As we covered in our defensive line review, the New York Giants defense significantly improved from 25th in 2019 to 12th in 2020 in terms of yards allowed. It was a remarkable achievement given the year-long personnel changes in the back seven on defense. There were no adjustments on the defensive line. The same three starters and two back-ups played in every game. The same could not be said for the linebackers and defensive backs.
In today’s 3-4 defenses, the outside linebackers are more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, increasingly commonly referred to as “edge” players. The two Giants who won the starting edge jobs (Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines) were both lost for the season in early October with 3/4ths of the season left to play. Their primary back-up (Markus Golden) was traded to the Cardinals a few weeks later with half the season left to play. The next man up (OLB/ILB hybrid Kyler Fackrell) missed four games due to a calf injury. The Giants were forced to rely on three rookies (7th rounder Carter Coughlin, 6th rounder Cam Brown, and undrafted free agent Niko Lalos) and two retreads (Jabaal Sheard and Trent Harris).
There was chaos too at one of the inside linebacker spots. Devonta Downs started the season but was unimpressive and lost his job to rookie Tae Crowder, the very last player taken in the draft. But after starting two games, Crowder landed on Injured Reserve with a groin injury for five games. Downs was reinserted into the starting line-up, but now David Mayo, who missed the first five games of the season with a knee injury, also saw increased playing time and two starts. Crowder returned in late November and reclaimed the starting job.
Whew. Just typing that was confusing. The only constants were free agent godsend Blake Martinez and the coaching staff.
Martinez was the glue that held the defense together. He directed the defense, played virtually every defensive snap (97 percent), and was a tackling machine (team-high 151 tackles). Long story short, Martinez is the best inside linebacker the Giants have had since Antonio Pierce was cut a decade ago.
Inside Linebackers Coach Kevin Sherrer and Outside Linebackers Coach Bret Bielema did a marvelous job of mixing and matching on a week-to-week basis. Look no further than the edge position where the Giants were left scrambling. At one point, the available players to use were Sheard, Coughlin, Brown, and Lalos. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham, who coached linebackers with the Patriots and Packers, also employed defensive backs at linebacker in various packages. But there was a bit of chaos even in the coaching ranks when Bielema left the Giants with three games left to play to become head coach at the University of Illinois. Sherrer then handled both positions.
Aside from Martinez, what really stands out is that all four of the team’s late-round draft picks at linebacker made the team in addition to a rookie free agent. All five of these rookies played. The Giants were hammered by injuries at the outside linebacker position – down to their 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th options – and yet the coaching staff held the unit together. The biggest negative was the lack of pass rush, particularly from the edge spots. Of the team’s 40 sacks, 13.5 came from the linebackers (and four of them were from inside backers Martinez and Crowder). Fackrell led the linebacking corps with just four sacks.
The Giants signedBlake Martinezas an unrestricted free agent from the Green Bay Packers in March 2020. He had a major impact on the defense, starting all 16 games and playing in 97 percent of all defensive snaps. Martinez finished the season with a team-high 151 tackles and also accrued nine tackles for losses, three sacks, six quarterback hits, five pass defenses, one interception, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. The 6’2”, 237-pound Martinez was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Packers. In four seasons with Green Bay, Martinez has played in 61 regular-season games with 57 starts, accruing 512 tackles and 10 sacks. Martinez lacks ideal size and range for the position, but he is a heady player who can make the defensive calls and gets in on lot of tackles. He is better against the run than the pass.
The Giants selectedTae Crowderin the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He surprisingly moved into the starting line-up in Week 5 and 6 before suffering a groin injury that landed him on Injured Reserve for five games. Crowder returned in late November, starting four of his final six games. In all, Crowder played in 11 games with six starts (37 percent of all defensive snaps), and was credited with 57 tackles, three tackles for losses, one sack, three quarterback hits, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery that he returned for a game-winning touchdown. The 6’3”, 235-pound Crowder was moved from running back to linebacker in college and thus is still learning the position. Only a 1-year starter in college. While Crowder lacks ideal size, he is a good athlete and seems to have good instincts for the position. He must improve his tackling consistency.
Devante Downsbegan the season as a starter, but saw his playing time give way to Tae Crowder. Downs played in all 16 games with eight starts (21 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished the season with 33 tackles, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery. The 6’2”, 252-pound Downs was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings waived him in late September 2019 and he was then signed by the Giants to their Practice Squad and 53-man roster in October 2019. Downs played in seven games for the Giants in 2019 on special teams. Downs has good size, but he did not impress against the run or pass in 2020 despite his eight starts.
The Giants placedDavid Mayoon Injured Reserve in early September 2020 with a torn meniscus in his left knee that required surgery. He was activated from Injured Reserve in mid-October. Mayo ended up playing in 11 games with two starts (18 percent of all defensive snaps). He was credited with 29 tackles, two tackles for losses, and one forced fumble. The Giants signed Mayo in September 2019 after he was cut by the San Francisco 49ers. He surprisingly ended up playing in all 16 games with 13 starts, playing in 57 percent of all defensive snaps, and finishing with 82 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 pass defenses. The 6’2”, 240-pound Mayo was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. After four seasons in Carolina, Mayo signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2019. Before coming to the Giants, Mayo only had started four NFL games in four seasons. Mayo lacks ideal tools which limits his ability defend the run and cover receivers, but he plays hard.
The Giants selectedT.J. Brunsonin the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Brunson spent most of the season on the inactive list, but he did play in five games, almost exclusively on special teams. He was credited with three tackles. The 6’1”, 230-pound Brunson is an undersized inside linebacker with decent but not ideal athleticism. He is very physical and aggressive.
The Giants placedLorenzo Carteron Injured Reserve with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon that he suffered in Week 5 in October 2020. He underwent surgery and missed the rest of the season after starting all five games and finishing with 14 tackles and one sack. The Giants drafted Carter in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Carter played in 15 games as a rookie with two starts, finishing the season with 43 tackles, 4 sacks, and 4 pass defenses. In 2019, Carter started 12 of the 15 games he played in, finishing the year with 45 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 5 pass defenses, and 1 forced fumble. Carter is a tall, athletic, disruptive forward mover. Carter looks the part, combining good size (6’5”, 255 pounds) and overall athletic ability. He flashes the ability to disrupt, but must do a better job of disengaging from blockers and making more plays. Versatile, he can play with his hand in the dirt.
Oshane Ximineswas placed on Injured Reserve in early October 2020 with a shoulder injury that he suffered in Week 4. He returned to practice in late November, but his season ended when it was determined he would need rotator cuff surgery. Ximines started three of the four games he played in and finished the season with just four tackles. The Giants drafted Ximines in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He played at end in college. Ximines had a mixed performance in his rookie season in 2019. He received significant playing time, playing in all 16 games with two starts, playing in 45 percent of all defensive snaps, and accruing 25 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and one pass defense. Ximines has a nice combination of size (6’4”, 254 pounds) and overall athletic-ability. Ximines flashed at times as a pass rusher, but he must become a more physical run defender and more consistent, dynamic performer when rushing the passer. He also needs work in coverage.
2020 was an odd year for Markus Golden. Coming off of a superlative debut season for the Giants as a 1-year free agent rental in 2019 (career-high 72 tackles and team-high 10 sacks), Golden did not receive much interest in 2020 free agency. He re-signed with the Giants very late in the offseason in early August, but did not regain his starting position when the season started. The Giants then traded him to the Cardinals in late October. Golden ended up having a much bigger impact with the Cardinals than the Giants in 2020. With the Giants, he played in seven games with one start (16 percent of all defensive snaps) and finished with just 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Golden was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Cardinals. After rejoining the Cardinals, Golden started the final eight games, including a 1-sack, 1-fumble recovery performance against the Giants in Week 14.
The Giants placedKyler Fackrellon Injured Reserve in early December 2020 with a calf injury and activated him to the 53-man roster in early January 2021. In all, Fackrell played in 12 games with nine starts. He played in 56 percent of all defensive snaps and finished the season with 34 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, four sacks, 10 quarterback hits, two pass defenses, one interception that he returned for a touchdown, and one forced fumble. The 6’5”, 245-pound Fackrell was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. In four seasons with Green Bay, Fackrell played in 61 regular-season games with nine starts, compiling 111 tackles, 16.5 sacks, one pass defense, and one forced fumble. Fackrell’s best season was in 2018 when he started seven games and accrued 42 tackles and 10.5 sacks. The Giants signed Fackrell an unrestricted free agent from the Packers in March 2020. Although not a dynamic athlete, Fackrell is a big, versatile linebacker who can play outside or inside linebacker. He flashes as a pass rusher.
The Giants signedJabaal Sheardoff of the Practice Squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars in October 2020. He ended up playing in nine games for the Giants with three starts (24 percent of all defensive snaps), and finished with 19 tackles, two tackles for losses, 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, and one forced fumble. The 6’3”, 268-pound Sheard was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He has spent time with the Browns (2011-2014), New England Patriots (2015-2016), Indianapolis Colts (2017-2019), and Jaguars (2020). Sheard has played in 144 regular-season games with 106 starts. While not a dynamic performer, Sheard is a steady, veteran presence who is solid against the run and will occasionally make some noise as a pass rusher.
The Giants selectedCarter Coughlinin the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He played in 14 games as a rookie with two starts (18 percent of all defensive snaps). Coughlin finished the season with 17 tackles, two tackles for losses, one sack, and two quarterback hits. The 6’3”, 236-pound Coughlin is not a top athlete, but he is a tough, competitive, and reliable linebacker who plays hard.
The Giants selectedCam Brownin the 6th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He played in 15 games as a rookie with no starts (8 percent of all defensive snaps). Brown finished the year with 12 tackles, three quarterback hits, and one forced fumble. The 6’5”, 233-pound Brown is a tall and lanky outside backer with long arms and decent speed. His size and solid athletic ability assist him coverage but he needs to improve his run defense at the point-of-attack and overall tackling consistency.
The Giants signedNiko Lalosas an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. Lalos spent most of the season on the Practice Squad but was elevated to the 53-man roster in December. He played in six games with no starts as a rookie (7 percent of all defensive snaps). Lalos finished the season with six tackles, one interception, one pass defense, and one fumble recovery. The 6’5”, 270-pound Lalos played defensive end in college but was moved to the outside linebacker position by the Giants. He has good size for the position, but is not a dynamic athlete. Over-achiever who plays hard.
The Giants signedTrent Harristo the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in October 2020; he was re-signed to the Practice Squad in December after playing in four games with two starts (6 percent of all defensive snaps). He finished they year with five tackles and 0.5 sacks. The 6’2”, 255-pound Harris was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the New England Patriots after the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on the Practice Squad of the Patriots. The Miami Dolphins claimed Harris off of waivers in September 2019. He played in 11 games with three starts with the Dolphins, accruing 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The Dolphins cut him in early September 2020.
The New York Giants have activated place kick Graham Gano off of the Reserve/COVID-19 List and linebacker Tae Crowder and safety Xavier McKinney off of Injured Reserve. However, the team also announced that linebacker Oshane Ximines, who has been on Injured Reserve since early October, will undergo surgery Monday to repair his right rotator cuff. Ximines had returned to practice this week, but the surgery will end his season. He had started three of the first four games of the year.
Gano was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List after the team’s last game two weeks ago.
Crowder, who has been on Injured Reserve since October 20th with a hamstring injury, returned to practice on November 11th. Crowder, the last player selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, has played in five games this year with two starts.
McKinney was placed on Injured Reserve in early September 2020 with a fractured left foot that he suffered in training camp and that required surgery. The team’s 2nd-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, McKinney has yet to play in a game this year. He returned to practice earlier this week.
Tight end Kaden Smith, offensive tackle Matt Peart, and wide receiver Dante Pettis remain on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.
GIANTS PLACE TAE CROWDER ON IR, SIGN JABAAL SHEARD…
The New York Giants have placed inside linebacker Tae Crowder (hamstring) on Injured Reserve and signed outside linebacker/defensive end Jabaal Sheard from the Practice Squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Giants selected Crowder with the last pick in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He has played in five games this year, starting two, accruing 18 tackles, one pass defense, and returning one fumble for game-winning touchdown last Sunday. Crowder must now sit out a minimum of three games.
The 31-year old, 6’3”, 268-pound Sheard was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He has spent time with the Browns (2011-2014), New England Patriots (2015-2016), Indianapolis Colts (2017-2019), and Jaguars (2020). Sheard has played in 135 regular-season games with 103 starts, accruing 362 tackles, 51.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, and 28 pass defenses. He started 12 games for the Colts in 2019. Sheard will not be eligible to play on Thursday night due to NFL COVID testing protocols.
In addition, the Carolina Panthers have signed safety Sean Chandler off of the Giants Practice Squad. The Giants originally signed Chandler as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. In the last three seasons, Chandler has played in 32 regular-season games for the Giants, including three games this year. Shepard was placed on IR on September 23rd and Williams on September 30th.
OCTOBER 20, 2020 NEW YORK GIANTS INJURY REPORT…
The Giants held a walk-thru practice on Tuesday. The following injury report is the team’s estimation on their status:
WR C.J. Board (concussion), LB Tae Crowder (hamstring), and S Adrian Colbert (shoulder) did not practice.
WR Darius Slayton (foot) and CB Darnay Holmes (neck) were limited. RB Dion Lewis (hand) fully practiced.
WR Sterling Shepard (turf toe) and CB Brandon Williams (groin), who are on Injured Reserve, both returned to practice. The Giants now have 21 days to decide whether to activate them to the 53-man roster or end their season on Injured Reserve.
HEAD COACH JOE JUDGE…
The transcript of Joe Judge’s press conference on Tuesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available on Giants.com.
Coach Judge also broke down game film for fans. See video on YouTube.
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:
NEW YORK GIANTS 20 – WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM 19…
It wasn’t pretty, but the New York Giants finally got their first win of the 2020 season by defeating the Washington Football Team 20-19 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday. The Giants are now 1-5 on the season.
Both teams came into the game with bottom tier offenses that continued to struggle in this contest. At the start of the game, the Giants actually benched rookie 1st-round pick Andrew Thomas for rookie 3rd-round pick Matt Peart at left tackle. Thomas was being penalized for being late to a team meeting on Saturday night. Meanwhile, it was the last player taken in the 2020 NFL Draft, linebacker Tae Crowder, who saved the day.
Washington actually significantly out-gained the Giants in first downs (24 to 16), total net yards (337 to 240), net yards passing (251 to 108), and time of possession (33:30 to 26:30). The Giants did out-rush Washington (132 to 86), but that was mainly due to quarterback Daniel Jones gaining 74 yards on the ground. The key stat was the Giants won the turnover battle 2-1, with one of Washington’s turnovers leading to a defensive score late in the 4th quarter.
Now counting the kneel down before halftime, the Giants only had the ball three times in the first half. And surprisingly, all three drives ended with points:
9 plays, 48 yards, 33-yard field goal
3 plays, 27 yards, 23-yard touchdown pass from Jones to WR Darius Slayton
8 plays, 73 yards, 20-yard field goal
Meanwhile, Washington had four first-half possessions:
12 plays, 39 yards, missed 47-yard field goal
2 plays, 0 yards, interception by CB James Bradberry returned 19 yards
11 plays, 70 yards, 35-yard field goal
13 plays, 70 yards, 5-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds before halftime
On the last drive, it was another case of the Giants’ defense performing well until late in the first half. Nevertheless, New York led 13-10 at the break.
The Giants’ offense did not score in the second half. Not counting the kneel down at the end of the game, the Giants again only had three possessions, two ending with punts and one ending with an interception on a play where Jones was trying to throw the football away after reaching the Washington 7-yard line late in the 3rd quarter.
Washington went three-and-out on their first possession of the second half, but tied the game at 13-13 on their second possession after driving 70 yards in 14 plays to set up a 28-yard field goal with just 9 minutes left to play in the game.
After New York punted the ball away on their last real possession of the game, Washington drove from their 25-yard line to the New York 45-yard line. On 3rd-and-9 with 3:41 to play, quarterback Kyle Allen was sacked by linebacker Kyle Fackrell. Allen fumbled on the play and rookie linebacker Tae Crowder scooped up the loose ball and returned it 43 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Giants 20 – Washington 13.
But just as the New York defense has struggled all year at the end of the first half, it has also struggled at the end of games. And this contest was no different. With 3:29 left to play, Washington drove 75 yards in 10 plays with Allen throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds left to play. Washington Head Coach Ron Rivera decided to go for the 2-point conversion and win. Allen’s pass fell incomplete and the Giants escaped with the victory after recovering the onside kick.
Jones only completed 12-of-19 passes for 112 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He did rush for 74 yards on seven carries, including a 49-yard effort. Tight end Kaden Smith caught three passes for 15 yards. No other player had more than two catches. Running back Devonta Freeman carried the ball 18 times for 61 yards.
Defensively, the Giants picked up three sacks: defensive lineman Leonard Williams, safety Logan Ryan, and Fackrell, the latter leading to the fumble recovery returned for a touchdown by Crowder. Bradberry also picked off a pass the set the Giants up on the Washington 27-yard line.
NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN TWO PLAYERS, BUT ROSS COCKRELL FALLS APART…
On Tuesday, the New York Giants signed offensive tackle Jackson Dennis and wide receiver Cody White. The Giants also waived tight end Kyle Markway and linebacker Mark McLaurin.
The 6’7”, 308-pound Dennis was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. The Cardinals cut him on July 26 when they reduced their roster to 80 players.
The 6’3”, 215-pound White was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. The Chiefs cut him on July 29 when the reduced their roster to 80 players. White is the son of former Giants cornerback Sheldon White, who played with the team in 1988-1989.
Markway was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft and McLaurin was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft. McLaurin spent all of 2019 on Injured Reserve after breaking his foot in training camp.
The Giants were believed to be on the verge of signing unrestricted free agent cornerback Ross Cockrell (Carolina Panthers). Cockrell had arrived at team facilities for COVID testing and his physical, but according to media reports he decided to back out a deal that the team had thought had already been agreed upon.
The 29-year old, 6’0”, 190-pound Cockrell was originally drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Bills (2014), Pittsburgh Steelers (2015-2016), Giants (2017), and Carolina Panthers (2018-2019). The Giants acquired Cockrell by trade from the Steelers in September 2017 for a conditional 7th round draft pick. He played well for the Giants that season, starting nine games, before signing with the Panthers in free agency the following year. Cockrell missed all of 2018 with a broken leg. In 2019, he played in 14 games with 11 starts for the Panthers in 2019, accruing 62 tackles, 8 pass defenses, and 2 interceptions.
TAE CROWDER ACTIVATED FROM NON-FOOTBALL INJURY LIST…
The New York Giants activated linebacker Tae Crowder from the Non-Football Injury List on August 9th. Crowder was placed on that list on July 28th with a foot injury. The Giants drafted Crowder in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
ALL OF NEW YORK GIANTS 2020 NFL DRAFT CLASS SIGNED…
The New York Giants announced late yesterday that all 10 of their 2020 NFL Draft picks have officially signed. This includes offensive tackle Andrew Thomas (1st round), safety Xavier McKinney (2nd round), offensive tackle Matt Peart (3rd round), cornerback Darnay Holmes (4th round), offensive guard Shane Lemieux (5th round), linebacker Cam Brown (6th round), linebacker Carter Coughlin (7th round), linebacker T.J. Brunson (7th round), defensive back Chris Williamson (7th round), and linebacker Tae Crowder (7th round).
ROSTER MOVES – GIANTS CLAIM CORNERBACK SHAKIAL TAYLOR…
The New York Giants have claimed defensive back Shakial Taylor off of waivers from the Denver Broncos. The 23-year old, 6’0”, 181-pound Taylor was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Indianapolis Colts after the 2019 NFL Draft. He was then claimed off of waivers by the Broncos in November 2019. Taylor played in five games and accrued seven tackles and one pass defense as a rookie.
The Giants have also waived undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Malcolm Elmore, who failed his physical due to a non-football injury.
Wide receiver David Sills was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, which means he either tested positive for the virus or came into contact with someone who did. While he remains on the list, Sill does not count against the team’s 90-man roster limit. The 6’3”, 211-pound Sills was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Buffalo Bills after the 2019 NFL Draft. The Giants signed Sills to the Practice Squad in September 2019 after he was cut by the Bills. The Giants then signed him to the 53-man roster in mid-December. He did not play in a game however.
Quarterback Alex Tanney was placed on the Non-Football Illness List with an undisclosed issue. He counts against the 90-man roster limit. The Giants signed Tanney in May 2018 after after he was cut by the Tennessee Titans. The 6’4”, 220-pound Tanney was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2012 NFL Draft. The well-traveled journeyman has spent time with the Chiefs (2012), Dallas Cowboys (2013), Cleveland Browns (2013), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014), Titans (2014), Buffalo Bills (2015), Indianapolis Colts (2015), and Titans again (2015–2018). He surprisingly won the back-up quarterback job to Eli Manning in 2018, but was moved to third-string in 2019, being active for only one game.
Linebacker Tae Crowder was placed on the Non-Football Injury List with an undisclosed issue. He counts against the 90-man roster limit. The Giants selected Crowder in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
In other moves, the team officially announced that they have waived place kicker Aldrick Rosas. The signing of international player running back Sandro Platzgummer also became official.
GIANTS DECIDE TO GO SPLIT-SQUAD ROUTE…
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, NFL teams had to decide whether they wanted to reduce their training camp rosters on July 28 or August 16. The Giants have chosen the latter. But in doing so, the team must be split into (1) veteran and (2) rookies/first-year players/rehabbing players/select quarterbacks contingents until August 16. Teams will be allowed to begin practicing on August 17.
NEW YORK GIANTS VETERANS REPORTS TO CAMP…
As scheduled, the bulk of New York Giants players reported to training camp in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Tuesday. Quarterbacks, rookies, and rehabbing players reported on July 23.
Actual practices are not expected to be held until mid-August due to COVID-19 restrictions. All preseason games have been canceled. The Giants’ regular-season Monday night home opener is currently scheduled for September 14th. For the players who arrived on Tuesday, the current schedule looks like this:
July 28: Report and receive first test; return home/hotel and participate in virtual meetings.
July 29: Report and receive second test; return home/hotel and participate in virtual meetings.
July 30: Stay at home/hotel and only participate in virtual meetings.
July 31: Report and receive third test; participate in virtual meetings.
August 1-2: Players who test negative receive physicals and equipment fitting.
August 3-16: Strength and conditioning and on-field walk-throughs.
August 17: Helmet and shells practices begin, slowing being ramped up to full-padded work (14 padded practices maximum).
According to media reports, the Giants will conduct most training camp functions at MetLife Stadium in order to be better comply with COVID-19 restrictions. The home and away locker rooms at the stadium will allow for greater social distancing. The Giants will also have access to suites inside the stadium in order to hold team meetings. However, the Giants will still practice at nearby Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Practices will not be open to the public.
New York Giants place kicker Aldrick Rosas was arrested on Monday in California for allegedly being involved in a hit-and-run accident and driving with a suspended license. Police also report Rosas was allegedly under the influence of alcohol at the time.
TMZ is reporting that witnesses saw Rosas allegedly driving erratically around 100 miles per hour and failing to stop at a red light at approximately 8:30AM. He then allegedly crashed into the side of a truck at the intersection, but kept driving. Police report that Rosas later fled his disabled vehicle on foot. They found him near the crash site with his hands, legs, and bare feet covered in blood.
Rosas was treated at a nearby medical facility before being booked by police.
The Giants released the following statement today: “We are aware of the situation and have been in contact with Aldrick. We have no further comment at this time.”
The Giants re-signed Rosas as a restricted free agent to a 1-year, $3.259 million contract in April.
After a stellar sophomore pro season in 2018, Rosas regressed in 2019. Rosas was 12-of-17 (70.6 percent) on field goal attempts and missed four of his 39 extra point attempts (89.7 percent). Seventy percent of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.
Rosas was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Tennessee Titans after the 2016 NFL Draft. He did not make the team. The Giants signed him to a reserve/futures contract in January 2017. He had a poor first season with the Giants, converting on just 72 percent of his field goals and 87 percent of his extra points. However, in 2018, Rosas made the Pro Bowl after making 32-of-33 field goal attempts, including a team-record 57 yarder.
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.
2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: If we go back in time one year, many believed that while the defensive line and secondary would improve, it was the linebacking unit that still seemed very much unsettled. After all, the 3-4 defense relies on the linebackers to be the play-makers. The Giants had traded away their best pass rusher, Olivier Vernon. Markus Golden was signed in free agency, but he had yet to return to his pre-injury form from 2016 (12.5 sacks). There was a desperate hope and need for second-year player Lorenzo Carter to beat out disappointing free agent Kareem Martin, relegating the latter to reserve duty. The Giants had also drafted Oshane Ximines in the 3rd round.
Inside linebacker was also a bit confused. The Giants were hoping that Alec Ogletree would become more consistent. It wasn’t clear if B.J. Goodson or Tae Davis would start alongside him. Much wasn’t expected immediately of 5th rounder Ryan Connelly.
So what happened? Golden actually ended up being a good signing, starting all 16 games and accruing a career-high 72 tackles, and team-high 10 sacks. On the other hand, Carter disappointed. Despite starting 12 games, he finished the year with just 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Martin was placed on Injured Reserve in September 2019 with a knee injury that he suffered in the regular-season opener. He was activated back to the active roster in December and finished the year with only three tackles in five games, with no starts. Ximines had a mixed performance as a rookie, receiving significant playing time (45 percent of all defensive snaps). While he flashed at times as a pass rusher (4.5 sacks), he struggled against the run. The Giants also added some in-season pick-ups who saw limited playing time such Devante Downs, Chris Peace, and Tuzar Skipper.
Inside, it was worse. Goodson was traded to the Packers before the season started. Davis was cut during the season in October. Ogletree missed three games and his overall play noticeably declined. At times, he simply appeared to be going through the motions. The brief bright spot was rookie Connelly, but he tore his ACL in Week 4. The Giants signed David Mayo in September after he was cut by the 49ers and surprisingly ended up starting 13 games. He played just OK. Special teams player Nate Stupar was waived, re-signed, and waived again. Undrafted rookie free agent Josiah Tauaefa made the team but saw most of his action on special teams. Deone Bucannon was signed in October after he was cut by the Buccaneers, starting one game, but playing mostly in a reserve role.
Overall, except for Golden and a brief couple of games from Connelly, the linebacking corps once again was a disappointment in all phases: run defense, rushing the passer, and coverage. The Giants finished 20th in run defense. The team generated 36 sacks with 23.5 coming from the linebackers (10 of those from Golden alone). Coverage on opposing tight ends and running backs remained abysmal.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The revolving door at this position continues. The team’s best linebacker in 2019, Markus Golden, remains in limbo as an unsigned unrestricted free agent. Joe Judge says the team would like him back. Expensive David Gettleman mistakes Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin were let go in February. Deone Bucannon signed with the Falcons in May. The Steelers re-signed Skipper from the Giants’ Practice Squad in November.
Devante Downs and David Mayo were re-signed. The Giants signed free agents inside linebacker Blake Martinez ($31 million) and outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell ($4.6 million). An influx of rookies arrived in April, including Cam Brown (6th round), Carter Coughlin (7th round), T.J. Brunson (7th round), Tae Crowder (7th round), Dominique Ross (UDFA), Dana Levine (UDFA), and Oluwole Betiku (UDFA).
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: There are a lot of bodies (17), but how many are good players? The team’s most productive pass rusher, Golden, remains unsigned. As of now, the Giants are relying on Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and a late draft pick/rookie free agent to supply the outside pass rush. While the first three players have flashed at times, that’s asking a lot. The belief by many is that new Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham will have to scheme the pass rush.
Inside, much depends on the performance of Blake Martinez and how well Ryan Connelly comes back from a serious knee injury. Opinions on Martinez vary wildly. And Connelly has to prove he hasn’t lost speed/agility. Mayo provides depth and insurance.
Did the Giants find gold with any of the late four draft picks or three undrafted rookie free agents?
ON THE BUBBLE:When you have 17 players at one position, a lot of people are on the bubble. Barring injury, one would think that Fackrell, Carter, and Ximines are safe outside and Martinez and Connelly will make it inside. Mayo has an experience advantage, but he faces competition from at least two rookies (Brunson and Crowder). Will the Giants re-sign Golden? All five rookie outside linebackers have intriguing characteristics, but they all can’t make it. Special teams play probably will be a significant factor.
PREDICTIONS: Stating the obvious, the Giants don’t have an edge rusher who scares the heck out of the opposition and demands potential double-team attention. Even if the team re-signs Golden, he’s more of a complimentary piece than headliner. Fackrell could surprise as he did have a double-digit sack season in 2018 under Patrick Graham. So much depends on whether or not new outside linebacker coach Bret Bielema can develop Carter and Ximines. (Incidentally, a nice addition for Carter was that he former college coach is now coaching the inside linebackers). The pass rush could be aided if the inside linebackers and safeties can improve their coverage against tight ends. The longer a QB has to hold the football, the more time the pass rushers will have to get to the QB. Barring an unlikely breakout season by someone, the Giants are not likely to be a strong pass rushing team in 2020.
On the other hand, contrary to many, I’m a bit more bullish on the inside guys as long as Ryan Connelly can fully recover from his ACL injury. Martinez and Connelly are two smart, heady, better-athletes-than-advertised players who could form a very respectable duo inside.
FINAL DEPTH CHART: Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin, Blake Martinez, Ryan Connelly, David Mayo, T.J. Brunson
I’m throwing darts at a dartboard when it comes to predicting rookies at this point. For example, who knows if Brunson or Crowder will show more? The heart of any special teams unit are the reserve linebackers and defensive backs so a lot of these guys could make it. I would not be shocked to see one or even two of the undrafted rookie free agents really push for a roster spot. Don’t sleep on guys like Ross, Levine, and Betiku.
MEDIA SESSIONS WITH T.J. BRUNSON, CHRIS WILLIAMSON, TAE CROWDER…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with New York Giants draft picks linebacker T.J. Brunson (7th round), CB/S Chris Williamson (7th round), and linebacker Tae Crowder (7th round):
Q: I was looking at your bio for South Carolina and a lot of things that were highlighted was tenacity, leadership…is that you?
A: Yes, sir. That’s me.
Q: Where did that come from?
A: I believe that the tenacity and everything came from just the way I was raised. I have two older brothers, so I kind of came up fighting them, wrestling around with them. I come from an athletic family, so sports have always been kind of something that we’ve done. Just growing up in that type of household, it made me competitive, it made me fierce. I just go out on the field and have fun.
Q: How long did it take you to beat them?
A: They kind of stopped once I started getting bigger. I don’t think they’ve really tried to mess with me since I’ve gotten older, but I never got a chance to.
Q: What are you doing to stay in shape, what’s your situation like amid this? Also, what were your interactions with Joe Judge before the draft and then when he called you, what was your impression of him?
A: Right now, just with working out and everything, I’ve been trying to stay within social distancing guidelines. I’ve been able to get in what I need to and stick to my routine so far. Before the draft, my only interaction with Coach Judge was at the Senior Bowl. I was lucky enough to be a participant of that and I had an interview with the Giants. That was the first interaction and I thought he was a pretty laid back guy. You know, he’s about ball and he knows what he’s talking about for sure. I’m excited to play for him and get on the team and just see what the Giants are about.
Q: What was that initial call like when you got the call that you were drafted by him? What was his message to you?
A: Really, he just asked me if I was ready to work. It was pretty simple. Let me know that they liked me, and they thought I was a good player. You know, the real message there was just come in ready to work and prove yourself.
Q: I read that you played over 2,500 snaps in college over a three-year career, which would suggest good durability on your part. Can you talk about your durability and also what are some of the roles they asked you to play within that defense?
A: When it comes to durability, I feel like I’m a guy that’s going to just be out there every game, as long as I’m healthy. But I’m a guy that’s going to do what it takes to get on the field to help my team out. That just comes with preparation and just how I take care of my body.
Q: What type of role did you play in the defense?
A: I think I was the guy that just went out there to bring energy and to play fast, but I’ve played Mike, Will and wherever else I needed to line up. There were a few times that I lined up as a single high safety and I was a middle field safety. So, wherever they need me to play, I feel like I’m comfortable and I’m able to do it.
Q: I see you were also a two-time captain. What did that mean to you to be voted captain by your peers?
A: Yes, being a two-time captain is big just for the simple fact that I was voted on by my peers. It just made me feel as if I had a stronger role to play on the team. I was definitely a guy that had to come out every day and prove myself and prove why I had those titles.
Q: As a guy who was a captain in college, seventh round pick coming in as a rookie, there is a lot of emphasis on culture in terms of what Joe Judge is trying to build. How do you come in as a rookie and try to assert that leadership role right away?
A: My only focus is getting in and doing what I’m supposed to do to help the team. I don’t have any predictions, or I don’t plan on going in there being that guy. I just want to go in there and do my job and do it to the best of my capabilities. Whatever is asked of me, I plan on doing it at full speed and just doing it the way that it should be done.
Q: Were there any alumni from South Carolina or any current pros that might have helped you out through this process, given you some advice, trained with you, or that sort of thing?
A: I’ve had a couple different guys just talk to me. Taylor Stallworth is one of those guys, they just kept me level. Dennis Daley as well. They really just kept me level to the process of training for the combine, pro day or whatever and getting ready for the draft and now we’re post-draft. It’s a little bit different this year than what they had to go through, but I think they’ve given me enough information and knowledge of what to expect that I’m pretty…I’m ready for it.
Q: I’m curious what your experience level was like in college on special teams? Do you know anybody that you’ve come across from this draft class that you’re close with? I know there are a couple of linebackers there that were all drafted late by this team…do you know each other from the pre-draft things or even college recruiting?
A: I know Cam Brown from Senior Bowl and he’s the only guy that I really know.
Q: And special teams?
A: When I came into South Carolina, I started off on special teams and that was my way of getting on the field and getting on the roster. That was also how the coaches gained their trust in the players, so whatever it took. I was out on every type of drill that they had in practice, I was going out trying to get out there first. I know that’s kind of my role and how I make this team, how I can help out and make it better. Any type of special teams, whatever they need me to do, I’m out there.
Q: What role on special teams did you like? Were there any that stood out?
A: I think my favorite is probably punt. But I don’t mind…I like kickoff, punt return. I like everything pretty much.
Q: I was reading up and saw you played basketball for a while and then gave it up. I guess the line was that you have five fouls and used them all pretty much every game. Is that fair?
A: I’m not sure where that came from. I grew up playing baseball. I’ve been a baseball player my whole life. I played…I started varsity in eighth grade, played all of the way through my senior year. But I kind of had to, just because of the way football and baseball worked, I missed a lot of travel ball and stuff because of football workouts. I decided after a while I put in so much time in football and they give full scholarships, so I decided to take the football route.
Q: Where did you play baseball? What was your favorite position?
A: I played third base. My senior year, I got moved to right field because we didn’t have any outfielders. I played third, I played first but primarily third.
Q: Were you a good hitter?
A: I’d like to think so.
Q: When was the last time you were in a cage and swung a bat?
A: Since high school.
Q: If they (Giants) have one of those charity softball games, you’ll jump in and maybe surprise us.
A: I’ll be out there, no doubt.
Q: Do you know Tae Crowder at all? I know you were picked a couple spots prior to him. Him being the last pick in the entire draft, can there be some fun element to that?
A: I haven’t had any personal conversations with him. I played against him the past couple of years. I’ve seen him play in person. I’m sure he’s a baller, I know he’s a baller for the fact that he was in the position he’s in. I was in the same position almost. I’m looking forward to working. I don’t really have much to say. I haven’t talked to him or said anything to him, but I’m excited. I know what type of guys Georgia has and I know that he is going to come out there and be a dog.
Q: You initially committed to Louisville and then flipped to South Carolina and you had somewhat of a special relationship with your head coach. Tell us a little bit about that relationship.
A: I was committed to Louisville and I took my official visit in December, I think. It just didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like home for me. I committed to South Carolina with Coach Mushchamp. I was also Coach Muschamp’s first visit after he got the job after the press conference. Everything he told me from day one has pretty much come to fruition. Those things were just you get in here, work hard, keep your head down and you’ll see what you’re working for. Over the years, our relationship grew and I kind of understood him and what he wants in the program and things like that. It made it easier for me.
Q: What did it mean to you that you were the first recruit he went to visit after he was hired?
A: It was big to know that someone, especially a coach like that in the SEC, felt like I was important enough to go out and get to help start a team for his inaugural season. That’s going down in history, we’re his first class. It’s crazy looking back at it knowing all of our stories and how we got there and things like that.
Q: How much are you interested to see how this remote learning thing works? Are you worried about it? Do you have any experience with it? Is it a disadvantage for rookies to be learning this way? Is there disappointment in not getting onto the field at a rookie minicamp?
A: Because of everything going on right now, I think this is the best option we have. I personally don’t have an issue with it. I’d rather be up there in person. If this is how we have to get our football in, then there’s no problem with that. As far as I know from what I’ve been told, the way they have it set up, it seems like it’s going to be helpful for us. I think it’s a disadvantage for rookies not to see where they are going to be and be there in person. We’re also expected to come in and pick up what’s going on and play fast. I think this will help us when we get there. Hopefully it’s before August. If we don’t get there until August, we’re supposed to hit the ground and be able to pick up everything that’s going on. I think this gives us a chance to really understand the calls and the defense and get out there and play fast.
Q: You think if you get here by August there will be even more appreciation for playing?
A: Definitely. That’s when it will really settle in for me. Once I get a helmet on and get up there and start playing around, I think that’s when it will be real.
Q: You don’t even have any Giants gear right? Are they going to send you any Giants gear?
A: I hope so, I’m waiting on it. I’m definitely waiting on it. My dad’s a Raiders fan, my whole family is Raiders fans.
Q: You have to wear blue not black right?
A: Yeah, definitely now. We’re going to deck the house out in some blue.
Q: Playing in the SEC I’m curious who were some of the best offensive linemen? Did you ever line up opposite Andrew Thomas and what was it like going up against him?
A: We would go through the scouting reports and we know which guys are the guys for each team. I don’t think I had too many run ins with a lot of those big offensive linemen. I did my best to stay away from them. I ran into Jedrick Willis from Alabama, pretty strong guy, athletic. Isaiah (Wilson), he can move, good pick. Because it’s the SEC, you see guys week in and week, out so it’s almost hard to figure out which guy is that guy on each team when it comes to offensive line. I don’t really have much to say on that because I wasn’t on the ball with those guys.
Q: I’m sure for every young guy it’s a dream of a lifetime to get drafted. What was this experience like, the remote experience, and what have your interactions with the Giants been? What have they told you in what to expect going forward here?
A: To have my dream finally come true, it’s been a huge blessing. It still hasn’t truly hit me yet, just because I’ve been home. I’ve been around my family and stuff like that, but it still hasn’t truly hit me all the way. So, I’m still letting it hit me day by day. It was a good experience. I was with my dad and my brother at the time when I found out. Just to see the excitement on their faces, they know I was excited as well too. I know they were happy for me as well because it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to hear my name called in the NFL. To finally have my name called, it was just like a huge weight off my shoulders and I feel extremely humbled and blessed by the experience.
Q: Most rookies in other years would be getting ready to come to New Jersey, you’re not doing that. What do you think it’s going to be like with a virtual rookie minicamp?
A: I don’t have any expectations because I really don’t, I don’t know what to expect at this time. We’ll see how everything goes, but it’s something I’m looking forward to, most definitely.
Q: When we spoke to Joe Judge, he was talking about you playing corner, safety, sort of what they call the star position. What have been your experiences where you did play in college. When you spoke to teams where did they sort of envision you fitting in?
A: Yeah, the one thing a lot of teams talked to me about is my versatility. I have the ability to play multiple positions in the back end. Even with the Giants, they kind of talked about me doing the same thing of being able to do those multiple positions. But every team I talked to kind of had that same idea for me. I’d be a guy who’d kind of be like a Swiss Army Knife and can do multiple things on the back end.
Q: How much did you actually play safety in college and do that part of it?
A: Well, I didn’t get to play a whole bunch of safety. But actually I had a spring ball, actually when I was at Florida, where I did nothing but strictly safety. So, I’ve actually had the opportunity throughout my college career to practice at each position.
Q: I saw that right after you were drafted you got the Darius Slayton seal of approval for the pick. Tell me about your relationship with him, how far back do you guys go?
A: Man, me and Darius’ relationship, it goes back extremely far. I’ve known Darius… I mean we grew up playing football against each other, we grew up running track against each other. The biggest memory me and him have of each other is playing each other in our 9-year-old football league, the Gwinnett Football League, which is one of the top youth football leagues in Georgia. Like I was talking about earlier, we played them in the regular season and they beat us pretty bad. It was like 34-0. I know at the time they got the mercy rule as the youth football league, so they mercy ruled us. They actually beat us pretty good. Then later on in the season we got the chance to play them again in the 9-year-old football championship for the Gwinnett Football League. The funny thing about it, his team hadn’t lost a game in two to three years, so they were the best team in the league. So, they pulled up to the championship game in all white stretched-out Hummer limousines. These are 9-year-old kids now, pulling up in limousines. They were expecting to win. We played the game and we actually won the game, 14-0, so we came out on top. I mean I know it had to be kind of embarrassing pulling up in a limousine and losing. But you know, it’s something I still hold over Darius to this day.
Q: Did you get to ride the limos home at least?
A: No, we didn’t. That was their team. I don’t even think they rode the limos home (laughter).
Q: Were you always a defensive back and he was always a receiver?
A: No, I was actually an offensive guy. I grew up playing offense the majority of my life. I didn’t actually switch to defense until my senior year of high school. I was always kind of training for it, but I had never actually truly played it in a game until my senior year of high school. Actually, Darius was a corner in high school, so he kind of, I mean he was doing corner and wide receiver in high school and I guess he decided to stick with wide receiver in his college career.
Q: I was looking at your background and it looks like a lot of the decisions you made moving from wide receiver to defensive back, transferring to from Florida to Minnesota with maybe a path to the NFL in mind. Is that the case? Talk a little bit about Ray Buchanon.
A: That’s honestly where it all kind of starts. The move from wide receiver to defensive back honestly came from Ray Buchanon. I met him in the summer of eighth grade when I was training. Me and him have had an extremely close relationship up until this day. He still mentors me and I train with him every time I’m home. I was always playing receiver and I was a six-foot receiver. You can find a lot of six-foot receivers, but I was kind of a bigger defensive back. The one nugget that Ray always put in my head was you’re an average size receiver, but you’re a big defensive back that can move. There’s not too many guys who are big and can move that get paid at the next level. He was always throwing that nugget in my head. My senior year of high school was the first year I had played defensive back. I had always been training with him for defensive back, but I never truly played it in a high school game. I definitely give the credit for me making that move to Ray Bucannon.
Q: I want to follow up with Ray Buchanon, he played for a Super Bowl team in the Atlanta Falcons. What are some of the lessons he taught you? You mentioned he was very instrumental in your development. Can talk about some of the things he taught you that you feel were instrumental in getting you to the next level?
A: He was one of the first people I talked to when I was considering transferring. He has always been a person that has my best interest at heart. He always wanted what was best for me. He was a huge asset to have during that time period. The transition from wide receiver to defensive back was something he helped me with, as well. He’s had a huge role in my corner. He’s more so like a second father to me as well. Just having somebody like that who’s already played in the NFL is a huge blessing. I can still train with him, there’s a lot of things about the game he teaches me as well. Things I may not see. I have the opportunity to send him clips of film from practice and he’ll break that down for me and stuff that I did wrong. It’s a true blessing to have somebody like that in my corner.
Q: What about in terms of the little things? We talk about players taking care of their bodies and all that stuff. Things that you don’t necessarily learn at the college level. Did he share some of that with you?
A: Yeah, he always expressed to me the importance of taking care of my body. I truly learned on my own my freshman year of college. Having to go through and just deal with some of my own injuries, it was kind of something I learned on my own. He’s definitely always told me the importance of taking care of my body. Putting the right things in terms of the right fluid and food in my body as well.
Q: You said you were with your dad and your brother when you got the call. Younger brother or older brother?
A: Younger brother, he’s 19, he will be 20 this year. He actually plays ball at Stanford.
Q: What kind of background do you have on special teams? Is that something you did in college? It’s probably where you will start out with this team.
A: Most definitely. Throughout my college career I played on every single special teams and that’s something I was able to communicate with each and every team that I talked to. This past year they took a lot of our guys, a lot of our starters, and kept them off special teams. We had a lot of young guys who they wanted to get out there and see them in some smaller roles. They took a lot of our starters off special teams this year. Throughout my college career, I played every special teams so that’s not an issue at all.
Q: Are you going to room with Carter (Coughlin) when you finally do get here?
A: It’s definitely something that was discussed. It would be nice because that’s somebody that can help me. We can help each other throughout this process. That’s somebody I already know that I have had a previous relationship with, that I’ve played with. We are both on the same side of the ball and can learn the playbook together. It would be nice to room with Carter.
Q: I asked you before about remote learning. How do you think that’s going to go down? Do you think that’s going to be a big disadvantage for rookies coming in, instead of getting on the field and showing what you can do this spring? Do you have any experience with remote learning?
A: I don’t think it puts anybody at a disadvantage. Of course, every rookie that’s coming in wants to get on the field and show what they can do. Football is such a physical game, but it’s also a part of the mental makeup. Guys who are successful at the NFL level, it comes from the mental aspect of the game. We’ll be able to expand our mental part of the game and come in and maybe be more ready than just being thrown into the fire of things. We’ve had time to talk it over with coaches and stuff like that. I don’t think it puts us at a disadvantage. It might be an advantage honestly.
Media Q&A with LB Tae Crowder:
Q: I read that there were a lot of teams that were interested in you as an undrafted free agent. What was that whole process at the end when the Giants announced that they were going to pick you? What was that moment like where maybe you were thinking you weren’t going to get drafted?
A: It was a crazy moment, you know. It was really stressful. A lot of teams were kind of saying the same things. It came down to who I thought was the best. But New York was one of them and they ended up pulling the trigger. I just thank God for that.
Q: What was that moment like when they did announce your name and you knew you were a draft pick?
A: It was crazy just because I was already planning on signing for free agency. That whole process, I can’t even explain how it felt but my family was happy, I was happy and that’s all that matters.
Q: What’s the difference between getting drafted and becoming a free agent? Are you familiar with the Mr. Irrelevant concept and can you have a little bit of fun with it?
A: Obviously I can now that I read up on it, but at first, I knew about Mr. Irrelevant but I didn’t know all of the stuff that came with it. It’s pretty special for me and my family. We’ll have fun with it.
Q: I think the guy usually gets a parade and things like that. I don’t know if they are going to be able to do that this year, but did you get anything from this honor?
A: Yeah, so they called me right after the draft and we kind of talked about everything, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to actually do it. I think they’ll reach out to me, I guess, when everything clears up. We’ll just have to find a way to plan it with my family.
Q: Just to clarify, were you going to sign with the Giants? That was a team you had chosen?
A: I don’t know who I was going to sign with at the moment, but I just thank God that they pulled the trigger and drafted me.
Q: I was doing some research on you and I saw that you had a rather interesting path to get to where you are. You started off at Georgia Southern and then you switched over to Georgia and you were initially recruited, I think, as a running back. Can you just walk us through that journey and how you kind of got from point A to where you are now?
A: Yeah, so I was committed to Georgia Southern for a while and I was going to end up switching to the University of Kentucky late, but I always knew I wanted to go to Georgia. I was having conversations with different people trying to figure out some things and trying to see if Georgia was going to ever offer me. But the week of signing day, that’s when I ended up finding out they wanted to give me the offer. They gave me the offer like two days or a day prior to signing day. That whole time was stressful for me, too, but that’s how I ended up going to Georgia.
Q: How did they flip you from running back, which I believe they initially recruited you as, to linebacker? How did that come about?
A: I was just on scout team at practice, just working hard, and my coach ended up noticing it just going against the number one defense, making plays, he saw that I was an athlete and that I should be on the field. He reached out to me, we had a meeting, and he was like he sees me as a linebacker and stuff like that, as a defensive player. We just had a one-day tryout, and at that tryout I ended up doing pretty good and I stayed there from then.
Q: I know you’re excited to be drafted and all, but there are some that believe if you get that low in the draft it’s actually better to have the option of being a free agent to choose your own place. Did that thought ever cross your mind, leaving the draft?
A: Yeah, my agent was talking about it the whole time. Like I said, we were already planning on doing free agent stuff. It worked out for me though. I can’t complain about getting drafted and coming to a great organization. Like I said, I’m just truly blessed for this.
Q: What is the difference between being the last pick in the draft in terms of what it means to you just to be drafted versus being a free agent? In terms of money there is a little bit of a difference, but what does it mean to be drafted?
A: It means a lot to me and my family and my community. I’m one of the first ones from my town to get drafted and that’s pretty big where I’m from. I’m from a small town, many people don’t make it from here. It brought the city out, they have my name hanging up in different places and stuff like that. It was a blessing and a dream come true for me.
Q: Can you be more specific about what kind of things were hanging in town? Did they have some banners hanging up for you and things like that?
A: Yeah, they had some banners. At the high school, they had a program with my name on there saying, ‘Congrats Tae Crowder, NFL Draft 2020’. Stuff like that.
Q: That wouldn’t have happened if you were a free agent, right?
A: We’ll never know.
Q: Can you talk about your teammate in college who will be your teammate in the NFL (Andrew Thomas)?
A: Andrew Thomas is a great player, a great person. He takes his work serious, he’s just a great kid. Football and off the field stuff is really important to him, and I respect him for that. I loved each day at practice in college just going to work with him, helping him lead the team and stuff like that. I highly respect my teammate Andrew Thomas.
Q: Did you go up against him a lot in practice?
A: Yeah, we went up against each other a few times and he was pretty good.
Q: You could have been running behind him instead of going up against him.
A: You’re right about that. I think I would rather run behind him.
Q: You went against Sony Michel and Nick Chubb in practice a lot. Can you just talk about the challenges and what that taught? How did that help you find your skills as a linebacker?
A: Just being in the room with them as a running back, it was crazy switching sides. From running drills with them to now I have to run drills against him. It just made me better as a young linebacker going against great athletes like them. It was fun, sometimes it was tough moving to linebacker and going against them. They were first round and second round picks. It paid off and it made me better.
Q: You are being reunited with quote unquote your “dogs”, Lorenzo Carter and DeAndre Baker. What does that mean to be reunited with them on the same defense? What can you guys bring together with that Georgia Bulldog mentality?
A: It’s just a dream come true. We know how each other works. It will be fun catching up, going to work with them and being on the field with each other once again.
Q: Can you describe what kind of a player you are? Can you play Will, Sam, can you cover running backs? Can you give me a handle on that?
A: I’m an aggressive player, a disciplined player. A hard-working player and I like to make plays for the team. I can play Sam, I can play Will and Mike. I’m pretty good in coverage. I love to fit the run and I love to cover backs too.
5th Round: OG Shane Lemieux, 6’4”, 310lbs, 5.13, University of Oregon
6th Round: LB Cam Brown, 6’5”, 233lbs, 4.69, Penn State
7th Round: LB Carter Coughlin, 6’3”, 236lbs, 4.58, University of Minnesota
7th Round: LB T.J. Brunson, 6’0”, 230lbs, N/A, University of South Carolina
7th Round: CB/S Chris Williamson, 6’0”, 200lbs, 4.43, University of Minnesota
7th Round: LB Tae Crowder, 6’3”, 235lbs, N/A, University of Georgia
Scouting Report on CB Darnay Holmes: The 5’10”, 195-pound Holmes was a 3-year starter at UCLA. He lacks ideal height and is probably best suited to slot corner in the NFL. Holmes is a very smart and competitive player who is equally comfortable with press and off coverage. Good speed and quickness. He makes plays on the football. Overly aggressive at times, Holmes needs to guard better against double moves. Despite his lack of size, he is a tough guy who will play the run. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs.
Sy’56’s Take on CB Darnay Holmes: Slot corner that can come in year 1 and compete for a nickel job. Graduated college in under 3 years. Smart and savvy, shows up on the field. Can mirror quick slot receivers, has some size/playing strength issues.
Scouting Report on OG Shane Lemieux: The 6’4”, 310-pound Lemieux started an incredible 52 games in college, never missing a game. Tough, strong, blue-collar offensive guard who could project to center. He has good size but also has athletic limitations that will limit his upside. Lemieux can create movement as a run blocker, but can be exposed by quick pass rushers at times. Smart.
Sy’56’s Take on OG Shane Lemieux: Fifth year senior from Yakima, Washington. Four year starter who never missed a game, 52 consecutive starts. Two-time 2nd Team All Pac 12 and 2019 2nd Team All American. Lemieux is a reliable, know-what-you’re-getting guard who won’t be a guy who consistently hurts an offense, but has a limited upside. He is big and plays with a blue collar attitude, often overpowering and out-hustling his man. However there are certain matchups and situations where his tight hips and inconsistent pad level pops up. He will need to be protected a bit, but he should at least be a solid interior backup early on with the potential to start down the road.
*I talked about how impressive and rare it is to see a lineman start 46 games over the course of a career. Lemieux started 52! Just amazing. I really wanted to grade him higher than this because I love his grit and style. However I just can’t get beyond the stiffness he shows when something unexpected comes his way. He might be a guy who can play early but he needs to be protected and you can’t have him move laterally that often. I just wouldn’t want to see him on an island against these quicker interior pass rushers.
Scouting Report on LB Cam Brown: The 6’5”, 233-pound Brown was a 2-year starter at Penn State. Very tall and lanky outside backer with long arms and decent speed. Brown is an aggressive but not overly instinctive player. His size and solid athletic ability assist him coverage but he needs to improve his run defense at the point-of-attack and overall tackling consistency. Team leader.
Sy’56’s Take on LB Cam Brown: A frame and tool set that every coach is going to want to work with because of the multi-down versatility he can offer. Can be a weapon in coverage because of his top shelf length and loose hips.
Scouting Report on LB Carter Coughlin: A 3-year starter at Minnesota, the 6’3”, 236-pound Coughlin is an outside linebacker who can play over the tight end. He may project to inside linebacker in the pros. Coughlin can set the edge against the run. Hustles and chases. Coughlin is limited by his athletic limitations, but he is a tough, competitive over-achiever who is reliable and consistent. Solid in coverage.
Sy’56’s Take on LB Carter Coughlin: 40 career TFL + 22.5 career sacks. Sneaky athlete that will be a “multiple” LB for NYG defense that wants to be able to change schemes weekly. A natural in coverage, effective with his hands as a rusher, and plays low.
Scouting Report on LB T.J. Brunson: The 6’0”, 230-pound Brunson is an undersized inside linebacker with decent but not ideal athleticism. He is very physical and aggressive, to the point where it sometimes hurts his game. Brunson needs to play under more control and consistently wrap up as a tackler. Hard worker and team leader.
Sy’56’s Take on LB T.J. Brunson: One of the biggest combine snubs. Bruiser that leaves a mark when he hits you, shows good tackle to tackle range. Versatile on third down because he can blitz well and carry tight ends up the seam.
Scouting Report on CB/S Chris Williamson: The 6’0”, 200-pound Williams combines good size and overall athleticism. He has experience playing as a hybrid inside defensive back/linebacker and is physical with receivers in coverage. Williamson is aggressive in run support and will hit but he needs to play under more control.
Sy’56’s Take on CB/S Chris Williamson: One of the favorites down at Shrine week. Top shelf athletic ability but also shows the discipline to stay in phase, trusting his feet and balance. Might be an ideal fit for nickel but can play outside.
Scouting Report on LB Tae Crowder: The 6’3”, 235-pound Crowder was moved from running back to linebacker in college and thus is still learning the position. Only a 1-year starter. He is a good athlete and has added size to his frame. More instinctive than you would expect given his lack of experience.
Sy’56’s Take on LB Tae Crowder: Leader of a talented Georgia defense that plays fast and physical. Maybe more of a 2-down guy that the team drafted for special teams, the theme of their 7th round.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Gettleman on CB Darnay Holmes: We had a good day today. I’m very pleased with what happened. We took all defensive guys except for Shane Lemieux, the guard in the fifth round. The theme of the day for defense was speed. We really feel like we improved our teams speed and that was what we were trying to do. In the fourth round we took Darnay Holmes, a kid from UCLA. He’s a corner, he plays the nickel. He will come in and compete for that spot right away. He’s a tough kid, he can run. We’re excited we were able to get him.
Joe Judge on CB Darnay Holmes: Darnay is definitely a guy that jumps out at you. He’s got good speed, he’s got real good short area quickness. He’s contributed on the defensive side of the ball, he’s had impact in the kicking game. He plays with a good edge, shows some nasty. You can see he definitely plays bigger than his size. He’s a guy that jumped out at us at the Senior Bowl. His tape backed up what we saw down there. I’m really happy we were able to add him today.
Dave Gettleman on OL Shane Lemieux: Next round we got Shane Lemieux, a guard out of Oregon. Every really good club that I have been with, the offensive line has set the tone. This is a tough kid who plays mad. He’s big, he’s powerful, he’s a pretty good athlete. We’re excited to add him to the mix.
Joe Judge on OL Shane Lemieux: Shane’s a guy like Dave said, he plays with nasty. You turn the Auburn game on and right from the first snap he’s tossing bodies around. You can’t help but watch him. In a lot of cross over tape he jumps out at you as well. He’s a guy that’s going to have interior swing value. We’re going to cross train him guard and center. It’s going to be something he has been working on out at Oregon and we’re going to keep on building with that as well.
Dave Gettleman on LB Cam Brown: In the sixth round we took Cam Brown, a big long kid out of Penn State. He’s 6’5 and change, he’s 230, he runs well. Cam and all the young men we took in the seventh round, we like they are players with good developmental qualities and tools. They all can run, every one of these guys can run. We’re excited about that.
Joe Judge on LB Cam Brown: Physically, he’s got good length. He’s got a frame to fill out and play. He plays with good energy. He plays aggressive and downhill. He’s going to bring versatility on the edge as well as a little bit of stack backer value. He brings impact in the kicking game with us. Looking at the way our defense is pieced up and set, we need guys that are versatile, that we can move by game plan and by need. Cam definitely fits within that. Sean Spencer (defensive line coach) on the staff has spoken very highly of Cam since he got here. He’s also a guy that when you talk to other guys on Penn State and you hit them with who the leader on the defense is, without hesitation they all said Cam Brown. That stuck out to us. He’s been an alpha dog in the locker room and that brings the attitude we really look for on the field.
Dave Gettleman on LB Carter Coughlin: The next guy is Carter Coughlin. Another tall linear guy out of Minnesota. He’s 6’3 and change and 240. He can run. He’s got some versatility to him.
Joe Judge on LB Carter Coughlin: Dave hit this off the bat, the theme of the day was speed. He’s a guy that gives us more speed on the edge. He brings some length with him. He plays with a high motor and a lot of aggressiveness. He was productive in Minnesota’s scheme and with the way we are going to play guys on the edge in different packages, he’s someone with a lot of value. He will come in here and compete.
Dave Gettleman on LB T.J. Brunson: The next guy is T.J. Brunson. T.J. played at South Carolina as you guys know. He’s a little bit smaller. He plays the stack Will linebacker. He’s fast, he’s really athletic, he’s got good instincts. He’s just a little bit on the small side but he plays at about 230. We feel like he will be a really good fit and also has a lot of special teams value.
Joe Judge on LB T.J. Brunson: He’s a guy you see making tackles sideline-to-sideline. He’s also a guy in South Carolina’s scheme and (Will) Mushchamp’s scheme down there isn’t the simplest. Guys have been challenged mentally being down there. They’ve been coached hard. It’s very similar to the guys we talked about playing at Georgia and Alabama. Very similar schemes, very similar cultures. He’s a guy that was out there making a lot of calls so you can see the communication element with him on the field as well as the productivity on the field.
Dave Gettleman on DB Chris Williamson: Next we drafted the safety out of Minnesota, Chris Williamson. Good sized kid. He’s long, he can run and he’ll hit you.
Joe Judge on DB Chris Williamson: This is a guy who’s going to have some combination corner to safety. We call it the star position, that nickel position as well. He’ll bring some position flexibility in the defensive backfield. He’s got a good size and speed combination. We look for him to compete at multiple positions this year.
Dave Gettleman on LB Tae Crowder: The last guy who in former days of the NFL draft was called Mr. Irrelevant Tae Crowder, the linebacker out of Georgia. He was a running back early, they converted him. He’s a 245-pound kid that runs 4.6 and plays 4.6. He’s got some versatility and some value and definitely has some special teams value.
Joe Judge on LB Tae Crowder: This is a guy that’s only played a couple years at linebacker. We see a lot of upside with him. Both in his physical skills as well as his emerging defensive understanding. He’ll come in and compete for positions at that Will linebacker spot as well as give impact to the kicking game. We think we added a very competitive group over these last few days. We think today we brought in a lot of guys with versatility and speed.
Q: I’m curious on the run on linebackers late. What does that say about not only these guys but the linebackers you have on the roster? You guys didn’t take a tight end in this draft. How confident are you in Evan Engram’s durability and how excited are you about Kaden Smith?
Judge: Let me start with the linebackers first. I think it says a lot more about how our defensive scheme fits together. That we are going to play with a lot of linebackers throughout the game. You build your defense to build two thirds of your team, that’s really your defense and your kicking game for covering kicks. These guys have a lot of impact across the board right there. In terms of our tight end position, we’re excited about all the guys at that position right now. We’re always looking for the best player available. We thought there were a few tight ends on the board that were worthy of being taken at certain points. When it came up to us, there was either someone better or they may have already been taken. We have confidence in the guys we have on our roster right now at the tight end position. In terms of durability question of our players, they are all working through strength programs and rehab to get as healthy as they can. No one is ever 100 percent healthy once the football season begins. We have to prepare everyone for depth because you never know who is going to play.
Q: How did the system go with this virtual draft? Joe, I know you made an audible there to move to a different location. Dave, I wanted to ask you specifically about the offensive line. I know you used the term the another night that you want to fix it once and for all. Do you think this draft did that?
Gettleman: We feel real good about it. We got two tackles and a guard that we feel real strong about. Adding them to what we already have now, adding them to Will (Hernandez), Kevin (Zeitler) and Spencer Pulley and the rest of the group. We’re very pleased with this. As I said earlier, every team that I have been with that has been playoff worthy and gone deep has had a strong offensive line. The O-line really does set the tone. We’re fired up about these guys because of their skill level. Obviously, their skill and ability and their playing demeanor.
Q: How did things work out with the virtual nature of the draft?
Gettleman: It was different. For us, it really worked well. Justin Warren the head of out IT department and Ty Siam (football operations/data analytics) was in the house with me to make sure I didn’t blow anything up. They did an unbelievable job. Our software developers developed two new programs for us, which we used. John Dorney (Lead Developer) and his group with Julie Glisky (Director of IT). They really did well, everything went as smoothly as it could. Occasionally there was a glitch, people would get bumped off. Considering the situation, it went about as well as you could expect.
Judge: I would second what Dave said there. The support staff within our building did a tremendous job. I had to come to Jersey from Massachusetts. I was a little nervous with the overall set up on my own personal end and just the way my house is set up. I thought this was better for the overall function. I didn’t want to be in the middle of a round and all of the sudden something froze up or I didn’t have everything accessible to me. Justin Warren our IT director did a tremendous job setting everything up. I would say throughout the league I didn’t hear of any real issues, everything went smooth. We had our versions of practice with the mock drafts. We even had what you would refer to as scrimmages with some other friendly teams in the league to make sure the function team-to-team worked as well. That was beneficial for all of us.
Q: We talked to Andrew and Xavier and they talked about a lot of the communication with you guys leading up to the draft really focused on them as people off the field and there weren’t many conversations about football. My assumption was you let the tape speak for itself on the football end of things. Is that your philosophy, at least in this draft, that you wanted focus everything you can get out of the video calls that was non-football? Then let the scouts and whatever you see take care of the football things?
Judge: Well I definitely think there is different things you need to find out about everybody. Ultimately you have to find out everything before you bring somebody in. I’d say with both Andrew and Xavier as well as the other players, we do talk at length about the football. With Andrew and with Xavier we got to talk with them earlier on in the process at the combine and have meetings with those guys in person where you get to talk a lot football. To get on tape, to get on the board and go through that. Towards the end of the process, I had a number of conversations with a lot of prospects. At length, with Andrew, Xavier and other players it was important for me to have some sit-down time like we are right now. This is about as intimate as we can be, but at least you can look at each other in the eye to a degree and see each other’s reactions. I want to find out as much about these guys as a person as I could. I want to know what kind of guys we’re bringing into the building. I want to know what makes them tick, that’s important to me. Everybody is different. You are going to have 53 guys on a roster, we’re going to have 90 on the roster through spring and training camp. You have to know how to get to every player. On the front end, you want to find out as much as you can to narrow down to find out if they fit you. At the same time, you want to gather as much information that once you get them in the building it helps you reach them as fast as possible. It helps you find out inside what makes someone tick and how they respond.
Q: With prospects that you are talking to, do you walk a fine line between wanting to keep the focus on them or do you talk about other guys? Whether it’s teammates or guys they’ve gone against. How did you handle that during this process?
Judge: I think it’s a natural part of the process. If you’re talking to an offensive lineman, it’s natural to say who the best rushers you’ve gone against. If it’s a pass rusher, who’s the best offensive linemen you’ve gone against. If it’s someone you know has competed against each other, for example, you had the Chaisson kid out of LSU, he went against Andrew. We talked to both of those guys at length. It’s important to talk to both of them (and say) hey who’s the best rusher, who’s the best offensive linemen. It’s interesting to see what they say. It’s also interesting to talk to teammates and ask them about players on their team. For example, there may be multiple receivers on a team and you ask a defensive back, who do you think is the best receiver on your team is? If you were starting a team who would you pick first? It sheds a lot of light. One thing you will find out is you can’t lie to the players, they really know. We have to dig for it as coaches. The support staff can only find out about the players. Inside that locker room they know. They know who the dudes are.
Q: What’s the plan for the rookies. What’s the logistics with these guys the next couple of days, weeks and months?
Judge: The league has allowed us to have a version of rookie minicamp. They have given us a couple weekends where we are going to get our guys in. We are getting all the information from the league as far as the days, the hours, the structure we’re allowed to work within. Then we’ll map out the specifics. We are going to get them somewhere around next weekend. To make sure we can meet with them and get them started on the process. It will be very similar to what our vets have gone through. For them, it will be a little bit more of an orientation on the front end to let them know a little bit more about our program. To be honest with you, with our vets, it’s a new staff, it’s a new program, it’s an orientation for them as well. Our coaches will repeat a lot of the process this week that we started with our vets. It will be all virtual right now so we have to bridge the gap as much as we can.
Q: Have you guys made a decision on the fifth-year options for Evan and Jabrill?
Gettleman: We’ll make the decisions this coming week. With the craziness on and off the field so to speak over the last six weeks, we’ve had preliminary conversations. We’ll make those decisions pretty quick.
Q: Any update on where Evan stands in his recovery?
Gettleman: I haven’t seen him. None of us have been in the building in over a month. As far as I know, he’s doing fine. That’s all I know.
Q: A lot of people expected you to come away with a center in this draft. Did the value not matchup to the need? What’s the plan at center going forward?
Gettleman: Value and need always has to be there. Right now, what we’ve got as Joe says, it’s all about competition. We are going to turn around and cross train Shane Lemieux and we’ve got Nick Gates who we are going to work with. You have Spencer Pulley, a returning center and we’ll see what happens with Pio (Jon Halapio) with his Achilles. We’ll see what kind of recovery he makes. We feel like we have three to four guys, two of whom have played the position with varsity competition. Nick worked at center last year during practice and of course Shane’s never done it in a game and we’re going to cross-train him and see where it goes. We’ve got two centers in the building that have played varsity snaps and have played winning football.
Q: You mentioned you would consider cross-training some of these guys on the offensive line. I’m just wondering, learning in the classroom and mental reps is one thing, but ultimately, you’ve got to get out there and do it because that’s the second part of it. Without knowing if you are going to have practices, how do you get these guys up to speed so if and when you do get to the practice field, they are going to be able to step right in as though they never missed a beat?
Judge: So first off, I’ll talk on the mental part of it which we have access to on the virtual setting. For the offensive line, and this is true really for all positions to know how the pieces fit, but with the offensive line you really have to know the entire concept and the entire scheme. So, a center got to know the guard, the tackle and vice versa down the line. Playing right, left, near each other responsibility wise just knowing if you’re on the front or the backside. The cross-training physically, really at this point right now, comes on the players themselves through the strength program we’ve given them. Now we’re not monitoring workouts so we’ve made some stuff available to the players that they can follow and keep up with, and we’ve made ourselves accessible to the strength coaches and nutritionist so they can reach out for help.
But we’ve incorporated along with conditioning some agility drills as well that will fit into position specifics. So, we can go ahead and say for center reps, for guard reps, for tackle reps with the agilities, this is what you’re going to work today on a daily basis. A lot of this stuff is really just total movement for an athlete as it is. But specifically, with the center, you’ve got to find a way to tie in the movements with the actual movement of the ball as well. Snapping, putting the ball between your legs and then moving accordingly. Look, it’s a lot easier for the OTAs when we had Phase Two in OTAs with them guaranteed and we’d get on the field and work them on a daily basis. Right now, we’re kind of the suspect of these guys working on their own on the field. But, I’ll tell you what — they showed up this week with a full head of steam, I’m very pleased with the progress they made with the urgency and the attentiveness they’ve shown in the meetings and everything else that’s happening off the field as well.
Q: Considering you didn’t go for a receiver in this deep class and I don’t know what you plan to add, do you feel you have enough speed at that position?
Judge: Well they can all run, they can all run. I think there’s different elements of speed that tie in all of the receivers. You may have the deep threat receiver, you may have the slot receiver for more short area quickness who’s shifty, you may have the side receiver where it’s really the release speed that’s important as far as getting off the line and establishing body position. I’d say the one thing that we stressed to everybody is the roster building process is not done by any measure after the draft. There’s going to be a lot of roster movements throughout the league, this next week, the coming weeks, throughout the remainder of spring and then when we get into training camp they’ll continue to roll and turn again. We’re always looking to see who’s available and compete within our own roster. A lot these questions may be met later on, but right now we’re going to let the guys on our roster compete full speed. And look, right now our scouts and personnel (people) are working together with the coaches of identifying undrafted guys and getting on the phones with them right now and talking with their agents and working with getting them added as well.
Q: Dave, now that you’ve seen the draft play out and you know where you used your premium picks, how do you feel at edge rusher and do you guys need to circle back in free agency to a Markus Golden or to a proven guy like that now that you know you didn’t use a premium pick on that spot?
Gettleman: It’s one of those deals where, as I’ve said before, sometimes people think that all of the sacks have got to come from one to two guys. It’s a group effort. As Joe said, we’re going to constantly evaluate. Roster building is a 12-month season. It’s 365 and it’s 24/7. At the end of the day, we feel good about where we’re at, but we’ll continue to try to improve it. We’re going to take a look at what we’ve got and you know part of it’s going to be scheme. I’ve got a lot of confidence in (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat Graham and Joe and the defensive guys. We’re going to be fine. It’ll get better. No, we didn’t draft what you guys would call a blue-goose pass rusher, but a lot of the time it’s a group effort. It’s not about who gets the sacks, it’s about the number of sacks and the number of pressures.
Q: You’ve been a part of nine previous drafts in the NFL, all with one team as a special teams guy. What was this like for you now just having input as a head coach, working with a new organization? There’s always this feel of if the head coach has enough input — if this is a Joe Judge pick, if this is a Dave Gettleman pick, that kind of thing. How was this whole thing for you, even though it was remote, just knowing your input as a head coach? Then, do you feel like you’ve let down a lot of people by not having Abby show up on national television?
Judge: I’ll answer the last question first. I tried to bring the dog with me, I was told that I could not bring the dog with me. I’ll tell you I let me kids down. I’ve been getting frown face memes all weekend because everyone else’s kids got to be on TV. So, I’ve got a six-year-old who wants to know if she’ll ever be famous. I told her it’s okay, no news is good news sometimes.
But I’d say this, going back to the first question. From when I first got here, we talked in the interview, and I’ll tell you what — this entire process has been tremendous. There’s definitely a full teamwork environment in our building. Dave has been awesome, his staff has been great. The coaches have had a lot of involvement, there’s been constant communication going back and forth. Probably one of the more disappointing things we didn’t get to experience was going on the road together, coaches and scouts, and working the pro days. But that was bridged a lot with scouts and coaches working a lot through these virtual interviews with Zooms and constant communication. We spent a lot of time at night talking and going back over, watching tape together and talking to prospects. I spent a lot of time in the meetings with Dave and his staff and going through the scouts and hearing everybody’s opinion. The important thing in these processes is knowing what you see and sticking to your guns.
Look, not everyone’s going to see everything the same way so you go through this process and it’s tough. You’ve got to remember, these scouts do a very, very difficult job. They spend a whole lot of nights away from their families on the road in hotels. To go through that excruciating process of evaluating someone, lining them up on your board, hoping to have a chance to get somebody just to watch another team take them away from you. Or maybe you have someone whose opinion is a little bit different or varied, or you’ve got someone like me maybe hammering back at you saying he may not be a fit for us. That’s a tough thing, but the entire way, even through some of those kind of natural disagreements and opinions, there’s been a great teamwork environment in the building and I couldn’t be more pleased with it.
Was it different being a head coach than a special teams coordinator? Absolutely. There’s just different responsibilities that come with it. But I’ll tell you what, I thought the coaching staff gave me great input and insight, there’s a lot of experience on the staff that I was able to lean on, on the frontend and kind of ask advice from of how to handle different situations with things that may came up that I didn’t expect. Me and Dave had great conversations at length, whether it was late at night or early in the morning. We’ve gone back over the board or talked through different scenarios that could come up so that when they did come up, we were prepared for it. Look, obviously it’s a different situation, it was a different medium this year being virtual. But I’ll tell you what, through all of the changes that came our way I thought we operated pretty effectively as an entire staff.
Q: I know you said that you guys aren’t done making moves and the offseason is not over, but now that you have been through this draft and you went through the initial free agency, how do you feel with how this team sits right now compared to when you started out here in January?
Judge: Well, we haven’t been on the field yet so that’s the biggest answer right there. Look, you can’t really evaluate until you get on the grass. Right now we have a lot of names on paper. There’s a lot of guys that are itching to get on the grass and compete and start proving themselves. Look, everyone laughs when I say it, but our depth chart is a blank slate right now. We have a lot of names, everyone has to earn every spot they get. So, when we get out there on day one whoever the first five linemen are that are out there, that’s just the first five guys taking a rep. That’s not a spot in concrete at all. They’ve got to earn to keep that spot. We’ll change it up continuously throughout training camp or OTAS, whenever we get these guys. To answer as far as where we are, I think we’ve made some good moves in terms of bringing in pieces that can help us. But overall, I can’t really give you a solid answer just because I can’t comment on specific players until we really get them on the grass, otherwise it’s just speculation and hypotheticals.
Q: Dave, you talked a few minutes ago about not drafting that blue-goose pass rusher and maybe using the scheme to generate that rush. We talk about those old, good Giants teams and they always had four or five guys that could generate that…yeah, they had that one big one but you had multiple guys. When you look at your roster now do you have enough guys without the blue-goose pass rusher to generate a consistent pass rush?
Gettleman: You know, I believe we do. I’ve seen what scheme can do to free people up, it’s an effective way to do it. Obviously we’re getting better in the back end, force the quarterback to hold the ball a little longer. Again, there’s a million ways to skin the cat. You guys were raised on the blue-goose pass rushers, rushing with four, and the drafts and the accumulation of players just worked out that way. There’s a number of ways to do it. Like I said, I was here for that run and I saw what a blessing it is when you can rush with four. There’s no reason to say we can’t do it now and also can do it with scheme. So again, there’s a million ways to do it, guys. There’s not just one way.
Q: Dave, Joe talked about what it was like for him to do it as a head coach. How different was it to have him as the head coach working compared to some of the head coaches you’ve had in the past? Also, the streak continued with the no trades, now that’s eight. I’m wondering how big of a coincidence is that, how do you look at that and what do you make of that?
Gettleman: A lot less than you guys do (laughter). A lot less than you guys do. Unbelievable. You know, working with anybody is…working with Joe is different than working with Ron Rivera than working with Pat Shurmur. Anybody you work with that’s not the same person is going to be different. It was great working with Joe and at the end of the day, it’s not a Dave Gettleman decision, they are not Joe Judge decisions, they are New York Football Giants decisions. That’s really the way it is. It was terrific working with Joe, it was thorough, it was well done and we felt very prepared and felt we had a really good, solid draft.
Q: Can you give us an example of how it’s different? He seems like a pretty strong personality. Is that sort of how he operates as well?
Gettleman: God bless you. We get along fine. Next question.
Q: About the trades, did you get close though or was there at any point and you guys mentioned in the second round, but was there any other point where you did get close or did you want to add a pick between that 63 pick gap?
Gettleman: There were calls. But, I don’t believe in over paying. The couple of times that there were decent opportunities to trade back, the player we wanted was there. Plain and simple. So, we just took the player, that’s all.
Q: There have been a couple reports about phone calls you made to your high picks and you saying, “I don’t want to hear you talk about Super Bowls, I don’t want to hear you compare yourself to anybody, I want you to put your head down and work.” Obviously, you work to become a head coach, what goes into deciding how that first phone call is going to go, why you’re handling it that way and is that about setting the exact tone you want for your program right off the bat?
Judge: I think there’s more said on the phone calls than just what not to do. There’s a lot of we’re very excited about adding these players and giving them a chance to come up and compete and add to our team. Look, to be honest with you, and I think you guys have kind of found out a little bit in the short time we’ve been doing this together, I’m not big into predictions. I’m not big into that. I’m not big into comparing people to other people. One thing that drives me nuts is when sometimes guys get drafted, the emotion gets caught up, they stand on the stage a lot of times and what do they say? They start talking about how they’re going to take over the league. Look, this is a guy who hasn’t been in the league for five seconds. What do they know about taking over the league? What they have to worry about at this point is improving. Put your head down, just work hard. Hey, here’s the reality of every one of these rookies we just took — they don’t know how to be a pro yet, they don’t. As much as they may think they do, they don’t. Physically, they have an advantage over a lot of the vets because they have young legs. But in terms of technique, in terms of mentally how to prepare themselves and handle the situations in terms of emotionally how to handle the duration of the season, they have no idea what they’re doing yet. So, they’re behind in everything except for having fresh, young legs with everyone they are competing against. They watch it on TV, they think they have an understanding of what’s going on in the league. The reality is they don’t. The faster they understand that the better off they’ll be in a short term to improve and give themselves a chance to compete.
Look, everyone gets excited. When you get excited, you let emotion get the best of you, a lot of times you say things, you turn around afterwards and go, “Maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say.” Well, sometimes you don’t want to have those slips when you’ve got millions of people and it’s forever ingrained anyway in print, social media, whatever it may be. You want to make sure that sometimes you wish that someone gave you a little bit of guidance. So, sometimes it’s good to just get reminded at certain times, “Hey listen, this is your focus, this is what we’re building, this is what our culture here is going to be, let’s just make sure you say the right thing at the right time.” Number one, not to make yourself have any expectations you now have to meet, it’s going to be tough enough for you to go ahead and get in the rhythm of you being a pro as it is. Number two, don’t ever, the whole comparisons and predictions, just work out what you can control. Right now what you can control is showing up, doing your job day-by-day and improving and that’s it.
Q: Did you like how the guys handled it, the group that you dealt with?
Judge: I’ve only seen a couple of the actual quotes or the interviews. I’ve gone back and looked at a couple of them that Pat Hanlon sent my way. But you know, I’m very pleased. I’ll say this, I’m not surprised because we spent a lot of time with these guys on the front end. We spent a lot of time on the character, on the traits, on the personality. Look, we’re not collecting talent, we’re building a team — and it’s important. There’s a lot of good players out there. There’s not a lot of right fits and you want to find the right fits to bring into your locker room. It’s important to spend as much time with these guys as people on the front end and make sure that you’re building a culture in your locker room. I don’t want 53 independent contractors, I want one team. That’s what we have to make sure we bring in the right guys for that.
Media Q&A with CB Darnay Holmes:
Q: This is a pretty young secondary with a lot of guys drafted in the last couple of years, including DeAndre Baker in the first round a year ago. As another young guy coming in here, what can you do to differentiate yourself and get on the field?
A: My thing is to just be a sponge. DeAndre is there a year before me, so he definitely learned more things than I have learned. I’m definitely going to get under his wing and try to contribute in every phase. I’m going to be an asset, I’m not going to be a liability. I’m just going to play my part and maximize my role, for sure.
Q: I was reading up on you and you are somewhat of a trendsetter. Someone who uses chess as a way to analyze football. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you got into that and how exactly it works and helps you?
A: I saw several cornerbacks playing chess and I’m the type of player that wants to get insight on everything that’s going on. I walked up to the chess master and asked him do you mind helping me out with chess. The reason I play chess is I want to have efficient thoughts. I want to make sure I am making forceful moves and I want to make sure everybody responds to things that I do. Everything I’m doing, I’m not a piece, I’m a player. I’m going to make sure the team is working accordingly and we’re all on one accord. Chess is a great thing for me to get my mind off of football but also get my mind in the state of being efficient in everything I do.
Q: I read about some of the hardships you had earlier in your life. Was there ever a time when you thought this day wouldn’t come?
A: Definitely there were several times when you go through different emotions and you don’t know when that day will come. I know those days and those experiences molded me into a better person, a better man. It molded my spirit to be someone that’s ready to transition and transform within every phase of my life. Every season is not going to be a good season, but I know that season shall pass and I’ll be bigger than that season.
Q: How is everyone in your family doing these days?
A: Everyone in my family is doing good these days. They are all on one accord, there is no family feud and everybody is making sure that we are transitioning so we have generational wealth for our young nephews.
Q: I know your dad played in the NFL and he went through a lot of stuff in his life before he started coaching you guys up. How much has he impacted your growth as a football player and as a person over the years?
A: My pops impacted me in a lot of ways. He was a person who installed that hustler drive. That drive to compete each and every day, knowing that there is somebody out there working to take your spot or working to be better than you. Each and every day he always told me that you never compromise your grind or compromise the good habits you have for something that will not allow you to propel you forward to your full potential. He always made sure that you can’t take any shortcuts. If you take shortcuts, when the time comes and you reach that destination, there’s lessons that you did not learn. The downfall is going to be harder than the come up.
Q: Who were some of the guys you idolized growing up?
A: Definitely a few people that are mentors of mine are Aeneas Williams, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson. I have a great group of guys around me. Those guys are constantly providing me with insight that will allow me to be disciplined and have freedom. Freedom equals discipline. By them giving different tools and different things that I can add to my toolbox, I’m just ready to rock.
Q: Do you have personal relationships with them or just from studying them?
A: Personal relationships definitely.
Q: How did that come about?
A: When you are around the football circuit you definitely come around several marquee guys who want to give back to the youth. They understand that true wealth in life is what you give back to the world. They are constantly God-fearing men and they know when you serve somebody, it’s an opportunity to serve God.
Q: Where are you, that’s an interesting background behind you?
A: I’m in Palm Springs.
Q: What’s behind you there, is that your yard?
A: Yeah, that’s just some acres to get some work in.
Q: I’m just curious about your experience in the slot. Did you play much of it in college and if not, do you feel like you can play it at the next level?
A: Truthfully, I can’t tell you where I’m going to play, I’m just ready to contribute. Wherever they put me, I’m going to maximize that role and I’m going to make sure that I understand that role. That’s my main thing is understanding it and grasping all the concepts.
Q: Have you played the nickel much in the past?
A: The first time I played was the Senior Bowl. That was my first go around at it and I loved it. There’s a lot of things that I need to learn about it. Until then, I’m just going to keep on crafting and get to know this playbook that the Giants have in store for me.
Q: What did teams talk to you about position wise when they talked to you? Is that something that they brought up, the slot, and is that something that’s been mentioned to you? When people say you’re too small to play outside in the pros, is that something you heard and you had to fight throughout this process?
A: Definitely I haven’t had to fight that. A lot of people need different roles to be fulfilled. Some roles need to be nickel, some roles need to be boundary, some roles need to be primary corner. Everybody’s got different roles and different things that they need to fulfill, so I’m just ready to fulfill whatever role that’s needed right away.
Q: What do you bring to the team in terms of special teams? Did you talk to Joe Judge about any of that yet? He has a special teams background.
A: Definitely, I can bring a lot of things to the team. I can be a gunner, I can be a jammer, I can be whatever a team needs me to be. I’m ready to just contribute. I’m ready to play football, I’m ready to showcase everything that they need me to showcase. I have a lot of things to learn, I didn’t play much special teams in college, but I know right away I’m going to be able to contribute on those four phases of special teams. So, whatever that may be, I’m going to be front line ready to rock.
Q: You talked about how you went to a chess master. How does one go about finding a chess master?
A: When you go to UCLA, you’re around a lot of different things, you have access to different pools of people. So, Chip Kelly, a great father figure of mine I should say, he makes sure he brings people within the school who are going to aid and are going to be able to value the mindset to reach that different frequency.
Q: I read that you graduated very early, I think two or three years. What motivated you to get through your studies so quickly, and apparently you did so at a high level and you got good grades. How has that helped you with learning complex defenses and your studying?
A: Definitely the school curriculum allowed me to implement a strict routine, a routine that allowed me not to sway away into different distractions. So, by me having this vivid vision, my energy was aligning to it right away. That’s definitely something that I implemented right when I got to UCLA. It was, I’m going to graduate in three years and then from there I’m going to figure out what I want to do. Right away I was a student, then after I graduated, it was like okay, how can I pursue my athlete endeavor, and I’m here now being a New York Giant. I’m very excited.
Q: Did you choose to accelerate your studies or did that just come together for you?
A: Definitely. Definitely I had to make that choice. If I hadn’t made that choice, I would probably still be an undergraduate. So, I made that choice right away that I had to get my degree and break that barrier within my family being the first person in my family to get that degree at a prestigious college. (It) allowed them to know that we have so much greatness within ourselves, let’s go chase that and manifest that.
Q: How did that help you with football? Learning a playbook can be so complex, I imagine it made that easier for you?
A: Definitely. You have different tactics that you use to grasp concepts and grasp schemes and make sure that you understand those things. I don’t memorize, I want to grasp it and understand so I’ll be able to tap into it no matter what the heat of the moment is. I’ll understand it, so I’ll be able to utilize it.
Q: How do you think playing for someone like Chip Kelly, who has experience coaching in the NFL, got you ready to make this leap to the league? He kind of had the reputation in Philly and then in San Fran as kind of a taskmaster or drill sergeant. Joe Judge comes in here as all business, no nonsense type of guy. When you look at their two personalities, how do you think you’ll be able to make that transition from Chip to playing for Judge?
A: At the end of the day, everybody holds up a standard, so I’m going to abide by that standard and I’m going to abide by that code. I know that code is for us to flourish. When I have something that’s great, it’s like wouldn’t you utilize it to tap into it?
Q: Obviously you’re not going to be able to come here to New Jersey for a while. Did you take any online courses and do you think that’s going to help you during these next couple of weeks and months when most of this stuff is going to be done virtually?
A: My online courses are going to be the Zoom meetings with the New York Giants getting that playbook down. I’m a graduate, so it’s either hit the field, learn more about myself, the New York Giants organization, and tap into different people who’ve been around, veterans, Barkley, everybody who knows what it’s like to be a New York Giant. That’s my key and that’s my goal — to understand the playbook, be a sponge, and find a way to be a leader. I’m not saying I’m going to be a leader right away, but by me being under somebody who are leaders, you’re the average of the five people you hang around, so I’m going to hang around five leaders. That’s just the type of person I am.
Q: Have you taken online courses in the past, though?
A: Yeah, definitely. I had to take several online courses to graduate in two and a half years, Sir.
Q: What’s the key to learning that way?
A: The key to learning that way is understanding that you can’t lollygag. You can’t put things to the side because at the end of the day it’s on your own time. In this life we’re living, you do things on your own time, but at the end of the day if you have a strict routine, you can never be swayed off to different distractions or different things that will hinder you from accomplishing the main goal, which is being the great contributor to the team.