Feb 172015
 
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Jameel McClain and Jon Beason, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Jameel McClain and Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Ever since the New York Giants shifted from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense in 1994, there have been some glimpses of outstanding linebacker play from players such as Michael Brooks, Jessie Armstead, Michael Barrow, and Antonio Pierce. But outside of Armstead, New York simply hasn’t been able to draft any long-term impact players at the position. Instead fans have been subjected to a long list busts or journeymen who have included Ben Talley, Scott Galyon, Doug Colman, Pete Monty, Ryan Phillips, O.J. Childress, Dhani Jones, Brandon Short, Quincy Monk, Wesley Mallard, Nick Greisen, Reggie Torbor, Gerris Wilkinson, Zak DeOssie (who was not drafted as a long snapper), Jonathan Goff, Bryan Kehl, Clint Sintim, Phillip Dillard, Jacquian Williams, and Greg Jones. If that list wasn’t so painful, it would be comical. Because the Giants have drafted so poorly at this position, they have repeatedly had to address the linebacker spot in free agency, or in the case of Jon Beason, by trade. While they have had more success there, these older players haven’t remained on the team very long.

Before the season, it was hoped that the linebacking position would be reasonably improved. Jon Beason was a major positive in-season addition to the team in 2013 and it was believed with a full offseason, his impact would increase even more so. The Giants added Jameel McClain in free agency and the coaching staff was talking up the improvements Jacquian Williams had made. But linebacker remained a weakness for the Giants in 2014 and was a significant factor in the team’s near dead-last rankings in overall defense and against the run. Beason broke his foot during June OTA’s and never recovered and was placed on Injured Reserve after playing in only four games. Williams, who also ended the season on IR with a concussion, simply has not developed, along with fellow 2011 rookie class members Spencer Paysiner and Mark Herzlich. All three of those players have been here four years and the Giants have very little to show for it. Jameel McClain was the best of the bunch, but he most likely looked better than he really was simply by being compared to poorer quality teammates.

The only true bright spot on the horizon is Devon Kennard, a defensive end-linebacker tweener who flashed with his ability as a line-of-scrimmage player and pass rusher. However, it remains to be seen if he really can fit in as a true 4-3 linebacker who can cover tight ends and backs.

Mark Herzlich and Devon Kennard, New York Giants (November 16, 2014)

Mark Herzlich and Devon Kennard – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“For a rookie, (Kennard is) very mature,” said Perry Fewell in December. “He’s very serious about his work and his business. He has a very professional attitude every single day in the classroom and on the field about his work and how he can improve for a rookie. We always talk about the rookie wall or what have you. It doesn’t seem to faze him. We’re giving him more in the classroom and he’s able to take it on the field. He loves to talk football and he loves to visualize what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. He takes the critiquing not personally, but he takes it as a learning experience and for a rookie, that’s very mature.

“It’s kind of tough (to determine his ideal position). He’s a powerful man that can play at defensive end and rush and do that type of thing. He’s also skillful enough to play a linebacker position. He’s not as fleet-footed as you would like for him to be and so we put that in the term of a tweener. I think after the season and over the next training period, if he works on his burst and his explosion, that he can be an ideal linebacker. We call him a SAM linebacker. That would be his ideal position and he can also transition and put his hand on the dirt and rush, but I think linebacker would be his natural position.”

THE PLAYERS

Jon Beason’s 2014 NFL season was basically wiped out due to a ligament tear and fracture to the sesamoid bone in his right foot during an OTA practice on June 12. He aggravated the injury in Week 2 against Arizona, missed the next three games, and aggravated the injury again in Week 7 against Dallas. After that, the doctors decided he needed season-ending surgery and Beason was placed on Injured Reserve in October. In the end, he only played and started in four games and finished the season with 11 tackles. Beason was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Panthers. He is a three-time Pro Bowler (2008-2010). Beason missed most of the 2011 season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon. He also missed most of the 2012 season with a torn right ACL, an injury that required microfracture knee surgery. The Giants acquired Beason in a trade with the Panthers in October 2013. He played in 12 games with the Giants in 2013, starting his last 11 at middle linebacker. In those 12 games, he finished with 93 tackles and one interception. Beason lacks ideal size, but he is a decent athlete with very good intangibles. He is smart, instinctive, energetic, and productive, and brought leadership and gravitas to a linebacking corps in 2013 sorely needing all of those qualities. Beason is a better run defender than in coverage, where he sometimes struggles against better athletes in space. Beason is a good hitter and tackler. He obviously has been a very fragile, injury-prone player in recent years.

Jameel McClain, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Jameel McClain – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jameel McClain played in all 16 games in 2014 with 14 starts, primarily at middle linebacker. He finished the season as the team’s leading tackler with 116, and also had 2.5 sacks, three pass defenses, and one forced fumble. McClain was originally signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2008 NFL Draft. In six seasons with the Ravens, McClain started 55 regular-season games. A serious neck injury (spinal contusion) suffered late in 2012 caused him to miss the first six games of the 2013 season on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List. The Ravens released him in February 2014 and the Giants signed him in March. A defensive end in college, McClain has good size and he is versatile, being able to play both inside and outside linebacker. He is an aggressive, hard-working, tough, physical player who is solid against the run and a decent blitzer. McClain lacks ideal overall athleticism, quickness, and speed. He is not as strong in pass coverage. McClain is a good leader.

A fifth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Devon Kennard was a pleasant surprise. Kennard missed three games in September with a hamstring injury and the season-finale with a toe injury, but he played in 12 games, starting six. He finished the season with 43 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one pass defense, and two forced fumbles. A bit of a ‘tweener who lacks ideal speed and quickness for linebacker, Kennard has collegiate experience playing both 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker. He played at outside linebacker in the 4-3 for the Giants. Kennard has good size and strength for linebacker. He is a stout player against the run and flashes as a blitzer. He is not as good in pass coverage. Kennard is a very smart player, but he has been injury prone at both the college and pro level.

Jacquian Williams, New York Giants (July 22, 2013)

Jacquian Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jacquian Williams started the first nine game of the season, but suffered a serious concussion in early November and was placed on Injured Reserve in December 2014. He finished the season with 78 tackles and three pass defenses. Williams was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants. His 2012 season was sabotaged by a PCL knee injury that caused him to miss six games. Williams lacks size, but he is extremely athletic. He is more of a run-and-chase run defender and coverage linebacker than physical presence due to his lack of size and overall physicality. While Williams gets in on a lot of tackles, he rarely makes big plays in any phase of the game.

In his fourth season with the Giants, Mark Herzlich had his most productive season, playing in 15 games with eight starts at outside linebacker. He finished the season with 52 tackles, one sack, and two pass defenses. Herzlich was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft. Herzlich was regarded as one of the better collegiate linebackers in the country before missing the 2009 season with bone cancer, which led to him having a titanium rod inserted into his left femur. Herzlich has very good size but is a sup-par athlete for the position. He is a good run defender, but struggles in coverage and is not much of a blitzer.

Spencer Paysinger, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Spencer Paysinger – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Spencer Paysinger saw his playing time dramatically decrease in 2014. He played in 15 games with one start, but only had 15 tackles. The year before in 2013, Paysinger started 10 games and finished with 74 tackles. Paysinger was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft. Paysinger is a decent athlete who has gotten bigger and stronger. He doesn’t make many plays.

Terrell Manning was placed on Injured Reserve in December 2014 with an ankle injury after playing in only one game with the Giants in Week 13. He was with the Giants in training camp before being waived on August 30. The Giants re-signed him off of the Bengals’ Practice Squad in late November 2014. Manning was originally drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Manning has spent time with the Packers (2012-13), Chargers (2013), Vikings (2014), Dolphins (2014), Bears (2014), and Bengals (2014). In three seasons, Manning has played in 10 NFL games with no starts. Manning lacks ideal overall athleticism and size, but he is an instinctive, aggressive, physical player who hits and tackles well.

The Giants signed James Davidson to the Practice Squad in September 2014 and the 53-man roster in December 2014. Davidson was originally signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as a rookie free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft, but waived in August. Davidson was an undersized collegiate defensive end who projects to linebacker at the pro level. Whether he has the overall athleticism and instincts for the position remains to be seen. Obviously, he is a project.

Uani Unga was signed to the Practice Squad in late December 2014. Unga suffered a serious injury to his right knee (ACL, MCL, and meniscus) his last year in college in 2013 and was not drafted. Unga lacks ideal size and overall athleticism but he is a smart, instinctive, physical, and competitive football player who plays the run well.

Nov 152014
 
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Peyton Hillis, New York Giants (November 3, 2014)

Peyton Hillis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Giants Place Peyton Hillis on IR; Sign Justin Anderson to 53-Man Roster: The New York Giants placed running back Peyton Hillis on season-ending Injured Reserve on Saturday. Hillis suffered a concussion in the Giants-Seahawks game last Sunday. Hillis also suffered a concussion against Seattle last season.

Hillis is the 14th Giant to end up on season-ending Injured Reserve.

To fill that vacant roster spot, the Giants signed linebacker Justin Anderson to the 53-man roster from the team’s Practice Squad. Anderson was originally signed by the Giants as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft. The Giants waived/injured him with a hamstring issue in August but signed him to the Practice Squad in October.

Because of these moves, we have updated the TransactionsRoster, and Depth Chart sections of the website.

Giants.com Q&A With Head Coach Tom Coughlin: The video of a Giants.com interview with Head Coach Tom Coughlin is available at Giants.com.

Article on Giants CEO/President John Mara: John Mara must decide if Giants are headed in right direction by Bob Glauber of Newsday

Article on the New York Giants Defense: Giants defensive coaches make major changes ahead of 49ers game by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Article on DE Jason Pierre-Paul: Giants need more from Jason Pierre-Paul by Art Stapleton of The Bergen Record

Article on LB Spencer Paysinger: Four downs with Spencer Paysinger: Linebacker talks of his increased role vs. 49ers by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Article on PK Josh Brown: In Flawed Giants’ Season, a Bit of Perfection by Bill Pennington of The New York Times

Article on Former New York Giants Head Coach Bill Parcells: Bill Parcells rips Giants lack of effort against the Seattle Seahawks, questions team’s talent by Nick Powell for NJ.com

Nov 122014
 
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Orleans Darkwa, Miami Dolphins (September 14, 2014)

Orleans Darkwa – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Giants Sign RB Orleans Darkwa, Place RB Michael Cox on IR: The New York Giants placed running back Michael Cox on season-ending Injured Reserve on Wednesday. Cox fractured his lower leg in the Giants-Seahawks game on Sunday.

To fill that vacant roster spot, the Giants signed running back Orleans Darkwa off of the Practice Squad of the Miami Dolphins.

Darkwa was signed by the Dolphins as a rookie free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft. He played in four games in September before being waived in October and signed to the team’s Practice Squad. Darkwa has average size and overall athletic ability, but he is a steady, hard-working football player with good intangibles.

Because of these moves, we have updated the TransactionsRoster, and Depth Chart sections of the website.

Practice Squad Moves: The New York Giants have signed cornerback Josh Victorian to the Practice Squad. To make room for Victorian, the team has terminated the Practice Squad contract of safety Kyle Sebetic.

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

November 12, 2014 New York Giants Injury Report: RB Peyton Hillis (concussion), DE Damontre Moore (shoulder), DT Cullen Jenkins (calf), and LB Jacquian Williams (concussion) did not practice on Wednesday.

“(Hillis is) not good,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He and Jacquian are both still under doctor supervision. They were sent home today.”

I expect that Damontre will work tomorrow,” said Coughlin.

RB Rashad Jennings (knee), TE Daniel Fells (neck), DE Mathias Kiwanuka (knee), and S Nat Berhe (ankle) practiced on a limited basis.

“(Jennings) will give our team an outstanding lift,” said Coughlin. “He will practice – the term is going to be limited, but we had him in that capacity a week ago. We selectively worked him. We thought he did well under those circumstances a week ago, and I think we will progress throughout the course of this week and hopefully, without a setback, now he will be ready to go.”

When asked about OG Geoff Schwartz (toe), who is still on short-term Injured Reserve, Coughlin responded, “He’s going to get a lot of work this week. We have until next Monday to make that call. His activity has increased and we’ll do the same thing this week.”

November 12, 2014 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Wednesday’s press conference are available at Giants.com.

November 12, 2014 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of media sessions on Wednesday with the following players are available at Giants.com:

7 takeaways from Giants Media Hour by Dan Salomone of Giants.com

New York Giants on WFAN: The audio of WFAN interviews with the following players from this week are available at CBS New York:

Article on State of the New York Giants: Is Coughlin a goner? Is Reese? The questions facing John Mara by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Articles on Head Coach Tom Coughlin:

Articles on WR Odell Beckham:

Article on the New York Giants Defense: Giants simplifying their defense to remedy league-worst ranking by Nick Powell for NJ.com

Sights and Sounds from Giants-Seahawks Game: A sights and sounds video from the Giants-Seahawks game is available at Giants.com.

Oct 062014
 
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October 6, 2014 New York Giants Injury Report: RB Rashad Jennings sprained the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee in the game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Jennings will not need surgery but he was wearing a knee brace when talking to the press on Monday. It is not clear how much time he will miss.

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“I am going to go day-to-day,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin of Jennings. “I’m not going to change off of that until I am told differently…We are all hoping that this young man is a fast healer with the way he conditions and takes care of himself. We’ll see.”

Meanwhile, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie underwent a medical exam on Monday to check out a hip/leg issue.

“The word has come back to me that he thinks he can play with it,” said Coughlin. “It is a leg injury, but pinpointing it is not something that I am going to try to do. It starts with an ankle, but I noticed that he has had some issue way up high in the hip area also from time to time. I am just going to stick with the leg right now. We felt that he could work through it on a couple of occasions, but I think (Senior Vice President of Medical Services) Ronnie (Barnes) wanted to shut it down and take a look at whatever was going on there. Hopefully, we can overcome it. He thinks he can play through it as he rehabs and feels better about it…I don’t think this is anything new or different. I think it is an ongoing thing.”

LB Spencer Paysinger suffered a hamstring injury in the game and underwent further testing today. No word yet on his status.  “The severity, I don’t know, we will see,” Coughlin said. “We have a couple of those things at the linebacker level that seem to be forever but shouldn’t be. Hopefully that is not the case with Spencer Paysinger.”

LB Jon Beason (foot/toe) was held out of his third consecutive game on Sunday. “The injury obviously and the projection between the medical people and Jon himself as to how far he could go into the game and where he would be if he were to put another solid week in front of him without any kind of setbacks,” said Coughlin.

RB Michael Cox and CB Jayron Hosley Added to 53-Man Roster: The New York Giants signed RB Michael Cox to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad on Monday. CB Jayron Hosley was also officially added to the roster after his 1-game roster exemption expired following his 4-game NFL suspension for violating the league’s policy on illegal drugs.

To make room for Cox and Hosley, the Giants waived WR Julian Talley and CB Chandler Fenner.

The Giants also waived WR/returner Trindon Holliday (hamstring) off of Injured Reserve with an injury settlement.

Because of these moves, we have updated the Transactions, Roster, and Depth Chart sections of the website.

October 6, 2014 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: The transcript and video from Monday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin are available at Giants.com.

October 6, 2014 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Monday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

7 takeaways from Giants Media Hour by Dan Salomone of Giants.com

QB Eli Manning on WFAN: The audio of Monday’s WFAN interview with QB Eli Manning is available at CBS New York

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: Tom Coughlin willing to change for good of the organization by Bob Glauber of Newsday

Articles on New York Giants Wide Receivers:

Article on the Giants-Falcons Game: Giants snap counts vs. Falcons: What they mean for Odell Beckham Jr. and others by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com

Sights and Sounds from Giants-Falcons Game: A sights and sounds video from the Giants-Falcons game is available at Giants.com.

Sep 172014
 
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Preston Parker, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Preston Parker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

September 17, 2014 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing on Wednesday were WR Odell Beckham (hamstring), LB Jon Beason (foot/ankle), LB Devon Kennard (hamstring), and P Steve Weatherford (ankle).

Head Coach Tom Coughlin did not completely rule out Beason practicing this week. “I wouldn’t put anything past this guy, but he’s not going to practice today,” said Coughlin.

Beckham is running more aggressively, but it does not sound like he will practice this week. “Not to my knowledge,” responded Coughlin when asked if Beckham would practice. “Not with the team. He’ll be right there learning, etc., etc., working on the side, but he won’t take any snaps.”

OT Charles Brown (shoulder) and OT James Brewer (back) practiced on a limited basis.

DT Markus Kuhn (ankle) fully practiced.

September 17, 2014 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: The transcript and video from Wednesday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin are available at Giants.com.

September 17, 2014 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Wednesday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Giants Sign LB James Davidson to the Practice Squad: The Giants have signed linebacker James Davidson to the Practice Squad. Davidson was originally signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as a rookie free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft. He was waived on August 26. Davidson was an undersized collegiate defensive end who projects to linebacker at the pro level. Whether he has the overall athleticism and instincts for the position remains to be seen. Obviously, he is a project. Because of this move, we have updated the Transactions and Roster sections of the website.

Article on the New York Giants Offense: The biggest benefit of West Coast offense isn’t even working by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Articles on New York Giants Wide Receivers:

Article on OT Justin Pugh: Biggest assignment yet for Justin Pugh by Art Stapleton of The Bergen Record

Article on CB Trumaine McBride: Trumaine McBride ready to step in at nickel cornerback by Michael Eisen of Giants.com

Jul 242014
 
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Preston Parker, New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Preston Parker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

July 24, 2014 New York Giants Injury Report: LB Jon Beason (foot – PUP) and WR Odell Beckham (hamstring) did not practice. “Let’s face it, I don’t want it to be like it was in the spring,” Coughlin said of Beckham, who missed most of the spring offseason program with the same hamstring issue. “We need to get the guy back out here and get him on the field.”

July 24, 2014 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: The transcript and video from Thursday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin are available at BigBlueInteractive.com and Giants.com.

July 24, 2014 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video clips of Thursday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

5 takeaways from Giants player interviews by Dan Salomone of Giants.com

New York Giants Practice Reports:

Article on the 2014 New York Giants: Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin focus on Giants getting a quick start by Tom Rock of Newsday

Articles on the New York Giants Offense:

Article on QB Eli Manning: Facing long-term decisions, Jerry Reese hopes Eli Manning returns to form by Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger

Articles on the New York Giants Defensive Ends:

Article on CB Bennett Jackson: Bennett Jackson happy to be back in home state by Stephen Edelson of APP.com

Jul 232014
 
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Corey Washington and Eli Manning, New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Corey Washington and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

July 23, 2014 New York Giants Injury Report: LB Jon Beason (foot – PUP) and WR Odell Beckham (hamstring) did not practice.

Beckham aggravated the same hamstring that bothered him in OTA’s and the mini-camp on the first day of practice on Tuesday.

“He missed part of spring ball with a hamstring and he tweaked it yesterday,” said General Manager Jerry Reese. “Obviously there is a concern…This guy has that track speed so hopefully he can get back out there pretty quickly because we’re expecting big things from him.”

“He didn’t go and who knows how long (until he returns),” Head Coach Tom Coughlin said. “Don’t ask me. I have no idea.”

Jameel McClain (foot) returned to practice. “He did well,” Coughlin said. “He came out and practiced and went the whole practice, so I think he’s fine. A little sore, but he was able to go.”

July 23, 2014 Jerry Reese Press Conference: The transcript and video from Wednesday’s press conference with General Manager Jerry Reese are available at BigBlueInteractive.com and Giants.com.

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

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

July 23, 2014 New York Giants Coach Media Q&As: The transcripts and video from Wednesday’s press conferences with the following coaches are available at Giants.com:

July 23, 2014 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video clips of Wednesday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

New York Giants WFAN Interviews: Video and audio of Wednesday’s WFAN interviews with the following New York Giants are available at CBS New York:

New York Giants Training Camp Reports:

Article on the New York Giants Offense: Eli Manning and the Giants are embracing their new direction by Mike Garafolo of FOXSports.com

Article on QB Eli Manning: Eli Manning’s career at a crossroads by Johnette Howard of ESPNNewYork.com

Articles on RB Rashad Jennings:

Article on WR Victor Cruz: NY Giants Victor Cruz studying up on Jerry Rice as Big Blue installs West Coast offense by Gary Myers of The New York Daily News

Article on TE Adrien Robinson: Adrien Robinson the Giants’ version of Julius Thomas? That’s what they’re hoping by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (June 18,2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Article on DE Jason Pierre-Paul: Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul says sack record a possibility by Lorenzo Reyes of USAToday.com

Article on LB Devon Kennard: Giants may be onto something in rookie Devon Kennard by Howie Kussoy of The New York Post

Article on Former Giant DE Michael Strahan: Michael Strahan ready to join elite company by Michael Eisen of Giants.com

Jul 132014
 
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Jacquian Williams (57), New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Barring injury, Jacquian Williams will be the Giants starting WILL linebacker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the New York Giants reporting to training camp in just a couple weeks, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21. Today, let’s take a look at the linebackers.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWNLinebackers

Jon Beason, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Jon Beason was solid in the middle for New York last year – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: In a year of mostly downs, the Giants’ linebackers were one of the team’s few bright spots in 2013. After acquiring Jon Beason via trade from the Carolina Panthers, the middle linebacker established himself as a force in the middle of the Giants’ defense. Beason finished with 93 tackles and an interception in 11 games. Outside Beason, Keith Rivers and Spencer Paysinger were solid in the team’s base 4-3 set while Jacquian Williams continued to establish himself as one of the better coverage linebackers in the game.

In 2012, the Giants defense was one of the worst against the run, finishing 25th in the NFL, but rebounded nicely last year. Coupled with a rebuilt interior defensive unit, the Giants rushed allowed an average of 108.9 rushing yards per game, good for 14th in the NFL.

Against some of the league’s best, the Giants played their strongest. New York held Jamaal Charles (KC) to 65 yards rushing, Matt Forte (CHI) to 67, Adrien Peterson (MIN) to 28, LeSean McCoy (PHI) to 94 in two games, Eddie Lacey (GB) to 27 and Marshawn Lynch (SEA) to 47.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Not much has changed at the linebacker position for the Giants. Beason was re-signed and Rivers was allowed to walk. The lone notable addition via free agency was that of ex-Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain. Devon Kennard was drafted in the fifth round out of USC and has earned early praise from the coaching staff.

Devon Kennard, USC Trojans (September 21, 2013)

Devon Kennard has impressed coaches – © USA TODAY Sports Images

TRAINING CAMP STORYLINES: Little disclaimer early on: not going to count the health/return of Jon Beason (broken bone/torn ligament in foot) as a ‘training camp storyline’ simply because it doesn’t involve camp. If and when he returns will be well after the team breaks on Aug. 14.

Devon Kennard is easily one of the biggest camp storylines this year. Throughout the offseason conditioning program, Giants’ coaches ranted and raved about the progress of the rookie USC linebacker. While words are often meaningless, their faith in the 23-year-old was put on display when Kennard was inserted in as starting linebacker after Beason went down in OTAs.

Injuries have stunted the growth of Jacquian Williams, but it appears he’s ready for a breakout. The former sixth-round pick is no longer a situational player as the Giants have named him their full-time starting WILL. Williams progression, and ability to stay healthy, will be worth following during the summer.

Mark Herzlich, New York Giants (August 18, 2012)

Could this season be Mark Herzlich’s last with the Giants? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ON THE BUBBLE: It looks like the premier camp battle will be between undrafted linebacker Dan Fox and formerly undrafted Mark Herzlich. In the early stages of his career, Herzlich was all but given the keys to the Giants’ MIKE linebacker position, but never capitalized and struggled mightily on defense. When Beason went down during OTAs, it was Kennard that filled in at the middle…not Herzlich. If Dan Fox can match what Herzlich can do on special teams, there’s a chance he’s given the spot on the final 53. Fox has good speed, is very intelligent and versatile.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Linebackers coach Jim Herrmann on Kennard: “His college career he played everywhere. He had like I think three different coordinators at USC. When he was there with Monte Kiffin he was a MIKE. He played in that system. So for him, he’s played all over so he’s got multiple talents and he’s a smart guy so it’s not anything new for him. And he gives us a lot of flexibility. He has some rush ability so on third down he could actually be a rush-type guy. The flexibility helps us. As you go into the season there are 46 guys out there, normally the linebackers get maybe five guys so somebody has to know dual roles and we’ve always had guys that could do that. He’ll give us that ability.”

On progression of Jacquian Williams: “This OTA and mini-camp he did a great job in our base stuff as a WILL. He’s a natural WILL in nickel, he did a great job with our WILL stuff in base. To me he made a big jump and big improvement this spring.”

On UDFA Dan Fox: “To me he’s another guy, one of the young guys who’s got a lot of intelligence. He can play multiple roles. He actually played all three spots this spring, MIKE, SAM, WILL, he plays in our sub. Any time you’ve got a smart guy like that who football just comes natural to him, that gives him a chance. He’s got to make the team on special teams, obviously, that will be his biggest deal when he comes back. For me, as a position coach, being able to say, ‘Hey look, he has multiple roles on defense, he can play a lot of positions,’ that helps his chances. To me, that’s what you want.”

PREDICTIONS:
Connor Hughes - I believe this linebacking unit may be the best (when healthy) that the Giants have had in quite some time. Jameel McClain is a force against the run, intelligent, savvy and a vocal leader. Jacquian Williams (when healthy) has proven he has the raw and natural athletic ability that few at his position possess. Beason (again, when healthy) showed last year he’s an every down linebacker in the NFL and arguably the best in the middle the Giants have had since Antonio Pierce.

Despite all the above, the one player that most intrigues me is the one no one has seen in pads yet: Devon Kennard. The amount of praise Kennard has been given from the coaching staff is noticeable. Everyone from Tom Coughlin, to Perry Fewell, to Jim Herrmann has raved about the rookie. The fact the coaching staff already seems to have locked him in as a starter if McClain is forced to the middle with Beason out is telling. To get Kennard on the field – in pads – against the speed and talent level of the NFL will be a true tell if the Giants snagged a steal in the draft.

Eric Kennedy – Maybe it’s more wishful thinking than a realistic scenario, but I expect Jon Beason to be back by the opener. But obviously, the Giants need him back soon and they need him close to 100 percent. The way he impacted the overall defense with his presence last season was a pretty serious indictment on the Giants’ organization on their de-emphasis of the linebacker spot. If Beason is OK, the good news for the Giants is they now have two confident, cerebral leaders at the position in Beason and Jameel McClain. I’m curious to see McClain on the field. The Ravens said nice things about McClain, but they didn’t make a big effort to keep him. I wasn’t overly impressed in the limited 2013 film I’ve seen of McClain. But he was coming off of a serious neck injury so he may do better a couple of years removed from the injury.

Jacquian Williams has excellent tools but he has to stay healthy and play more physically than he has in the past against the run to prove he is an every-down linebacker. I actually like Spencer Paysinger more than most; at the very least, he is a very good special teams player.

STARTING UNIT WEEK 1?

Stevie Brown and Jon Beason, New York Giants (June 12, 2014)

Will Jon Beason be available for Week 1? – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Connor Hughes - I’m sticking with the fact I don’t believe Beason will be ready versus the Lions. WILL – Jacquian Williams; MIKE – Jameel McClain; SAM – Devon Kennard.

Eric Kennedy – My gut says Beason will do everything he can to be out there on opening day. Starters will be Jameel McClain, Jon Beason, and Jacquian Williams.

WHO MAKES THE TEAM?
Connor Hughes – Jacquian Williams, Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard, Jon Beason, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger. Dan Fox (PS).

Eric Kennedy – Jacquian Williams, Jameel McClain, Jon Beason, Spencer Paysinger, Devon Kennard, and Dan Fox.

Mar 172014
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Denver Broncos (December 22, 2013)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants Sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: According to multiple press reports, the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent (UFA) cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver Broncos). ESPN is reporting that the contract is 5-year, $39 million deal that includes $15 million in guaranteed money. The NFL Network reports that it is a 5-year $39-million contract with $14 million guaranteed, including a $10 million signing bonus and $16 million over two years.

Rodgers-Cromartie is regarded as one of the most physically-talented cornerbacks in the NFL. The Giants have really strengthened their secondary in free agency this offseason by re-signing unrestricted free agents safety Stevie Brown and cornerback Trumaine McBride, and signing unrestricted free agents cornerback Walter Thurmond (Seattle Seahawks) and safety Quintin Demps (Kansas City Chiefs).

Because of this move, we have updated the New York Giants Free Agent Signings (with scouting report), New York Giants 2014 Free Agency Scorecard, and Roster sections of the website.

New York Giants Re-Sign Spencer Paysinger: According to multiple press reports, the New York Giants have re-signed restricted free agent (RFA) linebacker Spencer Paysinger. Paysinger signed his 1-year, $1.431 million tender.

Because of this move, we have updated the New York Giants Free Agent Signings (with scouting report), New York Giants 2014 Free Agency Scorecard, and Roster sections of the website.

Anthony Spencer Visits New York Giants, But Leaves Without Contract: According to The New York Daily News, unrestricted free agent defensive end/linebacker Anthony Spencer met with the New York Giants on Monday but left without a contract.

Kevin Boothe Visiting the Oakland Raiders: FOXSports is reporting that unrestricted free agent offensive guard Kevin Boothe (New York Giants) is visiting the Oakland Raiders today.

NFL Network Interview with LB Jameel McClain: The video of today’s NFL Network interview with linebacker Jameel McClain is available at Giants.com.

Mar 042014
 
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Spencer Paysinger, New York Giants (September 29, 2013)

Spencer Paysinger – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants Tender Spencer Paysinger: According to multiple press reports, the New York Giants have tendered restricted restricted free agent Spencer Paysinger at the $1.431 million level. That means the Giants will have the right of first refusal for any team offering Paysinger a contract in free agency. If the Giants do not match that offer, Paysinger would sign with that other team and the Giants would receive no compensation in return.

USA Today is also confirming that guard/center Dallas Reynolds was tendered at the $570,000 level as an exclusive rights free agent. As long as he remains tendered, Reynolds cannot sign with another team.

Because of these moves, we have updated our 2014 Free Agency Scorecard.

New York Giants Wide Receiver Victor Cruz on ESPN Radio: The audio of Tuesday’s ESPN Radio interview with wide receiver Victor Cruz is available at ESPN.com.

Articles on the New York Giants and 2014 NFL Free Agency:

Article on Wide Receiver Victor Cruz: Victor Cruz wants to try hand at running back under new Giants OC Ben McAdoo by Ebenezer Samuel and Ralph Vacchiano of  The New York Daily News