November 4, 2013 New York Giants Injury Report – David Wilson Better, But Still Not Cleared: Not practicing on Monday were RB David Wilson (neck) and CB Corey Webster (groin).
Wilson underwent another MRI on Monday to determine if his neck has improved. Wilson originally injured his neck on October 6 in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants announced that while Wilson’s herniated disc has significantly improved, Wilson has not yet been cleared to resume football activities. The Giants say Wilson will undergo another evaluation in several weeks.
Giants Waive LB Dan Connor Off of Injured Reserve: The Giants waived LB Dan Connor off of Injured Reserve on Monday. Conner was placed on Injured Reserve on September 12 with a neck injury (burner).
Giants Sign CB Brandon Jones to Practice Squad: The Giants signed CB Brandon Jones to the Practice Squad on Monday. The Giants terminated the Practice Squad contract of RB Jeremy Wright last week.
November 4, 2013 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Monday press conference are available at Giants.com.
November 4, 2013 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Monday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:
Dan Connor’s Season is Over: The Giants placed LB Dan Connor on season-ending Injured Reserve on Thursday. Connor left Sunday night’s game against the Cowboys with a neck injury (burner).
Giants Claim LB Allen Bradford Off of Waivers from Seahawks: The Giants have claimed LB Allen Bradford off of waivers from the Seattle Seahawks.
Practice Squad Moves: The Giants have re-signed WR Marcus Harris to the Practice Squad. To make room for Harris, the Giants terminated the Practice Squad contract of OT Steven “Sam” Baker.
Injury Update: Not practicing on Thursday were CB Prince Amukamara (concussion), OT David Diehl (thumb), and TE Adrien Robinson (foot).
“(Amukamara is) getting tested right now, but hopefully he’s going to be okay,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He seems to be fine. I can’t get him to tell me he’s had any issues, but he did the same thing the night of the game. We’ll see…I would say if he works (on Friday) and gets a good day’s work, then we would have a good chance (to play on Sunday). Barring setbacks, you know how that goes.”
OC David Baas (knee) and DE Damontre Moore (shoulder) were limited in practice.
“(Baas has) had a couple of days of practice time and he wants more every day,” said Coughlin. “That’s a good sign.”
“Right now, I’m very encouraged,” said Baas. “Today was definitely better than yesterday. Tomorrow will be a huge indicator.”
RB Da’Rel Scott (knee) fully practiced.
Coach Media Q&As: Transcripts and video clips of Thursday’s media sessions with the following coaches are available at Giants.com:
New York Giants Must Reduce Roster to 53: By 6:00PM on Saturday, the Giants must make at least 22 roster moves in order to reduce their roster from 75 to 53.
August 30, 2013 New York Giants Injury Report: Various press sources are reporting that RB Andre Brown, who fractured his left leg in the preseason game against the Patriots, will miss 4-6 weeks. Head Coach Tom Coughlin was less definitive. “Not really (any timetable), said Coughlin. “Not until I hear some more information. There’s MRI’s and that type of stuff going on so, when we know, you’ll know.”
Coughlin was asked if Brown could be placed on Reserve/Designated-to-Return List (temporary Injured Reserve). “He could be. Yeah. Sure,” replied Coughlin. If Brown is placed on the Designated-to-Return List, he would be ineligible to return until for eight weeks. And the Giants could only put him on temporary IR after he is first on the 53-man roster, meaning another player would have to lose a roster spot first. Teams can only use the temporary IR option once per season.
TE Adrien Robinson sprained his left foot in the preseason game against the Patriots. “Supposedly a sprain,” said Coughlin. “At this point in time and, again, you could come back in five minutes and I could say it’s a different story. There’s no surgery or anything like that to talk about…It’s not exactly mid-foot (sprain), it’s off to the side a little bit. I think he tried to turn around at halftime and go last night, but he couldn’t really get up on his toes well enough to be able to do that. ”
LB Dan Connor suffered a burner in the preseason game against the Patriots, but is not expected to miss any time. “Just shoulder tightness, nothing terrible,’’ Connor said. “I could play today, I could have played a lot more (against the Patriots).’’
S Tyler Sash suffered a concussion in preseason game against the Patriots. No word yet on how much time he might miss.
WR Victor Cruz, who suffered a heel contusion in the preseason game against the Jets, says he hopes to be able to play in the season opener against the Cowboys but is unsure if the team will let him. “I hope so,” said Cruz. “We’re still going to gauge it throughout the weekend. I’m still going to be coming in for treatment or whatnot, so we’ll see how it goes. Still doctors that have to say it’s OK. The training staff is taking it slow, but I’d like to practice and get some live work in on Monday if possible.”
OC David Baas, who sprained the MCL in one of his knees in the preseason game against the Colts, says he is improving but Baas is not sure if he will be ready for the season-opener against the Cowboys. “It’s responded really well,” Baas said. “My doctors have said they are very happy with my progress. And, like I said, this is something that we’re just going to continue to work on and keep pushing it to its max and hope for the best. We’ll take it day-to-day.”
Surgery for S Stevie Brown, who tore the ACL in his left knee in the preseason game against the Jets, has not yet been scheduled. “It’s very disappointing,” said Brown. “You work all summer getting ready for the season and just a freak accident like that to happen definitely sucks.”
Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Friday press conference are available at BigBlueInteractive.com and Giants.com.
Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Friday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:
Injury Update – Henry Hynoski Activated Off of the PUP: Not practicing on Thursday were WR Victor Cruz (heel), WR Louis Murphy (leg), WR Ramses Barden (knee), OC David Baas (knee), OT David Diehl (thumb), DE Damontre Moore (shoulder), CB Corey Webster (knee/groin), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (PUP – back), and DT Markus Kuhn (PUP – knee).
FB Henry Hynoski (knee) was activated from the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list that he had been on since the start of training camp. Hynoski underwent knee surgery in late May after injuring the medial collateral ligament and fracturing the lateral plateau in his knee during an Organized Team Activity (OTA) practice.
Hynoski was limited to individual drills.
“I’m very happy to be out here with my teammates and just get out here moving around and doing some things,” said Hynoski. “Obviously, we’re starting off slow just doing individuals for a little while and then building up from there on out…I did everything…just to get back at the earliest possible date and now it’s paying off. I’m very excited to be in the position I am today.”
Hynoski was doubtful whether he would play in the remaining two preseason games, but he is hoping he will be ready by the season opener against the Cowboys. “That’s my goal, but if it takes to Week 2 or 3, that’s fine,” said Hynoski. “We have a very smart medical staff and trainers and they’re going to put me in the right position when they know I’m physically fit to be out there and performing at the best that I can.”
Head Coach Tom Coughlin was asked if Pierre-Paul or Kuhn were close to coming off of the PUP. “They’re getting close, according to what I hear,” replied Coughlin. “I’m just listening.”
Coughlin was also asked if there was any concern about Webster being ready for the opener. “I hope not,” said Coughlin. “I hope that’s long gone by then. We should get two good weeks, I think. Next week and the week after, we should be in good shape.”
S Antrel Rolle (ankle) returned to practice on a very limited basis, taking part in a few team drills but mostly doing individual drills.
DE Adrian Tracy (dehydration) returned to practice.
New York Giants Add Offensive Tackle: The Giants signed OT Austin Holtz on Thursday.
Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s press conference on Thursday 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:
August 16, 2013 New York Giants Training Camp Reports: The Giants held their 15th training camp practice on Friday afternoon at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The next practice is on Tuesday from 3:25-5:25PM. For a complete training camp schedule and Giants.com Q&A guide, see the Training Camp section of the website.
Injury Update – TE Larry Donnell Injures Knee in Practice: Not practicing on Friday were RB Da’Rel Scott (shoulder), WR Brandon Collins (hamstring), OT Chris DeGeare (ankle), DE Damontre Moore (shoulder), CB Corey Webster (soreness), S Antrel Rolle (ankle), S Cooper Taylor (hamstring), FB Henry Hynoski (PUP – knee), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (PUP – back), and DT Markus Kuhn (PUP – knee).
Head Coach Tom Coughlin was asked about Pierre-Paul’s rehab. “If you saw him yesterday, he worked well yesterday,” responded Coughlin. “He was right out here. He’s a little sore today, so they slowed him down again. But yesterday was an outstanding day. He ran well and he worked in the weight room.”
TE Larry Donnell injured his left knee in practice, fell to the ground in obvious pain, and had to be carted off of the field. He left the facility on crutches and will be undergoing all of the necessary tests.
WR Jerrel Jernigan (soreness) returned to practice.
Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Friday Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s press conference on Friday 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:
New York Giants Return to Practice on Friday: There was no practice on Thursday. The Giants return to practice at Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Friday 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.
Giants.com Q&A With Perry Fewell: The video of a Giants.com Q&A with Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell is available at Giants.com.
August 13, 2013 New York Giants Training Camp Reports: The Giants held their 13th training camp practice on Tuesday afternoon at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The next practice is on Wednesday 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 – Low Ankle Sprain for Rolle: Not practicing on Tuesday were RB Da’Rel Scott (shoulder), WR Jerrel Jernigan (soreness), WR Brandon Collins (hamstring), OL James Brewer (concussion), OT Chris DeGeare (ankle), DE Damontre Moore (shoulder), CB Corey Webster (soreness), S Antrel Rolle (ankle), S Cooper Taylor (hamstring), FB Henry Hynoski (PUP – knee), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (PUP – back), and DT Markus Kuhn (PUP – knee).
The good news on Rolle, who is wearing a walking boot, is that his ankle injury is not a high ankle sprain. However, the injury appears to be a significant sprain with no immediate timetable for his return.
“It’s a pretty good sprain,” said Rolle. “I always said that if I can’t get up and I can’t walk off on my own, then it’s pretty bad. For right now, just from yesterday (to) today, it feels 10 times better.”
“(I want to be back) as soon as possible,” said Rolle. “There’s no timeframe at the moment but as soon as possible. I’m a hard worker, on the field and off the field. I’m not a fan of injuries, I really hate to even speak about this, but it happens in this game. I’m just going to do the best I can, try to get out there before the preseason’s over with and take it one day at a time.”
When asked if he might miss the regular-season opener, Rolle responded, “Oh no. No, I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure. That’s not even a possibility.”
“It’s not a high ankle sprain, that’s for sure,” said Rolle. “I had a high ankle sprain before and there are no similarities at all. Thank God.”
Roster Moves: FB Ryan D’Imperio has decided to retire and the Giants have placed him on the Reserve/Retired List. To fill his roster spot, the Giants signed FB Ben Guidugli.
Coach Media Q&As: Transcripts and video clips of Tuesday’s media sessions with the following coaches are available at Giants.com:
July 28, 2013 New York Giants Training Camp Reports: The Giants held their second training camp practice on Sunday afternoon at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The next practice is on Monday 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 Sunday 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).
OC David Baas, who had offseason elbow surgery and is still recovering from other undisclosed surgeries, has been limited thus far in camp. “They have me on limited reps right now, but we’ll manage that,” said Baas. “I’ll be full-go, for sure, but we’re going to be smart about it and if there’s sometimes where we’ve got to cutback a little bit then that’s what we do.”
When asked what he injured last season, Baas replied, “There were a lot of them, but I won’t comment on that.”
WR Hakeem Nicks left practice early with tightness in his groin. S Tyler Sash was carted off the field with cramps.
Will Hill Admits He Failed Drug Test for Marijuana: Safety Will Hill told the press on Sunday that he has failed multiple drug tests for marijauna last season. As previously reported, Hill has been suspended for the first four games of the 2013 regular season due to violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse. Hill appealed the suspension, but the appeal was rejected.
Hill was also suspended for the first four games of the 2012 regular season for using Adderall, violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
“Just going through a lot of stressful times through last season, and I failed a lot of drug tests,” said Hill. “It carried over to this season. Just trying to fight it and obviously the league made the decision for this season.”
“I had a lot of stress from my environment,” said Hill. “(Drugs were) the only way I knew how to cope with it until I got with the team. They put me in some clinic and that helped me out…We were trying to fight (the suspension), basically. The team stepped in and tried to do the best they could so this would not happen, but ultimately the league made the decision.”
“The Giants helped me the best way they could,” said Hill. “They got me help and helped me see other ways to cope with my problems…The Giants helped me out a lot. I wasn’t here for the spring practices and stuff. I was in Boston at this clinic and they were giving me help there and I’ve been going to an outpatient (facility) in Parsippany, (New Jersey).”
“We were disappointed and hopefully Will is going to get his life straightened out,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.
Giants Waive CB Antonio Dennard Off of Injured Reserve: The Giants reportedly released CB Antonio Dennard off of Injured Reserve on Saturday after apparently reaching an injury settlement.
Sam Madison Serving as Temporary Assistant Coach: Former Giants’ cornerback Sam Madison (2006-2008) will spend the next three weeks in training camp with the Giants, serving as an assistant defensive back coach.
Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Sunday Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s press conference on Sunday are available at Giants.com.
Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Sunday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:
The linebacker position on the Giants has been unsettled for quite some time. For the older fans, who had the pleasure to watch players such as Sam Huff, Harry Carson, Brad Van Pelt, Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, and Jessie Armstead, it has been frustrating.
When the Giants shifted from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense in the 1990s, the personnel emphasis naturally shifted from spending premium resources on linebackers to defensive linemen. And that trend has continued under General Manager Jerry Reese.
Since Reese became general manager of the Giants in 2007, in seven drafts, the Giants have drafted seven linebackers, including players in the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds. Only two remain on the roster – sixth-rounders Adrian Tracy and Jacquian Williams. Tracy, a defensive end in college, was drafted as a linebacker and has since been moved back to defensive end. Gone by the wayside are Bryan Kehl, Jonathan Goff, Clint Sintim, Phillip Dillard, and Greg Jones.
In free agency under Reese, the Giants have signed Kawika Mitchell, Danny Clark, Michael Boley, Keith Bulluck, Dan Connor, Aaron Curry, and Kyle Bosworth. The latter three were signed this offseason.
The Giants also traded away their fifth round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft for Keith Rivers.
It’s obviously too early to comment on Connor, Curry, and Bosworth, but of all of the rest, since 2007, only Boley became an established, multi-year starter for the Giants. (After four seasons as a starter, Boley was released this offseason). If we’re being honest, to date, Reese’s track record in addressing the linebacking position has not been good.
With Boley and free agent departure Chase Blackburn no longer on the roster, and Mathias Kiwanuka moving back to defensive end, the Giants will have three new starters at linebacker in 2013. That’s quite a turnover. And it is conceivable that the three new starters in 2013 will be castoffs Rivers, Connor, and Curry. In fact, if you could turn back the clock and tell a Giants fan in April 2008 that the Rivers, Connor, and Curry would be starting for Big Blue in few years, the response would have been, “How the hell did Reese pull that off?” We’ll have to see if they can turn their careers around and regain former collegiate glory.
The Giants currently have nine linebackers on the roster. They will probably keep seven on the 53-man roster, especially since linebackers usually make good special teams players. But it is possible that they could keep as few as six.
“(Our linebackers) actually had a good spring,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin at the end of mini-camp. “And the good thing about them, they are very unselfish. They work hard; they study hard. If I called for a one hour meeting, those guys were probably going to meet for an hour and a half to two. It is just the way that group is. They have been good. So we’ll see. I have seen some growth and I have seen a lot of good things happen out here. They are going to have to. It’s going to have to happen.”
Let’s look at each of these nine players:
Dan Connor: A highly-regarded Penn State linebacker coming out of the 2008 NFL Draft, Connor was originally selected in the 3rd round by the Carolina Panthers. He signed with the Cowboys as a free agent in March 2012. Connor was then signed by the Giants in March 2013 after he was released by the Dallas. In five NFL seasons, Connor has played in 56 regular-season games with 27 starts. In 2012, Connor started eight games for the Cowboys and finished the season with 56 tackles and one pass defense. Connor has decent size, but lacks athleticism. He is more of a tough, blue-collar, two-down run defender who sometimes struggles in pass coverage. Connor is not overly physical at the point-of-attack, but he is quick to locate the ball, avoids blocks well, and is a good, solid tackler. He can play inside or outside, but he definitely is more comfortable in a 4-3 scheme. Connor’s biggest problem has been staying healthy.
“I think (middle linebacker is my best) position,” Connor said. “That’s the position where I’m comfortable. I played it in college, I was in the middle of a 4-3 in Carolina. So I feel most comfortable in the middle. But I do have some experience on the outside.”
“It’s all about being technique-perfect and being able to call the defense, make the checks and be spot on,” Connor said. “As a new guy in the locker room, that’s how I’m going to earn respect – by knowing not only my position but everyone else’s position. So studying is big for me right now, being vocal on the field, and basically earn the respect of guys who I met (only recently).”
Connor’s chief competition at middle linebacker, Mark Herzlich, has been impressed by Connor. “Dan is a very intelligent player,” said Herzlich. “He’s very good with his reads and his fits. He’s very precise.”
“Run fits have been a point of emphasis, making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time,” said Connor. “The coaches have done a great job teaching us the mistakes that were made last season.”
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” said Connor. “We have a lot of young guys. They’re hungry. Each one of us feels like we want to put our name on the map. I really like this defense. It lets you play fast and play aggressive.”
Aaron Curry: In the 2009 NFL Draft, Curry was widely-regarded as one of the best linebacking prospects in years and “the safest pick” in the draft. The Seattle Seahawks made him the fourth player selected overall in that draft, but Curry never lived up to his draft hype and was traded to the Raiders during the 2011 season for a 7th round pick and conditional 5th round pick. Curry played better in Oakland, but he was hampered by chronic knee issues and was cut.
Physically, Curry has excellent size and strength. Although he lacks ideal lateral agility, when healthy, he is a very good athlete who runs well. For some reason, it hasn’t come together for Curry at the pro level. Critics have pointed to the lack of big plays, inconsistency, poor coverage, and too often being out of position.
Curry says his problem in Seattle was that he was not focused on football. “Early in my career, I was just selfish and self-centered,” said Curry. “I was more about me than I was about the Seahawks. It was immaturity, and I’m glad I got past that stage…It was like I knew I could do it and I knew I would do it. I just don’t think at the time I was interested in doing it. I think I was interested in other things and at the time football just wasn’t my top priority, just to be honest…(Now) I approach everything differently. I see details now. Football is important now. It has a priority in my life that I’m willing to do whatever it takes that’s going to help the Giants be successful and I’m not so selfish…Now I’m more about finding a way to just put out a lot of effort and a lot of energy and just cause havoc.”
Curry’s biggest issue now may be the health of his knees. Curry underwent stem-cell therapy on both of his knees during the 2012 offseason. He only played two games before he was cut in November. He then underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in December.
Curry’s former linebacker coach in Seattle, Ken Norton, is still a believer if Curry is healthy. “He was a 4-3 linebacker playing off the ball and you’re not going to get sacks,” Norton said. “He’s probably the best linebacker I’ve ever had to play over the tight end and just dominate him. There were a whole lot of expectations. You don’t see the sack numbers and people say this guy isn’t doing what he’s supposed to be doing. At the end, his legs and knees were hurting a lot and he was unable to stop on a dime. He couldn’t do all the things he was supposed to do.”
“If Aaron’s health isn’t an issue, if he can run and stop and hit, I mean, this kid hasn’t scratched the surface,” Norton said. “He can do a lot of amazing things. He does things that Carl Banks used to do on the tight end. Once he gets his mind set on something, he can do it. The only issue with him has been what’s going on between the ears. If everything is in order and he’s to the point where he has something to prove, the Giants might have caught him at the right time.”
“I hope to be able to offer some positive energy (to the defense),” said Curry. “I just want to run around and hit things that are moving and I want my teammates to get excited. I want the defense to be excited at all times and I hope to be able to just uplift everybody and do what’s asked of me and do it full speed…My job and my only motivation is to go out there, play hard, play fast, be physical and get my teammates to just be fired up with me and just bring a positive energy every day.”
Keith Rivers: If Curry was supposed to be a “sure thing”, then Rivers was pretty damn close. Rivers was the ninth player taken in the 2008 NFL Draft. But the injury-prone linebacker was traded by the Bengals to the Giants in 2012 for a 5th round draft pick.
While Rivers never lived up to his draft hype in Cincinnati, he was a solid player for the Bengals when he played. The problem was that he couldn’t stay healthy and that trend continued with the Giants in 2012. Last season, hamstring and calf injuries caused him to miss five games and limited his playing time and effectiveness. Rivers finished the season with six starts and accrued 44 tackles. In four seasons in Cincinnati, Rivers started 33-of-35 regular-season games he played in. But he missed 29 regular-season games with injuries – including nine games in 2008 with a broken jaw and all of the 2011 season with a wrist injury that required surgery. Rivers also missed time in 2009 with a calf injury and in 2010 with plantar fasciitis. Rivers is an athletic, three-down linebacker. He is more of the run-and-hit type than physical presence at the point-of-attack against the run. Rivers has the overall athletic ability and range to do well in coverage, but he needs to become more consistent in that area of his game. He only has two career sacks.
Interestingly, Giants’ beat reporter Paul Dottino, who also does some work for the Giants, says Rivers was clearly the best linebacker in training camp last year. During spring workouts, Rivers was starting at weakside linebacker in Mathias Kiwanuka’s old position. (Note: In Perry Fewell’s system, the weakside linebacker is called the strongside linebacker).
During OTAs, Coughlin said, “The other day Keith Rivers made a heck of a play.” Rivers has the ability to be a very steady performer for New York if he can just stay on the football field.
Mark Herzlich: Herzlich was regarded as one of the better collegiate linebackers in the country before missing the 2009 season at Boston College with bone cancer. Because of the illness, a titanium rod was inserted into Herzlich’s left femur. Herzlich has very good size, but the key question is whether Herzlich now has the overall athletic ability to excel at the pro level. Last year, it was anticipated that Herzlich would provide more of a serious challenge to Chase Blackburn for the starting middle linebacker position, but Herzlich underwhelmed.
Herzlich has had a very good spring. It was Herzlich, not Dan Connor, who started at middle linebacker during spring workouts and the coaches appear to have come away impressed.
“Very commanding,” said Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell. “He’s taken a leadership role out there and I think he has some good respect from his teammates in some of the things he’s done in the OTAs. Obviously, we want to find out what happens when the pads come on.”
“After the first OTA, (Spencer Paysinger and I) always go and watch the films,” said Herzlich. “Me and Spence were watching film, and we’re like, ‘We’re gonna know this defense better than the coaches.’ So we went to Costco that day, got dry erase boards. I was on the dry erase board all day, just reviewing everything from OTAs, getting ready for mini-camp. That way, when you eliminate the mental mistakes, you can play faster and more physical.”
“As linebackers, you never want to be called ‘soft,’” said Herzlich. “There were some people saying that we were playing soft last year. So we have a mentality to change that this season…We’ve talked about how we couldn’t stop the run when we needed to last season. People say, ‘It’s the defensive line.’ But it starts with the linebackers. We have to fill our gaps and play downhill.”
Connor may overtake Herzlich in training camp and the preseason, but right now, it’s Herzlich’s job to lose.
Spencer Paysinger: Paysinger was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft. While serving primarily as one of the Giants’ best special teams players, Paysinger has seen his playing time on the defense increase. He actually started three games in 2012 and finished the season with 39 tackles and one forced fumble. Paysinger has a nice combination of size and athleticism.
Paysinger appears to be flying under the radar scope of many fans. In spring workouts, Paysinger has been starting in Michael Boley’s old strongside linebacker spot. If Paysinger fails, it will not be for lack of hard work. In the offseason, he initiated an intense workout program that not only included weight training, but hot yoga, acupuncture, stretching, and martial arts.
“I came into the league two years ago at 233 pounds and now I’m about 245 pounds and I feel like I haven’t lost a step,” said Paysinger. “When you get heavier, bigger, and bulkier, it’s natural for you to lose a step or two when it comes to agility. By doing yoga and acupuncture and revving up my on-field work, it’s allowed me to counteract any lost steps.”
“(Paysinger) is doing a good job,” said Linebackers Coach Jim Herrmann. “He has a great opportunity to get snaps. And he is competing for the job. He has matured over the last two years. To me, the biggest thing I have seen was his maturity level, because he is comfortable with the formation. Now he is going to go out and take the next step forward because he is anticipating the plays faster and faster. He’s not worried about ‘What do I do in this defense – What do I do in that defense?’ It is, ‘Okay, I know what I am doing – now what is the offense going to do?’ And he is anticipating. And all of those guys have done a much better job of that.”
“Me and Mark (Herzlich), we’ve taken it upon ourselves to learn the defense in and out, studying together,” said Paysinger. “Buying dry erase boards to take home and just draw up plays. Pretty much internalizing the playbook to where it becomes second nature – cause if you know your stuff, you can play that much better.”
“I feel like it’s my time, Mark’s time, even Keith (Rivers’) time to step up and show we can handle this,” said Paysinger.
Jacquian Williams: Williams was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants. He was a very raw player coming out of the University of South Florida, having started only one season. Williams lacks bulk, but he is extremely athletic, fast, and quick for the position. However, Williams is not very physical and due to his size, he can get mauled at the point-of-attack against the run. Williams flashes as a blitzer and he could develop into a good coverage linebacker with added experience.
Williams’ 2012 season was sabotaged by a PCL knee injury he suffered in October that caused him to miss six games. He finished the year with just 30 tackles, down from the 78 he accrued in 2011. Though Williams returned to the playing field in December 2012, the PCL injury surprisingly limited him in the spring workouts this year. Hopefully, he will be closer to 100 percent when training camp starts.
Kyle Bosworth: The nephew of former Seahawks’ linebacker Brian Bosworth, Kyle was signed by the Giants as an unrestricted free agent from the Jaguars in May 2013. Eligible to be a restricted free agent, Bosworth was not tendered by Jacksonville. Bosworth was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jaguars after the 2010 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury. He also missed much of 2011 after being placed on Injured Reserve in November with a broken hand. In 2012, Bosworth played in all 16 games. He started five games but was later benched. He finished 2012 with 37 tackles and one interception.
Bosworth is smart, hard-working, and versatile – he can play all three linebacking spots. However, despite having decent size, strength, and some speed, Bosworth is a limited athlete who struggles in space. Bosworth is a very good special teams player and that – combined with his versatility and intelligence – may give him a leg up in the competition for backup spots.
“We felt like he would make a nice fit as a linebacker and a special-teamer,” said Coughlin after Bosworth was signed.
“I can definitely play all the (linebacker) positions,” Bosworth said. “I’ve still got to do a lot of learning in the playbook, but I’m able to fit in with the (weakside, middle, and strongside linebacker). I’m very versatile. I’ve played and started. I’ve been on every single special team, so basically wherever they need me I’ll be able to do it. Whatever they ask and I’ll be ready to go.”
Jake Muasau: Muasau was originally signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent after the May 2012 rookie mini-camp. The Giants waived him in late August, but decided to give him another shot in training camp this year and re-signed him in January 2013. Muasau was voted Georgia State University’s most valuable defensive player by his teammates in 2010 and 2011 when he played the “bandit” DE/LB hybrid position. Muasau has good size and plays with good intensity.
Etienne Sabino: Sabino was signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. Sabino was a highly-recruited high school linebacker who had a disappointing overall career at Ohio State, but he started to come on as a senior despite breaking his leg. He could project to either middle or outside linebacker. Sabino is a well-built athlete with good agility, quickness, and speed. He flashes ability to run-and-hit as well as take-on-and-shed. There are conflicting scouting reports on his instincts. Sabino should do well on special teams. He supposedly has good intangibles – mature and coachable.
Summary: The starters heading into training camp are Rivers, Herzlich, and Paysinger. But they will be challenged by Curry, Connor, and Williams. It will be interesting to see if there are three viable starters and play-makers within this group, and if the three new starters can integrate themselves with each other and the other eight members of the defense quickly. Not many teams completely revamp their starting linebacking corps in one offseason. For a defense that finished 31st in 2012 and was equally bad against the run and the pass, it is imperative that the linebacking play improve.