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

Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence – © USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE STARTERS

In his sixth NFL season, Leonard Williams had his best season as a pro in 2020. Williams played in all 16 games with 12 starts (74 percent of defensive snaps) and finished the year with 57 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery. The 6’5”, 302-pound Williams was the sixth player taken overall in the 2015 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. The Giants acquired Williams by trade from the in late October 2019. Williams is a stout, strong, physical run defender. While he lacks classic quick-twitch outside pass-rush skills, Williams can pressure the passer due to his combination of power and overall athleticism. He has the ability to line up inside or outside to create match-up problems.

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

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

THE RESERVES

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

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

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

PRACTICE SQUAD

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

Jun 012020
 
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B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson, New York Giants (November 25, 2018)

B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson – © 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: Defensive Line

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: As expected, the defensive line was the strongest unit on the New York defense in 2019. However, that was small consolation on a defense that finished 25th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed. Once again, the Giants fielded one the League’s worst defenses. This has been a decade-long trend and probably the biggest reason why the team has become a doormat in recent years.

Quality run and pass defense relies on all three levels of the defense playing well together. So it is always unwise to judge each separate unit in a vacuum. Linebackers and defensive backs need to be in the right position and make the tackle in run defense. A good pass rush also depends on linebackers and defensive backs being able to cover backs, tight ends, and receivers. Long story short, the Giants defensive line did not receive much help from the back seven. This was exacerbated by a 3-4 scheme that puts the onus on the linebackers to be play-makers. The players also never seemed to fully embrace Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher’s system.

The Giants entered 2019 with what on paper looked to be a strong starting unit of RDE Dexter Lawrence (2019 1st-round pick), NT Dalvin Tomlinson (2017 2nd-round pick), and LDE B.J. Hill (2018 3rd-round picks). However, depth was very thin with only DE R.J. McIntosh (2018 5th-round pick) and Olsen Pierre (2019 free agent) in reserve. Oddly, two days after the Giants fell to 2-6, General Manager Dave Gettleman traded away two draft picks for soon-to-be-unrestricted free agent Leonard Williams, who had failed to live up to expectations with the Jets. A half-season rental was the type of move a team in the middle of a playoff fight would only be expected to make, not a team clearly needing every draft pick it could keep or acquire. Williams would soon take many of B.J. Hill’s snaps and Pierre Olsen was let go.

Overall, the Giants finished a disappointing 20th in run defense (allowing 113 yards per game) and 28th in pass defense (allowing 264 yards per game). The Giants generated only 36 sacks with only 11.5 coming from the defensive line. That said, Dexter Lawrence (38 tackles, 2.5 sacks) had a promising first season, being named to the All-Rookie Team. Dalvin Tomliinson (49 tackles, 3.5 sacks) became a more disruptive player as the season progressed. Leonard Williams (26 tackles, 0.5 sacks) started five of his eight games with the Giants. As advertised, he was a good run defender who only teased as a pass rusher. More was expected from B.J. Hill (36 tackles, 1 sack), who saw his playing time, tackles, and sacks fall from his promising 2018 rookie season. R.J. McIntosh only played in 10 percent of defensive snaps and finished with only 13 tackles, but did have two sacks in limited opportunities. 2019 7th-round Chris Slayton spent most of the year on the Practice Squad.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: This unit saw the least change during the offseason. Other than Olsen Pierre, who was waived last November, everyone returns. Gettleman doubled down on Leonard Williams, slapping a 1-year, $16 million Franchise Tag on him. The only newcomers are Austin Johnson (unrestricted free agent from Tennessee Titans) and Niko Lalos (undrafted rookie free agent).

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The new coaching staff is being very coy about the new defense, vaguely repeating that it will be “multiple.” When asked if the Giants will be a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, new Defensive Patrick Graham responds, “yes.” But even a cursory look at the depth chart strongly suggests that the Giants will remain a  predominately 3-4 base as the team currently has nine defensive linemen and 17 linebackers. Nevertheless, expect Graham to constantly change fronts based on opponent, game plan, and down-and-distance.

Personally, I will be curious to see if Dexter Lawrence stays at end or plays more at nose tackle. He has the ability to develop into a truly imposing force in the League. Can Dalvin Tomlinson build upon his strong second half of the 2019 season? Can B.J. Hill return to his more disruptive play as a rookie in 2018? Most importantly, is Leonard Williams worth the the two draft picks and $16 million?

As part of an integrated defense, this unit will ultimately be judged on whether the team can dramatically improve its run defense and pass rush.

ON THE BUBBLE: For a team entering training camp with a 90-man roster, this team remains awfully thin on the line with only nine players. Assuming Niko Lalos spends him time with the defensive line (they gave him a DL jersey number), he clearly is on the bubble. Austin Johnson and Chris Slayton could also be fighting for one roster spot. Barring injury, everyone else should make the team.

PREDICTIONS: Patrick Graham is a relatively unknown commodity. The 41-year old coach has only served as defensive coordinator for one season at any level, that being his 30th-ranked defense with the talent-deficient Dolphins in 2019. Miami also oddly let him out of his contract to join the Giants. One gets the sense that the defensive line will thrive or fail depending on Graham’s overall effectiveness as a coordinator and whether or not the back seven can improve its play. There is talent on the defensive line, but the coaches, linebackers, and defensive backs need to step it up. Keep in mind that Graham served as defensive line coach with the Patriots (2012-2013) and Giants (2016-2017).

It will also be interesting to see how the players respond to new Defensive Line Coach Sean Spencer, aka “Coach Chaos.” Spencer has never coached at the NFL level but his relentless coaching style is vastly different from his predecessor with the Giants who was very low key (at least publicly). In addition, Outside Linebacker Coach/Senior Assistant Bret Bielema was the defensive line coach with the Patriots in 2019.

Do not expect any of the Giants’ current defensive linemen to become double-digit sack masters. None of them have that type of dynamic skill set. These are big, powerful linemen who can hold the point-of-attack, disrupt, and potentially control the line of scrimmage. But the best you can probably expect from each is 5-6 sacks in a season.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, R.J. McIntosh, Austin Johnson

Johnson was an under-the-radar singing who really could help the depth situation. Can Chris Slayton show enough to stick?

Jul 012019
 
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B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson, New York Giants (November 25, 2018)

B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson – © 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

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: After a quarter of a century of playing the 4-3 defense, the New York Giants shifted back to a 3-4 defense in 2018 under new Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher. While not the old 2-gap defense of the 1980s, the new defense did place more of the pass-rush onus on the outside linebackers than defensive ends. It was anticipated that the big, strong, tackle-like trio of nose tackle Damon Harrison and ends Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill would dominate the line of scrimmage. While the defensive line was arguably the strongest unit on a disappointing defense, much more was expected. Former All-Pro Harrison was surprisingly traded away in late October after a dreadful 1-6 start. The Giants publicly claimed this was done to move Tomlinson and Hill to more natural positions, but there was also speculation, fueled by senior official comments of bad team chemistry, that the Giants considered Harrison a locker room cancer.

Tomlinson began the year playing the 3-technique position (9 starts) before being moved to the 1-technique spot (7 starts) after Harrison was traded. He finished the season with 59 tackles and no sacks. The rookie Hill played in all 16 regular-season games with 12 starts, finishing the season with 48 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and two pass defenses. Hill was shifted from the five-technique position to the three-technique after the team traded away Harrison. Others to receive significant playing time included Josh Mauro, Kerry Wynn, and Mario Edwards. 5th-rounder R.J. McIntosh missed most of the season with an undisclosed medical condition.

In the end, the numbers were not good. Team defense “improved” from 31st in 2017 to 24th in 2018. The Giants were 20th in run defense in 2018, allowing over 118 yards per game and 4.3 yards per rush, which were very similar to their 2017 numbers. Of course, much of the blame for this disappointing result must also rest with the linebackers and defensive backs, who were often out of position and missed too many tackles. Pathetically, the defensive line was only credited with 10 sacks.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants did not show much interest in re-signing any of their free agent defensive ends and Josh Mauro (Raiders), Kerry Wynn (Bengals), and Mario Edwards (Saints) all left in free agency. The Giants did re-sign nose tackle John Jenkins, who hardly played in 2018.

The Giants signed Olsen Pierre from the Cardinals, Jake Ceresna from the CFL, and street free agent Alex Jenkins. The team drafted Dexter Lawrence in the 1st round and Chris Slayton in the 7th round. Rookie free agent Freedom Akinmoladun was signed after the draft.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The New York Giants have invested significant draft resources to rebuild their defensive line, including 2019 1st-round pick Dexter Lawrence, 2017 2nd-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson, and 2018 3rd-round pick B.J. Hill. These three are expected to form the strength of the team’s defense, stuffing the run, generating some interior pass rush, and enabling quicker defenders to get after the quarterback. It’s not exactly clear who will play where, and even the coaches have suggested it will change from game-to-game. It’s fair to say that more has been expected of Tomlinson and it will be important for him to step it up this year. Hill is coming off of a solid rookie season and it will be interesting to see if he can build upon his 5.5 sack rookie performance. The 340-pound Lawrence could develop into a Haloti Ngata-like difference-maker. The book on him is that he is strictly a run defender, but there are those who insist he is more than that.

Entering camp, the Giants are a bit thin at the position with just 10 players. It was a bit surprising that the Giants let all of their reserve ends walk in free agency. Because of that, there is pressure on R.J. McIntosh to develop quickly in what will essentially be his rookie season. Olsen Pierre could also have a bigger role than many fans anticipate. Other than the starters, the only nose-tackle-type linemen on the roster are rookie Chris Slayton and journeyman John Jenkins, who was virtually ignored in free agency, only re-signing in May.

ON THE BUBBLE: There are only 10 defensive lineman on the roster. The Giants will carry at least six. The obvious players on the bubble are Jake Ceresna, Alex Jenkins, Freedom Akinmoladun, and John Jenkins.

FROM THE COACHES: Head Coach Pat Shurmur on the defensive line this Spring: “There is no contact, so it is really hard to fully evaluate both lines until we start banging around a little bit. We like the way they are moving around. There are some youthful guys that are in there and doing a good job. They are picking up the system really well. We are pleased with what we are seeing.”

Shurmur on R.J. McIntosh: “He is caught up. He is doing well. With defensive linemen, we will see more once we can get in more hitting situations. He is moving around well and has gotten much stronger since he has gotten here. He fits well in the defense and looks like he is getting himself right for training camp.”

Shurmur on Dexter Lawrence: “I think he gets it… The first thing that jumps out about Dexter is he’s a pretty big man. He’s got a feel for things. He’s a guy that can play the run and rush the passer. We’re looking forward to getting him going. When you pick a guy from Clemson, and he’s played on the biggest stage there is in college football. The other thing that struck me is this isn’t going to be too big for him.”

Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on the defensive line: “They are working extremely hard and doing everything they are asked to do. Very aware of things they need to improve on.”

Bettcher on the players being more interchangeable up front: “I think you have to be the way the league is now. I think there is enough motions, adjustments and offensive guys are good enough now. For the most part, they are not going to let a nose just sit there and play nose the whole game. They are going to make him slide and extend the play on guards and edges of guards. They are going to motion and do enough to have to be interchangeable enough to defend what we see from an offensive standpoint. Number two, I think they all have enough position flex to do that. We want guys to have the flexibility to play up and down the line. A really good NFL defensive line room has a great rotation. The four, five and six hole spots, whoever those guys are, gaining reps, 15 snaps, 12 snaps, 20 snaps depending on the game, those are important snaps just like the other snaps… It will be competing each week to see who gets the most snaps, who will be the starter in different packages. I love that part about it.”

Bettcher on Dexter Lawrence: “One of the biggest humans that I have ever seen, moves as quick as he can move. A 330-pound guy that is going to come in and compete, help us be the type of run defense that we want to be. Also, don’t forget the guy ran about five flat at 345 pounds. That does not happen very often. A lot of people got to see him move at rookie mini-camp. We are excited to have him.”

Defensive Line Coach Gary Emanuel on Dexter Lawrence: “We think Dexter will develop into a three down player… His ability to stop the run excites everybody. For a guy that size to move as well as he does, you have to get excited about that.”

Emanuel on Chris Slayton: “Chris is a great young man and we think Chris has a great upside… He’s an inside guy who brings some versatility. He can play the nose position, he can play the 3-technique and he’s an interior defensive line player. I don’t think we’ll see him much on the edge but he has a great capacity to improve out there in the interior.”

PREDICTIONS: On paper, this should be a really good group. They are young, big, strong, and athletic for their size. They look like what you want a 3-4 defensive line to look like. But the proof is in the pudding and the team needs to improve what has been a subpar run defense. When Lawrence was drafted, I thought he would immediately be the starting nose tackle, but he appears to have spent perhaps even more time starting at end this Spring. That would suggest that the coaches are truly impressed with his movement skills for a big man. If he can push the pocket on a consistent basis, and if B.J. Hill continues to evolve as a pass rusher, this unit could surprise attacking the quarterback. Two wild cards are Dalvin Tomlinson and R.J. McIntosh. Tomlinson should be making more impact plays; he is capable of breaking out. Fans saw very little of McIntosh last year. He’s built more like a pass rusher than the starting three and could become an important role player. Don’t be surprised to see Olsen Pierre get significant playing time as a reserve.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Dexter Lawrence, B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, R.J. McIntosh, Olsen Pierre, and Chris Slayton.

Feb 222019
 
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B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson, New York Giants (November 25, 2018)

B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson – © USA TODAY Sports

After 24 years of playing in the 4-3 defense, the New York Giants shifted back to a 3-4 defense that emphasized the pass rush coming from the outside linebackers rather than the defensive ends. It was anticipated that the big, strong, tackle-like trio of nose tackle Damon Harrison and ends Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill would dominate the line of scrimmage. While the defensive line was arguably the strongest unit on a disappointing defense, more was expected. Harrison was surprisingly traded away in late October after a dreadful 1-6 start. The Giants publicly claimed this was done to move Tomlinson and Hill to more natural positions, but there was also speculation, fueled by senior official comments of bad team chemistry, that the Giants considered Harrison a locker room cancer.

Team defense “improved” from 31st in 2017 to 24th in 2018. The Giants were 20th in run defense in 2018, allowing over 118 yards per game and 4.3 yards per rush, which were very similar to their 2017 numbers. Of course, much of the blame for this disappointing result must also rest with the linebackers and defensive backs, who were often out of position and missed too many tackles.

In January, Dave Gettleman chalked up 2018 as a valuable learning experience for the young linemen.

When we traded Snacks, part of the issue when Snacks was here was he played the one (technique), we had Dalvin playing the three (technique), and B.J. playing the five technique. Well, Dalvin’s a one technique and B.J.’s a three, so I’m very pleased with the change… B.J. came a long way. Pass rush is critical, as I’ve stated it a million times as we all know. B.J. had, I think, five and a half sacks, so he made some progress inside. Dalvin did what he does at the one, so for us, it worked out and those young guys are getting snaps. That’s the only way they’re going to get better. There’s a theory out there that young guys, once they get to 5,000 snaps, that’s when they’re really ready to rock and roll and that includes practice and game snaps and all that. I don’t know if I subscribe to it, but I’m just throwing it out there.

Overall, the run defense was not as good as expected. And while there were flashes here and there, particularly from Hill, there were no consistent pass rushers in this group.

THE NEW BUILDING BLOCKS

Dalvin Tomlinson began the year playing the 3-technique position (9 starts) in the team’s 3-4 scheme before being moved to the 1-technique spot (7 starts) after nose tackle Damon Harrison was traded. He finished the season with 59 tackles and no sacks. The Giants drafted Tomlinson in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Tomlinson started every game as a rookie and finished the season with 50 tackles and one sack. Tomlinson is an average-sized tackle who is very strong and tough. He is a good run defender who flashes the ability to disrupt plays in the backfield, but to-date, he has not proven to be much of a pass rusher (only one sack in two seasons).

The Giants drafted B.J. Hill in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He played in all 16 regular-season games with 12 starts, finishing the season with 48 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and two pass defenses. Though listed as a 3-4 defensive end, the 6’3”, 303-pound Hill was shifted from the five-technique position to the three-technique after the team traded away nose tackle Damon Harrison. Hill has good quickness for his size, plays with leverage, and flashes the ability to disrupt. He needs to become a more consistent run defender.

SOLID ROTATIONAL PLAYERS

The Giants signed Josh Mauro as an unrestricted free agent from the Arizona Cardinals in March 2018 after he was cut by the Cardinals. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 NFL season by the NFL for the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Mauro played in the 12 remaining games, with four starts, finishing with 28 tackles and one sack. The 6’6”, 290-pound, English-born Mauro was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2014 NFL Draft. He did not make the team, but was signed by the Cardinals after he was cut. In four seasons with the Cardinals, Mauro played in 47 regular-season games with 26 starts. Mauro is a hard-working run player who does not get much heat on the quarterback (only three career sacks).

In his fifth season with the Giants, Kerry Wynn started five of the 14 games that he played in, finishing with 39 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 pass defenses, and 2 forced fumbles. Wynn was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Giants after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has played in 63 regular-season games, with 15 starts. Wynn has a nice combination of size, strength, and overall athletic ability. Wynn is a better run defender than pass rusher as he lacks dynamic quickness on the outside pass rush (just 4.5 career sacks). He is able to play defensive tackle in pass-rush situations. Wynn flashed more in 2018 than he has in previous regular seasons.

The Giants claimed Mario Edwards off of waivers from the Oakland Raiders in September 2018. He served as a primary back-up, playing in 15 games with no starts, and finishing the year with 14 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. The 6’3”, 280-pound Edwards was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Raiders. He missed most of 2016 with a hip injury. In three years with the Raiders, Edwards played in 30 regular-season games with 24 starts. While a disappointment in Oakland, Edwards is a good athlete who flashes against both the run and the pass.

The Giants selected R.J. McIntosh in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. However, an unpublicized medical condition prevented him from practicing with the team all summer and the Giants placed him on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness List in September 2018. He was activated to the 53-man roster in early November and ended up playing in six games with no starts, accruing just five tackles. McIntosh combines good size and overall athleticism.

YET TO MAKE A MARK

The Giants signed John Jenkins in September 2018 after he was cut by the Chicago Bears. He was active for seven games, but was not credited with any tackles. The 6’3”, 327-pound Jenkins was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He has spent time with the Saints (2013-2016), Seattle Seahawks (2016), and Bears (2017-2018). From 2013 to 2015, Jenkins played in 42 regular-season games with 21 starts. However, in 2016 and 2017, Jenkins played in just 17 regular-season games with two starts. He was inactive for eight games in 2017. With only 1.5 career sacks, Jenkins is strictly a run-defending nose tackle-type.

The Giants signed Myles Humphrey to the Practice Squad in October 2018. Listed as a defensive end, the 6’3”, 238-pound Humphrey originally signed with the Baltimore Ravens after the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent most of September on the Ravens’ Practice Squad.

Kristjan Sokoli was placed on Injured Reserve in August 2018 after tearing an ACL in one of his knees in the preseason opener. The Giants Sokoli signed to the Practice Squad in late December 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.

Nov 062018
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (October 28, 2018)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS ACTIVATE R.J MCINTOSH…
The New York Giants have activated defensive end R.J. McIntosh from the Reserve/Non-Football Illness List. To make room for McIntosh on the 53-man roster, the Giants waived wide receiver/returner Quadree Henderson. McIntosh was drafted by the Giants in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. An undisclosed ailment prevented him from practicing all spring and summer. McIntosh finally began to practice on October 16. Today was the deadline for the Giants to active him, or McIntosh would have been forced to miss his whole rookie 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:

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

Oct 162018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 11, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

GIANTS PLACE CODY LATIMER AND RAY-RAY ARMSTRONG ON IR; CUT DONTE DEAYON…
The New York Giants have placed wide receiver Cody Latimer (hamstring) and linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong (concussion) on Injured Reserve. The team also waived cornerback Donte Deayon.

The Giants signed Latimer as an unrestricted free agent from the Denver Broncos in March 2018. He played in four games with one start, with six catches for 108 yards. The 6’2”, 215-pound Latimer was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Broncos.

Armstrong was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the St. Louis Rams after the 2013 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Rams (2013-2014), Oakland Raiders (2014-2015), and 49ers (2015-2017). The Giants claimed Armstrong off of waivers from the San Francisco 49ers in late November 2017. Armstrong played in five games for the Giants in 2017 with one start. This year, he has played in six games with one start, accruing 20 tackles.

The Giants originally signed Deayon as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on the team’s Practice Squad and Injured Reserve. Deayon began the 2017 season on the Giants’ Practice Squad and was signed to the 53-man roster in October. He was placed on Injured Reserve in late November 2017 with a fractured forearm. Deayon played in four games this year before he was cut.

To fill those roster vacancies, the team signed free agent wide receiver Bennie Fowler and signed linebacker Ukeme Eligwe and cornerback Grant Haley from the team’s Practice Squad.

The 27-year old, 6’1”, 212-pound 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). Fowler has played in 45 regular-season games with five starts. He has 56 career catches for 698 yards and five touchdowns.

Eligwe was signed to the Practice Squad in September 2018 after he was waived by the Kansas City Chiefs. The 6’2”, 239-pound Eligwe was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Chiefs. As a rookie, Eligwe played in 14 regular-season games with one start. He finished the year with five tackles and one sack.

Haley was originally signed by the team as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft.

PRACTICE SQUAD MOVES…
The New York Giants have signed wide receiver Kalif Raymond, defensive end Myles Humphrey, and cornerback Ronald Zamort to the Practice Squad.

The 5’9”, 160-pound Raymond was originally signed by the Denver Broncos after the 2016 NFL Draft. Raymond has played in 12 NFL regular-season games, four with the Broncos, two with the Jets, and six with the Giants. The Giants signed Raymond to the Practice Squad in October 2017 and the 53-man roster in November 2017. They cut him in September 2018 before the season started.

The 23-year old, 6’3”, 238-pound Humphrey originally signed with the Baltimore Ravens after the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent most of September on the Ravens’ Practice Squad.

The 26-year old, 5’10”, 174-pound Zamort originally signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft.

NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Not practicing on Tuesday due to injury were wide receiver Russell Shepard (neck), left tackle Nate Solder (unknown), linebacker Olivier Vernon (ankle), and linebacker Connor Barwin (knee).

Tight ends Evan Engram (knee) and Rhett Ellison (foot) both practiced.

Defensive end R.J. McIntosh, who is currently on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List is now eligible to begin practicing with the team. McIntosh was drafted by the Giants in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. An undisclosed ailment prevented him from practicing all spring and summer. The Giants have a 21-day window to activate him to the 53-man roster. If they do no activate him, McIntosh will remain on the Reserve List.

HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR…
The transcript of Pat Shurmur’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:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The Giants are off on Wednesday and return to practice on Thursday in preparation for Monday night’s road game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Sep 012018
 
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Mark Herzlich, New York Giants (November 27, 2016)

Mark Herzlich – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS REDUCE ROSTER TO 53…
On Saturday, in order to meet the NFL’s 53-man roster limit, the New York Giants made 36 roster moves.

Placed on the Reserve/Suspended List:

  • DE Josh Mauro (violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy)

Placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness List:

  • DE R.J. McIntosh (unknown medical issue)

Placed on Injured Reserve:

  • OT Nick Becton (ankle and wrist)
  • OG Nick Gates (foot)

Waived or contracts terminated:

  • RB Jalen Simmons
  • RB Jhurell Pressley
  • WR Kalif Raymond
  • WR Alonzo Russell
  • WR Roger Lewis, Jr.
  • WR Travis Rudolph
  • WR Amba Etta-Tawo
  • WR Jawill Davis
  • WR Marquis Bundy
  • TE Garrett Dickerson
  • TE Ryan O’Malley
  • OG Chris Scott (contract terminated)
  • OG Zac Kerin
  • OT Malcom Bunche
  • OT Victor Salako
  • NT Robert Thomas
  • NT Tyrell Chavis
  • NT Izaah Lunsford
  • DE A.J. Francis
  • LB Mark Herzlich (contract terminated)
  • LB Calvin Munson
  • LB Avery Moss
  • LB Jordan Williams (waived/injured – hip and shoulder)
  • LB Warren Long
  • CB Leonard Johnson (contract terminated)
  • CB Chris Lewis-Harris (contract terminated)
  • CB Grant Haley
  • CB Mike Jones
  • S Darian Thompson (waived/injured – hamstring)
  • S Andrew Adams
  • S Orion Stewart
  • PK Marshall Koehn

“As I’ve said, I feel like we’re on the right track,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “We had a competitive training camp that forced us to make some tough decisions. We will continue to look to improve the roster in any way we can. This day is never easy because you are dealing with people who have made a commitment to your program, and while we all understand the reality of the business we’re in, it doesn’t make it any easier.

“When we started camp, I told the players that my hope for all of them is that if they don’t make our roster, I want them to make somebody else’s. So that’s my desire for the men we parted ways with today.”

The Giants can begin signing players to their 10-man practice squad on Sunday.

For an overview of the existing team, see the Depth Chart section of the website.

ARTICLES…

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

Jul 232018
 
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Connor Barwin, Philadelphia Eagles (November 13, 2016)

Connor Barwin – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN CONNOR BARWIN…
The New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent outside linebacker Connor Barwin (Los Angeles Rams) to reportedly a 2-year, $5 million deal. The 31-year old, 6’4”, 255-pound Barwin was originally selected in the 2nd-round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. He has spent time with the Texans (2009-2012), Philadelphia Eagles (2013-2016), and Rams (2017). Barwin has played in 127 regular-season games with 108 starts, accruing 55.5 career sacks. His best season was in 2014 when he compiled 64 tackles and 14.5 sacks. Barwin finished 2017 with 34 tackles and five sacks. Barwin is a solid, well-rounded linebacker who is on the downside of his career. He is a good presence both on and off the field.

NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN R.J. MCINTOSH…
The New York Giants have signed their 5th-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, defensive lineman R.J. McIntosh. All of the Giants currently on the roster are now under contract, including all of the 2018 NFL Draft picks. However, who missed all of the spring workouts with an undisclosed medical issue, will start camp on the Active/Non-Football Illness (NFI) list.

ARTICLES…

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.

May 122018
 
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Will Hernandez, New York Giants (May 11, 2018)

Will Hernandez – © USA TODAY Sports

MAY 12, 2018 NEW YORK GIANTS ROOKIE MINI-CAMP REPORT…
The second day of the New York Giants rookie mini-camp was held on Saturday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Sixty-one (61) players – draft picks, signed rookie free agents, first-year players who have not completed a season of credited service, and street and rookie free agent tryout players – were in attendance.

“Day two. I think day one was very productive,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “I thought the guys competed pretty well. They were able to take from the meeting rooms and the walk through to the field and really perform at a pretty high level for the first time out. We’ll try to add to it today. Because of the rain, we walked through inside. We’ll still try to go outside if we can. We will make it a game time decision whether we’ve got to come back inside here. But otherwise, I thought it was a pretty productive day, and we’ll just try to build on yesterday, today.”

PARTICIPANTS…

2018 NFL Draft Picks (6):

  • RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
  • OG Will Hernandez, UTEP
  • LB Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
  • DL B.J. Hill, North Carolina State
  • QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
  • DL R.J. McIntosh, Miami*

*McIntosh did not participate in today’s practice due to a “mild medical condition.” He watched from the sidelines. “I’m dealing with a medical condition and I’m being treated for it,” said McIntosh. “I should hopefully be back soon.”

2018 Signed Rookie Free Agents (11):

  • WR Jawill Davis, Bethune-Cookman
  • TE Stephen Baggett, East Carolina
  • OC Evan Brown, SMU
  • OG Nick Gates, Nebraska
  • OT Tyler Howell, Missouri
  • DT Tyrell Chavis, Penn State
  • LB Tae Davis, Tennessee-Chattanooga
  • CB Aaron Davis, Georgia
  • CB Bryon Fields, Duke
  • CB Grant Haley, Penn State
  • S Sean Chandler, Temple

    New York Giants First-Year Players (8):

    • RB Jalen Simmons
    • WR Amba Etta-Tawo
    • OC Ethan Cooper
    • OL Adam Bisnowaty
    • LB Derrick Mathews
    • CB Tim Scott
    • S Orion Stewart
    • PK Marshall Koehn

    There were also 36 rookie and veteran tryout players in attendance.

    PRACTICE NOTES…
    Some snippets from various media sources:

    • CB Grant Haley broke up a pass and appeared to provide good coverage throughout practice.
    • Linebackers had problems covering RB Saquon Barkley as a receiver as he was too quick and fast out of his cuts.
    • QB Kyle Lauletta had a “rough” day with inconsistent accuracy and a couple of interceptions. He did do a nice job of recognizing blitzes and getting the ball out quickly.
    • LB Lorenzo Carter is quick off the snap and moves very well.
    • CB Tim Scott intercepted a pass from QB Kyle Lauletta. He also made a nice play defending a WR bubble screen.
    • LB Derrick Mathews had a one-handed interception.
    • RB Robert Martin – a rookie tryout player – showed a nice burst.
    • Tryout WR William Watson flashed with his route running, ability to adjust, and hands.
    • Tryout TE/H-Back Garrett Dickerson made a number of catches.

    https://twitter.com/Giants/status/995423370891137024

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