Monthly Archives: December 2017

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Change is coming. It is beginning near the top for the New York Giants, with a new coach and general manager, and will filter all the way through the roster by the time spring rolls around.

When all is said and done, the Giants could be a completely different looking team.

Before the Giants (2-13) get there they must finish out this disastrous season Sunday by hosting the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. It’s a matchup of two teams that have long been out of playoff contention. The game is strictly for pride and draft positioning.

It could also be a farewell of sorts. It could be the last time we see these players in Giants uniforms:

Note: Brandon Marshall, Jonathan Casillas, D.J. Fluker, Dwayne Harris, Mark Herzlich, Janoris Jenkins, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and Keenan Robinson are on injured reserve and were not included even though it’s possible they may have played their final game with the Giants.

The key decisions
Eli Apple’s immaturity and outbursts will likely cause the Giants to move on from him. Brad Penner/USA Today Sports
QB Eli Manning — If the Giants draft a quarterback with their top pick they must decide if Manning will serve as the bridge/mentor. And Manning must decide if he even wants to serve in that role. He’s 37 years old and signed for two more seasons, but it might be best served for both Manning and the Giants to part ways now with it known that it’s only a matter of time before the team moves on. This will be among the new GM and coach’s first big decisions.

CB Eli Apple — It is going to be hard to keep last year’s Top-10 pick around after he irked a good chunk of the organization this season and was called “a cancer” by one of his teammates. He was ultimately suspended after a confrontation with cornerbacks coach Tim Walton. When the new GM and coach arrive and start cleaning out the locker room it would make sense to start with Apple. It would be hard to bring him back.

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — This is a money decision for the new regime. Rodgers-Cromartie costs $6.5 million in real money and $8.5 million against the salary cap next season. That’s a hefty price if they intend to keep him as the slot cornerback.

OTs Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart — The two young tackles have struggled badly and aren’t particularly popular in their own position room. They could be casualties if there is a concerted effort to reshape the culture and locker room. Flowers, as a former first-round pick, could also get a look at a different position other than left tackle.

K Aldrick Rosas — It’s hard to keep a kicker who only makes 70 percent of his field goals. Rosas went through some rookie growing pains, so you would think that he at least gets a chance to compete for a job next spring and summer. The Giants could also just decide to move on from the failed experiment.

The free agents

QB Geno Smith — His one-year stint with the Giants included one start. It might have been enough to at least attract the interest of another team, where he can compete for a starting job.

RB Orleans Darkwa — The Giants were lukewarm on bringing him back last year. They weren’t even willing to offer him the full tender as a restricted free agent. Darkwa finally had a strong season and was able to remain healthy. It could earn him some money that the Giants might not want to pay. It’s not out of the question for him to return though.

RB Shane Vereen — His contract was reworked prior to the season and his role was somewhat reduced. The veteran appears on his way out with the Giants.

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WR Tavarres King — He was cut, re-signed and later deactivated this season alone. He’s far from a lock to return.

LB Devon Kennard — A quality contributor and locker room presence who might find a bigger role elsewhere. Kennard is an asset against the run and has flashed as a pass-rusher (3.0 sacks) this season. If the Giants switch to a 3-4 defense his chances of returning increase. They need some linebackers.

DT Jay Bromley — The 2014 third-round pick is part of the Giants’ defensive line rotation. He’s never been able to consistently earn a starting role with the team. He could look for a better opportunity elsewhere.

DE Kerry Wynn — He makes plays when he’s on the field, but his opportunities have been limited the past couple seasons. Wynn could attract some interest elsewhere. He visited with the New England Patriots as a restricted free agent this offseason.

S Nat Berhe — He’s been buried on the bench for most of the past two years. Berhe is a prime candidate to start fresh with his ability to contribute as a heavy-hitting strong safety and special teams contributor.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants finished 11-5 last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2012. It was a successful season — even though it ended poorly with an ugly playoff loss at Green Bay — that left the team and its fans optimistic for what’s to come.

Well, the future might just be now.

The Giants enter 2017 overflowing with optimism. They think they’re an even better team this season. The reasons:

Personnel additions

The Giants signed wide receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Rhett Ellison. They took tight end Evan Engram in the first round of the draft to add to a group that already included wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard.

Quarterback Eli Manning has some serious weaponry at his disposal. After a season where the Giants struggled to score points and achieve consistency on offense, the belief is they should improve drastically.

Beckham

“I never hold my tongue. I’m expecting big things.”

Safety Landon Collins

“On offense they have all the keys now. The offensive line has picked it up, they’ve been blocking well. They’ve got the keys for Eli to be making all those passes to all the guys who can get open.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan

“From a personnel standpoint, I think there are some additions that we have to our team who are blending in nicely. There is added experience. Some guys have another year under their belt. So, there have been some improvements with those who were on our team last year. So, I think you combine those two factors and we have a reason to be optimistic.”
Some new weapons, and a less predictable offense, could help Eli Manning and the Giants improve upon last season’s 11-5 record. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Schematic changes

The Giants played almost exclusively last season in 11 personnel, the term for three wide receivers, a running back and a tight end. They used that personnel grouping for more than 90 percent of their offensive snaps, and it made them predictable.

They’re trying to be less predictable. They have a fullback on the roster and added Ellison as a blocking tight end. It should provide some schematic flexibility and offer new looks to opposing defenses.

The Giants are expected to use more two-tight-end sets and run some plays with a running back and fullback in the backfield together. It will give defenses something else to think about.

G Justin Pugh

“Last year everybody knew what we were running. If you look at it, it was, what, 95 percent of the time? It was tough because we lost guys to injury and we were still able to go 11-5. So I’m going to be excited to see what we can do when we have a full offseason, with some good guys who can do really good things.”

Sullivan

“When you have a fullback on your roster, that enables you to have an additional personnel grouping that gives some different runs and different passes and that gives the defenses more they have to prepare for. It’s been time and time again about the 90 percent 11 personnel that we were last year, and I think when you have some additional personnel groupings, it just gives the defense a few more things they have to prepare for, it gives us a few more options, and the versatility is always going to be to our advantage, so that is something we are excited about.”

Continuity

The Giants made a splash in last year’s free-agent market to bolster their defense. Defensive end Olivier Vernon, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and defensive tackle Damon Harrison signed lucrative, long-term deals. With so many new faces on defense, it took time for the unit to come together. The Giants were much better in the second half of the season than the first. They allowed 20.5 points per game in the first eight games, 15 over the final eight.

With another season under their belt. there is a belief that the defense can evolve from a really good unit to either great or special. Even first-year starters B.J. Goodson at middle linebacker and Darian Thompson at free safety are in their second seasons with the team. They were 2016 draft picks. The Giants defense has had a chance to digest and master coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system.

Collins

“Just basically that we’re all in tune. We know the defense now. Most of the guys third year in the defense, some second into it. There is more knowledge of it. We can be more flexible and play faster by knowing what we are doing.”

LB Jonathan Casillas

“I think it’s just the obvious stuff. We’ve been together for three years now — not everyone — but this is our third year going into the defense. The familiarity for the guys that have been there is at an all-time high, camaraderie is at its highest point since I’ve been here. Everybody likes each other in the locker room and if we don’t shoot, we fight it out in practice and hug it out everywhere.”

RB Shane Vereen

“I think as a team we’re starting to jell. We’re starting to become a real team, not that we weren’t last year. We’re just closer this year. It’s kind of like when you go to a family reunion and you just know everybody is your family because they’re there, you’ve seen them before, you know they love you, you know they’re looking out for you. It’s kind of like the same thing here. I walk into the locker room and I know everyone in here. I know they have my back, I’ve got their back and vice versa. We just grow closer and closer together.”

Building off last season

The Giants gained playoff experience in 2016. They got a taste of some success, but have made a concerted effort to not be content with winning 11 games and being bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

Coach Ben McAdoo

“Again, we are taking it week by week. We have one game to get ready for and it’s this week. 2016 is over. 2017 is here. We’re just going to take it one day at a time, one play at a time, one week at a time.”

Harrison

“We’ve got a bunch of guys who aren’t comfortable with what they’ve done last year. Whether it be [defensive tackle] Robert Thomas, or Landon Collins. Nobody is happy, or satisfied, or content — whichever word you want to use — with what they’ve done last year. Last year doesn’t matter anymore.”

And how does Harrison know they’re not content?

“Just the way they work. When nobody’s watching, when the camera’s not here, when the coach is not watching. I was here with [defensive tackle] Jay Bromley. I’ve seen Robert Thomas working, I’ve seen Landon working. And that right there, that’s all you need to know about a guy: how hard he works when the cameras aren’t there.”

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — So much for the New York Giants getting healthy during the bye week.

Six players — all potential starters — were ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. They are: defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Kerry Wynn, linebackers Jonathan Casillas and B.J. Goodson, right tackle Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg.

Cornerback Donte Deayon is also questionable with an ankle injury suffered during Thursday’s practice.

The only good news for the Giants: Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (ankle) did not appear on the official Week 9 injury report. He is expected to play after missing the previous two games.

Pugh, the Giants’ best offensive lineman this season, is dealing with a back injury. He will miss his first game of the season. Bobby Hart, who has struggled this year, will replace him in the lineup.

“Bobby had a good week of practice. He had a productive day [Thursday] in pads,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “Expect him to play his best game as a pro this week.”

Brett Jones will start his fourth straight game at center in place of Richburg, who is dealing with a concussion. The Giants will use their sixth offensive line combination in eight games with (from left) Ereck Flowers, John Jerry, Jones, D.J. Fluker and Hart. They face a Rams defense that has Aaron Donald and comes into this week tied for seventh with 23 sacks.

Vernon and Wynn did not practice throughout the week. Vernon will miss his fourth straight game with an ankle injury; Wynn will miss his first. He was injured in the Giants’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks prior to the bye.

In anticipation of being shorthanded on the defensive line this week, the Giants re-signed Devin Taylor on Tuesday and promoted Jordan Williams from the practice squad. Both are familiar with the defense after battling for jobs in training camp.

What you need to know in the NFL

• Statistics
• Scoreboard
• 2017 schedule, results
• Standings
The Giants will also be shorthanded at linebacker without Casillas and Goodson, their starters on the weakside and in the middle. Keenan Robinson, Curtis Grant and Travis Munson are expected to share time to fill the voids.

Goodson is nursing an injured ankle and should be back in the next few weeks. Casillas made progress this week as he was limited participant in practice with a neck injury, but he did not partake in any contact drills.

“He feels like he is making progress,” McAdoo said. “We’ll progress to [contact] next week.”

Cornerback is yet another position of concern for the Giants. They have only four on the roster with starter Janoris Jenkins suspended this week for a violation of team rules. If Deayon can’t play, the Giants could be forced to elevate either Brandon Dixon or Tim Scott from the practice squad.

Another option could be using a safety — either Nat Berhe or Andrew Adams — at cornerback in case of emergency. The Giants cross-train their players during training camp and throughout the season, but McAdoo admitted using a safety at cornerback on Sunday is “not ideal.”

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Geno Smith may not know what he is in for when he takes the reins from Eli Manning. This is a New York Giants offense that has struggled for the better part of two years, and one that isn’t exactly overflowing with talent.

The lineup they put on the field last Thursday night in Washington alongside Manning was almost unrecognizable. It had a right guard making his first career start. It had a right tackle making his second career start. It had a center, two starting wide receivers and a running back who all came into the season as backups, and none had started more than two career games prior to this year.

What you need to know in the NFL

• Statistics
• Scoreboard
• 2017 schedule, results
• Standings
To no surprise, the Giants’ offense struggled on Thanksgiving against the Redskins with Manning at quarterback. They’ve struggled most of the past two seasons, and they are 31st in the NFL in averaging 15.6 points per game. They managed one first down in the second half Thursday night, and that came on their final drive when the game was out of reach.

This is what Smith, who joined the Giants as a free agent this offseason, inherits. He’s on a one-year deal and knows this game is a showcase for all 32 teams.

He will lead this group against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon:

Offensive line — (from left to right) Ereck Flowers, John Jerry, Brett Jones, Jon Halapio, Chad Wheeler

Wide receivers — Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Tavarres King

Tight end — Evan Engram

Running Backs — Orleans Darkwa, Wayne Gallman, Shane Vereen
Geno Smith will look to his arm strength and mobility to help mask weaknesses in his command of the Giants’ offense. Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports
It’s not exactly a star-studded lineup. There is no Odell Beckham Jr. or Brandon Marshall to make plays. There is no Justin Pugh or Weston Richburg to protect Smith for whoever is behind center, or no guard D.J. Fluker to open holes for the running backs.

It can be argued the Giants’ only plus-player (top half of the league among starters at their position this season) on offense with Shepard out the past two games with a migraine was Engram. And he played the worst game of his career against the Redskins.

The only saving grace for Smith may be that he should get Shepard back on Sunday. The Giants’ leading receiver — who’s missed 3 1/2 games — has been a full participant in practice this week. His return would be a major boost to an offense that lacks playmakers.

“He’s had a good couple days of practice, and it’s good to have one of your better players back in the mix,” coach Ben McAdoo said.

What could help his offense is Smith using his legs. Smith has more mobility than Manning (who doesn’t?) and should need it with the Giants’ offensive tackles matched against All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack. He has 6.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits this season.

The Giants have hit the third-fewest pass plays of over 20 yards this season. Smith may be able to help in that category.

“I think he’ll keep drives alive. When the play breaks down, he’s definitely going to be a dual-threat guy,” Shepard said. “He can extend plays, and you know a spiral is coming at you when it’s coming.”
Smith doesn’t have the resume or the mastery of the offense like Manning. Checking into the right runs or plays might be a problem. He hasn’t played a lot at all over the past few years.

Slinging the football still isn’t a concern.

“He has arm talent,” Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “He has a very live arm, and he has mobility to extend some plays.”

Hey, it can’t hurt. It’s not like the Giants’ offense can get much worse than it was on Thanksgiving, when they managed just three points and 141 total yards. They also happen to be facing the 27th-ranked passing defense, which is allowing 244.8 yards per game.

That could help Smith take advantage of this opportunity, even with the questionable supporting cast at his disposal.