesday press conference is available at Giants.com.

Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Wednesday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on QB Eli Manning: Eli Manning Steady in Midst of Firestorm by Kieran Darcy of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on WR Victor Cruz: Cruz the Lone Bright Spot for Sorry Giants by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Articles on the New York Giants Defensive Line:

Article on S Will Hill: Giants’ Hill Hopes to Spark Special Teams in Return by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Sep 052013
 
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Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (October 28, 2012)

Hakeem Nicks – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants Re-Structure Contracts of Chris Snee and Steve Weatherford: As first anticipated by BBI cap analyst Optimus-NY, the Giants re-structured the contracts of OG Chris Snee and P Steve Weatherford on Wednesday.

Snee’s 2013 base salary of $6.7 million was reduced to $4.2 million. However, his 2014 base salary will increase from $6.95 million to $7.2 million.

Weatherford’s 2013 base salary of $1.825 was reduced to $925,000 with the rest converted into a bonus.

The moves created approximately $1.925 million in cap space.

New York Giants Pick Team Captains: QB Eli Manning, DE Justin Tuck, S Antrel Rolle, OG Chris Snee, and LS Zak DeOssie were voted team captains by their teammates for the 2013 NFL season. It is the sixth consecutive season Manning has been elected a captain, the fourth time for Tuck, and the third for DeOssie.

“These guys were all elected by the players,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “Am I happy they were selected? Yes, I am because I think the number one thing is always ‘team’ and people have to lead by example, first, and ‘well done is better than well said.’ Yet, through the course of the long and difficult, challenging season, you’re going to see an opportunity for people to show what they’re made of in good and bad and that’s where leadership comes from. Adversity, remember, makes you stronger, according to John Wooden.”

“They have demonstrated over the years, honestly, not just this fall, a true, true interest and concern in the well-being of our team, not their own individual thing. I think there’s tremendous growth in each individual. You watch and listen to Antrel, and I think that you know that his heart and mind is in, and has been in for quite some time, the right place. I just think they’re guys that work in different ways and have demonstrated exceptional leadership and have done more than their part. You open the door to the offensive line room and there’s one guy sitting behind that machine every time you peek in there and it’s 76 (Snee).

“You know where Eli stands. I think Tuck has come back this fall and really he’s not been very verbal, but he’s demonstrated and shown good example, and I think that’s really what the challenge was for Justin based on a year ago. And Zak has been steady and he has been, as a captain, is this his third year already, he has been very forthright and never leaves a stone unturned in terms of what he thinks with regard to his effort on special teams or his contributions in the meeting room.”

Injury Update: Not practicing on Thursday were OC David Baas (knee), OT David Diehl (thumb), and TE Adrien Robinson (foot).

FB Henry Hynoski (knee), WR Victor Cruz (heel), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (back), and DE Damontre Moore (shoulder) were limited in practice.

CB Jayron Hosley (ankle) fully practiced.

Coach Media Q&As: Transcripts and video clips of Thursday’s media sessions with the following coaches are available at Giants.com:

Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Thursday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on RB Da’Rel Scott: RB Da’Rel Scott Next in Line vs. Cowboys by Dan Salomone of Giants.com

Articles on the Offensive Line:

Article on DE Adewale Ojomo: Adewale Ojomo: ‘I’m Much Closer to the Field This Year’ by Tom Rock of Newsday

Articles on the Defensive Backs:

Aug 022013
 
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Justin Pugh, New York Giants (July 28, 2013)

Justin Pugh – © USA TODAY Sports Images

August 2, 2013 New York Giants Training Camp Reports: The Giants held their sixth training camp practice on Friday afternoon at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The next practice is on Saturday from 1:00-3:00PM. For a complete training camp schedule and Giants.com Q&A guide, see the Training Camp section of the website.

Injury Update – Pugh Out With a Concussion: Not practicing on Friday were WR Hakeem Nicks (groin), CB Corey Webster (groin), OL Justin Pugh (concussion), FB Henry Hynoski (PUP – knee), OG Chris Snee (PUP – hip), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (PUP – back), DT Markus Kuhn (PUP – knee), and CB Terrell Thomas (PUP – knee).

“Pugh took a shot in the head (on Thursday),” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He had a headache this morning, so he’s going through the (concussion) protocol…He’ll be out until he passes all the protocols.”

“Webster says he feels pretty good,” said Coughlin. “He did feel a little strain in the groin area, so they’re going to do what they have to so that it doesn’t turn into something. It’s difficult, so he’s got some downtime.”

“The doctor thought (Nicks will) make it back for Tuesday,” said Coughlin.

Coach Media Q&As: Transcripts and video clips of Friday’s media sessions with the following coaches are available at Giants.com:

Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Friday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on RB David Wilson: Wilson Eager to Make Leap This Season by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Article on WR Victor Cruz: Giants’ Victor Cruz Vows to Improve in 2013 by Art Stapleton of The Bergen Record

Article on PK Josh Brown: Brown Has Big Kicking Shoes to Fill with Giants by Fred Kerber of The New York Post

Article on Former Giants’ Head Coach Bill Parcells: I’ll Never Be in Hall, But Introducing Parcells Next Best Thing by George Martin for The New York Post

Jul 302013
 
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Jake Muasau (43), Kyle Bosworth (48), Mark Herzlich (58), Etienne Sabino (47), New York Giants (July 28, 2013)

Muasau, Bosworth, Herzlich, and Sabino – © USA TODAY Sports Images

July 30, 2013 New York Giants Training Camp Reports: The Giants held their fourth training camp practice on Tuesday afternoon at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The next practice is on Thursday from 1:30-3:45PM. For a complete training camp schedule and Giants.com Q&A guide, see the Training Camp section of the website.

Injury Update: Not practicing on Tuesday were FB Henry Hynoski (PUP – knee), OG Chris Snee (PUP – hip), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (PUP – back), DT Markus Kuhn (PUP – knee), and CB Terrell Thomas (PUP – knee).

“I’m going to do everything in my power to get back for the first game,” said Hynoski. “That’s my goal, that’s my intention, but ultimately that decision isn’t up to me. I want to just get back to playing football at the earliest possible date. Everything is going really well in rehab, making advances and strides every day. I’m just excited with my progress and I know that the trainers are happy with where I’m at too.”

WR Hakeem Nicks (groin) and OC David Baas (still recovering from various and undisclosed offseason surgeries) were limited in practice.

WR Jeremy Horne was carted off the field during practice. “I’m not sure (how he is),” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “They told me that he had some kind of a foot injury but I don’t know what to expect.”

Giants Worked Out FB Lawrence Vickers: According to press reports, the Giants recently worked out FB Lawerence Vickers, who has played for the Browns (2006-2010), Texans (2011), and Cowboys (2012). The Cowboys released him last month.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Tuesday Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s press conference on Tuesday are available at BigBlueInteractive.com and Giants.com, respectively.

Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Tuesday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on Giants President/CEO John Mara: No Ultimatums, Just Expectations, from Giants’ Co-Owner by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: Despite Age and Accomplishments, Coughlin Has No Plans to Leave Giants Anytime Soon by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Articles on the Quarterbacks:

Articles on the Offensive Line:

Articles on the Defensive Backs:

Phil Simms on Bill Parcells: Parcells Was Demanding, But It Made Giants Champs by Phil Simms for The New York Post

 

Jul 262013
 
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Corey Webster, New York Giants (October 28, 2012)

Corey Webster – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Offseason Breakdown: New York Giants Cornerbacks

In the first few paragraphs of part one, we discussed how poorly the Giants’ secondary has played in the past two years within the confines of the equally-disappointing overall defensive performance. We then broke down the safety prospects currently on the roster. In this article, we will focus on the cornerbacks.

There are currently 10 cornerbacks on the training camp roster. The Giants are likely to keep five or possibly six at most on the 53-man roster.

Corey Webster: The Giants need Webster to rebound from a disappointing 2012 season. Webster, who accepted a pay cut in the offseason, also needs to rebound well for personal financial reasons. He is entering the final year of his current contract (he has a voidable year in 2014). There is a good chance this is Corey’s last season with the Giants.

Webster’s career has been a bit of a roller coaster. He seemed like a bust the first two years of his career until he came on late during the 2007 Super Bowl run. Since then, he’s had some outstanding seasons and a couple of sub par ones, including 2012. In his worst moments from last season, sometimes he got cleanly burned, sometimes he was in position to make a play but did not. Webster did not miss a game despite a nagging hamstring injury that plagued him much of the season and breaking his hand in September. Webster finished 2012 with 58 tackles, 13 pass defenses (most on the team), and four interceptions (second most on the team).

Webster has a nice combination of size (6’0”, 200 pounds) and athleticism. While not a blazer, he is smooth and fluid with good quickness and speed. Webster can play both man and zone coverage although he seems more comfortable in man. He is a confident and instinctive player. Webster is not terribly aggressive or physical against the run. Was 2012 an aberration for the 31-year old Webster, or the beginning of the downside of his career?

“We had a lot of errors all across the field and that’s everywhere – coaches, players, and the whole strategy,” said Webster. “So we have to use that film to try and get better. It’s always hard to use film when you lose to get better, but there’s always a silver lining. We’re doing just that. We’re correcting those mistakes, those communication errors, and those misplays so we can eliminate them now and not go into the season trying to eliminate them.”

“Corey will be better,” said Cornerbacks Coach Peter Giunta. “He’s been working very hard to come back and be a better player, become more like he was more at the end of the 2011 season when we had that run and he was very consistent in his performance. And that’s what we’re looking for, for Corey to be a consistent performer for us this year.”

“When he broke his hand, it hurt him with his press technique because he wasn’t able to put his hand on the receiver so he tried to compensate,” said Giunta. “He battled through injuries because he knew we needed him on the field for all 16 games.”

“We put him on the opponent’s best receiver most of the time (in 2011),” said Giunta. “Hopefully this year he will be able to stay at the left corner spot and provide us with the consistency that we are looking for.”

“I do know that (Corey is) coming back with a purpose and so it will be fun to see him come back in the fall,” said Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell.

Prince Amukamara: Amukamara was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants, but his initial season was a virtual wash due to him suffering a broken foot that required surgery very early in training camp. Amukamara missed most of camp, all of the preseason, and nine regular-season games because of the injury. When he did return in November, he did not appear mentally or physically comfortable on the playing field and was burned on several occasions.

2012 did not start off well either when Amukamara suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason and missed the first two games of the regular season. He also missed a game and was limited in two others in December with a hamstring injury. But when Amukamara played, he was a very steady performer and arguably the team’s best corner. He ended up playing in 13 games, with 11 starts, and finished with 53 tackles, seven pass defenses, and one interception.

Amukamara is a well-built (6’0”, 207 pounds), aggressive, and physical corner. He has good speed and quickness. He has the tools, but what is his upside? The most important thing for him is to stay healthy.

“He’s had a very good offseason program,” said Giunta.” He’s done a great job in the strength program getting himself into the kind of shape he needs to be in and in improving his durability. He’s been here for every OTA and has made every practice. He hasn’t missed any time at all. If he continues to show that kind of devotion, he’ll continue to get better and better as a player. We want him to become a productive performer for us. We want him to make big plays and big hits and big plays for us. He has that ability to do that.”

“He understands the system well now and can go out there and execute it,” continued Giunta. “He feels so much more comfortable because he’s able to do it with his teammates now. He’s not on the sideline watching. He feels like he’s truly a part of it. Last year for him was basically his rookie season, so to have that and to build on that, to be able to come into training camp this year, he’s a different guy who’s much more confident.”

“I’d say the more I play the more confidence I get,” said Amukamara. “Now, during this offseason, just having Terrell (Thomas) just next to me and learning how much knowledge he has, that just took my game to a whole other level. He’s like a player-coach and every time he’s critiquing me on my technique or my back-pedal, just telling me, ‘You need to understand the defense. You don’t need to just worry about you’re doing, but know what the nickel is doing. That’s first-year stuff. You know what you’re doing now. Now you’re in your third year, so now know what the safety is doing and know what the nickel is doing and it will make you play a lot better and a lot faster.’”

“I think he’s still a little wet behind the ears as far as his mentality, how he attacks his daily job,’’ said Thomas. “Me and Corey have been working on him with that, letting him know just doing your job is not enough, we need more out of you. I think he’ll get it. Sometimes it takes some people a little longer than others…With Prince he’s just happy doing his job and we’re trying to get him that we need more. ‘Yeah, you had a good game, nobody caught the ball on you, but you had no pass breakups, you had no interceptions, no big plays, that’s the next step.’ He stays healthy this year, he can be very productive for us.’’

To his credit, Amukamara has high personal goals heading into 2013.

“I really want to be the number one corner on this team and I feel like right now Corey is and my goal is to always just try to beat him out and I think as soon as I establish myself as the number one corner, then hopefully just become the number one corner in the whole league,” said Amukamara. “ I know that’s going to take work, but guys that came out of my draft class are doing great: Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman, and those are the guys I kind of compare myself to and I’m just trying to exceed all of them.”

Jayron Hosley:  The Giants drafted Hosley in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Hosley played in 12 games with six starts, and finished the season with 40 tackles, five pass defenses, one interception, and one forced fumble. He did miss four games with hamstring, shoulder, and quadriceps injuries. The Giants seem to really like Hosley’s game, but he had an injury-prone, inconsistent, and sometimes rough rookie season, being thrust into the nickel back role perhaps sooner than he was ready.

Hosley lacks ideal stature (5’10’’, 178 pounds), but he is athletic with good speed and quickness. Hosley has good ball skills as he reacts well to the football and can make play on the ball in the air. In college, Hosley did have drug issues. If he keeps his nose clean and remains focused on football, Hosley should improve with improved technique and increased playing time. But he also needs to stay healthy. He got dinged a lot as a rookie, causing him to miss valuable practice and playing time.

“I think what happened with him, every time he started to make progress, he’d be injured and would be out 2-3 weeks, and wasn’t able to practice or compete and play in games,” said Giunta. “That’ sets you back, especially as a rookie. So take the Jets game, every time he starts to make progress, he gets hurt. Carolina game, he has a really good game making plays, and then he gets hurt. That’s unfortunate for him, so he has to learn to take care of his body better, get himself in shape and do the kind of things that he needs to do to become a more durable player because he has the talent to be a good football player at this level.”

“He’s learning,” said Giunta. “He’s becoming a better technician, playing inside and playing outside, so he’s developing those skills to play both the nickel and corner spot, and he got experience doing both last year. There’s a lot playing the nickel spot…it’s hard that way when you lose that time. You need experience to play that spot. The more experience you get, the better you’ll get. He can play any of the corner spots we need him to, so that’s huge.”

Terrell Thomas: Thomas was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2012 after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee for the third time in seven years. The first tear occurred in college and the second tear happened during the 2011 preseason. The injuries obviously put his football career in doubt.

Before suffering the second injury in the 2011 preseason, Thomas looked primed for perhaps his best season. Thomas was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Giants. In 2009 and 2010, Thomas was a very solid starting corner who made a lot of big plays but also occasionally gave up a few. In the 31 games he started during that time frame, Thomas accrued 186 tackles, 34 pass defenses, and 10 interceptions.

Thomas is a big (6’0”, 191 pound), physical corner who matches up well with bigger receivers. Pre-injury, while not a blazer, he was a good athlete with fine speed and quickness for his size. Thomas is very good in run support and a good blitzer.

The big question is obvious. Even if Thomas can stay on the field, how much ability has he lost from the back-to-back ACL tears? It is doubtful he can regain his old form, but can he come close?

“I don’t think (Thomas is) an unknown for us,” said Fewell. “We do have plans, but I don’t think he’s an unknown because he’s been with us, he’s been in our program. We understand what his skill set was. Now when he comes back what will his skill set be?”

“He’s making progress,” said Giunta. “Terrell is making good progress…We’re going to do what the offense did with Domenik Hixon, try to bring him along slowly. Give him a certain number of reps each practice to get him from the practices to the first preseason game. We’re going to try and manage him well and just give him a very limited role to start.”

“I’m able to do everything,” Thomas said in June. “It’s more just about getting comfortable and trusting myself without hesitating, without thinking, and just reacting, and I’m almost there. Physically, I haven’t swelled up in the last four months and I’ve been progressing every week. Each week I get better and faster and stronger, so it’s just a progression. I have to be realistic with myself knowing that I had two ACLs in one year and it’s a long journey. But I’ll be back and I’m going to shock a lot of people.”

“I will be ready for training camp without limitation,” Thomas said. “The amount of work I do (in training camp), I don’t know…I’m already cleared for training camp. I got three months (before the season begins) to keep getting stronger and healthy and rehab.”

“Right now, to be honest with you I feel great,” said Thomas on his website in July. “The last (few) weeks, my confidence is getting better and better. I am not 100%; I would say I am 85% to 90%. The only thing missing is real field work; going against my teammates, the grind of practice, and seeing how my knee handles all that.”

“I am excited about camp starting this week,” Thomas said. “I feel like a big question mark on defense and I love it. That makes me feel like a rookie again, nobody knows what to expect from me other than that I was a good player. Just like when I was coming into the league as a good player coming out of college, so I love that feeling. I feel like I am the X factor for the defense, I think I can be a big key for our defense this year as far as my physical play combined with my knowledge, communication, and leadership skills.”

Earlier in the offseason, General Manager Jerry Reese raised the possibility of moving Thomas to safety. That’s still a possibility but it appears the Giants and Thomas want to see if he can still play at corner. The problem is the cornerback position puts a lot of stress on the knees.

“All that safety talk, that was just based on my knee, how I come back,” Thomas said. “In that safety role, it’s kind of like the nickel. When we had the three-safety look, it’s pretty much nickel, it’s just a bigger nickel position. So I already know that position. That’s a position I played my first and second year at the nickel spot so it wouldn’t be a hard transition. I played a little safety in 2010. We had a package where I would go into the post. I had an interception, a couple tackles as well.”

“(Playing corner) it’s more being on an island,” Thomas said. “Your knee is in a more unstable situation. You have to react to the receiver. Safety is more you’re dictating. So I think that’s why Jerry Reese said that. But I already knew I’d switch to safety later in my career just because of my body type, the way I play. So I’m not scared at all. If they tell me I’m going to play kicker, I’ll play kicker.”

“(Moving Thomas to safety is) always a consideration,” said Fewell. “We’d like to find out, obviously, what his skill set is like when he comes back and how comfortable he feels in his movements.”

Aaron Ross: Ross signed with the Giants in March 2013 after he was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2012, Ross played in 14 games with nine starts for the Jaguars. He finished the year with 46 tackles and three pass defenses.

Ross was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Giants. In five seasons with the Giants, Ross started 41 regular-season games, including 15 starts in 2011, when he finished with career highs in tackles (60), pass defenses (12), and interceptions (four). Ross missed a lot of time in 2009 (hamstring) and 2010 (plantar fascia tear) with injuries.

Ross combines good size (6’0”, 197 pounds) and athleticism. He is fluid and smooth in coverage, but lacks ideal speed and quickness. There seems to be a few games every season where Ross struggles in coverage. He can be aggressive and physical in run support.

One thing is definitely clear – Ross is thrilled to be back with the Giants. And the Giants seem glad to have him back as well.

“I missed the guys, I missed the coaches, I missed the organization and it seems like everybody else missed me just as well so it seems like a mutual thing,” said Ross. “It brings a smile to my face when I came in knowing that it wasn’t just me that was missing the Giants. It was vice-versa…I am happy to be home where I feel like I belong.”

“He has done a great job at the nickel spot for us,” said Giunta. “He did a great job in the Super Bowl run playing right corner. He can play right, left, nickel. His flexibility is huge for us. We are so excited to have him back.”

“He (has) picked up where he left off,” said Giunta. “He looks really focused. His quickness is better than it was when he left. Being away for a while…It showed him how much he missed this place and missed the guys he was with and the way we run the operation here at the Giants. It’s been a breath of fresh air having him back because he really appreciates what we have here and some of the guys take it for granted, but he hasn’t and it comes across to the other guys. Hey, this is important. You guys don’t know how lucky you have it here.”

Like Webster, Ross suggests that coaches and players have needed to work together to prevent mental errors that lead to big plays.

“Where we struggle is where we make mental busts, but I think we’re doing a better job in getting the fundamentals down, learning the defense in and out and taking it rep by rep instead of moving too fast to learn the defense,” said Ross. “I think the coaches sat down this whole offseason and seen that on film. They’re doing a great job in really breaking down the defense in and out, making sure the safeties know exactly what the corners are doing and the corners know what the safeties are doing.”

Ross also thinks he can help in the leadership department.

“I feel like I’m already taking some of the younger guys under my wing and just teaching them the little things that they may not know like myself,” said Ross. “R.W. (McQuarters) and Sam (Madison) did a great job with me and Corey and Terrell Thomas just taking us in and showing us the ropes.”

Trumaine McBride: McBride was an under-the-radar signing for the Giants in January 2013. McBride was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. The Bears waived him in September 2009. Since then, he has spent time with the Cardinals, Saints, and Jaguars. Nine of McBride’s 10 NFL starts came as a rookie. He has played in 48 NFL games but only one last season with the Jaguars. McBride lacks ideal size (5’9’’, 185 pounds), but he is very quick and the Giants appear to like what they’ve seen out of him.

“We’re counting on (Webster, Amukamara, Hosley, Thomas, Ross) plus Trumaine McBride has done a tremendous job in the OTAs so far and we’re looking forward to seeing him compete in training camp,” said Giunta. “He’s a veteran. He’s played in the league and played at Chicago and has a lot of experience and a lot of quickness.”

Terrence Frederick: Frederick spent most of 2012 on the Giants’ Practice Squad but was added to the 53-man roster in December and played in two games. Frederick was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers waived him in August. Frederick lacks ideal size (5’10’’, 187 pounds) and speed, but he is an aggressive, instinctive player who has experience playing in the slot.

Laron Scott: Scott spent 2012 on the Giants’ Practice Squad. He was signed by the Giants in August 2012 after being waived by the New Orleans Saints. The Saints had signed Scott as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2012 NFL Draft. Scott lacks ideal size for a corner (5’9’’, 184 pounds). He can return kicks and punts and had a 67-yard kickoff return for the Saints in their first preseason game.

Charles James: James was signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. James lacks ideal size (5’9’’, 179 pounds) and speed, but he is a quick, tough, instinctive corner who makes plays on the football. He has experience as a punt returner.

“Very quick athlete,” Giunta said of James. “Very good change of direction. Very good ball skills, like his toughness.”

Junior Mertile: The Giants signed Mertile in May 2013 after he impressed at the rookie mini-camp as tryout player. Mertile has good size (6’1’’, 197 pounds) and excellent speed.

Summary: Giunta says the top five guys are Webster, Amukamara, Hosley, Thomas, and Ross. The Giants need Webster to bounce back, Amukamara to stay healthy and take that next step, and Hosley to stay healthy and develop. If not, then the Giants are going to have issues at corner. Thomas is the wild card. It’s probably not realistic to expect him to be able to play at a high level again, but if he does, that will help tremendously. The return of Ross may be a bigger deal than most fans realize. McBride, Frederick, Scott, James, and Mertile are the longshots. But Giunta did have good things to say about McBride and James.

May 202013
 
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Corey Webster (23), Kenny Phillips (21), Justin Tuck (91), New York Giants (September 5, 2012)

Corey Webster, Kenny Phillips, and Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The State of the New York Giants Defense

Memories are often short for NFL fans. The long offseason, with excitement of numerous roster subtractions and additions, can overshadow recent failure. It’s an exciting time for fans, but it is important to remember that the ultimate goal is not to make noise in the offseason, but to make noise on the playing field when the games count.

Aside from a six-game stretch at the end of the 2011 season, the New York Giants defense has been putrid for the last two seasons. It was 27th in yards allowed in 2011 and 31st in yards allowed in 2012. It has had trouble stopping the run (25th in 2012) and the pass (28th in 2012). Indeed, if it were not for 35 takeaways (2nd in the NFL), the defensive stats, including scoring defense (12th in 2012), would surely have been much worse. Personally, I never think it is wise to count on being a league leader in takeaways. Too much luck is involved.

For better or worse, many of core defensive players are now gone: DE Osi Umenyiora, DT Chris Canty, LB Michael Boley, LB Chase Blackburn, and S Kenny Phillips. DT Rocky Bernard also will not be re-signed.

New faces include veteran free agents DT Cullen Jenkins, DT Mike Patterson, DT Frank Okam, LB Dan Connor, LB Aaron Curry, and S Ryan Mundy – all but Jenkins signed to only 1-year contracts. Also added to the mix were rookie draft picks DT Johnathan Hankins, DE Damontre Moore, and S Cooper Taylor.

There still may be a move or two, but the roster heading into camp is largely set. More tweaking could occur in late August and early September when teams make their final cuts.

Obviously, there has been a lot of change. But will change lead to improved results on the playing field both in the short-term and medium-term? Has the talent actually improved? Moving beyond 2013, key veteran holdovers such as DE Justin Tuck, CB Corey Webster, and S Antrel Rolle are aging and taking up too much salary cap space. DT Linval Joseph will be a free agent and DE Jason Pierre-Paul will want a new contract soon. Who will the front office and coaching staff determine to be the core defensive players to build around on this team moving forward? Who will be the defensive leaders? Can Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell restructure the various moving parts into an effective, cohesive unit in 2013 and beyond? Yes, there is change in every offseason, but there is a pretty significant changing of the guard on defense. Can it all come together quickly?

Defensive Line: Except for Pierre-Paul’s play in 2011 and late season flashes from everyone else that same season, this unit has largely lived off its reputation rather than consistent play on the football field. And because of that, gone are Umenyiora, Canty, and Bernard. Tuck could be next in 2014.

On paper, the defensive line is still the strongest position on defense. There are 16 bodies present and all of them have talent. The Giants will probably keep five defensive ends and the sure bets are Tuck, Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Damontre Moore. But Adrian Tracy, Adewale Ojomo, Justin Trattou, and Matt Broha have all flashed as players. Based on early impressions, it appears that Tuck is reinvigorated to have a big season, if for no other reason than his next contract with the Giants or another team. But he has been physically beat-up and quite moody in recent years. JPP also needs to rebound from a sackless second half if he wants a big-money contract. Kiwanuka should move back to his more natural position with something to prove as well. Moore has exciting potential, but he needs a lot of work in the weight room. If the Giants think Tuck is likely to depart in 2014, can they find a way to hold onto six defensive ends this year?

The Giants added a lot of new bodies at defensive tackle. Due to injuries and declining play, this was necessary. Linval Joseph returns. He has a lot of talent but he needs to be more effectively consistent on the playing field. Cullen Jenkins should add veteran leadership and a pass rush presence. Johnathan Hankins is the type of stout, double team-eating nose tackle that this team has lacked. That leaves one or two spots for Mike Patterson, Shaun Rogers, Markus Kuhn, Marvin Austin, and Frank Okam. Austin is the three-technique, pass rusher of the group. Rogers and Okam are huge nose tackle types. Patterson and Kuhn offer flexibility and can play the run. Moving forward past 2013, if the Giants can re-sign Joseph (a big if), then the Giants will be in good shape with him and Hankins. The real wild card is Austin. Is he a bust or can he become the player the Giants hoped he would when they drafted him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft?

Linebacker: Most Giants’ fans seemed to be more concerned with this position than any other. For quite some time, the Giants have rarely addressed this spot high in the draft (with the exception of Clint Sintim). The team has been more proactive in free agency with additions such as Michael Barrow, Antonio Pierce, and Michael Boley to name a few. The same pattern continued this offseason. The Giants did not draft a linebacker but added Dan Connor and Aaron Curry in free agency. They also re-signed Keith Rivers.

This position is the most unsettled on the team despite the fact there are only eight linebackers on the current roster and it is conceivable that the Giants could only carry six heading into the regular season. There is little stability right now. Not only is there no sure starter at any of the three spots, but five of the eight players will see their contracts expire after the 2013 season. Dan Connor is probably the favorite to start in the middle, but he could be challenged there by Aaron Curry or Mark Herzlich. Curry will also vie for one of the outside spots along with Rivers, Jacquian Williams, and Spencer Paysinger. Long shots include Jake Muasau who was with the Giants in camp last year and rookie free agent Etienne Sabino.

One wonders how much the Giants will actually use three linebackers on the field. Obviously, a three-linebacker set will be their base defense. And one would think that having more linebackers on the field would be a good thing against a run-centric team like the Washington Redskins. But Perry Fewell and many other defensive coordinators are using more nickel-type defenses in today’s passing league, and Fewell, in particular, favors the three-safety look.

Rivers has talent, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. Williams can run like a deer, but is he physical enough? Paysinger has been working like a dog this offseason to get his shot. But both he and Herzlich need to prove they are more than just special teams players. The real wild cards are Connor and Curry – two highly-touted collegiate prospects who have had their ups and downs in the NFL, each with two different teams.

Defensive Back: It’s not the linebacker position that worries me the most, but cornerback. This was the position I was more shocked the Giants did not address in the draft. On paper, the Giants look deep and talented with Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Terrell Thomas, Jayron Hosley, and Aaron Ross. But Webster and Ross are over 30 and obviously on the downside of their respective careers. Thomas is coming off his third ACL tear on the same knee. If Webster rebounds from a bad 2012, if Thomas’ knee holds up and his overall athleticism hasn’t suffered, and if Ross can serve as a steady backup, then the Giants should be in good shape. But those are all huge “ifs”. Things could get really ugly if the answers to those questions are negative. Moreover, the Giants need Prince Amukamara to build upon a decent 2012 with a better 2013. And they desperately need Jayron Hosley to improve; he struggled quite a bit as a nickel corner in 2012.

Is there any potential gem in the other unknown cornerback candidates? Terrence Frederick, Laron Scott, Trumaine McBride, Charles James, and Junior Mertile are all vying for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Safety is more settled, but the Giants will be without Kenny Phillips. It’s hard to envision Stevie Brown duplicating his 8-interception season again in 2013, but we shall see. Rolle is steady and athletic, but he does not make many plays on the football and his cap number may become untenable in 2014. Will Hill flashed a great deal of promise and the Giants drafted Cooper Taylor. Ryan Mundy is a veteran free agent addition, but he was often viewed as a liability in coverage in Pittsburgh. Tyler Sash has not demonstrated anything more than special teams ability and may be on the hot seat. Veteran David Cardwell and rookie free agents Alonzo Tweedy and John Stevenson are the long shots.

Summary: So there has been a great deal of change. But will these changes improve their dreadful defensive rankings? There is talent on the defensive line, but it has to stop living off its reputation. Everything seems to be in a state of flux at linebacker. Are there three quality starters in that group? In the secondary, much depends on the questions surrounding the cornerback spot. Can Webster rebound? Can Thomas come back healthy and strong? Will Amukamara prove to be worthy of a #1 pick?

And can Perry Fewell and his defensive staff successfully mold together all of these changing and evolving parts into a cohesive, aggressive, and physical defense?

The Giants’ 2013 season probably depends on it.