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Player Spotlight: Devin Unga

Each day this summer, SNYGiants will profile a lesser-known member of the New York Giants football team. The order will rotate offensive and defensive players.

Name: Devin Unga
Position: LB
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 233
Uniform #: 47
College: BYU
Experience: None in NFL
Acquired: Signed to Giants practice squad on Dec. 23, 2014

Profile: Unga, 27,began his college career a little bit late. After high school, Unga, whose given first name is Uani, embarked on a two-year Mormon mission to Guatemala City.

Unga, who grew up in Hawaii, first played at Oregon State, where he played in 25 games in 2009 and 2010. After transferring to BYU, Unga led the nation in tackles his senior year in 2013.

Undrafted out of college after sustaining a knee injury on the final play of his career, Unga was signed by the Giants in late December 2014 after completing his rehab..

Unga has yet to play a down in the NFL. He currently sits third on the depth chart at strongside linebacker behind Devon Kennard and Mark Herzlich.

Unga is from a football family. His older brothers Paul and J.J. both played college football. Paul played defensive end at Arizona State and J.J. was an offensive lineman at Midwestern State. His twin brother, Feti, also played linebacker at Oregon State. His younger brothers Matueisela and Chris also play football. Matueisela played tight end at Hawaii and Chris is a defensive tackle for Utah State.

What’s been said: “An overaged, competitive, physical linebacker of Tongan descent, Unga went from walk-on to captain at BYU, where he was a tackling machine in his lone season as a starter. Skill set and college responsibilities translate well to the pro game, and he’s capable of serving as a core special-teams player and solid backup for a 3-4 team.” —Draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki


Previous spotlights:

Kerry Wynn

Weston Richburg

Trevin Wade


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Player Spotlights: Orleans Darkwa

Each day this summer, SNYGiants will profile a lesser-known member of the New York Giants football team. The order will rotate offensive and defensive players.

Name: Orleans Darkwa
Position: RB
Height: 6-0
Weight: 215
Uniform #: 26
College: Tulane
Experience: 1 year
Acquired: Signed off the Dolphins’ practice squad Nov 12, 2014.

Profile:

Darkwa was signed by the Dolphins as a UDFA out of Tulane, where he rushed for 2,953 yards on 663 carries and 39 touchdowns. He made the Dolphins’ 53-man roster and played the first four games of the regular season before being released to make room for Knowshon Moreno. He was subsequently signed to the Dolphins practice squad in early October.

The Giants snatched Darkwa, 23, off Miami’s practice squad last November after Michael Cox was placed on IR with a fractured leg. He served mainly as a special teamer and a relief back to Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. Darkwa saw the most action in the Giants’ Week 16 win in St. Louis, rushing for 21 yards on four carries with a TD. He also caught two passes for 17 yards.

Darkwa will attempt to keep his roster spot this summer behind Jennings, Williams and free agent Shane Vereen. The Giants have also brought in some competition this spring with UDFAs Akeem Hunt and Kenneth Harper.

In January, Darkwa was asked what the top thing he needs to work on before next season by Dan Salamone of Giants.com:

“I wouldn’t point to just one thing, but overall, just trying to be an all-around back. Catching the ball out of the backfield, pass protection is pretty key, just understanding the concepts of the offense so I can come here next season and not have any doubts and not have any questions.”

What’s been said…

“Orleans Darkwa, who played for us a lot last year, played a lot of teams and has done a good job. He picks up the offense, very smart, very smart player, has very good speed, is good on the edge runs and has done a good job inside. I put him in there in the two-minute situation today and we didn’t miss a beat in the two-minute, so I thought he did a really good job.” – RB coach Craig Johnson, June 18, 2015

“Orleans Darkwa, here is a young man who impressed us very much right away when he came to us because I would continue to check with (Johnson) about, what do you think about [Darkwa] and how is he doing. He picked things up very fast. I think the level of confidence was recognized by the fact that he was inserted many times in the game on third down against a team that has a very, very complicated pressure and blitz package and he was able to go in and help us in that regard as well.” – Coach Tom Coughlin, Dec 22, 2014

“First of all, to be able to come in and pick things up the way (Darkwa) has, says a lot about him and his study habits. Craig is doing a nice job with those guys, catching them up to speed and he has a knack for finding the hole or if there is a small crease in there. He can kind of get down low and get through there in a hurry. He has done some good things out of the backfield. Otherwise in pass protection, he has been a pleasant surprise.” – OC Ben McAdoo Dec 26, 2014

“Darkwa has been a great pickup for us. He’s a good, sound football player. Guys like that, you really like.” – Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn Dec 26, 2014

Previous spotlights….

Kerry Wynn
Weston Richburg
Trevin Wade


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Giants DL coach Robert Nunn ‘impressed’ with Markus Kuhn

The New York Giants have a laundry list of defensive linemen on the roster entering training camp, but of course, not all can make the final 53-man roster.

Markus Kuhn has been one defensive lineman who has stood out so far this summer.

Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn told NJ.com that he’s been impressed with Kuhn through OTAs.

“He has got to continue to do what he is doing,” Nunn said. “He has given us some quality reps last year and I have been very impressed with him during the OTAs. The thing he has got to do is produce when we get in pads.”

Kuhn, 29, is currently penciled in as a starting defensive tackle. Last season was a career year for Kuhn, with him notching his first sack, and 2015 will be the final year of his rookie contract

Kuhn has gained almost 15 pounds and is currently listed at 320 pounds. He’ll be competing against Cullen Jenkins, Kenrick Ellis, and Jay Bromley for a roster spot this season.

Sam Spiegelman

The former seventh-round pick has always been a fan favorite, and after navigating through injuries just to crack the lineup, Kuhn finally has the fast track to a starting gig.

In limited time in 2014, Kuhn fared well. Per Pro Football Focus, he had a run-stop percentage of 7.8 and finished 28th out of 82 defensive tackles in that category. However, he also finished the year with a -15.9 grade from the site. Only three others defensive tackles had worse grades.

I’m confident Jenkins will make the Giants roster because he’s versatile. That leaves Kuhn going toe-to-toe with Ellis and Bromley. Ellis was a free agent signee from the Jets and Bromley was a third-round pick a year ago.

Kuhn will have to play up to the hype in order to make the roster ahead of Ellis and Bromley and prove his production in 2014 can pan out over a full 16-game slate. It will be an interesting battle to watch in training camp.


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Jun 16, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin addresses the media during minicamp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Steven Ryan-USA TODAY Sports

Giants sit 20th in ESPN Future rankings

The New York Giants came in at No. 20 on ESPN’s NFL Future rankings.

The Giants were ranked third out of the NFC East teams behind the Dallas Cowboys (sixth) and Philadelphia Eagles (15th).

ESPN dished the Giants out a 62.7 grade for their roster, a 74.7 grade for quarterback, a 63.3 grade on their draft, a 68.3 grade to the front office and a 67.3 grade to the coaching staff.

Here’s the overview of the rankings:

Tom Coughlin could eventually find himself in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he turns 69 in August, and it’s unclear what the longer-term future holds. That could explain why the Giants fell from seventh to 23rd in the coaching category, which contributed to a two-spot drop in the overall standings. The Giants now rank between 20th and 22nd in every category but quarterback, where a bounce-back season from Eli Manning helped the team secure its only high ranking (10th overall, up from 11th in 2014).

Additionally, the analysts inferred the Giants must deal with a 35-year-old quarterback who is an impending free agent.

Sam Spiegelman

As rigid of a ranking as it is, the score is fitting.

The Giants have a lot of big question marks entering the 2015 season, beginning and ending with how Eli Manning does in 2015, a contract year. Should Manning stumble out of the gate like he did in 2014, the franchise quickly has a big decision to make at season’s end. Otherwise, if Manning plays like he did once Odell Beckham Jr. entered the lineup, the team is a big contract away from remaining competitive and contending for the playoffs the next few years.

In addition, this year’s draft class includes safety Landon Collins and tackle Ereck Flowers, both of whom have major tasks ahead of them as rookies. Collins is going to be an immediate starter in the secondary where the Giants lost Antrel Rolle, a team captain. Flowers is going to have to start at tackle — not guard — as Will Beatty is sidelined due to injury.

If those rookies and Manning play as expected, the Giants should see a rise in these rankings in a year’s time. Ultimately, if that scenario played out, they’d continue to take claim to one of the steadiest quarterback situations in the NFL, a stout offensive line and a young, talented wide receiving corps. On the other side of the ball, Collins would have cemented an already improving secondary, leaving only the defensive line and Jason Pierre-Paul‘s contract situation a question mark.


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Giants update medical practices

The Giants, who have been hampered by injuries in recent seasons, have updated their medical practices (Alpher, July 1).

Former Giants defensive back Walter Thurmond, who currently plays for the Eagles, spoke critically of the Giants approach to modern medical practices compared to other organizations he has played for.

“He doesn’t believe in the sport-science aspect like Coach Carroll or Coach Kelly and the new found technology for the players,” Thurmond said. “His style takes a hit, because he doesn’t believe in this aspect. He believes in winning, but he doesn’t believe in the modern medicine to progress the players to that next level.”

However, according to Giants team spokesman Pat Hanlon, the organization has begun practicing new medical techniques in recent years.

“You would have to ask Walter what he is referring to specifically when it comes to comparing and contrasting,” Hanlon said. “But the fact is, over the past 2-3 years, we have adopted and implemented a few programs: the GPS system we employ to monitor workload, diet in terms of offerings and preparation in the dining hall, and sleep studies. Those are a few of the things we have done as we continue to evolve.”

Head Coach Tom Coughlin is notorious for remarking injuries are “a mental thing” when he began with the Giants. It appears Coughlin, or at least the organization, has come around to the modern times of sports science.

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The Giants’ injury situation seems to be getting worse every season. The website Football Outsiders produce a statistic called “Adjusted Games Lost”, which gauges “how much teams were affected by injuries based on two principles: (1) Injuries to starters, injury replacements, and important situational reserves matter more than injuries to benchwarmers; and (2) Injured players who do take the field are usually playing with reduced ability, which is why AGL is not based strictly on whether or not the player is active for the game, but instead is based on the player’s listed status that week (IR/PUP, out, doubtful, questionable, or probable).”

According to the table, the Giants had the most Adjusted Games Lost in the NFL in 2013 and then repeated the infamous feat again last season. They were also hindered in 2012 and 2011, recording the 7th-highest AGL in the league in both seasons.

Should the Giants revisit their systems and procedures regarding the health of players or are the rash of injuries just a run of bad luck and coincidence? If scores of players go down again this season, we’ll know that answer.


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Can-Am baseball league offers Odell Beckham Jr. a contract

The Rockland Boulders of the Can-Am League have offered New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. a contract, according to Lohud.com.

Per the report, the Rockland Boulders were wildly impressed with Beckham’s first-pitch strike during a charity baseball game.

Shawn Reilly, the Boulders’ general manager, said he saw visions of Bo Jackson and Deon Sanders when he watched Beckham on the mound.

“It’s apparent that Odell is a very gifted athlete regardless of his sport. We think that getting experience pitching to professional hitters will give him the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Deon Sanders and Bo Jackson”, Reilly told the website.

“As we are the New York area’s only defending professional championship team, he will have the opportunity to learn in a first-class environment while still in close proximity to MetLife Stadium”

Sam Spiegelman

Obviously a funny story, this goes to show you the weeks between minicamp and training camp features a very slow news cycle.

It’s flattering for Beckham, a lot like when Russell Wilson joins the Texas Rangers after the Seahawks’ season wraps up. But let’s not be coy: I’d be surprised if Beckham even responds to this.


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Player Spotlights: Trevin Wade

Each day this summer, SNYGiants will profile a lesser-known member of the New York Giants football team. The order will rotate offensive and defensive players.

Kerry Wynn

Weston Richburg

Name: Trevin Wade

Position: DB

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 192

Uniform #: 31

College: Arizona

Experience: 4 years

Acquired: Signed to a reserve/future contract on Jan. 13, 2015

Profile: Wade, 25, was a seventh-round pick of the Cleveland Browns back in 2012, and after navigating through the NFL with the Browns, Saints and Lions, he has landed with the New York Giants.

Wade was a do-it-all star in high school where he played quarterback, running back and wide receiver at Stony Point in Round Rock, Texas. He was an All-District selection at defensive back in 2006.

In college at Arizona, Wade lettered all four years and started 35 of a possible 50 games. Wade totaled 180 tackles, 12 interceptions — two for touchdowns — and forced a fumble and finished eighth in school history with 28 passes defended.

Wade played 12 games in Cleveland as a rookie in 2012 before getting released in August prior to the 2013 season. The cornerback caught on with the Saints and was active for two games that season. He was released in September of the 2014 season. Wade was signed to Detroit’s practice squad later in the 2014 season before eventually signing a reserve/future contract with the Giants in January of this year.

In 15 career regular-season games, Wade has amassed 17 tackles, two passes defended and seven special-teams tackles. He’s also recorded two tackles in the playoffs while with the Saints.

What’s been said: “That’s one we’re trying to feel through, to be honest with you. You’ll probably see as we go through the OTA’s that there’ll be a number of guys working in and out of there. In this league nowadays, there are a lot of three wideout sets. That means you’ve got to match them in a lot of cases and put another DB out there, so I’m not sure I have an answer for that right now. There were some guys that did it a little bit last year and some guys that we added.” -DC Steve Spagnuolo on the nickel corner position


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