Jun 152020
 
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Jabrill Peppers, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

Jabrill Peppers – © USA TODAY Sports

With New York Giants training camp hopefully beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Keep in mind that some of the players discussed may be cut as the 2020 NFL draft class signs their rookie contracts.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Defensive Backs

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Heading into 2019, fans were generally upbeat about a secondary that was clearly in transition. The Giants had heavily invested in the position by drafting corners Deandre Baker (1st round), Julian Love (4th round), and Corey Ballentine (6th round) in the 2019 NFL Draft. At safety, the team had effectively swapped out Landon Collins (signed by Washington Redskins) and Curtis Riley (signed by Oakland Raiders) for Jabrill Peppers (part of Odell Beckham trade) and Antoine Bethea (signed after he was cut by the Arizona Cardinals). It was expected that Janoris Jenkins would rebound from a somewhat disappointing 2018 season and that Sam Beal (who missed his rookie season due to a shoulder injury) and Grant Haley (who started nine games as an undrafted rookie) would develop and improve. Michael Thomas provided depth and special teams value.

But it was a case of the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Once again, the Giants were one of the NFL’s worst in pass defense, finishing 28th. In the “you can’t make this shit up” category, the team’s best defensive back, Jenkins, was cut in December after calling a fan a “retard” on Twitter. Baker started 15-of-16 games as a rookie, but was very inconsistent with his work ethic being questioned. Nickel corner Haley regressed and was eventually benched. The injury-prone Beal was placed on IR in September with hamstring and groin injuries, added to the 53-man roster in early November, and missed the last game with another shoulder issue. Ballentine had to deal with being shot right after he was drafted and then being thrust into a nickel corner spot that he was clearly ill-suited to play.

At safety, despite being told by team officials that Bethea still had it, he clearly did not and was a significant liability at free safety both against the pass and the run. Peppers did not make much of impact and was lost for the season in November as his overall play was improving. Michael Thomas played in all 16 games with two starts but clearly wasn’t the answer. Julian Love was moved from cornerback to safety early. He ended up starting five games late in the season, flashing at times but also experiencing growing pains as a rookie.

Overall, the unit was a collective disappointment and a major reason the overall defense finished 25th in yards and 30th in points allowed.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: As mentioned, Janoris Jenkins was waived in December. S Michael Thomas was signed by the Texans and CB Antonio Hamilton was signed by the Chiefs. Safety Antoine Bethea remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent.

Grant Haley was re-signed as an exclusive rights free agent in January. The first player the Giants signed in free agency in March was CB James Bradberry (3-year, $43.5 million contract). S/special teams player Nate Ebner (UFA from Patriots) and CB Dravon Askew-Henry (cut by Steelers last year) were also signed.

The Giants drafted S Xavier McKinney (2nd round), CB Darnay Holmes (4th round), and CB/S Chris Williamson (7th round) in the 2020 NFL Draft. After the draft, rookie free agent additions included CB Christian Angulo, CB Malcolm Elmore, and S Jaquarius Landrews. S Montre Hartage was claimed off of waivers from the Dolphins after the draft as well.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: There is a lot going on here and thus each fan probably has their own top story line. Clearly, one is the offseason drama surrounding 2019 1st-round draft pick Deandre Baker, who may or may not make it to training camp depending on the outcome of his offseason legal troubles (four counts of armed robbery and four counts of armed aggravated assault with a firearm from a bizarre incident in Florida). My personal belief is that the Giants were counting on Baker to form a solid starting CB duo alongside high-priced James Bradberry. Will Baker even be a Giant in 2020? If he is, will he be suspended by the team or the NFL? Did he get scared straight and will he commit himself to the game? If Baker is not part of the equation, the pressure increases to find his replacement among Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, Darnay Holmes, and possibly Julian Love. Are they up to the task? Can Beal stay healthy? Is Love athletic enough to handle corner at the NFL level? Will Ballentine shine more at outside corner rather than inside at nickel?

Speaking of the nickel spot, one would think the Giants would want Holmes to nail down the position if the rookie can handle it. But there are others possibly in the equation, including Love and maybe Williamson.

At safety, it would appear that Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney will have the inside shot at starting, but the coaches may want to configure packages to get Love on the field as either a third safety or additional corner. Depth is still needed here with Sean Chandler (holdover from 2018/2019), Rashaan Gaulden (added late in 2019), Montre Hartage, Chris Williamson, and Jaquarius Landrews all competing to make the roster.

Big picture is this: for the past three seasons, the Giants have invested a tremendous amount of resources into the defensive backfield, including a trading for a former 1st-round pick (Peppers); spending $43 million on a corner in free agency (Bradberry); and drafting players in the 1st (Baker), 2nd (McKinney), 3rd (Beal),  4th (Love, Holmes), 6th (Ballentine), and 7th (Williamson) rounds. It’s time for the investment to deliver returns and for the Giants to get out of the NFL basement in pass defense.

ON THE BUBBLE: There are currently 18 defensive backs on the roster. Probably only nine or ten will make the final roster. The only sure bets are probably Bradberry, Holmes, Peppers, Love, and McKinney. Baker obviously isn’t safe. Beal has to prove he can be a reliable player.

PREDICTIONS: So much here depends on the new coaching staff, not just Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham but Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson, the latter coming from Atlanta where his unit struggled at times. It’s also interesting to note that Pat Shurmur holdover Anthony Blevins was moved from assistant special teams coach to assistant defensive backs coach. These three men have to develop all of the talent that been acquired in recent years.

In addition, so much depends on the legal and emotional status of Deandre Baker. He was (and still may be) and important piece of the puzzle. The expectation is that versatile Xavier McKinney, who many felt was the best safety in the draft, will be able to handle the starting free safety spot as a rookie.

My prediction is that if Baker is available and truly focused (two big ifs), this unit could be poised for a big turnaround. There were games last year where Baker did shut down his opponent. He can do it. But how important is the game to him? Usually you can’t count on a person to change their ways, but if anything was going to scare Baker straight, facing a long prison sentence might do the trick. Bradberry should be able to more than adequately handle the other corner spot, replacing Jenkins with less drama. The nickel corner should improve with Holmes, Love, or maybe Williamson an improvement over Haley and Ballentine.

At safety, the closer Peppers plays to the line of scrimmage, the more impact he makes. The drafting of McKinney should enable the coaching staff to play Peppers in a role best suited to his skills. I would not be shocked to see packages that get Peppers, McKinney, and Love all on the field together.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: James Bradberry, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, Darnay Holmes, Corey Ballentine, Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Nate Ebner, Chris Williamson

I’m making some bold assumptions here: Baker being a Giant, Beal staying healthy, and Ballentine and Williamson showing enough to stick. Ebner is strictly a core special teams player who Joe Judge obviously targeted in free agency to lead his unit.

Dec 182019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

DECEMBER 18, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Safety Antoine Bethea (not injury related) did not practice on Wednesday.

Right guard Kevin Zeitler (ankle) was limited in practice.

Quarterback Daniel Jones (ankle), tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion), and linebacker Oshane Ximines (ankle) fully practiced.

When asked how Jones looked, Head Coach Pat Shurmur responsed, “Good. Like I said, he’s been making improvements. He got better last week, and then he was able to do much more today. He looked fine… we don’t know yet (if he will start on Sunday). We just need to see how his ankle responds to the added work he did today, and then we’ll just take it from there. In the event he can’t start, certainly, we have a very experienced backup behind him.”

Tight end Evan Engram, who was placed on Injured Reserve on Tuesday, said he will undergo surgery on his injured foot. “I’m doing a procedure with Dr. (Robert) Anderson in Green Bay Friday morning. Just putting stability back in my foot… it’s not a full Lisfranc injury, but the ligament is still not healed correctly. There’s a little bit of space so they are going to put, from my knowledge, joints back to together to let that ligament heal properly and kind of stabilize the joints so the ligament is not stretched.”

ROSTER MOVES…
The New York Giants have signed safety Rashaan Gaulden to the 53-man roster from the team’s Practice Squad. The 24-year old, 6’1”, 200-pound Gaulden was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers waived Gaulden in late November 2019. Before that, he played in 24 regular-season games with the Panthers, accruing 20 tackles and one pass defense.

The Giants also signed defensive end Kevin Wilkins to the Practice Squad. The 24-year old, 6’2”, 304-pound Wilkins was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Eagles cut him in August and he spent a brief stint on their Practice Squad in December.

HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR…
The transcript of Pat Shurmur’s press conference on Wednesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The New York Giants practice on Thursday, with the team’s coordinators also addressing the media.

Dec 042019
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

HIGH-ANKLE SPRAIN FOR DANIEL JONES; ELI MANNING LIKELY TO START…
The New York Giants revealed on Wednesday that quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a “moderate” high-ankle sprain in the game against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. Jones is in a boot and is not likely to play for at least one game, possibly the remainder of the season. Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning will start in his place if necessary on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Daniel hasn’t been able to practice today,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “If we had to play tomorrow, he couldn’t play. As the week goes on, it’ll be more and more evident that he’s not going to be ready to go. As we practice, Eli takes all the reps and then we move on… Eli looks good. He’s been ready to play all year. If in fact he does play this week, he will be ready to go.”

When asked if Jones is done for the season, Shurmur responded, “No. We take everything week to week.”

“It’s pretty disappointing, especially after thinking I was going to be able to play,” said Jones. “Meanwhile, I understand it, I guess, and hopefully it’ll heal up pretty quick…I think right now I’m going to take it day by day and see how it feels and do the best I can to heal as quickly as I can.”

Manning was benched after two games this season for Jones. Ironically, Manning career regular-season win-loss record is tied at 116-116. He also is 8-4 in the playoffs.

“I knew Daniel was dealing with an injury, I didn’t know the severity since he finished the game,” said Manning. “I talked to the coaches yesterday and they said he probably wasn’t going to practice today and they didn’t know the circumstances, so (they told me) just be ready to practice this week. We’ll see where it goes for Monday night.”

PRACTICE SQUAD MOVES…
The Miami Dolphins have signed offensive center/guard Evan Brown off of the Practice Squad of the New York Giants. The Giants have signed safety Rashaan Gaulden to the Practice Squad.

Brown spent most of 2019 on the Giants’ Practice Squad, although he was active for one game in November. The Giants originally signed Brown as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. While he made the team, Brown was never on the active, game-day roster in 2018.

The 24-year old, 6’1”, 200lb Gaulden was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers waived Gaulden in late November 2019. Before that, he played in 24 regular-season games with the Panthers, accruing 20 tackles and one pass defense.

HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR…
The transcript of Pat Shurmur’s press conference on Wednesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The Giants practice again on Thursday with Head Coach Pat Shurmur and select players addressing the media.