David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

Sep 182018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 16, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

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Dallas Cowboys 20 – New York Giants 13

QUICK RECAP

Two 0-1 teams entered Sunday night on the same day where the two other NFC East teams lost to even their records at 1-1. Whomever left AT&T Stadium would have a share of 1st place early in this 2018 season.

With top edge rusher Oliver Vernon still injured, Kerry Wynn started on the NYG 4 man front. DAL didn’t waste time as Dak Prescott connected with Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass up the sideline on a blown coverage by Janoris Jenkins and Curtis Riley. After a 6 play drive, DAL had the ball back in their possession and gained 12-19-15-15 yards on their first 4 plays. This set them up for another 3 points and NYG was down 10-0 before the rhythm of the game even started.

The two sub-par offenses traded possessions a few times without gaining much of a field position advantage. NYG was force feeding the ball to Saquon Barkley who, if nothing else, was breaking tackles left and right every time he touched the ball. Manning was getting the ball out quickly because of the porous offensive line yet again and the DAL secondary was adamant about not letting Odell Beckham wreck the game.

One interesting observation from the early NYG offensive drives. When they were down 7-0, Pat Shurmur did not want to go for it on 4th and inches at midfield. For an offense that struggles to put together drives, an offense that struggles to even reach midfield, it was a puzzling decision. However when NYG was down 10-0, Shurmur opted to go for it on 4th and inches two times in a row despite being at a lesser field position. Not a big deal but it just screams lack of identity to me. 4th and inches at midfield for this offense needs to almost-always be a go-for-it situation.

With that said, NYG didn’t have one play on the DAL side of the field in the first half. They went in to halftime down 10-0.

On the fourth play of the second half, Manning was sacked for the 5th time by untouched blitzing linebacker Damien Wilson, forcing a fumble that was recovered by DAL. This was a trend that started early and continued on for the entire game. Stunts and blitzes, both basic and complex, confused the anemic offensive line. Lack of talent, lack of chemistry, and a lack of adjustment made this a painful game to watch.

DAL turned the turnover in to 3 points, giving them a 13-0 lead which probably felt like a 30-0 lead knowing who was on the other sideline.

Just when you thought NYG was completely out, in typical Eli Manning-era fashion, they showed life right after their darkest moment. Barkley continued to show elite-level yards after contact ability, Manning hit Cody Latimer for a game-high 37 yard gain, and Barkley gained 18 yards on a dump off pass that included moves I don’t see any RB in the NFL making. They were 1st and goal at the 3 yard line just to be brought back by a holding penalty and two consecutive pass plays where pressure was on Manning before he could make two reads. Also on this drive, NYG lost center Jon Halapio to a broken ankle and leg; he is done for the year. NYG did get on the board, making it 13-3.

The DAL offense started to create some hope too, as they just couldn’t move the ball, guilty of 2 straight holding penalties, and quickly putting the ball back in to NYG’s hands. There was a slight momentum shift at this point late in the 3rd quarter. NYG then responded with a 3 and out that was capped off by the 6th DAL sack of the night. Opportunity missed.

DAL then responded with a 14 play, 8+ minute, touchdown-scoring drive. Prescott controlled the drive, going 5/6 for 35 yards and rushing for 19 yards on 3 attempts. The score was by Ezekiel Elliott who barreled in to the end zone breaking though Kareem Martin for a 6 yard touchdown. DAL led 20-3 with under 6 minutes remaining in the game.

Manning and the NYG offense took advantage of a less-aggressive DAL defense, scoring their lone touchdown of the night on an 11 play drive capped off by a wide-open pass to Evan Engram in the end zone. NYG then recovered an onsides kick, recovered by Michael Thomas. They quickly gained another 27 yards and opted to kick a field goal to make it a one-possession game. It was their only hope. Rosas hit the field goal, making a 20-13 score but they failed to convert the second onsides kick.

Dallas wins, 20-13.

QUARTERBACKS

Eli Manning: 33/44 – 279 yards – 1 TD / 0 INT. Manning also added 3 rushing attempts for a total of 4 yards, two of which were successful 4th and 1 QB sneak conversions. Once again, Manning saw either the worst, or one of the worst amounts of protection from the OL in the league. There is going to be a weekly debate regarding whether or not Manning is done or not. My stance remains the same. The most athletic QB in the league wouldn’t be able to deal with this amount of pressure and lack of assurance from this OL group. Manning can’t step up in the pocket. He can barely even step into throws. 3 step, 5 step, 7 step drops….it doesn’t matter. Manning does deserve some blame, however. The limited shots he is getting downfield, he hasn’t capitalized on enough. In addition, his hoppy-footwork and occasional too-quick of a release has contributed to the poor offensive play. Call me stubborn, but I watch almost every NFL game every week, and nobody is dealing with this outside of Russell Wilson in SEA.

RUNNING BACKS

Saquon Barkley: 11 att / 28 yards – 14 rec / 80 yards. The run blocking was no better. I haven’t seen an NFL offense yet where the RB is getting hit earlier than what NYG is dealing with. Barkley was running into traffic and untouched defenders repeatedly. But because of his superior receiving skills, his impact on the game was strong. He set a franchise record with his 14 catches, most of which were dump offs, and he broke more tackles than any NYG running back has in a game since it’s been recorded. What he was able to do with the ball in his hands was just a glimpse of what we are going to see. Imagine he was playing behind a good group of blockers. The options and upside with him are endless.

-Wayne Gallman and Jonathan Stewart played a combine 13% of the snaps and gained a combined 4 yards. You can tell this coaching staff really wanted this win and they wanted no part in taking Barkley out.

-Really poor game by Shane Smith. He allowed 2 sacks against the blitz-happy Dallas defense. He was on the field for 4 plays. He allowed 2 sacks. If he can’t block, there is no point in him being on this team.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Odell Beckham: 4 rec / 51 yards. Beckham recorded his second catch with 6 minutes left in the first quarter. His next catch wasn’t until the 4:22 mark in the fourth quarter. He wasn’t a factor for the majority of the game. They gave him two credible downfield shots, both were overthrown by Manning. I watched the All-22 and assumed he was being double teamed non stop, but that wasn’t the case. On the plays he had one on one coverage deep, the pass protection simply wasn’t there. Manning was forced to get rid of the ball before Beckham made his move. Timed well by the DAL defense.

-Sterling Shepard and Cody Latimer caught 2 passes each. Shepard also dropped one in the second quarter. Latimer’s first catch as a Giant was a nicely thrown deep ball where Latimer had minimal to no separation, but the lengthy and strong receiver showed nice ball skills to come down with it. One thing I see a lot with him is a lack of separation, as there isn’t a ton of twitch to his game, but he does have some long stride speed if Manning can ever get enough time.

TIGHT ENDS

Evan Engram: 7 rec / 67 yards – 1 TD. Engram caught all of the passes thrown in his direction. I think it may be time for Manning to look his way more often, especially with the need for such quick releases. He gets open consistently and he is so dangerous after the catch with his rare combination of size and speed. He had two clean looks at the end zone that Manning didn’t see. Safeties cannot cover him. One thing he hasn’t consistently done well yet is find the windows/lanes against zone coverage. The best receiving tight ends make an art of that; he isn’t close yet. As a blocker, he had another sub-par game. He allowed a tackle for loss and a sack in addition to getting drilled backwards a few times, making Barkley alter his path.

-Rhett Ellison saw 35% of the snaps and disappointed as a blocker. For a guy that has a role to aid the poor OL play, he sure hasn’t done it these first 2 weeks. He, too, was getting pushed backwards, creating a new point of attack.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Nate Solder, the highest paid left tackle in the game, was physically overmatched in this one for the second week in a row. He allowed one tackle for loss and was flagged for a hold (which was declined) in addition to 2 pressures.. The one thing Solder does well compared to the rest of the OL is, even when he is beat, he stays on his man. The balance and athleticism helps him there. I also think he is a small victim of playing next to the rookie Hernandez, who is having a very hard time picking up this blocking scheme.

-Ereck Flowers had another below average performance. He allowed 3 pressures, struggled at the second level as a run blocker, and appears to have no clue what he is doing on stunts. He did have 4 “plus” pass blocks one on one against Demarcus Lawrence if you are looking for any glimpse of positive.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-The two guards were nightmares, it was the worst combined grade from the guards I have seen in 2+ years. Patrick Omameh was responsible for 2 pressures and 1 sack. He wasn’t able to sustain blocks. He has a decent punch at the line, but his man is off free within 1-2 seconds almost every time. Will Hernandez looks lost mentally. Again, the base-level athleticism is there, but it doesn’t show up because he is too slow to react. He allowed 1 pressure and 2 sacks. The first of which was about as bad as it gets. Hernandez was also completely whiffing at the second level as a run blocker. He continues to get a pass here and there for being a rookie, but there were moments where he didn’t even look competitive.

-Center Jon Halapio was having a decent game, but he broke both his ankle and leg during the 3rd quarter. John Greco came in to replace him. He allowed a pressure in his limited duty. He is likely to be the starting OC from here on out and I have been impressed with him in his short tenure with NYG. I don’t think this will have any negative impact on NYG.

EDGE

-With Olivier Vernon out again, Kareem Martin and Connor Barwin dominated the snaps. They are both journeymen caliber players. Barwin did have a solid game, as his short area pop is still there and he is feisty. He had a pressure and pass break up. Martin looks like a complete non factor. His contact balance is poor, he can’t get off blocks as a pass rusher, and the speed off the edge is non-existent. He had 3 missed tackles and finished with 1 pressure.

-Lorenzo Carter’s speed and athleticism showed up. He had 2 pressures on the same drive. When he sees a consistent stretch of plays, his level of play improves. As the year progresses, we should see him on the field more. He missed outside contain twice but his speed to the sideline made up for one of them. He really does have rare athleticism. Kerry Wynn had 2 tackles, one of which was for a loss. Hate to see him not make much of an impact as a pass rusher after a strong preseason yet again. This team needs him to step up.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Damon Harrison controlled the two inside gaps like he always does. DAL had a lot of success on the ground, but it wasn’t any fault of Harrison’s. It’s amazing how, when he is single teamed against a running play between the tackles, he is always in on the tackle. Every time. He also recorded a pressure.

-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill received average grades. Hill was quiet but pursued well and held his ground. One thing they both struggled with was getting off blocks in time at running plays in their direction. They were just a step too slow a few times. Hill was also taken off the field in passing situations.

LINEBACKERS

-Really poor game by Alec Ogletree. Yes, he led the team with 6 tackles and a couple of them were an impressive blend of speed and power. He missed 2 tackles and was really late to recognize on a few others. When that happens, the blocker gets the angle and makes it nearly impossible to fill the lane in time. B.J. Goodson recorded 1 tackle despite playing more than 50% of the snaps. He, too, missed a tackle. If it’s not between the tackles, Goodson has looked very pedestrian so far.

-Ray Ray Armstrong didn’t impact the running game, but he excelled in coverage. On three occasions he completely took out Prescott’s intended target with perfect coverage. He adds an element none of the other LBs do.

CORNERBACKS

-For the second week in a row, Janoris Jenkins was beat on a vertical route early. This time, it resulted in an early touchdown by Tavon Austin. He completely whiffed at the point of attack and couldn’t catch up. The question may need to be asked at some point, are his off-field struggles impacting his play? He was solid from there on out, as he wasn’t tested much.

-Eli Apple with another excellent game. What I have always wanted to see with him, dating back to his college days, is more play with his feet and less with his hands in coverage. 2 weeks in o 2018, he appears to be clicking there. His All-22 tape was the best of the DB group.

-B.W. Webb was tested often. He was on the field for 77% of the snaps. He was flagged once and allowed a few catches but overall he was solid. Donte Deayon didn’t play much, but almost came up with a red zone interception in the 4th quarter.

SAFETIES

-Landon Collins has been very hit or miss since his All-Pro 2016 season and that trend continued Sunday night, with more lean towards the miss-side. He missed two tackles and was fooled badly twice on run plays. The misdirection has been giving him a lot of trouble and when he isn’t on, big gains are created.

-Curtis Riley had a bad night. He was late and took a bad angle on the Austin TD in the first quarter and had a bad missed tackle that led to a big gain by Ezekiel Elliot.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 28,38). Rosas remains perfect on the season. He also created a successful onsides kick in the 4th quarter.

-P Riley Dixon – 6 Punts – 43.3 avg / 40.0 net. Solid margin there and he landed 3 inside the 20.

-KR/PR: Cody Latimer had two impressive kick returns; he is fast in space and runs through initial contact consistently. Kaelin Clay had another near turnover as a PR.

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, CB Eli Apple, DT Damon Harrison

3 DUDS

-OG Will Hernandez, OG Patrick Omameh, LB Alec Ogletree

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

-I’ve seen every snap of DAL over the first 2 weeks and I still don’t think this will be a .500 team. The offense is abysmal. Overly reliant on the running game with an OL that is not nearly as dominant as it was 2 years ago. Prescott threw for 96 yards on 23 attempts beyond the TD pass to Austin where Jenkins had a rare whiff at the line of scrimmage.

-Get to know the name Chidobe Awuzie. DAL second year CB is going to be considered one of the best in the game within a year or two. He matched Beckham step for step several times in coverage on all levels, both laterally and vertically. He is great at making adjustments to the ball and he is one of the most physical tacklers in the league at the position.

-Jaylon Smith, now another year removed from his scary knee injury, now may be the best LB on this team. His 10 tackles and 1 for loss were impressive, as he fills the lane with no hesitation and lets you know he is there. And his most impressive play of the night? Deep coverage against….Odell Beckham.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-Losing a tight game to JAC was one thing, but this loss to an average-at-best DAL team has created a strong thought that this will be a 5-6 win season at best. We discussed throughout the offseason that filling all these holes in just a few months was borderline impossible. You can’t say its over yet, but the issues on this roster are awfully high in volume.

-What can be done with this OL? They are going to be a poor unit all year, but is there anything that can be done that can give the offense at least some hope consistently? The one hope is that Hernandez, a rookie that didn’t play against NFL prospects in college, improves on a normal rookie scale. Also, this line is playing together for the first time so one could say chemistry will be developed in time. If those two things don’t happen, I really don’t see any hope here and that’s a shame because this group of playmakers is among the best in the NFL.

-Just how good is Landon Collins? I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but he is probably next up on long term contract talks. He is an unrestricted free agent next year and I have a hard time accepting he deserves top tier safety money. His 2016 season (which was All-Pro caliber) may be impacting everyone’s view on him too much. I do think he is good, he is 24 years old, and he does play hard. But 2017 was underwhelming and he has been bad these first 2 weeks. Missed tackles, fooled badly, and minimal impact on passing plays. He needs to play better and there is no way around it. This defense sorely needs a playmaker.

Sep 102018
 
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Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (September 9, 2018)

Janoris Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 – New York Giants 15

QUICK RECAP

Week 1 of the 2018 season brought in an up-and-coming team that was partially constructed by former NYG Head Coach Tom Coughlin. The Jacksonville Jaguars, in their first game since losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, entered MetLife Stadium ready to wreck havoc on a shoddy offensive line.

That they did on the first drive of the game that resulted in a near-safety on two separate occasions. It was a sign of things to come, as the JAC front seven controlled the game and heavily impacted the NYG approach on offense.

The JAC offense is very dependent on Leonard Fournette and their power rushing attack. They hit a groove early on paired with some solid gains on play-action and bootleg passing plays. The misdirection seemed to take advantage of the over-aggressive, new NYG defensive scheme. The two teams traded field goals but JAC took a couple steps forward in the 2nd quarter, scoring 10 straight points which got them a 13-3 lead. However thanks to the grabby-defensive backfield and the fear Odell Beckham strikes in to the opposition, 45 yards worth of penalties put NYG in prime field goal position to net them another 3 points, ending the half down 13-6 but with possession at the start of the second half and JAC without Fournette because of a hamstring strain.

NYG began the third quarter with a back and forth approach. Saquon Barkley, after a quiet first half, started to show why this team made him the 2nd pick of the draft. But mental mistakes by Evan Engram and poor play in the trenches kept on pulling the offense back just enough to make them settle on a field goal. The rest of the 3rd quarter was a back and forth affair that played exactly into what JAC wants: a moving clock paired with a field position battle while in the lead.

The action picked up in the 4th quarter. Manning started to feel some extra urgency and made a throw he shouldn’t have while under pressure. This resulted in a interception by Myles Jack which he easily returned for a touchdown. NYG was down 20-6 with 11 minutes left. The team needed a spark, badly. Enter in Barkley. A couple broken tackles and a sprint down the sideline netted NYG their first touchdown of the year, a 68-yard score by the rookie. They came up 1 foot short on the 2 point conversion, however, leaving them in a touchdown-or bust situation.

The energy was back in the stands and after a 3-and-out by JAC. However, NYG responded with a 3-and out of their own. Their next possession put them into JAC territory after 2 passes to Odell Beckham. But the right side of the offensive line disrupted Manning just enough to misfire on two occasions paired with a drop by Sterling Shepard. They turned the ball over on downs but stopped JAC 3 straight times while burning their final timeouts, leaving them with under 1 minute to score a touchdown from their own territory.

But the effort was never made, as PR Kaelin Clay muffed the punt and JAC recovered.

NYG loses, 20-15.

QUARTERBACKS

Eli Manning: 23/37 – 224 yards – 0 TD/1 INT. Manning started off 11 for 11 despite having the Jacksonville pass rush in his face nearly every time he reached the end of his drop back. Manning delivered a lot of throws under duress. I watched 6 NFL games from yesterday and only Russell Wilson saw more consistent pressure. And Manning’s disadvantage there is that he doesn’t move well anymore in space. Good footwork in the pocket, but he just isn’t a very good athlete. Manning also had two overthrows on potential touchdowns in addition to a poor decision to throw a ball under pressure that ended up being tipped and returned for a pick 6 in the 4th quarter.

RUNNING BACKS

Saquon Barkley: 18 att / 106 yards – 1 TD – 2 rec / 22 yards. A lot can be said about Barkley’s first game against arguably the best front seven in the NFL. His game started off slow, as he was forced into re-routing prior to reaching the line of scrimmage 6 of his first 8 attempts. But once the second half rolled around, he found a groove and we started to see the physical ability shine bright. He looked more confident and decisive. In the second half, Barkley ran the ball 10 times for 94 yards including a 68-yard touchdown that brought the team back to life. That run included 2 broken tackles and an all out sprint to the end zone (thanks to a key block by Sterling Shepard) that outran the entire JAC defense. There aren’t many backs in the league that could have pulled that one off. There were two negatives in his debut and they both centered around Barkley not taking what this defense gave him. Against a front seven like JAC, there needs to be more north-south thought process on runs between the guards.

-Jonathan Stewart and Wayne Gallman spelled Barkley a few times. After a tortoise-like preseason, Stewart actually had a couple of solid 4-yard runs. Nothing to get excited about but after what we saw in August, it is a step in the right direction. This team is going to cap how many touches Barkley gets weekly, especially early in the year, so Stewart needs to give NYG more of those 4-yard runs. Gallman left the game with a knee injury that isn’t expected to be serious. Shane Smith saw limited snaps but he was a factor. With this OL and Engram struggling to get movement at the point of attack, Smith may need to be in the game more often.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Odell Beckham: 11 rec – 111 yards. I won’t say I forgot how much Beckham changed the outlook of this offense, but it was a refreshing sight to see #13 out there getting open on all levels whenever he wanted to and wrecking havoc on the Jaguars defensive backfield. He also forced 45 yards worth of pass interference penalties that stemmed from him running great routes. He took a couple of big hits in this one and he fired himself right back up and seemed to enjoy it. That is what this offense needs out of him. If Manning had made a better throw, he would have had 33 yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter as he got behind the secondary in a blink.

-Sterling Shepard: 5 rec – 48 yards. Shepard had a drop in the 4th quarter that really hurt the team’s attempt at pulling off a major fourth quarter comeback. Otherwise he ran excellent routes and showed the usual toughness in traffic. His downfield block on the Barkley touchdown was vital. He is going to be an important piece because of how consistently he can run himself open underneath. I would like to see more after the catch, however.

-Cory Latimer didn’t receive any targets. For a “starting” wide receiver, many will be disappointed. But on this team, he is the #5 receiving option at best when everyone is healthy. Don’t expect big impact plays on any sort of consistent basis.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 2 rec – 18 yards. Really rough outing for the second year pass catcher who missed some time with a concussion during the preseason. Engram has somewhat struggled with drops in his young career, and he only added to that in this one. He had 2 drops, a pass interference penalty, and allowed a tackle for loss. Engram was mauled at the point of attack against the JAC defensive linemen. His overall blocking grade was the worst he’s had since being a Giant. While I don’t want to bash him considering what he is to this team and who he was matched up against, he simply needs to be better. For a team that will rely on the running game and a team that may need to help the RT up front, Engram can’t just be a receiver. Effort was there, impact was not.

-Rhett Ellison was in to run block and I can’t say he made a major difference. He caught one pass against a prevent defense. Scott Simonson was in for 4 offensive plays and allowed a pressure.

TACKLES

-Nate Solder had a rough first game in blue. While he provides more confidence and security than what NYG has had in recent years, he was outclassed by the JAC defensive line. He allowed 1 TFL, 2 pressures, and committed a holding penalty. He also struggled to get movement as a run blocker. This is the kind of defense that has always given him some trouble, power and size based.

-Ereck Flowers took a step back towards one of the worst grades of his career. 2 penalties, 1 TFL, 3 pressures, and 1 sack. Flowers also failed to reach his assignment on 3 separate down blocks. This would be a damning game for a rookie. The shift to right tackle didn’t hide is ongoing issues of poor footwork and even worse hand placement. The one positive was a very solid block on the Barkley touchdown. It is going to be a long year on the right edge.

-Chad Wheeler saw some action as a blocking tight end. I think we will see more and more of that, although he didn’t perform well. He was in for 3 plays and he too allowed a TFL. And no, he is not a suitable replacement for Flowers.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-Will Hernandez had a couple of “Welcome to the NFL, kid” moments. He allowed a TFL to Malik Jackson on the first drive and sack to Calais Campbell on the fourth drive. He had the most positive grades in the game among the OL, most notably for his ability to move guys at the point of attack. He does a nice job when it is straightforward run blocking but he will need to learn to adjust to the quickness of NFL defensive tackles. Can’t expect much better from him, but you just want to see progress as the year progresses. And I don’t think he will have many, if any, tougher assignments than what JAC presented.

-Patrick Omameh and Jon Halapio didn’t stand out in a negative way. They both allowed 1 pressure each but weren’t on the radar much other than that. The issue was just a lack of difference making movement. The interior of the JAC defense went where they wanted to. It’s pretty bad that these two had the best grades of the OL, because by no means were they above average or even close to it.

EDGE

-With Olivier Vernon out, it meant Connor Barwin and Kareem Martin were going to see the majority snaps. Martin finished with a half-sack and 3 tackles while Barwin had 1 pressure and a big pass deflection in the 4th quarter. But when it came to the situations where a pass rush was really needed, they didn’t come through.

-Kerry Wynn and Lorenzo Carter rotated in and both had a similar impact to the starters in less playing time. Carter had a pressure and pass deflection while Wynn recorded a half-sack. I think this pass rush is better with these two in the fold, as their ability just has more potential. Martin and Barwin will scare nobody on 3rd down.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Damon Harrison played 71% of the snaps, more than I was anticipating. He went down with a minor knee injury in the second half but it didn’t keep him out long. He dominated the inside gaps, finishing with a TFL and 6 tackles. He was in on sure-passing downs more than I expected to see and I like it, his bull rush is as good as anyone’s and it helps the complex blitzing schemes.

-The young sidekicks, B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson were solid but unspectacular. The combined for a solid 9 tackles and showed good pursuit and effort. But JAC was running the ball with ease in the first half, as they struggled to hold ground on lateral runs. These two are very solid and will be good, but it was notable to see the difference between them and the JAC defensive line. Different class.

-Newly signed Mario Edwards and Jordan Jenkins played sparingly without much impact. Edwards did record 2 tackles on just 6 snaps, however. He looks athletic and rangy for his size.

LINEBACKERS

-New defensive captain Alec Ogletree tied for the team lead 7 tackles. He was solid between the tackles and better in coverage than what we saw in preseason. The middle of the field, however, is still a weakness against the pass and he is a part of it. He allowed a touchdown that was negated by a JAC penalty.

-B.J. Goodson started, but he and Ray-Ray Armstrong split snaps. Goodson struggled to scrape over the top, often late to recognize and putting the blocker in a position to wash him out. Armstrong is a much better athlete and reacts with more speed. Both were fooled by all of the misdirection JAC threw their way, however.

CORNERBACKS

-One of the best overall games we have seen out of Eli Apple in his 3rd-year career. 3 tackles and 2 pass break ups along with some very good deep coverage. While it wasn’t the best air attack he will be matched up against this season, Apple did his job. We haven’t been able to say that in awhile and if this talent-rich first rounder can show consistency, the outlook of this defense is very different.

-Janoris Jenkins was up and down. The playmaker came up with a 1st quarter interception and a very high-level pass break up in the 2nd quarter. He allowed 2 of the 3 biggest gains in the passing game that JAC had. He also had 7 tackles, tied for the team lead.

-B.W. Webb was the nickel back, playing in just over 50% of the snaps. He looked afraid of getting beat deep and allowed too much underneath. He allowed 2 catches for first down on situations where he needed to be up on the receiver more.

SAFETIES

-Landon Collins had an up and down game. I was interested to see his role in this new defense and it actually wasn’t very different than last year. He roams a lot and they trust him to make the right decisions. He had 5 tackles and a high-level pass break up but got lost in traffic on the T.J. Yeldon 15 yard run that brought JAC to the 1-yard line. Collins was also the guilty culprit on Blake Bortles career long 41 yard run on a naked bootleg. That was a designed run and JAC knew Collins would react that way. Not a good sign. That was one of a few situations where his eye discipline was non-existent. He is a high-risk, high-reward player.

-Curtis Riley was solid in his debut after winning the job in camp. He had 5 tackles, 1 of which on special teams, and a couple of fast and physical downhill hits. He also fulfilled his deep coverage responsibilities on two plays where Bortles wanted to go downfield but chose not to. Michael Thomas played sparingly, allowing a catch for first down but also pressuring Bortles and making a big hit on 3rd down that caused a near-fumble.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Aldrick Rosas: 3/3 (Made 27-31-44). Very solid day for Rosas in both departments.

P Curtis Riley: 5 punts – 49.4 avg / 43.4 net. Solid numbers but his worst punt of the day started off the lone JAC offensive touchdown.

PR Kaelin Clay had a quiet game until the very end, in a bad way. He misjudged the depth of a punt and muffed it, turning the ball over to JAC with under a minute left leaving NYG without a chance at one last attempt to win the game.

3 STUDS

-CB Eli Apple, RB Saquon Barkley, WR Odell Beckham

3 DUDS

-OT Ereck Flowers, OT Nate Solder, TE Evan Engram

3 THOUGHTS ON JAC

-LB Myles Jack was my top graded player in the 2016 NFL Draft. The knee issues bumped him down just a tad, but now that he is in his third year, I think we are looking a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate. There may not be a faster LB in the game, as he covers WRs in space and ran with Barkley stride for stride on the long touchdown. But at the same time this guy is a terror to deal with between the tackles. His game-leading 10 tackles and pick six don’t even tell the story of how much he impacted this game.

-The JAC defensive line might be the best in football when considering the depth. Only LAR can hang with these guys. It is a good thing knowing NYG won’t be faced off against anything like that again. But guys, when building a team you truly can never have enough talent in the trenches. They change everything. They hide issues elsewhere. And they are more reliable to be there and impacting the game in all weather conditions. That team is built to win from start to finish and it starts right here.

-Is Blake Bortles good enough? You know what? I think he is. I have never seen what so many people hate about this kid. He won’t ever be mistaken for Aaron Rodgers but then again, neither will Eli Manning. He makes a couple head scratching throws each week, but then again so does Eli Manning. I have always liked his moxie and I see improvement each year. The QB of that team needs to be just good enough, and I think he is.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-Because NFL fans are the way they are, Saquon Barkley and the fact NYG has made him the highest drafted running back since 2006 will be over-analyzed each week. The baseless theory that RBs cannot be taken that high and the fact some potential franchise QB’s were available when NYG was on the clock only adds to the notion. I spoke about him earlier but what I liked the most, he adjusted his approach during halftime. He looked just a hair-too-hesitant early on but you can tell he took it on himself to change this offense in the second half. He was the one player getting the team fired up prior to the start of the 4th quarter. Usually you want rookies to improve their approach week to week, year 1 to year 2. He did it at halftime and made a big difference in the second half against the best/fastest/most physical defense in the NFL.

-This defense showed a lot of exotic looks and it created stress for the JAC offense in the second half especially. However when all is said and done, they recorded 1 sack and 1 tackle for loss. They need to produce more than that, plain and simple.

-I liked how Shurmur adjusted his pass protection in the second half. Adjustments are a huge part of coaching during games, and he did just that. It still wasn’t pretty, but the NYG offensive line was overmatched badly. There isn’t much you can do there but this offense did catch a flow in the second half much thanks to the blocking scheme being slightly altered.

Sep 012018
 
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Donte Deayon, New York Giants (August 30, 2018)

Donte Deayon – © USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots 17 – New York Giants 12

QUICK RECAP

This game was very little about winning or losing and more about giving the roster bubble guys one last shot to showcase the potential. The coaching staff kept pretty much every starter on the bench for this one.

Kyle Lauletta got the start and showed that he has a ways to go when it comes to developing his NFL passing ability. He was comfortable on simple read throws underneath, but struggled to get the ball downfield accurately. It led to 2 interceptions.

NYG forced three turnovers themselves, hopefully a sign of things to come, but they also allowed an 86 yard touchdown late that put the game out of reach after a back-and-forth defensive battle. NYG lost the game 17-12 and paved the way for the roster cut down. Major injuries were avoided for the 4th week in a row. Bring on Week 1.

QUARTERBACKS

Kyle Lauletta: 8/19 – 118 yards – 1 TD/2 INT. With both Eli Manning and Davis Webb on the sideline for this one, we got our first extended look at the 4th round rookie. Two things I have liked about his game showed up again in this one, his release and footwork. He is further along than some of the QBs that were taken ahead of him in this 2018 class. He made a few aggressive throws downfield and failed to connect on all of them. He just under threw most of them and the lack of arm power that was discussed in his scouting report definitely showed up. His targets had a step or two in their defenders but the ball just didn’t get there. Both of his interceptions were poor downfield passes. Overall, it was a rough night for the rookie and now it will be back to holding the clipboard while trying to learn the game as much as one can from the sidelines.

Alex Tanney: 13/23 – 92 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. Tanney took over toward the beginning of the 3rd quarter. He never really had a shot at making this roster barring injury, but they still gave him a decent amount of playing time as Lauletta struggled and also started to get banged around by the Patriots pass rush. His final drive resulted in the second NYG touchdown of the night thanks to three NE penalties (one of which nullified a pick 6).

RUNNING BACKS

-This was one of the roster competitions to keep an eye on. If NYG ends up keeping a fourth RB on the team, it will come down to one of Jalen Simmons, Robert Martin, and Jhurell Pressley. Simmons seems to have the inside track, as he saw the most playing time and carries. His footwork and vision seem to be a notch or two higher than the others. He works his way through traffic with a low pad level and showed enough burst. Pressley and Martin have had their moments here, but now that Simmons is healthy again, I think he won the role if they do keep a fourth RB.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Just like the RB position, it seems there may be one more WR spot up for grabs. Kalif Raymond was featured a few times, finishing with a team high 7 targets but only brought in 1 reception. He was the victim of a couple bad deep balls from Lauletta despite impressive releases off the line. Amba Etta-Tawo had the play of the night with a 41 yard touchdown that was 37 yards after the catch. His impressive burst and long stride speed jumped off the screen in a game full of backups. His hot start to training camp simmered down but he finished with a bang. He did drop a ball later in the game, however.

-Travis Rudolph, a popular player at this time last year, caught all 3 targets that were thrown his way. I am surprised he hasn’t been given more looks with this regime. He, along with Roger Lewis (who had another quiet night), seem to be heading elsewhere this season. Alonzo Russell is an interesting guy. He flashed a couple times in games and at 6’4/210, that kind of size might be something to work with on the practice squad.

TIGHT ENDS

-No Evan Engram or Rhett Ellison in this one. Jerell Adams, Garrett Dickerson, and Scott Simonson saw the majority of the snaps. As much as Adams has been up and down this preseason, I think he gets the nod for the number three role. He added a couple more catches and actually had a very solid night blocking the edge. Simonson brings similar presence to the trenches but he just doesn’t have the catch radius that Adams does.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Sticking with the theme of the night, it was a night full of backups. John Greco and Chad Wheeler both allowed sacks but it appears both are going to be primary backups for at least the start of 2018. What I don’t like about Wheeler is the lack of progress he has made with technique. There was a play where he was pass blocking while facing the quarterback trying to box the defender out. He gets turned around and caught off balance way too often. Greco offers the versatility inside you want on game day. He can play OC and both OG spots. His strong preseason play combined with his strong finish in 2017 provides security.

-John Jerry may be an expensive backup and he too has some awful looking technique at times, but he can still get plenty of movement in the run game as a straight ahead blocker. He had some nice pops at he point of attack. Perhaps the most impressive young lineman on this team is Chris Scott. He, too, provides versatile depth inside and he graded out in a positive manner for the fourth week in a row, the only linemen on the team to do so.

EDGE

-This was a night for Lorenzo Carter to show what he’s got, and he shined. The rookie recorded 2 pressures and a sack in just 18 snaps played. With the status of Olivier Vernon up in the air, Carter’s role is going to be an important one whether he is ready or not. He showed excellent hand usage, easy leverage, and the well-known speed in space. Avery Moss finished with 5 tackles but failed to make a difference in the pass game. He has continued to struggle to show any sort of physical progression in year two.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-The most crowded/deep position group on this roster. Robert Thomas appears to be entrenched as the primary backup at NT. He recorded a sack and 3 tackles. Thomas is going to benefit greatly from this scheme because it allows him to do what he does best, attack up field. He carries a lot of power when he moves north and consistently creates a new line of scrimmage.

-A.J. Francis led the group in snaps but was inconsistent. The one glaring hole in his game and this dates back to college, is the pad level. He gets too upright and will get easily moved. Izaah Lunsford had a pressure and flashed some nice athletic ability, but he is a sloppy player.

LINEBACKER

-One of the more interesting position battles on this roster may have very well came down to this game. Calvin Munson was a feel good story at this time last year, but he really hasn’t burst into the top 3 or 4 inside linebacker rotation. He doesn’t have the speed or coverage ability for this scheme and his presence between the tackles seems to get lost. Tae Davis, while undersized, has been displaying the opposite. He finished with 6 tackles and factors more on special teams with his speed. He plays bigger than his size but he has had at least 1 missed tackle in each game, including this one.

-Ray-Ray Armstrong has developed more and more with each week. He has picked up this scheme as well as anyone on the team and matched with his skill set, he is going to be a factor. The former safety covered well up the seam and also laid the wood on a QB hit early, probably the hardest hit of the night.

CORNERBACK

-A lot of competition in this group. I wouldn’t say it is a strong group of corners. They are competing for the spots on the bottom of the depth chart. With that said, Donte Deayon had his breakout performance with 2 interceptions and 2 pass breakups. His size is always going to limit him in certain situations, but he has the knack for the ball that you want to see in a CB. Great reaction time and the anticipation is improving.

-Chris Lewis-Harris had a solid night with 2 pass break ups. He did a nice job of keeping himself in the right position. I think he has shown enough to make the roster but he may get caught on the wrong side of the numbers game. I like his ability to cover moreso than William Gay, but Gay’s experience and versatility may get him the nod. Leonard Johnson is still a guy I would like to keep around as well. He had a couple of physical tackles and he plays with the short memory and aggression I want.

SAFETIES

-Andrew Adams, starter of 17 games over the past 2 seasons, got plenty of time to show his worth. He had a couple of nice tackles, one of which was for a loss, where he showed the needed range and physicality. But similar to what we have seen out of him in the past, he missed 2 tackles and was way too late on deep coverage responsibilities. He just doesn’t show the instincts you need back there. Michael Thomas, a guy this staff may want to keep around for locker room reasons, finished with 5 tackles and played like a hard-nosed linebacker at times. He plays big and may be the ideal backup to Landon Collins.

-Sean Chandler got playing time late and showed quality movement in coverage, but he is too much of a non factor against the run.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Marshall Koehn: 0/0 and 0/1 XP. Koehn missed his lone extra point attempt. He really has no shot at making this roster anyway.

P Riley Dixon: 6 Punts – 45.2 avg / 43.5 net. Very good net average there. 4 of his 6 punts were pinned inside the 20.

3 STUDS

-CB Donte Deayon, LB Lorenzo Carter, DT Robert Thomas

3 DUDS

-OT Chad Wheeler, QB Kyle Lauletta, S Andrew Adams

3 THOUGHTS ON NE

-The Patriots know what they are doing when it comes to scouting and developing QBs. That’s why I am still scratching my head with their selection of Danny Etling. He is a plus athlete with a strong arm, but he is very erratic from a release and overall accuracy standpoint. I can’t imagine he is their long term plan at QB for the post-Brady era.

-Another spot NE has done overly well with when it comes to the draft is linebacker. I’m sure some of it is scheme based, but I would keep a close eye on whoever they cut there. They have a surplus of young talent that produce on multiple fronts.

-The Achilles’ heal of this team is going to be the OL. I don’t think they were upset about losing Nate Solder for the contract he got, but this group is very thin on the edges. Brady can overcome it to an extent, but their floor at the position has been getting lower and lower each year.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-The biggest victory for NYG this preseason is the fact they enter the year with no major injuries. No, Darian Thompson’s hamstring injury is not major and I’m not sold he will make the team anyway.

-If Donte Deayon proves to be a capable playmaker as the #3 or #4 corner on this team, he could prove to be the unsung hero of this defense. NYG has had issues creating turnovers over the years and we know this scheme can force QBs into throwing balls that they don’t want to. That is where the playmakers need to rise up and make things happen.

-As we enter the one week away window, the three biggest concerns on this team are: lack of balance and stability on the OL, minimal pass rush without over-blitzing, and no playmaker at free safety.

Aug 282018
 
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Ray-Ray Armstrong, New York Giants (August 24, 2018)

Ray-Ray Armstrong – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 22 – New York Jets 16

QUICK RECAP

Week 3 of the preseason is usually perceived to be the closest thing to a real game as we will see before kickoff weekend. Eli Manning was back on the field and played preseason-high 34 snaps, but his star playmakers Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley remained on the sidelines. The Jets on the other hand, sent out their shiny new toy, rookie Sam Darnold, as the starting quarterback as the team tries to figure out what to do at the position week 1.

The Jets took control of the game early, using an 11-play drive to put up their first 7 points of the night via a Bilal Powell touchdown run. After a back and forth exchange that left with NYG winning the field position battle, Hunter Sharp returned a punt for a 55 yard touchdown. It was a precursor for how poorly the Jets’ special teams would play the rest of the night, an ongoing problem for the team so far this preseason.

The Jets then took the lead back early in the second quarter on a Darnold pass to newly signed Terrelle Pryor. This was after a red zone fumble by NYG veteran Jonathan Stewart, whom has had a nightmare-ish start to his career with Big Blue. NYG then settled down and scored on their next four drives, all field goals off the foot of Aldrick Rosas, the clear front-runner for the job. The Jets continued to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and mental mistakes. NYG took a 19-13 lead into halftime.

Backups dominated the playing time from there on out, as the two teams struggled to string together long drives. It wasn’t until halfway through the fourth quarter where the Jets had a 7+ play drive, as Teddy Bridgewater continued to impress. They were able to get it within 6, but the Giants held off their cross-town rivals 22-16 for the win.

QUARTERBACKS

Eli Manning: 17/23 – 188 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. After sitting out last week in Detroit, Manning was back on the field for what is likely to be his last full dress rehearsal. It was the best version of Manning we have seen in quite some time. Comfortable and confident in the pocket, accurate on all levels, and able to spread it around. The lack of Jets pass rush ability helped, but Manning made some big throws that gave me assurance for this year. He still has it. He did under throw the deep balls a tad, but nothing to be alarmed about. He really does remind me of his brother, Peyton, late in his career with DEN. He may not be able to adjust quickly on the move and he won’t drive the ball downfield like he used to, but he is more than capable of getting the job done.

Davis Webb: 5/11 – 73 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. Webb was in for about a third of the offensive plays. He did get some action against the first team Jets defense. He didn’t do anything to hurt or help himself too much. Very nice touch throw to Russell Shepard on a 3rd and 12 but he also held onto the ball too long in the pocket which resulted in a sack. When Webb has everything lined up, he really is an attractive thrower. It could be much worse when it comes to the backup QBs in this league.

RUNNING BACKS

Jonathan Stewart: 3 att – -7 yards – 0 TD. That isn’t a typo, Stewart finished with negative seven yards. He also fumbled inside the NYJ 10-yard line that Leonard Williams almost returned for a touchdown. I don’t want to write him off after poor preseason performances (10 carries for -5 yards) but he is moving like he has cinderblocks attached to his feet. Lethargic and unable.

Wayne Gallman: 11 att – 23 yards / 4 rec – 19 yards. Gallman continues to impress with his quickness, vision, and explosion. He also had a couple nice blitz pickups in pass protection. There was a stretch in the 3rd quarter where he touched the ball 7 out of 8 plays. He really does have the versatility to be a factor in any kind of situation. Some backup RBs in the league are valuable in only specific situations, but Gallman can bring a lot of options to this offense in any situation.

Juhrell Pressley – 13 att / 71 yards. Signed earlier in the week, Pressley stepped on the field in a NYG uniform for the first time and impressed. I think there is one, maybe even two, spots on the depth chart available at RB. Pressley runs bigger than his size and showed impressive vision and decision making in his debut. I expect him to get a lot of touches in week 4.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Sterling Shepard: 7 rec / 78 yards. I’ll say this right now. If Shepard stays healthy this year, he is going to produce, big time. The attention to detail he shows as a route runner combined with his top-tier quick twitch and stop/go explosion is as dangerous as any slot receiver in the NFL. And yes, I mean that. He made a couple of high-level catches, showing improved ball skills and ability in traffic.

-Cody Latimer: 1 Rec / 54 yards. Latimer hasn’t been used much in preseason, but he took in the longest play of the night via a deep ball from Manning. He really blew by Morris Claiborne and if Eli put that just a little further downfield, it would have been a TD.

-I am still holding onto the idea that Russell Shepard is going to make this team as the number four or five receiver. His experience in the slot and outside gives him the needed versatility and he is a factor on special teams as gunner. In addition, he made another tough catch for a first down in the 3rd quarter that I simply don’t think the other potential backups could have made. Hunter Sharp continues to struggle with drops and despite impressive athletic and return ability; he may be playing his way out of a job. He did return a punt for a touchdown though. Alonzo Russell brought in a 47 yard catch, displaying size and strength. Roger Lewis continues to show why he is near the bottom of the depth chart.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 3 rec / 23 yards. His night was short, as on the 5th drive he was sandwiched between two Jets defenders and was popped in the head. He left the game with a concussion for the second year in a row. Like Shepard, Engram is going to be as tough a matchup as there is at the position on 3rd downs. Losing him for any time would be devastating.

-Rhett Ellison also left the game early with migraine issues, opening the door for Jerell Adams and Scott Simonson. Adams was the second most targeted receiver on the night, finishing with 3 catches and 12 yards. Simonson’s avenue to make this team is via blocking, but he didn’t grade out well in this one. He allowed a sack and two tackles. Adams may get this number three spot by default unless someone shakes free during cut down period around the league.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Great night for the left side of the line, especially in pass protection. Nate Solder neutralized everything that was sent his way. Will Hernandez had quiet night (other than a holding penalty) in a good way and looks more comfortable than he did the previous two weeks. With a rookie that is likely to start week 1, that is all you can ask for.

-Ereck Flowers wasn’t matched up against any plus-pass rushers but he did a fine job. He allowed 1 pressure. Patrick Omameh continues to struggle, he just seems heavy and delayed off the snap. He struggled moving to his left, allowing 2 pressures and a tackle for loss. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think he deserves the starting job hands down other than a lack of intra-team competition.

-Another position that may need further examining is center. Brett Jones outplayed Jon Halapio, more notably in the run game. We know that Jones struggles in pass protection and he isn’t one of the new regime’s “guys”, but I trust him more than Halapio. Better movement off the ball and a more consistent level of play. (Note: This was written PRIOR to the trade).

-Chad Wheeler has not taken a step forward this year. His footwork is very poor even though he carries plus-athleticism. He is playing way too off balanced and top heavy. Nick Becton, on the other hand, continues to progress.

EDGE

-Kerry Wynn continues to be the MVP of preseason football. He recorded another sack, a tackle for loss, and 2 QB pressures. He is bringing the heat from all angles against different kinds of blockers. The versatility he brings is huge.

-Olivier Vernon and Kareem Martin both had quiet nights despite playing half the snaps. Martin needs to be a rotational player and if he ends up being one of the feature guys, this pass rush is in trouble. He doesn’t jump the snap and his adjustments take too long.

-Lorenzo Carter doesn’t seem ready for impact play, but I do like how disciplined he is with his techniques and the mental side of the game. It’s important players follow the progression of learning the scheme, consistently do things right, then catch up to the speed of the game. His athleticism is there, but it is going to take time for him to play fast and strong. He finished with a half-sack and 2 assisted tackles.

-Are Avery Moss and Romeo Okwara competing for a last edge spot on this team? If so, I think Okwara wins because he has more inside-outside versatility and brings more upside to the table as an athlete. Moss moved well post-snap, but he doesn’t adjust to blockers with enough power. Weak hands and gets pushed back against the run too easily.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Damon Harrison pushed the Jets’ interior blockers where he wanted. He has been shutting down the opposing running games each week and I expect to see more of the same. Not only does he have superior physical presence, but he plays smart. His first step post-snap are almost always productive in that he reads the action instantly.

-Fellow starters Dalvin Tomlinson and rookie B.J. Hill had solid nights as well. More of the same from these two. Tomlinson was a little more active, finishing with a TFL and knockdown. If he is going to be more than a solid player, his pass rush repertoire needs to lengthen. Not looking down on him at all here; he is going to be a part of a very stout run defense. But what he does against the pass right now is limited.

-Josh Mauro had an active night. He has looked better and better each week and it will be adding fuel to the fire on this defensive line when he comes back after his suspension. He finished with 4 tackles, a half sack, and a knockdown. I can’t say this enough, he along with fellow backup Robert Thomas are going to make this defensive front one of the best run defending groups in the league.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree finished with 3 tackles, 1 for a loss. He wasn’t tested in coverage much. B.J. Goodson was, however, and he just can’t hang in space with receivers that are crossing the field. I don’t expect him to run with those guys, but he hasn’t showed the anticipation that is needed.

-This brings me to a thought I have had for a couple weeks. After another impressive showing by Ray-Ray Armstrong, is there a chance he takes a hold of that starting spot at some point? He is a much better athlete and his progress as a run defender continues to stand out. He has been making good reads and working his way through traffic, two things he struggled with last year. I think there is more flexibility with Armstrong than there is with Goodson. Something to look for.

-Mark Herzlich and Tae Davis got a lot of action in the second half. Herzlich has been quietly effective. He does a lot of dirty work but he has also been covering a lot of ground in coverage. He was excellent in zone defense.

CORNERBACKS

-Eli Apple saw a lot of playing time, leading the team in snaps. He had an up and down night, recording a pass break up but also getting flagged for holding. The handsy-corner has been showing more of the same. Impressive ability and interesting potential but he just can’t seem to put together a quality game from start to finish. B.W. Webb allowed the Jets touchdown pass on a crossing route to Terrelle Pryor. Just late to read and couldn’t catch up.

-Donte Deayon saw his first action of the preseason. He finished with 4 tackles but also missed one in space. I like the heart he plays with, but he just gets pushed around too much and I think he will be a liability as a tackler. In an aggressive scheme where you will see a lot of 1-on-1 matchups with the corners, that worries me.

SAFETIES

-Landon Collins is playing with great lateral range. Think of this run defense clogging the middle with their line then Collins going unblocked to the sidelines. Just another reason why I think this defense will be elite against the run which will be important in this division.

-Curtis Riley appears to have the spot locked up next to Collins. The hamstring injury to Darian Thompson continues to keep him off the field and Andrew Adams doesn’t appear to be in the running. Michael Thomas is a fine rotational player who will be a factor on special teams. He is tough and productive in the box. Do any of these guys make plays against deep passing? That is another fear I have with this defense that lacks a superior pass rush.

SPECIALISTS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 4/4 (Made 48, 40, 27, 21). Rosas has been getting the opportunities and passing with flying colors. If he can maintain his consistency, I bet he ends up being one of the highest scoring kickers in the league.

-K Marshall Koehn: 1/1 (Made 44). Nice security blanket to have but as long as Rosas is kicking them straight, Koehn won’t be here in a couple weeks.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts – 41.0 avg / 33.3 net. Had a few opportunities to pin them tight but he put 2 in the end zone.

3 STUDS

-WR Sterling Shepard, DE Kerry Wynn, K Aldrick Rosas

3 DUDS

-OG Patrick Omameh, OLB Kareem Martin, RB Jonathan Stewart

3 THOUGHTS ON NYJ

-The commentators said this a couple time on Friday and I am sure a few more will repeat it during the season. The Darnold vs. Barkley debate is going to be a thing for their entire careers respectively. I hate that, personally. Two different systems and situations. Two different positions. Regardless, Darnold has gotten a lot of playing time in these first 3 weeks of preseason and nothing has made me think he would have been a better pick than Barkley.

-The Jets may be historically bad when it comes to the pass rush. I’m not only judging their preseason performance here, either. Their personnel, or lack thereof, really stands out. Combine that with a scheme that is overly reliant on blitzing to bring 5+ defenders to the passer, it is just a recipe for a disaster.

-When QB Teddy Bridgewater was coming out of Louisville, I didn’t have the franchise QB grade on him. Good college player and a great intangibles kid, but I didn’t see it. To me, the glaring weakness was a lack of physical presence and a body type that screamed injuries. I still feel that way even though he has had a few nice preseason performances against backups. I think he is an easy kid to root for, thus it sways the overall view on him as a QB.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-Speaking of the poor NYJ pass rush, I was really pleased with the pocket Eli Manning had to work with. When his confidence and assurance is there, he looks like he has more than enough left in the tank. Give him this Shurmur offense that can take advantage of Manning’s mental capacity and pass-versatility, I think this is going to be the best NYG offense we have seen in a long time.

-Three weeks of preseason football and I still think the OC/RG situation has a ways to go in terms of being figured out. The trading of Brett Jones to MIN has all but handed the job to Halapio with John Greco as the primary backup, but as previously mentioned I think that job should still be very much up in the air. And we may have to go back to John Jerry at RG if Omameh doesn’t step it up.

-The next biggest worry of this team resides in the defensive backfield. If the pass rush doesn’t generate a lot of pressure to a point where the QB needs to rush through progressions, I’m just not confident this team can cover. The LBs have been getting torched in the middle of the field, Eli Apple appears to the same thing we have watched in recent years, and the group of below average cover men behind him won’t scare anyone.

Aug 202018
 
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Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (August 17, 2018)

Wayne Gallman – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 30 – Detroit Lions 17

QUICK RECAP

After a few days of practice in Detroit with the Lions, the two teams faced off in week 2 of the preseason. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham were close to full participants in practice, however both stayed on the sidelines during game action. Darian Thompson also missed the game with his hamstring injury along with Saquon Barkley.

Davis Webb got the starting nod and really turned around the overall outlook on him after a rough week 1. He engineered a beautiful 17-play drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Wayne Gallman. Davis converted two 3rd downs and one 4th down on the drive that included a couple high level throws.

The teams traded multiple 3-and-outs back and forth trying to win the field position battle. Aldrick Rosas was given an opportunity at a 55-yard field goal which he drilled through the uprights with ease. NYG entered halftime with a 10-3 lead as the defense seems to be coming together nicely.

Kyle Lauletta started the 2nd half. After a three-and-out on drive one, DET backup Matt Cassel was intercepted off a deflection. Two plays later, Lauletta juked and cutback his way into the end zone via a rollout. A signal caller that isn’t known for his athletic ability got the Giants a 17-3 lead.

Detroit drove the ball downfield but instead of going for their second field goal of the night, they sent LeGarrette Blount up the middle on 4th and 2 and he was stuffed by a dominating inside run defense. The Giants lengthened their lead to 24-3 early in the 4th quarter with another Gallman touchdown. The backup defenses let up quite a bit, as NYG scored another touchdown on the ground, and DET scored two more themselves. It was a sloppy end to an otherwise well played game.

Giants win 30-17.

QUARTERBACKS

Davis Webb: 14/20 – 140 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. Webb got the start in this week 2 matchup, as Eli Manning received the night off after an intense practice week. This game was very much about Webb’s ability to bounce back from a shaky week 1 outing, and that he did. This was a completely different quarterback in contrast to what we saw a week ago. He had multiple high-level throws from the pocket and on the move in multiple directions. He had better touch, better footwork, and seemed more confident in his reads and progressions. He still threw a couple of high balls on urgent throws, however. That is one reoccurring weakness that I see.

Kyle Lauletta: 2/5 – 27 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. Lauletta added 13 yards and a touchdown on the ground. While he didn’t get a lot of opportunities to throw in this game, he didn’t capitalize on his two downfield throws. His touchdown run showed surprising cutback ability and while he won’t ever be mistaken for Russell Wilson in space, there is a lot of “football player” in him. I am still intrigued by the advanced footwork, release, and decision making.

RUNNING BACKS

Wayne Gallman: 5 att – 26 yards – 1 TD / 2 rec – 9 yards – 1 TD. With Saquon Barkley on the sidelines for this one, Gallman took over the lead role. He ran an outstanding route on his touchdown. This kid really poses as a threat with the ball in his hands and as a route runner. He will be an important piece to this 2018 offense.

Jonathan Stewart: 4 att – (-1) yard. Very uneventful night for the veteran, who was in for just 11 plays. He didn’t have any room in this contest and obviously didn’t play enough to get into a groove, but one can’t help but notice heavy feet and tight hips. Stewart’s value may be as an extra player-coach type more so than a backup to Barkley, especially with Gallman looking as good as he does.

Jalen Simmons and Robert Martin both had impressive performances again. Simmons left the game after a perceived concussion, thus Martin got a few extra late looks and he impressed. If he can show some special teams contribution, I think he has a strong chance at making this roster. Fullback Shane Smith played just 14% of the snaps.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-With Odell Beckham on the sidelines again, Sterling Shepard and Cory Latimer got the starts. Shepard brought in an over-the-shoulder catch near the sideline on a great route, while Latimer made high-level reception across the middle where he laid out and extended himself. Both were out of the game early in the second quarter, and most importantly, are healthy.

Hunter Sharp continues to receive an opportunity to display his ability, leading the group in snaps played. He muffed one of his punt return attempts and dropped a pass. The tools are intriguing but he needs to show a more consistent skill set. Just like I said last week, Russell Shepard is an under-the-radar name to look out for. He made a big time catch on a 50/50 ball downfield from Webb. I think a roster spot is going to come down to Roger Lewis or Kalif Raymond. They are different kinds of players, where Lewis again showed some big play ability with a 31-yard catch but Raymond offers more return ability.

TIGHT ENDS

Evan Engram: 2 rec – 13 yards. It’s hard to believe this, but Engram looks even faster and more explosive than he did a year ago. Because of the position he plays and all of the attention devoted to Beckham and Barkley, he is going to see a ton of 1-on-1 matchups. Nobody will be able to stay with him on crossing routes and he has made a couple of impressive adjustment-catches so far. I think he is going to have a huge year.

Jerell Adams did have 3 catches for 31 yards, but he struggled again. He was getting beaten off the ball as a blocker and had a couple of mental mistakes. Unreliable is the word that comes to mind here and in year 3, that could lead to him getting cut. Matt Simonson on the other hand does a lot of little things right and makes a difference on special teams.

TACKLES

-Very impressive night by Nate Solder, who was up against one of the best defensive ends in the game in Ezekiel Ansah. He has shown a couple struggles when it comes to getting off the ball quickly, but his balance and technique are very consistent. Ereck Flowers allowed a tackle for loss and 2 pressures early, but bounced back and ended with a solid run. Once again, he doesn’t play the game with his feet enough, being too reliant on hands, which are often inaccurate.

Chad Wheeler struggled. It was actually one of the worst performances I have seen out of him in his two years here. He is over-committing to his initial read, getting too top heavy and lunging for his man. Nick Becton has been impressive and I think there is a chance he could grab the number three tackle spot. His run blocking as been exceptional.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-There is a very alarming trend occurring with the guys inside. They are letting blitzers through the A/B gaps go untouched. Delayed, not delayed, whichever. Will Hernandez and Jon Halapio both had terrible misses. Late to see, slow to react. It blew up a couple of running plays. At this time last year, I wrote about how poorly the NYG OL was dealing with stunts to the outside and it definitely made its way into regular season play. Let’s hope these guys get this figured out over the next two weeks. Patrick Omameh had a quiet game, not necessarily in a good way. He got beaten off the ball a few times that blew up running plays inside and right side.

-John Greco is the dark horse to win the OC job at some point. He has seen some snaps there in practice, and he was my highest graded backup Friday night. John Jerry and Brett Jones got good movement in the running game as well.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

-Good to see Olivier Vernon produce some game results in week 2. He really is a different kind of edge rusher. Not overly big, this guy plays with tremendous knee bend and derives a lot of power from his base. He doesn’t always make it look right, but the late and subtle movements in traffic can get him the proper angles to the QB. He finished with a sack and was very close on another. He beat 3 separate blockers on his sack.

Kerry Wynn has been one of the most impressive defenders on this team through 2 games. While we have been impressed with him in preseason before just to be let down when the games count, I see a guy that is going to fit like a glove in this scheme. He finished with a sack, two hurries, and a couple athletic looking special teams tackles. He is a great example for guys trying to make a team. Keep the engine on high and contribute in different ways. Same can be said for the gifted Romeo Okwara who also finished with a sack and a hurry. If these two can perform during the season, the outlook for this defense totally changes.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Once again, the strong point of this team. Damon Harrison could make a “how to” for young DTs when it comes to playing the run. He simply creates a new line of scrimmage routinely. He pushed the DET interior linemen all over the place. B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson made plays in the backfield. Hill looks very athletic and light footed while Tomlinson has progressed nicely with his hand location. DET averaged 3 yards per carry and these guys were the main reasons why.

Josh Mauro had a nice game off the bench. He demands the double team consistently and knows how to crowd the running lanes. He also had a hurry and pass deflection. Robert Thomas and A.J. Francis are showing to be on a different level than the counterpart backups. Good signs for a scheme that will likely need to rest Harrison for a few stretches each week.

LINEBACKERS

-The whipping boy of this defense may be the newly signed Alec Ogletree. Two weeks, two times he has been exposed in space,  covering man-to-man. Last week he did a poor job against tight end David Njoku but I will say I don’t think there is a LB in football that would have stopped Theo Riddick on his 42-yard reception. He is the best receiving RB in the NFL and as we saw on the Webb-to-Gallman TD, that route is incredibly difficult to defend. He and B.J. Goodson simply haven’t played enough to really lean one way or another.

Ray Ray Armstrong continues to show he can be a player in this scheme with a couple tackles, a pass break up, and an interception. He is a very cheap version of ARI’s Deone Bucannon. I don’t see him breaking into a starting lineup unless there is an injury, but I do think he can be a piece to the puzzle. He has a very unique skill set and he looks like he really understands this scheme.

I think a roster spot may come down to Calvin Munson or Mark Herzlich. Both are one dimensional and I think there is room on this roster for one of them, not both. I could be wrong though. Herzlich led the team with 7 tackles and I think he has more range and better instincts. Not to mention he just bring more intensity and presence to the defense when he is out there.

CORNERBACKS

-I can understand the effort to keep Janoris Jenkins healthy by limiting his snaps, but I wish we could have seen more of Eli Apple. He is still very much an unknown. He seems to be struggling with some of the basic, must-have traits to the position in this scheme. Not enough footwork, too late on anticipation and reaction.

B.W. Webb and Leonard Johnson both lack the desired size but these guys compete hard. Webb did get flagged for a pass interference penalty, but I thought he did a fine job when covering the outside receivers who were much bigger than him. Johnson had one of the most physical hits of the game.

Grant Haley shows admirable footwork and quickness, but he just can’t handle the physical side of the game yet. He was tossed to the ground by T.J. Jones on a 4th quarter touchdown. He simply looked over-matched on that play and others.

SAFETIES

Landon Collins started along side Curtis Riley in this one. Neither were really tested. Collins still has that tendency to lose his angles on outside running plays and screen passes. He is the least of this team’s concern though. I hope to see Riley tested more often with Darian Thompson injured.

-Impressed with backup Michael Thomas. He had a really nice TFL on a play where he stood a tight end up at the point of attack, shed him, and made a physical tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He also had a near INT in the end zone. Andrew Adams had a couple of physical showings as well. Both guys can handle backup duty to Collins, but neither show the range needed to play next to him.

KICKERS/PUNTERS

Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (55) – 1/1 XP. Impressive career-long kick for Rosas who put the ball through halfway up from that distance. All this after a bad snap and somewhat delayed approach. Wow.

-Marshall Koehn: 0/0 – 2/3 XP. Missing extra points is a quick way to get the boot.

-Riley Dixon: 3 punts – 43.3 avg – 40.7 net.

3 STUDS

-QB Davis Webb, RB Wayne Gallman, DE Kerry Wynn

3 DUDS

-OC Jon Halapio, CB Grant Haley, TE Jerell Adams

3 TAKEAWAYS FOR DET

-The make or break for this team will be the offensive line. Stafford is as close to the top tier QBs in this league of anyone that isn’t quite there. The weapons are there. The defense is improving and they have a brilliant mind calling the shots on that side of the ball. But the OL is a concern and it is time some of their recent draft picks pony up.

-Darius Slay might be in the discussion for top CB in the league. It is a tough position to evaluate when comparing teams and schemes. But I might put this kid up there with anyone, if not above everyone, when it comes to playing on an island 1-on-1 with any kind of WR in the league.

-LB and former Giant Devon Kennard appears to be a better fit for the Matt Patricia scheme than what he was with the Giants. Get him rushing the edge over and over will result in more sexy stats for him obviously, but I think his results are more than that. The inside-out versatility wasn’t used often enough during his NYG tenure.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-We discussed last week how looking too deep into one week of preseason performance is foolish. However it happens every year. Those that wrote off Webb after the CLE game look silly now. That was the best we have seen out of him since he was under an NYG contract. Now, can he build off it? His next appearance will be very telling on where he’s at, much more so than the previous 2 weeks.

-I’ve seen all but 5 preseason games from around the league. And you know what? The backup OL here is outperforming most of the league’s backups. They are getting a lot of movement at the point-of-attack and providing more time in pass protection. Preseason football is often ugly late in games because of poor OL play. NYG has had 2 solid weeks in a row in comparison. Is it scheme based? Coaching? I don’t know yet. But it is a good thing, that’s for sure.

-I really do enjoy watching James Bettcher coach. It will take more time to really see the scheme and trends, but I am speaking more along the lines of his emotion and involvement on the sidelines. He is all in with these guys and yes, I do think it makes a difference with the players.

Aug 122018
 
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Jalen Simmons, New York Giants (August 9, 2018)

Jalen Simmons – © USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns 20 – New York Giants 10

QUICK RECAP

Live football returned for the first time after one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Week 1 of the preseason is always more about seeing the new guys in the game-uniform and watching real, live football for the first time since winter. The first string (minus Odell Beckham) played for less than a quarter for NYG, while CLE left them in a bit longer.

Thanks to a 39 yard run on rookie Saquon Barkley’s first touch, NYG was able to put 3 quick points up on the board. That lead proved to be the last one for the home team, as Tyrod Taylor, who is competing for the starting gig, made a perfect throw to New Jersey native David Njoku for a 36 yard touchdown. At that point, the night very much became about the backups vying for roster spots and/or rotational roles on the final 53-man roster.

Davis Webb entered the game and struggled. It was the opposite for CLE’s #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, who owned the night and possibly Week 1 of the NFL’s preseason schedule. Webb looked erratic while Mayfield carved up the Giants defense all over the field. One was a 3rd round pick and the other was a top overall player, but the two didn’t even appear to be in the same league.

Mayfield and the Browns quickly lengthened to lead to 13-3 and the second half then began with a couple of 3 and outs. A potentially game-changing play happened on special teams soon after, as CLE’s C.J. Board fumbled a punt return that was recovered by NYG’s Zak DeOssie on the CLE 14 yard line. A few plays later Jalen Simmons scampered into the end zone on a 5 yard run, bringing the score back to 13-10. Mayfield returned the favor a couple drives later and hooked up with fellow rookie Antonio Callaway on a 54 yard touchdown that was majority run-after-catch. The middle of the pass defense was torched all night and the big plays just never happened on offense following Barkley’s run on the first drive.

The story of the night was Mayfield’s excellent debut and NYG’s struggling backup offense. While it is too early to throw our hands up in the air, there wasn’t a lot of optimism after this one other than the team remaining healthy.

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACKS

Eli Manning: 4/7 – 26 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. Manning played two drives that lasted a combined 16 plays, hardly enough time to get a full evaluation. There isn’t much to report of his night, although his footwork looked crisp and he was decisive with the ball. He went 1 for 1 on 3rd down but was sacked on his second attempt. There was one miscommunication with TE Rhett Ellison up the seam that almost led to an interception and judging by the look of the All-22 tape, it was Ellison that made the wrong read.

Davis Webb: 9/22 – 70 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. Webb has the inside track and winning the backup job by default, but he didn’t strengthen that plan with his play. Webb struggled mightily with simple, basic-level passing. He had a hard time hitting guys in the numbers, as he looked overly flustered and nervous. While I won’t bash him for his play in week 1 of preseason football, he does need to show that he can bounce back next week in Detroit and fix his shortcomings.

Kyle Lauletta: 6/9 – 48 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. If this were an open ended competition, Lauletta walks away from this game with the lead. His footwork and crisp release especially stood out. The knock on Lauletta is a “below average” arm when it comes to power and strength, but he can more than make up for it with how fast he gets rid of the ball. He looked very confident and sure of himself for a 4th round rookie in his first live NFL action.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 4 att/43 yards. The anticipation of the 2018 #2 overall pick and what many consider to be one of the top running back prospects ever matched the inaugural play of Barkley’s pro career. An overly impressive 39-yard run that displayed his vision, agility, reaction, and open field burst was a sign of things to come. His night didn’t last long and there were a couple negative runs after, but Barkley’s initial showing with NYG in a game situation was a positive one.

-Jonathan Stewart: 3 att/3 yards – 1 rec/8 yards. Stewart didn’t see a lot of action himself, but he struggled to reach the outside. He looks heavy footed and considering this is his 11th year with 1,700 carries on his resume, one can surely believe he will be a number three back by season’s end. He was also part of a messy miscommunication with the middle of the offensive line on a CLE blitz that led to a sack.

-Wayne Gallman: 3 att/5 yards – 4 rec /33 yards. Gallman looks explosive and sure of himself. He is going to be a great compliment to Barkley and an asset to the passing game both as a pass catcher and blocker, as he picked up a couple blitzes successfully.

The Rest: A couple of impressive runs by both back end backs Jalen Simmons and Robert Martin. They combined for 12 carries / 77 yards against the roster hopefuls of CLE. Simmons was especially assertive and did a nice job of running through contact with good pad level and active feet. Fullback Shane Smith was on the field for 9 plays (12% of the team’s offensive snaps). He does look more confident and sure of his reads than he did at this time last year, but there wasn’t a major difference felt with his presence in the run game.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Sterling Shepard: 2 rec / 9 yards. After being slowed by a training camp ankle injury last year, it was refreshing to see him out there early on. His quickness out of the slot is going to be a factor this year, now if he could only make more happen after the catch and the Giants offense may have a big time weapon.

-Hunter Sharp: 2 rec / 16 yards. Sharp got the early look with the first team offense with Beckham on the sideline. He dropped two passes and showed poor ball skills on one of his receptions, a quick way to get thrown to the back end of the depth chart. He did have a nice kick return, displaying good long stride speed in space.

The Rest: Roger Lewis and Marquis Bundy both came down with big plays late in the game. Lewis’ seems to have been somewhat demoted. I think it mostly has to do with his lack of progression as a route runner and inconsistent ball skills. Kalif Raymond ran a great route but failed to track a nicely thrown ball by Davis Webb which would have resulted in a touchdown. Another long shot to make the roster, Raymond also made a business decision to not extend for a ball over the middle with a safety bearing down on him. Keep an eye out for veteran Russell Shepard, he made a couple of nice grabs and I think the reliability of what he brings to the table is something this coaching staff will be looking in to over the next few weeks. Corey Latimer started on the outside, but didn’t see anything thrown his way.

TIGHT ENDS

-Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram saw the snaps with the first team, but neither had any impact. Ellison seemed to run a wrong route up the seam on an option, nearly resulting in a red zone interception.

-Jerrell Adams: 2 rec / 6 yards. Adams was targeted 5 times and was often the victim of high throws from Webb. While he can’t be blamed for the incompletions, there is a lack of quick twitched-adjustment that I see with him. He is a big, physical player that just struggled to get his head around. Adams is trending towards being a player that has tools, but just isn’t developing the way he needs to. If I were grading his blocking plays, it wouldn’t have been positive.

OFFENSIVE LINE

TACKLES

-Solid debut for Nate Solder in a Giants uniform, albeit it was only 16 plays. After watching Ereck Flowers play with such poor technique and balance for three years, it was refreshing to see a real pro-caliber left tackle in motion. Flowers made his debut at right tackle and had a key block on Barkley’s big run, but continues to struggle with hand placement and proper pad level. Chad Wheeler played both tackle spots and has more power behind his initial hits, but there was too much bending at the waist. He allowed 2 pressures against backups. Nick Becton also played both backup spots and he doesn’t look pretty, but he gets the job done in pass protection. As a run blocker, he struggled to make adjustments. Chris Scott had the most impressive night of all the backups. He showed inside-out versatility and had a key block on the Giants lone touchdown. Looking forward to putting the eyeball on him these next few weeks.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-There was a lot of anticipation building for the debut of rookie Will Hernandez. While 16 plays isn’t nearly enough for a full evaluation, I thought he struggled. He hands were way too wide, as he didn’t adjust to defenders moving laterally very well. The ability is there, its not like he is a poor athlete or anything, I just didn’t see the fluidity. Patrick Omameh got the nod as the starter at right guard. He had a couple of nice, powerful blocks. He can really move guys inside. However, there seemed to be multiple miscommunications inside. He was left searching for defenders to block a couple of times. Jon Halapio needs to improve at both holding his ground and getting everyone on the same page when it comes to assignments. Brett Jones outplayed him in this game, although he was matched up against lower level defenders. John Greco and John Jerry both played half of the team’s snaps and if I had to choose one based on this game’s performance, it would be Greco. Just more pop and adjustment speed.

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE

Olivier Vernon was in for just 12 plays and didn’t make a difference anywhere. Hopefully history won’t repeat itself, a guy that dominates training camp but doesn’t translate to gameday. The three-headed monster between the tackles, Damon Harrison, Dalvn Tomlinson, and B.J. Hill started off the game. They didn’t play much but they were very stout. That is going to be a very difficult group to move for offensive lines in the running game.

A.J. Francis and Robert Thomas were the standout performers of the night in backup roles. I had a thing for Thomas a year ago, but I think this scheme fits him even better. He is an excellent combination of stout and aggressive. Josh Mauro made his debut with the club. Even though he will be suspended at the start of the regular season, he will be a more-than-solid part of this line. Romeo Okwara continues to flash with his combination of tools, as he recorded a TFL and pursued all over the field hard. This appears to be the strength of the defense.

LINEBACKERS

Alec Ogletree made his debut in a Giants uniform and was beaten badly by CLE tight end David Njoku for a 36 yard touchdown. He took a poor angle considering there was no help over the top. B.J. Goodson was a solid interior run defense presence. If he can stay healthy, this scheme with all of the protection in front of him will be a big deal for him.

Kareem Martin had a pressure, but was otherwise quiet. Connor Barwin looks like shell of his former Eagle self. He doesn’t have nearly the same level of explosion off the ball. Lorenzo Carter had a pressure and QB hit in his pro debut. He can really eat up space in a blink; now it is all about developing the skill set.

Calvin Munson and Ray Ray Armstrong looked very solid in backup roles. Munson plays the instinctive, leader-of-the-defense role. He is a right-place, right-time guy. Armstrong’s speed stood out. In this defense that values attacking on all angles, Armstrong could be a guy who makes a difference. A linebacker with his ability to move with all of those big bodies up front swallowing up blockers is a nice combination to have.

-The darkhorse I think who has a good chance of making this team is speedster Tae Davis. Undersized, yes. But this kid can fly around like a defensive back and he handled blockers very well. He can reach windows that most cannot, and he more than held his own in the power game.

CORNERBACKS

Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple started. Jenkins lost a 50/50 ball to the newly acquired Jarvis Landry and Apple was beaten badly on a back shoulder throw where his lack of footwork and ball awareness showed up again. Nothing to be overly alarmed about at this point, but these were the takeaways in their limited action.

-The race for the backup spots is on. Leonard Johnson was targeted the most of all the NYG defensive backs. He whiffed on a pass to Antonio Callaway the resulted in a long touchdown, but he had a positive night. He broke up 2 passes and showed tight coverage underneath. For the roles a nickel needs to play, he seems to be the best fit so far. Chris Lewis-Harris has the foot speed and fluid hips, but the ball location wasn’t there on two occasions, one of which resulted in a CLE touchdown. B.W. Webb is a competitor, if nothing else. He plays a fast-reaction type game and he can move with speed. His issues continue to be a lack of size and accurate forecasting. Rookie Grant Haley had a nice tackle for loss.

SAFETIES

-If it weren’t for Landon Collins, this group of NYG safeties could be labeled as one of the worst in the NFL. Even with him, they are bottom tier. The middle of the field was abused all night and there simply isn’t a cause for hope. Darian Thompson looks to be the same guy, an average cover safety that won’t strike any fear in to receivers over the middle. He strained a hamstring.

Andrew Adams led the team with 7 tackles, as he played more snaps than anyone in the group. Michael Thomas was quiet in his debut with the team. Of the roster hopefuls, Orion Stewart made a couple standout plays, disrupting a running play behind the line of scrimmage with aggressive downhill pursuit and had an impressive pass break up. However he badly missed a tackle in the open field that led to a long touchdown. Rookie Sean Chandler struggled in mid-field coverage.

SPECIAL TEAMS

KICKER

Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – (Made 42). XP – 1/1. Rosas has the inside track at earning the job for the second straight year, but his leash may not be long. It will be essential for him to make these preseason kicks.

PUNTER

Riley Dixon: 10 Punts – 44.2 avg – 39.7 net – 3 inside 20. Solid night for Dixon. He tried to pin CLE inside the 20 four times, three of which worked out.

3 STUDS

-DT Robert Thomas, RB Wayne Gallman, OT Chris Scott

3 DUDS

-QB Davis Webb, OG Will Hernandez, S Sean Chandler

3 TAKEAWAYS FOR CLE

-Baker Mayfield excelled in his first NFL action. I was very impressed with his footwork in and out of the pocket and even more so with his consistency with keeping his eyes downfield when evading pressure. That isn’t common in rookie quarterbacks. The accuracy I lauded during the scouting process was on full display. He is going to be a good one.

-With that said, Tyrod Taylor is not going to hand him the job. He is one of the most underrated QBs in the NFL right now and he appears to be well respected by the coaching staff. Much of the attention went to Mayfield’s impressive debut, but don’t overlook that Taylor was a perfect 5/5 for 99 yards and a touchdown.

-This will be the first season since 2007 that Joe Thomas isn’t lining up at left tackle for CLE. Joel Bitonio, a college OT who has played OG for CLE since 2014, now starts at that spot. If Thursday night was any indicator, the move may not be much of a decline in relation to the past couple of years. His footwork and hand power were top tier.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-In any direction, it is foolish to have strong reactions to a preseason game unless it has to do with injuries. The Giants appear to have avoided anything catastrophic in that department in week 1. More than anything, that is most important; be healthy heading in to their matchup against JAC.

-That said, Davis Webb is going to need to show improvement throughout the preseason if he wants a strong hold of this backup job all year and the spot first in line once Eli Manning hangs them up. His performance Thursday night is less important than his ability to improve and come back stronger from a poor game.

-The biggest concern I have with this defense, and it is a major one, is the middle of the field against the pass. The pass rush an be created via scheme, but if the safeties and linebackers can’t make plays and/or follow assignments, it is going to be ugly.

Apr 232018
 
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Josh Rosen, UCLA Bruins (November 18, 2017)

Josh Rosen – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Quarterbacks

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

1 – Josh Rosen – UCLA

Grade: 89

Strong Points

-Knows and understands the game inside and out, very intelligent on the field
-Advanced footwork and release, consistent mechanics
-Excels at passes within the intermediate range

Weak Points:

-Deep ball accuracy is inconsistent
-Slight frame plus concussion issues plus tennis background causes for some durability concern
-Doesn’t pose much of a threat as a passer on the move

Summary:

Junior entry. Has had the look of a pro passer since his freshman season. The 3 year career at UCLA didn’t pan out the way many were hoping for, but it can’t be pinned on him. His supporting cast was dreadful. The pass catchers dropped more balls than any of the other QBs in this top-of-the-draft discussion, there was no running game to lean on, and the offensive line was very leaky up the middle. With all of that, Rosen still threw for 9,342 yards and 59 touchdowns. One red flag, however, is that he missed 8 games over the past 2 years with various injuries. And another nugget here is that more teams are fearful of his knees not holding up, as that is a consistent occurrence with tennis players when they get in to their late 20’s-early 30’s. Rosen was a big time tennis player in his teen years, so it is something to consider.

Here is something I am confident can be put to bed. Rosen is not a character risk. He is not going to be an issue with the media, he is not going to be a problem with the coaches and players. He is not going to be a problem socially. This kid knows more about football than a lot of current professionals. He studies it hard, practices hard, and was head and shoulders on another level than his teammates mentally and physically. If you could guarantee be Rosen can stay on the field, his grade would be 90+, elite. NYG could be the perfect spot for him as it will allow him to add bulk to his frame for a year or two, use his intelligence to pick up the schemes and tendencies of the NFL, and be ready to rock in 2019 or 2020. During that time, you let Davis Webb handle backup duties and if he proves to be a solid player, you have a very good problem on your hands, one that several teams will pay up for.

NFL Comparison: Matt Ryan / ATL

2 – Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma

Grade: 86

Strong Points:

-Brings a level of charisma, confidence, and swagger to a team that is rare
-Accuracy is on point through all levels of the defense
-Maintains his eyes downfield and arm ability on the move to both sides

Weak Points:

-Gets antsy in a crowded pocket, will lose track of mechanics
-Lacks the desired size of an NFL passer and he over-strides in addition, making him shorter
-Hasn’t proven he can handle adversity

Summary:

A record setting quarterback that started off as a walk on at Texas Tech, losing his job to none other than Davis Webb. Talk about a potential complete 180 degree turn. Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma, won over the staff, and never looked back over his 3 years as starter. He ended his career with a Heisman Trophy-earning performance in addition to re-writing the OU record books. Mayfield threw for 119 TDs /21 INTs and an amazing 12,296 yards in his 3 years with the Sooners.

I was split on Mayfield and Rosen for a long time. I would be equally excited about either, but Mayfield carries more risk. His competitive spirit and on-field bad boy image can be viewed as both good and bad. I actually think it makes him a better player, as he is constantly trying to prove himself and his worth. He is hungry to win, hungry to succeed. It is actually a refreshing thing to watch these days, to be honest. However my fear is this: How will he act when a stadium starts to boo him? The team around him is falling apart, guys are chirping to the media, coaches throw him under the bus. Can he handle that? Honestly, I’m not sure. And having that at QB would scare the hell out of me. Talent and ability, however, he has it. I rarely give a second thought about his height. It is not ideal but the way you can manipulate an offense with playaction and rollouts, Mayfield’s height won’t be a major factor. This kid is a winner and will out-kick his coverage when it comes to overall talent.

NFL Comparison: Russell Wilson / SEA

3 – Sam Darnold – USC – 6’3/221

Grade: 81

Strong Points:

-Makes things happen with his feet, dangerous on the move
-Has the demeanor and presence you want in high pressure situations and games
-Excellent touch between layers of the defense

Weak Points:

-Gets too hoppy in the pocket, rushes in to decisions without lining up mechanics
-Has a hard time reading the entire defense
-Doesn’t protect the ball

Summary:

A 2 year starter that came in to the 2017 season as the poster boy of this draft class. After a 9 game run in 2016 that was capped off with one of the best Rose Bowl performances in history, Darnold had everyone thinking he was the next big thing. Maybe expectations were unfairly high, maybe not. But truth of the matter is, his 2017 season was nowhere near those expectations. He turned the ball over 24 times, most in the nation. Every time you thought he was turning a corner, he put up another head scratching performance. It was a year that created more questions than answers.

Darnold is still generally considered the top quarterback in this class among people I have spoken to and the media. The thought here is that if he can learn to play within himself, read defenses, and make his mechanics more consistent, he has the goods. Those are all correctable issues. Some of what people don’t like about him is what evaluators were nervous about with Eli Manning. Another parallel there is they both seem to rise to the occasion in big games/moments. I do like Darnold, just not enough to use a top 5 pick on him and not enough to take him in front of Mayfield or Rosen. There is a lot of boom and bust. His ability to create on his own his a big deal. His calm demeanor can be a big help. I just hated to see a lack of progress over his 2 year career. He didn’t get better and if anything, he got worse as time went on. If NYG brings him in, he can sit a year and not be rushed which would be in his best interest. However his issues need to be ironed out playing, not sitting. I think there are better situations for him than NYG and I still expect him to go #1 overall, anyway.

NFL Comparison: Andy Dalton / CIN

4 – Lamar Jackson – Louisville – 6’2/216

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Elite level explosion and speed in the open field
-Quick release, can reach his top arm strength with a flick of the wrist
-Shows nice touch on intermediate-to-deep throws

Weak Points:

-Erratic accuracy, fails to hit his target on simple throws too often
-Too quick to tuck the ball and scramble without his eyes downfield
-Poor lower body usage and mechanics when throwing

Summary:

Junior entry. Three year starter that had his coming out party in 2016, winning pretty much every piece of individual hardware a quarterback can, including the Heisman. Production is off the charts here with Jackson. He is the first player in history to amass 3,000 yards passing AND 1,000 yards rushing two consecutive years. In a league where putting points on the board is an absolute must, Jackson is walking away from a two year run that saw him score an amazing 95 touchdowns. There are some character red flags and overall shortcomings as a passer that need to be overcome, but there is no denying how dangerous this player can be.

Jackson is an athlete first, runner second, and passer third. If I want to be simple and blunt, that pretty much doesn’t work in the NFL. His ability to run with the ball does and always will strike fear in to opposing defenses. His presence on the field alone will make them adjust, it will make them uncomfortable. He is one of those rare players that doesn’t have a cap to his speed. He is simply faster than the guy chasing him, end of story. Jackson, however, has a ways to go as a passer. He struggles to make multiple reads and progressions, his lower body is as inconsistent as it gets, and he doesn’t keep his eyes downfield while he is on the move. If he takes just half the hits in the NFL that he did in college volume wise, his career won’t be long. The body type isn’t there. Jackson’s only option is to improve mightily as a passer and it will take a ton of time and work. I don’t have a ton of access or inside information, but there have been things said that worry me when it comes to how much he is going to try and change his game at the next level. He is not Mike Vick. Even more, he is nowhere near Mike Vick.

NFL Comparison: Robert Griffin III / BAL

5 – Josh Allen – Wyoming – 6’5/237

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Has a cannon for an arm, rare power that comes easy
-Has the ideal frame for the position, can take hits and keep moving, tough to bring down
-Excellent downfield passer on the move

Weak Points:

-Struggles to consistently put the ball where he needs to
-Doesn’t have the proper touch on throws between layers
-Played his worst football against his toughest competition, by far

Summary:

Fourth year junior entry. After a lightly recruited high school career, Allen spent a season in community college before being recruited to Wyoming, home of Carson Wentz’s former college coach. After breaking his collar bone in 2015, Allen finally hit his groove at the FBS level as a redshirt sophomore in 2016. His performances were very up and down but there was no denying the ceiling his talent presented. Allen entered 2017 as one of the darkhorses to overtake the top spot on the QB stack, however we simply saw more of the same. He missed two more games with a shoulder injury but did return for their bowl game, throwing 3 touchdowns against Central Michigan.

Allen earned a day 2 grade on my sheet. By no means does that mean I have the “Do Not Touch” label on him, but the thought of using a top 5 overall selection here is too risky for me. Allen has a long ways to go and lacks a lot of passer-traits that are essential to consistent QB success in the NFL. When the first, second, and third things people say about Allen all have to do with how far he can throw the ball, or how much velocity he can put on it, it is an immediate red flag to me. He has failed to show the ability to put touch on the ball up the seam between levels of the defense. He doesn’t look comfortable in the pocket either. His footwork is very sloppy and it causes a lot of erratic throws on what should be simple gains. I also didn’t like how he carried himself during games where he struggled. Just didn’t scream “leader” to me. And the last glaring stat that I can’t seem to get out of my head: In 2017 he played against 5 teams that finished with winning records. His combined stats in those games? 65 for 130 (50%) – 661 yards – 4 TD – 5 INT. One more…in 2016/2017 combined he played against 3 opponents from power 5 conferences. His stats in those games: 48 for 96 (50%) – 427 yards – 1 TD – 8 INT. Not exactly someone that brings his best against the best, and that is not a small sample size.

NFL Comparison – Ben Roethlisberger / PIT

6 – Kurt Benkert – Virginia – 6’3/218

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Quick and violent, but controlled release, gets a lot of zip on the ball
-Excels at downfield passing, proper blend of touch and accuracy
-Confident risk taker, won’t second guess himself

Weak Points:

-Struggles to maintain his poise and presence when pressured
-Too many turnover-prone mistakes against the blitz
-Loses accuracy and awareness on the move

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Began his career at East Carolina. Was the backup after his redshirt year before winning the job in 2015. He was injured before the season began, however and when he didn’t get the starting gig back, he left for Virginia as a graduate transfer. He then spent 2 years with the Cavaliers and got off to a hot start, setting some all time single season records. Benkert went on to start all but 1 game over 2 years, throwing 46 TDs and 20 INTs. When things are comfortable for him, his release looks good and there are plenty of pro-caliber throws in his arsenal. He has had several stretches that scream upside but the consistency issues against pressure were a constant. He just couldn’t seem to overcome his loss of mechanics and decision making when the pocket got dirty. Benkert has some impressive tools and natural arm talent to work with, but I don’t see more than backup-caliber potential.

NFL Comparison: Mark Sanchez / UFA

7 – Mason Rudolph – Oklahoma State – 6’5/235

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Stands tall in the pocket, confident in making reads
-Has the body to take hits and keep getting up
-Productive downfield passer

Weak Points:

-Very immobile both in and out of the pocket
-Needs to drive the ball, almost puts too much air under the downfield pass
-Doesn’t feel pressure in the pocket, needs more awareness

Summary:

An accomplished collegiate passer that threw for 86 TDs over the past three years. He actually received some Heisman talk in 2017, leading the nation with 377 yards per game and 37 touchdowns. Rudolph comes from a spread attack that never saw him call plays from a huddle of handle snaps under center. While that has become more and more common with kids coming out of college, he will still have a lot of footwork-based adjustments to make. Rudolph is a very stiff athlete, he moves like a 35 yard old veteran already. While that just isn’t his game in general, he does look way too immobile in the pocket. He has heavy feet and struggles to evade any sort of pressure when his quick read isn’t there. Rudolph doesn’t show a ton of zip on his passes and there is too much loft on his deep ball. He got away with a lot in college that he simply will not at the next level. I think he is a career backup but one that will be around for a long time. He is a top notch kid that has some “extra coach” in him.

NFL Comparison: Derek Anderson / CAR

8 – JT Barrett – Ohio State – 6’1/224

Grade: 74

Strong Points:

-Physically and mentally tough, keeps his head in pressure situations
-Anticipates throwing lanes and gets the ball out
-Still a passer when he is on the move

Weak Points:

-Lacks the desired ideal size
-Too often struggles to make the simple throws
-Makes too many incorrect reads against complex schemes

Summary:

Fifth year senior. The only 3 time team captain in Ohio State history. Unreal production over his career as both a passer and runner. Barrett took over for an injured Braxton Miller, lost his job to Cardale Jones, then took back the job and left the program with several all time school records. I don’t see Barrett as being a guy you want driving the bus, but I think he will be one of those invaluable backups in the league. He has top notch intangibles and I think he can make things happen in a pinch. His arm talent is very limited, but there are other parts to his game that can make things happen. He is a legit day 3 option for the purpose of having a long term backup locked in for years.

NFL Comparison: Blaine Gabbert / TEN

9 – Chase Litton – Marshall – 6’5/232

Grade: 74

Strong Points:

-Big and powerful arm, full body engagement
-Maintains accuracy on the move
-Excels with short area touch throws

Weak Points:

-Lacks innovation and confidence when forced to adjust on the fly
-Turnover prone
-Front leg gets stiff and will force errant throws

Summary:

Fourth year junior entry. Three year starter with tools and a few stretches of quality tape. Litton has the look. He is big and strong, he can rifle the ball in to tight windows, and he has a really clean release. When he’s on, there is a level of touch and accuracy to his throws that make you raise your eyebrows. What is frustrating wit him, however, is the lack of consistency as a decision maker. He isn’t very calm, cool, or collected when the pocket gets crowded. I’m not sure he is a kid that really understands defensive schemes and tendencies. He is a certainly a developmental prospect but I think his upside is higher than most of the names in this tier.

NFL Comparison: Tom Savage / NO

10 – Kyle Lauletta – Richmond – 6’3/222

Grade: 73

Strong Points:

-Quick release, holds it high and has no wasted motion on short throws
-Excellent foot speed and balance, keeps him under control
-Advanced eye-work, can move and manipulate the defense

Weak Points:

-Arm strength is a problem on intermediate throws where the ball needs to be placed into small window
-Too quick to tuck and run
-Deep ball has too much loft

Summary:

Fifth year senior that started for four years. Lauletta wasn’t really on the radar until Senior Bowl week. I thought he did a favor for someone by even getting on to one of the rosters. As the week progressed he was consistently proving to be a really effective short to intermediate passer. The release stood out to me. It was so quick and repeatable and the ball was almost always put on the money. I went back and was able to get 4 of his games in from 2017, 2 from 2016. There is a hole in his power game, as he just can’t put the ball on the rope and his throws outside the hash marks lack zip. But in a system that can hide those issues somewhat, Lauletta does a lot of other things at a high level. I think he is a career backup, but a dependable one that can stay under control and keep things sane.

NFL Comparison: Case Keenum / DEN

11 – Nic Shimonek – Texas Tech – 6’3/225

Grade: 71

Strong Points:

-Powerful arm, puts the ball on a rope
-Maintains his level of accuracy on the move
-Tough minded, stands tall in the pocket and will take on pressure situations

Weak Points:

-Erratic on intermediate throws
-Doesn’t put enough touch on the ball
-Needs more situational awareness

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Began his career at Iowa but quickly transferred to Texas Tech. Was a backup until 2017. Shimonek doesn’t have a ton of experience as a starter but there are tools here to work with. For those that like Josh Allen and the arm talent based ceiling, Shimonek could be your day 3 backup plan. He can really wing it and has made several deep throws that make you want to look twice. Shimonek was in and out of the lineup under Kliff Kingsbury, who is slowly stating to lose his status in college football. He is a tough kid that can leave the negative thoughts out, a very important mental trait.

NFL Comparison: Nick Foles / PHI

12 – Mike White – Western Kentucky – 6’5/224

Grade: 70

Strong Points:

-Has plus accuracy, consistently puts the ball where it needs to be
-Calm and cool, stays under control at all times
-Understands his own arm strength and will anticipate his windows well

Weak Points:

-Needs more consistent power on his throws
-Lacks the athletic ability and feel in the pocket to avoid pressure
-Too quick to tuck the ball when his initial target is covered

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Began his career at South Florida where he had a pretty poor 2 year run. He transferred to Western Kentucky and started for 2 more years. The wide open offense enabled him to produce some gaudy stats but there is more to him than that. White is a really talented thrower. He has enough arm strength to make all the throws but he doesn’t use it enough. He has almost gotten too used to trying to place and drop the ball in to buckets rather than firing it in there. White will also have a ways to go when it comes to making reads and working through progressions from the pocket, but there is arm talent here that most in this class don’t have.

NFL Comparison: AJ McCarron / BUF

13 – Luke Falk – Washington State – 6’4/215

Grade: 70

Strong Points:

-Touch thrower, high success rate on throws to all levels
-Tough in the pocket, stares pressure in the pocket
-Accurate passer on the move

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t have the arm strength to drive the ball in to tight windows
-Needs more mass on his frame
-Loses track of footwork when moving within the pocket

Summary:

Fifth year senior with 3 years of starting experience. Left Washington State with a handful of career passing records in Pac 12 history. After a couple years of excellent production in the Mike Leach scheme, Falk was on the radar for being a 1st round pick at the beginning of the season. I never saw it, however. He does control the system and himself very well in addition to being a very accurate passer. Against college defenses, a guy like this can really dominate and that, he did. But when looking for QB traits when it comes to pocket movement, reading defenses, and firing the ball in to tight windows, he has too many negatives for me to think he can ever be a starter.

NFL Comparison: David Fales / MIA

14 – Alex McGough – Florida International – 6’3/214

Grade: 69

Strong Points:

-Extends the play consistently, keeps his eyes downfield
-Dangerous thrower on the move, a lot of zip on the ball when he is rolling out
-Experienced and smart, understands how to read defenses

Weak Points:

-Coming from a lower level of college football, slower defenses and less complexity
-Lacks success and accuracy as a downfield passer
-Has struggled in poor weather

Summary:

Four year starter. I’ve been told McGough has had some of the more impressive visits with coaches and teams when it comes to whiteboard talk. Very smart and advanced football IQ. McGough occasionally made plays that most guys in this class haven’t, plain and simple. Really innovative with the ball in his hands against pressure and he makes the difficult, athletic throw look natural. He didn’t have to make a ton of deep throws, however. He needs to show he can be more of a downfield passer but who knows what will happen once he is put in to a more sophisticated situation. He is worth a shot in the dark.

NFL Comparison: Kevin Hogan / WAS

15 – Riley Ferguson – Memphis – 6’3/212 – GRADE: 68

Grade: 67

Strong Points:

-Gunslinger mentality, consistently puts the necessary zip on the ball
-Excellent thrower on the move, especially rolling out to the left
-Steps up in to the pocket, will complete difficult throws

Weak Points:

-Frail looking frame
-Release gets long
-Too reliant on arm talent, doesn’t engage his lower body enough

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Began his career at Tennessee. After battling a leg injury and losing the quarterback competition job to Josh Dobbs, Ferguson walked away from the game. He lost his passion for a year but ended up starting from the bottom at a community college in 2015. Memphis took notice and he took over the starting gig once Paxton Lynch left for the NFL. He had a really nice 2-year run. Ferguson has matured and comes in to the draft with one of the most “sling it” mentalities in the class. He is a hard nosed player with good arm talent but has a long ways to go mechanically and schematically.

NFL Comparison: Austin Davis / SEA

16 – Tanner Lee – Nebraska – 6’4/212 – GRADE: 68
17 – Brandon Silvers – Troy – 6’2/220 – GRADE: 68
18 – Matt Linehan – Idaho – 6’3/230 – GRADE: 68
19 – Logan Woodside – Toledo – 6’1/201 – GRADE: 65
20 – Danny Etling – LSU – 6’2/215 – 6’2/215 – GRADE: 64

NYG APPROACH

From day one, I’ve said this team needs to go QB at #2 overall if, and only if, they have a guy that meets the grade. This team has rightfully committed to Eli Manning for at least another year (I think it will be 2) but John Mara has said multiple times that he loved how GB passed the torch from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, whom sat for 3 years prior to taking over as the starter. I can see that being the case with a QB here and even though the immediate dividends wouldn’t exist, it would be the best long term move for the organization.

Now, if the coin flip between a QB and Barkley lands in favor of former, who will it be? I can’t imagine anyone in those walls being convinced Josh Allen is the guy and Baker Mayfield has had too many immaturity-based issues for me to think he is the next NYG franchise guy. I think it comes down to Darnold vs. Rosen if both are available. If CLE goes with one of them at #1, the decision is obviously much easier. Darnold has more Eli in him when it comes to personality But after his career, does NYG really want that along with the turnovers? I hope not. Rosen is a perfect fit for the situation here. He will be able to learn the offense inside and out (and you know he will) in addition to building up his body and also allowing Davis Webb to build up his resume to impress the league via preseason play. If Rosen checks out medically, it could be a homerun pick and one that I support fully.

But here we are, months after the debate started. Rosen vs Barkley. And we aren’t any closer to a consensus than we were back then. It is a good problem to have, as I think both would be excellent choices.

Apr 172018
 
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Derwin James, Florida State Seminoles (September 23, 2017)

Derwin James – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Safeties

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

1 – Derwin James – Florida State – 6’2/215

Grade: 90

Strong Points:

-Rare blend of size and speed to go with natural instincts
-Can be put in t multiple roles
-Downhill force that has legit sideline to sideline range in pursuit

Weak Points:

-Long legged which can make it difficult for him to fluidly change direction
-Flipping his hips doesn’t come natural for him
-Too often goes for knockout punch and won’t wrap up

Summary:

Junior entry. Missed almost all of 2016 with a knee injury. After watching him in 2015, I thought this kid would be the next Sean Taylor and that is a comparison I have ever really used before. Such a rare blend of tools and showed the knack to make plays all over the field The versatility he offers is unmatched and if the right defensive coordinator gets his hands on him, watch out. There are some movement issues in coverage however. I’m not sure I would fully trust him in deep coverage against receivers but that can be hidden a bit. He is an elite prospect.

NFL Comparison: Reshad Jones / MIA

2 – Minkah Fitzpatrick – Alabama – 6’0/204

Grade: 87

Strong Points:

-Versatility is through the roof, can credibly play any role in the secondary
-Pursues the action all over the field with proper angles and explosion
-Elite physical presence, really aggressive

Weak Points:

-More of a reaction player, doesn’t show natural flow in coverage
-Hips get stiff in man coverage
-Will over pursue and be susceptible to cutbacks

Summary:

Junior entry. Has been a three year contributor/starter for the best defense in college football. Fitzpatrick is known as “Nick Saban’s Son” on campus. His intangibles are top notch and they are paired with talent that is NFL ready right now. Some teams may view him as an outside corner while others see a nickel corner and safety. He could play anywhere in the secondary. Sometimes those players can be dangerous, however. His game still looks raw at times because there may not have been enough attention on specific skill sets. I think his best role is a safety that can spend most of his time near the line of scrimmage but will have no issues in coverage. Get this guy on the field and he will improve the defense right away.

NFL Comparison: Malcolm Jenkins / PHI

3 – Armani Watts – Texas A& M – 5’10/202

Grade: 80

Strong Points:

-Excels in both man and zone coverage when it comes to instincts and reaction speed
-Plays fast with his head on a swivel, easily alters his plans
-High level of production all four years

Weak Points

-Size and long speed are below average
-Too many missed tackles, needs more consistent technique
-Too much of an all or nothing approach

Summary:

Four year starter that has had some issues staying healthy over his career. At his size, durability is a concern at the next level and it did impact his grade a bit. Watts ended his career making a few All American teams. For some time, Watts was my favorite pure cover safety in the class. He has the instincts, easy moving lower half, and ball skills to be a major factor. The size is an issue, as is the inconsistent tackling style, but I still think he is a difference maker. His intangibles are top notch and the weaknesses in his game will be worked on. He is worth the gamble because this kid is going to make plays.

NFL Comparison: Jimmie Ward / SF

4 – Ronnie Harrison – Alabama -6’2/207

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Can change the outlook of a secondary week 1 with his bone jarring hits
-Rangy tackler that uses size and speed effectively
-Can plant his foot and burst, breaks on the ball and ball carrier in a blink

Weak Points:

-High hipped and stiff, not a good change of direction cover man
-Long speed and catch up speed are suspect
-Over pursues to the sideline, needs to contain his aggression

Summary:

Junior entry. 2 year starter that has led the Alabama defense over the past 2 years combined. The enforcer of the secondary, perhaps even the defense as a whole. Big time power and presence, he is the kind of guy that will strike fear in to NFL pass catchers over the middle. As a cover man himself, Harrison struggles to stick with his man. He allows separation because he lacks some fluidity in his hips. However when it comes to reaction speed in combination with his size, he can still impact the game in all phases. If he is used correctly, he is an impact guy right away.

NFL Comparison: TJ McDonald / MIA

5 – Damon Webb – Ohio State – 5’11/209

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Excellent range as a deep cover man, ,reaches the sideline in a blink
-Always moving in the right direction, first few steps are always productive
-A step ahead mentally, forecasts everything well

Weak Points:

-Falls under the desired size across the board
-Struggles to make an impact against tight ends in coverage
-Lacks pop as a tackler

Summary:

Fourth year senior that has started games at CB and S. The instincts are what jump off the screen here and it is arguably the most important trait I look for in a free safety. Webb has consistently shown the knack to anticipate throws and routes with the best of them. If I had to rank these safeties based on feel, Webb would be at the top. He lacks some of the desired tools, mainly size, but in a system where a true centerfielder is needed, he is a prized asset.

NFL Comparison: Rodney McLeod / PHI

6 – Marcus Allen – Penn State – 6’2/215

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Sure tackler, wraps up and hits hard consistently
-Very well timed with it comes to his leaps, lunges, and dives for ball and ball carrier
-High IQ player, very aware and assignment savvy

Weak Points:

-Too late to react to vertical routes, plays a lot of catch up
-Gets too grabby in coverage, needs to be more confident in his footwork
-Route recognition needs to be better

Summary:

3+ year starter. Led Penn State in solo tackles each of the past 2 years, a rare feat for a defensive back from that program. Allen was the leader of that defense with his ability to make big plays in big spots and his overall awareness of game situations. He was an extra coach on the field. He is a rangy tackler that can be relied on in space, but he needs to be somewhat protected in coverage. He has good-enough speed but the quick reactions and natural hip turn isn’t there. Can be a solid starter in the right situation.

NFL Comparison: Barry Church / JAC

7- Justin Reid – Stanford – 6’0/207

Grade: 76

Strong Points:

-Really good plant and burst movement, accelerates fast downhill
-Smart player, makes quick decisions and can put other players in place
-Plus ball skills in traffic, times his leaps and lunges well

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t flip his hips and get vertical fast enough
-Too much guess work in coverage, susceptible to big plays
-Can be looked off and faked routinely

Summary:

Junior entry. Brother of current free agent safety Eric Reid. Ended his career with a 2nd Team All American season. Some view this kid as a 1st rounder but I just haven’t seen him play consistently enough to put him anywhere near there. He has tools and he plays fast, but there is a lot of guess work with him. I value the natural flow and instincts at safety as much as anything and he doesn’t grade out well there. If you can hide that in your scheme, he can be solid.

NFL Comparison: Marcus Gilchrist / OAK

8 – Quin Blanding – Virginia – 6’2/207

Grade: 76

Strong Points:

-Recognizes route combinations consistently
-Light feet, very good body control gets him where he needs to be in a blink
-Reliable tackler in space

Weak Points:

-Long speed isn’t there, will have a hard time keeping pace with speed
-Doesn’t impact the ball carrier enough on tackles
-Can be outmuscled and out jumped in 50/50 situations

Summary:

Four year starter. All time leading tackler in UVA history. Blanding has been a highly touted, award winning safety for a few years now. He lacks the desired talent and ceiling but I don’t ever overlook safeties that produce a lot and play the game smart. He was head and shoulders above his opponents mentally. I think there is a spot for him somewhere, just wouldn’t count on him being a star.

NFL Comparison: Chris Conte / TB

9 – Tony Brown – Alabama – 6’0/199

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Top tier athlete that can playa physical, bad boy brand
-Sideline to sideline range, reacts fast and finishes
-Versatility all around, can be put in to multiple DB roles

Weak Points:

-Not a fluid mover when it comes to change of direction
-Lacks instincts and natural flow in coverage
-Has had some off field issues

Summary:

After being suspended for the first 4 games of 2016, Brown got in to the regular rotation wearing several hats. Some view him as a slot corner but I think he is better suited for safety. He doesn’t mirror quickness that well, but when he has some space to work with his can explode and burst in to the spot he needs to be. Brown, a All American track star, has tools that weren’t always put on display at Alabama. I actually think he would be higher-touted had he not been surrounded by so much talent at Alabama.

NFL Comparison: Tony Jefferson / BAL

10 – Deshon Elliot – Texas – 6’1/210

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Disciplined in deep coverage, maintains his position in relation to route runners
-Can play physical as a tackler
-Proved to be a ball hawk over his career

Weak Points:

-Too easily tricked by misdirection, play action, and look-offs
-Plays too high, lacks forward lean
-Balance and body control when playing the deep ball needs improvement

Summary:

Junior entry. After an All American season in 2015 as a freshman, the national spotlight got put on Elliot. Over the next two years, he never seemed to come close to those expectations. He ended up seeing his production and playing time go down a tad and there have been whispers of him not being a great team guy. Elliot has the tools and past production to give him the high ceiling label, but it’s been too long since I have seen any consistent high level play. Mid rounder that will have more potential than most drafted in that area.

NFL Comparison: Adrian Amos / CHI

11 – Jessie Bates – Wake Forest – 6’1/200

Grade: 74

Strong Points:

-Foot speed and ability to turn can be a major factor in deep coverage
-Very smart and instinctive, doesn’t waste time or steps
-Rangy against the run and pass, he is everywhere

Weak Points:

-Small frame that may not be handle downhill runners
-Lacks presence and power on contact
-Didn’t make enough plays on the ball

Summary:

Redshirt sophomore entry that surprised a lot of people with his declaration. He did have two strong years production wise with his ability to read the action and get involved consistently. He has the natural flow towards the action and foot speed to really get involved. But I question his frame and lack of power presence, something most will overlook when scouting safeties. I think he can be a solid player in time, but not early on.

NFL Comparison: Darian Thompson / NYG

12 – Godwin Iqwebuike – Northwestern – 5’11/213

Grade: 74

Strong Points:

-Long and productive career, a lot of experience and consistency
-Really well developed frame, good blend of power and agility
-Plants his foot and will burst in to his reads

Weak Points:

-Gets fooled badly by playaction and double routes
-Doesn’t bring his athleticism to plays on the ball
-Struggles to keep his head on a swivel in zone coverage

Summary:

Fifth year senior. One of the more consistent performers on the Northwestern defense for 4 straight seasons. Has been an All Big 10 performer 2 straight years. There are some out there that really like this kind, calling him a 2nd rounder. I can see why if you are looking for an extra run defender that can play the hybrid S/LB type role. He is a good tackler, shows range, and reacts well. But in coverage he never took the step up over the past couple years. He just looks a little lost and stiff out there. He has the athletic ability, but it doesn’t carry over enough. He will be an excellent special teamer and run defender, but he will be limited in coverage.

NFL Comparison: Kurt Coleman / NO

13 – Tray Matthews – Auburn – 6’1/213

Grade: 72

Strong Points:

-Versatile skill set, comfortable in multiple roles
-A mauler in the run game, he makes ball carriers feel his impact
-Rangy against the run, flies all over the place

Weak Points:

-Stiff hips in coverage, needs the extra step or two to change direction
-Struggles to consistently make plays on the ball
-Has dealt with shoulder issues which is a problem with the style he plays

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Began his career at Georgia and they were really excited about him. Made a few dumb mistakes and got kicked out of the program. He spent 3 years as a starting safety for the Tigers. He has shown major improvement with his character, he turned in to the leader of the Auburn defense. He is an excellent run defender, maybe one of the best among this group. He is a liability in coverage against WRs though. Poor man’s Fitzpatrick but one that can make an impact on special teams and run defense.

NFL Comparison: Jonathan Cyprien / JAC

14 – Van Smith – Clemson – 5’11/186

Grade: 71

Strong Points:

-Really efficiency mover with advanced footwork and fluid hips
-Plays bigger than his size, has toughness and grit
-Can shift in to the slot and cover receivers as well as some CBs

Weak Points:

-Falls well below the desired size for the position
-Struggles to wrap up ball carriers, too many missed tackles
-Didn’t make enough plays on the ball

Summary:

Junior entry. I was surprised he came out because another year in college could have thrown him in to Budda Baker territory if he showed the ability to make more plays in coverage. Smith is very small to the point where some teams won’t even look at him because of it. But rarely did I watch him and think it was a major issue. He is a tough, hard nosed defender that gets involved against the run often. Can he hold up? That’s the question. Smith didn’t make enough plays on the ball in coverage and some will say it is because of his size. He can be a package player early on but may have a very low ceiling. I still think there is some hidden nickel CB in him that could be a very good value.

NFL Comparison: Lamarcus Joyner / LAR

15 – Tracy Walker – Louisiana-Lafayette – 6’1/206

Grade: 70

Strong Points:

-Ideal measureables for the position with a frame that can handle more weight
-Quick twitch reactions to the offense, doesn’t waste time
-Played his best football against his toughest competition

Weak Points:

-Downhill-based, struggles to turn and run deep fluidly
-Lacks the natural and easy feel
-Will tackle high in space

Summary

Fifth year senior. Has led the program in interceptions each of the past 2 years and was their leading tackler in 2018. One of the top prospects coming out of the Sun Belt conference. Walker has my attention and I think my grade could have been a little higher on him had he moved better in deep coverage. As a downhill, reaction based defender, he has the goods. Really high ceiling here.

NFL Comparison: Jordan Power / BUF

16 – Rashaan Gaulden – Tennessee – 6’1/197 – GRADE: 70
17 – Josh Kalu – Nebraska – 6’0/203 – GRADE: 70
18 – Jeremy Reaves – South Alabama – 5’11/205 – GRADE: 70
19 – Tyree Robinson – Oregon – 6’2/202 – GRADE: 70
20 – Troy Apke – Penn State – 6’1/200 – GRADE – 69
21 – Kyle Quiero – Northwestern – 6’2/215 – GRADE: 67
22 – Tarvarius Moore – Southern Miss – 6’1/195 – GRADE: 67
23 – Jordan Whitehead – Pittsburgh – 5’10/198 – GRADE: 67
24 – Terrell Edmunds – Virginia Tech – 6’0/217 – GRADE: 67
25 – Tre Flowers – Oklahoma State – 6’3/202 – GRADE: 66

NYG APPROACH

When I look at the Giants defense, I note that I have been bothered by the lack of presence next to Landon Collins since he was drafted. While he has gotten off to a nice start to his career and I do view him as a long term leader on this defense, he would be much more productive with a playmaker next to him. One that can roam deep coverage and actually make plays on the ball. While I don’t consider his a major need, or even a secondary need for that matter, I wouldn’t pass on a big value if one presented itself. I am looking at that day 3 area if someone like Damon Webb was there. There are high ceiling guys available late, as well. As highly as I view Derwin James, he isn’t someone I would consider early because he is too similar to what Collins brings to the table.

Apr 162018
 
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Isaiah Oliver, Colorado Buffaloes (October 14, 2017)

Isaiah Oliver – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

1 – Isaiah Oliver – Colorado – 6’0/201

Grade: 86

Strong Points:

-Ideal physical make up with elite length
-Shows a feel for deep coverage, stays under control and locates the ball
-Very aware of body positioning, avoids penalties

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t have a ton of experience, still looks raw at times
-Needs to be more assertive as a downhill run defender
-Struggles to stick with quickness and agility underneath

Summary:

Junior entry. Was behind current starting NFL corners Ahkello Witherspoon and Chidobe Awuzie for a couple years, but he has a lot of quality tape from the 2016 and 2017. Oliver has the ideal size for the position and more than enough speed to work with. What makes him close-to-special is the ability to locate and track the football once it is in the air. His control and balance is top tier and I think he is only scratching the surface in terms of his potential. 2017 was his only year of consistent play to play snaps and he got better and better as the year went. 2016, a growing year for him, he still had 13 PDs. Oliver was an All Pac 12 decathlete for 2 years as well. You are getting a potentially special athlete with a top tier skill set. He screams upside.

NFL Comparison: Darius Slay / DET

2 – Denzel Ward – Ohio State – 5’11/183

Grade: 86

Strong Points:

-Elite change of direction and burst
-Proper blend of physical and avoiding penalties in coverage
-Excels when it comes to reaction and instincts in both man and zone coverages

Weak Points:

-Size can limit him, he can be outmuscled and pushed around
-Too much ankle diving as a tackler
-Doesn’t make enough plays on the ball, needs to locate better

Summary:

Junior entry. Widely considered the top CB in the draft. I think it comes down to what a specific team is looking for. Ward is the best athlete among the top guys. He has elite burst and change of direction, capable of breaking on passes at a level that none of the others can. He is a starting corner, but could thrive against the slot in nickel situations as well. The issue I have with him, as I do with most CBs out of Ohio State, is their transition out of their scheme. They are trained to play the man, not the ball, there. That will need to change in the NFL. Ward will be an immediate impact player in the NFL, I expect him to go top 10.

3 – Josh Jackson – Iowa – 6’0/196

Grade: 86

Strong Points:

-Has wide receiver-caliber ball skills
-Has the quick twitch reaction and downfield speed
-Anticipates passes and routes, good forecaster

Weak Points:

-Balance and body control are inconsistent against the deep ball
-Plays high at times, needs to burst out of his backpedal
-Not a big impact hitter or tackler

Summary:

Fourth year junior entry. Came to Iowa as a WR, quickly made the move to CB. Had to wait until 2017 to get a starting gig, but he flourished. Led the nation with 8 INTs and 26 PDs, 1st Team All American. Some are worried that Jackson was a one year wonder and there simply isn’t enough tape. I am on the other side of it. I think Jackson is just approaching the point of who he can be and should be a stud in the NFL. I haven’t seen a CB with his kind of ball skills in a long time, he is so natural at getting to it and showing the coordination to get on the ball. His INTs were not by luck. Jackson has some rawness still, but I think with NFL coaching and more physical development, he can be a shut down corner.

NFL Comparison: Casey Hayward / LAC

4 – Mike Hughes – Central Florida – 5’10/189

Grade: 85

Strong Points:

-Aggressive downhill defender that shows no hesitation attacking the ball carrier
-Locates and pounces on the ball, very coordinated and well-timed
-Top tier physical nature as a press corner, makes a difference at the point of attack

Weak Points:

-Undersized, lacks the desired height, weight, and length of a number one
-Can be over aggressive at times and may not have the body to handle it
-Lacks discipline with reads and technique

Summary:

Junior entry. Began his career at North Carolina but after an incident off the field that left him suspended, transferred to junior college prior to joining the UCF team in 2017. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar for the first half of the season but as the fall progressed, the name kept popping up in emails. I watched all of their regular season games prior to their bowl game against Auburn and thought he had a chance to be the top CB in this class. I still think that way. Hughes has elite upside if he can progress his decision making and techniques. There is a level of aggression, confidence, and reaction here that the others do not have. If he somehow makes it to the NYG second pick, the value may be too much to pass on.

NFL Comparison: Marcus Peters / LAR

5 – Jaire Alexander – Louisville – 5’10/196

Grade: 82

Strong Points:

-Excellent, maybe even elite plant and go explosion
-Hard nosed and aggressive, plays a mean game
-Excels in the slot, can stick to a guys pocket and react fast

Weak Points:

-Gets too caught up in the backfield, will be fooled easily
-Needs to tone it down a notch, could be a penalty machine
-Instincts aren’t there in zone coverage, he is a wild-guess type

Summary:

Junior entry. Many assumed he would go back to school in 2018 because his 2017 was slowed down by a couple of injuries. Sure enough, however, the mighty mouse speedster with an attitude came out and I know of two scouts that say he is the second ranked CB in the class. I think there is a lot of guessing with him, not enough mental capacity yet. But you have to love the aggression and ability to move. If he figures this game out a bit and is a coachable player, watch out.

NFL Comparison: Brent Grimes / TB

6 – Duke Dawson – Florida – 5’11/197

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Easy speed and change of direction
-Can mirror all kinds of receivers, has a versatile skill set
-Has the right blend of physical force and graceful footwork

Weak Points:

-Can be tight hipped against underneath routes
-Slow to get his head around downfield
-Late to reach to deep routes, plays too much catch up

Summary:

Senior that had to wait his turn, played behind current NFL cornerbacks Tabor and Wilson for a couple years. Dawson did make an impact at safety and nickel prior to 2017, however. He doesn’t jump off the screen athletically or when it comes to production, but if you really zero in on him for long stretches, he doesn’t get beat often. He understands coverage and how to blend patience and aggression together. Safe player that can fit in to any role.

NFL Comparison: Kendall Fuller / DEN

7 – Nick Nelson – Wisconsin – 5’11/200

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Competitive and fiery with the ball in the air
-Good feel and instincts whether he is in zone or man coverage
-Won’t be fooled by double routes and pump fakes, very disciplined

Weak Points:

-Lacks the desired size across the board
-Doesn’t always get his head around fast enough
-Tight hips, struggles to effectively turn and run with real speed

Summary:

Fourth year junior entry. Spent his first two seasons at Hawaii before sitting out 2016 to transfer to Wisconsin. In his one year with the Badgers, Nelson earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors, finishing 3rd in the nation with 21 PDs. Nelson lacks some of the desired physical tools but he can make up for it somewhat with really heady play and a competitive spirit. Nelson is one tough dude that understands how to cover, plain and simple. He might have a limited upside, but he is a safe bet to produce.

NFL Comparison: Chris Harris / DEN

8 – Donte Jackson – LSU – 5’10/178

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Elite, blazing speed that shows up on tape every week
-Can afford to be over aggressive off the snap, has all the makeup speed
-Easy agility and body control when changing direction underneath

Weak Points:

-Lacks the needed bulk and strength to play with a physical style
-Didn’t make a lot of plays on the ball over his career
-Lacks the instincts and natural flow towards the ball in zone coverage

Summary:

Junior entry. 2 year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2017. One of the fastest players in the entire class, has spent time on the LSU track squad. Jackson gets you excited because of how easily he moves at such a high speed. The movement skills are elite, there is no doubting that. Sometimes that movement is nullified by a lack of physical presence at the point of attack and slow decision making process. Jackson is a physical reaction type corner, not someone that has the feel or natural flow. You can still work with guys like this, especially from the slot, but they are limited to certain roles.

NFL Comparison: Nickell Robey-Coleman / LAR

9 – Carlton Davis – Auburn – 6’1/206

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Mauls receivers at the line, very physical and aggressive with size and strength
-Can turn and run with speed, solid long strider
-Wrap up tackler that will make an impact in space

Weak Points:

-A little too hands-on with receivers, could be a penalty machine if he doesn’t change
-Lack of body control in small areas, high hipped and struggles with change of direction
-Doesn’t always take in assignment football

Summary:

Junior entry. Three year starter. One of the more physically imposing corners in the class. His aggressive style jumps out at you the second the tape starts rolling, and he doesn’t stop. Very relentless approach. Davis, at a stretch during the season, was lined up to be my top CB in this class actually. Everything about him screamed what the NFL is looking for these days. However the more time I spent scouting and not just watching, I found a lot of holes in his game. He needs to be better at playing the game with his feet or else he will get burned or flagged in the NFL consistently. There are tools to work with and there will be things he excels at week 1, he just needs to clean things up. High risk, high reward and a candidate to move to safety in some schemes.

NFL Comparison: Trumaine Johnson / NYJ

10 – Holton Hill – Texas – 6’2/196

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Physically impressive all around when it comes to height, length, and speed
-Good ball skills, times his leaps and lunges for the ball well
-Understands angles and boundaries, knows where to be and when to be there

Weak Points:

-Inconsistent performer, very up and down
-Doesn’t always show the balance and body control when changing direction
-Maturity issues are a concern

Summary:

Junior entry. 2017 ended early for him, as he was suspended for the final few games. A very up and down career for Hill, one of the more physically intriguing CB prospects in the class. He has still has some growing to do in to that tall and long frame, but the tools are there. Hill has flashed a very high level of play. He can run with anyone, explode downhill, and make plays on the ball. It appears he still has a ways to go when it comes to fully understanding schemes and roles, but there is a natural sense to his game. Hill can be a starting CB, and a very good one, within a year or two if he stays clean off the field.

NFL Comparison: Artie Burns / PIT

11 – Anthony Averett – Alabama – 5’11/183

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Plus-athlete with top end speed and burst, recovers downfield well
-Can stop and adjust this path while moving at top gear
-Aggressive and physical

Weak Points:

-Lack of size and strength show up on tape
-Instincts aren’t there, he doesn’t anticipate routes or passes well
-Spends too much time in recovery mode, gets initially beat often

Summary:

Fifth year senior, two year starter. Somewhat reminiscent of last year’s CB prospect from Alabama, Marlan Humphrey. However I think Averett is a notch below him. Averett lacks the size and strength to be a physically imposing guy. Some say he is destined for the slot at the next level. The issue I have with that, however, is that he doesn’t have a very good feel post snap for the action. He is often a step behind reaction wise and the quickness step to step is average. Averett is a good straight line athlete. I see him as a backup that will be in the league for awhile, but nothing I would get overly excited about.

NFL Comparison: Quinton Dunbar / WAS

12 – Brandon Facyson – Virginia Tech – 6’1/203

Grade: 74

Strong Points:

-Well developed frame, tall, long and strong
-Brings the physical approach to the game week in, week out
-Will make receivers work to both get off the line and catch the ball

Weak Points:

-Tight hips, won’t fluidly change direction
-Doesn’t forecast short and intermediate routes, plays too much catch up
-5 interceptions in 2013, zero since

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Has had some pretty serious durability issues throughout his career and it did impact his final grade. On tape, I like Facyson and his combination of tools and size. He is best suited in a role where he has help over the top and he can jam guys up at the line. He is very good at that and he does impact the receiver that way. He just can’t seem to hang with speed and quickness. His issues can be exploited at the next level but he is the kind of player that could make a successful move to safety if he couldn’t hang at CB.

NFL Comparison: James Bradberry / CAR

13 – Kevin Toliver – LSU – 6’2/192

Grade: 73

Strong Points:

-Smooth and easy mover, has natural flow and reaction
-Quick to diagnose routes and throws
-Physical and savvy when it comes to defending balls in the air

Weak Points:

-Has battled major durability and work ethic issues entire career
-Lacks discipline with techniques related to hand-work and backpedal routine
-Deep speed isn’t there, struggles to recover against fast receivers

Summary:

Junior entry. Had a hot start to his career but then the injuries started to mount up. He had multiple shoulder injures in addition to a knee injury early in his career. Toliver also fell out of favor with the coaches on a few occasions as he battled to get back in to the lineup. LSU is a CB factory and Toliver thought he was entitled to more playing time. Not a bad kid, doesn’t get in to trouble, just had to mature a little. He has starter-traits. If he stays healthy and keeps his head down and focused, the ceiling is high.

NFL Comparison: Aquib Talib / LAR

14 – Davontae Harris – Illinois State – 5’11/203

Grade: 73

Strong Points:

-Has the quick acceleration and long speed to stick with speed
-Aggressive plays on the ball without crossing the line of being too physical
-Top notch tackler when it comes to technique and power

Weak Points:

-Gets sloppy with his footwork in press coverage, too much attention on contact
-Doesn’t close on underneath routes with enough burst
-Has a hard time flipping his hips

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Had a near-death injury as a senior in high school with internal organ repercussions. Some schools backed off their recruitment because of it. Harris had the talent to play at a bigger school but Illinois State was the one school that stuck with him. He ended his career with an FCS All American season. Harris was a tough scout because teams didn’t throw his way much. He was, talent wise, head and shoulders above his opponents. He still plays raw and tight, but there is potential here for backup duty.

NFL Comparison: Jamar Taylor / CLE

15 – Quenton Meeks – Stanford – 6’1/209

Grade: 72

Strong Points:

-Advanced techniques and overall level of discipline
-Easy movement out of his backpedal, can pounce in reaction to throws in front of him
-Accurate and physical hands as a press corner

Weak Points:

-Struggles to stick with speed and quickness, too much separation
-High hipped, will get stuck when having to reach to unplanned movement
-Lacks consistent balance and control

Summary:

Junior entry. Son to former NFL defensive coach Ron Meeks. Started 2+ years for the Cardinal and as you would expect, Weeks stood out with pro caliber technique and approach. He may not be the best athlete, but there is value in his ability to understand schemes on both sides of the ball. To add, he is a physical player that shows an aggressive style. Maybe not the starting type, but he can fill the depth chart with some upside.

NFL Comparison: PJ Williams / NO

16 – Levi Wallace – Alabama – 6’0/182 – GRADE: 72
17 – Greg Stroman – Virginia Tech – 5’11/182 – GRADE: 72
18 – Tarvarus McFadden – Florida State – 6’2/204 – GRADE: 72
19 – Isaac Yiadom – Boston College – 6’1/190 – GRADE: 71
20 – Chris Jones – Nebraska – 6’0/200 – GRADE: 71
21 – DJ Reed – Kansas State – 5’9/188 – GRADE: 70
22 – Parry Nickerson – Tulane – 5’10/182 – GRADE: 70
23 – Darius Phillips – Western Michigan – 5’10/193 – GRADE: 68
24 – Avonte Maddox – Pittsburgh – 5’9/184 – GRADE: 68
25 – Jordan Thomas – Oklahoma – 6’0/187 – GRADE: 68

NYG APPROACH

With all this talk about the offensive line woes, lack of pass rush, and a lack of long term stability at the quarterback position, there is a hole at CB that is glaring. This is a potential issue that could really haunt NYG in 2018. While some veterans have been signed in FA, they are really banking on Eli Apple turning things around. This CB class as a whole is really strong with a few guys that are potential shut down guys. If one slips to the top of the 2nd round, it may have to be a serious conversation between him and the OL talent. I expect Gettleman to use one of the first 4 picks on this position. CBs can be tricky to scout because a lot depends on the scheme, but I’m not sure I would want to go in to day 3 without a new corner.

Apr 122018
 
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Darius Leonard, South Carolina State Bulldogs (December 5, 2017)

Darius Leonard – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Linebackers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

1 – Darius Leonard – South Carolina State – 6’2/234

Grade: 86

Strong Points:

-Physically gifted athlete, top notch speed and burst with an ideal frame
-Reads and reacts in a blink, easy change of direction to pounce on the action
-A sure tackler in space

Weak Points:

-Needs more core strength to handle NFL blockers
-Coming from a lower level of college football
-Doesn’t have a lot of pop behind his hits

Summary:

Two time MEAC Defensive Player of the Year. Four straight years of leading South Carolina State in tackles. I am taking a chance on this kid, as I don’t think anyone has him graded as a 1st round player and I have him in my top 10, maybe top 5 overall. Leonard’s game is impactful all over the place, pop in any game tape and you will see what I mean. This kid can fly all over the place. Leonard is the best cover LB I have seen in a long time. There is a natural sense of decision making and reaction to him. Combined with top tier speed and quickness, he will be a playmaker. Leonard may need a year of a real professional NFL weight training program to get his core strength up to caliber, but when he does he is going to be very dangerous.

NFL Comparison: Telvin Smith / JAC

2 – Roquan Smith – Georgia – 6’1/236

Grade: 84

Strong Points:

¬-Excellent pursuit angles to the outside
-Has the long speed to factor sideline to sideline
-Maintains full power and tackling ability on the move

Weak Points:

-Struggles mightily against straight ahead run blockers
-Staying power isn’t enough for inside run defense
-Has some lower body stiffness when it comes to change of direction in short areas

Summary:

Junior entry. The leader of the SEC in tackles with 137. Smith is a favorite among almost everyone I talk to. A reliable, smart, instinctive, sure tackling, rangy LB that fits in with what the top LBs in the league are doing right now. Smith really got my attention late in the year. He was downright dominant down the stretch in their biggest games. Smith lacks some size and agility that I look for, but his best traits are the most vital. He is almost always in the right place at the right time. If you can put him in a role next to a thumper so that he can roam and make plays on the move, he will be a star. There are limitations though, he may struggle to be THE inside run defender if he isn’t protected.

NFL Comparison Jonathan Vilma / RET

3 – Rashaan Evans – Alabama – 6’2/232

Grade: 83

Strong Points:

-Versatile and capable of handling multiple roles
-Explodes out of his breaks with full power and ability to change direction
-Smart and instinctive

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t maintain his power presence against run blockers
-Over pursues, doesn’t track the cutback lane assignments
-Struggles to make correct reads in coverage

Summary:

2 year starter, most were assuming Evans would be the next first round linebacker from Alabama. He struggled to find a true role, as the coaching staff was bouncing him back and forth, inside/outside. While he was inconsistent, Evans brings the skill set and overall approach that translates to the NFL very well. I think his best role is an inside spot as a thumper that can make the occasional athletic play. Evans is really good at missing the meat of a block with his burst and change of direction. He has the strength and power to make an impact inside and in some situations can rush the edge on passing downs. He is a safe pick that is put in the right scheme can mold in to a star defender.

NFL Comparison: Demario Davis / NO

4 – Tremaine Edmunds – Virginia Tech – 6’4/253

Grade: 80

Strong Points

-Rare blend of size and speed at just 20 years old
-Makes an impact in all phases, perfect for the middle level of the defense
-A weapon on third down as a pass rusher and cover man

Weak Points:

-Instincts are a few steps behind
-Fooled easy on counters and misdirection, poor vision
-Power backs will run through his arm tackles, lacks core strength

Summary:

Junior entry. Will be just 20 years old draft weekend. Has been extremely productive over the past two years across the entire stat sheet. Edmunds is a favorite of scouts and evaluators that are looking for potential upside. His tools are unmatched and he has proven to be more than just an athlete. Edmunds can continue to grow in to his massive frame and end up being an excellent edge rusher, or stay put where he is and be an answer for pass catching tight ends. He is that versatile. However I struggle to see the star in him because he seems to struggle with the game mentally. He doesn’t make fluid and easy decisions and that athleticism can sometime be a detriment. I like him, but I don’t think he is elite.

NFL Comparison: De’Vondre Campbell / ATL

5 – Genard Avery – Memphis – 6’0/248

Grade: 79

Strong Points:

-A violent, borderline reckless truck when it comes to taking on blocks
-Excellent straight line speed that can stop and go on a dime
-Versatility, a three down threat that can wear almost every hat in any scheme

Weak Points:

-Short-limbed that can get locked up by longer, better linemen
-Initial reads are a step behind, gets caught in traffic
-Over pursues, will miss tackles in space

Summary:

Three year starter. 33 TFL and 13.5 sacks over the past two years. Avery has been bounced around the defense not because they couldn’t find a niche for him, but because he does everything at a high level. Avery might be the most powerful LB in this class and he moves exceptionally well. His best role would be an inside thumper that will make the occasional play outside and as a pass rusher, but not one that needs to come off the field on 3rd down. Avery is higher on my board than anything I see out there. I think he is one of the top sleepers in the draft.

NFL Comparison: Jon Bostic / PIT

6 – Leighton Vander Esch – Boise State – 6’4/256

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Attractive frame with plus long speed and flexibility
-Aware and quick reacting, understands the game and applies it
-Rangy tackler, will reach ball carriers in traffic that others simply do not

Weak Points

-Plays too high, making him an easy target for blockers
-Hesitant with tight ankles, doesn’t play fast between the tackles
-Needs more core strength, can be knocked off his intended path too easily

NFL Comparison: Jake Ryan / GB

7 – Malik Jefferson – Texas – 6’2/236

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Explosive downhill defender that brings the heat on contact
-3 down player that is a fluid and easy mover in coverage
-Violent tackler that blends proper technique and pop, doesn’t miss often

Weak Points:

-Lack of quality movement post-snap, doesn’t move in the right direction
-Too reliant on speed and quickness, not enough on instincts
-Poor angles in lateral pursuit

Summary:

Junior entry. Three year starter that has been all over the stat sheet since coming to Texas. Jefferson has the ability to fly all over the field and make plays against the run and pass. He is a physical downhill defender that has enough size to factor in the power game and enough athleticism to factor in the speed game. He fails to make consistent, simple reads post snap and I think that could limit him in the NFL, however if he is paired with the right surrounding players he can be the mobile playmaker.

NFL Comparison: Zach Brown / WAS

8 – Matthew Thomas – Florida State – 6’3/236

Grade: 76

Strong Points:

-Long, wiry frame that will hold more weight
-Speed and explosion are both near top notch
-Assignment savvy, plays within his role and shows discipline

Weak Points:

-Needs to be more physical at the point of attack
-Doesn’t factor against the inside run enough
-Needs to be a bigger factor in coverage

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Teams will need to look in to his medicals, as he’s been banged up a few different times throughout his career and there have been whispers about some internal sicknesses in the past. I don’t know enough about that to factor it in to the grade, however. Thomas screams upside. His speed and quick twitch matched with a frame that can be molded in to a sturdier piece of work can give off a notion of high upside that can be used in a variety of ways. Thomas plays smart and disciplined. He quietly led the Seminoles in tackles over the past 2 years while adding 21 TFL, most among LBs. There is a really high ceiling here.

NFL Comparison: Jamie Collins / CLE

9 – Devante Downs – California – 6’2/252

Grade: 76

Strong Points

-Has plus power and speed as a downhill defender
-Diagnoses post-snap and swallows a gap in a blink
-Smart and savvy, right place/right time defender

Weak Points:

-Torn ACL halfway through 2017 season, still recovering
-Plays high, needs to trust his footwork and leg drive more
-Long speed can be questioned

Summary:

Three year starter that I started to really zero in on during the 2017 season. He had a credible shot at earning Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors had he stayed healthy. The concern here is that he tore the other ACL in high school, so you can make the argument this prospect is damaged goods that isn’t worth drafting. I don’t feel that way, as I think Downs is the kind of kid I would take a chance on. He looked like a 1st round talent and he is a first class person as well. In a pretty weak LB class overall, Downs can be a big time player if he can stay on the field.

NFL Comparison: Avery Williamson / NYJ

10 – Josey Jewell – Iowa – 6’1/234

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Productive, consistent, reliable, always plays within himself
-Makes quick decisions and won’t waste any time acting on it
-Low to the ground and will find his way to the ball one way or another

Weak Points:

-Lack of speed shows up in lateral pursuit
-Struggles to hang with speed and quickness in coverage
-Doesn’t play the power game well against blockers

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Three time team captain. Has been first or second in the Big 10 in tackles for three straight seasons. Jewell is the classic Big 10 linebacker that will impress with production and instincts, but disappoint with overall athleticism and range. I usually like guys like Jewell, but I think there is too much bad tape on him to put him any higher than the mid round region. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see him starting somewhere year one and racking up the tackles, I just don’t see the fit for most schemes. I have a lot of notes on him just being outclassed athletically. Every team can use a guy like this on special teams and the depth chart, but that’s about it for me.

NFL Comparison: Antonio Morrison / IND

11 – Oren Burks – Vanderbilt – 6’3/233

Grade: 74

Strong Points:

-Top tier athlete for the position
-Excels in coverage, easy moving, quick reactions, quality reads
-Plays hard and aggressive against the run

Weak Points:

-Still relatively new to the position, and he plays like it against the run
-Over pursues on outside runs, fails to break down and stay under control
-Doesn’t make a power impact on contact, too many missed tackles

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Began his career as a safety and actually led Vanderbilt in interceptions in 2015. Since then, he has put on almost 20 pounds and could be the best cover LB in the class. Burks still moves like a safety, as he excels in man coverage and shows the kind of range that can factor all over the field. He still lacks the power game inside and as a tackler, but as with most LBs like this, if he finds the right scheme he can be a major weapon. I’m just not sure it will be an every down impact. High ceiling.

NFL Comparison: Tahir Whitehead / OAK

12 – Fred Warner – BYU – 6’3/236

Grade: 74

Strong Points:

-Quick twitched and fast to accelerate straight lines, makes an impact athletically
-A hard nosed bruiser, wants to punch guys in the mouth
-Scrapes over the top of the blockers and finds his lanes

Weak Points:

-Lacks consistent techniques when it comes to tackling and taking on blocks
-Gets lost in traffic as a downhill defender
-Doesn’t carry over his athleticism to coverage

Summary:

3+ year starter. Team leader in tackles and 2nd in TFL each of the past two seasons. Warner is a jack of all trades run stuffer. He hits hard, plays with an aggressive style, and will make tackles all over the field. He enjoys the role of an on-field bully. Warner is a plus athlete that can fit in to multiple roles, but he hasn’t been very good in coverage. That was the case at the Senior Bowl as well. A plus special teamer with a possibility to be more down the road.

NFL Comparison: Jonathan Casillas / FA

13 – Jerome Baker – Ohio State – 6’1/229

Grade: 71

Strong Points:

-Top notch speed and explosion
-Sure tackler on the move, reliable in space
-Shows good instincts and blocker awareness outside the tackles

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t always look like the athlete he is in coverage
-Won’t take on blocks between the tackles well
-Leaves gaping cutback lanes

Summary:

Junior entry. Has received a decent amount of attention because of his plus-athletic ability and big performances on the national stage. But the more I watch of Baker, the less I like. He isn’t a very physical guy and you would think he would be better in coverage. For a team needing some speed on the weak side to pursue, he will have value. But other than that, there are a lot of red flags.

NFL Comparison: Darron Lee / NYJ

14 – Nyles Morgan – Notre Dame – 6’1/230

Grade: 70

Strong Points:

-Active feet when diagnosing plays, always ready to pounce
-Brings the punch as a downhill defender
-Makes himself small to blockers

Weak Points:

-Too many missed tackles in space, needs to wrap up
-Doesn’t adjust well, too much momentum for him to break
-Non factor in coverage

Summary:

Two year starter. Played among some really good talent at the LB position and it both helped and hurt his production. Morgan is a smart player that is at his best between the tackles as a thumper. He needs to clean up his game as a wrap up tackler, however. His impact against the pass won’t be enough to make up for poor tackling. There are some things to work with here, and he will be a very good special teamer.

NFL Comparison: Anthony Hitchens / KC

15 – Micah Kiser – Virginia – 6’0/238

Grade: 69

Strong Points:

-Smart and quick decision maker, like another coach on the field
-Strong and stout against blockers, will knock them back
-Aggressive and sure tackler

Weak Points:

-Lacks range and athletic versatility
-The quick twitch and burst in coverage aren’t there
-Heavy feet, needs a few extra steps to change his path

Summary:

3 year starter. Led the ACC in tackles in 2017 and 2016, 3rd in 2015. Really smart, hard nosed, old school run stuffer than needs a certain role and scheme. If he finds it, he will make an impact against the run. Kiser is smart enough to factor in coverage, but there are holes in his movement that can be exploited.

NFL Comparison: Vince Williams / PIT

16 – Dorian O’Daniel – Clemson – 6’0/223 – GRADE: 69
17 – JaWhuan Bentley – Purdue – 6’2/246 – GRADE: 69
18 – Mike McCray – Michigan – 6’1/243 – GRADE: 69
19 – Travin Howard – TCU – 6’1/220 – GRADE: 68
20 – Skai Moore – South Carolina – 6’2/226 – GRADE: 68
21 – Jack Cichy – Wisconsin – 6’2/238 – GRADE: 67
22 – Garrett Dooley – Wisconsin – 6’2/248 – GRADE: 67
23 – Shaquiem Griffin – Central Florida – 6’0/227 – GRADE: 67
24 – Kenny Young – UCLA – 6’1/236 – GRADE: 66
25 – Tegray Scales – Indiana – 6’0/230 – GRADE: 66

NYG APPROACH

When it comes to the new NYG defensive scheme, it appears they are set with their two starters inside. Goodson is the thumper and Ogletree is the rangy playmaker. Behind them, however, there isn’t much to speak of. As we saw last year, there can be talent brought in off the street that can, if they fit the scheme and role, keep the middle of the defense “good enough.” Depth is an issue, but I’m not sure that issue is strong enough to overlook the other holes in this roster. This isn’t a spot I would look to until the end of the draft unless you see a plus-plus value available. Someone like Leonard in round 2/3 or Avery in round 5 is something that could happen. But it would be hard to pass on OL value at that point for an inside LB.