Feb 052021
 
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Riley Dixon and Graham Gano, New York Giants (October 11, 2020)

Riley Dixon and Graham Gano – © USA TODAY Sports

It is exceptionally rare for a special teams coach to become an NFL head coach. So when John Mara hired Joe Judge as the next head coach of the New York Giants, it shocked many in the media and fanbase. However, Judge quickly won over many with his fiery inaugural press conference and the composition of his coaching staff. That initial luster began to dim after an 0-5 start, culminating with a Dallas Cowboys come-from-behind victory.

Judge and the Giants began turning it around in mid-October. Their first victory came against Washington, and was followed by two very close, heart-breaking losses to the Eagles and Buccaneers in games where the Giants also held 4th-quarter leads. Then came the high-point of the season, a 4-game winning streak against Washington, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Seattle. The Giants were 5-7 and remarkably still very much alive for the division title. Judge began receiving praise from all quarters.

The emotional high of soundly defeating the Seahawks was immediately dampened by a 3-game losing streak against clearly better teams. At 5-10, the Giants needed to beat the Cowboys and pray that the Eagles would upset Washington. The Giants accomplished the former, but the Eagles laid down like dogs against Washington and the 6-10 Giants missed the playoffs.

Through all of this, the irony is that the New York Giants special teams did not improve under Judge. To be fair, the special teams unit under Thomas McGaughey had actually been the strength of the team in recent years. Judge smartly decided to retain McGaughey. The team was also left scrambling when 2018 Pro Bowl/All-Pro place kicker Aldrick Rosas was cut in July after a hit-and-run arrest. The Giants decided to sign 32-year old Graham Gano who had missed 2019 with a knee injury. Unexpectedly, Gano ended up having one of the greatest seasons in franchise history as a kicker.

Overall, the Giants special teams played decently during the first half of the season, and there was a feeling that Judge, McGaughey, and the special teams unit were improving and building to a stronger second half. The reverse occurred. Against the Bengals, the Giants allowed a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 29-yard punt return that almost cost them the game, and a fake punt conversion for a 1st down. Seattle blocked a Riley Dixon punt for a safety and Gano missed his first extra point of the season. Against Arizona, Dion Lewis fumbled away a kickoff return that set up a touchdown. Judge decided to run an odd fake field goal attempt against the Browns that failed miserably when the score was still 0-0. The Ravens hurt the Giants with both punt and kickoff returns.

Statistically, the Giants finished:

  • Field Goal Percentage: 3rd (up from 30th in 2019)
  • Kickoff Returns: 16th (down from 10th in 2019)
  • Punt Returns: 6th (down from 3rd in 2019)
  • Kickoff Coverage: 16th (down from 1st in 2019)
  • Punting: 26th (down from 23rd in 2019)
  • Punt Coverage: 21st (down from 6th in 2019)

As you can see, other than field goal percentage, the Giants were down in every other special teams category. The team was significantly worse in kickoff and punt coverage. The Giants never really replaced Cody Core, their extraordinary punt/kick coverage specialist who tore his Achilles’ tendon in training camp.

The star of the entire unit was clearly Gano. He only missed one field goal all season and was 5-of-6 from 50+ yards.

KICKERS

The Giants signed Graham Gano in August 2020. Gano had a superlative season for the Giants in 2020, converting on 31-of-32 field goal attempts (96.9 percent – second highest in team history) and 21-of-23 extra point attempts (91.3 percent). He was 5-of-6 from 50+ yards out (single-season franchise record), with a long of 55 yards. Gano converted on 30 consecutive field goals, which also was a franchise record. Thirty of his 73 kickoffs (41 percent) resulted in touchbacks. Gano spent most of his NFL career with the Washington Redskins (2009-2011) and Carolina Panthers (2012-2019). However, he missed the last four games of the 2018 season and all of the 2019 season with a knee injury. The Panthers released him in late July 2020. Gano made the Pro Bowl in 2017.

Punter Riley Dixon saw his gross (44.8 yards per punt) and net (38.8 net yards per punt) fall in 2020, with 28 of his punts being downed inside the 20-yard line and one blocked. The 6’5”, 226-pound Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He was named to the All-Rookie team. The Giants traded with the Broncos for Dixon in April 2018, giving the Broncos a conditional 7th-round draft pick.

Ryan Santoso spent 2020 on the Giants’ Practice Squad after the team signed him in early September. Santoso was originally signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Lions (2018-2019), Montreal Alouettes (2019, 2020), and Tennessee Titans (2019). Santoso has only played in three NFL games, solely as a kickoff specialist.

LONG SNAPPERS

The Giants signed long snapper Casey Kreiter as an unrestricted free agent from the Denver Broncos in April 2020. The 6’1”, 250-pound Kreiter was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Dallas Cowboys after the 2014 NFL Draft. After spending two camps with the Cowboys, Kreiter made the Denver Broncos in 2016. He made the Pro Bowl for his performance in 2018.

The Giants signed long snapper Carson Tinker in early September 2020. He spent the year on the team’s Practice Squad. The 6’0”, 237-pound Tinker was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2013 NFL Draft. He played in 69 regular-season games for the Jaguars from 2013-2018. The Jaguars cut him in March 2019 and he did not play that year.

RETURNERS

The Giants did not return a punt or kickoff for a touchdown. The leading punt returner was Jabrill Peppers, who only returned 15 punts all season, but who averaged a very respectable 12.5 yards per return and came close to breaking a couple. His long return was 20 yards. On the flip side, some of his decision-making on when and when not to field a punt was questionable.

Dion Lewis did not impress on his 24 kickoff returns, fumbling three (two of which he lost). He averaged 22.4 yards per return with a long return of 48 yards. Corey Ballentine also returned nine kickoffs before he was cut.

LEADING SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS SNAP COUNT PERCENTAGE

  • S Nate Ebner: 74.27%
  • LB Cam Brown: 70.87%
  • FB Eli Penny: 59.47%
  • LB Devante Downs: 57.77%
  • LB David Mayo: 46.36%
  • S/CB Julian Love: 42.96%
  • CB Corey Ballentine: 34.47%
  • TE Levine Toilolo: 34.22%
  • DL Dexter Lawrence: 33.74%
  • LB Carter Coughlin: 33.50%

Nate Ebner had a quiet year despite playing 3/4ths off all special team snaps. The Giants signed him as an unrestricted free agent from the New England Patriots in March 2020 to a 1-year, $2 million contract strictly to be a special teams stud. The leading special teams tacklers were David Mayo (8), Eli Penny (7), Cam Brown (6), and Devante Downs (6).

Nov 232020
 
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Oshane Ximines, New York Giants (August 22, 2019)

Oshane Ximines – © USA TODAY Sports

OSHANE XIMINES AND XAVIER McKINNEY RETURN TO PRACTICE…
New York Giants linebacker Oshane Ximines and safety Xavier McKinney, who are on Injured Reserve, have been designated to return to practice. The Giants now have 21 days to activate them or keep them on Injured Reserve for the remainder of the season.

Ximines was placed on Injured Reserve in early October 2020 with a shoulder injury that he suffered in Week 4. He had started three of the first four games of the year. McKinney was placed on Injured Reserve in early September 2020 with a fractured left foot that he suffered in training camp and that required surgery. He has yet to play in a game this year.

In addition, punter Riley Dixon and long snapper Casey Kreiter were activated off the Reserve/COVID-19 List. They had been placed on the list last Wednesday. Place kicker Graham Gano, tight end Kaden Smith, offensive tackle Matt Peart, and wide receiver Dante Pettis remain on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.

NOVEMBER 23, 2020 JOE JUDGE PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media on Monday to discuss his team (the video is also available at Giants.com):

Q: Get a little break?

A: A little bit. I got a couple days of being dad for a little bit. I saw a lot of soccer games. I thought soccer season was over. I was incorrect on that. We got to catch a lot of them.

Q: Any goals or no? Just a lot of 0-0s?

A: She was playing goalie. They had some high scores. She played alright. They won the game. It was good to see her.

Q: We have not talked to you since you made a coaching change to your staff. Looking back at that situation, I’m sure it was not something you anticipated. Is there anything you could have done differently to kind of patch this together? How unsettling was this whole thing for you?

A: I’ll just say on the entire situation, I made this clear from day one, I’m always going to make every decision what I see is best for the team. This decision was no different. Look, there’s been a lot of information out there, a lot of misinformation. A lot of people have done a lot of digging trying to figure out details of the situation. I’m not going to rehash any of that. I’ll just say on the whole thing, we wish Marc (Colombo) well going forward. The decision we made was in the best interest of the New York Giants, short and long-term.

Q: As far as bringing in Dave (DeGuglielmo), how much different are the techniques that he teaches compared to what Marc has been teaching them for the last however many months? Can you implement those within such a short period of time?

A: Yeah, we’re not going to do anything to turn the offense upside down right here. We’re going to continue focusing on technique and assignments and principles of what we want to do big picture wise. They’ll be some adjustments here and there as we go. With six weeks left in the season, there is going to be a lot of continuity we’re looking to keep in place and keep improving as we go through the rest of the season. Will there be adjustments as needed throughout the season? Yes. Are we going to look to turn everything upside down? No.

Q: One more thing on Dave. He kind of has an abrasive personality, for lack of a better term. Are you concerned at all with how the offensive line room is going to respond to a new voice like that coming in at this point?

A: No, no.

Q: I’m wondering how that affects, if at all, your relationship with Jason Garrett because obviously Jason and Marc are close and Jason obviously recommended Marc to you for the job. I’m wondering how you firing Marc affects you and Jason?

A: Look, we’re all professionals here. We all have one goal in improving the team. Obviously, we’ve been working through a season. There are a lot of new guys coming from different spots. We’re all New York Giants now. We’re all working towards the same goal. There have been no effects in that nature right there. I feel good about going forward with everybody.

Q: There was a report out there somewhere that your offensive linemen were a little, I don’t know, on edge about the change. Have you talked to them at all? I know there was an elongated bye week. Did you talk to them at all Wednesday, Thursday when you made this move, or is today the first time you’ve addressed them about it?

A: No, I spoke to the entire team last week. I spoke with the offensive line, I spoke with the captains, I spoke with people both individually and collectively based on the units. Again, we’re pretty transparent as an organization. If something happens with the team, we keep it in-house, but I speak very openly with the team about it.

Q: I know part of the reporting had to do with you getting in at practice and kind of coaching up the offensive linemen yourself a little bit. I’m just curious how common is that for you in general? Do you do that around the team, like will you go in and interject and coach up guys in the way you think they should be coached?

A: Yeah, I have no problem at any point with any position stepping in and talking to a position. That being said, I let my coaches coach. I’m not going to comment too much further on the basis of the question you’re asking. Again, there was a lot of information out there, a lot of misinformation out there as well. But I’m going to keep most things in-house.

Q: Separate from the Colombo thing, I know a few of your players tested positive for COVID since we last saw you. I’m just curious if you had any updates on if they have a chance of playing on Sunday or what the deal is there?

A: A couple of the guys will not based on just the timetable the league puts us in. There are going to be a couple of those guys who will have an opportunity, not just because the timetable allows them to have the opportunity. We still have to go through the week and the progression of where they are physically, how they handle the ramp up period, if the doctor clears them, all that good stuff there. The answer is yes and no. Some will have an opportunity to play, some will not.

Q: You talked about misinformation a couple of times. Is there anything you would like to get out there and clear up?

A: No. I think there are some common sense that people who want to read articles understand what does and doesn’t actually happen within a professional setting and office building. I’m not going to go out and rehash a lot of different things that were out there. This was a professional move. We made the decision that was best for the team.

Q: Were you happy with the coaching, or how happy were you with the coaching in regard to technique that your offensive line was receiving?

A: Yeah, I appreciate the question. Again, I’m going to keep most of that stuff in-house in terms of how we handle things. Obviously, we made a move and we’re all working in that direction.

Q: Have you been around a situation kind of like this where you had to move on from a coach in the middle of a season? How would you describe what the transition is supposed to be like in that situation?

A: I think everything is different based on the team and the situation that it occurs under. Yes, I have been around moves as a player and as a coach where there has been transitions in-season. I think the biggest thing for everyone to understand is just keep on moving within the direction of the head coach and trust that there’s a plan in place.

Q: Just kind of wanted to piggyback off that a little bit. At some point, you brought in Dave DeGuglielmo as kind of a consultant with the offensive line. Was there something that you saw that made you want to go in that direction and bring in another voice?

A: Look, I’m always looking to do anything that’s going to help the team at any point of the year. The decision I made was in the best interest of the team, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Q: What does DeGuglielmo bring to the group and why were you excited to hire him in particular?

A: Yeah, he brings some experience in this league. He’s done a good job. He’s coached some of the guys that are on the team already. He’s worked with a number of guys who are on staff already. There is a level of experience that carries over into that. That’s great, but all that really matters now is how each one of us coaches individually, and how he coaches now that he’s with the New York Giants. I’m excited to have him on staff with us moving forward. Obviously, we’re shifting all of our focus over to Cincinnati right now.

Q: Some of the reporting looks like it is kind of pigeon holing you together with guys you coached with in New England as Judge and his former Patriots assistants, etc. Is it alarming for you to see someone accusing you and your staff of functioning in that way? Like, for lack of a better word, like in a clique type of way? Is that one of the inaccuracies you’re discussing? How do you feel about that characterization?

A: Look, I’ve said the entire time I’ve been here, I’m not interested in any other program I’ve ever been a part of. I’m interested in the New York Giants. Everyone here has worked somewhere else at some point in time. Every player has played somewhere else at some point in time. All that matters is what we do for the New York Giants from this point forward, and that’s all we care about. That being said, if you look at the bios of my staff, you’re going to see a lot of pieces connected through different places prior to coming here. The notion that we’re concerned about anywhere else we’ve been or that we’d base anything based on where we’ve been, everyone has experiences that you draw on. That would be it. But there is no internal division or struggle or anything that’s being referenced right there or that anyone’s trying to create. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Q: I know you’ve been talking about sudden change and adapting from the beginning since you got the job, really. How has your schedule been forced to adjust from the initial test with Graham (Gano) last Monday? The way you guys have had to operate the last week or so, now not getting back on the field collectively until Wednesday, what have you done or what will you do to make sure that this team is ready to come off a bye and essentially have three and a half days on the field before you go play Cincinnati?

A: Like you said, sudden change is always an emphasis for us. That’s on and off the field. I think if you kind of live in that world of sudden change, it makes all these adjustments you had at the beginning of the year and whatever comes our way, we’re going to handle and we’re going to thrive in adjustment. Last week, obviously, we had plans to go on the field for Tuesday and Wednesday. That was changed with the news of a positive test. We got further news last week that kind of altered some of our plans for today. But we’ve taken all the precautions necessary. We’ve met virtually instead of in person. We’ll continue to meet virtually throughout the remainder of this week instead of in person. We’ll do walk-throughs and practices with all the protocols being met. We’ll stay outside as much as we can, obviously, even during the walk-through sessions of what we’re doing to make sure it’s open air, improve the ventilation. We’re going to work in some smaller groups or pods a little bit in terms of the entire team being together. Try to chop it up and keep guys spaced out. But this has kind of just become normal for us. Our guys understand that whether it’s on or off the field, we had made plans to do something, but sudden change happens. We just go ahead and we thrive on that.

Q: Can I quickly ask you about (Xavier) McKinney and (Oshane) Ximines, who you guys have designated to return. Are they close enough where they’re a possibility for Sunday? Is the shortened week not being on the field all together going to compromise your decision-making in terms of that?

A: No, I think both have a chance for Sunday. Today was the first day getting them both back out there. I’d say both moved well, both were really flying around the field today doing what we had to do. But it was mostly individual type work today. When we get into Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, kind of see them in a more team setting. Wednesday, we’ll have the pads on, see them pop the pads a little bit and see how their bodies respond to it. That will really tell the story for the weekend. I don’t want to rule anybody out in that nature. I thought both guys really came back, did a great job rehabbing with the trainers and physical therapists, and both guys moved around well today. I always want to be fair to the player and put him in a team setting before we go ahead and try to rule them in or out for a game. But I’d say based on today, they would have a chance. We just have to see where they are when we get into a team setting.

Q: Is it different with McKinney because he’s a rookie and he hasn’t had any game experience?

A: No. I think whatever role we select to play him in, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We can minimize his role a little bit and kind of get him in. Again, this is a guy that hasn’t had any experience on the field in a game setting this year. To me, in terms of him being a rookie, I’m still just looking physically how is he moving around and are we being fair to him in whatever we ask him to do that he can go out there and be successful in doing that.

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…
There is no media availability to the Giants on Tuesday. The players return to practice on Wednesday (12:30-2:30PM). Head Coach Joe Judge and select players will also address the media.

Nov 182020
 
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Marc Colombo, Dallas Cowboys (November 5, 2018)

Marc Colombo – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS FIRE MARC COLOMBO, HIRE DAVE DeGUGLIELMO AS OL COACH…
In a shocking move, the New York Giants have fired Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo and hired Dave DeGuglielmo to replace him. According to press reports, Head Coach Joe Judge was planning to hire DeGuglielmo to work with Colombo, but Colombo’s reaction to that change is what led to his dismissal from the team. Ben Wilkerson will continue to serve as the assistant offensive line coach.

“We appreciate what Marc has done, but I felt like this move is in the best interest of the team,” said Head Coach Joe Judge in a written press release.

The 42-year old Colombo had previously served as assistant offensive line coach (2016-2018) and offensive line coach (2018-2019) of the Dallas Cowboys before being hired by Judge this year.

The 52-year old DeGuglielmo is well-traveled, including serving as an assistant offensive line coach for the Giants under Tom Coughlin from 2004-2008. In recent years, he has coached offensive lines with the Miami Dolphins (2009-2011, 2017, 2019), New York Jets (2012), New England Patriots (2014-2015), San Diego Chargers (2016), and Indianapolis Colts (2018).

RILEY DIXON AND CASEY KREITER PLACED ON RESERVE/COVID-19 LIST…
The New York Giants have announced that punter Riley Dixon and long snapper Casey Kreiter have been placed on the the Reserve/COVID-19 List. Place kicker Graham Gano was also placed on this reserve list on Tuesday after he tested positive for the disease. It is not clear if Dixon and Kreiter tested positive or merely being quarantined due to contact with Gano.

NOVEMBER 18, 2020 JOE JUDGE PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media on Wednesday to discuss the state of his team heading into the bye weekend (the video is also available at Giants.com):

Q: I know you don’t like the term starter, so I’ll use bulk of the reps. The cornerback opposite James (Bradberry), you’ve used a bunch of different guys. (Isaac) Yiadom, (Corey) Ballentine when he was here, Ryan Lewis. Is it sustainable to just keep kind of having a different guy there at cornerback two all the time, or do you guys need to settle on one guy?

A: No, I expect all the guys to play, I really do. There may be certain matchups that we may favor a certain guy for a skillset. There may be certain positions on the field, whether it’s red area versus backed up or in the field, that may be more of an early down guy or a third down guy. Every game brings a little bit of a different element on how you’re trying to match up the opponent. To me, I have no issue at all playing guys at any position and rotating them on through. As long as we’re getting production, we’re keeping guys fresh, we expect everyone at the game to contribute. In terms of the way I view the game, no, I have no issue with that at all.

Q: How do you think Ike (Yiadom) has played these last couple of games? He went from playing a lot to playing not much at all to now playing a lot again. How do you think he’s performed this second stint?

A: I’ve seen a lot of improvement from Ike. Yeah, that’s a guy who’s really worked tirelessly at practice. He’s really competed hard for us and shown a lot of things at practice. Then he got a shot in the game and he went out there and he’s been making plays for us. Yeah, he’s done a lot of really good things right now that have helped us. He’ll keep playing for us as well, as will (Madre) Harp(er), we get Ryan Lewis back and a number of other guys.

Q: When you made the decision to transition (Nick) Gates to center, that was probably with the thought that you’d have a full offseason, a full training camp, and preseason games. I’m curious were there any reservations about throwing him right in the way he had to get thrown in? How do you feel like he’s developed through the season?

A: I’ll start with the backend part first. I think he’s developed really well. I see a lot of improvement on a weekly basis from Nick. Look, going from playing guard and tackle into center is a completely different animal. The multiples on your plate, the command you have to have, the calls, even just the different mechanics of having to snap before you block, these are things you have to learn how to do. There’s a reason a lot of guys play center throughout their entire career up through high school, college and then in the NFL. It is a different type of position. I think he’s done a really good job of advancing in that. I see a lot of promise going forward with him. I’m pleased with how he’s playing, I see improvement every week. Now to the first part of it in terms of yes, obviously, initially we saw that as having a full offseason, full training camp. But like with everything else, that wasn’t going to waver when the pandemic hit. It wasn’t going to change our course of action in terms of how we were going to get this team ready. We just decided, hey, we’re going to adapt or die. We’re going to get ready. There are going to be some growing pains with a lot of guys, we have to move forward.

Q: On Monday, you talked about one of the things you’ve learned is to juggle time so you have enough time for your defense and offense. I tend not to be the most organized guy in the world. Why would you put yourself through that, or is that just how you have to be to be a coach?

A: I think as far as being the head coach, I have to know what’s going on with all three sides of the ball. I can’t know what’s going on without putting in the tape and time to learn the opponent on the frontend, and I can’t know what’s going on without really watching our teams at practice and studying what we’re doing and reviewing all the practice tape and the game tape, and understanding our personnel and how we’re using them. To me, it’s just part of the responsibility of what you have to do to be effective. I don’t know how I could help the team if I don’t know what’s going on. That’s just an emphasis for me.

Q: What’s your message to your players during this bye week? How do you balance staying focused and keeping the momentum going with taking a much-deserved break?

A: I’ll go back to the momentum question first. I don’t really believe that exists, to be honest with you. Nothing that we did against Philadelphia or Washington is going to help us against Cincinnati. We have to learn from what we did wrong and make corrections, but we have to come back on Monday and have a good, strong practice. To be honest with you, obviously, we’ve gone virtual this week with some of the COVID protocols going back to the intensive protocols. That’s changed a little bit of our plans with what they were going to be on the field. Initially, we were going to do more of a walkthrough (on Tuesday). Some of the younger guys, practice squad and some of the younger rookies, we’re going to have a more intensive practice when the walkthrough was over. Then today, Wednesday, would have been an on the field, padded practice for the entire team to get out there, popping around, work on some new schemes, concepts, make sure we correct some things that came up through the season. Now we’re working virtually to go ahead and have meetings and address those things right there. But we have to have a good day on Monday. In terms of the momentum, the only momentum I think we’ll be able to go ahead and transfer and create is how we practice and how we play. We have to come back next week ready to go.

Q: I’m curious 10 weeks into the season, after watching the tape of all these games and coaching through them, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about your team and what do you guys have to get better at down the stretch?

A: We have to continue improving across the board on fundamentals. I think that’s something you always have to improve on. You can never think ‘we’ve arrived’ there. I think sometimes the mistakes you make as a team as you get to a certain point in the season and it’s very scheme-oriented, and you fall away from what you worked hard on in training camp in terms of fundamentals and basics. Ultimately, that’s really what always makes the difference anyway. We talk about turnovers, penalties, mental errors, those are the things that are going to be the true deciding factors within games. In terms of our team, we hoped early on that we could develop a tough culture without knowing these players early on, and I’ve seen that with our guys. Our guys, it’s a team full of resilient guys, very mentally tough guys. I’ve seen these guys come to work week in and week out, no matter what the noise on the outside was. They come in focused, they come in determined, and they play together. I’ve seen a group of guys moving in the same direction, make a lot of improvement. I’m proud of how they practice, I’m proud of how it’s shown up on tape in games, and I think that transfers directly from how we practice to how we play.

Q: It seems like that’s really kind of taken off over the last two or three weeks, especially on defense. It seems like you’re playing a more physical brand of football than maybe you started. Why do you think that is, and do you think maybe that’s just kind of snowballing with wins and confidence beget more wins and confidence or is there more to it than that?

A: I think when you practice with good execution and you’re confident with what you’re doing schematically, you can play more aggressive. When you demonstrate across the board that you have 11 guys on the field who truly understand the schemes, the concepts and what we’re doing, then you can play aggressive by not worrying about the guy next to you and what he’s doing. I think right now, we’re at a point where our guys have really learned and progressed within the schemes and concepts that we’re working. They’ve really done a good job week by week adapting to different game plans and how they fit, and understand not only their responsibility, but how the guy next to them has to play as well. When you understand that, you can play more aggressive. That’s probably why some of that is starting to show up the way we want it to on tape.

Q: Do you look into the data, how teams come into a bye, how teams go out of a bye? This is your first time being a head coach with this. Is there something that you can do maybe better than someone else taking your team out of a bye that could give you an advantage?

A: Yeah, I think you have to look at what you do well, what you’re deficient on and what you have to improve on. I think the biggest thing coming out of a bye, other than maybe getting some guys back health wise or getting some things adjusted schematically, is you just need to come out and correct things that you’ve made mistakes on and go forward with. You may have a new wrinkle you try to work in here or there. We do look at teams coming out of byes. Obviously, the last two weeks we played teams coming off of byes. To me, it’s important to look at those teams based on what they’ve done in the past coming out of a bye. What kind of adjustments do they use? What does their game plan look like that game out of a bye? Different than it was the previous games before the bye? How many schematic differences do they have? Is it a more aggressive mindset? What do they do? You want to put all of those things into account just to anticipate what your opponent may do against you. For us specifically, I think the biggest mistake is people think when you’re coming out of a bye, you’re automatically fresher and faster and all that kind of stuff. I think that’s a myth. You have to come out and all that matters is how you play on that Sunday. You have to wake up and you have to knock off those cobwebs because the one thing is, these guys will have four solid days off without being around us as coaches or hearing our voices. Four days, again this season, is like four months. It just is. You come back, and that Monday practice we’ll have, that’s very necessary to go ahead and just make sure everybody gets woken up, knocks off some rust, has a good day on the field, and that that can transfer going forward.

Q: Coaches very often and sometimes you hear players say ‘he’s not a rookie anymore’. Are your rookies still rookies? What is that mindset? Do you subscribe to that mindset?

A: You can kind of phrase that two different ways on that. I know what you’re saying with that. I expect marked improvement from our team along the way. The so-called rookie mistakes, I don’t care if it’s a rookie making it or a vet making it, I just don’t expect to see it repeated. That’s what we’re really holding everyone accountable for. Things are going to happen, we just have to learn from them and move forward. I think at this point right now, our young players obviously have a different perspective and a different taste for the speed of the game and what goes in week by week. You hear a lot about these rookie walls. We talk to our rookies a lot about them. I’ve talked to rookies in the past about it as well. To me, it’s important to have these rookies understand that really right now we’re at a point where the college football season is winding down and about to be over. At least in a normal year, it would be. Your season is very much still going. We’ve got a lot of ball left to play. In a normal season, by the time you get to Week 8, that is a college season. That’s four preseason games. It’s eight games, you’re looking at 12. Maybe you play a bowl game after that. Go get a Little Caesar’s pizza bowl thing and go back home for Christmas and stuff. This season here, you’ve got to refuel and get going. You’ve got to make sure that you handle your routine throughout the season effectively. Physically, you don’t break down and mentally you don’t fatigue. To me, that comes into having a good established routine but then also some point in the year changing up your routine to change the stimulation. If you’re a guy that’s always watching tape mid-afternoon, okay maybe it’s an early morning thing and you get your workout in mid-afternoon. You have to change things up a little bit throughout the season not to have that monotony that kind of wears you down to the point where you think you’re being productive just because you have activity. You’ve got to make sure you’re actually taking steps forward every time you do something. We’re not writing a pass for any of guys, whether they are rookies, vets, whatever they are. In terms of repeat mistakes, we have to make sure as coaches we do a good job of eliminating those.

Q: I wanted to ask about Will Hernandez and everything he has gone through the last couple of weeks. You come into Sunday, it seemed clear you had a plan that he wasn’t necessarily going to get snaps. What did you see from Will in the game? Is it a challenge this week knowing you’re not in the building with these guys? How can you gauge how he is coming out of this weekend, first opportunity being out there on the field?

A: The best feedback we get as far as how he came out of this weekend is from the trainers and the strength coaches. We’re not in the building, but what we have done is we’re doing very small group workouts that are going to be available to our players, that they want to come and get something physically. Obviously, we’ve had to do a lot of maneuvering to make sure it’s very limited people in the field house working out or running. The field is very spread out, we’re taking precautions in that. The feedback I’ll get from the trainers and strength coaches will be the most valuable feedback I can get on those guys. What I saw when he went in the game is a guy who was ready. I saw when Will went in there, he was mentally, physically and emotionally ready to go. Obviously, two weeks off from a game, it’s a lot to ask anyone to jump right back in the swing of things and go through an entire game. When we needed him, he came through. He played well, he played tough. That’s just kind of Will’s personality. Coming out at the end of the game right there. He kind of goes in as the enforcer when we needed him right there. I was pleased to see Will at the game. It’s good to have him back in the building. He’s always a dude that makes everyone smile when he’s around. It’s just good to have him back with us.

Q: Do you feel like when you come back on Monday that the last couple weeks are behind him?

A: I think it’s still wait and see to see him on the field Monday, to be honest with you. To be fair to him, if we had practiced the last two days, if we were out there today, I think I’d have a much better view on that and an answer for that. Not being able to see with my own eyes when we put him through a practice, that’s a tough thing to evaluate and gauge. He says he’s feeling better. I don’t want to speak for the player, I guess I just did. I want to make sure that we make the right evaluation for him at all times. These guys are tough guys, they are competitive guys. Sometimes they say things and you have to make sure you really gauge it and make the best decision for them.

Q: You have a bunch of guys on the verge of returning from injured reserve. What’s their status coming off the bye. Tae Crowder, (Oshane) Ximines, (Xavier) McKinney and Ryan Lewis.

A: That falls back on Art’s (Stapleton) question. I was really counting on seeing a little bit of those guys this week. Obviously, we can’t see them on the field football wise this week. Monday will be an important day for us to kind of take a look at a lot of these guys moving around. We still have to make a declaration on a couple of these guys in terms of their clock. We’re going to have to evaluate these guys next week and see where they are going into Cincinnati. We’re optimistic we should see the majority of those guys if not all of them at some point down this stretch. They’ve all made progress, they’re all working very hard with our trainers. I know they are a lot further ahead than they were when they initially went on IR. We just have to see how close they are to game action for us.

Q: For you personally, do you decompress? Do you take any time off at the end of this week? Do you just plow through and worry about that after the season?

A: I’ll definitely structure good family time this weekend. I’ve got a laundry list of stuff right now that I am loading up on and making sure I stay ahead on. I’m using a lot of this time right now not only to self-scout and catch up on things that we’ve done throughout the season. The coaches have done a lot of really good research and reports and giving me good feedback on where we have to go going forward. That’s been very valuable. I’m trying to jump ahead on all of our opponents to get a head start which will help me down this final stretch. As far as watching some tape. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that when this weekend rolls around there is going to be a point where I have to dive in and be dad again. I’ve got to dive in with the kids and give them all my undivided attention. I’ll probably be way more worn out from that than I am from a week of game prep. It’s something we’re looking forward to. That will kind of reset the motor for us and get us moving through the final six.

Q: Have you talked to Graham (Gano)? How is he feeling? What can you tell us about (Ryan) Santoso?

A: Ryan’s a guy who has a huge leg, he’s shown a tremendous amount of improvement since he’s been here. It’s a unique skillset that he does all three, field goals, kickoffs and punts. He’s shown a lot of improvement in all three phases through being. I think Tom (Quinn) and T-Mac (Thomas McGaughey) do a tremendous job of working with this guy. This guy is a mentally tough guy, too. He’s one of my favorite guys on the practice field. He kicks for us in kicking periods, obviously. He does a lot of his field goal operational work on Friday with the team. Me and him normally have some kind of side bets going on as he is kicking, kind of put a little pressure on it. I think he’s a little bit better in terms of roping that thing through the uprights when I’m talking a little smack behind him. We have a lot of confidence in Ryan. He’s definitely a developing player. I think he has a big upside in this league for a long time, I really do. I’m pleased he’s been in our program and we’ve been able to hold onto him through this point. I’m really pleased with the work Tom and T-Mac have done with him. If he’s got to go, we have a lot of confidence he will be able to go out there and do the job effectively. Graham has talked to Ronnie (Barnes) today. I touched based with him yesterday. I don’t want to speak for him in terms of how he may feel with this. I don’t know all the stages of this virus personally, so I don’t know if this is something that increases, decreases. I don’t want to speak for any of the players. I know obviously our trainers are communicating with him on a regular basis to make sure his welfare is okay. I’ll touch base with him later today like I do with most of the players.

Q: Do you expect to have him back in time for the next game?

A: There’s a timetable with that. There’s an opportunity for that, but there are some other things that go into that as well. Are there any setbacks in that time window? Where does the physician clear him? There’s a ramp up period. Him, like everybody else, we have to be fair to this guy. He’s sitting in a hotel room for a couple weeks. Is it fair to him to put him on the field and ask him to go ahead and do his job? These are all things we have to account for. In fantasy football, yeah, plug him in and we’re good to go. In reality, are we doing the fair thing by him individually and the team collectively to take someone who hasn’t had two weeks of an opportunity to prepare to put him out there to do a job?

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
There is no media availability to the New York Giants from November 19th to November 22nd.

Jun 222020
 
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Nate Ebner, New England Patriots (February 3, 2019)

Nate Ebner – © 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: Special Teams

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: For the second year in a row, the New York Giants special teams unit was arguably the strongest part of the team. The Giants were tied for 3rd in the NFL in punt returns (9.8 yards per return) and 10th in kickoff returns (23.5 yards per return). The Giants were 6th in the NFL in covering punts (5.67 yards per opponent return) and 1st in covering kickoffs (18.05 yards per opponent return). Cody Core (8 tackles) and Michael Thomas (7 tackles) were particularly active in covering punts and kicks. For the second year in a row, the Giants did not return a punt or kick for a touchdown and they did not allow a punt or kick to be returned against them for a touchdown. The Giants did block a punt for a touchdown.

The return game was by handled by committee. Golden Tate, T.J. Jones, Da’Mari Scott, and Jabrill Peppers returned punts while Cody Latimer, Corey Ballentine, Darius Slayton, and Da’Mari Scott returned kicks. Jones was cut during the season.

Punter Riley Dixon had a solid season, averaging 46.1 yards per punt (13th in the NFL) and 42.3 net yards per punt (9th in the NFL), with 29 of his punts being downed inside the 20-yard line. However, two of his punts were blocked.

After a stellar sophomore pro season in 2018, place kicker Aldrick Rosas regressed in 2019. Rosas was 12-of-17 (70.6 percent) on field goal attempts and missed four of his 39 extra point attempts (89.7 percent). Seventy percent of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. In 2018, Rosas made the Pro Bowl after making 32-of-33 field goal attempts, including a team-record 57 yarder.

The Giants placed long-time long snapper Zak DeOssie on Injured Reserve in late November 2019 with knee and wrist issues. He was replaced by Colin Holba for the last five games.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: It appears Zak DeOssie’s tenure with the Giants is over as he remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent. Colin Holba was cut in late April. The Giants signed long-snapper Casey Kreiter as an unrestricted free agent from the Denver Broncos in April.

Special teamers Cody Latimer (Washington Redskins), Michael Thomas (Houston Texans), and Antonio Hamilton (Kansas City Chiefs) signed elsewhere while the Giants added special teams ace Nate Ebner (New England Patriots). The Giants also drafted and signed a bunch of rookie linebackers and defensive backs who could significantly contribute on special teams.

Aldrick Rosas (1-year, $3.259 million), Cody Core (2-years, $4 million), and Corey Coleman (1-year, $1.1 million) were re-signed in the offseason.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: After John Harbaugh in Baltimore, Joe Judge became the second special teams coordinator in NFL history to make the jump directly to head coach. And almost all of Judge’s coaching experience is limited to special teams. Obviously, his heart and soul will likely remain with that part of the team and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact he has on the unit. Judge rewarded Thomas McGaughey for his solid work as special teams coordinator under Pat Shurmur by retaining him in the same position. Tom Quinn, who has been with the Giants since 2006, was also kept on as assistant special teams coach. McGaughey’s other assistant, Anthony Blevins, was moved to assistant defensive backs coach.

A major wrench was thrown into things when Aldrick Rosas, currently the only place kicker on the roster, was arrested in June for allegedly being involved in a hit-and-run accident and driving with a suspended license. Police also report Rosas was allegedly under the influence of alcohol at the time. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that Rosas was arrested in 2016 for also driving under the influence. At best, Rosas is likely facing suspension from the NFL. At worst, he could receive jail time and/or the team may simply decide to let him go. The Giants had just re-signed him to a 1-year, $3.259 million contract as a restricted free agent.

Once again, the Giants do not have a clear-cut favorite to return punts and kickoffs. Potential candidates include WR Golden Tate, WR Darius Slayton, WR Corey Coleman, WR Da’Mari Scott, WR Alex Bachman, RB Dion Lewis, RB Javon Leake, CB Darnay Holmes, CB Corey Ballentine, and S Jabrill Peppers. The Giants could also try WR Derrick Dillon as a returner.

In the punt and kick coverage department, the Giants gave Nate Ebner a 1-year, $2 million contract simply to play special teams. Cody Core’s stellar special teams play in 2019 was reminiscent of past Giants special teams studs Reyna Thompson, Larry Flowers, and David Tyree. It will be interesting to see if he can replicate and even improve on his gunner skills.

ON THE BUBBLE: Aldrick Rosas. What a dumbass!

PREDICTIONS: Don’t discount the impact special teams can have on the win-loss record. Thomas McGaughey has done a fine job with this unit the past two years, but Joe Judge was so impressive as a young special teams coordinator that he is now the head coach of one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. A stellar special teams unit can turn a 6-10 team into a 10-6 team with timely blocked punts/kicks, big returns, winning the field position war, and the kicking game.

Even though on the surface CB Deandre Baker’s legal charges are far more serious, I think Aldrick Rosas’ roster spot with the Giants is in more jeopardy. Even in the best-case scenario, I have a hard time seeing Rosas avoiding a 4-game suspension. The NFL’s policy on “substances of abuse” includes alcohol-related incidents. If that is the case, he won’t begin the season on the 53-man roster. Do the Giants use a roster spot on him in training camp? Rosas may just have kissed $3 million goodbye.

Trying to predict who will be the primary kick and punt returners in June from among the existing list of candidates is probably an exercise in futility. But I’m going to guess Corey Coleman is the kickoff returner and Golden Tate and Darnay Holmes will split the punt return duties.

Keep an eye on Cody Core. He deserved more attention than he received last year for his special teams play. Also, the Giants added seven rookie linebackers and six rookie defensive backs. Not all of them will make the team, but many of them could form the core of the specials units.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Barring some unforeseen event, Riley Dixon will be the punter and Casey Kreiter the long-snapper. I already predicted in my wide receiver overview that Corey Coleman will make the team; if so, he has a good shot to be the kickoff returner. Golden Tate and Darnay Holmes are the obvious candidates to return punts. It’s pretty obvious that Nate Ebner was signed by Judge to lead this entire unit.

I don’t think the team’s opening-day place kicker is on the roster. I think Rosas will be suspended and may not even be a New York Giant. It depends on whether the team wants to wait out the likely suspension.

Dec 102019
 
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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 23 – NEW YORK GIANTS 17 (OT)…
The New York Giants are officially a (expletive deleted) train wreck. The Giants lost their franchise-record ninth game in a row, and sixth straight to the the Philadelphia Eagles, falling 23-17 in overtime on Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Giants blew a 17-3 halftime lead, not scoring a single point in the second half of the contest. The Giants are now 2-11 on the season.

It was a game of two halves with the Giants scoring 17 points on three of their six first-half drives. After starting the game with two punts, New York took a 7-0 lead on the first play of the 2nd quarter when quarterback Eli Manning found wide receiver Darius Slayton for a 35-yard catch-and-run on 3rd-and-13. The Eagles cut the score to 7-3 on the ensuing drive with a 34-yard field goal after a 9-play, 59-yard drive. The Giants extended their advantage back to a touchdown on their very next possession with a 34-yard field goal of their own after an identical 9-play, 59-yard drive.

After two punts by the Eagles and one by the Giants, New York got the ball back with 1:46 left before halftime. On 3rd-and-8 from their own 45-yard line with 35 seconds left, Manning hit Slayton deep for a 55-yard touchdown pass.

At the half, the Giants looked very much in control, 17-3. The Eagles had been held to five first downs and 116 total net yards in the first half. Of Philadelphia’s seven first-half possession, five had ended with punts and one with a turnover.

The second half was obviously a disaster for the Giants. Aside from the kneel down on the last play in regulation, the Giants punted all six times they had the ball, gaining only two first downs and 30 yards.

While the defense forced two more Philadelphia punts to start the second half, they eventually wore down, giving up drives of 58 yards (touchdown), 58 yards (missed field goal), and 85 yards (touchdown). The Eagles tied the game at 17-17 with less than two minutes to play. The Giants’ sixth drive of the second half then ended with their sixth punt.

Philadelphia won the overtime toss and predictably and easily drove 75 yards in eight plays for the game-winning touchdown.

Offensively, the Giants only gained 11 first downs and 255 total net yards. The Giants were 2-of-12 (17 percent) on 3rd down. The Giants’ offense only held the ball for 22 minutes. Manning was 15-of-30 for 203 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. His leading receiver was Slayton who caught five passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, but he did not have a second-half reception. Running back Saquon Barkley had 17 carries for 66 yards.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 27 first downs and 418 total net yards (118 rushing, 300 passing) despite the Eagles suffering a number of game-ending injuries to key personnel. Linebackers Oshane Ximines (twice) and Markus Golden were credited with sacks. Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson forced a fumble on 4th-and-1 that was recovered by linebacker David Mayo.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVES AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were QB Daniel Jones (ankle), TE Evan Engram (foot), TE Rhett Ellison (concussion), CB Corey Ballentine (concussion), RB Wayne Gallman, OT/OG Chad Slade, and OT Eric Smith.

RG Kevin Zeitler left the game with a lower body injury, having to be carted off to the locker room. He was spotted wearing a boot on his right foot with crutches after the game.

GIANTS RE-SIGN RILEY DIXON…
The Giants announced on Sunday that they have re-signed punter Riley Dixon to a 3-year contract extension. Dixon was set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Broncos. He was named to the All-Rookie team. The Giants traded with the Denver Broncos for Dixon in April 2018, giving the Broncos a conditional 7th-round draft pick. He had a solid inaugural year for the Giants, finishing 7th in net punting in the NFL (41.8 yards per punt) and 11th in gross punting (45.4 yards per punt). This year, Dixon is currently 5th in net punting (42.8) and 6th in gross punting (47.0).

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Pat Shurmur and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Pat Shurmur (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Jul 152019
 
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Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants (December 2, 2018)

Aldrick Rosas – © USA TODAY Sports

With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Special Teams

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: Despite the fact that the New York Giants’ special teams have been a liability for years, special teams ended up being the team’s strongest unit in 2018. New Head Coach Pat Shurmur chose not to bring back long-time special teams coordinator Tom Quinn and hired Thomas McGaughey to be the new coordinator and Anthony Blevins as his assistant. However, since McGaughey was diagnosed with cancer during the 2018 offseason, Quinn was retained as “assistant special teams coordinator.”

Overshadowed by Saquon Barkley’s phenomenal rookie season, place kicker Aldrick Rosas, who struggled in 2017, had the best year of any place kicker in team history, only missing one field goal all season. Newcomer punter Riley Dixon, who was acquired by trade, finished 7th in net punting. The Giants were 7th in the NFL in kickoff returns (24.4 yards per return) and 28th in punt returns (6.2 yards per return). The Giants were also 2nd-best in defending kickoff returns (20.4 yards per return) and 7th-best in defending punt returns (6.6 yards per return). The Giants did not return a punt or kick for a touchdown and they did not allow a punt or kick to be returned against them for a touchdown.

Two Giants made the Pro Bowl as special teams players, Rosas and first-team alternate Michael Thomas, who led the team with 12 special teams tackles. Other leading tacklers included Kerry Wynn (8), Kenny Ladler (8), Nate Stupar (8), and Russell Shepard (6).

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Six Giants returned punts in 2018, including Jawill Davis (12), Quadree Henderson (9), Odell Beckham (8), Kaelin Clay (5), Stacy Coley (2), and Corey Coleman (1). All but Coleman are gone. Five Giants returned more than one kickoff, including Coleman (23), Davis (7), Cody Latimer (5), Henderson (5), and Coley (2). Only Coleman and Latimer return.

Kerry Wynn, who had a very good year covering kicks, signed with the Bengals. The Giants did sign running back Rod Smith from the Cowboys, who was a core special teams player for that team.

The Giants signed punter Ryan Anderson after he impressed at the 2019 rookie mini-camp. Anderson last punted for Rutgers in 2017 when he was named First-Team, All-Big Ten, averaging 44.4 yards per punt.

Journeyman wide receiver/returner Brittan Golden was signed in January.

The team also added two long snappers: Taybor Pepper (who played in four games with the Packers in 2017) and rookie free agent Jake Carlock.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Can the Giants replicate their 2018 special teams success and even build upon it? Or will they regress back to their usual norm?

Aldrick Rosas had an incredible season in 2018. He increased his field goal percentage from 72 percent in 2017 to 97 percent in 2018, missing just one field goal, making the Pro Bowl in the process. Was his performance a flash in the pan, similar to Ali Haji-Sheikh in 1983, or is Rosas set to become one of the NFL’s best kickers for many years to come? It is interesting to note that the Giants do not have another place kicker in camp.

While Riley Dixon finished the year 7th in net punting, some think the Giants could do better. Ryan Anderson does have a strong leg and could challenge Dixon.

The Giants were very good at covering both punts and kickoffs in 2018. Using a wide cast of characters, they did a respectable job returning kickoffs but were poor in returning punts. The real questions here are who will be the primary returners in 2018? Corey Coleman averaged 26 yards per kickoff return in 2018. Cody Latimer and Jabrill Peppers also have experience returning kickoffs. Who will return punts is an even bigger mystery. The only obvious candidate at the moment is the starting strong safety Jabrill Peppers, although starting wide receiver Golden Tate also has punt return experience. However, Pat Shurmur has said that impressive rookie wide receiver Darius Slayton is also a candidate to return both kickoffs and punts.

At some point, Zak DeOssie will have to hang it up as the Giants’ long snapper. Does he hold on another year?

ON THE BUBBLE: The kickers are most likely set although Ryan Anderson could challenge Riley Dixon. Taybor Pepper or Jake Carlock would have to be really impressive to unseat Zak DeOssie as long snapper. Brittan Golden has experience returning kickoffs and punts, but has an uphill climb to make the team. The Giants have a number of core special teams players who may not make it including Nate Stupar, Kenny Ladler, Russell Shepard, Antonio Hamilton, and Rod Smith.

FROM THE COACHES: Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Jake Carlock: “He is a very good long snapper. We are always looking for guys at skill positions. He is a very accomplished linebacker as well. Much like (Eric) Dungey who can compete at different areas, he is going to do the same.”

Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey on whether he would hesitate to have a starter return kicks or punts: “Nope, not at all. It’s a play-making position. When you think about it over the years and you watch punt returners that have had success that have played on defense – the Deion Sanders, and all those guys. That’s a play-making position. That’s one of those positions where you can change the game just like that. I have no reservation by putting any kind of starter back there, because that’s a play that can change the game. We know 75 percent of game in the NFL comes down to the last possession. Any time you could gain an advantage on your opponent, you want to get that advantage.”

McGaughey on Jabrill Peppers: “High energy, the guy is a for sure ball handler. Can make all the cuts full speed. He just brings juice. I’ve known the kid since he was 16 years old. I recruited him when I was at LSU. Jabrill is a special athlete. He can do anything – run the football, catch the football, whatever. He’s just a great athlete… Yes, he’s going to (return kicks and punts for us)… That’s football – he’s a safety in the NFL. Those guys primarily do everything. When you look at them, most of them are three-core, four-core guys when they play. That’s just the reality of it, especially a young safety with a lot of energy like Jabrill.”

McGaughey on WR Russell Shepard, LB Nate Stupar, and CB Antonio Hamilton: “Those guys were the foundation of what we did last year. Whenever you can get veteran leadership and you can have continuity, that’s the most important thing. When you get guys that have done it before, and they’ve done it at a high level, and you can keep them in the same spots – it’s no different from having an offensive line with continuity, a secondary with continuity, it’s the same thing. A core group of special teams players. They’re no different from anyone else. You got to have that continuity if you want to have consistency.”

McGaughey on Rod Smith: “Big, strong, athletic, smart, playmaker – whenever you can get a guy like that on your roster to provide depth, and having value as a running back. (General Manager Dave) Gettleman always talks about having value on offense and defense, not just on special teams. He punches all the tickets. He’s a hard worker, he’s a pro, and he does everything you ask him to do. He’s 6’3”, 235 pounds, and has a skillset. He’s one of those guys if you’re sitting in a room, you won’t even know he’s there. He’s quiet, he comes in, and he works, and he does his job.”

McGaughey on Ryan Anderson: “Ryan is a lefty. Whenever you can bring a lefty in, and you can get a righty spin and a lefty spin is always good. Ryan has a lot of potential. His maturation from last year to this year has been huge. He came here last year to our local day. To see him again this year was a big difference. You can tell he’s been working on his craft, and he’s been working hard. It’s good to have him in to have a little competition. It’s always good to have two guys in where they can kind of compete against each other. It makes it better.”

McGaughey on Jake Carlock: “He’s a young guy with a lot of potential. He can run, he’s very athletic. So what we’ll see what happens with Jake. We’re excited about the chance of working with him.”

McGaughey on Eric Dungey: “He’s going to have a chance somewhere, right? We’ll put him out there. We’ll find a home for him. He’s athletic, he’s a tough kid. We’ll find a home for him. Those types of kids in college that are athletic quarterbacks, they always kind of find a way. They’ll figure out something. They’re athletic, they’ve always competed at a high-level, so they’ll find a way… Anytime you can get a big athlete that’s tough, that’s smart, that’s played the quarterback position, anytime you can get a style of athlete like that, and he’s coachable and is willing, a lot of good things can happen.”

PREDICTIONS: Saquon Barkley overshadowed the incredible performance of Aldrick Rosas in 2018. But the psychology of kickers tends to be on the fragile side and Rosas has to prove that 2018 wasn’t a fluke. If he becomes a perennial Pro Bowler, Rosas may be one of Jerry Reese’s most positive legacies.

Who returns kickoffs and punts seems up in the air at this point. My guess is that Corey Coleman remains the leading candidate to return kickoffs, but he could be pressed by Darius Slayton. For as much press as Jabrill Peppers receives as an athletic returnman, he only averaged 22 yards per kickoff return thus far in the NFL.

Peppers could end up being the primary punt returner, as he has returned 55 punts in the last two season for the Cleveland Browns, averaging 7.3 yards per return.

I think the Giants are going to face some tough roster decisions on veteran special teams players such as Rod Smith, Russell Shepard, Nate Stupar, Antonio Hamilton, and Kenny Ladler. My gut also tells me that either Eric Dungey or Jake Carlock will make the team as a special teams ace and jack-of-all-trades type player. The Giants face a bit of a dilemma with the ever-consistent Zak DeOssie. He plays a position where age isn’t a huge factor, and not only does he do a fine job of long-snapping, but he’s good at covering kicks. But he also doesn’t play another position. That said, Giants fans know all too well how costly having a bad long snapper can be.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Aldrick Rosas and Riley Dixon the kickers. Zak DeOssie as the long snapper, Corey Coleman as the kickoff returner and Jabrill Peppers as the punt returner. It’s too early to tell how legitimate a shot that Eric Dungey or Jake Carlock have in making the team, but I think one of these two will. If both falter, another one of the veteran core special teams players will make it.

Mar 042019
 
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Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants (December 2, 2018)

Aldrick Rosas – © USA TODAY Sports

For years, the special teams of the New York Giants had been far from special, costing the team a number of games each season, often in painful fashion. New Head Coach Pat Shurmur chose not to bring back long-time special teams coordinator Tom Quinn and hired Thomas McGaughey to be the new coordinator and Anthony Blevins as his assistant. However, since McGaughey was diagnosed with cancer during the offseason, Quinn was retained as “assistant special teams coordinator.” Obviously, this was far from an ideal situation.

Making matters worse is the Giants were rolling the dice again on talented, but extremely inconsistent place kicker Aldrick Rosas, who only converted on 72 percent of his field goal attempts and 87 percent of his extra point attempts in 2017. The Giants cut Brad Wing in March and traded for another punter, Riley Dixon, in April. And it was anybody’s guess who would be returning kickoffs and punts.

Ironically, in the end, special teams ended up being the team’s strongest unit in 2018. Overshadowed by Saquon Barkley, Rosas had the best year of any place kicker in team history, only missing one field goal all season. Dixon finished 7th in net punting. The Giants were 7th in the NFL in kickoff returns (24.4 yards per return) and 28th in punt returns (6.2 yards per return). The Giants were also 2nd-best in defending kickoff returns (20.4 yards per return) and 7th-best in defending punt returns (6.6 yards per return). The Giants did not return a punt or kick for a touchdown and they did not allow a punt or kick to be returned against them for a touchdown.

Two Giants made the Pro Bowl as special teams players, Rosas and first-team alternate Michael Thomas, who led the team with 12 special teams tackles. Other leading tacklers included Kerry Wynn (8), Kenny Ladler (8), Nate Stupar (8), and Russell Shepard (6).

The Giants special teams held up their end of the bargain in 2018. Rosas also deserves far more attention than he received.

THE KICKERS

Perhaps the team’s biggest surprise in 2018 was the performance of place kicker Aldrick Rosas, who missed only one field goal all year and made the Pro Bowl. Rosas made 32-of-33 kicks (a franchise-record 97 percent). He also kicked a team-record 57-yard field goal. Rosas was 31-of-32 on extra point attempts. Fifty-one of his 85 kickoff attempts (60 percent) resulted in touchbacks. Rosas was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Tennessee Titans after the 2016 NFL Draft. He did not make the team. The Giants signed him to a reserve/futures contract in January 2017. He had a poor first season with the Giants, converting on just 72 percent of his field goals and 87 percent of his extra points. He also had four kicks blocked in 2017.

The Giants traded with the Denver Broncos for Riley Dixon in April 2018, giving the Broncos a conditional 7th-round draft pick. He had a solid inaugural year for the Giants, finishing 7th in net punting in the NFL (41.8 yards per punt). Dixon finished 11th in gross punting with 45.4 yards per punt. However, only 20 of his punts were pinned inside the 20-yard line. The 6’4”, 221-pound Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Broncos. He was named to the All-Rookie team.

THE RETURNERS

Eight Giants returned a total of 45 kickoffs in 2018. Twenty-three of those were returned by Corey Coleman, who the Giants signed to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in October. He ended up playing in eight games with one start, finishing with five catches for 71 yards. Coleman’s primary contribution came on special teams as as kickoff returner (averaging 26 yards per return). The 5’11”, 185-pound Coleman was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. An explosive athlete but an injury-plagued bust in Cleveland, Coleman has also had brief stints with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots in 2018. Coleman has played in 27 NFL games with 19 starts, accruing 61 catches for 789 yards and five touchdowns.

Six Giants returned a total of 37 punts in 2018, with Jawill Davis returning 12 punts and Quadree Henderson returning nine.

The Giants signed Davis as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He was signed to the Practice Squad after the final preseason cutdown and then signed to the 53-man roster in September. Davis injured his knee during the last practice of the year and was placed on Injured Reserve before the last game. Davis has average size, but he is a good athlete with excellent speed. He played in seven games for the Giants, catching four passes for 40 yards. He also returned 12 punts (7.4 yards per return) and seven kickoffs (24.4 yards per return).

The Giants placed Henderson on Injured Reserve in late November 2018 with a fractured shoulder. The 5’8”, 192-pound Henderson was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2018 NFL Draft. The Steelers waived him before the season started. The Giants signed Henderson to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in October 2018, and then back to the Practice Squad and the 53-man roster again in November. Henderson played in five games for the Giants and returned five kickoffs (22.4 yards per return average) and nine punts (7.6 yards per return average).

Dec 162018
 
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Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, Eli Manning; New York Giants (December 16, 2018)

A Disappointing Day for the Offense – © USA TODAY Sports

TENNESSEE TITANS 17 – NEW YORK GIANTS 0…
The New York Giants saw their slim playoff hopes evaporate on Sunday as the team was shut out 17-0 by the Tennessee Titans at a rainy MetLife Stadium. The Giants are now officially out of the playoff hunt. With the loss, the Giants fell to 5-9, guaranteeing their fifth losing season in the past six years.

While Tennessee only passed the ball for 86 net yards, the Titans out-gained the Giants in first downs (22 to 15), total net yards (301 to 260), net yards rushing (215 to 47), and time of possession (35:21 to 24:39).

The Giants’ five first-half possessions ended with four punts and a sack as time expired. Yet only trailing 7-0 at halftime, quarterback Eli Manning had two killer turnovers to start the second half, including a bad interception and fumble. The Giants survived the first, but not the second as Tennessee’s second touchdown near the end of the third quarter all but officially sealed the game. The Titans added another field goal in the fourth quarter as the Giants punted two more times. Until New York’s last drive, the closest the Giants got to the end zone was the Tennessee 29-yard line. The Giants reached the 4-yard line on their final possession but turned the ball over on downs.

Manning finished the game 21-of-44 for 229 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He was also sacked three times. His leading receiver was tight end Evan Engram (8 catches for 75 yards). Running back Saquon Barkley was held to 31 yards on 14 carries.

The defense kept the Giants in the game until late in the third quarter, but they did not create a turnover and only had one sack (by safety Michael Thomas).

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the New York Giants were wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (quad), quarterback Kyle Lauletta, tight end Garrett Dickerson, center Evan Brown, nose tackle John Jenkins, cornerback Tony Lippett, and safety Kamrin Moore.

Center Spencer Pulley (calf) and cornerback Antonio Hamilton (quad) both left the game with injuries and did not return. Defensive end Kerry Wynn (unknown) had post-game x-rays taken.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Pat Shurmur and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur and select players will address the media on Monday.

Jul 162018
 
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Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants (August 31, 2017)

Aldrick Rosas – © USA TODAY Sports

With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Special Teams

2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: Hired by the team in 2006, Tom Quinn somehow managed to become one of the longest tenured assistant coaches on the New York Giants. From 2006-2017, there was a revolving door of offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, and position coaches. But Quinn survived each offseason until January 2018 despite the fact that New York’s special teams were annually a sub-par unit. His last year may have been his worst. In 2017, the Giants were:

  • 31st in field goal percentage (72 percent).
  • 32nd in extra point percentage (87 percent).
  • 32nd in net punting (38.6 yards per punt).
  • 28th in kickoff returns (19.6 yards per return).
  • 31st in punt returns (5.5 yards per return).
  • 14th in kickoff coverage (20.5 yards per return).
  • 27th in punt coverage (10.4 yards per return).

In short, the Giants were a train wreck on special teams.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Punter Brad Wing’s statistics plummeted in 2017 and the Giants cut him in March. Punt/kickoff returner Dwayne Harris spent most of the season on IR and was also cut in March.

Place kicker Marshall Koehn was signed in January 2018. The Giants acquired punter Riley Dixon by trade from the Denver Broncos shortly before the draft. The Giants also signed punter Taylor Symmank in June.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Enter Thomas McGaughey as the team’s new special teams coach. Ironically, McGaughey served under Tom Quinn from 2007 to 2010. Even more ironically, the Panthers decided to let McGaughey walk when his contract expired as they wanted to promote former Giants’ linebacker Chase Blackburn to the position.

Riley Dixon replaces Brad Wing as punter. Both players were acquired by trade. Hopefully, Dixon works out better than Wing did. The 6’4”, 221-pound Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Broncos. In 16 regular-season games as a rookie, Dixon punted 89 times and averaged 45.7 yards per punt (41.3 yard net). He was named to the all-rookie team. In 2017, Dixon punted 73 times and averaged 45.6 yards per punt (40.2 yard net) with two blocked punts.

The 6’2”, 195-pound Taylor Symmank was not drafted in 2016. The Minnesota Vikings signed him in January 2017 and waived him in early September of that year. Symmank punted nine times during the 2017 preseason, averaging 42.9 yards per punt.

More media and fan focus is likely to be on Aldrick Rosas. The Giants gambled on the green kicker in 2017 and got burned. Rosas was 17-of-25 (72 percent) on field goals and 20-of-23 (87 percent on extra points). Most alarming was his inconsistency on field goal attempts from 30 to 49 yards out, where he was 7-of-14 (50 percent). Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants still have not signed a veteran to compete against him. Marshall Koehn was originally signed by the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Dolphins (2016), Minnesota Vikings (2017), and Cincinnati Bengals (2017), but he’s played in only one regular-season game with no field goal attempts. So the new coaching staff also appears enamored with Rosas’ potential. Will their patience pay off?

With Dwayne Harris gone, it is not clear who will return kickoffs and punts for the team in 2018. The diminutive Kalif Raymond ended up the leading kickoff and punt returner last season, but there is no guarantee that he will even make the 2018 squad. Even if he does, ball security is an issue with him as Raymond has seven fumbles in his 12 NFL regular-season games.

The good news is that it appears the Giants made a conscious effort to sign good special teams players in the offseason, including wide receiver Russell Shepard, safety Michael Thomas, wide receiver Cody Latimer, and cornerback Teddy Williams.

ON THE BUBBLE: Everyone. Kickers don’t need to know schemes or playbooks. They are easily replaceable if a decent one hits the waiver wire. The 2019 7th rounder the Giants gave the Broncos for Riley Dixon is a conditional pick. So he’s not safe. The Giants kick and punt returners also may not be on the roster yet.

FROM THE COACHES: Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey on Michael Thomas: “Absolutely (one of the best special teams players in the NFL). Mike is the ultimate competitor, he does an outstanding job in the coverage game, he’s a smart player…Mike is a high impact player and we look forward to him making big plays.”

McGaughey on Aldrick Rosas: “I see a kid that was a rookie last year and like most rookies in this league, they’re inconsistent. It’s rare where you see a rookie that just comes in and just rips it up just walking through the door. He’s young and like Dave Gettleman always says, we’re not going to give up on talent. He’s a talented guy and there’s some things that he can do that a lot of people can’t do and I think there’s some talent there and we’re going to work with that talent.”

Head Coach Pat Shurmur on whether or not he would risk Saquon Barkley on returns: “He’ll perform return duties – typically, not normally your first returner.”

PREDICTIONS: Special teams studs Cody Latimer and Mike Thomas should really help the coverage units. More linebackers on the roster such as Lorenzo Carter should also help. Riley Dixon most likely will be the punter. If Aldrick Rosas is shaky in the preseason, look for the Giants to make a move either by trade or picking up a discarded veteran. Who returns kickoffs? Who returns punts? With so many unknowns, Thomas McGaughey is not in an enviable position.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: At this point, it would appear Riley Dixon will be the punter. The Giants obviously are pulling for Aldrick Rosas to nail down the place-kicking job. Are the returners even on the roster? If the answer is yes, Kalif Raymond probably makes the team.

Apr 212018
 
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Riley Dixon, Denver Broncos (October 1, 2017)

Riley Dixon – © USA TODAY Sports

PUNTER RILEY DIXON TRADED TO NEW YORK GIANTS…
The New York Giants have acquired punter Riley Dixon from the Denver Broncos in exchange for a conditional 7th-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Dixon became expendable after the Broncos signed Marquette King as a free agent earlier this month. Dixon will compete with Austin Rehkow, who the Giants signed in January. The Giants cut Brad Wing in March.

The 24-year old, 6’4”, 221-pound Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Broncos. In 16 regular-season games as a rookie, Dixon punted 89 times and averaged 45.7 yards per punt (41.3 yard net). He was named to the all-rookie team. In 2017, Dixon punted 73 times and averaged 45.6 yards per punt (40.2 yard net) with two blocked punts. Dixon is a big, strong-legged punter.

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