Aug 312021
 
Share Button
Ben Bredeson, Baltimore Ravens (August 28, 2021)

Ben Bredeson – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS TRADE FOR BEN BREDESON…
The New York Giants have acquired by trade offensive guard Ben Bredeson from the Baltimore Ravens. In return for the Giants’ 4th-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Giants received Bredeson and the Ravens’ 5th-round selection in 2022 (acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs) and 7th-round selection in 2023.

Ravens Receive:
Giants 4th-round 2022 Selection

Giants Receive:
Ben Bredeson
Ravens 5th-round 2022 Selection (from Chiefs)
Ravens 7th-round 2023 Selection

The 23-year old, 6’5”, 315-pound Bredeson was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Ravens. He played in 10 games with no starts as a rookie.

NEW YORK GIANTS REDUCE ROSTER TO 53 PLAYERS…
On Tuesday, in order to meet the NFL’s 53-man roster limit, the New York Giants made the following 27 roster moves:

Remain on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List:

  • CB Aaron Robinson (core muscle)

Placed on Injured Reserve:

  • WR Austin Mack
  • WR Alex Bachman
  • OG Ted Larsen

Waived or contracts terminated:

  • QB Brian Lewerke
  • RB Corey Clement
  • RB Sandro Platzgummer
  • WR David Sills
  • WR Matt Cole
  • WR Damion Willis
  • TE Nakia Griffin-Stewart
  • TE Jake Hausmann
  • OC Jonotthan Harrison
  • OC Brett Heggie
  • OG Kenny Wiggins
  • OL Chad Slade
  • OL Jake Burton
  • OL Jackson Barton
  • DL David Moa
  • DL Elijah Qualls
  • DL Willie Henry
  • LB Ifeadi Odenigbo
  • LB Devante Downs
  • LB Ryan Anderson
  • LB Niko Lalos
  • CB Madre Harper
  • S Chris Johnson
  • S Jordyn Peters
  • LS Casey Kreiter

According to the team’s press release, Kreiter will be re-signed.

Mar 292021
 
Share Button
Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions (November 28, 2019)

Kenny Golladay – © USA TODAY Sports

Teams were officially able to begin negotiating with free agents from other teams on March 15. So although it seems as if free agency has been going on for quite some time, we’re only still at the 2-week mark since it began. More signings will continue through the spring and summer, especially as players are cut. That said, the initial free agency rush is over and we can start to make some snap opinions on what the New York Giants have and have not accomplished.

The “need” level I reference was addressed in my March 12th Free Agency Preview for the team.

QUARTERBACKS (Previous Need Level – Medium): For at least one more season, Daniel Jones is the unquestioned starter. The expectation was that the team would re-sign Colt McCoy. However, the Giants surprisingly went in another direction by signing the well-traveled Mike Glennon as Jones’ back-up. Glennon is much bigger (half a foot taller) than McCoy with a much stronger arm. Both complete around 61 percent of their passes and both have started roughly the same number of NFL games. There were media whispers too that McCoy wanted more money than the Giants were willing to pay. On the surface, this appears to be a wash, although the coaches said McCoy was a very good influence on Jones in the meeting rooms. (Mike Glennon YouTube Highlights)

RUNNING BACKS (Previous Need Level – High to Desperate): Some chided my prediction that all three running backs behind Saquon Barkley may not return in 2021, but that appears in fact to be the case. As of this moment, Wayne Gallman, Alfred Morris, and Dion Lewis remain unsigned. So much of the team’s upcoming success will depend on how well Barkley returns from a major knee injury and whether he can stay healthy for a full season. It’s quite telling that the very first player the Giants signed in free agency was the relatively-unknown Devontae Booker to a 2-year, $5.5 million contract. Fan reaction was immediately negative. But it appears the coaching staff simply wanted a veteran back who was a more reliable blocker and receiver than Gallman. Depth behind Barkley still remains shaky as the only other halfbacks on the roster are NFL cast-offs Taquan Mizzell and Jordan Chunn. The Giants also added another fullback/special teams player in Cullen Gillaspia to compete with Eli Penny. (Devontae Booker YouTube Highlights)

WIDE RECEIVERS (Previous Need Level – Desperate): The Giants have significantly upgraded this position with the addition of one player to the tune of a 4-year, $72 million contract. Kenny Golladay is not only a true #1 receiver, but he fills a desperate need that this team had for a physical receiver with size. His presence also allows Darius Slayton to become the #2 and Sterling Shepard the slot receiver, roles that both are far better suited for. From Golladay’s style of play to the team’s extended wooing period to satisfy personality issues, this signing is highly reminiscent of the Giants’ signing of Plaxico Burress in 2005. And Golladay is quite capable of having a Plaxico-type impact on this team. In addition, before the Giants signed Golladay, they signed the 9th overall player taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, John Ross. While Ross did not live up to expectations in Cincinnati, he brings true deep speed to a team that desperately needs it. It would not be shocking to see Ross get cut, but it also would not be shocking for him to press for a starting job opposite of Golladay. In addition to wanting to prove doubters wrong, Ross will rejoin his old college receiving teammate, Dante Pettis, on what had been an explosive University of Washington receiving corps. Overall, the make-up of this unit is far different now than it was just two weeks ago. (John Ross YouTube Highlights)

TIGHT ENDS (Previous Need Level – Desperate): Right or wrong, the front office and coaching staff appear willing to continue to hope Evan Engram develops into the player hoped for when he was drafted in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft. But the team decided to team him with a mentor. Kyle Rudolph has been one of the NFL’s best tight ends for the past 10 years. While not an explosive player, he can catch and block. Just as importantly, he is reliable, something Engram is not. The downside is that Rudolph turns 32 in November and is coming off a foot injury (The Athletic is reporting it is a Lisfranc injury) that required surgery AFTER the Giants signed him. Much depends on how well he recovers. On paper, if he is healthy, this looks like a major addition both in terms of helping out Daniel Jones and the offensive line. (Kyle Rudolph YouTube Highlights)

OFFENSIVE LINE (Previous Need Level – Medium): This is one area where it is debatable if the team has improved in free agency. The Giants were able to force Nate Solder to take a big pay cut to remain with the team. He will now compete against Matt Peart for the starting tackle spot opposite of Andrew Thomas. The Giants somewhat surprisingly simply cut Kevin Zeitler without approaching him about a pay cut. To fill that void, they signed right guard Zach Fulton, who had an inconsistent stay with the Houston Texans. Fulton will compete with Will Hernandez and Shane Lemieux for a starting spot. Fulton does not feel like an upgrade over Zeitler. Where the team probably did get better is at back-up center with the signing of Jonotthan Harrison back in January. He is a better player than Spencer Pulley. Look for the team to continue to address the offensive line in the upcoming draft.

DEFENSIVE LINE (Previous Need Level – Low to High Depending on Tomlinson): Undoubtedly, the biggest loss the team suffered in free agency was losing nose tackle Davlin Tomlinson to the Minnesota Vikings for what appeared to be a reasonable 2-year, $22 million contract. The Giants re-signed back-up nose tackle Austin Johnson to a 1-year, $3 million deal in anticipation of the loss. Johnson will now have to start at nose tackle or the team will be forced to move Dexter Lawrence from end, or sign a veteran or draft a player. Moving Lawrence seems like an obvious option, but that would have a domino effect in that B.J. Hill would probably then become the new starter at end opposite of Leonard Williams. Thus, what had been a somewhat shaky depth situation becomes even more dubious. The team was extremely fortunate in 2020 that no one got hurt up front. The only back-ups on the roster right now are R.J. McIntosh, David Moa, and Breeland Speaks, the latter signed by the Giants in January. Speaking of Williams, the Giants were able to re-sign him to a 3-year, $63 million deal. There will be tremendous pressure on him to live up to that contract.

(Late Note: The Giants signed 6’2”, 335-pound nose tackle Danny Shelton today. Drafted in the 1st round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, Shelton was cut by the Detroit Lions and will help fill the void created by the departure of Tomlinson).

LINEBACKERS (Previous Need Level – High): On paper, the Giants lost one free agent (Kyler Fackrell) and signed three (Ifeadi Odenigbo, Reggie Ragland, Ryan Anderson). All three newcomers were relatively inexpensive, 1-year deals. Ragland will likely compete with Tae Crowder for the inside linebacker spot next to Blake Martinez. He has started 38 regular-season games in the NFL and is a former 2nd-round pick so he has a good shot to win that job. Anderson is another former 2nd-round pick who was stuck behind a plethora of outstanding outside linebackers in Washington. He is known more as an overachiever who saw most of his playing time on special teams, but he could surprise as his competition will be Lorenzo Carter (coming off of a torn Achilles), Oshane Ximines (coming off of shoulder surgery), and last year’s rookies (Carter Coughlin, Cam Brown, Niko Lalos). What about Odenigbo? Good question. He was the first defensive player the Giants signed in free agency. He played exclusively on the defensive line in Minnesota, primarily at end, but also shifting inside in pass-rush packages. However, his lack of size (6’3”, 258 pounds) strongly suggests he will be used like “linebacker” Jabaal Sheard was used by the Giants last year, that is, an edge rusher in 4-man pass rush packages. The Giants could also push him inside like the Vikings did in obvious passing situations in 4-man fronts. It is doubtful that he should be considered a true outside linebacker because he simply does not have experience dropping into coverage. Because of that, one could actually argue he should be included in the defensive line review. Also, the Giants did re-sign inside linebacker Devonta Downs, who started at inside linebacker for the Giants in 2020 until Tae Crowder beat him out. He will have to fight just to make the team however.

CORNERBACKS (Previous Need Level – Desperate): Like the wide receiving position, the make-up of this position completely changed with the addition of one free agent, adding Adoree’ Jackson to a 3-year, $39 million contract after he was cut by the Tennessee Titans. Opinions on his play vary, but Jackson is clearly a major upgrade over everyone else on the team’s roster with the exception of Pro Bowler James Bradberry. The former 1st rounder is a physical and aggressive press corner who plays with a lot of confidence. Depth is still a concern, but on paper, the Giants now look like they have one of the better secondaries in the NFL as long as Darnay Holmes continues to develop at slot corner.

SAFETIES (Previous Need Level – Low): While Adrian Colbert and Nate Ebner remain unsigned, the Giants still look to be in decent shape at this position with Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Logan Ryan, and Julian Love – the latter two who can also play corner. Depth will be added later in free agency or the draft.

KICKERS/LONG SNAPPER (Previous Need Level – Low to Average Depending on Kreiter): When the Giants re-signed long snapper Casey Kreiter, this position was largely settled other than camp bodies. The only real question is are the Giants looking to upgrade at punter at some point.

SUMMARY: In my March 12th article, I argued this roster was a train wreck. Two weeks later, with the addition of 11 free agents and counting, it feels vastly different. It’s not just the quantity, but the quality. Keeping Leonard Williams was a big deal. Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson were two of the best, if not the very best, players available at desperate need positions.  If healthy, Kyle Rudolph could be a major addition as a security blanket for both Daniel Jones and the offensive line. Golladay and Jackson will start. Rudolph will be a quasi-starter. John Ross (1st rounder), Reggie Ragland (2nd rounder), Ryan Anderson (2nd rounder), and Zach Fulton might start. Devontae Booker is now the primary back-up behind Saquon Barkely, Ifeadi Odenigbo will add to the pass rush.

The risk? The money. While most of the deals were relatively cheap, the team did dole out $174 million on three players – Leonard Williams, Kenny Golladay, and Adoree’ Jackson. If they are wrong about any of these three, the team will be paying for it for years. We’ve seen that before and it’s one of the major reasons why the Giants have been mired in the basement of the NFL for a decade. One could also argue that the team should have allocated its resources a bit differently in order to keep Dalvin Tomlinson, extending his contract even last year.

Mar 242021
 
Share Button
Devante Downs, New York Giants (October 22, 2020)

Devante Downs – © USA TODAY Sports

KYLE RUDOLPH TO HAVE FOOT SURGERY…
Although free agent tight end Kyle Rudolph officially signed his contract today, multiple media outlets are reporting there was a delay in doing so because the New York Giants were concerned about a foot injury he suffered last year with the Minnesota Vikings. Rudolph reportedly took his physical yesterday and the team’s medical staff believes Rudolph needs surgery on his foot. The NFL Network initially reported that both sides were discussing how best to proceed, but based on the team’s press release, Rudolph will undergo foot surgery.

It was certainly an interesting 24 hours,” said Rudolph. “One that was unexpected… It’s kind of a blessing that we’re able to find this issue. It was an issue from the season, we can fix it in March, and I won’t miss any football. I’m extremely excited to be a New York Giant and I feel like it’s a blessing that I’m able to deal with it now in March and not be a New York Giant and something that we deal with during the season. Like anything in life, I attack it head-on and I’ll attack this rehab process head-on and I look forward to being out there with my teammates when we start playing football…this is 100 percent what happened during the season that caused me to miss the last four games of the season. Everyone expected it to heal on its own and it didn’t. It needs to be fixed and like I said, I’m just extremely grateful for the Giants’ medical staff, Dr. Rodeo, everyone that was involved in the process. I’m excited to get it fixed and move past it.”

Rudolph was cut by the Vikings early this month. The Giants and Rudolph agreed to terms to a 2-year, $12 million contract that includes $4.5 million in guaranteed money last week. The NFL Network is reporting that the deal was not altered based on the injury situation.

GIANTS RE-SIGN DEVANTE DOWNS…
The New York Giants have re-signed unrestricted free agent inside linebacker Devante Downs, who the team chose not to tender as a restricted free agent. Terms of the deal are not yet known.

Downs began the 2020 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.

GIANTS RESTRUCTURE CONTRACTS OF JAMES BRADBERRY AND BLAKE MARTINEZ…
In order to create more immediate cap space to pay for the team’s current free agent spending spree, the New York Giants and cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez have agreed to restructured contracts. According to ESPN:

  • Bradberry had $8 million of his base salary converted into a signing bonus, creating $4 million in additional cap space.
  • Martinez had $7 million of his base salary converted into a signing bonus, creating $3.5 million in additional cap space.

The $7.5 million “saved” will now be tacked onto the 2022 NFL salary cap.

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:

Mar 172021
 
Share Button
Devante Downs, New York Giants (October 22, 2020)

Devante Downs – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS RE-SIGN CASEY KREITER…
The New York Giants have officially re-signed unrestricted long snapper Casey Kreiter. Terms of the deal are not yet known.

The Giants signed 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.

For a complete overview of the team’s free agent activity, see the 2021 Free Agency Scorecard section of the website.

GIANTS DO NOT TENDER DEVANTE DOWNS…
According to multiple press reports, the New York Giants have chosen to not tender linebacker Devante Downs as a restricted free agent, thus making him an unrestricted free agent. Downs can now freely sign with any team without the Giants having the right to match any contract offer or possibly receiving compensation if he signs with another team.

Downs began the season as a starter in 2020, but saw his playing time give way to rookie 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.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS ON NATE SOLDER’S PAY CUT…
The Athletic is reporting on more specifics of the pay cut recently accepted by offensive tackle Nate Solder in order to remain with the New York Giants. Solder’s base salary was reduced from $9.9 million to about $4 million, creating approximately $6 million in salary cap space. His overall 2021 cap hit was reduced from $16.5 million to about $10.5 million. Had the Giants cut Solder or had he retired before June 1st, the same amount of cap space would have been created.

The 6’8”, 325-pound Solder was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. In March 2018, the Giants made Solder the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL when they signed him away from the Patriots as unrestricted free agent. However, despite 32 straight starts at left tackle for New York, Solder’s play has been inconsistent at best with the Giants.

Feb 052021
 
Share Button
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).

Feb 012021
 
Share Button
Blake Martinez, New York Giants (September 27, 2020)

Blake Martinez – © USA TODAY Sports

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.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

The Giants signed Blake Martinez as 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 selected Tae Crowder in 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 Downs began 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 placed David Mayo on 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 selected T.J. Brunson in 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.

EDGE

The Giants placed Lorenzo Carter on 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 Ximines was 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 placed Kyler Fackrell on 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 signed Jabaal Sheard off 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 selected Carter Coughlin in 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 selected Cam Brown in 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 signed Niko Lalos as 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 signed Trent Harris to 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.

Jun 082020
 
Share Button
Blake Martinez, Green Bay Packers (December 29, 2019)

Blake Martinez – © 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: Linebackers

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.

Dec 302019
 
Share Button
John Mara, New York Giants (September 8, 2019)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports

JOHN MARA ADDRESSES THE MEDIA…
New York Giants President and Chief Executive Officer John Mara addressed the media on Monday after the team fired Head Coach Pat Shurmur and retained General Manager Dave Gettleman (video):

Opening Statement: Steve (Tisch), Dave (Gettleman) and I met with Pat Shurmur early this morning and informed him that we were going to make a change at our head coaching position. These decisions are never easy, particularly when you have someone like Pat with his character, his integrity, his work ethic. But at the end of the day, we just didn’t win enough games, and we believe that we have to move in another direction. It’s certainly not all Pat’s fault, he did a lot of good things here; in particular, his role in selecting and training Daniel Jones. It’s a difficult day when you have to do something like this. The first thing that I always think of is the effect that it has on so many good people and their families. But at the end of the day, it was a decision that we just felt like we had to make going forward. In terms of Dave, I know you’re going to ask me about that, but Steve and I decided to retain Dave and give him a chance to finish what he has started, which includes so many changes in this organization that people really don’t know about. We’ve made a lot of turnover in our scouting area, we’ve completely changed our grading system in how we grade college players, we’re deeper into analytics and technology than we’ve ever been before, and that process is ongoing. We’ve completely re-organized areas in our football operations, we’ve added a staff psychologist on a full-time basis, and we believe it would be a mistake to pull the plug on that after two years, particularly when you consider that Dave spent a good part of the first year fighting for his life. Personnel-wise, we’ve had some hits, we’ve had some misses, and we have a lot of young players who have shown some promise, but it remains to be seen whether they’re going to develop into quality NFL players or not. The point I’m trying to make is it’s not business as usual here at the Giants. We’ve made a lot of changes, changes that you don’t necessarily know about, and we felt like we needed to give it a chance to see if it’s going to succeed or not. All that being said, we need to win more games, and Dave knows that, and that’s going to be the challenge going forward. We’re going to start the coach search immediately. I’m not going to comment on specific candidates, but we will inform you as people are being interviewed. With that, I’ll take your questions.

Q: Why do you feel that you only needed to take one of the two prongs at the top between your coach and your GM, even though the call from the fans was to do a complete overhaul?
A: Well, I’m not sure that was the call from all the fans, but I understand the criticism that’s out there. But I just explained why I think we need to give Dave a chance to finish the job.

Q: Not much has gone right for this organization over the last eight years, the one playoff year, other than that–
A: I’m painfully aware of that.

Q: How much blame do you deserve for that?
A: It all starts at the top. So, yes, you can criticize me all you want, and it would be warranted because it all starts at the top. The success, the failures, and the last eight years have been pretty miserable. So, I’ll accept my share of blame for that.

Q: What specifically went into the decision to fire Pat Shurmur but retain Dave Gettleman, who built the roster that Shurmur was the coach of, especially when you credit Shurmur with helping identify Jones and develop him?
A: Like I said with Dave, I think we’ve had some hits and some misses. He implemented so many changes within our organization, we just felt like at this stage to pull the plug on all of that would not be the wise thing to do. I’m excited about what I see in the future for this team because of the young players we have, because of the changes that we’re making. With Pat, it ends up being as much a gut instinct as anything else. I just felt like we weren’t winning enough games, we weren’t winning the games that we should have won, and we just need to go in a different direction.

Q: Were there specifics in-game or philosophically with Shurmur that made you believe that he was more to blame than the guy getting the pieces and bringing in the personnel?
A: Well, it’s a collaborative effort when you have a coach and a general manager. They worked very well together, they were in sync on all the personnel decisions that we made here, but I just felt like there were so many games that I felt like we should have won, and we just didn’t get the job done.

Q: Was there a push and pull with you and Steve Tisch about this, or when you guys spoke—was it today you spoke with–
A: I speak to Steve all the time, and we’ve been in lockstep on this all along. Our relationship, contrary to what I read the other day, has never been better. We communicate on these issues, any issues regarding the team, all the time, and this has been a conversation we’ve been having for at least the last few weeks anyway.

Q: So, no one had to convince one another about the decision?
A: Absolutely not. That’s absolutely false, no.

Q: Is there a chance that whoever the next coach is would influence or factor into Dave’s role here, that the next coach would have some say over keeping Dave?
A: He’s not going to have any say over keeping Dave, but certainly I’m going to want somebody that’s going to be able to work hand-in-hand with him. Dave and Pat’s relationship has been terrific, they worked very well together, there was no personnel decision that has been made here in the last two years that Pat wasn’t fully on board with.

Q: Do you have any concern that Dave’s presence could have a negative impact on the pool of candidates?
A: I’m aware that that’s a perception that’s out there, but I don’t have that concern because I think once they meet him and get to know him, that won’t be an issue.

Q: Are you committed to maintaining the power dynamic that you’ve had with the general manager and director of personnel and–
A: I’m always willing to look at whatever’s going to improve the team, and if I felt that there was somebody coming in here as a head coach who wanted a different role and he could convince Steve and I that that would make sense for our organization, we would certainly consider that.

Q: Is Dave going to run the coaching search?
A: Dave and I will be involved in the coaching search. Steve will be involved as well.

Q: What if some of these candidates, you said that talking to Dave they won’t have a problem, but what if they do?

A: If they do, they do. We’re going to try to get the best candidates in here that we can, and we’re going to try to convince them why this is a good job opportunity for them. We’ve got a terrific young quarterback, we’ve got a young roster, we’re in the best cap space shape we’ve been in in many years. There’s a lot to this organization that I think would attract a lot of different candidates.

Q: Your past two coaching hires obviously haven’t worked out. Before that, a long time since you brought in Tom (Coughlin). What do you say to the questions about whether you guys are in tune with what it takes in the modern NFL to bring in a successful coach, given the last few hires?
A: That’s fair criticism. We’ve failed twice in a row now, and you have to keep working at it, try to find the right guy, that’s all. I’m not convinced that either of the past two coaches couldn’t have been successful over a longer period of time, but there comes a point in time when your patience runs out, your gut tells you that you need to make a change, and that’s what happened this time.

Q: You had specific criteria the last two coaching searches about who you were looking for, what you saw as the next head coach. Has that criteria changed a bit? If I recall, over the last two searches, you did not bring in any college head coaches, or anyone without any coaching experience in the NFL. Will that expand when you’re looking at new candidates?

A: There well could be college candidates here. I’m really looking for leadership, that’s the big thing going forward. Somebody who can come in and take control of this roster, help build a culture that is going to lead to winning. Somebody who is going to help us with our football re-organization during the process we’re undergoing right now. We’re looking for all those qualities from the next candidate.

Q: When you look at Dave’s stay here as GM, how do you balance, if you do, his successes with analytics and things behind the scenes that you outlined with the significant misses in free agency, if not a miss overall on a player, perhaps overpaying for others?
A: Well, we could have differences in opinion whether those were hits or misses. There definitely have been some misses, no question about it. I think that can happen to anybody. There were reasons for some of those personnel decisions. He does know that the batting average has got to increase going forward though.

Q: What’s your message to the fans in terms of how long this process will take before you see a winning team on the field?
A: Well, I’d like to think that we can start winning next year. It’s been too many years since we’ve had a winning team on the field. Nobody feels that more than Steve and myself. It’s not easy to sit in your stadium and watch fans from the other team, you know, and that’s happened too often this year. So, believe me, we live this every day, we feel it as much if not more so than the fans do, and we’re committed to try and get this thing right.

Q: You mentioned the fans from other teams cheering in your building. It was very pronounced this year. Have you ever been through an entire season where that consistently happened, with the Packers, to the Cowboys, to the Eagles?

A:  Probably not, it’s probably the worst. I think that’s more of the norm in the NFL now, when your team is not winning, your fans sell their tickets, and often times it’s the fans of the opposing team that come in. We had that situation when we were in Tampa, when we were in Washington, we had large contingents of fans down there. But listen, we haven’t been winning, the fans are getting fed up with that, and so they sell their tickets. I get that.

Q: You just mentioned that Dave knows his batting average in free agency and that personnel needs to improve. Worst case scenario, what if it doesn’t? Do you run the risk of hiring a head coach and potentially having to fire a GM a short time after and kind of throwing that power structure out of whack?
A: Yes, we do run that risk.

Q: How much did you weigh that these last couple of days?

A: Weigh what exactly?

Q: The risk?
A: That’s certainly something we are aware of, but I happen to believe in Dave. I happen to believe in the changes that he’s making here, and I think those are going to pay off.

Q: You said that you needed to see progress at the end of training camp when we talked to you. Do you need to see wins next year for Dave’s sake?
A: I’m not going to quantify the number of wins I need to see. We need to be able to put a better product on the field, that’s all.

Q: What role did Eli Manning’s early benching play into Pat Shurmur’s firing and the fact that you guys signed off on it. I’m curious how that process went?
A: It had absolutely nothing to do with this decision. How that process went, if I recall, Dave called me on Sunday evening after the Buffalo game. He said he had spoken to Pat and Pat wants to play Daniel. My only question was, do you think Daniel is ready? If you think he is ready, then whatever Pat wants to do. He’s the head coach, he makes those decisions.

Q: How important will it be that the next head coach has a background in developing young quarterbacks?
A: It either has to be that or it has to be his coordinator or his quarterback coach. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the head coach, I’m not ruling out defensive coaches here.

Q: You talk about wanting to find a coach with leadership. How hard is it to find somebody who is a leader but at the same time is not too totalitarian?
A: Obviously, it is pretty hard. Those people are out there. I’ve always believed that the toughest decision that Steve and I ever have to make in this business is finding the right guy to stand up here in front of the team and lead them and develop a winning program going forward. That’s what we are going to put all of our efforts into now, trying to find that guy. It’s obviously not an easy thing to do.

Q: What made now the right time of the season versus say during the nine-game losing streak? The Redskins and the Panthers were obviously getting a head start on their coaching search?
A: You can argue we could have done it earlier. I wanted to give him the chance, I held out hope, quite frankly, for quite some time hoping things would turn around. They just didn’t, so it just was a decision we felt we had to make.

Q: If that’s the case, if you guys had won yesterday, would that have made this decision tougher?
A: Probably not. It probably would have been the same decision.

Q: Is it fair to say you think the roster is better than what the record has been?
A: I think we could have won more games, yes. You’re playing a rookie quarterback, you’re playing all those rookies on the back end on defense. You are going to have some problems, but again at the end of the day we just didn’t win enough games.

Q: Considering the state of the roster, you guys are still in a rebuild. How reasonable is it to expect this team to be a significant winner next year, a playoff team?
A: I think we’ve got the answer at quarterback. I think we have a lot of good young players. We just need them to take it to the next level and hopefully the next coach will help them do that. None of them will be rookies anymore and again we have a very good cap situation and we’re picking fourth in the draft. We should be better next year.

Q: After the spending in 2016, I do recall you saying that that is not how you want to conduct business moving forward. You mentioned the cap space, how do you walk that line?
A: It’s a tough line to walk. In 2016, it paid off in that first year and then afterwards, not so much. The key is still the draft. You have to make good draft picks. You have to supplement that with making wise decisions in free agency. You can’t think that you are going to fix all your problems in free agency. It just doesn’t work.

Q: You said the last two coaches, you didn’t get right. What is your confidence level going into this search?
A: I think there are some very attractive candidates who will have interest in this job. I believe we will get it right this time.

Q: Are you bringing anybody in from the outside to advise? Ernie (Accorsi) is obviously a name that comes to mind?
A: No, I don’t think so.

Q: Is Ernie (Accorsi) going to be a part of the process again?
A: No, I don’t think so. I talk to him all the time, but he’s not going to be a part of the process.

STEVE TISCH ADDRESSES THE MEDIA…
New York Giants Chairman and Executive Vice President Steve Tisch addressed the media on Monday after the team fired Head Coach Pat Shurmur and retained General Manager Dave Gettleman (video):

Q: As John (Mara) just said, there’s been some talk before this that there might be some friction between you two on what direction you saw this team going. Was there any of that?
A: There was no friction. John and I have been partners going on 15 years. As you know, the Giants, the ownership is unique. It’s the only team with two equal partners. We’ve been talking as partners for 15 years. We talked about these issues starting weeks ago, today, and we will going forward. Everything you and I read about friction, differences of opinion, I didn’t say it, John didn’t say it. I read it, but it’s not true.

Q: Did you feel like you had the very honest conversation that you needed to have?
A: I’ve got to say, I would characterize every conversation that I’ve had with John as honest, straightforward. I feel very comfortable expressing my opinion on a whole bunch of matters, and I know John feels very comfortable expressing his opinion. It’s a partnership and as I just mentioned, it’s the only true partnership between owners in the NFL. At times, it’s challenging, but the bottom line is it’s been hugely rewarding for both families and I think for the organization.

Q: Did you have to be talked into or persuaded to keep Dave (Gettleman) or was that just part of the process?
A: No. It was part of a process. At the risk of repeating myself, John and I have a very, very, good dialogue constantly. When I’m not here in the building, we speak three or four times a week, home games, away games, we’re constantly speaking, sitting with each other. So, to say that there’s any issues with our communication is a total mischaracterization.

Q: What are you looking for, what qualities do you want in your next head coach?
A: Leadership, an ability to put together a great staff, an ability to really work with the players, the rookies. I think it’s really important that the next head coach has to have a point of view, a very strong point of view, and he will be supported by ownership.

Q: How hard is it to balance being patient with letting the process play out?
A: I think patience is a virtue, I’m not the first person to say that. But at times I think patience can be tested. But I think if I stay very focused, I sort of have the same…I see the same goal line that John Mara sees. Sometimes, the path to that goal line may be a little different, but we see the same goal line, we cross it, and it’s been a very, very, functional relationship. It’s been hugely functional.

Q: What was the deciding factor in keeping Dave Gettleman? What was the deciding factor in the conversation that made you believe he should stay?
A: The deciding factor was, when John and I started talking about this literally weeks and weeks ago, assets, liabilities, good news, bad news, and at the end of the day we decided that we were going to jointly make a decision to keep Dave, to work with Dave going forward into the next season. As John mentioned just now, we have tremendous cap space. I can’t stand here today and say our next head coach is Paul Schwartz (laughter), but I think the search is going to be fruitful and I think we’re going to find a terrific number of candidates and the right decision will be made.

Q: When you look at the last eight years, and the failures that have gone on here and the failures of the last two coaching hires, what do you say to fans who question your ability and John’s ability to lead this organization back to success?
A: I say to the fans I totally understand your frustration, your concern, I read your emails, I get it. But, John and I make decisions that sometimes may not be popular, may not be supported by the fans, but we’re the ones making the decisions, we live by them. It’s been a very frustrating four years, certainly the record indicates that, those numbers don’t lie. Going forward, John and I want to make sure that those numbers change in the next season dramatically.

Q: Why do you think you guys will get it right this time?
A: Because I’m an optimist and I think we know what qualities, what kind of character we want in the next head coach. We’re very focused on that. There’s going to be a real priority to make sure the next head coach has strong leadership abilities and a very impressive track record.

Q: What’s your desire to be more involved? John is the day-to-day guy here, he hasn’t had a lot of success over the last eight years. What’s your desire to be more involved, if it is at all, in the day-to-day operations?
A: I am involved. I would like to be more involved, I will become more involved. So, going forward in 2020, the day after tomorrow. We have a great dialogue with each other. As I mentioned, it’s a very, very, functional, working relationship. Partnerships are hard, professional ones and domestic ones, but I feel we have a very good one and we always, with some differences of opinions expressed and communicated, we get to the same point.

Q: Does that mean you physically want to be here more? Is that what you mean?
A: Yes, I will be here more physically. But, the opportunities that John and I spend with each other in the same building, or the same stadium, or the same locker room will increase.

COACHING SEARCH NEWS…
According to media reports, the New York Giants have requested to interview the following head coaching candidates:

  • Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy
  • New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Josh McDaniels

The 50-year old Bieniemy has served as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator since 2018. Before that he was the running backs coach for the Chiefs (2013-2017), Minnesota Vikings (2006-2010), UCLA (2003-2005), and University of Colorado (2001-2002). He also served as offensive coordinator at the University of Colorado (2011-2012).

The 43-year old McDaniels was interviewed by the Giants for their head coaching vacancy two years ago when the team decided to hire Pat Shurmur instead. McDaniels is best known for serving as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during two stints with the Patriots (2005-2008 and 2012-2019). In between, he was head coach of the Denver Broncos (2009-2010) and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach of the St. Louis Rams (2011). McDaniels served in a variety of roles with the Patriots from 2001-2004 before becoming offensive coordinator.

There is also rampant media speculation that the Giants will interview Baylor University Head Coach Matt Rhule, who was an offensive line assistant with the Giants under Tom Coughlin in 2012. Rhule has served as head coach at Baylor for three years (2017-2019). Before that, he was head coach at Temple University (2013-2016).

NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN 13 PLAYERS…
The New York Giants have announced that they have signed the following 13 players:

Reserve/future signings:

  • RB Jon Hilliman
  • FB George Aston
  • WR Reggie White, Jr.
  • WR Alex Bachman
  • OC Tanner Volson
  • OT Nate Wozniak
  • DE Kevin Wilkins
  • CB Derrick Baity
  • LS Drew Scott
  • P Sean Smith

Except for Scott and Smith, all of these players finished the season on the team’s Practice Squad. Smith spend a couple of stints on the Practice Squad as well. Scott has spent time with the Raiders and Cowboys.

The Giants also announced that they have re-signed the following players who were set to become exclusive rights free agents:

  • OG Chad Slade
  • OT Eric Smith
  • LB Devante Downs

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:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
General Manager Dave Gettleman will address the media on Tuesday at 11:00AM.

Oct 222019
 
Share Button
Deone Bucannon, Arizona Cardinals (December 27, 2015)

Deone Bucannon – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS SIGN TWO LINEBACKERS, INCLUDING DEONE BUCANNON…
The New York Giants have signed free agent linebacker Deone Bucannon, who was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 9th, and signed linebacker Devante Downs from their Practice Squad. To make room for Bucannon and Downs, the team waived linebacker Tuzar Skipper and tight end Garrett Dickerson.

The 27-year old, 6’1”, 211-pound Bucannon was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. A former safety, the Cardinals converted him to a hybrid linebacker/safety “money backer” role. In five seasons with the Cardinals, Bucannon played in 70 regular-season games, with 56 starts. His most productive season came in 2015, when he accrued 112 tackles, three sacks, three pass defenses including an interception, and three forced fumbles. Bucannon only played in five games with the Buccaneers with no starts.

The Giants signed Downs to the Practice Squad in October 2019. The 6’2”, 252-pound Downs was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Downs played in 13 games with the Vikings, with no starts, accruing three tackles. The Vikings waived him in late September.

The Giants claimed Skipper off of waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers in September 2019. The 6’3”, 246-pound Skipper was originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft. Skipper played in six games for the Giants this year with no starts, being credited with three tackles and 0.5 sacks.

The Giants signed undrafted rookie free agent Dickerson in June 2018. He spent a couple of stints on the team’s Practice Squad and 53-man roster in 2018 and made the 53-man roster this year. Dickerson has played in seven regular-season games for the Giants, but he did not have a catch.

Oct 012019
 
Share Button
Golden Tate, New York Giants (August 29, 2019)

Golden Tate – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS CUT BENNIE FOWLER AND T.J. JONES; PROMOTE GOLDEN TATE AND JOSIAH TAUAEFA…
The New York Giants have added wide receiver Golden Tate and middle linebacker Josiah Tauaefa to the 53-man roster. To make room, the team terminated the contracts of wide receiver Bennie Fowler and T.J. Jones.

Tate was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The Giants signed Tate as an unrestricted free agent from the Philadelphia Eagles in March 2019. 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 Eagles (2018). In nine NFL seasons, Tate has played in 137 regular-season games with 100 starts, accruing 611 catches for 7,214 yards and 38 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl in 2014. Last season, for the Lions and Eagles, Tate caught 74 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns.

The Giants signed Tauaefa to the Practice Squad in September 2019. The Giants originally signed Tauaefa as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft.

After signing late with the Giants in October 2018, Fowler surprisingly played in 10 games in 2018 with five starts, finishing the year with 16 catches for 199 yards and one touchdown. This year, Fowler played in all four regular-season games with two starts, catching 12 passes for 99 yards. Fowler originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Denver Broncos after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Broncos (2014-2017), Chicago Bears (2018), and New England Patriots (2018).

The Giants re-signed T.J. Jones to the 53-man roster in September 2019 after cutting him in late August. He played in three regular-season games, catching three passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. Jones also returned eight punts, but fumbled three of those chances. Jones was originally drafted in the 6th-round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. The Giants signed Jones in July 2019.

PRACTICE SQUAD MOVES…
The Giants have signed wide receiver Da’Mari Scott and linebacker Devante Downs to their Practice Squad.

The Giants claimed Scott off of waivers from the Buffalo Bills in July 2019, but waived him in August. 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 and he was then signed by the Bills. While he played in three regular-season games with the Bills, he does not yet have a reception in the NFL.

The 23-year old, 6’2”, 252-pound Downs was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Downs played in 13 games with the Vikings, with no starts, accruing three tackles. The Vikings waived him on September 24th.