May 142020
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (December 29, 2019)

Saquon Barkley – © 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: Running Backs

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Coming off an incredible debut season in 2018, where he earned “Offensive Rookie of the Year” honors and led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage, much was expected of Saquon Barkley in 2019. However, his second pro season quickly became forgettable after he suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 3. The injury caused him to miss three games and nagged him much of the remainder of the season. Playing soft and tentative at times, Barkley did not show signs of his old self until December. Nevertheless, Barkley still rushed 217 times for 1,003 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns behind an offensive line that did not block very well. He also caught 52 passes for 438 yards and two touchdowns.

The game that best epitomized Barkley’s frustrating season was the Week 14 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants led 17-3 at halftime, yet the team’s offensive brain trust only called for seven runs by Barkley in the second half. Three weeks later, the Giants faced the Eagles again, this time in the Meadowlands. Barkley’s 68-yard touchdown late in the 3rd quarter tied the game at 17-17. Yet the Eagles went on to win comfortably as Barkley only touched the ball twice before the score became 34-17 in the 4th quarter. One was left with the sense that the coaching staff simply did not use Barkley to full effect.

Unbelievably, and especially when you consider the fact that Barkley missed three games and played hurt in the final 10 games, no other running back on the roster gained more than Wayne Gallman’s 110 yards. To put this in perspective, Daniel Jones rushed for 279 yards. Gallman’s stock plummeted, falling from Barkley’s primary back-up to being a healthy scratch from the game-day roster in the last five contests of the season. Gallman carried the ball only 29 times all year. Jon Hilliman only carried the ball 30 times for 91 yards. Eli Penny 15 times for 39 yards. Javorius Allen 10 times for 36 yards. In other words, all of the other backs combined only gained 276 yards, or three less than Daniel Jones (who only played 12 games).

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The team decided not to re-sign unrestricted free agent Javorius Allen, but did re-sign fullback Eli Penny to a 2-year contract. Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Jon Hilliman, and practice squad fullback George Aston also return.

Newcomers include Dion Lewis (signed by Giants after he was cut by Tennessee Titans), Javon Leake (undrafted rookie free agent), and Sandro Platzgummer (Austrian from the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Saquon Barkley is a generational talent. His presence on the roster had to be an immense appeal to coaches like Joe Judge, Jason Garrett, and Burton Burns, the latter coming back to coaching at the age of 67. But as we saw with Odell Beckham, talent guarantees nothing. And it is up to Judge, Garrett, and Burns to get the very best out of Barkley. Burns is an under-the-radar addition. He’s an old-school, demanding hard-ass, but running backs love playing for him.

Judge has stated numerous times that New York’s offensive game plans will change weekly depending on the opponent, to the point where he said there may be games where the Giants almost exclusively run or pass the football. Given the fact that Barkley is a superb receiving target and that Garrett had the Cowboys throw a ton to Ezekiel Elliott, Barkley should be heavily involved in any game plan. At the same time, the pressure is on all of the new offensive coaches, including offensive line coach Marc Colombo, and the blockers up front to simply give Barkley a chance to do his his thing. Too many times, Barkey was having to avoid tacklers in the backfield. Barkley also needs to touch the football, particularly in the clutch. When he does, good things happen.

There were a couple of red flags with Barkley last year. He still dances around a bit too much instead of taking what is there. And after he got hurt, Barkley looked tentative and indeed soft at times. That changed in December as his ankle got stronger. Hopefully that was only an anomaly. Other than that, Barkley is a legitimate League MVP candidate if he can stay healthy and keep his head on straight.

The other story line of camp is the depth situation behind Barkley. Gallman has not developed as hoped. Penny is more of a fullback. Hilliman didn’t impress as a rookie. The Giants added Dion Lewis, a smaller, elusive journeyman who did his best work in New England.

ON THE BUBBLE: Honestly, I don’t think anyone other than Barkley is totally safe. This is an area where the Giants may be actively scanning the waiver wire before the season starts. Given Judge’s familiarity with Lewis and his versatility as a runner, receiver, and returner, Lewis also has a good shot to make the roster.

PREDICTIONS: I’m a little bit wary of piling on the previous coaching staff, but I just don’t get the impression that they were terribly imaginative in using Saquon Barkley in the passing game (there was an odd, overreliance on the wheel route). The run blocking obviously wasn’t good either. Talent? Coaching? Scheme? Probably a combination of all three. When something worked, the Giants moved away from it, and just when you thought the opponent should be hit with a heavy dose of Barkley, he was nowhere to be seen.

On paper, Garrett, Colombo, Burns, and tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens are major upgrades in the coaching department. I think they will know how to use Barkley. I also expect Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler, and Nate Solder to play much better and for Andrew Thomas and possibly Shane Lemieux or Nick Gates to make an impact. Provided he stays healthy and focused, Barkley should hit the 2,000 yard mark again. He’s clearly one of the very best players in the entire League.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman, Eli Penny

After Barkley and Lewis, this is a bit dicey. Gallman is on the bubble. Penny is replaceable. A guy like Javon Leake could easily press for a roster spot, especially given his kick return skills. Hell, a guy like Sandro Plazgummer probably couldn’t have picked a better team to compete on. My guess is Gettleman and Judge will be actively scanning the waiver wire here. Don’t be shocked to see running back a priority area next offseason. The Giants need better insurance behind Barkley.

Apr 032020
 
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Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans (October 6, 2019)

Dion Lewis – © USA TODAY Sports

CONFERENCE CALL WITH RUNNING BACK DION LEWIS…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with running back Dion Lewis, who the New York Giants signed on March 23rd:

Q: Take us through why you chose to sign with the Giants?
A:  I think it was a perfect and unique opportunity. There was a lot of factors. Joe Judge being there and me having a relationship with him with my three years in New England. I grew up a Giants fan, so it was always a dream of mine to play for them. When I got the opportunity with the circumstances, I couldn’t pass it up. I’m looking forward to working with Coach Joe Judge, playing for my hometown team and getting to work with Saquon as well. There was a lot of positive factors.

Q: You mentioned being able to reunite with Joe Judge. What about his presence drew you here? Have they talked to you at all about kick returns, punt returns or what they expect from you other than just being the backup running back?
A: No. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it. Obviously, I have a lot of experience returning kicks for Joe Judge. I’m pretty sure that may come up. I’m open to doing whatever they need me to do to help this team win. That’s my approach right now and I’m going to do whatever it takes.

Q: What can you tell us about playing with Joe Judge? We don’t really know his coaching style yet, what was your experience with him like?
A: He brings a lot of energy. He is very detail orientated. He is going to be prepared and he is going to know exactly what he wants you to do and how he wants you to do it. I know he is going to make sure everybody is on the same page. He is going to throw some jabs at you in meetings. The meetings are going to be lively. I remember him having a lot of good jokes. He’s a great guy and I can’t wait to get to work for him.

Q: What did you learn the last few years about the role of being the second running back behind a guy who rarely comes off the field?
A: I learned a lot. Just learning how to be a good team player and doing what I can to encourage the guy in front of me. Watching the game, when they come off if they need to ask me a question about anything, I am always very honest. You watch the game from a different perspective, but at the same time you always have to be ready. You have to be alert, you have to be in shape. You never know when your number is going to be called. It’s a unique situation and I have been dealing with it the past two years with Derrick (Henry). It definitely helped me come here and do whatever I can to help this group.

Q: Do you think you can help make Saquon better?
A: I think we can help make each other better. With all the running backs I’ve played with, I’ve learned things from (them) and they have learned things from me. Me being a little older guy, I have some experience with some things. He’s a great player, there’s not much he can’t do. I’m looking forward to working with him, competing with him, learning from him and just doing that relationship with him. Build a great relationship with him so we can make the room better and hopefully make the team better.

Q: What do you envision your role being behind Saquon?
A: I haven’t really thought about it. I’m just going to approach it like I always approach it. Go to work every day and work hard. Show the coaches what I can do and let them figure it out. Let them figure out a role (for me). With a player like Saquon, you want him on the field as much as possible. He is one of the better backs in this league and I understand that. I’m just going to work hard, do whatever the coaches ask me to do, compete every day and try to figure it out that way instead of going in there with hopes or what I think is going to happen. I’m just going to do what I’ve always done, go in there compete, work hard, build relationships in the running back room and take it from there.

Q: You talked about growing up a Giants fan. Who were your guys? Who was your team? You grew up in Albany, so did you go up to training camp and see them?
A: Yeah, I grew up in Albany, New York. I was a frequent visitor to training camp up in Albany. It was a great experience growing up being able to go watch those guys practice during training camp at a young age. I go back to the Tiki Barber days, Kurt Warner, Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, guys like that. It’s definitely a good situation to be in.

Q: Daniel Jones is going to be the youngest quarterback you have ever played with. Have you talked to him yet? What challenges and opportunities come with playing with a young quarterback?
A: I haven’t spoken to him. He did a great job last year. He is a very athletic quarterback. As a veteran running back, my job is to make it easy on him, build a relationship with him. If I’m called on to protect him on third down, just make sure we are on the same page with the protections and things like that. I’m pretty sure he works very hard, I’ve heard a lot of good things about him. I’m excited to get to work.

Q: What about reuniting with Nate Solder?
A: Nate’s my guy. He is such a great person and a great player. I miss seeing Nate on that left side. It is going to be great to play with him again. He comes to work every day, he is a true pro and a great guy. I love Nate.

Q: You mentioned a couple times being an older guy. You didn’t get as much work as maybe you expected last year. How much do you think you have left? Saquon missed time last year with injuries and obviously you know you are always one play away. If needed, how much do you think you can provide?
A: My body feels pretty well. I didn’t take too much of a pounding last year. My body is relatively fresh. Whatever they need me to do. I keep myself in great shape, I pride myself on taking care of my body. I feel like I still can play, I can do the things I am accustomed to doing, I still can make guys miss. Whatever they need me to do, if my number is called, I’ll be ready. Whatever they need me to do or how much they need me to do it. I’ll be open to whatever they want me to do.

Mar 232020
 
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Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans (October 6, 2019)

Dion Lewis – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN DION LEWIS TO 1-YEAR DEAL…
Multiple media sources are reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent running back Dion Lewis to a 1-year contract. Lewis was cut by the Tennessee Titans on March 12th.

The 29-year old, 5’8”, 195-pound Lewis was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Lewis has spent time with the Eagles (2011-2012), Cleveland Browns (2013), Indianapolis Colts (2014), New England Patriots (2015-2017), and Titans (2018-2019).

Not counting the 2013 season which his missed due to a broken leg, Lewis has played in 86 regular-season games with 27 starts in eight seasons. He has carried the ball 538 times for 2,310 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns. Lewis has also caught 172 passes for 1,281 yards (7.4 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns.

In 2019, Lewis played in all 16 regular-season games for the Titans with one start. He carried the ball 54 times for 209 yards and caught 25 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown.

Mar 142018
 
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Nate Solder, New England Patriots (February 4, 2018)

Nate Solder – © USA TODAY Sports

REPORT – GIANTS SIGN LEFT TACKLE NATE SOLDER…
Multiple media sources are reporting that the New York Giants have agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent left tackle Nate Solder (New England Patriots) to a 4-year, $62 million contract that includes $35 million in guaranteed money. The Giants outbid both the Patriots and Houston Texans for his services. The 29-year old, 6’8”, 325-pound Solder was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Patriots. In seven seasons, Solder has started 95 of the 98 regular-season games he has played in. Solder has been a solid player since drafted but has had issues at times in pass protection.

REPORT – GIANTS SIGN LINEBACKER/DEFENSIVE END KAREEM MARTIN…
The NFL Network is reporting that the New York Giants have agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent linebacker/defensive end Kareem Martin (Arizona Cardinals). The 26-year old, 6’6”, 272-pound Martin was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Cardinals as a defensive end. The Cardinals moved him to linebacker after his rookie season. Martin had his best season in 2017, playing in all 16 regular-season games with 10 starts and finished the year with 24 tackles, one sack, three pass defenses, one interception, and one forced fumble. Martin is a ‘tweener who does his best work moving forward rather than moving backwards in space.

JONATHAN STEWART SIGNING OFFICIAL…
The New York Giants have officially signed unrestricted free agent running back Jonathan Stewart, who was cut by the Carolina Panthers at the end of February. The NFL Network is reporting that the contract is a 2-year deal that could be worth as much as $8.4 million with $6.9 million in base salary and $2.95 million in guaranteed money.

“I am very pleased that we were able to make Jonathan a New York Football Giant,” said General Manager Dave Gettleman. “He is a quality runner with power and speed and brings a veteran, professional presence to our locker room. He’s a terrific addition for us at this time.”

The 30-year old, 5’10”, 240-pound Stewart was drafted in the 1st round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Panthers. In 10 seasons with the Panthers, Stewart rushed for 7,318 yards and 51 touchdowns. He also caught 162 passes for 1,295 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2017, Stewart started 10 games but saw his rushing totals fall to 680 yards, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. Injury prone, Stewart has not played a full season since 2011.

GIANTS TENDER BRETT JONES AND ROBERT THOMAS…
As previously reported, the Giants have officially tendered restricted free agent center/guard Brett Jones at the 2nd-round ($2.91 million) level. That will provide the Giants with the right to match any offer another team makes for Jones. If they do not, the Giants would receive that team’s 2nd-round pick as compensation.

The Giants have also tendered exclusive rights free agent Robert Thomas, ensuring that Thomas will remain with the team.

Jones took over the starting center spot for 12 games in 2017 after Weston Richburg was lost for the season. Jones was originally drafted by the CFL Calgary Stampeders in 2013. He signed by the Giants in February 2015 and placed on Injured Reserve in September 2015 after spraining the MCL in his knee on the preseason finale. In 2016, Jones was on the active roster for 14 regular-season games and made one start at left guard.

Thomas played in 15 games with no starts in 2017 and finished the season with 16 tackles. Thomas was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Washington Redskins after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Redskins (2014-2015), Seahawks (2015), Patriots (2015), Dolphins (2015), and Panthers (2016). The Giants claimed Thomas off of waivers from the Panthers in September 2016; he played in eight regular-season games with no starts and finished the year with five tackles and one sack.

TENNESSEE TITANS SIGN DION LEWIS…
The Tennessee Titans have signed unrestricted free agent running back Dion Lewis (New England Patriots) to a 4-year contract. ProFootballTalk.com had reported that the New York Giants were one of several teams that have expressed interest in Lewis.

ARTICLES…

Mar 132018
 
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Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (January 7, 2018)

Jonathan Stewart – © USA TODAY Sports

REPORT – NEW YORK GIANTS EXPECT TO SIGN SIGN JONATHAN STEWART…
ESPN is reporting that the New York Giants are expected to sign unrestricted free agent running back Jonathan Stewart, who was scheduled to visit the Giants on Tuesday after meeting with the Lions on Monday. Stewart was cut by the Carolina Panthers at the end of February. The 30-year old, 5’10”, 240-pound Stewart was drafted in the 1st round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Panthers. In 10 seasons with the Panthers, Stewart rushed for 7,318 yards and 51 touchdowns. He also caught 162 passes for 1,295 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2017, Stewart started 10 games but saw his rushing totals fall to 680 yards, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. Injury prone, Stewart has not played a full season since 2011.

REPORT – NEW YORK GIANTS INTERESTED IN NATE SOLDER…
TheMMQB.com is reporting that the New York Giants have expressed interest in unrestricted free agent offensive tackle Nate Solder (New England Patriots). The 29-year old Solder was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Patriots. In seven seasons, Solder has started 95 of the 98 regular-season games he has played in.

REPORT – NEW YORK GIANTS INTERESTED IN DION LEWIS…
ProFootballTalk.com is reporting that the New York Giants are one of several teams that have expressed interest in unrestricted free agent running back Dion Lewis (New England Patriots). The 27-year old Lewis was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Eagles (2011-2012), Cleveland Browns (2013), Indianapolis Colts (2014), and Patriots (2015-2017). He played in all 16 regular-season games last season with eight starts and finished the year with 896 rushing yards (5.0 yards per carry) with six touchdowns and 214 yards receiving (6.7 yards per catch) with three touchdowns.