Jul 052018
 
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B.J. Hill, New York Giants (June 12, 2018)

B.J. Hill – © USA TODAY Sports

With New York Giants training camp 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.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Defensive Line

2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: One of the reasons why 2017 was such a huge disappointment was that a defense that was supposed to be the strength of the team fell from 10th in yards allowed in 2016 to 31st. Worse, scoring defense fell from 2nd in 2016 to 27th.

In 2017, New York’s run defense was 27th in the NFL, allowing over 120 yards per game on average. Pass defense was 31st, allowing over 250 yards per game on average. These numbers are so bad that every position and the coaching staff must share responsibility.

Two position groups were supposed to carry the defense: the defensive line and the secondary, covering up for a linebacking corps that has been considered sub par for years. Both groups failed miserably. Up front, not only could the Giants not stop the run, but they couldn’t rush the passer either. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon were paid huge sums of money to get after the quarterback, yet finished with a total of 15 sacks. These numbers look even worse when one realizes that JPP and Olivier were each held sackless in 10 games. And after these two, the rest of the line had an embarrassing 4.5 sacks in 16 games. Sometimes sacks are overrated if your pass rushers are getting hits on the quarterback. But the Giants were 27th in quarterback hits with 70 – or a little over four per game.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants traded Jason Pierre-Paul to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March. The team also let Jay Bromley walk in free agency. The Giants re-signed Kerry Wynn and Robert Thomas in free agency, as well as signing newcomers Josh Mauro (Cardinals) and A.J. Francis (Redskins). The Giants drafted B.J. Hill (3rd round) and R.J. McIntosh (5th round) in the 2018 NFL Draft. Tyrell Chavis was signed as a rookie free agent.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: After a quarter of a century of playing in the 4-3 defense, the New York Giants are shifting back to the 3-4. While it won’t be the Giants’ old 2-gap system, and the team will shift at times back to the 4-3, the switch is a big deal. We’ve already seen the fallout with the personnel department acquiring more 3-4-type defensive linemen and linebackers. Because the Giants will play a hybrid defense, and because in the 3-4 the outside linebackers tend to be more forward-movers, defining who is a defensive end, nose tackle, defensive tackle, and even linebacker becomes more complicated and partially moot. For example, even back in 1980s, one could argue Lawrence Taylor was a glorified standup defensive end. When you hear the coaches now talking about 5-man fronts, they are not talking about just defensive linemen, but the outside linebackers.

What we do know is this, Damon Harrison will be the starting nose tackle. Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill are likely to be the starting defensive ends, especially with Josh Mauro starting the year with a 4-game suspension. Meanwhile, Olivier Vernon, Romeo Okwara, and Avery Moss are with the linebackers now. When the Giants go the 4-3 in certain pass-rush packages, expect these three to put their hand in the dirt.

On paper, the trio of Tomlinson, Harrison, and Hill up front seems imposing and a problem for opposing teams that want to establish the run. The good news is that Tomlinson and Harrison have previous experience in similar systems so the adjustment should not be that difficult for them. Hill’s college coaches talk about his position flexibility and he has impressed his new coaches and teammates with the Giants. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher brought defensive end Josh Mauro and hyrid linebacker/defensive end Kareem Martin over from his old team with him. Base-defense depth could be an issue if any of the starters get hurt.

The big question is are there any pass rushers in this group? Can Tomlinson and Hill get any heat on the quarterback from the 3-4 defensive end spots? Bettcher has also said they will work to get Harrison more favorable one-on-one match-ups rather than facing constant double teams. In a traditional 3-4 system, the pass rush usually comes from the outside linebackers (Olivier Vernon, Kareem Martin, Lorenzo Carter, etc.), but these guys will also put their hands in the dirt in certain packages. Regardless of style of defense or position, the team must get heat on the passer in order to be a good defense.

ON THE BUBBLE: Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and B.J. Hill are the sure bets. Normally, R.J. McIntosh would be too, but he has been sidelined all spring with a mysterious ailment and still remains unsigned. The Giants knew about Mauro’s 4-game suspension when they signed him so he will likely make the team. If Harrison were to get hurt, Tomlinson and Hill could probably play nose tackle, but finding another 3-4-type reserve is important. Robert Thomas and A.J. Francis will probably be battling each other for one of these spots. Kerry Wynn had a good spring, but I’m not sure where his body type fits on this defense. Josh Banks, who spent last year on IR, was also active in the spring workouts. He faces an uphill climb as do Kristjan Sokoli, Jordan Williams, and Tyrell Chavis.

FROM THE COACHES AND PLAYERS: Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on his defensive line: “I think B.J.’s (Hill) really coming along. I’m really excited with where he’s at right now…(Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Damon Harrison) have done a great job for us and I think Kerry Wynn has had a really, really good offseason and excited to see him in pads. Josh (Mauro), (A.J.) Francis, the list can go on. Robert (Thomas). I’m going to leave guys out if I keep going. But I’ll say this: I’m excited about where that group is at right now, but more importantly I’m excited about putting some pads on and seeing where we’re really at.”

Bettcher on if B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson can rush the passer: “I do think so. I do think so. And one of the things when we drafted B.J., that was part of us selecting him because we thought he has a potential to be a three-down player. Whether that’s a middle push guy, whether that’s a guy that can beat some guards and create some disruption for either edge players, or edge pressure guys. Dalvin’s the same kind of player. Has some slipperiness to him, has the ability to get on edges. Excited to get to – again, I keep saying that, but I’m anxious to get to training camp to really see where some of that’s at. But I do expect those guys to be able to help us.”

Bettcher on Damon Harrison: “We went and looked initially, all the one-on-ones that he had in the run game, and there wasn’t anyone that blocked him one-on-one in the run game. And I think what he’ll find and what we’ll find is we’ll be able to get him some one-on-ones. Whether that’s matched up on a center, on a guard, we’ll be able to get him some one-on-ones in the run game.”

Damon Harrison on B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson: “He can play. He can play and that’s the first thing our defensive line coach told me when I got here. He said, ‘You’re going to love 95.’ He said, ‘He can play.’ So, I got out here and I’ve been watching him. He’s strong and he’s got some wiggle to him and he has some move to him. So, that’s somebody else who I think with some time and a little more experience will be a dominant player in this league, as well as Dalvin Tomlinson, who I think will take the next step this year.”

PREDICTIONS: Perhaps I’m too guilty of drinking the offseason Kool-Aid, but I’m very optimistic about the team’s starting front three if they can stay healthy. Dalvin Tomlinson, Damon Harrison, and B.J. Hill are not only a combined 1,000 pounds of muscle up front, but they are darn good. There aren’t many teams in this league that can field three players of this caliber. James Bettcher’s 3-4 system is not a two-gap system where the responsibility of the linemen is to absorb blocks and allow the linebackers to make a play. Bettcher’s system is a penetrating defense where he will look to create favorable one-on-one match-ups. The Giants (and Bettcher) are very fortunate to have had two players (Harrison and Tomlinson) on the roster with 3-4 position versatility. Drafting B.J. Hill simply completed the picture. THIS is what enabled the team to move forward with the new scheme. For the first time in decades, the Giants have the TYPE of players to play the 3-4.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: It is difficult to predict how many defensive linemen the Giants will carry because of the hybrid nature of the defense and the hybrid nature of many of the players in this defense. Personally, I would prefer the team carry at least five true defensive tackle types (three starters and two reserves) beyond any other situational players. The three starters are Harrison, Tomlinson, Hill. Mauro will start the year on the suspension list so he won’t count against the roster. McIntosh is a question mark at this point because of his health too. Right now, if you put a gun to my head, I would guess Kerry Wynn, Robert Thomas, and McIntosh make the September team. But Thomas could be pressed by Francis. And Josh Banks could sneak onto this roster… he’s physically well suited for a 3-4 end.

Jan 022018
 
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Eric Studesville, Denver Broncos (October 9, 2016)

Eric Studesville – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS INTERESTED IN ERIC STUDESVILLE AND PAT SHURMUR…
The New York Giants will interview Denver Broncos Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville for the team’s head coaching vacancy on Friday. Denver fired Studesville on Monday. ESPN is reporting that the Giants have also requested to interview Minnesota Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur for the head coaching vacancy as well.

The 50-year old Studesville served as the Giants’ running back coach under Head Coach Jim Fassel (2001-2003) before going on to hold the same position with the Buffalo Bills (2004-2009) and Broncos (2010-2017). Studesville also served as interim head coach of the Broncos for four games in 2010 and became an assistant head coach in 2017.

In recent years, the 52-year old Shurmur has served as Philadelphia Eagles quarterback coach (2002-2008), St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator (2009-2010), Cleveland Browns head coach (2011-2012), Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator (2013-2015), and Vikings tight ends coach (2016). Shurmur was promoted to Vikings offensive coordinator in 2017. He also served as interim head coach for the Eagles in 2015.

GIANTS SIGN NINE PLAYERS TO RESERVE/FUTURES CONTRACTS…
The New York Giants have signed the following players to reserve/futures contracts:

  • WR Amba Etta-Tawo
  • WR Canaan Severin
  • OG Ethan Cooper
  • DE Jordan Williams
  • DT Kristjan Sokoli
  • CB Jeremiah McKinnon
  • CB Tim Scott
  • PK Marshall Koehn
  • P Austin Rehkow

All of the players except for the two kickers finished 2017 on the Giants’ Practice Squad.

Koehn was originally signed by the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Dolphins (2016), Minnesota Vikings (2017), and Cincinnati Bengals (2017). He’s played in only one regular-season game with no field goal attempts.

Rehkow was signed by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft. The Bills waived him in August.

ARTICLES…

Jan 012018
 
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Matt Patricia, New England Patriots (September 17, 2017)

Matt Patricia – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS INTERESTED IN JOSH MCDANIELS, MATT PATRICIA, STEVE WILKS…
ESPN is reporting that the New York Giants have submitted requests to interview New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels and New England Patriots Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia for the team’s head coaching vacancy. The Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, and Arizona Cardinals have also reportedly requested permission to interview Patricia.

The NFL Network is reporting that the Giants have requested to interview Carolina Panthers Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks for the team’s head coaching vacancy. The Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, and Chicago Bears are also said to be interested in Wilks. Because the Panthers play in the first-round of the playoffs on Sunday, teams cannot interview Wilks until next week, whether the Panthers win or lose.

The 41-year old McDaniels not only has served as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator and quarterback coach (2006-2008, 2012-2017) in recent years but he also was the head coach of the Denver Broncos (2009-2010) where he compiled an 11-17 (.393) record.

The 43-year old Patricia has spent his entire professional coaching career with the Patriots (starting in 2004) and has been New England’s defensive coordinator since 2012.

The 48-year old Wilks has served as as a defensive backs coach with the Washington Redskins (2005), Chicago Bears (2006-2008), San Diego Chargers (2009-2011), and Panthers (2012-2016). He was also named an assistant head coach of the Panthers in 2016 and promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017.

DAVE GETTLEMAN TELLS GIANTS COACHES THEY ARE FREE TO LOOK FOR OTHER JOBS…
ESPN is reporting that General Manager Dave Gettleman has informed the team’s assistant coaches that they are free to look for other jobs without the Giants blocking them.

GIANTS RE-SIGN FOUR PRACTICE SQUAD PLAYERS
Although not officially announced, according to media reports the Giants have signed wide receiver Canaan Severin, defensive end Jordan Williams, cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon, and offensive/defensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli to reserve/future contracts. All four players ended the 2017 season on the team’s Practice Squad.

INTERIM HEAD COACH STEVE SPAGNUOLO…
The transcript of Steve Spagnuolo’s press conference on Monday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

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

ARTICLES…

Dec 272017
 
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Eli Apple, New York Giants (December 24, 2017)

Eli Apple – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS SUSPEND ELI APPLE…
The New York Giants announced Wednesday afternoon that they have suspended cornerback Eli Apple for the final week of the team’s season, including the season finale against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Apple’s season is officially over.

“We have suspended Eli for a pattern of behavior that is conduct detrimental to the team,” said Interim General Manager Kevin Abrams.

Apple, the 10th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, has had a troubled year both off the field (family issues and conflict with teammates) and on the field (injuries and being benched by the Giants).

On Tuesday, safety Landon Collins took a harsh shot at Apple during his weekly interview with ESPN Radio. “There’s only just one corner that… needs to grow, and we all know who that is,” said Collins. “That would be the only person I would change out of our secondary group. Besides, the other two guys, (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and (Janoris Jenkins), I love those two guys. They play hard. They love what they do. But that first pick… he’s a cancer.”

This was the continuation of an escalating feud between Collins and Apple that began two weeks ago when Collins originally defended Apple and said he had privately talked to Apple, offering him advice and counsel. Apple denied that Collins had done that, initiating a conflict inside the locker room (one press report saying Collins had to be restrained when confronting Apple) and publicly on Twitter. Last week on ESPN Radio, Collins said Apple needed to “grow up.”

On Wednesday, Collins tweeted, “I met with Coach Spags and Eli this morning and I apologized for the things I said yesterday. I never stop supporting my brother/teammate Eli and the rest of my teammates as we move forward. Just want him to know I’m always here for him (100 percent).”

“Listen, I think Landon has already addressed what happened the other day,” said Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo after practice and before Apple was suspended. “Just real quickly – I love Landon. We had a quick conversation this morning and then I had a quick conversation with Eli (Apple) and then all three of us had a really good conversation and it was very productive and I’ll just leave it at that. It’s between them and they were really great. I’ll just leave it alone.”

For his part, Apple did not address the media on Wednesday other than to let them know he had to “take a shit” on his way to the bathroom. Shortly after that, Apple was suspended. The NFL Network is reporting that Apple’ suspension was “due in part to his refusal to take the field with the scout team” and that “he then got into it with a coach.”

GIANTS PLACE B.J. GOODSON ON INJURED RESERVE…
The New York Giants have placed linebacker B.J. Goodson on Injured Reserve with a high ankle sprain that has nagged him much of the season. Goodson missed two games in September with a shin injury, returned to the starting lineup in October, but then missed six of his next eight games with the ankle issue. In all, Goodson started seven games and finished 2017 with 53 tackles, two pass defenses, and one forced fumble.

To fill that roster vacancy, the team signed wide receiver Marquis Bundy from the Practice Squad. The 6’4”, 215-pound Bundy was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the Arizona Cardinals after the 2016 NFL Draft. The Cardinals waived him in August 2017 and the Giants then signed him.

The Giants have also signed wide receiver Canaan Severin and defensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli to the Practice Squad.

The Giants signed the 6’2”, 205-pound Severin in August 2017 and waived him before the season started in September. Severin was originally signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury. The Steelers waived him in August 2017.

Sokoli was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. The 6’5”, 300-pound Sokoli has spent time with the Seahawks (2015), Indianapolis Colts (2016), and New Orleans Saints (2017). The Albanian-born player has played both on the offensive and defensive lines.

DAVIS WEBB PROMOTED…
With one game left in the 2017 regular season, Davis Webb has replaced Geno Smith as Eli Manning’s primary back-up at quarterback.

“Davis Webb will be the second quarterback going into this game,” said Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo. “Having said that, that’s no reflection on Geno. Last week I told you all that we were going to try to get Davis Webb ready in case we could get him in the game. There’s no guarantees that we will get him in the game, but he will be the number two on Sunday.”

NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (neck0, wide receiver Tavarres King (concussion), tight end Evan Engram (rib), and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) did not practice on Wednesday.

Wide receiver Roger Lewis (ankle), offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (groin), offensive tackle Bobby Hart (ankle), and defensive end Avery Moss (hip) practiced on a limited basis.

INTERIM HEAD COACH STEVE SPAGNUOLO…
The transcript of Steve Spagnuolo’s press conference on Wednesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

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

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The New York Giants practice on Thursday at 11:35AM. Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo, Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan, Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn, and select players will also address the media after practice.