Jul 092018
 
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Alec Ogletree, New York Giants (June 12, 2018)

Alec Ogletree – © 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: Linebackers

2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: As previously mentioned in our defensive line preview, 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. Scoring defense fell from 2nd in 2016 to 27th. 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.

The problems were across the board. The defensive line and secondary were supposed to very good. They weren’t. At best, the linebackers were supposed to be average. They weren’t even that. An entire generation of New York Giants fans has now grown up without witnessing a good linebacking corps on their team. Jessie Armstead and Antonio Pierce were anomalies during the last three decades.

One would be hard-pressed to remember ANY plays made by Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson, B.J. Goodson, Devon Kennard, Calvin Munson, and Kelvin Sheppard in 2017. Injuries were a major issue as Casillas, Robinson, and Goodson missed a ton of games.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: There was a much-needed house-cleaning. Of the 13 linebackers currently on the roster, only four played with the team at that position in 2017 (B.J. Goodson, Calvin Munson, Mark Herzlich, and Ray-Ray Armstrong). And re-signing Herzlich was somewhat surprising.

The Giants showed zero interest in re-signing former starters Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson, and Kelvin Sheppard. It’s quite telling that all three STILL remain unemployed. The Giants also did not attempt to re-sign Akeem Ayers, Curtis Grant, and Deontae Skinner, who remain unsigned as well. Devon Kennard signed with the Detroit Lions.

The Giants traded away 4th and 6th round picks to the Rams for Alec Ogletree. The team’s first major signing in free agency was Kareem Martin from the Cardinals. Lorenzo Carter was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The team also signed street free agent Thurston Armbrister and rookie free agent Tae Davis.

And by transitioning to the 3-4 defense, the Giants have now shifted their best pass rusher – Olivier Vernon – from defensive end to linebacker. Defensive ends Avery Moss, Romeo Okwara, and Jordan Williams are also now at linebacker.

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. There is now an emphasis on acquiring linebackers as well as a new type of linebacker. It is no coincidence that Dave Gettleman traded away two picks for a linebacker. Or that Kareem Martin was the first player signed in free agency. Or that the Giants drafted Lorenzo Carter in the 3rd round (and tried to trade up into the 2nd round to draft him). In addition, the shift to the 3-4 led the Giants to trading away Jason Pierre-Paul and moving Oliver Vernon to outside linebacker. This defense is now predicated on the linebackers being the play makers. This is foreign territory for an entire generation of Giants fans. In 2018, the team’s leading sacker should be a linebacker. Linebackers are now expected to lead the team in tackles for losses and impact plays. Mark my words, it is only now a matter of time before the Giants draft a linebacker in the 1st round, something they haven’t done since 1984.

Perhaps the biggest issue on defense is the successful transition of Oliver Vernon from defensive end to linebacker. For this defense to be effective, Vernon has to become the team’s best pass rusher from the outside linebacker spot. While he will mostly be moving forward, and at times will be shifted to defensive end in some pass-rush packages, he needs to be able handle playing in space or opposing teams will target him. Vernon has some experience in this role from his days with the Miami Dolphins, but this is a big adjustment. Vernon also has to stay healthy, something he hasn’t been able to do since joining the Giants in 2016.

There are some people who feel Alec Ogletree is best suited for outside linebacker, but he has already been designated as the defense’s leader from one of the inside linebacker spots. A mobile athlete, Ogletree will be complemented by the more physical thumper B.J. Goodson right next to him. Ogletree could thrive with 1,000 pounds of defensive linemen in front of him. Goodson needs to stay healthy and improve his pass coverage.

Flying under the radar is Kareem Martin, whose overall stats in Arizona were unimpressive. But James Bettcher loves the former defensive end and thinks he is just scratching the surface of his ability as a linebacker. Regardless, he could be pressed by Lorenzo Carter, who has rare athletic ability.

Long story short… the linebackers are back baby!

ON THE BUBBLE: There is a decent chance that the Giants will now carry as many as eight linebackers. Barring the unforeseen, Olivier Vernon, Alec Ogletree, B.J. Goodson, Kareem Martin, and Lorenzo Carter make the team, leaving probably two or three spots for Romeo Okwara, Avery Moss, Jordan Williams, Mark Herzlich, Calvin Munson, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Thurston Armbrister, and Tae Davis.

FROM THE COACHES AND PLAYERS: Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on the team’s defense: “I think each and every down we might look different on defense. But again, I’ll tell you what – I can’t tell you today who we’re going to be on defense and really what we’re going to look like until we get through training camp, until we get into meetings, until we actually get on the field, until we don’t just play some basketball on grass in the offseason program. Until we get to training camp and we have helmets and pads on and we’re striking and separating and playing off of blocks and what we’re really going to look like. But yeah, there are certainly some 3-4 principles if that’s a term we want to use. There are certainly some 4-3 principles if that’s a term you want to use. At the end of the day, it’s about playing hard with a relentless mindset, playing fast, playing physical and being a smart football team.”

Kareem Martin on the team’s defense: “We’re gonna have a lot of exotic schemes, a lot of guys coming, mixing up the fronts, just so guys won’t get a bead on where we’re coming from and it’s gonna I think cause for a lot of havoc in the backfield.”

Alec Ogletree on James Bettcher: “He’s definitely a linebackers coach, for sure. That’s what he started as. So, for us, he definitely puts it on us to lead the group, and we put it on ourselves as well to be that leader and be that dominant voice out there and get everybody ready and set to run the plays. We definitely take that responsibility.”

Bettcher on Oliver Vernon: “OV, we know is a dynamic guy. A guy that can rush from different angles, a guy that you can move around and put in different match-ups. And he’s embraced everything that we’ve done to this point. I’ve loved working with him and I think he’s making some great progress, not just in this scheme, but I think as I’ve looked at him as a player, he’s sharpening his tools right now.”

Kareem Martin on Olivier Vernon: “Real smooth football player. He’s just a natural, just really fluid player. He does some things I haven’t seen guys do before, one of the strongest linebackers I’ve played with, and just to see him be able to do some of the things and contort his body has just been amazing.”

Bettcher on Alec Ogletree: “You watch his play and I’m not just talking about his ability to make tackles or run down things on the sideline, I’m talking about his play, his mindset, his physicality at which he plays the game, how hard and passionate he plays the game. Those were some of the first things that jumped off the charts for me when we had a chance to get him here. Certainly excited about him as a leader and a guy that is going to bring a ton of energy to our room.”

Bettcher on Kareem Martin: “One of the most improved players that I’ve ever been around.”

PREDICTIONS: While this is going to be more of a hybrid defense than pure, old-fashioned 3-4, this is still going to be a bit of a culture shock for any fan under 40 years old. Linebackers setting the edge, getting into the backfield, creating turnovers, sacking the quarterback. Linebackers actually making plays! If everyone can stay healthy (ahem Vernon and Goodson), on paper, this looks like a potentially strong group. The two inside linebackers complement each other well. Olivier Vernon is no LT, but he will be expected to take on that type of pass-rush role while Kareem Martin does more of the dirty work (à la Carl Banks). Both will also be employed from the down position quite a bit. The wild card is Lorenzo Carter who I am willing to bet will press for pass rush snaps fairly early, either from a standup or down position.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Olivier Vernon, Alec Ogletree, B.J. Goodson, Kareem Martin, and Lorenzo Carter are the obvious ones to make it. Avery Moss looks the part of a 3-4 pass-rush linebacker, but missed the spring rehabbing an injury. Word has it that Romeo Okwara looked pretty good in the spring workouts. Is there room for both? Finding depth inside could be a challenge. The leading candidates are Calvin Munson, Ray-Ray Armstrong, and possibly even Mark Herzlich. A waiver-wire pick-up here might be in the cards. Special teams ability will be key for anyone looking to make the final 53.

Apr 242018
 
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Ereck Flowers, New York Giants (January 1, 2017)

Ereck Flowers – © USA TODAY Sports Images

APRIL 24, 2018 NEW YORK GIANTS MINI-CAMP REPORT…
The first day of the New York Giants 3-day “voluntary” mini-camp was held on Tuesday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The only players under contract who appeared to be missing were offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, and safety Landon Collins (who had surgery on Monday). The mini-camp will continue with practices on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Well, I think the big thing for us is our game is very simple – it’s about the ball, it’s about negotiating the ground and it’s really about man whipping man,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “Now this time of year there is not any contact so to speak, so that third part you can’t work on very much. But, we can work on throwing and catching; the defense can work on defending and trying to strip. We can work on the coordination of running plays and defending plays and the kicking and the punting and all of that. So those are the things we are trying to do. We’ve given the guys two weeks of meetings and we’ve put together a mini-camp, there’s not a whole lot of scheme, but there is enough here to challenge them mentally and then hopefully by the end of these three days we’ll walk away and know a lot more about our players as we move forward.”

INJURY REPORT…
Not practicing on Tuesday were wide receiver Odell Beckham (recovering from ankle surgery), safety Landon Collins (recovering from arm surgery), running back Paul Perkins (arm in a sling), and linebacker/defensive end Avery Moss (unknown).

PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Olivier Vernon, Romeo Okwara, Kareem Martin, and Jordan Williams were working at linebacker during individual drills.
  • The starting offensive line from left to right was Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh, Brett Jones, Jon Halapio, and Chad Wheeler.
  • John Jerry was with the second unit at guard.
  • Eli Manning and Brett Jones botched one center exchange as did Davis Webb and Ethan Cooper.
  • Davis Webb badly overthrew wide receiver Keeon Johnson on one play, but then connected with tight end Jerell Adams, who made a nice, leaping catch over the middle.
  • Jonathan Stewart was the starting running back.
  • Defensive end Josh Mauro tried his hand at long-snapping and did not do well.

REPORT – GIANTS TRYING TO TRADE ERECK FLOWERS…
The NFL Network is reporting that the New York Giants “have had trade discussions centered around” offensive lineman Ereck Flowers. According to media reports, Flowers has not participated in any of the voluntary workouts that began on April 9th. He was also a no-show on the first day of the current 3-day “voluntary” mini-camp.

“He’s not here, so there’s not really much to say,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “He’s not here. We understand that this is a program that is voluntary. I tend to believe it is very necessary, but he’s not here. So, when he is here, we will start to talk about him.”

Flowers improved his play at left tackle in 2017, but he still remains a far too inconsistent player at the position with sloppy technique. Flowers was drafted in the 1st round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Giants. In his first three seasons, he has started 46 games. After a rough start in 2017, Flowers went through an extended stretch where he did not allow a sack, but then struggled somewhat again towards the end of the season.

HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR…
The transcript of Pat Shurmur’s press conference on Tuesday 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:

Dec 072017
 
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Landon Collins, New York Giants (December 3, 2017)

Landon Collins – © USA TODAY Sports

JONATHAN CASILLAS PLACED ON INJURED RESERVE…
The New York Giants placed linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck/wrist) on Injured Reserve on Wednesday. Casillas suffered through an injury-plagued season, playing in eight games and missing four others due to injuries. He finished the season with just 35 tackles and one pass defense.

To fill that roster vacancy, the team has signed wide receiver Darius Powe from the Practice Squad. The Giants originally signed Powe as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft and he spent the 2016 season on the team’s Practice Squad. The Giants signed him to the Practice Squad again in October 2017. Powe is a big receiver with decent overall athleticism.

The Giants signed linebacker Derrick Mathews to the Practice Squad. Mathews was originally signed to the Practice Squad of the Washington Redskins in November 2015 as an undrafted rookie free agent. The 6’0”, 232-pound Mathews was signed by the Green Bay Packers in August 2016 and spent parts of 2016 and 2017 on the team’s Practice Squad.

The Giants also waived linebacker Nigel Harris from Injured Reserve. Harris was placed on Injured Reserve with a rib injury in November.  The 6’2”, 230-pound Harris was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the San Diego Chargers after the 2017 NFL Draft. The Giants claimed Harris off of waivers from the Chargers in October 2017.

Other players recently waived (since November) from Injured Reserve include defensive end Evan Schwan, linebacker J.T. Thomas, wide receiver Kevin Norwood, offensive lineman Adam Gettis, defensive tackle Corbin Bryant, and defensive end Nordly Capi.

NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Running back Orleans Darkwa (illness), offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (finger), and cornerback Eli Apple (hip/back) did not practice on Thursday.

Pugh is back on the sidelines after practicing on Wednesday. “It’s been one of those things where I came back and I came back probably too soon,” Pugh said, who is awaiting the results of an MRI. “We’re trying to avoid doing that again, so we’re not trying to rush it. But at the same time, there’s obviously a timeline because there’s only four weeks left in the season. So we’ve kind of backed off a little bit and we’re going to try to get it going again and see if we can go next week.”

Running back Wayne Gallman (hip), wide receiver Sterling Shepard (hamstring), offensive tackle Chad Wheeler (concussion), defensive tackle Damon Harrison (elbow), and linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle) practiced on a limited basis.

“Sterling Shepard is headed in a positive direction,” said Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo. “He did some things today so hopefully we’ll get him back knock on wood.”

THE COACHES SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and 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 Friday at 10:55AM. Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo and players will address the media after practice.

Nov 302017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 23, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison (elbow) and linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck/wrist) did not practice on Thursday.

Offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back) and linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle) practiced on a limited basis.

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (illness) and linebacker Calvin Munson (quad) fully practiced.

THE COORDINATORS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and 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…
Head Coach Ben McAdoo and select position coaches and players will address the media on Friday.

Nov 212017
 
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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (November 12, 2017)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (illness), guard D.J. Fluker (toe), guard/tackle Justin Pugh (back), linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle), and linebacker Calvin Munson (quad) did not practice on Tuesday.

“Sterling is not feeling well,” said Head Coach Ben McAdoo. “We kept him in the training room and they’re taking a look at him. They’re looking at all the possibilities…Yeah (it might be something different than migraines). They’re looking at it right now. They’ll let me know when they know.”

Running back Orleans Darkwa (hamstring), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (knee), defensive end Olivier Vernon (shoulder), defensive tackle Damon Harrison (ankle), defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (ankle), and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard (groin) were limited in practice.

HEAD COACH BEN MCADOO…
The transcript of Ben McAdoo’s press conference on Tuesday 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…
There is no media availability to the New York Giants on Wednesday. The team plays the Washington Redskins in Maryland on Thursday night.

Nov 162017
 
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Eli Manning and Mike Sullivan, New York Giants (October 1, 2017)

Eli Manning and Mike Sullivan – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back), linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle), and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard (groin) did not practice on Thursday.

Offensive guard D.J. Fluker (knee), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (knee), defensive tackle Damon Harrison (ankle), defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (ankle), Devon Kennard (quad), linebacker Calvin Munson (quad), and cornerback Donte Deayon (ankle) were limited in practice.

THE COORDINATORS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and 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…
Head Coach Ben McAdoo and select position coaches and players will address the media on Friday.

Nov 102017
 
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Devon Kennard, New York Giants (December 11, 2016)

Devon Kennard – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Linebackers B.J. Goodson (ankle), Devon Kennard (quad), and Keenan Robinson (quad) have officially been rule out of Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. Cornerback Donte Deayon (ankle) is “doubtful” for the game.

Defensive end Olivier Vernon (ankle), defensive end Kerry Wynn (knee), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck), and linebacker Calvin Munson (quad) are officially “questionable” for the game.

Offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back) and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (ankle) are unofficially “probable.”

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

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

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
There is no media availability to the New York Giants on Saturday. The Giants play the 49ers in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon.

Oct 302017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 22, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

INJURY REPORT…
Center Weston Richburg (concussion), offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back), defensive end Olivier Vernon (ankle), defensive end Cap Capi (hamstring), and linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle) did not practice on Monday. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (ankle) performed in some individual drills.

Running back Paul Perkins, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and cornerback Eli Apple were all excused from practice for personal reasons.

HEAD COACH BEN MCADOO…
The transcript of Ben McAdoo’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…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
There is no media availability to the Giants on Tuesday. The team returns to practice on Wednesday.

Oct 122017
 
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“You mess with the bull, you get the horns!”

DOMINIQUE RODGERS-CROMARTIE SUSPENDED “INDEFINITELY”; DONTE DEAYON PROMOTED…
Following up on yesterday’s story of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) being suspended by the New York Giants, the team has announced that Rodgers-Cromartie will be suspended without pay “indefinitely” for “violation of team rules.” DRC met with Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Thursday, was informed of his suspension, and was officially placed on the Reserve/Suspended List.

“It was a private conversation that will remain private,” said McAdoo.

Under the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), Rodgers-Cromartie can only be suspended up to four games. DRC will lose $410,588 per week that he is suspended. Suspended players must stay away from team facilities during the suspension.

According to media reports, Rodgers-Cromartie is in hot water for leaving last Friday’s team recovery session, the sidelines during Sunday’s Giants-Chargers game, and the team facility on Tuesday – all without permission.

To fill DRC’s roster spot, the Giants signed cornerback Donte Deayon from the team’s Practice Squad. The team also signed cornerback Brandon Dixon to the Practice Squad.

The Giants originally signed Deayon as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He was added to the Practice Squad in September 2016 and placed on the Practice Squad/Injured Reserve in October 2016 with an unknown injury.

Dixon was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. The 5’11”, 203-pound Dixon has spent time with the Jets (2014), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014), Seattle Seahawks (2015), Indianapolis Colts (2015), New England Patriots (2015), New Orleans Saints (2015-2016), and Pittsburgh Steelers (2016-2017). Despite his travels around the NFL, Dixon has only played in 14 games with no starts with the Buccaneers in 2014. Originally regarded as a small-school developmental prospect, Dixon has a nice combination of size and overall athletic ability.

INJURY UPDATE…
Running back Paul Perkins (ribs), wide receiver Sterling Shepard (ankle), center Weston Richburg (concussion), defensive end Olivier Vernon (ankle), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck), and safety Landon Collins (ankle) did not practice on Thursday.

Defensive end Romeo Okwara (knee) practiced on a limited basis.

THE COORDINATORS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and 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…
Head Coach Ben McAdoo and select position coaches and players will address the media on Friday. There is no media availability on Saturday. The Giants play the Broncos in Denver on Sunday night.

Oct 052017
 
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Rhett Ellison, New York Giants (October 1, 2017)

Rhett Ellison – © USA TODAY Sports

INJURY UPDATE…
Running back Paul Perkins (ribs), center Weston Richburg (concussion), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder/knee), and defensive end Olivier Vernon (ankle) did not practice on Thursday.

“We have to be concerned (about Pierre-Paul and Vernon),” said Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. “I mean, our two top guys are ailing a little, but this is the NFL. Guys are going to get hurt, so we have to have other people step up. We have to prepare if we don’t have them. I’m hopeful that we get both or if not both, at least one.”

Wide receiver Odell Beckham (finger/ankle) practiced on a limited basis.

Running back Orleans Darkwa (back), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (toe), and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (ankle) fully practiced.

THE COACHES SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and 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…
Head Coach Ben McAdoo and select position coaches and players will address the media on Friday. There is no media availability on Saturday. The Giants play the Los Angeles Chargers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.