Feb 092017
 
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Uani' Unga, New York Giants (September 13, 2015)

Uani ‘Unga – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ASSISTANT DEFENSIVE LINE COACH JEFF ZGONINA HIRED BY 49ERS…
According to The Sporting News, the San Francisco 49ers have hired New York Giants Assistant Defensive Line Coach Jeff Zgonina to be their new defensive line coach. Zgonina joined the Giants last offseason. Patrick Graham, who also joined the Giants last year, remains the team’s defensive line coach.

NEW YORK GIANTS WAIVE UANI ‘UNGA…
New York Giants have waived/failed physical linebacker Uani ‘Unga. ‘Unga was waived/injured and then placed on Injured Reserve in May 2016 after suffering an undisclosed injury. ‘Unga suffered a serious injury to his right knee (ACL, MCL, and meniscus) during his last year in college in 2013 and was not drafted. The Giants signed him to the team’s Practice Squad in December 2014. ‘Unga received far more playing time than expected in 2015 due to injuries to other players. He played in 13 games with three starts, and finished the season with 59 tackles, four pass defenses, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles.

GIANTS INSIDER WITH WR TAVARRES KING…
The video of a Giants Insider Q&A with wide receiver Tavarres King is available at Giants.com.

May 162016
 
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Unai' Unga, New York Giants (September 3, 2015)

Unai’ Unga – © USA TODAY Sports Images

BEN EDWARDS AND UANI ‘UNGA PLACED ON INJURED RESERVE…
NJ.com reports that wide receiver Ben Edwards tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in one of his knees during the rookie mini-camp practice on May 7. As we previously reported, Edwards was waived/injured on May 9. He cleared waivers and was placed on Injured Reserve. Edwards also suffered a mild left knee sprain during the April mini-camp and suffered an ACL tear in college in 2013. It is not known if the most recent injury is to the same knee.

As we previously reported, linebacker Uani ‘Unga was waived/injured with an undisclosed injury. He too cleared waivers and was placed on Injured Reserve.

GIANTS REPORT TO TRAINING CAMP ON JULY 28…
The New York Giants have announced that players will report to the team’s training camp at Quest Diagnostic Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey on July 28. For an overview of key dates, see the Important Dates section of the website.

JERRAUD POWERS SIGNS WITH THE RAVENS…
Unrestricted free agent cornerback Jerraud Powers (Arizona Cardinals) has signed a 1-year, $1.75 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Powers had visited the New York Giants on March 31-April 1. NJ.com is reporting that the Giants had offered a 1-year deal worth just under $2 million.

ARTICLES…

May 102016
 
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Uani' Unga, New York Giants (September 13, 2015)

Uani’ Unga – © USA TODAY Sports Images

GIANTS SIGN MATT SMALLEY, WAIVE UANI ‘UNGA…
The New York Giants have signed cornerback Matt Smalley (Lafayette), one of the unsigned tryout players who participated in las week’s rookie mini-camp. To make room for Smalley on the 90-man roster, the Giants waived/injured linebacker Uani ‘Unga.

The 5’9”, 184-pound Smalley lacks ideal size but he has good quickness and speed. Smalley has experience returning punts and kickoffs.

The Giants originally signed the undrafted ‘Unga to the team’s Practice Squad in December 2014. ‘Unga played far more than expected in 2015 due to injuries to other players. He played in 13 games with three starts, and finished the season with 59 tackles, 4 pass defenses, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles.

ELI MANNING ON ESPN RADIO

The audio of ESPN Radio’s interview with quarterback Eli Manning on Tuesday is available at ESPN.com.

ARTICLES…

Nov 252015
 
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Larry Donnell, New York Giants (October 11, 2015)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

QUINCY MONK PASSES AWAY…
Former New York Giants linebacker Quincy Monk (2002-03), who was drafted by the team in the 7th round of the 2002 NFL Draft, has passed away at the age of 36 due to cancer (adenocarcinoma). He leaves behind a wife and two children.

NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
TE Larry Donnell (neck), LG Justin Pugh (concussion), and LB Mark Herzlich (quad) did not practice on Wednesday.

Pugh is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms 17 days after he was injured against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 8th. Head Coach Tom Coughlin said that Pugh has improved “very little.”

The situation with Donnell is also sounding more serious. Donnell said on Monday that he was cleared to return to practice. “(Donnell) continues to have the issues,” said Coughlin.

“It’s not looking good,” said Donnell. “Monday, I was fine. I was out there running, jumping around. I felt good, but I had more tests to get cleared yesterday and they found something else. So I’ve got to go talk to them about it and see what’s going on…I feel fine now, but I mean obviously something is wrong, so we’ve just got to figure it out and see what the process is…We’ve got to make sure everything’s OK in there. That’s more than football you’re talking about, when it’s your neck.”

OC Weston Richburg (ankle) and LB J.T. Thomas (ankle) practiced on a limited basis.

“(Richburg) going to be limited and we’ll see,” said Coughlin before practice. “We expect to hope to have him take a limited number of snaps but take some snaps, and we’ll see.”

OG Geoff Schwartz (ankle), DE Damontre Moore (hamstring), LB Uani ‘Unga (neck),  CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), and CB Leon McFadden (groin) fully practiced.

HEAD COACH TOM COUGHLIN…
The transcript of Tom Coughlin’s press conference on Wednesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
The following transcripts and video of player media sessions on Wednesday are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

ARTICLES

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The Giants practice on Thursday and hold physical recovery cycles on Friday in advance of Sunday’s away game against the Washington Redskins.

Sep 112015
 
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Jon Beason, New York Giants (June 8, 2015)

Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ELI MANNING DEAL FINALIZED…
Although not officially announced yet, the New York Giants and quarterback Eli Manning have reportedly finalized a 4-year, $84 million contract extension that includes $65 million in guaranteed money and a $31 million signing bonus. Counting the final year of his current 6-year, $97.5 million contract that was signed in August 2009, the new total 5-year package is worth $101.5 million. The Daily News is reporting that $68.5 million will be paid over the next three years. The deal will also include a no-trade clause.

Manning’s $21 million average in new money on the four-year extension would rank him fourth among quarterbacks in the NFL, behind Aaron Rodgers ($22 million), Russell Wilson ($21.9 million), and Ben Roethlisberger ($21.85 million). The $65 million in guaranteed money will match the NFL record the Chargers recently guaranteed quarterback Philip Rivers.

INJURY REPORT – VICTOR CRUZ AND JON BEASON OUT…
The Giants have officially ruled WR Victor Cruz (calf), LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP), and LB Jon Beason (knee) out of Sunday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Beason originally injured his knee in a preseason game on August 22. He returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday but experienced a setback and sat out practice on Thursday.

“(Beason) just didn’t get any better,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “Didn’t get to the point where he felt he could play, and play the way he would like to. And the medical people agreed.”

Cruz has not practiced since August 17, did not play in a preseason game, and has not started to run again yet. “He’s getting better, he’s getting better,” said Coughlin. “He’s improved, no doubt…As soon as he’s ready to go, he’ll be on the field and practicing. Until that time, we’re all trying to figure out when exactly he’ll be ready.”

DE/DT Cullen Jenkins (hamstring), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (foot), and LB Jonathan Casillas (neck) are “probable” for the game.

HEAD COACH TOM COUGHLIN…
Transcripts and video of the media sessions with Tom Coughlin are available at BigBlueInteractive.com and Giants.com:

GIANTS ONLINE…
The video of this week’s Giants Online is available at Giants.com.

ARTICLES

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Before the Giants travel to Dallas on Saturday, they will hold brief full-speed practice drills at their training facility in New Jersey. The Giants play the Cowboys on Sunday night.

Sep 022015
 
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Chris Boswell, New York Giants (August 14, 2015)

Chris Boswell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants Re-Sign Kicker Chris Boswell: The New York Giants have re-signed place kicker Chris Bosell, who the team waived on August 16. Incumbent kicker Josh Brown has a leg injury and the Giants want to rest Brown until the regular-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys on September 13th. The Giants final preseason game is on Thursday in New England against the Patriots.

Brown suffered a bruised leg two weeks ago when he made a tackle in the third quarter against Jacksonville Jaguars.

Boswell was originally signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft and he briefly spent time on the team’s practice squad. The Giants signed Boswell to a reserve/future contract in January 2015. Boswell has experience both place kicking and punting.

The Giants had an available spot after on the 75-man roster after trimming their roster to 74 on Tuesday. The team must reduce their roster to 53 by 4:00PM on Saturday.

Article on the 2015 New York Giants: This Giants team is unlikely to save Tom Coughlin’s job by George Willis of The New York Post

Article on DT Johnathan Hankins: One Giant holding down the fort in Jason Pierre-Paul’s absence by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Article on LB Unai’ Unga: Giants’ Uani Unga determined to make the roster by Art Stapleton of The Bergen Record

Sep 012015
 
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Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (August 29, 2015)

Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

INJURY REPORT
Not practicing due to injuries were WR Victor Cruz (calf), LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP), RT/RG Brandon Mosley (back), DE/DT Cullen Jenkins (hamstring), DE Robert Ayers (ankle), LB Jon Beason (knee), CB Josh Gordy (hip), CB Chykie Brown (knee), S Jeromy Miles (groin), and S Nat Berhe (calf).

“(Beason) feels better,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “Yeah, he feels better. He’s got a routine now, and they get a little bit more aggressive each day with it. So he’s optimistic, let’s put it that way.”

CB Chandler Fenner (hamstring) participated in individual drills.

RT Bobby Hart (knee) returned to practice.

NEW YORK GIANTS PRACTICE REPORT
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Landon Collins and Cooper Taylor remained the first-team safeties; Brandon Meriweather and Stevie Brown were the second-team safeties.
  • The first-team defensive line had George Selvie and Kerry Wynn at defensive end and Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn at defensive tackle.
  • Right tackle Bobby Hart returned to practice and made a nice block on a running back Kenneth Harper carry.
  • Cornerback Trevin Wade intercepted a pass tipped by linebacker Unai’ Unga.
  • Wide receiver Odell Beckham beat cornerback Mike Harris and out-raced safety Landon Collins to the end zone.
  • Quarterback Ryan Nassib overthrew a wide open wide receiver Dwayne Harris deep.
  • Cornerback Jayron Hosley came close to picking off quarterback Ryan Nassib.
  • Safety Stevie Brown, playing alongside safety Landon Collins, intercepted a pass from quarterback Ricky Stanzi intended for tight end Will Tye and returned it for a touchdown.
  • Wide receiver Julian Talley threw a pass to wide receiver Juron Criner.
  • Wide receiver Corey Washington ended practice with a diving, one-handed reception for a touchdown.

HEAD COACH TOM COUGHLIN
Tom Coughlin addressed the media on Tuesday (video is available at Giants.com):

Q: Just a cramp for Jayron Hosley there at the end?

A: Yeah, yup.

Q: What’s your plan for the fourth game coming up against the Patriots, for the starters at least?

A: Very little. And the rest of the guys will play.

Q: Is it very little, as in it doesn’t matter what they do? Or could it be extended?

A: It’s a pitch count.

Q: Are you more watching for the guys below the starting level, the backups, guys fighting for jobs?

A: I am very interested in that, how they handle that, the situation. Some of the roster spots are definitely—decisions have to be made. It’s spelled opportunity. When you get a chance to play like this—have a game in which you can amass 60 snaps or something along those lines, plus special teams, would be a good thing.

Q: With all the nagging little injuries, does that complicate some of these decisions for either today or after the last game?

A: Well, it certainly always does. There’s no question about that part of it. Because you end up after today with your 75, and yet you still have a bunch of guys who couldn’t play. So that’s really not the intent of it, but that’s the way it happens.

Q: Any more information on Victor Cruz?

A: No. Nope. He’s not going to play in the (New England) game.

Q: We saw Jon Beason out here doing some work, it looks like he’s made some progress.

A: He feels better. Yeah, he feels better. He’s got a routine now, and they get a little bit more aggressive each day with it. So he’s optimistic, let’s put it that way.

Q: Are you guys optimistic?

A: He’s optimistic. Whatever they tell me. I’m the eternal optimist.

Q: Where does the punting situation stand right now with Steve Weatherford?

A: Where does it? Well, there’s a game to go and it’s going to be a competitive thing. Not necessarily with the guys that are here. That goes for any position. Any position. People have to understand that. You’re not competing just against the guys here, you’re competing against the waiver wire.

Q: Well, what have you wanted to see out of Steve?

A: Well, you know what we’re always after is directional, hang time, distance, location, hang, and the opportunity to put us in the best position from a coverage standpoint. Basically for me, it’s always been put it outside the numbers.

Q: How do you think he’s done with that?

A: Well, he’s been off and on. He’s had some good ones and he’s had some that aren’t so good.

Q: You talked about wanting to see more consistency in your passing game and get a little more timing and rhythm. With the starters not playing much in the last preseason game, can that be developed in practice?

A: Oh yeah, it can. If guys practice, it can. We had a couple real nice indications of that here this afternoon.

Q: With so many negative appraisals of the Giants this preseason, particularly from the outside, do you have to make sure your players believe?

A: Well, you always have to do that. But I don’t know if they’re anything like me, but I don’t read any of that stuff.

Q: What have you seen from your defense that gives you optimism that that can be a good, solid unit?

A: Well, I think that you focus on different people, different people on different days have shown the ability to do certain things. What we’ve got to do is take what we have and match it up with what they can do well. And then situationally, be able to utilize them. So I’ve seen things along those lines that are things that are positive. But there’s no doubt, we’re going to have to prove it against the best competition in football. It’s all in front of us.

Q: Do you have to do that more than usual with this group? You talk about it in regard of being able to mix and match skill sets because you don’t have a guy like Jason Pierre-Paul around.

A: There’s different ways in which you try to accomplish that. But yeah, you are going to have to—you always do that anyways. You’re going to have 16 to 18 guys that are your defensive team and they cover all the situations for you.

Q: Has the team ever gotten to the point with JPP where they have examined his hand?

A: No.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Odell Beckham and what he is in your offense and his strengths?

A: Well, he’s very important. It’s obvious, because of the big play possibility he brings any time he touches the ball. You’re going to have an awful lot of direction, in terms of the defense, what they are trying to do about defending. That’s going to give others a chance as well.

Q: I know you probably talked about this yesterday, but Stevie Brown, you know what he can do because he’s been here before. Do you expect him to play in this game?

A: Yes.

Q: What are you looking for from him?

A: I’m looking for him to play. I’d like to see the Stevie Brown we had the year he had, what, (eight) interceptions or whatever that was. That’s what I’d like to see and that’s what we’re trying to get a feel for—where he is with his game and just see him play. Just put him in that position and see what happens.

Q: With veterans like Stevie and Brandon Meriweather and Jeromy Miles here, do you feel any better about your safety situation maybe than you did earlier in camp?

A: Well, we’ll see depending on how we do this weekend. I feel better with (Landon) Collins getting some kind of routine going. He practiced, he played, and I feel good about that. And, to be honest with you, Cooper Taylor played well the other night. So I’m excited about seeing him this weekend, too. Some of these people that are starters are still going to play a little more. They’re going to play more. Some will continue to play in the game for X amount of plays, others will come out. That’s going to give us a chance to see a little bit what they can do.

Q: Given how little that the starters will be playing as a group together, is there anything they can do success-wise or opposite that will change your opinion going into the regular season?

A: Yeah, play well. Take it and score. Stop the other guy. Stop the run. Run the ball. I’ll get some opinions based on that stuff.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK
The following transcripts and video of player media Q&As are available at BigBlueInteractive.com and Giants.com:

ARTICLES

WHAT’S UP NEXT
The Giants travel to New England on Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s preseason finale against the Patriots.

Aug 162015
 
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Brandon Meriweather, Washington Redskins (October 12, 2014)

Brandon Meriweather – © USA TODAY Sports Images

AUGUST 16, 2015 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held another training camp practice on Sunday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The full training camp schedule is available at Giants.com.

GIANTS SIGN SAFETY BRANDON MERIWEATHER, WAIVE KICKER CHRIS BOSWELL…
The New York Giants have officially signed unrestricted free agent Brandon Meriweather, who has played with the New England Patriots (2007-10), Chicago Bears (2011), and Washington Redskins (2012-14). The 31-year old Meriweather is a two-time Pro Bowler (2009 and 2010) who has a history of being suspended by the NFL for illegal hits.

The Giants also waived place kicker Chris Boswell and placed safety Mykkele Thompson (torn Achilles’ tendon) on season-ending Injured Reserve. Because Thompson is not a vested veteran, he will continue to count toward the Club’s 90-man roster limit.

INJURY REPORT…
Wide receiver Rueben Randle (knee tendinitis), left tackle Will Beatty (PUP – pectoral), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (stiff neck), cornerback Prince Amukamara (groin), cornerback Chykie Brown (knee), cornerback Jayron Hosley (neck/concussion), safety Landon Collins (knee sprain), and safety Nat Berhe (calf strain) did not practice.

The Giants provided the following updates on those who did not practice:

  • WR Rueben Randle (day-to-day)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (day-to-day)
  • CB Chykie Brown (week-to-week)
  • CB Jayron Hosley (concussion protocol; cervical issue still being evaluated)
  • S Landon Collins (day-to-day)
  • S Nat Berhe (day-to-day)

Amukamara and Berhe worked with the trainers on the side before practice.

Right guard Geoff Schwartz (ankle) and linebacker Jameel McClain (neck) returned to practice. Right tackle Marshall Newshouse left practice after overheating.

PRACTICE NOTES…
The Giants practiced in full pads today. Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Cornerback Trevin Wade received some first-team reps.
  • Geoff Schwartz saw reps both at right guard and right tackle, filling in for either right guard John Jerry or right tackle Marshall Newhouse.
  • Quarterback Eli Manning threw touchdown passes to wide receiver Odell Beckham, tight end Larry Donnell, and wide receiver Victor Cruz.
  • Wide receiver Victor Cruz looked quick and decisive in and out of cuts.
  • Quarterback Ryan Nassib threw a long completion to wide receiver James Jones.
  • Cornerback Mike Harris, playing left cornerback, had nice deep coverage on wide receiver Odell Beckham.
  • Left tackle Ereck Flowers looked good handling defensive ends George Selvie and Damontre Moore in team drills.
  • Wide receiver Corey Washington made a diving sideline catch on a pass from quarterback Ryan Nassib.
  • Safety Cooper Taylor intercepted a slant pass from quarterback Ryan Nassib to wide receiver James Jones in the red zone.
  • Wide receiver Odell Beckham made a leaping sideline catch over cornerback Trevin Wade.
  • Cornerback Trevin Wade then deflected a deep pass to wide receiver Preston Parker that safety/cornerback Bennett Jackson dove to intercept to end practice.

RUNNING BACKS COACH CRAIG JOHNSON…
Craig Johnson addressed the media on Monday (video is available at Giants.com):

Q: How much does Shane Vereen give you maybe a different dimension in regards to the backfield?

A: I think Shane brings a lot to the table. He’s a veteran, he knows what he’s doing, he’s smart, he’s tough, he can make a lot of plays both in the run game and the pass game. I think he brings a lot to the table from his experience and we can use him in a lot ways. We can use him on early downs, we can use him on third down, and so far he’s really acclimated to our system.

Q: With three talented running backs, how hard is it to get them all snaps and be able to even out playing time?

A: That’s a work in progress. We’re still trying to get through all that in the preseason and find out just how we’re going to get that done. It probably won’t be arrived at until we get ready to play our first game, but what we’re trying to do right now is put every guy in situations and find out what their strengths and weaknesses are in each situation and then when we get closer to game time, we’re going to try and figure out close to a rotation and try to make sure everybody gets their touches so they can help us win.

Q: It’s good to have this depth compared to last year, right?

A: There’s no coach that I know of who doesn’t want competition at their position. So yes, I think they all bring a lot to the table.

Q: Does Rashad Jennings look any different to you? Is there anything he did in the offseason that you look at him and say he’s taken his game up a notch at all?

A: I would probably say this about Rashad, he is one of the hardest workers I know. He trains religiously. I would say, like myself, both of us are second year in the offense. I think from that alone, he works hard for the game both on and off the field and that is where I think he is probably going to make his greatest improvements. It’s just being more comfortable in our system in his second year.

Q: What do you think about Andre Williams’ progression so far?

A: I think Andre did a really good job. He was our leading rusher as a rookie last year. I thought he started off kind of slow. He started understanding the game, understanding his pace and timing to get into the hole, he found out that in the NFL, holes close really quickly, but I think he’s done a really good job. He has tirelessly worked on the stuff he needed to work on. We all knew that when he came out of college he did not have a catch his last year and I can’t tell you how many hours he spent on catching the football. He knew that was something he had to get better at, he’s done that and he is walking around with the confidence of a guy that’s played (and) knows that he can get it done on this field and he’s continued to do that.

Q: What were your takeaways from the preseason game of your unit?

A: I would say because we did not win the game, I’m never happy. I would say that our guys, I thought, were okay. I don’t think they really stood out. They didn’t not lose the game, but they didn’t help win it. I told them all they need to pick it up as a unit. I think we can do a better job. One thing I will certainly single out is I thought Orleans Darkwa really had a good game in every phase. He did a good job running the ball, which everybody can see those stats, but he also did a really good job in his pass protection and his passing game routes where he was supposed to be. As I told him, that’s the kind of play I want to see out of all of them this year. Orleans was good last week, but as I told him, I don’t want to see one-week wonders, I want to see him continue to improve.

Q: Talking about how you want them to pick it up, it seems to be the underlying theme of the entire game. What did they need to do that you didn’t see them do on the field?

A: Well, I’d like to see them, if there’s something there, make more of it. If there’s nothing there, still have a positive play so we’ll stay on track on down and distance. So make sure we can get ourselves in the 2nd and 6 and 3rd and 2 and so on and so forth. So all a back can do is when his number is called to make the right read if it’s a run or the right protection or the right catch. I just think that we were playing at a higher level in practice and I’d just like to see that get carried over to the game.

Q: What is it about Orleans that sort of stood out to you about his game the other day?

A: I thought he really showed good speed to the hole, but I think even more so, I think he did a great job of setting up his blocks. And if you really go back and watch the film and verified that, that he was really in good timing with his line, and he knew how to get right to the hole and explode it through the hole and he had really good finishes. He did a really good job—all backs want to do is finish forward and get the extra yardage. That helps add up, it helps put that 3rd and 6, maybe a 3rd and 3 or 3rd and 2. I thought he really did a good job with that.

Q: You mentioned the work Andre’s done on improving as a receiver. Has it worked?

A: When I watch him, I can just tell you I got a chance to watch him in the Combine and I would say he’s a much changed player from the player I saw in the Combine coming out from Boston College to the player I see today. I think one of the greatest examples happened was the swing pass that he caught. It’s a very difficult catch in that he did not see the ball thrown, so when he turned around the ball was on him and as a back, that’s a tough situation. I would probably say in Boston College coming here, that would probably be a dropped pass. I think he’s worked really hard on his hands, he’s going to continue to work at that and he was able to execute the catch, which allowed him to catch the ball and run. As the backs know, I don’t care how they get the yardage, whether it’s in the pass catching game or the run game, I want anything they can do to help us win.

Q: We see him after practice on the Juggs machine, but something like you’re talking about, that’s a game situation. How does he simulate that and get better at that?

A: We try to put him in situations like that all the time in practice. I know he does a lot of work with catching tennis balls, he’s got a little thing he does that with someone in the training room and we have some drills that we do in the pregame. As I told him in our meeting today, we practice that exact scenario on the practice field. We do it as one of our pregame warmups and basically it’s a blind and draw ball drill and so the backs have got to turn around and locate the ball as it’s in the air, which is exactly what he had to do. So we were fortunate that sometimes you like as a coach when your drill carries over to the field. In that example it did.

Q: Did you throw the ball to him in that drill or is it a machine?

A: No, I actually throw the ball. I was a quarterback in my other days, but it’s only about a four or five-yard distance because I know my limitations.

LINEBACKERS COACH JIM HERRMANN…
Jim Herrmann addressed the media on Monday (video is available at Giants.com):

Q: What did you see from your group, what is your overview of them this summer?

A: The biggest thing that I was looking at when we went in the game, as a group, we were talking about block destruction. Getting off blocks and getting to the ball. There’s quite a few plays in there where we did that. We can always improve. There were spaces in there where we can get better at, that was what I was looking for—block destruction, being where you’re supposed to be, knocking guys back, getting off the ball and making some plays. A couple of the guys did a good job in there, and we’re always looking to improve, but that was the biggest thing going into the game was, knock back and getting off and making plays.

Q: Looked like Unga had a good night for you guys. Can you talk about his development?

A: He did a great job, as a young player. I don’t know how long exactly it’s been since he’s actually played in a game because he was hurt his senior year, didn’t play last year. So it’s been about a year and three quarters since he’s played in a true game. I thought he did a great job of taking over the role as the Mike backer and making calls, he made a great call in there and got the guys lined up. Did a good job, and I like his development. I think he’s doing a great job of—he got in on a few plays, made a hell of a play tipping the ball. I think he’s going to get better and better as he goes.

Q: Do you have any idea of when you’re going to get Jameel McClain back?

A: You have to ask the medical guys. I’m not a doctor, unfortunately.

Q: Unga seems like he’s got some athleticism.

A: He does, he’s got some range. He’s a stocky young man, but he has range. He can move around in there, so that’s what we saw on his college film prior to his injury coming out of college. That’s why we brought him in, he showed some good stuff.

Q: How did Jon Beason look to you?

A: Good. I think Jon [Beason]—it’s been awhile since he’s played, too. He did a great job of commanding the defense and getting the calls out and getting himself in position to make plays. Made a couple plays, and I like what I saw in his limited snaps.

Q: What are your options at middle linebacker if Jameel isn’t there behind Jon? Who would you move around if you needed to? Devon Kennard or J.T. Thomas or Mark Herzlich?

A: What we’ve always done, to me, every guy has their position and they all have alternate positions based on what we know about different guys. So there’s a lot of different options you can go to. Normally you go into a game maybe five, maybe six backers on the 46 [game day roster.] So everybody is going to have to play dual roles. You just have to, each week that changes because of injuries. All the guys know how to go in there and do it. I feel confident that all those guys could take over that role. The guys that are alternates, they could do it.

Q: Is that an option for Devon, or would you rather keep him outside?

A: Yeah, but this past spring and even some of last year, we put him some at Mike. He has an ability, he does a great job of getting the calls out, and knowing where to play. He’s a big backer, big man. He does a good job with that.

Q: How much has Kennard’s pass rush improved?

A: I think it’s better and better now that we’re asking him to do some of that. The quandary that you come into is he’s got to cover and do cover stuff, and then we want him to rush. You’ve just got to be able to balance that as a staff and decide when he can go down and do some rush stuff and when he can do the coverage stuff, because you can’t do all just, so he’s got to do both. He does a good job. He’s played out there in college, so it’s not like it’s foreign to him. Very similar to Victor Butler, he’s played out there, he’s done that, so it’s not foreign to him. Just have to keep getting their reps when they can.

Q: What do you see from J.T.? What are some of his strengths and some of the things that you’re trying to work on?

A: I think both those new guys, J.T. [Thomas] and [Jonathan] Casillas, both have a lot of range, they can run, their speed, they’re both tough guys. Just the ability to have a speed guy out there, it helps when we go to sub [package], if they have to cover down on a tight end. That’s really what you see out of those type of guys, they can walk out on a guy and not feel uncomfortable. So that’s what you get. Then, the fact that they can run. In this game you have to be able to run, and you’re a backside pursuit guy—being able to run the ball down and do those types of things. Both those guys show that kind of stuff.

Q: You see Casillas in certain packages and J.T. as well, is that the way you’re looking at it? You’re going to try and fit these guys in based on their skill as much as possible?

A: Right now we’re just trying to get our stuff in, our package in, and where they fit and that kind of stuff. As we narrow it down, it’s going to about, ‘Okay, who best fits where? How are we going to play this game? It is going to be a three-backer game, two-backer game? How are we going to play that?’ A lot of that will depend on the opponent. So they give you a lot of flexibility because they can play either-or, so the flexibility is nice as a coach.

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

RELATED ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The next training camp practice will be held on Monday but is closed to the public. For a complete listing of training camp practices as well as a handy fan Q&A about training camp, see our Training Camp section of the website. Only three remaining training camp practices at Quest Diagnostics Training Center will be open to the public this year:

  • Wednesday, August 19: 5:50 – 7:50PM
  • Thursday, August 20: 5:50 – 7:50PM
  • Tuesday, August 25: 2:30 – 4:30PM
Jun 302015
 
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Jon Beason, New York Giants (June 8, 2015)

Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Linebackers

2014 YEAR IN REVIEW: As was the case with every other area of the defense, the linebackers were a disappointment in 2014. It was expected that Jon Beason would headline and lead an improved linebacking corps. But Beason broke his foot during June OTA’s and never recovered. The 2011 rookie class of linebackers – Jacquian Williams, Spencer Paysinger, and Mark Herzlich – continued to largely disappoint in their fourth season together. Jameel McClain was a decent free agent addition and led the team in tackles. Rookie 5th round draft pick Devon Kennard flashed in the second-half of the season. In the end, the Giants finished 30th in the NFL against the run and dead-last in the NFL in yards-per-rush defense.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: There were significant changes made at linebacker. The Giants said good-bye to Jacquian Williams (still unsigned) and Spencer Paysinger (signed with Dolphins) in free agency. The team signed J.T. Thomas (3-years, $10 million) from the Jaguars and Jonathan Casillas (3-years, $8 million) from the Patriots. The Giants also signed street free agent Victor Butler and rookie free agents Cole Farrand and Tony Johnson.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The primary focus at linebacker in training camp is can Jon Beason stay healthy? Beason was a major shot in the arm for the entire defense when he joined the team during the 2013 season, but the injury-prone linebacker missed almost all of the 2014 season with a foot injury. Not only is Beason a good run defender, he is an intelligent, inspirational leader who is needed to help orchestrate Steve Spagnulo’s new complicated defense on the field. The complexion of the entire defense changes with Beason in or out of the lineup. The good news? Beason made it through the OTAs and mini-camp this year, something he didn’t do last year.

Assuming Beason can stay healthy, the main story lines will be who mans the two outside linebacker spots, and how well do they perform? It is assumed J.T. Thomas will start at one position. But Devon Kennard and Jonathan Casillas may split snaps at the other spot depending on the opponent, in-game down-and-distance situations, and who has the hot hand. Kennard’s strength is attacking the line of scrimage and rushing the passer while Casillas is better in pass coverage. The Giants seem to be higher on Thomas and Casillas than their former teams, whose coaching staffs saw them more as back-up types. It remains to be seen if the Giants made the right decision to spend $18 million over three years on both. Where Jameel McClain – a respected team leader but castoff from the Ravens – fits in remains to be seen as well.

It’s important to note that Linebackers Coach Jim Herrmann says this is the most talented group of linebackers he has had with the Giants since he joined the team in 2009.

ON THE BUBBLE: The Giants will probably keep six linebackers and assuming everyone stays healthy, the six will probably be Beason, Thomas, Kennard, Casillas, McClain, and Herzlich. The one most vulnerable could be Herzlich. Herzlich had his best pro season in 2014 and appears to remain a Tom Coughlin favorite and decent special teams player. But he’s not the most athletic guy in the world and has only performed so-so or worse when called upon to start. That said, it’s not likely that one of the lesser known players such as Victor Butler, Uani Unga, Cole Farrand, or Troy Johnson would surpass Herzlich on the depth chart. Butler has talent, but a 4-game PED suspension hurts his cause. Farrand looks like he needs work in the weight room.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Jim Herrmann on J.T. Thomas: “He is very athletic. That is what I like about him. He will be a great addition to our (special) teams. Special teams and athletically as a linebacker he can cover. He is tough. He is going to fill that role, both in base and in sub. We can do a lot of different things with him…In our base, he is an outside linebacker and in sub, we play him some in the middle. It is a very fluid deal in sub defense, so he can play in or out.”

Herrmann on Thomas and Jonathan Casillas: “They are both very athletic guys. They are different kinds of players, but they are both very athletic and can move well. You like that. It is hard right now for me because you don’t have pads on. You will find out a lot more once the pads go on. With their body of work in the NFL, they are both tough guys who can play.”

Herrmann on Devon Kennard: “I think number one, he is more confident in himself as a player. He knows now he can play in the league. That takes you a long way. Just refining his technique and his footwork and trying to get the best of both worlds.”

Herrmann on Jameel McClain: “I think Jameel is versatile enough. He has played all three positions, so he can play in and out. He is a tough guy, which is good, so you want him in there in the run game. He is athletic enough to play in subs. It gives us a big luxury because we have a lot of guys that have played NFL snaps and to me as a coach, that is luxury to have because a lot of times you don’t have that as a linebacker coach. It is nice to have them where you can do anything.”

Herrmann on Jon Beason: “Yeah, he is a born leader. He has always been that way since the day he got into the league. Since he was at Miami, he was a leader. I think he likes that role and he wants that role. You want a guy like that.”

PREDICTIONS: I am going to go out on a limb and say Beason stays healthy and Thomas has a break-out season as a respectable three-down NFL starter. Fans will push for more playing time for Kennard but much will depend on the opponent and in-game match-ups. Casillas may be a better option at times against teams that throw the ball more to the backs and tight ends. Spagnuolo will use Kennard far more imaginatively than Perry Fewell did, having him rush the quarterback from a variety of spots. Contrary to popular belief, this unit could be one of the better ones in the NFL if Beason stays healthy and Kennard develops.

“I can’t praise Kennard enough,” said Beason. “He prepared better than any rookie I’ve ever seen, and that’s including myself. He just really wants it. He gets it. He understands it…The thing I’ve noticed the most this offseason, he’s a step or two faster. He’s quicker. He’s not afraid anymore.”

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Barring injury, Beason, Thomas, Kennard, Casillas, McClain, and Herzlich.

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 Paysinger 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.