Nov 132019
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The New York Giants are a broken franchise. Their 10-34 record since 2016 is one of the very worst in football. Six of their last seven seasons have been losing seasons. They’ve fired one general manger, one vice president of player evaluation, and two head coaches during this time period. A head coach hired in 2016 was fired two years later. He was replaced by a coach with a 17-42 (.288) head coach record. The defense has become a perennial embarrassment and the offense isn’t much better. The Giants can’t beat the Cowboys (losing 12 of their last 15) and Eagles (losing 10 of their last 11). The Giants have become the “get right” team for opponents who have otherwise struggled.

How do the Giants get out of this mess? How do they fix it? Ownership needs to take a step back and dispassionately analyze the situation moving forward, both from an organization standpoint and a player personnel standpoint. One flows from the other.


General Manager: The Giants never really had a general manager search in early 2018. The minute former general manager Ernie Accorsi was hired to “consult” on the GM search, the coronation of Dave Gettleman was a foregone conclusion. We all know it. Gettleman appears to have drafted much better than his predecessor, being unafraid to make two controversial top-six picks in Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones. On the other hand, his free agent acquisitions have left much to be desired.

The bottom line is the Giants have not improved under his tenure. The same problems on the offensive line and defense continue to plague this team with no light apparent at the end of the tunnel. The Giants seem years away from seriously competing in their own division, let alone against the better teams outside of the division. In fact, they are one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Gettleman, who battled life-threatening lymphoma in 2018, will be 69 years old in February. Ownership is obviously comfortable with him given his long-standing relationship with the team that began two decades ago. But that may be part of the problem. One can become too comfortable. There is a lot to be said for stability, familiarity, and once-proven methods. But the organizational structure the Giants are still relying on has them now firmly ensconced in their worst period of football since the structure was adopted by George Young in 1979. In other words, the Giants have returned to their 1960s-1970s nadir. It’s not working.

Hiring a post-retirement age GM to oversee a rebuilding effort seemed odd in 2018. It appears even worse today. This offseason, John Mara and Steve Tisch must decide whether Gettleman is the right man moving forward, especially with the team poised to have large amount of salary-cap space to operate with. A potential fly in the ointment is the fact that Vice President of Football Operations/Assistant General Manager Kevin Abrams, the team’s salary cap “guru”, is clearly being groomed to replace Gettleman. Abrams started with the team in 1999, the same year Gettleman arrived, and has been weaned on the “Giants way” of doing things. Ownership probably considers this a huge plus. Many fans would beg to differ.

Recommendation: This team is years away from seriously competing again. Gettleman is too old to oversee the multi-year rebuild. It’s time to hand the keys over to Abrams unless ownership intends to conduct a serious general manager search outside of the organization, which is doubtful. Gettleman should also not be deciding coaching decisions at this point. Let the next GM pick his people.

Head Coach: Pat Shurmur isn’t the answer. He’s a 17-42 head coach who has won seven games in two years with the Giants. The team is not getting better under his guidance. Shurmur seems like a great guy, a good family man. But organizations usually don’t thrive under the guidance of “nice guys.” He has a milquetoast personality and his game-day coaching instincts are on par with George Costanza. He should actually do the opposite of what his instincts tell him. He would be better off. And so would the Giants. If that weren’t enough, the coaching staff he has cobbled together isn’t impressive either.

Recommendation #1: Fire the entire coaching staff. You can’t win in the NFL if you don’t have good coaches. Mara will be tempted to adopt his 2006 approach where he forced Tom Coughlin to get rid of both coordinators. But Pat Shurmur is not Tom Coughlin. Mara swung and missed with Ben McAdoo. He did the same with Pat Shurmur. Let the new GM pick the head coach and stay out of it. You’ve got some Costanza in you too, John.

Recommendation #2: Stop hiring “offensive gurus.” Get back to your roots: defense. Hire a defensive-oriented coach with strong leadership and organizational skills, or at least, make sure your new head coach hires an experienced defensive coordinator who knows what he’s doing (i.e., a Rod Marinelli type).

Pro Personnel and College Scouting: Something is endemically wrong with the Giants ability to scout offensive linemen, linebackers, and safeties. This must be addressed. If the scouts can’t get the job done, replace them.

Recommendation: Analyze every draft and free agent mistake. Find out who was the leading advocate for acquiring those mistakes. See if there are disturbing trends of incompetency. If so, terminate the offenders.


Defense: Full disclosure, I am personally biased towards defense. I firmly believe a team can compete and win with a middle-of-the-pack offense if they have strong defense and special teams. On the other hand, I do not believe a team can consistently win with middle-of-the-pack or worse defense. In my view, good defense can cover for a multitude of sins. I also believe that a team’s physicality and mental and physical toughness emanates from the defensive side of the football. Outside of 2011, most of the great Giants teams played great defense. And their personality came from their defense.

The Giants will not win again until they field a good defensive team. Outside a blip here and there, the Giants have been dreadful on defense for years, not just middle-of-the-pack, but near dead last. You can’t win like that. How many times have we seen the defense fold in a key situation, on 3rd-and-long, or defending a lead in the 4th quarter? Enough.

Recommendation: Stop emphasizing the offensive side of the football over the defense. We’ve seen that having a great wide receiver or running back won’t help you win unless you play good defense. Switching quarterbacks won’t matter either. Hire strong defensive coaches, including at the top head-coaching spot, and build a perennially strong defense. Start beating the crap out of other teams again. Deliver the punch instead of taking it. The wins will follow.

Offensive Line: We have to state the obvious. The Giants are completely incompetent when it comes to building an offensive line. Two general managers, three head coaches, and three offensive line coaches have been able to cobble together a remotely passable group. Talk to any non-Giants fan and what’s the first thing they usually say? “Man, your offensive line sucks!” It’s been that way for years. And contrary to popular belief, it is not because the Giants haven’t spent a lot of resources trying to fix the problem. They have. They have spent multiple premium draft picks and thrown millions of free agent dollars on players who simply could not perform at an acceptable level.

The Giants wasted the second-half of Eli Manning’s 16-year career due to poor offensive line play. The are now wasting Saquon Barkley’s early career and negatively impacting the development of Daniel Jones. The Giants can’t run or pass block. It’s pathetic. Enough.

Recommendation: Unless the Giants have a sleeper in Nick Gates, the team must acquire two new starting tackles and a starting center this offseason. The strong temptation will be use the top five pick on a tackle and throw as much money as possible to acquire the best free agent tackle and/or center the market. That is dangerous thinking. You can build a respectable offensive line without overspending in terms of draft capital or dollars. See Ereck Flowers and Nate Solder. Address the line, but be smart about it. It will do the team no good if you are cutting these players three years from now. For those who say the Giants will have a ton of cap space so they can afford to overspend, I say no. There will be a bunch of teams with just as much cap space or more as the Giants this offseason. Prices will get out of hand rapidly. And many of these other teams have pressing needs on the offensive line. Contracts like the ones the Giants gave Nate Solder will prevent the team from re-signing its hopefully talented draft picks to their second contracts.

Heavily scout the college ranks and free agent pool for offensive linemen. Along with the defense, addressing the offensive line must be the priority. The measurables are important, but so is the attitude. You can win with guys like Rich Seubert, David Diehl, and Shaun O’Hara. If you see another guy like Kareem McKenzie or Ron Stone, maybe open the pocket book. Like I mentioned on the other side of the ball, the Giants must become a more physical football team. Everything else will flow from the offensive line. Daniel Jones will look better. Saquon Barkley will look like the back he was at Penn State. And receivers will seem miraculously far more open.


Too simplistic? Perhaps. But sometimes there is beauty in simplicity. This team has been a bottom feeder treading water for years now. And I keep finding myself coming back to the same themes as to why:

  • Poor player acquisition.
  • Poor coaching.
  • Poor defense.
  • Poor offensive line play.

Some of these are bigger fish to fry. Fixing structural organizational problems is a nightmare. But unless the Giants acquire and coach talent better, nothing else will matter. Why does the defense suck? Because they don’t have enough good defensive players and they aren’t very well coached. It’s that simple. Same with the offensive line. Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur were the wrong men to lead this team. Admit to the mistake and move on, just like you did with Eli Apple and Ereck Flowers.

Organizational issues aside, we have all seen that this team can’t consistently compete until it fixes the defense and offensive line. And both have been a problem since the last Championship. Enough is enough. The problems are obvious to everyone. Fix it.

Feb 172016
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Steve Spagnuolo and Jonathan Casillas, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Steve Spagnuolo and Jonathan Casillas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Now that the dust has settled and the New York Giants have officially announced the make-up of Ben McAdoo’s coaching staff, let’s take a closer look at its composition.

Overall, not counting the head coach, there are 20 coaching positions. Eight of the 20 coaches are new to the organization. All three coordinators are holdovers from the Tom Coughlin era, with Mike Sullivan being promoted to offensive coordinator.

Offensive Coaching Staff (8 Coaches)

There are three offensive coaches new to the organization: Quarterbacks Coach Frank Cignetti, Jr., Wide Receivers Coach Adam Henry, and Offensive Line Coach Mike Solari. The holdovers are Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan (brought to the Giants by Tom Coughlin in 2004 and again in 2015), Running Backs Coach Craig Johnson (came aboard with McAdoo in 2014), Tight Ends Coach Kevin M. Gilbride (hired in 2010 and son of former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride), Assistant Offensive Line Coach Lunda Wells (hired in 2012), and Offensive Assistant Ryan Roeder (hired in 2013).

McAdoo pursued former Miami Dolphins Head Coach and Green Bay Packers Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin as an assistant head coach, but Philbin accepted the same position with the Indianapolis Colts instead. Philbin was McAdoo’s boss in Green Bay for five years. He probably would have served as a crutch for McAdoo if had come to New York.

It is interesting to note that five of the eight offensive coaches have experience as offensive coordinators with other teams, including Sullivan (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Cignetti (St. Louis Rams, Rutgers University, University of Pittsburgh, University of California, University of North Carolina, Fresno State, Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Johnson (University of Maryland and Virginia Military Institute), Henry (McNeese State University), and Solari (Kansas City Chiefs and University of Pittsburgh).

Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan: With McAdoo being promoted to head coach, the offensive coordinator position became vacant. To fill it, the 49-year old Sullivan was promoted to offensive coordinator. It remains to be seen how much influence Sullivan really will have. Other than 2015, Sullivan’s background is not based on the West Coast offensive system. And McAdoo has not yet publicly announced who will even call the plays. Sullivan was highly respected by Coughlin, but his two years in Tampa as offensive coordinator did not go well. With the Giants, Sullivan has coached wide receivers (2004-2009) and quarterbacks (2010-2011, 2015).

Quarterbacks Coach Frank Cignetti, Jr.: The 50-year old Cignetti is a well-travelled coach with a ton of experience as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He has never really worked with a quarterback the quality of Eli Manning. He replaces Sullivan, who was promoted to offensive coordinator.

Running Backs Coach Craig Johnson: The 55-year old Johnson arrived with McAdoo in 2014. Assuming McAdoo had some sort of influence in Johnson’s hiring, it is not surprising that that McAdoo retained him. Most of Johnson’s experience is actually coaching quarterbacks. He also served as assistant head coach of the Titans for one season.

Wide Receivers Coach Adam Henry: Odell Beckham, Jr. is extremely tight with the 43-year old Henry, who coached OBJ at LSU. At the pro level, Henry coached the 49ers’ wide receivers in 2015 and the Raiders’ tight ends in 2009-2011. He replaces Sean Ryan, who the Giants decided not to retain.

Tight Ends Coach Kevin M. Gilbride: The 36-year old Gilbride is now the longest-tenured Giants’ offensive coach, having arrived in 2010. When Gilbride was hired, fans feared it was pure nepotism on the part of the team given the fact that his father was the offensive coordinator at the time. Gilbride’s work as wide receivers coach in 2012-2013 was nondescript and he was re-assigned as the tight ends coach in 2014. Under his tutelage, Larry Donnell and Will Tye developed from no-name, small-school rookie free agents to viable pro targets.

Offensive Line Coach Mike Solari: The 61-year old Solari is the oldest coach on the team. He is considered one of the best offensive line coaches in the game, having coached very solid lines in Kansas City and San Francisco. Solari spent last season with Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, so he also now has a better understanding of the West Coast system. Solari replaces Pat Flaherty, whom the team chose not to retain.

Assistant Offensive Line Coach Lunda Wells: Interestingly, rather than bring in two new offensive line coaches, the Giants decided to part ways with Pat Flaherty and retain the popular Lunda Wells. The 33-year old Wells joined the Giants in 2012 and became the assistant offensive line coach in 2013 when Matt Rhule left to become Temple University’s head coach. Before coming to the Giants, Wells did assistant coaching work at LSU.

Offensive Assistant Ryan Roeder: The 36-year old Roeder came to the Giants in 2013 after serving as the tight ends coach at Princeton University for three seasons.

Defensive Coaching Staff (7 Coaches)

There are three defensive coaches new to the organization: Defensive Line Coach Patrick Graham, Assistant Defensive Line Coach Jeff Zgonina, and Linebackers Coach Bill McGovern. The holdovers are Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo (brought to the Giants by Tom Coughlin in 2007 and again in 2015), Cornerbacks Coach Tim Walton (came aboard with Spagnuolo in 2015), Safeties Coach David Merritt (the only coach remaining who came to the Giants with Tom Coughlin in 2004), and Defensive Assistant Rob Leonard (hired in 2013). In a nutshell, at the position coach level, the Giants decided to part ways with their front seven defensive coaches and keep their secondary coaches.

The big story here is the retention of Steve Spagnuolo despite the Giants not only finishing dead last in defense, but having the third-worst defense in NFL history. Alarmingly, Spagnuolo’s defense in New Orleans in 2012 was also the worst in NFL history. Since Spagnuolo is reportedly admired by ownership and was interviewed for the team’s head coaching position, one wonders if McAdoo had full autonomy to decide his fate.

Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo: It’s been eight years since the 56-year old Spagnuolo coached a decent defense as defensive coordinator. Since then, two of his defenses have ended up being the worst in NFL history. Spagnuolo has to prove that he can oversee even a competent defense without an all-star defensive line. Spagnuolo has NFL experience as a linebackers and defensive backs position coach, mainly with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was also head coach of the St. Louis Rams (2009-2011) and assistant head coach of the Baltimore Ravens (2014).

Defensive Line Coach Patrick Graham: The 37-year old Graham was highly respected and popular in New England. He has served as both defensive line coach (2012-2013) and linebackers coach (2011, 2014-2015) under Bill Belichick. Graham replaces Robert Nunn, whom the team chose not to retain.

Assistant Defensive Line Coach Jeff Zgonina: The assistant defensive line coach position is a new position on the Giants. The 45-year old Zgonina has only one year of coaching experience, but he played an astounding 17 years in the NFL as a tough, blue-collar, overachieving defensive tackle for seven teams.

Linebackers Coach Bill McGovern: The Giants passed on Mike Singletary to hire the 53-year old McGovern. McGovern coached linebackers at Boston College for 13 years before serving as the Philadelphia Eagles’ outside linebackers coach for three seasons. He replaces Jim Herrmann, whom the team chose not to retain.

Cornerbacks Coach Tim Walton: The 44-year old Walton came aboard with Steve Spagnuolo in 2015 so it isn’t a surprise that he was retained. Walton has experience as a defensive coordinator with the University of Miami, University of Memphis, and St. Louis Rams. He was the defensive backs coach for the Detroit Lions for four years (2009-2012).

Safeties Coach David Merritt: The 44-year old Merritt has been with the Giants now longer than any other coach, having arrived with Tom Coughlin in 2004. Since 2006, he has coached the team’s safeties and worked with Steve Spagnuolo on the Giants in 2007-2008 and 2015.

Defensive Assistant Rob Leonard: The 30-year old Leonard joined the Giants’ staff in 2013. Before that, he only did graduate assistant coaching work at North Carolina State University.

Special Teams Coaching Staff (2 Coaches)

No major change here given the fact that Tom Quinn will remain the team’s special teams coordinator, a position he took over in 2007. Larry Izzo, who had been the assistant special teams coach, departed as he received a promotion from the Houston Texans as their new special teams coordinator.

Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn: The much-maligned, 48-year old Quinn had arguably his best season as special teams coordinator in 2015. That said, special teams play was a factor in four losses (Saints, Patriots, Jets, Panthers). Like with Spagnuolo, one wonders if McAdoo had full autonomy to retain or dismiss Quinn.

Assistant Special Teams Coach Dwayne Stukes: The Giants probably preferred to keep Izzo. But with his departure, a vacancy had to be filled. The 39-year old Stukes has special teams coaching experience with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears.

Strength and Conditioning Coaching Staff (3 Coaches)

The major change here was at the top. After six consecutive injury-plagued seasons in a row, the team replaced Jerry Palmieri with Aaron Wellman. Palmieri had been with the Giants since 2004.

Strength and Conditioning Coach Aaron Wellman: The 41-year old Wellman has never coached at the pro level. But he is well-respected in the business and on top of the latest trends in sports training. He has worked at the university level at Indiana, Michigan State, Ball State, San Diego State, Michigan, and Notre Dame.

Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Markus Paul: The 49-year old Paul has been with the Giants since 2007 after having spent time with the Saints (1998-1999), Patriots (2000-2004), and Jets (2005-2006).

Performance Manager Joe Danos: The 35-year old Danos has been with the Giants since 2013. Before coming to the team, he spent time at the college level at LSU, SMU, and Florida State.

Overall, McAdoo decided to part ways with five coaches: Sean Ryan (wide receivers), Pat Flaherty (offensive line), Robert Nunn (defensive line), Jim Herrmann (linebackers), and Jerry Palmieri (strength and conditioning). The vacancies filled by the three other new guys were created by Mike Sullivan’s promotion, Larry Izzo receiving a promotion from the Texans, and the new assistant defensive line coaching position. Replacing the wide receivers, offensive line, defensive line, and linebackers coaches is no small move. But all three coordinators are holdovers from Coughlin’s staff plus the running backs, tight ends, cornerbacks, and safeties coaches.

Jan 042016
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In January 2004, the New York Giants appeared to be a broken franchise. The team that had come tantalizing close to an NFL title in 2000 had once again begun to slip into mediocrity. It had been 13 years and three head coaches since the team’s sixth NFL title in 1990. And after a horrific 4-12 season in 2003, the Giants appeared far from ending their championship drought. The Giants had only made the playoffs four times since Bill Parcells quit and yet another coach had just been let go.

On January 6, 2004, Tom Coughlin became the 16th head coach of the New York Football Giants. After he was introduced by then-General Manager Ernie Accorsi at his introductory press conference on January 7, Coughlin addressed the media.

“What we must be all about right now, immediately, is the restoration of pride; self pride, team pride, the restoration of our professionalism and the dignity of which we conduct our business,” said Coughin. “We must restore our belief in the process by which we will win. We must replace despair with hope and return the energy and the passion to New York Giant football.”

“My job is to convince these young men that with the parity that exists in this league today, the difference is in the preparation and that our formula will earn us the right to win,” said Coughlin, prophetically using the very words that would become the title of his book nine years later.

The rebuilding process began in 2004 with the draft-day mega-trade for quarterback Eli Manning and the selection of Coughlin’s eventual son-in-law, guard Chris Snee, in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft. In free agency, the Giants added quarterback Kurt Warner, center Shaun O’Hara, and defensive tackle Fred Robbins. New York started the season 5-2, but after falling to 5-4, Coughlin decided to bench Warner and begin the Eli Manning era. Manning only won one game that season, the finale against the Cowboys, as the Giants finished the year 6-10.

More pieces arrived in 2005. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress, right tackle Kareem McKenzie, and linebacker Antonio Pierce were signed in free agency. Cornerback Corey Webster, defensive end Justin Tuck, and running back Brandon Jacobs were drafted. Both co-owners, Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch, passed away from cancer within three weeks of each other during the season. The Giants surprised everyone by finishing 11-5 and winning the NFC East before being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs 23-0 by the Carolina Panthers.

In 2006, the Giants added cornerbacks Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters in free agency and drafted defensive end/linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka and defensive tackle Barry Cofield. Despite a second straight playoff appearance, the 2006 season was a disappointment. After starting 6-2, the Giants lost six of their last eight games and finished 8-8. They were one-and-done again in the playoffs, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 23-20. In just his third season, Coughlin was already on the hot seat and many wanted him gone. He was forced fire both his offensive (John Hufnagel) and defensive (Tim Lewis) coordinators. Mike Sweatman, the special teams coordinator, also retired.

The 2007 New York Giants ended up being one of the most remarkable teams in all of sports history. Coughlin softened his approach and listened more to his players. New additions included kicker Lawrence Tynes, linebacker Kawika Mitchell, cornerback Aaron Ross, wide receiver Steve Smith, tight end Kevin Boss, and running back Ahmad Bradshaw. With a completely new set of coordinators on offense (Kevin Gilbride), defense (Steve Spagnuolo), and special teams (Tom Quinn), the team lost its first two games, won six straight, and looked very shaky down the stretch, playing .500 football in the last eight games, and barely making the playoffs for the third year in a row. Nobody – and I do mean nobody – gave the 10-6, #5 seed Wild Card Giants a shot at winning three straight road playoff games. Up until that point, in their entire history since 1925, the New York Giants had only cumulatively won three post-season away games. The “road warrior” Giants went on to double that total by defeating the #4 seed Buccaneers, #1 seed Cowboys, and #2 seed Packers before shocking the sports world by beating the AFC’s #1 seed, the “best team of all time” 18-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. In a matter of a few games, Eli Manning developed into a true franchise quarterback. Coughlin became the fifth head coach in team history to win an NFL Championship, New York’s seventh overall.

Coughlin’s best regular season with the Giants came in 2008 as the team went an NFC best 12-4 and won the NFC East. However, the Plaxico Burress shooting incident and mounting injuries derailed a team that had beaten both eventual Super Bowl participants, and the Giants were one-and-done in the playoffs against the Eagles again. The Giants missed the playoffs in 2009 and 2010 with 8-8 and 10-6 records and Tom Coughlin was once again on the proverbial hot seat. Spagnuolo departed and was replaced first by Bill Sheridan and then Perry Fewell. New additions during these three years included wide receivers Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham; tight end Jake Ballard; defensive linemen Jason Pierre-Paul, Chris Canty, and Linval Joseph; linebacker Michael Boley; and safeties Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle, and Deon Grant.

In 2011 came miracle season #2, so eerily reminiscent of the storybook 2007 campaign. Center David Baas and punter Steve Weatherford arrived in free agency. Foreshadowing future personnel problems, that year’s draft didn’t provide much help. Like 2007, the Giants started off 6-2, but struggled in the second half of the season. The Giants lost four games in a row and looked dead until saving their season by defeating the Jets and sweeping the Cowboys to win the NFC East. The Giants were terrible running the football (32nd in the NFL) and on defense (27th in the NFL), but the passing game led by Manning, Cruz, and Nicks carried the team to a 9-7 record, with six 4th-quarter comebacks. The #4 seed Giants then proceeded to beat the #5 seed Falcons, #1 seed Packers, and #2 seed 49ers, before dispatching the #1 seed Patriots, Tom Brady, and Bill Belichick for the second time in four years in Super Bowl XLVI. Coughlin became the third Giants coach to win multiple championships and the 13th NFL coach in history to win multiple Super Bowls.

The 2012-2015 seasons were not kind to Coughlin as his team missed the playoffs each of his final four years in New York with 9-7, 7-9, 6-10, and 6-10 records. Poor drafting and numerous career-impacting injuries hollowed out the roster. Blowouts and heart-breaking 4th-quarter defeats mounted. Offensive and defensive coordinators were let go and many position coaches were fired with no improvement to the overall record. Approaching the ripe old age of 70, ownership decided to make a change.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as head coach of the New York Football Giants,” said Coughlin on the day he stepped down. “Obviously, the past three years have not been what any of us expect, and as head coach, I accept the responsibility for those seasons. I think it has been evident these last 12 years here how much pride I take in representing this franchise. I am gratified and proud that we were able to deliver two more Lombardi trophies to the display case in our lobby during that time.”

Alongside Steve Owen and Bill Parcells, Tom Coughlin is indisputably one of the greatest head coaches in the history of the New York Giants. Coughlin coached the Giants to a 102-90 regular season record and 8-3 post-season record. He had more wins in franchise history than any coach except for Owen, and tied Parcells for the most post-season wins in team history. In 12 seasons, Coughlin guided his team to five playoff berths, three division championships, two NFC Championships, and two NFL Championships. One-quarter of the team’s eight titles came under his helm.

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (February 2008)

Mission Accomplished

There was never a hidden agenda with Tom. His only goal was to make the New York Giants a winner. And with two of the most stunning playoff runs in sports history, Coughlin accomplished that objective. He was tough on his players, but in the end, they loved him for it.

“Thank you Tom Coughlin for demanding the very best from myself (and my) teammates every single day,” said offensive lineman David Diehl, who played for Coughlin from 2004-13. “Respect is not given, it’s earned.”

“It has been one of the greatest honors of my life and career to be led by Tom Coughlin; my life will forever be changed,” said current place kicker Josh Brown.

If someone would have predicted in January 2004 that Tom Coughlin would win two Super Bowls in the next 12 years with the Giants, any fan of the team would have signed up for that deal in a heartbeat. Mission accomplished Coach Coughlin. You will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Apr 062015
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George Selvie, Dallas Cowboys (December 15, 2013)

George Selvie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

As discussed in our spotlight on defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis, the defensive line of the New York Giants has been in a state of decline. This has been most noticeable at defensive end where the Giants have seen the deterioration and departure of Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka, not to mention the roller coaster productivity of Jason Pierre-Paul.

To help reinforce this unit, the Giants signed unrestricted free agent George Selvie from the Dallas Cowboys on March 20. The contract was reportedly a 1-year, $1.4 million deal that included a $200,000 signing bonus.

The 28-year old Selvie was a collegiate teammate of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul at the University of South Florida. And it is Selvie, and not JPP, who holds school records for career sacks, sacks in a season, and tackles for a loss in a season. In 2007, Selvie was named “Big East Defensive Player of the Year” when he accrued 14.5 sacks. Indeed, at one time, Selvie was considered a better pro prospect than Pierre-Paul. But not by the Giants and the rest of the NFL.

After the Giants drafted Pierre-Paul in 2010, Giants Vice President of Player Evaluation was asked why the Giants like JPP better than Selvie. “(Pierre-Paul) is a great player,” replied Ross. “Selvie – not much. This kid helped Selvie… They are totally different players; totally different skill set; totally different athletic ability. The media was talking about Selvie – the guy had a tremendous sophomore year. He had 15 sacks or so. But his production has gone down and that is where you evaluate their skill set; their athletic ability; the height, weight, speed, the quickness, the strength, those things.”

While Pierre-Paul was drafted in the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Giants, Selvie fell to the 7th round where he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. The head coach of the Rams at the time was Steve Spagnuolo. Selvie only lasted one season with the Rams. He played in all 16 games as a rookie and finished the year with 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Spagnulo waived Selvie in early September 2011 before the regular season started. Selvie was immediately claimed by the Carolina Panthers but then waived a month later after playing in four games as a backup. A month after that, in November, he was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he played in seven games as backup. In all, Selvie finished the 2011 season with only six tackles and half a sack.

Selvie missed the first five games of the 2012 season with a knee injury. When he returned, Selvie played in nine games as a reserve for the Jaguars, collecting 15 tackles and one sack.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Selvie as a free agent in April 2013 after the Jaguars decided not to tender him. However, Tampa Bay became the fourth NFL team to cut ties with Selvie when they released him a month later.

It was at this point in time where there would occur another connection between Selvie and the Giants. After being cut by Tampa Bay, Selvie was invited to try out at the Giants rookie mini-camp in May 2013. However, Selvie did not do enough to impress the team and he was not offered a contract.

At the time, that looked like the last hurrah for Selvie. But two months later, the Dallas Cowboys signed him after their training camp opened. Defensive end Anthony Spencer was having knee issues and defensive end Tyrone Crawford had just tore his Achilles. Although Selvie was not expected to make the team, the Cowboys were desperate for bodies. However, Selvie did more than that as he quickly earned first-team reps and was named the starter at left (strongside) defensive end in the preseason.

For the Cowboys in 2013, Selvie started all 16 regular-season games and finished the year with 45 tackles, seven sacks (second most on the team), 22 quarterback pressures, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Selvie’s first sack as a Cowboy was on Eli Manning in the opener. Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinellis affectionately nicknamed him the “Bricklayer.”

“It’s something coach Marinelli came up with,” said Selvie. “You know sometimes you got guys who will just keep going out there and work, just through time lay bricks, lay bricks one at a time to get better. That’s an analogy they try to use with me, so it just kept.”

Selvie’s productivity in Dallas declined in 2014. He played in all 16 regular-season games with 13 starts at left defensive end. He also started both playoff games for the Cowboys. Selvie finished the regular season with 30 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He added six post-season tackles, including five against Green Bay. Selvie was credited with 20 quarterback pressures in the regular season, down by just two from 2013. And he continued to cause problems for the Giants, sacking Eli again and being credited with eight tackles in two games against Big Blue in 2014.

When Dallas signed one of the better defensive ends in free agency in Greg Hardy in March 2015, Selvie became expendable. The Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – two teams that had already looked at him just two years earlier and had rejected him – were both interested once again. Selvie signed with the Giants, whose new defensive coordinator, Spagnulo, had also previously waived Selvie.

“I’m excited to be here,” Selvie said. “It’s a great opportunity for me. And I’m excited to be playing with JPP again, along with Spags. I’m excited for the opportunity to be here.

“There have been great defensive linemen that have played (with the Giants), and I want to be one of those. I felt like this was a great situation. With Jason being over there (at right defensive end), he gets a lot of attention. I hope I can get free with that. It’s a great opportunity and a great fit.”

Pierre-Paul also appears thrilled to be playing with his old collegiate teammate.

“I think that’s a great pickup,” Pierre-Paul said of the Giants signing Selvie. “He’s a good player. George can play the run and rush the passer. From the film I’ve watched, he’s gotten better as a player…He’s a dedicated worker, and I know he’s going to work to try to get better and better.”

So how does Selvie fit in with the Giants? At 6’4”, 270 pounds, the journeyman Selvie has demonstrated an ability to be a decent run defender at left end, where he has started 31 regular- and post-season NFL games since 2013. He also has 10 sacks and 42 quarterback pressures in the last two regular seasons. That alone gives him a decent shot a starting job at strongside end if the Giants choose to keep JPP at weakside end. Selvie will compete with Damontre Moore, Robert Ayers, and Kerry Wynn – along with any potential 2015 draft pick – for a starting job. No one yet has the inside track.

“George is going to fill in that gap that we have on that other side,” Pierre-Paul said. “He is going to fight for that starting spot. That’s a good thing. That will make everybody work harder.”

The big question is what is Selvie’s upside? Was 2013 his career year for a journeyman now with his sixth team? Is he the kind of guy you look to replace, or can become a valuable starter or reserve in New York? That remains to be seen. Like a bad penny, Selvie keeps turning up. Spagnulo, the Buccaneers, and Giants all wanted him back after cutting ties. At the very least, it will be interesting to see if Selvie’s presence on the team has an impact on JPP’s mental outlook and overall game.

Apr 012015
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Kenrick Ellis, New York Jets (November 24, 2014)

Kenrick Ellis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Heading into the offseason, it was clear to many, including team officials, that the New York Giants had to get better on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The once-vaunted defensive line has clearly declined. While the Giants actually finished fourth in the NFL in sacks (47), that statistic was misleading as the team went long stretches without being able to consistently pressure the passer. Worse, the Giants were 30th against the run in terms of yards per game (135.1) and dead-last in the NFL in terms of yards per rush (4.9).

To help rectify that problem, the New York Giants signed 27-year old unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis from the New York Jets on March 18. The contract was reported to be a 1-year, $1.65 million deal that included $500,000 in guaranteed money.

Barring injury, the up-and-coming Johnathan Hankins will start at one defensive tackle position. But the second spot appears up for grabs between 34-year old Cullen Jenkins, who is coming off a down season where he was bothered by a troublesome calf injury; 2012 7th-rounder Markus Kuhn, who did little to excite in 2014; 2014 3rd-round Jay Bromley, who mostly rode the bench his rookie season; and journeyman Dominique Hamilton, who spent the year on the team’s practice squad. The Giants could also add another defensive tackle in the 2015 NFL Draft.

The Jamaican-born Ellis is a huge (6’4”, 346 pound) run-stuffing defensive tackle who was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Jets out of Hampton University. Ellis transferred to Hampton after he was dismissed from the South Carolina Gamecocks in May 2008 for repeated violations of team and university drug policies. Ellis also ran into legal problems at Hampton. In April 2010, he was arrested by university police and served jail time after a felony assault charge on another student.

With the Jets, Ellis’ numbers were as follows:

  • 2011: 5 games, 2 starts, 7 tackles
  • 2012: 12 games, 2 starts, 18 tackles (missed four games with a knee injury)
  • 2013: 16 games, 1 start, 16 tackles
  • 2014: 14 games, 0 starts, 12 tackles, 1 sack

So overall, in four seasons with the Jets, Ellis played in 47 games with five starts. He only accrued 53 tackles and one sack during that time. Those are hardly superlative numbers. However, it is important to keep in mind that (1) Ellis was valuable reserve on a very talented Jets defensive line, and (2) his role on the team was not to make plays but to tie up blockers, allowing others to make the tackle.

Ellis was expected to start in 2013, but he was injured in training camp and beaten out by Damon Harrison, an undrafted free agent. In 2014, Ellis only played 158 snaps behind Harrison.

“I am a run-stopper and I like doing it,” said Ellis. “That is the strength of my game. I look forward to helping the Giants get back to their glory.

“I’m a journeyman. I come in and do my job. You don’t get much recognition for it, but you get the job done and it helps out the team. I’ll take on the double-teams and take on the work no one else wants to do. It’s just who I am. I take pride in what I do, which is being a big man in the middle and try to make sure no one runs the ball.”

Despite his low production and his own claims to being a journeyman, Ellis may be more than that. And he has legitimate chance to start for the Giants in 2014. Ellis has the tools. Not only is he naturally strong and huge with long arms, he’s pretty darn athletic for his size. He is also competitive and plays with a bit of a mean streak. Ellis can take on double-team blocks and he is extremely difficult to move off the line of scrimmage. And despite having only one career sack, Ellis does flash explosiveness. The knocks on him coming out of college were his off-field issues, inconsistency, and instincts.

“Ellis is a big human,” said Coughlin. “The young man on our practice squad, Hamilton, is a big human, so I am looking forward to seeing what they can do, too… We realized that big dominating guy in the middle is a good starting point for the D-Line.”

“(The Jets) took a lot of pride in (stopping the run) while I was there, and I want to take the same pride here and start something special,” Ellis said.

Mar 292015
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J.T. Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars (December 18, 2014)

J.T. Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

As discussed in our free agent spotlight on linebacker Jonathan Casillas, the New York Giants have been forced to upgrade the linebacker position in free agency because of their failed attempts to do so from the college ranks. After four seasons, the Giants decided to part ways with Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger and sign Casillas from the New England Patriots and J.T. Thomas from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Giants signed 26-year old J.T. Thomas in March 2015 to a 3-year, $10 million deal that included $4.5 million in guaranteed money and $1 million escalators in 2016 and 2017.

Thomas – a three-year starter at the University of West Virginia – was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He spent his entire rookie season on Injured Reserve after suffering a hip injury in the preseason. In February 2012, Thomas was arrested on a misdemeanor drug possession charge (marijuana). He played in all 16 games for the Bears in 2012, but did not start and finished the season with six special teams tackles and one forced fumble.

The Bears waived Thomas in August 2013. He was immediately claimed off of waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Thomas played in 15 games with the Jaguars in 2013, starting two contests and finishing the season with 17 tackles (12 solo) on defense and six special teams tackles (third on the team). Thomas also blocked a punt that resulted in a safety.

Thomas remained a back-up at the beginning of the 2014 season, but started the last 10 games of the year at middle linebacker after Paul Posluszny got hurt. He finished the season with 84 tackles, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles.

“I really like J.T. Thomas,” said Jacksonville Jaguars’ Head Coach Gus Bradley after the Giants signed Thomas. “Really, the good thing about J.T. is flexibility. He played at all three positions for us. He can go in at all three positions at any time and play extremely fast, as far as knowing what he’s supposed to do.

“He took really good command of the defense. When (Posluszny) got hurt for us, we were scrambling a little bit. When J.T. came in he settled things down. It’s very important to him. I can’t say enough good things about J.T.”

In the week 13 match-up against the Giants, Thomas finished the game with 12 total tackles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Head Coach Tom Coughlin pointed to that game as a significant factor in the team’s evaluation of Thomas, who also had double-digit tackle numbers in games against the Colts and Titans.

Despite that productivity, the Jaguars still saw Thomas as back-up material as the team signed Dan Skuta from the San Francisco 49ers to start along side Posluszny and Telvin Smith.

“What his role would be for us, with a guy like Puz coming back, it would be more a role where he was a back-up,” Bradley said. “He saw himself more as a starter.”

Right or wrong, the Giants seem to think Thomas can be a viable NFL starter too, ideally at weakside linebacker to replace Jacquian Williams. On the surface, this does seem to be his best position given his size (6’1” and 236 pounds) and overall athletic ability (4.65 speed). The Giants also think Thomas will improve their special teams.

“We think Thomas can be a WILL ‘backer,” said Coughlin. “Casillas is basically the same kind of guy. Both are excellent special teamers. They’ll make contributions in both ways.”

Thomas lacks ideal size, but is a good athlete. In a nutshell, he is a run-and-hit linebacker who is at his best when he is protected and does not have to take on blockers at the point-of-attack. Thomas is intense, instinctive, and involved in a lot of tackles. While Thomas is not afraid to stick his nose into the scrum, he is not a strong or physical player. He won’t shock you as a hitter, and many of his tackles are of the down-the-field variety. Thomas is good in coverage and should help the New York defense deal with the plethora of tight end and running back receiving threats in today’s NFL.

In terms of intangibles, Thomas has some off-the-field issues in his past. Aside from the drug charge, in college, Thomas was arrested for being involved with a stolen laptop. On the flip side, he is known for his charity work with children with medical issues. Thomas also has the reputation for being a hard worker and team leader. His on-field personality is demonstrated when he was mic’d up in a December 7, 2014 game against the Houston Texans.

How does J.T. Thomas fit in with the Giants? He is probably the favorite to start at the weakside linebacker spot though he will face competition from Jonathan Casillas. At worst, he could be a valuable reserve as he can play all three linebacker spots and is a good special teams player. The big question with Thomas is what is his upside? Jacquian Williams was the heir apparent to Michael Boley but he couldn’t handle the job. Is Thomas another placeholder or can  he be a 4-5 year starter at the position? Thomas wanted the opportunity to prove himself, and now he has it. He seems to be a hungry player.

“I am an aggressive player,” said Thomas when he signed with the Giants. “Bang, bang plays, turnovers – that is my thing. I am good at getting the ball back (by) creating turnovers. I think that is what will help us win ballgames, and that is my goal.”

Mar 242015
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Dwayne Harris, Dallas Cowboys (November 23, 2014)

Dwayne Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

When the free agent period officially opened on March 10, the New York Giants moved quickly to sign five players. Wide receiver and returner Dwayne Harris of the Dallas Cowboys was one of the five. And surprisingly, Harris’ 5-year, $17.5 million deal was by far the largest in terms of the number of years and overall value. Harris also received the largest amount in guaranteed money ($7.1 million with a $4 million bonus).

On the surface, that appears to be a lot of money for Dallas’ 4th wide receiver/back-up slot receiver and punt/kickoff returner.

The 27-year old Harris was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cowboys. In four seasons with the Cowboys, Harris has played in 52 regular-season games with three starts, catching 33 passes for 418 yards and three touchdowns. Harris finished 2014 with just seven catches for 116 yards and no touchdowns, down from nine catches in 2013 and 17 catches in 2012.

Harris also averaged 9.2 yards per punt return and 24.7 yards per kickoff return in 2014. Those decent but not stellar figures were 9th- and 13th-best in the NFL last year.

So why the big bucks for a guy who has been only a good role player to date?

“Harris is a well-kept secret to a lot of people, except the teams in NFC East,” said General Manager Jerry Reese. “He is one of the top all-around special teams players in league and a solid third or fourth receiving option.”

Harris indeed was far more impressive on special teams in 2013 as he averaged 12.8 yards per punt return and 30.6 yards per kickoff return. Those figures were 3rd- and 2nd-best in the NFL that season, helping him to earn “NFC Special Teams Player of the Week” twice, including once against the Giants.

Harris also won another another “NFC Special Teams Player of the Week” honor in 2012 against the Philadelphia Eagles. That season, Harris averaged 16.1 yards per punt return, 2nd best in the NFL. Harris returned punts for touchdowns in both 2012 and 2013. Bringing him on board strongly suggests that the Giants do not want to risk Odell Beckham on punt returns.

On the downside, he Harris six career fumbles on punts, including four in 2014. Ball security has been an issue for him going back to his college days at East Carolina.

Harris’ contributions on special teams are not limited to the return game. Harris is an excellent coverage man on special teams. Indeed, it was Harris’ coverage work against the Giants on opening day in 2013 that earned him the “Special Teams Player of the Week” award. In that game, Harris made three special teams tackles and forced a fumble that was recovered by Dallas. In 2014, Harris was credited with 18 special teams tackles – a very high number.

“I am a physical player,” Harris said. “I think all of the Giants fans are going to find that out soon. I am a physical player and I like the physical nature of the game. I like being the guy who hits players. I take a lot of hits during the game. It is always fun to return the favor.”

But $17.5 million with $7.1 million in guaranteed money still seems like a lot of money for a special teams player. Could the Giants see Harris as a bigger contributor at wide receiver than his 33 career catches to date indicate?

Assuming everyone stays healthy, the top three receivers on the Giants should be Beckham, Victor Cruz, and Rueben Randle. Since Harris is experienced playing the slot receiver position, the Giants may consider Harris to be an insurance policy if Cruz struggles or re-injures himself. Preston Parker was the reserve slot guy in 2014, finishing with 36 catches for 418 yards and two touchdowns. Parker also returned both punts (6.6 yard average) and kickoffs (24.2 yard average) for the Giants in 2014. The Giants might see Harris as an upgrade over Parker not just as a returner, but as a receiver.

Heading into the offseason, the Cowboys felt they could re-sign wide receiver Cole Beasley or Harris, but not both. Harris provided more special teams value, but Beasley is the primary slot receiver for the Cowboys. Dallas re-signed Beasley with a 4-year, $13.6 million contract that included $7 million in guaranteed money and a $4 million signing bonus. As soon as that deal was done, Harris was sure to sign elsewhere.

Harris has flashed at receiver. While he is not a big (5’10”) or exceptionally fast (4.5 range) target, Harris is a solid 202-pounder with good quickness and run-after-the-catch ability. He is tough and physical and an excellent blocker for the ground game, something repeatedly mentioned by those who followed him in Dallas.

“This was just a perfect fit for me with what (the Giants) do,” said Harris. “They are going to give me a chance to play my old team, the Dallas Cowboys, twice a year.”

Mar 222015
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Marshall Newhouse, Cincinnati Bengals (November 30, 2014)

Marshall Newhouse – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It was anticipated by many New York Giants fans that the team would aggressively pursue one of the more highly regarded (or recognizable) names in free agency for the much-maligned offensive line. There was speculation that the Giants might attempt to sign guard Mike Iupati (49ers), tackle Bryan Bulaga (Packers), or guard/tackle Orlando Franklin (Broncos) among others. But those players did not seem to appear on the team’s radar scope as there were no reports of visits or even interest.

In the end, the Giants did move quickly to sign one offensive lineman on the opening day of free agency. However, it was a surprise candidate and one that did little to excite: Marshall Newhouse, who was signed to a 2-year, $3 million contract from the Cincinnati Bengals.

The scouting reports on Newhouse coming out of college in 2010 were mixed. He was a three-year starter at left tackle at TCU. While Newhouse has good bulk (325+ pounds), he lacks ideal height (under 6’4”). Newhouse tested very well athletically for a big man, tying for the best three-cone time (7.4 seconds) at the NFL Combine, demonstrating very quick feet. However, because of his “dumpy” body and lack of functional football strength, combined with his lack of proper technique and leverage, Newhouse was regarded as a mid-to-late round “developmental” prospect.

The most severe pre-draft criticism was that he was a soft, passive, and inconsistent player who alternated between good and poor play. Some thought his best position might be guard, while others thought he might be over-drafted based on his measurables and not his on-field performance.

The Green Bay Packers drafted Newhouse in the 5th round of the 2010 NFL Draft, being picked 169th overall. Newhouse did not play in any games as a rookie. But the “developmental” prospect became a factor quicker than expected in 2011 when he ended up starting 10 games at left tackle for the injured Chad Clifton and three games at right tackle for the injured Bryan Bulaga. While Newhouse had his issues at times in pass protection, he played better than expected for a team that finished the regular season 15-1 before being knocked out of the playoff by the Giants in the NFC divisional round.

“I think (Newhouse) has the personality makeup to (be our left tackle of the future), the athletic ability to do that, the feet and the smarts to be a very, very solid left tackle for us,” said Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers in December 2011.

In 2012, Newhouse started all 18 of the Packers’ regular-season and post-season games at left tackle. But the Packers were not thrilled with Newhouse’s play and the plan was to upgrade at that position by moving shifting 2010 1st round pick Bulaga to left tackle. Newhouse simply wasn’t a very physical run blocker and he was still making too many mistakes in pass protection, resulting in sacks, pressures, and holding penalties.

Entering the 2013 training camp, it was anticipated that Newhouse would have a good chance to win the starting right tackle job. But he lost the job to undrafted second-year man Don Barclay. And although Bulaga tore an ACL in training camp, the Packers chose to start rookie 4th rounder David Bakhtiari at left tackle instead of re-installing Newhouse at the position. Newhouse became the primary back-up at both tackle spots, though he did start two games at right tackle in November, including one against the Giants.

In 2014, Newhouse signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an unrestricted free agent. He did not win a starting job but became the primary back-up tackle. However, Newhouse struggled when forced to start at right tackle for three games due to an injury to Andre Smith and was benched due to his poor play. In particular, Marshall was terrible in a Week 10 game against the Cleveland Browns where he almost got Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton killed. Bengal fans felt it was an upgrade for their offensive line when he signed with the Giants.

Overall, Newhouse has played in 62 regular-season games with 36 starts (26 of those starts coming at left tackle in 2011-12). But it is important to note that he lost starting tackle jobs with the Packers during the 2013 preseason and the Bengals during the 2014 regular season. And both fan bases were glad to see him sign with other teams. Newhouse remains the what he was coming out of college: an intriguing size-athletic physical specimen who is simply too finesse a run blocker and too inconsistent a pass blocker.

On the plus side, Newhouse does bring versatility to the table as he can play either tackle position. And despite being only 26 years old, he has already has a lot of starting experience. Ben McAdoo was also on the Packers’ coaching staff during all four years of Newhouse’s stay with Green Bay, so one would assume McAdoo still sees something in the offensive lineman.

“(McAdoo) was a big part (of my decision to join the Giants),” Newhouse said. “It is good to always have familiarity, and he knows what I can do. I am just looking forward to proving him right and then some.

“I can do both (play either tackle). I have played plenty of left. I have started over 20 games at left and I have played plenty at right. I can do whatever they need me to do.”

“Newhouse is another guy who brings starter experience and depth,” said General Manager Jerry Reese. “He can play tackle on either the left or the right side.”

So what will Newhouse’s role be on the Giants? It is most likely that Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin envision as the primary reserve tackle behind Will Beatty at left tackle and Justin Pugh (or whomever starts) at right tackle. In effect, he has replaced James Brewer on the roster. But Newhouse failed miserably in that same role with the Bengals when called upon to play in 2014. It remains questionable at best if Newhouse can reinvigorate his career with his third team in three years. Inconsistent veterans usually don’t become more magically consistent. And soft linemen hardly ever change their stripes and become tougher and more physical players. The Giants signed offensive tackle Charles Brown in free agency last offseason. He was supposed to provide veteran depth too, but the Giants ended up cutting Brown in November. Hopefully history doesn’t repeat itself here with Marshall Newhouse.

Mar 192015
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Jonathan Casillas, New England Patriots (December 14, 2014)

Jonathan Casillas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Linebacker has been a sore spot for the New York Giants for quite some time. The Giants have had to rely on free agent acquisitions and a trade to beef up a unit that the team has been unable to satisfactory address in the draft. After four seasons with the team, the Giants apparently have given up on 6th round draft pick Jacquian Williams and undrafted rookie free agent Spencer Paysinger. To fill these vacancies, the Giants signed unrestricted free agents J.T. Thomas from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Jonathan Casillas from the New England Patriots.

The 27-year old Casillas was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the New Orleans Saints after the 2009 NFL Draft. He has played for the New Orleans Saints (2009-11), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2013-14), and Patriots (2014). In 2014, Casillas played in five games for the Buccaneers before being traded to the Patriots in late October. In eight games for the Patriots with three starts, Casillas accrued 28 tackles and forced one fumble.

Casillas is a local talent, having been born in Jersey City and going to high school in New Brunswick. He has played on two Super Bowl championship teams: the Saints (2009) and Patriots (2014). After arriving in New England in mid-season, Casillas was mainly a back-up pass coverage specialist and core special teams player for the Patriots. Casillas signed a 3-year, $8 million contract with the Giants on March 10. He has already been given Paysinger’s #54 jersey number.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Casillas said. “After so much time away and playing ball in New Orleans and Tampa and New England, being able to come back home and be able to play in front of your home crowd and my family is really a blessing.”

In five seasons, Casillas has played in 64 regular-season games with 18 starts. He missed the entire 2010 season with a foot injury that he suffered in the preseason.

At 6’1”, 227 pounds, Casillas is an undersized linebacker. But he is an excellent athlete with good speed and agility for the position. Indeed, when he came out of college at the University of Wisconsin, there was some talk he might be better suited to the safety position at the pro level. As you would expect for such a linebacker-safety ‘tweener, Casillas is good in pass coverage and special teams. Against the run, while he has good instincts and range, he is not a physical player and he can have trouble at the point-of-attack due to his lack of size. He is a solid tackler.

Casillas only has three career sacks, all three coming in 2011 with the Saints. Despite being very sound in pass coverage, Casillas does not make many plays on the ball. He has never intercepted a pass at the pro level and only has five career pass defenses.

As for his role with the Giants, Casillas will compete for a starting outside linebacker spot, but he most likely will be a situational pass coverage linebacker. That is an important role in today’s pass-happy NFL that features athletic receiving threats at running back and tight end. He is a guy who can match-up against tight ends and backs split out wide or in the slot.

Casillas should also become one of the Giants’ better special teams players. He has 22 career special teams tackles in 70 regular- and post-season games. He recovered an onside kick in Super Bowl XLIV.

“The Giants are getting a real football player,” Casillas said. “Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve been under the radar, and I’ve accepted that. I’ve found a way to make plays and contribute, and also to make a healthy contribution to the city I’m in by doing things in the community. I try to do things the right way.”

Mar 172015
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Shane Vereen, New England Patriots (October 16, 2014)

Shane Vereen – © USA TODAY Sports Images

As the New York Giants entered 2015 NFL free agency, it was anticipated that the team would pursue a quicker, shiftier running back with pass receiving skills in order to compliment the bigger bruisers, Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. The Giants signed arguably the best candidate on the open market in Shane Vereen to a 3-year, $12.35 million contract that included $4.75 million in guaranteed money.

“Vereen gives us lots of versatility as a receiver and runner,” said General Manager Jerry Reese.  “He is one of the best as a receiver out of the backfield or detached. He is very hard to handle for most linebackers. And he has big game experience.”

Vereen has been favorably compared to another former Patriot all-purpose back: Kevin Faulk. For Giants fans unfamiliar with Faulk’s body of work, think David Meggett, who ironically signed with the Patriots as a free agent in 1995. While many remember Meggett for his special teams kickoff and punt return exploits, Meggett was also a major component in the Giants offense from 1989 to 1994. On a team that did not emphasize the short passing game, Meggett not only rushed for 1,228 yards and five touchdowns, but more importantly he caught 231 passes for 2,194 yards and 10 touchdowns. He kept the chains moving for Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler, and at times provided the big play.

If he stays healthy, Vereen should put up bigger numbers for the Giants. In the last two seasons in New England, Vereen caught 99 passes despite missing half the year in 2013. In the Giants West Coast-style offense under Ben McAdoo, the running back is a featured component in the passing game, not only as a check-off option when other targets are covered, but as a primary receiver. The West Coast offense is designed to exploit the field not only vertically, but horizontally, exploiting holes in defensive coverages. Vereen is a smaller, shiftier back who is a match-up problem for most linebackers. If teams focus their attention on Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz – as they should – then Vereen could feast against the underneath coverage.

What makes Vereen such a good receiver is not just his athletic ability and hands, but he is a precise, trustworthy route runner. He doesn’t make mental mistakes. And his skill set allows him to not only catch shorter passes on dig, drag, swing, and screen passes but also deeper routes where his split out wide like a conventional wide receiver. Indeed, there are times when the observer will understandably initially confuse Vereen for a wide receiver because of his route-running and pass-catching adeptness. He is like having another legitimate wideout on the field. Vereen has pass receptions of 83, 50, and 49 yards in the past three seasons.

What will be interesting to see is how the Giants use Vereen. Under Kevin Gilbride, Vereen probably would have been limited to a third-down back. But in Ben McAdoo’s system, although Vereen won’t be a conventional “starter”, he should see the field much more on first and second down, depending the opponent and game plan.

There are those who say it does not matter how good a pass catcher Vereen is because Eli Manning doesn’t have a good feel for throwing to running backs. While this certainly isn’t the strength of Manning’s game, the numbers don’t support that argument. When Eli had Tiki Barber, Barber was a favorite target of Eli’s, catching 54 passes in 2005 and 58 passes in 2006. Derrick Ward caught 41 passes from Eli in 2008 and Ahmad Bradshaw 47 passes in 2010. Despite being limited to 11 games with just nine starts, Jennings caught 30 passes from Manning in 2014. What these figures demonstrate is that even in an offense that was more vertically-oriented, Manning has productively thrown to running backs when the talent is there.

Another important component to Vereen’s game is that he does a good job or recognizing and picking up blitzes despite his lack of size. He has only fumbled twice in his pro career, losing one.

Vereen usually will not wow you as runner. He has good quickness and speed, but he is not a dynamic breakaway threat. His longest run from scrimmage at the pro level is only 21 yards. And at 5’10 and 205 pounds, he is not going to run over a lot of defenders. But Vereen can be a factor in the running back, especially out of the shotgun formation that McAdoo likes to employ. In his last two seasons in New England, Vereen ran the ball 140 times for 599 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

Perhaps the biggest negative on Vereen is that in three seasons, he has only played a full 16-game schedule once. And that was in 2014. He missed 11 games in 2011 with hamstring issues, three games in 2012 with a foot injury, and eight games in 2013 with a fractured wrist. Obviously, for a New York Giants team that has been ravaged by injuries in recent years, Vereen’s injury-plagued past is a bit disconcerting.

But if Vereen stays healthy, it is not unreasonable to project him as a 50+ catch target in the New York offense. He should become a key figure in keeping drives alive and therefore increasing overall offensive productivity and scoring. Keeping drives alive will allow more opportunities for Manning, the wideouts, and the running backs. In the simplest terms, Vereen will make the New York Giants a much better offensive football team.