Sep 202020
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 20, 2020)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO BEARS 17 – NEW YORK GIANTS 13…
The New York Giants battled back from a 17-0 first-half deficit against the Chicago Bears and almost stole the game late, being stopped 10 yards short from the go-head touchdown. The Giants lost 17-13 to the Bears and fell to 0-2 on the season. Worse for the Giants, running back Saquon Barkley may have suffered a very serious injury to his right knee. The NFL Network is reporting that Barkley suffered an ACL tear, ending his season. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard was also forced from the game with a toe injury.

The Bears received the ball to start the game and immediately drove 82 yards in 12 plays to take a 7-0 early lead on quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s 28-yard touchdown pass to running back David Montgomery. Chicago converted on four 3rd-down attempts on the drive including on 3rd-and-7 on the touchdown. Matters got immediately worse for the Giants when quarterback Daniel Jones was sacked and stripped of the football on 3rd-and-6 on the ensuing drive, setting up the Bears at the Giants’ 20-yard line. Chicago could not pick up a first down but went up 10-0 on the 34-yard field goal.

The Giants went three-and-out on their second drive. After a Chicago punt, the Giants drove to the Bears’ 28-yard line, but on 3rd-and-8, Jones threw an interception to halt the scoring threat. It was on this drive, on the first play of the 2nd quarter, when Barkley was hurt.

Both teams exchanged punts and the Bears took a commanding 17-0 lead on their final possession of the half by driving 80 yards in 11 plays, with Trubisky throwing a 15-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-8. With 14 seconds left, the Giants did gain 36 yards on two plays to set up a last-second 57-yard field goal attempt, but the kick failed.  The Giants gained only seven first downs and no points in the first half.

The Giants received the ball to start the 3rd quarter, picked up one first down, but were then forced to punt again. However, two plays later, cornerback James Bradberry tipped a pass that was intercepted by safety Julian Love and returned to the Chicago 25-yard line. New York had to settle for a 39-yard field goal as the Giants could not pick up even one first down. Bears 17 – Giants 3.

The Bears moved the ball 33 yards on their second possession of the half, but were forced to punt, pinning New York at the 5-yard line. However, the Giants responded with an impressive 11-play, 95-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-goal by running back Dion Lewis early in the 4th quarter. Bears 17 – Giants 10.

The Giants got the ball back again with Bradberry picked off a deep sideline pass at the New York 34-yard line. The Giants were able to drive 47 yards in 10 plays to set up a 37-yard field goal to cut the score to 17-13. Fortunately for the Giants and Jones, a 54-yard pick-6 interception was erased by a defensive pass interference penalty on this possession.

With 7:43 left in the game, the Bears were able to drive 44 yards in 12 plays to take off 5:41 from the clock and set up a 50-yard field goal. However, the Bears missed the kick. Frustratingly for New York, Chicago was able to pick up a key 1st down on 4th-and-2 when a pass deflected by the Giants was caught for a 1st down by a Chicago offensive lineman.

Nevertheless, with 2:02 left in the game, New York had the ball at their own 40-yard line, down 17-13.  Jones threw a 22-yard pass to tight end Evan Engram on 3rd-and-10. Then on 4th-and-4, he connected with Lewis for six yards to keep the drive alive at the Chicago 26-yard line with just over half a minute to play. On 4th-and-1, Jones threw a 3-yard pass to wide receiver Darius Slayton. After Jones spiked the ball to stop the clock, New York was facing a 2nd-and-10 at the Chicago 14-yard line with eight seconds left in the game. Jones threw a 4-yard pass to Lewis. With four seconds left, Jones’ pass intended for wide receiver  Golden Tate fell incomplete as Tate was flagged with offensive pass interference. Game over.

Offensively, the Giants gained 295 yards (75 yards rushing, 220 yards passing). The team only held the football for 25:31. The Giants were 3-of-13 (23 percent) on 3rd down and 3-of-3 on 4th down. Jones completed 25-of-40 passes for 241 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He also was sacked four times and fumbled the ball away once. The leading receiver was Engram with six catches for 65 yards. Barkley was the leading rusher with 28 yards on four carries.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 304 yards (135 yards rushing, 169 yards passing), controlling the ball for 34:29. The Bears were 9-of-16 (56 percent) on 3rd down and 1-of-1 on 4th down. The defense picked off two passes (Love and Bradberry) and garnered four sacks (defensive lineman B.J. Hill and linebackers Blake Martinez, Lorenzo Carter, and Kyler Fackrell).

Video highlights are available on Giants.com.

PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
With teams now allowed to activate two players from the Practice Squad on game day, the Giants activated CB Ryan Lewis and S Sean Chandler.

Inactive for the game were RB Wayne Gallman, TE Eric Tomlinson, OT Jackson Barton, DE R.J. McIntosh, LB T.J. Brunson, LB Carter Coughlin (hamstring), and S Adrian Colbert (quad).

RB Saquon Barkley (right knee) and WR Sterling Shepard (toe) were injured and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Sep 122020
 
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Golden Tate, New York Giants (August 24, 2020)

Golden Tate – Courtesy of New York Giants

SEPTEMBER 12, 2020 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
WR Golden Tate (hamstring), TE Levine Toilolo (hamstring), and LB Tae Crowder (hamstring) were limited in practice on Saturday. All three players are officially “questionable” for Monday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

LB Markus Golden (illness) and S Adrian Colbert (illness) fully practiced. Both are expected to play on Monday.

HEAD COACH JOE JUDGE…
The transcript of Joe Judge’s press conference on Saturday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available on YouTube.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The New York Giants play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Aug 122020
 
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James Bradberry, New York Giants (August 9, 2020)

James Bradberry – Courtesy of New York Giants

AUGUST 12, 2020 JOE JUDGE CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media on Wednesday (see video at Giants.com and YouTube):

Opening Statement: Before we get started, I just want to take a second, this entire organization and personally, really just send our thoughts and prayers to the Tisch family and the terrible tragedy they’ve had to endure with the loss of their daughter. No one should ever have to go through that. Our hearts are all with the Tisch family, and showing support to them in whatever way we can.

To kind of catch everyone up, today was the first day of Phase 2 activities with the entire 80-man squad on the field. We were out there for a 90-minute window. Generally, what that is, we’re split up offense and defense. We can’t come together or do anything competitive against each other. But it’s an opportunity to get on the field and work football drills full speed. Get the guys out there, start working on some timing within the execution of our individual fundamentals and scheme, and build them to Phase 3 activities, which are really coming up starting Friday with practice on the field. With that being said, any questions anyone has, I’d be happy to answer.

Q: I was wondering if you could shed any light on what happened with Ross Cockrell?

A: You know what, that’s just something the front office would have a better answer for. We’ve talked with several players. Obviously, it doesn’t always work out when you’re doing negotiations of contracts. You can ask Dave (Gettleman) or Kevin (Abrams) or his agent, they’ll probably give you a better reference on what happened.

Q: You obviously have a lot of young corners. Is bringing in a veteran at that position sort of a priority?

A: Our priority is just to develop the players we have on the roster and look for any talent available on the street. I don’t care if it’s a first-year player or a 10th year player. We’re looking for good players who can help build this program. To answer that question pretty direct, is it a priority to have a veteran? No, it’s not.

Q: I know your focus is on the field, but with what is happening in college right now, how are you guys pivoting or adjusting? What are you going to have to do scouting wise to stay on top of next year’s draft, if it happens, when it happens? How much time can you spend on it now and do you know how it’s going to work?

A: I’ll tell you what, in terms of the timeline of the draft, at this point, I’m assuming it’s on the normal schedule until the league adjusts that. But our personnel department has done a great job up to this point of really staying proactive with it. They’ve been talking throughout the summer anticipating that some colleges may cancel football. Obviously, that’s come to fruition at this point. You’re going to have to rely heavily on tape, which is ultimately the best scouting device anyway, what they do on the field. The disadvantage to that is you’re not going to see their most recent year available because they’re not going to play in a lot of places. It will be interesting to see how college football takes shape this year as far as allowing transfers, maybe within the same year, or what these conferences decide to do. They have to make their decisions on their level. We’ll adjust however we have to.

Q: I just wanted to follow up on something from last week. You mentioned you were thinking of having some scrimmages and stuff like that. I know that’s coming up in the next week or so. Can you just give us an update as to what your plan is for that phase of training camp?

A: Yeah, we’re basically going to have an intrasquad scrimmage of some type every week of training camp. The first one will be on this next Friday coming up. Not in two days, but next Friday. Look, for everyone kind of familiar with football, that will look a whole lot like every high school and college scrimmage in America. Offense on one sideline, defense on the other. We’ll create situations on the field and let them play live football all the way through. We have to get an opportunity to let our guys play at full speed. Let them go out there and experience the game and demonstrate they can operate when coaches aren’t yelling in their ears and trying to make corrections. We just have to get them out there and let them play.

Q: You talked a little bit about cornerback. I wanted to ask you about James Bradberry. What have you learned about him so far and are you seeing him take sort of a leadership role with that group?

A: I think all of our players are working on establishing leadership within their own groups. That will emerge more and more as training camp goes on. It all starts with doing your job well and putting the team first, and that’s really what leaders have to do. But I’d say specifically to James, what I’ve really seen with him in person so far is he comes to work every day with a purpose. He’s intent in the meetings. He takes diligent care of his body off the field. You can tell he’s learned through his time in the league as to how to prepare himself for a season. I’ve been very impressed with him with his mannerisms in the meetings and how he’s preparing. Now I’m anxious to get more on the field and see him in competitive situations.

Q: In terms of Jabrill Peppers, we all keep talking about how multiple your defense will be. He’s kind of been a guy since college who is a multiple player and really hasn’t fit into a certain role, per se. What have you seen from Jabrill and what do you envision as his spot on this defense?

A: The first part is what I see from him. I see energy. You hear him before you see him. You know when he’s in the room. He’s a lively guy, he brings a lot of energy to the team, a lot of energy to the locker room. You can tell he’s a football guy. He loves ball. He flies around. You can tell if guys are on the field, whether it’s conditioning, whether it’s the limited version of practice we had this morning, you can tell football guys. He’s definitely a ball guy. In terms of his spot on the defense, I’m not trying to be evasive on this, but it’s going to be whatever we need him to do right there. With his skill set, he’s going to factor into a lot of sub-packages. Traditionally, you’ve seen him play a lot in the box in different schemes and roles. He has that body type that still fits that. But he’s going to have to be able to play the deep part of the field as well as the box for us. Right now, we’re working all of our players in terms of understanding our zone concepts so they understand how we’re trying to play with the spacing on the field and reaction time. We’re trying to train them all the best man techniques within their own skill set in our schemes. We’re going to give him a swing of the bat at a lot of things. We’re going to shake it out week by week. However our opponent matches us up, he’ll be ready to take on a different position for us.

Q: Why was it important for Daniel Jones to put on weight this offseason, or muscle?

A: That’s not even a conversation we ever had. When you look at any player from their rookie year to year two, bodies change. It’s just different. In college, you work hard. In college, you’ve got a spring training program, you practice hard, you do the mat drills in the winter. But when you get to the NFL and your body is your career, guys learn to take different care. Not that they’re trying to take better care of it, because they’re trying to do their best in college, but they learn how to really maximize what they have. That comes in nutrition, that comes in the training. Obviously, he’s a guy that during the pandemic, he didn’t take time off. He really used it to his advantage for whatever he could do. I’d say in terms of the importance of him putting on weight, I think it was just important to him overall to change his body to be able to handle the duration of a season, which every rookie in the NFL, I don’t care who you are or where you come from, every rookie eventually struggles with the duration of the 16-game season. That’s just a fact.

Q: Is there an area where it helps a quarterback to have more weight on though?

A: I think just overall body strength helps every player as an athlete with explosion and endurance on the field. You can look at it as a measure of does it help him absorb hits better. I don’t know if there’s an absolute answer to that. It depends on who the hell is hitting you. But I would just say in terms of it, he’s done everything he can to help himself on the field. He definitely came in in shape. He looks good in conditioning. We’re working right now as far as getting with his teammates and building some time.

Q: With the start of Phase 2 today, can you just say how much that meant to you to make it look more like football? Has there been any point during this whole process where you have been able to mentally forget about it for five, ten, 15 minutes and just be coaching football and not get into coronavirus, all these masks and everything, and it’s just football?

A: I think the thing we did early on in this training camp was we just established the rules and protocols we’re all going to follow, and that’s it. We don’t have to make a big issue of it every day. We know what it is, we’re working for each other’s safety and health, we’re following the rules, and when we do that, we can think about football all day. I’ve been coaching football every day here. Listen, if you like football, you truly love being on the field with the players. That’s the most fun part. Being on the field with the players, interacting, getting to coach, getting to feel their energy on the field, that’s what’s fun. Today being the real, first, true experience of having everyone on the field together, from the start of stretch right there, getting them moving, until the end of practice with conditioning, it was just a great opportunity to be out there with the guys. They get a feel for us, we get a feel for them. You’re out there coaching. They love football, we love football. Meetings are necessary to make sure we know what to do on the field, but practice is what the day is all about.

Q: This was indeed the first time you looked out on the field and saw 80 players, correct?

A: That is true, yes.

Q: Once you guys get on the field in pads on Monday, you get into another gear. I’m curious what you hope to see from a guy like Darius Slayton going into his second year, when you guys can be a little more physical and it looks a little bit more like football, especially when you didn’t take any receivers in the draft? Once everything intensifies, what are you hoping to see from Darius?

A: I hope to see an improvement and a level of intensity from everyone on the field. Look, we’re going to be moving at a fast pace come Friday, and then again on Sunday when we come back from the day off. They’re going to be moving fast, we’re going to be intent, we’re going to have an intensity in how we work. When the padded practices start on Monday, it will reduce to a 90-minute practice per league rules. We’re going to build everyone to make sure that now that we’re in pads, we can execute with the right fundamentals to play aggressive but safe. At all positions, receiver, d-line, it doesn’t matter. When the pads go on, you have to see intensity ramp up.

Q: Just a quick follow up on Peppers. Can he play what we would consider more of a traditional cornerback role for you? Does he have that versatility? The second part is how does the new rule about allowing tryouts for free agents affect how you’re going to develop this roster over the next month?

A: I’m going to answer the second question first. Regardless of whoever’s on the street, the most important thing is developing the players on your roster. That’s the most important thing. As part of the National Football League, you’re always aware of the personnel available on the street. The personnel department is always coming up with lists of who’s out there, who’s available, what the needs may be. In terms of the rules, they are what they are. We’ll work within them. But I’m not worried about guys that aren’t on our team. I’m focusing on developing the guys on our team. In terms of Jabrill with the cornerback role, we’re going to cross train all of our DBs. Based on who the receiver is, maybe there’s a game we have to use him in that kind of role. We’ll have to see where the depth and the opponent takes us based on the weekly game plan. But we’re going to work all the fundamentals with all of our players, and make sure that when they’re called on, they have a solid base to start with and they can execute what we need them to.

AUGUST 12, 2020 DARIUS SLAYTON CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton addressed the media on Wednesday (see video at Giants.com and YouTube):

Q: I’m curious about your confidence level going into Year 2 and kind of building on the chemistry you started with Daniel Jones a year ago? How different is this process this year compared to when you came in as a rookie?

A: It’s definitely been an interesting offseason just all the way around with the whole corona thing. It’s kind of been a little bit more extended than a normal offseason would be. I feel like I have had a lot of time to get in a lot of good work. I’m looking forward to this season.

Q: I wasn’t going to ask a question but then I saw you come in with the mask. You are seemingly alone, are you just very concerned about the virus?

A: No. Honestly, at this point, we wear it every day, it’s habit. At this point, it’s just habit. I wear it all around because we have to wear it in the building anyway, just a habit.

Q: I saw you had a unique setting for some of your training at home with family members. Was that out of necessity? What made you go that route? How did that help you work on your game when you need to hunker down a little bit?

A: It was a tremendous help for me. I had mostly my dad and my sister just doing ball drills with them around the house. They both have good enough aim to not break anything in the house. As long as I’m catching it, stuff tends to stay put together. Obviously, I was trying to stay home. I was trying to abide by the rules and regulations at that point in time and not be out and about. I just tried to get creative at the house and find a way to keep getting better.

Q: I don’t think there was a single game last year where Saquon, Evan, you, Shep and Tate were all lined up together. How much are you looking forward to potentially getting on the field with all those weapons together this season?

A: I’m really looking forward to it. I hope everybody can stay healthy this year and hopefully play a full 16 together. I definitely think it will be really important to have all of us out there at the same time. I’m really excited.

Q: What has your impression been of Jason Garrett so far? Obviously, he came in from the Cowboys, he had been a Head Coach there for a long time. I’m curious what you knew about him coming in and what has been your impression of him since he started coaching you?

A: I didn’t know too much about him coming in besides obviously he was the Dallas head coach. Since he’s been here, I think he has done a really good job of teaching us the system. Being patient and helping give guys time to learn things and get used to the playbook and all that type of stuff. I’m excited to have him as a coach this year.

Q: Having studied this offense or starting to learn it, what is it about it that makes it a real good fit for your skill set?

A: I think it just does a really good job of harnessing all of our weapons on our offensive skill set. We have fast receivers like myself, Shep and Golden. We have a fast tight end. All of our tight ends honestly, Evan, Levine and Kaden. Obviously, our running backs speak for themselves with Wayne and Saquon. I think the offense does a really good job holistically of getting everyone involved. Everybody will have a chance to get the ball and have the opportunity to make plays.

Q: You basically have Shep and Tate back, what does it mean to have that continuity in your room?

A: It’s tremendous. In a league where there is a lot of turnover across the board, it’s huge to have two guys, especially two veteran guys, coming in. I had them my first year and now I have them again for my second year. Just to continue to learn from and draw from them is definitely huge for somebody like me.

Q: What are your expectations in this offense? Both with all the weapons you mentioned before and for yourself with Jason Garrett being the new coordinator?

A: I think we just have a really good chance to be explosive. I think we have a chance to be an explosive offense, a really efficient offense. I just look forward to playing this year.

Q: For you personally, how do you see yourself fitting in that?

A: Kind of the same. When the ball gets thrown my way, I’ll make plays when I have the opportunity to. Just kind of go from there.

AUGUST 12, 2020 JAMES BRADBERRY CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry addressed the media on Wednesday (see video at Giants.com and YouTube):

Q: What are your impressions of this defense now that you’ve spent this whole offseason kind of absorbing it, now actually at least gotten out there and talked to your coaches and seen it a little bit?

A: Every day is a learning process. I’m learning something new every day. How I feel about it? I’m enjoying it. I’ll play anything. Cover 3, Cover 2, Man, anything. I’m looking forward to it.

Q: What does it resemble? Does it resemble anything you’ve done? How would you describe it to someone if they said, ‘Hey, what kind of defense are you guys playing’?

A: Of course, I did some of those things in Carolina. Some of the techniques and certain coverages are a little bit different. But it’s pretty much the same. Defense is defense, no matter what you play.

Q: What’s been your impression of Darnay Holmes so far coming in as a rookie? He’s obviously getting a lot of reps with you guys. What have you thought about him in the time you’ve spent with him?

A: The biggest thing that’s jumped out to me is he asks a lot of questions. Given that I’m one of the older guys in the room, he’s always coming up to me, asking me different questions. He wants to learn a whole lot, and that’s what you’re supposed to do as a rookie. I’m just enjoying him being very impressionable. I’m able to make an effect on him, and that’s my goal.

Q: What is it like for you being the veteran of the cornerback room? It’s obviously a very young group. You’re coming in and you’re only 27, 28 years old. What’s it like being the veteran of the room there?

A: It’s been pretty cool but, of course, I’m on a new team, so I’m learning every day too with them. I try to teach them things that might come up on film when we’re watching film that I might know, that might help them. But for the most part, I’m learning as well.

Q: Coach Judge has been preaching all along about cross training guys on both sides of the ball. I’m just wondering, have they asked you to do anything new in this defense along the lines of that cross-training philosophy?

A: It’s still kind of early right now in our learning process. Right now, I’m just playing corner. But for the most part, we’re still learning the defense, so we’ll see down the road.

Q: When you play, do you like to travel?

A: I like to do whatever the game plan is. I’m cool with anything. I’m very flexible. When I was in college, I was very flexible. Anything that Coach asks me to do, I’m willing to do it. I’m down with anything, honestly.

Q: When you look at some of the other cornerbacks in the room, even Xavier McKinney coming in, versatile guy. Jabrill Peppers can drop in and play nickel at times. Darnay Holmes, versatile, can play outside and can play the nickel. When you have that many guys capable of playing the slot, how does that help you as an outside cornerback, and how much added pressure does that put on you with really the guy who’s best suited to play on the outside out of everybody else?

A: I think it helps Coach Pat (Graham) a lot more when he’s creating schemes and trying to go against certain offenses. Really, that would be a question for him. For me, whatever job they have in the coverage, I’m going to get it done and try to do it to the best of my ability.

Q: As a guy that primarily plays outside, how important is the chemistry with the guy on the other side of the field, or do you prefer to kind of be on an island and lock into your guy and that’s all you’re really focused on?

A: Just having chemistry within the whole secondary is important, especially with the safeties and the nickels and corners across the board. It’s a brotherhood back there, and that’s how you have to really look at it, especially in the meeting rooms when we’re talking and we’re trying to make communication calls and stuff like that. I’d say overall, it’s important.

Q: When you came to the Giants, the expectation was that DeAndre Baker would be there, a first round pick, maybe starting alongside you. Sam Beal was a guy who was there, obviously. Those guys are no longer around. First of all, does that put added pressure on you as a veteran coming in to really hold down the fort? Also, do you think this cornerback room needs to bring in some veteran who can at least know what’s going on back there?

A: All we can do is worry about the guys that we have in the room. It’s a next man up mentality around here. If you look in the room right now, I feel like we have a lot of ability. We’re going to get the job done no matter what they ask us to do. That’s our mindset.

Q: A lot of the guys, when you look in the room, you say they have ability, but they don’t have any proven track record in the league, do they?

A: We’re all young guys. I’m still learning, and they’re learning as well. At the end of the day, we’re going to get the job done no matter what.

Q: How much are you looking forward to actually getting out there and competing against teammates and playing some football?

A: It’s been a while. Of course, we missed OTAs, so it’s been a while since I’ve been out there playing football with my teammates. I’m looking forward to it a lot.

Q: Any Giants receivers you’re particularly interested in going up against?

A: Really, all of them. I haven’t played against any of them too much. I played against Sterling Shepard in the Senior Bowl, so I’m looking forward to going against all of them.

AUGUST 12, 2020 JABRILL PEPPERS CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants safety Jabrill Peppers addressed the media on Wednesday (see video at Giants.com and YouTube):

Q: There has been some talk about you cross training at cornerback? I know you train with a DB academy. Your trainer mentioned that you did some cross training at cornerback. Cornerback is such a wide-ranging type of position, what are some of the things from your game that might translate to that position to allow to contribute at that spot?

A: I think, first and foremost, I will play wherever the team needs me to play. We’ve all been cross training and can do multiple things. Whatever the scheme is, whatever they see fit, that’s what it’s going to be.

Q: You are learning about the position. Is there anything particular about it that gets you more excited about playing it?

A: Like I said, we’ve all been training at multiple things. I think as a far as the position, you have to have great footwork. I think that’s the main component that I was trying to better myself on. Just the footwork, being patient, it’s just not for any specific position. I think if I better those things, it will help me translate my game.

Q: How tough was it for you to finish last season on IR?

A: It definitely sucked. I want to be out there with the guys competing trying to help bring W’s home. To watch, it was hard. I liked what I saw from the guys. They stayed together, competed each and every week. Now I’m focused on this year.

Q: The way you got hurt, does that give you any reservations about returning kicks in the future? It didn’t happen while you were playing your primary position.

A: I’m not really worried about that. Football is football. Anything can happen out there, I’m healthy now. It’s a new year, new focus and I’m just ready to start on that journey.

Q: What are your first impressions of guys like Xavier McKinney, who could play alongside you. Does his ability to play center field get you more excited about being a playmaker up near the box?

A: We all can do many different things, each guy on the roster. Everyone looks like they are in shape, they are well conditioned, they are moving really well. We’re all just excited to compete against one another and keep making each other better.

Q: I know you said you are fully healthy. What was that process like in the offseason to get back fully healthy? How daunting was that rehab?

A: It’s not really daunting when it’s something you know you need and want to do. It was a great process, I learned a lot through it. I’m healthy now, it’s a new year. I’m just excited to be out there with the guys.

Q: Having talked to some people who trained with you this offseason, the word that kept coming up is hungry. Where is your hunger at right now? Is there another level you can take your game to?

A: We’re all hungry. We play for one of the most prestigious organizations in the National Football League. We all know where it should be. We’re all hungry to be the best person on and off the field that we can be. It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating. We’re just doing our part to make sure we’re all the best that we can be.

Q: In terms of where your game is at right now and what you showed last year, do you think you can take your game to another level?

A: Right now, I am just focused on coming in here every day and being better than I was yesterday. I feel like if I continue to do that, good things will happen.

Q: I know you were training with Darnay Holmes and took him under your wing? What has been your impression of him with all the time you guys spent together? How valuable is that for a guy coming in, especially with such a weird offseason?

A: Anybody who wanted to work out, I definitely welcomed. I’m all about comradery, getting to know someone. When you get to know people deeper than just on a football level, it makes that bond much stronger and you want to play harder for those guys. That was my main focus. He comes from a great university, I like the product that they put out.

Q: This is a young defense, how much have you taken upon yourself to try and be more of a leader this year?

A: I’m not really thinking about that. I’m just worried about coming in here every day making sure we get better as a whole. No repeat mistakes, and just keep taking it step by step. We’re still early in this thing. We are going to keep coming in here with an attitude to want to get better, to want to learn and be coachable. If we can do that and sustain it, good things will definitely happen.

Q: What was it like to rehab your injury during the pandemic? How did things change for you once the middle of March came around? Did that affect the pace of your rehab?

A: No. Nothing really affected it. I definitely had to be more cautious with certain things, obviously social distance. It was still pretty routine.

Q: It seems like you have made strides the last couple of years. It seems like you are on the cusp of taking your game to that next level. Last year the injury set you back late in the year. What gives you confidence that this year is the year for you to break through. What about your situation says I’m ready to make that jump?

A: We have a great group of great leaders. I come in here every day anxious to learn from them. Put my best foot forward , put the coaching points forward. Just work as hard as I can work. That’s what I’m focusing on right now.

Jun 152020
 
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Jabrill Peppers, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

Jabrill Peppers – © 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: Defensive Backs

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Heading into 2019, fans were generally upbeat about a secondary that was clearly in transition. The Giants had heavily invested in the position by drafting corners Deandre Baker (1st round), Julian Love (4th round), and Corey Ballentine (6th round) in the 2019 NFL Draft. At safety, the team had effectively swapped out Landon Collins (signed by Washington Redskins) and Curtis Riley (signed by Oakland Raiders) for Jabrill Peppers (part of Odell Beckham trade) and Antoine Bethea (signed after he was cut by the Arizona Cardinals). It was expected that Janoris Jenkins would rebound from a somewhat disappointing 2018 season and that Sam Beal (who missed his rookie season due to a shoulder injury) and Grant Haley (who started nine games as an undrafted rookie) would develop and improve. Michael Thomas provided depth and special teams value.

But it was a case of the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Once again, the Giants were one of the NFL’s worst in pass defense, finishing 28th. In the “you can’t make this shit up” category, the team’s best defensive back, Jenkins, was cut in December after calling a fan a “retard” on Twitter. Baker started 15-of-16 games as a rookie, but was very inconsistent with his work ethic being questioned. Nickel corner Haley regressed and was eventually benched. The injury-prone Beal was placed on IR in September with hamstring and groin injuries, added to the 53-man roster in early November, and missed the last game with another shoulder issue. Ballentine had to deal with being shot right after he was drafted and then being thrust into a nickel corner spot that he was clearly ill-suited to play.

At safety, despite being told by team officials that Bethea still had it, he clearly did not and was a significant liability at free safety both against the pass and the run. Peppers did not make much of impact and was lost for the season in November as his overall play was improving. Michael Thomas played in all 16 games with two starts but clearly wasn’t the answer. Julian Love was moved from cornerback to safety early. He ended up starting five games late in the season, flashing at times but also experiencing growing pains as a rookie.

Overall, the unit was a collective disappointment and a major reason the overall defense finished 25th in yards and 30th in points allowed.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: As mentioned, Janoris Jenkins was waived in December. S Michael Thomas was signed by the Texans and CB Antonio Hamilton was signed by the Chiefs. Safety Antoine Bethea remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent.

Grant Haley was re-signed as an exclusive rights free agent in January. The first player the Giants signed in free agency in March was CB James Bradberry (3-year, $43.5 million contract). S/special teams player Nate Ebner (UFA from Patriots) and CB Dravon Askew-Henry (cut by Steelers last year) were also signed.

The Giants drafted S Xavier McKinney (2nd round), CB Darnay Holmes (4th round), and CB/S Chris Williamson (7th round) in the 2020 NFL Draft. After the draft, rookie free agent additions included CB Christian Angulo, CB Malcolm Elmore, and S Jaquarius Landrews. S Montre Hartage was claimed off of waivers from the Dolphins after the draft as well.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: There is a lot going on here and thus each fan probably has their own top story line. Clearly, one is the offseason drama surrounding 2019 1st-round draft pick Deandre Baker, who may or may not make it to training camp depending on the outcome of his offseason legal troubles (four counts of armed robbery and four counts of armed aggravated assault with a firearm from a bizarre incident in Florida). My personal belief is that the Giants were counting on Baker to form a solid starting CB duo alongside high-priced James Bradberry. Will Baker even be a Giant in 2020? If he is, will he be suspended by the team or the NFL? Did he get scared straight and will he commit himself to the game? If Baker is not part of the equation, the pressure increases to find his replacement among Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, Darnay Holmes, and possibly Julian Love. Are they up to the task? Can Beal stay healthy? Is Love athletic enough to handle corner at the NFL level? Will Ballentine shine more at outside corner rather than inside at nickel?

Speaking of the nickel spot, one would think the Giants would want Holmes to nail down the position if the rookie can handle it. But there are others possibly in the equation, including Love and maybe Williamson.

At safety, it would appear that Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney will have the inside shot at starting, but the coaches may want to configure packages to get Love on the field as either a third safety or additional corner. Depth is still needed here with Sean Chandler (holdover from 2018/2019), Rashaan Gaulden (added late in 2019), Montre Hartage, Chris Williamson, and Jaquarius Landrews all competing to make the roster.

Big picture is this: for the past three seasons, the Giants have invested a tremendous amount of resources into the defensive backfield, including a trading for a former 1st-round pick (Peppers); spending $43 million on a corner in free agency (Bradberry); and drafting players in the 1st (Baker), 2nd (McKinney), 3rd (Beal),  4th (Love, Holmes), 6th (Ballentine), and 7th (Williamson) rounds. It’s time for the investment to deliver returns and for the Giants to get out of the NFL basement in pass defense.

ON THE BUBBLE: There are currently 18 defensive backs on the roster. Probably only nine or ten will make the final roster. The only sure bets are probably Bradberry, Holmes, Peppers, Love, and McKinney. Baker obviously isn’t safe. Beal has to prove he can be a reliable player.

PREDICTIONS: So much here depends on the new coaching staff, not just Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham but Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson, the latter coming from Atlanta where his unit struggled at times. It’s also interesting to note that Pat Shurmur holdover Anthony Blevins was moved from assistant special teams coach to assistant defensive backs coach. These three men have to develop all of the talent that been acquired in recent years.

In addition, so much depends on the legal and emotional status of Deandre Baker. He was (and still may be) and important piece of the puzzle. The expectation is that versatile Xavier McKinney, who many felt was the best safety in the draft, will be able to handle the starting free safety spot as a rookie.

My prediction is that if Baker is available and truly focused (two big ifs), this unit could be poised for a big turnaround. There were games last year where Baker did shut down his opponent. He can do it. But how important is the game to him? Usually you can’t count on a person to change their ways, but if anything was going to scare Baker straight, facing a long prison sentence might do the trick. Bradberry should be able to more than adequately handle the other corner spot, replacing Jenkins with less drama. The nickel corner should improve with Holmes, Love, or maybe Williamson an improvement over Haley and Ballentine.

At safety, the closer Peppers plays to the line of scrimmage, the more impact he makes. The drafting of McKinney should enable the coaching staff to play Peppers in a role best suited to his skills. I would not be shocked to see packages that get Peppers, McKinney, and Love all on the field together.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: James Bradberry, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, Darnay Holmes, Corey Ballentine, Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Nate Ebner, Chris Williamson

I’m making some bold assumptions here: Baker being a Giant, Beal staying healthy, and Ballentine and Williamson showing enough to stick. Ebner is strictly a core special teams player who Joe Judge obviously targeted in free agency to lead his unit.

Mar 272020
 
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James Bradberry, Carolina Panthers (September 8, 2019)

James Bradberry – © USA TODAY Sports

CONFERENCE CALL WITH CORNERBACK JAMES BRADBERRY…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with cornerback James Bradberry, who the New York Giants signed on March 16th to a 3-year, $43.5 million contract:

Q: Why the Giants and talk about the challenge of coming in as the veteran corner on what’s a pretty young group?
A: Of course, the city of New York and all the opportunities they have on and off the field. I’m familiar with Dave Gettleman and the culture he is trying to build in the locker room. I am looking forward to being a part of it. What I can bring to the locker room is my overall knowledge of the game. I can help the younger guys in the DB room get better. My experience for the most part is what I am going to bring to the game.

Q: Obviously you and Dave Gettleman have a relationship that goes back to when he drafted you. Can you just talk a little bit about what the conversations were like this time as he was recruiting you?
A: Honestly, he reached out to my agent. I really didn’t talk to (Dave) Gettleman. They came out of nowhere and made an offer, I didn’t even expect them to make an offer. He already knew the type of guy I was, and I already knew the type of guy he was. I already knew what type of organization he was trying to build over there in New York. I knew it was nothing but positive.

Q: One of the reasons the Giants wanted you even though you are only 26 is they need a veteran in the room? Just because you have been in the league four years doesn’t mean that naturally you would be a leader. What do you think they saw in you with these young cornerbacks that you can help them other than you being a good cornerback yourself?
A: Of course, Dave saw me up close and personal my first year and then after that he saw me from afar. After that, I think he saw me improve each and every year. In order to improve you have to take knowledge and apply it on the field. That’s what I want to do for the younger guys, I want to give them knowledge and hopefully they can apply it on the field.

Q: I think the expectation is this defense is going to play a lot of man coverage. How does that fit your strength and was that appealing to you?
A: I see myself as a versatile corner. I can play zone, I can play man. I was down for whatever. Of course, playing a lot of man is a challenge for any cornerback and I am always willing to accept a challenge.

Q: What was it like going into free agency during the coronavirus?
A: Initially, free agency was going smooth until the coronavirus came around. When it became official that I was going with the Giants, it didn’t hit me yet. I don’t think it still has hit me yet. I feel like after we get everything figured out and the coronavirus, everyone is safe and whatnot. I feel like it will hit me when I am able to come up and visit.

Q: You haven’t been to the Giants facility yet? Or met any of the coaches?
A: No sir.

Q: Where are you training?
A: Right now, I am in Charlotte. My training has kind of come to a halt because of trying to keep your social distancing, trying to keep a safe distance from everyone. Making sure you are not spreading the virus or contracting the virus. I have been working out here and there trying to get it in by any means.

Q: What are your first impressions of Joe Judge as a head coach from your conversations with him? You talked about the culture they want to build now? What specifically did they talk to you about?
A: I talked to him a little bit after I signed. It was a positive conversation. We didn’t really talk about football a whole lot. We talked about life and what’s going on right now in the world. He was telling me they are postponing OTA’s and we are going to figure out football later on. Right now, we are just going to worry about what’s going on in the world.

Q: Have you ever had an opportunity in your career to serve as kind of that mentor for a young group, and if so, how that went for you with balancing mentoring them as well as being the best player you could be?
Bradberry: In my career, including college and high school? Or in the NFL?

Q: Yeah. NFL specifically, but if you had some college or high school experience mentoring, that would work.
Bradberry: I’ll just talk about the NFL. In my third year, when Donte Jackson came, of course, he was already an elite athlete. I didn’t have to coach him up on that. His technique was superb, especially because he played a lot of press man (coverage). For me, I was just trying to help him just learn how to break down film and watch film, and make sure I stayed on top of him about watching tape because that’s how you anticipate routes, within film coverage. I feel like he improved in that going into his second year. Of course, he had a standout rookie year. I feel like that was all a tribute to his talents. I helped out a little bit here and there.

Q: What experiences did you take from playing in the NFC South against Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, all those guys, that you can take with you to New York? How did those guys help make you a better player in competition?
Bradberry: Of course, the competition, going against the best, of course, it’ll help you improve your skill. But just watching film, those guys are tier one guys. I knew I had to be on my A-game every time I faced them and I had to watch my film throughout the week. It made me very diligent with my film study. I just sacrifice time, make sure I put the time in so I can ball out on Sunday.

Q: In your opinion, who is the best receiver in the NFC South?
Bradberry: I thought Julio Jones was the best receiver, but all of those guys are elite. Michael Thomas, Mike Evans are not too far behind.

Q: Obviously, nobody knows what the next few weeks or next few months are going to bring because of COVID. I’m just wondering, how are you going to get a jumpstart on what the Giants run, given that they have a new coaching staff. Patrick Graham, the defensive coordinator, he obviously had a year of experience down in Miami, different personnel. But what can you do while we kind of wait for everything to sort out so that once the time does come, you’re ready to kind of hit the ground running?
Bradberry: I think just having a routine as far as working out the best you can. Getting on the bicycle, riding the bike around the neighborhood and making sure your legs are conditioned. Communicating with the coaches and trying to get as much information from them as possible. Just little, small things. Mainly just staying in shape. That’s the biggest thing.

Q: Do you know anybody with the Giants? Any of the players that you’re familiar with in any way, shape or form?
Bradberry: Yes sir. I know David Mayo, I know Rashaan Gaulden and I know Chad Slade.

Q: Have any of those guys reached out to you and told you what it’s like to be a Giant?
Bradberry: Yeah, I reached out to those guys. They had nothing but positive things to say about it. They pretty much love the city, love the facilities, and I heard the food is good.

Q: How about the young DBs that you’re going to be working with? Have you had a chance to touch base with them and what are your thoughts on DeAndre Baker?
Bradberry: I followed them on Instagram but I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to them. I’d rather introduce myself to them and meet them in person. It goes a lot smoother than text messages or DMs. But honestly, I really haven’t watched a whole lot of film on those guys. But I did watch DeAndre Baker coming out of college and I saw a really good athlete. I’m looking forward to working with him. I’m looking forward to working with him and the rest of the guys, honestly. I don’t want to single one person out.

Q: I’m wondering how you’ll embrace the challenge of kind of helping the Giants, particularly on defense, get back on track after a few years where they didn’t necessarily play up to what they would have expected?
Bradberry: Honestly, my motto is just go out there and do it. There’s no point in being scared of it or hiding back from it. Just embrace the challenge, accept it and make sure you put the time in so that when it’s time to play on Sunday, that you’re able to perform at your highest level, put on a good show for the fans and also get a win.

Mar 162020
 
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James Bradberry, Carolina Panthers (September 8, 2019)

James Bradberry – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS SIGN JAMES BRADBERRY TO 3-YEAR, $45-MILLION DEAL…
Multiple media sources are reporting that the New York Giants have agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent cornerback James Bradberry (Carolina Panthers). The deal is reportedly a 3-year, $45 million contract that includes $32 million in guaranteed money.

The 26-year old, 6’1”, 212-pound Bradberry was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Panthers. In four seasons with Carolina, Bradberry has started all 60 regular-season games that he has played in, accruing 222 tackles, three sacks, 47 pass defenses, eight interceptions, and two forced fumbles. In 2019, he started 15 games and finished the year with 65 tackles, one sack, 12 pass defenses, and three interceptions.

Blessed with good size and overall athletic ability, the Panthers often used Bradberry to cover the opposing team’s best receiver.

NO TENDER FOR JON HALAPIO…
ESPN is reporting that center Jon Halapio, who was scheduled to become a restricted free agent, will not be tendered by the New York Giants. This means that Halapio will be an unrestricted free agent who is free to sign with any team.

An underwhelming and disappointing season by Halapio in 2019 was unfortunately punctuated by him suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon in the final moments of the season finale. In all, Halapio started 15 games, missing one start with a hamstring injury.

Halapio was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. He has bounced around different leagues and teams including the Patriots (2014), Boston Brawlers (2014), Denver Broncos (2014–2015), Arizona Cardinals (2015), Brooklyn Bolts (2015), and Patriots (2016) again.

The Giants signed Halapio to their Practice Squad in 2016 and 2017. The Giants then added him to the 53-man roster in October 2017 and he played in 10 games, starting the last six at right guard. Halapio won the starting center job in 2018, but was lost early when he was placed on Injured Reserve in September 2018 after breaking his ankle and lower leg in the second game of the season.