NEW YORK JETS 12 – NEW YORK GIANTS 7…
In a game that the New York Giants treated more like a gloried scrimmage, the New York Jets won 12-7 in the preseason opener for both franchises on Saturday evening at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Aside from the offensive line, the Giants sat most of their starters and the bulk of the game was played by third teamers.
The Giants back-ups on defense did a decent job against the Jets’ first-team offense, which played into the beginning of the second quarter. While the Jets out-gained the Giants in first-half yardage 177 to 101, the Jets only led 3-0 at the half. Those points came on the Jets’ first offense possession of the game, as they drove 52 yards in 12 plays to set up a 30-yard field goal.
The defensive highlight for the Giants in the first half was defensive linemen Danny Shelton and B.J. Hill stuffing the Jets on 4th-and-1 at the Giants’ 42-yard line early in the second quarter. The Giants’ biggest offensive play of the first half was a 37-yard pass from quarterback Clayton Thorson to wide receiver David Sills. The Giants also had one first-half drive end inside the 10-yard line when running back Corey Clement fumbled the ball away at the Jets’ 3-yard line. Nevertheless, the Giants were held to only eight first downs in the first half, gaining 58 yards on the ground and only 43 through the air.
The Jets went up 10-0 on their second drive in the 3rd quarter, moving the ball 68 yards in 11 plays, culminating with a 4-yard touchdown run. The two offensive highlights for the Giants in the second half were a 48-yard run by running back Sandro Platzgummer and a 21-yard touchdown pass from Thorson to wide receiver Damion Willis, cutting the score to 10-7. The later was set up by a fumble forced by linebacker T.J. Brunson and recovered by cornerback Rodarius Williams.
But any notion of a late-game comeback was snuffed out when Thorson was sacked in the end zone for a safety with less than two minutes to play.
Quarterback Mike Glennon only completed 3-of-7 passes for 20 yards with Thorson completing 5-of-16 passes for 72 yards. The Giants did rush for 105 yards, with Platzgummer and Clement accruing 83 of those yards on nine carries. The leading receiver was Sills (3 catches for 49 yards).
Defensively, linebacker Carter Coughlin had the team’s only sack. Brunson forced a fumble that Rodarius Williams recovered.
INJURY REPORT AND HEALTHY SCRATCHES…
RB Saquon Barkley (knee), RB Gary Brightwell (unknown), WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring), WR Kadarius Toney (unknown), WR John Ross (hamstring?), WR Austin Mack (hamstring), TE Kyle Rudolph (PUP – foot), OG Shane Lemieux (knee), OC Jonotthan Harrison (unknown), LB Lorenzo Carter (calf), LB Elerson Smith (hamstring), CB Aaron Robinson(PUP – core muscle), CB Sam Beal (unknown), CB Jarren Williams (unknown), and S Chris Milton (unknown) did not play.
Regarding Toney, Head Coach Joe Judge said after the game, “I’m not gonna disclose any person’s individual injury at this moment, but we hope to get him out there this week… You know, he’s been dealing with it for a little bit. Something was aggravated in practice towards the tail end of this week, so he was unable to play tonight.”
OG Kyle Murphy left the game late in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return. TE Cole Hikutini left the game in the second half with a hip injury and did not return. LB T.J. Brunson injured his knee late in the game and did not return. QB Clayton Thorson was injured on the play where he was sacked for a safety late in the game.
Others who did not play include QB Daniel Jones, WR Sterling Shepard, TE Evan Engram, OT Nate Solder, OL Ted Larsen, DE Leonard Williams, DE Dexter Lawrence, LB Blake Martinez, LB Oshane Ximines, LB Ryan Anderson, CB James Bradberry, CB Adoree’ Jackson, S Jabrill Peppers, S Logan Ryan, S Xavier McKinney, S Montre Hartage, and PK Graham Gano,
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:
AUGUST 3, 2021 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT… The New York Giants held their sixth full-team summer training camp practice on Tuesday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Practices are not open to the public this year.
GIANTS PLACE DERRICK DILLION ON IR; TODD DAVIS RETIRES…
The Giants have placed WR Derrick Dillon on Injured Reserve with an undisclosed injury. In addition, LB Todd Davis, who the team signed on Saturday, has retired from the NFL.
The 5’11”, 185-pound Dillon was signed by the Giants as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent much of the season on the team’s Practice Squad, but was cut in early December. The Giants signed Dillon to a future/reserve contract in January 2021.
The Giants signed Davis as an unrestricted free agent from the Minnesota Vikings. The 6’1”, 230-pound Davis has spent time with the New Orleans Saints (2014), Denver Broncos (2014-2019), and Minnesota Vikings (2020). He has played in 96 regular-season games with 69 starts, accruing 479 tackles, three sacks, 15 pass defenses, one interception, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.
LG Shane Lemieux (knee), LB Lorenzo Carter (unknown), LB Elerson Smith (unknown), WR Austin Mack (hamstring), and RB Mike Weber (unknown) did not practice on Tuesday.
LB Blake Martinez SJoshua Kalu were officially activated off of the Reserve/COVID-19 List. Both returned to practice.
WR Kadarius Toney (COVID) returned to practice, but only practiced on a limited basis.
WR Kenny Golladay left practice early with a possible strained hamstring and/or hand injury.
The following players remain on various PUP and reserve lists:
Reserve/COVID-19 List: TERysen John
Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List: RB Saquon Barkley (knee), TE Kyle Rudolph (foot), LB Oshane Ximines (hamstring), and CB Aaron Robinson(core muscle)
Reserve/Non-Football Injury (NFI) List: LBReggie Ragland (hamstring) and LB Ryan Anderson(back)
Reserve/Injured: WR Derrick Dillon (unknown)
PRACTICE NOTES… Some snippets from various media sources:
Giants practiced in full pads for the first time this year.
WR C.J. Board badly faked out CB Isaac Yiadom in 1-on-1 drills.
CB Quincy Wilson intercepted a pass in 1-on-1 drills against WR Darius Slayton.
RB Devontae Booker fumbled the first handoff.
QB Daniel Jones threw a fade into the end zone to WR David Sills for a touchdown against CB Adoree’ Jackson.
QB Daniel Jones scrambled and threw a touchdown pass to WR Sterling Shepard, who made a nice catch while falling down.
During one red zone drill period, QB Daniel Jones threw three touchdown passes and ran for a touchdown.
WRs C.J. Board and David Sills caught back-to-back touchdown passes from QB Mike Glennon against CB Sam Beal. Sills, who is having a strong camp, ended up with two touchdowns in 11-on-11 drills. Board is also off to a strong start.
WR Sterling Shepard routinely gave defensive backs issues in 1-on-1 coverage situations.
TE Evan Engram stood out in blocking drills.
QB Daniel Jones, under pressure, scrambled to his right and completed a pass down the field to TE Evan Engram.
QB Daniel Jones was 4-of-4 in 7-on-7 drills and 7-of-7 in the full-team period. QB Mike Glennon was 3-of-3 in 7-on-7 drills and 4-of-4 in the full-team period.
WR Kadarius Toney returned punts along with S Jabrill Peppers, CB Adoree’ Jackson, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Darius Slayton, and WR Dante Pettis.
Tempers flared after a hit on RB Corey Clement by S Xavier McKinney. TE Evan Engram shoved McKinney to the ground and S Logan Ryan hit Engram in the back. A team melee ensued. QB Daniel Jones ended up on the bottom of the pile. Head Coach Joe Judge was livid and had the entire team repeatedly run sprints for about 15 minutes and do push-ups. Judge spent the remainder of the practice screaming expletives at the team. At the end of practice, Judge sent the rest of the coaches away and addressed the entire team by himself.
HEAD COACH JOE JUDGE…
Thetranscriptof Joe Judge’s press conference on Tuesday is available inThe Corner Forumwhile thevideois available atGiants.com.
THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available inThe Corner Forumand atGiants.com:
As we covered in our defensive line review, the New York Giants defense significantly improved from 25th in 2019 to 12th in 2020 in terms of yards allowed. It was a remarkable achievement given the year-long personnel changes in the back seven on defense. There were no adjustments on the defensive line. The same three starters and two back-ups played in every game. The same could not be said for the linebackers and defensive backs.
In today’s 3-4 defenses, the outside linebackers are more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, increasingly commonly referred to as “edge” players. The two Giants who won the starting edge jobs (Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines) were both lost for the season in early October with 3/4ths of the season left to play. Their primary back-up (Markus Golden) was traded to the Cardinals a few weeks later with half the season left to play. The next man up (OLB/ILB hybrid Kyler Fackrell) missed four games due to a calf injury. The Giants were forced to rely on three rookies (7th rounder Carter Coughlin, 6th rounder Cam Brown, and undrafted free agent Niko Lalos) and two retreads (Jabaal Sheard and Trent Harris).
There was chaos too at one of the inside linebacker spots. Devonta Downs started the season but was unimpressive and lost his job to rookie Tae Crowder, the very last player taken in the draft. But after starting two games, Crowder landed on Injured Reserve with a groin injury for five games. Downs was reinserted into the starting line-up, but now David Mayo, who missed the first five games of the season with a knee injury, also saw increased playing time and two starts. Crowder returned in late November and reclaimed the starting job.
Whew. Just typing that was confusing. The only constants were free agent godsend Blake Martinez and the coaching staff.
Martinez was the glue that held the defense together. He directed the defense, played virtually every defensive snap (97 percent), and was a tackling machine (team-high 151 tackles). Long story short, Martinez is the best inside linebacker the Giants have had since Antonio Pierce was cut a decade ago.
Inside Linebackers Coach Kevin Sherrer and Outside Linebackers Coach Bret Bielema did a marvelous job of mixing and matching on a week-to-week basis. Look no further than the edge position where the Giants were left scrambling. At one point, the available players to use were Sheard, Coughlin, Brown, and Lalos. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham, who coached linebackers with the Patriots and Packers, also employed defensive backs at linebacker in various packages. But there was a bit of chaos even in the coaching ranks when Bielema left the Giants with three games left to play to become head coach at the University of Illinois. Sherrer then handled both positions.
Aside from Martinez, what really stands out is that all four of the team’s late-round draft picks at linebacker made the team in addition to a rookie free agent. All five of these rookies played. The Giants were hammered by injuries at the outside linebacker position – down to their 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th options – and yet the coaching staff held the unit together. The biggest negative was the lack of pass rush, particularly from the edge spots. Of the team’s 40 sacks, 13.5 came from the linebackers (and four of them were from inside backers Martinez and Crowder). Fackrell led the linebacking corps with just four sacks.
The Giants signedBlake Martinezas an unrestricted free agent from the Green Bay Packers in March 2020. He had a major impact on the defense, starting all 16 games and playing in 97 percent of all defensive snaps. Martinez finished the season with a team-high 151 tackles and also accrued nine tackles for losses, three sacks, six quarterback hits, five pass defenses, one interception, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. The 6’2”, 237-pound Martinez was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Packers. In four seasons with Green Bay, Martinez has played in 61 regular-season games with 57 starts, accruing 512 tackles and 10 sacks. Martinez lacks ideal size and range for the position, but he is a heady player who can make the defensive calls and gets in on lot of tackles. He is better against the run than the pass.
The Giants selectedTae Crowderin the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He surprisingly moved into the starting line-up in Week 5 and 6 before suffering a groin injury that landed him on Injured Reserve for five games. Crowder returned in late November, starting four of his final six games. In all, Crowder played in 11 games with six starts (37 percent of all defensive snaps), and was credited with 57 tackles, three tackles for losses, one sack, three quarterback hits, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery that he returned for a game-winning touchdown. The 6’3”, 235-pound Crowder was moved from running back to linebacker in college and thus is still learning the position. Only a 1-year starter in college. While Crowder lacks ideal size, he is a good athlete and seems to have good instincts for the position. He must improve his tackling consistency.
Devante Downsbegan the season as a starter, but saw his playing time give way to Tae Crowder. Downs played in all 16 games with eight starts (21 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the season with 33 tackles, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery. The 6’2”, 252-pound Downs was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings waived him in late September 2019 and he was then signed by the Giants to their Practice Squad and 53-man roster in October 2019. Downs played in seven games for the Giants in 2019 on special teams. Downs has good size, but he did not impress against the run or pass in 2020 despite his eight starts.
The Giants placedDavid Mayoon Injured Reserve in early September 2020 with a torn meniscus in his left knee that required surgery. He was activated from Injured Reserve in mid-October. Mayo ended up playing in 11 games with two starts (18 percent of all defensive snaps). He was credited with 29 tackles, two tackles for losses, and one forced fumble. The Giants signed Mayo in September 2019 after he was cut by the San Francisco 49ers. He surprisingly ended up playing in all 16 games with 13 starts, playing in 57 percent of all defensive snaps, and finishing with 82 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 pass defenses. The 6’2”, 240-pound Mayo was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. After four seasons in Carolina, Mayo signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2019. Before coming to the Giants, Mayo only had started four NFL games in four seasons. Mayo lacks ideal tools which limits his ability defend the run and cover receivers, but he plays hard.
The Giants selectedT.J. Brunsonin the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Brunson spent most of the season on the inactive list, but he did play in five games, almost exclusively on special teams. He was credited with three tackles. The 6’1”, 230-pound Brunson is an undersized inside linebacker with decent but not ideal athleticism. He is very physical and aggressive.
The Giants placedLorenzo Carteron Injured Reserve with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon that he suffered in Week 5 in October 2020. He underwent surgery and missed the rest of the season after starting all five games and finishing with 14 tackles and one sack. The Giants drafted Carter in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Carter played in 15 games as a rookie with two starts, finishing the season with 43 tackles, 4 sacks, and 4 pass defenses. In 2019, Carter started 12 of the 15 games he played in, finishing the year with 45 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 5 pass defenses, and 1 forced fumble. Carter is a tall, athletic, disruptive forward mover. Carter looks the part, combining good size (6’5”, 255 pounds) and overall athletic ability. He flashes the ability to disrupt, but must do a better job of disengaging from blockers and making more plays. Versatile, he can play with his hand in the dirt.
Oshane Ximineswas placed on Injured Reserve in early October 2020 with a shoulder injury that he suffered in Week 4. He returned to practice in late November, but his season ended when it was determined he would need rotator cuff surgery. Ximines started three of the four games he played in and finished the season with just four tackles. The Giants drafted Ximines in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He played at end in college. Ximines had a mixed performance in his rookie season in 2019. He received significant playing time, playing in all 16 games with two starts, playing in 45 percent of all defensive snaps, and accruing 25 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and one pass defense. Ximines has a nice combination of size (6’4”, 254 pounds) and overall athletic-ability. Ximines flashed at times as a pass rusher, but he must become a more physical run defender and more consistent, dynamic performer when rushing the passer. He also needs work in coverage.
2020 was an odd year for Markus Golden. Coming off of a superlative debut season for the Giants as a 1-year free agent rental in 2019 (career-high 72 tackles and team-high 10 sacks), Golden did not receive much interest in 2020 free agency. He re-signed with the Giants very late in the offseason in early August, but did not regain his starting position when the season started. The Giants then traded him to the Cardinals in late October. Golden ended up having a much bigger impact with the Cardinals than the Giants in 2020. With the Giants, he played in seven games with one start (16 percent of all defensive snaps) and finished with just 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Golden was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Cardinals. After rejoining the Cardinals, Golden started the final eight games, including a 1-sack, 1-fumble recovery performance against the Giants in Week 14.
The Giants placedKyler Fackrellon Injured Reserve in early December 2020 with a calf injury and activated him to the 53-man roster in early January 2021. In all, Fackrell played in 12 games with nine starts. He played in 56 percent of all defensive snaps and finished the season with 34 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, four sacks, 10 quarterback hits, two pass defenses, one interception that he returned for a touchdown, and one forced fumble. The 6’5”, 245-pound Fackrell was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. In four seasons with Green Bay, Fackrell played in 61 regular-season games with nine starts, compiling 111 tackles, 16.5 sacks, one pass defense, and one forced fumble. Fackrell’s best season was in 2018 when he started seven games and accrued 42 tackles and 10.5 sacks. The Giants signed Fackrell an unrestricted free agent from the Packers in March 2020. Although not a dynamic athlete, Fackrell is a big, versatile linebacker who can play outside or inside linebacker. He flashes as a pass rusher.
The Giants signedJabaal Sheardoff of the Practice Squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars in October 2020. He ended up playing in nine games for the Giants with three starts (24 percent of all defensive snaps), and finished with 19 tackles, two tackles for losses, 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, and one forced fumble. The 6’3”, 268-pound Sheard was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He has spent time with the Browns (2011-2014), New England Patriots (2015-2016), Indianapolis Colts (2017-2019), and Jaguars (2020). Sheard has played in 144 regular-season games with 106 starts. While not a dynamic performer, Sheard is a steady, veteran presence who is solid against the run and will occasionally make some noise as a pass rusher.
The Giants selectedCarter Coughlinin the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He played in 14 games as a rookie with two starts (18 percent of all defensive snaps). Coughlin finished the season with 17 tackles, two tackles for losses, one sack, and two quarterback hits. The 6’3”, 236-pound Coughlin is not a top athlete, but he is a tough, competitive, and reliable linebacker who plays hard.
The Giants selectedCam Brownin the 6th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He played in 15 games as a rookie with no starts (8 percent of all defensive snaps). Brown finished the year with 12 tackles, three quarterback hits, and one forced fumble. The 6’5”, 233-pound Brown is a tall and lanky outside backer with long arms and decent speed. His size and solid athletic ability assist him coverage but he needs to improve his run defense at the point-of-attack and overall tackling consistency.
The Giants signedNiko Lalosas an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. Lalos spent most of the season on the Practice Squad but was elevated to the 53-man roster in December. He played in six games with no starts as a rookie (7 percent of all defensive snaps). Lalos finished the season with six tackles, one interception, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery. The 6’5”, 270-pound Lalos played defensive end in college but was moved to the outside linebacker position by the Giants. He has good size for the position, but is not a dynamic athlete. Over-achiever who plays hard.
The Giants signedTrent Harristo the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in October 2020; he was re-signed to the Practice Squad in December after playing in four games with two starts (6 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished they year with five tackles and 0.5 sacks. The 6’2”, 255-pound Harris was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the New England Patriots after the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on the Practice Squad of the Patriots. The Miami Dolphins claimed Harris off of waivers in September 2019. He played in 11 games with three starts with the Dolphins, accruing 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The Dolphins cut him in early September 2020.
DECEMBER 11, 2020 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
LB Blake Martinez (back), CB Darnay Holmes (knee) , and CB Madre Harper (knee) did not practice on Friday. Harper has officially been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. Martinez and Holmes are “questionable.”
OT Matt Peart (ankle) was limited in practice; he is officially “questionable” for the game.
QB Daniel Jones (hamstring) fully practiced; he is also officially “questionable” for the game.
“(Jone has) been getting better every day, he’s working very hard with the trainers,” said Head Coach Joe Judge before practice. “Coming out of practice yesterday, there was some progress made. We had a long talk with him after practice, long talk with him this morning again. We’re going to kind of put him through it again today, see how his body responds to what it was yesterday. Look, I’m fairly optimistic. At the same time, there are a ways to go and we have to be fair to him. I’m going to talk to the trainers, make sure the medical team and the coaching staff are on the same page and that we do the right thing by this guy.”
HEAD COACH JOE JUDGE…
The transcript of Joe Judge’s press conference on Friday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.
THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:
ALL OF NEW YORK GIANTS 2020 NFL DRAFT CLASS SIGNED…
The New York Giants announced late yesterday that all 10 of their 2020 NFL Draft picks have officially signed. This includes offensive tackle Andrew Thomas (1st round), safety Xavier McKinney (2nd round), offensive tackle Matt Peart (3rd round), cornerback Darnay Holmes (4th round), offensive guard Shane Lemieux (5th round), linebacker Cam Brown (6th round), linebacker Carter Coughlin (7th round), linebacker T.J. Brunson (7th round), defensive back Chris Williamson (7th round), and linebacker Tae Crowder (7th round).
ROSTER MOVES – GIANTS CLAIM CORNERBACK SHAKIAL TAYLOR…
The New York Giants have claimed defensive back Shakial Taylor off of waivers from the Denver Broncos. The 23-year old, 6’0”, 181-pound Taylor was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Indianapolis Colts after the 2019 NFL Draft. He was then claimed off of waivers by the Broncos in November 2019. Taylor played in five games and accrued seven tackles and one pass defense as a rookie.
The Giants have also waived undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Malcolm Elmore, who failed his physical due to a non-football injury.
Wide receiver David Sills was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, which means he either tested positive for the virus or came into contact with someone who did. While he remains on the list, Sill does not count against the team’s 90-man roster limit. The 6’3”, 211-pound Sills was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Buffalo Bills after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Giants signed Sills to the Practice Squad in September 2019 after he was cut by the Bills. The Giants then signed him to the 53-man roster in mid-December. He did not play in a game however.
Quarterback Alex Tanney was placed on the Non-Football Illness List with an undisclosed issue. He counts against the 90-man roster limit. The Giants signed Tanney in May 2018 after after he was cut by the Tennessee Titans. The 6’4”, 220-pound Tanney was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2012 NFL Draft. The well-traveled journeyman has spent time with the Chiefs (2012), Dallas Cowboys (2013), Cleveland Browns (2013), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014), Titans (2014), Buffalo Bills (2015), Indianapolis Colts (2015), and Titans again (2015–2018). He surprisingly won the back-up quarterback job to Eli Manning in 2018, but was moved to third-string in 2019, being active for only one game.
Linebacker Tae Crowder was placed on the Non-Football Injury List with an undisclosed issue. He counts against the 90-man roster limit. The Giants selected Crowder in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
In other moves, the team officially announced that they have waived place kicker Aldrick Rosas. The signing of international player running back Sandro Platzgummer also became official.
GIANTS DECIDE TO GO SPLIT-SQUAD ROUTE…
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, NFL teams had to decide whether they wanted to reduce their training camp rosters on July 28 or August 16. The Giants have chosen the latter. But in doing so, the team must be split into (1) veteran and (2) rookies/first-year players/rehabbing players/select quarterbacks contingents until August 16. Teams will be allowed to begin practicing on August 17.
NEW YORK GIANTS VETERANS REPORTS TO CAMP…
As scheduled, the bulk of New York Giants players reported to training camp in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Tuesday. Quarterbacks, rookies, and rehabbing players reported on July 23.
Actual practices are not expected to be held until mid-August due to COVID-19 restrictions. All preseason games have been canceled. The Giants’ regular-season Monday night home opener is currently scheduled for September 14th. For the players who arrived on Tuesday, the current schedule looks like this:
July 28: Report and receive first test; return home/hotel and participate in virtual meetings.
July 29: Report and receive second test; return home/hotel and participate in virtual meetings.
July 30: Stay at home/hotel and only participate in virtual meetings.
July 31: Report and receive third test; participate in virtual meetings.
August 1-2: Players who test negative receive physicals and equipment fitting.
August 3-16: Strength and conditioning and on-field walk-throughs.
August 17: Helmet and shells practices begin, slowing being ramped up to full-padded work (14 padded practices maximum).
According to media reports, the Giants will conduct most training camp functions at MetLife Stadium in order to be better comply with COVID-19 restrictions. The home and away locker rooms at the stadium will allow for greater social distancing. The Giants will also have access to suites inside the stadium in order to hold team meetings. However, the Giants will still practice at nearby Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Practices will not be open to the public.
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.
2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: If we go back in time one year, many believed that while the defensive line and secondary would improve, it was the linebacking unit that still seemed very much unsettled. After all, the 3-4 defense relies on the linebackers to be the play-makers. The Giants had traded away their best pass rusher, Olivier Vernon. Markus Golden was signed in free agency, but he had yet to return to his pre-injury form from 2016 (12.5 sacks). There was a desperate hope and need for second-year player Lorenzo Carter to beat out disappointing free agent Kareem Martin, relegating the latter to reserve duty. The Giants had also drafted Oshane Ximines in the 3rd round.
Inside linebacker was also a bit confused. The Giants were hoping that Alec Ogletree would become more consistent. It wasn’t clear if B.J. Goodson or Tae Davis would start alongside him. Much wasn’t expected immediately of 5th rounder Ryan Connelly.
So what happened? Golden actually ended up being a good signing, starting all 16 games and accruing a career-high 72 tackles, and team-high 10 sacks. On the other hand, Carter disappointed. Despite starting 12 games, he finished the year with just 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Martin was placed on Injured Reserve in September 2019 with a knee injury that he suffered in the regular-season opener. He was activated back to the active roster in December and finished the year with only three tackles in five games, with no starts. Ximines had a mixed performance as a rookie, receiving significant playing time (45 percent of all defensive snaps). While he flashed at times as a pass rusher (4.5 sacks), he struggled against the run. The Giants also added some in-season pick-ups who saw limited playing time such Devante Downs, Chris Peace, and Tuzar Skipper.
Inside, it was worse. Goodson was traded to the Packers before the season started. Davis was cut during the season in October. Ogletree missed three games and his overall play noticeably declined. At times, he simply appeared to be going through the motions. The brief bright spot was rookie Connelly, but he tore his ACL in Week 4. The Giants signed David Mayo in September after he was cut by the 49ers and surprisingly ended up starting 13 games. He played just OK. Special teams player Nate Stupar was waived, re-signed, and waived again. Undrafted rookie free agent Josiah Tauaefa made the team but saw most of his action on special teams. Deone Bucannon was signed in October after he was cut by the Buccaneers, starting one game, but playing mostly in a reserve role.
Overall, except for Golden and a brief couple of games from Connelly, the linebacking corps once again was a disappointment in all phases: run defense, rushing the passer, and coverage. The Giants finished 20th in run defense. The team generated 36 sacks with 23.5 coming from the linebackers (10 of those from Golden alone). Coverage on opposing tight ends and running backs remained abysmal.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The revolving door at this position continues. The team’s best linebacker in 2019, Markus Golden, remains in limbo as an unsigned unrestricted free agent. Joe Judge says the team would like him back. Expensive David Gettleman mistakes Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin were let go in February. Deone Bucannon signed with the Falcons in May. The Steelers re-signed Skipper from the Giants’ Practice Squad in November.
Devante Downs and David Mayo were re-signed. The Giants signed free agents inside linebacker Blake Martinez ($31 million) and outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell ($4.6 million). An influx of rookies arrived in April, including Cam Brown (6th round), Carter Coughlin (7th round), T.J. Brunson (7th round), Tae Crowder (7th round), Dominique Ross (UDFA), Dana Levine (UDFA), and Oluwole Betiku (UDFA).
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: There are a lot of bodies (17), but how many are good players? The team’s most productive pass rusher, Golden, remains unsigned. As of now, the Giants are relying on Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and a late draft pick/rookie free agent to supply the outside pass rush. While the first three players have flashed at times, that’s asking a lot. The belief by many is that new Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham will have to scheme the pass rush.
Inside, much depends on the performance of Blake Martinez and how well Ryan Connelly comes back from a serious knee injury. Opinions on Martinez vary wildly. And Connelly has to prove he hasn’t lost speed/agility. Mayo provides depth and insurance.
Did the Giants find gold with any of the late four draft picks or three undrafted rookie free agents?
ON THE BUBBLE:When you have 17 players at one position, a lot of people are on the bubble. Barring injury, one would think that Fackrell, Carter, and Ximines are safe outside and Martinez and Connelly will make it inside. Mayo has an experience advantage, but he faces competition from at least two rookies (Brunson and Crowder). Will the Giants re-sign Golden? All five rookie outside linebackers have intriguing characteristics, but they all can’t make it. Special teams play probably will be a significant factor.
PREDICTIONS: Stating the obvious, the Giants don’t have an edge rusher who scares the heck out of the opposition and demands potential double-team attention. Even if the team re-signs Golden, he’s more of a complimentary piece than headliner. Fackrell could surprise as he did have a double-digit sack season in 2018 under Patrick Graham. So much depends on whether or not new outside linebacker coach Bret Bielema can develop Carter and Ximines. (Incidentally, a nice addition for Carter was that he former college coach is now coaching the inside linebackers). The pass rush could be aided if the inside linebackers and safeties can improve their coverage against tight ends. The longer a QB has to hold the football, the more time the pass rushers will have to get to the QB. Barring an unlikely breakout season by someone, the Giants are not likely to be a strong pass rushing team in 2020.
On the other hand, contrary to many, I’m a bit more bullish on the inside guys as long as Ryan Connelly can fully recover from his ACL injury. Martinez and Connelly are two smart, heady, better-athletes-than-advertised players who could form a very respectable duo inside.
FINAL DEPTH CHART: Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin, Blake Martinez, Ryan Connelly, David Mayo, T.J. Brunson
I’m throwing darts at a dartboard when it comes to predicting rookies at this point. For example, who knows if Brunson or Crowder will show more? The heart of any special teams unit are the reserve linebackers and defensive backs so a lot of these guys could make it. I would not be shocked to see one or even two of the undrafted rookie free agents really push for a roster spot. Don’t sleep on guys like Ross, Levine, and Betiku.
BABY STEPS – GIANTS BEGIN REOPENING TEAM FACILITY…
The New York Giants announced on Wednesday that the team has “started a slow, steady reopening” of the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey “in accordance with the protocols of the State of New Jersey and the NFL.” The facility had been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 situation.
According to a Giants press release, approximately 15-20 team officials returned to the facility on Wednesday, including co-owner John Mara and General Manager Dave Gettleman as well as some football, business, operations, and medical staff. No coaches have yet returned.
The press release continues: “The number of employees in the facility will continue to increase slowly over the course of the next couple weeks with more business people filtering in. For the time being, those employees who can continue to work from home will do so.”
“We have been working diligently over the last couple months to prepare for coming back to the facility, the Quest Diagnostics Training Center,” said Senior Vice president of Medical Services Ronnie Barnes. “The primary focus has been to return our employees safely. And so everything that we have been doing has been related to the safety of our employees and how we can get back to work as safely as possible.
“We’re all happy to be back. We’ve been waiting for a long time. The Giants’ COVID-19 Task Force has been working hard to make this facility as safe as possible. We’ve made a lot of changes; those are all for (employees’) safety and they’re very important. We are following the CDC guidelines, the guidelines from the NFL and guidelines from the National Institute of Health, as well as the state’s protocols.”
DEANDRE BAKER UPDATE…
As previously reported, New York Giants cornerback Deandre Baker was charged last month with four counts of armed robbery and four counts of armed aggravated assault with a firearm from an incident that allegedly took place at a house party in Miramar, Florida. The incident was allegedly sparked by a game of dice that involved high-stakes gambling and allegedly resulted in Baker robbing party guests at gunpoint. Baker was released on bond after he turned himself into police authorities.
Since the incident, the New York Giants told Baker to stay away from team offseason virtual meetings and concentrate on his ongoing legal situation.
In May, Baker’s attorneys claimed Baker was the victim of a shakedown. Now one of his attorneys believes Baker will soon be cleared of all charges. “I think we’ve got the case won, to be honest with you,” Baker’s attorney told SNY. “I think it’s only a matter of time…As soon this dismissal goes (through), he’s going to head back to Jersey and start practicing. If it becomes a charge, then the NFL will suspend him. So the Giants are really just playing it cool right now, which is the right thing to do. Just do nothing until the state makes a decision on what they’re going to do.”
However, even if Baker is legally cleared, the NFL could punish Baker for violating the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.
“Hopefully it’s a wake-up call for the young kid,” said Baker’s attorney. “That’s what he needed.”
The Giants drafted Baker in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Baker had an up-and-down rookie season for the Giants. He started 15 of the 16 games he played in, receiving 87 percent of defensive snaps, and finishing the year with 61 tackles and 8 pass defenses. He did not intercept a pass.
GIANTS.COM PLAYER BREAKDOWNS… Giants.com has produced a number of informative players breakdowns on the New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft class:
Film Room: Breaking Down Andrew Thomas’ College Tape (Video)
Film Room: Breaking Down Matt Peart’s College Tape (Video)
Film Room: Shaun O’Hara Breaks Down Shane Lemieux’s College Tape (Video)
MEDIA SESSIONS WITH SHANE LEMIEUX, CAM BROWN, CARTER COUGHLIN…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with New York Giants draft picks guard/center Shane Lemieux (5th round), linebacker Cam Brown (6th round), and linebacker Carter Coughlin (7th round):
Q: You have obviously played guard in games, but you’ve also done some work at center if I’m not mistaken. Can you tell us where you are in that process and how that transition is coming along for you?
A: I was really fortunate enough in college, I had a really good offensive line. We never really had to move much because we were experienced veterans. During this draft process, I understood that this game is all about versatility. I think that me getting good at all three interior positions is going to benefit me well in the future. I don’t really have a position. I just want to be ready whenever I get in, to be ready to play whatever coach asks me to.
Q: Was that your decision to take on center? Did your coach come to you and tell you to learn other spots?
A: That was probably just on me. Especially as a rookie, there’s not really a guard that only plays guard. Versatility is the biggest factor in this game. Coaches want to be able to put you in multiple spots. I have really good mentors that told me that at training camp, no matter where you are, they are going to throw you in, and you have to be ready. I just want to be prepared before that happened. Even at pro day, somebody asked me to jump in at center and I was ready to do that. It just all works out and versatility is key.
Q: What is the biggest challenge of playing center?
A: Every single offensive line position is going to have different techniques. I feel like with center there is a lot more responsibility on you to know the offense and to know more of the defense and be more sound with what’s going on around you. Obviously, you have to snap the ball. Those are the two of the biggest factors that are different. At the same time, I feel like I am a football player. I’ve been working at all three positions. I really appreciate the differences in all three of the interior spots and the tackle spots as well. There’s obviously little caveats, little differences to everything.
Q: You are the second Oregon player to be drafted to New York. Do you know Sabrina (Ionescu) and what do you think about her basketball game?
A: Yes, I do know Sabrina. She came in the class after me, obviously she is a really talented athlete, awesome person. A fearless competitor. When you watch her play, that’s the first thing you see. A competitor who loves her teammates and loves the game of basketball. I think that’s the most important part of being a great athlete, loving your sport.
Q: What was your initial conversation with Coach Judge like? What’s it like going to a coach who is clearly trying to establish a culture?
A: My head coach in college, Mario Cristobal, emphasized doing the work before doing the talk. I think that’s a really important piece that taught me how to be pro. Coach Judge called me on draft day and said put your head down and work. I think that’s an important thing. I don’t want to elaborate on exactly what he said out of respect for him and I. The main mantra was to put your head down and work.
Q: As the nearly 500th ranked recruit at the time, three-star, first guy out of West Valley to D-1. What has this ride meant to you the last four or five years? How does it feel to be an NFL draft pick?
A: First thing I thought of was I remember one day my sophomore year of high school when I told my dad I’m going to play in the NFL. I’m going to get this done, I’m going to play at Oregon and be an All American. I think ever since that day I promised my parents, it’s kind of been uphill since from there. I went through a lot of stuff, a lot of workouts, a lot of force feeding to try and get up to the weight to get into college. It’s awesome, I’ve gotten unbelievable support out of West Valley, my high school area. Just trying to be a good representative of the 509. I take a lot of pride in that. Cooper Kupp came out of Washington and is with the Rams and now there’s me. I think I have to be a good representative of the valley and be a good representative for the University of Oregon. They taught me so much.
Q: As a country boy who wants to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere at some point, how does the New York/ New Jersey area sound?
A: We have a bunch of guys, Justin Pugh, who I’m training with, Jonotthan Harrison of the Jets. They have done a good job of showing me where the places to fish are, where the reservoirs are. I’ve heard a lot about the surrounding areas, even the ocean you can fish. I’m sure I can find stuff to do. At the same time, I want to focus on the season, I’m going to be doing a lot of stuff. I’m probably just going to be living wherever I am, playing ball, and studying film.
Q: Growing up when you were learning the position, who were some of the guys you viewed as role models?
A: I probably never really had a role model or someone I modeled my game after. I was always told as a young player, especially from my coaches at Oregon, you are an individual. You play like Shane Lemieux, you don’t play like anybody else. Obviously, there’s great role models in this game. I think one that comes to mind is Marshal Yanda. His toughness and his durability. I remember him walking off the field with a broken leg, I thought that was really impressive. Stuff like that, people who take a lot of pride in the position, people who work really hard are guys I want to look up to but not necessarily who I want to play like.
Q: A lot of what we have talked to you about is being a center. I assume you are coming in here saying, “I’m a guard”, aren’t you?
A: I think I’m an offensive lineman, that’s what I’m coming in as. That’s what I have been playing, I’m a football player. I’m a football player that plays offensive line. No matter where the coaches want to put me to help the team, that’s where I’m going to go.
Q: With a name like Lemieux, how is it you are playing football instead of hockey?
A: I’ve gotten that question for a long time. I had a left tackle in college named Tyrell Crosby that played right next to me, so it was Crosby and Lemieux and people had a fit with that. I’ve heard I’m not wearing 66, which is a crime. I was 68 in college. I’ve never met another Lemieux that plays hockey so if somebody sees this, let me know.
Q: After four years of being a starter, what is the mental shift for you in this process of having to compete for a job again and possibly having to be backup to start off? After 52 straight starts, what’s that like for you mentally?
A: It’s just going to work. I think every single day in college I approached each day as if my job was on the line. I think the biggest factor of why I never liked to miss practice or why I never missed a game rep was if I wasn’t getting those reps, somebody else was. That’s the mentality I had instilled in me by coach Cristobal at Oregon. Alex Mirabal at Oregon. I think that’s just the way I take the game. I take a lot of pride in the sense that any play can be your last. The more I can understand the playbook, earn the trust of the coaches and my teammates and just work, that’s what it takes.
Q: Did the whole family make it down to Arizona? Did Miranda join you?
A: It was just mom, dad and my sister in Arizona. My parents drove down, they thought it would be a lot safer than flying. Even here, we did a lot of social distancing. It was good.
Q: Joe Judge has talked a lot about cross training offensive linemen at different spots. Andrew Thomas at left tackle and right tackle, I’m sure with you playing both guard spots and center. From an offensive lineman’s perspective, how challenging is that and how beneficial is it to get reps at all three of those spots?
A: Especially as a young player in this league, I think it’s the ultimate test to be able to play all the different positions. I know a lot of offensive line coaches like it. I’m sure these offensive line coaches like it, they talked a lot about it. You want to be the best player you can be. The best player you can be is somebody who can be thrown in at any position and can play.
Q: Where are you most comfortable? Where do you have the most experience and is there a difference between both sides?
A: In high school, I played left tackle, right tackle. In college I played left guard, in practice I played right guard. I’ve been all over. I think I don’t really have any place where I’m comfortable. I think I’m a natural offensive lineman where I can play any position I’m asked. I think that’s just been a lot of work. Obviously, there’s techniques and differences between each position. There’s set differences if you’re a guard, if you’re a tackle, if you’re at center. I think it’s just the more reps, the more comfortable you are at a position. I’ve taken so many reps over my career, I’m comfortable at any position.
Q: You mentioned cross training and you are an offensive lineman, not just a guard. Center is a whole different animal. Have you ever snapped before in practice? What are the main things you need to learn to actually snap the ball and then block? It’s a whole different skill set.
A: In practice throughout my college career, I snapped just to learn. I think it would just be good to learn. Ever since, now I have been trained at every position. I have even been trained at tackle just to understand the game more and be more versatile. Each offensive line position is a little different, each takes reps to get comfortable. I’ve been working to get more comfortable with the stance and the snaps. Even at right guard, I haven’t played a bunch of right guard, so I am getting better there. I’m probably never going to play tackle, but just the ability to get out there even if you have to take a couple reps in practice is great to have.
Q: I know you have played every game. Do you have any idea on how many snaps you’ve missed?
A: I remember one game I missed a snap against Wyoming because my shoe came off. That’s the only snap I have ever missed, that was my sophomore year. Ever since then, it was only if we were up big on an opponent.
Q: You have never missed a practice either?
A: Never missed a practice, no sir.
Q: The general manager Dave Gettleman talked about fixing the offensive line once and for all. You are well aware they drafted Andrew Thomas, they drafted Matt Peart in the third round and you as well. What’s it like to be a part of that group that is tasked with fixing that offensive line once and for all?
A: I think it’s really awesome seeing a team value the offensive line the way that they do. I’ve heard all about hog mollies and all that kind of stuff. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get to know these other rookies and I can’t wait to get to know the other teammates on the offensive line. I think we are all ready to get to work. I can’t speak for them, but I’m sure we are all ready to work. I briefly met Andrew Thomas and Peart at the combine and I can’t wait to see them and get to work with them.
Q: You mentioned getting reps in. With the challenge with COVID-19, how are you getting these reps in. There is so much more about playing center. There’s the movement of the ball and moving at the same time. It’s snapping to a quarterback and getting used to the chemistry there. How are you simulating all that in whatever training you are doing?
A: Basically, I have been at a private training facility in Arizona with LeCharles Bentley. We do a really good job of keeping people inside the gym social distancing. We have the same group of guys that have been in the gym for the last four months. We kind of live in this bubble and we do a really good job of dividing these groups out, so we are not together. I think I have been taking a lot of reps on air at guard and tackle. I have been doing lot on the bag, too. I’m still able to get the work in.
Q: I know when you were originally recruited to Penn State, they wanted you as a defensive end but there was that struggle to put weight on to play that position. What was that like for you and what do you think you can bring to this Giants defense that really doesn’t have a pass rush other than Markus Golden, who is not even on the team who has had double digit sacks the last couple years?
A: Honestly, the struggle coming to Penn State and trying to put on some weight, it wasn’t too much of a struggle, it was just something that would fit at the time. At the time, I was about 220, not even 220, like 200, and they figured I’d be more effective at linebacker at the time than at defensive end. So, I mean of course if I grew into a spot, they’d be open to moving to d-end. For me, luckily, it wasn’t necessary. It worked out well for me to be a linebacker at Penn State. Going into the Giants, I really do hope to just play my role, play whatever role that is as a linebacker, outside, inside, wherever the coaches need. I just want to make plays honestly. Just get my name out there so I can make plays.
Q: We know your Penn State connections to the Giants, I’m curious how many of those guys have you been in contact with? It’s probably pretty obvious that (Defensive Line Coach) Sean Spencer gave you a high recommendation for you to land here. What’s your relationship with him?
A: From the start honestly, I talked to Grant (Haley) and Saquon (Barkley) of course, Coach Spence, everybody on draft day congratulated me. Just reconnecting with them a little bit. With Say (Saquon) and Grant, it was more so I was just asking them for a little advice, just bouncing quick ideas off them real quick. But I’m pretty sure more communication will go on as long as this goes on, as long as we’re away from each other. But honestly, Coach Spence, Coach Spence is my guy. Like I said, I was going to be recruited as a d-end, so we had a relationship, he came to see me all of the time during recruitment in high school. It’s grown and blossomed. I feel like I became one of the guys he could trust on the defense and he’s one of the guys that I trusted him to go to with problems or things like that. Our relationship is growing and I hope it continues to blossom.
Q: What kind of background do you have in special teams? Did you play much in college?
A: Yeah, freshman and sophomore year, it was how I made my money honestly. It was how I got on the field. Freshman year, I played every special teams, kickoff, kick return, punt, punt return. Made some plays on kickoff and punt return. But sophomore year, I moved into, I still was playing a lot of special teams, that was more so kickoff, punt, a little bit of punt return there. But that year, or those two years, I was getting my feet wet, trying to get the experience, trying to understand the flow of the game. Just going against different players. I mean every game at kickoff you really get to size people up. The game always starts and ends with a kick, so it’s kind of what I got used to and kind of how I started my progression in college.
Q: Do you expect your NFL career to follow that same path?
A: Yeah, I do. I definitely understand that as a rookie coming in that I’m going to have to do and play all special teams. I mean it’s a 53-man roster, you’ve got to play your role and that role might be in multiple places. I’m willing and ready to play.
Q: Did you work a whole lot with Coach Spencer? I know he cross-trains a lot of guys. Can you just talk about working with him and what he teaches and what you think that’s going to translate to when you get to this level?
A: Yeah, Coach Spence…we used to call him the ultimate motivator. He’s going to get guys riled up, his coaching style is really energetic, he’s out there with you, he’s going to run around, he’s going to crack jokes with you. He’s going to yell at you, and he’ll get on you hard, but you know it’s coming from a loving place. With Coach Spence going through different drills, like certain days we had hunger drills where it was like each day you’re working out on things coaches feel like we need this week. Like maybe tackling, maybe hand work, pass rush. With Coach Spence, he was always there to correct those pass rush moves and things like that. I hope and pray we can get some more cross-training there so I keep up that relationship with him.
Q: I was wondering with your relationship with Coach Spencer, did you have any inkling that the Giants were looking to draft you? Also, what was your first interaction like with Joe Judge?
A: With Coach Spence, his congratulations were more so cordial, more so family-like than as coming as a coach. He’s always giving me a little bit of advice just to go ahead. But, with Coach Judge honestly, the conversations have been good. They’ve been positive, they’ve been welcoming is all I can say. But outside of that, I’m getting ready to have more conversations with him and grow from there.
Q: The Giants seem to embrace the idea of versatility. Was there a time in your college career where you said as much as I’m versatile, maybe focusing on one thing might kind of raise my profile a little bit? Do you feel like what kind of led people to maybe overlook you in college and might be something that when you get to this defense and the way they want to use you might expand your profile a little bit?
A: Honestly in college, I wasn’t too concerned on doing one thing. I was doing whatever was needed, whatever (Penn State Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers) Coach Pry asked me honestly, if that was jumping from positions — from Will, to Sam, to back to Mike, honestly for me, I feel like that versatility and that diversity in positions I’ve played has only helped me. I feel like I don’t mind if people may have overlooked me, that’s fine. I made my way to the NFL and I’m ready to show what I can do there and whatever the coaches want me to do there, pass rush, drop, coverage, whatever it may be, I’m ready to do it.
Q: When you watch the game now that is being played in the NFL, do you see yourself as someone who can thrive in doing that variety of things?
A: One hundred percent, yes, I do. I feel like, like I said the versatility in all the positions I’ve played have helped me a tremendous amount. At middle linebacker, sometimes you’ve got to guard running backs, you’ve got to guard tight ends. The outside, sometimes you’ve got to set up in the slot. Whatever it may be. I feel like with the spread offense that’s coming to the NFL and all these multiple weapons and big tight ends that everybody is using, I feel like I’ll be able to match up very well against them.
Q: You became kind of a Giants fan favorite on draft day with your tweet about the Cowboys. Where did that come from? Did you grow up a Giants or Eagles fan? Why did you grow up not liking the Cowboys?
A: Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you. I was probably watching a game when that tweet came out. But honestly, I’d rather not talk about something that went on seven years ago.
Q: Did you grow up a Giants fan?
A: Honestly no, I did not. I jumped around teams for a while and then grew up a Patriots fan.
Q: How does being 6’5” as a linebacker help you? Now, that’s big for a linebacker…the Giants have another one in Lorenzo Carter who’s tall like that, but you’d expect that size at defensive end.
A: Honestly, it helps getting in windows. When you’re 6’5” on the second level, and the quarterback is trying to throw a dig, it’s kind of hard when you’ve got to clear about seven to eight feet of height and length in arms. It’s kind of, for me, it’s been getting into windows, it helps with the range. Even when you’re diving through tackles, that length allows you to get a little bit further than most.
Q: Back to that initial phone call with Joe Judge. There’s been a lot of talk about how he was pretty serious with the other players who were drafted, not to go on and talk to us about Super Bowl expectations or anything like that. What was that call like? Also, playing at a program like Penn State where they’ve had 10 or 11 players drafted in the past two years, how does playing in a program like that get you ready for the jump to the NFL?
A: I think, especially with the Giants, it’s a great organization, it’s a very professional organization. I feel like with us, Penn State is known to be high standard, high character. I feel like that transition will be very smooth for me. Even with Coach Judge, he’s a humble guy. He wants us to have humble but ambitious goals honestly. From there, he wants us to focus on what we’ve got to do now, and that’s honestly getting through this Corona thing.
Q: You mentioned you feel you are very versatile. I want to get a better idea as to how versatile you are. Are you primarily a stand up a guy, have you ever played much with your hand in the dirt. Are you a five technique if you have played the defensive line, do you play nine wide? Can you fill in those gaps for me?
A: My freshmen year I played the Will, the boundary backer for us which gets a lot of action. Sophomore year, I moved to the Sam position while playing Will still. The Sam for us is almost like an NFL nickel. We sit on top of two, we’re rerouting receivers, we’re not really in the run game. Junior year, I stayed at Sam and played Mike on third downs. Mike for us on third downs is our pass coverages, our dollar (coverage), we’re mixing stuff up, blitzing, whatever it may be. Senior year, it was the same combination. I bounced around. Even at the Sam position, there’s no two wide, but I was playing the wide guy. Honestly, I played a little bit of everything. I haven’t put my hand in the dirt but outside of that, everything on the second level I have played.
Q: Joe Judge talked about the way they go about talking to players and they use it as an opportunity at times to pick your brain on other players. How different was your interaction with them as a team than with other organizations?
A: I can’t say it was too different. A lot of teams want to see how you react and how you respond to teams’ questions about other guys, either negative or positive. With them, they want to get more of a well-rounded view on me and how I looked at the game. That’s what they took out of it. When they asked questions like who is the best player you played against, I answered the question with J.K. Dobbins, who is an amazing player. Things like that, they just want to see your deeper understanding of football. I feel like that’s what they were getting out of that.
Q: Did they give you an idea of where they are going to start you at position wise?
A: Honestly at linebacker, I can tell you that. Outside or inside, that’s up for debate.
Q: What was it like being high school teammates with Ryan Connelly? Have you been in touch with him since the weekend?
A: I got a chance to play with Ryan my freshman and sophomore year. At Eden Prairie High School, Ryan was the starting quarterback, so it’s awesome that he switched over to linebacker, it clearly worked out for him. He texted me on draft day and I got a chance call him last night. He gave a rundown on a bunch of stuff, so it’s awesome to connect with him and I will be able to get some awesome wisdom from him.
Q: How was he as a quarterback?
A: He was a monster as a quarterback. He was built like a linebacker, crazy athletic and super smart. All that obviously translated over to his linebacker game. I still remember him standing on the 50-yard line with his feet planted and being able to throw the ball all the way to the endzone without an issue. He had a cannon for an arm.
Q: You were versatile at Minnesota. Can you talk about the positions and what they asked you to do on the defense?
A: At Minnesota, I got a chance to play our edge rush position. We just called it our rush. It’s kind of a hybrid outside linebacker mixed with defensive end. It allowed me to drop into coverage, it allowed me to get after the quarterback, play off tight ends and play near the line of scrimmage. It really allowed me to play a bunch of different aspects of what an outside linebacker could look like or even a defensive end. I loved the rush position.
Q: Did you play with your hand in the dirt?
A: No. I always stayed up on my feet at the University of Minnesota.
Q: You have a long family line that has attended the University of Minnesota. Why was that so important to you to continue that tradition?
A: I grew up a Gopher fan since the day I came out of the womb. For me, I took a lot of pride in the University of Minnesota. Being a Gopher fan for a while, it was kind of tough sometimes because there were a lot of years where it was down and then you would catch a glimmer of hope and it would go back down. When I was deciding where I wanted to go to school, I decided I wanted to be a part of making Minnesota as great as the days when my grandpa played and they were winning championships and all that kind of stuff. From that aspect, I had pride at Minnesota, and I decided I wanted to be a part of building the program.
Q: You had a lot success in college getting sacks, rushing the passer. How do you see that translating to the NFL? The Giants did not really draft pass rushers and they need pass rushers. As a seventh rounder, can you be a guy that can contribute in that regard?
A: Being a swiss army knife is always useful. Whatever position the coaches decide to put me at, I guarantee you I will be able to maximize my potential there. Whether that looks like special teams, whether that looks like a positional fit, I’ll be able to use a lot of the different tools I have been able to build up through college. To able to maximize every opportunity I get.
Q: What do you think the key to being a successful pass rusher at the next level will be?
A: I’d say to continue to harness in on some of the details that I think, since I’ve been out of college, that I’ve been able to identify. Stuff that I really want to work on. But I think a lot of it, too, is watching film. That played out a lot for me in college, identifying what the opposing offensive tackle struggles with, how he moves his feet, how he shoots his hands, whether he leans, all of that kind of stuff. I think that transfers even more to the NFL because from what I’ve heard it’s a whole bunch of film and note taking and that’s right up my wheelhouse. I’ll be able to continue to develop those skills of learning and taking notes and watching film and all of that kind of stuff.
Q: I know you have a long legacy at Minnesota, but the Coughlin name also has a big legacy here with the Giants. Have you ever met Coach Coughlin? I’m assuming you’re not related at a distant point.
A: No, I’ve never met him, and we are not related, but I’ve got a bunch of people that have been asking me that over social media.
5th Round: OG Shane Lemieux, 6’4”, 310lbs, 5.13, University of Oregon
6th Round: LB Cam Brown, 6’5”, 233lbs, 4.69, Penn State
7th Round: LB Carter Coughlin, 6’3”, 236lbs, 4.58, University of Minnesota
7th Round: LB T.J. Brunson, 6’0”, 230lbs, N/A, University of South Carolina
7th Round: CB/S Chris Williamson, 6’0”, 200lbs, 4.43, University of Minnesota
7th Round: LB Tae Crowder, 6’3”, 235lbs, N/A, University of Georgia
Scouting Report on CB Darnay Holmes: The 5’10”, 195-pound Holmes was a 3-year starter at UCLA. He lacks ideal height and is probably best suited to slot corner in the NFL. Holmes is a very smart and competitive player who is equally comfortable with press and off coverage. Good speed and quickness. He makes plays on the football. Overly aggressive at times, Holmes needs to guard better against double moves. Despite his lack of size, he is a tough guy who will play the run. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs.
Sy’56’s Take on CB Darnay Holmes: Slot corner that can come in year 1 and compete for a nickel job. Graduated college in under 3 years. Smart and savvy, shows up on the field. Can mirror quick slot receivers, has some size/playing strength issues.
Scouting Report on OG Shane Lemieux: The 6’4”, 310-pound Lemieux started an incredible 52 games in college, never missing a game. Tough, strong, blue-collar offensive guard who could project to center. He has good size but also has athletic limitations that will limit his upside. Lemieux can create movement as a run blocker, but can be exposed by quick pass rushers at times. Smart.
Sy’56’s Take on OG Shane Lemieux: Fifth year senior from Yakima, Washington. Four year starter who never missed a game, 52 consecutive starts. Two-time 2nd Team All Pac 12 and 2019 2nd Team All American. Lemieux is a reliable, know-what-you’re-getting guard who won’t be a guy who consistently hurts an offense, but has a limited upside. He is big and plays with a blue collar attitude, often overpowering and out-hustling his man. However there are certain matchups and situations where his tight hips and inconsistent pad level pops up. He will need to be protected a bit, but he should at least be a solid interior backup early on with the potential to start down the road.
*I talked about how impressive and rare it is to see a lineman start 46 games over the course of a career. Lemieux started 52! Just amazing. I really wanted to grade him higher than this because I love his grit and style. However I just can’t get beyond the stiffness he shows when something unexpected comes his way. He might be a guy who can play early but he needs to be protected and you can’t have him move laterally that often. I just wouldn’t want to see him on an island against these quicker interior pass rushers.
Scouting Report on LB Cam Brown: The 6’5”, 233-pound Brown was a 2-year starter at Penn State. Very tall and lanky outside backer with long arms and decent speed. Brown is an aggressive but not overly instinctive player. His size and solid athletic ability assist him coverage but he needs to improve his run defense at the point-of-attack and overall tackling consistency. Team leader.
Sy’56’s Take on LB Cam Brown: A frame and tool set that every coach is going to want to work with because of the multi-down versatility he can offer. Can be a weapon in coverage because of his top shelf length and loose hips.
Scouting Report on LB Carter Coughlin: A 3-year starter at Minnesota, the 6’3”, 236-pound Coughlin is an outside linebacker who can play over the tight end. He may project to inside linebacker in the pros. Coughlin can set the edge against the run. Hustles and chases. Coughlin is limited by his athletic limitations, but he is a tough, competitive over-achiever who is reliable and consistent. Solid in coverage.
Sy’56’s Take on LB Carter Coughlin: 40 career TFL + 22.5 career sacks. Sneaky athlete that will be a “multiple” LB for NYG defense that wants to be able to change schemes weekly. A natural in coverage, effective with his hands as a rusher, and plays low.
Scouting Report on LB T.J. Brunson: The 6’0”, 230-pound Brunson is an undersized inside linebacker with decent but not ideal athleticism. He is very physical and aggressive, to the point where it sometimes hurts his game. Brunson needs to play under more control and consistently wrap up as a tackler. Hard worker and team leader.
Sy’56’s Take on LB T.J. Brunson: One of the biggest combine snubs. Bruiser that leaves a mark when he hits you, shows good tackle to tackle range. Versatile on third down because he can blitz well and carry tight ends up the seam.
Scouting Report on CB/S Chris Williamson: The 6’0”, 200-pound Williams combines good size and overall athleticism. He has experience playing as a hybrid inside defensive back/linebacker and is physical with receivers in coverage. Williamson is aggressive in run support and will hit but he needs to play under more control.
Sy’56’s Take on CB/S Chris Williamson: One of the favorites down at Shrine week. Top shelf athletic ability but also shows the discipline to stay in phase, trusting his feet and balance. Might be an ideal fit for nickel but can play outside.
Scouting Report on LB Tae Crowder: The 6’3”, 235-pound Crowder was moved from running back to linebacker in college and thus is still learning the position. Only a 1-year starter. He is a good athlete and has added size to his frame. More instinctive than you would expect given his lack of experience.
Sy’56’s Take on LB Tae Crowder: Leader of a talented Georgia defense that plays fast and physical. Maybe more of a 2-down guy that the team drafted for special teams, the theme of their 7th round.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Gettleman on CB Darnay Holmes: We had a good day today. I’m very pleased with what happened. We took all defensive guys except for Shane Lemieux, the guard in the fifth round. The theme of the day for defense was speed. We really feel like we improved our teams speed and that was what we were trying to do. In the fourth round we took Darnay Holmes, a kid from UCLA. He’s a corner, he plays the nickel. He will come in and compete for that spot right away. He’s a tough kid, he can run. We’re excited we were able to get him.
Joe Judge on CB Darnay Holmes: Darnay is definitely a guy that jumps out at you. He’s got good speed, he’s got real good short area quickness. He’s contributed on the defensive side of the ball, he’s had impact in the kicking game. He plays with a good edge, shows some nasty. You can see he definitely plays bigger than his size. He’s a guy that jumped out at us at the Senior Bowl. His tape backed up what we saw down there. I’m really happy we were able to add him today.
Dave Gettleman on OL Shane Lemieux: Next round we got Shane Lemieux, a guard out of Oregon. Every really good club that I have been with, the offensive line has set the tone. This is a tough kid who plays mad. He’s big, he’s powerful, he’s a pretty good athlete. We’re excited to add him to the mix.
Joe Judge on OL Shane Lemieux: Shane’s a guy like Dave said, he plays with nasty. You turn the Auburn game on and right from the first snap he’s tossing bodies around. You can’t help but watch him. In a lot of cross over tape he jumps out at you as well. He’s a guy that’s going to have interior swing value. We’re going to cross train him guard and center. It’s going to be something he has been working on out at Oregon and we’re going to keep on building with that as well.
Dave Gettleman on LB Cam Brown: In the sixth round we took Cam Brown, a big long kid out of Penn State. He’s 6’5 and change, he’s 230, he runs well. Cam and all the young men we took in the seventh round, we like they are players with good developmental qualities and tools. They all can run, every one of these guys can run. We’re excited about that.
Joe Judge on LB Cam Brown: Physically, he’s got good length. He’s got a frame to fill out and play. He plays with good energy. He plays aggressive and downhill. He’s going to bring versatility on the edge as well as a little bit of stack backer value. He brings impact in the kicking game with us. Looking at the way our defense is pieced up and set, we need guys that are versatile, that we can move by game plan and by need. Cam definitely fits within that. Sean Spencer (defensive line coach) on the staff has spoken very highly of Cam since he got here. He’s also a guy that when you talk to other guys on Penn State and you hit them with who the leader on the defense is, without hesitation they all said Cam Brown. That stuck out to us. He’s been an alpha dog in the locker room and that brings the attitude we really look for on the field.
Dave Gettleman on LB Carter Coughlin: The next guy is Carter Coughlin. Another tall linear guy out of Minnesota. He’s 6’3 and change and 240. He can run. He’s got some versatility to him.
Joe Judge on LB Carter Coughlin: Dave hit this off the bat, the theme of the day was speed. He’s a guy that gives us more speed on the edge. He brings some length with him. He plays with a high motor and a lot of aggressiveness. He was productive in Minnesota’s scheme and with the way we are going to play guys on the edge in different packages, he’s someone with a lot of value. He will come in here and compete.
Dave Gettleman on LB T.J. Brunson: The next guy is T.J. Brunson. T.J. played at South Carolina as you guys know. He’s a little bit smaller. He plays the stack Will linebacker. He’s fast, he’s really athletic, he’s got good instincts. He’s just a little bit on the small side but he plays at about 230. We feel like he will be a really good fit and also has a lot of special teams value.
Joe Judge on LB T.J. Brunson: He’s a guy you see making tackles sideline-to-sideline. He’s also a guy in South Carolina’s scheme and (Will) Mushchamp’s scheme down there isn’t the simplest. Guys have been challenged mentally being down there. They’ve been coached hard. It’s very similar to the guys we talked about playing at Georgia and Alabama. Very similar schemes, very similar cultures. He’s a guy that was out there making a lot of calls so you can see the communication element with him on the field as well as the productivity on the field.
Dave Gettleman on DB Chris Williamson: Next we drafted the safety out of Minnesota, Chris Williamson. Good sized kid. He’s long, he can run and he’ll hit you.
Joe Judge on DB Chris Williamson: This is a guy who’s going to have some combination corner to safety. We call it the star position, that nickel position as well. He’ll bring some position flexibility in the defensive backfield. He’s got a good size and speed combination. We look for him to compete at multiple positions this year.
Dave Gettleman on LB Tae Crowder: The last guy who in former days of the NFL draft was called Mr. Irrelevant Tae Crowder, the linebacker out of Georgia. He was a running back early, they converted him. He’s a 245-pound kid that runs 4.6 and plays 4.6. He’s got some versatility and some value and definitely has some special teams value.
Joe Judge on LB Tae Crowder: This is a guy that’s only played a couple years at linebacker. We see a lot of upside with him. Both in his physical skills as well as his emerging defensive understanding. He’ll come in and compete for positions at that Will linebacker spot as well as give impact to the kicking game. We think we added a very competitive group over these last few days. We think today we brought in a lot of guys with versatility and speed.
Q: I’m curious on the run on linebackers late. What does that say about not only these guys but the linebackers you have on the roster? You guys didn’t take a tight end in this draft. How confident are you in Evan Engram’s durability and how excited are you about Kaden Smith?
Judge: Let me start with the linebackers first. I think it says a lot more about how our defensive scheme fits together. That we are going to play with a lot of linebackers throughout the game. You build your defense to build two thirds of your team, that’s really your defense and your kicking game for covering kicks. These guys have a lot of impact across the board right there. In terms of our tight end position, we’re excited about all the guys at that position right now. We’re always looking for the best player available. We thought there were a few tight ends on the board that were worthy of being taken at certain points. When it came up to us, there was either someone better or they may have already been taken. We have confidence in the guys we have on our roster right now at the tight end position. In terms of durability question of our players, they are all working through strength programs and rehab to get as healthy as they can. No one is ever 100 percent healthy once the football season begins. We have to prepare everyone for depth because you never know who is going to play.
Q: How did the system go with this virtual draft? Joe, I know you made an audible there to move to a different location. Dave, I wanted to ask you specifically about the offensive line. I know you used the term the another night that you want to fix it once and for all. Do you think this draft did that?
Gettleman: We feel real good about it. We got two tackles and a guard that we feel real strong about. Adding them to what we already have now, adding them to Will (Hernandez), Kevin (Zeitler) and Spencer Pulley and the rest of the group. We’re very pleased with this. As I said earlier, every team that I have been with that has been playoff worthy and gone deep has had a strong offensive line. The O-line really does set the tone. We’re fired up about these guys because of their skill level. Obviously, their skill and ability and their playing demeanor.
Q: How did things work out with the virtual nature of the draft?
Gettleman: It was different. For us, it really worked well. Justin Warren the head of out IT department and Ty Siam (football operations/data analytics) was in the house with me to make sure I didn’t blow anything up. They did an unbelievable job. Our software developers developed two new programs for us, which we used. John Dorney (Lead Developer) and his group with Julie Glisky (Director of IT). They really did well, everything went as smoothly as it could. Occasionally there was a glitch, people would get bumped off. Considering the situation, it went about as well as you could expect.
Judge: I would second what Dave said there. The support staff within our building did a tremendous job. I had to come to Jersey from Massachusetts. I was a little nervous with the overall set up on my own personal end and just the way my house is set up. I thought this was better for the overall function. I didn’t want to be in the middle of a round and all of the sudden something froze up or I didn’t have everything accessible to me. Justin Warren our IT director did a tremendous job setting everything up. I would say throughout the league I didn’t hear of any real issues, everything went smooth. We had our versions of practice with the mock drafts. We even had what you would refer to as scrimmages with some other friendly teams in the league to make sure the function team-to-team worked as well. That was beneficial for all of us.
Q: We talked to Andrew and Xavier and they talked about a lot of the communication with you guys leading up to the draft really focused on them as people off the field and there weren’t many conversations about football. My assumption was you let the tape speak for itself on the football end of things. Is that your philosophy, at least in this draft, that you wanted focus everything you can get out of the video calls that was non-football? Then let the scouts and whatever you see take care of the football things?
Judge: Well I definitely think there is different things you need to find out about everybody. Ultimately you have to find out everything before you bring somebody in. I’d say with both Andrew and Xavier as well as the other players, we do talk at length about the football. With Andrew and with Xavier we got to talk with them earlier on in the process at the combine and have meetings with those guys in person where you get to talk a lot football. To get on tape, to get on the board and go through that. Towards the end of the process, I had a number of conversations with a lot of prospects. At length, with Andrew, Xavier and other players it was important for me to have some sit-down time like we are right now. This is about as intimate as we can be, but at least you can look at each other in the eye to a degree and see each other’s reactions. I want to find out as much about these guys as a person as I could. I want to know what kind of guys we’re bringing into the building. I want to know what makes them tick, that’s important to me. Everybody is different. You are going to have 53 guys on a roster, we’re going to have 90 on the roster through spring and training camp. You have to know how to get to every player. On the front end, you want to find out as much as you can to narrow down to find out if they fit you. At the same time, you want to gather as much information that once you get them in the building it helps you reach them as fast as possible. It helps you find out inside what makes someone tick and how they respond.
Q: With prospects that you are talking to, do you walk a fine line between wanting to keep the focus on them or do you talk about other guys? Whether it’s teammates or guys they’ve gone against. How did you handle that during this process?
Judge: I think it’s a natural part of the process. If you’re talking to an offensive lineman, it’s natural to say who the best rushers you’ve gone against. If it’s a pass rusher, who’s the best offensive linemen you’ve gone against. If it’s someone you know has competed against each other, for example, you had the Chaisson kid out of LSU, he went against Andrew. We talked to both of those guys at length. It’s important to talk to both of them (and say) hey who’s the best rusher, who’s the best offensive linemen. It’s interesting to see what they say. It’s also interesting to talk to teammates and ask them about players on their team. For example, there may be multiple receivers on a team and you ask a defensive back, who do you think is the best receiver on your team is? If you were starting a team who would you pick first? It sheds a lot of light. One thing you will find out is you can’t lie to the players, they really know. We have to dig for it as coaches. The support staff can only find out about the players. Inside that locker room they know. They know who the dudes are.
Q: What’s the plan for the rookies. What’s the logistics with these guys the next couple of days, weeks and months?
Judge: The league has allowed us to have a version of rookie minicamp. They have given us a couple weekends where we are going to get our guys in. We are getting all the information from the league as far as the days, the hours, the structure we’re allowed to work within. Then we’ll map out the specifics. We are going to get them somewhere around next weekend. To make sure we can meet with them and get them started on the process. It will be very similar to what our vets have gone through. For them, it will be a little bit more of an orientation on the front end to let them know a little bit more about our program. To be honest with you, with our vets, it’s a new staff, it’s a new program, it’s an orientation for them as well. Our coaches will repeat a lot of the process this week that we started with our vets. It will be all virtual right now so we have to bridge the gap as much as we can.
Q: Have you guys made a decision on the fifth-year options for Evan and Jabrill?
Gettleman: We’ll make the decisions this coming week. With the craziness on and off the field so to speak over the last six weeks, we’ve had preliminary conversations. We’ll make those decisions pretty quick.
Q: Any update on where Evan stands in his recovery?
Gettleman: I haven’t seen him. None of us have been in the building in over a month. As far as I know, he’s doing fine. That’s all I know.
Q: A lot of people expected you to come away with a center in this draft. Did the value not matchup to the need? What’s the plan at center going forward?
Gettleman: Value and need always has to be there. Right now, what we’ve got as Joe says, it’s all about competition. We are going to turn around and cross train Shane Lemieux and we’ve got Nick Gates who we are going to work with. You have Spencer Pulley, a returning center and we’ll see what happens with Pio (Jon Halapio) with his Achilles. We’ll see what kind of recovery he makes. We feel like we have three to four guys, two of whom have played the position with varsity competition. Nick worked at center last year during practice and of course Shane’s never done it in a game and we’re going to cross-train him and see where it goes. We’ve got two centers in the building that have played varsity snaps and have played winning football.
Q: You mentioned you would consider cross-training some of these guys on the offensive line. I’m just wondering, learning in the classroom and mental reps is one thing, but ultimately, you’ve got to get out there and do it because that’s the second part of it. Without knowing if you are going to have practices, how do you get these guys up to speed so if and when you do get to the practice field, they are going to be able to step right in as though they never missed a beat?
Judge: So first off, I’ll talk on the mental part of it which we have access to on the virtual setting. For the offensive line, and this is true really for all positions to know how the pieces fit, but with the offensive line you really have to know the entire concept and the entire scheme. So, a center got to know the guard, the tackle and vice versa down the line. Playing right, left, near each other responsibility wise just knowing if you’re on the front or the backside. The cross-training physically, really at this point right now, comes on the players themselves through the strength program we’ve given them. Now we’re not monitoring workouts so we’ve made some stuff available to the players that they can follow and keep up with, and we’ve made ourselves accessible to the strength coaches and nutritionist so they can reach out for help.
But we’ve incorporated along with conditioning some agility drills as well that will fit into position specifics. So, we can go ahead and say for center reps, for guard reps, for tackle reps with the agilities, this is what you’re going to work today on a daily basis. A lot of this stuff is really just total movement for an athlete as it is. But specifically, with the center, you’ve got to find a way to tie in the movements with the actual movement of the ball as well. Snapping, putting the ball between your legs and then moving accordingly. Look, it’s a lot easier for the OTAs when we had Phase Two in OTAs with them guaranteed and we’d get on the field and work them on a daily basis. Right now, we’re kind of the suspect of these guys working on their own on the field. But, I’ll tell you what — they showed up this week with a full head of steam, I’m very pleased with the progress they made with the urgency and the attentiveness they’ve shown in the meetings and everything else that’s happening off the field as well.
Q: Considering you didn’t go for a receiver in this deep class and I don’t know what you plan to add, do you feel you have enough speed at that position?
Judge: Well they can all run, they can all run. I think there’s different elements of speed that tie in all of the receivers. You may have the deep threat receiver, you may have the slot receiver for more short area quickness who’s shifty, you may have the side receiver where it’s really the release speed that’s important as far as getting off the line and establishing body position. I’d say the one thing that we stressed to everybody is the roster building process is not done by any measure after the draft. There’s going to be a lot of roster movements throughout the league, this next week, the coming weeks, throughout the remainder of spring and then when we get into training camp they’ll continue to roll and turn again. We’re always looking to see who’s available and compete within our own roster. A lot these questions may be met later on, but right now we’re going to let the guys on our roster compete full speed. And look, right now our scouts and personnel (people) are working together with the coaches of identifying undrafted guys and getting on the phones with them right now and talking with their agents and working with getting them added as well.
Q: Dave, now that you’ve seen the draft play out and you know where you used your premium picks, how do you feel at edge rusher and do you guys need to circle back in free agency to a Markus Golden or to a proven guy like that now that you know you didn’t use a premium pick on that spot?
Gettleman: It’s one of those deals where, as I’ve said before, sometimes people think that all of the sacks have got to come from one to two guys. It’s a group effort. As Joe said, we’re going to constantly evaluate. Roster building is a 12-month season. It’s 365 and it’s 24/7. At the end of the day, we feel good about where we’re at, but we’ll continue to try to improve it. We’re going to take a look at what we’ve got and you know part of it’s going to be scheme. I’ve got a lot of confidence in (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat Graham and Joe and the defensive guys. We’re going to be fine. It’ll get better. No, we didn’t draft what you guys would call a blue-goose pass rusher, but a lot of the time it’s a group effort. It’s not about who gets the sacks, it’s about the number of sacks and the number of pressures.
Q: You’ve been a part of nine previous drafts in the NFL, all with one team as a special teams guy. What was this like for you now just having input as a head coach, working with a new organization? There’s always this feel of if the head coach has enough input — if this is a Joe Judge pick, if this is a Dave Gettleman pick, that kind of thing. How was this whole thing for you, even though it was remote, just knowing your input as a head coach? Then, do you feel like you’ve let down a lot of people by not having Abby show up on national television?
Judge: I’ll answer the last question first. I tried to bring the dog with me, I was told that I could not bring the dog with me. I’ll tell you I let me kids down. I’ve been getting frown face memes all weekend because everyone else’s kids got to be on TV. So, I’ve got a six-year-old who wants to know if she’ll ever be famous. I told her it’s okay, no news is good news sometimes.
But I’d say this, going back to the first question. From when I first got here, we talked in the interview, and I’ll tell you what — this entire process has been tremendous. There’s definitely a full teamwork environment in our building. Dave has been awesome, his staff has been great. The coaches have had a lot of involvement, there’s been constant communication going back and forth. Probably one of the more disappointing things we didn’t get to experience was going on the road together, coaches and scouts, and working the pro days. But that was bridged a lot with scouts and coaches working a lot through these virtual interviews with Zooms and constant communication. We spent a lot of time at night talking and going back over, watching tape together and talking to prospects. I spent a lot of time in the meetings with Dave and his staff and going through the scouts and hearing everybody’s opinion. The important thing in these processes is knowing what you see and sticking to your guns.
Look, not everyone’s going to see everything the same way so you go through this process and it’s tough. You’ve got to remember, these scouts do a very, very difficult job. They spend a whole lot of nights away from their families on the road in hotels. To go through that excruciating process of evaluating someone, lining them up on your board, hoping to have a chance to get somebody just to watch another team take them away from you. Or maybe you have someone whose opinion is a little bit different or varied, or you’ve got someone like me maybe hammering back at you saying he may not be a fit for us. That’s a tough thing, but the entire way, even through some of those kind of natural disagreements and opinions, there’s been a great teamwork environment in the building and I couldn’t be more pleased with it.
Was it different being a head coach than a special teams coordinator? Absolutely. There’s just different responsibilities that come with it. But I’ll tell you what, I thought the coaching staff gave me great input and insight, there’s a lot of experience on the staff that I was able to lean on, on the frontend and kind of ask advice from of how to handle different situations with things that may came up that I didn’t expect. Me and Dave had great conversations at length, whether it was late at night or early in the morning. We’ve gone back over the board or talked through different scenarios that could come up so that when they did come up, we were prepared for it. Look, obviously it’s a different situation, it was a different medium this year being virtual. But I’ll tell you what, through all of the changes that came our way I thought we operated pretty effectively as an entire staff.
Q: I know you said that you guys aren’t done making moves and the offseason is not over, but now that you have been through this draft and you went through the initial free agency, how do you feel with how this team sits right now compared to when you started out here in January?
Judge: Well, we haven’t been on the field yet so that’s the biggest answer right there. Look, you can’t really evaluate until you get on the grass. Right now we have a lot of names on paper. There’s a lot of guys that are itching to get on the grass and compete and start proving themselves. Look, everyone laughs when I say it, but our depth chart is a blank slate right now. We have a lot of names, everyone has to earn every spot they get. So, when we get out there on day one whoever the first five linemen are that are out there, that’s just the first five guys taking a rep. That’s not a spot in concrete at all. They’ve got to earn to keep that spot. We’ll change it up continuously throughout training camp or OTAS, whenever we get these guys. To answer as far as where we are, I think we’ve made some good moves in terms of bringing in pieces that can help us. But overall, I can’t really give you a solid answer just because I can’t comment on specific players until we really get them on the grass, otherwise it’s just speculation and hypotheticals.
Q: Dave, you talked a few minutes ago about not drafting that blue-goose pass rusher and maybe using the scheme to generate that rush. We talk about those old, good Giants teams and they always had four or five guys that could generate that…yeah, they had that one big one but you had multiple guys. When you look at your roster now do you have enough guys without the blue-goose pass rusher to generate a consistent pass rush?
Gettleman: You know, I believe we do. I’ve seen what scheme can do to free people up, it’s an effective way to do it. Obviously we’re getting better in the back end, force the quarterback to hold the ball a little longer. Again, there’s a million ways to skin the cat. You guys were raised on the blue-goose pass rushers, rushing with four, and the drafts and the accumulation of players just worked out that way. There’s a number of ways to do it. Like I said, I was here for that run and I saw what a blessing it is when you can rush with four. There’s no reason to say we can’t do it now and also can do it with scheme. So again, there’s a million ways to do it, guys. There’s not just one way.
Q: Dave, Joe talked about what it was like for him to do it as a head coach. How different was it to have him as the head coach working compared to some of the head coaches you’ve had in the past? Also, the streak continued with the no trades, now that’s eight. I’m wondering how big of a coincidence is that, how do you look at that and what do you make of that?
Gettleman: A lot less than you guys do (laughter). A lot less than you guys do. Unbelievable. You know, working with anybody is…working with Joe is different than working with Ron Rivera than working with Pat Shurmur. Anybody you work with that’s not the same person is going to be different. It was great working with Joe and at the end of the day, it’s not a Dave Gettleman decision, they are not Joe Judge decisions, they are New York Football Giants decisions. That’s really the way it is. It was terrific working with Joe, it was thorough, it was well done and we felt very prepared and felt we had a really good, solid draft.
Q: Can you give us an example of how it’s different? He seems like a pretty strong personality. Is that sort of how he operates as well?
Gettleman: God bless you. We get along fine. Next question.
Q: About the trades, did you get close though or was there at any point and you guys mentioned in the second round, but was there any other point where you did get close or did you want to add a pick between that 63 pick gap?
Gettleman: There were calls. But, I don’t believe in over paying. The couple of times that there were decent opportunities to trade back, the player we wanted was there. Plain and simple. So, we just took the player, that’s all.
Q: There have been a couple reports about phone calls you made to your high picks and you saying, “I don’t want to hear you talk about Super Bowls, I don’t want to hear you compare yourself to anybody, I want you to put your head down and work.” Obviously, you work to become a head coach, what goes into deciding how that first phone call is going to go, why you’re handling it that way and is that about setting the exact tone you want for your program right off the bat?
Judge: I think there’s more said on the phone calls than just what not to do. There’s a lot of we’re very excited about adding these players and giving them a chance to come up and compete and add to our team. Look, to be honest with you, and I think you guys have kind of found out a little bit in the short time we’ve been doing this together, I’m not big into predictions. I’m not big into that. I’m not big into comparing people to other people. One thing that drives me nuts is when sometimes guys get drafted, the emotion gets caught up, they stand on the stage a lot of times and what do they say? They start talking about how they’re going to take over the league. Look, this is a guy who hasn’t been in the league for five seconds. What do they know about taking over the league? What they have to worry about at this point is improving. Put your head down, just work hard. Hey, here’s the reality of every one of these rookies we just took — they don’t know how to be a pro yet, they don’t. As much as they may think they do, they don’t. Physically, they have an advantage over a lot of the vets because they have young legs. But in terms of technique, in terms of mentally how to prepare themselves and handle the situations in terms of emotionally how to handle the duration of the season, they have no idea what they’re doing yet. So, they’re behind in everything except for having fresh, young legs with everyone they are competing against. They watch it on TV, they think they have an understanding of what’s going on in the league. The reality is they don’t. The faster they understand that the better off they’ll be in a short term to improve and give themselves a chance to compete.
Look, everyone gets excited. When you get excited, you let emotion get the best of you, a lot of times you say things, you turn around afterwards and go, “Maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say.” Well, sometimes you don’t want to have those slips when you’ve got millions of people and it’s forever ingrained anyway in print, social media, whatever it may be. You want to make sure that sometimes you wish that someone gave you a little bit of guidance. So, sometimes it’s good to just get reminded at certain times, “Hey listen, this is your focus, this is what we’re building, this is what our culture here is going to be, let’s just make sure you say the right thing at the right time.” Number one, not to make yourself have any expectations you now have to meet, it’s going to be tough enough for you to go ahead and get in the rhythm of you being a pro as it is. Number two, don’t ever, the whole comparisons and predictions, just work out what you can control. Right now what you can control is showing up, doing your job day-by-day and improving and that’s it.
Q: Did you like how the guys handled it, the group that you dealt with?
Judge: I’ve only seen a couple of the actual quotes or the interviews. I’ve gone back and looked at a couple of them that Pat Hanlon sent my way. But you know, I’m very pleased. I’ll say this, I’m not surprised because we spent a lot of time with these guys on the front end. We spent a lot of time on the character, on the traits, on the personality. Look, we’re not collecting talent, we’re building a team — and it’s important. There’s a lot of good players out there. There’s not a lot of right fits and you want to find the right fits to bring into your locker room. It’s important to spend as much time with these guys as people on the front end and make sure that you’re building a culture in your locker room. I don’t want 53 independent contractors, I want one team. That’s what we have to make sure we bring in the right guys for that.
Media Q&A with CB Darnay Holmes:
Q: This is a pretty young secondary with a lot of guys drafted in the last couple of years, including DeAndre Baker in the first round a year ago. As another young guy coming in here, what can you do to differentiate yourself and get on the field?
A: My thing is to just be a sponge. DeAndre is there a year before me, so he definitely learned more things than I have learned. I’m definitely going to get under his wing and try to contribute in every phase. I’m going to be an asset, I’m not going to be a liability. I’m just going to play my part and maximize my role, for sure.
Q: I was reading up on you and you are somewhat of a trendsetter. Someone who uses chess as a way to analyze football. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you got into that and how exactly it works and helps you?
A: I saw several cornerbacks playing chess and I’m the type of player that wants to get insight on everything that’s going on. I walked up to the chess master and asked him do you mind helping me out with chess. The reason I play chess is I want to have efficient thoughts. I want to make sure I am making forceful moves and I want to make sure everybody responds to things that I do. Everything I’m doing, I’m not a piece, I’m a player. I’m going to make sure the team is working accordingly and we’re all on one accord. Chess is a great thing for me to get my mind off of football but also get my mind in the state of being efficient in everything I do.
Q: I read about some of the hardships you had earlier in your life. Was there ever a time when you thought this day wouldn’t come?
A: Definitely there were several times when you go through different emotions and you don’t know when that day will come. I know those days and those experiences molded me into a better person, a better man. It molded my spirit to be someone that’s ready to transition and transform within every phase of my life. Every season is not going to be a good season, but I know that season shall pass and I’ll be bigger than that season.
Q: How is everyone in your family doing these days?
A: Everyone in my family is doing good these days. They are all on one accord, there is no family feud and everybody is making sure that we are transitioning so we have generational wealth for our young nephews.
Q: I know your dad played in the NFL and he went through a lot of stuff in his life before he started coaching you guys up. How much has he impacted your growth as a football player and as a person over the years?
A: My pops impacted me in a lot of ways. He was a person who installed that hustler drive. That drive to compete each and every day, knowing that there is somebody out there working to take your spot or working to be better than you. Each and every day he always told me that you never compromise your grind or compromise the good habits you have for something that will not allow you to propel you forward to your full potential. He always made sure that you can’t take any shortcuts. If you take shortcuts, when the time comes and you reach that destination, there’s lessons that you did not learn. The downfall is going to be harder than the come up.
Q: Who were some of the guys you idolized growing up?
A: Definitely a few people that are mentors of mine are Aeneas Williams, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson. I have a great group of guys around me. Those guys are constantly providing me with insight that will allow me to be disciplined and have freedom. Freedom equals discipline. By them giving different tools and different things that I can add to my toolbox, I’m just ready to rock.
Q: Do you have personal relationships with them or just from studying them?
A: Personal relationships definitely.
Q: How did that come about?
A: When you are around the football circuit you definitely come around several marquee guys who want to give back to the youth. They understand that true wealth in life is what you give back to the world. They are constantly God-fearing men and they know when you serve somebody, it’s an opportunity to serve God.
Q: Where are you, that’s an interesting background behind you?
A: I’m in Palm Springs.
Q: What’s behind you there, is that your yard?
A: Yeah, that’s just some acres to get some work in.
Q: I’m just curious about your experience in the slot. Did you play much of it in college and if not, do you feel like you can play it at the next level?
A: Truthfully, I can’t tell you where I’m going to play, I’m just ready to contribute. Wherever they put me, I’m going to maximize that role and I’m going to make sure that I understand that role. That’s my main thing is understanding it and grasping all the concepts.
Q: Have you played the nickel much in the past?
A: The first time I played was the Senior Bowl. That was my first go around at it and I loved it. There’s a lot of things that I need to learn about it. Until then, I’m just going to keep on crafting and get to know this playbook that the Giants have in store for me.
Q: What did teams talk to you about position wise when they talked to you? Is that something that they brought up, the slot, and is that something that’s been mentioned to you? When people say you’re too small to play outside in the pros, is that something you heard and you had to fight throughout this process?
A: Definitely I haven’t had to fight that. A lot of people need different roles to be fulfilled. Some roles need to be nickel, some roles need to be boundary, some roles need to be primary corner. Everybody’s got different roles and different things that they need to fulfill, so I’m just ready to fulfill whatever role that’s needed right away.
Q: What do you bring to the team in terms of special teams? Did you talk to Joe Judge about any of that yet? He has a special teams background.
A: Definitely, I can bring a lot of things to the team. I can be a gunner, I can be a jammer, I can be whatever a team needs me to be. I’m ready to just contribute. I’m ready to play football, I’m ready to showcase everything that they need me to showcase. I have a lot of things to learn, I didn’t play much special teams in college, but I know right away I’m going to be able to contribute on those four phases of special teams. So, whatever that may be, I’m going to be front line ready to rock.
Q: You talked about how you went to a chess master. How does one go about finding a chess master?
A: When you go to UCLA, you’re around a lot of different things, you have access to different pools of people. So, Chip Kelly, a great father figure of mine I should say, he makes sure he brings people within the school who are going to aid and are going to be able to value the mindset to reach that different frequency.
Q: I read that you graduated very early, I think two or three years. What motivated you to get through your studies so quickly, and apparently you did so at a high level and you got good grades. How has that helped you with learning complex defenses and your studying?
A: Definitely the school curriculum allowed me to implement a strict routine, a routine that allowed me not to sway away into different distractions. So, by me having this vivid vision, my energy was aligning to it right away. That’s definitely something that I implemented right when I got to UCLA. It was, I’m going to graduate in three years and then from there I’m going to figure out what I want to do. Right away I was a student, then after I graduated, it was like okay, how can I pursue my athlete endeavor, and I’m here now being a New York Giant. I’m very excited.
Q: Did you choose to accelerate your studies or did that just come together for you?
A: Definitely. Definitely I had to make that choice. If I hadn’t made that choice, I would probably still be an undergraduate. So, I made that choice right away that I had to get my degree and break that barrier within my family being the first person in my family to get that degree at a prestigious college. (It) allowed them to know that we have so much greatness within ourselves, let’s go chase that and manifest that.
Q: How did that help you with football? Learning a playbook can be so complex, I imagine it made that easier for you?
A: Definitely. You have different tactics that you use to grasp concepts and grasp schemes and make sure that you understand those things. I don’t memorize, I want to grasp it and understand so I’ll be able to tap into it no matter what the heat of the moment is. I’ll understand it, so I’ll be able to utilize it.
Q: How do you think playing for someone like Chip Kelly, who has experience coaching in the NFL, got you ready to make this leap to the league? He kind of had the reputation in Philly and then in San Fran as kind of a taskmaster or drill sergeant. Joe Judge comes in here as all business, no nonsense type of guy. When you look at their two personalities, how do you think you’ll be able to make that transition from Chip to playing for Judge?
A: At the end of the day, everybody holds up a standard, so I’m going to abide by that standard and I’m going to abide by that code. I know that code is for us to flourish. When I have something that’s great, it’s like wouldn’t you utilize it to tap into it?
Q: Obviously you’re not going to be able to come here to New Jersey for a while. Did you take any online courses and do you think that’s going to help you during these next couple of weeks and months when most of this stuff is going to be done virtually?
A: My online courses are going to be the Zoom meetings with the New York Giants getting that playbook down. I’m a graduate, so it’s either hit the field, learn more about myself, the New York Giants organization, and tap into different people who’ve been around, veterans, Barkley, everybody who knows what it’s like to be a New York Giant. That’s my key and that’s my goal — to understand the playbook, be a sponge, and find a way to be a leader. I’m not saying I’m going to be a leader right away, but by me being under somebody who are leaders, you’re the average of the five people you hang around, so I’m going to hang around five leaders. That’s just the type of person I am.
Q: Have you taken online courses in the past, though?
A: Yeah, definitely. I had to take several online courses to graduate in two and a half years, Sir.
Q: What’s the key to learning that way?
A: The key to learning that way is understanding that you can’t lollygag. You can’t put things to the side because at the end of the day it’s on your own time. In this life we’re living, you do things on your own time, but at the end of the day if you have a strict routine, you can never be swayed off to different distractions or different things that will hinder you from accomplishing the main goal, which is being the great contributor to the team.