Jun 262019
 
Spencer Pulley and Will Hernandez, New York Giants (November 25, 2018)

Spencer Pulley and Will Hernandez – © USA TODAY Sports

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With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) 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: Offensive Line

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: It’s clear that General Manager Dave Gettleman took one look at the team’s offensive line and had the same reaction as fans. Justin Pugh (2013 1st rounder), Weston Richburg (2014 2nd rounder), and D.J. Fluker were allowed to walk in free agency during the 2018 offseason. John Jerry was cut before the season started. The Giants started the 2018 season with newly-signed free agent Nate Solder at left tackle, 2nd-rounder Will Hernandez at left guard, Jon Halapio at center, newly-signed free agent Patrick Omameh at right guard, and Ereck Flowers at right tackle.

This group did not play well and the offense struggled to score points before the bye week. In addition, Halapio broke his ankle in Week 2 and was replaced by John Greco and then waiver-wire pick-up Spencer Pulley. Flowers was benched after the second game and replaced by second-year undrafted free agent Chad Wheeler. Omameh lasted a bit longer, starting the first six games before being cut in November. Greco first took his spot, then newcomer Jamon Brown, who was claimed off of waivers from the Los Angeles Rams.

The 2.0 version of the 2018 offensive line thus included Solder-Hernandez-Pulley-Brown-Wheeler. The best thing that could be said of this group was that it wasn’t as crappy as the previous group. Team scoring improved, but Pulley and Wheeler were clearly weak links. Brown looked the part, but demonstrated the same inconsistency that led to him being cut by the Rams. And it rapidly became apparent that the desperate Giants dramatically overpaid Solder, who did play better as the season progressed. While Hernandez experienced the expected rookie growing pains, he improved and was named to the All-Rookie team.

Overall, for yet another season, the line remained the offense’s Achilles’ heel, with the free agent newcomers not playing as well as expected, and the team being forced to start two mid-season waiver-wire pickups.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants re-signed both Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley. The team did not bring back John Greco, and Jamon Brown signed with the Falcons. The Giants acquired guard Kevin Zeitler via a trade from the Browns and signed tackle Mike Remmers in free agency. Street free agents Chad Slade and Austin Droogsma were signed. Surprisingly, the Giants only drafted one lineman: George Asafo-Adjei in the 7th round. Rookie free agents Paul Adams and James O’Hagan were signed after the draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Heading into training camp, the expected starting offensive line is Nate Solder at left tackle, Will Hernandez at left guard, Jon Halapio or Spencer Pulley at center, Kevin Zeitler at right guard, and Mike Remmers at right tackle. On paper, this appears to be the team’s best offensive line in almost a decade. Hernandez and Zeitler are arguably one of the best set of starting guards in the NFL. They are not just big, physical football players, but they play with professionalism and attitude. The Giants haven’t been in such good shape here since the days of Rich Seubert and Chris Snee.

The three other spots are a bit more unsettled. Nate Solder clearly did not live up to his contract. He’s also missed the Spring workouts due to ankle surgery. However, he is another veteran presence who gives the Giants more stability and reliability at the crucial left tackle position than Ereck Flowers and Will Beatty ever did. Moreover, the Solder-Hernandez tandem on the left side should play better in their second year together. Mike Remmers has bounced around the League, now playing with his seventh team. But the self-made journeyman parlayed his improving play into a 5-year, $30 million contract with the Vikings in 2017. He played well at right tackle for that team in 2017 but was more inconsistent at right guard in 2018. A recurring back issue that required offseason surgery was a factor in the Vikings cutting him in March. If Remmers is over his back issues (which caused him to miss Spring workouts), and if he can regain his 2017 form, the Giants will have massively upgraded themselves at right tackle with another professional, veteran presence. But those are two big “ifs”. Like the left tackle position, right tackle has been a disaster for the Giants for years.

Based on offseason comments by team officials, it was assumed that Jon Halapio would be penciled in as the starting center again. However, Spencer Pulley has been pushing him and splitting snaps with the first unit during Spring workouts. The starting center position appears to be very much up for grabs. The good news is that whomever starts, they will be tremendously aided by Hernandez and Zeitler on their flanks.

Overall, the main story line is this group needs to develop cohesion and chemistry quickly. Both starting tackles missed the mini-camp and OTAs this Spring due to injuries. With so few training camp practices, there is not much time for everyone to come together.

ON THE BUBBLE: There are currently 16 offensive linemen on the roster. The Giants will probably keep nine. Barring injury, Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler, and Mike Remmers will start. Both Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley should make it unless one of the younger centers push one off the roster. That leaves three spots for ten players. Chad Wheeler probably has a leg up on being the reserve swing tackle. But it will be a dogfight for those last few spots.

FROM THE COACHES: Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Mike Remmers: “I worked with Mike for two years. He is a pro, a real pro, and he played winning football for us in Minnesota. I knew a lot about Mike and then he started last year every game and played well. We were in talks with him, took a couple of physicals, just went through the process and signed him.”

Shurmur on Jon Halapio: “He was really playing well for us before he got hurt a year ago. So we had high hopes for him last season. It appears he has come back 100 percent and is back in there just like he was when he left us.”

Shurmur on George Asafo-Adjei: “We like him for all the reasons we liked him on his college tape. He is a powerful guy that has very good length. You can tell he is a very physical style player. That is important at that position.”

Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on the offensive line: “I think the guys that we’ve added over the course of last season and this season have brought a lot of character, intelligence, competitiveness, integrity to that room. I think it didn’t show as early as we wanted it to last year. I think it showed pretty well at the end of the year. I think we’ve kind of picked up, in fact improved since then. We are going to be leaning on them, they are going to be the starting point of our offense. Everyone knows we have Saquon, we want to run the football, we are going to be balanced. To do that it’s got to start with the offensive line. We want to run the ball, when we want to run it, we want to throw that ball when we want to throw it. To do that it starts up front. We are going to lean heavy on those guys.”

Shula on Chad Wheeler: “I think Wheels has done a really good job this offseason with our exposure with him. Again, I have only been around him for a year, but I think there is a big difference even with him and his approach. I think he, along with a lot of other guys, got better as the year went on. We all know that we were nowhere near good enough early in the year. We did a lot of good things even though it wasn’t good enough at the end of the year, but we were really, really close and trending in the right direction. He was one of those guys that falls in that category.”

Offensive Line Coach Hal Hunter on Kevin Zeitler: “You have to love Zeitler. He is a tough, hard nose guy. I have seen him play. I watched him play when he was in Cincinnati’s offense. He is a good football player. He brings a real toughness. He is all business… He is very demanding of guys around him in a positive way. You demand in yourself what you demand in others. I love that about him. I love everything about him, his personality and what he brings. He is so fun to coach.”

Hunter on Jon Halapio: “He made good progress during (the 2018 training) camp and great progress during the preseason. The way he was playing in the beginning of the Dallas game, that was shocking. He was playing really well. When you sit out all that time, you get so far behind physically and technically. Now he is back in the swing of things and he looks good. He is only scratching the surface. He is smart, tough and strong. He has athleticism and needs to continue to play at the position.”

Hunter on George Asafo-Adjei: “My son works at Kentucky. He works in the football office down there. We found out from the inside out – he talked about what a quality guy he was. He was probably the most respected guy on the offensive side of the ball. He talked about how he competed with Josh Allen on a day-to-day basis. He talked about his character, work ethic and his toughness. All of those things peaked interest. You watch him on tape and see that he has a lot of athleticism and power. He has a lot of toughness and plays in the best football conference in the country. We have some technical work to do. He is a rookie and you have to tell him to do something once and he goes on and does it right the next time. He picked up the offense much quicker than I thought he was going to. When you compare our offense to their offense, we have a lot more volume to it with a lot of the things that we were doing. We need to continue to work with him technically to get him up to speed but you have to like everything about him. When you read him, that is one of the first things that I found out. He had committed to Kentucky early and is a man of his word. When all those other schools came in like Alabama, that is legit. Those people tried to come in and recruit him. He gave Kentucky his word and didn’t go anywhere. He has some developmental potential.”

PREDICTIONS: Some fans have questioned me about why I am so upbeat about the 2019 offensive line since there remain some serious question marks at center and both tackle spots. I feel good because I see a group of professional, reliable veterans. For the last decade, the Giants haven’t just been bad up front, they’ve been dreadful. They were not only physically overmatched, they did not treat their jobs as professionals. And they certainly could not be relied upon.

I love our two guards. And whomever starts at center will benefit from them. Solder and Remmers aren’t pretty, but they get the job done. This group will show up to work, give you a full 60 minutes, and leave their opponents feeling sore the next day. I’ll take that any day.

My only concern is that with Solder and Remmers missing all of the Spring workouts, early-season cohesion and chemistry will be lacking. But both guys have been around the League for a long time and that will help. The Giants also have to pray Remmers’ back holds up.

There are Giants fans in their teens and 20s who have never seen their team field a decent offensive line. I think that is about to change. Don’t be surprised if both guards receive some Pro Bowl recognition.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Kevin Zeitler, Will Hernandez, Nate Solder, Mike Remmers, Jon Halapio, Spencer Pulley, Chad Wheeler, George Asafo-Adjei, Paul Adams

(I realize this is tackle heavy, but it’s easier for a tackle to play guard in a pinch rather than the other way around. The Giants also need to groom a couple of young tackles).

Jun 242019
 
Evan Engram, New York Giants (September 9, 2018)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

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With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) 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: Tight Ends

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: After a strong rookie season, Evan Engram did not play as well as expected in 2018. He missed five games with injuries (knee, hamstring) and was a virtual non-factor before the bye week, catching only 17 passes for 145 yards. In addition, his subpar run blocking appeared mismatched for a team increasingly relying on Saquon Barkley. The good news is that despite missing two games, Engram played much better after the bye week, catching 28 passes for 432 yards with a number of big plays (two 50+ yard catches and three 30+ yard catches). Overall, the receiving tight end played in 11 games and caught 45 passes for 577 yards and three touchdowns.

Rhett Ellison actually played more than Engram, but finished the year with a pedestrian 25 catches for 272 yards and a touchdown. He was also an inconsistent blocker. The Giants signed journeyman Scott Simonson in June 2018. He surprisingly played in all 16 games with four starts, catching just nine passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. At times, he looked like the best blocker of the group. Rookie free agent Garrett Dickerson spent most of the year on the Practice Squad, but did play in four games.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The only change was the addition of undrafted rookie free agent C.J. Conrad after the draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Last season, Evan Engram played his best football in the second half of the season when Odell Beckham did not play. In four games in December, Engram caught 22 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown. With Beckham now in Cleveland, the Giants need Engram to consistently produce at that level or more. Engram has the tools to become one of the most dangerous pass-receiving tight ends in the game. Not many tight ends have his ability to create physical mismatches and stretch a defense. But Engram has to stay healthy, cut down on his drops, and not disappear for long stretches. (Note that Engram missed much of the Spring workouts with another hamstring issue).

The Giants clearly overpaid Rhett Ellison when they signed him to a 4-year, $18 million contract in 2017. His 2019 cap hit is $5.75 million and cutting him would save $3.25 million. However, at this point in time, Ellison is the one guy the coaching staff and quarterback can count on. Can he hold off challenges from Scott Simonson, Garrett Dickerson, and C.J. Conrad? Conrad went undrafted due to a heart issue, but he was consistently productive throughout Spring practices.

ON THE BUBBLE: Probably everyone aside from Evan Engram, and some think Engram could still be trade bait.

FROM THE COACHES: Tight Ends Coach Lunda Wells on Evan Engram: “Obviously, he needs to stay healthy. You know, being on the field. Second thing is just kind of letting the game come to him, playing a little more calm, more relaxed. I think as he realized what he was being asked to do, he started to play a little more calm and a little more relaxed, especially at the back end of the season, which in turn allowed him to play some of his best ball. And like always, you kind of always want to be climbing during the season and then at the back end of the season playing your best football in December. So, that’s kind of the trend we are trying to do. Build on December and get better throughout the season… He’s moving forward and progressing really well and we are really excited about him this season.”

Wells on C.J. Conrad: “I like Conrad. He’s tough. He’s smart. He can learn. He’s not a blazer, but he’s instinctive in the pass game. It didn’t take a long time to figure out that this guy is very determined about being a really good player and I like that about him. He takes coaching very well. I really like that kid from what we saw over the three-day rookie mini-camp… Easy going, again, loves football. He’s a good guy for (the tight end) room.”

PREDICTIONS: I thought Evan Engram would have a 1,000-yard season in 2018. I was way off, but I’m going to double down on that prediction. I think Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula have a better understanding of Engram’s strengths and weaknesses. And with Odell Beckham out of the picture, we’ll see the coaching staff try to create more mismatches with Engram out in space. Engram is basically a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. Linebackers and most safeties should not be able to cover him. My biggest worry with Engram is his ability to stay healthy. He needs to play a full 16 games and him missing so much time in the Spring is not a good omen.

Ellison is one of those guys who coaches trust. He’s not going anywhere until another player can duplicate that level of trust. Scott Simonson has been in the League since 2014. His resume doesn’t suggest he will be that guy, but Simonson did flash at times as a blocker and receiver last season. Garrett Dickerson is a relative unknown who is built more like a versatile H-Back.

The wild card here is C.J. Conrad. Though not a flashy athlete, Conrad seemed to impress all observers this Spring with his consistently reliable pass catching. Now we have to find out about his blocking.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson, C.J. Conrad

(I think it is becoming increasingly clear that Engram is more TE/WR hybrid than true down tight end. He’s the reason why I see the Giants carrying five wide receivers and four tight ends. Don’t discount the Giants replacing one of these guys with a waiver-wire pick-up).

Jun 202019
 
Pat Shurmur, New York Giants (May 20, 2019)

Pat Shurmur – © USA TODAY Sports

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NEW YORK GIANTS 2019 TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED…
The New York Giants have announced their 2019 training camp schedule. Only 10 practices will be open to the public. Rookies and select veterans report on July 22 and all players on July 24. The first practice will take place on July 25. All practices will be held at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, NJ.

Training Camp Schedule Open to the public:

  • Thursday, July 25: 2:45 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 27: 2:45 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 28: 2:45 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 30: 2:45 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 31: 2:45 p.m.
  • Friday, August 2: 2:45 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 6: 10:45 a.m.
  • Sunday, August 11: 10:45 a.m.
  • Monday, August 12: 10:45 a.m.
  • Tuesday, August 13: 10:45 a.m.

*Schedule subject to change. For the most up-to-date information on training camp, visit Giants.com, @Giants on Twitter, the Giants App, or call the Training Camp Hotline at (201) 935-8111 (extension 1070).

Admission: There is no cost to attend practice sessions. Fans wishing to attend practice sessions must register for complimentary tickets in advance. Fans may register for up to six (6) tickets per practice session. Once registered, fans will receive their tickets via e-mail and will need to present using their mobile device to gain admittance. While registering for tickets is strongly recommended to guarantee access, fans will also be admitted on a walk-up basis, if space permits. Gates open one hour prior to the start of each practice session. Accessible seating is available and may be reserved when you secure your tickets for a practice session. Ticket Registration will open on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

Fan Parking: Parking is free and located in Lot K on the grounds of the MetLife Sports Complex. Lot K will open for parking two hours prior to the start of practice. The parking lot will close one hour following the conclusion of practice.

Inclement Weather Policy: In the event of inclement weather (including rain, wind, thunderstorms or extreme heat), practices will be moved indoors and be closed to the public. Please check Giants.com, @Giants on Twitter, the Giants App, or call the Training Camp Hotline at (201) 935-8111 (extension 1070) prior to every practice for up-to-the-minute changes to the daily practice schedule.

For more information, including a fan Q&A, see this article on Giants.com.

ARTICLES…

Jun 192019
 
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (October 22, 2018)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

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With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) 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: Wide Receivers

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: Things did not going exactly according to plan at the wide receiver position in 2018. Injuries hit the position hard, thus beginning a revolving door of players coming and going to not only serve as pass receivers but also returners. In the end, the only receiver to play all 16 games was Sterling Shepard. Odell Beckham, Jr. and Sterling Shepard were responsible for 76 percent of the wide receiver receptions (143) with no other wide receiver catching more than 16 passes. Instead, the Giants threw more to the backs (113 catches) and tight ends (79 catches).

The headliner – Beckham – missed four games. While he remained productive when he played, the explosive big plays seemed to be lacking. And despite playing all 16 games, Shepard still could not crack the 1,000-yard mark. Free agent acquisition Cody Latimer only played in six games, catching a total of 11 passes. It is fair to say more was expected from these three.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants decided to re-sign all of their free agent wide receivers, including Corey Coleman, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, and Russell Shepard. A year before he was due to become a free agent, the Giants also extended Sterling Shepard with a 4-year, $41 million contract.

The big offseason move was the trade of Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Cleveland Browns. His New York career began with fireworks and died with a whimper. The Giants also cut Quadree Henderson and Jawill Davis in the offseason.

The Giants surprisingly signed free agent Golden Tate away from the Eagles to a 4-year, $37.5 million contract. Street free agent journeyman Brittan Golden was signed in January. The Giants drafted Darius Slayton in the 5th round of the draft and signed rookie free agents Reggie White, Jr. and Alex Wesley after the draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Fan and media attention will be on how the departure of Odell Beckham, Jr. will affect the overall offense and whether or not that trade was a huge mistake. Contrary to what the Giants say publicly, it is clear the organization felt Beckham was a detriment to team culture. As dynamic as he was, Beckham was exhausting to deal with. It will be interesting to see how the team performs without him, and how Beckham does in Cleveland.

Unless someone like Darius Slayton and Corey Coleman comes on like gangbusters, the Giants appear to lack a true deep threat who can take the top off a defense. Good offenses can survive without a true deep threat, but it does make things more challenging. It appears the Giants will rely more on the short-to-intermediate passing game and run-after-the-catch yardage. This is where Golden Tate excels. The team desperately needs Sterling Shepard to become a more productive player. They are paying him more on potential than productivity to date (he’s averaged 63 catches, 762 yards, and 4-5 touchdowns per season in his first three years in the league). Tate and Shepard are viewed more as slot receivers by some.

To be frank, the other veterans on the roster have been unimpressive journeymen to date. Cody Latimer is capable of making contested circus catches, but may not be able to separate from defensive backs on a consistent basis. The same concern exists with Bennie Fowler and Russell Shepard. Both have spent time with three other teams. Corey Coleman is a former first rounder and has the speed to get deep, but three other teams have let him go since 2016.

That all said, Coleman, Fowler, and newcomer Darius Slayton did flash during Spring workouts. It remains to be seen if they can build upon this success and push for regular-season playing time.

ON THE BUBBLE: Only Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are really safe.

FROM THE COACHES: Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Golden Tate: “You can see that he has the ability to break tackles. He is nifty. Obviously, before the ball is thrown and then once he catches it, he has a way of breaking tackles or making them miss. I can see that is going to be a part of his game already… He is a pro… He fit in immediately. He is smart, has picked up what we are doing offensively and finds a way to make plays. He is a real veteran presence. He has made a heck of an impact.”

Shurmur on Darius Slayton: “Darius has done a really good job. I think he is the most improved in my eyes. We expected a lot out of him when he got here. The rookie mini-camp was unremarkable, but since that time… He is very fast. He is practicing punts and kicks. He has done a nice job playing receiver. I really think he has done a nice job during OTA’s and mini-camp.”

Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard: “I think (Tate) is going to bring productivity because he is really good with the ball in his hands, versatility, and flexibility. You can put him inside, you know, we know with Shep that Shep can play both inside and out. Now, we have two guys that can do that. I think when you have two guys who can do that, you become less predictable and I think it gives you another guy when the ball is in his hands, he’s pretty good… (Tate) provides the experience, the knowledge, the route awareness, sudden changes that you might not have to make that are kind of hard to cover all of the time with some of the younger guys. He is going to bring that to the table. And like I said, he is really good with the ball in his hands, so getting him the ball, he can lower his shoulder at times and make guys miss. Not necessarily defensive linemen, but DBs that are trying to tackle him. I think he is going to be a good weapon for us on all downs. ”

Shula on Darius Slayton: “I think Slayton has been pretty consistent. He’s been a really good pick for us. As long as he stays on track he’s got good speed, he uses his hands you can see. He’s got more confidence in his hands, he’s catching the ball more consistently. I think he’s a good route runner, that was one thing kind of coming out of the draft I was anxious to see how he did with maybe our routes, which were maybe a little bit different that the routes he ran at Auburn. He does a good job at the top end of those routes.”

Shula on how defenses will change with Odell Beckham now gone: “I think kind of based on last year, not as much as you might think. I mean, there might have been certain teams that had an all-out double team, but other than that, there really wasn’t much, and part of that probably was because of Saquon. I mean you got to be careful doubling receivers when you’ve got a back like that.”

Wide Receivers Coach Tyke Tolbert on Darius Slayton: “Slayton, I saw what we saw on tape. I saw a guy who has some pretty good size, who can run. His first practice, you know, he was trying to figure a lot of stuff out in the first half of the first practice, had a couple of drops, for the second half of that practice he made some good catches in traffic and had two good remaining days. So looking for explosive plays from Darius Slayton, he’s an explosive player who’s made a lot of plays, 21 or 22 yards a catch, something like that in college and I’m looking forward to him bringing that to the Giants.”

Tolbert on Corey Coleman: “It is a big opportunity, especially him being in the offseason program with us. He’s getting the whole gambit if you will: from the very first install to the whole, you know, all the way through. Last year when he came in we were his fourth offense he’s been in, in maybe the span of 3 months. Now it’s just our offense the whole time so he can grasp what we’re doing and have a solid contribution. He’s doing well this year. He’s doing much better than he did last year.”

PREDICTIONS: After Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, it’s difficult to predict what the make-up of this unit will look like. Darius Slayton has obviously caught the attention of the coaches, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact he can make as a rookie. One gets the sense that Eli Manning’s main targets will be Shepard, Tate, running back Saquon Barkley, and tight end Evan Engram (a de facto year-on-year change of Beckham with Tate). The good news is the Giants will have the ability to move Shepard, Tate, Barkley, and Engram all over the place, keeping defenses on their toes.

As previously stated, unless Coleman or Slayton surprise with significant playing time, we are not likely to see many 40+ yard touchdowns on deep routes by this group. But the run-after-catch damage could be significant. And as a group, most of the receivers are good run blockers who could have a significant impact on the ground game. In my mind, the guy on the hot seat is Shepard. He needs to justify his $41 million contract, be more productive, and make more big plays.

The wild cards here are numerous, but it is unwise to count on Cinderella stories. Can the talented Corey Coleman turn his career around? Have Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler finally found a home? Did the Giants find small school gold in Reggie White, Jr. or Alex Wesley?

Don’t discount the importance of special teams in determining who makes it. A guy like Russell Shepard was a core special teamer last season. Slayton and Coleman can also return.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Corey Coleman, Russell Shepard

Jun 172019
 
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (December 30, 2018)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

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With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) 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: Running Backs

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: The great debate during the 2018 offseason was about whether the New York Giants should draft a quarterback with the #2 overall pick or Saquon Barkley. General Manager Dave Gettleman chose the less popular option and selected Barkley. While the final determination of whether this was the right move or not cannot be determined for some time, Barkley became one of the NFL’s very best players in just his rookie season. Despite not carrying the ball more than 18 times per game in the first half of the season and running behind a subpar offensive line, Barkley rushed for 1,307 yards 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 and led the NFL with seven 40+ yard runs and six 50+ yard runs. And he didn’t fumble once. Barkley 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.”

It was expected that ex-Panther Jonathan Stewart would be a significant contributor, but he only played in three games with six carries before ending up on Injured Reserve with a foot injury. Wayne Gallman became the team’s #2 running back, yet he only had 51 carries and 14 receptions on the year. The only other back to touch the football was fullback Elijhaa Penny, who carried the football only seven times and caught only eight passes. Third-year player Paul Perkins missed the entire season with a torn pectoral muscle. In a nutshell, it was virtually a one-man show with Barkley.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants chose not to bring back Jonathan Stewart and he retired from the NFL. The team signed Rod Smith from the Cowboys in free agency and signed undrafted rookie free agent Jonathan Hilliman after the draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Just how good can Saquon Barkley become? Will he let early success go to his head and fade? Or will he stay grounded and humble and seek to elevate his entire team? Jeremy Shockey and Odell Beckham were two of the most impressive rookies the Giants have ever had, but their careers with the team ended with a whimper. Aside from staying healthy, the challenge for Barkley is to prove to be a difference-maker for a team that has not won a playoff game in seven seasons. A good omen is that despite a questionable supporting cast, the more Barkley touched the football in 2018, the better the team performed (four of the team’s five wins came during the second-half of the season). Barkley is a legitimate League MVP candidate. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Barkley could rush for over 2,000 yards in one season.

Oddly, the Giants basically only carried two halfbacks on the roster last year. And also oddly, the second back (Wayne Gallman) barely touched the ball. Yet, Barkley only carried the ball 16.3 times per game (catching the ball 5.7 times per game). One would assume Pat Shurmur would like to see more touches for the running back unit as a whole. But does that mean more touches for Barkley? Or does the team play it safe and try to spread out the workload to the #2 and #3 halfbacks? Will there be a #3 halfback this year? Wayne Gallman has the inside track on the #2 job, but he has to control his fumbling (five in limited carries in 2017 and 2018).

ON THE BUBBLE: No one is really safe other than Barkley. If the Giants keep a fullback on the roster, Elijhaa Penny probably makes it unless the Giants see someone better on the waiver wire. The other four backs – Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, Rod Smith, and Jonathan Hillman – are fighting for one or two spots. (And again, never rule out the waiver wire).

FROM THE COACHES: Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Paul Perkins: “I think he is doing a good job. He is just getting back into it. There are a lot of running backs, so he is sharing reps, but the things that he has done out there, it looks like he has good body control and he handles the ball well. I have been pleased with his route running and the few carries he has had; it appears he has good vision.”

Shurmur on Rod Smith: “I think he is a pro. He came in and he has learned our offense pretty quickly. There is less and less mistakes in each practice setting. He does a good job with the ball in his hands. He is a big presence and we all know a lot of what he does is on special teams.”

Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on Saquon Barkley’s snap count: “I think Coach Johnson does a really good of keeping those guys fresh throughout the game. Selfishly as a coordinator and probably all the Giants fans, you want him in there every single play because you don’t ever want him to miss out on an opportunity. I think there is a happy medium to make sure he’s fresh throughout and don’t just kill him. We’ve got to keep that in mind as we put together our game plans.”

Shula on Paul Perkins: “I remember him coming out of college and I really liked him coming out of college. Last year obviously he got hurt, he spent the whole year on IR. Now he’s getting a lot of reps. He’s a guy that can do a lot of things, he can pass protect, he can run the football obviously, he’s pretty good out of the backfield. We want to have him continue getting better at all those things. You guys saw last year we don’t dress a lot of backs so the guys that are dressing have to be able to do all those things. We want them to be able to be productive on first and second down but also on third down and that would involve pass protection and catching the football.”

Running Backs Coach Craig Johnson on Wayne Gallman: “I thought he was playing at a real high level in December… He gave us a lot of explosiveness.”

Johnson on Paul Perkins: “He’s back to the Perkins I saw when he first got here.”

PREDICTIONS: Stating the obvious, this is Saquon Barkley’s team now. He’s a truly special talent. The Giants must keep him healthy and prevent too much wear-and-tear. Thus, I think even his touches in training camp will be limited and I don’t expect to see much of him in the preseason. If he stays healthy, I do expect him to challenge Tiki Barber’s franchise-record, single-season total of 1,860 yards set in 2005. He should also have over 100 receptions. And while a running back can have more of an impact on the win-loss record than a wide receiver, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders had great individual seasons on terrible teams. In other words, Barkley can elevate his team’s play, but he will need help.

I can’t see the Giants carrying more than four backs. One will be Barkley. According to reports, the quarterbacks threw a lot to fullback Elijhaa Penny during Spring workouts. A decent blocker, Penny will likely make the team unless someone more intriguing becomes available on the waiver wire. So how many other halfbacks do the Giants carry (one or two) and who? Paul Perkins finished his rookie season strong and actually started the last playoff game the Giants played in. But he regressed terribly his sophomore season. Perkins will need to rebound in order to make it. Gallman flashes as a runner and receiver, but he must protect the ball better or he could be vulnerable. Gallman and Perkins seem to be directly competing with each other for one spot. Rod Smith’s best chance is if the coaches want to keep a short yardage back to reduce wear-and-tear on Barkley. His special team ability also helps. Jonathan Hilliman is a powerful runner who appears to be directly competing with Smith in terms of the style he brings to the table.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Saquon Barkley, Elijhaa Penny, Wayne Gallman, and Rod Smith

Jun 172019
 
New York Giants Helmet (October 15, 2017)

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

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN SCHEDULE:

Jun 152019
 
Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants (May 3, 2019)

Dexter Lawrence – © USA TODAY Sports

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GIANTS SIGN DEXTER LAWRENCE AND DEANDRE BAKER…
The New York Giants have officially signed defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence and cornerback Deandre Baker, two of their three 2019 first-round draft picks. Lawrence was the 17th overall selection and Baker was the 30th overall selection. Both have already been playing with the starting defense during spring practices.

Eight of the team’s ten 2019 draft picks are now signed. The remaining two are quarterback Daniel Jones (1st round) and linebacker Oshane Ximines (3rd round).

ARTICLES…

Jun 142019
 
Eli Manning and Daniel Jones, New York Giants (May 20, 2019)

Eli Manning and Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

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With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) 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: Quarterbacks

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: Except for the one game he was benched in 2017, Eli Manning has started every game for the New York Giants since November 21, 2004. And despite the team’s poor record in 2018, Manning actually had one of his better statistical seasons, finishing with 4,299 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He completed a career-high 66 percent of his passes. And his 92.4 quarterback rating with the fourth highest of 15-year career. That said, the offense, including the passing game, struggled mightily during the first half of the season before picking up steam in November and December. Seven consecutive years of shoddy offensive line play have taken a toll on the 38-year quarterback who appears a bit more gun shy and more of a game manager at this point of his career.

The developments behind Manning were more surprising. Davis Webb, who was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft, was cut before the season started. Journeyman 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. Rookie 4th-round pick Kyle Lauletta disappointed in his only regular-season playing time and was also arrested in late October due to a serious traffic infraction.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The huge news was the selection of Daniel Jones with the #6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. For better or worse, Jones is the heir apparent to Manning. Eric Dungey was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent, but the Giants may view him more of a jack-of-all-trades type rather than traditional quarterback.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The biggest story line for the entire team is obvious: when will Daniel Jones take over the reins? Jones has impressed this Spring. The prevailing opinion is that as long as Eli Manning is performing at an acceptable level and the team remains in contention, Jones will sit. In this likely scenario, not only does Manning have to play well, but so does the team for Manning to keep his job. If the Giants slip out of contention by October or November again, then “wasting” snaps on a 38-year quarterback on a rebuilding ball club would not appear to make much sense.

However, there are a couple of variables that could come into play. Ownership appears to be hyper-sensitive to Eli Manning’s standing with the team after their public relations-botched benching of him in 2017. Thus, there are those who believe that ownership will drag their feet on Eli being benched again. On the flip side, in his final press conference of the Spring, Head Coach Pat Shurmur surprisingly appeared to have left the door open to Jones possibly being the opening-day starter. Given the fact that Jones did not receive first-team snaps throughout the Spring practices, that does not appear likely, but again, that door appears to have been at least slightly (“You never know what is going to happen”) left ajar. In other words, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Jones performs better than Manning in the preseason.

The secondary story line is who will be the #3 quarterback? Normally, this is a very minor concern, but not this year. First, for the second year in a row, would the Giants give up on a relatively high draft pick quarterback after just one year? Davis Webb was let go after his rookie season. Would they do so too with Kyle Lauletta? Shurmur seems to like Alex Tanney and Lauletta has been slowed by offseason knee surgery. More importantly, this year’s #3 quarterback has a very good chance of becoming next year’s #2 quarterback.

ON THE BUBBLE: Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta are clearly on the bubble. In the unlikely scenario that Daniel Jones beats out Eli Manning before September, would the Giants consider cutting or trading him?

FROM THE COACHES: Pat Shurmur on Eli Manning: “Eli is getting ready to have a great year… We feel good about where Eli is. He is our starting quarterback.”

Shurmur on Daniel Jones: “I think he has had a really good offseason… I think he has had a really, really productive offseason. He is on track with the goal to be ready to play day one… He is on track.”

Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on Eli Manning: “I said a month ago, he looks in better shape than he was last year, I still think that. I think he’s really dialed in.”

Shula on Daniel Jones: “He’s got a fast mind, he picks things up pretty well. The things that you ask him to do to maybe make a couple changes, maybe that were different to what he was used to in college, he does pretty quickly. Whether or not its technique in the pocket, everything that we have asked him to do he’s done it pretty quickly. I think the other things is he’s pretty athletic and he’s very serious about his job. We all are but you see that maturity level in him. Which is obviously one of the reasons we got him here.”

Shula on Kyle Lauletta: “Kyle’s been great. We talked before and after the draft. As we all know in football and life whatever we are doing the only thing we can control is yourself. Just keep working on getting better and when you have your opportunity make the best of it. You can see with him, with his comfort level compared to this time last year and where he has come from. He’s got a lot better feel of our offense. He’s throwing the ball pretty well out there. We are just kind of easing him into some to getting some reps.”

PREDICTIONS: The most under-reported story of the Spring is that “the reach” Daniel Jones has impressed both mentally and physically. However, unless Jones clearly out-plays Eli Manning at training camp and in the preseason, it is hard to see him starting on opening day. But after that, all bets are off. This is no knock on Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP and potential Hall of Famer, but Daniel Jones is the future of this team. Unless the Giants are poised for some miracle 2019 season, the sooner Jones plays, the better for the long-term interest of the team. If the Giants are out of serious contention by November, Jones should be starting by then. Be concerned if the Giants are 4-6 or worse and Eli is still playing after the bye.

An argument can be made that the Giants gave up on Davis Webb after just one season because he wasn’t the new regime’s guy. But that argument can’t be made about Kyle Lauletta. If the Giants cut him after just one season, that’s a pretty damning indictment of their scouting department. If the Giants cut Alex Tanney, would anyone pick him up? (I am suggesting he would still be available to the team if injuries strike).

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Eli Manning, Daniel Jones, Kyle Lauletta

(The tough call here is Eric Dungey. He is an intriguing quarterback but his lack of Spring work at the position really puts him behind the 8-ball in terms of being a factor at quarterback in 2019. Dungey needs to flash as a jack-of-all-trades type this summer in order to make the squad).

Jun 132019
 
Julian Love, New York Giants (June 5, 2019)

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NEW YORK GIANTS OTA PRACTICE #10 COMPLETE…
The Giants held their tenth and last voluntary organized team activity (OTA) practice on Thursday. No live contact is permitted during OTAs, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are allowed.

The practice was not open to the media, but Giants.com provided the following summaries of the action:

This marks the end of the Giants’ 9-week offseason program for the veterans. Rookies will stick around one more week before also breaking. Rookies report to summer training camp on July 22 and veterans on July 24. The first summer training camp practice will be on July 25.

ARTICLES…

Jun 112019
 
Pat Shurmur, New York Giants (June 5, 2019)

Pat Shurmur – © USA TODAY Sports

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JUNE 11, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS OTA PRACTICE REPORT…
The Giants held their eighth voluntary organized team activity (OTA) practice on Tuesday. No live contact is permitted during OTAs, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are allowed. The two remaining OTA practices will be held on Wednesday and Thursday. They will not be open to the media.

“Last week of OTA’s,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur after practice. “We were a little disappointed we didn’t get to go to the Yankee game last night (as part of a team-building exercise). Obviously weather kicks in and baseball games get moved around. At some point we will try and do something as a team. We were still able to get practice in yesterday. Got a good one today and we have a couple more, then we will send them on way for the summer.”

PAT SHURMUR LEAVES DOOR SLIGHTLY AJAR FOR QB CONTROVERSY…
During Tuesday’s press conference, New York Giants Head Coach did not absolutely close the door on rookie quarterback Daniel Jones potentially starting as soon as the regular-season opener.

“I think (Jones) has had a really good offseason,” said Shumur. “I think he has had a really, really productive offseason. He is on track with the goal to be ready to play day one.

“I think we are going to play the very best player and I know we are dancing around the words there. Right now, Eli is getting ready to have a great year and Daniel is getting ready to play. You see what happens with it. We feel good about where Eli is. He is our starting quarterback and we have a young player that we think is going to be an outstanding player, getting himself ready to play.

“The players that give our team the best chance to win, play. Period. And you have seen Eli do that for a very long time, so we will see what happens as we go down the road.”

When asked if he could envision any scenario where Jones would start in Week 1, Shurmur responded, “Oh, you never know what is going to happen, but as I said, Eli is getting ready to play and so is Daniel.”

INJURY REPORT AND ABSENTEES…
Quarterback/tight end Eric Dungey (back), wide receiver Alex Wesley (unknown), tight end Evan Engram (hamstring), left tackle Nate Solder (recovering from ankle surgery), right tackle Mike Remmers (recovering from back surgery), defensive lineman Olsen Pierre (unknown), linebacker Avery Moss (unknown), cornerback Antonio Hamilton (unknown), and safety Sean Chandler (unknown) did not practice.

“(Engram) hurt his hamstring and he is coming back from that injury,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “We will be smart with him just like we would be during the season… If he was able to be out there, he would be. We all know he will be out there very soon. That may be just to start training camp. I think it is important that you get the players all the work they can get, but you need to be smart about what they are dealing with so that when training camp starts and the season starts, they are at their best.”

PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Daniel Jones appears to now be receiving all second-team reps at quarterback with Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta splitting third-team reps.
  • First-team corners remain Janoris Jenkins and Deandre Baker outside with Grant Haley playing the slot.
  • In 7-on-7 drills, quarterback Eli Manning threw a perfect pass on a deep post route to wide receiver Russell Shepard.
  • Quarterback Eli Manning and running back Wayne Gallman failed to connect on a couple of red-zone passes, the first being an errant throw and the second a dropped pass.
  • Wide receiver Darius Slayton received first-team reps. He caught a seam pass early from quarterback Eli Manning.
  • Wide receiver Bennie Fowler made a full-extension reception over the middle of the defense.
  • Tight end C.J. Conrad, who received some first-team reps today, continues to stand out, catching everything thrown his way.
  • Safety Jabrill Peppers flashed with both his run defense and pass coverage.
  • Cornerback Grant Haley, safety Kenny Ladler, and safety Kamrin Moore all made plays in coverage.

HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR…
The transcript of Pat Shurmur’s press conference on Tuesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com: