Jan 292021
 
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Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants (November 8, 2020)

Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence – © USA TODAY Sports

Except for two outliers seasons (2013 and 1016), the New York Giants have struggled on defense for the past decade. The challenge for the team through four head coaches (Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur, Joe Judge) and four defensive coordinators (Perry Fewell, Steve Spagnuolo, James Bettcher, Patrick Graham) has simply to move New York out of the bottom tier of the NFL on defense:

  • 2011: 27th
  • 2012: 31st
  • 2013: 8th
  • 2014: 29th
  • 2015: 32nd
  • 2016: 10th
  • 2017: 31st
  • 2018: 24th
  • 2019: 25th

With the fourth new regime coming in six years and serious personnel issues in the defensive back seven, it seemed unlikely the Giants would be able to improve their defensive team ranking in 2020. There was also viable media and fan concern about new Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham. In his first season as defensive coordinator in Miami in 2019, the Dolphins had finished 31st on defense. Miami Head Coach Brian Flores had also let Graham out of his contract to join Judge in New York, which seemed like a curious move.

To the credit of the entire coaching staff, the New York Giants finished the year 12th in yards allowed an 9th in points allowed. This was a major accomplishment for a team with no dangerous edge rushers or starting-caliber cornerback opposite of James Bradberry. While the two major free agent additions (Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez) were the two best players on the defense, the best overall unit was the defensive line.

The line benefitted from the coaching of Sean Spencer, the highly-regarded defensive line coach who Joe Judge lured away from Penn State. But it’s also important to note that Graham himself was a defensive line coach with the Patriots (2012-2013) and Giants (2016-2017).

Graham had his defense run out of multiple fronts, but the bread-and-butter was still a 3-4 system that remarkably employed only five defensive lineman all season. The sixth man (R.J. McIntosh) spent the whole year inactive. As a whole, the Giants were big, strong, powerful group that was tough to move off of the line of scrimmage. They were generally better against the run (10th in the NFL) than rushing the passer (21 of the team’s 40 sacks).

Ironically, the headliner ended up being the team’s most controversial defensive acquisition in years. Leonard Williams had a career year, accruing over one-fourth of the team’s sacks (11.5) and regularly being a disruptive presences as indicated by his team-high quarterback hits (30) and tackles for loss (14). He was also tied for fifth in combined tackles with 57.

The other two year-long starters were second-year defensive end Dexter Lawrence and third-year nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. While Williams received 74 percent of all defensive snaps, Lawrence and Tomlinson each saw 60 percent of all defensive snaps. These two finished with almost 100 combined tackles, 7.5 sacks, 20 quarterback hits, and 14 tackles for losses. Williams, Lawrence, and Tomlinson represented almost 1,000 pounds of beef up front, making life easier for the linebackers.

It’s also important to note the yeoman’s work of the only two reserves who saw action all year: B.J. Hill (34 percent of all defensive snaps) and Austin Johnson (21 percent of all defensive snaps). Both have started in this league, yet they accepted their back-up roles without complaint.

Looking past 2020, the offseason challenge for the Giants will be the retention of free agents Williams and Tomlinson.

THE STARTERS

In his sixth NFL season, Leonard Williams had his best season 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. 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. Williams is a stout, strong, physical run defender. While he lacks classic quick-twitch outside pass-rush skills, Williams can pressure the passer due to his combination of power and overall athleticism. He has the ability to line up inside or outside to create match-up problems.

In his second season with the Giants in 2020, Dexter Lawrence played in all 16 games with 15 starts (60 percent of defensive snaps) and finished the year with 53 tackles, six tackles for a loss, four sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and two pass defenses. The Giants drafted Lawrence in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He was named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team. Built like a prototypical run-stuffing nose tackle with excellent size and strength, the Giants play him more at defensive end. His size and power often force other teams to double-team him. While Lawrence can generate a power rush, he lacks dynamic pass rush moves to consistently reach the quarterback.

For the second year in a row, Dalvin Tomlinson served as the team’s primary nose tackle. He started all 16 games, playing 60 percent of all defensive snaps, and was credited with 49 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and four pass defenses. The Giants drafted Tomlinson in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Tomlinson has started all 64 games since he was drafted and has played both 3- and 1-technique roles with the Giants. Tomlinson is a big, strong, physical defender who flashes the ability to disrupt plays in the backfield.

THE RESERVES

In his third NFL season, B.J. Hill continued to see his playing time decline. He played in all 16 games with no starts, playing 34 percent of all defensive snaps (down from 59 percent in 2018 and 44 percent in 2019). Hill was credited with 32 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, three quarterback hits, and one pass defense. The Giants drafted Hill in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Hill has a nice combination of size and athleticism. He is a better run defender than pass rusher.

The Giants signed Austin Johnson as an unrestricted free agent from the Tennessee Titans in March 2020. He played in all 16 games, with no starts (21 percent of all defensive snaps), and was credited with 18 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, one quarterback hit, one pass defense, and one forced fumble. The 6’4”, 314-pound Johnson was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Titans. In four seasons in Tennessee, Johnson played in 58 regular-season games with 13 starts, compiling 83 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and five pass defenses. Johnson is a big, strong run defender who never lived up to expectations in Tennessee.

In his third year with the Giants in 2020, R.J. McIntosh spent the entire season on the inactive list. The Giants selected McIntosh in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. After missing most of his rookie season with unpublicized medical condition, McIntosh played in 12 games as a reserve in 2019, playing 10 percent of all defensive snaps, and finishing the year with 13 tackles and two sacks. McIntosh combines good size and overall athleticism.

PRACTICE SQUAD

The Giants signed David Moa to the Practice Squad in early October 2020. The 6’3”, 296-pound Moa was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Minnesota Vikings after the 2020 NFL Draft. The Vikings waived him in early September and he then spent a week on the Practice Squad on the Atlanta Falcons.

Jan 042021
 
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Xavier McKinney, New York Giants (January 3, 2021)

Xavier McKinney – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 2021 OPPONENTS SET…
The New York Giants’ 2021 opponents have been mostly set:

Home:

  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Washington Redskins
  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Denver Broncos
  • Las Vegas Raiders
  • Los Angeles Rams

Away:

  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Washington Redskins
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Los Angeles Chargers
  • Chicago Bears

The NFL will reportedly add a 17th regular-season game. If so, the Giants are expected to play a team from the AFC East. If the match-up is determined by division ranking, it will be the Miami Dolphins.

The league’s 2021 schedule will be announced in the spring.

NEW YORK GIANTS TO PICK 11TH IN 2021 NFL DRAFT…
The New York Giants now hold the 11th pick in the 1st round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

GIANTS RE-SIGN 15 PLAYERS…
The Giants have re-signed two exclusive rights free agents and 13 players to reserve/future contracts.

The two exclusive rights free agents are OT Jackson Barton and CB Madre Harper. Barton spent the entire year on the 53-man roster, but was only active for one game. Harper played in nine games for the Giants this year.

The 13 reserve/future players are:

  • QB Clayton Thorson
  • QB Alex Tanney
  • RB Taquan Mizzell
  • WR Alex Bachman
  • TE Rysen John
  • OG Chad Slade
  • OG Kenny Wiggins
  • DT David Moa
  • LB Trent Harris
  • CB Jarren Williams
  • CB Quincy Wilson
  • S Montre Hartage
  • LS Carson Tinker

All 13 of these players finished the year on the team’s Practice Squad.

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:

Oct 052020
 
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Jason Garrett and Joe Judge, New York Giants (October 4, 2020)

Jason Garrett and Joe Judge – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS PRACTICE SQUAD MOVES…
The New York Giants have signed wide receiver Alex Bachman and defensive linemen David Moa to the Practice Squad. The team also terminated the Practice Squad contract of wide receiver Johnny Holton.

The 6’0”, 190-pound 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. He also began this season on the team’s Practice Squad before being cut on September 15th.

The 24-year old, 6’3”, 296-pound Moa was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Minnesota Vikings after the 2020 NFL Draft. The Vikings waived him on September 5th and he then spent a week on the Practice Squad on the Atlanta Falcons.

The Giants signed Holton in early September and he has spent time on both the 53-man roster and Practice Squad this year. The 6’3”, 190-pound Holton was originally signed by the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Raiders (2016-2018), Philadelphia Eagles (2019), and Pittsburgh Steelers (2019).

OCTOBER 5, 2020 JOE JUDGE PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 17-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams:

Q: How do you create easier throws for Daniel (Jones), and just get receivers more open for him?

A: It’s a combination of… As coaches, we have to do things to put people in the right position and call at the right time. You’re going to play against good defenses that are going to have tight coverage. Individually, we have to play better within our techniques and make sure we work to get open. Then spreading the ball around the field a little bit. That will kind of help alleviate some of those defenses we’ll see. But look, we’re expecting tight coverage and tight throws. It’s the NFL. You’re not going to have a magical scheme that’s going to create guys wide open all the time. We have to do a good job with contested catches and making plays.

Q: Just curious when you look back and you watch the film last night on the last drive, what did you see that Daniel had as options in terms of that play when he broke out of the pocket? What did you guys discuss as far as how you’d handle that situation again?

A: You have to see it through the perspective of the quarterback. It’s easier for us on the sideline or watching on tape to kind of say ‘you should have done this’ or ‘you should have done that.’ Obviously, the execution is the most important thing. Every play he has different options, whether it was throwing to Damion (Ratley) there, did he have the option to tuck that thing and run with the time that we had left, timeouts and stuff like that? But look, he made the decision he made. We can’t sit here and handcuff our quarterback by looking over his shoulder all of the time and second-guessing everything he does. To us, it’s about the execution he has within the techniques and making the throw at the right time. Look, we have to do a better job all across the board at all positions and all coaches, making sure we finish all the drives. I was pleased with the execution of the offense within that two-minute drive, along with the two-minute at the end of the half in terms of how we managed the clock, how we systematically moved it down the field. We gave a chance for our team to have plays and have production in those situations. We have to finish better. We have to finish better as a team. That starts with the coaches and that follows through with the players.

Q: You haven’t played a game in the division in the first month. Do you look at the division, it’s not a get out of jail card, it’s not a new lease on life, but is it something that you and your team can look at as a start of something, the next three in the division and five of the next six in the division?

A: Look, every game is important in the NFL. But I think it’s no secret when it comes to the NFL, it’s about your division to start with. We have to do a good job. Obviously, we have five in the next six weeks division games, so we have to do a good job of coming out here and being ready to roll. It’s going to be tough games. It’s not going to be any easy opponents right here. But definitely, coming in on Wednesday and making sure we start fresh and we start fast. We have the Cowboys. It’s going to be a very tough opponent.

Q: What did Ryan Lewis show you yesterday? Did he solidify his spot as your starting cornerback?

A: I can’t emphasize enough over and over, in terms of the starters, a lot of things just branch into what package we’re playing with certain guys. Based on what the offense puts out there, we may play a specific package which may highlight a different guy. You look at the linebacker packages, whether it’s Tae (Crowder) or Devante (Downs) out there based on different sets and how we’re trying to match the offense. Or defensively, whether it’s Ike (Yiadom) out there or Ryan, or whether it’s going to be (Madre) Harper going forward. There are different things we’re going to look to do. But we’re going to look to get all of our guys involved. If you’re at the game, you’re expected to play. To me, the whole label on starter isn’t really the most critical thing. It’s more about who’s finishing the game for us, and a lot of that ties into how we have to play that game due to the flow of it or how we have to adjust. But I’m pleased with Ryan with how he played yesterday. He showed a lot of positive things in terms of how he played on outside routes. He did some good things on special teams for us as well. We have to keep putting him in positions where he can really use his speed and some of his instincts to make plays for us. Look, there are other situations where Ike is going to have a predominant role based on how we’re trying to match certain things up and really get him worked in.

Q: It sounds like the league is going to look into what happened after the game between Golden (Tate) and (Jalen) Ramsey. Did you have a conversation with Golden about that? Did you find out anything about what went on?

A: I’ll say this. First off, I don’t want John Mara, Steve Tisch or anybody involved with this team to have to deal with something like this after the game. This isn’t why we play the game. We have 60 minutes to beat the hell out of each other legally between the whistles. We don’t need anything extra after. I talked to a number of our players, then obviously, we saw some video on it of guys who were involved. I had enough of a kind of eye witness standpoint myself after me and Sean (McVay) had an exchange at midfield. I turned around and it was kind of happening right there in front of me, so I got a quick glimpse of it right there. Look, all I can say is the account I got from a number of our players was that, there’s a history, obviously, between them. There was a punch thrown. Golden was defending himself. I was told he wasn’t the one who threw the punch. Everybody involved was trying to break it up. I can say both our players and the Rams’ staff and players, from what I saw with my own eyes, were all in there just trying to break it up. I didn’t see everything going on in the pile, but from the accounts I was told and the information I was given and from what I saw with my own eyes, that’s what I saw, that guys were trying to break it up.

Q: Just a quick follow-up on that. It sounds like you won’t be imposing any discipline on your own for Golden then?

A: There are a number of things we still have to look through as a team right here. Based on the information I was given and what I saw with my own eyes and what our players gave me, it didn’t sound like there’s an immediate need for that. But we’ll look into it. Obviously, we’ll always take care of our players.

Q: I wanted to ask you, you mentioned your last drive of the first half. Were you guys intentionally conservative as an offense on that drive? Would you agree with that characterization of that drive?

A: No, I think we were just trying to move the ball down the field and get into position right there. To go out there and just sling the ball every play or try to turn everything into a chunk play, I don’t think in that situation right there it is always the most beneficial thing for a team. We just wanted to move the ball down the field, get into scoring position and see what we had a chance for. They did a good job right there at the end of the half in terms of some of the things they did so we couldn’t get closer on down there. But our offense executed well to get the ball out of bounds and save some time. We were able to use some timeouts, get in position and Graham (Gano) ended the half with some points right there. That’s what we’re working for at the end of the half.

Q: I’m curious what happened in terms of pulling Cam Fleming yesterday? Was it something you guys after you went back and saw the tape that you were trying to spark the offensive line? Was it something you saw in-game? What did you see out of Matt Peart once he was back out there?

A: We didn’t pull Cam Fleming. That’s something that before the game started we wanted to make sure that we had an emphasis on getting some of these guys involved. I mentioned that yesterday. They didn’t have a preseason, so there’s a lot of these young players who are eventually going to have to play for us. We want to get them involved as much as we can to get them game action and just progressing them with what they’re doing. There was no pulling Cam Fleming. We didn’t take him out or something happened with him in the game. But I was pleased with how Matt played when he was in there. There were some things to learn with, some things to build on right there. I think he’s a guy who is a developing player who has a skillset. The more we can keep him involved, the more progress he’ll make.

Q: I guess just following up on that, your four-game progress report on Andrew Thomas and what you’ve seen from him?

A: I’ll tell you what. I think obviously he’s a guy who has a tremendous amount of potential, and that’s why we brought him in here. He’s been baptized by fire really this first part of the season. He’s seen a lot of elite edge rushers. He’s seen a lot of multiples come at him. Obviously, they’re trying to attack him as a rookie and see what he can handle. He’s done a lot of things very, very positively. There are some other things that, like with any rookie, he has to learn from and correct. We’re not going to write him a pass for being a young guy or being a rookie or not having a preseason. That’s not the way we operate here. But look, I’m very pleased with the way he’s working. There are a lot of things he’s learning on the fly right now. I think (Marc) Colombo and Ben (Wilkerson) are doing a good job with him as far as bringing him along, and the guy shows up every day, works and competes.

Q: I’m curious if any of the guys that were nicked up yesterday, if any of them are long-term? I think it was (Oshane) Ximines, (Kyler) Fackrell and I think (Adrian) Colbert was the other one? Or anybody else?

A: I have to get the final report from the trainers after I get off this call. Being on the west coast, it kind of changed up a little bit of our morning routine with these guys getting in to see the trainers. They saw the trainers and the doctors. You come out of any game, there’s some nicks or bumps or bruises. We’ll see where they are as far as going long-term. But I talked to all of the players. They were in good spirits yesterday after the game in terms of health wise. We’ll see where they’re at going forward.

Q: This is a general question. In regards to quarterback development, when do you feel like you know when a quarterback is your guy? How quickly? Is it something that can take years? Is it something you know right away when you see a guy play? How do you feel about that in general?

A: (Inaudible) in terms of just making any blanket statements. Look, if you’re asking if Daniel is our quarterback, Daniel is our quarterback. That’s who we’re playing with. We support him, we have a lot of confidence in him, we have faith in him. Again, he’s a young guy who’s developing. We’ve seen a lot of progress from him day to day. Are there things he needs to correct and clean up, and can we do a better job as coaches and staff to put him in the right situations? Absolutely. But in terms of that blanket statement, I don’t know if there’s ever a pinpoint in terms of what’s the threshold for saying some guy is your guy for whatever. But Daniel is our quarterback.

Q: If it was pre-planned that Peart was going into the game at some point, was it pre-planned that Cam was going to be the one to come out, or was there a chance that Andrew would come out? I guess my question there is, you strike me as a very production-based guy. Is it harder to remove a first round pick because of the optics?

A: I could care less how you got here. I don’t care if you’re a first round pick or if you just walked in off the street yesterday. That doesn’t bother me at all. I’m never going to make a decision based on optics. That’s not going to be something that ever bothers me. No, it was pre-planned. Matt’s worked a lot on the right side in practice, so that’s just simply where we put him in there. It didn’t have anything to do with Cam Fleming, it had nothing to do with Andrew Thomas. It was about getting Matt Peart some experience of being on the field, and that’s all it was. Same as with Shane Lemieux. Shane played yesterday because we wanted to get him some reps in the game. We factored in how we could yesterday with some fullback reps. There are some times where we’ll work him on the offensive line. There are some times we may use him in some other roles, however they come up. We just want to keep these young guys developing and involved in the game so when they have to get out there and play extended periods of time, they’ve already had experience.

Q: That was actually my follow-up, with Shane. Where did that… is that something he had done somewhere in his past, or is that something you guys saw, ‘maybe he can be a fullback for us’ type of thing? How did that come about?

A: Well, Eli’s (Penny) our fullback, but Shane has a skillset as well. We’re just looking to get all of our players involved however we think it could create an advantage. That was something that we just kind of thought would give us something in certain plays and situations yesterday we wanted to use. Shane was the guy that fit the role.

Q: You had a couple of guys in Tae Crowder and Adrian Colbert who played quite a bit yesterday. I’m just curious how you evaluated how those two played individually?

A: Yeah, I’m pleased with the progress Tae is making. I think we have a lot of young guys right now on the roster who are at least starting to come around. You can kind of see a difference in their eyes, which is kind of natural for them to have after some experience on the field. They’re acclimating a little bit to not only the speed of the game on the field, but the speed of the game in the classroom, the speed of the game how you have to carry it from the classroom to practice, and it’s kind of slowing down for them a little bit. I’m pleased with the way Tae and Cam Brown and a lot of other young guys are really coming around right now and making progress. I’d say AC, he’s a guy who comes to work every day, plays with a high motor. Obviously, we missed him last week. He was out with a strain. He’s a guy we’re happy to have out there. I think he’s making some plays for us. He’s been flying around with high energy, he’s good for the defense out there, he’s good for the team just being a good team player. I think the more depth you have in that defensive backfield, the more it helps you. We’re going to play a lot of different packages with a variety of players on a game by game basis, so the more guys you have back there that you feel can contribute and help you win, the better you are as a team.

Q: I wanted to ask about Nick Gates’ snapping. The last couple of weeks, he had some inconsistent snapping with some high snaps. Is that just a matter of him getting more comfortable with it, or do you see something going on there where some of those snaps are just off target?

A: Well, the simple answer is we just have to get that more consistently fixed. We need to make sure we eliminate the one-offs that he has. That always ties into technique within a different situation. Whatever the reason for it is, we just have to make sure we get it off the mat.

Q: If I could just follow up on Nick. What have you thought about his pass sets?

A: Nick has factored into the pass protection. He’s improved on a week by week basis. A lot of what Nick does inside is based on the interior calls, where we’re sliding him, or if we’re trying to create some kind of double team or something game plan wise inside. In terms of how he operates inside, it is a little bit different than playing on the edge as a tackle. But Nick has improved week by week. There are some things we have to clean up with him and keep progressing with it. But it’s different for him, obviously, being inside as a center than it was outside as a tackle, or even one spot over as a guard. That center position is very unique in terms of how they have to operate inside, as far as helping the guards and setting it and creating slides. But he’s progressing week by week, and I’m pleased with how he’s come along.

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The players are off on Tuesday and return to practice on Wednesday.