Jun 302015
 
Jon Beason, New York Giants (June 8, 2015)

Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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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.

Jun 272015
 
Eli Manning, New York Giants (June 16, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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Eli Manning’s Agent Confident in a New Deal: The agent for New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Tom Condon, told The New York Daily News that he is confident a new contract will be negotiated that will keep Manning in Giants Blue. Manning is entering the final year of his current contract. He is scheduled to make $17 million in base salary in 2015 and count $19.75 million against the team’s salary cap.

“The interesting part about it is, since 1993, the inception of free agency, has there ever been an elite quarterback hit the open market?” asked Condon. “Peyton (Manning did in 2012), but he had four neck surgeries and no idea if he would ever be well enough to play. Drew Brees, when he went to New Orleans (in 2006), he had 15 studs in his shoulder, in his throwing arm (from a hit he took in the final game of 2005). There’s nobody else that’s ever come up. They just re-do you.”

Condon also pointed to Manning’s reputation off of the field.

“In all the years that he’s been here, has he ever said anything that’s been scandalous in the newspaper?” Condon said. “Nothing. And in this market? He’s a genuinely good guy.”

“The quarterbacks always get done,” Condon said. “And the Giants are not a skittish team. So it’s not one of those things where they get nervous or they jump around or anything like that. You know you’re going to go in and it’s going to get done. I’m sure at the appropriate time it’ll happen.”

Article on Quarterbacks Coach Mike Sullivan: After one-year hiatus, quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan thrilled to be back with Giants, Eli Manning by Nick Powell for NJ.com

Articles on New York Giants Wide Receivers:

Jun 272015
 
Dwayne Harris, New York Giants (June 16, 2015)

Dwayne Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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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: Special Teams

2014 YEAR IN REVIEW: It was a mixed bag for the New York Giants on special teams in 2014. The Giants finished 3rd in the NFL in field goal percentage, but 22nd in net punting (including allowing a blocked punt for a touchdown). The Giants were 2nd in the NFL in covering kickoffs, but 27th in covering punts (also allowing one punt return for a touchdown).

The punt and kick return games remained anemic, with the Giants finishing 19th and 18th, respectively. The punt returns were split among Odell Beckham (21 returns, 11 fair catches, 8.1 yard average), Preston Parker (8 returns, 6 fair catches, 6.6 yard average), and Rueben Randle (no returns, 10 fair catches). The kickoff returns were split among Parker (21 returns, 24.2 yard average), Quintin Demps (12 returns, 21.3 yard average), and Michael Cox (11 returns, 23.7 yard average).

The Giants scored no special teams touchdowns and had the two aforementioned scored against them, both in losses.

The best Giants player on special teams in 2014 was Josh Brown, who made 24-of-26 of his field goals (92.3 percent) with one of the misses being blocked.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants signed street free agent punter Robert Malone and street free agent place kicker/punter Chris Boswell in January to compete with punter Steve Weatherford and place kicker Josh Brown.

The big signing was the the 5-year, $17.5 million contract given to special teams stud Dwayne Harris from the Dallas Cowboys. Because Harris does it all on specials, returning and covering both punts and kicks, he is arguably the best special teams player in the game. Harris has three “NFC Player of the Week” awards to his credit.

Other additions who could impact special teams coverage units include free agent linebackers J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas and rookies WR Geremy Davis, DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, S Landon Collins, S Mykkele Thompson, and S Justin Currie. Rookies WR Ben Edwards and RB Akeem Hunt could provide competition to the return game.

No longer in the picture are linebackers Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams, as well as returners Quintin Demps and Michael Cox.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Most eyes will focus on Dwayne Harris and his impact on not only the return game but on special teams coverage units. The $17.5 millon the Giants gave to Harris puts a lot of pressure on Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn to fix issues in the return game and punt coverage unit. The Giants also gave a lot of money to linebackers J.T. Thomas (3 years, $10 million) and Jonathan Casillas (3 years, $8 million) to help out on coverage units. Quite a few of the defensive backs on the team are or should be good special teams players too, including Mike Harris, Landon Collins, Bennett Jackson, Cooper Taylor, Nat Berhe, and Mykkele Thompson.

ON THE BUBBLE: Though he will probably make the team, Mark Herzlich (2-year, $2.6 million contract) could be pressed by rookie free agent linebacker Cole Farrand. The signing of Dwayne Harris also could reduce the special teams value of wideout Preston Parker.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Tom Quinn on Dwayne Harris: “He is going to be a ‘big four’ player, so he will be on all four of the teams and he will make a very good contribution. His coverage skills are equal to his return skills, so that is the nice thing about getting this kind of player.”

Quinn on what makes Harris a good returner: “He is decisive. There isn’t a lot of wasted movement. He is physical. He has a good understanding of the return schemes and what is needed for each one. There is no hesitation. If he is catching the ball and you are running it to the right, he is going to get it to the right, which sets up all the blockers for him. They know where he is going to be. A lot of times when you are blocking, (the returner) is supposed to be over here, but the returner is running the wrong direction or in the middle and now your block is not set up for that. He is very decisive. He is a strong runner.”

Quinn on new acquisitions who could help out: “We got some new acquisitions at the linebacker spot and we got some safeties in, which are nice, and getting Bennett Jackson back has been pleasing. The young kid from Texas, (Mykkele) Thompson, has done some good things; he is long and has real good speed, so I think he can be pretty versatile for us. Obviously Landon (Collins) has done a nice job in what he have asked him to do, so (I) am pleased with the overall group.”

PREDICTIONS: Punt returns and punt coverage have been a problem under Tom Quinn for quite some time. From 2010-14, the Giants have finished 31st, 29th, 30th, 26th, and 19th in punt return average with no punt return touchdowns during that five-year span. During the same period, the Giants have finished 31st, 17th, 15th, 30th, and 27th in punt coverage with six punt return touchdowns allowed. The kick return game has been pretty bad too except for David Wilson’s performance in 2012.

This is not so much a prediction, but a gnawing fear. Despite bright moments in the 2007 and 2011 playoffs, the Giants special teams have been a sore spot for years. Yet Tom Quinn has somehow avoided the executioner. If the special teams unit under-performs again in 2015, costing the team in the win-loss column, Tom Coughlin may find himself being the one receiving a pink slip because of his decision to stick with Quinn.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: It would be a pretty major upset if Josh Brown, Steve Weatherford, and Zak DeOssie do not remain the team’s place kicker, punter, and long snapper, respectively. Dwayne Harris should be the kickoff and punt returner. There are some good athletes at defensive end (Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Damontre Moore), linebacker (Devon Kennard, J.T. Thomas, and Jonathan Casillas), and safety (Landon Collins, Bennett Jackson, Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor, and Mykkele Thompson) who should be special teams assets. The Giants also think Geremy Davis could be a special teams weapon.

Jun 262015
 
Landon Collins, New York Giants (June 16, 2015)

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Safety Landon Collins, the second-round draft pick of the New York Giants in the 2015 NFL Draft, was asked on Friday what his expectations were for his rookie season at the NFL’s Rookie Symposium.

“Defensive Rookie of the Year, that’s my expectation,” Collins responded.

The Giants traded up to take Collins with the first pick in the second round, giving up their fourth-round selection to do so. “They didn’t move up in the draft for no reason, that’s what I’m trying to prove and be ready to play,” said Collins.

Collins has practiced with the first-team defense since being drafted. While most draft pundits argued that Collins was strictly an in-the-box, run-defending safety, the Giants have insisted since the draft that he is more than that. And Collins practiced at both safety positions during the Organized Team Activity (OTA) and mini-camp practices.

“It’s been going fantastic,” said Collins. “The coaches love the range that I have. I get to go showcase it at practice…the more I work on it, the better I can get at it and the more I can help my corners if I need to help over the top.”

Last week, safeties coach David Merritt said the team is still looking for a leader to step forward at safety.

“You need to have one leader back there, and that’s what I’m still looking for,” said Merritt. “It’s elusive. I’m searching for it. If it’s Landon, great. If it’s Cooper (Taylor), great. If it’s Nat (Berhe), great. If it’s Mykkele (Thompson), great. But I need to have a leader come up and emerge out of this mini-camp and emerge out of training camp…(We’ve had) very slow leadership as far as making calls and controlling the defense. The guys right now are very slow at making those checks.”

Collins says he is ready to accept that challenge.

“First, what I’m trying to improve is my trust with the players,” said Collins. “I can’t be a leader until they trust me in my play calling and be able to call plays and make movements and make an adjustment. So that is what I need to work on and that’s what I’m going to work on day by day.”

“(Collins) has to make the calls and get everyone lined up,” said Merritt. “I really do (think Collins can do it). He is starting to realize that these missed alignments and the minus plays, I have to cut those out of my game in order for the guys around me to trust me. That is what he wants to be. He wants to be a leader. Okay, we are putting him out there. I think he is going to be ready to go, definitely, for Dallas.”

Jun 262015
 
Odell Beckham Victor Cruz, New York Giants (June 8, 2015)

Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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Giants.com Video Player Q&As: Video clips of Giants.com Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • WR Victor Cruz (Video)
  • DT Johnathan Hankins (Video)

Articles on the 2015 New York Giants:

Article on WR Odell Beckham: Odell Beckham insists: ‘No problem with anybody’ on Giants by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Article on the New York Giants Tight Ends: What do the Giants think of young tight end Jerome Cummingham, Will Tye and Matt LaCosse? by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Articles on the New York Giants Offensive Line:

Article on DE Jason Pierre-Paul: Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul intent on dropping weight for his contract year by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Article on LB J.T. Thomas: How Giants’ linebacker J.T. Thomas got his football education from his ‘toughest critic’ by Nick Powell for NJ.com

Article on New York Giants Cornerbacks: Sizing up the Giants nickel cornerback position after minicamp and the need to be good blitzers by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Best of New York Giants Mini-Camp Video: A sights and sounds video of the action from New York Giants mini-camp is available at Giants.com.

Jun 242015
 
Landon Collins, New York Giants (June 16, 2015)

Landon Collins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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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: Safeties

2014 YEAR IN REVIEW: Like the cornerbacks, the New York Giants safeties were supposed to be an area of strength in 2014 but ended up being a big disappointment. The team decided to cut super-talented but super-idiotic Will Hill after he failed yet another drug test. And Antrel Rolle followed up arguably his best season as a safety with one of his worst. Stevie Brown returned from an ACL injury but lost his starting job to Quintin Demps who later lost it back to Brown. Obviously neither stood out. Second-year safety Cooper Taylor missed the entire season with a foot injury. Rookie 5th Nat Berhe rounder played all 16 games but was primarily used on special teams. The Giants finished 18th in the NFL in pass defense and the safeties were missing in action far too often against both the run and the pass.

Mykkele Thompson, New York Giants (June 16, 2015)

Mykkele Thompson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants gutted the position in the offseason as they made little to no effort in re-signing free agents Antrel Rolle (signed with the Bears), Stevie Brown (signed with the Texans), and Quintin Demps (still unsigned). The team also waived practice squader Thomas Gordon in May.

The only remaining safeties from 2014 are Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe. Bennett Jackson, who spent his rookie season in 2014 on Injured Reserve, was switched from corner to safety this spring. The Giants signed corner/safety ‘tweener Josh Gordy in free agency but he saw most of his spring work for the Giants at cornerback. Three of the six safeties on the roster are rookies: Landon Collins (2nd round), Mykkele Thompson (5th round), and Justin Currie (rookie free agent).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: On paper, the Giants have some interesting talent at safety in the form of one second rounder, three fifth rounders, a sixth rounder, and a rookie free agent. However these players are all young and inexperienced. Five of the six were acquired in 2014-15 from the college ranks, and the other (Taylor) was a 2013 draft pick. There is absolutely no veteran presence to speak of despite the fact that Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system is cerebral and complicated. And like most if not all systems, the safeties make the defensive calls in the secondary.

“It’s the most complex system I’ve been in,” said linebacker Jon Beason. “This is my fifth defensive coordinator. It is the most complex because we will not sit back and be dictated to by anybody…Offenses create problems by formations, moving people around, shifts and motions…Every call we (the defense) can make a change.”

So the chief story line will be how fast can the young pups grow up, and how many growing pains will there be?

“I think it is extremely hard (for a rookie to start in this defense),” said New York Giants Safeties Coach David Merritt. “(The safety is) an extension of the defensive coordinator. Whatever call comes in, you need to be able to hear the call, accept the call, and then spit it back out to your fellow teammates. For a rookie to come in and have that pressure, to be the extension of the defensive coordinator, it is extremely difficult.”

“Young,” said Spagnuolo of the safeties. “There is youth and inexperience there. It doesn’t matter what system you are in, in my opinion, defensively, (the starting safeties) are really important. Everyone else relies on them. The quicker we can get to the other nine trusting them, the better off we will be. I am not sure we are there yet. I think it is going to be a work in progress, but we will get there.

“Right now it is a challenge… It is a challenge for our patience and our trust in them. Everyday it gets better, I can tell you that… (But) we have a long ways to go in my opinion.”

Complicating matters is that Nat Berhe, who was pegged early by the coaching staff to start alongside rookie Landon Collins, missed all of the spring practices with a calf injury. Taylor, Thompson, Jackson, and Currie benefited from the additional practice snaps, but both Tom Coughlin and safeties coach David Merritt have said that Berhe’s development has been set back by the missed time.

With Collins sure to start at one spot, it is most likely that Berhe and Taylor will battle for the other starting position.

There is not a lot of time. The Giants face Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten on September 13.

ON THE BUBBLE: The Giants will likely carry four or five safeties. Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson, and Justin Currie are most likely fighting for one or two roster spots.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: David Merritt on Landon Collins: “He has to make the calls and get everyone lined up…Now when you are trying to line up grown men who have wives and children at home and they need that call from you, it is a little different than lining up a freshman. The call has to be right. Right now, he is slow to go, which was expected, but he has to pick it up quickly for us to be successful…I really do (think Collins can do it). He is starting to realize that these missed alignments and the minus plays, I have to cut those out of my game in order for the guys around me to trust me. That is what he wants to be. He wants to be a leader. Okay, we are putting him out there. I think he is going to be ready to go, definitely, for Dallas.”

Merritt on Cooper Taylor: “Cooper is coming along well. Mentally, I never doubted Cooper would be able to pick up the defense. It is just now getting Cooper’s body to move in the proper direction once he receives the call and allows himself to line up and just see what is happening in front of him. The mental part, Cooper is fine, but it is now the physical part. We have to make sure the durability factor – he has to be durable for us because he has missed the past two seasons. Mentally, I am not concerned about him. Physically hoping that he will be able to step up and be durable for us.”

Merritt on Nat Berhe: “(Him missing spring practices) hurts tremendously because all the reps that Cooper (Taylor) and Landon (Collins) and Mykkele (Thompson) and some of the other guys have taken, Nat would have been right in there with all the other guys. By him standing on the sideline and taking mental reps – I understand you are taking mental reps, but it is different. It is not the same as putting your body through the motions and making your body react to different movements that the receivers are stemming at you. It is going to definitely hurt him and set him back a little bit, but hopefully he can come back at training camp and be ready to fight for a starting job.”

Merritt on Mykkele Thompson: “Mykkele, I knew was a smart kid. He came here and he is a cerebral kid, that is for sure. He is going to take what I say literally and take my word for it and go out and try to execute it. Now I am starting to see that the kid actually has some football awareness, where I didn’t think he had much of it when we first started off. The (missed alignments) that started at the beginning of rookie mini-camp and OTAs have drastically gone down. Mentally, he has excelled past my expectations…Long arms. We did a drill the other day where he was having to punch a bag and escape from the blocker and to see his arms and the extension of his arms, that was good to see. I am definitely interested to see him in the pads.”

Merritt on Bennett Jackson: “(His conversion to safety) has been good. You are going from the outside where you are playing on an island and then all of sudden, you go to a back end position where you have to see the formation and play, the moving parts, and put people in the right position. Jackson, in his situation right now, there has been a learning curve for him, which has been hard for him. It has been a struggle at first, but out of all the guys, that is one kid that when he puts his foot in the ground, he can go. He can go. I am looking forward to seeing Bennett at camp with pads on because I truly believe he will hit as well.”

Merritt on Justin Currie:  “Justin Currie has done a great job, as well, our free agent. Big kid, as well. I am interested to see what he can do once the pads are on his shoulders and hopefully he will be able to be a thumper for us.”

PREDICTIONS: There will be growing pains. The young safeties will make mental mistakes that will lead to big plays and touchdowns. How bad this inexperience will hurt the Giants in terms of lost games in 2015 remains to be seen. But it’s the nature of the game that old players will eventually be replaced by young ones. Some of those young players will wither while others blossom. In his last interaction with the press, Tom Coughlin seemed generally pleased by the progress of the two rookie draft picks. “We have a good feel for the rookies, we really do. Thompson (has) been doing well and starting to come along and that was a key thing,” said Coughlin. “Collins has done a good job, has gotten better and has really done a good job of starting to direct back there, and I think the coaches are excited about him going forward.”

I believe the players who are currently on the roster will develop into fine players. What I don’t know – and no one really does – is how fast that process will take. The overall effectiveness of the entire defense and the fate of the team’s playoff chances may depend on how quickly Collins, Taylor, and Berhe become assets rather than liabilities. Based on coaching comments, one thing is clear – the team is looking for someone to take charge at safety as a vocal leader.

“You need to have one leader back there, and that’s what I’m still looking for,” said Merritt. “It’s elusive. I’m searching for it. If it’s Landon, great. If it’s Cooper, great. If it’s Nat, great. If it’s Mykkele, great. But I need to have a leader come up and emerge out of this mini-camp and emerge out of training camp…(We’ve had) very slow leadership as far as making calls and controlling the defense. The guys right now are very slow at making those checks.”

FINAL DEPTH CHART: The Giants will keep four or five safeties. I think they will keep five: Landon Collins, Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor, Mykkele Thompson, and Bennett Jackson. Jackson not only provides special teams value but he can play corner too. Justin Currie is intriguing but his best shot is probably the Practice Squad.

Jun 222015
 
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (September 25, 2014)

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The New York Giants are scheduled to report to training camp on July 30th. Since the Giants won its eighth NFL Championship in 2011, the team has missed the playoffs three straight seasons and seen its regular-season record get progressively worse. Not only is Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the entire coaching staff once again on the proverbial hot seat, but three of the team’s best players (Eli Manning, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Prince Amukamara) are entering the final year of their respective contracts. 2015 could be a make-or-break year for many of key faces of the franchise.

Over 30 players have been added to the 90-man summer roster. Are the Giants better? If so, by how much? Which rookies and first- and second-year players will make an impact on the 2015 season? What veterans may be on the bubble? What are the strengths of the team? Where are the roster holes and areas of concern?

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN SCHEDULE:

Jun 222015
 
Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (June 16, 2015)

Prince Amukamara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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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: Cornerbacks

2014 YEAR IN REVIEW: The Giants dramatically overhauled the cornerback position in the 2014 offseason, saying goodbye to long-time contributors Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, and Terrell Thomas while adding free agents Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie (DRC), Walter Thurmond, and Zack Bowman. These new additions were to support former-first rounder Prince Amukmara and the re-signed Trumaine McBride. It was believed by many that not only were the Giants exceptionally strong at corner, but that this could be the strongest group of corners on the team in recent memory.

But those expectations vanished quickly due to injury. Nickel corner Walter Thurmond was placed on Injured Reserve after only two games, followed by Trumaine McBride in mid-October and Prince Amukamara in early November. The loss of Amukamara – who was having his best season – was particularly a hard pill to swallow. Without three of their top four corners, more pressure was placed on DRC, who was also dealing with a litany of injury issues to the point where he could not play a full game.

The Giants were quickly left to scramble and made in-season roster moves including signing castoffs Chykie Brown, Mike Harris, and Chandler Fenner. Brown and Harris performed reasonably well given the circumstances, but overall, the secondary failed to fulfill their preseason boasts as one of the best units in the NFL. The Giants finished 18th in the NFL in pass defense.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Most of the significant roster changes at corner have been subtractions. Somewhat surprisingly, the team did not make much (if any) of an effort to re-sign Thurmond and he signed with the Eagles. The Giants also appear not to have made an effort to re-sign Bowman, who signed with the Dolphins.

The Giants made few additions at corner, choosing instead to re-sign free agents Chykie Brown and Chandler Fenner. The team signed the uninspiring corner/safety ‘tweener Josh Gordy from the Colts and journeyman street free agent Trevin Wade. Because of this, it was expected that the Giants would probably take a corner in the 2015 NFL Draft. However, not only did the Giants not draft a corner, the team also did not sign a rookie free agent at the position after the draft.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (June 8, 2015)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: If Rodgers-Cromartie and Amukamara can stay healthy, the Giants may have the best duo of corners in the NFL. However, Amukmara has been an injury-prone player since being drafted in 2011, missing significant time in three of his first four seasons. Rodgers-Cromartie did not miss a game in 2014, but was nagged all season long with a variety of injuries that affected his game and the number of snaps he could play. Assuming these two stay healthy, the media will focus much of its preseason attention on how good these two can be playing together.

But the more important story line could be the apparent lack of depth. The third (nickel) corner is a de facto starter in today’s NFL. Who will be the team’s nickel corner? The early favorite is McBride, but he could be pressed by Mike Harris. Also, what if DRC or Amukamara miss time due to injury? Who will be the first corner off of the bench to replace the missing outside guy? Again, the early favorite is probably McBride, but Chykie Brown could factor into the equation.

Other contenders for roster spots include Josh Gordy, Jayron Hosley, Chandler Fenner, and Trevin Wade. None of these names inspire. Indeed, on paper it appears that corner is the shallowest position on the team. An injury or two here could spell disaster.

A longer-term focus is Amukmara’s contract situation. The Giants are currently set to have three of their very best players hit the open market in 2016 (Eli Manning, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Amukamara). And the team can only Franchise tag one of them. Prince has made it very clear via his Twitter feed that he wants to get paid. Will he be able to play a full schedule for just the second time since he was drafted? If he does and plays as well as hoped, will the Giants be able to re-sign him?

ON THE BUBBLE: The Giants normally keep five or six corners. Barring injury or unforeseen circumstances, DRC and Amukamara are locks, leaving three or four roster spots open. The early favorites to make the team are McBride, Harris, and Brown. Gordy, Hosley, Fenner, and Wade are clearly on the bubble. Gordy could be helped by his position flexibility, being able to play safety in a pinch.

FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Tim Walton on Prince Amukamara: “He definitely can improve just in techniques in general. When we play press technique, that is always a constant thing because with his talent, he is going to see different guys, he is going to see smaller receivers and bigger receivers, and you have to be able to change that up based on the guys you see and be effective with it. Also just on his ability to play fast and trying to show him to be able to see formations, see tendencies, see splits and being able to let that put you in the right position and be able to play up to his maximum potential all the time. That has a lot to do with the understanding of the situations, of formation or splits and things like that, because he has played a lot of football so he understands and those are the things that can help him grow so he can play fast all the time because he has some real talent.”

Walton on Rodgers-Cromartie and Amukamara being elite corners: “(DRC) definitely has to be that guy. The thing about it that we feel good about is hopefully we have two guys that can be that and that is the confidence and level of expectation that we have is that he definitely will be that guy and a guy that has that ability, and we need to build on a consistent basis. We also feel that Prince has the ability to do that, also, and that is where we become better as a football team where we can have that with both guys because that gives you the ability that you can handle the match-ups.”

Walton on Jayron Hosley:  “He has the talent. The thing we talk about is confidence. We have to make sure the confidence is there and the consistency is there and all of those things, so that the talent is showing on a daily basis. We don’t want to be up and down with it, so that is the thing we talk about and we work on, is trying to be consistent with it and getting confidence so you can play at a level that you would like to play at on a daily basis… He would probably be outside right now. Who knows what he may end up doing, but right now, to get confidence, you also want to start at one spot and kind of go from there and grow with it. You don’t want to throw a ton on his plate, start with one thing, let’s do that well and we’ll progress from there.”

PREDICTIONS: Provided they stay healthy, the Giants are in great shape with Rodgers-Cromartie and Amukamara. They are clearly the best two corners in the NFC East and one of the two could end up in the Pro Bowl.

Nevertheless, the biggest weakness on this roster may not be the offensive line or linebacker or safety, but cornerback due to the overall lack of quality depth. When teams like the Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins play 3- and 4-wide receivers sets, the Giants will be forced to counter with the likes of McBride, Harris, and Brown. And God help the Giants if either one of the two top guys get hurt.

The fear here is that while DRC and Amukamara largely handle their business, opponents will feast on the third and fourth corners. The Giants desperately need one or two of these former castoffs to surprise. McBride did start 10 games for the Giants in 2013 and did a respectable job. Harris is a guy who the team thinks can play nickelback.

Chykie Brown, New York Giants (November 16, 2014)

Chykie Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The wild card could be Brown. He was a 2014 in-season cut by the Ravens, when he was ironically being coached by Steve Spagnuolo. Before he was fired, Perry Fewell said of Brown, “He is a young man that is very conscientious. He takes very good notes, and when I say takes good notes, he is a good film study guy. He doesn’t have all of our techniques down pat, but he has the long arms. We like that, for jams, he has really good speed, so we like the speed that he can possess when he runs down the field. He is a pretty tough guy as a corner. Most corners are not physically tough guys, I think he is a pretty tough guy. I think he is a really nice addition to come in and help play in our secondary. We just like the speed factor, and some of the intangibles of what I just mentioned in his play.”

If the reserve corners struggle, the Giants will be scanning the waiver wire.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Unless there is another roster addition, the top five corners look to be Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, Trumaine McBride, Chykie Brown, and Mike Harris. To me, the bigger question is do the Giants go with five or six corners. My early guess is they will carry one more safety and one fewer corner and go with only five cornerbacks.

Jun 212015
 

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Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: Father, grandpa Tom Coughlin opens up on family: ‘Every day’ is Mother’s Day by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Article on QB Eli Manning: For Eli, Peyton and Archie Manning, Father’s Day is about family, not football by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Articles on the New York Giants Spring Practices:

Article on the New York Giants Break from Football: Coughlin warns Giants not to do anything foolish during time off by The Bergen Record

Article on WR Corey Washington: Second-year receiver not named Odell Beckham Jr. catches Giants’ eyes this offseason by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Article on OL Michael Bamiro and TE Will Tye: Giants prospects Michael Bamiro and Will Tye work to become first Stony Brook players to make NFL roster by Barbara Barker of Newsday

Article on the New York Giants Linebackers: Giants linebackers not feeding into ‘worst position group’ label by Nick Powell for NJ.com

Jun 192015
 


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Landon Collins Signs: According to multiple press reports, the New York Giants have signed safety Landon Collins, the team’s second-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Terms of the deal are not yet known but it is expected the contract will be in the 4-year, $6 million range. All of the team’s 2015 NFL Draft picks are now signed.

Eli Manning on WFAN: The audio of Friday’s WFAN interview of quarterback Eli Manning is available at CBS New York. Some of the points raised by Manning:

  • On his contract status: “I never got concerned about contract stuff…I started (with the Giants)…I don’t want to change teams…I want to stay here. Hopefully it works out that way.”
  • On Odell Beckham getting ribbed by teammates for missing practice: “We have a great relationship. You’re not practicing, people will get on you a little bit. It’s usually in fun. I am sure he is sick of it. He wants to be out there practicing…It’s in fun. Guys are not mad at him…Sometimes when things go wrong and you’re not practicing, you just got to sit there and take it, and be a man and learn from it.”
  • On the West Coast Offense: “I like the West Coast (Offense)…It all makes sense. There is a reason for the footwork…It’s quarterback friendly.”
  • On Shane Vereen: “It’s a little different even for (Offensive Coordinator Ben) McAdoo, having a running back with those abilities…we have some stuff where the running back is your first read…sometimes we will have both of them (Vereen and Rashad Jennings) in the game at the same time.”
  • On 2014: “Last year I had so many doubts or unknowns about how I was going to adjust to a new offense…after being in the same offense for 10 years. Now changing all of your footwork…and so many new guys.”

Article on the New York Giants Injury Situation: Giants injury update: Where everyone stands after minicamp and OTAs by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Articles on the New York Giants Spring Practices:

Article on the New York Giants Rookies: Ereck Flowers, Landon Collins, Mykkele Thomson could start for New York Giants by Dan Graziano of ESPN.com

Article on Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham: Giants’ Victor Cruz takes on role of a mentor by Tara Sullivan of The Bergen Record

Article on Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo: Why Steve Spagnuolo’s reunion may not have fairy tale ending by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Article on S Landon Collins: Giants’ Landon Collins an eager student by Art Stapleton of The Bergen Record

New York Giants Spring Practice Videos (Giants.com):

  • All-Access: Coach Coughlin wired during practice (Video)
  • Highlights: Best plays from offseason practices (Video)