Mar 092021
 
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Leonard Williams, New York Giants (September 27, 2020)

Leonard Williams – © USA TODAY Sports

REPORTS – GIANTS WILL PLACE FRANCHISE TAG ON LEONARD WILLIAMS…
Multiple media outlets are reporting that for the second year in a row, the New York Giants will designate defensive lineman Leonard Williams as the team’s Franchise Player, thus keeping him off of the free agent market which begins on March 15th. The deadline for designating Franchise Players is 4PM today.

However, these same media reports still indicate that a long-term deal with Williams is still possible. The New York Post is even reporting that the Giants have no intention of paying Williams the $19.4 million he would be due under the Franchise Tag and this move is only to buy additional negotiating time once free agency starts. That said, The Athletic is reporting that the two sides are not close to a new deal.

The 6’5”, 302-pound Williams was the sixth player taken overall in the 2015 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. The Giants acquired Williams by trade from the in late October 2019. In his sixth NFL season, Williams had his best year as a pro in 2020. Williams played in all 16 games with 12 starts (74 percent of defensive snaps) and finished the year with 57 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery.

NEW YORK GIANTS CUT CODY CORE…
The New York Giants have officially terminated the contract (failed physical) of wide receiver/special teamer Cody Core, who was set to make $1.45 million is base salary and $550,000 in bonuses in 2021. The move creates an additional $2 million in cap room this year. However, multiple media sources are reporting that the Giants could re-sign Core to a smaller contract if he is healthy enough to return.

Core was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2020 after tearing his Achilles during a training camp practice. While Core only had three catches for 28 yards in 2019, he was arguably the team’s best special teams player, excelling on punt coverage. He was credited with eight tackles and was a big factor in downing punts inside the 20-yard line.

The 6’3”, 205-pound Core was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. In three seasons with the Bengals, he played in 35 regular-season games with seven starts, accumulating 30 catches for 360 yards and one touchdown. The Giants claimed  Core off of waivers from the Bengals in September 2019.

Feb 052021
 
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Riley Dixon and Graham Gano, New York Giants (October 11, 2020)

Riley Dixon and Graham Gano – © USA TODAY Sports

It is exceptionally rare for a special teams coach to become an NFL head coach. So when John Mara hired Joe Judge as the next head coach of the New York Giants, it shocked many in the media and fanbase. However, Judge quickly won over many with his fiery inaugural press conference and the composition of his coaching staff. That initial luster began to dim after an 0-5 start, culminating with a Dallas Cowboys come-from-behind victory.

Judge and the Giants began turning it around in mid-October. Their first victory came against Washington, and was followed by two very close, heart-breaking losses to the Eagles and Buccaneers in games where the Giants also held 4th-quarter leads. Then came the high-point of the season, a 4-game winning streak against Washington, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Seattle. The Giants were 5-7 and remarkably still very much alive for the division title. Judge began receiving praise from all quarters.

The emotional high of soundly defeating the Seahawks was immediately dampened by a 3-game losing streak against clearly better teams. At 5-10, the Giants needed to beat the Cowboys and pray that the Eagles would upset Washington. The Giants accomplished the former, but the Eagles laid down like dogs against Washington and the 6-10 Giants missed the playoffs.

Through all of this, the irony is that the New York Giants special teams did not improve under Judge. To be fair, the special teams unit under Thomas McGaughey had actually been the strength of the team in recent years. Judge smartly decided to retain McGaughey. The team was also left scrambling when 2018 Pro Bowl/All-Pro place kicker Aldrick Rosas was cut in July after a hit-and-run arrest. The Giants decided to sign 32-year old Graham Gano who had missed 2019 with a knee injury. Unexpectedly, Gano ended up having one of the greatest seasons in franchise history as a kicker.

Overall, the Giants special teams played decently during the first half of the season, and there was a feeling that Judge, McGaughey, and the special teams unit were improving and building to a stronger second half. The reverse occurred. Against the Bengals, the Giants allowed a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 29-yard punt return that almost cost them the game, and a fake punt conversion for a 1st down. Seattle blocked a Riley Dixon punt for a safety and Gano missed his first extra point of the season. Against Arizona, Dion Lewis fumbled away a kickoff return that set up a touchdown. Judge decided to run an odd fake field goal attempt against the Browns that failed miserably when the score was still 0-0. The Ravens hurt the Giants with both punt and kickoff returns.

Statistically, the Giants finished:

  • Field Goal Percentage: 3rd (up from 30th in 2019)
  • Kickoff Returns: 16th (down from 10th in 2019)
  • Punt Returns: 6th (down from 3rd in 2019)
  • Kickoff Coverage: 16th (down from 1st in 2019)
  • Punting: 26th (down from 23rd in 2019)
  • Punt Coverage: 21st (down from 6th in 2019)

As you can see, other than field goal percentage, the Giants were down in every other special teams category. The team was significantly worse in kickoff and punt coverage. The Giants never really replaced Cody Core, their extraordinary punt/kick coverage specialist who tore his Achilles’ tendon in training camp.

The star of the entire unit was clearly Gano. He only missed one field goal all season and was 5-of-6 from 50+ yards.

KICKERS

The Giants signed Graham Gano in August 2020. Gano had a superlative season for the Giants in 2020, converting on 31-of-32 field goal attempts (96.9 percent – second highest in team history) and 21-of-23 extra point attempts (91.3 percent). He was 5-of-6 from 50+ yards out (single-season franchise record), with a long of 55 yards. Gano converted on 30 consecutive field goals, which also was a franchise record. Thirty of his 73 kickoffs (41 percent) resulted in touchbacks. Gano spent most of his NFL career with the Washington Redskins (2009-2011) and Carolina Panthers (2012-2019). However, he missed the last four games of the 2018 season and all of the 2019 season with a knee injury. The Panthers released him in late July 2020. Gano made the Pro Bowl in 2017.

Punter Riley Dixon saw his gross (44.8 yards per punt) and net (38.8 net yards per punt) fall in 2020, with 28 of his punts being downed inside the 20-yard line and one blocked. The 6’5”, 226-pound Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He was named to the All-Rookie team. The Giants traded with the Broncos for Dixon in April 2018, giving the Broncos a conditional 7th-round draft pick.

Ryan Santoso spent 2020 on the Giants’ Practice Squad after the team signed him in early September. Santoso was originally signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Lions (2018-2019), Montreal Alouettes (2019, 2020), and Tennessee Titans (2019). Santoso has only played in three NFL games, solely as a kickoff specialist.

LONG SNAPPERS

The Giants signed long snapper Casey Kreiter as an unrestricted free agent from the Denver Broncos in April 2020. The 6’1”, 250-pound Kreiter was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Dallas Cowboys after the 2014 NFL Draft. After spending two camps with the Cowboys, Kreiter made the Denver Broncos in 2016. He made the Pro Bowl for his performance in 2018.

The Giants signed long snapper Carson Tinker in early September 2020. He spent the year on the team’s Practice Squad. The 6’0”, 237-pound Tinker was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2013 NFL Draft. He played in 69 regular-season games for the Jaguars from 2013-2018. The Jaguars cut him in March 2019 and he did not play that year.

RETURNERS

The Giants did not return a punt or kickoff for a touchdown. The leading punt returner was Jabrill Peppers, who only returned 15 punts all season, but who averaged a very respectable 12.5 yards per return and came close to breaking a couple. His long return was 20 yards. On the flip side, some of his decision-making on when and when not to field a punt was questionable.

Dion Lewis did not impress on his 24 kickoff returns, fumbling three (two of which he lost). He averaged 22.4 yards per return with a long return of 48 yards. Corey Ballentine also returned nine kickoffs before he was cut.

LEADING SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS SNAP COUNT PERCENTAGE

  • S Nate Ebner: 74.27%
  • LB Cam Brown: 70.87%
  • FB Eli Penny: 59.47%
  • LB Devante Downs: 57.77%
  • LB David Mayo: 46.36%
  • S/CB Julian Love: 42.96%
  • CB Corey Ballentine: 34.47%
  • TE Levine Toilolo: 34.22%
  • DL Dexter Lawrence: 33.74%
  • LB Carter Coughlin: 33.50%

Nate Ebner had a quiet year despite playing 3/4ths off all special team snaps. The Giants signed him as an unrestricted free agent from the New England Patriots in March 2020 to a 1-year, $2 million contract strictly to be a special teams stud. The leading special teams tacklers were David Mayo (8), Eli Penny (7), Cam Brown (6), and Devante Downs (6).

Jan 222021
 
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Darius Slayton, New York Giants (September 14, 2020)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the single most disappointing unit on the New York Giants in 2020 was the wide receivers. Leading up to the season, there was much fan debate about just how good this group would be in 2020. The optimists pointed to Darius Slayton’s impressive 8-touchdown rookie season in which he averaged over 15 yards per catch. As long as he could stay healthy, Sterling Shepard had proven to be a reliable slot receiver who could move the chains. And despite missing four games due to a PED suspension and another due to a concussion, Golden Tate had gained 676 yards and six touchdowns in just 11 games in 2019. On the other hand, the naysayers claimed this group was way overrated. Most agreed that quality depth was non-existent.

The naysayers were right and the optimists were wrong. Slayton had a season to forget. He dropped six passes and saw his touchdown total fall to three (two of which came in the opener). Worse, Slayton all but disappeared from the offense for long stretches, catching only 12 passes for 167 yards and no touchdowns after the bye week. Shepard missed a quarter of the season with yet another injury, a turf toe that likely nagged him much of the year. While he led the team in receptions, Shepard only scored three touchdowns and averaged less than 10 yards per catch. Tate was most disappointing of all. He missed a quarter of the season (three to injuries and one for disciplinary reasons), and finished with just 388 yards receiving. No other wide receiver caught more than 11 passes. And as a unit, this group only scored an embarrassing nine touchdowns. NINE!

So what happened? It’s likely that the absence of Saquon Barkley from the line-up had a dramatic impact on the rest of the offense. Opposing defenses no longer had to worry about Barkley as a runner and receiver, someone who often received double-team and/or special attention. Teams could now spend more resources on defending Slayton, Shepard, or tight end Evan Engram. Golden Tate’s play fell off dramatically and he is clearly nearing the end of his career. Shepard (again) missed significant time due injury and Slayton was also dealing with a foot issue. Whatever the reasons, the top three receivers rarely created much separation from defensive backs. Every throw always seemed to be contested. And with no depth, the coaching staff had few replacement options. In the end, this group simply proved to be a bottom tier group, perhaps even the worst in the NFL.

THE STARTERS

In his fifth NFL season, Sterling Shepard caught a career-high and team-leading 66 passes, but 2020 represented yet another somewhat disappointing campaign. Shepard has now missed significant time due to injury in three seasons, spending four games on Injured Reserve in 2020 with a turf toe injury that he suffered in Week 2. He finished the year with just 656 yards (a career-low 9.9 yards per catch) and three touchdowns. Shepard was selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Giants. Shepard started all 16 games in 2016 and 2018, but missed five games in 2017 and six games in 2019, the latter with two serious concussions. He has never come close to cracking the 1,000-yard mark in a single season or duplicating his 8-touchdown season of his rookie campaign (he now has 20 career touchdowns). Shepard lacks ideal size and speed, but he is a fluid athlete with good quickness. Shepard runs good routes, is tough going over the middle, and adjusts well to the football. Shepard is not a consistent deep threat, but more of a move-the-chains underneath target who is ideally suited for the slot position. He needs to make more big plays. Good blocker.

After an impressive rookie season, Darius Slayton did not play as well in 2020. He played in all 16 games, starting 15, and finished the year with 50 catches for 751 yards and three touchdowns. While his reception and yardage numbers were similar to his rookie season, he played in two fewer games in 2019 while scoring eight touchdowns. Slayton also was second on the team in dropped passes with six in 2020. A nagging foot injury could have been an issue for him. The Giants drafted Slayton in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He combines good size with very good overall athleticism and speed. Slayton can stretch the field and get deep. He runs good routes, adjusts well to the football, and is dangerous after the catch. To reach the next level, he must become a more physical receiver, including beating press coverage, and more consistent catching the football.

The play of Golden Tate really fell off a cliff in 2020. He missed three games to various leg injuries and was benched another game for disciplinary reasons. Yet despite playing in one more game than he did in 2019, Tate’s reception figures fell from 49 to 35, his yardage figures fell from 676 to 388, and his touchdown figures fell from six to two. The 5’10”, 197-pound Tate was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He has spent time with the Seahawks (2010-2013), Detroit Lions (2014-2018), and Philadelphia Eagles (2018). He made the Pro Bowl in 2014.  The Giants signed Tate as an unrestricted free agent from the Eagles in March 2019. In his first season with the Giants, Tate missed five games (four due to suspension and one due to a concussion). Tate is ideally suited for the slot position, but he appears to be slowing down. He is capable of making the tough catch in traffic and can be dangerous after the catch. Tate has a history of wearing out his welcome with teams in the NFL.

THE RESERVES

The Giants claimed C.J. Board off of waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars in August 2020. He surprisingly played in 14 games, including four starts, but only finished with 11 catches for 101 yards and no touchdowns. The 6’1”, 181-pound Board was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Baltimore Ravens after the 2017 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Ravens (2017), Tennessee Titans (2017), Cleveland Browns (2017-2018), and Jaguars (2018-2019). Before coming to the Giants, his only regular-season experience came in 2019 when his played in four games for the Jaguars and finished the year with just two catches for 31 yards.

The Giants signed Austin Mack as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. He played in 11 games as a rookie with one start, finishing the year with just seven catches for 91 yards and no touchdowns. Mack is a muscular wideout with good size, but he lacks ideal speed and quickness. Strictly a possession-type receiver, Mack is capable of making the tough grab in traffic.

The Giants claimed Dante Pettis off of waivers from the San Francisco 49ers in early November 2020. He played in the final two games of the season for the Giants, catching four passes for 76 yards and one touchdown. The 6’1”, 195-pound Pettis was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the 49ers. He has played in 30 regular-season games, with 12 starts. Pettis has experience returning kickoffs and punts. He’s a good athlete who has struggled with some of the mental aspects of the game.

The Giants claimed Damion Ratley off of waivers from the Cleveland Browns in early September 2020 and cut him in October. He ended up playing in five games, catching four passes for 63 yards. The 6’2”, 200-pound Ratley was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Browns. In 2018-2019, Ratley played in 26 regular-season games with six starts, accruing 25 catches for 344 yards and one touchdown.

PRACTICE SQUAD

The 6’0”, 190-pound Alex Bachman was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Los Angeles Rams after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Rams cut him before the season started and the Giants signed him to their Practice Squad in November 2019. Bachman began the 2020 season on the Giants’ Practice Squad, was cut, and then re-sign to the Practice Squad again. Bachman is an average-sized receiver with good quickness.

The Giants signed Derrick Dillon to a future/reserve contract in January 2021. 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. Dillon is a smaller, speedy wide receiver with limited collegiate production.

The Giants signed Binjimen Victor as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent the entire season on the team’s Practice Squad but was signed by the Baltimore Ravens in January 2021.

The Giants signed Corey Coleman to the Practice Squad in late October 2020 and cut him a month late in late November. The 5’11”, 185-pound Coleman was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. The Giants signed Coleman to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in October 2018. He ended up playing in eight games with one start, finishing with five catches for 71 yards. Coleman missed all of 2019 with a torn ACL knee injury. The Giants cut him in early September 2020. The NFL just announced Coleman will be suspended for six games in 2021 for a PED violation.

The Giants signed Johnny Holton in early September 2020. He spent a month on the Practice Squad before being cut in October. The 6’3”, 190-pound Holton was originally signed by the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft.

INJURED RESERVE

Cody Core was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2020 after tearing his Achilles during a training camp practice. While Core only had three catches for 28 yards in 2019, he was arguably the team’s best special teams player, excelling on punt coverage. He was credited with eight tackles and was a big factor in downing punts inside the 20-yard line. The 6’3”, 205-pound Core was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. In three seasons with the Bengals, he played in 35 regular-season games with seven starts, accumulating 30 catches for 360 yards and one touchdown. The Giants claimed  Core off of waivers from the Bengals in September 2019.

David Sills was placed on Injured Reserve before the season started in early September with a broken right foot. 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 2019. He did not play in a game however.

COVID-19 OPT-OUT

Da’Mari Scott opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the COVID-19 issue. The Giants claimed Scott off of waivers from the Buffalo Bills in July 2019. They waived him in August but Scott spent time on both the team’s Practice Squad and 53-man roster during the season. In all, Scott played in five games with two starts. He finished the year with just two catches for 22 yards. He also returned four kickoffs (27.5 yards per return) and six punts (5.3 yards per return). The 6’0”, 205-pound Scott was originally signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns waived him in December 2018 and he was then signed by the Bills.

Aug 192020
 
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Cody Core, New York Giants (August 17, 2020)

Cody Core – Courtesy of New York Giants

AUGUST 19, 2020 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP MEDIA PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media and team sources:

  • After Tuesday night’s very physical practice, the New York Giants held a light, 75-percent speed practice on Wednesday.
  • Quarterback Daniel Jones and center Spencer Pulley had to run laps after a botched center exchange.
  • Running back Saquon Barkley returned kickoffs.

INJURY REPORT – CODY CORE DONE FOR THE SEASON…
It was revealed that wide receiver Cody Core tore his Achilles’ tendon during yesterday’s practice. He will miss the entire 2020 NFL season and was officially placed on Injured Reserve. While Core only had three catches for 28 yards in 2019, he was arguably the team’s best special teams player, excelling on punt coverage. He was credited with eight tackles and was a big factor in downing punts inside the 20-yard line. The Giants re-signed him to a 2-year, $4 million contract in the offseason.

“Now I will say this about Cody,” said Head Coach Joe Judge. “Look, I hate it for him. I hate it for him. You watch a guy work his butt off. You know what kind of competitor he is, what kind of player he is, how much he’s invested in us and what he’s done. Everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done 100 percent. He was great during the virtual program in the spring. He was much better, obviously, in person. You can really get a feel for the guy when you’re in the same room a lot more and watching him work on the field. He made a great deal of improvement as a receiver. He’s one of the top special teams players in the league.

“Hopefully, his injury is something he can come back from full speed. I look forward to seeing this guy in the future. His personality, the way he competes, his physical ability, he’s definitely the kind of guy we want to work with. Everyone on the team takes a blow when anyone has any kind of an injury. That’s just the way it is. We care about each other in the locker room, we want to see everybody succeed. We’ll have to go ahead and look to replace positions at all spots, but we hate it for Cody Core. We wish him well in his recovery.”

The 6’3”, 205-pound Core was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. In three seasons with the Bengals, he played in 35 regular-season games with seven starts, accumulating 30 catches for 360 yards and one touchdown. The Giants claimed  Core off of waivers from the Bengals in September 2019.

Judge said cornerback Corey Ballentine, who injured his shoulder in Tuesday’s practice, was fine. “They told us he was cleared to practice today and go through all of the team drills,” said Judge.

GIANTS OFFICIALLY SIGN GRAHAM GANO…
The Giants finally officially announced the expected signing of place kicker Graham Gano. The NFL Network is reporting that the deal is a 1-year contract with a maximum value of $2.5 million, including $1 million in guaranteed money and $250,000 in incentives.

The 33-year old Gano spent most of his NFL career with the Washington Redskins (2009-2011) and Carolina Panthers (2012-2019). However, he missed the last four games of the 2018 season and all of the 2019 season with a knee injury. The Panthers released him in late July 2020. Gano is a 82 percent field goal kicker who made the Pro Bowl in 2017. He also kicked a 63-yard field goal against the Giants in 2018.

“Obviously, (Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey) and (General Manager) Dave (Gettleman) have experience with him personally from back in Carolina,” said Head Coach Joe Judge. “That goes a long way. He’s someone who wasn’t available early on in this process. Then when he became available, we obviously had him on our radar. It was fortunate that it worked out the way it is.

“He’s a competitive guy, he’s a talented guy. He obviously missed a little bit of time due to injury. I’m anxious to get him on the field and see him get going. He’s a big leg guy who has experience. He hits a consistent, straight line ball with solid flight, the ball gets good lift. He’s made improvement throughout his career. I think with any specialist, kicker, punter, snapper, you really see their best ball as they get towards their 30’s. They’ve had their time to really develop, to understand the league, to really understand how their body works, to structure it for the duration of a season. They understand situationally how they have to stay fresh and in the moment. Young guys may have a little bit more pop in their legs at times. Young guys may have a little bit more raw ability. But when it comes to NFL specialists, they really start peaking around those 30’s ages right there. That’s why a lot of them have the ability to play even in their early 40’s.”

HEAD COACH JOE JUDGE…
The transcript of Joe Judge’s press conference on Wednesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at YouTube.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The New York Giants practice again on Thursday morning (9:45-11:45AM), with Head Coach Joe Judge and select players also addressing the media after practice.

ARTICLES…

Jun 222020
 
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Nate Ebner, New England Patriots (February 3, 2019)

Nate Ebner – © USA TODAY Sports

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

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Special Teams

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: For the second year in a row, the New York Giants special teams unit was arguably the strongest part of the team. The Giants were tied for 3rd in the NFL in punt returns (9.8 yards per return) and 10th in kickoff returns (23.5 yards per return). The Giants were 6th in the NFL in covering punts (5.67 yards per opponent return) and 1st in covering kickoffs (18.05 yards per opponent return). Cody Core (8 tackles) and Michael Thomas (7 tackles) were particularly active in covering punts and kicks. For the second year in a row, the Giants did not return a punt or kick for a touchdown and they did not allow a punt or kick to be returned against them for a touchdown. The Giants did block a punt for a touchdown.

The return game was by handled by committee. Golden Tate, T.J. Jones, Da’Mari Scott, and Jabrill Peppers returned punts while Cody Latimer, Corey Ballentine, Darius Slayton, and Da’Mari Scott returned kicks. Jones was cut during the season.

Punter Riley Dixon had a solid season, averaging 46.1 yards per punt (13th in the NFL) and 42.3 net yards per punt (9th in the NFL), with 29 of his punts being downed inside the 20-yard line. However, two of his punts were blocked.

After a stellar sophomore pro season in 2018, place kicker Aldrick Rosas regressed in 2019. Rosas was 12-of-17 (70.6 percent) on field goal attempts and missed four of his 39 extra point attempts (89.7 percent). Seventy percent of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. In 2018, Rosas made the Pro Bowl after making 32-of-33 field goal attempts, including a team-record 57 yarder.

The Giants placed long-time long snapper Zak DeOssie on Injured Reserve in late November 2019 with knee and wrist issues. He was replaced by Colin Holba for the last five games.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: It appears Zak DeOssie’s tenure with the Giants is over as he remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent. Colin Holba was cut in late April. The Giants signed long-snapper Casey Kreiter as an unrestricted free agent from the Denver Broncos in April.

Special teamers Cody Latimer (Washington Redskins), Michael Thomas (Houston Texans), and Antonio Hamilton (Kansas City Chiefs) signed elsewhere while the Giants added special teams ace Nate Ebner (New England Patriots). The Giants also drafted and signed a bunch of rookie linebackers and defensive backs who could significantly contribute on special teams.

Aldrick Rosas (1-year, $3.259 million), Cody Core (2-years, $4 million), and Corey Coleman (1-year, $1.1 million) were re-signed in the offseason.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: After John Harbaugh in Baltimore, Joe Judge became the second special teams coordinator in NFL history to make the jump directly to head coach. And almost all of Judge’s coaching experience is limited to special teams. Obviously, his heart and soul will likely remain with that part of the team and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact he has on the unit. Judge rewarded Thomas McGaughey for his solid work as special teams coordinator under Pat Shurmur by retaining him in the same position. Tom Quinn, who has been with the Giants since 2006, was also kept on as assistant special teams coach. McGaughey’s other assistant, Anthony Blevins, was moved to assistant defensive backs coach.

A major wrench was thrown into things when Aldrick Rosas, currently the only place kicker on the roster, was arrested in June for allegedly being involved in a hit-and-run accident and driving with a suspended license. Police also report Rosas was allegedly under the influence of alcohol at the time. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that Rosas was arrested in 2016 for also driving under the influence. At best, Rosas is likely facing suspension from the NFL. At worst, he could receive jail time and/or the team may simply decide to let him go. The Giants had just re-signed him to a 1-year, $3.259 million contract as a restricted free agent.

Once again, the Giants do not have a clear-cut favorite to return punts and kickoffs. Potential candidates include WR Golden Tate, WR Darius Slayton, WR Corey Coleman, WR Da’Mari Scott, WR Alex Bachman, RB Dion Lewis, RB Javon Leake, CB Darnay Holmes, CB Corey Ballentine, and S Jabrill Peppers. The Giants could also try WR Derrick Dillon as a returner.

In the punt and kick coverage department, the Giants gave Nate Ebner a 1-year, $2 million contract simply to play special teams. Cody Core’s stellar special teams play in 2019 was reminiscent of past Giants special teams studs Reyna Thompson, Larry Flowers, and David Tyree. It will be interesting to see if he can replicate and even improve on his gunner skills.

ON THE BUBBLE: Aldrick Rosas. What a dumbass!

PREDICTIONS: Don’t discount the impact special teams can have on the win-loss record. Thomas McGaughey has done a fine job with this unit the past two years, but Joe Judge was so impressive as a young special teams coordinator that he is now the head coach of one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. A stellar special teams unit can turn a 6-10 team into a 10-6 team with timely blocked punts/kicks, big returns, winning the field position war, and the kicking game.

Even though on the surface CB Deandre Baker’s legal charges are far more serious, I think Aldrick Rosas’ roster spot with the Giants is in more jeopardy. Even in the best-case scenario, I have a hard time seeing Rosas avoiding a 4-game suspension. The NFL’s policy on “substances of abuse” includes alcohol-related incidents. If that is the case, he won’t begin the season on the 53-man roster. Do the Giants use a roster spot on him in training camp? Rosas may just have kissed $3 million goodbye.

Trying to predict who will be the primary kick and punt returners in June from among the existing list of candidates is probably an exercise in futility. But I’m going to guess Corey Coleman is the kickoff returner and Golden Tate and Darnay Holmes will split the punt return duties.

Keep an eye on Cody Core. He deserved more attention than he received last year for his special teams play. Also, the Giants added seven rookie linebackers and six rookie defensive backs. Not all of them will make the team, but many of them could form the core of the specials units.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Barring some unforeseen event, Riley Dixon will be the punter and Casey Kreiter the long-snapper. I already predicted in my wide receiver overview that Corey Coleman will make the team; if so, he has a good shot to be the kickoff returner. Golden Tate and Darnay Holmes are the obvious candidates to return punts. It’s pretty obvious that Nate Ebner was signed by Judge to lead this entire unit.

I don’t think the team’s opening-day place kicker is on the roster. I think Rosas will be suspended and may not even be a New York Giant. It depends on whether the team wants to wait out the likely suspension.

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

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

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

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 172020
 
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Kyler Fackrell, Green Bay Packers (August 8, 2019)

Kyler Fackrell – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS SIGN KYLER FACKRELL TO 1-YEAR, $4.6-MILLION DEAL…
ESPN is reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell (Green Bay Packers) to a 1-year, $4.6 million contract.

The 28-year old, 6’5”, 245-pound Fackrell was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Packers. In four seasons with Green Bay, Fackrell has played in 61 regular-season games with nine starts, compiling 111 tackles, 16.5 sacks, one pass defense, and one forced fumble. He finished 2019 with 23 tackles and one sack. Fackrell’s best season was in 2018 when he started seven games and accrued 42 tackles and 10.5 sacks. Fackrell is a big linebacker who can rush the passer. He needs to be a more physical run defender.

GIANTS RE-SIGN CODY CORE…
The NFL Network is reporting that the New York Giants have re-signed unrestricted free agent wide receiver Cody Core. Terms of the contract are not yet publicly known.

While Core only had three catches for 28 yards in 2019, he was arguably the team’s best special teams player, excelling on punt coverage. He was credited with eight tackles and was a big factor in downing punts inside the 20-yard line.

The 6’3”, 205-pound Core was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. In three seasons with the Bengals, he played in 35 regular-season games with seven starts, accumulating 30 catches for 360 yards and one touchdown. The Giants claimed  Core off of waivers from the Bengals in September 2019.

For a complete list of the Giants’ free agent activity, see the New York Giants 2020 Free Agency Scorecard section of the website.

Sep 012019
 
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Cody Core, Cincinnati Bengals (December 23, 2018)

Cody Core – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK SIGN MAKE SIX CHANGES TO 53-MAN ROSTER…
On Sunday, the New York Giants made six changes to the 53-man roster. The additions were claiming wide receiver Cody Core (Cincinnati Bengals) and offensive tackle Eric Smith (New York Jets) off of waivers. In addition, the Giants signed tight end Eric Tomlinson, who was cut by the Jets, after he cleared waivers.

To make room for these three, the Giants placed cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring/groin) on Injured Reserve and waived wide receiver Alonzo Russell and offensive tackle Brian Mihalik. Beal is eligible to return to the 53-man roster in six weeks to practice and in eight weeks to play.

The 25-year old, 6’3”, 205-pound Core was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Bengals. In three seasons, he has played in 35 regular-season games with seven starts, accumulating 30 catches for 360 yards and one touchdown. Core is a very good special teams player.

The 23-year old, 6’4”, 308-pound Smith was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Miami Dolphins after the 2017 NFL Draft. The Dolphins waived him in September 2018 and he then spent time on the Practice Squads of the New England Patriots and New York Jets in 2018. Smith has never played in a regular-season NFL game.

The 27-year old, 6’6”, 263-pound Tomlinson was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2015 NFL Draft. The Eagles cut him before the season started and he was then signed to the Practice Squad of the Houston Texans. In November 2016, the Jets signed him to their 53-man roster. In three seasons with the Jets, Tomlinson has played in 36 regular-season games with 30 starts. He has 16 career receptions for 193 yards and one touchdown.

The Giants selected Beal in the 3rd round of the Supplemental Draft in July 2018. The Giants placed Beal on Injured Reserve in July 2018 with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

The Giants signed Russell after he impressed as a tryout player during the May 2018 rookie mini-camp and then signed him to the Practice Squad in September. He was added to the 53-man roster before the last game of the season. The 6’3”, 206-pound Russell was originally signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on the Bengals’ Practice Squad. The Bengals waived him in September 2017 and he was signed to the Practice Squad of the Arizona Cardinals in November 2017. Russell has not caught a pass in a regular-season game.

The Giants signed Mihalik to the Practice Squad in September 2018 and to the 53-man roster in October 2018. The 6’9”, 315-pound Mihalik was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. A collegiate defensive end converted to offensive tackle, Mihalik has spent time with the Eagles (2015), Pittsburgh Steelers (2016), and Detroit Lions (2016-2017). Mihalik played in 15 games with two starts for the Lions in 2017.

NEW YORK SIGN EIGHT PLAYERS TO THE PRACTICE SQUAD…
The New York Giants have officially signed the following eight players to their 10-man Practice Squad:

  • RB Jonathan Hilliman
  • WR Reggie White, Jr.
  • TE C.J. Conrad
  • OL Evan Brown
  • NT Chris Slayton
  • DE Freedom Akinmoladun
  • LB Josiah Tauaefa
  • LB Jake Carlock

All eight of the players were waived by the Giants on Saturday. The Giants have two more spots open on the Practice Squad.

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The players return to practice on Monday.