Feb 282019
 
Landon Collins, New York Giants (October 7, 2018)

Landon Collins – © USA TODAY Sports

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Only a few years ago, in 2016, the secondary of the New York Giants was not only considered the strength of the defense, but probably one of the better secondaries in Giants’ team history. Three Giants defensive backs were legitimately named to the All-Pro team that year: Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Landon Collins, the latter making a strong run for “Defensive Player of the Year” honors. The Giants finished 10th in total defense that season and 2nd in scoring defense.

But the secondary has quickly deteriorated since that high point. Despite continuing to earn League honors, Collins has obviously regressed and not made the same impact, also finishing the past two years on IR. Jenkins missed half the season in 2017 and did not play as well in 2018. Rodgers-Cromartie stopped making plays and was cut in March 2018. Making matters worse was that the surrounding talent in the secondary and arguably across the entire defensive unit has gotten worse. As a result, the Giants finished 24th in total defense and 23rd in scoring defense in 2018.

Once you got the past the headliners in Jenkins and Collins, the rest of the defensive back crew was a nondescript group of no-names and castoffs. The Giants admitted to another draft disaster, trading Eli Apple, the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, to the New Orleans Saints for 4th- and 7th-round picks in late October. The rest of the unit was manned by players such as B.W. Webb, Grant Haley, Antonio Hamilton, Tony Lippett, Curtis Riley, Donte Deayon (waived in October), Michael Jordan (waived in October), Michael Thomas, Sean Chandler, Kenny Ladler, and Kamrin Moore. Who? Most fans never heard of any of these guys before 2018 and most of them will probably not be on the team in 2019. In a way, it’s a minor miracle that the secondary was not more abused than it actually was.

In a nutshell, strong safety Collins was disappointing and had issues in coverage. Riley was terrible at free safety. Reserve safety Thomas was a good special teams player, but not starting material. Jenkins was decent but still gave up too many big plays. Webb surprisingly held his own for much of the season, but really faded down the stretch. Undrafted rookie free agent Grant showed some promise as a nickel corner but didn’t make many plays on the football.

CORNERBACKS

While Janoris Jenkins did not have one of better seasons, giving up a number of big plays in 2018, he still remains one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. Jenkins started all 16 games and finished with 70 tackles, 15 pass defenses, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. Jenkins was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. The Giants signed him as unrestricted free agent in March 2016. In his first season with the Giants, Jenkins had his best season to date, being voted to his first Pro Bowl and his first All-Pro (second-team) selection. He missed seven games in 2017 with an ankle injury that had bothered him much of the season and required surgery. Jenkins is an average-sized corner with excellent speed and quickness and the ability to shut down any wide receiver when on top of his game. He is not a physical run defender and sometimes shies away from contact.

The Giants signed journeyman B.W. Webb in March 2018 after he was cut by the Cleveland Browns. Webb not only made the team, but he had his best pro season, surprisingly starting 13 of the 16 games he played in, and finishing with 59 tackles, 1 sack, 6 pass defenses, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. Webb did a decent job for most of the season before fading late, giving up a number of big plays. The 5’11”, 190-pound Webb was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Webb has spent time with the Dallas Cowboys (2013), Pittsburgh Steelers (2014), Tennessee Titans (2015), New Orleans Saints (2016), Chicago Bears (2017), and Browns (2017). Webb has played 65 regular-season games with 23 starts.

Grant Haley was originally signed by the Giants as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He was signed to the Practice Squad in September 2018 and the 53-man roster in October 2018. Grant ended up being the team’s nickel corner, playing in 10 games with nine starts, and finishing the season with 33 tackles and 2 pass defenses. Haley is a short, but well-built corner with plays with good speed and aggression. He needs to make more plays on the football.

The Giants placed Antonio Hamilton on Injured Reserve in December 2018 with a quad injury. The 6’0, 190-pound Hamilton was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Oakland Raiders after the 2016 NFL Draft. He played in 12 regular-season games with no starts for the Raiders. The Giants claimed Hamilton off of waivers from the Raiders in September 2018. He played in 13 games for the Giants with no starts, accruing six tackles on special teams.

The Giants signed Tony Lippett in to the 53-man roster in October 2018. He ended up playing in three games, with no starts, and was exposed in coverage. A former wide receiver, the 6’3”, 192-pound Lippett was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. In three years with the Dolphins, from 2015 to 2017, Lippett played in 25 regular-season games with 13 starts. He missed all of the 2017 season with with a torn Achilles’ tendon. The Dolphins cut Lippett before the 2018 season started.

SAFETIES

Despite being voted to the Pro Bowl three times from 2016-2018, Landon Collins has not been able to replicate his breakout performance in 2016. He finished both 2017 and 2018 on Injured Reserve, first with a fractured forearm and then with a partially-torn rotator cuff. Both injuries required surgery. On top of the injury issues, Collins has struggled more in coverage against better athletes. In 2018, Collins started all 12 games he played in, finishing with 96 tackles, 4 pass defenses, and 1 forced fumble. Collins was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Giants. During his All-Pro 2016 season, Collins started every game and finished the year with 125 tackles, four sacks, 13 pass defenses, and five interceptions. Collins is a big, tough, physical safety who lacks ideal quickness and recovery speed and thus is better suited for strong safety. He did not make many plays on the football in 2018. Collins is good hitter and tackler and plays the run very well.

The Giants signed Curtis Riley as an unrestricted free agent from the Tennessee Titans in March 2018. Riley surprisingly started all 16 games at free safety, finishing with 75 tackles, 5 pass defenses, and 4 interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown). However, he was often a liability against both the run and the pass. The 6’0”, 190-pound Riley was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Titans as a cornerback after the 2015 NFL Draft. Riley spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve with an ankle injury. He played in four games in 2016 and seven games in 2017 with no starts. While Riley is a former cornerback with good athleticism for the safety position, he lacks the instincts, aggressiveness, and physicality required to play safety in the NFL.

The Giants signed Michael Thomas as an unrestricted free agent from the Miami Dolphins in March 2018. Thomas not only played in all 16 games, but surprisingly made six starts at safety. He finished the season with 59 tackles, 1 sack, 6 pass defenses, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. Thomas also played in his first Pro Bowl as a special teams alternate. The 5’11”, 195-pound Thomas was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the San Francisco 49ers after the 2012 NFL Draft. After spending most of two seasons on the 49ers’ Practice Squad, Thomas was signed to the 53-man roster of the Dolphins in December 2013. In five seasons in Miami, Thomas played in 56 games with 25 starts. A team leader and good locker room presence, Thomas has served as special teams captain with both the Dolphins and Giants. While he is an aggressive, physical player, Thomas lacks the overall athleticism to be a viable NFL starter at safety. He only has 12 career pass defenses.

The Giants signed Sean Chandler as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. Chandler made the team and played in all 16 games with no starts. He finished the year with 18 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pass defense. Chandler lacks ideal size and speed, but he is an aggressive, physical defensive back and special teams player.

The Giants signed Kenny Ladler to the Practice Squad in November 2018 and the 53-man roster in December 2018. He ended up playing in three games with no starts, accruing three tackles. The 6’1”, 200-pound Ladler was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Buffalo Bills after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Bills (2014-2015), Edmonton Eskimos (2016-2017), and Washington Redskins (2018). Ladler has played in 10 regular-season NFL games with no starts. Five of those games came with the Redskins in 2018 before the Redskins waived him in November.

The Giants claimed Kamrin Moore off of waivers from the New Orleans Saints in September 2018. He played in two games with no starts for the Giants. The 5’11’, 200-pound Moore was drafted in the 6th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.

NOT ON THE ACTIVE ROSTER

The Giants placed Sam Beal on Injured Reserve in July 2018 with a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Giants selected Beal in the 3rd round of the Supplemental Draft in July 2018. Beal combines good body length (6’1”, 185 pounds) and overall athleticism (4.5 in the 40-yard dash). He’s a smooth, natural cover corner who can flip his hips and has quick feet. Beal does need to improve his run defense.

The Giants signed Ronald Zamort to the Practice Squad in October 2018. The 5’10”, 174-pound Zamort originally signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft.

Feb 272019
 
Dave Gettleman, New York Giants (February 27, 2019)

Dave Gettleman – © USA TODAY Sports

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DAVE GETTLEMAN ADDRESSES MEDIA AT NFL COMBINE…
New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman addressed the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana on Wednesday. (VIDEO)

Opening Remarks: Wow. How are you guys doing? How y’all doing? I used to do that down in Carolina, they didn’t believe for one moment that I was from there. Welcome to the Underwear Olympics. It’s good to see everybody. We’re in the roster building season part, there’s no offseason anymore, in case you weren’t aware of it. We’re in the roster-building season, we don’t play until September, I’ve checked the schedule, and so there’s going to be a lot of time to make a lot of decisions so I just want everybody to understand that. Just as a reminder, I’m not going to discuss negotiations, I’m not going to discuss timelines. As far as I’m concerned, that’s very personal between the club and the player, so don’t ask. Don’t waste your time. I’ll say this, it’s a repeat of what I said at my postseason presser – we didn’t sign (WR) Odell (Beckham) to trade him, ok? So I know that’s all over the place, so understand that and that’s all I need to say about that.

Then the other thing, I was here listening to the questions you guys were asking (Head Coach) Pat (Shurmur) and a lot of times we focus on numbers – how big a guy is, how fast a guy is, how strong a guy is, what’s his vertical jump, how tall is he, what’s his hand size, what’s his arm length – there’s all these, just a myriad of numbers, analytics’ delight of numbers. One of the things that we really focus on is instincts. Instincts are very important. You guys were asking Pat the question about the quarterbacks. You can write a laundry list of things you’re looking for and it’s not like you’re breaking new ground, it’s not like you’re splitting atoms, but one of the things that I focus on and my staff and we talk about all the time is instinct. Does he have a feel for the game? Is he a step ahead of everybody else? Instincts and play smarts allow you to play bigger, stronger, faster. That’s a fact of life. If you are a film watcher, when you watch it, try to focus on that – is this guy, does he seem to have it? I spent some time with an Aussie rules pro personnel guy a bunch of years ago and in Australia they say, when I was explaining what I was talking about instincts, he said, ‘So you’re saying to me, do they have the ‘chip’?’ That’s what they call it down there. So, to answer your question about tall quarterbacks, short quarterbacks, rollie-pollie defensive linemen, a lot of it is instincts and play smarts. With all that being said, let the games begin.

Q: Do you feel as though what you just mentioned exemplifies a player like Sam Mills, a player who doesn’t fit all the measurements but finds a way to make the play every time?

A: You do. Obviously, and I’ve said it before, it’s a big man’s game. You can talk about it all you want, the game’s changing and everybody’s going crazy about all the stuff the college guys are doing. Bottom line is it’s a big man’s game. So, if you don’t have size, if you’re missing a PQ – a physical quality, so to speak – you have to have what I call a compensating factor and the compensating factor a lot of times is instinct. Sam Mills was 5’9 – may he rest in peace – was 5’9 in high heel sneakers. He could find the ball. The other day I was watching (Panthers LB) Luke (Kuechly), I was watching Carolina defensive film and I was watching Luke, and I was saying to myself, it’s like he’s in the huddle. It’s amazing. That doesn’t just apply to a defensive player, it applies to every position on the field.

Q: You heard earlier that Pat said Eli (Manning) is back for 2019. You were a little vague on that at the end-of-season press conference. What led you guys to decide that?

A: Well, it’s a never-ending process. We haven’t even hit free agency yet, so like I told you, I had my conversation with Eli back right after the season ended and we are where we are. Like Pat said, there’s a million different models, there’s a million different ways to do this and you could cite a number of models where they had a veteran guy and they drafted a young guy, and at some point in time, the torch got passed and away everybody went, and it was a happy away everybody went. So, there’s still a lot of time to make these decisions.

Q: Is it safe to say you’re not looking for a veteran to (replace Eli)?

A: I can’t say anything like that. I can’t do it. You don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know.

Q: So you haven’t committed to Eli?

A: I just told you. We’re evaluating everything and we’ve just got to keep moving forward.

Q: How much does not having a third-round draft pick play into (your evaluation)?

A: It’s really funny. For what it’s worth, we really feel strongly that if (CB) Sam (Beal) were in this draft, he’d be a second-round pick. We feel pretty strongly about that. So while it’s aggravating that we don’t have a third, if Sam steps up and is doing really well with his rehab thing, surgery went well, and so if he’s the guy we believe he is, then we won’t be mad.

Q: Not asking about negotiations, long-term with (S) Landon (Collins), you have a deadline next week, so says the NFL. Will you tag him regardless of negotiations just to make sure you have him for 2019?

A: We’re still evaluating.

Q: How important is it to have him back?

A: Like Pat says, you always want good players on your team. Here’s what everybody has to understand – you’ve got 53 players on your club and you’ve got a salary cap. You don’t have 53 silos. Decisions like this can’t be made in a vacuum. You can’t do it. So, it’s a process.

Q: You talked about your film study with Eli. I’m curious about what you saw when you looked back that maybe you didn’t see live, and if that’s driving you toward your decision process?

A: The short answer is yes. You want a little more than that? (Laughter) The short answer is yes. Really and truly, like Pat said, we came in and it was a whir, and we evaluated the team as best we could, made decisions, move forward, and feel strongly we made some good strides. At the end of the day, we saw what Eli was capable of once we gave him help. He still can make big-league throws, he can still make the NFL throws, and it’s, I say it all the time, it’s the ultimate team game. It is, because 10 guys do everything perfect and an offensive lineman falls down, the guy gets whacked. So to answer your question, we looked at Eli and we feel good about him.

Q: Philosophically, though, and Pat talked a lot about this earlier when everybody’s playing at a high level and playing better around him, but is that feasible in today’s NFL where you need the quarterback to have everything perfect rather than a quarterback who can make the people around him better?

A: I didn’t say he needed everything to be perfect. What quarterback doesn’t?

Q: Brady? (Inaudible) Mahomes?

A: Well, you’re talking about a 38-year-old guy against a 21-year-old pup. Here’s what I’m going to say, and I’ve really been thinking about this. I got a headache, that’s why I hurt myself, I think. I’ve really been thinking about this: The narrative around Eli for the past four years, five years, since I was gone, was really negative. The narrative’s been negative. There’s an old saying, ‘tell a lie enough, you believe it.’ The narrative is so negative that when you take that position, most people struggle getting off that spot, most people struggle saying, ‘I’m going to look at this with fresh eyes.’ So for example, when you evaluate pro players, every year’s a new year. When you evaluate him, it’s a new year. Yes, before he was at this level, but that doesn’t mean when you look at him that he’s automatically at this level or at this level. You’ve got to take everything for what it’s worth at that time and I think that the narrative has been negative, and I don’t think it’s been fair.

Q: The narrative has been negative because the results have been negative.

A: Part of it, it’s going to go hand in hand. We live in a blame society, that’s what we live in. I got in a car accident and it’s his fault. No, maybe you ran the stop sign. Everybody’s pointing fingers, no one wants to take responsibility. It’s part of it. Like I said, it’s the ultimate team game. You don’t win it yourself, you don’t lose it by yourself.

Q: With all that being said, at the end of the season you were pretty clear about knowing your situation at quarterback, your 38-year-old quarterback.

A: Yes, we do.

Q: Is the perception that you’re sticking with Eli and, for all intents and purposes, kicking the can down the road to not have to make another decision at quarterback fair?

A: No, it really isn’t. It really isn’t. Free agency hasn’t played out, the draft hasn’t played out. I don’t think it’s fair. Listen, I have this crazy idea that my responsibility is that every decision we make is in the best interest of the New York Giants. I think I said this before, (Panthers Head Coach) Ron Rivera used to kid me, he used to say, ‘Wait until you have to cut one of your draft picks’, because when I first got to Carolina I didn’t know any of those guys so I had to make moves and you do what you have to do. When the time came, I picked and chose who we paid money to. I’m going to do the same thing here. These decisions are not made with my heart, they’re made with my head and with the experience I have. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been around a few Super Bowl teams. I know what it takes to build one, I know what it should look like, and at the end of the day, no, I don’t think it’s fair.

Q: So, conceivably, you could see Eli Manning back on your roster for this year, and another quarterback — whether it’s a veteran or a rookie — challenge him at that spot or for the future?

A: Yes. You can’t be afraid to draft over a player. You’re in the draft, you’ve gone through free agency, you’ve got all your stuff going, and you’re sitting there and you’ve got a good player at a position and a young kid comes up at that spot staring you in the face. You can’t be afraid to draft him just because you’ve already got one. The more competition you can create, the better your team will be. And you have to create competition at every position. You have to, because if you don’t, unfortunately human nature sometimes takes over and the guy gets a little lazy and he thinks is anointed, and all that other stuff. Does that make sense?

Q: Have you ever got to that situation where you look at Eli and think that because he hasn’t had any competition, or do you think bringing in competition might actually bring his game to the level that you’re expecting?

A: Absolutely, it’s very possible that that’s going to happen.

Q: Is adjusting Eli’s $23.2 million cap something you’d consider?

A: You have to look at everything, I’m not going to lie. I’m not saying I’m going to do anything (laughter). I’m just saying it’s my job. It’s my job to take everything into consideration.

Q: On Odell’s: (Inaudible)

A: You guys got to write about something, I guess. Speculate all you want. I’ve already made my statement on that.

Q: Do you expect Olivier Vernon to be on the team this year?

A: Again, we’re in the evaluation process. I hope I’m with the team this year.

Q: Why were you comfortable trading Eli Apple?

A: Why was I comfortable trading Eli? Because of the value we got in return. We thought it was in the best interest of the New York Football Giants.

Q: Did you pay attention to him after (he was traded to the Saints)?

A: You have to. Again, shame on me if I don’t check my hole card. So, yes I did.

Q: Being around a few Super Bowl teams, you haven’t drafted a franchise quarterback-

A: Me personally? No. I’ve been spoiled as hell.

Q: So you have been spoiled?

A: Are you kidding me? (Jim) Kelly, (John) Elway, (Eli) Manning, Cam Newton — not bad, huh?

Q: On what you’ll do now and if you’re confident he’ll be the right guy to have a major impact on the Giants in the next few years:

A: It’s really funny. I have one of the best consiglieres of all time. I talk to Ernie (Accorsi) all the time and what Ernie did for the Giants, it would be a dream for me to do the same thing. Does that answer your question?

Q: Inaudible – On scouting (Justin Herbert) and his decision to go back to college: How do you try to weigh this year’s (draft class) versus next year’s?

A: It’s an interesting question. I think at the end of the day, you can’t say to yourself, ‘I’m going to get him next year.’ You evaluate the Q’s, and you take the guy when you believe he’s the guy and it’s at the right spot. You can’t worry about the future because now someone else is going to say, well, in two years there are a couple college quarterbacks that are coming out that are really amazing. Who knows? I look at the NBA, and everybody says, ‘you’ve got to tank. We’re going to tank and we’re going to get this great player.’ What NBA team has tanked and it’s worked because they think they’re going to get (a player)? (Response: the Sixers) When they win a championship, we can have a discussion, but until that happens, it hasn’t worked. So at the end of the day, if the right guy is there at the right time who we think is the right guy, we’ll pull the plug.

Q: But in assessing this year’s class of quarterbacks-

A: Which is just at the very beginning of the process. You’ve got Indy, you’ve got the workouts, we’ve got private visits, we’ve got interviews. You can’t line them up now, and if anyone has them lined up now, God bless them. They’re smarter than me.

Q: You mentioned doing what Ernie did would be a dream for you. We know you won’t reach for a quarterback but you already gave up future draft picks, traded up so to speak, even though you have Eli. Would you be comfortable making that bold move if you have the guy you want?

A: No guts, no glory, kid.

PAT SHURMUR ADDRESSES MEDIA AT NFL COMBINE…
New York Giants Head Coach Pat Shurmur addressed the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana on Wednesday. (VIDEO)

Q: On the return of Eli Manning:

A: I fully expect him and again, you’re going to ask me about particular players, Dave will tell you – you’ll speak to him later – I’m a body collector. I want to keep all the players we had and add a lot of new ones. I really feel that way about Eli.

Q: On your involvement in the evaluation process:

A: I’m intimately involved in it, both the free agents and then obviously the draft players. It’s very collaborative, we all want to hear what everybody has to think about every player and every situation. We talk about it frequently with ownership and we just try to make the best decision, and if it’s a matter of this player is no longer going to be here, let’s get a guy that’s better. That’s what we’re trying to do.

Q: You talk about being a body collector, and obviously there’s a couple quarterbacks that could be on the board at (the sixth pick). What do you look for in a young quarterback and what do you value out of a rookie quarterback?

A: I think they’ve got to have the traits you’re looking for to play the position. Times have changed, quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes. Then you obviously have to watch them play. They need to be productive, they need to make good decisions, they’ve got to know how to throw the ball accurately, throw the ball on time, they’ve got to lead their teams to victories, and they’ve got to do all the things necessary to play the position. That’s what we look at. We evaluate all the quarterbacks every year regardless of whether it’s perceived we might be looking for one.

Q: On your evaluation of the Vanderbilt quarterback (son, Kyle Shurmur):

A: The Vanderbilt quarterback – well, I’m extremely proud of him. He’s made great decisions. He did an excellent job in high school giving himself the opportunity to go to a place like Vanderbilt, graduated in three and a half years, helped them win games. He’s a good player.

Q: There was a quote you said last year about preferring taller guys. That’s made headlines the last couple of weeks. How does that fit in with (Kyler Murray)?

A: I think you’re digging into something. Obviously the player has to be productive, and as I just mentioned, quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes. Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl. I think you’ve got to look at the total player, look at his productivity, and you’ve got to look at whether he fits and then we as coaches will use their skillsets to the best of their ability to try to get the most out of him and help you win games.

Q: On what are you going to be looking for from Kyler:

A: We’re going to try to get to know him and watch him compete, try to find out who he is as a person and a player. Some of the quarterbacks we got a jumpstart on because of the Senior Bowl, but Kyler is a young player that I haven’t met yet. It’ll start with, ‘Hey, how ya doin’?’

Q: Does the baseball alternative scare you with Kyler?

A: No. That’s going to run parallel with our decision making of whether we like him or not.

Q: On how important it is to get the next quarterback in line with Eli coming back at 38 years old and on the last year of his contract:

A: We’re always trying to and, again, there’s all these narratives and the next franchise quarterback, replace this guy and do all this, and we’re trying to make our team better. We certainly, it’s no mystery Eli’s closer to 40 than he is 20. That’s no mystery and certainly we’re going to do the very best we can to get the best players, especially the one that’s playing quarterback.

Q: How do you scout the AAF guys?

A: We’ll watch the games. I haven’t had an opportunity to see much, I’ve kind of been following it and I’ve got some good friends that are involved in that league. It’s a league where guys are getting an opportunity to develop, especially at the quarterback position and some of the skill player positions. I don’t know much about the games yet, I haven’t had a chance to watch many of them or really any of them, I’ve just seen segments of games. Yeah, we’ll evaluate it and it’ll give us an opportunity to see these guys develop.

Q: In relation to Kyler Murray: How small is too small of a quarterback?

A: I don’t know what’s too small. Russell Wilson’s 5’10, we haven’t seen Kyler be measured yet, but when you watch him on tape he’s an outstanding player. For a sub-6’0” player, he only had five balls batted down. That’s why I say you’ve got to look at the player and how he competed, how he helped his team win games, how he moved his feet – you’ve got to look at all of it and then factor it in and decide if that player’s for you.

Q: On your position on changes to instant replay:

A: I don’t know. I feel like this is a human game, played by humans, officiated by humans. We’ve done a lot to help get things right and I think there’ll be conversations about making sure that that continues to happen and try to find ways. I don’t know how the language would read to expand it, but I think what’s interesting about all of it is if something’s wrong, we all want to find a way to make it right. I think that’s initially what replay was all about. We’ve got a lot of very smart people, much smarter than me, trying to figure out what’s the best thing. The good thing is we talk constantly about trying to make changes and improvements, and I’m sure we’ll do something.

Q: More on evaluating quarterbacks (inaudible):

A: You look at the core traits, and that’s why I say this, that once you’ve seen that they’re a really good player, you’ve got to determine whether they’re a very good decision maker. That crosses over into all areas of their life, because we all know what we’re looking for from the face of our franchise. And when the game is over, they ask a lot of people what happened, but every week, they ask the head coach and the quarterback what they think. That player is thrust into a position of leadership and being the face of the franchise, so decision making is important, accuracy, timing, all of those things, and I think we’re looking for all that.

Q: On once you get Kyler Murray’s measurables (inaudible):

A: No, we’re going to look at the player and decide whether he’s the guy that we want to be with the Giants.

Q: What’s your initial assessment of the overall quarterback class?

A: I’ve watched, there’s a lot of really good players playing quarterback this year that we’re evaluating. Nice try, I’m not going to sit here and evaluate them for you.

Q: Strong class? Stronger than last year?

A: I don’t know. There were a lot of good quarterbacks and I think there’s a lot in this year’s draft as well.

Q: Are there any important thresholds for quarterbacks?

A: Some of the numbers are important. We’re obviously looking for things that are elite in a player and, again, they come in all shapes and sizes.

Q: Have you talked to (S) Landon (Collins) in the last week?

A: Yeah, I’ve spoken to Landon throughout. He’s been in the building rehabbing and working out, but I haven’t since the report. I think it was reported with way more drama than what actually happened, but yeah.

Q: Do you expect him to be on the team next year?

A: As I mentioned earlier, I want all our players back, but beyond that, it’s free agency. This is the wrong time for me to be commenting on any of that.

Q: Are you aware if there have been active negotiations with Landon Collins?

A: I am aware that he’s a free agent and I’m aware of the fact that there have been conversations.

Q: On comparing last year at this time to this year:

A: Yeah, you bring up a good point. I stood up here last year and Dave, too, was very new. Dave was with the organization for many years and then was away for a few, so we were very new in the process listening to what those that were at the Giants were telling us about the players, but we have a much better view in our eyes of what our team is all about. We took over a 3-13 team, I think we made strides this year. We certainly are not good enough in really any area, we know though specifically those areas that we need to get better and I think that’s what that first year can do for you.

Q: To clarify, you said there have been conversations (about Landon Collins), do you know if you guys have extended an official offer on a multi-year deal?

A: I wouldn’t ’t talk about that. This is the business time of year. I know that there’s been conversations. Now, what those conversations are, I would never tell you.

Q: When you’re looking at prospects, is it the consistency of their unique traits that make them a full prospect, or just a good college player?

A: At all positions, yeah, there is. There’s things we’re looking for, and really as a coach, we go back to – we watch the tape, we watch them do what they do. There’s a lot of players where you turn the tape off and you say, ‘Darn, that guy is a really good football player.’ Then you go and look and maybe his measurables aren’t to what the standards might be, but you still love the player and you want to work with them. Then there’s other guys who have the elite measurables and you go watch the tape and you go, ‘Eh, he’s ok.’ That’s where it becomes a little bit subjective and that’s why getting to know the player, getting to know whether he’s going to be a good teammate, if he appreciates what it means to have relationships with coaches, that’s why all this is important because we get to know the player a little bit more intimately.

Q: There was a lot of talk last year on how instrumental you were in getting Odell Beckham to buy in even when he didn’t have his contract. A year into this, where does your relationship stand with Odell?

A: I think it’s good, I really do. I’ve communicated with him frequently in the last few weeks. It’s unfortunate he wasn’t able to finish the season, but it’s good, it’s solid. He’s like many of our other players, he’s off living, I think, in California now, but he travels quite a bit. He does a great job of staying in shape and look forward to having him back.

Q: Are you considering trading Odell?

A: I wouldn’t talk about that, but I’m looking forward to having him back here in April and moving forward with the rest of the guys.

Q: On whether or not you think there’s a difference between a quarterback that has it or not versus something that can’t be taught in quarterbacks:

A: There is. I think you can say, ‘OK, this guy has got it.’ I’ll go back to what I was saying about measurables, some of these guys have really good measurables or put up really good numbers but might not have as good a feel for the position as some other guys. That’s why this is really an important process. You’ve got some small college guys that played well and then you have guys who played on the big stage that have done a good job, but some of their success is based on the fact that they were playing with great players. That’s what’s really interesting about this is trying to predict and then pick the one that’s going to have success.

Q: On evaluating the potential development of a player:

A: I think it’s a little bit subjective, but you look at the young man and you just kind of look at him and say, ‘OK, this guy’s got potential to grow and get better’. I think at this stage, all the players do to some degree, but some certainly have more room to grow than others.

Q: On picking a new quarterback to learn from Eli Manning:

A: The decision to pick that player has got to be independent of that, but I think that’s going to be a great thing to happen to a player if that happens. I’ve spoken frequently about what I think of Eli and how he handles himself and how he prepares, and really everything he does behind the scenes, and I think a young player would greatly benefit from that. We all want to learn from somebody that’s done it – players, coaches – and he’s done it at a very high level and so being in a room with him I think would only help that player.

Q: You said your goal is to win as many games as possible. You also said that Eli is closer to 40 than he is 20. How do you balance a potential quarterback versus a guy you can plug and play?

A: I think the plug and play vs. the guy that – you’re still looking to play the best guy. I’ve been in situations where Sam Bradford started the first game. I was in another situation where Donovan McNabb didn’t start until Week 8. In fact, Doug Pederson was the starter. You’ve seen in Kansas City where (Patrick) Mahomes really didn’t play the first year, so there’s a lot of different models for that, speaking specifically to the quarterback.

Q: In relation to changes to the offensive line:

A: Oh yeah, we’re trying to get better in all positions and running parallel with that is all the things that everybody has questions about.

Q: How big is mobility while looking at a quarterback?

A: I really value a guy that can move around because it doesn’t mean he’s a runner, it just means he has a way to clean his feet in the pocket or scramble when necessary. Typically, if you’re going to have long drives and do it on a consistent basis, somewhere in that drive the quarterback has to do something with his feet to keep a drive alive or get a first down. Even guys that are not considered mobile, it might be subtle movement in the pocket. That mobility, I think, is very important. I think it’s essential really for a quarterback to have great success.

Feb 272019
 
Everett Withers, Texas State Bobcats (September 30, 2017)

Everett Withers – © USA TODAY Sports

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NEW YORK GIANTS HIRE DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH…
According to multiple press reports, the New York Giants have hired Everett Withers as the team’s new defensive backs coach. Withers replaces Lou Anarumo, who was hired by the Cincinnati Bengals as their new defensive coordinator. The Giants also lost Assistant Defensive Backs Coach Deshea Townsend, who was hired away by the Chicago Bears as their new defensive backs coach. The Giants hired Rutgers defensive backs coach Henry Baker to replace him.

Withers had agreed to serve as the new defensive coordinator for Florida International University earlier this month after he was fired as head coach of Texas State University (2016-2018). He had previously served as head coach at James Madison University (2014-2015), assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach at Ohio State University (2012-2013), and interim head coach at the University of North Carolina (2011). For six seasons (2001-2006), Withers was the defensive backs coach for the Tennessee Titans.

  • 2019-Present: Defensive Backs Coach, New York Giants
  • 2019: Defensive Coordinator, Florida International University
  • 2016-2018: Head Coach, Texas State University
  • 2014-2015: Head Coach, James Madison University
  • 2012-2013: Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach, Ohio State University
  • 2011: Interim Head Coach, University of North Carolina
  • 2008-2010: Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach, University of North Carolina
  • 2007: Defensive Coordinator, University of Minnesota
  • 2001-2006: Defensive Backs Coach, Tennessee Titans
  • 1998-2000: Defensive Backs Coach, University of Texas
  • 1995-1997: Defensive Coordinator, University of Louisville
  • 1994: Defensive Quality Control Coach, New Orleans Saints
  • 1992-1993: Defensive Backs Coach, University of Southern Mississippi
  • 1991: Outside Linebackers Coach, Tulane University
  • 1990: Tight Ends/Special Teams Coach, Austin Peay State University
  • 1988-1989: Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach, Austin Peay State University
  • Pro Experience: None
  • Collegiate Experience: Defensive Back, Appalachian State University (1981-1985)
  • Born June 15, 1963
Feb 262019
 
Olivier Vernon, Alec Olgetree, and Kareem Martin; New York Giants (December 2, 2018)

Olivier Vernon, Alec Olgetree, and Kareem Martin – © USA TODAY Sports

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There are two positions on the team that management simply has not been able to “fix” for years: offensive line and linebackers. And it is not for want of effort. While the Giants have not spent a great deal of draft assets on linebackers (3rd-round pick on Lorenzo Carter, 4th-round pick on B.J. Goodson), the team certainly has spent free agent and even indirect draft (i.e. trade) assets. Three of the four Giants’ starting linebackers in 2018 were:

  • Olivier Vernon ($17 million 2018 cap hit)
  • Alec Ogletree ($4.75 million 2018 cap hit, plus 4th- and 6th-round draft picks in trade)
  • Kareem Martin (3-year, $15 million contract)

The Giants also gave Connor Barwin a 2-year, $5 million deal as a reserve.

To be blunt, the return on the investment was quite poor. The 3-4 defense relies on the linebackers to be the the play-makers and the pass rushers. They didn’t do that. As a team, the Giants had 30 sacks, tied for 30th in the league. Only the Raiders had fewer. And of those 30 sacks, 17 came from the linebackers. Only two linebackers on the team picked off a pass. Most startling, Giants linebackers only forced ONE fumble all year.

Ask a Giants’ fan about their linebacker memories for the 2018 season and they’ll probably mention Ogletree picking off five passes and returning two of those for touchdowns. Or Goodson picking off two passes in a game. They may say that the injury-prone Vernon flashed as a pass rusher as he got healthier. And that Carter showed some good things as a rookie. But mostly it was just blah. Barwin was invisible. Martin was one-dimensional. The positives from Vernon were overshadowed by a frustrating lack of impact and bonehead mistakes such a penalties or losing contain responsibility.

Overall, the run defense wasn’t good, with players often being out-of-position or being successfully blocked out of position. And pass coverage against tight ends and backs remained a sore spot for yet another year (despite the five picks, there was a stretch of games where Ogletree was regularly abused in coverage).

THE EDGE RUSHERS

Olivier Vernon’s first three seasons with the Giants have been sabotaged due to nagging injuries, including a high ankle sprain in 2018 that caused him to miss the first five games of the season. Vernon started the remaining 11 games, accruing 30 tackles, 7 sacks, 1 pass defense, and 1 forced fumble. Despite the missed time and subpar tackle production, Vernon played in the Pro Bowl as a first alternate. Vernon was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Dolphins. The Giants signed him as a free agent in March 2016. Although Vernon played in all 16 regular-season games in 2016, a serious left hand/wrist injury affected his play. In 2017, he missed four games with an ankle injury that also continued to be a factor in other games. An undersized but athletic defensive end, the Giants shifted him to linebacker in 2018 to fit their new 3-4 scheme. Vernon teases with his big-play ability but he simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy and be consistently productive and reliable.

The Giants signed Kareem Martin as an unrestricted free agent from the Arizona Cardinals in March 2018. Though not a standout, Martin has his most productive season as a pro, playing in a 16 games with seven starts, and finishing with 48 tackles (twice as much as his previous high), 1.5 sacks, and 2 pass defenses. The 6’6”, 272-pound Martin was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Cardinals as a defensive end. The Cardinals moved him to linebacker after his rookie season. Martin is a ‘tweener who does his best work moving forward rather than moving backwards in space. He is a sold run defender, but he only has six career sacks in five seasons.

The Giants drafted Lorenzo Carter in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Carter played in 15 games as a rookie with two starts, finishing the season with 43 tackles, 4 sacks, and 4 pass defenses. He is a tall, athletic, disruptive forward mover. Carter causes problems with his quickness and closing burst but can get hung up on blocks at times. Carter flashes as a pass rusher, and he can rush the passer from the defensive end spot in certain packages.

The Giants signed Connor Barwin as an unrestricted free agent from the Los Angeles Rams in July 2018. Despite playing in 15 games with three starts, Barwin finished the year with just 12 tackles, 1 sack, and 4 pass defenses. Barwin was originally selected in the 2nd-round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Before joining the Giants, he spent time with the Texans (2009-2012), Philadelphia Eagles (2013-2016), and Rams (2017).

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

The Giants traded with the Rams for Alec Ogletree in March 2018, giving the Rams 4th- and 6th-round draft picks. In his first season with the Giants, Ogletree started all 13 regular-season games he played in, missing three games due to hamstring and concussion issues. He finished the year with 93 tackles, 1 sack, 8 pass defenses, and 5 interceptions (2 of which were returned for touchdowns). Ogletree was drafted in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Rams. He made the All-Rookie team in 2013 and was named second-team All-Pro in 2016. The 6’2”, 235-pound Ogletree lacks classic size. He’s more of a run-and-hit linebacker than take-on-and-shed guy. Team leader who was voted team captain on both the Rams and Giants. In his six NFL seasons, Olgetree has averaged almost 100 tackles per year. Despite his five interceptions in 2018, he can be exposed in man coverage by athletic pass catchers.

In his third year with the Giants, B.J. Goodson had his most productive season, playing in 15 games with 13 starts, and finishing with 61 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 4 pass defenses, and 2 interceptions. Goodson was drafted by the Giants in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he played in 15 regular-season games with no starts. In 2017, Goodson started all seven games he played in, but missed most of the season with shin and ankle issues. Goodson is a big, strong, physical linebacker who lacks ideal speed and quickness. He plays the run better than the pass.

The Giants signed Tae Davis as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. Davis not only made the team, but he played in 14 games with four starts, accruing 33 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 pass defense. The 6’0”, 222-pound Davis lacks size, but he is a good athlete with fine speed. While aggressive, Davis is not a physical player against the run and he missed too many tackles in 2018. He also needs to improve in coverage.

The Giants claimed Nate Stupar off of waivers from the New Orleans Saints in September 2018. He played in all 16 games, finishing the year with just 14 tackles. In his one start, Stupar missed three tackles. The 6’2”, 240-pound Stupar was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Stupar has spent time with the Raiders (2012), Philadelphia Eagles (2012), San Francisco 49ers (2012–2013), Jacksonville Jaguars (2013), Atlanta Falcons (2014–2015), and Saints (2016–2017). He has played in 79 regular-season games with ten starts, six of which came in 2016 when he accrued 58 tackles. Stupar missed 11 games in 2017 with a torn ACL. He is a good special teams player.

Ukeme Eligwe was signed to the Practice Squad in September 2018 after he was waived by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Giants signed him to the 53-man roster in October 2018. Eligwe ended up playing in 10 games with no starts, accruing just seven tackles and one pass defense. The 6’2”, 239-pound Eligwe was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Chiefs.

STILL HANGING AROUND

Avery Moss was signed to the Practice Squad in September 2018. Moss was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Giants. As a rookie, he played in 11 games with two starts. He finished with 14 tackles, two pass defenses, and one forced fumble. Moss has good size with long arms and is a good athlete. Moss flashes as a disruptive run defender and pass rusher, but he needs to become more consistent and get stronger at the point-of-attack.

Jordan Williams was waived/injured in September 2018 with hip and shoulder injuries, and then placed on Injured Reserve. Williams was originally signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2015 NFL Draft. He spent time with the Jets (2015) and Miami Dolphins (2015-2016) before being signed by the Giants to the Practice Squad in December 2016. He spent most of 2017 on the Giants’ Practice Squad, even though he played in one regular-season game.

Feb 222019
 
Lou Anarumo, New York Giants (September 16, 2018)

Lou Anarumo – © USA TODAY Sports

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BENGALS HIRE LOU ANARUMO…
The Cincinnati Bengals have hired New York Giants defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo to be their new defensive coordinator. Anarumo joined the Giants staff last year after serving as the defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins from 2012 to 2017.

Earlier this offseason, the Giants lost Assistant Defensive Backs Coach Deshea Townsend, who was hired away by the Chicago Bears as their new defensive backs coach. The Giants hired Rutgers defensive backs coach Henry Baker to replace him.

GIANTS AWARDED 5TH-ROUND COMPENSATORY PICK…
The New York Giants have been awarded a 5th-round compensatory pick in the 2019 NFL Draft due to their free agency losses from last offseason. The Giants now have a total of 10 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, including:

  • One 1st rounder (#6 overall)
  • One 2nd rounder
  • Two 4th rounders
  • Three 5th rounders
  • One 6th rounder
  • Two 7th rounders

The Giants used their 3rd-round pick on 2018 Supplemental Draft cornerback Sam Beal, who spent the year on Injured Reserve. The Giants also traded away their own 7th-round pick for punter Riley Dixon.

The Giants acquired an extra 4th round (cornerback Eli Apple), 5th round (nose tackle Damon Harrison), and 7th round (center Brett Jones) picks by trading players away last year. They also received an extra 7th-round pick as part of the trade for linebacker Alec Ogletree.

Compensatory picks are awarded to teams that have lost more qualifying free agents than they gained the previous year in free agency. The placement of the picks is determined by a proprietary formula based on the player’s salary, playing time, and postseason honors with his new team, with salary being the primary factor.

The qualifying free agents for this years formula included four signed by the Giants (left tackle Nate Solder, safety Michael Thomas, wide receiver Cody Latimer, and linebacker Kareem Martin). The Giants lost six free agents (offensive guard Justin Pugh, center Weston Richburg, guard D.J. Fluker, linebacker Devon Kennard, cornerback Ross Cockrell, and quarterback Geno Smith).

Feb 222019
 
B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson, New York Giants (November 25, 2018)

B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson – © USA TODAY Sports

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After 24 years of playing in the 4-3 defense, the New York Giants shifted back to a 3-4 defense that emphasized the pass rush coming from the outside linebackers rather than the defensive ends. It was anticipated that the big, strong, tackle-like trio of nose tackle Damon Harrison and ends Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill would dominate the line of scrimmage. While the defensive line was arguably the strongest unit on a disappointing defense, more was expected. Harrison was surprisingly traded away in late October after a dreadful 1-6 start. The Giants publicly claimed this was done to move Tomlinson and Hill to more natural positions, but there was also speculation, fueled by senior official comments of bad team chemistry, that the Giants considered Harrison a locker room cancer.

Team defense “improved” from 31st in 2017 to 24th in 2018. The Giants were 20th in run defense in 2018, allowing over 118 yards per game and 4.3 yards per rush, which were very similar to their 2017 numbers. Of course, much of the blame for this disappointing result must also rest with the linebackers and defensive backs, who were often out of position and missed too many tackles.

In January, Dave Gettleman chalked up 2018 as a valuable learning experience for the young linemen.

When we traded Snacks, part of the issue when Snacks was here was he played the one (technique), we had Dalvin playing the three (technique), and B.J. playing the five technique. Well, Dalvin’s a one technique and B.J.’s a three, so I’m very pleased with the change… B.J. came a long way. Pass rush is critical, as I’ve stated it a million times as we all know. B.J. had, I think, five and a half sacks, so he made some progress inside. Dalvin did what he does at the one, so for us, it worked out and those young guys are getting snaps. That’s the only way they’re going to get better. There’s a theory out there that young guys, once they get to 5,000 snaps, that’s when they’re really ready to rock and roll and that includes practice and game snaps and all that. I don’t know if I subscribe to it, but I’m just throwing it out there.

Overall, the run defense was not as good as expected. And while there were flashes here and there, particularly from Hill, there were no consistent pass rushers in this group.

THE NEW BUILDING BLOCKS

Dalvin Tomlinson began the year playing the 3-technique position (9 starts) in the team’s 3-4 scheme before being moved to the 1-technique spot (7 starts) after nose tackle Damon Harrison was traded. He finished the season with 59 tackles and no sacks. The Giants drafted Tomlinson in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Tomlinson started every game as a rookie and finished the season with 50 tackles and one sack. Tomlinson is an average-sized tackle who is very strong and tough. He is a good run defender who flashes the ability to disrupt plays in the backfield, but to-date, he has not proven to be much of a pass rusher (only one sack in two seasons).

The Giants drafted B.J. Hill in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He played in all 16 regular-season games with 12 starts, finishing the season with 48 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and two pass defenses. Though listed as a 3-4 defensive end, the 6’3”, 303-pound Hill was shifted from the five-technique position to the three-technique after the team traded away nose tackle Damon Harrison. Hill has good quickness for his size, plays with leverage, and flashes the ability to disrupt. He needs to become a more consistent run defender.

SOLID ROTATIONAL PLAYERS

The Giants signed Josh Mauro as an unrestricted free agent from the Arizona Cardinals in March 2018 after he was cut by the Cardinals. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 NFL season by the NFL for the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Mauro played in the 12 remaining games, with four starts, finishing with 28 tackles and one sack. The 6’6”, 290-pound, English-born Mauro was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2014 NFL Draft. He did not make the team, but was signed by the Cardinals after he was cut. In four seasons with the Cardinals, Mauro played in 47 regular-season games with 26 starts. Mauro is a hard-working run player who does not get much heat on the quarterback (only three career sacks).

In his fifth season with the Giants, Kerry Wynn started five of the 14 games that he played in, finishing with 39 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 pass defenses, and 2 forced fumbles. Wynn was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Giants after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has played in 63 regular-season games, with 15 starts. Wynn has a nice combination of size, strength, and overall athletic ability. Wynn is a better run defender than pass rusher as he lacks dynamic quickness on the outside pass rush (just 4.5 career sacks). He is able to play defensive tackle in pass-rush situations. Wynn flashed more in 2018 than he has in previous regular seasons.

The Giants claimed Mario Edwards off of waivers from the Oakland Raiders in September 2018. He served as a primary back-up, playing in 15 games with no starts, and finishing the year with 14 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. The 6’3”, 280-pound Edwards was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Raiders. He missed most of 2016 with a hip injury. In three years with the Raiders, Edwards played in 30 regular-season games with 24 starts. While a disappointment in Oakland, Edwards is a good athlete who flashes against both the run and the pass.

The Giants selected R.J. McIntosh in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. However, an unpublicized medical condition prevented him from practicing with the team all summer and the Giants placed him on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness List in September 2018. He was activated to the 53-man roster in early November and ended up playing in six games with no starts, accruing just five tackles. McIntosh combines good size and overall athleticism.

YET TO MAKE A MARK

The Giants signed John Jenkins in September 2018 after he was cut by the Chicago Bears. He was active for seven games, but was not credited with any tackles. The 6’3”, 327-pound Jenkins was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He has spent time with the Saints (2013-2016), Seattle Seahawks (2016), and Bears (2017-2018). From 2013 to 2015, Jenkins played in 42 regular-season games with 21 starts. However, in 2016 and 2017, Jenkins played in just 17 regular-season games with two starts. He was inactive for eight games in 2017. With only 1.5 career sacks, Jenkins is strictly a run-defending nose tackle-type.

The Giants signed Myles Humphrey to the Practice Squad in October 2018. Listed as a defensive end, the 6’3”, 238-pound Humphrey originally signed with the Baltimore Ravens after the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent most of September on the Ravens’ Practice Squad.

Kristjan Sokoli was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2018 after tearing an ACL in one of his knees in the preseason opener. The Giants Sokoli signed to the Practice Squad in late December 2017. Sokoli was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. The 6’5”, 300-pound Sokoli has spent time with the Seahawks (2015), Indianapolis Colts (2016), and New Orleans Saints (2017). The Albanian-born player has played both on the offensive and defensive lines.

Feb 202019
 
Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 12, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

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For media pundits and fans, opinions and battle lines regarding Eli Manning have long been formed. In many ways, it’s strange to see a class act, two-time Super Bowl MVP, and holder of just about every significant passing record in team history be such a divisive topic. Perhaps that says more about us than Eli.

Quarterbacks for every team are always fan lightning rods. But the contempt for Eli seems over the top, including with “overrated” player polls which seem more than a tad disingenuous since Eli has never been regarded all that highly by most players, media types, and fans of other teams.

Manning’s best season was his League MVP-worthy performance of 2011. By the conclusion of that season, at the age of 31, in his first eight years, Manning had won two Super Bowls, was responsible for 25 game-winning drives, and sported 8-3 playoff and 69-50 regular-season records. After that, in his next seven seasons, while there were 17 more game-winning drives, Manning only played in one more playoff game and saw his regular-season record plummet to 47-64. Manning’s team have only won two more games than they have lost (116-114) and have been to the playoffs six times, losing the first playoff game on four of those occasions.

With those facts in mind, the genesis of Eli debate becomes clear. If you take away the Super Bowl seasons of 2007 and 2011, outside his longevity, Manning’s career looks like the epitome of mediocrity. But – and it’s a BIG but (cue the Pee Wee Herman joke here) – you can’t take away the 2007 and 2011 seasons. Manning played his best football during those two historic, against-all-odds, 4-0 each playoff runs. He is responsible for one quarter of the team’s NFL Championships. This alone makes his career a success.

My personal view is that the New York Giants as a franchise ruined the second half of Manning’s career. Manning was probably never going to duplicate his career season of 2011, but he should not be a 47-64 quarterback either. For most of the last seven years, the Giants have “surrounded” Eli with terrible offensive lines, no running game, shoddy defense, and abysmal special teams. The beatings Manning has taken have taken their toll. He’s not the guy he was in 2011. The same thing happened to Ron Jaworski, Neil Lomax, and others. Once you permanently lose faith in your offensive line, you become a different player.

2018 was an odd year for Eli. At times, he looked done. At other times, he was the master of efficiency. Six times he had a QB rating over 100. He completed a career-high 66 percent of his passes. He only threw 11 interceptions. But even with Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham, the offense was abysmal for much of the season. Manning threw only 21 touchdowns and the team finished the year 5-11. If a play broke down, Manning could not improvise. He was sacked a career-high 47 times (an average of three times per game).

One of Phil Simms’ best years was his final one in 1993, when the Giants surprisingly finished 11-5. Simms didn’t throw a lot of touchdowns (only 15), but he was incredibly efficient quarterback on a solid football team. My sense is that Eli Manning could still be a winning and sometimes masterful QB if his surrounding team were stronger, but that simply has not been the case. Too many times, the offensive line or defense have collapsed. Too many times the ground game couldn’t gain that one yard. Now he is 38 years old. It’s a shame.

THE 15-YEAR CONSTANT

In the twilight stage of his career, the 38-year old Eli Manning completed his 15th season in 2018. The entire offense, including Manning, played much better in the second half of the year when the offensive line played better. Overall, Manning finished with 4,299 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He completed a career-high 66 percent of his passes. However, the passing attack was inconsistent. There were stretches and games where Manning and the passing game were efficient and sharp, and others where they struggled to move the chains and put points up on the board. Manning was the first player selected in the 2004 NFL Draft and immediately traded to the Giants by the Chargers. Manning owns practically every quarterback record in franchise history. He is 8-4 as a playoff quarterback and a two-time Super Bowl MVP. His best season was 2011 when he carried the Giants to the playoffs, highlighted by eight come-from-behind victories. Since then, he has struggled with consistency as the franchise has been unable to provide him with an adequate offensive line. Manning has the perfect temperament for playing in the New York metropolitan area as the intense media spotlight does not seem to faze him. He is very smart and hard-working. Manning has excellent size and decent arm strength. Relatively immobile, Manning rarely extends a play when his protection breaks down and is not a threat to harm a defense with his feet. Although he’s a tough competitor who has never missed a game due to injury in 14 seasons, Manning has become a bit more gun-shy in recent years due to shoddy pass protection. Manning excels in the mental aspects of the game and reads opposing defenses extremely well. Manning is still guilty of making the ill-advised, head-scratching throw when the smarter decision would be to throw the football away or take the sack. His gun-slinger mentality – which leads to big plays – also causes him to make some risky throws in tight windows. Manning was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2011, and played in the game after the 2012 and 2015 regular seasons as an alternate.

THE SURPRISE BACK-UP

Alex Tanney, who the Giants signed in May 2018 after he was cut by the Tennessee Titans, surprisingly won the team’s back-up quarterback job, a role he played in 15 of 16 games. However, he did not see any regular-season action. The 6’4”, 220-pound Tanney was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2012 NFL Draft. The well-traveled journeyman has spent time with the Chiefs (2012), Dallas Cowboys (2013), Cleveland Browns (2013), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014), Titans (2014), Buffalo Bills (2015), Indianapolis Colts (2015), and Titans again (2015–2018). Tanney has only played in one regular-season game, coming off the bench for the Titans in 2015. He played in three preseason games for the Giants in 2018, completing 18-of-33 passes (54.5 percent) for 177 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions.

DRIVING MR. LAULETTA

The Giants selected Kyle Lauletta in the 4th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The team’s third quarterback for the bulk of the season, Lauletta did play late in the game of a blowout win. However, he did not distinguish himself, going 0-of-5 with one interception. Lauletta also was arrested midway through the season due to a serious traffic infraction. The scouting report on Lauletta coming out of college was that he is a smart, accurate short- to intermediate-passer whose lack of arm strength limits his overall game.

Feb 192019
 
Scott Simonson, New York Giants (December 23, 2018)

Scott Simonson – © USA TODAY Sports

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NEW YORK GIANTS RE-SIGN SCOTT SIMONSON…
The New York Giants have officially re-signed tight end Scott Simonson, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. NJ.com is reporting that the contract is a 1-year deal.

Simonson had his best season in 2018 after being signed by the Giants in June 2018. Simonson played in all 16 games with four starts, finishing with nine catches for 86 yards and one touchdown. The 6’5”, 255-pound Simonson was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Oakland Raiders after the 2014 NFL Draft. The Raiders waived him in June 2015 and he was then signed by the Carolina Panthers. He spent all of 2017 on Injured Reserve with a back injury. Simonson has played in 34 regular-season games with five starts. He had one catch in his NFL career before 2018.

BENGALS INTERVIEW LOU ANARUMO FOR DC POSITION…
NFL.com is reporting that New York Giants defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo will interview with the Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday for their defensive coordinator vacancy. Anarumo is supposedly the front runner for the position. Anarumo joined the Giants staff last year after serving as the defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins from 2012 to 2017.

Feb 182019
 
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (August 9, 2018)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

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One year ago, we were in the midst of the endless offseason debate on whether or not the Giants should draft one of the top quarterback prospects or Saquon Barkley. Many – including myself – argued that Barkley was probably a luxury who the Giants could not afford given their extremely rare opportunity to select a potential franchise quarterback at the #2 spot. “It’s a quarterback’s league. You can get a very good running back in later rounds, but not a quarterback. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to nab a stud QB without trading up.” And so on.

From the start, Dave Gettleman did not hide his love affair for Barkley. There was no smoke. Some will say Gettleman made the safe pick in selecting Barkley, but I would argue that since most pundits and fans felt the Giants should have selected Sam Darnold, Gettleman was actually sticking his neck out as most would have understood taking the QB.

The Barkley vs. Darnold debate won’t be settled for some time. But the early returns are that Gettleman made the right call. With the full understanding that I will be accused of immense hyperbole, Saquon Barkley is the best young running back I’ve watched in my lifetime. At 51, I’m too “young” to have seen Gayle Sayers, Jim Brown, and O.J. Simpson. I saw Walter Payton in the latter stages of his career, not his prime. But I did witness the entire careers of Barry Sanders, Bo Jackson, Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk, Thurman Thomas, Adrian Peterson, and others. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I wouldn’t take any of them over Barkley, who combines better size/power base with Sanders-like moves, Jackson-like speed, Faulk’s hands, and without Dickerson’s fumbling.

Barkley has it all. He’s a big back who runs like scatback. He can run with power, make you miss, and run away from you. He doesn’t fumble. He catches the football like a wide receiver. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the football. His head is screwed on right. And in the “look at me” era, he just hands the football to the official after he breaks off a 50-yard touchdown. I can’t even imagine how dreadful and unwatchable the 2018 New York Giants would have been without him on the football team. The 22-year old Barkley is already the face of the franchise. Pray he stays healthy and has a long career because this guy truly is a generational talent. The last time the Giants selected a player with the #2 pick was Lawrence Taylor. Barkley has a chance to be viewed in that light.

On a bad team, behind a bad offensive line and blocking tight ends, Barkley accrued over 2,000 combined yards and 15 touchdowns. This also despite averaging 16.3 carries and 5.7 receptions per game. Let me emphasize that again, Barkley only touched the ball 22 times per game. In only three games did he have more than 20 rushing attempts. Yet he had over 2,000 combined yards! Amazing. Indeed, one could make a strong argument that Barkley was underutilized, particularly during the first half of the season.

Given those numbers, one would normally expect that the Giants’ reserve running backs would have seen a lot of action. First of all, surprisingly, the Giants only had one back-up halfback on the roster in Wayne Gallman. Secondly, Gallman was only on the field 15 percent of the time (as compared to Barkley’s 83 percent of all offensive snaps). Gallman only had 51 carries and 14 receptions all year. That’s an average of only four touches per game.

The only other back of note is fullback Elijhaa Penny, who primarily served as a blocker on 12 percent of all offensive snaps. He touched the ball only 15 times all year.

In summary, Barkley was THE reason fans watched the New York Giants in 2018. And he clearly is one of the very best players in the entire league.

THE MAN

Despite pressure to draft a quarterback, the Giants felt strongly that Saquon Barkley was the best player in the 2018 NFL Draft, selecting him with the #2 overall pick. Barkley did not disappoint, becoming only the third rookie in NFL history to accrue 2,000 yards from scrimmage and breaking a number of franchise records. He also was voted to the Pro Bowl and named “Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year”, “FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Year”, “Pro Football Writers of America Offensive Rookie of the Year”, and “Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year.” Barkley started all 16 games, rushing 261 times for 1,307 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 91 passes for 721 yards and four touchdowns. Overall, Barkley led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage. Barkley also led the NFL with seven 40+ yard runs and six 50+ yard runs. The latter figure is the highest single-season total by a Giants player since the 1970 merger. All of this despite playing behind a subpar offensive line. Barkley is a complete three-down back who can make an impact running and catching the football. He has an outstanding combination of size, quickness, and speed. A home-run threat every time he touches the football, Barkley has great vision, instincts, and balance. He makes defenders miss and can accelerate to full speed in a heartbeat. Barkley is big enough to run through and athletic enough to leap over tackle attempts. Barkley is a very good pass receiver who can hurt a defense down the field in the passing game. Outstanding kick returner. He did not fumble the ball in 2018. His biggest negative is that he will sometimes try to do too much and dance around instead of taking what the defense gives him. Excellent intangibles. Team leader with a good work ethic.

THE BACK-UP

Despite being the only other true halfback on the roster for the bulk of the season, Wayne Gallman only carried the football 51 times for 176 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Gallman was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Giants. As a rookie, Gallman played in 13 games with one start and carried the football 111 times for 476 yards (4.3 yards per carry). Gallman also caught 34 passes for 193 yards in 2017 and 14 passes for 89 yards in 2018. Gallman is a well-rounded cutback runner with good vision, elusiveness, strength, and speed. He has good hands as a receiver, but he needs to improve his ball security (a combined five fumbles in 2017 and 2018).

THE FULLBACK

The Giants signed Elijhaa Penny off of the Practice Squad of the Arizona Cardinals in September 2018. He ended up playing in 14 games for the Giants, with three starts, carrying the ball seven times for 25 yards and catching eight passes for 50 yards. The 6’2”, 234-pound Penny was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Cardinals after the 2016 NFL Draft. Penny spent his rookie season on the Cardinals’ Practice Squad. He was active all 16 regular-season games in 2017 with no starts and finished the season with 31 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Though Penny lacks classic fullback size, he is a well-rounded player who can block, run, and catch the football.

THE MISTAKE

The Giants placed Jonathan Stewart on Injured Reserve in September 2018 with a foot injury. The 5’10”, 240-pound Stewart was drafted in the 1st round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Panthers. In 10 seasons with the Panthers, Stewart rushed for 7,318 yards and 51 touchdowns. He also caught 162 passes for 1,295 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2017, Stewart started 10 games but saw his rushing totals fall to 680 yards, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. The Giants signed Stewart in March 2018 after he was cut by the Panthers. He rushed for just 17 yards on six carries for the Giants. Injury prone, Stewart has not played a full season since 2011.

PRACTICALLY FORGOTTEN

The Giants signed Robert Martin to the Practice Squad in September 2018. The Giants originally signed the 5’11, 210-pound Martin as an undrafted rookie free agent after he impressed at the May 2018 rookie mini-camp as a tryout player. Martin also flashed for the team during the preseason, carrying the ball 15 times for 97 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and one touchdown.

Paul Perkins was waived with a non-football injury in May 2018 and placed on Injured Reserve with a torn pectoral muscle that he suffered before the offseason program began. After a respectable rookie season, Perkins had a very disappointing sophomore season in 2017. Perkins saw both his playing time and productivity markedly decline. In 2016, Perkins played in 14 regular-season games with one start. He also started the playoff game. Perkins finished the 2016 regular season with 112 carries for 456 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and 15 catches for 162 yards (10.8 yards per catch). In 2017, Perkins started the first four games, but then suffered a rib injury and lost his starting job to Orleans Darkwa. He played in 11 games and finished the year with 41 carries for 90 yards (2.2 yards per carry). He also caught eight passes for 46 yards. Perkins was drafted by the Giants in the 5th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Perkins has good vision, quick feet, and cutting ability. He is a tough runner, but his lack of size, strength, and power limits his game. He catches the ball well.

Feb 152019
 
Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 12, 2018)

Odell Beckham, Jr. – © USA TODAY Sports

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The 2018 New York Giants were a top heavy team, with some elite talent at a number of positions but with the overall quality of the rest of the roster rapidly falling off. And the wide receiver position was just one example of this issue. Coming out of training camp, the team’s top wideouts were Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, Kaelin Clay, and Russell Shepard. Injuries hit this position hard, including Beckham (4 games), Latimer (placed on IR and later returning, missing 10 games), and Clay (only playing in two games before being placed on IR and later waived). Thus began a revolving door at the position for much of the season at the 3rd, 4th, and 5th receiver spots. Those who later saw playing time at wide receiver and/or special teams included Bennie Fowler, Corey Coleman, Jawill Davis, Quadree Henderson (also ended up on IR), and Stacy Coley (waived after one game).

There was no better indicator of the sharp divide between Beckham (77 catches) and Sterling Shepard (66 catches) and the rest of the wide-receiving corps than the reception totals. No other wide receiver on the roster had more than 16 catches. And combined, the other receivers had a total of just 46 receptions. Part of this was a function of Eli Manning having other options, including running back Saquon Barkley (91 catches) and tight ends Evan Engram (45 catches) and Rhett Ellison (25 catches). But it was obvious that opposing defenses did not concern themselves too much with the other wideouts.

Of course, the primary headliner was Beckham, who was coming off a very serious fractured ankle that required surgery and which caused him to miss 12 games in 2017. While some contend that Beckham did not appear to be quite the same player, statistically-speaking, his numbers were on par with his 2016 season if adjusted for the four games he missed in 2018 due to a somewhat mysterious quad injury. What was missing were the eye-opening, huge, explosive plays. The good news is that despite the media’s goal of turning him into a click-bait lightning rod, Beckham did seem to mature and did not sulk as more team and fan attention shifted to Barkley.

Sterling Shepard is a very solid, complimentary piece as a slot receiver, but it has become pretty clear that he is not a consistent vertical threat. He has averaged 63 catches, 762 yards, and 4.7 touchdowns per year in his first three NFL seasons.

Overall, it is fair to say that more was expected from Beckham, Shepard, and Latimer than a total of 154 catches and just 11 touchdown receptions.

THE HEADLINERS

Despite missing the last four games of the season with a quad injury, Odell Beckham, Jr. accrued 77 receptions for 1,052 yards (13.7 yards per catch) and six touchdowns. It was Beckham’s fourth 1,000-yard season in his first five years in the NFL (Beckham missed 12 games in 2017 with a fractured ankle that required surgery). Beckham’s accolades already include Pro Football Writers of America “Rookie of the Year” (2014), second-team All-Pro (2015, 2016), and Pro Bowl (2014, 2015, 2016). All of this despite constant double teams by opposing defenses. Beckham was drafted in the 1st round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Giants. While Beckham lacks classic size, his long arms, big hands, and tremendous jumping ability give him a very good catch radius. Beckham is an explosive athlete with excellent speed, quickness, and agility. Beckham runs good routes, is very quick out of his breaks, adjusts exceptionally well to the football, and regularly makes the circus catch. He is very dangerous with the football in his hands after the catch. Competitive, passionate, and hard working.

In his third season with the Giants, Sterling Shepard started all 16 games, finishing with 66 catches for 872 yards and four touchdowns. Shepard was selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Giants. Shepard started all 16 regular-season games as a rookie, but missed five games in 2017 with various ailments. Shepard lacks ideal size and speed, but he is a fluid athlete with good quickness. Shepard runs good routes, is tough going over the middle, and adjusts well to the football. He is guilty of the occasional drop. Shepard is not a consistent deep threat, but more of a move-the-chains underneath target. He needs to make more big plays.

THE MISFIT TOYS

The Giants signed Cody Latimer as an unrestricted free agent from the Denver Broncos in March 2018 and placed him on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury in October 2018. The Giants activated him from IR in December. Latimer ended up playing in six games with two starts, catching just 11 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown. However, he really flashed in the regular-season finale with two spectacular, one-handed catches. The 6’2”, 215-pound Latimer was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Broncos. In four seasons with the Broncos, Latimer played in 45 regular-season games with three starts. He’s a big receiver who will fight for the football. Latimer is a good gunner on special teams and has experience returning kickoffs.

After signing late with the Giants in October 2018, Bennie Fowler surprisingly played in 10 games with five starts, finishing the year with 16 catches for 199 yards and one touchdown. The 6’1”, 212-pound Fowler originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Denver Broncos after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Broncos (2014-2017), Chicago Bears (2018), and New England Patriots (2018). Fowler has played in 55 regular-season games with 10 starts. He has 72 career catches for 897 yards and six touchdowns.

The Giants signed Russell Shepard in May 2018 after he was cut by the Carolina Panthers. He ended up playing in 12 games, with no starts, catching 12 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. The 6’1”, 195-pound Shepard was originally signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as undrafted rookie free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. Shepard has spent time with the Eagles (2013), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2013-2016), and Panthers (2017). He has 57 career catches for 822 yards and six touchdowns. Shepard is a good gunner on special teams.

The Giants signed Corey Coleman to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in October 2018. He ended up playing in eight games with one start, finishing with five catches for 71 yards. Coleman’s primary contribution came on special teams as as kickoff returner (averaging 26 yards on 23 returns). The 5’11”, 185-pound Coleman was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. An explosive athlete but an injury-plagued bust in Cleveland, Coleman has also had brief stints with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots in 2018. Coleman has played in 27 NFL games with 19 starts, accruing 61 catches for 789 yards and five touchdowns.

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

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

The Giants signed Alonzo Russell after he impressed as a tryout player during the May 2018 rookie mini-camp and then signed him to the Practice Squad in September. He was added to the 53-man roster before the last game of the season. The 6’3”, 206-pound Russell was originally signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on the Bengals’ Practice Squad. The Bengals waived him in September 2017 and he was signed to the Practice Squad of the Arizona Cardinals in November 2017. Russell has not caught a pass in a regular-season game.