May 262020
 
Andrew Thomas, Georgia Bulldogs (November 2, 2019)

Andrew Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

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With New York Giants training camp hopefully 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. Keep in mind that some of the players discussed may be cut as the 2020 NFL draft class signs their rookie contracts.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Offensive Line

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: The more things change, the more things stay the same. That could be the mantra for the New York Giants franchise and their almost decade-long effort to rebuild the offensive line. 2019 was no exception. Expectations were at least slightly raised by the offseason additions of seasoned veterans Kevin Zeitler at right guard and Mike Remmers at right tackle. It was expected that left tackle Nate Solder would rebound from a disappointing debut season with the team in 2018. Center Jon Halapio returned after missing 14 games with a broken ankle and we were told by management and coaches what an underrated player he was. Left guard Will Hernandez was coming off a decent rookie season and was expected to develop into a more consistent player.

Long story short is that the offensive line not only did not improve, at times it looked worse than the ad hoc group that finished the 2018 season. Nate Solder regressed even further. Hernandez stagnated. Halapio sucked and tore his Achilles’ tendon with only minutes left in the season. Zeitler dealt with a number of injuries that most likely affected his overall play. Mike Remmers played as expected as an only adequate, temporary placeholder. As a unit, their play did not exceed or equal the sum of its parts. It played at a lesser and very much disappointing level that did not meet expectations. To be blunt, it wasn’t pretty. Saquon Barkley and his fellow running backs were often facing penetration in the backfield and quarterbacks Eli Manning and Daniel Jones were regularly under siege.

The depth situation was also not good. Seventh-rounder offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei suffered a serious concussion early in camp and was lost for the season. For the second year in a row, back-up center Spencer Pulley did not look good when he played. Reserves Eric Smith and Chad Slade were non-factors. Only 2018 undrafted rookie free agent Nick Gates showed some promise in three starts, one at right guard and two at right tackle.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Dave Gettleman re-signed exclusive rights free agents Eric Smith and Chad Slade in late December before Joe Judge was hired. The team did not tender restricted free agent Jon Halapio and he remains unsigned. Team officials contend they could still re-sign Halapio, but it is somewhat telling that they already gave his jersey number away to another offensive lineman.

Mike Remmers signed with the Chiefs. George Asafo-Adjei was waived/failed physical in March.

Journeyman offensive tackle/tight end Nate Wozniak was signed to a reserve/futures contract in late December. Unrestricted free agent offensive tackle Cam Fleming (Dallas Cowboys) was signed in March. The Giants drafted three offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft, including tackle Andrew Thomas (1st round), tackle Matt Peart (3rd round), and guard Shane Lemieux (5th round). The team also signed rookie free agent guards Kyle Murphy and Tyler Haycraft after the draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: It’s the same as it has been for almost 10 years. Can the Giants field a respectable offensive line? The Achilles’ heel of the offensive team for the last decade has been the play of the offensive line. Every Giants fan knows that. Under two general managers and three head coaches, the team has spent high draft picks and spent a ton of free agent money to fix the problem with no improvement. The old maxim still holds true, football is indeed won and lost in the trenches. And the NFC East is filled with good front sevens. It’s no wonder why the Giants have become the punching bag for the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

While the Giants did not make a big splash this year in free agency (Cam Fleming), it certainly did in the draft by taking three offensive linemen in their first five selections, including the 4th player overall. On paper, things look much improved. The Giants appear to have four potentially adequate or more starters at tackle (Solder, Thomas, Fleming, Peart) and guard (Hernandez, Zeitler, Gates, Lemieux). The obvious sore spot is center. There is no reason to believe Spencer Pulley will develop into an adequate starter. Team officials have already publicly admitted that players such as Gates, Lemieux, and Kyle Murphy will cross-train at at both guard and center.

The hope here is twofold. First, the belief that Head Coach Joe Judge, Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett, and Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo are superior coaches to their predecessors. And not only will they implement more coherent and viable blocking schemes that fit the existing personnel, but they will develop each individual player better. Second, that the Giants have not only improved the level of talent, but also the level of depth.

In the short term, media and fan focus will be on the center position and the development of the rookie tackles. It doesn’t help that the COVID situation has prevented the team from holding on-field spring practices.

ON THE BUBBLE: A lot of fans want to cut Nate Solder now. While an argument can be made to do so, the COVID situation makes it more unlikely that a team would want to rely on untested rookies who missed spring practices. Just as importantly, the team already paid his $3 million roster bonus in March and would be penalized with a sizable cap hit in dead money (almost $10 million if cut after June 1st).

Barring a complete collapse by Solder and/or rapid development of Thomas and Peart, the Giants are likely to keep four tackles: Solder, Thomas, Peart, and Fleming. It would also seem like the Giants will keep at least five interior linemen with Hernandez, Zeitler, Lemieux, and Gates having the inside track. Pulley’s fate may depend on who is on the waiver wire and the cross-training status of Lemieux, Gates, and Murphy.

PREDICTIONS: Things may not be pretty in the short term (this season), but I think FINALLY the Giants made some moves that will settle this position down for the long term (beyond 2020). I’m thrilled with what the Giants did in the draft at this position. With all due respect to Brad Benson, Jumbo Elliott, and David Diehl, the Giants have have not had a left tackle with the skill-set of Andrew Thomas in my lifetime. Thomas has an ideal combination of size/length, athleticism, temperament, and work ethic for the position (Ereck Flowers lacked the latter two qualities). Matt Peart has many of the same characteristics but it is assumed he will take a little longer to refine because he played at UConn. Both started as freshmen. Both have have started at right and left tackle. It is not far-fetched to dream that the Giants may have selected two 10-year starters at tackle in one draft.

Furthermore, Shane Lemieux was one of the best guards in the draft. Like Thomas, he started as a freshman in a major program. Lemieux has the size, temperament, and work ethic you want at the position. I honestly think all three will eventually start for the Giants. I also would not sleep on rookie free agent Kyle Murphy, who has played at both tackle spots, guard, and center. Based on the limited tape I’ve seen of him, this former team captain plays the game you want your offensive linemen to play (VIDEO).

What’s hard to predict is what the starting line will look like in 2020. Nate Solder and Andrew Thomas are going to start at tackle, but we don’t know who will start on each side. If Solder continues to struggle, I would not completely discount seeing Peart or Fleming in there sooner than expected. Hernandez and Zeitler should start at guard, but neither should get too comfortable with Lemieux and Nick Gates looming in the wings. Joe Judge has repeatedly said the best guys will play, regardless of their draft position or paycheck size. Zeitler is one of the better guards in the NFL and should rebound. It will be interesting to see how Hernandez responds to the new coaching staff.

The huge question mark of course is center. Nobody really wants Pulley starting. The hope is that Gates, Lemieux, or Murphy impress enough in camp to quickly take the starting job. But there is not much time.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Nate Solder, Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, Cam Fleming, Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Kyle Murphy

What? No center? No way! You’re right… I’m going way out on a limb here and predicting that Lemieux, Gates, and/or Murphy show enough potential at center for not only to have one, but BOTH centers on the team to be converted guards. Teams can also carry 10 offensive linemen and I wouldn’t discount that as a real possibility with Pulley (or a waiver wire pick-up) serving as insurance. Again, I don’t think things will be pretty in the short term. But sometimes you have to take your lumps early for it to pay dividends down the road.

The Giants rolled the dice in 1984 with a converted guard starting at center, Kevin Belcher. It worked out wonderfully for the team in the short-term. (Kevin’s career ended the following offseason with a car crash).

At the very least, the depth situation looks very much improved. There will be guys who can come off of the bench and play in this league.

May 222020
 
Kaden Smith, New York Giants (December 1, 2019)

Kaden Smith – © USA TODAY Sports

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With New York Giants training camp hopefully 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. Keep in mind that some of the players discussed may be cut as the 2020 NFL draft class signs their rookie contracts.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Tight Ends

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Entering 2019, the Giants and their fans were hoping that 3rd-year player and former 1st-round draft pick Evan Engram would finally make it through a full season and break out with a 1,000+ receiving year. Alas that was not to be as Engram suffered both foot and knee injuries that caused him to miss half the season. In all, Engram played in just eight games in 2019 with six starts, catching 44 passes for 467 yards and three touchdowns. This was after Engram missed five games in 2018 with knee and hamstring injuries.

Making matters worse for New York was that Engram’s primary back-up, Rhett Ellison, suffered a serious concussion in Week 10 and missed the last six games of the season. Ellison accrued his lowest numbers in a Giants’ uniform, just 18 catches for 167 yards and one touchdown.

Scott Simonson badly injured his ankle in the preseason finale, was cut from Injured Reserve in September, and re-signed to the 53-man roster in November. But Simonson was placed on IR again in December with a concussion. He played in five games in 2019 with one start, catching just two passes for 11 yards. Garrett Dickerson split time between the Practice Squad and the 53-man roster, but did not have a catch.

The only real positive at this position in 2019 was the emergence of rookie Kaden Smith. The Giants claimed Smith off of waivers from the San Francisco 49ers in September. (He was a 6th round pick for the 49ers). Smith surprisingly became a significant contributor after the bye week when injuries started to hit the tight end position hard. Smith played in nine games with six starts, and finished the season with 31 catches for 268 yards (8.6 yards per catch) and three touchdowns. He also did a nice job in the blocking department.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Scott Simonson was cut in February. Rhett Ellison retired from football in March. Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, and Garrett Dickerson return.

The Giants added four new bodies, including veteran free agents Levine Toilolo (49ers) and Eric Tomlinson (Raiders) as well as rookie free agents Kyle Markway and Rysen John.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The Giants picked up the 5th-year option on Engram in late April, meaning he will be under contract through the 2021 season. However, stating the obvious, this is a critical season for the injury-plagued Engram. He has to prove he can be reliably productive, and you can’t do that if you aren’t playing. And when Engram has played, he has frustratingly alternated between signs of becoming an impact player as a receiving tight end and disappearing for long stretches. As any Giants fan painfully knows, Jason Garrett’s offense relies heavily on tight end play. And Joe Judge preaches about putting players in the best positions to succeed, which would suggest that Engram may see less in-line blocking and be used more heavily in the receiving game. If Engram can’t do it in year four, it may be best for the team to part ways with him.

Kaden Smith’s development will be interesting to watch. He’s not a great athlete, but he did the job when called upon last year despite his limited experience (VIDEO). His upside is the big question mark.

It’s pretty telling that Gettleman and Judge signed two big, run-blocking tight ends in free agency. Now on his fourth NFL team, Levine Toilolo is massive (6’8”, 268 pounds) and figures to be the most physical blocking tight end in this offense. Eric Tomlinson is on his sixth NFL team, and second stint with the Giants. He’s another big man (6’6”, 263 pounds). Neither player will really threaten NFL defenses in the passing game, but their very presence may indicate a renewed emphasis on being physical up front with the running game.

ON THE BUBBLE: One would think that Evan Engram and Levine Toilolo have the inside shots with Engram representing the receiving threat and Toilolo the blocker. If Kaden Smith can continue to develop, he has an excellent shot to make the roster as well. The best hope for each of the others may be for the team to carry four tight ends, but that’s not a given.

PREDICTIONS: I predicted 1,000-yard seasons for Evan Engram in 2018 and 2019. What’s the old saying? Fool me twice? The guy drives me nuts. Week 1: 11 catches and 116 yards and a touchdown against Dallas. Week 3: 6 catches and 113 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, against Tampa Bay. Then he’ll have one catch for six yards against the Cardinals in Week 7 and miss half of the rest of the year with multiple injuries.

I think Judge and Garrett will understand Engram’s strengths and weaknesses and we will see less in-line blocking from him. That should reduce the wear-and-tear as well as increase his receiving chances. I’m not going to predict anything with him in terms of his final numbers this year. Another boast would sound meaningless at this point. He’s got to prove to everyone he can stay on the football field.

I suspect Levine Toilolo will become a very important cog in the offense this year, not as a receiver, but as the primary in-line blocking tight end. That should help both rookie Andrew Thomas and veteran Nate Solder at tackle. And Saquon Barkley should receive the immediate dividends. I want to get really excited about Kaden Smith, but he still has a lot to prove. Fans may have overrated his play last year simply because he looked like the most reliable two-way guy on the roster, which isn’t saying much.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Evan Engram, Levine Toilolo, Kaden Smith, Kyle Markway

One of the reasons I am going with four is that I don’t think Engram is a true in-line tight end and more of a TE/WR hybrid. So the Giants still need three guys who can block in-line. Toilolo and Smith are the obvious guesstimates in May. Rysen John is another hybrid type who is very, very green. His best shot is probably the Practice Squad. Garrett Dickerson has hung around since 2018 and has some athletic ability, but he’s got to be really on the bubble. I think Eric Tomlinson and Kyle Markway are fighting for that final roster spot. Markway reminds me of Rhett Ellison, a jack-of-all trades type (tight end, H-Back, fullback) who doesn’t mind getting his nose dirty. I suspect the coaches will like him a lot.

May 192020
 
Darius Slayton, New York Giants (December 9, 2019)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

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With New York Giants training camp hopefully 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. Keep in mind that some of the players discussed may be cut as the 2020 NFL draft class signs their rookie contracts.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Wide Receivers

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Perhaps the biggest offseason NFL story in 2019 was the trade of Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Cleveland Browns in March. While the Giants received what now appears to be more-than-adequate compensation (1st- and 3rd-round draft picks and safety Jabrill Peppers), the trade left the Giants without a clearcut #1 wide receiver who could consistently threaten opposing defenses down the field. In addition, the Giants were now very thin and top heavy at the position, with only newly-acquired Golden Tate and yet-to-breakout Sterling Shepard as headliners.

Things got even dicier early when Tate (49 catches, 676 yards, 6 TDs) was suspended for the first four games of the season for the use of performance-enhancing substances. Shepard (57 catches, 576 yards, 3 TDs) then missed six games (Week 2, Weeks 6-10) with concussions. Evan Engram (44 catches, 467 yards, 3 TDs), a hybrid tight end/wide receiver, also missed eight games (Week 6, Weeks 10-17) with knee and foot issues. Former Browns 1st rounder Corey Coleman was lost in July with a torn ACL.

Long story short was that the Giants were forced to rely on guys like perennial tease Cody Latimer (24 catches, 300 yards, 2 TDs) and no-name journeymen such as Bennie Fowler (23 catches, 193 yards), T.J. Jones (3 catches), Cody Core (3 catches), Russell Shepard (3 catches), and Da’Mari Scott (2 catches). David Sills spent the bulk of the season on the Practice Squad until mid-December but he did not have a catch.

Thank goodness for 5th-round steal Darius Slayton, who had a surprisingly productive rookie season, playing in 14 games with nine starts, and finishing with 48 catches for a team-leading 740 yards (team-leading 15.4 yards per catch) and a team-leading eight touchdowns.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants cut Fowler and Jones during the 2019 season and chose not to re-sign Latimer and Russell Shepard in free agency. The team did re-sign Coleman and Core in free agency, as well as re-sign practice squader Alex Bachman.

Surprisingly, the Giants did not sign any free agents from other teams and did not draft a receiver in what was widely-regarded as a very deep wide receiver draft. The only newcomers are undrafted rookie free agents Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack, and Derrick Dillon.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The main question is do the Giants have enough receiving targets who can stay healthy and scare opposing defenses? On paper, the Giants are pretty much in the same boat as they were at this time last year, having to rely on Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Evan Engram to stay on the field and be consistently productive. The one significant change is the emergence of Darius Slayton. Was 2019 a flash in the pan for the rookie Slayton or the start of something even better? Will he experience the dreaded “sophomore slump”? Tate proved he can still play, but the Giants are his fourth NFL team and it will be interesting to see how he interacts with Joe Judge. The big concern is Shepard’s career-threatening concussion history. How much more will he be able to play?

Cody Core is a stud special teamer but only has 33 catches in four NFL seasons. It’s a bit surprising that Da’Mari Scott is even back. Sills and Bachman have already been cut by other teams. There was some hope last year that Corey Coleman could emerge, but now he’s coming off a torn ACL. Undrafted free agents Victor, Mack, and Dillon probably couldn’t have picked a better team to sign with. At least one has a reasonable shot of making the team. Unless someone really surprises, there is very little depth at this position.

ON THE BUBBLE: Slayton, Shepard, and Tate are the sure bets with Core having a great shot because of his special teams value. That leaves probably two or three spots for the rest, who are all on the bubble. Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge will be actively scanning the waiver wire.

PREDICTIONS: There are a lot of conflicting thoughts in my head when I consider the team’s situation at wide receiver. I grew up during a time when Phil Simms largely had a bunch of no-name scrubs and still got the job done. I also witnessed how the personal excellence of Odell Beckham had no impact on the overall W-L record. On the other hand, it’s hard to see Eli Manning winning two Super Bowls without the presence of Amani Toomer, Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham.

Personally, I don’t think the Giants have enough talent at the position. If everyone stays healthy, this could be a more-than-adequate unit, but the slot receiver Shepard is one big hit away from being done and he’s never come close to cracking the 1,000-yard mark. The hybrid Engram also can’t seem to stay on the field. I also could see the show-boating Tate rubbing Judge the wrong way. There will be a lot of pressure on Darius Slayton to perform and even improve upon his rookie season. It is a long shot to believe anyone else will be meaningfully productive.

I suspect wide receiver will be a top priority in free agency and the draft next offseason.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Cody Core, Corey Coleman, Binjimen Victor

After my first four, the next two are my best guesses. Coleman has talent but is now on his fourth team and coming off an ACL. Still, he has the one thing you can’t teach: speed. Austin Mack is one of those receivers who is tough to cut, but I just don’t see an ability to separate in his game. Victor reminds me of a poor man’s Plaxico Burress. The 5th and 6th receivers may not be on the roster yet. Stay tuned.

May 182020
 
Deandre Baker, New York Giants (December 29, 2019)

Deandre Baker – © USA TODAY Sports

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As previously reported, New York Giants cornerback Deandre Baker was charged last Thursday with four counts of armed robbery and four counts of armed aggravated assault with a firearm from an incident that allegedly took place at a house party in Miramar, Florida last Wednesday. The incident was allegedly sparked by a game of dice that involved high-stakes gambling and allegedly resulted in Baker robbing party guests at gunpoint.

While an arrest warrant was issued last Thursday, Baker did not turn himself into police authorities until Saturday morning. Baker spent Saturday night in a Broward County jail, but was released on a $200,000 bond Sunday morning, $25,000 for each of the eight counts against him. No bail was requested by the state prosecutor. Baker was also required to turn in his legally-licensed firearm and is not allowed to leave the state of Florida at this time without permission from the court.

According to multiple media reports, the New York Giants have told Baker to stay away from team offseason virtual meetings and concentrate on his ongoing legal situation.

According to Baker’s attorneys, Baker was the victim of a shakedown and that four of the original witnesses have already recanted their original testimony against Baker. The attorneys claim they have witnesses who can attest to Baker’s innocence and that the original arrest warrant was not accurate at all. One of Baker’s attorneys believes in the end that the state will not officially charge Baker (there is a 30-day window to do so).

“He seems like changed individual,” said the attorney in interview with SNY. “In two days. Sometimes going to jail does that. He’s scared straight. He’s completely focused on what he has to do. He’s just going back to work. And he’s certainly looking forward to nobody taking his position. He doesn’t want anybody taking his position as the Giants’ starting cornerback.”

The Giants drafted Baker in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Baker had an up-and-down rookie season for the Giants. He started 15 of the 16 games he played in, receiving 87 percent of defensive snaps, and finishing the year with 61 tackles and 8 pass defenses. He did not intercept a pass.

May 162020
 
Deandre Baker, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Deandre Baker – © USA TODAY Sports

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As previously reported, New York Giants cornerback Deandre Baker was charged on Thursday with four counts of armed robbery and four counts of armed aggravated assault with a firearm. The incident allegedly took place at party in Miramar, Florida on Wednesday and allegedly involved Baker robbing party guests at gunpoint.

While an arrest warrant was issued on Thursday, Baker did not turn himself into police authorities until this morning.

Baker’s lawyer has issued multiple written statements on Instagram over the course of the past two days.

(On Friday): “I want to thank @miramarpd for being professional in regard to surrendering and issues with the case. We understand that the officers can only base warrants on what was told to them at the time. We have had affidavits from several witnesses that also dispute the allegations and exculpate our client. Our investigator has had them for some time. We would have rather presented them to the court at the proper time, rather than in the media, but in this day and age, people rush to judgement. Where some seek publicity, we seek justice. I look forward to moving this case forward to proper conclusion, as we believe our client is innocent of any charges.”

(Saturday morning): “We will be presenting the trove of evidence we have obtained over the past 3 days to the judge at the right time 7 affidavuts (sic) exonerating my client and video evidence.”

(Saturday morning): “Reports are correct that Deandre turned himself in this morning. I am a believer in the system and that if everything works the matter will be appropriately resolved. Both my client and I have felt @miramarpd and the Detective working the case, were accommodating and went out of their way to assure Mr Bakers privacy during this hard time. That is not just lip service, it is fact,, and we appreciate it. This is my 23rd year in practice defending those who I feel are wrongly charged or wrongly treated. That doesn’t mean that all police officers are bad or all are good. We all have jobs to do and I believe we all do them to the best of our ability. Police reports are just that, reports of what was told to them or said to them. Court is what we use to then examine those reports, investigate those claims and allow the Defendant an opportunity to confront the evidence. Don’t rush to judgement.”

The Giants issued the following statement on Thursday: “We are aware of the situation. We have been in contact with Deandre. We have no further comment at this time.”

TheAthletic reported that Baker did not participate in any virtual team meetings this past week.

The Giants drafted Baker in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Baker had an up-and-down rookie season for the Giants. He started 15 of the 16 games he played in, receiving 87 percent of defensive snaps, and finishing the year with 61 tackles and 8 pass defenses. He did not intercept a pass.

ARTICLES…

May 142020
 
Deandre Baker, New York Giants (December 15, 2019)

Deandre Baker – © USA TODAY Sports

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The NFL future of New York Giants cornerback Deandre Baker is very much in doubt as Baker has been charged with four counts of armed robbery and four counts of armed aggravated assault with a firearm. An arrest warrant has been issued for Baker by the Miramar Police Department in Florida. As of this evening, Baker has yet to turn himself in to police authorities.

According to multiple media sources, Baker and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar were at a party in Miramar, Florida on May 13th. An argument supposedly broke out and Baker allegedly started pointing a semi-automatic firearm at other party guests. Baker and Dunbar then allegedly began robbing people at the party by gunpoint. There is also another allegation that Baker instructed a third unidentified person to shoot someone who had just arrived at the party.

Meanwhile, the Giants released the following statement: “We are aware of the situation. We have been in contact with Deandre. We have no further comment at this time.”

TheAthletic is reporting that Baker did not participate in any virtual team meetings this week.

The Giants drafted Baker in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Baker had an up-and-down rookie season for the Giants. He started 15 of the 16 games he played in, receiving 87 percent of defensive snaps, and finishing the year with 61 tackles and 8 pass defenses. He did not intercept a pass.

May 142020
 
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (December 29, 2019)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

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With New York Giants training camp hopefully 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. Keep in mind that some of the players discussed may be cut as the 2020 NFL draft class signs their rookie contracts.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Running Backs

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Coming off an incredible debut season in 2018, where he earned “Offensive Rookie of the Year” honors and led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage, much was expected of Saquon Barkley in 2019. However, his second pro season quickly became forgettable after he suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 3. The injury caused him to miss three games and nagged him much of the remainder of the season. Playing soft and tentative at times, Barkley did not show signs of his old self until December. Nevertheless, Barkley still rushed 217 times for 1,003 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns behind an offensive line that did not block very well. He also caught 52 passes for 438 yards and two touchdowns.

The game that best epitomized Barkley’s frustrating season was the Week 14 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants led 17-3 at halftime, yet the team’s offensive brain trust only called for seven runs by Barkley in the second half. Three weeks later, the Giants faced the Eagles again, this time in the Meadowlands. Barkley’s 68-yard touchdown late in the 3rd quarter tied the game at 17-17. Yet the Eagles went on to win comfortably as Barkley only touched the ball twice before the score became 34-17 in the 4th quarter. One was left with the sense that the coaching staff simply did not use Barkley to full effect.

Unbelievably, and especially when you consider the fact that Barkley missed three games and played hurt in the final 10 games, no other running back on the roster gained more than Wayne Gallman’s 110 yards. To put this in perspective, Daniel Jones rushed for 279 yards. Gallman’s stock plummeted, falling from Barkley’s primary back-up to being a healthy scratch from the game-day roster in the last five contests of the season. Gallman carried the ball only 29 times all year. Jon Hilliman only carried the ball 30 times for 91 yards. Eli Penny 15 times for 39 yards. Javorius Allen 10 times for 36 yards. In other words, all of the other backs combined only gained 276 yards, or three less than Daniel Jones (who only played 12 games).

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The team decided not to re-sign unrestricted free agent Javorius Allen, but did re-sign fullback Eli Penny to a 2-year contract. Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Jon Hilliman, and practice squad fullback George Aston also return.

Newcomers include Dion Lewis (signed by Giants after he was cut by Tennessee Titans), Javon Leake (undrafted rookie free agent), and Sandro Platzgummer (Austrian from the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Saquon Barkley is a generational talent. His presence on the roster had to be an immense appeal to coaches like Joe Judge, Jason Garrett, and Burton Burns, the latter coming back to coaching at the age of 67. But as we saw with Odell Beckham, talent guarantees nothing. And it is up to Judge, Garrett, and Burns to get the very best out of Barkley. Burns is an under-the-radar addition. He’s an old-school, demanding hard-ass, but running backs love playing for him.

Judge has stated numerous times that New York’s offensive game plans will change weekly depending on the opponent, to the point where he said there may be games where the Giants almost exclusively run or pass the football. Given the fact that Barkley is a superb receiving target and that Garrett had the Cowboys throw a ton to Ezekiel Elliott, Barkley should be heavily involved in any game plan. At the same time, the pressure is on all of the new offensive coaches, including offensive line coach Marc Colombo, and the blockers up front to simply give Barkley a chance to do his his thing. Too many times, Barkey was having to avoid tacklers in the backfield. Barkley also needs to touch the football, particularly in the clutch. When he does, good things happen.

There were a couple of red flags with Barkley last year. He still dances around a bit too much instead of taking what is there. And after he got hurt, Barkley looked tentative and indeed soft at times. That changed in December as his ankle got stronger. Hopefully that was only an anomaly. Other than that, Barkley is a legitimate League MVP candidate if he can stay healthy and keep his head on straight.

The other story line of camp is the depth situation behind Barkley. Gallman has not developed as hoped. Penny is more of a fullback. Hilliman didn’t impress as a rookie. The Giants added Dion Lewis, a smaller, elusive journeyman who did his best work in New England.

ON THE BUBBLE: Honestly, I don’t think anyone other than Barkley is totally safe. This is an area where the Giants may be actively scanning the waiver wire before the season starts. Given Judge’s familiarity with Lewis and his versatility as a runner, receiver, and returner, Lewis also has a good shot to make the roster.

PREDICTIONS: I’m a little bit wary of piling on the previous coaching staff, but I just don’t get the impression that they were terribly imaginative in using Saquon Barkley in the passing game (there was an odd, overreliance on the wheel route). The run blocking obviously wasn’t good either. Talent? Coaching? Scheme? Probably a combination of all three. When something worked, the Giants moved away from it, and just when you thought the opponent should be hit with a heavy dose of Barkley, he was nowhere to be seen.

On paper, Garrett, Colombo, Burns, and tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens are major upgrades in the coaching department. I think they will know how to use Barkley. I also expect Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler, and Nate Solder to play much better and for Andrew Thomas and possibly Shane Lemieux or Nick Gates to make an impact. Provided he stays healthy and focused, Barkley should hit the 2,000 yard mark again. He’s clearly one of the very best players in the entire League.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman, Eli Penny

After Barkley and Lewis, this is a bit dicey. Gallman is on the bubble. Penny is replaceable. A guy like Javon Leake could easily press for a roster spot, especially given his kick return skills. Hell, a guy like Sandro Plazgummer probably couldn’t have picked a better team to compete on. My guess is Gettleman and Judge will be actively scanning the waiver wire here. Don’t be shocked to see running back a priority area next offseason. The Giants need better insurance behind Barkley.

May 132020
 
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 10, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

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MAY 13, 2020 DANIEL JONES CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones addressed the media by conference call on Wednesday. (Video is available from Giants.com)

Q: Going into your second year, you have to learn a new offense, you have a new offensive coordinator, a whole new system. What kind of challenge is that like? How are you getting it remotely? What is your relationship with Jason Garrett like? How different is this whole thing for you?
A: It’s definitely different. We’re doing the Zoom meetings like we are now, over the computer, so it’s definitely different than being in person. But I think it’s going well. We’re adjusting to the different circumstances. I think guys are really picking up the system, are able to learn and be like we would in person. We’re able to get together, ask questions, converse with each other and our coaches. I think it’s been going well. The only thing I have to compare to is last year. It’s different, but having the advantage of learning a system is helping me trying to find ways that are similar, ways that are different and using that to learn as much as I can.

Q: Is it going to be like apples and oranges or like apples and a different kind of apple you think this offseason?
A: I don’t know. I think there are definitely some similarities. When you look at any offense, there will be similarities, but also a lot of differences. I don’t know if it’ll be apples to apples, but a lot of ways I can find comparisons and ways I can speed up my learning through doing things similar as the past.

Q: Just some basic questions. Where are you? How are you throwing?
A: I’m in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m staying at my parents’ house with my three siblings, so we’re all hanging out here, packed in. I’m throwing with a small group of guys, trying to stay consistent and do our best to do that. But at the same time, keep my arm in shape, staying in shape, trying to stay on top of all of that. Down here in Charlotte, we’re obviously doing our best to social distance, but in terms of using space outside, we’re still committed to doing that. I’ve been throwing with a couple of guys.

Q: Are these college players or just friends or what?
A: Yeah, some college players, some people who I used to throw with in high school who went on to play in college at different places, and a couple other guys.

Q: What are you working on in particular this offseason from a technique, fundamental standpoint? When you looked at the film of last year, what did you pinpoint as areas where you needed to get better, and how are you kind of attacking that specifically this offseason?
A: To me, I think the biggest thing is ball security, and particularly in the pocket, protecting the ball. That’s a fundamental skill that for the quarterback position, that’s something that’s crucial but also to me a fairly simple fix in that it’s a mindfulness, being intentional with securing the ball, having two hands on it. When you’re moving, when you’re having to adjust in the pocket, you’re maintaining that security. I’m trying to emphasize that, doing different drills and making sure that I’m always cognizant of that and being very intentional in that.

Q: Are you having guys try to swat the ball out of your hands? How do you simulate that in a practice, park-like setting?
A: I’ve been working with a quarterback coach here. He’s someone who has helped me with that and we’ve talked about it a lot. He’ll make sure I’m staying on top of that while, like you said, swatting at the ball and trying to simulate things that will happen in the game.

Q: Along the same lines, as a young quarterback, how much do you think an unorthodox offseason like this can impact your development? My second question is, what was your opinion of Joe Judge the first couple of months he was hired, not throwing his weight behind you as a franchise quarterback and just kind of saying everyone has to compete for each job?
A: This offseason is obviously different for everyone, including me being a guy who’s trying to learn football, who’s trying to make a step in my second year playing in the NFL. But everyone is dealing with these circumstances. Everyone is having to adjust. I’m no different from that. No one’s going to be giving breaks to people who are working remotely because everyone is working remotely and having to do it. I understand that. I don’t think it’ll be a disadvantage if we approach it like we have, if we approach it like the opportunity it is, to use the time as well as we possibly can. The question about Coach Judge, I think Coach Judge has a policy on that. He has a way he’s going to approach those situations, and I respect that. I respect his emphasis on everyone earning their roles. I certainly wouldn’t want it to be any other way. I want to earn my role as anyone else earns theirs.

Q: I know earlier in the offseason you had a chance to bring a couple of receivers with you to Charlotte. How valuable was that? How have you, because obviously building chemistry in the offseason is a big part of being a quarterback with the wide receivers. How have you been able to simulate that?
A: Yeah, that was valuable. We actually went to Duke, a couple of guys, and threw for a little bit there. That was valuable to get that time together. I was actually back up in Jersey for most of the offseason until this outbreak, so I was able to throw with guys who were around there. We’re all doing our best to stay in shape. These conversations, a lot of our meetings have to do with routes, trying to get on the same page, trying to see things the same and talk through a lot of that, talk through a lot of those finer points. I think we can still work on those things. Although we’re not able to get on the field, we can work to come to understandings about how we’re going to run certain things, when we’re going to look for certain routes and that sort of stuff. Yeah, that was a valuable time, for sure.

Q: How much of a responsibility do you feel that you have to take on a bigger leadership role now that you’re in your second year and you’ve been around these guys a little more?
A: Yeah, I definitely feel that responsibility. We have a lot of guys on our team who are leaders, who can step up and organize guys and get things going in the right direction.  But I feel that responsibility. That’s something I need to take seriously, and I certainly do.

Q: When Jason Garrett gets hired as offensive coordinator, there’s that feeling of ‘Ok, we don’t have the playbook yet.’ But I’m curious, did you dive right into Cowboys’ film as much as you could to try to see if, obviously, you can connect the dots. As Coach Judge told us last night, this offense that he’s bringing here now is going to have a lot of similarities to what they did in Dallas. I’m just curious, even before you got the playbook here, how much of your homework was on the Cowboys and studying what they did and trying to get a head start?
A: I certainly did that, diving into some of the Cowboys’ stuff and what they had done in the past. The rules make it tough to communicate a whole lot about that stuff, so there’s a little bit of patience involved in that and getting to the point where we could get the playbook and kind of understand some of the concepts and get some of the verbiage. I did my best to be prepared for when I could get my hands on that stuff.

Q: Knowing you and how you are, I’m curious, have you got the playbook as a whole yet? I know the coaches are kind of installing it piecemeal, but for you, do you have to pull back a little bit and not go too far ahead, or are you kind of going as far as you can and seeing how much you can soak in, even before it gets put into the meetings?
A: I’m trying to stay on top of it. With all of this stuff, it’s a lot of information. It’s a whole new system. I’m trying to work at the pace we’re asked to and understanding as much as I can thoroughly and fully before trying to jump ahead and it’s not taught completely. I think the coaches have done a really good job, like you said, separating it out and getting it to us piece by piece. I’m trying to do my best to stay on top of it and be prepared for the meetings we’re having.

Q: I know you said generally there are some similarities and differences. I’m curious if you can identify what some of the biggest differences are in this offense from what you ran last year?
A: The verbiage will be different. How they name concepts, and obviously, formations and motions are different. That’s probably the biggest thing. There will certainly be different concepts, there will be concepts that we’re going to read in different ways. But there will also be some similar concepts. You notice some similarities. You get plays that it seems like a lot of teams in the NFL run. There are similarities, but I think the differences are kind of in the verbiage and how we’re going to call certain things.

Q: I’m curious, in the draft they took Andrew Thomas number four, they took three linemen. They really committed to the offensive line. I’m wondering, what makes you the most excited and what do you think the biggest impact is going to be to the organization really committing to building up the line in front of you as a young quarterback?
A: I’m excited to get to work with those guys. Andrew and the rest of the guys we drafted, I’m excited to work with them. They’re coming in and I think they understand the responsibility they have. They have to earn their roles like everyone else does. I think they understand that and they’re taking that seriously. I’m excited to get to work. I’m excited to do what I can to help the team and work with them as we go forward.

Q: Having guys like Will (Hernandez) and Andrew and potentially even someone like Shane Lemieux and yourself, all drafted in the last three years. Do you allow yourself to think about, ‘Ok, these might be the guys that are protecting me for the most of my career and we can kind of grow and develop and gel together’?
A: Right now, we’re certainly focused on what we’re doing. We’re working towards this year, working towards the 2020 season. What that looks like right now are these Zoom meetings and working together. Coach has made a big point about getting to know our teammates, even though we’re not in the building and around each other every day, that we make a point to get to know guys. To reach out to guys and stay in touch. Those are the things we’re focused on right now. Those are the important things working towards this 2020 season.

Q: Do you go into this season thinking ‘This is my team’? Part two, what kind of leader will you be?
A: I think going into this year, like I said earlier, I certainly feel the responsibility of being a leader. That’s something I take seriously. But it’s our team. I don’t know if it’s one guy’s team. It’s not coach’s team, it’s not my team, it’s not Saquon’s team or anyone else’s. It’s our team, and I understand that. Leadership wise, I’m going to do my best to, at first, take care of what I’m doing, take care of my responsibility, be prepared and playing at a high level. Hopefully that rubs off on guys, and try to do my best to help guys and work with guys as best I can. But I think at this point, what we’re doing right now, we need to stay on top of our information, make sure we’re doing our best to be prepared when we can get back up to New Jersey.

Q: I’m curious how life has changed for you right now? Last year at this time, right after the draft, I read a quote that some guy at an ice cream store didn’t even recognize you or something like that. How has life changed for you around Charlotte? Are you, for lack of a better term, are you famous now? When you go out to restaurants, do more people recognize you? You’re an NFL quarterback living with his parents and his siblings. Is it different or does it feel like it did when you were in college?
A: It feels pretty similar to how it did in college. I don’t get recognized much around here. Obviously, we’re not going out a whole lot or going to restaurants all that often. But when I am out, I’m not often recognized. It’s probably pretty similar to how it was last year or the year before when I was growing up here in Charlotte.

Q: Just from a draft standpoint, you mentioned the offensive linemen. You guys didn’t draft any running backs, any receivers. It’s pretty much you and the skilled players from last year. Do you guys feel that the offense has to be ahead of the defense while the defense integrates all of its new pieces? Does the offense feel a certain pressure I guess to lead the way?
A: I don’t think so. We’re certainly going to do our best to be prepared and to be ready to go when we get back up there. Something Coach has emphasized and made clear to us, it’s about the team. It’s about offense, defense, special teams and making sure we’re all complementing each other. We’re not concerned with one side of the ball leading the other, or like you said, out in front of the other for any reason. We’re going to make sure we’re working together. It’s about all three sides of the ball, being prepared and doing their job.

Q: I know Coach (Jerry) Schuplinski has been in your ear most of the time, but I was wondering if you could talk about the advantages of working with Coach Garrett, who is a former NFL quarterback, what he possibly brings to the equation and your learning process that maybe you didn’t have before?
A: Yeah, it’s been great working with Coach Schuplinski and Coach Garrett. I think both guys have a ton of experience working with quarterbacks, and like you said, Coach Garrett played in the NFL for a long time. That’s helpful experience, too. I’m trying to do my best to learn from them, pick up as much as I can and, like I said, stay on top of the information. It’s been going well so far, and I’ve enjoyed working with them.

Q: The second part of my question has to do with Cooper Rush, who played for Coach Garrett down in Dallas, he’s familiar with the system, the language and stuff. What has it been like having him in the room with you and how has that helped your learning process, maybe expediting it and grasping it?
A: He’s been great to have in the room so far. He’s been in the system for a number of years and understands it well. He’s able to answer a lot of our questions and, like you said, kind of speed up that learning process. We’ve enjoyed having him.

Q: You’ve had a little time to digest the playbook. I’m wondering when you look at it, why do you think maybe it fits your skillset or fits the skillset of the players you have around you? What is it that you think can be successful for you and this team in general with this playbook and this offense that you’re going to run?
A: I think the biggest thing is it’s been successful. It’s scored a lot of points and gained a lot of yards. When you compare it to, I’ve only played in the NFL for one year, so there’s a lot out there I haven’t done, there’s a lot out there I don’t know. Trying to fit a system a certain way because of me, I’m not sure that makes sense. But the system has been successful. When you look at it, guys have been successful in it. I think that’s the biggest thing. I feel like we have a lot of guys that can make plays. We have guys at every position that can make plays. You’ll see that in the system like you have in the past.

Q: Have you talked to any of those guys who have been in that system in the past? Maybe Tony Romo or people like that, that have been in the system?
A:  I have a little bit, not a ton, to be honest with you. But I’m sure I will as we kind of get going.

Q: Is that talking to Tony Romo or just people in general?
A: Yeah, Tony. I spoke with Tony briefly, but we didn’t get into the system a whole lot. I look forward to talking to some of those guys and hearing their perspective on it.

Q: Has it been different without Eli (Manning) being in there also?
A: Yeah, it’s been different because we’re on the computer. But yeah, Eli not being there is different. The team is a little different, but we’re adjusting and making it work, making the best of it. It’s been good.

Q: You just talked about Eli. Last week, he was on the radio and he said that he thought things were going to be a lot easier for you this year with him gone. That it was probably a bit awkward for you to take over the team with the guy you were replacing still being on the roster. When you look back, was it awkward at all? Do you think he’s right that it probably should be a little easier for you now that Eli’s gone?
A: I think looking back, it probably was a little bit awkward at certain times. But we did a good job working together. I know I enjoyed working with him and certainly learned a ton from him and appreciate everything he did during that year. I don’t know. It certainly will be different, like we’re saying. Different in the room. But I really enjoyed working with Eli last year. I thought it was a huge advantage for me to be able to learn from him and talk to him every day. It will be different, it will be an adjustment, but I’m looking forward to this year and this team we have.

Q: When you talk to the guys, either on Zoom or privately, is there a lot of discussion about what’s going on, updates, ‘I’m hearing this, what are you hearing? What’s it like in your community? When do you think we can get back?’ You know, there’s a lot of anxiety with a lot of people, when is it going to become normal?’ Obviously, you’re not in control of anything but is there an anxiety or a feeling of ‘When we get back, is it going to be safe?’ Do guys talk about safety and things like that?
A: Yeah, just like probably everyone across the country is right now wondering about those things, wondering about how it is in certain communities, how guys are feeling about it, how people’s families are doing with it and certainly being cognizant of what’s going on in New Jersey and New York. We’re talking about that like anyone else does. But I’m not sure anyone has a great idea about any of it or really knows, like you said, when we’ll get back up there. The only thing we can really do is focus on these OTAs, on these Zoom meetings, and do what we can to be prepared whenever the opportunity to get back up there comes.

MAY 13, 2020 SAQUON BARKLEY CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley addressed the media by conference call on Wednesday. (Video is available from Giants.com)

Q: Is it hard for you like the rest of us just not knowing when you’re going to be able to get back to a sense of normalcy? You talked to the quote unquote pundits and they don’t have a lot of high expectations for you guys this year. I’m curious what your expectations are for this team and what would constitute a successful season in your eyes?
A: Yeah, I mean it is a little stressful just like everyone else. You know, everyone’s ready to get back to wherever (inaudible) and whatever it’s going to be for us. But at the end of the day, it’s a serious matter that’s going on and need to make sure everyone’s safe and healthy. With expectations, you know, right now no one can see the forecast, no one can see what’s going to happen for the season this year. The only thing that we can do as a team is try to take advantage of this time that we have. Yes, it’s a little different and a little awkward because it’s on iPads and phones and doing Zoom meetings. But, still try to take advantage of that and prepare as best as we can so when we are able to get back to what we know as normal, we’re prepared.

Q: I would imagine you’ve never played in an empty stadium before. How will you prepare yourself for the eventuality of playing football possibly with no live fans or with half built stadiums? Of course, any big play you make is accompanied by a swell of energy and you probably wouldn’t have that. From a player’s perspective how would you handle that in a game?
A: Yeah, it would definitely be different– from playing in the NFL, playing around fans with the Giants, and then obviously in college at Penn State, which is an amazing place, amazing fans there too. But at the end of the day it kind of goes down to just playing ball. Kind of when you were a kid when no one’s watching, in the backyard, or for instance when we’re at practice. I know some practices we used to have fans there and have the media there, but most of the time no one is there. It’s just us going at it and getting better every single day. I guess that’s kind of the same approach I would take if that was the case.

Q: When you hear (Head Coach Joe) Judge talk about your offense and how it could look very similar to what the Cowboys have done the past few years, how excited are you to play in this new scheme when you see how (Ezekiel Elliott) Zeke was utilized? Having Dion Lewis in the running back room, what is that element added and what do you think having both of you guys in the backfield can provide for this offense?
A: I don’t think I just get excited because of how successful Ezekiel Elliott has been, just how successful Dallas has been in recent years. Obviously, kind of just meeting coaches and talking to coaches and getting to know them, I’m kind of just more excited for that. It’s a fresh start, it’s a new start. You learn a new system, kind of feel like a rookie again. Obviously you understand football a little bit more than you probably would coming from college into the NFL, but I’m really excited to just attack it and get ready for it when an opportunity presents itself. Yeah, having Dion, anytime you can have a veteran guy who’s done it at a high level and is going to continue to do it at a high level, it’s always beneficial to be able to learn from.

Q: Do you embrace the leadership role and do you see yourself as one of the key players in that regard with this team?
A: Yeah, I definitely embrace the leadership role. That’s something that I kind of tried to take on last year and still try to continue to learn and continue to grow and continue to be better in that area. Not just seeing myself as the key player, no, I don’t see myself as that because I know it’s going to take multiple key players to try to get everyone that we can to be on the right page, get the right mindset and buy into the message that Coach Judge and Coach Garrett and all those guys are telling us. When the opportunity does come, try to attack it at a high level and create our new standard.

Q: The second season of a quarterback’s development is obviously pretty big. This is a strange offseason where you’re not getting to spend much time in person with Daniel. What makes you confident that he can keep on improving becoming the quarterback that you’ve talked about you think he can be? How have you guys been able to try to build that chemistry in this weird situation?
A: (inaudible) his mentality, you know he’s a hard worker, he’s competitive. Even through these tough times he’s going to find a way, we’re all going to find a way and try to find a way to improve. Not just as individuals, but as a team.

Q: You like to work out and make sure you’re in the best shape possible. How is that possible now? What kind of adjustments are you making? Where are you working out? How are you staying in shape and ready for when you get on the field?
A: Yeah, definitely. I am very fortunate enough to have my own little facility, gym setup I guess you could say. I kind of always wanted to get my own little gym and then this kind of happened so it kind of I guess you could say planned out perfectly for me. So, I’m really not missing a beat. I’ve kind of got everything that I kind of need. Obviously, it’s just different not being there with your teammates. That’s just the stuff you miss the most and not being with your coaches. But just trying to attack it as best as I can and try to keep my body in tip top shape for when the opportunity does come I am more than ready.

Q: Are you going out and running in fields or in the neighborhood? Where are you exactly and what does this gym setup look like?
A: Well my gym is in New Jersey, it’s my basement. So you go in my house and go downstairs in the basement and I’ve got a nice little gym setup. But, just running, whether that’s running in my neighborhood, finding little fields that you can get on, obviously I know the rules and everything. That’s kind of the way I try to stay in tip top shape but also with my strength program. I’ve kind of got a similar setup to what we have, like if you could just put in your mind what we have in our weight room and just have it for an individual, that can go for like two to three or four people on one rack, I kind of have all of that stuff that is needed.

Q: What was your reaction when you first looked at the playbook and what makes you think it’s going to be a good fit for this team and for you in particular?
A: I mean the first reaction when I looked at it was like, “Here we go again.” We’ve got to dive in, like I said earlier, kind of feeling like a rookie, obviously understanding football a little more. The terminology, the play makes have some similarity to it, but the terminology is different. The reason why I believe that we are going to be successful and have the key pieces to do it, is because I know what we have in this team. I know the coaches that we have in the building, I know the way that we are attacking it right now. I think that’s going to be a key reason for us to hopefully have success in the future.

Q: What’s been your initial impression of Joe Judge? What have your interactions been with him so far?
A: It’s been great, it’s been great. He’s definitely, he’s very detailed, he’s setting the standard, I think that’s great. Any time he talks you pay attention and you listen. The only things I can say are only good things about him. I’m really excited and hopefully, hopefully sooner rather than later, we all can get together as a team.

Q: What are you looking to build on from last year and how much more challenging is it not being able to be on the field or go through drills to work on stuff going into this offseason?
A: What I’m trying to build on is just trying to improve every single day right now with these meetings and being that guy coming to these meetings locked in, making sure that I’m taking notes, paying attention to the details and anytime that I do get a chance to work on my little craft, whether I get on the field or not, focus on the things that are being taught in meetings and try to apply it to the field. Just try to stay focused and try to stay locked in so when it does come I’m ready.

Q: They’ve really committed to the offensive line, especially through the draft, they took Andrew Thomas in the first round, (Shane) Lemieux and (Matt) Peart. As a running back, how can that really help you when they make that kind of commitment to the guys in front of you to open up the running lanes?
A: Obviously as a running back you see offensive linemen getting drafted, you get excited. But, it wasn’t just about that. You trust the guys up front, you trust the guys up in the front office to make the right decisions and trust they are going to bring the guys in here that, whether the position is offensive lineman, running back, tight end, so on and so on, they are going to bring in guys that are ready to work and compete and try to get this team back to where we know that we can be. So, that’s what I’m just excited about.

Q: What have your first impressions been of your position coach, Burton Burns?
A: Burns, Coach Burns…he’s great, he’s great. Of the little time that we do get to have in the meetings, I can’t wait to spend more time not just only with Coach Burns but all of the guys on the team, the coaches, hopefully, like I said, it’s sooner rather than later. But, he’s great. He’s got a great history with running backs at Alabama. He’s very attention to detail, very focused on the little things, and not only him but Stephen Brown too, our running backs assistant. They’ve been doing a really great job of preparing us and getting us ready as best as we can for when the opportunity does come.

Q: What are the challenges of being a leader for a virtual team? You can’t get your hands on people, you can’t just saddle up the guys in the locker room, how do you be a leader in this environment?
A: The same way you would do probably in team meetings, or in the locker room. Obviously you’re not there face to face, but I think the key thing is the times where we’re all logging in and we get that little bit of time before we dive into our installs, try to make it as natural as it could possibly be. That’s something that it’s not like I’m focusing on, I’m just being myself. I’m being myself, (Sterling Shepard) Shep, all of those guys are being themselves and we’re chalking it up, whether we’re joking on each other, or we’re just checking in on each other. I think that’s the key important thing during these meetings right now and I think we’re doing a pretty good job so far.

Q: Coach said he keeps an eye on that and he’s kind of scouting people. Not necessarily analyzing and judging people, but he’s taking notes on how guys are interacting in these meetings. Are you doing the same for the coaches? You obviously aren’t there with them in person, you only get to spend two hours a day with them. Are you making judgements about the coaching staff in these meetings?
A: No, I’m just taking notes and trying to make sure that I’m ready for whenever this thing starts. Like I said, it’s obviously, at the end of the day it’s football. The terminology may be a little different, but I just want to make sure that I’m on my p’s and q’s when this thing starts. To be honest, I feel like, maybe some people agree with me, maybe some people don’t, you’re probably learning more during this time and with the meetings over Zoom, having more time at home. I think it’s going to be beneficial, not only for myself but for the new rookies that we have and all the guys. If we just keep that right mindset and take advantage of it, I think it’ll help.

Q: I hope you’re not judging us either if you’re not judging the coaches then.
A: No (laughter). I miss you guys actually.

Q: I’m sure last month you saw Christian McCaffrey got the big contract extension and everybody’s follow story after that was Saquon’s going to be the next big one. Has your mind at all jumped to that? Have you thought about at all what could be coming in a year or so? Just knowing that kind of negotiation is down the road, do you feel you still have something to prove?
A: Well, I always feel like I’ve got something to prove. That’s always been my mindset. Always going to try to be the best player and person that I can be, not only for myself but for my team. Yes, when Christian signed that big contract the first thing that came to my mind was I’m happy for him. I know Christian personally and talking to him throughout the season, throughout the years, whether the offseason or through the season. I worked out with him one time and you could just see his work ethic and how attention to detail he is. It was more happy for him, he deserves it. But for me, I’m a big believer of taking care of the little things first. That’s right now coming into the meetings and try to be the best leader, the best player I can from this, I don’t know what size of a box you would call it. I feel like if you take care of that the other things take care of themselves in the future.

Q: The flip side of that, Todd Gurley was cut. The Rams got rid of him really quickly. Was that shocking to you and was that a reminder of how quickly things can go away in the NFL?
A: Yeah, definitely shocking. I know TG pretty well. Obviously it sucks that he had to leave the Rams, but he’s got a fresh new start and hopefully he can remind the league of how dominant of a player he is. No, I don’t need Todd Gurley getting traded or cut or however it happened to remind me how the NFL is. That’s just the NFL that’s the business. That’s why you have to try to take advantage of it every single day you can.

Q: We asked you about the Cowboys offense and I know you have a previous relationship with Zeke. Have you reached out to him to talk about what it’s like to be in this type of offense? When Burton Burns was mentioned earlier, I know immediately it seemed like Alabama guys reached out to you on social media to tell you what kind of a coach you were getting. What was that response like?
A: Yeah, I definitely heard from a lot of guys on Bama. I know Mark (Ingram), Mark hit me up telling me I got a good one. He’s 100 percent right from everything that I’ve seen so far. It’s only going to improve and get better when we actually get together and work with each other. But with Zeke, no. I actually haven’t contacted Zeke yet. That’s something that I do plan on doing. I kind of want to dissect it and get the system down myself and then get to Zeke and see what he was doing here, what he was doing there because it’s kind of like with anything. Obviously there are some basic stuff that you learn and the big stuff that you’ve got to be able to do, but at the end of the day there’s some stuff that you’ve got to do as a football player and become great and use your creativity. I’ll definitely use him and try to learn from him to see what he was able to do.

Q: When this offseason was your ankle fully, 100 percent healthy? When was it, because I know it was this offseason? I’m just wondering, you’ve been productive your first two years when healthy obviously, but Zeke’s been in the league a little longer and he’s been uber productive in Jason Garrett’s offense. Will you watch some tape of him, or is there curiosity there on your part in terms of how productive you’ve been, can you be even more productive with Jason Garrett as your OC?
A: I mean yeah, when you watch film Zeke definitely stands out. He’s always stood out to me. I always say, I’m a fan of the game, I like watching running backs and learning from them. It’s cool to be able to go back and see some plays that I’ve watched before, now actually be on this side and actually understanding the play behind it, how it works for him. So, he’s been very productive. For me, I’ve just always believed and was always taught to believe in yourself. I feel like every year I’m going to try to improve and with the help of not just Jason Garrett’s offense but with my work ethic and my team that’s around me. Not only myself as an individual, I feel like we can be more productive on the offensive side of the ball and obviously all three phases of the game, playing complementary football. Then, with the ankle injury, the ankle felt good after the season let’s just say that. That’ll be the answer I’ve got for you.

MAY 13, 2020 DALVIN TOMLINSON CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson addressed the media by conference call on Wednesday. (Video is available from Giants.com)

Q: Are there any similarities between what you were running and what Patrick Graham is trying to install now?
A: There are similarities in pretty much every defense that we run. It’s a change compared to different defenses we have run in the past. I feel like it’s a great defense. I love the coach and I love the schematics we have put in so far.

Q: You played for Pat Graham when he was here. What were your impressions of him then? Back then, did you think he had defensive coordinator in his future?
A: Most definitely. He’s a great coach, super high energy. He coaches you to the fullest because he wants the full potential brought out of you. Back then, the way he coached the D-line, you could just tell he was going to be a D-coordinator soon.

Q: You are going into your fourth year and you are already going to be on your third head coach technically. What’s that like going through that much turnover? What’s your early impression of Joe Judge?
A: Coach Judge is a great guy. I remember when I was getting recruited by Alabama, that was when I met him for the first time. It’s just crazy how small the world is. He’s a great guy and so is the whole coaching staff. Every day you come in the locker room, just make sure you are ready to work every day. Bring your A game and make sure everyone around you is ready to work. That’s all you can do, come to work and do your best.

Q: Do you remember anything about when he recruited you? Do you remember anything about his personality?
A: He used to always joke about me playing kickoff in college.

Q: Where are you and what are you able to do as far as working out and staying in football shape? What concerns do you have about the idea of coming back to football in a couple months?
A: I’m currently in New Jersey. I pretty much have a gym in my garage, I guess you could say. I work out here at home just to stay safe. Safety is the number one concern with this pandemic going on right now. I feel like the NFL is going to make sure everything is safe for the players as well as the coaching staff and pretty much everyone in the building before they can return. Like I said, safety is the number one priority for everyone right now.

Q: When Leonard Williams came on board last year, the two of you seemed to form an instant chemistry. What was it about playing with him that made it work for you guys? How excited are you to have him back for this year?
A: I love Leonard, he is a great guy. I feel like we clicked off the field for the most part because we both love animated video games. We became instant best friends I guess you could say. I love playing beside him, he is a great guy, he brings great energy. Like you said, we have great chemistry. I’m looking forward to playing with him this upcoming season.

Q: We talked to Coach Judge about the Zoom calls. Your position is one of them where a lot of you guys know each other, you already have that bond. What do you think that chemistry does to help you guys moving forward?
A: I feel like it helps out a lot because most of us know each other already. I feel like we get to interact more with the other positions as well as the offense. You can put names to faces for the new guys on the team. It helps us bond a lot better so when we get back nobody is a stranger.

Q: What’s your impressions of Coach Spencer?
A: Super high energy guy. He always has energy no matter what time of the day it is. I’m looking forward to doing some of his drills when we get back to practice.

Q: What do you think about the moves that were made in the offseason, especially on defense? They drafted another Alabama guy. Is there anything you like about the virtual offseason program?
A: I feel like the virtual offseason program helps out simply because we can’t go in the building. It helps everybody put a name with a face. You get to bond with people in a different way I guess you could say. I always love to have an Alabama guy here, that Roll Tide culture in our blood. With the moves in the offseason, whoever they bring in, I am going to welcome them as a teammate, and we are going to get to work every day. I’m going to push them to be as best as they can be as well as myself.

Q: I know you have no control of free agency, but Coach Judge said he had been in contact with Markus (Golden) about possibly coming back. I was wondering, have you talked to Markus? If he doesn’t come back, how do you replace 10 sacks?
A: I haven’t talked to Markus in the last couple of weeks, I haven’t been up to date with him lately. I honestly don’t know how to answer that question. All I can say is Markus is a great guy, I hope the best for him, and I love that guy. Whatever the team and coach decide, that’s up to them. Whatever happens, happens. We all have to just wait and see.

Q: It’s your contract year. Obviously, that’s a big motivator for guys. Do you expect that to have any impact with you? What can you tell us about any negotiations your agent has had with the Giants.
A: Pretty much we have been taking every day one day at a time because of the pandemic. I’m not really focused on the contract because all I can do is try to get better and be as much prepared as I can for when we get back to training camp and get back to the facility as early as possible. I have been focusing on getting better and improving with my teammates as much as possible, that’s my biggest goal right now.

Q: With all the Zoom meetings, Coach Judge has talked about you guys bonding. Has there been anything that has happened during these meetings that’s odd or strange? Is there anything about your teammates that you learned through this virtual environment that you didn’t know?
A: I don’t think there has been anything strange. Everybody has been bonding in the meetings, I guess you could say, getting to know each other. Some of us FaceTime each other. A lot of us play video games together in a group. We all have been on Call of Duty lately, bonding with that. There hasn’t been anything strange, I guess you could say.

Q: Who is the best Call of Duty player?
A: Right now, I would have to put myself in the top three. I haven’t played with Blake Martinez yet, but I’m looking forward to it. He might be number one.

Q: The defensive line for the most part was left intact. You added Austin Johnson and a few undrafted free agents. What does that mean to you? What does that say to you that they are going to be relying on you to help with the pass rush and have it start up front with you guys?
A: As a front, we want to help across the board, no matter what part of the game it is. We’re all trying to build our brotherhood even stronger than it was before. Just continuing to improve as a unit so we can feed off each other.

Q: Does the familiarity with each other help give you guys an advantage in that you know how each other thinks? Even though you are all learning a new system, does it give you an advantage?
A: I feel like it gives us an advantage in learning the system more easily because we know how each other learns things and picks up things on a day to day basis.

Q: Do you think this defense has something to prove this year? How do you think this defense will respond overall?
A: We’ll have to see when we get pads on. I love the defense and I’m super excited to play in it and run some of the plays we’ve installed. With the players we have on the team, I feel like it can get very exciting.

Q: You talked about Coach Judge joking about putting you on the kickoff team. That’s sounds like something he might not be joking about? Has that come up at all and is that something you would be up for?
A: It hasn’t come up at all. I can tell you now that was a whole different type of body type back then when I was coming out of high school compared to now. I highly doubt I will be on kickoff, but if he wants to put me on it, I’ll be more than happy to do it.

May 122020
 
Joe Judge, New York Giants (January 9, 2020)

Joe Judge – © USA TODAY Sports

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MAY 12, 2020 JOE JUDGE CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media by conference call on Tuesday. (Video is available at Giants.com)

Q: You talked a lot about trying to establish a culture with the Giants now that you’ve come in. How much difficulty are you having really getting to do that with the environment that you guys are currently coaching in via zoom and all that? In what ways are you trying to build comradery?
A: I think a lot of the things we’re trying to build within the culture right now are showing up based on the circumstances that we have allotted to us and how hard the players are working. That’s really what we’re looking to build, is that culture of everyone doing whatever it takes to be successful. Right now, we’re seeing that across the board with our players. I’m very pleased in how they come every day prepared. I’m pleased with how they come every day with a lot of urgency. We’re getting great feedback and communication through the meetings with the players themselves. As far as building comradery with them, probably the best part of the day is when you can click on the Zoom and everyone has their screens unmuted and you just hear the guys talking across. That’s probably the best part. It took about a week for everybody to get comfortable enough to do that. I think they kind of realize, as coaches, we’re laughing listening to them talk and then they got a little bit more comfortable and really started breaking it down. It’s fun seeing all of the personalities really emerge and the connections. Today was the first day we had the rookies in the meetings with the vets, so you could tell right away, a couple guys saw some new faces and you heard a couple others, ‘Rookies in here today.’ I’m sure they’ll be asking them for a joke by tomorrow.

Q: What’s going to happen after this week is over? Do you have a plan for the next phase? Have there been any discussions? I saw a report about teams discussing moving training camps out of areas where there might be stay at home restrictions for them.
A: The first part, we definitely have a plan. We’re assuming right now that we’re going to continue working virtually with the players. We’ll wait for further clarity from the league. We were told to plan through May 18, so that’s what we’re doing right now. In terms of relocating, our Ops department is doing a great job right now mapping out a lot of different scenarios in terms of if for some reason we have to relocate, they’re making connections around the area, around the country, as to whatever we may need to do. We’re waiting on direction from the league in terms of when we’ll make decisions on that. Hopefully in a perfect world, we’re all back together in New Jersey training sooner than later. But we’re planning for a lot of hypotheticals to make sure if they come up, we’re not caught by surprise.

Q: Where are some of the options that you’ve considered in terms of moving training camp? Would you do that in the spring, too?
A: I don’t know that we necessarily have an option to do it in the spring unless the league gives a thumbs up on that. I think right now with the climate of the country, one thing we have to consider is, first off, the safety of our players traveling across the country. Getting on flights, traveling through cars. There is a lot of mandated quarantines that come with that as well, so the timeliness factor of getting players, having them travel, the amount of time they’re quarantined, getting them in the building, can we secure that they’re going to be quarantined along with all of the staff and coaches that are surrounding them, whether that’s in our facility or somewhere else? There are a lot of logistical things we have to consider. The first thing we talked about in all of these conversations is are we 100 percent certain the players are going to remain healthy and we’re not putting anybody at risk. I have a tough time right now asking a player to fly across the country from California when I probably wouldn’t be the first one most willing to throw my two sons on a plane to go the other way. We talk about this, we have to consider the big picture of what’s going on. Look, I would love to have them in Jersey right now. I would love for us to have setup remote camp if that’s what was necessary. But getting them to the campus and making sure that while we’re there they’re not exposed to anything, we have to consider that as well.

Q: How much have you been able to install so far? Everybody wants to know, what is your offense going to look like? I’m curious, how would you describe schematically what your offense is going to look like and is it something Daniel Jones has done before or is it completely new?
A: I think schematically, the easiest way to describe it to the outside world right now is it’s going to be similarly based off what Jason’s (Garrett) done in Dallas over the last 10 or so years. There are going to be some similarities carried over from that, but it has to cater to our players we have on our roster currently. Right now, we’re installing all of the base concepts and the shell of the offense. I think really you’ll see throughout training camp as it takes form with the character of our team and as different players emerge. Really along with that, it’s going to take shape throughout the season as well. We’re going to be a team that focuses a lot on game plans and whatever we have to do game by game. That might be running the ball every play or throwing the ball every play based on the opponent. But we’re going to make sure we’re not too rigid in what we’re doing that we can’t adapt by game plan.

Q: Are there are similarities for Daniel regarding what he did in college with maybe what you’re doing here? They ran a pro style system I believe at Duke, or what they ran last year here with the Giants?
A: It’s not the true west coast system. Really one thing that Jason does that’s really outstanding is it’s really his system that’s been formed over years collectively from where he’s played and coached. Those are part of the conversations we had when we talked about joining the staff. We’ve talked along the way that it’s really a collection of what Jason has put together throughout his own career. There are going to be similarities to this in some regards to Daniel. I can’t tell you concrete wise what that’s going to be. But there are a lot of cousin concepts you would say in every offense. When me and Jason talk about the offense, there is a lot of familiarity in the terminology and the verbiage that he uses that I’ve heard when I worked at Alabama under (Nick) Saban. A lot of that comes from crossover of offensive coordinators that they work alongside in Miami together. Within this league, you really kind of study the head coaches and coordinators. You talk a lot about coaching trees, but it really comes into the influences that you’ve worked under or played under. Normally, once you work under somebody, you develop your own style, but you borrow a lot from that person that you just left, whether that’s as simple as verbiage, terminology, philosophies on route-running, pass protections, all those things there. I would say, to answer your question, there are going to be some similarities with Daniel, but I would not say it’s a carryover in any way, shape or form from his rookie year.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about how first-year coaches might be at a bit of a disadvantage with the way this whole process is playing out with not being able to get in the building and having to rely on Zoom. As someone that’s never been a head coach before, is there anything about this that’s advantageous to what you’re trying to do and what you’re trying to build?
A: I think the advantage goes to who is most prepared from this point forward. That’s what we’ve been working on doing and focusing on what we can control. Our IT Department, along with our coaching staff, did a great job with setting up the use of computers. Our players are doing a great job of accessing all of the information and working with us in the allotted time. We have a lot of guys that are showing a lot of urgency. They do everything they can to give themselves a head start heading into training camp. That’s really what the spring is about.

Q: Is it more difficult not knowing what training camp is going to look like? Obviously, you’re coming in trying to set a foundation, build a culture and kind of leave your mark on the team in all aspects. But not knowing what the future holds, what’s that like as a coach and what’s that like for these players?
A: I’ve mapped out training camp based on the calendar leading up to our opening game right now. Any adjustments we have to make based on that, we’ll make accordingly. That’s my job to be prepared and have contingency plans for the team to operate. We’ve talked through different scenarios, but right now we’re mapping out training camp assuming that we’re opening up on September 14 with the Steelers. We’re looking forward to that.

Q: You mentioned earlier on another day that it’s imperative for these players to start forming bonds, and some of that has to be them doing it themselves. How about you with the players? A head coach has to bond with the players. Is that more difficult now, and is there anything you can share, anything you know more about certain of your players, a good example of one or two of those, that you didn’t know just from the laptop, remote, things like that? Something that you know now that you did not know.
A: I’ll tell you what, we found different ways throughout the meeting times to work together. I found time to grab certain players out of the meetings. I’m going to work my way through the team as we go throughout the rest of spring, making sure I get face time with each one of these guys. Leading up to this, I spent some time talking to these guys on the phone really just checking on them and their family. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of these guys in person when we were still in the building. They were still around working out. I would say one of the interesting things about this whole process is just like we’re doing right now, as somebody else is speaking, really everyone has the freedom to look around right now and really observe how people are. When there’s an assistant coach presenting, everybody in there is also presenting themselves and how they conduct themselves in a meeting. You’re looking around, how’s the guy set up in his house? Is it a quiet setting? How is he dressed? What’s his eye focus like? Are his eyes down? Is he trying to text? We haven’t had a lot of that. We’ve had a lot of guys with great urgency. You have the opportunity in this setting here to really see your players in a meeting standpoint where they really can’t hide. Right now, we’re on a one by one box on this screen, but we’re all face to face. You don’t know who’s looking at who at this time, so everything you’re doing at all times is really what you’re being evaluated on.

Q: Obviously, you’re looking, you’re not spying on them. Everyone knows, on this also, it’s open.
A: I’ve made this clear to our players. Everybody is always making an impression. I can’t sign on with the team and stumble through a team talk and show shoddy film and have technology that doesn’t work, and have them think ‘Ok, this guy is going to be ok. He knows what he’s doing.’ We’re always creating an impression. We’re always forming an opinion of ourselves. But along with that, let’s not get confused. We’re not going to evaluate a football team based purely on how they are on a computer. We can go down to Circuit City and find a great football team on a computer. But we want to make sure right now that, look, we’re just trying to give the players an opportunity to learn our material, to learn our systems, to get a head start going into training camp. We’re trying to be as much of a resource for these guys as we possibly can. We only get two hours a day with the vets. But we get two hours a day with the vets, we need to use those two hours as much as we can. Along the way, we’ve used everything the league has allowed us to use in terms of loading up playbooks and cut ups and voiced-over installs for the players to watch at their own pace on their own. We’re trying to get ahead of everything that they may need. Look, until we get on the grass, you really can’t evaluate a football player. You just can’t do it. I’ve made it clear to our team, this spring is about learning. This spring is about building a base so when we get there in training camp, we can play fast and we can play aggressive. You’ll be evaluated in training camp. Right now, we’re learning. Now along the way, you are making an impression.

Q: From your perspective, if you were in the building and circumstances were the traditional format you would see leaders emerge, guys looking at the veterans or even looking at some rookies who have set the tone. Will you take it upon yourself to reach out to some guys and say are you guys getting together? Do you want to see who emerges as the leaders of this team or is too early?
A: The interesting thing is, early on in this process, I think we all had a lot of question marks in terms of how we are going to see relationships, how we are going to see leadership, how are we going to see all this emerge. Naturally it always comes to the surface. You can see a lot of guys from interactions in meetings. You can see who is going to take the reins and start the communication. You can identify from different players who is standing out front and organizing some extra communication exercises on their own at the time. You still have the ability to see who is stepping out in front. As I’m talking to these players individually and asking them for direct feedback as well, you can tell how engaged and really how invested they are in the program by the answers they give you. It’s been very telling and I’m very pleased with the way our players are working right now. Whereas on the front end, there was a lot of talk about what we can’t do, I think we are finding out along the way we are getting a lot done because this is the asset that we have to use and we are finding ways to use it. These players are inventive, they are going to find different ways to get together with each other and socially interact. They are going to find different ways to get together and study with each other and get caught up with material and help each other out with notes. Maybe even more so now than some other springs in the past because the reality is everyone’s situation is different around the country. You have to find what to do in your free time. Things still aren’t opened up everywhere. Every state is a little bit different, but generally speaking the country is still closed down for the most part. These guys are in areas where they have a lot of free time in their day where there is not a lot to do necessarily.

Q: I know you have accepted the limitations that you have in this situation. All things considered, do you think you as a first-time coach you should get a pass this year based on the inability to be normal?
A: All I’m focused on doing is everything to put our team in a position to play their best ball now. I’m not thinking about anything outside of the scope of that. Whatever we have to work with, we are going to make work for us. We’re going to get into training camp and go ahead and make sure we get these guys on the grass and put them through it. Identify the best 53 for our team and then the best actives for game day and go forward with it. We’re not thinking about what we don’t have right now, that’s not an option or thinking about what we have access to. Every day, we are focusing on how to get better and that’s my only focus right now.

Q: What went into the decision to claim Cooper Rush?
A: Like everyone else in the league, we are looking at the waiver wire every day. We are always trying to acquire good football players for our team. The competition in training camp will sort a lot of things out. When we see a good player out there and we think he is someone that can be an asset to our team and come in here and compete, that’s all we’re considering. He was someone that came across the waiver wire that we had known about and some had experience with him. We thought it would be a positive move for our team.

Q: Five quarterbacks is obviously a lot. Is the roster construction different because you don’t have to get on the field and have a certain minimum at different positions? Can you alter how you construct the roster right now?
A: You definitely can. You can have 90 quarterbacks right now because you don’t have to worry about throwing to anybody. In terms of going to camp right now, we’ll address that as we get closer to camp in terms of all the positions. We obviously have a template like everybody else has of the desired numbers at each position. I think the overriding factor is you don’t want to turn away a good player just to suit the numbers. You kind of structure practice accordingly to make sure there is as many good players on your roster as there possibly could be.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you have players in different areas of the country, some in places where things are re-opening. Some players can go to beaches or gyms and others can’t. Are you able to give them any guidelines or restrictions on what they should and shouldn’t do? How worried are you that doing something normal like going to a gym could end up hurting the health of one of your players?
A: I think everyone has to make the decisions based on their own circumstances of where they are at. We’re concerned about the health of all our players. We have a training staff with Ronnie Barnes and his guys that they have full time access to for guidance on whether or not they should go somewhere or shouldn’t go somewhere. Everyone’s situation is different. One thing the league has allowed us to do is provide some equipment to guys that don’t have access to gyms, which we’ve done accordingly. We’ve made a decision not to track workouts as a lot of other clubs have as well this spring for a multitude of reasons. The biggest thing we have been able to do is provide our strength coach to be an asset that if they want to reach out and ask him questions, along with our nutritionist and training staff. The league has allowed us to upload programs to follow if they choose to. Obviously it’s the spring, it’s voluntary, nothing is required. We just want to make sure we have answers to questions the players may have as we go.

The biggest concern for me is without having a spring is making sure the players are in good enough shape coming back to practice. That’s the one thing the spring is heavily beneficial for these players. They can play football and do football movements and get in football shape before coming in and competing for a job while playing football. As a coach, I’ve got to put us in the best situation possible to practice hard to compete and to avoid injuries at the same time early in training camp. The new CBA laid out a lot of guidelines that’s geared towards looking out for the players early on in training camp to make sure they don’t come in and get thrown into the fire without an acclimation period. I think that’s something working through the CBA that will help long term with these guys. Immediately, this year without having a spring, the biggest thing we can emphasize with our players is whatever you have to do, whatever you have access to, we have all the resources you need. Make sure when we come into training camp you have given yourself every opportunity possible to be in the best shape so you can physically stay healthy, stay on the field and compete.

Q: You spoke earlier about the type of offensive system you are going to install. Can you talk about the defensive system that Patrick Graham is putting together?
A: It’s going to be a multiple answer and everyone says, what does that mean? The easiest way to describe that is you go back to last year in Miami where Patrick was, you can follow that through the different systems he’s been a part of whether it’s New England. He had experience in New York and Green Bay, and there is a little difference in flavors of defense as well. We’ll be a team that’s multiple by game plan and how we have to matchup and attack the opponent. The elements of the defense you can really look through and what it will closely resemble will really be the other stops that Patrick has been along his way that I have been there as well. The New England system, some of the Houston system, the Tennessee system, the Miami system. Those families of defense will be the biggest influences that go into ours. Of course, ours will be mostly dictated by the players we have in the games.

Q: In terms of special teams, obviously Thomas McGaughey is an outstanding special teams coach, how much of your influence from the Patriots are you going to bring to the Giants special teams?
A: I will be involved with all three sides of the ball, but T-Mac is the special teams coordinator here.

Q: There’s that (Muhamad) Ali quote about preparation. “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses. Behind the lines out there on the road long before a dance under those lights.” You were talking earlier about preparation. Is your message to your guys that there is no substutute for grinding now? This hard work now can pay off later.
A: There’s no short-cut to success. You have to put one day with the next and keep putting them together and that’s going to string together and give you an opportunity to be successful. It’s all about preparation. We have to do a good job preparing, preparing physically, preparing mentally. That’s truly our message to the team, we’re providing them with the opportunity, we want to be a resource for the players at this point. Give them every opportunity to learn our systems so when they get in, we can continue to learn, but it’s going to be a at a faster pace in training camp obviously. That’s where the competition really begins.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you got Patrick Graham? Obviously, he was under contract in Miami and you know Brian Flores. How did that come about?
A: Without going too much into different conversations, we followed the league procedure, we put in a request to speak with him. They granted the request and he was our top choice.

Q: You guys used the tag on Markus Golden. How did that come about? I think the Patriots are one of the only teams to use that in recent years when you were there. Have you talked to Markus since you guys put the tag on him?
A: Without going into what we talked about, yes, I have spoken with Markus. I have a lot of respect for him as a player. He’s a great person, he’s a hard worker. He’s a productive player so we have a lot of respect for him. He’s definitely someone that I have spoken to in terms of possibly adding to the roster. We placed the tag on him. That’s something that’s allotted to us through the league rules. We thought that it was a situation when it came up and was available to us, it was something we could use. We have an interest in Markus, we’ve talked to him. We are going through the procedure right now. We’re going to let it play out a little bit and see where everything shakes out.

Q: Are you preparing your players to play in front of an empty stadium. If you have to do that, how do you prepare guys to do that, have the same energy etc. From your perspective, what do you think the NFL should do? Do you think it’s more important that we wait and start a season later so that everything can be normal? As a coach, is it best that you wait for the ready set go or not?
A: As far as our approach, the league will make those decisions. I think the one thing the league is being very considerate of is everybody’s safety. Players, fans, and everybody. I don’t think anyone wants to play in front of empty stadiums. The fans are a huge part of this game. Playing in front of stadiums, that’s where the juice and the energy comes from on a weekly basis. We don’t have fans at practice, so we prepare them every day without people watching. These guys have to go out and they will be prepared for whatever the situation is. Truly, we want the fans there. It would be a different atmosphere. We prepare for whatever, but the fans are a huge part of this game and we definitely want them there.

Q: Would you consider training camp being driving distance? Somewhere around New Jersey?
A: To be honest with you, if we can’t practice at the facility, I would like it to be the best set up possible. There’s a lot of factors that go into that in terms of field space, training room, weight room, food for the players, rooms and accommodations. These guys have off days in training camp as well. One of the advantages of being at the facility is these guys have a chance to go home see their wives and kids on the off days. That’s a big part of it. Our training camp practices are open. It’s important to me that the players get to go out there and walk off the field and see their wives and kids and girlfriends on the way off the field. Spend 10 minutes of keeping things in perspective before you go in there and over-analyze everything you did on the field. In terms of where we go, hopefully we are in the facility. That’s really what we are pushing for. If the league determines something else, our Ops department is in the middle of having that organized in case we have to go that way. We’ll see what’s available. I can’t really answer that as a hard question, it’s a little bit more of a hypothetical there. I would rather be in the facility than anywhere else.

Q: Final question is where did you get the haircut?
A: I got some clippers and I experimented on my back deck. It took a little while longer than a normal haircut. To be honest with you, I kind of have that quarantined hair falling off of my ears for a little bit. My wife cut my youngest son’s hair and it looks like he got in a fight with a broken bottle. I did my own a little bit.

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New York Giants Helmet (November 24, 2019)

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With New York Giants training camp hopefully 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: