Jul 172017
 
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B.J. Goodson, New York Giants (August 20, 2016)

B.J. Goodson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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: Linebackers

2016 YEAR IN REVIEW: Ever since the New York Giants moved to the 4-3 defense in 1994, the team has largely de-emphasized the acquisition of linebackers in terms of premium resources. The last time the Giants drafted a linebacker in the 1st round was 1984 (Carl Banks). The last three linebackers drafted in the 2nd round were Clint Sintim (2009), Kanavis McGhee (1991), and Pepper Johnson (1986). From time to time, the Giants have spent big money on linebackers in free agency, including Michael Barrow (2000), Antonio Pierce (2005), and Michael Boley (2009). Not surprisingly, the overall play of the position has declined since its golden era of the 1980s, with the last linebackers to make the Pro Bowl being Pierce (2006) and Jessie Armstead (2001). Now annually, the team’s talent level at the position is usually considered sub-par and the defensive weak spot.

In 2016, of the defense’s three levels, the linebacking corps once again took a backseat to the defensive line and secondary. But while the linebackers were not a team strength, they did play at a more respectable level than their recent predecessors. This is a polite way of saying, “Well, at least the linebackers didn’t suck!”

The surprising headliner was Jonathan Casillas, who arguably had the best season of his career. Keenan Robinson stayed healthy and added more speed to the position. And Devon Kennard finally stayed healthy for a full 16 games. Overall, there weren’t many big plays from this group, but they did a respectable job on a defensive unit that improved from dead last in the NFL to 10th in terms of yardage allowed and 2nd in terms of points allowed.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants chose not to re-sign Kelvin Sheppard, who started 11 regular-season games at middle linebacker for the team in 2016. The Giants re-signed unrestricted free agents Keenan Robinson and Mark Herzlich to 1-year deals. The team also signed journeyman street free agent Curtis Grant and rookie free agent Calvin Munson.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Once again, the Giants made no major player acquisitions at linebacker. The #1 story line here is tracking how well second-year player B.J. Goodson can take over at middle linebacker for Sheppard. Goodson has been praised by coaches and players for his work during the spring, but he has to demonstrate that he can not only stuff the run, but cover tight ends and running backs. The middle linebacker is usually a defensive leader on most teams and it will be a big jump for Goodson, who only played a handful of defensive snaps in 2016.

It assumed by many that Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson, and Devon Kennard will remain the other top linebackers on the team. Can Casillas continue his career renaissance or was 2016 his high point? Can the injury-prone Robinson string together two healthy years in a row? One gets the sense that Kennard still hasn’t reached his true potential, but he must also stay healthy.

ON THE BUBBLE: Mark Herzlich, J.T. Thomas, Deontae Skinner, Curtis Grant, Stansly Maponga, and Calvin Munson.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Bill McGovern on B.J. Goodson: “I think he, like everybody has kind of has noticed, he just seemed a little bit more comfortable being in the system another year being around it. You see him more comfortable gaining more confidence as he continues to get more and more reps in practice… He has a really good skill set. He looks like he will be good in the run, but again, without pads on right now, we’re moving around but it’s not anything that is going to be real definitive right now, but he is a guy that looks like he can tackle, we’ve seen on tape that he can tackle. He moves well. It looks like he is moving better in the pass but again you always move better once you always have a better understanding of how you fit in this scheme… the mike linebacker position is one that has got to control our defense, make some calls, make some checks, get us lined up, and let us play.”

McGovern on Keenan Robinson: “I think Keenan, in particular in our sub-package really was a positive for us in terms of coverage. He has length, he has size, and he has athleticism so he was a real positive. Hopefully, again we will continue to expand his role in that.”

McGovern on Devon Kennard: “I think (last year) it was kind of learning, again, more about DK and DK kept taking on more and more responsibility. Finding his skill set improved a little bit in that he has value rushing the passer and that he has value on first down, second down, and third down. It was one of those situations as we developed through the year we realized that he had more and more value and he has continued to work on it through the offseason and we are excited about where he is headed now.”

PREDICTIONS: This group is lucky to be sandwiched between the talent on the defensive line and defensive backs. As of July 2017, clearly there are still no headliners at this position for the Giants. That could change if Goodson or Kennard have breakout years. The key with Goodson will probably be his coverage ability. Can he become a three-down linebacker? I keep waiting for Kennard to have that breakout game. He has the smarts and physical tools. It just hasn’t happened for him yet. Casillas and Robinson had solid seasons, but they have to prove they can do that again.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Barring injury, the obvious ones are B.J. Goodson, Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson, and Devon Kennard. After that, it gets murky. The Giants could keep as few as six linebackers. It is doubtful they will keep eight. Herzlich keeps seeing his defensive snaps reduced, but is clearly still valued as a core special teams player. The wild card is J.T. Thomas, who is still recovering from a serious knee injury. The fact that he has not been cut seems to indicate the Giants still have plans for him or see him as insurance. I’ll say the Giants keep seven linebackers, including special teams aces Herzlich, Thomas, and Deontae Skinner. I would not be shocked to see the Giants replace one of these three after the final roster cuts.

May 252017
 
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Duke Ihenacho, Washington Redskins (October 9, 2016)

Duke Ihenacho – © USA TODAY Sports Images

GIANTS SIGN DEVIN TAYLOR AND DUKE IHENACHO…
Multiple media sources are reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agents defensive end Devin Taylor (Detroit Lions) and safety Duke Ihenacho (Washington Redskins).

Taylor was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. In four seasons with the Lions, Taylor has played in 61 regular-season games with 18 starts, 16 of which came in 2016 when Taylor accrued 28 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one pass defense, and one forced fumble. The 27-year old Taylor is a big end (6’7”, 275lbs) with good overall athleticism. However, he never lived up to expectations in Detroit.

The 27-year old Ihenacho was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Denver Broncos after the 2012 NFL Draft. The Redskins claimed him off of waivers from the Broncos in August 2014. Ihenacho spent most of 2014 (broken foot) and 2015 (dislocated/fractured wrist) on Injured Reserve. Ihenacho started 10 of 15 regular-season games in 2016, being credited with 66 tackles and two pass defenses. In his five NFL seasons, Ihenacho has not intercepted a pass. Ihenacho has a nice combination of size (6’1”, 208lbs) and athleticism, but his development has been sabotaged by injuries. He flashes against both the run and pass but also has proven to be inconsistent in both areas.

GERALD HODGES UPDATE…
The NFL Network is reporting that unrestricted free agent linebacker Gerald Hodges (San Francisco 49ers) visited the New York Giants on Wednesday. It was reported earlier that Hodges was visiting the Giants on Tuesday.

Hodges was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in October 2015. In four NFL seasons, Hodges has played in 54 regular-season games with 26 starts. Hodges started 12 games in 2016 and finished the year with 83 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble. The 26-year old, 6’2”, 236lb defender is good run defender who does an adequate job in pass coverage.

NEW YORK GIANTS OTA PRACTICES…
The New York Giants held their first two Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices on Monday and Tuesday. Those practices were not open to the media or public. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of OTA practices. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.

The team’s remaining OTAs will be held on May 25, May 30-31, June 2, June 5-6, and June 8-9. A mandatory mini-camp will be held on June 13-15. Thursday’s OTA practice will be open to the media.

Giants.com has provided the following notes and video highlights from the OTA practices:

OTA #1:

OTA #2:

ARTICLES…

May 122017
 
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New York Giants 2017 Rookie Class (May 12, 2017)

New York Giants 2017 Rookie Class – © USA TODAY Sports Images

MAY 12, 2017 NEW YORK GIANTS ROOKIE MINI-CAMP REPORT…
The first day of the New York Giants 3-day rookie mini-camp was held on Friday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Sixty-six (66) players – draft picks, signed rookie free agents, first-year players who have not completed a season of credited service, and street and rookie free agent tryout players – were in attendance.

PARTICIPANTS…

2017 NFL Draft Picks (6):

  • TE Evan Engram, Mississippi
  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama
  • QB Davis Webb, California
  • RB Wayne Gallman, Clemson
  • DE Avery Moss, Youngstown State
  • OL Adam Bisnowaty, Pittsburgh

2017 Signed Rookie Free Agents (15):

  • FB Shane Smith, San Jose State
  • WR Keeon Johnson, Virginia
  • WR Travis Rudolph, Florida State
  • WR Rob Wheelwright, Wisconsin
  • WR Jalen Williams, Massachusetts
  • TE Colin Thompson, Temple
  • OL Jessamen Dunker, Tennessee State
  • OT Chad Wheeler, USC
  • DE Evan Schwan, Penn State
  • DT Josh Banks, Wake Forest
  • DT Jarron Jones, Notre Dame
  • LB Calvin Munson, San Diego State
  • CB Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
  • CB DaShaun Amos, East Carolina
  • S Jadar Johnson, Clemson

Contrary to previous reports, offensive linemen Sam Ekwonike (Coastal Carolina) and Armando Bonheur (Samford) were not signed after the draft. Both are present as tryout players.

New York Giants First-Year Players (8):

  • RB Daryl Virgies
  • RB Jacob Huesman
  • WR Darius Powe
  • OC/OG Jon Halapio
  • LB Curtis Grant
  • CB Donte Deayon
  • S Ryan Murphy
  • PK Aldrick Rosas

Rookie and Veteran Tryout Players (37):

  • QB Steve Cluley, William & Mary
  • QB Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
  • RB Jonathan Gray, Texas
  • RB Khalid Abdullah, James Madison
  • WR Nate Behar, Carleton (Canada)
  • WR Kevin Snead, Carson Newman
  • WR Alex Morrison, British Columbia
  • TE Justice Cunningham, South Carolina
  • TE Kevin Greene, USC
  • OC Mike Brewster, Ohio St.
  • OC Tobijah Hughley, Louisville
  • OC/OG Jake Schunke, Towson
  • OG Armando Bonheur, Samford
  • G Sam Ekwonike, Coastal Carolina
  • OG/OT Jeremy Zver, Regina
  • OT Helva Matungulu, Western Carolina
  • DE Omarius Bryant, Western Kentucky
  • DE Junior Gnokonde, Troy
  • DE Connor McGough, Calgary
  • DT Junior Luke, Montreal
  • DT A.J. Wolf, Duke
  • LB Nick Haag, Assumption
  • LB Frederic Chagnon, Montreal
  • LB Jimmy Herman, Purdue
  • LB Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga, Maine
  • LB John Stepec, Toledo
  • CB Keith Baxter, Marshall
  • CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
  • CB SaQwan Edwards, New Mexico
  • CB Tunde Adeleke, Carleton (Canada)
  • CB Robert Woodson, Calgary
  • S Nate Hamlin, Carleton (Canada)
  • S Trey Robinson, Furman
  • S Joel Wilkinson, Australian University
  • LS Josh Appel, Indiana St.
  • PK Travis Coons, Washington
  • P Felix Menard-Briere, Montreal

GIANTS SIGN THREE OF THEIR DRAFT PICKS
The New York Giants have announced they have signed the following three of their 2017 NFL Draft class:

  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson – 2nd round
  • QB Davis Webb – 3rd round
  • DE Avery Moss – 5th round

The remaining draft picks unsigned are tight end Evan Engram (1st round), running back Wayne Gallman (4th round), and offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty (6th round).

TREVIN WADE RECEIVES TRYOUT WITH CHICAGO BEARS
New York Giants unrestricted free agent cornerback Trevin Wade is trying out with the Chicago Bears during the their mini-camp this week. Wade played in every game in 2016 with two regular-season starts. He received about 33 percent of defensive snaps and finished the year with 26 tackles and three pass defenses. Wade was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He has spent time with the Browns (2012-13), Saints (2013-14), and Lions (2014). The Giants signed Wade to a reserve/future contract in January 2015.

BEN MCADOO AND THE COORDINATORS 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…

May 102017
 
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Mark Herzlich, New York Giants (October 4, 2015)

Mark Herzlich – © USA TODAY Sports Images

MARK HERZLICH WILL ALSO WORK AT TIGHT END…
New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich has revealed that the reason he changed his jersey number from #94 to #44 was so he could also play tight end on offense. The coaching staff asked Herzlich to also learn the offense this offseason.

“I needed to have an eligible number,” said Herzlich. “It’s exciting. A lot of times I’m playing scout-team tight end the last couple of years just because we were low in numbers and I was able to show I could be versatile in that aspect. So, when it’s, ‘Hey, you want to come add another weapon to your repertoire?’ It’s, ‘Yeah, sure, sign me up.’ The more I can learn, the better. And the better I can help out, the better, too… We’ll see what Coach (Ben) McAdoo puts me at, but I can go back and forth and learn both (offense and defense). I anticipate helping out in all three phases (including special teams).”

“He’s that good from what I see every day in practice,” fellow linebacker Keenan Robinson said. “He can run routes with the best of them. He can block better than probably most of them. He’s just a versatile athlete. He’s got the size and frame, so that helps, also.”

J.T. THOMAS STILL RECOVERING FROM HIS KNEE INJURY…
New York Giants linebacker J.T. Thomas, who missed virtually all of the 2016 NFL season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in the regular-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, is still recovering from the injury.

“I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m at about 75-80 percent. I’ll be ready to go in training camp,” Thomas said. “I’m really, really trying to time the thing up, so when that light comes on Sunday there isn’t any excuses why you won’t see #55 on the field.”

Thomas was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. The Bears waived him in August 2013 and he was claimed off of waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Giants signed Thomas in March 2015. In 2015 with the Giants, Thomas played in 12 games with 11 starts, missing four games with an ankle injury.

Thomas currently has the team’s 10th largest 2017 cap hit with $4 million.

GIANTS.COM PLAYER INTERVIEWS…
Video clips of exclusive Giants.com interviews with the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (Video)

ARTICLES…

Mar 232017
 
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Shane Vereen, New York Giants (August 12 2016)

Shane Vereen – © USA TODAY Sports Images

SHANE VEREEN TAKES A PAY CUT…
According to NFL Player Association records, New York Giants running back Shane Vereen has accepted a $1 million pay cut to his 2017 salary. Vereen’s salary was reduced from $3.15 million to $2.15 million. NJ.com is reporting that the reduction “is a straight pay cut with no incentives added to his contract to make up the lost income.” The Giants recently paid him a $500,000 roster bonus that was due if he remained on the team. Vereen is in the final year of his current contract.

(Late Corrrection: The NFL Network is reporting that in exchange for the $1 million salary reduction, Vereen can earn that back plus $250,000 through incentives).

Vereen was placed on Injured Reserve (IR) in September 2016 with a triceps injury that required surgery, activated back off of IR in December, and then placed on IR again that same month after re-injuring his triceps and needing surgery again. In all, Vereen played in just five games in 2016 and finished the season with 33 rushes for 158 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and 11 catches for 94 yards.

Vereen was originally selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. The Giants signed him as a free agent in March 2015. In 2015, serving as the team’s third-down back and playing in all 16 games with no starts, Vereen had his most productive year in the NFL as a pass receiver. He caught a career-high 59 passes for 495 yards and four touchdowns. It was the most receptions by a Giants running back in a single season since Tiki Barber. Vereen also carried the ball 61 times for 260 yards (4.3 yards per carry).

Vereen lacks ideal size and power, but he is an elusive back with good vision and quickness. Vereen is one of the better pass-catching backs in the NFL as he runs good routes and has good hands. He is also solid in pass protection. Vereen has proven to be somewhat injury prone.

SHAUN DRAUGHN DEAL OFFICIAL…
The New York Giants officially announced that the team signed unrestricted free agent running back Shaun Draughn (San Francisco 49ers) on Wednesday.

“I think my versatility has helped keep me in the league,” Draughn said. “(The Giants) talked about my versatility. I don’t know exactly how they’ll use me. I’m sure they’ll use me to the strengths that I have.”

The 29-year Draughn was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Washington Redskins after the 2011 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Redskins (2011), Kansas City Chiefs (2011–2012), Baltimore Ravens (2013), Indianapolis Colts (2013), Chicago Bears (2014), San Diego Chargers (2014), Cleveland Browns (2014–2015), and San Francisco 49ers (2015-2016). In six seasons, Draughn has played in 57 regular-season games with seven starts (all seven coming with the 49ers in the last two years). For his career, Draughn has rushed the ball 225 times for 723 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. He also 80 catches for 597 yards and two touchdowns.

Draughn has ordinary size (5’11”, 205 pounds), but he is a tough, hard-nosed cut-back runner who can move the chains in short yardage and catch the football. He is a good special teams player.

Video of an exclusive Giants Insider interview with Draughn is available at Giants.com.

ARTICLES…

Mar 202017
 
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Geno Smith, New York Jets (October 17, 2016)

Geno Smith – © USA TODAY Sports Images

GIANTS SIGN GENO SMITH, VALENTINO BLAKE, AND MARK HERZLICH…
The New York Giants have officially announced that they have signed unrestricted free agents quarterback Geno Smith (New York Jets) and cornerback Valentino Blake (Tennessee Titans). The team has also officially re-signed unrestricted free agent linebacker Mark Herzlich. Smith reportedly signed a 1-year, $2 million contract.

“Geno has a great, positive attitude, and he’s looking forward to learning and competing in our QB room,” said General Manager Jerry Reese.

“I think the opportunity to learn from (quarterbacks) coach (Frank) Cignetti, coach (Ben) McAdoo, and to be alongside Eli (Manning) and learn from him, a two-time Super Bowl champion and, in my opinion, a Hall of Fame quarterback,” Smith said. “I think it will work out tremendously for me. And it’s also an opportunity to be on a real good team, a winning team, get healthy – it’s just a perfect scenario for me. I couldn’t have written it up any better myself.

“I want to carry my notepad around and whatever I see Eli doing, whether it’s in the classroom, on the field or off the field, I want to write it down. Because he’s a guy you can model yourself after. If you learn from a guy like that, we can all do a lot better.”

Smith tore the ACL in his right knee in October 2016. “Right now, it’s doing great,” he said. “We’re being cautious. But I’m at that stage where I’m feeling healthy enough that I can push it. But I have to be smart about it and not do anything that will cause me setbacks.

“I have tons of good football ahead. The key is just staying healthy. If I can just stay healthy, the future is pretty bright. But I just look forward to this year and having an opportunity to get healthy and learn and become a better quarterback.”

The 26-year old Smith was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. Smith has started 30 regular-seasons games, with 29 of those starts coming in 2013-2014. He lost his starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick in August 2015 after his jaw was broken by a teammate. Smith started one game in 2016 but tore the ACL in his right knee in that game. Smith has completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 5,962 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 36 interceptions. Smith has good size and is a good athlete with a strong arm. He has struggled with his accuracy and mental aspects of the game. Smith needs to protect the ball better (36 interceptions, 7 fumbles). He also has had some off-the-field immaturity issues.

The 26-year old Blake was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2012 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Jaguars (2012), Pittsburgh Steelers (2013-2015), and and Tennessee Titans (2016). In five seasons, Blake has played in 78 regular-season games with 18 starts (16 of which came with the Steelers in 2015 when he was credited with 12 pass break-ups and two interceptions). Blake is a short but well-built corner with very good speed. He has experience in playing the nickel slot position, but he is not regarded as a good cover corner. Blake is a good gunner on special teams (38 career special teams tackles), but he has had lapses of on-field judgement.

Herzlich remains primarily a reserve linebacker and special teams player who occasionally is called upon to play on defense (one percent of defensive snaps in 2016). Herzlich played in 14 regular-season games, missing two with a concussion. He finished with seven tackles on defense. Herzlich was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft. He has started 17 regular-season games in his six seasons with the Giants, eight of which were in 2014. Herzlich has very good size but is a sub-par athlete for the position. He is a good run defender, but struggles in coverage and is not much of a blitzer. Herzlich is a good special teams player.

For a listing of all of the team’s free agent activity, see the New York Giants 2017 Free Agency Scorecard section of the website.

COTY SENSABAUGH SIGNS WITH STEELERS…
The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed unrestricted free agent cornerback Coty Sensabaugh from the New York Giants to a 2-year contract. Sensabaugh was signed by the Giants in October 2016 after he was waived by the Los Angeles Rams. He played in 10 regular-season games with no starts and finished the year with 15 tackles. Sensabaugh was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. The Rams signed him to a 3-year, $15 million contract in March 2016. Sensabaugh has played in 72 regular-season games with 29 starts. Sensabaugh is an average-sized corner whose strength is playing the slot nickel corner spot.

Sensabaugh is the third Giants free agent to leave the team this offseason, joining place kicker Robbie Gould (San Francisco 49ers) and offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse (Oakland Raiders).

KEENAN ROBINSON VISITS THE BUFFALO BILLS…
ESPN is reporting that unrestricted free agent linebacker Keenan Robinson (New York Giants) has visited the Buffalo Bills. Robinson also visited the Cincinnati Bengals last week.

Robinson officially only started 6-of-16 regular-season games, but he was second in playing time on the team among all linebackers (71 percent of all defensive snaps). Robinson finished 2016 with 83 tackles and seven pass defenses. Robinson was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, where he missed time in 2012 (four games with right pectoral tear), 2013 (entire season with left pectoral tear), 2014 (three games with a knee injury), and 2015 (four games with a shoulder injury). The Giants signed him as a free agent in March 2016. Robinson has decent size and is a good athlete who runs well. Versatile, he can play inside and outside linebacker. Robinson is more of a run-and-hit linebacker than stout run defender at the point-of-attack. Robinson is solid in pass coverage. He only has 1.5 career sacks and has been injury prone. Robinson does not make many impact plays.

GIANTS.COM PLAYER INTERVIEWS…
Video clips of exclusive Giants.com interviews with the following players are available at Giants.com:

ARTICLES…

Feb 152017
 
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Jonathan Casillas and Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (September 18, 2016)

Jonathan Casillas and Janoris Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Ever since the New York Giants moved to the 4-3 defense in 1994, the team has largely de-emphasized the acquisition of linebackers in terms of premium resources. The last time the Giants drafted a linebacker in the 1st round was 1984 (Carl Banks). The last three linebackers drafted in the 2nd round were Clint Sintim (2009), Kanavis McGhee (1991), and Pepper Johnson (1986). From time to time, the Giants have spent big money on linebackers in free agency, including Michael Barrow (2000), Antonio Pierce (2005), and Michael Boley (2009). Not surprisingly, the overall play of the position has declined since its golden era of the 1980s, with the last linebackers to make the Pro Bowl being Pierce (2006) and Jessie Armstead (2001). Now annually, the team’s talent level at the position is usually considered sub-par and the defensive weak spot.

In 2016, of the defense’s three levels, the linebacking corps once again took a backseat to the defensive line and secondary. But while the linebackers were not a team strength, they did play at a more respectable level than their recent predecessors. This is a polite way of saying, “Well, at least the linebackers didn’t suck!”

The surprising headliner was Jonathan Casillas, who arguably had the best season of his career. Keenan Robinson stayed healthy and added more speed to the position. And Devon Kennard finally stayed healthy for a full 16 games. Overall, there weren’t many big plays from this group, but they did a respectable job on a defensive unit that improved from dead last in the NFL to 10th in terms of yardage allowed and 2nd in terms of points allowed.

THE STARTERS

Jonathan Casillas had his best season to date as a pro in 2016. Casillas played in every game, with 15 regular-season starts (72 percent of all defensive snaps), and finished the year with 96 tackles, 1.5 sacks, eight pass defenses, and one forced fumble. Casillas was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the New Orleans Saints after the 2009 NFL Draft. He has played for the Saints (2009-11), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2013-14), and Patriots (2014). The Giants signed him as a free agent in March 2015. Casillas lacks ideal size and has issues against the run at times, but he is a good athlete with fine speed and performs well in coverage. Caillas does not make many impact plays and is not much of a blitzer (6.5 career sacks).

Keenan Robinson officially only started 6-of-16 regular-season games, but he was second in playing time on the team among all linebackers (71 percent of all defensive snaps). Robinson finished 2016 with 83 tackles and seven pass defenses. Robinson was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, where he missed time in 2012 (four games with right pectoral tear), 2013 (entire season with left pectoral tear), 2014 (three games with a knee injury), and 2015 (four games with a shoulder injury). The Giants signed him as a free agent in March 2016. Robinson has decent size and is a good athlete who runs well. Versatile, he can play inside and outside linebacker. Robinson is more of a run-and-hit linebacker than stout run defender at the point-of-attack. Robinson is solid in pass coverage. He only has 1.5 career sacks and has been injury prone. Robinson does not make many impact plays.

Devon Kennard played in every game with nine regular-season starts, playing in 47 percent of all defensive snaps. He finished 2016 with 61 tackles, one sack, one pass defense, and one forced fumble. Kennard was drafted in the 5th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Giants. He missed playing time in 2014 (four games with hamstring and toe injuries) and 2015 (seven games with hamstring and foot injuries). Kennard is a big, strong linebacker who is a bit of a DE/LB ‘tweener. In fact, the Giants will use him at defensive end in pass rush situations. Kennard plays the run well and can get heat on the quarterback, but he is not as strong in coverage. To date, he has not put up big numbers or made many big plays. Kennard has been somewhat injury prone.

While Kelvin Sheppard started 11-of-16 regular-season games at middle linebacker in 2016, he only received 39 percent of defensive snaps. Sheppard finished the year with 50 tackles and two pass defenses. Sheppard was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. He was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in April 2013 and signed with the Dolphins in September 2014 and Giants in April 2016. Sheppard is more of a two-down linebacker who plays the run better than the pass. While he has good size, Sheppard lacks ideal overall athletic ability. Sheppard does not make many big plays.

THE RESERVES

B.J. Goodson was drafted by the Giants in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He played in 15 regular-season games with no starts, playing in one percent of defensive snaps. Goodson finished his rookie season with nine tackles and one forced fumble. Goodson is a big, strong, physical linebacker who plays the run better than the pass. He is a big hitter and good tackler. To become a complete player, Goodson has to improve his pass coverage. Goodson lacks ideal speed and agility.

Mark Herzlich remains primarily a reserve linebacker and special teams player who occasionally is called upon to play on defense (one percent of defensive snaps in 2016). Herzlich played in 14 regular-season games, missing two with a concussion. He finished with seven tackles on defense. Herzlich was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft. He has started 17 regular-season games in his six seasons with the Giants, eight of which were in 2014. Herzlich has very good size but is a sub-par athlete for the position. He is a good run defender, but struggles in coverage and is not much of a blitzer. Herzlich is a good special teams player.

Deontae Skinner was added to and released from the Practice Squad multiple times in 2016. He also was signed to the 53-man roster in October and again in December. Skinner played in four games in 2016 and was credited with five tackles. Skinner was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the New England Patriots after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Patriots (2014-2015) and Eagles (2015-2016). Skinner is a big, instinctive linebacker with decent agility but who lacks speed.

Ishaq Williams was signed to the Practice Squad in September 2016 and the 53-man roster in December 2016. He did not play in any games. The Giants originally signed Williams after he impressed as a tryout player during the May 2016 mini-camp. Williams had been out of football since 2013 after being implicated in an academic dishonesty scandal at Notre Dame. Williams has a nice combination of size and overall athletic ability.

INJURED RESERVE

The Giants placed J.T. Thomas on Injured Reserve in September 2016 after he suffered ligament damage to his left knee in the regular-season opener. Thomas was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. The Bears waived him in August 2013 and he was claimed off of waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Giants signed Thomas in March 2015. In 2015 with the Giants, Thomas played in 12 games with 11 starts, missing four games with an ankle injury. Thomas lacks ideal size, but he is a good athlete who runs well. Versatile, Thomas can play all three linebacker positions. However, he does not many impact plays and is better suited as a reserve. Thomas is a good special teams player.

Dec 292016
 
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Steve Spagnuolo, New York Giants (May 6, 2016)

Steve Spagnuolo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

DECEMBER 29, 2016 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) did not practice on Thursday.

Safety Nat Berhe and linebacker B.J. Goodson remain in the concussion protocol and were limited.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins (back) and tight end Jerell Adams (shoulder) practiced on a limited basis.

“I don’t know (if I’ll play on Sunday),” said Jenkins. “We’ll see what the coaches say. I’ve been practicing a little bit, getting in a rotation and getting a lot of reps. Continue to get the treatment… I feel better than I did last week. Coach made the decision not to play me and I went with it. I feel better this week.”

Tight end Will Tye (illness) fully practiced.

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…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Ben McAdoo and select players will address the media on Friday.

Jun 262016
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (June 15, 2016)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS ARTICLES…

ARTICLES ON THE NEW YORK GIANTS OFFENSE…

ARTICLES ON THE NEW YORK GIANTS DEFENSE…

Dec 302015
 
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NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
RT Marshall Newhouse (concussion), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (ankle), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle), S Craig Dahl (concussion), and S Cooper Taylor (concussion) did not practice on Wednesday.

Pierre-Paul said he will have additional surgery after the season on the right hand that he originally injured during a July 4th fireworks accident. Pierre-Paul lost his right index finger (amputated) and seriously damaged his right thumb and middle finger in the accident. The goal of the surgery is to improve flexibility in his middle finger so he can grip better and rid himself of his protective club.

“On film, you can see the club is preventing me from making tackles,” Pierre-Paul said. “People see it, I see it, and once I can move away from the club, I’ll be perfectly fine.”

WR Dwayne Harris (back and shoulder) practiced on a limited basis.

GIANTS SIGN TWO TO PRACTICE SQUAD…
The New York Giants have signed linebacker Glenn Carson and cornerback T.J. Heath to the team’s Practice Squad.

Carson was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Arizona Cardinals after the 2014 NFL Draft. He played in five games as a rookie and finished the season with 11 tackles. The Cardinals waived him in August 2015. Carson is a an instinctive, intense, blue collar player who lacks ideal athleticism.

Heath was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2011 NFL Draft. Since then, he has spent time with the Jaguars (2011), Bengals (2012), Bills (2012-13), Browns (2013-14), Dolphins (2014), Panthers (2015), and Falcons (2015). Heath has only played in seven NFL games.

TRYOUT TUESDAY…
According to NJ.com, the following players worked out for the New York Giants on Tuesday: QB Pete Thomas, WR Aldrick Robinson, TE Mike McFarland, LB Glenn Carson, LB Cole Farrand, S Tyrequek Zimmerman, PK Quinn Sharp, and P Spencer Roth.

TOM COUGHLIN AND THE COORDINATORS 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…
The following transcripts and video of player media sessions on Wednesday are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

ARTICLES

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The Giants practice on Thursday and hold physical recovery cycles on Friday in advance of Sunday’s home finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.