The New York Giants pass defense improved from 28th in 2019 to 17th in 2020. This 11 spot jump is quite the accomplishment given the year-long swirling personnel changes at linebacker and defensive back. The Giants were tied for 4th for the fewest passing touchdowns allowed with 22 and tied for 12th in yards per passing attempt with 6.2. New York was also 2nd in red zone scoring defense. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham and his defensive assistants deserve a lot of credit for getting both units to play at a respectable level despite significant personnel issues.
Tied in with the pass defense is the pass rush. Remarkably, despite no viable outside edge rushers, the Giants somehow finished tied for 12th in sacks with 40. Much of that had to be schemed, including blitzes from defensive backs. On the down side, the Giants only picked off 11 passes on the year, with only one player (CB James Bradberry) intercepting more than one pass.
Only three of the team’s five primary defensive back positions were set throughout the year. Free agent acquisition James Bradberry was arguably the team’s best player, locking down one corner spot. He did miss one game due to COVID-19. Rookie Darnay Holmes won the nickel slot position, but missed four games due to injury. Strong safety Jabrill Peppers missed one game due to injury, but was also a fixture in the defensive backfield, often being utilized as a hybrid linebacker.
The other two spots were revolving doors. At corner opposite of Bradberry, Corey Ballentine (Weeks 1-2), Isaac Yiadom (Weeks 3-4), Ryan Lewis (5-7), Yiadom again (Weeks 8-16), and Julian Love (Week 17) all started. At free safety, Love started the first two weeks, followed by Logan Ryan for the bulk of the season, until rookie Xavier McKinney started in the final weeks.
Graham and Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson were hampered by a number of early personnel hits. 2019 1st-round cornerback Deandre Baker was cut after his legal troubles in Florida surfaced. That was a major blow to the team as Baker was being penciled in to start opposite of Bradberry. 2018 3rd-round pick Sam Beal then surprisingly decided to sit out the season due to COVID-19. Rookie 2nd-round pick Xavier McKinney broke his foot before the season started and wasn’t available until almost December.
The primary play-makers were Bradberry, Peppers, and Ryan. Despite many teams not throwing in his direction, Bradberry led the team with interceptions (3) and pass defenses (18). He also forced two fumbles and recovered one. Peppers was third on the team in tackles (91) and second in pass defenses (11). He picked off one pass, forced one fumble, recovered one fumble, and led defensive backs with 2.5 sacks. Ryan was second on the team in tackles (94) and third in pass defenses (9). He picked off one pass, forced three fumbles, and recovered two. He also had one sack.
Bradberry was the stud of the group. Peppers improved as the year progressed with the coaching staff seemingly having a better feel for his strengths and weaknesses. He remained an inconsistent player however. Ryan quickly became a team leader and his tremendous versatility was desperately needed at safety and corner. That said, he missed plays against the run and pass at times.
It was an up and down year for the rookie Holmes. He did help to settle the secondary and his absence was noticed during the four games he missed due to injury. But his five penalties in coverage always seemed to come at the most inopportune times and he didn’t make many plays on the football (contrary to his collegiate reputation). The other corner spot was a a bit of a mess. Ballentine simply couldn’t handle the job and was eventually cut. Yiadom and Lewis were up-and-down, with Lewis missing most of the season due to injury. Love was a bit of an enigma. His playing time varied wildly on a game-to-game basis. He started the season at safety and finished at corner.
THE CORE GROUP
The Giants signed James Bradberry as an unrestricted free agent from the Carolina Panthers in March 2020. He had a major impact on the defense, arguably being the unit’s best player, and was voted to his first Pro Bowl. Bradberry started 15 games, missing one game due to COVID-19, and finished the year with 54 tackles, 18 pass defenses, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. He played in 94 percent of all defensive snaps. The 6’1”, 212-pound Bradberry was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Panthers. Bradberry is a big corner (6’1”, 212 pounds) with good speed and agility. He plays a physical game both against the run and pressing opposing corners off of the line. Outstanding in coverage, Bradberry can erase even top receivers.
The play of Jabrill Peppers improved markedly as the 2020 season progressed as he seemed to become more comfortable with the team’s new defensive schemes and the coaches learned better how to use him. At times, he was a real difference maker on the field. However, there was still some annoying inconsistency in his play, particularly in coverage. Peppers played in 15 games with 14 starts (84 percent of all defensive snaps), missing one game with an ankle injury. He finished the season with 91 tackles, 19 tackles for losses, 2.5 sacks, nine quarterback hits, 11 pass defenses, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Peppers also served as the team’s primary punt returner, returning 15 punts for 187 yards (12.5 yards per punt). Peppers was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He was traded to the Giants as part of the Odell Beckham deal in March 2019. He started 11 games for the Giants in 2019 before being placed on Injured Reserve with a transverse process fracture in his back. Peppers combines good size (5’11”, 215 pounds) and overall athleticism. Still a better athlete than football player, Peppers flashes signs of being an impact safety, but he must become a more consistent player, especially against the pass. He does his best work when moving forward and attacking the line of scrimmage.
The Giants signed Logan Ryan in late August 2020. He ended up being a very important, jack-of-all-trades defensive back who was used at both safety and corner. Ryan also quickly became a team leader and solid presence in the locker room. In all, Ryan played in all 16 games with 15 starts (96 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the season with 94 tackles, one sack, nine pass defenses, one interception, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. The 5’11”, 195-pound Ryan was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. He has spent time with the Patriots (2013-2016) and Titans (2017-2019), playing 109 regular-season games with 85 starts. Ryan has spent most of his career at corner, but now prefers to play safety. While Ryan has history of being an instinctive, play-maker, he also still misses too many tackles and can be exposed in coverage at times.
The Giants drafted Darnay Holmes in the 4th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Serving as the team’s primary slot corner, he played in 12 games, with five starts, missing four games due to injuries (neck and knee). Holmes finished the season with 30 tackles, 0.5 sacks, five pass defenses, one interception, and one fumble recovery. He played in 41 percent of all defensive snaps. Holmes lacks ideal height, but he is well-built with good speed and quickness. He is overly aggressive at times, as indicated by his five penalties in coverage. While Holmes had a solid rookie season in coverage, he needs to make more plays on the ball. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs, but did not do so in 2020.
THE UNFORTUNATE INJURY
The Giants placed Xavier McKinney on Injured Reserve in early September 2020 with a fractured left foot that required surgery. The team activated him off of IR in late November 2020. McKinney ended up playing in six games with four starts (19 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the season with 25 tackles, one tackle for a loss, one interception, and one pass defense. The Giants drafted McKinney in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The 6’0”, 201-pound McKinney is versatile performer, who is capable of playing multiple positions. He is a good athlete with fine instincts for the position, but he needs to become a more consistent tackler. Most of his rookie season was a wash due to his broken foot.
IN-AND-OUT OF THE STARTING LINE-UP
The Giants traded a 7th-round pick to the Denver Broncos for Isaac Yiadom in early September 2020. Yiadom eventually won the starting corner spot opposite of James Bradberry, playing in all 16 games with 10 starts (58 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the year with 46 tackles, 0.5 sacks, five pass defenses, and one forced fumble. The 6’1”, 190-pound Yiadom was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Broncos. In two years with Denver, Yiadom played in 29-regular season games with nine starts. Yiadom has good size and plays a physical game. However, after some decent performances, his play really deteriorated down the stretch, and he was benched for Julian Love in the regular-season finale. Yiadom also did not make many plays on the football.
Julian Love spent most of 2020 playing safety but was shifted to cornerback late in the year, starting two of the final three games at the position (one in the slot). He also saw his playing time dramatically fluctuate on a per-game basis. In all, Love played in all 16 games with six starts (66 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the year with 64 tackles, three pass defenses, and one interception. A collegiate corner, the Giants drafted Love in the 4th round of the 2019 NFL Draft and moved him to safety. He played in 15 games with five starts as a rookie. A bit of a cornerback/safety tweener, Love lacks ideal physicality for safety and ideal speed/quickness for cornerback. But he is a versatile performer who played well at the corner spot late in 2020. Love needs to improve his tackling and make more plays on the football.
The Giants placed Ryan Lewis on Injured Reserve in early November 2020 with a hamstring injury. Before that, he had played in five games for the Giants, starting three (25 percent of defensive snaps). Lewis finished the year with 13 tackles and one pass defense. Lewis was originally signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Cardinals (2017), New England Patriots (2017-2018), Buffalo Bills (2018), Indianapolis Colts (2019), Philadelphia Eagles (2019), Miami Dolphins (2019), and Washington Football Team (2020). The Giants signed Lewis to the Practice Squad in early September 2020 and to the 53-man roster two weeks later. Lewis has played in 25 NFL regular-season games with nine starts. Lewis had a mixed performance in his three consecutive starts in October, playing well at times and struggling in one game.
The Giants placed Adrian Colbert on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury in early November 2020 and reactivated him to the 53-man roster in mid-December. He ended up playing in six games with two starts (10 percent of all defensive snaps) and finished the year with 13 tackles. The 6’2”, 205-pound Colbert was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Colbert has spent time with the 49ers (2017-2019), Seattle Seahawks (2019), Miami Dolphins (2019), and Kansas City Chiefs (2020). The Giants claimed Colbert off of waivers from the Chiefs in early September 2020. He has played in 33 regular-season games with 19 starts, accruing 74 tackles and eight pass defenses. Colbert has also played cornerback and is a good gunner on special teams. He had mixed reviews in his two starts in 2020.
The Giants drafted Corey Ballentine in the 6th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Ballentine played in 13 games with two starts, receiving 27 percent of all defensive snaps. He finished with 26 tackles and two pass defenses, often struggling in coverage. Ballentine won the starting corner spot opposite of James Bradberry to start the 2020 season, but was benched after just two games. He played in seven more games, returning 10 kickoffs, before the Giants waived him in November. He spent the rest of the season with the New York Jets.
SPECIAL TEAMS AND PRACTICE SQUAD
The Giants signed Nate Ebner as an unrestricted free agent from the New England Patriots in March 2020. Almost exclusively a special teams player, Ebner only saw limited snaps on defense in five games, finishing with eight tackles and one pass defense. The 6’0”, 215-pound Ebner was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Patriots. In eight seasons in New England, Ebner has played in 111 regular-season games with no starts.
The Giants signed Madre Harper off of the Practice Squad of the Las Vegas Raiders in late September 2020. He was placed on Injured Reserve in mid-December with a knee injury after playing in nine games with no starts. The Giants activated him to the 53-man roster in early January 2021, but he did not play in the season finale. Harper ended up playing in just three percent of all defensive snaps and was credited with five tackles and one fumble recovery. The 6’1”, 196-pound Harper was signed by the Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft.
Montre Hartage alternated between the Giants’ Practice Squad and the 53-man roster a number of times in 2020. He only played in two games (two percent of all defensive snaps) and was not credited with a single tackle or pass defense. Hartage originally signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Giants claimed Hartage off of waivers from the Dolphins in April 2020. Hartage has played in six NFL games.
The Giants signed Jarren Williams in early August 2020 after he was waived by the Arizona Cardinals. He spent most of the year on the Practice Squad, but did play in two games exclusively on special teams. The 5’10”, 187-pound Williams was signed by the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Giants signed Quincy Wilson to the Practice Squad in November 2020. The 6’2”, 193-pound Wilson was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He has spent time with Colts (2017-2019) and New York Jets (2020). Wilson has played in 32 regular-season games with 11 starts, accruing 59 tackles, 8 pass defenses, and 2 interceptions.
The Giants placed Brandon Williams on Injured Reserve in late September 2020 with a groin injury and reactivated him to the 53-man roster in early November. The team cut him a month later. In all, Williams played in six games, exclusively on special teams. Williams was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The Giants signed him in late August 2020.
The Giants originally signed Sean Chandler as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent all of 2018 and parts of 2019 on the team’s 53-man roster. He began 2020 on the team’s Practice Squad, but was activated for three games, playing almost exclusively on special teams. The Carolina Panthers signed him off of the Giants’ Practice Squad in October.
The Giants selected Chris Williamson in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent most of the season on the team’s Practice Squad until he was cut in December.
Sam Beal opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the COVID-19 issue. Beal has had a rough start to his pro career. The Giants selected Beal in the 3rd round of the Supplemental Draft in July 2018. He missed all of his rookie season when he was placed on Injured Reserve in July 2018 with a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Giants placed Beal on Injured Reserve again in September 2019 with hamstring and groin injuries, but added him to the 53-man roster in early November. Beal missed the last game with another shoulder issue. In all, Beal played in six games with three starts, receiving 26 percent of defensive snaps, and accruing 26 tackles and one pass defense. Beal combines good size (6’1”, 177 pounds) and overall athleticism. Stating the obvious, Beal needs to stay healthy. But he flashes the ability to be a solid coverman when he does play.
SAM BEAL OPTS OUT OF 2020 NFL SEASON…
New York Giants cornerback Sam Beal has decided to opt out of the 2020 NFL season due to the ongoing COVID-19 issue. Under the agreement reached last week between the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), players can choose not to play in the upcoming season without penalty. The opt-out is irrevocable.
Beal has had a rough start to his pro career. The Giants selected Beal in the 3rd round of the Supplemental Draft in July 2018. He missed all of his rookie season when he was placed on Injured Reserve in July 2018 with a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Giants placed Beal on Injured Reserve again in September 2019 with hamstring and groin injuries, but added him to the 53-man roster in early November. Beal missed the last game with another shoulder issue. In all, Beal played in six games with three starts, receiving 26 percent of defensive snaps, and accruing 26 tackles and one pass defense.
Beal is the third Giant to opt-out of the season, following left tackle Nate Solder and wide receiver Da’Mari Scott.
Q: You signed Nick Gates to some pretty big money over the weekend. Will Nick Gates be working at both tackle spots? What’s the plan with him?
A: One of the strengths of Nick has been his flexibility. He’s a guy that can factor into any of the five positions on the offensive line. The priority now is to give him a chance to compete for a starting position at any one of those five spots. As coaches, we have to do a good job of mapping out how we are going to allocate his snaps and his reps on the field between primarily center and tackle and give him a fair shot at both. We are going to work him day by day based on the priority for him. It will start shaking out once the pads come on.
Q: Nick has never played center, so what about his skillset lends itself to that position?
A: He’s a guy that has good athletic ability, he’s got length. He’s definitely a smart player that we want to make sure we give him the opportunity to get inside and operate in that signal caller mode and play center. For him and Shane both, neither one of them has played center, so training is part of it right now. (Offensive line coach Marc) Colombo has to dedicate a little bit of extra time to those guys to make sure he is giving them some basics and building on what they know about the position.
Q: Speaking of basics, have you seen him snap the football yet?
A: We have. Between the walkthroughs we’ve had the last few nights, footballs are allowed to be on the field, obviously at a controlled tempo. Some basic drills we can operate and watch the QB-center exchanges. We’ve watched them all snap balls, and work with the quarterbacks. Of course, at this point, we are all sitting out there in our underwear, the real test comes when the pads come on.
Q: What does it mean to have Markus Golden back in the fold? You have a lot of young pass rushers, what does it mean to have him in the building to help those young guys?
A: I’m excited Markus is in the building with us. Obviously, this is the first time I have worked with him on a personal note. His reputation throughout the league is a very solid one. He was someone we wanted to have on the team, we are lucky it worked out the way it is. At this point right now, like all the other players, we are giving him a chance to acclimate and catch up with our systems and just get going and competing full speed.
Q: The last time we talked to you, you had a 90 man on the roster. It sounded like you were going to go that way. Is there a specific reason why you guys chose to go to 80?
A: Long story short, I think it was best for us to be able to evaluate everybody as a whole as they go through the progression. Ultimately, I wished we could have gone with 90 the entire way through like a traditional camp. That’s not the rules that are in place right now. (The 90 man roster) presents some logistical issues for you both facilities wise, how you can map out coordinating different players working with each other. We wanted to make sure we gave everyone a chance to get out there on the field and really take a look at them at work. After a duration of time, we felt it was in the team’s best interest to move to 80.
Q: When you do full walkthroughs, how much of it is the full team out there? Is it 22 guys, or do you supplement it by position? Give a sense of what those walkthroughs are looking like this early in camp?
A: They are really a slower version of practice. We start off in individual and we just group them with their position coaches. We want to work obviously at a much slower pace, a more controlled pace with the fundamentals that we’re teaching to give them a chance to walkthrough at a slow pace. They get to go on the field the next day during our conditioning and agility periods and operate those drills at full speed. We get to teach them and they get to carry them out. We build some group time where we combine multiple position groups and get them work. Quarterbacks with receivers, maybe tight ends with tackles to talk about different block combinations. A great deal of this is being run on air (inaudible). They are lined up across from trash cans or maybe coaches posed as players to give a sense of a formation they can line up and make checks to. We do have a limited amount of team reps at the end just to get 22 on the field at the same time. Really the biggest emphasis on that is communication. We can’t go at full tempo. We don’t want to expose our players to injury or something they are not ready for. It’s a teaching phase that we’re in right now. Building the communication and the identification of being on the field and working with your teammates, we think it’s valuable to put all 22 together. It doesn’t look, tempo wise, like anything you would expect practice to look like. It really is a controlled walkthrough tempo to get guys moving and familiar with our schemes and systems and how practice will flow once we go full speed.
Q: Given the roles some of these guys played last year, the addition of Kyler Fackrell, the addition of Carter Coughlin and some of the guys you drafted, do you anticipate expanding their roles? Do you anticipate focusing on one, two or three guys to build that core of the pass rush?
A: Even though we have a lot of guys in the same position group, they all have a different skill sets. So along with that, we have different packages we can build in based on who the opponent is that week. We talk a lot about doing more on the field. They have a skill set in rushing the passer, but they are not exclusively a pass rusher. These are guys that are going to play in the kicking game. These are guys that are going to factor into different run stopping units, different packages we put on to match the offense’s personnel. Building depth at significant positions is something we have to do. There’s going to be several of these guys that as we go we will see how it factors out at the outside backer position. Maybe some of those guys will get shifted to the inside and we’ll see how they fare at the inside position as well to build our depth on the roster. At this point we are going to give them a chance to get their feet wet at the outside backer position. We are not limited to what we can do. We want to make sure we find out what every player can do well. Then we will put them on the field in a position to execute.
Q: What are looking for Daniel Jones to improve upon this season? Where have you focused on him working both in the spring and the summer?
A: I think the biggest thing he can work on right now is just being out there with the team. Calling a play in the huddle, breaking the huddle, getting to the line, identifying the defensive front, making any checks at the line of scrimmage and then executing a cadence that everyone can work off of. Things that may seem so small are the fundamentals he has to start every successful play with. The biggest thing he can do is just to be in a groove with the team and hear his voice. Along Colt, Cooper and Alex, it’s very important for everyone to hear our quarterbacks’ cadences. They are all unique in their own way. We have to make sure they get used to hearing the play called in the huddle and get used to hearing the cadence at the line of scrimmage. This time right here, the most exposure our players are getting as far as working at a whole tempo with each other is in our on-field conditioning periods. We are allowed to use footballs in some of those periods, as far as agilities it allows you to run some routes on air. Building in the timing with his teammates is good. Remember, it’s a new year for everybody. It’s a new year for Daniel and the receivers. The have to get some chemistry established and built whether they were together last year or a new guy on the roster, that’s important for everyone to understand. We are starting completely over right now, and we have to start from ground zero. I’d say with the quarterback, there is never just one thing. All of our players are looking for total improvement as a player. With a quarterback, it’s all a mental game. It’s really the grasping and the understanding. If it was somebody’s second year in the offense, you would want to see their command of the offense on the field. For Daniel, we have to be fair. It’s a new offense, a new system we have schemed for him. He’s had a limited amount of walkthroughs of actually being on the field to do this. At this point, I am just looking to see his progress day by day and not looking to compare him to where he was last year.
Q: Is the process of him calling plays different than last year?
A: I don’t think it’s terribly different. Obviously, there’s a unique communication set. He has Jason (Garrett) calling plays in his ear now, then he has to call a huddle, he has 10 guys looking at him and they have to hear it a different way. The difference in the language always ties into how you can say it and present it to the team. You want to say it in certain rhythm so they get used to hearing everything from the personnel, to the formation, to the protection, the play call and then what the cadence is going to be before they break the huddle. While that sounds very simple, this year will be a little different but imagine doing it in front of 85,000 people screaming in your ear as you’re doing it. It’s important for the other 10 guys in the huddle to understand how he presents the play and how he breaks up the phrases so it all works and runs together. It’s important in a huddle that everyone understands not every word speaks to me. You have to decipher and pick which direct words speak to you on each play and tells you what your assignment is. It’s important that he develops that cadence in the huddle of how he presents those plays. In terms of how he did it last year, I wasn’t here. I would say the generalities of receiving a play and giving a play, that’s obviously right there something he has experience with.
Q: Now that you have had some time to look at your defensive line and edge rushers. How do you feel about this group’s ability to get home with four pass rushers? Is this a situation where you might have to get creative with blitzes? How big of an emphasis do you put on sacks versus getting pressure and flushing the quarterback out of the pocket?
A: I think I am going to work backwards on an answer in terms of sacks versus pressure on quarterbacks. I think pressure is the number one thing you have to think about in terms of applying pressure on your opponent, forcing the quarterback into a bad situation. Would you love to get a sack every time? Absolutely. There’s a reason in the National Football League the all-time record isn’t 50 per year, they are tough to come by. The ultimate thing is making the quarterback operate faster than they want to and making decisions quicker than they absolutely want to. In terms of are we going to have four rushers, are we going to have multiple rushers. We are never going to cap ourselves with creativity. That’s something that Pat (Graham) and his staff are looking at. Every opponent is unique and different. To a man every one of our defensive linemen have come in here physically at a position to train. There’s a difference between being in shape and training. Being in shape, all of us can go to a 24-hour Fitness and get on a treadmill and think we’re all in shape. To train your body to go out on a field for 60 minutes and play that high volume and high intensity, you have to start out your body in a certain amount of shape. As I saw the defensive linemen walking in, even though it was the first time meeting them in person, you see tape on these guys, you have seen a number of pictures, you know what their body used to look like. When they walked in, it was evident all of them had worked to put themselves into the shape where they can start training for football. I’m very pleased with the urgency and I am very pleased with how they are working together right now. How they are working together game by game will decide whether it’s four or multiple guys. That will change by situation as well.
Q: What made Chandler Catanzaro the right kicker out of retirement. I’m sure you saw there was some speculation you would go with someone you know like Gostkowski or Nick Folk. When the ramp up period is over and practices start, do you expect Leonard Williams to be out there?
A: I am going to give him the opportunity day by day. He’s working with our trainers, he is doing everything he possibly can to get on the field as fast as possible. We know he is doing all the right things. I’m not a doctor, when they tell me he is cleared to go, we’ll go ahead and activate him. In terms of Chandler, he is in here to compete for a job like everybody else. I have some experience in the league with Chandler, I have gone against him. It’s a small league, there are 32 kickers per week on rosters, you know who is out there. He has had some very good seasons, he’s had some very good seasons in this stadium. Chandler is someone who I have known about for a long time going back to when he came out of Clemson. We’re excited to have him here. He has an opportunity to go on the field and demonstrate what he his capable of doing. In terms of retirement, that was something that once he decided he wanted to make a comeback, we were notified he was off the retirement list. He was somebody we had talked about and we thought he was a good fit to get going.
Q: You were in New England and that is a place known for being one step ahead. How important is it for you and the team to be one step ahead?
A: Obviously we all have a past place, every coach, every player. It’s important that we learn from other places in anything we have done. (Inaudible). It’s only about the New York Giants right now. In terms of being one step ahead, I think everyone in this league is looking for that competitive advantage of being one step ahead. We are always trying to make moves for our team to try to look ahead in terms of situations and scenarios that may arise. We are always thinking about our total team depth. We are thinking about our 53, our practice squad and beyond that. This year has more flexibility than in the past, so it really almost expands your roster right there. It’s important for us to evaluate our players correctly and then know who is on the street or on other rosters and evaluate them correctly. If they become available in some way, shape or form, we can make the right decisions. In terms of how we use players, to be honest with you, I think the whole thing with being a step ahead is just from the beginning identifying what they do well and giving them an opportunity to play in multiple spots. When the time comes and they have to use different skill sets, they are ready to go. That’s how we want to train our players in the beginning, make sure they have exposure to all our different positions that they fit into. Scheme the calls so they can operate faster when the time arises.
Q: Do you try to parlay that into the front office? That they need to be really sharp?
A: Since I have been here, we have great synergy in the building. We have a very good working relationship across all aspects. Personnel, coaching, support staff, we are making sure we are all on the same message going forward. We talk on a daily basis about personnel. We talk on a daily basis about what’s going on in the rest of the league, whether it’s the waiver wire or maybe different calls that have come our way. It’s a natural part of the NFL. There’s a lot of talk of personnel, especially this time of the year. We have a great working relationship. I’m very pleased with how it’s going. We have the same vision for how we want to take this team and how we want to make it up, how we want to build it. We are at a point right now where we want to focus on training the guys we have on the roster. What that includes in being a part of the National Football League is we have to be aware of what’s going on outside your roster at all times.
Q: Peter King wrote the other day that the Saints are sequestering their full staff and players. It’s not mandatory for the staff but they are encouraging it. Did you guys talk about that idea? Having people not go home to their families for camp or are you prepared to pivot to that if that’s what the league goes to?
A: I read the same articles about the pseudo bubbles some teams are trying to create. To be honest with you, if it’s not completely isolated like the NBA and NHL, then it’s not a bubble. It’s really just a way of having training camp and trying to stay isolated. If it was a non-covid year, we would be trying to keep the team as isolated as best we can just to keep the focus on what we are doing and build that training camp atmosphere that we haven’t had. I’m not mandating any coaches stay in the team hotel. Obviously by the league rules, no player is mandated to stay in the team hotel. Our players either opted in or opted out of the hotel stay. The ones that are in the hotel have a curfew. We have expressed to the ones on the outside that they have to make the right decisions when they are on the outside in terms of how they structure their nights. I’d say the biggest message I have for everybody, whether it’s the coaches, the support staff, the players, it’s not about being in a bubble. It’s about making the right decisions when you are away from the building to make sure we don’t bring something into the building.
Again, I said this last time, it’s not my right to go out and get something to eat and I might put myself in an atmosphere where I might bring something back to the team and it costs them an opportunity. That’s not my right, I’m not entitled to do that. We have to all understand that our decisions impact each other. We are all in training camp, there’s 32 teams right now, everyone is working to the same goal. No one within this building is entitled to cut short our team’s pursuit of that goal by making a selfish decision away from this building. The NFL has released some guidelines for players in terms of where they can go. As coaches, we have to be smart about that. There are other teams out there that have hotels. We have a hotel, too, we have multiple floors on the hotel rented out for our players and coaches should they choose to stay there. We have people on this team, players and coaches that have wives and children. Everyone is going home to see their wives and children. I want to see mine as much as I can. The reality is, there are sacrifices we are going to have to make this year. We have to be determined individually. If that means I have to spend less time or make sure I don’t surround myself with other loved ones who aren’t going by the same guidelines that I am operating on a daily basis, then that’s a sacrifice we have to make. That’s not easy. Let’s be realistic, you have guys on oil tankers, you have soldiers overseas making a lot less money who don’t see their families either at times. I’m not suggesting people don’t see their families, I am suggesting that everybody on a team and away from the team has to make decisions responsibly to account for the sacrifice of being a part of the National Football League this year. That’s just the reality and we have to all understand that. The challenge is going to be real.
Q: What are you seeing from your team as far as morale, as far as energy, in terms of attitude at this point?
A: I see a lot of energy in coming in and improving on a daily basis and that’s increased from Day 1. It’s day by day. We’ve got to stack them together, I say that every day. I see that with our guys every meeting, every walkthrough, every session. That’s all I can ask for from them right now. There’s an urgency to improve, there’s an urgency to learn. We have a lot of guys reaching out to coaches on their own for help. We have players in meeting rooms doing extra. You can see the things you want to go ahead and breathe into your culture coming together already. That’s important and that has to sustain over the test of time. A few days together doesn’t solve all our problems. As far as a starting point, I am very pleased with where we are going. We just have to be diligent with the day by day process of coming in with good energy, being attentive, and making sure we learn and then can execute at an improving level on a daily basis.
- New York Giants coach Joe Judge enters the ultimate honeymoon season by Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com
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.
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Defensive Backs
2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Heading into 2019, fans were generally upbeat about a secondary that was clearly in transition. The Giants had heavily invested in the position by drafting corners Deandre Baker (1st round), Julian Love (4th round), and Corey Ballentine (6th round) in the 2019 NFL Draft. At safety, the team had effectively swapped out Landon Collins (signed by Washington Redskins) and Curtis Riley (signed by Oakland Raiders) for Jabrill Peppers (part of Odell Beckham trade) and Antoine Bethea (signed after he was cut by the Arizona Cardinals). It was expected that Janoris Jenkins would rebound from a somewhat disappointing 2018 season and that Sam Beal (who missed his rookie season due to a shoulder injury) and Grant Haley (who started nine games as an undrafted rookie) would develop and improve. Michael Thomas provided depth and special teams value.
But it was a case of the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Once again, the Giants were one of the NFL’s worst in pass defense, finishing 28th. In the “you can’t make this shit up” category, the team’s best defensive back, Jenkins, was cut in December after calling a fan a “retard” on Twitter. Baker started 15-of-16 games as a rookie, but was very inconsistent with his work ethic being questioned. Nickel corner Haley regressed and was eventually benched. The injury-prone Beal was placed on IR in September with hamstring and groin injuries, added to the 53-man roster in early November, and missed the last game with another shoulder issue. Ballentine had to deal with being shot right after he was drafted and then being thrust into a nickel corner spot that he was clearly ill-suited to play.
At safety, despite being told by team officials that Bethea still had it, he clearly did not and was a significant liability at free safety both against the pass and the run. Peppers did not make much of impact and was lost for the season in November as his overall play was improving. Michael Thomas played in all 16 games with two starts but clearly wasn’t the answer. Julian Love was moved from cornerback to safety early. He ended up starting five games late in the season, flashing at times but also experiencing growing pains as a rookie.
Overall, the unit was a collective disappointment and a major reason the overall defense finished 25th in yards and 30th in points allowed.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: As mentioned, Janoris Jenkins was waived in December. S Michael Thomas was signed by the Texans and CB Antonio Hamilton was signed by the Chiefs. Safety Antoine Bethea remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent.
Grant Haley was re-signed as an exclusive rights free agent in January. The first player the Giants signed in free agency in March was CB James Bradberry (3-year, $43.5 million contract). S/special teams player Nate Ebner (UFA from Patriots) and CB Dravon Askew-Henry (cut by Steelers last year) were also signed.
The Giants drafted S Xavier McKinney (2nd round), CB Darnay Holmes (4th round), and CB/S Chris Williamson (7th round) in the 2020 NFL Draft. After the draft, rookie free agent additions included CB Christian Angulo, CB Malcolm Elmore, and S Jaquarius Landrews. S Montre Hartage was claimed off of waivers from the Dolphins after the draft as well.
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: There is a lot going on here and thus each fan probably has their own top story line. Clearly, one is the offseason drama surrounding 2019 1st-round draft pick Deandre Baker, who may or may not make it to training camp depending on the outcome of his offseason legal troubles (four counts of armed robbery and four counts of armed aggravated assault with a firearm from a bizarre incident in Florida). My personal belief is that the Giants were counting on Baker to form a solid starting CB duo alongside high-priced James Bradberry. Will Baker even be a Giant in 2020? If he is, will he be suspended by the team or the NFL? Did he get scared straight and will he commit himself to the game? If Baker is not part of the equation, the pressure increases to find his replacement among Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, Darnay Holmes, and possibly Julian Love. Are they up to the task? Can Beal stay healthy? Is Love athletic enough to handle corner at the NFL level? Will Ballentine shine more at outside corner rather than inside at nickel?
Speaking of the nickel spot, one would think the Giants would want Holmes to nail down the position if the rookie can handle it. But there are others possibly in the equation, including Love and maybe Williamson.
At safety, it would appear that Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney will have the inside shot at starting, but the coaches may want to configure packages to get Love on the field as either a third safety or additional corner. Depth is still needed here with Sean Chandler (holdover from 2018/2019), Rashaan Gaulden (added late in 2019), Montre Hartage, Chris Williamson, and Jaquarius Landrews all competing to make the roster.
Big picture is this: for the past three seasons, the Giants have invested a tremendous amount of resources into the defensive backfield, including a trading for a former 1st-round pick (Peppers); spending $43 million on a corner in free agency (Bradberry); and drafting players in the 1st (Baker), 2nd (McKinney), 3rd (Beal), 4th (Love, Holmes), 6th (Ballentine), and 7th (Williamson) rounds. It’s time for the investment to deliver returns and for the Giants to get out of the NFL basement in pass defense.
ON THE BUBBLE: There are currently 18 defensive backs on the roster. Probably only nine or ten will make the final roster. The only sure bets are probably Bradberry, Holmes, Peppers, Love, and McKinney. Baker obviously isn’t safe. Beal has to prove he can be a reliable player.
PREDICTIONS: So much here depends on the new coaching staff, not just Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham but Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson, the latter coming from Atlanta where his unit struggled at times. It’s also interesting to note that Pat Shurmur holdover Anthony Blevins was moved from assistant special teams coach to assistant defensive backs coach. These three men have to develop all of the talent that been acquired in recent years.
In addition, so much depends on the legal and emotional status of Deandre Baker. He was (and still may be) and important piece of the puzzle. The expectation is that versatile Xavier McKinney, who many felt was the best safety in the draft, will be able to handle the starting free safety spot as a rookie.
My prediction is that if Baker is available and truly focused (two big ifs), this unit could be poised for a big turnaround. There were games last year where Baker did shut down his opponent. He can do it. But how important is the game to him? Usually you can’t count on a person to change their ways, but if anything was going to scare Baker straight, facing a long prison sentence might do the trick. Bradberry should be able to more than adequately handle the other corner spot, replacing Jenkins with less drama. The nickel corner should improve with Holmes, Love, or maybe Williamson an improvement over Haley and Ballentine.
At safety, the closer Peppers plays to the line of scrimmage, the more impact he makes. The drafting of McKinney should enable the coaching staff to play Peppers in a role best suited to his skills. I would not be shocked to see packages that get Peppers, McKinney, and Love all on the field together.
FINAL DEPTH CHART: James Bradberry, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, Darnay Holmes, Corey Ballentine, Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Nate Ebner, Chris Williamson
I’m making some bold assumptions here: Baker being a Giant, Beal staying healthy, and Ballentine and Williamson showing enough to stick. Ebner is strictly a core special teams player who Joe Judge obviously targeted in free agency to lead his unit.
NOVEMBER 6, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion protocol), tight end Evan Engram (foot), and center Jon Halapio (hamstring) did not practice on Wednesday.
“Evan Engram has a mid-foot sprain,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “He’s in a boot. We’ll just take him day to day, week to week, see where he goes. Halapio has a hamstring, and then Sterling Shepard did not participate today. He’s getting further evaluated for that concussion being that he’s in the protocol.”
“It’s a low-grade foot sprain,” said Engram. “It could be a lot worse, I guess around the Lisfranc area, I don’t know all the details. I just have to go with the routine, roll with the punches. (I have to) trust the training staff, we are going to be ready and good to go and just attack treatment each and every day.”
When asked if the injury was a Lisfranc injury, Engram responded, “No, that was the worry, that there was a real severe injury there. It’s not that bad. I don’t know all the medical terms, but it could be a lot worse… we’ll take it this week and we have the bye week next week and see where we are.”
Right tackle Mike Remmers (back) was limited.
GIANTS ADD SAM BEAL TO 53-MAN ROSTER, CUT SEAN CHANDLER…
On Tuesday, the Giants added cornerback Sam Beal to the 53-man roster. Beal had been on Injured Reserve for the first nine games of the season with a hamstring injury. To make room for Beal, the team waived safety Sean Chandler. The Giants also terminated the Practice Squad contract of left-footed punter Sean Smith.
The Giants placed Beal on Injured Reserve in September 2019 with hamstring and groin injuries. The Giants selected Beal in the 3rd round of the Supplemental Draft in July 2018. He missed all of his rookie season when he was placed on Injured Reserve in July 2018 with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
The Giants signed Chandler as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. Chandler made the team and played in all 16 games with no starts. He finished the year with 18 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pass defense. This year, Chandler played in all nine games with no starts, accruing just five tackles.
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 New York Giants practice on Thursday, with the team’s coordinators also addressing the media.
OCTOBER 31, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
All 53 players on the active roster practiced on Thursday.
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion), cornerback Corey Ballentine (concussion), and cornerback Grant Haley (knee) practiced fully. However, Shepard and Ballentine still remain in the concussion protocol and are waiting to be cleared.
“(Shepard is) still in (the protocol),” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “He was full, but until he’s finally cleared, he’s in (the protocol). You’re either in or you’re out.”
GIANTS SIGN PUNTER TO PRACTICE SQUAD…
The New York Giants have signed punter Sean Smith to the Practice Squad. The left-footed Smith was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Baltimore Ravens after the 2019 NFL Draft, but waived a few days later.
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 New York Giants practice on Friday, with the team’s coordinators also addressing the media.
NEW YORK SIGN MAKE SIX CHANGES TO 53-MAN ROSTER…
On Sunday, the New York Giants made six changes to the 53-man roster. The additions were claiming wide receiver Cody Core (Cincinnati Bengals) and offensive tackle Eric Smith (New York Jets) off of waivers. In addition, the Giants signed tight end Eric Tomlinson, who was cut by the Jets, after he cleared waivers.
To make room for these three, the Giants placed cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring/groin) on Injured Reserve and waived wide receiver Alonzo Russell and offensive tackle Brian Mihalik. Beal is eligible to return to the 53-man roster in six weeks to practice and in eight weeks to play.
The 25-year old, 6’3”, 205-pound Core was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Bengals. In three seasons, he has played in 35 regular-season games with seven starts, accumulating 30 catches for 360 yards and one touchdown. Core is a very good special teams player.
The 23-year old, 6’4”, 308-pound Smith was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Miami Dolphins after the 2017 NFL Draft. The Dolphins waived him in September 2018 and he then spent time on the Practice Squads of the New England Patriots and New York Jets in 2018. Smith has never played in a regular-season NFL game.
The 27-year old, 6’6”, 263-pound Tomlinson was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2015 NFL Draft. The Eagles cut him before the season started and he was then signed to the Practice Squad of the Houston Texans. In November 2016, the Jets signed him to their 53-man roster. In three seasons with the Jets, Tomlinson has played in 36 regular-season games with 30 starts. He has 16 career receptions for 193 yards and one touchdown.
The Giants selected Beal in the 3rd round of the Supplemental Draft in July 2018. The Giants placed Beal on Injured Reserve in July 2018 with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
The Giants signed Russell after he impressed as a tryout player during the May 2018 rookie mini-camp and then signed him to the Practice Squad in September. He was added to the 53-man roster before the last game of the season. The 6’3”, 206-pound Russell was originally signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on the Bengals’ Practice Squad. The Bengals waived him in September 2017 and he was signed to the Practice Squad of the Arizona Cardinals in November 2017. Russell has not caught a pass in a regular-season game.
The Giants signed Mihalik to the Practice Squad in September 2018 and to the 53-man roster in October 2018. The 6’9”, 315-pound Mihalik was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. A collegiate defensive end converted to offensive tackle, Mihalik has spent time with the Eagles (2015), Pittsburgh Steelers (2016), and Detroit Lions (2016-2017). Mihalik played in 15 games with two starts for the Lions in 2017.
NEW YORK SIGN EIGHT PLAYERS TO THE PRACTICE SQUAD…
The New York Giants have officially signed the following eight players to their 10-man Practice Squad:
- RB Jonathan Hilliman
- WR Reggie White, Jr.
- TE C.J. Conrad
- OL Evan Brown
- NT Chris Slayton
- DE Freedom Akinmoladun
- LB Josiah Tauaefa
- LB Jake Carlock
All eight of the players were waived by the Giants on Saturday. The Giants have two more spots open on the Practice Squad.
WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The players return to practice on Monday.
AUGUST 25, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their nineteenth full-team summer training camp practice on Sunday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The remaining training camp practices are no longer open to the public.
Running back Rod Smith (groin), offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), cornerback Antonio Hamilton (groin), and safety Kenny Ladler (unknown) did not practice on Sunday.
Cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring) participated in individual drills. “He was out there today for the first time,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur of Beal. “He’s closer. We’ll just have to see where he’s at as we move forward.”
Wide receiver Golden Tate (concussion) and linebacker Josiah Tauaefa (unknown) wore a non-contact yellow jerseys and were limited.
MEDIA PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:
- Deandre Baker returned to practice and split time with Corey Ballentine at cornerback with the starting defense.
- During the blitz period, QB Eli Manning was 5-of-6 with a sack; QB Daniel Jones was 4-of-6.
- QB Kyle Lauletta made a nice throw on a slant to WR Reggie White, Jr. for a good gain.
- QB Alex Tanney hit WR T.J. Jones deep over the middle for a touchdown.
- Overall, the defense performed much better than the offense, the latter being a bit sloppy by multiple accounts.
- S Jabrill Peppers was active, with a “sack” and a couple of tackles for a loss.
- CB Janoris Jenkins dropped an interception when WR Sterling Shepard slipped. Jenkins later committed a pass interference penalty on WR Bennie Fowler, who beat him deep.
- Returning punts were wide receivers Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Brittan Golden, and T.J. Jones.
- PK Aldrick Rosas was 5-of-6 on field goal attempts.
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:
- B.J. Hill is poised for next step Giants need him to take by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post
- Dave Gettleman tip helps lead to Oshane Ximines’ bust out by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post
- Sam Beal is running out of time to prove himself to Giants by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post
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.
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Defensive Backs
2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: In just three seasons, the Giants went from having one of the best secondaries in the NFL in 2016 to one of the worst in 2018. Three Giants were named to the All-Pro team in 2016. In 2018, the Giants had arguably the worst starting free safety (Curtis Riley) and worst starting cornerback (B.W. Webb) in the League. For the second year in a row, overrated strong safety Landon Collins could not replicate his 2016 performance and finished the year on Injured Reserve. The best player in the secondary, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, gave up too many big plays. The Giants decided they had seen enough of top-10 draft pick Eli Apple and traded him in October to the Saints.
The rest of the unit was manned by players such as Grant Haley, Antonio Hamilton, Tony Lippett, Donte Deayon (waived in October), Michael Thomas, Sean Chandler, Kenny Ladler, and Kamrin Moore. Who? Most fans never heard of any of these guys before 2018. In a way, encumbered with one of the worst pass rush units in the NFL, it’s a minor miracle that the secondary was not more abused than it actually was. The Giants finished 23rd in pass defense.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants re-signed cornerbacks Tony Lippett and Antonio Hamilton in free agency as well as Practice Squad cornerback Ronald Zamort. Landon Collins signed a huge, 6-year, $84 million contract with the Washington Redskins. Curtis Riley signed with the Oakland Raiders and B.W. Webb signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Giants obtained safety Jabrill Peppers in a trade from the Cleveland Browns. They signed safety Antoine Bethea after he was cut by the Arizona Cardinals. Street free agent cornerback Henre’ Toliver was also signed.
The Giants selected cornerbacks Deandre Baker (1st round), Julian Love (4th round), and Corey Ballentine (6th round) in the 2019 NFL Draft. Rookie free agents safety Tenny Adewusi, safety Jacob Thieneman, linebacker/safety Jake Carlock, and linebacker/safety Mark McLaurin were all signed after the draft. Thieneman has since been waived due to an injury.
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The Giants have almost completely revamped their secondary. Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea replace Landon Collins and Curtis Riley as the starting safeties. 2018 3rd-round Supplemental Draft pick Sam Beal, who missed his rookie season due to an injury, as well as three 2019 draft picks will have the inside track at making the roster at cornerback. Deandre Baker has already been moved into the starting line-up. Aside from Bethea, Jenkins, and reserve safety Michael Thomas, this is a very young group.
On paper, the Giants are better set at cornerback. Jenkins and Baker should be one of the better starting cornerback duos in the NFL. By all accounts, Baker was one of the most impressive newcomers during Spring workouts. Both will be pressed by Julian Love and Sam Beal. Perhaps the best battle will be for the starting nickel corner spot between Grant Haley and Julian Love.
Safety is a bit more unsettled. Jabrill Peppers played much better during his second year in Cleveland and the belief is that Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher sees him as a cornerstone to the team’s rebuilt defense and will employ him in a variety of ways to take advantage of his physical attributes. Bethea turns 35 in July and is obviously nearing the end. But he will provide leadership and inside knowledge on Bettcher’s schemes, making sure everyone is lined up properly. Depth at safety is a concern as there are no clear up-and-coming players behind the starting two.
Keep in mind that both defensive backs coaches are new with Everett Withers and Henry Baker coming from the collegiate ranks.
ON THE BUBBLE: As I discussed in my linebacker preview, the Giants may view some of these players as hybrid linebackers/safeties such as Jake Carlock and Mark McLaurin. So one of these guys could make the roster as a “linebacker.”
The Giants are likely to carry 9, 10, or 11 defensive backs. Some think Janoris Jenkins could be traded. My belief is that Jenkins, Deandre Baker, Julian Love, Sam Beal, Jabrill Peppers, and Antoine Bethea are the sure bets to make the team. Others with a good shot are Grant Haley, Corey Ballentine, and Michael Thomas, but they are not completely safe. Everyone else is on the bubble.
FROM THE COACHES: Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Deandre Baker: “He has been (making plays) on a pretty steady basis. I think he has made a play or two at each practice. Again, just learning how to compete at this level. Unfortunately, you can’t do a whole bunch of bump-and-run and press coverage, so the corners are at a little bit of a disadvantage. However, you need to learn to play off and for him to be able to make plays in those situations is good.”
Shurmur on Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea: “They are doing a good job. You saw Antoine had an interception today. They communicate extremely well. They are very strong guys. Typically, one guy takes the lead on that, but they both can do it. When I watch, they are getting us in the right coverages and pressures. They are in the right spots and trying to play the techniques within the defenses that are called. That is the thing that you can work on this time of year defensively. All the communication. We are really pleased with where they are. It is only going to get better.”
Shurmur on Jabrill Peppers: “He has a very charismatic personality and he loves to play the game. He picked up quickly what we were doing on defense well and he is extremely smart. He is very tough and very competitive. When you see guys like that on the field, you feel their presence immediately. He got to it quickly… He is very vocal. Sometimes you don’t have to be very vocal and you can be a leader. You can look to him and see that he has that about him. He has a great presence. If you are around him on a day-to-day basis, you can see that he will quickly become one of the guys where you say, ‘OK, he’s got it.’ He loves playing football and has a lot of fun doing it and a lot of fun competing. I think that is part of his charm and what makes him special. He is so darn competitive. It shows up naturally.”
Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on Jabrill Peppers: “Jabrill is a highly talented and ascending player in this league. A guy that has the flexibility to play strong safety and could come down in the box and play some money. He is a really talented blitzer and when you watched his tape in Cleveland, you saw all the different roles he played. You saw snaps where he plays nickel, high in the middle of the field, high and outside, where he plays down low. A guy that has a lot of versatility. A guy that when he learns this system, he is going to have a lot of fun playing in this system… I flew from Arizona to Michigan and spent a bunch of time with him when he was coming out (in the draft). I thought he was a dynamic kid and the people that were around him loved him. I got multiple texts from coaches that worked with him in Cleveland and it was not something I asked for, this was after we traded for him and they said that we were going to love him. He is going to work exceptionally hard and is going to be about what it is supposed to be about. You see him out here, we are doing stuff against the air and he is moving, sliding and running around. He is in a stance and sometimes you want to be like, slow down, this is on air. He is exciting.”
Bettcher on Antoine Bethea: “We have a chance to add Antoine Bethea, a guy who is one of the highest character players I have ever been around, smart, intelligent and an unbelievable leader. As you have an opportunity to wrap your hands around him and embrace him a little bit, you will see what I am talking about with him. I was talking to him the other day and I was joking with him telling him that as time goes on, I get more gray hair. As time goes on, he gets younger. That is just when you see his play, that is what it has been. The years in the league have progressed for him. He has played fast and played young. That what impresses me about him.”
Bettcher on Deandre Baker: “The thing I would say about Baker is that he played in a very, very tough league. We all know how long it was before he gave up a touchdown pass. He competed and covered some of the best players that have come out of that league on offense. His tape speaks for itself. One of the best, if not the best, tackling corner in the draft, period. Excited to have him. He did an outstanding job at camp this past week.”
Bettcher on Janoris Jenkins: “Janoris has been not great but unbelievable with our young guys. He has had great, teachable moments where as a coach you just have to let it go. You are starting to go coach the young guys and he is already on it. I see the ownership in year two that he is starting to take with those guys. It is outstanding and it is going to help us be a better defense and not just those guys be better players themselves.”
Bettcher on Julian Love: “Naturally, he is a nickel. What is the second position, is he a safety or a corner? Time tells with that and more reps tell us that. You have to be smart and pretty intelligent like he is to be able to handle that.”
Defensive Backs Coach Everett Withers on his cornerbacks: “It is exciting when you bring in all these young men. That is the biggest thing. Talented guys that can play. We are adding Sam Beal into the mix too. You take a guy like Janoris Jenkins, a guy that has been in the league for 10 years and look at him more as an assistant coach. He has taken that role so far this offseason and has done a really good job.”
Withers on Janoris Jenkins: “I think when he is in the meetings, he has such a vast amount of experience in this league that he can help guys not only schematically but understanding the game, splits of receivers and those things. He has done a really good job in the meeting rooms and on the field so far… He has been awesome.”
Withers on Jabrill Peppers: “I am excited. He has a lot of ability and does a lot of things. Our role right now is to try and help Jabrill schematically. Help him grow into what we do and add things into his playbook. He is a guy that comes to work everyday with a lot of energy. He has been really fun to watch so far.”
Withers on Deandre Baker: “He is a really talented guy. When you watch his tape, he is a guy with a lot of competitive experience. To have another guy over there next to Janoris, he is talented enough to go over there and be a factor over there opposite Janoris.”
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey on Jabrill Peppers: “High energy, the guy is a for sure ball handler. Can make all the cuts full speed. He just brings juice. I’ve known the kid since he was 16 years old. I recruited him when I was at LSU. Jabrill is a special athlete. He can do anything – run the football, catch the football, whatever. He’s just a great athlete.”
PREDICTIONS: The guy who is flying under the radar is Deandre Baker. Keep in mind that despite drafting him late in the first round, he was the first cornerback selected in the draft. In other words, the Giants believe he was the best corner in this draft class. Thus far, he has not disappointed. Baker has the look of an old school, aggressive, physical corner who likes to mix it up both against the run and the pass. Janoris Jenkins has always done better when his team is playing better. I expect him to regain his 2016 All-Pro form as long as he stays healthy. Grant Haley remained the first-team nickel throughout the Spring practices. However, it is difficult to see him holding off Julian Love for long. Love may lack ideal long speed, but he a smart, aggressive player who makes plays on the football. Sam Beal provides quality depth provided he is over his shoulder issues.
The Giants also look to be upgraded at safety. Landon Collins was not as good as advertised. Most Giants fans know he had issues in coverage. He never regained his 2016 form. Curtis Riley was a train wreck at free safety. James Bettcher insists that Antoine Bethea can still play. At the very least, the team is already thrilled with the leadership and guidance he is providing. He’s like having a coach on the field. The real question mark here is what is Jabrill Peppers’ upside? Is he another one of those better-athlete-than-player types or is he about to experience his breakout season in his third year? It’s obvious the Giants are going to use him in a variety of ways, moving him around quite a bit and even have him blitz. The good news, again, is his attitude. The team is thrilled with his character. Depth at safety is a concern. Michael Thomas is a solid reserve/special teams type who also provides a good locker room presence. But it would be great if one of the young safeties came out of nowhere to surprise.
Don’t be surprised to see the Giants play with a lot of five and six defensive back packages throughout the year. Because of that, I would not be shocked to see the team keep as many as 11 defensive backs. Special teams will also be a big factor in deciding who stays and could help a guy like Antonio Hamilton.
This secondary has a chance to be very good for a number of years.
FINAL DEPTH CHART: Janoris Jenkins, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, Julian Love, Grant Haley, Corey Ballentine, Jabrill Peppers, Antoine Bethea, Michael Thomas, Sean Chandler
JARED LORENZEN PASSES AWAY…
Former New York Giants back-up quarterback Jared Lorenzen passed away on July 3rd due to heart and kidney issues. Lorenzen was 38 years old. The Giants signed Lorenzen as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2004 NFL Draft. He served as a reserve quarterback for four years, from 2004-2007, first as a third-string quarterback and later as the primary back-up to Eli Manning.
“Jared was a special person, and a beloved Giant,” said Manning. “He was an important member of our 2007 team, one that created its own destiny. Our thoughts are with Jared’s family and friends who loved and appreciated him so much. Just as our organization and our fans did. Jared was a great teammate and friend. We competed against each other in college and came to the Giants together in 2004. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. I will always remember his competitive spirit and his good nature. Jared has left us all way too soon.”
“I’m shocked to learn of Jared’s passing,” said former New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “Jared had a fun-loving, yet serious attitude. He was a good athlete, he had touch and versatility, and he was serious about trying to get his weight under control. Jared got along well with his teammates, and he contributed a lot in his hometown. He worked with young kids in teaching them the game of football. My thoughts are with Jared’s family and the Giants family. It’s sad to lose a kid who tried so hard to play again.”
- The Giants’ new Odell Beckhams are taking charge by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post
- The Giants could benefit from C.J. Conrad’s bad luck by Pat Leonard of The Daily News
- Hernandez ready to take next step with O-line by Dan Salomone of Giants.com
- ‘The Jersey in me’ | Olsen Pierre born to be Giants’ pass-rusher but had to beat the football odds to get back home by Ryan Dunleavy for NJ.com
- Lorenzo Carter will inherit Olivier Vernon’s former workload by Pat Leonard of The Daily News
- Tae Davis becoming a key part of Big Blue’s defense by Pat Leonard of The Daily News
- Rookie CB Baker adds physicality to secondary by John Schmeelk of Giants.com
- Rookie CB DeAndre Baker already impressing the Giants and he hasn’t even put on the pads yet by Pat Leonard of The Daily News
- ‘Sky’s the limit’: Sam Beal’s college coach expects big things for Giants cornerback in first season by Scott Thompson for SNY