Jun 242015
 
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Landon Collins, New York Giants (June 16, 2015)

Landon Collins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com 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: Safeties

2014 YEAR IN REVIEW: Like the cornerbacks, the New York Giants safeties were supposed to be an area of strength in 2014 but ended up being a big disappointment. The team decided to cut super-talented but super-idiotic Will Hill after he failed yet another drug test. And Antrel Rolle followed up arguably his best season as a safety with one of his worst. Stevie Brown returned from an ACL injury but lost his starting job to Quintin Demps who later lost it back to Brown. Obviously neither stood out. Second-year safety Cooper Taylor missed the entire season with a foot injury. Rookie 5th Nat Berhe rounder played all 16 games but was primarily used on special teams. The Giants finished 18th in the NFL in pass defense and the safeties were missing in action far too often against both the run and the pass.

Mykkele Thompson, New York Giants (June 16, 2015)

Mykkele Thompson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants gutted the position in the offseason as they made little to no effort in re-signing free agents Antrel Rolle (signed with the Bears), Stevie Brown (signed with the Texans), and Quintin Demps (still unsigned). The team also waived practice squader Thomas Gordon in May.

The only remaining safeties from 2014 are Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe. Bennett Jackson, who spent his rookie season in 2014 on Injured Reserve, was switched from corner to safety this spring. The Giants signed corner/safety ‘tweener Josh Gordy in free agency but he saw most of his spring work for the Giants at cornerback. Three of the six safeties on the roster are rookies: Landon Collins (2nd round), Mykkele Thompson (5th round), and Justin Currie (rookie free agent).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: On paper, the Giants have some interesting talent at safety in the form of one second rounder, three fifth rounders, a sixth rounder, and a rookie free agent. However these players are all young and inexperienced. Five of the six were acquired in 2014-15 from the college ranks, and the other (Taylor) was a 2013 draft pick. There is absolutely no veteran presence to speak of despite the fact that Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system is cerebral and complicated. And like most if not all systems, the safeties make the defensive calls in the secondary.

“It’s the most complex system I’ve been in,” said linebacker Jon Beason. “This is my fifth defensive coordinator. It is the most complex because we will not sit back and be dictated to by anybody…Offenses create problems by formations, moving people around, shifts and motions…Every call we (the defense) can make a change.”

So the chief story line will be how fast can the young pups grow up, and how many growing pains will there be?

“I think it is extremely hard (for a rookie to start in this defense),” said New York Giants Safeties Coach David Merritt. “(The safety is) an extension of the defensive coordinator. Whatever call comes in, you need to be able to hear the call, accept the call, and then spit it back out to your fellow teammates. For a rookie to come in and have that pressure, to be the extension of the defensive coordinator, it is extremely difficult.”

“Young,” said Spagnuolo of the safeties. “There is youth and inexperience there. It doesn’t matter what system you are in, in my opinion, defensively, (the starting safeties) are really important. Everyone else relies on them. The quicker we can get to the other nine trusting them, the better off we will be. I am not sure we are there yet. I think it is going to be a work in progress, but we will get there.

“Right now it is a challenge… It is a challenge for our patience and our trust in them. Everyday it gets better, I can tell you that… (But) we have a long ways to go in my opinion.”

Complicating matters is that Nat Berhe, who was pegged early by the coaching staff to start alongside rookie Landon Collins, missed all of the spring practices with a calf injury. Taylor, Thompson, Jackson, and Currie benefited from the additional practice snaps, but both Tom Coughlin and safeties coach David Merritt have said that Berhe’s development has been set back by the missed time.

With Collins sure to start at one spot, it is most likely that Berhe and Taylor will battle for the other starting position.

There is not a lot of time. The Giants face Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten on September 13.

ON THE BUBBLE: The Giants will likely carry four or five safeties. Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson, and Justin Currie are most likely fighting for one or two roster spots.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: David Merritt on Landon Collins: “He has to make the calls and get everyone lined up…Now when you are trying to line up grown men who have wives and children at home and they need that call from you, it is a little different than lining up a freshman. The call has to be right. Right now, he is slow to go, which was expected, but he has to pick it up quickly for us to be successful…I really do (think Collins can do it). He is starting to realize that these missed alignments and the minus plays, I have to cut those out of my game in order for the guys around me to trust me. That is what he wants to be. He wants to be a leader. Okay, we are putting him out there. I think he is going to be ready to go, definitely, for Dallas.”

Merritt on Cooper Taylor: “Cooper is coming along well. Mentally, I never doubted Cooper would be able to pick up the defense. It is just now getting Cooper’s body to move in the proper direction once he receives the call and allows himself to line up and just see what is happening in front of him. The mental part, Cooper is fine, but it is now the physical part. We have to make sure the durability factor – he has to be durable for us because he has missed the past two seasons. Mentally, I am not concerned about him. Physically hoping that he will be able to step up and be durable for us.”

Merritt on Nat Berhe: “(Him missing spring practices) hurts tremendously because all the reps that Cooper (Taylor) and Landon (Collins) and Mykkele (Thompson) and some of the other guys have taken, Nat would have been right in there with all the other guys. By him standing on the sideline and taking mental reps – I understand you are taking mental reps, but it is different. It is not the same as putting your body through the motions and making your body react to different movements that the receivers are stemming at you. It is going to definitely hurt him and set him back a little bit, but hopefully he can come back at training camp and be ready to fight for a starting job.”

Merritt on Mykkele Thompson: “Mykkele, I knew was a smart kid. He came here and he is a cerebral kid, that is for sure. He is going to take what I say literally and take my word for it and go out and try to execute it. Now I am starting to see that the kid actually has some football awareness, where I didn’t think he had much of it when we first started off. The (missed alignments) that started at the beginning of rookie mini-camp and OTAs have drastically gone down. Mentally, he has excelled past my expectations…Long arms. We did a drill the other day where he was having to punch a bag and escape from the blocker and to see his arms and the extension of his arms, that was good to see. I am definitely interested to see him in the pads.”

Merritt on Bennett Jackson: “(His conversion to safety) has been good. You are going from the outside where you are playing on an island and then all of sudden, you go to a back end position where you have to see the formation and play, the moving parts, and put people in the right position. Jackson, in his situation right now, there has been a learning curve for him, which has been hard for him. It has been a struggle at first, but out of all the guys, that is one kid that when he puts his foot in the ground, he can go. He can go. I am looking forward to seeing Bennett at camp with pads on because I truly believe he will hit as well.”

Merritt on Justin Currie:  “Justin Currie has done a great job, as well, our free agent. Big kid, as well. I am interested to see what he can do once the pads are on his shoulders and hopefully he will be able to be a thumper for us.”

PREDICTIONS: There will be growing pains. The young safeties will make mental mistakes that will lead to big plays and touchdowns. How bad this inexperience will hurt the Giants in terms of lost games in 2015 remains to be seen. But it’s the nature of the game that old players will eventually be replaced by young ones. Some of those young players will wither while others blossom. In his last interaction with the press, Tom Coughlin seemed generally pleased by the progress of the two rookie draft picks. “We have a good feel for the rookies, we really do. Thompson (has) been doing well and starting to come along and that was a key thing,” said Coughlin. “Collins has done a good job, has gotten better and has really done a good job of starting to direct back there, and I think the coaches are excited about him going forward.”

I believe the players who are currently on the roster will develop into fine players. What I don’t know – and no one really does – is how fast that process will take. The overall effectiveness of the entire defense and the fate of the team’s playoff chances may depend on how quickly Collins, Taylor, and Berhe become assets rather than liabilities. Based on coaching comments, one thing is clear – the team is looking for someone to take charge at safety as a vocal leader.

“You need to have one leader back there, and that’s what I’m still looking for,” said Merritt. “It’s elusive. I’m searching for it. If it’s Landon, great. If it’s Cooper, great. If it’s Nat, great. If it’s Mykkele, great. But I need to have a leader come up and emerge out of this mini-camp and emerge out of training camp…(We’ve had) very slow leadership as far as making calls and controlling the defense. The guys right now are very slow at making those checks.”

FINAL DEPTH CHART: The Giants will keep four or five safeties. I think they will keep five: Landon Collins, Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor, Mykkele Thompson, and Bennett Jackson. Jackson not only provides special teams value but he can play corner too. Justin Currie is intriguing but his best shot is probably the Practice Squad.

Jun 172015
 
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Ereck Flowers, New York Giants (June 8, 2015)

Ereck Flowers – © USA TODAY Sports Images

JUNE 17, 2015 NEW YORK GIANTS MINI-CAMP REPORT…
The second day of the New York Giants three-day mini-camp was held on Wednesday. Like the Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices, no live contact is allowed, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.

INJURY REPORT AND ABSENTEES…

Wide receiver Odell Beckham (hamstring), wide receiver Victor Cruz (recovering from knee surgery), tight end Larry Donnell (Achilles tendinitis, still in walking boot), offensive tackle Will Beatty (recovering from pectoral surgery), and safety Nat Berhe (calf) did not practice.

DE Damontre Moore (recovering from shoulder surgery) and LB Devon Kennard (hamstring) were limited to individual drills.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who has yet to sign his Franchise tender, is skipping the mini-camp.

PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • First-team defensive line was DE Kerry Wynn, DT Markus Kuhn, DT Johnathan Hankins, and DE Cullen Jenkins.
  • Owamagbe Odighizuwa saw reps at left defensive end.
  • DE Robert Ayers (ankle) returned to team drills.
  • Cooper Taylor and Landon Collins saw snaps at safety with both the first- and second-team units.
  • Justin Currie also saw first-team snaps at safety with Landon Collins.
  • Ereck Flowers continued to receive first- and second-team reps at left tackle.
  • Brandon Mosley continued to see snaps at right tackle with the second-team offensive line. He had a false start during a two-minute drill near the end of practice.
  • RB Andre Williams (on a screen) and WR Preston Parker both dropped passes early in practice.
  • RB Andre Williams broke off a nice run up the left side. “Running back Andre Williams showed his speed and power on a few good runs.” (Source: Giants.com)
  • On a free play where the defense jumped offside, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made a one-handed interception on an overthrown pass from QB Eli Manning to WR Rueben Randle. (Video)
  • TE Jerome Cunningham was active catching the ball.
  • WR Rueben Randle turned a short pass into a big gain with some good yards-after-catch elusiveness. (Video)
  • QB Ryan Nassib had some accuracy issues, including overthrowing RB Shane Vereen on a screen pass.
  • CB Prince Amukamara jumped a route and intercepted QB Ryan Nassib as the pocket was breaking down. (Video)
  • LB Uani’ Unga picked off a pass from QB Ryan Nassib.
  • DT Dominique Hamilton and OG Eric Herman got into a scuffle.
  • WR Corey Washington dropped a touchdown pass on a fade from QB Eli Manning with CB Prince Amukamara in coverage.
  • LB J.T. Thomas blitzed and sacked QB Ryan Nassib.
  • The defense stopped the offense during the two-minute drill at the end of practice, forcing an incompletion on 4th down.
  • Former Giants DT Fred Robbins has been working with the defensive line at mini-camp as a temporary assistant defensive line coach under Steve Spagnuolo, his old defensive coordinator.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
The following video clips of player media Q&As are available at Giants.com:

  • OT Ereck Flowers (Video)
  • DE Robert Ayers (Video)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (Video)
  • S Landon Collins (Video)
  • CB Prince Amukamara on the team’s safeties: “They have been doing a great job, especially these last couple of days with Cooper [Taylor] and [Landon] Collins and even [Mykkele] Thompson has been getting a lot of plays and [Justin] Currie made a play yesterday, so they have been doing well. I haven’t seen a lot of [mistakes] and they have been making plays on the ball, so I have been applauding them.”

RELATED ARTICLES…

Jun 092015
 
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David Merritt, New York Giants (August 3, 2010)

David Merritt – © USA TODAY Sports Images

JUNE 9, 2015 NEW YORK GIANTS OTA PRACTICE REPORT…

The New York Giants completed their eighth of ten Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Tuesday. The Tuesday session was not open to the media, but Giants.com did report some of the following tidbits:

  • Quarterback Ryan Nassib threw a touchdown pass to running back Shane Vereen during 11-on-11 team drills.
  • Quarterback Eli Manning hit tight end Jerome Cunningham for a touchdown also during 11-on-11 team drills. (Video)
  • Cornerback Jayron Hosley had good coverage on a deep throw to wide receiver Corey Washington.
  • Fullback Henry Hynoski caught a couple of passes thrown in his direction during team drills.

Phase Three (Weeks 6-9) of the New York Giants voluntary nine-week offseason program started two weeks ago. During Phase Three of offseason programs, NFL teams may conduct a total of 10 days of OTAs. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.

The final two OTA practices will be held June 11-12. The Giants will hold a mandatory, full-team mini-camp on June 16-18.

Article on Monday’s New York Giants OTA Practice: Giants OTA observations: Eli Manning cuts down on interceptions, players that impressed and more by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Article on S Nat Berhe: Big missed opportunity for Giants safety Nat Berhe this spring by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Apr 232015
 
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Jerry Reese, New York Giants (February 21, 2015)

Jerry Reese – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jerry Reese’s 2015 Pre-Draft Press Conference: New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese held his annual pre-draft press conference today. The following is the transcript from the event (video is also available courtesy of Giants.com):

Q: Who are you picking?

A: A good player at nine.

Q: In a year like this and with some of the things that went on last year in the NFL, how much more important or different is the way you look at a player’s character and behavior when you are assessing them? Has that changed?

A: I think we are always mindful of a player’s character and background. That always goes into the equation. It is not really anything new for us. Obviously, like all teams, we have taken some guys on the back end of the roster, more risk-reward kind of situations on the back end of the roster. We are very conscious and have been for a long time about backgrounds and character.

Q: That seems to have changed last year when you guys wanted a lot of clean players… Whereas in the past you would have taken…?

A: The thing you have to think about when you are thinking about these young players is that they are young. They do young kid stuff. You can’t just absolutely kill them. You wouldn’t have anyone to draft. Kids do kid things and do college things and it happens. If a guy has a long list of issues, that is when you have to throw the red flag in there. Is this guy going to stop? If you have a couple things that college kids do, you can’t just throw it away.

Q: Is there anything concrete you do with that or is it just an eyeball test?

A: We do all the background checks and our scouts go out and dig the information that we can. We interview them and try to put it all together and make a decision on it.

Q: Is it kind of three strikes and you are out?

A: Not necessarily, it depends on how egregious the off-field issues are, more than anything else probably.

Q: Last year you seemed to have a guy pegged or a couple guys you thought would be available… Is it more unpredictable being at nine?

A: I think you always have a good idea, but it is always unpredictable. You never know what is going to happen. You can look up and some of those quarterbacks they think are going to be in the first couple picks could be – not off the board until 15 or 20. You never know. I learned that a long time ago in the draft. Funny things can happen, so expect everything to happen.

Q: Last year the wide receiver corps turned out to be a really good group… There are a lot of thoughts that this wide receiving corps could be just as good… Thoughts?

A: I think there are good receivers, just as there were last year. I think that is every year. I think there are good players at every position every year. I don’t know if that is a good answer or not, but I think there are good wide receivers…I think there are good players at every position.

Q: Given you have a lot of depth at receiver, would you have any qualms about drafting another receiver?

A: First of all, as soon as you say you have a lot of depth at any position, you don’t have depth. I know better than to say that. We will draft the best player available for us. It really doesn’t matter what position it is.

Q: How do you look at your offensive line at this point? Do you look at it saying you need to supplement it at least during one day of the draft?

A: Every position. We want to try and upgrade every position as best we can every opportunity we get. Offensive line won’t be excluded from that as well.

Q: In your mind right now, what does your offensive line look like? Is Justin Pugh still at right tackle?

A: That is something for Tom. You have to talk to Tom about that. Obviously Pugh has been a starter and is going to be a starter somewhere more than likely. [Geoff] Schwartz is coming back from injury. Hopefully he can fit in there somewhere. What we want to do is get as many good players as we can and create as much competition as we can in the offensive line.

Q: When you are picking as high as you are, is there a sense of a guy having to fit in at a premium position? In the past, you wouldn’t have drafted linebacker in the first round, but guys like defensive backs, wide receivers and left tackles… Is that part of your thinking when you are as high as you are?

A: If you draft at nine, whoever it is, is a premium position, regardless of the position that he is. If you draft at nine, it is a premium position, regardless of what it is. It doesn’t matter what position. If you draft him at nine, he is a guy you expect to come in and play and play quickly.

Q: Has the profile of offensive linemen changed at all in the last decade at all?

A: We just look for good players. Good profiles. Good players. Strong. Big, strong, fast and smart.

Q: The big lineman from Iowa is a guy everyone seems to love as a guard prospect… What do you see from him?

A: I think he can play both. I think he can play tackle and he can play guard. I think he can play somewhere.

Q: Where do you see him?

A: The coaches will have to figure that out.

Q: How do you look at this group of pass rushers?

A: There are some good pass rushers and edge rushers available.  Are you asking me to stack them or something like that? I can’t do that, but I do think there are some good pass rushers in this draft.

Q: You haven’t made a ton of trades as compared to other teams throughout the years… How do you explain that? Is that the way things worked out?

A: We will keep all of our options open on the draft. We can trade up and we can trade down. That doesn’t change. We are not looking to trade just to try to be cute to trade up or down. If we think we have an opportunity to move up, then we will move up. If we have an opportunity to move back, then we will do that as well.

Q: Back around the combine, in regards to Victor Cruz, you said you couldn’t think of him as a sure thing… Have you seen anything from him where you can have some kind of certainty of how he will be when he comes back?

A: I don’t think you can have certainty. [Cruz] looks good. He is running pretty good right now. He is scheduled to be back for the opener for us, but until you get out there and turn it loose, you never know what a guy is going to do. He looks great right now.

Q: Are you still approaching whatever he can give you guys next year as a ‘bonus?’

A: I am not counting it as a bonus, but I want to be prepared if he is not here.

Q: Is there any change in your perspective in the preparation on your part when you pick ninth instead of 12th like last year and going back to the Super Bowl when you picked last?

A: We just stack the board. Whoever we think the best player is in the first row, it doesn’t matter what position, which is how we do it. We stack them the same way. If you pick inside 12 picks, you should get a good football player.

Q: Does the expectation change as far as impact goes?

A: The higher you pick – that is how the system is. If you pick high in the draft – that is the way the whole system is built. If you pick high in the draft, you are supposed to get better players to help you have a better football team. If you are picking last in the draft, you get penalized for being successful. You get penalized, so you get lesser players. Whoever you pick at nine should be a better player than you pick at 32. That is the way the system is and obviously we are picking nine and expect to get a good player.  A really good player.

Q: Another general manager said there were eight to ten players who were real difference makers above other guys… Do you have a point in your estimation of how many guys are at a higher level than the rest of the group?

A: I think there is always a break. Everyone in the first row – that is why we call them rows; they are not first round picks. There are natural breaks. There may be eight and then there may be five more players, then there is another break. There are always breaks in the first row where you stack them, but you have to have 32 players in the first round.

Q: Where is that first break?

A: We’ll see.

Q: How are you looking at your safety position right now? Do you think it is a position of need?

A: We are not going to make do, just like any position, we are going to try to upgrade that position. Just like the rest of the positions. We are not going to make do. We have some young players that we think have some talent, but we are going to continue to try and upgrade that position as well.

Q: Last year we were saying you needed to get a tight end and you felt confident with some of the young guys… Is it the same thing now?

A: Every position we want to upgrade. We want to upgrade safety. We want to have competition at that position like we want to have at every position and we will try to do that.

Q: Tom talked about the possibility of converting Chykie Brown or Bennett Jackson to safety… Is that realistic in your mind and what goes into that?

A: It happens all the time. One of the best players we tried to get in free agency was the corner from New England. He was a corner and played safety. You see those conversions. That is not new to see something like that happen. That is a possibility as well.

Q: Are [Brown and Jackson] guys who could possibly convert in your eyes?

A: I think so. You never know. You have to experiment in the spring. Obviously you would like to get a guy who has played there and done the job, but you have to be creative in this day and age with your personnel.

Q: You went after [Devin] McCourty, so you wanted to upgrade that position… What happened after that? Do you look at Josh Gordy as a safety?

A: That is what he plays.

Q: What was the plan at that position after McCourty?

A: We thought he was the best player in free agency [at his position] and after that we thought there was a drop off and that is what happened.

Q: Now that Eli is back in the building and he said his attitude is to play the year and go from there… What is your thought on his contract?

A: It is inappropriate to talk about a contract right now. Eli is back in the building. He looks great. He is happy to be back. We are glad he is back. We will address that when it is appropriate.

Q: Do you sense that this a real opportunity for Eli this offseason, given that he is not coming off ankle surgery and he has already been in this offense for a year?

A: Yeah, I am excited. It should be a big year for him. He is not learning the offense. A lot of the players were in the offense last year. He’ll get another piece back hopefully with Victor Cruz coming back. The tight ends will have a little bit more experience. I hope the offense – we got [Shane] Vereen, who we think is a good piece to help our offense as well. I think our offense should be a pretty good offense.

Q: Re: Thought process in the signings of Vereen, [Dwayne] Harris, [J.T.] Thomas… What were you after?

A: We were trying to upgrade some positions that we already had. We knew we were going to lose some players. We felt Vereen was a really nice piece. Everyone knows what he does as a receiver out of the backfield, he can run the ball. He is a professional football player back there. He is really good on third down. Really good on any down, to be honest. We thought he would be a nice piece. Went after him and the two linebackers. We thought they were upgrades. They will battle for starting positions. Dwayne Harris, we thought the guy was kind of a four to five tool type player for us. We thought we were getting a lot of players out of one position. We played against him for a long time and he has been a good player for [Dallas]. Hopefully he will bring it over here to us and he will play for us in those capacities.

Q: Where do you view J.T. Thomas’s best position?

A: I don’t know. It is up to the coaches. He looked like a WILL linebacker to me, but that is up to the coaches.

Q: Are you still hoping to get Stevie Brown back?

A: We are going to keep all our options open.

Q: As one of the teams in the league that isn’t quarterback-needy, do you even look at those top two guys?

A: We look at everybody. You never say you aren’t quarterback-needy. You can’t say those kinds of things. Ralph just said we were deep at receiver and you are saying we don’t need a quarterback. I know better than to say something like that.

Q: What is your take on the two quarterbacks at the top of the draft?

A: They are good players. They are both good players. They are both different, but I think they are both, in what they do, I think they are both good players.

Q: Is your expectation that they are going to go one and two?

A: I don’t expect anything. Expect the unexpected in the draft. They may not go until 15, who knows?

Q: You have gone offense the last three years in the first round… Does that go into any decision making?

A: I didn’t even know that. Whoever the best player is at nine – we are going to pick them.

Q: Do you have any concern over Jason Pierre-Paul not being here for the offseason program and not signing the tender yet?

A: It is voluntary and it is inappropriate to talk about player contracts at this point in time. It is not mandatory that he should be here.

Q: After you get an Odell [Beckham Jr.]  and everything that he did in his first season and now you are picking at nine, are there heightened expectations?

A: You always want to get good players in the draft. Sometimes you hit on a guy like Odell and he is a terrific player, but the higher you pick, the better the player should be. When you are picking on the back end, it is obviously not the same caliber.

Q: When you look back at last year’s draft, from top to bottom, how do you evaluate it?

A: We don’t really look back on that draft that much. We draft them and that draft is over. We are moving on to this draft and we are excited about the players in this draft. We go back after two or three years and look and see why a guy made it or why a guy didn’t make it. After one year, it is really hard to evaluate.

Q: Was the approach different in the past two drafts?

A: No.

Q: This week, have you checked in with Odell and how his hamstring is feeling?

A: I just saw Odell a couple of minutes ago down in the weight room. He looks great and he didn’t say a word about his hamstring.

Q: Do you have any injuries that are long-term concerns?

A: There will be a couple guys we have concerns with, but we feel good about the vast majority of our players being ready to go for training camp.

New York Giants Player Q&As: Video clips of Thursday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Mar 252015
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Tom Coughlin Addresses Media at League Meeting: New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin addressed the media at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday. Some of key points made by Coughlin included:

  • On WR Victor Cruz’s recovery from knee surgery: “I think he will be back to the player that he was and hopefully better. Victor looks really good, he’s starting to run, I was in the field house watching him rehab, he’s coming along well… I don’t know (when he will be able to fully practice). I shouldn’t say this, because medically I really do not have a definite answer, but by training camp, hopefully. He will work his way through.”
  • On QB Eli Manning’s contract situation: “Eli knows he’s our guy. (As for) when these things get done, well, I think John (Mara) last week expressed it as well as it can be said. Yeah, it’d be great if it was done. If it isn’t done going in (to the season), it’ll be done during or shortly after or whenever… It’ll get done, I’m fully confident of that, and I think so is Eli. Why would he have any concern about that?”
  • On the safety position: “That’s an issue, no doubt. We do have one more access to bringing in personnel, obviously, the draft. And we have a couple of guys in the program including (Nat) Berhe, who we really liked as a rookie and a special-teamer. We have injured players (Cooper Taylor and Bennett Jackson) coming back that can help. But there’s concern, no doubt… (Moving Jackson to safety) is a possibility… a kid none of us know much about. He’s rehabbing. He’s doing pretty well.”
  • In addition to Bennett Jackson, Coughlin also said cornerback Chykie Brown might be moved to safety.
  • On S Nat Berhe: “(He can play free safety and) I think he can come down in the box, too. His special-teams play would lead you to believe that. We threw him into a lot of responsibility on special teams and I thought he handled it well. So he’s adaptable, he’s smart, he’s anxious and he’s eager for the opportunity, for sure.”
  • On RB Shane Vereen: “As a pass receiver coming out of the backfield, pass-protector, a guy who runs the ball in the three wide offense, the defensive run game if you will. A lot of the (Tom) Brady hook up with Vereen, the ball was almost automatically going to him. You know there would be certain first downs, if there was zone coverage, they would drop the ball off and he would scoot. So, we know that. Will we open it up to other parts of it? Well, we would like to make sure he can. He does very well at that spot. I really like the young man, he adds an experienced playmaker out of the backfield.”
  • On WR/Special Teams Player Dwayne Harris: “The idea that you have a guy of that ability — and you’ve seen the way he carries himself on the field, he’s physical — to have a guy who can kick return, punt return, cover kicks, gunner. In this day and age to have a guy at gunner who’s consistent and good, let’s face it, it’s been a while since we’ve had that. That is a very attractive deal… (David) Tyree would come in (on offense), he’d be a blocker, that’s what Harris does, but you see him on the field, you start thinking that way. And that part of it alone opens up possibilities, maybe you get back to that old fake ghost screen stuff again, maybe that becomes a better opportunity for it. Whether he’s the third receiver or fourth receiver or a special situation kind of a player, offensively he wants to contribute.”
  • On linebackers J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas: “We think Thomas can be a WILL ‘backer. Casillas is basically the same kind of guy. Both are excellent special teamers. They’ll make contributions in both ways.”
  • On what he expects out of LB Devon Kennard: “A lot. If Jon (Beason) comes back and Jon is healthy and can play, then you have Kennard maybe in a stronger position and rushing the passer more, the whole deal that way. That is going to make you better.”
  • On DE Damontre Moore: “He has to make a contribution. He has the pass rush ability and special team play.”
  • On the defensive tackle position: “(Kenrick) Ellis is a big human. The young man on our practice squad, (Dominique) Hamilton, is a big human, so I am looking forward to seeing what they can do, too… We realized that big dominating guy in the middle is a good starting point for the D-Line.”

A video of Coughlin’s remarks is also available at Giants.com.

A video of an NFL Network interview is also available at Giants.com.

Giants Receive No Compensatory Draft Picks: As expected, the New York Giants will not receive any compensatory choices in the 2015 NFL Draft. Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks. The Giants were pretty aggressive in signing free agents for other teams in 2014. For a complete list of free agents signed and lost by Giants in 2014, see the 2014 Free Agency Scorecard.

Giants.com Q&A with OT Justin Pugh: A video of a Giants.com interview with OT Justin Pugh is available at Giants.com.

Article on RB Shane Vereen: Shane Vereen gives Tom Coughlin and Giants more options in passing game by Tom Rock of Newsday

Article on RB Rashad Jennings: Jennings: Giants offense can be “dominant” by Arthur Stapleton of The Bergen Record

Article on the New York Giants Wide Receivers: Do the Giants have enough wide receiver depth to protect against Victor Cruz being healthy? by Nick Powell for NJ.com

Article on LB J.T. Thomas: Why didn’t Jacksonville Jaguars re-sign J.T. Thomas and what does he bring to Giants defense? by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Mar 182015
 
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Geoff Schwartz, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Geoff Schwartz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Geoff Schwartz’s Contract Re-Structured by Giants: According to NFL Player Association records, the contract of offensive guard Geoff Schwartz has been re-structured. Schwartz’s 2015 base salary of $3,675,000 was reduced to $1,675,000. NJ.com is reporting that Schwartz can earn $1,500,000 back in per game roster bonuses and that he had $500,000 of his 2016 salary guaranteed.

According to NJ.com, the net result is Schwartz’s 2015 cap number will be reduced from $4,975,000 to $2,845,000, “saving” the team $2,130,000 against the 2015 cap. But this re-structure should not be considered a “pay cut.” Assuming Schwartz does not get hurt, he should be able to recover all of that money and the Giants cap hit will be larger in 2016.

The Giants signed Schwartz as an unrestricted free agent from the Kansas City Chiefs to 4-Years, $16.8 million contract in March 2014. In his first season with the Giants, Schwartz suffered through an injury-plagued season that saw him play in only two games at right tackle because of serious toe and ankle injuries that both required surgery. He missed both the first 10 and last four games of the season, ending up on Injured Reserve in December. Schwartz was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. He has spent time with the Panthers (2008-10), Vikings (2012), and Chiefs (2013).

The New York Daily News and NJ.com are reporting that the Giants now $9,157,931 under the 2015 NFL salary cap.

Article on S Nat Berhe: Meet the one Giant who is glad the team is short at safety by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Article on New York Giants Ticket Prices: Giants change ticket pricing for season ticket holders by Nick Powell for NJ.com

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