September 30, 2013 New York Giants Injury Report: DT Cullen Jenkins was wearing a protective boot on his right foot on Monday in the locker room. “I think just a little tendon something, knee and Achilles,” said Jenkins when asked about the injury. “Hopefully like I said, just a couple days, get this thing treated, and get back going.”
LB Mark Herzlich injured a toe in the game against the Kansas City Chiefs and also was in a protective boot.
“(Jenkins and Herzlich are) in a boot for ankle-type, toe-type reasons and hopefully it’s just something to restrict movement and they can come back and work this week,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.
There was no word on other Giants injured in the game including DE Justin Tuck (neck), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee), CB Aaron Ross (back), and CB Jayron Hosley (hamstring).
New York Giants Re-Structure Chris Snee’s Contract Again: According to NFL Player Association (NFLPA) records, the New York Giants and OG Chris Snee appear to have agreed to another contract re-structuring in order to create immediate additional salary cap room in 2013. The move was probably made in order to sign FB John Conner last week.
Snee’s base 2013 base salary was reduced from $4.2 million to $1,164,286. The difference was probably made up in an additional pro-rated signing bonus over the final two years of his current contract.
According to OverTheCap.com, Snee’s cap hit in 2014 is now $11.75 million. If he is cut, the Giants will still lose $4.5 million in cap space due to dead money.
In early September, Snee’s 2013 base salary was reduced from $6.7 million to $4.2 million and his 2014 base salary was increased from $6.95 million to $7.2 million.
S Will Hill Eligible to Return This Week: S Will Hill, who is currently on the Reserve/Suspended List for violating the NFL’s policy on drug use, is eligible to return to the team this week. The Giants will have to make a roster move if they choose to add him to the 53-man roster.
Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Monday press conference are available at Giants.com.
Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Monday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:
September 23, 2013 New York Giants Injury Report: There was no word on Monday about the status of FB Henry Hynoski, who fractured his left shoulder in the New York Giants-Carolina Panthers game on Sunday.
According to press reports, OC David Baas (neck) and OG Chris Snee (hip) underwent MRI’s on Monday.
“I think (Snee has) got some issues,” Head Coach Tom Coughlin said. “We’re trying to figure out where that is right now. Also David Baas has some issues.”
Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Monday press conference are available at Giants.com.
Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Monday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:
Offseason Breakdown: New York Giants Defensive Tackles
In part one, we covered how important the defensive line is to the overall defense of the New York Giants, and focused on the defensive ends. In part two, we’ll focus on the defensive tackles.
4-3 defenses usually employ two different types of tackles: a 1-technique (or nose tackle) and a 3-technique (or under tackle). The 1-technique tackle usually will see a lot of double teams from the guard and center and usually has to be the bigger, stronger, and stouter player. These types of players usually lack ideal quickness. The 3-technique is usually less stout, but the quicker, more active penetrator. If Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins start as expected, Joseph will play the 1-technique and Jenkins the 3-technique given their physical characteristics. Johnathan Hankins is better suited to the 1-technique while Marvin Austin is better suited to the 3-technique. Also keep in mind that in obvious pass rush situations, the Giants have moved defensive ends – including Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Mathias Kiwanuka – inside to rush from the tackle spots.
There are currently eight defensive tackles on the Giants’ 90-man preseason roster. At most, the Giants will be able to keep five defensive tackles on the 53-man regular-season roster.
Linval Joseph: Joseph was drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Giants. He did not play much as a rookie but became a full-time starter in 2011. Joseph has an excellent combination of size (6’4’’, 323 pounds), strength, and athletic ability. He flashes as run defender due to his size and strength, and as a pass rusher because of his quickness. But one gets the sense that Joseph should be a more consistent, more dominating player than he has shown to date.
“Linval is really good,” said DT Cullen Jenkins. “He’s a strong man; really strong. I can’t even workout with Linval in the weight room. But he’s one of the first people in here every day. Out in practice he’s always busting his butt and you have to respect it. He’s got some bright years ahead of him and I think he can do a lot of things in the league.”
“From looking at Linval in all the practices you wonder why he is not a Pro Bowler,” said Jenkins. “He’s got a tremendous amount of ability, the strength he possess, quickness, speed. He’s had a couple dings here and there that have hampered him, but if he can stay healthy I think he’ll be a Pro Bowler.”
“I’m just ready to step up,” said Joseph. “I’m going to be the anchor of this team and I’m ready to go.”
Cullen Jenkins: Jenkins was signed by the Giants in March 2013 after he was released by the Philadelphia Eagles in February. Jenkins was originally signed by Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent after the 2003 NFL Draft. He did not make the team but spent time in NFL Europe and then re-signed with the Packers in 2004. From 2004-10, Jenkins played with the Packers until he signed with the Eagles in 2011.
Jenkins lacks ideal size (6’2’’, 305 pounds) and is on the downside of his career, but he still is a solid two-way defensive tackle who can play the run and rush the passer. Versatile, he has experience in the 4-3 as a defensive tackle and as an end in the 3-4. The Giants have also been playing him at defensive end in the 4-3. In the last four seasons, he’s averaged over five sacks a year. Jenkins is a tough guy who plays with an attitude.
“Cullen, I was with four years in Green Bay, he’s a very explosive guy, talented guy, has matured a lot,” said Defensive Line Coach Robert Nunn. “He’s a different guy than he was in Green Bay. He’s a guy that has gotten better and better as time has gone on, very explosive player both in the run game and the pass game and he is going to bring a lot of versatility to us. I think he can go inside, he can play outside, we can do some different things, which, in turn, will allow us to different things with some of our other guys. He really adds some versatility to what we’re doing…When we get to our pass rush stuff he can free up Justin and JPP and Kiwi to move around so there are several things he brings. The passion he plays with and the toughness, he’s another guy that plays tough. On Sundays, he’s a tough guy. We need that in that room.”
“I’m very impressed with Jenkins,” said Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell. “He is a seasoned veteran, a proven veteran and I just see that for him to come to our football team and bring the type of energy that he displayed down at his previous team and then bring that to us, I think that’s a positive for our defense.”
“We’re going to take advantage of his versatility,” said Fewell. “He’s very explosive. He’s much stronger than I initially thought he was and he is violent in his reactions and so that’s a good thing for us and it’s very pleasing.”
“He’s a tough guy to block no matter where he is,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He’s very effective, very good. Moves well. Just gives us a nice piece of versatility to be able to play him basically wherever we need.”
“Once you hit 30, everyone starts talking about how you’re getting older and missing a step,” said the 32-year-old Jenkins. “I see it as a challenge. My whole career, my whole life, has been about proving people wrong.”
“Two things I’ve been working on: my strength and my quickness,” said Jenkins. “Quickness has helped me since I’ve been in the league and it’s one of the reasons I’ve put so much emphasis in making sure my weight stays at a good level for me this year. At the same time, I’m trying to get as strong as I can because getting older I know you have to put a lot more time into your body to make sure you stay healthy. These last few years that’s what I’ve been trying to do to make sure I stay on the field every week.”
Shaun Rogers: The Giants signed Rogers as an unrestricted free agent in April 2012, but he missed the entire 2012 season due to a blood clot in his leg. Rogers was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. In 11 NFL seasons, Rogers has played for the Lions (2001-07), Browns, (2008-10), and Saints (2011). He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2004, 2005, and 2008.
Rogers is a huge (6’4’’, 350 pounds), powerful player. In his prime, he was a very strong run defender who could also push the pocket on the pass rush. However, the 34-year old Rogers is nearing the end of his career and it remains to be seen how much he has left in his gas tank. He started four games for the Saints in 2011 and finished with just 22 tackles and no sacks. Amazingly, Rogers has blocked 14 field goal attempts in his career.
Johnathan Hankins: Hankins was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Giants. Hankins is a big (6’2’’, 320 pounds), strong, run-stuffing defensive tackle with good athletic ability and agility for his size. He is a better run defender than pass rusher. Hankins is very stout at the point-of-attack and can take on double-team blocks. When he plays with leverage and proper technique, Hankins is very difficult to move off of the line of scrimmage. Hankins also has the athletic ability to pursue down the line and will flash occasionally on the pass rush with quickness and power.
“He has really surprised me coming in,” said Nunn. “I thought he did an outstanding job between when he started until now with his body. He’s worked, he’s trimmed up, he’s gotten stronger, if he continues to do that I think he’s another young player that’s going to contribute to us. He really has looked good.”
“He’s been running second team,” said Nunn. “He’s picked up everything physically and from a mental standpoint, he’s right where he needs to be. We’ll see what happens when we start shooting real bullets.”
“The two rookies we have on our D-Line have stood out,” said Tuck. “Hank is quiet and he is more polished. You can tell he’s obviously had a great coach and played big-time football (at Ohio State).”
Marvin Austin: The Giants have not received much in return from Marvin Austin ever since drafting him in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Austin missed his last season in college due to an NCAA violation. Austin then missed his second football season in a row when the Giants placed him on Injured Reserve in August 2011 after he tore his pectoral muscle. In 2012, Austin fell to fifth on the defensive tackle depth chart, behind 7th round rookie Markus Kuhn. Austin ended up playing in eight games, but only saw limited time at defensive tackle and finished the season with only eight tackles. He hurt his back in training camp before last season and had offseason knee surgery (torn meniscus) in January 2013.
Austin has good tools to work with. Although he lacks ideal height (6’2’’, 312 pounds), he is a very athletic tackle with fine size and strength. He moves very well for a big man and could develop into a very good pass rusher. However, to-date, he has trouble getting off blocks and simply has not made many plays.
“Marvin…he is another one who has had his best offseason,” said Nunn. “He’s been healthy for the first time. He’s never been able to go through a true offseason because of different ailments that he’s had. He’s where he needs to be right now, he just can’t disappear when the pads come on. He knows what he’s got to do. I’ve spoken to him about it. When the pads come on he’s got to produce. When he gets out there under the lights he’s got to produce. Right now, he’s got himself in the position to give himself the best opportunity since he’s been here of having a productive year.”
“I thought Marvin performed well this past Saturday (in the preseason game against the Steelers),” said Fewell. “He’s progressed each week in practice. He’s had a full offseason with the OTAs, which he didn’t have in the past. I look for good things from him this Sunday in the football game. This will be a really good opportunity for him to showcase his quickness and his abilities. I think Pittsburgh is really a big massive offensive line. Indy, they’ll play more to the strengths of Marvin and so it will be exciting to see him in this game Sunday.”
“He’s a defensive tackle that, really, we need to see him in the fashion that we anticipated when we drafted him,” said Coughlin. “He’s done well this camp rushing the passer and we really would like to see him do a good job against the run.”
Austin believes he will be fine if he can stay healthy. “It seems like one thing after another,” Austin said. “I’ve been hurt the whole time I’ve been here. I feel like as long as I can stay healthy, I’ll be able to help this team.”
“I’ve watched film with Cullen and Mike Patterson,” said Austin. “They’re very quick and good guys and I feel like I can play in that same mode as them. But one of the vets who has helped me and kept me honest, per say, has been Shaun Rogers. He always checks me out, looks at my technique and tries to help me with different stuff.”
Austin sees all of the new defensive tackles the Giants have brought in. “At the end of the day, the National Football League is about competition and is a business,” said Austin. “I haven’t performed since I’ve been here. They’re looking to see if I can play at the high level they drafted me, and they’re going to protect themselves. They’re giving me a chance to compete, and that’s all I could ask for.”
“If you sit there and dwell on it and be negative, you’re not going to help yourself,” said Austin. “You’re either going to stand up or sit down. You can be a man about it or a coward. That’s all it is. And this game is a man’s game.”
“You see the competition (at defensive tackle),” said Austin. “I want to make this team. I’ve got to show them what I can do. I haven’t shown them anything. Some things don’t have to be said.”
Mike Patterson: Patterson was signed by the Giants in April 2013. Patterson was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. In eight seasons with the Eagles, Patterson played in 115 regular-season games with 99 starts. Patterson underwent brain surgery in January 2012 to repair an arteriovenous malformation. He played in just five games in 2012 before being placed on the reserve/non-football illness list last year with pneumonia. The Eagles waived Patterson in February 2013.
Patterson lacks ideal size (6’1’’, 300 pounds), but he is a good athlete who can be disruptive with his quickness. He has experience in both 1- and 2-gap schemes. Tough, Patterson is a steady run defender and has 16.5 career sacks.
“I thought I was going to still be (with the Eagles), but you never know how things are going to turn out,” said Patterson. “I’m just happy I was able to land on my feet with the Giants. Even though I didn’t play that much last year, it wasn’t due to football injuries. It just came down to me getting sick and me recovering from my surgery. It was nothing to do with on-the-field stuff, so I know I’m perfectly healthy when it comes to playing football.”
Frank Okam: The Giants signed Frank Okam in May 2013 after he impressed at the rookie mini-camp as tryout player. Okam was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Okam has spent time with the Texans (2008-10), Seahawks (2010), and Buccaneers (2010-12). The Buccaneers released Okam in August 2012 and he did not play last season. From 2008-11, Okam played in 25 games with six starts.
Okam is a huge (6’5’’, 350 pounds), strong player with limited overall athleticism and agility. He is a run-stuffing nose tackle type who does not get much heat on the quarterback. Okam has very good tools, but he needs to become a more consistent effort player. Very smart.
Markus Kuhn: Kuhn was selected by the Giants in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Kuhn is German and was only a one-year starter in college. Kuhn was an active member of the defensive tackle rotation last season before tearing the ACL in one of his knees. He was placed on Injured Reserve in November 2012. Kuhn played in 10 games with one start and finished the season with eight tackles and four pass defenses.
Kuhn has a nice combination of size (6’4’’, 299 pounds) and athletic ability. He is a high-energy effort player who can be disruptive with his quickness and intensity. Kuhn is a better run defender than pass rusher.
Kuhn has been on Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List since training camp started as he continues to rehab from his ACL injury. With training camp ending next week, it’s becoming more likely that Kuhn will start the season on the in-season PUP as well, meaning he will have to miss at least the first six games of the regular season. Then a decision will need to be made on whether to activate him, put him on Injured Reserve, or waive him.
Summary: It appears Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins will start. Based on the way the coaches and players are talking about Jenkins, he may have a much bigger impact on this team than first realized when he signed. Johnathan Hankins has been everything advertised. The real surprise is Shaun Rogers. He did not have a stellar year in New Orleans in 2011 and is now 34 years old, but he’s been receiving snaps with the first team and definitely seems to be in the team’s plans.
I have a hard time seeing the team parting ways with Marvin Austin at this point. He has a lot of talent and has been improving. Unless he flops the rest of the preseason, I think he’s going to be the fifth defensive tackle.
Markus Kuhn could probably be activated off of the PUP now, but I think the Giants realize that if they did so, they would have to end up cutting him. Look for him to be added to the regular-season PUP.
I think Mike Patterson and Frank Okam can play in this league, but it’s a numbers game for them.
Bill Parcells Enshrined Into the Hall of Fame: Bill Parcells, who served as Giants’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (1981-1982) and head coach (1983-1990), was officially enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Former Giants’ defensive end George Martin (1975-1988) introduced Parcells. Giants’ co-owner Ann Mara, President/CEO John Mara, and Head Coach Tom Coughlin were in attendance for the ceremony.
For a complete list of Giants in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, see the Hall of Fame section of the website.
August 3, 2013 New York Giants Training Camp Reports: The Giants held their seventh training camp practice on Saturday afternoon at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The next practice is on Sunday from 1:30-3:45PM, but this practice is closed to the public. 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 Saturday 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 is) getting better,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He’s feeling better.”
“(Webster) does (feel better),” said Coughlin. “But he seems to be doing okay. Hopefully it’s not going to be long.”
“I would hope (Nicks will practice on Tuesday),” said Coughlin. “That’s the plan.”
Coach Media Q&As: Transcripts and video clips of Saturday’s media sessions with the following coaches are available at Giants.com or BigBlueInteractive.com:
Quotes: Tight Ends Coach Mike Pope on tight ends Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell: “We want to get Adrien on the field. He’s a terrific target and runs well. We’d like to see if Larry Donnell can make a contribution. Certainly size and talent-wise, he has that. But he missed all the spring and mini-camps because of a broken foot, so he’s virtually just starting right now. So, how fast can those guys grow? The faster they grow, the more effective we’re going to be. I do think we have, size-wise, the biggest group I’ve ever worked with. These guys are 278, 280, 282, and they can run fairly well. We haven’t had that around here since I’ve been here. That’s since 1982. We haven’t had that size player. So that should add to our running game on the edge, and should enable us to block some of these defensive ends and some of these outside linebackers that are in this league now. Hopefully, with the quickness and speed of our running backs, that can be a huge contribution: the way we block the edge of the offense and are more effective in the run game.”
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:
July 29, 2013 New York Giants Training Camp Reports: The Giants held their third training camp practice on Monday afternoon at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The next practice is on Tuesday 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 Monday 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).
WR Hakeem Nicks (groin) and OC David Baas (still recovering from various and undisclosed offseason surgeries) were limited in practice.
FB Vonta Leach Re-Signs with Ravens: Unrestricted free agent FB Vonta Leach, who the Giants had expressed some interest in, has re-signed with the Baltimore Ravens.
Coach Media Q&As: Transcripts and video clips of Monday’s media sessions with the following coaches are available at Giants.com:
Quotes: DT Cullen Jenkins on which defensive linemen on the Giants might make a leap forward this season: “Linval Joseph. From looking at Linval in all the practices you wonder why he is not a Pro Bowler. He’s got a tremendous amount of ability, the strength he possess, quickness, speed. He’s had a couple dings here and there that have hampered him, but if he can stay healthy I think he’ll be a Pro Bowler.”
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?