Aug 312013
 
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Tyler Sash, New York Giants (August 24, 2013)

Tyler Sash – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants Reduce Roster to 53: The Giants have reduced their roster from 75 to 53 players.

As expected, due to his previously-announced drug suspension, the Giants placed S Will Hill on the Reserve/Suspended List. Hill will not be able to practice or play with the team for four weeks. Hill will be eligible to return to the active roster on September 30.

Also, as expected, the Giants placed DT Markus Kuhn (knee) on the Reserve/Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List. Kuhn was placed on the Active (preseason) PUP at the start of training camp. Kuhn is required to remain on the Reserve/PUP for at least six weeks.

WR Ramses Barden (knee) was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve.

The team also released the following 19 players:

  • QB David Carr (contract terminated)
  • RB Ryan Torain (contract terminated)
  • WR Kevin Hardy (waived)
  • WR Marcus Harris (waived)
  • WR Julian Talley (waived)
  • OL Selvish Capers (waived/injured)
  • OL Matt McCants (waived)
  • OL Stephen Goodin (waived)
  • OL Bryant Browning (waived)
  • OL Eric Herman (waived)
  • DE Adrian Tracy (waived)
  • DE Matt Broha (waived)
  • DE Adewale Ojomo (waived)
  • DT Marvin Austin (waived)
  • LB Kyle Bosworth (waived)
  • CB Charles James (waived)
  • CB Terrence Frederick (waived)
  • S Tyler Sash (waived with injury settlement)
  • S David Caldwell (waived)

“This is not my favorite day by a long shot,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “It never gets easier, because every year the principals involved are different. My gut starts bothering me about two days before. The day of it I get the headache and the whole bit that goes with it. When you speak to these kids and you work with them and you see them, you do see their effort and what they put forth and how important it is to them. It’s not an easy thing to stand there when a young man walks into his office and as soon as you put your hand out, he starts crying. It’s always difficult to let a guy go that you’ve had with you for a while.”

Coughlin made comments on the following players:

  • QB David Carr: “We simply based it on the preseason. From the standpoint of all the evaluations, it pointed to the fact that (Curtis) Painter had a better preseason. We’ll miss David Carr around here, to be honest with you. He’s done an outstanding job directing our second offense and our scout team. He has the ability to do whatever we ask of him in that regard. He can run the option, he can be the running quarterback if you want him to do that. Ryan Nassib is going to have to step up and be that guy when you’re talking about the teams we play that have a running quarterback.”
  • QB Ryan Nassib: “When we drafted (Nassib), then you have an idea that you’re going to have to develop young quarterback. That’s what his role is. So be it if that’s what it takes. From the standpoint of strategy, you have to understand that many times the balancing act stops at the quarterback position, because there is no way to trade off if in fact you are developing a young man. In our case, you have a veteran player to go along with it.”
  • DE Justin Trattou: “Trattou has the ability to help us out in a lot of different ways both from scrimmage and special teams. There were four young men who were very much in contention for that job. (Matt) Broha was very much involved in that, too. Quite frankly, it was very, very close. We made a decision really based on an individual that was ranked a little bit higher on special teams.”
  •  DTs Shaun Rogers and Mike Patterson: “They played well. They deserve it. The other night (in the preseason finale in New England) they played 20-something plays and did a nice job not only in changing the line of scrimmage, but we brought them back after the half, so they demonstrated the ability to do that.”
  • RB Michael Cox: “He has demonstrated outstanding ability as a kick returner. We put him at gunner and he was a good gunner. You send him down on kickoffs and he did a nice job with that. He has shown endurance and power and strength and the attitude anywhere you put him. We preach it all the time. You make the team because of your contributions on special teams. You have a great chance. That’s what he did.”

Article on the Giants’ Defense: Rolle Confident in Giants’ D Revival by Mark Cannizzaro of The New York Post

Aug 302013
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (August 29, 2013)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants Must Reduce Roster to 53: By 6:00PM on Saturday, the Giants must make at least 22 roster moves in order to reduce their roster from 75 to 53.

August 30, 2013 New York Giants Injury Report: Various press sources are reporting that RB Andre Brown, who fractured his left leg in the preseason game against the Patriots, will miss 4-6 weeks. Head Coach Tom Coughlin was less definitive. “Not really (any timetable), said Coughlin. “Not until I hear some more information. There’s MRI’s and that type of stuff going on so, when we know, you’ll know.”

Coughlin was asked if Brown could be placed on Reserve/Designated-to-Return List (temporary Injured Reserve). “He could be. Yeah. Sure,” replied Coughlin. If Brown is placed on the Designated-to-Return List, he would be ineligible to return until for eight weeks. And the Giants could only put him on temporary IR after he is first on the 53-man roster, meaning another player would have to lose a roster spot first. Teams can only use the temporary IR option once per season.

TE Adrien Robinson sprained his left foot in the preseason game against the Patriots. “Supposedly a sprain,” said Coughlin. “At this point in time and, again, you could come back in five minutes and I could say it’s a different story. There’s no surgery or anything like that to talk about…It’s not exactly mid-foot (sprain), it’s off to the side a little bit. I think he tried to turn around at halftime and go last night, but he couldn’t really get up on his toes well enough to be able to do that. ”

LB Dan Connor suffered a burner in the preseason game against the Patriots, but is not expected to miss any time. “Just shoulder tightness, nothing terrible,’’ Connor said. “I could play today, I could have played a lot more (against the Patriots).’’

S Tyler Sash suffered a concussion in preseason game against the Patriots. No word yet on how much time he might miss.

WR Victor Cruz, who suffered a heel contusion in the preseason game against the Jets, says he hopes to be able to play in the season opener against the Cowboys but is unsure if the team will let him. “I hope so,” said Cruz. “We’re still going to gauge it throughout the weekend. I’m still going to be coming in for treatment or whatnot, so we’ll see how it goes. Still doctors that have to say it’s OK. The training staff is taking it slow, but I’d like to practice and get some live work in on Monday if possible.”

OC David Baas, who sprained the MCL in one of his knees in the preseason game against the Colts, says he is improving but Baas is not sure if he will be ready for the season-opener against the Cowboys. “It’s responded really well,” Baas said. “My doctors have said they are very happy with my progress. And, like I said, this is something that we’re just going to continue to work on and keep pushing it to its max and hope for the best. We’ll take it day-to-day.”

Surgery for S Stevie Brown, who tore the ACL in his left knee in the preseason game against the Jets, has not yet been scheduled. “It’s very disappointing,” said Brown. “You work all summer getting ready for the season and just a freak accident like that to happen definitely sucks.”

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Friday press conference are available at BigBlueInteractive.com and Giants.com.

Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Friday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: A Kinder, Gentler Coughlin Still Makes the Giants Stand Up Straight by Bill Pennington of The New York Times

Article on RB David Wilson: RB David Wilson Ready for Primetime Role by Michael Eisen of Giants.com

Article on S Ryan Mundy: How Will the Giants’ Defense Use Ryan Mundy? by Jonathan Clegg of The Wall Street Journal

Aug 302013
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 29, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Andre Brown, Adrien Robinson, and Tyler Sash Injured in Preseason Loss: The New York Giants fell to the New England Patriots 28-20 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Thursday night. The Giants finished the preseason 1-3, with three straight losses.

However, the truly bad news for the Giants was once again on the injury front. RB Andre Brown broke his left leg, TE Adrien Robinson injured his left foot, and S Tyler Sash suffered a concussion. It remains to be determined how long all three players will be out.

“It’s not that bad of a break,” said Brown after the game. “Just like a little tiny crack in it. We’ve still got to do some more tests on it. Last time when I broke it we knew immediately what the problem was…They’d let me know if it was serious, but it’s not. So definitely spirits are high, positive, and I’m looking forward to coming back this season. No (surgery). Definitely not. We’ve got to go do some more tests, but it’s not as serious as it was last year.”

X-rays on Robinson’s foot were negative, but he was on crutches and in a walking boot after the game and will have to undergo further tests. “I know it is not broken,” said Robinson after the game. “First play of game, kickoff return, somebody stepped on it.”

As for the game, the Patriots decided not to play their offensive and defensive starters. The Giants played their starters for almost all of the first quarter.

The Giants’ first-team offense continued to struggle on their first two possessions of the game, netting only 19 yards and one first down. But on their third and final drive of the evening, the first-team offense drove 91 yards in 10 plays against the Patriots’ second-team defense. The big play on the drive was a 37-yard pass from QB Eli Manning to WR Louis Murphy. RB David Wilson also had a 16-yard run. The drive culminated with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Manning to WR Hakeem Nicks on 3rd-and-goal. Manning finished the game 6-of-9 for 74 yards and one touchdown.

Meanwhile, the first-team defense did give up 50 yards and three first downs to New England’s second stringers, but they did force two punts before leaving the game. The Patriots’ second-team offense did drive 86 yards in 12 plays against a mixed first- and second-team defensive unit to tie the game 7-7 in the second quarter. It appeared CB Prince Amukamara ended that drive with a leaping interception in the end zone, but after the play was reviewed, the officials questionably ruled that Amukamara landed out-of-bounds on the play. On the very next snap, CB Corey Webster batted away an end zone pass on 3rd-and-goal, but was questionably flagged for pass interference. New England scored on the next play.

The Giants went three-and-out on their next possession with Ryan Nassib at quarterback. The Patriots went up 14-7 on their very next offensive snap on a 41-yard touchdown pass against CB Terrell Thomas, who slightly stumbled on the play.

The Giants and Patriots then exchanged punts and turnovers, with QB David Carr fumbling the ball away on one series, and LB Mark Herzlich intercepting a deflected pass on the next series.

The Giants then cut the score to 14-10 late in the second quarter by moving the ball 18 yards in seven plays to set up PK Josh Brown from 35 yards out.

In the second half, the Giants scored on their first two possessions of the third quarter, going up 20-14, after a 9-play, 37-yard drive set up a 48-yard field goal and then a 3-play, 21-yard drive finished with a 6-yard touchdown pass from QB Curtis Painter to RB Da’Rel Scott. That score was set up by a 30-yard punt return by CB Charles James.

However, the backups on offense could not score on their final six possessions of the game, turning the ball over three times on downs and punting it away three other times. The Giants were moving the ball late in the fourth quarter and appeared poised to set up a game-winning field goal, but the officials ignored an obvious defensive pass interference penalty on a deep pass on 3rd-and-5 from Painter to WR Kevin Hardy. On the very next play, Painter was sacked on fourth down, thus ending the Giants’ last real shot to win the game.

Defensively, the Giants kept the Patriots and QB Tim Tebow under wraps for most of the second half except for one play where Tebow hit his receiver over the middle. CB Trumaine McBride was beat and S Cooper Taylor failed to make the tackle in the open field as the receiver sprinted 52 yards for the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The Patriots led 21-20. The score would remain that way until the game was practically over. After the Giants had turned the ball over on downs at their 9-yard line with 10 seconds left, the classless Patriots threw the ball to pad the lead 28-20.

Aug 122013
 
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Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (August 10, 2013)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

August 12, 2013 New York Giants Training Camp Reports: The Giants held their 12th training camp practice on Monday afternoon at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The next practice is on Tuesday from 1:30-3:45PM. For a complete training camp schedule and Giants.com Q&A guide, see the Training Camp section of the website.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin informed the press that there are only eight more practices left before the regular season begins. “I was telling the coaches this morning and the players that as of this morning we had nine practices left before the regular season,” said Coughlin before Monday’s practice. “Can you imagine that? Nine practices. It’s ridiculous.”

Injury Update – Antrel Rolle Carted Off Field With Ankle Injury: Not practicing on Monday were WR Jerrel Jernigan (soreness), WR Brandon Collins (hamstring), OL James Brewer (concussion), OT Chris DeGeare (ankle), DE Damontre Moore (shoulder), CB Corey Webster (soreness), S Cooper Taylor (hamstring), FB Henry Hynoski (PUP – knee), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (PUP – back), and DT Markus Kuhn (PUP – knee).

“(Moore) has a contusion of his shoulder,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “And I think he’s probably day to day, but he’s sore, he’s sore.”

Antrel Rolle was carted off the field after injuring his right ankle. Rolle will be undergoing an MRI in order to determine the severity of the injury. According to multiple press reports, the initial diagnosis is a sprain, but there is no word on whether the sprain is the more serious high-ankle variety, which can take some time to recover from.

DE Justin Tuck (back), OL Justin Pugh (concussion), and RB Ryan Torain (concussion) returned to practice.

“Obviously, missing the reps, that’s something that’s big,” said Pugh who suffered the injury on August 1st. “I wish I could get those back. But right now I’ve just got to go out there and play. I really can’t control that now.”

Roster Moves: The Giants waived/injured WR Kris Adams (broken ankle) on Monday. To fill his roster spot, the Giants signed WR Marcus Harris.

Coach Media Q&As: Transcripts and video clips of Monday’s media sessions with the following coaches are available at Giants.com:

Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Monday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on the Backup Quarterbacks: Giants Veteran Backup Quarterbacks Curtis Painter and David Carr in ‘Legitimate Competition’ by Dave Hutchinson of The Star-Ledger

Article on WR Rueben Randle: Missed Chance Magnifies Randle’s Role with Giants by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Article on DE Adewale Ojomo: Adewale Ojomo Knows Value of Special Teams by Dan Salomone of Giants.com

Article on S Tyler Sash: Tyler Sash Turning Heads with Big Plays, Not Beard by Michael Eisen of Giants.com

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

Jul 312013
 
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Adrian Tracy (98), Mathias Kiwanuka (94), Jason Pierre-Paul (90), Linval Joseph (97), New York Giants (July 27, 2013)

Tracy, Kiwanuka, Pierre-Paul, and Joseph – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants Return to Practice on Thursday: The Giants did not practice on Wednesday. The next practice is on Thursday from 1:30-3:45PM. For a complete training camp schedule and Giants.com Q&A guide, see the Training Camp section of the website.

Inside Football Q&A With CB Trumaine McBride: Quick Hits with Cornerback Trumaine McBride by Patricia Traina of InsideFootball.com

Article on Giants’ Training Camp Battles: Best Giants Camp Battles by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com

Articles on the Wide Receivers:

Article on DE Justin Tuck: Critics a Giant Motivator for Tuck by Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News

Article/Video on the Defensive Backs:

Articles on Bill Parcells’ Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony:

Jul 212013
 
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Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (October 14, 2012)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Offseason Breakdown: New York Giants Safeties

Aside from the 6-game run to finish the 2011 season, and a game here or there, the New York Giants’ defense has been brutally bad the last two seasons. The statistics don’t lie. In 2012, the Giants finished 31st in total defense. The defense allowed 6,134 yards, or 383.4 yards a game, both the highest figures in franchise history. The defense also gave up 6,022 yards in the 2011. These are the only two seasons in which the Giants allowed 6,000 yards in their history.

In 2012, the New York Giants allowed 60 passes of 20 or more yards (the NFL’s fourth-highest total), 29 passes of at least 30 yards (led the NFL), and 13 passes of 40 or more yards (second in the league).

The Giants have invested a lot of resources in terms of draft picks, free agent acquisitions, and salary cap space in the secondary. But the returns have not been good. The Giants were 29th in pass defense in 2011 and 28th in pass defense in 2012. Now to be fair, good pass defense encompasses all three levels of the defense: pass rush, linebacker coverage, and defensive back coverage. But there is no denying the New York Giants secondary has not performed up to expectations. Over-hyped and inconsistent players, questionable coaching, injuries, or a combination may be to blame, but quarterbacks on other teams have looked forward to throwing against this secondary.

Do the Giants have the players to improve their pass coverage? Can the coaching staff put these players in best position to succeed? The defense first needs to stop the run to get opposing offenses into more predictable passing situations. But to be blunt, the secondary has not done a good job of covering people. It’s scary to think just how much worse the pass defense would have been had it not been for New York’s 21 interceptions last season (more than a third of them from bargain-basement surprise safety Stevie Brown).

There are currently eight safeties on the Giants’ training camp roster. At most, the Giants will keep five on the 53-man roster. Former 1st-rounder Kenny Phillips signed a relatively cheap deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. While it’s clear the Giants were worried about the long-term health viability of his reconstructed knee, his departure is also a cause for concern. The Giants need to find an adequate replacement.

Antrel Rolle: Rolle was originally drafted as a cornerback in the 1st round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. After three inconsistent seasons at corner, the Cardinals moved him to free safety in 2008, where he excelled. Rolle was signed by the Giants in March 2010 after the Cardinals cut him in a salary-related move.

Rolle has never missed a game with the Giants. For the second season in a row, he finished with 96 tackles, two interceptions, and one forced fumble. He also had five pass defenses in 2012 (four in 2011). One of the better coverage safeties in the game, Rolle has good speed and range. Due to his experience as a cornerback, unlike most safeties, Rolle can play man coverage and has often been called upon to play the slot corner position. That said, Rolle hasn’t made a lot of plays on the football with the Giants (a total of five interceptions and 13 pass defenses in three seasons). Somewhat of a mouthy malcontent when he came to New York, Rolle has become one of the leaders of the defense.

“What’s helping ’Trel now is understanding the Giants’ way, the Giants’ system,’’ said DE Justin Tuck. “He wasn’t accustomed to that when he came in. He was more accustomed to (University of) Miami, things of that nature. Now I think he’s a lot smarter with some of the things he says in the media and some of the things he says in the locker room, and I think he’s gonna be a huge part of our leadership and success of the football team.’’

Rolle’s biggest problem? By far, he’s the highest paid defensive player on the team with $7 million in salary (and a $9.25 million overall cap hit) in both 2013 and 2014. In the latter year, only Eli Manning is currently scheduled to take up more cap space.

The Giants are hoping that they can play Rolle more at free safety this year. Injuries to other players have forced him to play both strong safety and nickel back.

“I truly believe that Antrel needs to get back to playing with great depth and vision off the quarterback,” said Safeties Coach David Merritt. “Because he’s not going to be down in that nickel role. I say that right now, but you know how that’s gone the past two years when he’s been forced down there with injuries. Hopefully Antrel can do what we paid him to come here to do, which is to play safety and be a playmaker back there for us.”

“We always shoot for (me concentrating on safety) each and every year,” said Rolle. “We always shoot for me to play the safety role and stay at the safety role but it’s never happened, unfortunately. At one point in time I would get frustrated…It’s a part of growing up, a part of being professional and most important a part of just being a team player and doing whatever you have to do in order for this team to be successful.’’

“With him wearing 15 different hats on the field and he’s able to make plays from all 15 spots, just imagine what he can do if he’s able to concentrate on one,” said Stevie Brown. “There’s no limit to what he can do.”

Perry Fewell is obviously counting on Rolle to be the leaders of the secondary. “He’s got to be the glue that keeps us together,” said Fewell.

“At safety I have to be a little more disciplined playing the position being that I’m the last guy in the line of defense so I just transfer my mind to understand my role and understand where my help is going to be and where I need to be the protector and where you can take those little slight chances and gambles,” said Rolle.

“My defensive mantra is just to be more consistent,” said Rolle. “To be more consistent and have more dog in us on a daily basis, on an every down basis. There were times out there, I felt, that as a defensive unit we went out there and we played exceptional, we played like the Super Bowl caliber team that we were. Then there were times we went out there and played like the 9-7 team that we were. As a defensive unit you can’t have the ups and downs because we all know that defense wins the game. We all know that. With the quarterback that we have, with the offense we have, they are always going to put points on the board. We expect that. So we just have to make sure we limit (the other team’s scoring).”

Stevie Brown: Brown came out of nowhere and had a tremendous season in 2012, intercepting more passes in a single season by a Giant in 44 years. Brown played in all 16 games, started 11, and finished with 76 tackles, 11 pass defenses, eight interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Brown was originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 7th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Raiders cut him the following year and he signed with the Colts. The Colts declined to tender him in 2012 and he then signed with the Giants.

Brown has excellent size and strength for a safety. He’s got pretty good speed for his size, but he lacks overall quickness and agility that you see in smaller safeties. In 2012, the ball just seemed to find its way into Brown’s hands. Sometimes it was a lucky bounce or bad throw, but to his credit, Brown also made aggressive plays on the football. The million dollar question is was 2012 a fluke? Right now, Brown is penciled in as the starting strong safety.

“I look at it as my spot,” said Brown. “It’s my spot to keep.”

Brown needs to become more consistent and avoid mental breakdowns that lead to big plays by the opposing team. As a big, physical safety, he should also be a bigger factor in run defense than he was in 2012.

“Stevie and I have been hanging out a lot more just outside of football, talking and communicating, whether it’s going to watch a basketball game or a movie,” said Rolle. “I’m just trying to get a feel for what kind of guy he is and he’s trying to get a feel for what kind of guy I am because at the end of the day, we’re going to be married back there, free safety and strong safety. We have to make this marriage last.”

“His study and his ability to take coaching, he was a sponge last year,” said Merritt of Brown. “His film study and understanding that the post safety plays at a certain depth and the post safety has to be able play between a certain parts of the field.  I am very impressed with Stevie and I truly believe that he can continue making those types of plays for us.”

Ryan Mundy: Mundy was signed by the Giants as an unrestricted free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers in March 2013. Mundy was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Steelers.  After spending his rookie season on Pittsburgh’s Practice Squad, Mundy hasn’t missed a game in the last four seasons, and has started five times.

Mundy was an under-the-radar signing by the Giants. The word on him coming out of Pittsburgh is that he a very physical safety who hits hard and plays well on special teams, but who also struggled at times against the pass.

That said, David Merritt has talked about Mundy with great enthusiasm. Merritt says that Mundy is the leading candidate for the third safety position that Deon Grant played so well for the Giants in 2010-11. “Ryan Mundy, that’s a guy who I’m impressed with,” said Merritt. “With his ability and his smarts, he would be the third (safety).”

Merritt also likes Mundy’s leadership. “If the season at all starts to dip and players start to slack, I’m gonna lean on him,” said Merritt of Mundy.

“I think I’m a physical player,” said Mundy. “I like to get in the box and mix it up with the bigger guys, knock around a running back, the tight ends, fullbacks.”

Mundy says being with the Steelers has prepared him well. “I know how to work, I know how to practice, I know how to focus in meetings,” said Mundy.

“Mundy’s definitely a professional, definitely a student of the game also. He wants to learn,” said Rolle. “He’s another guy who asks a lot of questions because he’s not so familiar with this defense…I think he plays the safety position extremely well…I’m happy to have him here.”

Will Hill: Hill was a top-ranked athlete coming out of high school in New Jersey, but off-the-field issues at the University of Florida caused him to go undrafted and unsigned as a junior entry in 2011. The Giants invited him to the May 2012 rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis and signed him after that camp ended. Hill not only made the 53-man roster last season, but he became an important reserve, despite being suspended for four games by the NFL for using Adderall. Hill played in 12 games and finished 2012 with 38 tackles, two pass defenses, and one forced fumble.

Hill has average size for the position, but he is a very good athlete with fine speed and quickness. He is a physical player and tackles well. He also is a very good special teams player. Physically, Hill looks and plays like an NFL starter. The questions with him are mental. Can he stay focused on football? Can he keep his nose clean? That is looking more unlikely as it was announced on July 20 that Hill has been suspended by the NFL for four regular-season games again, this time for apparently using illegal drugs. Hill’s future with the Giants and the NFL is now very much in doubt.

“Will is an excellent talent,” said Merritt. “He’s athletic. He’s fast. He will strike you. Will brings a lot to the table. Hopefully he steps up. He is able to produce and we can put him in special roles that will help us out.”

Cooper Taylor: Taylor was selected in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Giants.  Taylor is a huge safety with very good timed-speed, agility, and overall athleticism for his size.

“He has played strong and free safety, and we are playing him as the WILL (weakside) linebacker in sub defense,” said Merritt. “Runs a 4.4. He is just a big man and very smart. Right now (his head) is spinning because he is playing multiple positions.”

“I think what he’s going to bring to it is a lot of special teams play hopefully, a lot of production for us on special teams,” said Merritt. “If he has to go in the game right now, he would be the fourth safety because Ryan Mundy is doing pretty well. But this kid is going to be good for us. I think he’s at that point right now where he’s overloaded because he’s trying to play safety and linebacker which is a lot, so it’s a little overwhelming for him but he has the metal capacity to where he can actually learn it and produce.”

Taylor says there are key differences when playing the weakside linebacker in the sub-defense and safety roles. “There’s definitely some differences in terms of the drops,” said Taylor. “Playing from top–down rather than bottom-up in terms of the safeties trying to read the quarterback; and coming from the topside where the WILL is doing something a little different reading route combinations and getting underneath routes. So it’s definitely two different learning processes. But it’s good. The coaches teach us to do stuff well, so it’s been a good learning curve so far.”

“More than anything, he’s shown that he’s a guy who’s eager to learn,” said Rolle. “He wants to learn. He’s a guy who’s very intrigued by this defense. He wants to understand this defense without making mistakes. And everyone is going to make a mistake. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a 15-year veteran. You’re going to make mistakes in this league. He is a guy who’s athletic and big. He moves around extremely well. So we’re definitely going to look for him to come in on certain kind of packages and just be a playmaker for us wherever they put him.”

“To be able to get a young man like that who also has the mental capacity and is very smart, that’s the type of guy we had a couple of years ago in Craig Dahl,” said Merritt. “(Dahl) was able to line up the defense, which is what Cooper Taylor is doing already. He can line up the defense. He understands rotations. It is James Butler all over again as well, yet he is a better athlete than those guys were.”

Tyler Sash:  Sash saw his playing time significantly decrease in 2012. First, he was suspended for four games by the NFL for using Adderall. In early December, he suffered a hamstring and despite being able to return to practice, Sash did not play in the last four games of the season. Sash played in just seven games and finished with only eight tackles.

Sash was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Giants. As a rookie, he played in every game and finished the regular season with 17 tackles and one forced fumble on defense. He also was one of team’s better special teams players. Sash is more of a strong safety-type who plays better closer to the line. He has good size, but lacks ideal speed and agility.

David Caldwell: The Giants signed Caldwell to a Reserve/Future deal in January 2013. Caldwell was originally signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2010 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve. In 2011, he played in 16 games with 13 starts and accrued 67 tackles and four pass defenses. The Colts waived him in August 2012.

Caldwell lacks ideal height but he is well-built and a good athlete. He’s a smart player and a reliable tackler. Caldwell did not make many plays on the football when starting for the Colts.

Alonzo Tweedy: Tweedy was signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. Tweedy was a part-time starter in a linebacker/safety role at Virginia Tech. He has a nice size/speed combination, but was primarily known more for his excellent special teams play in college.

Summary: Until Will Hill’s suspension, the early favorites to make the 53-man roster were Rolle, Brown, Mundy, Hill, and Taylor. Rolle will obviously start at one safety spot, but one wonders if he will become a cap casualty in 2014. It’s hard to see Brown duplicating his turnover production again, but it may be more important for him to simply become a more consistent, reliable player on a down-to-down basis against the pass and the run. Mundy seemed like a ho-hum signing in March, but Merritt has been raving about him. Still, Steelers fans were underwhelmed. Hill and Taylor both have excellent physical tools. Taylor is extremely smart, but Hill’s second drug suspension raises serious questions about his future with the team. Hill’s troubles may have opened the door for Sash, Caldwell, or Tweedy, three players who are going to have to fight and scratch to make the team.