Feb 232015
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Before the season, many had anticipated that the secondary might not only be the strength of the defense, but the strength of the entire team. The Giants had parted ways with long-time contributors such as Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, and Terrell Thomas and had reinforced the unit with free agents Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie (DRC), Walter Thurmond, Quintin Demps, and Zack Bowman. The team also re-signed Trumaine McBride and Stevie Brown. As for those already under contract, Prince Amukamara appeared primed for his best season, Antrel Rolle was coming off his best season, and Will Hill appeared to be a budding star.

But these high expectations soon began to turn to dust. Will Hill failed yet another drug test and was cut in early June. Jayron Hosley also failed a drug test and was suspended for the first month of the season; when he returned, guys signed off the street quickly passed him on the depth chart. Cooper Taylor looked sharp in the preseason but broke his foot in August and was lost for the year. Injuries then struck hard at corner once the regular season began. Nickel corner Walter Thurmond was placed on Injured Reserve after only two games, followed by  Trumaine McBride and Prince Amukamara. The loss of Amukamara – who indeed was having his best season – was particularly a hard pill to swallow. Without two of their top three corners, more pressure was placed on DRC, who was also dealing with a litany of injury issues to the point where he could not play a full game. A year after playing his best season, Rolle may have played his worst, failing to make many impact plays. And Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps were both disappointing at the other safety spot, both losing the starting job to the other at different points of the season. Stevie Brown’s 2012 season – where he led the team with eight interceptions – appears to have been a mirage.

The Giants were quickly left to scramble and made in-season roster moves including signing Chykie Brown, Mike Harris, and Chandler Fenner. Chykie Brown and Harris performed reasonably well given the circumstances, but overall, the secondary failed to fulfill their preseason boasts as one of the best units in the NFL. The Giants finished 18th in the NFL in pass defense.

THE CORNERBACKS

Although Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played in all 16 games, hamstring, back, side, and shoulder injuries limited practice and game snaps for much of the season and impacted his play on the field. Nevertheless, Rodgers-Cromartie remained the team’s most physically-talented defensive back and he often shut down his opponent. Rodgers-Cromartie finished the season with 38 tackles, two interceptions, and 12 pass defenses. Rodgers-Cromartie was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 and signed with the Broncos as an unrestricted free agent in 2013 and the Giants in 2014. Rodgers-Cromartie combines superb size and overall athletic ability, including speed, size, and leaping ability. When motivated and focused, Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the better cover corners in the NFL. But he needs to be more consistent, and he s not a very physical player as a hitter or tackler.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Prince Amukamara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Prince Amukamara was having his best season before being placed on Injured Reserve in November 2014 with a torn biceps muscle. Amukamara started eight games and finished the season with 45 tackles, three interceptions, and 11 pass defenses. Amukamara was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants, but his initial season was a virtual wash due to a broken foot that required surgery. Amukamara also battled a high ankle sprain and hamstring injuries in 2012. Amukamara is a well-built corner with good overall athleticism and speed. He usually does a good job of keeping his opponent quiet during a game and he finally started making more plays on the football in 2014. Amukamara flashes in run defense with his hitting and tackling.

Walter Thurmond III was placed on Injured Reserve in September 2014 with a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery after playing in only two games. Thurmond was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Seahawks. He missed much of the 2011 and 2012 seasons recovering from a broken leg (fibula), playing in only eight regular-season games. In November 2013, he was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s drug policy. That year he played in 12 regular-season games, with three starts, and finished with 33 tackles, six pass defenses, and one interception that he returned for a touchdown. The Giants signed Thurmond as an unrestricted free agent in March 2014. Thurmond combines decent size with good speed and quickness. Smooth in coverage, Thurmond is considered one of the better slot corners/nickel backs in the NFL. Thurmond obviously has off-the-field concerns.

Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Trumaine McBride was placed on Injured Reserve in October 2014 after thumb surgery. He finished the 2014 season 21 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 pass defense, and 2 forced fumbles in six games with one start. McBride was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. The Bears waived him in September 2009. He has also spent time with the Cardinals, Saints, and Jaguars. The Giants signed McBride to a Reserve/Future contract in January 2013. That season, McBride played in 15 games with 10 starts, and he finished the season with 37 tackles, 15 pass defenses, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. McBride lacks ideal size and speed, but he plays with good quickness and instincts.

The Giants claimed Chykie Brown off of waivers from the Baltimore Ravens in November 2014. He ended up playing in eight games with four starts and finished the season with 31 tackles and two pass defenses for the Giants. Brown was originally drafted by the Ravens in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL Draft. In four seasons with the Ravens, Brown played in 46 regular-season games with two starts. Brown has decent size and athletic ability. While he struggled in Baltimore, Brown held his own for the Giants in the final month of the season.

The Giants signed Mike Harris off of the Practice Squad of the Detroit Lions in October 2014. He ended up playing in five games with one start, mainly at slot/nickel corner where he performed at a reasonable level. Harris finished the season with 21 tackles, one interception, and two pass defenses. Harris was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In two seasons with Jacksonville, Harris played in 31 games with eight starts. Harris was waived by the Jaguars in August 2014 before signing with the Lions in October. Harris has decent size and athleticism. He is a good tackler and special teams player.

Zack Bowman, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Zack Bowman – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Zack Bowman played in all 16 games with five starts but saw his playing time decrease as the season progressed despite all of the injuries that hit the secondary. He finished the year with 24 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass defenses. Bowman was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Bears. In six seasons with the Bears, Bowman played in 73 regular-season games with 23 starts. The Giants signed Bowman as an unrestricted free agent in March 2014. Bowman is a big, physical corner who can make plays on the football. He lacks ideal speed and quickness and can be beat deep. Bowman is a good special teams player.

Chandler Fenner was signed to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad in October 2014. He played in 11 games, mainly on special teams, and finished the season with seven tackles. Fenner was originally signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2012 NFL Draft. He did not make the team but the Seattle Seahawks signed him to their Practice Squad in December 2012. He missed all of 2013 with a knee injury that landed him on Seattle’s Injured Reserve. The Giants signed Chandler Fenner in August 2014. Fenner has a nice combination of size and athleticism and he plays a physical game.

Jayron Hosley has not developed since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He not only received a 4-game suspension for drug use at the start of the season, but he was quickly by-passed on the depth chart by guys signed off of the street when injuries hit the secondary hard. Hosley ended up playing in just six games with two starts. He finished the season with eight tackles and one pass defense. Hosley lacks ideal stature, but he is athletic with good speed and quickness. However, despite his athletic ability, Hosley’s play against the pass actually seems to have deteriorated since being drafted. He has also been very injury prone, missing significant time in both 2012 and 2013.

Bennett Jackson was signed to the Practice Squad in August 2014 and placed on the Practice Squad/Injured List in October 2014 with cartilage damage knee injury that required microfracture surgery. The Giants drafted Jackson in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Jackson converted to cornerback from wide receiver at Notre Dame and could project to safety. He has good size and decent speed for a corner, but may lack ideal quickness for the position. He is a good hitter and tackler. Jackson was a team captain at Notre Dame and a good special teams player.

Josh Victorian was signed to the Practice Squad in November 2014. Victorian was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Since then, he has spent time with the Patriots (2011), Saints (2012), Steelers (2012-13), Texans (2013), and Lions (2014). He has played in 12 NFL games, four for the Steelers with one start in 2012 and eight for the Texans in 2013. Victorian has average size and lacks ideal overall athleticism, but he is a hard working, instinctive football player.

Travis Howard was waived/injured and placed on Injured Reserve in August 2014. Howard was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Houston Texans after the 2013 NFL Draft. He spent some time on the Practice Squad of the Patriots that season before the Giants signed him to their Practice Squad in December 2013. Howard is a physical corner with good ball skills. He has good size and long arms, but lacks ideal speed and quickness. Howard is a good hitter, but he needs to become a more consistent and reliable tackler.

Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

THE SAFETIES

Despite starting all 16 games, Antrel Rolle did not have the same impact on the playing field that he did in 2013. Rolle finished the season with 87 tackles, three interceptions, nine pass defenses, and one forced fumble. Rolle was steady but did not make many big plays. Rolle was originally drafted as a cornerback in the 1st round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. After three inconsistent seasons at corner, the Cardinals moved him to free safety in 2008. Rolle was signed by the Giants in March 2010 after the Cardinals cut him in a salary-related move. One of the better coverage safeties in the game, Rolle has good speed and range. Due to his experience as a cornerback, unlike most safeties, Rolle can play man coverage and has often been called upon to play the slot corner position. He is a good tackler and run defender. Rolle has become one of the key leaders of the defense. He also has been very durable, never missing a game in his five seasons with the Giants. Rolle has been voted to the Pro Bowl twice (2009 and 2010) and named All-Pro twice (2010 and 2013). He also played in the 2013 Pro Bowl as a second-alternate.

Stevie Brown played in all 16 games. He started the first three games of the season, lost his starting job for eight weeks, then regained it for the last five weeks of the season. Brown finished with 38 tackles, one sack, and one pass defense. Brown was originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 7th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Raiders released him in September 2011 and he then spent time with the Panthers and Colts. The Giants signed him in April 2012. Brown had a tremendous season in 2012, intercepting more passes in a single season by a Giant in 44 years. He was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2013 after tearing the ACL in his left knee in the preseason. Brown has superb size for a safety, but lacks quickness and range. Despite his size, he does not stand out as a run defender and tackler. Against the pass, Brown lacks range and quickness, and is prone to making mental mistakes. Contrary to 2012, he rarely made plays on the football in 2014.

Quintin Demps, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Quintin Demps – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quintin Demps begain the season as the Giants’ third safety, was promoted to the starting job for half the season, then lost it again the final month of the season. Demps finished the year with 57 tackles, four interceptions, seven pass defenses, and one forced fumble. Demps was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has spent time with the Eagles (2008-09), Houston Texans (2010-12), and Chiefs (2013). The Giants signed Demps in March 2014. Demps has a nice combination of size and athletic ability. He’s a frustratingly inconsistent player who flashes play-making ability but also makes too many mistakes in coverage. He does not stand out against the run either.

Nat Berhe, a 5th round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, played in all 16 games. Although he was mainly relegated to special teams, he did see some time on defense and finished the season with 10 tackles. Berhe lacks ideal size and speed, but he is a smart, aggressive competitor who plays hard all of the time. In college, Berhe made a ton of tackles against the run, but was not as active in pass defense.

Cooper Taylor was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2014 with a semasoid bone issue in his foot that required surgery. Cooper was impressing with his play during training camp and the preseason. Cooper was selected in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Giants. A heart condition caused him to slip in the draft. Taylor has an excellent combination of size and athleticism. Taylor missed six games in 2013 with shoulder and hamstring injuries. He played in 10 games that year, serving almost exclusively on special teams.

Thomas Gordon was originally signed by the Giants as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft. The team waived Gordon in August, but re-signed him to the Practice Squad in December 2014. Gordon lacks ideal height, but he is well-built and a decent athlete. He is a good run defender who hits and tackles well. He started 38 games at Michigan.

Jan 262015
 
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Odell Beckham Says He Tore His Hamstring Twice in 2014: New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham played in the Pro Bowl on Sunday and finished the game with five catches for 89 yards. After the game, Beckham revealed that he tore his right hamstring twice before the 2014 season began. Beckham missed most of training camp, all of the preseason, and the first four games of the regular season. But he finished the season with 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (January 25, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Beckham originally hurt his right hamstring during Organized Team Activity (OTA) workouts in the spring. He suffered the second injury in practice during the preseason. Beckham tore the semitendinosus muscle and the hamstring belly.

“Well, I was never really healthy this season anyway,” said Beckham on Sunday. “I was just trying to manage and maintain it the best I could all year.

“It’s still not right. I’m still wrong on it, trying to get it 100 (percent) for next year…I could never really have that last gear that I wanted to have. If you go look at the Colts game and the Philly game, every time I went to break away I was stumbling and tripping, trying to fall over just because my hamstring wasn’t strong enough to maintain all that. That is something I’m working on today and I’ll keep working on throughout the offseason.

“Just make sure you get it full healthy. A hamstring (injury) is something that never really goes away. It’s very hard to get over. I’ll do my best to get it to 100, but if it’s not there, it’s not there.

“I should be good by training camp. The plan is to play at full strength next season, and I definitely hope to do it. I’m just looking forward to getting healthy.”

Video highlights of Beckham’s play are available at Giants.com.

Giants.com Player Q&As: Video of player Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • WR Odell Beckham (Video)
  • FB Henry Hynoski (Video)

Article on RB Andre Williams: 2014 Rookie Recap: RB Andre Williams by Michael Eisen of Giants.com

Article on WR Odell Beckham: Pro Bowl QBs impressed with Beckham Jr. by Dan Salomone of Giants.com

Article on S Nat Berhe: 2014 Rookie Recap: Safety Nat Berhe by Michael Eisen of Giants.com

Article on the New York Giants Special Teams: Progress? Giants finish 25th in Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Giants.com “Building Blocks” Feature on Players: Video features on the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on the 2007 New York Giants: Giants have fond memories of last Super Bowl in Arizona by Art Stapleton of The Bergen Record

Dec 312014
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 7, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Odell Beckham Named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month: New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham has been named the “NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month” for his performance during the month of December 2014. In December, Beckham caught 43 passes for 606 yards and seven touchdowns.

Injury Update on S Nat Berhe: Safety Nat Berhe left the season-finale against the Philadelphia Eagles with a knee injury. Behre told The Bergen Record on Monday that the MRI showed merely a sprain and no ligament damage.

Articles on New York Giants President/CEO John Mara:

Articles on Head Coach Tom Coughlin:

Article on New York Giants Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross: Giants’ Marc Ross on radar again as possible general manager candidate after Odell Beckham selection by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Article on Former Giants Quarterback Coach Danny Langsdorf: Danny Langsdorf explains decision to leave Giants for Nebraska offensive coordinator job by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Articles on the 2014 New York Giants:

Article on the Upcoming New York Giants Offseason: Jerry Reese says Giants won’t spend ‘a huge amount’ this offseason by Tom Rock of Newsday

Aug 282014
 
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Giants.com Interview with S Antrel Rolle: The video of Tuesday’s Giants.com interview with safety Antrel Rolle is available at Giants.com.

Article on the 2014 New York Giants: Giants not scared to talk ‘championship’ by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Andre Williams, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Articles on the New York Giants Running Backs:

Article on TE Daniel Fells: Giants TE Daniel Fells likely to receive first-team snaps vs. Patriots team that dumped him last year by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com

Article on the New York Giants Linebackers:

Article on S Nat Berhe: Giants rookie check-in with Nat Berhe: ‘The Missile’ or ‘The Icebox’? by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com

Article on PK Brandon McManus: NY Giants keep Eagles from getting kicker Brandon McManus by Stephen Lorenzo and Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News

Aug 182014
 
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Nat Berhe, San Diego State Aztecs (December 20, 2012)

Nat Berhe – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It didn’t take long for the quote to make its way down the grapevine and to Giants rookie safety Nat Berhe.

Speaking to the media earlier this month, safeties coach David Merritt was discussing the list of players who had impressed him during the preseason opener versus Buffalo. Eventually, he got to Berhe.

“The Missile,” Merritt said. “That’s going to be his new nickname because he is going to go in there like a missile.”

Sure enough, the coach’s words were near immediately presented to Berhe. His response?

“Who’s ‘The Missile,’” Berhe said with a laugh.

Since having the name all but written across his back, Berhe has done his best to hit just about anything that moves during practice and at games. On his first NFL snap, the 6-0, 194-pound Berhe ran headfirst into an offensive tackle, bounced off and then pursued the running back.

Nat Berhe, New York Giants (May 20, 2014)

Nat Berhe – Photo by Connor Hughes

The way he sees it, that’s how he’s always played football. He’s never thought much, he’s just gone out and done it. If anything ever needed to be done on the team, Berhe was normally the one to do it. That hasn’t changed now that he’s reached the NFL.

“Whatever the team needs me to do I’m going to do it,” Berhe said. “If that means playing fullback on punt, or running down on the kickoff. I’m willing to do it all.”

In his first three preseason games, Berhe has recorded seven combined tackles and frequently found himself around the ball. Still, there are aspects of his game that he admits he’s still working on.

During his time at San Diego State, playing the run was more of a “see ball, get ball” assignment. Now, Berhe is realizing who to match up with and when to match up with them. It’s no longer just about running to the ball, it’s about playing in gaps.

It’s all a learning curve for the 23-year old. The question now is how quick before it all clicks. Following Cooper Taylor’s injury versus the Indianapolis Colts, the Giants may need Berhe far sooner than originally anticipated.

This past Saturday, Taylor was carted off the field with a foot injury. Speaking to the media the following day, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the team should expect to be without last year’s fifth-round pick for some time.

Cooper Taylor (30), New York Giants (November 10, 2013)

Cooper Taylor returning a blocked punt for a TD – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Berhe heard the news on Taylor, a player who has been helping the rookie in his transition to the pros, and realized there was now an opportunity. Taylor had been working as the Giants second-team safety alongside Quintin Demps and behind starters Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown.

Theoretically, Berhe should now slide in next to Demps.

Demps, Rolle and Brown have all been players Berhe has been watching extensively whenever he gets the chance. Be it on the field, in the film room or how the group conducts themselves at meetings.

The way Berhe see it, each player has something they do exceptionally well, or, in his words, their “super powers.”

“Antrel is the ‘masked magician,’” Berhe said. “He’ll come down and show man, then get out and play cover two and you’re like, ‘Damn, how did he do that before the snap?’ Then you at Stevie and he’s just the master of the post. He can identify a route combination so quickly.

“Then there’s Q, he’s the all-around guy who can kind of play both. You take a little bit form each of them and try to add it to your game.”

So where does Berhe fit into the equation?

“I like to bring the boom,” he said.

Aug 112014
 
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Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Mathias Kiwanuka – © USA TODAY Sports Images

BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) Updates: In case you missed it, original-content articles from BBI today:

August 11, 2014 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing on Monday were RB Peyton Hillis (ankle/foot), FB John Conner (concussion), WR Victor Cruz (knee), WR Marcus Harris (hip), WR Jerrel Jernigan (knee), WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring), TE Xavier Grimble (hamstring), DT Mike Patterson (shoulder), LB Jon Beason (PUP – foot), and CB Jayron Hosley (foot).

WR Odell Beckham (hamstring) and TE Daniel Fells (knee) participated in individual drills.

“Well, Daniels Fells actually took some time on the field with us,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “Xavier Grimble still is over there with the trainers, but I am hoping that Daniel Fells is better tomorrow and maybe we can get Xavier Grimble pretty quick. He’s been out a long time for a rookie.”

“(Harris is) supposed to work tomorrow,” said Coughlin. “(Beckham) did individual. They said he did alright. Maybe they can extend it a little bit tomorrow, I hope…(Beckham) probably wasn’t full speed today, but he got out there and did some things. I won’t be able to ascertain until he takes some team snaps.”

“(Cruz and Jernigan) will be back tomorrow, I hope,” said Coughlin.

August 11, 2014 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: The transcript and video from Monday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin are available at Giants.com.

August 11, 2014 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Monday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on the 2014 New York Giants: Camp Confidential: New York Giants by Dan Graziano of ESPN.com

Article on the New York Giants Offense: With Time Growing Short, New Offense Has Giants’ Attention at Last by Tom Pedulla of The New York Times

Article on RB Andre Williams: Andre Williams: How did Giants’ rookie RB do as a blocker vs. Steelers? by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com

Article on WR Victor Cruz: Victor Cruz’s confidence in new Giants offense hasn’t wavered by Howie Kussoy of The New York Post

Article on DE Mathias Kiwanuka: Relaxed Mathias Kiwanuka feels he can have his best season yet at 31 by Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger

Articles on the New York Giants Defensive Backs:

Jul 182014
 
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John Mara, New York Giants (October 28, 2012)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Some Pre-Camp Thoughts From John Mara: New York Giants President and CEO John Mara spoke briefly to the press at a charity event on Thursday. Some interesting tidbits:

  • On the Giants very busy free agent period: “It’s not going to happen every year. We’re not going to have that kind of cap room every year. And listen: If you’re that aggressive every year, there’s something wrong with your organization. But you have to do it every once in awhile.”
  • On the team’s secondary: “(It is) a stronger secondary than we’ve ever had before.”
  • On whether RB David Wilson (career-threatening neck injury) will be able to play: “We expect him to be playing this year, but that is going to depend on what the doctors tell us. So far, all signs are that he’s going to be ready to go.”
  • On new Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo: “I like what I’ve seen so far, but he hasn’t called a play in a game yet. (The new offense) looks great on the practice field.”
  • On his prediction for the Giants in 2014: “I was the same idiot who said last year it was the best team we’d had in years and look what happened. So, yeah. The fans do deserve better and we did our best in the offseason. It’s not just a question of doing it on the field. We think we have the pieces in place, but until we start playing games it’s just hard to tell.”
  • On DE Justin Tuck playing for the Raiders: “It’s gonna hurt seeing him in a different uniform. This one’s really gonna hurt, because he was such a great player and a great citizen for us.”

Giants.com Q&A with Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo: The video of a Giants.com Q&A with Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo is available at Giants.com.

Giants.com Q&A with QB Eli Manning: The video of a Giants.com Q&A session with QB Eli Manning is available at Giants.com.

NY Post Q&A with Giants Play-by-Play Man Bob Papa: The positional battles Bob Papa will be watching at Giants camp by Justin Terranova of The New York Post

Article on the New York Giants Quarterbacks: Giants Training Camp Battle No. 3: Ryan Nassib vs. himself and Curtis Painter by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com

Article on the New York Giants Fullbacks: Giants Training Camp Battle No. 4: Henry Hynoski vs. John Conner at fullback by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com

Article on DT Johnathan Hankins: 10 Giants you should know when training camp begins: Johnathan Hankins by Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger

Article on S Nat Berhe: 10 Giants you should know when training camp begins: Nat Berhe by Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger

Jul 172014
 
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Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (November 17, 2013)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to camp next week, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at this year’s safeties.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWNS: Safeties

Will Hill, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Will Hill – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: Things truly couldn’t have started much worse for the Giants’ safety unit in 2013. In the team’s third preseason game versus the Jets, Stevie Brown injured his knee returning an interception and was lost for the year.

Shades of C.C. Brown began to dance in the minds of fans… then Will Hill happened.

Hill returned from a four-game suspension to take over as the Giants’ starting safety opposite Antrel Rolle. Hill recorded 77 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and scored a game-winning touchdown versus the Lions. For 12 weeks, Hill flashed the play-making ability that made him one of the more coveted recruits out of high school. The safety played with reckless abandon, a never-ending motor and was constantly around the ball. As was the case versus the Redskins when Hill ripped the ball out of the hands of Pierre Garcon on fourth-and-1, preserving a Giants victory.

While the 24-year-old’s season was impressive, so was that of his safety counterpart.

Finally being allowed to play safety full time, Antrel Rolle put together his best season in a Giants’ uniform. The former first-round pick earned Pro-Bowl honors, finished with the team lead in tackles (98) and interceptions (6), recorded two sacks and forced fumble a fumble.

Behind Hill and Rolle, Ryan Mundy was solid in Perry Fewell’s signature three-safety package. The 29-year-old was a force down in the box and recorded 77 tackles, good for fifth on the team. Rookie Cooper Taylor saw limited action, mostly on special teams.

Quintin Demps, Kansas City Chiefs (December 15, 2013)

Quintin Demps – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Get this one out of the way early: After captivating the hearts of fans, Will Hill’s unbelievable season won’t get an encore. For the third consecutive year, Hill faced a drug-related suspension after his urine came up positive for marijuana. While the third-year player claimed it was for ‘second-hand pot,’ the six-game suspension was the last straw in a troubled career. The Giants cut ties with Hill, having warned him over and over again he was on his last strike. Ryan Mundy also left when the Giants’ chose not to renew his one-year contract.

The team re-signed Stevie Brown, who looks to have slid back into his starting safety position. Quintin Demps was brought over from Kansas City and Nat Berhe was drafted in the fifth round. C.J. Barnett and Thomas Gordon were brought in as undrafted rookies.

TRAINING CAMP STORYLINES: The health of Stevie Brown and his ability to ‘replace’ Will Hill may be the No. 1 question heading into camp. While Brown did record a league-high eight interceptions in 2012, many were a result of being in the right place at the right time and teams wanted to test the unproven Brown. Does he have the natural athletic ability that Hill has? No. Can he be serviceable? Yes. How serviceable? No one knows.

Cooper Taylor’s progression and the overall talent of Nat Berhe will worth keeping an eye on. Taylor has added muscle in the offseason, per the coaches request, and may be a sleeper to see increased playing time in his second year. In college, Berhe played San Diego State’s ‘Aztec’ position, a hybrid mix of the linebacker and safety positions. If he develops, he may make an immediate impact, but will need to climb the depth chart first.

ON THE BUBBLE: There really isn’t any big-name player that is in jeopardy of being cut. Right now, the Giants have seven safeties on the roster and figure to keep four or five. The odd men out? Most likely C.J. Barnett and Thomas Gordon. Cooper Taylor may be in warm water, but the odds of Jerry Reese cutting last year’s fifth-round pick are slim-to-none.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: David Merritt on what makes Quintin Demps a good candidate as the team’s third safety: “His speed, his ability to actually change directions and burst. Quintin has played back in the post for most of his career. One of the things that he told me when he first arrived was, ‘Coach, I want to be down near the box.’ So when he said that I said, ‘Well you know what, I’m going to give you all of the tools to hopefully help you be successful down around the box.’ His speed, his ability to change directions and burst is one of the valuable assets that he brings to the table.

“Because he’s played back so many years as a deep safety, being back 20 yards. When you’ve been back there for that amount of years you want to get down around the action. I think he probably has seen guys being down around the action, Berry that he played with in Kansas City, Pollard, the kid that was with him in Houston so he’s see all of these guys down around the action where he’s been back just as a safety valve. Now he’s down close to the box and he’s learning the linebacker aspect of it.”

PREDICTIONS:
Connor Hughes - I’m very, very concerned with Stevie Brown heading into the 2014 season. Not necessarily for his health, but simply because I’m not convinced he’s a starting-caliber player in the NFL.

Stevie Brown, New York Giants (October 7, 2012)

Stevie Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

What made Brown so good for the majority of the 2012 season was that he was allowed to play back in the ‘Kenny Phillips’ role. Brown would line up 15-20 yards behind the defense, wait for the deep ball and then track it down in the air. When Phillips played the position, teams stayed away from the deep pass. When Brown played it, they attacked him. The result? Eight interceptions.

If Quintin Demps can develop into a player that can play down in the box, as Merritt suggested he wants to do, then Brown can go back to playing the ‘Kenny Phillips’ role. It best suits him as he’s not an incredible player in the box. With that being said, can Demps play in the box? He’s unproven, just like every Giants’ safety not named ‘Antrel.’

I agreed entirely with the Giants decision to cut Will Hill. It was time. You can’t send that message to the locker room keeping him on the team. But looking over the roster, I just don’t see a viable replacement. The revamped and retooled cornerback position is going to have to carry the load. With their paychecks, that shouldn’t be a problem.

With that being said, there will be times Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie guesses wrong, it’s part of his game. Will there be a player behind him to catch his mistake? We’ll see.

Eric Kennedy – Losing Will Hill was a huge blow. The defense dramatically improved in 2013 once Jon Beason and Will Hill were inserted into the starting line-up. Hill looked like a future Pro Bowl free safety. He might have been the best player on the team last season. Now he’s bagging groceries. Stupid is as stupid does. Like Connor, I have my doubts about Stevie Brown. In 2012, he definitely had a nose for the football, but he also was missing in action on some big pass plays. In addition, he doesn’t hit or play the run like a big safety. I’d accept fewer interceptions if you could guarantee fewer big coverage breakdowns and better run defense.

The coaches have been talking up Quintin Demps more than his reputation in Philadelphia and Kansas City should indicate. Demps thinks he is better suited closer to the line of scrimmage and he may be right. Demps has the inside track on the third safety position in the Giants three-safety package. If he stumbles, Cooper Taylor has the physical tools to steal playing time.

My prediction is that 31-year old Antrel Rolle hasn’t peaked and will have an even better season in 2014. He’s the unquestioned leader of the strongest part of the defense. I expect that to motivate him, as well the fact that he’s entering the final year of his current contract. And I expect the talent at cornerback to allow him to take more chances to make plays on the football. He hasn’t returned a pick for a touchdown yet as a Giant (four times with Cardinals), but I believe he will do that twice in 2014.

FINAL DEPTH CHART
Connor Hughes - Antrel Rolle/Stevie Brown start. Quintin Demps third safety. Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe reserve. C.J. Barnett, and Thomas Gordon cut.

Eric Kennedy – Antrel Rolle/Stevie Brown start. Quintin Demps third safety. Cooper Taylor reserve. Nat Berhe, C.J. Barnett, and Thomas Gordon cut. My biggest problem is figuring out how the Giants get from 54 to 53. My gut says Nat Berhe makes the team, but I can’t see how the Giants can carry 11 defensive backs in addition to nine defensive linemen, six wide receivers, and five running backs/fullback. Something has to give. I’m guessing they try to sneak Berhe onto the Practice Squad. C.J. Barnett and Thomas Gordon have some talent too.

Jun 112014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 21, 2012)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eli Manning Energized by New Offense: New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was interviewed on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday. Manning spoke about the impact the new offense under Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo is having on him.

“It is tough, it’s not easy, but it has definitely re-energized me and brought an urgency to this time of year,” Manning said. “It’s definitely challenging. Each night, I’m staying up and preparing, and I feel like I’m in season right now with the amount of preparation I’m trying to put in to get ready for each practice.”

“Each practice is draining on you mentally, you’re thinking so much about everything that has to go on and the different calls,” said Manning. “But it is also exciting. As a football player, as a competitor, you like to be challenged.”

Manning underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle in April. It was originally feared he would miss all of the offseason workouts until training camp. But Manning has been a full participant during the Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices that began in late May.

“This has been huge, just getting in the offense,” Manning said. “It’s one thing to listen to a play being called or watch plays being run — you may think you have a good grasp of it, until you’re out there and you gotta pull the trigger, you gotta make a call, you gotta change a play and you’re doing it live, and with the defense, and make all those little decisions. It was huge.”

Manning suffered the ankle injury during the regular-season finale against the Washington Redskins on December 29. Despite the fact that the injury required him to wear a protective boot for several weeks and did later require surgery, Manning said he might have played if there was another game following the 20-6 win over Washington.

“I was having the conversation with the trainers a little bit,” Manning said. “It would’ve been my instincts to say ‘Yeah, I can play.’ I could’ve muscled through it. It would’ve been a lot of shotgun, I think. The good thing it was my left ankle, it wasn’t my right ankle where you’re planting and pushing off and stuff. But it would’ve been a challenge. It would’ve been interesting to see how it would’ve worked out if we had a game the next week.”

LB Jamal Merrell Works Out for Giants: According to The Star-Ledger, undrafted rookie free agent Jamal Merrell (Rutgers) was scheduled to work out for the New York Giants on Wednesday. The Giants had also worked out Merrell before the 2014 NFL Draft. Merrell was signed by the Tennessee Titans on May 12 after the Draft, but the Titans waived him a week later.

According to The Star-Ledger and NJ.com, the Giants worked out at least 10 free agents on Wednesday, including TE Tom Crabtree (ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and rookie free agent WR Denzell Jones (Central Connecticut State). None of these players have been signed.

CB Victor Hampton Signs with Bengals: As previously reported, rookie free agent CB Victor Hampton (South Carolina) had been scheduled to work out with the Giants this week. However, Hampton signed with the Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday. NJ.com is reporting that Hampton was schedule to meet with the Giants on Wednesday.

Giants.com Q&A With Safety Nat Berhe: The video of a Giants.com Q&A session with safety Nat Berhe is available at Giants.com.

Articles on QB Eli Manning:

Article on WR Victor Cruz: Victor Cruz prepared for role as one of Giants’ leaders by Tom Rock of Newsday

Article on LB Mark Herzlich: Giants LB Mark Herzlich continues to use his magic touch by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com

Giants.com Videos from New York Giants OTA Practices:

Quotes: WR Victor Cruz on former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells addressing the team last Tuesday: “It was dope, man. It was cool to see him. I’ve met him on the field briefly but never in that kind of setting to hear what he has to say and talk to him…Just his presence alone, what he brings to the table, it was pretty inspirational to see him and have him there. He still brings the fire. He still has it. It’s pretty cool to see.”

May 202014
 
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Ryan Nassib, New York Giants (May 20, 2014)

Ryan Nassib – Photo by Connor Hughes

May 20, 2014 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Tuesday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Articles on Wide Receiver Odell Beckham:

Article on Tight Ends Adrien Robinson and Xavier Grimble: Robinson, Grimble could fill void at TE by Kieran Darcy of ESPN.com

Article on Offensive Linemen Geoff Schwartz and Weston Richburg: New Giants linemen getting outside help by Dan Graziano of ESPN.com

BigBlueInteractive.com on Giants.com Big Blue Kickoff Live: The audio of Eric Kennedy from BigBlueInteractive.com being interviewed on Giants.com’s Big Blue Kickoff Live podcast on Tuesday is available at Giants.com. Eric joins the show at the 30-minute mark of the broadcast.