Jun 082020
 
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Blake Martinez, Green Bay Packers (December 29, 2019)

Blake Martinez – © USA TODAY Sports

With New York Giants training camp hopefully beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Keep in mind that some of the players discussed may be cut as the 2020 NFL draft class signs their rookie contracts.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Linebackers

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: If we go back in time one year, many believed that while the defensive line and secondary would improve, it was the linebacking unit that still seemed very much unsettled. After all, the 3-4 defense relies on the linebackers to be the play-makers. The Giants had traded away their best pass rusher, Olivier Vernon. Markus Golden was signed in free agency, but he had yet to return to his pre-injury form from 2016 (12.5 sacks). There was a desperate hope and need for second-year player Lorenzo Carter to beat out disappointing free agent Kareem Martin, relegating the latter to reserve duty. The Giants had also drafted Oshane Ximines in the 3rd round.

Inside linebacker was also a bit confused. The Giants were hoping that Alec Ogletree would become more consistent. It wasn’t clear if B.J. Goodson or Tae Davis would start alongside him. Much wasn’t expected immediately of 5th rounder Ryan Connelly.

So what happened? Golden actually ended up being a good signing, starting all 16 games and accruing a career-high 72 tackles, and team-high 10 sacks. On the other hand, Carter disappointed. Despite starting 12 games, he finished the year with just 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Martin was placed on Injured Reserve in September 2019 with a knee injury that he suffered in the regular-season opener. He was activated back to the active roster in December and finished the year with only three tackles in five games, with no starts. Ximines had a mixed performance as a rookie, receiving significant playing time (45 percent of all defensive snaps). While he flashed at times as a pass rusher (4.5 sacks), he struggled against the run. The Giants also added some in-season pick-ups who saw limited playing time such Devante Downs, Chris Peace, and Tuzar Skipper.

Inside, it was worse. Goodson was traded to the Packers before the season started. Davis was cut during the season in October. Ogletree missed three games and his overall play noticeably declined. At times, he simply appeared to be going through the motions. The brief bright spot was rookie Connelly, but he tore his ACL in Week 4. The Giants signed David Mayo in September after he was cut by the 49ers and surprisingly ended up starting 13 games. He played just OK. Special teams player Nate Stupar was waived, re-signed, and waived again. Undrafted rookie free agent Josiah Tauaefa made the team but saw most of his action on special teams. Deone Bucannon was signed in October after he was cut by the Buccaneers, starting one game, but playing mostly in a reserve role.

Overall, except for Golden and a brief couple of games from Connelly, the linebacking corps once again was a disappointment in all phases: run defense, rushing the passer, and coverage. The Giants finished 20th in run defense. The team generated 36 sacks with 23.5 coming from the linebackers (10 of those from Golden alone). Coverage on opposing tight ends and running backs remained abysmal.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The revolving door at this position continues. The team’s best linebacker in 2019, Markus Golden, remains in limbo as an unsigned unrestricted free agent. Joe Judge says the team would like him back. Expensive David Gettleman mistakes Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin were let go in February. Deone Bucannon signed with the Falcons in May. The Steelers re-signed Skipper from the Giants’ Practice Squad in November.

Devante Downs and David Mayo were re-signed. The Giants signed free agents inside linebacker Blake Martinez ($31 million) and outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell ($4.6 million). An influx of rookies arrived in April, including Cam Brown (6th round), Carter Coughlin (7th round), T.J. Brunson (7th round), Tae Crowder (7th round), Dominique Ross (UDFA), Dana Levine (UDFA), and Oluwole Betiku (UDFA).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: There are a lot of bodies (17), but how many are good players? The team’s most productive pass rusher, Golden, remains unsigned. As of now, the Giants are relying on Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and a late draft pick/rookie free agent to supply the outside pass rush. While the first three players have flashed at times, that’s asking a lot. The belief by many is that new Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham will have to scheme the pass rush.

Inside, much depends on the performance of Blake Martinez and how well Ryan Connelly comes back from a serious knee injury. Opinions on Martinez vary wildly. And Connelly has to prove he hasn’t lost speed/agility. Mayo provides depth and insurance.

Did the Giants find gold with any of the late four draft picks or three undrafted rookie free agents?

ON THE BUBBLE: When you have 17 players at one position, a lot of people are on the bubble. Barring injury, one would think that Fackrell, Carter, and Ximines are safe outside and Martinez and Connelly will make it inside. Mayo has an experience advantage, but he faces competition from at least two rookies (Brunson and Crowder). Will the Giants re-sign Golden? All five rookie outside linebackers have intriguing characteristics, but they all can’t make it. Special teams play probably will be a significant factor.

PREDICTIONS: Stating the obvious, the Giants don’t have an edge rusher who scares the heck out of the opposition and demands potential double-team attention. Even if the team re-signs Golden, he’s more of a complimentary piece than headliner. Fackrell could surprise as he did have a double-digit sack season in 2018 under Patrick Graham. So much depends on whether or not new outside linebacker coach Bret Bielema can develop Carter and Ximines. (Incidentally, a nice addition for Carter was that he former college coach is now coaching the inside linebackers). The pass rush could be aided if the inside linebackers and safeties can improve their coverage against tight ends. The longer a QB has to hold the football, the more time the pass rushers will have to get to the QB. Barring an unlikely breakout season by someone, the Giants are not likely to be a strong pass rushing team in 2020.

On the other hand, contrary to many, I’m a bit more bullish on the inside guys as long as Ryan Connelly can fully recover from his ACL injury. Martinez and Connelly are two smart, heady, better-athletes-than-advertised players who could form a very respectable duo inside.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin, Blake Martinez, Ryan Connelly, David Mayo, T.J. Brunson

I’m throwing darts at a dartboard when it comes to predicting rookies at this point. For example, who knows if Brunson or Crowder will show more? The heart of any special teams unit are the reserve linebackers and defensive backs so a lot of these guys could make it. I would not be shocked to see one or even two of the undrafted rookie free agents really push for a roster spot. Don’t sleep on guys like Ross, Levine, and Betiku.

Mar 142020
 
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New York Giants Helmets (September 22, 2019)

© USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS RE-SIGN LINEBACKER DAVID MAYO…
The New York Giants have officially re-signed inside linebacker David Mayo, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent next week. The contract is reportedly a 3-year, $8.4 million deal.

The Giants signed Mayo in September 2019 after he was cut by the San Francisco 49ers. He surprisingly ended up playing in all 16 games with 13 starts, playing in 57 percent of all defensive snaps, and finishing with 82 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 pass defenses. Before coming to the Giants, Mayo only had started four NFL games in four seasons.

The 6’2”, 240-pound Mayo was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. After four seasons in Carolina, Mayo signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2019.

DEL SHOFNER PASSES AWAY…
Former New York Giants wide receiver Del Shofner passed away on Wednesday at the age of 85. A 1st-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1957, Shofner was traded to the New York Giants before the 1961 NFL season. He played for the Giants from 1961 to 1967, receiving All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 1961, 1962, and 1963. In those three seasons, Shofner caught 185 passes for 3,439 yards and 32 touchdowns. Shofner was also voted to the NFL 1960’s All-Decade Team.

Oct 042019
 
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Alec Ogletree, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Alec Ogletree – © USA TODAY Sports

OCTOBER 4, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Linebacker Alec Ogletree (hamstring) did not practice on Friday. He has officially been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Running back Saquon Barkley (ankle), linebacker Lorenzo Carter (neck), and linebacker Tae Davis (concussion) were limited in practice. Barkley and Davis have been ruled out of the game. Carter is officially “questionable” for the game.

“After consulting with our doctors, we decided that (Barkley is) not going to play this week,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “I’m encouraged because he’s going through his rehab process and he’s making an effort to come back quickly… He took some reps today.”

Running back Wayne Gallman (neck), right guard Kevin Zeitler (shoulder), and left tackle Nate Solder (neck) fully practiced. All three are expected to play.

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

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
There is no media availability to the New York Giants on Saturday. The Giants play the Minnesota Vikings at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

Sep 022019
 
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David Mayo, Carolina Panthers (September 9, 2018)

David Mayo – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN DAVID MAYO, TRADE B.J. GOODSON…
The New York Giants signed linebacker David Mayo on Monday. To make room for Mayo, the team traded linebacker B.J. Goodson to the Green Bay Packers. Trade compensation reportedly involves a swap of conditional seventh-round picks in the Giants’ favor.

“(Mayo) is an outstanding special teams player, but he also plays well from the line of scrimmage,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “In our opinion, he’s a good four-down player. That was the attraction to him.”

The 26-year old, 6’2”, 240-pound Mayo was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. After four seasons in Carolina, Mayo signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2019. He was cut by the 49ers on Saturday. Mayo has played in 59 regular-season games with four starts, accruing 61 tackles and two pass defenses. He is a good special teams player.

In his third year with the Giants in 2018, B.J. Goodson had his most productive season, playing in 15 games with 13 starts, and finishing with 61 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 4 pass defenses, and 2 interceptions. Goodson was drafted by the Giants in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he played in 15 regular-season games with no starts. In 2017, Goodson started all seven games he played in, but missed most of the season with shin and ankle issues.

NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN TWO MORE TO PRACTICE SQUAD…
The New York Giants finalized their 10-man practice squad by signing wide receiver David Sills and cornerback Corn Elder.

The 23-year old, 6’3”, 211-pound Sills was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Buffalo Bills after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Bills waived him on Saturday.

The 24-year old, 5’10”, 185-pound Elder was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. Elder spent his rookie year on Injured Reserve with a knee injury. He played in 13 games with no starts for the Panthers in 2018, accruing just three tackles. The Panthers waived him on Friday.

NEW YORK GIANTS 2019 TEAM CAPTAINS…
On Monday, New York Giants players elected the following seven captains for the 2019 NFL season:

Offense: Eli Manning, Nate Solder, and Saquon Barkley
Defense: Alec Ogletree and Antoine Bethea
Special Teams: Zak DeOssie and Michael Thomas

This is Manning’s 13th consecutive season and DeOssie’s ninth as captains. Solder, Ogletree, and Thomas were captains last year, their first with the team. Bethea is in his first season with the Giants, and Barkley was selected in his second pro season.

“The players voted on who they want to be their captains, and I am in total agreement with them,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “They chose wisely. This is our official leadership, but there are many players on the team who have shown the ability to lead in their own way.”

INJURY REPORT…
In the portion of practice open to the media, WR Darius Slayton (hamstring), TE Garrett Dickerson (quad), and CB Sam Beal (Injured Reserve – hamstring/groin) were working on the side with trainers. LB Nate Stupar (concussion) and CB Antonio Hamilton (groin) participated in the portion of practice open to the media.

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

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The players are off on Tuesday and return to practice on Wednesday.