Mar 152021
 
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Austin Johnson, New York Giants (October 4, 2020)

Austin Johnson – © USA TODAY Sports

REPORT – GIANTS RE-SIGN AUSTIN JOHNSON…
The Athletic is reporting that the New York Giants have re-signed unrestricted free agent defensive lineman Austin Johnson to a 1-year, $3 million contract that is fully guaranteed and includes an additional $500,000 in incentives.

The Giants signed Johnson as an unrestricted free agent from the Tennessee Titans in March 2020. He played in all 16 games, with no starts (21 percent of all defensive snaps), and was credited with 18 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, one quarterback hit, one pass defense, and one forced fumble.

The 6’4”, 314-pound Johnson was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Titans. In four seasons in Tennessee, Johnson played in 58 regular-season games with 13 starts, compiling 83 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and five pass defenses.

REPORT – GIANTS SIGN DEVONTAE BOOKER…
ESPN is reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent running back Devontae Booker (Las Vegas Raiders) to a 2-year contract that could be worth as much as $6 million. The 28-year old, 5’11”, 219-pound Booker was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He signed with the Raiders in May 2020. In five seasons, Booker has played in 77 regular-season games with seven starts, rushing the ball 382 times for 1,526 yards (4 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns. He also caught 122 passes for 956 yards and one touchdown.

KEVIN ZEITLER SIGNS WITH THE BALTIMORE RAVENS…
Offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, who the Giants cut last week in a salary cap move, has signed a 3-year, $22 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens, including $16 million in guaranteed money. Until his contract was terminated, Zeitler was scheduled to earn $12 million in base salary and count $14.5 million against the 2021 salary cap with the Giants. The move saved the Giants $12 million in cap space, although it cost $2.5 million in dead money.

Mar 102021
 
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Kevin Zeitler, New York Giants (September 3, 2020)

Kevin Zeitler – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS CUT KEVIN ZEITLER…
The New York Giants have announced that they have terminated the contract of right guard Kevin Zeitler, who was scheduled to earn $12 million in base salary and count $14.5 million against the 2021 salary cap. The move saves the team $12 million in cap space, although it will cost $2.5 million in dead money.

Zeitler was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He signed a 5-year, $60 million contract with the Browns in March 2017, which at the time made him the highest-paid guard in the NFL. The Giants acquired Zeitler by trade from the Cleveland Browns in March 2019 in exchange for linebacker Olivier Vernon. Zeitler started all 16 games at right guard for the Giants in 2020 and 15 in 2019. 

 

Jan 182021
 
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Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates, New York Giants (November 2, 2020)

Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates – © USA TODAY Sports

New Head Coach Joe Judge was hired by the New York Giants in early January 2020. After an atypically long vetting process, the team announced its complete staff a month later in early February. The extremely well-organized new head coach was all set to initiate his program to turn the franchise around. Then disaster struck. COVID-19 forced the league to shut down in the spring and much of the summer. The challenges for a new head coach trying to rebuild most of the roster seemed almost insurmountable.

Probably the position most affected by these developments was the offensive line. The Giants entered 2020 knowing they would have to have new starters at center and at least one of the tackle spots. That quickly became three starters when left tackle Nate Solder decided to sit out 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. Right tackle Mike Remmers had already signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. The only free agent addition was journeyman swing tackle Cam Fleming. It was obvious that most of the help would have to come from the draft, where the Giants selected Andrew Thomas in the 1st round, Matt Peart in the 3rd round, and Shane Lemieux in the 5th round. Despite those additions, there was still a glaring hole at center, with no obvious candidate to start other than the disappointing Spencer Pulley and talk of possible conversion projects.

With the desperate need to sort all of this out, Joe Judge was being told he could have no mini-camps, no Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices, a dramatically scaled back training camp, and no preseason. Teams were told they could only hold 14 padded practices before the season. 14 practices to get rookie Andrew Thomas ready at left tackle. 14 practices to find and name a starting center. 14 practices to figure out who to start at right tackle. 14 practices to build cohesion and chemistry for a group largely unfamiliar with each other.

The early returns were predictable. The line struggled. Converted guard/tackle Nick Gates was moved to center, a position that he had never played, and he had a rough start. Andrew Thomas did not look like the 4th player taken in the draft and fans began to question the pick, arguing the team drafted the wrong lineman. There was no time for Matt Peart to seriously challenge Cam Fleming for the right tackle job, and Fleming continued to demonstrate he really wasn’t an ideal starter. All of this was made worse by the fact that the two guys who the team needed to rely on, guards Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez, were once again not playing as well as expected.

Saquon Barkley was lost in Week 2 and the Giants had no ground game early in the season outside of Daniel Jones running for his life. No Giant had more than 30 yards rushing in the first two games and no Giant had more than 50 yards rushing in the first four games. Jones was the team’s leading rusher in four of the first seven games of the season. Jones was also getting sacked early and often, something that never really totally abated as he was sacked 45 times and NYG quarterbacks sacked 50 times on the season (or over three per game).

Despite all of this negativity and an 0-5 start, something began to change in October. A hodgepodge group of backs and Jones began to hurt teams on the ground as the offensive line began playing better. In eight of their next nine games, the Giants ran for over 100 yards or more. In seven of these games, they ran for over 130 yards or more. The high point was a 190-yard rushing effort against the Seattle Seahawks on December 6th. The line appeared to be developing into a physical, smash-mouth unit almost overnight.

Why? First, Nick Gates made a miraculous transformation from an undrafted tackle to a big, feisty, physical presence at center. In just a few games, he clearly became the team’s best offensive lineman. Second, Andrew Thomas settled down and started playing much, much better. Third, the Giants replaced Will Hernandez with Shane Lemieux at left guard, and while that created some pass protection issues, Lemieux’s presence seemed to be an upgrade in the run-blocking department. Finally, Kevin Zeitler started to play better. Matt Peart did receive increased playing time, receiving significant snaps in half of the games, but right tackle remained a bit of a sore spot with Cam Fleming.

In mid-November, Joe Judge surprisingly fired Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo, bringing onboard outsider Dave DeGuglielmo, who ironically had served under Tom Coughlin from 2004 to 2008. DeGuglielmo would later miss the last week of the season due to COVID-19.

The line struggled in three-game stretch in December before finishing strong in the season finale against Dallas. In those three games, New York never rushed for more than 80 yards and Giants’ quarterbacks were sacked 13 times. Nevertheless, the overall impression was despite all of COVID-19-related handicaps, the Giants actually finally made progress in rebuilding the offensive line in 2020. There appears to be a young, talented foundation to work with.

THE STARTERS

Despite having no prior experience at playing the position, and after a rough start, Nick Gates not only solidified the center position for the Giants but rapidly became the team’s best lineman. Gates started all 16 games at center. He was flagged with five penalties (two holding, one false start, one unnecessary roughness, and one illegal block). The Giants signed Gates as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He missed all of 2018 with a foot injury that caused him to be placed on Injured Reserve before the season started. In 2019, Gates was active for all 16 games with three starts (two starts at right tackle and one start at right guard). Gates is a versatile player, able to play tackle, guard, and center. He has good size and brings toughness and attitude to the offensive line. Gates is a solid pass and run blocker.

The Giants drafted Andrew Thomas in the 1st round of the 2020 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Thomas started 15 games at left tackle despite playing on a left ankle injury that required offseason surgery in January 2021. Thomas was benched for the start of one game for being late to a team meeting. In terms of his overall play, Thomas struggled early, but markedly improved as both a pass and run blocker as the year progressed. He was flagged with five penalties (three false start and two holding penalties) on the season. Thomas has a big frame (6’5”, 315lbs) and long arms. He is a strong, physical run blocker who can get movement at the point-of-attack. He is athletic enough to get to the second level and works to finish his blocks. Thomas is a good athlete and he flashes excellent pass protection skills, but he needs to improve his overall technique and consistency in that department.

The Giants signed Cam Fleming as an unrestricted free agent from the Dallas Cowboys in March 2020. He ended up starting all 16 games at right tackle, by far the most in his career in a single season. But Fleming was arguably the weak link up front, regularly missing blocks. Fleming was also credited with four false starts and two holding penalties. The 6’5”, 320-pound Fleming was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. After four years in New England, he played two seasons with the Cowboys. In seven NFL seasons, Fleming has played in 91 regular-season games with 42 starts. Fleming is versatile lineman who can play both tackle spots. He has good size. However, Fleming seems better suited to a reserve, swing-tackle type role than starter.

While the overall play of Kevin Zeitler improved in his second season with the Giants, he still did not meet expectations in 2020. Zeitler started all 16 games at right guard. He was flagged four times on the year (one holding, three false starts). Zeitler was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He signed a 5-year, $60 million contract with the Browns in March 2017, which at the time made him the highest-paid guard in the NFL. The Giants acquired Zeitler by trade from the Cleveland Browns in March 2019 in exchange for linebacker Olivier Vernon. In eight seasons, Zeitler has started 134 of the 135 regular-season games he has played in. Zeitler has good size (6’4”, 315lbs). Once regarded as one of the best guards in the game as both a run and pass blocker, Zeitler’s play in recent years has been more inconsistent. Nevertheless, he is still a solid, steady, veteran presence up front.

The Giants drafted Shane Lemieux in the 5th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He surprisingly ended up playing in 12 games with nine starts starts at left guard, stealing Will Hernandez’s position. He was only flagged once (false start) all year. The 6’4”, 310-pound Lemieux started an incredible 52 games in college, never missing a game. He is a tough, feisty, blue-collar lineman with some athletic limitations. Lemieux needs to get stronger, but he is a physical presence in the ground game with a feel for blocking angles. He struggled at times as a pass protector.

After starting every game in his first two years in the league in 2018 and 2019, Will Hernandez lost his starting left guard job to Shane Lemieux after the seventh game of the season. Hernandez missed two games in early November due to COVID-19. He was flagged only once (one holding penalty) all year. The Giants selected Hernandez in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was named named to Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team. Hernandez has good size, strength, and toughness for the guard position, but he appears to lack ideal lateral agility. This hampers his play as a run blocker on the move and as a pass blocker when isolated against quick defenders. He can move defenders with his strength and power.

THE RESERVES

The Giants selected Matt Peart in the 3rd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Peart played in 11 games with one start at left tackle. He did play in 15 percent of all offensive snaps, receiving some quality playing time. He missed one game in late November due to COVID-19. The 6’7”, 318-pound Peart was a 4-year starter in college with experience at both tackle spots. Peart combines excellent size, long arms, and good overall athletic ability. He has the frame to get bigger and stronger. As expected, Peart was inconsistent as a rookie and needs more technique refinement.

Spencer Pulley spent all of 2020 as the team’s primary reserve center, but he did not play. Pulley was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the San Diego Chargers after the 2016 NFL Draft. Spencer started all 16 regular-season games for the Chargers in 2017 at center. The Giants claimed Pulley off of waivers from the Chargers in September 2018. That season, Pulley was inserted into the starting line-up in late October. He struggled in his nine starts at center and missed one game due to an injury. In 2019, Pulley played in four games with one start in which he again struggled. He also is able to play guard.

The Giants claimed Jackson Barton off of waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs in early September 2020. Despite remaining on the 53-man roster all season, Barton never played in 2020. The 6’7”, 302-pound Barton was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs signed him off of the Colts’ Practice Squad in 2019. He has yet to play in a regular-season NFL game.

The Giants signed Kyle Murphy as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. He was signed to the Practice Squad in early September and then signed to the 53-man roster in mid November. Murphy did not play in a regular-season game in 2020. Murphy was a 3-year starter in college with experience all along the offensive line.

The 6’5”, 315-pound Chad Slade was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Houston Texans after the 2015 NFL Draft. Slade spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve, and the 2016 and 2018 seasons on the Practice Squad of the Texans. In 2017, Slade played in five games with three starts (two at right guard and one at tight end) for the Texans. The Giants signed Slade to a reserve/futures contract in January 2019. While he surprisingly made the team, he wasn’t active for any game. Slade spent all of 2020 on New York’s Practice Squad.

The 6’6”, 315-pound Kenny Wiggins was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Baltimore Ravens after the 2011 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Ravens (2011), San Francisco 49ers (2012-2013), San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers (2013-2017), and Lions (2018-2020). The Lions cut Wiggins in late October 2020. The Giants signed Wiggins to the 53-man roster in November, cut him 10 days later, and then signed him to the Practice Squad for the remainder of the season. Overall, Wiggins has played in 79 regular-season games with 38 starts.

COVID-19 OPT-OUT

Nate Solder opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the COVID-19 issue. In March 2018, the Giants made Solder the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL when they signed him away from the New England Patriots as unrestricted free agent. However, despite 32 straight starts at left tackle for New York, Solder has not played well at all with the Giants. He really struggled during the first half of 2018 before settling down a bit during the second half of the season. In 2019, his inconsistent play throughout the year both as a pass protector and run blocker was a significant factor in the team’s struggles. The 6’8”, 325-pound Solder was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Patriots. In nine seasons, Solder has started 127 of the 130 regular-season games he has played in. He is a long, lean tackle with good overall athleticism. However, off-the-field issues with a sick child could understandably be affecting his focus and play.

Jan 012021
 
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Golden Tate, New York Giants (November 2, 2020)

Golden Tate – © USA TODAY Sports

DAVE DeGUGLIELMO TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19…
New York Giants Offensive Line Coach Dave DeGuglielmo has tested positive for COVID-19.

“Dave DeGuglielmo, Guge, has a positive test,” said Head Coach Joe Judge. “There are two potential close contacts. Immediately upon notification last night, we isolated all three. We’ve had no close contacts other than those three. We’re going through all of the information. We went through it with the league this morning, went through all the players, went through all the coaches as well. We deemed it safe to open the building. We’ve been going through our normal protocols. All of our players have been masked up and wearing the protective shields and spaced our accordingly. We’ve continued with our meetings which are in our indoor facility and about as well of a ventilated space as can be. We’ve continued with our pre-practice walk-thru an abbreviated version to make sure it’s extra spaced out and avoid more close contacts. We’ve moved on now. The players are getting dressed and getting ready for practice.

“Really, we’re trying to keep the day as normal as can be. We went through everything last night to make sure it was completely safe to open the building. All the information we’ve been given, we deemed it was. We’ve not been a club who’s been slow to delay or change the schedule at any point this year based on a positive. But because we were out of the building on Monday and Tuesday and with the close contacts being very limited on Wednesday and having a virtual day yesterday, all information pointed us in the direction that today was safe to bring the players in the format we have and continue with normal Friday prep.”

Judge indicated that the other two people affected were not players and that Assistant Offensive Line Coach Ben Wilkerson will coach the offensive line in person while DeGuglielmo is out. DeGuglielmo will also continue to work with the offensive line via Zoom.

“I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Ben,” said Judge. “He’s a good coach. He’s a good, young coach. Draws from a knowledge of playing the game. He’s a very good communicator. He has a very good passion for the game. The players respond to him very well. He’s great on the field with technique instruction, and he’s very good in terms of communicating and forming relationships off the field. Look, this is a guy, to be honest with you, when I got here last year, Ben was down at the East-West Shrine Game coaching. We had more requests put in for Ben Wilkerson last year while he was down there. This is a deal where I talked to him before he went down there, I said, ‘I won’t make any moves on the staff without talking to you first.’ Then we agreed when he got back that I would like him to stay, he wanted to stay, we made some arrangements with the contract, and I’m glad to have him on our staff going forward. This is a guy that obviously we want in the program. He’s going to help us going forward.”

JANUARY 1, 2021 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY UPDATE…
FB Eli Penny (illness), WR Golden Tate (calf), and LB Cam Brown (illness) did not practice on Friday. Penny has officially been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Tate is “doubtful” and Brown “questionable” for the game.

WR Sterling Shepard (ribs), TE Evan Engram (calf), and S Jabrill Peppers (ankle) were limited in practice. All three are expected to play on Sunday.

QB Daniel Jones (hamstring) and CB Darnay Holmes (knee) fully practiced and are expected to play on Sunday.

HEAD COACH JOE JUDGE…
The transcript of Joe Judge’s press conference on Friday 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…
There is no media availability to the New York Giants on Saturday. The team plays the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

Nov 092020
 
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Kyler Fackrell and Jabrill Peppers, New York Giants (November 8, 2020)

Kyler Fackrell and Jabrill Peppers – © USA TODAY Sports

NOVEMBER 9, 2020 JOE JUDGE PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 23-20 win over the Washington Football Team (the video is also available on Giants.com):

Q: We’ve heard you talk so many times about why you’re doing the offensive line rotations, because you want everybody to play. But why is it working? Every offensive lineman I’ve ever talked to tells me the key to the offensive line is continuity, the same five guys, etc. etc. Why is playing six guys and soon to be seven guys with the three guards, why is it working?

A: We’ve talked about that a lot internally, to be honest with you. Part of the reason we think may be, hey look, maybe it gives our guys a little bit of a breather. It keeps them a little bit fresher. They have fresher legs out there, working with some tempo on offense. You get guys with a series off here or there, it kind of gets their breath a little bit. All three guys are playing, they’re playing well right now for us. They’re all improving, so it gives us a lot of confidence to keep moving those guys on through. Part of it may be it changes a little bit what the defense can do to attack you. They can’t single up on what just one guy does and what they’re trying to look. Maybe it alters how they approach each drive not knowing who’s going in. We’ve kind of talked internally and bounced a few things off. The one thing we’ve concluded is whatever the reasons on the other side may be, we like how it’s working for us and we’re going to keep on going with it.

Q: How hard is what Matt Peart is doing? He might be playing the least of the snaps between Cam (Fleming) and Andrew (Thomas), but he’s the one who has to change his footwork from series to series, left to right. How hard is what he’s doing?

A: Yeah, that’s very impressive, especially for a young guy like Matt. He’s really shown a lot of progress in doing that. That’s definitely something that’s better preparing him for the remainder of his career, and I think he’s shown a lot of promise right now that it should be a very productive career. We love Matt, the way he works, and for him to be able to be a swing guy as a rookie in this league, because as you alluded to it’s not just the footwork you’re changing. It’s also the matchups based on who the defense plays on either side. It also changes some of the responsibilities based on the plays. He’s done a really good job as far as knowing the offense. But he’s done a really good job fundamentally of working both sides’ techniques and haven’t really seen a difference on either side with him.

Q: I know you’ve been pretty adamant about every Monday after a game, win or lose, you’re going to do corrections and approach it with the team the same way. But after a win, is there any difference that you sense in the way the players act, the way they take to coaching as far as more confidence, a sense of “swagger” or something you notice that maybe could help you moving forward?

A: I think one of the things that’s most pleasing about our guys today, to be honest with you, is they’re very consistent, they’re very steady. They came in today with that same attitude we’ve seen in the previous weeks. There’s a little more joking around and laughing at different times, but really ultimately, they came in the room and they’re very easy to coach. They’re very receptive, they’re looking for a better way of doing things. Look, we told them right at the beginning of the meeting, ‘hey listen, we had success yesterday. Let’s not mistake that for thinking everything is perfect. There is plenty that we have to watch on this tape and we have to correct. Philadelphia is watching the same tape we are today, and they’re looking to expose everything we put out there that while it may not have been magnified in yesterday’s game, they’re going to look to go ahead and expose it in next Sunday’s matchup.’ We have to do a good job of knowing what we have to continue to improve on and clean up, and also, what we can build on in a positive manner. Our guys have been great. One of the things I’m seeing that is very pleasing is I didn’t see a group of guys come in today like we have everything figured out. I saw a group of guys coming in here today ready to learn, ready to work and move forward.

Q: Does the little more joking and fooling around and smiling, does that include the head coach?

A: I’m always kind of myself. Win or lose, I’m going to kind of bust your chops a little bit either way, throw something at you. Look, I’m kind of the same guy all the time, to be honest with you, win or loss. In a lot of ways, after a win, it can be tougher to coach in a lot of ways. Our guys have been very good with that in that they’ve been receptive. Sometimes you walk in after a win, you have to tell a team this is the toughest it’s going to be to coach all year because you think you have all the answers. After a loss, people can be more receptive at times. You have to understand and know who your team is and how you have to approach them. In terms of me laughing or joking or whatever that may be, if I think the team needs to kind of lighten the mood a little bit, I may throw something in there. If sometimes it has to be a little bit more serious tone, then I’ll approach it that way right there. But I think the guys know what to expect from me on a daily basis. Win or lose, practice or game, I’m kind of approaching everything with the same mentality and personality.

Q: Where do things stand with Golden Tate this week?

A: He was back in there with us today working. We’re not going to have the players in the building tomorrow, but they’ll be able to come in to work out. Then Wednesday we’ll be on the field for practice, so he’ll definitely be out there practicing with us. Like all of our players, we’re going to have plans for these guys within the game plan. If you’re asking me specifically about him being active for the game, I would anticipate Golden being active. I have no reason to believe he wouldn’t be active at this point. But we’re going to go through this week and kind of see how everything goes with everybody on the team and see where everything lays out.

Q: I was reading that your captains were on board with the decision to leave him home. I think it was Albert Breer that wrote that. Do you consult your captains when you make a decision like that?

A: I try to let the captains know what’s going on with any major decisions we have within the program.

Q: What do you think of your defense and the improvement it has made?

A: Well, I love what those guys are doing with the energy that they play with and the urgency. There are definitely some things we have to clean up and continue to improve on, but every week, there are things that we emphasize that I see turn around in a positive way. Something that’s been a major focus for us is two-minute, and we’ve been working very hard on the two-minute drives in practice. It’s something that we had to really continue to improve on. But like I told the team today, I said we closed out two two-minute drives. You can kind of include that maybe as a third two-minute drive as well at the end, all with interceptions. Kind of two end the game situations, one at the half situation. That was definitely a step in the right direction for our team. But we compete, we go good vs. good on two-minute in practice. Offensively and defensively, we’re getting good competition as far as working the situation, not worrying so much about the looks from the other team. Then we do some kind of crossover against the opponent two-minute drills later in the week. There are a lot of things I’ve seen the defense improve on. There is no reason we can’t continue to play at a high level. I love the way the improvement we’re seeing. The young guys are really coming along. There are a lot of encouraging things we’re seeing from the guys that are rookies or new guys to this program, and we’re getting a lot of production from a lot of guys.

Q: Real quick on Golden, one more thing. Can you explain the decision of why you decided to leave him behind and not dress him for that game?

A: No, I’m not going to go into that. But I appreciate the question and respect the question.

Q: With Daniel (Jones), he obviously didn’t have a turnover in the game. I’m just curious how you as coaches look at it because the ball did hit the ground twice during that game. How do you sort of balance that and look at it?

A: We’re always emphasizing what we’ve done well and correcting what we did wrong in every game. That’s every player, that’s every coach, that’s everyone within different techniques. We’re always emphasizing ball security across the board. We’re always emphasizing playing clean penalties-wise. We did some things in that neighborhood that we have to get off the map as well this next week. We’re always emphasizing playing a clean game in terms of eliminating mental errors by understanding what we’re doing on the field and not making mistakes.

Q: Obviously you eliminated the turnovers in this game. Does the pendulum need to swing back more to be aggressive to give more oomph to the offense? You scored three points in the second half.

A: I don’t think anything with that had to do with a lack of aggressiveness at all. In fact, we were actually moving the ball very well in the second half. You go back afterwards, you watch the tape, okay what happened with we were scoring points? Those were self-inflicted wounds that we have to make sure we get off it. We had some penalties, we had some different things happen offensively, some negative plays. When we don’t go ahead and shoot ourselves in the foot, we’re moving the ball pretty productively. I think the difference in the first half and the second half was we didn’t have any self-inflicted wounds in the first half. We were able to finish drives aggressively. I like the way the offense is playing. I think there’s a lot of aggressiveness with how we’re calling plays right now. There’s a lot of aggressiveness in terms of how we’re playing and executing on the field, starting up front with the run blocking and the pass protection from the offensive line. I see that carryover in everything. When Daniel has a nice clean pocket, he’s been very productive. He’s been able to make plays in scramble situations as well. The offensive line really set the table for us this week to play a good, clean game and complementary with the run and the pass game.

Q: If Daniel plays the same game he played on Sunday, obviously every game is different, if he plays that same type of game on Sunday, is that the style you want to move forward?

A: I think there’s a lot of clips in these last few games that you can see that we can say this is the style we want to play as an offense, defense and special teams moving forward. That doesn’t mean the game plan is exactly the same. We want to keep making sure we have an emphasis in terms of ball security, number one. Limiting penalties and knocking mental errors off the plates. I like the way we’re playing aggressively on offense. I like the tempo we’re playing with. That’s not always going to be part of the game plan. Sometimes we may slow it down. I like the last few games, our ability to work some tempo. I like how we’re running the ball and that’s setting up some plays down the field in the passing game. I like how we’re covering kicks right now. We’ve been able to make plays in the return game as well. That’s shown up in the last few weeks. We’re definitely improving in that area. Defensively, I see a lot of improvement with the situations. Whether it be third down, red area or two-minute. That’s improvement, that’s something we’ve placed an emphasis on with our team that we have to continue to improve on. We’ve seen a lot of really good players, good offenses in the first part of the season. We have to keep on improving, as we keep on going through because they’re going to keep on getting better and better.

Q: It seems when you talk to us, there are times when we talk to a player later on and he will say the same thing you said to us. Is it important to you that the team speak with one voice and that it be yours?

A: I think it’s just important that I explain to the players what I expect. I explain to them very clearly that when something is going on, how I’m going to handle it and why I’m handling it a certain way. To me, it’s important to have transparency with the team and I think at that point they can better understand how we’re attacking a situation or how we’re approaching the season through whatever is going on with it. We don’t try to make our players robots. We don’t try to dictate anything they say. To me, it is important that everyone understands and plays on one accord, that we’re all on the same page. That’s very important, I think we have seen that with our players. You guys asked a lot of questions throughout the year in terms of coming off a loss or continuous losses, how do we deal with it? I think you deal with it just by being very transparent as an organization. Everyone understanding where we are, where we’re going and how we have to get there. That carries over into kind of talking to the media as well.

Q: After the first play of the game for Washington, are you bringing back the mud sliding drill?

A: You bet. We have to be cleaner on the fumble recovery on that. I’m glad we were able to come up with that. Right there, there was a lot of rules to emphasize on that. A lot of things we can teach off of with the sideline fumble technique and the rules involved with it. In terms of if you go out of bounds, if you’re an offensive player, you want to reach and touch the ball to make sure the ball is a continuation of being out of bounds. Then the opportunity for the defense to recover it, for a defensive player, you want to tap it back in before you go out of bounds. If you go out of bounds, get both feet established to give yourself an opportunity to recover that thing cleanly. When (Jabrill) Peppers comes out of the pile with the ball there, the importance of not running off and celebrating but turning and showing the ball to the official so they don’t erroneously signal the ball to the other team, thinking it was a clear recovery. Then you can’t challenge that play and the other team gets it even though you’re holding the ball. There’s a lot of teaching things that come out of that coming out of that situation. We definitely don’t want to be out there looking like the Keystone Cops trying to get that ball. We have to clean that up.

Q: Do you have to sign Alfred Morris to the active roster since you have called him up twice to activate him?

A: Yes, the next move would be to sign him. Obviously, we’ll approach a lot of different things this week in terms of our roster with a lot of different players. Over these next few weeks we expect several guys to have the opportunity. We don’t know where they are physically yet. We start their clocks off the IR, they will be coming off the clocks on IR, so we have to check and see what our total roster is in terms of that. There’s a lot of things with that that are going to factor in.

Q: Two guys I wanted to ask about injury wise. Xavier McKinney, is he going to start practicing with you guys this week?

A: That’s still up in the air. I don’t know if we will necessarily see him this week. He was on the field the other day running with the trainers. I haven’t had much of a chance with my own eyes to really get my eyes on him. I know he’s making a lot of progress. I’m getting positive reports on him. We have until Wednesday. He’ll be with the trainers tomorrow, that may shed a little bit more light on it for us. Based on how we practice Wednesday, if we go full tilt or some kind of an abbreviated walk thru, or short fundamentals practice, we haven’t decided yet. That may affect whether or not we start his clock on that day or not.

Q: Will Hernandez, is he coming off the list (COVID-19)? Oshane (Ximines) and Tae Crowder I think? (off of IR)

A: With Oshane and Tae, they are very similar to X-man (McKinney). We have to figure out where they’re at physically and when do we want to start their clock. All of them have made a lot of progress. Some are a little bit closer than others. I want to see where they’re at. The biggest thing I’d say at this point is because you have the bye week coming up next week, we want to be very calculated when we start their clock, that 21-day window. If you start it too early and then you lose another week with the bye week anyway, it may set them back. There’s a benefit of getting them going with us right away, getting their legs back under them, get them back playing football. There’s also a benefit of holding a little bit knowing you have the bye week next week and there’s really no advantage to getting them to a game next week anyway. There’s a couple different avenues we can take with these guys. I want to see where they’re at physically. We talked this morning with the trainers and basically said, ‘hey look, tomorrow we have to have some answers to at least help us make a better decision.’ In terms of Will coming off the COVID list, I have to check with Ronnie (Barnes) with some of the specifics. I know he has started some of the ramp up stuff from what I understand talking to Ronnie this morning. The one thing I want to make sure is we are fair with with Will is this guy has missed two games, that’s a lot of football he’s missed. We have to be fair to him to get him his conditioning back and get him back on the field moving around. It’s not like this guy has spent the last two weeks lifting weights and running, doing individual drills in his back yard. This guy has been quarantined and fighting a virus. We have to make sure when we get him back, we give him a chance that he’s able to get out there and play a full 60 minutes healthy. Also, make sure he gets some reps on the field to account for some of that lost time and kind of sharpen him back up for some of the movement he is going to see inside at that guard position.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The players are off on Tuesday and return to practice on Wednesday. The assistant coaches will be available to the media on Tuesday.

Aug 182020
 
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Blake Martinez and Chad Slade, New York Giants (August 17, 2020)

Blake Martinez and Chad Slade – Courtesy of New York Giants

AUGUST 18, 2020 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP MEDIA PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media and team sources:

  • By all accounts, the Giants had one of their hardest hitting and most physical practices in years.
  • Running backs Javon Leake and Wayne Gallman showed off some nifty moves. But Gallman, along with linebacker Cam Brown, had to run penalty laps.
  • Linebacker Markus Golden’s quickness gave offensive tackle Cam Fleming some problems in 1-on-1 and 11-on-11 drills. But Fleming had a good practice overall at right tackle.
  • Safety Xavier McKinney picked off a pass in the flat from quarterback Colt McCoy.
  • Linebacker Devante Downs made a nice tackle on the goal line against running back Wayne Gallman.
  • Left tackle Andrew Thomas had his hands full in 1-on-1 drills with defensive lineman Leonard Williams and linebackers Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, and Kyler Fackrell. Thomas also bounced back and did alright on other occasions.
  • Defensive end R.J. McIntosh and offensive guard Shane Lemieux threw some punches at each other.
  • Quarterback Daniel Jones threw a perfect back corner fade to wide receiver Sterling Shepard for a touchdown against cornerback James Bradberry. Shepard is having a good camp.
  • Nick Gates looked good at center and Shane Lemieux flashed at guard.
  • Left guard Will Hernandez had a strong practice.
  • Linebacker Tae Crowder looked good in coverage.
  • The Giants provided an excellent 27-minute overview of today’s practice, which is available on YouTube.

INJURY REPORT…
Cornerback Corey Ballentine appeared to seriously injure his shoulder. The cart was brought out but he stayed on the field and finished practice. Wide receiver Cody Core left practice with an unknown injury.

HEAD COACH JOE JUDGE…
The transcript of Joe Judge’s press conference on Tuesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at 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 practice again on Wednesday afternoon (1:30-2:30PM), with Head Coach Joe Judge and select players also addressing the media earlier in the day.

May 262020
 
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Andrew Thomas, Georgia Bulldogs (November 2, 2019)

Andrew Thomas – © 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: Offensive Line

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: The more things change, the more things stay the same. That could be the mantra for the New York Giants franchise and their almost decade-long effort to rebuild the offensive line. 2019 was no exception. Expectations were at least slightly raised by the offseason additions of seasoned veterans Kevin Zeitler at right guard and Mike Remmers at right tackle. It was expected that left tackle Nate Solder would rebound from a disappointing debut season with the team in 2018. Center Jon Halapio returned after missing 14 games with a broken ankle and we were told by management and coaches what an underrated player he was. Left guard Will Hernandez was coming off a decent rookie season and was expected to develop into a more consistent player.

Long story short is that the offensive line not only did not improve, at times it looked worse than the ad hoc group that finished the 2018 season. Nate Solder regressed even further. Hernandez stagnated. Halapio sucked and tore his Achilles’ tendon with only minutes left in the season. Zeitler dealt with a number of injuries that most likely affected his overall play. Mike Remmers played as expected as an only adequate, temporary placeholder. As a unit, their play did not exceed or equal the sum of its parts. It played at a lesser and very much disappointing level that did not meet expectations. To be blunt, it wasn’t pretty. Saquon Barkley and his fellow running backs were often facing penetration in the backfield and quarterbacks Eli Manning and Daniel Jones were regularly under siege.

The depth situation was also not good. Seventh-rounder offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei suffered a serious concussion early in camp and was lost for the season. For the second year in a row, back-up center Spencer Pulley did not look good when he played. Reserves Eric Smith and Chad Slade were non-factors. Only 2018 undrafted rookie free agent Nick Gates showed some promise in three starts, one at right guard and two at right tackle.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Dave Gettleman re-signed exclusive rights free agents Eric Smith and Chad Slade in late December before Joe Judge was hired. The team did not tender restricted free agent Jon Halapio and he remains unsigned. Team officials contend they could still re-sign Halapio, but it is somewhat telling that they already gave his jersey number away to another offensive lineman.

Mike Remmers signed with the Chiefs. George Asafo-Adjei was waived/failed physical in March.

Journeyman offensive tackle/tight end Nate Wozniak was signed to a reserve/futures contract in late December. Unrestricted free agent offensive tackle Cam Fleming (Dallas Cowboys) was signed in March. The Giants drafted three offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft, including tackle Andrew Thomas (1st round), tackle Matt Peart (3rd round), and guard Shane Lemieux (5th round). The team also signed rookie free agent guards Kyle Murphy and Tyler Haycraft after the draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: It’s the same as it has been for almost 10 years. Can the Giants field a respectable offensive line? The Achilles’ heel of the offensive team for the last decade has been the play of the offensive line. Every Giants fan knows that. Under two general managers and three head coaches, the team has spent high draft picks and spent a ton of free agent money to fix the problem with no improvement. The old maxim still holds true, football is indeed won and lost in the trenches. And the NFC East is filled with good front sevens. It’s no wonder why the Giants have become the punching bag for the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

While the Giants did not make a big splash this year in free agency (Cam Fleming), it certainly did in the draft by taking three offensive linemen in their first five selections, including the 4th player overall. On paper, things look much improved. The Giants appear to have four potentially adequate or more starters at tackle (Solder, Thomas, Fleming, Peart) and guard (Hernandez, Zeitler, Gates, Lemieux). The obvious sore spot is center. There is no reason to believe Spencer Pulley will develop into an adequate starter. Team officials have already publicly admitted that players such as Gates, Lemieux, and Kyle Murphy will cross-train at at both guard and center.

The hope here is twofold. First, the belief that Head Coach Joe Judge, Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett, and Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo are superior coaches to their predecessors. And not only will they implement more coherent and viable blocking schemes that fit the existing personnel, but they will develop each individual player better. Second, that the Giants have not only improved the level of talent, but also the level of depth.

In the short term, media and fan focus will be on the center position and the development of the rookie tackles. It doesn’t help that the COVID situation has prevented the team from holding on-field spring practices.

ON THE BUBBLE: A lot of fans want to cut Nate Solder now. While an argument can be made to do so, the COVID situation makes it more unlikely that a team would want to rely on untested rookies who missed spring practices. Just as importantly, the team already paid his $3 million roster bonus in March and would be penalized with a sizable cap hit in dead money (almost $10 million if cut after June 1st).

Barring a complete collapse by Solder and/or rapid development of Thomas and Peart, the Giants are likely to keep four tackles: Solder, Thomas, Peart, and Fleming. It would also seem like the Giants will keep at least five interior linemen with Hernandez, Zeitler, Lemieux, and Gates having the inside track. Pulley’s fate may depend on who is on the waiver wire and the cross-training status of Lemieux, Gates, and Murphy.

PREDICTIONS: Things may not be pretty in the short term (this season), but I think FINALLY the Giants made some moves that will settle this position down for the long term (beyond 2020). I’m thrilled with what the Giants did in the draft at this position. With all due respect to Brad Benson, Jumbo Elliott, and David Diehl, the Giants have have not had a left tackle with the skill-set of Andrew Thomas in my lifetime. Thomas has an ideal combination of size/length, athleticism, temperament, and work ethic for the position (Ereck Flowers lacked the latter two qualities). Matt Peart has many of the same characteristics but it is assumed he will take a little longer to refine because he played at UConn. Both started as freshmen. Both have have started at right and left tackle. It is not far-fetched to dream that the Giants may have selected two 10-year starters at tackle in one draft.

Furthermore, Shane Lemieux was one of the best guards in the draft. Like Thomas, he started as a freshman in a major program. Lemieux has the size, temperament, and work ethic you want at the position. I honestly think all three will eventually start for the Giants. I also would not sleep on rookie free agent Kyle Murphy, who has played at both tackle spots, guard, and center. Based on the limited tape I’ve seen of him, this former team captain plays the game you want your offensive linemen to play (VIDEO).

What’s hard to predict is what the starting line will look like in 2020. Nate Solder and Andrew Thomas are going to start at tackle, but we don’t know who will start on each side. If Solder continues to struggle, I would not completely discount seeing Peart or Fleming in there sooner than expected. Hernandez and Zeitler should start at guard, but neither should get too comfortable with Lemieux and Nick Gates looming in the wings. Joe Judge has repeatedly said the best guys will play, regardless of their draft position or paycheck size. Zeitler is one of the better guards in the NFL and should rebound. It will be interesting to see how Hernandez responds to the new coaching staff.

The huge question mark of course is center. Nobody really wants Pulley starting. The hope is that Gates, Lemieux, or Murphy impress enough in camp to quickly take the starting job. But there is not much time.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Nate Solder, Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, Cam Fleming, Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Kyle Murphy

What? No center? No way! You’re right… I’m going way out on a limb here and predicting that Lemieux, Gates, and/or Murphy show enough potential at center for not only to have one, but BOTH centers on the team to be converted guards. Teams can also carry 10 offensive linemen and I wouldn’t discount that as a real possibility with Pulley (or a waiver wire pick-up) serving as insurance. Again, I don’t think things will be pretty in the short term. But sometimes you have to take your lumps early for it to pay dividends down the road.

The Giants rolled the dice in 1984 with a converted guard starting at center, Kevin Belcher. It worked out wonderfully for the team in the short-term. (Kevin’s career ended the following offseason with a car crash).

At the very least, the depth situation looks very much improved. There will be guys who can come off of the bench and play in this league.

Oct 202019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 20, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

ARIZONA CARDINALS 27 – NEW YORK GIANTS 21…
The New York Giants saw their season all but officially slip away on Sunday by losing 27-21 to the Arizona Cardinals at a rainy MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants are now 2-5 on the season, losing their last three games.

The Giants sleepwalked through the first quarter and quickly found themselves in a 17-0 hole at the start of the second quarter. The Cardinals drove 75 yards in 13 plays on their opening drive, converting on a 4th-and-3 at the Giants’ 35-yard line, and finishing up with a 20-yard touchdown run by running back Chase Edmonds. The Giants then gave the ball right back to the Cardinals on quarterback Daniel Jones’ interception into double coverage, returning the ball to the Giants’ 32-yard line. Three plays later, Edmonds scored his second 20-yard touchdown run. New York went three-and-out on their second drive and the Cardinals gained 54 yards in nine plays to set up a successful 47-yard field goal.

Down by 17, the Giants quickly got back into the game. First, New York drove 79 yards in just four plays, including a 20-yard run by running back Saquon Barkley, a 20-yard reception by wide receiver Golden Tate, and then a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jones to tight end Rhett Ellison.

The Cardinals muffed the ensuing kickoff and began their drive at the 14-yard line. On 3rd-and-5, quarterback Kyle Murray was sacked by defensive lineman Olsen Pierre for a 15-yard loss. Arizona attempted to punt out of the endzone, but safety Michael Thomas came clean up the middle and blocked a punt that running back Elijhaa Penny recovered in the endzone for a touchdown. All of the sudden, the game had tightened to 17-14.

Both teams had long drives before halftime, but neither got close enough to attempt a field goal. At the half, the Cardinals continued to lead by three points, 17-14.

Both teams exchanged three-and-outs to start the third quarter. On New York’s second possession of the half, the Giants reached the Arizona 37-yard line. But on 2nd-and-8, Daniel Jones was sacked for a 12-yard loss, losing the ball to Arizona in the process near midfield. Three plays later, Edmonds scored his third touchdown of the day, this time from 22 yards out. The Cardinals were now up 24-14.

The Giants responded with a 12-play, 49-yard drive that included a 4th-and-6 conversion on a 15-yard pass from Jones to Tate. Unfortunately, the possession ended with a missed 37-yard field goal by place kicker Aldrick Rosas as the third quarter was closing out.

New York got the ball back with just under 13 minutes left to play and tightened the game again with an 8-play, 82-yard drive. Barkley scored from seven yards out to cut the score to 24-21 with just over eight minutes left.

The Cardinals gained one first down but then were forced to punt. The Giants were only down by three points with 4:23 left on the clock. However, a porous offensive line that allowed eight Cardinals’ sacks on the day, could not protect Jones. Head Coach Pat Shurmur oddly called a running play on 3rd-and-18, and followed that up with a 4th-and-15 pass attempt that resulted in another strip-sack fumble recovery at the New York 17-yard line. The Cardinals settled for a 35-yard field goal with just over two minutes left in the game.

The Giants had one final shot to win the game. But nothing went right. Wideout Darius Slayton only reached the 12-yard line on the kickoff return. Jones was sacked two more times and the game ended with a 4th-and-29 incompletion.

Against what had been the NFL’s 30th-ranked defense, the Giants only gained 263 net yards and scored 14 offensive points. The Giants were 4-of-12 on third down and 1-of-3 on fourth down. Jones completed 22-of-35 passes for 223 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He was also sacked eight times (hit 12 times), losing 67 yards and fumbling three times in the process (two of which were recovered by the Cardinals). In addition to the sacks, Cardinals also had seven tackles for losses. Tate was the leading receiver, with six catches for 80 yards. No other receiver had more than 35 yards. Barkley carried the ball 18 times for 72 yards and a touchdown.

The defense “only” allowed 245 net yards, including 89 net yards passing. But the Cardinals rushed for 156 yards and had three easy 20+ yard touchdown runs by Edmonds. The Giants did not force a turnover on defense. Olsen and linebacker David Mayo had the only sacks for the Giants.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVES AND INJURY REPORT…
WR Sterling Shepard (concussion), CB Corey Ballentine (concussion), QB Alex Tanney, TE Garrett Dickerson, OT Eric Smith, OT/OG Chad Slade, and LB Chris Peace were inactive.

LB Lorenzo Carter injured his ankle but returned to the game.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur and select players will address the media on Monday. The players are off on Tuesday and return to practice on Wednesday.

Aug 012019
 
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Ryan Connelly, New York Giants (July 25, 2019)

Ryan Connelly – © USA TODAY Sports

AUGUST 1, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their seventh full-team summer training camp practice on Thursday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The complete public training camp schedule is available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Wide receiver Darius Slayton (hamstring), wide receiver Brittan Golden (groin), offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), defensive end Alex Jenkins (unknown), linebacker B.J. Goodson (hamstring), linebacker Markus Golden (load management), linebacker Mark McLaurin (foot), cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring), and cornerback Henre’ Toliver (ankle) did not practice on Thursday.

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (thumb) participated, but was limited, in full-team drills wearing a yellow “non-contact” jersey and catching some passes with his good hand.

Cornerback Grant Haley left practice early with a shoulder or arm injury.

PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • The Giants practiced in just helmets and shells on Thursday.
  • QB Daniel Jones threw a “beautiful” deep ball down the middle to WR T.J. Jones, who beat CB Julian Love.
  • S Kenny Ladler knocked away a deep pass from QB Kyle Lauletta to WR Reggie White, Jr. Lauletta then fired a mid-range strike to WR Amba Etta-Tawo. Later in practice, Ladler intercepted Lauletta in the back of the end zone and knocked down another pass.
  • CB Grant Haley made a diving break-up of a short pass from QB Alex Tanney, but Haley hurt himself on the play, forcing him to leave practice early.
  • In red-zone drills, QB Eli Manning threw a touchdown pass to TE Evan Engram, who beat LB Ryan Connelly. (Connelly was playing with the first-unit on this play).
  • QB Daniel Jones threw a “perfect” deep ball to RB Paul Perkins off a wheel route for a 50-yard score, beating LB Jonathan Anderson.
  • In 7-on-7 drills, QB Daniel Jones threw a touchdown pass over the middle to WR Russell Shepard. Jones then threw another touchdown pass to TE Scott Simonson, who made a nice diving catch.
  • S Michael Thomas broke up a QB Daniel Jones pass to TE C.J. Conrad. Conrad then made a diving touchdown reception in the back left corner on a pass from QB Alex Tanney, beating LB Ryan Connelly.
  • QB Alex Tanney threw a touchdown pass to WR Reggie White, Jr., beating CB Corey Ballentine.
  • CB Corey Ballentine stripped the ball away from RB Rod Smith and LB Jonathan Anderson recovered the loose ball.
  • DE Jake Ceresna flashed on the third-team defense.
  • QB Eli Manning finished 13-of-17 with two touchdowns, including one to WR Bennie Fowler.
  • QB Daniel Jones finished the day 11-of-13 with three touchdowns.

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

ARTICLES…

Jun 262019
 
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Spencer Pulley and Will Hernandez, New York Giants (November 25, 2018)

Spencer Pulley and Will Hernandez – © USA TODAY Sports

With New York Giants training camp 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.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Offensive Line

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: It’s clear that General Manager Dave Gettleman took one look at the team’s offensive line and had the same reaction as fans. Justin Pugh (2013 1st rounder), Weston Richburg (2014 2nd rounder), and D.J. Fluker were allowed to walk in free agency during the 2018 offseason. John Jerry was cut before the season started. The Giants started the 2018 season with newly-signed free agent Nate Solder at left tackle, 2nd-rounder Will Hernandez at left guard, Jon Halapio at center, newly-signed free agent Patrick Omameh at right guard, and Ereck Flowers at right tackle.

This group did not play well and the offense struggled to score points before the bye week. In addition, Halapio broke his ankle in Week 2 and was replaced by John Greco and then waiver-wire pick-up Spencer Pulley. Flowers was benched after the second game and replaced by second-year undrafted free agent Chad Wheeler. Omameh lasted a bit longer, starting the first six games before being cut in November. Greco first took his spot, then newcomer Jamon Brown, who was claimed off of waivers from the Los Angeles Rams.

The 2.0 version of the 2018 offensive line thus included Solder-Hernandez-Pulley-Brown-Wheeler. The best thing that could be said of this group was that it wasn’t as crappy as the previous group. Team scoring improved, but Pulley and Wheeler were clearly weak links. Brown looked the part, but demonstrated the same inconsistency that led to him being cut by the Rams. And it rapidly became apparent that the desperate Giants dramatically overpaid Solder, who did play better as the season progressed. While Hernandez experienced the expected rookie growing pains, he improved and was named to the All-Rookie team.

Overall, for yet another season, the line remained the offense’s Achilles’ heel, with the free agent newcomers not playing as well as expected, and the team being forced to start two mid-season waiver-wire pickups.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants re-signed both Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley. The team did not bring back John Greco, and Jamon Brown signed with the Falcons. The Giants acquired guard Kevin Zeitler via a trade from the Browns and signed tackle Mike Remmers in free agency. Street free agents Chad Slade and Austin Droogsma were signed. Surprisingly, the Giants only drafted one lineman: George Asafo-Adjei in the 7th round. Rookie free agents Paul Adams and James O’Hagan were signed after the draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Heading into training camp, the expected starting offensive line is Nate Solder at left tackle, Will Hernandez at left guard, Jon Halapio or Spencer Pulley at center, Kevin Zeitler at right guard, and Mike Remmers at right tackle. On paper, this appears to be the team’s best offensive line in almost a decade. Hernandez and Zeitler are arguably one of the best set of starting guards in the NFL. They are not just big, physical football players, but they play with professionalism and attitude. The Giants haven’t been in such good shape here since the days of Rich Seubert and Chris Snee.

The three other spots are a bit more unsettled. Nate Solder clearly did not live up to his contract. He’s also missed the Spring workouts due to ankle surgery. However, he is another veteran presence who gives the Giants more stability and reliability at the crucial left tackle position than Ereck Flowers and Will Beatty ever did. Moreover, the Solder-Hernandez tandem on the left side should play better in their second year together. Mike Remmers has bounced around the League, now playing with his seventh team. But the self-made journeyman parlayed his improving play into a 5-year, $30 million contract with the Vikings in 2017. He played well at right tackle for that team in 2017 but was more inconsistent at right guard in 2018. A recurring back issue that required offseason surgery was a factor in the Vikings cutting him in March. If Remmers is over his back issues (which caused him to miss Spring workouts), and if he can regain his 2017 form, the Giants will have massively upgraded themselves at right tackle with another professional, veteran presence. But those are two big “ifs”. Like the left tackle position, right tackle has been a disaster for the Giants for years.

Based on offseason comments by team officials, it was assumed that Jon Halapio would be penciled in as the starting center again. However, Spencer Pulley has been pushing him and splitting snaps with the first unit during Spring workouts. The starting center position appears to be very much up for grabs. The good news is that whomever starts, they will be tremendously aided by Hernandez and Zeitler on their flanks.

Overall, the main story line is this group needs to develop cohesion and chemistry quickly. Both starting tackles missed the mini-camp and OTAs this Spring due to injuries. With so few training camp practices, there is not much time for everyone to come together.

ON THE BUBBLE: There are currently 16 offensive linemen on the roster. The Giants will probably keep nine. Barring injury, Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler, and Mike Remmers will start. Both Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley should make it unless one of the younger centers push one off the roster. That leaves three spots for ten players. Chad Wheeler probably has a leg up on being the reserve swing tackle. But it will be a dogfight for those last few spots.

FROM THE COACHES: Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Mike Remmers: “I worked with Mike for two years. He is a pro, a real pro, and he played winning football for us in Minnesota. I knew a lot about Mike and then he started last year every game and played well. We were in talks with him, took a couple of physicals, just went through the process and signed him.”

Shurmur on Jon Halapio: “He was really playing well for us before he got hurt a year ago. So we had high hopes for him last season. It appears he has come back 100 percent and is back in there just like he was when he left us.”

Shurmur on George Asafo-Adjei: “We like him for all the reasons we liked him on his college tape. He is a powerful guy that has very good length. You can tell he is a very physical style player. That is important at that position.”

Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on the offensive line: “I think the guys that we’ve added over the course of last season and this season have brought a lot of character, intelligence, competitiveness, integrity to that room. I think it didn’t show as early as we wanted it to last year. I think it showed pretty well at the end of the year. I think we’ve kind of picked up, in fact improved since then. We are going to be leaning on them, they are going to be the starting point of our offense. Everyone knows we have Saquon, we want to run the football, we are going to be balanced. To do that it’s got to start with the offensive line. We want to run the ball, when we want to run it, we want to throw that ball when we want to throw it. To do that it starts up front. We are going to lean heavy on those guys.”

Shula on Chad Wheeler: “I think Wheels has done a really good job this offseason with our exposure with him. Again, I have only been around him for a year, but I think there is a big difference even with him and his approach. I think he, along with a lot of other guys, got better as the year went on. We all know that we were nowhere near good enough early in the year. We did a lot of good things even though it wasn’t good enough at the end of the year, but we were really, really close and trending in the right direction. He was one of those guys that falls in that category.”

Offensive Line Coach Hal Hunter on Kevin Zeitler: “You have to love Zeitler. He is a tough, hard nose guy. I have seen him play. I watched him play when he was in Cincinnati’s offense. He is a good football player. He brings a real toughness. He is all business… He is very demanding of guys around him in a positive way. You demand in yourself what you demand in others. I love that about him. I love everything about him, his personality and what he brings. He is so fun to coach.”

Hunter on Jon Halapio: “He made good progress during (the 2018 training) camp and great progress during the preseason. The way he was playing in the beginning of the Dallas game, that was shocking. He was playing really well. When you sit out all that time, you get so far behind physically and technically. Now he is back in the swing of things and he looks good. He is only scratching the surface. He is smart, tough and strong. He has athleticism and needs to continue to play at the position.”

Hunter on George Asafo-Adjei: “My son works at Kentucky. He works in the football office down there. We found out from the inside out – he talked about what a quality guy he was. He was probably the most respected guy on the offensive side of the ball. He talked about how he competed with Josh Allen on a day-to-day basis. He talked about his character, work ethic and his toughness. All of those things peaked interest. You watch him on tape and see that he has a lot of athleticism and power. He has a lot of toughness and plays in the best football conference in the country. We have some technical work to do. He is a rookie and you have to tell him to do something once and he goes on and does it right the next time. He picked up the offense much quicker than I thought he was going to. When you compare our offense to their offense, we have a lot more volume to it with a lot of the things that we were doing. We need to continue to work with him technically to get him up to speed but you have to like everything about him. When you read him, that is one of the first things that I found out. He had committed to Kentucky early and is a man of his word. When all those other schools came in like Alabama, that is legit. Those people tried to come in and recruit him. He gave Kentucky his word and didn’t go anywhere. He has some developmental potential.”

PREDICTIONS: Some fans have questioned me about why I am so upbeat about the 2019 offensive line since there remain some serious question marks at center and both tackle spots. I feel good because I see a group of professional, reliable veterans. For the last decade, the Giants haven’t just been bad up front, they’ve been dreadful. They were not only physically overmatched, they did not treat their jobs as professionals. And they certainly could not be relied upon.

I love our two guards. And whomever starts at center will benefit from them. Solder and Remmers aren’t pretty, but they get the job done. This group will show up to work, give you a full 60 minutes, and leave their opponents feeling sore the next day. I’ll take that any day.

My only concern is that with Solder and Remmers missing all of the Spring workouts, early-season cohesion and chemistry will be lacking. But both guys have been around the League for a long time and that will help. The Giants also have to pray Remmers’ back holds up.

There are Giants fans in their teens and 20s who have never seen their team field a decent offensive line. I think that is about to change. Don’t be surprised if both guards receive some Pro Bowl recognition.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Kevin Zeitler, Will Hernandez, Nate Solder, Mike Remmers, Jon Halapio, Spencer Pulley, Chad Wheeler, George Asafo-Adjei, Paul Adams

(I realize this is tackle heavy, but it’s easier for a tackle to play guard in a pinch rather than the other way around. The Giants also need to groom a couple of young tackles).