May 222020
 
Share Button
Kaden Smith, New York Giants (December 1, 2019)

Kaden Smith – © 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: Tight Ends

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Entering 2019, the Giants and their fans were hoping that 3rd-year player and former 1st-round draft pick Evan Engram would finally make it through a full season and break out with a 1,000+ receiving year. Alas that was not to be as Engram suffered both foot and knee injuries that caused him to miss half the season. In all, Engram played in just eight games in 2019 with six starts, catching 44 passes for 467 yards and three touchdowns. This was after Engram missed five games in 2018 with knee and hamstring injuries.

Making matters worse for New York was that Engram’s primary back-up, Rhett Ellison, suffered a serious concussion in Week 10 and missed the last six games of the season. Ellison accrued his lowest numbers in a Giants’ uniform, just 18 catches for 167 yards and one touchdown.

Scott Simonson badly injured his ankle in the preseason finale, was cut from Injured Reserve in September, and re-signed to the 53-man roster in November. But Simonson was placed on IR again in December with a concussion. He played in five games in 2019 with one start, catching just two passes for 11 yards. Garrett Dickerson split time between the Practice Squad and the 53-man roster, but did not have a catch.

The only real positive at this position in 2019 was the emergence of rookie Kaden Smith. The Giants claimed Smith off of waivers from the San Francisco 49ers in September. (He was a 6th round pick for the 49ers). Smith surprisingly became a significant contributor after the bye week when injuries started to hit the tight end position hard. Smith played in nine games with six starts, and finished the season with 31 catches for 268 yards (8.6 yards per catch) and three touchdowns. He also did a nice job in the blocking department.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Scott Simonson was cut in February. Rhett Ellison retired from football in March. Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, and Garrett Dickerson return.

The Giants added four new bodies, including veteran free agents Levine Toilolo (49ers) and Eric Tomlinson (Raiders) as well as rookie free agents Kyle Markway and Rysen John.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The Giants picked up the 5th-year option on Engram in late April, meaning he will be under contract through the 2021 season. However, stating the obvious, this is a critical season for the injury-plagued Engram. He has to prove he can be reliably productive, and you can’t do that if you aren’t playing. And when Engram has played, he has frustratingly alternated between signs of becoming an impact player as a receiving tight end and disappearing for long stretches. As any Giants fan painfully knows, Jason Garrett’s offense relies heavily on tight end play. And Joe Judge preaches about putting players in the best positions to succeed, which would suggest that Engram may see less in-line blocking and be used more heavily in the receiving game. If Engram can’t do it in year four, it may be best for the team to part ways with him.

Kaden Smith’s development will be interesting to watch. He’s not a great athlete, but he did the job when called upon last year despite his limited experience (VIDEO). His upside is the big question mark.

It’s pretty telling that Gettleman and Judge signed two big, run-blocking tight ends in free agency. Now on his fourth NFL team, Levine Toilolo is massive (6’8”, 268 pounds) and figures to be the most physical blocking tight end in this offense. Eric Tomlinson is on his sixth NFL team, and second stint with the Giants. He’s another big man (6’6”, 263 pounds). Neither player will really threaten NFL defenses in the passing game, but their very presence may indicate a renewed emphasis on being physical up front with the running game.

ON THE BUBBLE: One would think that Evan Engram and Levine Toilolo have the inside shots with Engram representing the receiving threat and Toilolo the blocker. If Kaden Smith can continue to develop, he has an excellent shot to make the roster as well. The best hope for each of the others may be for the team to carry four tight ends, but that’s not a given.

PREDICTIONS: I predicted 1,000-yard seasons for Evan Engram in 2018 and 2019. What’s the old saying? Fool me twice? The guy drives me nuts. Week 1: 11 catches and 116 yards and a touchdown against Dallas. Week 3: 6 catches and 113 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, against Tampa Bay. Then he’ll have one catch for six yards against the Cardinals in Week 7 and miss half of the rest of the year with multiple injuries.

I think Judge and Garrett will understand Engram’s strengths and weaknesses and we will see less in-line blocking from him. That should reduce the wear-and-tear as well as increase his receiving chances. I’m not going to predict anything with him in terms of his final numbers this year. Another boast would sound meaningless at this point. He’s got to prove to everyone he can stay on the football field.

I suspect Levine Toilolo will become a very important cog in the offense this year, not as a receiver, but as the primary in-line blocking tight end. That should help both rookie Andrew Thomas and veteran Nate Solder at tackle. And Saquon Barkley should receive the immediate dividends. I want to get really excited about Kaden Smith, but he still has a lot to prove. Fans may have overrated his play last year simply because he looked like the most reliable two-way guy on the roster, which isn’t saying much.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Evan Engram, Levine Toilolo, Kaden Smith, Kyle Markway

One of the reasons I am going with four is that I don’t think Engram is a true in-line tight end and more of a TE/WR hybrid. So the Giants still need three guys who can block in-line. Toilolo and Smith are the obvious guesstimates in May. Rysen John is another hybrid type who is very, very green. His best shot is probably the Practice Squad. Garrett Dickerson has hung around since 2018 and has some athletic ability, but he’s got to be really on the bubble. I think Eric Tomlinson and Kyle Markway are fighting for that final roster spot. Markway reminds me of Rhett Ellison, a jack-of-all trades type (tight end, H-Back, fullback) who doesn’t mind getting his nose dirty. I suspect the coaches will like him a lot.

Apr 152020
 
Share Button
Joe Judge, New York Giants (February 25, 2020)

Joe Judge – © USA TODAY Sports

JOE JUDGE’S PRE-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media by conference call on Wednesday in advance of next week’s NFL Draft.

Opening Statement: I’d like to take a second to acknowledge (New York Post Photographer) Anthony Causi and his family. I know it’s a very tough time for his family specifically, but also everybody else in the media. There’s a lot of things going on out there, people’s lives have been turned upside down, that I think it’s important we keep in perspective as we talk football through this call that there are bigger things going on, that ultimately what we do is entertainment and a means of escape for people dealing with much bigger issues. So with that being said, I’d like to go ahead and start answering any questions that I can for you guys. Fire away.

Q: A lot has been written and talked about how a new coach like yourself might be a little behind because of OTAs being cancelled with the virus. Maybe you could get into a little bit of that and how you plan on catching up once you get into the building, as compared to a (Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach) Doug Pederson who has had a system in place for years.
A: All we’re concerned about at this point, really, is getting a foundation ready through whatever means it ends up being. We’ve been preparing for this now for some time, for these meetings to go virtual, we’ve got to communicate with our players through the conditioning program and have everything set up so that we can work with them. I think the advantage goes to whoever is best prepared from this point forward. I don’t think any established program is at an advantage over anybody else. It’s how you can find a way to communicate with your players and deliver a message. Whether you’ve been in the program for years or not, everyone has changes to their system, everybody has changes to what they’re going to be doing in the offseason. They’re going to have the same challenges of communicating to their players.

Q: Can you take us through what Monday is going to look like and how that’s going to work with the players?
A: Yeah, so I’ll tell you what, without going into too many specifics in terms of what we’re using, we’re using some virtual meeting software, like most everyone in America is — like my kids are in the kitchen right now taking virtual school. We’re going to start out with position meetings. We’re going to take our time of going through, making sure that first off all of the players are sound and set up on how to use the software. Before we get into too much of the football, we’re going to make sure that everyone knows how to use it, and where to find all of the information. Monday is going to be a lot like a first day back in the building, you know, through a regular spring program. We want to spend some time with position coaches, we want to make sure the coordinators get a chance to address their room, and I’ll have a chance to talk to the team for the first time. So, before we get into all of the X’s and O’s of football, there’s an important element of just getting to know the players and them getting to know us that has to take place.

Q: With regard to the NFL Draft, because of the offseason and the inability to develop players in a hands-on way, does that impact your evaluation in the draft and maybe the need to draft a guy who is more pro ready or guys who are pro ready versus somebody who requires more hands-on development early?
A: No, I think that when you’re looking at players in the draft, first off, you’re always looking for the best player available and to me that means long-term upside. If you think you’re taking someone who is “pro ready,” what all of these rookies find out the second they step in the building is none of them are pro ready. That’s why they need the spring program, that’s why they need training camp, that’s why they go through growing pains as rookies. To me, it’s about finding the upside of the player, of looking down the long scope of a career and seeing who’s going to be the best player with the most upside for you. There’s really no short-term fix or band aid. You’re not going to pick someone in this draft and say, “Okay, we answered an issue there.” It’s just bringing the best guy available and then working with them every day. No one is a finished product, whether they are a college guy getting drafted or someone who is in the league right now. Everyone has to improve to get to where we need to be.

Q: You have members of the staff, you were also in the league during the lockout when there was some uncertainty. In this day and age, with no telling when we’re going to possibly have your guys back on the field — how flexible do you have to be in terms of the teaching, getting these guys ready to go so that when they hit the field they don’t miss a beat?
A: Well, this is definitely a fluid program first off. What we’re dealing with right now is a lot of uncertainty, so we have to control is what we have the ability to control. For us as a staff right now, we’re looking at just making sure we get the installs in the way we want to get them in and make sure that whether our players get back to us this spring or not, they’ve got a solid base on the knowledge of our program so that when we start truly practicing competitively in training camp, that they’ve got a good head start on it. I would say there are some significant differences between this year and 2011. First off, I’d like to point out in the lockout, the biggest difference was our players’ ability to train and condition themselves to be ready to practice when they returned. And when you think about it, at the time, you had Drew Brees bringing the Saints down to New Orleans to throw, Colt McCoy took the Browns down to Austin, Texas. Travel was accessible, these players had the ability to go to a gym in their local town and train, to work with trainers. That’s been removed, for the most part, across the country right now. The biggest thing we’ve got to make sure that we adjust for is the ability for our players to be prepared physically when they get back. When you track 2011, which is the last year we didn’t have an offseason program with players, the injury data is what it is — it was the highest recorded in league history, especially in recent years. That was even with the players training on their own as hard as they could. The tough thing for our players is to really get pushed through football movements to prepare themselves for practice. So, we have to make adjustments so that when we finally do get the players back, hopefully sooner than later, but we have to make sure we practice the right way and give them, give the players, a chance to condition their body and be physically ready so that we can avoid injury. That’s really our top concern right now is football wise, making sure the players can physically prepare their bodies and we can give them the resources and tools to do so, so that when we return to play everyone can play safely and aggressively.

Q: You are working remotely like so many people are in a house, with a family, with kids, a first time head coach. What is that like for you? Is it difficult, any technical glitches, any family emergencies you’ve got to run out to do? Tell us what your new normal is like.
A: You know what, the normal for me is my office just moved to my basement. I operate out of my basement. Same work hours I would hold if I were in the office, up early and stay late. Make sure you get everything done. You know, we still meet on our regular basis as a staff, whether that’s offense or defense or as an entire staff, strength staff, whatever it is. But we’re meeting through online, virtual meetings. We have technology that’s allowing us to be very functional and productive. There have been some adjustments by everybody, but that’s our job is to figure it out and move forward. One thing I’ll tell you that I’m very confident in is when we start dealing with the players, there’s no generation that’s been more prepared for this offseason than the ones we’re going to deal with now. They are very technologically savvy, they are going to have a lot of feedback that we’re going to get from them that we’re going to rely on in terms of how we can improve our meetings, to do what helps them. So, everybody has adjusted. I think if the worst thing we’re dealing with right now, to be honest with you, is working out of our basement, we’ve got it pretty good. Look, there’s a lot of people out there right now who don’t have jobs to go to with this situation, there’s police, fire department, there are nurses who leave their house every day, who leave their family behind and they are putting themselves out there to protect us. So, I think there’s people we have to acknowledge with the right perspective who have it a lot tougher than a bunch of football coaches just trying to function to get ready for an offseason and a draft.

Q: This is obviously suboptimal for a second-year quarterback learning a new system. Is there anything being done behind the scenes or plans for when you guys can get back together, whenever that may be, to help get Daniel (Jones) up to speed and really guard against him potentially falling behind learning a new system without the on-field reps and in-person coaching you guys would be able to get?
A: Well I’ll tell you what, really for all of our players, everybody is in the same boat right now trying to start from scratch. What we’ve been allowed to do right now by the league is we’ve had contact with our players, but everything has been non-football to this point. We’ve just wanted to check on them and their families and make sure everyone is safe and healthy and if there is anything we can do to help them in this process. We want to make sure that all of our players and their families really have the access to our medical team, so if something comes up, we can head it off before it becomes a major issue. In terms of the players football wise, we’ve been able to give out iPads, and we’ve been able to load information on it, but we haven’t been able to have any instruction or interaction dealing with football. Now on Monday, that’s different. We get to go fully virtual with it, which will be a big advantage getting to meet with the players face-to-face, so to say, and start dealing with the players. In the meantime, the players have looked through what’s on the iPad, they’ve watched old film, they’ve had a chance to look at playbooks which have been loaded up. But really, Monday is when the instruction and teaching starts. That’s what we’re looking forward to.

Q: Now that you have had a chance to evaluate your team from a distance, can you give us an idea of what you think of the current team you have?
A: I’m excited to work with all the players. We’ve watched them and again we have watched them from a distance is the key thing to say. We’ve watched them on tape, we have watched them from afar. Most of us were on other teams last year, so we have watched them from an outsider’s perspective. We are really anxious to work with them in our building and put our hands on them.  It wouldn’t be fair to give a true evaluation of anybody who you haven’t worked with. We are excited to work with every player from the previous roster and the new guys we added to the roster right now. We are looking forward to the draft and we are all kind of tapping our foot right now just anxious to be have any type of exposure to players that we can. When we start going virtually, it will give us a great insight to the players as to how they interact in meetings, how insightful they are with the questions they ask, how current they can stay on the information and that’s what we are really waiting for.

Q: This is your first time going through the draft process as a head coach. What is the biggest thing you learned up in New England about their approach to the draft?
A: I think it is about evaluating the players. To me, the biggest part of the draft is evaluating the players. Not for what they have done in the past but for what they can do in the future. You have to have the foresight to see how their skillset can add to your team and how you are going to use them. The biggest thing from my time in New England is to how to look at the player and find what their strengths are and then see how you can use them to your team’s advantage.

Q: I know you haven’t had a chance to see these guys up close and personal, but you added some key free agents. Three guys in particular on defense, Bradberry, Martinez and Fackrell. What do you expect they will bring to the team and why did you feel you wanted to add them to the roster?
A: I expect everyone on the team to bring a level of commitment and competitiveness that’s going to make us an improved team and that’s what I expect from them. I expect when they show up, they will be in shape, I expect them to be ready on the material that we have presented to them and I expect them to come out on the field and compete aggressively every single day. That’s what we expect from our players every day, whether it was someone on the roster last year or someone we added in free agency or someone we add in the draft. That’s the expectation of all the players, to come to work every day with a relentless attitude to improve this team.

Q: When you look at a player, how much does a premium position like quarterback or left tackle factor into the evaluation process?
A: I think it matters only in how they fit in your system and how you can use them to expand in your system. To me, every player has to have a level of versatility. I don’t care if you are a one-position offensive lineman or you’re the quarterback. Everyone has to have versatility within their game to adjust to different game plans and schemes. If you find a player that has great impact and upside, that’s a guy you want to add to your roster. The upside is the biggest part of it. In terms of is it someone that has to have a true position home, to me the position home is going to be defined by how you use them. That’s up to us as coaches to be creative and maximize strengths. Not talk about what they are not but figure out what they can do in order to help us win.

Q: All the free agents you signed this year, members of your staff have some kind of past history. How important is that in integrating that prior knowledge with what you are trying to build in terms of these players maybe serving as group leaders?
A: I don’t think we are looking for any players to come in and be ambassadors or to raise the other players. We added players to the roster who we think are good players. Some we had previous exposure with, some we didn’t. It’s a small league, whether you are coaching a player, coaching against him or watching him on crossover tape every week, you know the league. I believe all the players we added have a great deal of value, I believe they are all going to add to our team. They are all going to compete, which is the biggest thing we like out of all the players we’ve added. You watch them on tape, and they all have very competitive natures in how they play and that’s the biggest thing to us right there. As far as the previous relationships we have with these players, that’s not going to give them an edge or an advantage over any other player on the roster or we are going to add at any point to the roster. We are always going to play the best player, we are always going to play the player that gives us the best opportunity to match up with an opponent by that week’s game plan. I’d say the players that are coming in should know that about us already. They don’t expect special treatment. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to all these players when we signed them. The message is very clear, the expectations for them are the same as everyone else on this team. No one at this point has an advantage on the roster over anybody else for a spot on this team.

Q: At the combine, you had talked about how important it was for you to be able to be on-site and be at pro days and dig into guys personally and seeing them. In the adjustment of what you’ve done pre-draft, have you done anything different to kind of dig into guys, to kind of make up for what you personally lost in your evaluation of some of these prospects getting ready for the draft?
A: What we’ve done is we’ve used everything available to us to really go ahead and get the best picture of each player. I can tell you losing the visits to your campus, or to go to the player’s campus and watch them at a pro day, you really have to utilize these meetings online. It gives you an opportunity to look a player in the eyes when you talk. I’m very big on body language, I’m very big on eye contact. At least you have the opportunity to look a player in the eyes, you ask him a question and see his reaction. That’s big right there. It gives you a good picture of how they are as far as talking ball, how much they can learn and teach back to you. The other thing we’ve had to do is rely on our contacts and people we trust. We’re very fortunate on our staff and me personally that we have a lot of contacts out there with a lot of these players that have coached them, and that we have good enough relationships with these coaches that they give us honest feedback. To me, it’s important that you’re not just talking to someone at that program, you’re talking to someone you trust at that program that’s going to really tell you inside and out what that player is like as a person, as a teammate and as a player on a daily basis. I spent a lot of time on the phone talking to guys that I have very good, very deep relationships with investigating these players, and that all goes into our evaluation. The talent level is one thing, but it’s more than just fantasy football. We’re not just throwing players on a roster. We’re building a team. We have to account for how guys are in the meeting room, how they are in the locker room, how they interact with their teammates, and what they’re going to bring from a culture standpoint.

Q: With that in mind, when you look at all of the college coaches you have on staff, how much more valuable does that make their insight when you’re talking about players that maybe they’ve coached  or coached against, so that you don’t necessarily need to go to those outside coaches and kind of help bridge that gap between being on campus and not?
A: I’ll tell you what, it’s been a great asset for us. One of the things you forget about in this whole process of the guys that we have that have just come from colleges in the last couple of years or maybe just from this last year is maybe they haven’t coached them directly, but they recruited them and they have personal relationships with these players. You find out a lot about a player from a coach who’s spent a lot of time meeting him and his family. The homework that they’ve done over the course of really a year-plus when they’re recruiting in college is more beneficial than you spending an afternoon at a pro day with him. It’s been a great resource for us. We have tremendous guys on our staff who… Look, they were great recruiters in college. That’s not going to mean anything in the NFL, but we can use what they’ve learned in the past on a specific player to tie into what we see as a whole person.

Q: Can you just give us an idea how next Thursday, Friday and Saturday are going to work for you? Are you going to be locked in that basement? I actually read a quote from the Chargers GM that he was going to have his kids help him out, like tracking other teams’ picks and stuff. Is it going to be you in your basement talking on video chat with Dave (Gettleman) and the scouts? How do you envision the actual three days of the draft working?
A: I’ll have a more accurate picture for you after we go through a couple of mock drafts ourselves as an organization, with the league. However, I have told my kids that there are times I’m going to need them to get out of the basement or be present. Based on how we set up our draft board so that I can have a visual in my basement, I’ve already talked to them about possibly taking tags off the wall and organizing different things. I’m not looking to make this a vacation for anybody. We have a lot of serious work to get done. But it is still our house, and like everyone else in America is finding out, everyone is working with their family always present, and that’s pretty true for us. I have a golden retriever (Abby) sitting on the couch next to me for about 15 hours a day. Right now, she can probably tell you more about who we’re going to take in the first round than anybody else.

Q: Is the goal of virtual learning simply to know the playbook, or is it ‘this is how we want to practice, this is how we want to do everything’?
A: All of those elements will eventually tie into it. The first part of it ties into the playbook and the material. Eventually, we will talk as a team in terms of how we’re going to conduct the team, how we’re going to practice. It’s important the players not only know what you’re going to do, but how you’re going to do it. That will come into the coordinators explaining to them our style of offense, our style of defense, our style of special teams, and how we’re going to look. They have to understand where they’re going to fit in the puzzle.

Q: Obviously there’s a lot of uncertainty looking forward about whether you’ll get to training camp or the season. A lot of coaches plan out their schedule months in advance. I’m going to assume that you probably do the same thing. How much have you had to revise your future plans, or are you just holding off on making any future plans at the moment?
A: Well, it’s my job to be prepared. As the head coach, I need to have a plan for everything that’s going to come up. When we got the memo from the NFL the other day of how the spring is going to look, I sat down and we’ve made four calendars already in anticipation of different scenarios that could come up. We have them color coded, so if we get the players as scheduled, we’re working off the blue calendar. If we don’t get the players, we’re working off the red calendar. If we get them later in the spring, we’ll pull up the purple calendar. We have different scenarios mapped out, so we have a plan of attack when that time comes. It’s our job to figure it out and have a plan for the players, and we’re working on doing that right now.

Q: What’s your message to the fans of the New York Football Giants right now?
A: The biggest thing is beyond football. I hope everyone out there is safe, I hope everyone is healthy, I hope everyone is staying in good spirits. We’re doing our best right here to get back to work for you guys so you have something to watch and be proud of. I can assure you, we’re going to make sure that the hard work that they have in their communities and things that people are looking forward to getting back to when normal life resumes, we’re going to make sure that what they’ve been anticipating, we put that on the field. We give them a product that they can be proud of. I just want to thank all of the first responders, too. The police, the fire department, every doctor, every nurse, ambulance driver. You find out how essential life is, how about essential employees, how we really would be struggling to function without people to do the everyday things for us. Look, it’s tough sitting in your house. It’s a lot tougher going out there every day, being exposed to the virus and doing your job, and then having to go home and look your family in the eye. We can’t take lightly the sacrifices all those people are making for us, and we appreciate it.

ARTICLES…

Apr 012020
 
Share Button
Colt McCoy, Washington Redskins (October 6, 2019)

Colt McCoy – © USA TODAY Sports

CONFERENCE CALL WITH QUARTERBACK COLT McCOY…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with quarterback Colt McCoy, who the New York Giants signed on March 19th:

Q: You are now the longest tenured quarterback in the NFC East. How important was it for you to stay in the division?
A: I don’t know if I looked at it from a standpoint of importance, but I do think it’s an advantage. Spending my last six years in D.C., playing on and off there and then having the opportunity to join the Giants. I think playing those teams, their systems, their coaches, their coordinators may change but you do have a feel for players and their skillset. It’s a very competitive division and I do think there is value in staying in the east for sure.

Q: Did you have any existing relationship with Daniel Jones or have you even ever met?
A: I met Daniel just in pregame when we played them a couple times last year. I know him more as a quarterback because playing in the same division you get to watch their tape week in and week out because we are playing all the same opponents across the league. I thought he played very well as a rookie last year. His future is bright, his ceiling is high and he seems like a really great person. He’s obviously very lucky to have a guy like Eli in the quarterback room. A guy I really look up to and respect as a guy who did it right his whole career. I think Daniel knows the importance of a healthy quarterback room. I’ve talked to Daniel since I signed a couple times and just told him how excited I am coming up and learning this new system together. It’s kind of unfortunate the circumstances we are in right now. We have to get creative in ways to learn and grow. He seems like a great person and I’m excited to come in and learn alongside him and Alex (Tanney). Really just come in work hard and compete and bring out the best in our quarterback room, which I think will really benefit our team.

Q: You went through the 2011 lockout as a young quarterback. What advice can you offer Daniel on how to prepare for a season when the offseason is interrupted like this?
A: I had talked to a few of my friends about that lately. That was probably the worst thing to happen to me as a young quarterback. I played my rookie year and then we went into the lockout going into my second year. I didn’t get the playbook until we had two or three weeks of training camp. That was the first time I knew anything, and it was a completely new system. I played decent that year, but our team certainly struggled. I think I can take some experience and some lessons learned from that and hopefully help Daniel. I think Daniel is prepared for this, he played a lot more his rookie year than I did. There are challenges and it’s a new system, new ways to call plays. A new philosophy in what we are trying to accomplish as an offense. I will really do my best to be a great resource for him. I don’t know what the rules are yet, but hopefully as we get going on this virtually learning and installs with Coach Garrett, Daniel and I spending time on the phone to really talk about the ins and outs of what we are doing. I think as best we can, we are going to have to adapt and face these challenges just like everyone else in the league. Certainly, I remember that lockout season being a real challenge for me. I’ll do my best to help Daniel and make sure he is feeling as confident as he can and we as an offense are feeling as good as we can too.

Q: Did Coach Judge or Coach Garrett talk to you about how the quarterback room is going to be structured? You have Alex, who worked with Daniel last season. Are you guys competing directly or are you guys complementing each other? How is that working?
A: I did spend a lot of time talking to Coach Judge and talking to Coach Garrett. They seemed great over the phone. I’ve known Coach Garrett from playing against him the last six years. I really think his system is very QB friendly from watching it from afar, I’m excited to get going in that. I’m sure you guys all know the structure. I’m assuming Daniel is the starting quarterback, he was the sixth pick in the draft and he has a super bright future. That doesn’t just count out coming in and practicing hard and working hard in the classroom, and in the film room studying. I have sort of mentioned on another phone call earlier that for me I’ve been a backup and a starter. The way that I approach it is, number one, making sure that Daniel feels as comfortable as he can going into these games. Understanding and feeling good about the game plan and our preparation all week long so he can go out and play as best he can. I take pride in helping him feel that way and helping Coach Garrett. Being an old guy, you don’t get a lot of reps, but you have to do a lot of mental reps. The second part is the responsibility of being ready to play if something were to happen. You have to go in from the bench and play well and that’s expected, those two things. I’ve been a starter, and everyone wants to be a starter, but as a backup, it’s just as crucial to handle your business that way. I really feel confident that I bring value to this team and to that quarterback room. I think that approaching it that way is the right way. These challenges that we are facing right now with COVID-19 and having to learn online, it will be interesting. I think we will be alright.

Q: What is the key to being a good backup? Obviously you came in the league and wanted to play. What is the key to supporting a younger teammate and staying ready? Is there a key that you have that the Giants saw in you?
A: The one thing that Coach Judge and Coach Garrett told me is that we watched all your tape for 10 years and you have started a ton of games in this league. You also have been a backup and when you were called to come off the bench you have always stepped in and won the game and played well and played up to a standard. We value that and that’s why we want you to come be here. I think there are a lot of challenges in playing backup like I mentioned. You have to be ready to play and be able to watch tape, be disciplined, and learn because you are not going to get a lot of reps. I think more important than that is I look at it from a standpoint of what if I was to be a coach someday. I have played in a lot of different systems, my dad was my high school coach. I have been a water boy since I was three years old. I have been around the game and I love the game. Playing backup creates a lot of challenges and you may not play all year long. I backed up Kirk (Cousins) for two years and I didn’t take a snap. Some other seasons, I have played four or five games, it’s unique. I try to be another set of eyes, another set of ears, another encouraging voice and like a coach for whoever the starter is. I think it will help me if I want to make a transition someday to be a coach, to call plays. I want to understand and learn this system in a way that’s detailed, it’s structured and that I can call the game the way Jason would call the game. I think by doing it and by learning and understanding it, that really helps Daniel or whoever is playing. It would help me ultimately if I was called upon to play. I try to get creative with it, but I also know my role and what it entails. I couldn’t be more excited to come to a place where I don’t know a whole lot of people, but I love the game and I’m excited about the opportunity and the challenge. I’m just looking forward to when all this passes and getting up there and getting to work.

Q: You mentioned the challenges of learning the offense with Daniel and Alex. So much of the quarterback and receiver relationship is physical. You have to establish timing and stuff. As we are in these challenging times, how can you build that up with your receivers so when you do get to work out with them, you can hit the ground running?
A: I’m not real sure exactly how that’s going to work. When we do these Zoom live classes or installs I don’t know how it’s going to work, I have never used it. I’m hoping that there is some interaction between players. You are listening to your coach but maybe we can have interaction with the players or you can hop on a call with some of other guys. So you can ask, hey, how did feel about that or do you like the depth of that route, is that how you were taught. So you can go through a lot of different things with them. All 31 other teams are facing this same challenge. I think some teams who are going to continue in the same system maybe have a little bit of an advantage. I think the teams like us who have a new coach and a new system have a little bit of a disadvantage. That can’t be a crutch or an excuse either. We just have to figure out ways to get creative.  (Make sure) The first time we can toss the ball around and run some plays we are all on the same page. Hopefully we can figure that out.

Q: There’s a possibility that for a lot of years here we could watch Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins go against each other. I’m curious what your thoughts were on Dwayne after seeing him up close for a year?
A: It was good. I think Dwayne has a ton of potential, just like Daniel. I think Daniel played a little bit more this year, so he probably has a little more experience. But both of those guys were highly sought after in the draft last year. They both had great college careers and they both have a ton of skill at playing the position. I know Dwayne is very talented throwing the football. It would be good. I get to play against the Redskins for at least this year, and we’ll see what happens. It should be fun. I’m excited to work with Daniel after having worked with Dwayne last year. I know he has a bright future. It’ll be fun games, for sure.

Q: Have you gotten a playbook?
A: We’re going to get going on Monday, as long as that is upheld. I just don’t know the rules. But I think that’s sort of the plan. We’ll dive into the playbook then. I think right now, everybody is just really focusing on the health and wellness of our country. I know the Giants specifically for the players, they’re in constant contact with us, making sure we have all the things we need from a health standpoint. But again, I think there’s a lot of uncertainty. I think Monday is kind of the day where we’re going to get all of that and get going.

Q: You talked a little bit about a possible future in coaching. Is that something you’re kind of hypothetical about, or is that what’s going to happen at some point?
A: I certainly don’t want to rule that out. I’ve been playing football for a long time and been around the game a long time, too. I think I would be a good coach. I’ve played in a lot of systems. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp and understanding of the game. So yeah, I don’t want to rule that out. I still think that I have a lot of football to be played left in me. It’s why I’m still going. But coaching intrigues me, yes. I think that could be in my future. I looked at this as an opportunity to go learn from Coach Judge, Coach Garrett, Jerry Schuplinski, our QB Coach, he’s been a part of… He’s coached Tom Brady and many other guys. I think there’s a lot of value in this place, in this organization, to really learn more football and I’m excited about that.

Q: Have you had a chance to talk to Jason Garrett at all about that? He obviously had a long NFL career, mostly as a backup, and sort of made that jump to coaching. Have you had a chance yet, or is that something that might happen down the road?
A: Yeah, I’ve had great conversations with Coach Garrett, and some about that, for sure. He certainly has done that. He played for a long time and he’s been a super successful head coach. I’m excited to learn from him. Not only his system and him coming back to calling plays this year, which he hadn’t done in a couple of years, but really, I mentioned it earlier on this call, there is value to playing for a coach that played quarterback, that played your position. There are little things that pop up, and he sees the field the same way we do and he understands. But he has an expectation of us to play at a high level and he knows how he wants his offense run. But there is a difference. Playing for Coach (Jay) Gruden, he played quarterback too. There is a familiarity there that he sort of understands what we see and how we play. I think there is benefit to that.

Q: Along those lines, how much value is there going back and looking at tapes of Jason Garrett’s system before he became the head coach, back when he was the offensive coordinator in Dallas, and just getting a feel for what he does in certain situations?
A: I think there certainly will be a time for that. I’m sure we’ll watch Cowboys offense tape during these installs and kind of down the road. I think right now, we’re just trying to get a good grasp of just the terminology, the protections, the formations, how we call the plays, all those things. Once you kind of soak that in, I do see a big value in watching those plays be executed versus different coverages or defenses or fronts. I’m sure that’s coming. I think right now it’s more just learning the foundations of what we’re trying to do.

Q: When you were around Alex Smith, I’m just curious because of his reputation as a leader and to some degree mentor, I’m wondering if there was anything from Alex in particular that you picked up, and if you’ll be particularly curious in terms of what the future holds for him?
A: First of all, I love Alex. He was a tremendous resource, a great leader, a good football player, and above that, he was just a great person. My two years with him I think were some of my most enjoyed years. It was the worst thing ever to see him go down and have the injury that he faced and kind of walk through that with him, and we’re still walking through that with him. I felt more confident than ever when he went down coming in, playing and leading our offense. I felt like I was playing at a really high level before I broke my leg as well. But we had a great working relationship. I definitely will take a lot of the things I learned from him as I move on to the Giants, as far as just the quarterback room, the help of the quarterback room, studying, different ways that he looked at tape, you can go down the list. I really valued my time with him. He’s one of my best friends. I certainly hope that he has a chance to play again if that’s what he wants. We’ll see what happens with that.

CONFERENCE CALL WITH TIGHT END LEVINE TOILOLO…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with tight end Levine Toilolo, who the New York Giants signed on March 17th:

Q: Before signing with the Giants, did they give you any indication regarding what your role is going to be? Are you going to be primarily a blocker or are they looking to expand the role you had?
A: We didn’t talk too much about roles or anything like that? All I know is I’m just coming in to work my tail off and do whatever they ask me to do. Whatever I can do to help the team win, that’s what I’ll do.

Q: What did you learn last year about a team that can make a quick turnaround after a losing season and go all the way to the Super Bowl?
A: I think that’s hard to speak on since I wasn’t there the year before to compare the two different teams. Just from my time there, it’s really hard to say as far as what they did to turn it around. Obviously, I had great teammates and great coaches. Like you said, we had a great season. It’s hard for me to speak on the whole turnaround aspect.

Q: Kaden Smith played at Stanford, you played at Stanford. What is it about that school that just seems to produce such quality tight ends?
A: I think that’s one of the programs that allow you to do a little bit of everything as far as blocking and receiving being in a pro-style offense. I think that just kind of helps you develop your game in all different aspects. A lot of great tight ends come out of there like Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener that I got to be teammates with. It’s really a credit to the coaches there and obviously guys like Kaden that work hard at their craft.

Q: Last year you had to wait until May to sign with San Francisco. Were you surprised this process moved as quickly as it did with the Giants?
A: Yeah, like you said, with last year you never know what to expect. I was ready to be patient if need be. I think with how quick everything went this time around it was definitely a different process. I’m excited about this opportunity and to come to New York.

Q: Do you think the league is turning more and more into two tight end sets? Do you see tight ends in general taking on a much bigger role in the passing game as opposed to years ago when they were primarily blockers?
A: I think for me being a little biased, I always think the more tight ends on the field, the better. I think the tight end position is a unique one in terms of you can have so many different body types and different athletes out there. You can ask them to do a wide range of things. Whether that’s in the blocking game or the receiving game. Even nowadays, you see tight ends lining up in the backfield as kind of a fullback or H-Back types. I always enjoy watching all different tight ends. You see them in different places in the offense. The game is always changing, and it may not always be like that but the game changes throughout time. It’s definitely a fun time to be a tight end.

Q: Last year, you kind of blocked in a running back-by-committee situation. What do you think it will be like to block for a guy like Saquon Barkley? What do you know from him? How do you think you can maybe help him and his career?
A: I don’t know him personally. I’ve just been able to watch him. Just the athlete that he is is always exciting to watch. I’m definitely excited to be able to get out there and hopefully do whatever I can to kind of help him out. Like I said, I’m just excited to be there and like I said, do whatever I can to help the team. If that’s trying to open up a hole or whatever, then I’m just going to focus on how I can try to help him and help this offense.

Q: Where do you feel most comfortable as a tight end? Obviously, you’ve done in-line blocking, you’ve done some receiving. What about working out of the backfield?
A: I’m pretty comfortable wherever they need me. I’ve had different roles. In Atlanta, I’ve been in the backfield as far as whether it’s lead blocking or floating around. But like you said, I’ve been in-line, I’ve been flexed out a little bit. Obviously as a player, you’re always working to improve on all aspects of your game. Even though I may not have been out there a lot, I think obviously throughout the season and offseason, it’s definitely something that I stay working on. If the team needs me to go wherever, obviously, I’m open to that.

Q: You’ve been on two teams that have gone to Super Bowls. Were there any common traits or common denominators between those squads that you found?
A: Obviously, every team in the league works hard and stuff like that. For me, one of the biggest things that I can definitely point out from the two teams that were successful was just the bond between the players and teammates, and just how close everyone was in the building. Not just player to player, but even the players to coaches. Everyone was pretty tight. When you’re able to build those relationships off the field and you can kind of come together and you’re kind of playing for more than just yourself. You’re playing for your brother next to you and for your coaches and stuff like that. That’s something that people may not really be able to see on the outside, just kind of the relationships that you have and that you’re able to build, and how that can really translate to on the field.

Q: When you come so close, especially this past year with a team like the 49ers who are kind of viewed as an ascending team in the league, is it hard to leave in free agency when you guys got so close? Were there any talks about going back there and trying to make another run?
A: Any time you go to a new team, it’s definitely going to be different. I think that’s the same thing with any aspect in life. Whenever there’s change, it’s obviously going to be a little uncomfortable. But just from the relationship I had with those guys, obviously there’s lifelong friendships made every time you go to a team. But at the same time, I’m definitely excited for… obviously, I already know some of the guys with the Giants, Stanford guys and stuff like that. But not only that, I’m excited to be able to meet some of the new teammates that I have and be with this new coaching staff. I’m excited for what’s to come, and for what we’re going to be able to try to work together and try to do. Like I said, to be a part of this team and this new opportunity is definitely exciting. I’m looking forward to it.

Q: With everything that’s going on with the Coronavirus, how has that kind of shook up your offseason routine with working out, training and all that? Just how surreal is it to sign with a new team, but you’re not really able to meet up with any of your new teammates in person or anything like that?
A: Like you said, it’s definitely been a different process this offseason. But luckily, I was here in San Diego kind of settled. I’m lucky enough to have some equipment and stuff like that so I can still be working out and at least stay in shape. But like you said, not being able to meet up with the guys and like you said, kind of start building that relationship is definitely going to be different. But hopefully everyone is staying safe. We’re hoping that everyone will be healthy and this will all be over soon. But until then, all I can do is try to stay in shape and stay ready for once we get the call.

Mar 172020
 
Share Button
Blake Martinez, Green Bay Packers (December 29, 2019)

Blake Martinez – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS SIGN BLAKE MARTINEZ TO 3-YEAR, $30-MILLION DEAL…
Multiple press outlets are reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent inside linebacker Blake Martinez (Green Bay Packers) to a 3-year, $30 million contract that includes $19 million in guaranteed money.

The 26-year old, 6’2”, 237-pound Martinez was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Packers. In four seasons with Green Bay, Martinez has played in 61 regular-season games with 57 starts, accruing 512 tackles, 10 sacks, 17 pass defenses, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. In 2019, he was credited with 155 tackles, three sacks, two pass defenses, one interception, and one forced fumble.

Martinez lacks ideal size and range for the position, but he is a heady player who can make the defensive calls and gets in on lot of tackles. He is better against the run than the pass.

GIANTS SIGN LEVINE TOILOLO…
ESPN is reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent tight end Levine Toilolo (San Francisco 49ers). Terms of the contract are not currently publicly known.

The 28-year old, 6’8”, 268-pound Toilolo was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He spent five seasons with the Falcons before being cut in March 2018. Toilolo then spent 2018 with the Detroit Lions and 2019 with the 49ers. In seven NFL seasons, Toilolo has played in 108 regular-season games with 67 starts, catching 97 passes for 996 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught just two passes for 10 yards during the 2019 regular season. Toilolo is a huge tight end known for his blocking.