May 142021
 
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Kadarius Toney, New York Giants (May 14, 2021)

Kadarius Toney – © USA TODAY Sports

MAY 14, 2021 NEW YORK GIANTS ROOKIE MINI-CAMP REPORT…
The first day of the New York Giants three-day rookie mini-camp was held on Friday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With COVID protocols remaining in place, only 22 players are in attendance. (At the 2019 rookie mini-camp, 75 players participated).

The on-field work emphasized individual drills.

Really this is an orientation weekend,” said Head Coach Joe Judge. “This isn’t a competition weekend. This isn’t a situation where we are cutting down the team this weekend. This is just get the guys out there moving on the grass, take a look at them and get a better idea where they are physically. These are guys that have not been with a team now for at least five months. So being out there for the first time in team activities, drills and the pace and practice, as opposed to individual workouts with a trainer are much, much different. So you know, all these guys got to get in football shape which is just part of the process of being out here in spring and working them forward.

Right now, we’re just trying to get them out there and get them moving. This is all very new for these guys in terms of walking around the building. These guys have as much on their plate in terms of finding out where their locker is, where to eat in the cafeteria, where they shower as much as getting out there, where they stretch where an individual is and when we blow the horn for group and special teams, where they run to. So it’s a learning experience for these guys. They try to get on the field and just move as fast as they can. Like I said we’ve got to get these guys in football shape and it’s just part of the process.

None of their fundamentals will be good enough and none of their conditioning will be good enough. That’s our job to get them going. That’s why we have to be out there and we have to train them and practice and catch up where the vets are at, so when they get to training camp they can compete on equal ground.

“It truly is just orientation. At this point obviously we can identify things they have to work on. We can identify where they are currently. However I’d say every rookie you get right now, just from the nature of not being on a team for the duration that they have been training for the Draft and all that kind of stuff, they are all far behind. You know, they really are. Most of these guys are all further behind now than they were when they finished their college seasons. So we have to get them back going, get them caught up, get them in our systems and in our schemes, and they have got a long way to go, and that’s true of any rookie class.

I’ve been part of rookie mini-camps before where you put them out there and it’s full competition, you are doing hard one-on-ones and seven-on-seven and team as much as you can. To be honest with you, if we had 70 guys out there, we wouldn’t have done anything different today. The focus was on fundamentals and getting acclimated to our system and how they practice so when we get out there through the duration of spring and training camp, they have to jump and get going and compete against the vets.”

PARTICIPANTS…

2021 NFL Draft Picks (6):

  • WR Kadarius Toney
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari
  • CB Aaron Robinson
  • OLB Elerson Smith
  • RB Gary Brightwell
  • CB Rodarius Williams

2021 Signed Undrafted Rookie Free Agents (3):

  • OC/OG Brett Heggie
  • OT/OG Jake Burton
  • DE/LB Raymond Johnson

New York Giants First-Year Players (8):

  • QB Clayton Thorson
  • RB Jordan Chunn
  • RB Sandro Platzgummer
  • WR Derrick Dillon
  • TE Nakia Griffin-Stewart
  • TE Nate Wieting
  • DL David Moa
  • LB Cale Garrett

Undrafted rookie and veteran tryout players (5):

  • QB Nathan Rourke (rookie)
  • RB Corey Clement (4-year veteran)
  • RB Ito Smith (3-year veteran)
  • FB Frank Feaster (rookie)
  • TE Kelvin Benjamin (former 4-year veteran WR working at TE)

CAM FLEMING SIGNS WITH DENVER BRONCOS…
New York Giants unrestricted free agent offensive tackle Cam Fleming has signed a 1-year contract with the Denver Broncos. The Giants signed Fleming as an unrestricted free agent from the Dallas Cowboys in March 2020. He ended up starting all 16 games at right tackle, by far the most in his career in a single season. But Fleming was arguably the weak link up front, regularly missing blocks. Fleming was also credited with four false starts and two holding penalties. The 6’5”, 320-pound Fleming was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. After four years in New England, he played two seasons with the Cowboys. In seven NFL seasons, Fleming has played in 91 regular-season games with 42 starts.

HEAD COACH JOE JUDGE…
The  transcript and video of Joe Judge’s press conference on Friday are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

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

ARTICLES…

Jan 182021
 
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Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates, New York Giants (November 2, 2020)

Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates – © USA TODAY Sports

New Head Coach Joe Judge was hired by the New York Giants in early January 2020. After an atypically long vetting process, the team announced its complete staff a month later in early February. The extremely well-organized new head coach was all set to initiate his program to turn the franchise around. Then disaster struck. COVID-19 forced the league to shut down in the spring and much of the summer. The challenges for a new head coach trying to rebuild most of the roster seemed almost insurmountable.

Probably the position most affected by these developments was the offensive line. The Giants entered 2020 knowing they would have to have new starters at center and at least one of the tackle spots. That quickly became three starters when left tackle Nate Solder decided to sit out 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. Right tackle Mike Remmers had already signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. The only free agent addition was journeyman swing tackle Cam Fleming. It was obvious that most of the help would have to come from the draft, where the Giants selected Andrew Thomas in the 1st round, Matt Peart in the 3rd round, and Shane Lemieux in the 5th round. Despite those additions, there was still a glaring hole at center, with no obvious candidate to start other than the disappointing Spencer Pulley and talk of possible conversion projects.

With the desperate need to sort all of this out, Joe Judge was being told he could have no mini-camps, no Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices, a dramatically scaled back training camp, and no preseason. Teams were told they could only hold 14 padded practices before the season. 14 practices to get rookie Andrew Thomas ready at left tackle. 14 practices to find and name a starting center. 14 practices to figure out who to start at right tackle. 14 practices to build cohesion and chemistry for a group largely unfamiliar with each other.

The early returns were predictable. The line struggled. Converted guard/tackle Nick Gates was moved to center, a position that he had never played, and he had a rough start. Andrew Thomas did not look like the 4th player taken in the draft and fans began to question the pick, arguing the team drafted the wrong lineman. There was no time for Matt Peart to seriously challenge Cam Fleming for the right tackle job, and Fleming continued to demonstrate he really wasn’t an ideal starter. All of this was made worse by the fact that the two guys who the team needed to rely on, guards Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez, were once again not playing as well as expected.

Saquon Barkley was lost in Week 2 and the Giants had no ground game early in the season outside of Daniel Jones running for his life. No Giant had more than 30 yards rushing in the first two games and no Giant had more than 50 yards rushing in the first four games. Jones was the team’s leading rusher in four of the first seven games of the season. Jones was also getting sacked early and often, something that never really totally abated as he was sacked 45 times and NYG quarterbacks sacked 50 times on the season (or over three per game).

Despite all of this negativity and an 0-5 start, something began to change in October. A hodgepodge group of backs and Jones began to hurt teams on the ground as the offensive line began playing better. In eight of their next nine games, the Giants ran for over 100 yards or more. In seven of these games, they ran for over 130 yards or more. The high point was a 190-yard rushing effort against the Seattle Seahawks on December 6th. The line appeared to be developing into a physical, smash-mouth unit almost overnight.

Why? First, Nick Gates made a miraculous transformation from an undrafted tackle to a big, feisty, physical presence at center. In just a few games, he clearly became the team’s best offensive lineman. Second, Andrew Thomas settled down and started playing much, much better. Third, the Giants replaced Will Hernandez with Shane Lemieux at left guard, and while that created some pass protection issues, Lemieux’s presence seemed to be an upgrade in the run-blocking department. Finally, Kevin Zeitler started to play better. Matt Peart did receive increased playing time, receiving significant snaps in half of the games, but right tackle remained a bit of a sore spot with Cam Fleming.

In mid-November, Joe Judge surprisingly fired Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo, bringing onboard outsider Dave DeGuglielmo, who ironically had served under Tom Coughlin from 2004 to 2008. DeGuglielmo would later miss the last week of the season due to COVID-19.

The line struggled in three-game stretch in December before finishing strong in the season finale against Dallas. In those three games, New York never rushed for more than 80 yards and Giants’ quarterbacks were sacked 13 times. Nevertheless, the overall impression was despite all of COVID-19-related handicaps, the Giants actually finally made progress in rebuilding the offensive line in 2020. There appears to be a young, talented foundation to work with.

THE STARTERS

Despite having no prior experience at playing the position, and after a rough start, Nick Gates not only solidified the center position for the Giants but rapidly became the team’s best lineman. Gates started all 16 games at center. He was flagged with five penalties (two holding, one false start, one unnecessary roughness, and one illegal block). The Giants signed Gates as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He missed all of 2018 with a foot injury that caused him to be placed on Injured Reserve before the season started. In 2019, Gates was active for all 16 games with three starts (two starts at right tackle and one start at right guard). Gates is a versatile player, able to play tackle, guard, and center. He has good size and brings toughness and attitude to the offensive line. Gates is a solid pass and run blocker.

The Giants drafted Andrew Thomas in the 1st round of the 2020 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Thomas started 15 games at left tackle despite playing on a left ankle injury that required offseason surgery in January 2021. Thomas was benched for the start of one game for being late to a team meeting. In terms of his overall play, Thomas struggled early, but markedly improved as both a pass and run blocker as the year progressed. He was flagged with five penalties (three false start and two holding penalties) on the season. Thomas has a big frame (6’5”, 315lbs) and long arms. He is a strong, physical run blocker who can get movement at the point-of-attack. He is athletic enough to get to the second level and works to finish his blocks. Thomas is a good athlete and he flashes excellent pass protection skills, but he needs to improve his overall technique and consistency in that department.

The Giants signed Cam Fleming as an unrestricted free agent from the Dallas Cowboys in March 2020. He ended up starting all 16 games at right tackle, by far the most in his career in a single season. But Fleming was arguably the weak link up front, regularly missing blocks. Fleming was also credited with four false starts and two holding penalties. The 6’5”, 320-pound Fleming was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. After four years in New England, he played two seasons with the Cowboys. In seven NFL seasons, Fleming has played in 91 regular-season games with 42 starts. Fleming is versatile lineman who can play both tackle spots. He has good size. However, Fleming seems better suited to a reserve, swing-tackle type role than starter.

While the overall play of Kevin Zeitler improved in his second season with the Giants, he still did not meet expectations in 2020. Zeitler started all 16 games at right guard. He was flagged four times on the year (one holding, three false starts). Zeitler was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He signed a 5-year, $60 million contract with the Browns in March 2017, which at the time made him the highest-paid guard in the NFL. The Giants acquired Zeitler by trade from the Cleveland Browns in March 2019 in exchange for linebacker Olivier Vernon. In eight seasons, Zeitler has started 134 of the 135 regular-season games he has played in. Zeitler has good size (6’4”, 315lbs). Once regarded as one of the best guards in the game as both a run and pass blocker, Zeitler’s play in recent years has been more inconsistent. Nevertheless, he is still a solid, steady, veteran presence up front.

The Giants drafted Shane Lemieux in the 5th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He surprisingly ended up playing in 12 games with nine starts starts at left guard, stealing Will Hernandez’s position. He was only flagged once (false start) all year. The 6’4”, 310-pound Lemieux started an incredible 52 games in college, never missing a game. He is a tough, feisty, blue-collar lineman with some athletic limitations. Lemieux needs to get stronger, but he is a physical presence in the ground game with a feel for blocking angles. He struggled at times as a pass protector.

After starting every game in his first two years in the league in 2018 and 2019, Will Hernandez lost his starting left guard job to Shane Lemieux after the seventh game of the season. Hernandez missed two games in early November due to COVID-19. He was flagged only once (one holding penalty) all year. The Giants selected Hernandez in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was named named to Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team. Hernandez has good size, strength, and toughness for the guard position, but he appears to lack ideal lateral agility. This hampers his play as a run blocker on the move and as a pass blocker when isolated against quick defenders. He can move defenders with his strength and power.

THE RESERVES

The Giants selected Matt Peart in the 3rd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Peart played in 11 games with one start at left tackle. He did play in 15 percent of all offensive snaps, receiving some quality playing time. He missed one game in late November due to COVID-19. The 6’7”, 318-pound Peart was a 4-year starter in college with experience at both tackle spots. Peart combines excellent size, long arms, and good overall athletic ability. He has the frame to get bigger and stronger. As expected, Peart was inconsistent as a rookie and needs more technique refinement.

Spencer Pulley spent all of 2020 as the team’s primary reserve center, but he did not play. Pulley was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the San Diego Chargers after the 2016 NFL Draft. Spencer started all 16 regular-season games for the Chargers in 2017 at center. The Giants claimed Pulley off of waivers from the Chargers in September 2018. That season, Pulley was inserted into the starting line-up in late October. He struggled in his nine starts at center and missed one game due to an injury. In 2019, Pulley played in four games with one start in which he again struggled. He also is able to play guard.

The Giants claimed Jackson Barton off of waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs in early September 2020. Despite remaining on the 53-man roster all season, Barton never played in 2020. The 6’7”, 302-pound Barton was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs signed him off of the Colts’ Practice Squad in 2019. He has yet to play in a regular-season NFL game.

The Giants signed Kyle Murphy as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. He was signed to the Practice Squad in early September and then signed to the 53-man roster in mid November. Murphy did not play in a regular-season game in 2020. Murphy was a 3-year starter in college with experience all along the offensive line.

The 6’5”, 315-pound Chad Slade was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Houston Texans after the 2015 NFL Draft. Slade spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve, and the 2016 and 2018 seasons on the Practice Squad of the Texans. In 2017, Slade played in five games with three starts (two at right guard and one at tight end) for the Texans. The Giants signed Slade to a reserve/futures contract in January 2019. While he surprisingly made the team, he wasn’t active for any game. Slade spent all of 2020 on New York’s Practice Squad.

The 6’6”, 315-pound Kenny Wiggins was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Baltimore Ravens after the 2011 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Ravens (2011), San Francisco 49ers (2012-2013), San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers (2013-2017), and Lions (2018-2020). The Lions cut Wiggins in late October 2020. The Giants signed Wiggins to the 53-man roster in November, cut him 10 days later, and then signed him to the Practice Squad for the remainder of the season. Overall, Wiggins has played in 79 regular-season games with 38 starts.

COVID-19 OPT-OUT

Nate Solder opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the COVID-19 issue. In March 2018, the Giants made Solder the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL when they signed him away from the New England Patriots as unrestricted free agent. However, despite 32 straight starts at left tackle for New York, Solder has not played well at all with the Giants. He really struggled during the first half of 2018 before settling down a bit during the second half of the season. In 2019, his inconsistent play throughout the year both as a pass protector and run blocker was a significant factor in the team’s struggles. The 6’8”, 325-pound Solder was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Patriots. In nine seasons, Solder has started 127 of the 130 regular-season games he has played in. He is a long, lean tackle with good overall athleticism. However, off-the-field issues with a sick child could understandably be affecting his focus and play.

Oct 012020
 
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Logan Ryan and Julian Love, New York Giants (October 1, 2020)

Logan Ryan and Julian Love – Courtesy of New York Giants

OCTOBER 1, 2020 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
S Jabrill Peppers (ankle) did not practice on Thursday. S Julian Love (knee/ankle) and S Adrian Colbert (quad) were limited.

THE COACHES SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and on YouTube/Giants.com:

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The New York Giants practice on Friday (11:15AM-1:00PM). Head Coach Joe Judge and select players will also address the media.

Aug 242020
 
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Julian Love, New York Giants (August 24, 2020)

Julian Love – Courtesy of New York Giants

AUGUST 24, 2020 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP MEDIA PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media and team sources:

  • Giants practiced in full pads.
  • Running back Sandro Platzgummer and offensive lineman Tyler Haycraft ran penalty laps.
  • Head Coach Joe Judge ripped into the team at approximately the 2-hour mark, when practice was scheduled to end, and continued to have the team practice for another 30 minutes.
  • Wide receivers Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack, and David Sills continue to make plays.
  • Wide receiver Alex Bachman caught a long pass on a diving catch from quarterback Daniel Jones.
  • Wide receiver Corey Coleman saw his reps increase with Darius Slayton out. Coleman beat cornerbacks James Bradberry and Jarren Williams on deep passes.
  • Wide receiver Sterling Shepard continues to have a strong camp, creating separation with his quickness and route running.
  • Tight end Evan Engram was active, catching a lot of passes, but also dropped a deep pass from quarterback Daniel Jones. Engram also did a nice job of blocking in practice.
  • Cornerback Darnay Holmes had a strong practice and broke up a a couple of passes from quarterback Daniel Jones, including one in the end zone and a near-interception when he jumped an out-route by wide receiver Golden Tate.
  • Safety Xavier McKinney flashed and broke up a deep pass intended for wide receiver David Sills. Safety Jabrill Peppers also broke up a pass.
  • Linebackers Tae Crowder and Josiah Tauaefa broke up passes.
  • Offensive tackle Matt Peart improving on a daily basis.
  • Quarterback Daniel Jones had a strong practice. According to one report, he went 12-of-16 in 11-on-11 team drills, including 6-of-8 in the 2-minute drill where he connected with five different receivers and Sterling Shepard for the touchdown.
  • Quarterback Colt McCoy connected with wide receiver C.J. Board for a long completion.
  • The offensive line did a good job for much of practice with left guard Will Hernandez standing out.
  • Left tackle Andrew Thomas and tight end Kaden Smith cleared the way on a running back Dion Lewis touchdown run.
  • Offensive lineman Nick Gates continues to receive reps at center.
  • Linebackers had trouble covering running back Saquon Barkley, who also had what would have been a long touchdown after a reception and making a defender miss.
  • Place kicker Graham Gano missed his only field goal attempt, which was in the 45+ yard range.
  • The Giants have provided a 27-minute video of today’s practice on YouTube.

https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1297973856179826694

INJURY REPORT…
Fullback Eli Penny (unknown), wide receiver Darius Slayton (unknown), and linebacker Ryan Connelly (unknown) did not practice.

Safety Jabrill Peppers (unknown) and offensive linemen Spencer Pulley (unknown) and Shane Lemieux (unknown) left practice with trainers. Tight end Rysen John appeared to pull his hamstring, but returned to practice.

“We had a couple guys dealing with some cramps,” said Head Coach Joe Judge. “I’m going to check with the trainers when I get back and see where all those guys are at. There’s a couple guys that we are monitoring as we go through training camp. As we check them with a day up and a day down and take a little bit off of them right there. Darius wasn’t with us today, he was the only one not really present at practice. The trainers are dealing with him. When we have more information, we will make sure we get it out to you.”

THE COACHES SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and on YouTube:

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Giants practice on Tuesday evening (5:45-7:30 PM). Head Coach Joe Judge and several assistant coaches and players will also address the media.

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

Andrew Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

With New York Giants training camp hopefully beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Keep in mind that some of the players discussed may be cut as the 2020 NFL draft class signs their rookie contracts.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Offensive Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 022020
 
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Kyler Fackrell, Green Bay Packers (August 8, 2019)

Kyler Fackrell – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN LONG SNAPPER CASEY KREITER…
The New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent long snapper Casey Kreiter (Denver Bronocs). Terms of the deal are not currently publicly known.

The 29-year old, 6’1”, 250-pound Kreiter was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Dallas Cowboys after the 2014 NFL Draft. After spending two camps with the Cowboys, Kreiter made the Denver Broncos in 2016. He made the Pro Bowl for his performance in 2018. In all, Kreiter, served as Denver’s long snapper in 58 regular-season games.

CONFERENCE CALL WITH LINEBACKER KYLER FACKRELL…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who the New York Giants signed on March 17th:

Q: What was it like for you to have a breakout year and then the Packers go out and sign two guys at your position?
A: It was obviously not ideal. I’ve said before that I definitely got better this year. I think I played better this year than I did the year before, despite not getting the numbers that I would have liked. If you look at percentages and pressures per rush, I think I had 200 less rushes but ended up with more pressures than the year I had 10.5 sacks. I think as far as the way I play and getting better as a player, I think I took a step forward this year.

Q: You are joining a pretty young pass rush, a couple of second- and third-year guys. What can you do as the veteran in the room to help them develop?
A: I’m excited to come into the situation that the Giants are in. I know there are a lot of great players there. Being the veteran in the room, I think there are some good habits and some good things like footwork and handwork. I’m sure they already do stuff like that but that’s definitely something that I think has made me better. I know that’s something I will definitely want to pass on to the guys in the room.

Q: Patrick Graham was your position coach in 2018 when you had a good season number wise. Have you discussed what type of role he has envisioned for you, is it going to be much different than it was in Green Bay?
A: I haven’t discussed specifics with Coach Graham too much. I know that he liked my versatility of being able to rush and drop. I’ll do whatever they ask me to do and whatever they view as best for the defense. I really look forward to what Coach Graham is going to do with the defense. I have a lot of trust in his ability, he is a really sharp dude. I haven’t talked specifically with him, but I will do whatever the defense asks of me.

Q: Is there one thing in particular that Coach Graham unlocked from you in your skillset that you didn’t have before?
A: Honestly, I think that the only thing I would say about Coach Graham is he is a great coach. The thing that I like most about him is just his passion and love for football. He’ll get up on the table and scream and yell if he needs to, but it all comes from a great place. It comes from him being grateful for the life he’s living and what he gets to do to provide for his family. That’s something that I always loved coming into work and working with Coach Graham. That was a big thing coming to the Giants, that he was here and the respect that I have for him.

Q: Do you know at this stage of your career what exactly you are? You had that one breakout year, you like a lot of the things you did last year even though you didn’t have the numbers. Do you have a handle on what you are and what you can be moving forward?
A: I have the utmost confidence in myself. I think that I am a very versatile 3-4 Sam outside linebacker. I love to rush, and I think I am good at it. I take a lot of pride in dropping and making plays in space as well. I think in the 3-4 defense that we played in Green Bay, and Patrick Graham runs a similar style defense, having a versatile outside linebacker is very valuable. I know that I didn’t produce the way I wanted to last year, but I think I have a great opportunity to do that this year and I’m looking forward to it.

Q:  How excited are you to play with Blake (Martinez)?
A: I’m thrilled. We came into Green Bay together and we were roommates all four years of training camp and during rookie minicamp. We have a good relationship and he’s a great player. I was really excited to hear that he was going to the Giants as well.

Q: How do you guys complement each other out there on the field skill-wise?
A: He does a great job. At inside linebacker, a big part of their job is kind of controlling everything and making calls and all that. He does a great job of that. He’s very versatile as well. He can do a lot of different things. Blitzing, there’s a lot of different things we can do, especially in those third down packages with the two of us and kind of trying to confuse quarterbacks.

Q: You mentioned how the sack numbers last year weren’t what you wanted them to be. With so much focus on those numbers, did you worry that that was going to hurt you in free agency? Do you think it did, or do you think that enough people knew what kind of player you were, even without the numbers?
A: I don’t know. I think there’s both sides of it. I know that there’s a lot of analytics and stuff that’s done. I think as far as percentages and all that, I played really well last year. Obviously, just bottom line production is probably the biggest factor. I wasn’t happy with the production that I had. As far as hurting me in free agency, I’m not sure about that. All I can really say is that I’m glad. I think I’m in a great situation. I’m very happy to be coming to the Giants. I just really look forward to getting out there and getting into the building and getting to work.

Q: How do you approach this upcoming season with a one-year contract? We tend to talk about it as sort of a prove-it contract. How do you see that working, and how do you see working under that?
A: I think I view it kind of in a similar way. I believe that I’m better than a one-sack guy, so that’s really what I’m going to try to prove. Again, like I said, I got better this last year. I think I’m a better player last year than I was the year before, and I’ll be a better player this upcoming year just with continuing to work and trying to perfect my craft. I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily any more pressure this year than there was last year, kind of going into a contract year. Honestly, I think it’s just a great situation, a great opportunity for me to be with the Giants and I look forward to it.

Q: Everybody is being affected right now, their offseason work changing. I’m just curious what your regimen looks like now with everybody social distancing?
A: I’ve reached out to the Giants. I’ve been in contact with the head strength coach, and he’s given me some really good stuff to work on. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff just trying to stay in shape. Even from home, doing what I can while also trying to be safe with all of this.

Q: Does having the familiarity you have with Blake and obviously with Coach Graham, does that give you any kind of advantage going in learning this defense with the rest of your teammates?
A: Yeah, I’m not sure. I know it’s a similar defense. It’s not exactly the same. But yeah, I think definitely having been a 3-4 outside linebacker and played in kind of a similar system, even since college, I think that’s a big advantage, especially compared to some other guys that maybe played more of a 4-3 defensive end or haven’t played at standing outside linebacker before. I think that’s going to be really huge. It’s going to be nice for me to have that familiarity. Again, I think that was one of the big things with coming to the Giants and working with Coach Graham, was that familiarity and being able to hopefully be used in that versatile way.

Q: How will you measure this season? People always talk about sack numbers, those are kind of obvious. Are there other ways that you think your season could be measured?
A: Definitely just the way that I affect the quarterback, at least as far as rushing, how often I affect the quarterback. I think pressures are a big thing, and I think the league is kind of trending towards recognizing that. That maybe a guy gets 10 sacks but he has half the pressures of a guy that maybe gets eight sacks but he’s in the quarterback’s face and he’s affecting the quarterback, getting him off the spot a lot. As a rusher, I think you’re more valuable when you can do that more consistently. Obviously, I want the sacks, I want the pressures. Ideally, those things would kind of go hand in hand. But again, I think there are a lot of things that I definitely want to improve on. TFL’s, being a little bit more of a factor in the run game as well. I haven’t sat down and set specific goals yet for this upcoming season. I’m just going to continue to work, and I’ll be able to, in the way that I work and the way that I’m able to be consistent and affect the quarterback and make plays in the run game. Those will be some of the big factors that determine whether I feel like this year was a success.

CONFERENCE CALL WITH OFFENSIVE TACKLE CAM FLEMING…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with offensive tackle Cam Fleming, who the New York Giants signed on March 18th:

Q: Obviously you have a previous relationship with Jason Garrett and Marc Colombo. Can you talk about your bond with them and how much that drew you to the Giants?
A: I think it played a pretty big factor when I was deciding to come here. I think that when you see two people that you worked closely with for two years and they get another job and they want you to come with them, it says they have some kind of confidence about your play, your attitude and all that stuff.

Q: Did Coach Garrett, Coach Colombo and Coach Judge reach out to you before you signed?
A: I was able to talk to a couple coaches before I signed. Without me being able to take visits and stuff like that, I had to communicate with the coaches somehow.

Q: They Cowboys have had one of the best offensive lines in the league. Between what Coach Garrett has run on offense and what Coach Colombo has taught, what is it about what they teach offensive linemen that makes the offensive line so good?
A: It’s hard to say what exactly they teach that makes it so good. I think one of their best attributes is teaching that mentality. In those offenses, the offensive line is a little bit more revered. Some of the best players on the Dallas Cowboys are on the O-line. You feel a little bit more of the weight on your back as an offensive lineman. Hopefully we can bring that here and carry a whole bunch of weight for the Giants as well.

Q:  How important was it to stay in the NFC East where you know the pass rush personnel on the other teams?
A: Not at all. There really wasn’t a consideration of what division I would be in when I was choosing. I was worried about staying employed and being in this league another year. Wherever the opportunity came I was going to follow it.

Q: What can you tell us about Marc Colombo as an offensive line coach? What does he bring to the table and why do you like playing for him?
A: I really like playing for him because he really does love what he does. He comes in with so much energy, so much juice every single day, week after week throughout the whole season. I don’t think there is ever a lull in it for him. I really appreciate his passion and electricity every day. He’s just a damn good coach. He helped me a lot with my technique in Dallas and I look forward to continuing working with him.

Q: Have they told you what your role is going to be here on the Giants? I know you can play both sides, but did they define for you what you’re going to do or are you just going to come in and compete?
A:  Definitely just going to come in and compete. Wherever they need me, I’ll be there. I’ll be there and I’ll try to be my best.

Q: Do you think it’s possible to re-create the atmosphere and the philosophy of the offensive line within Dallas here with the Giants, or was that more personnel-driven because of the players you had there?
A: I don’t think that’s something that we’ll want to do, even if we could. We definitely want to form our own identity of the Giants and build a culture that brings success. But we don’t want to, for lack of a better term, copy what they’re doing in Dallas. There are definitely elements that you can pick out from every team in the league, but you definitely have to build your own identity as the Giants.

Q: Remembering back to your time in New England, obviously, Joe Judge was not your position coach, but you did interact with him I’m sure for several years. What do you remember about him? And back then as the Special Teams Coach and Coordinator, did you ever foresee at all that he would ever be a head coach in the NFL?
A: I was so young back then, I didn’t even really think about all that stuff. But I’m glad to see he’s with the Giants now. I’m glad to see he’s our head coach. I know him probably not as well as some of the special teamers in New England did, but we definitely interacted. He’s a really great dude, brings a lot of intensity. I’m excited to have him.

Q: You guys down in Dallas have some experience with a young quarterback in Dak Prescott as he was coming along. What lessons can you take from working with a young quarterback that maybe you can apply with Daniel Jones as he enters his second year?
A: Whether it’s a young quarterback or an old quarterback, you’re there to make his life easier when it comes to pass protection. The more comfortable he can feel in the pocket, the more he can do what he does. That’s what I plan on doing for him.

Mar 192020
 
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Cam Fleming, Dallas Cowboys (November 22, 2018)

Cam Fleming (75) – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS SIGN CAM FLEMING TO 1-YEAR DEAL…
Multiple media sources are reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent offensive tackle Cam Fleming (Dallas Cowboys) to a 1-year contract.

The 27-year old, 6’5”, 320-pound Fleming was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots.  After four years in New England, he signed with the Cowboys. In six NFL seasons, Cameron has played in 75 regular-season games with 26 starts. He has experience at both tackle spots, where he has started 10 games at each position. Cameron has also played in 11 post-season games with two starts.

GIANTS SIGN NATE EBNER TO 1-YEAR DEAL…
Multiple sources are reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent safety and special teams ace Nate Ebner (New England Patriots) to a 1-year contract.

The 31-year old, 6’0”, 215-pound Ebner was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Patriots. In eight seasons in New England, Ebner has played in 111 regular-season games with no starts, accruing 95 tackles and one forced fumble, mostly on special teams.

GIANTS DO NOT PICK UP OPTION ON ANTOINE BETHEA…
The New York Giants have announced that they will not picked up the final year on safety Antoine Bethea’s 2-year contract, effectively making him an unrestricted free agent. Bethea was set to make $2.475 million in salary and count another $400,000 in bonus money (pro-rated signing bonus, roster bonus, and workout bonus) against the 2020 NFL salary cap.