In year two of new offense, injuries force changes to lineup

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Giants QB Eli Manning may be coming off his best season in years, but coming into this season, he still has a lot of questions to answer.

At the opening session of Giants’ OTAs on Wednesday, Manning was barraged with questions regarding his offensive line, the health of Victor Cruz and entering into year two of OC Ben McAdoo’s system.

The offensive line will be without LT Will Beatty (pec) until at least mid-November. Manning knows that could be a blow that knocks the offense back a few pegs.

“Whenever you lose your left tackle, it’s disappointing,” Eli told reporters. “Hopefully, he’ll have a speedy recovery. We have other guys who can step in and be comfortable where they’re playing. We’ll get through it. We’ll get the rookie going and get him a lot of practice.”

That rookie, of course, is top draft pick Ereck Flowers who trotted out with the first group in Beatty’s spot on Wednesday. In fact, the whole line is under reconstruction. Justin Pugh has moved from RT to LG and Weston Richburg has moved to center from guard. Geoff Schwartz, who missed all but two games last year due to injury, is back and was at RG at OTAs. Free agent pickup Marshall Newhouse is currently the new RT.

“Obviously, having a new center can be an adjustment. But Richburg was here last year and I got snaps with him last year, so that hasn’t been a big deal,” said Manning. “Anytime you have a rookie at left tackle, it can be an adjustment. The good thing for him is we’re going to throw everything at him early on and he’s going to hear everything. We’re going to challenge him. He’ll make some mistakes, but he’s getting live reps from day one with the first group. He’s hearing every call and check and (seeing) everything that might happen. The more he can hear it, the more we challenge him and the more you throw at him, the better off we’ll be once the season starts.”

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Giants OTA Notebook: Day One

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Phase Three of the Giants’ offseason program opened to warm weather, some sun and a few answers to some pressing questions.

The first edition of the Will Beatty-less offensive line took the field as follows: rookie Ereck Flowers in Beatty’s LT spot, Justin Pugh lining up next to him at LG, Weston Richburg at center, Geoff Schwartz at RG, and free agent addition Marshall Newhouse at RT.

“Our plans are to continue to try to figure out how this line is going to fall out, who is going to be where,” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “We will probably try some different combinations to get there. Hopefully, it has to happen…if a team is going to make a move, perhaps somebody that we didn’t really count on originally, because of the number of reps they are going to get, will benefit from that.”

The initial consensus was that Flowers would not be ready for left tackle duties this early on. Coughlin put a quick end to that.

“I thought he was heck of a football player or he wouldn’t be here. Outstanding feet, nifty for a big man. Yes, all the above,” said the coach. “I don’t subscribe to that – what people, what they say – he is our kid. He is an outstanding young player. He is going to do nothing but get better. Sure, there are going to be things that happen to him that haven’t happened before. We knew there were a couple of things we need to clarify and work on him, but he will work.”

WR Victor Cruz continues to work his way back from a torn patellar tendon. He did not participate in team drills and probably won’t until training camp. Coughlin said he is encouraged by why he’s seen from Cruz thus far.

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Giants enter Phase Three of offseason program this week

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The Giants will be on the field again this week as they enter Phase Three of their offseason program.

Phase Three (May 28-30, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10,June 12-13) consists of the next four weeks of the program.

Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or “OTAs”. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.

This should give us some insight into who they plan to backfill the vacancy at LT with in Will Beatty’s absence. We also should get a glance at who will get first dibs at the safety positions as well as the returner slots. To read more of this story, click here


Key to Giants’ 2015 success lies in hands of 2014 draft class

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The Giants are relying on their 2015 draft class to come right in and help the club get back into playoff contention. We agree that has to happen, but what the Giants really need to happen is to have their 2014 class continue to grow into solid pros. These players were all chosen for both talent and leadership and the Giants are hoping they mature quickly.

Here’s a breakdown of the group:

USATSI_8225415_110579513_lowresWR Odell Beckham Jr. – Not sure where he can improve without setting more NFL records. OBJ is currently considered one of the top WRs in the NFL after playing just 12 games. The Giants would settle for a repeat performance from their young star in 2015. Over 16 games, that would equate to a All-Pro season of 121 receptions, 1.740 receiving yards and 16 TDs.

C Weston Richburg – He’s been penciled in as the Giants’ starting center this spring. The injury to Will Beatty should not affect that. Richburg was the top center in the 2014 draft and the Giants snagged him in the second round. Management and the coaching staff are confident he can step up and anchor the line for the foreseeable future.

DT Jay Bromley – Not heavily used in 2014, Bromley will be afforded every opportunity to win a starting spot this season. He will be high in the rotation along with Jon Hankins and Kenrick Ellis. We won’t know how much Bromley has progressed until we see him at camp. The Giants seem confident Bromley is their man in the middle by not taking an interior lineman in the draft.

RB Andre Williams – We were told his weakness was a lack of receiving ability. We were also told he was a powerful, short-yardage runner who could break one off now and then. Both turned out to be true. Williams only gained an average of 3.3 yards on 217 rushes, but scored seven TDs and was effective in short-yardage and got better as the season wore on. He also showed some improvement in the passing game, catching 18 balls for 131 yards, 8.1 yards per reception.

LB Devon Kennard – Had 43 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 12 games as a rookie, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He won over the fans and coaches in training camp and solidified his status as one of the team’s top defensive players. The Giants love his versatility to play all three LB positions as well as defensive end and we may see him play all over the field in 2015.

DB Nat Berhe – Nicknamed “The Missile” by coaches for the way he launches his body at the opponent, Berhe will be vying for a starting safety spot, hopefully alongside this year’s second-rounder, Landon Collins. Berhe is a valuable player on special teams and could very well find himself starting at free safety on opening day.

DB Bennett Jackson – Originally a cornerback, Jackson, who spent his rookie season on IR after microfracture surgery, has been switched to safety for 2015. We don’t have a lot of live data on Jackson, especially at safety, but he will get a shot at making the team this summer.

WR Corey Washington (UDFA) – Made the club after a monster preseason only to see hardly any action during the regular season. The Giants saw his playmaking ability as a huge attribute, but the rest of his game is still very raw. Washington will have plenty of competition this summer at WR, so if he can’t improve his techniques and play special teams to the degree required, he won’t make the team.

DE Kerry Wynn (UDFA) – Many were surprised Wynn made the cut last summer. But he did not disappoint when called upon, and finished the season with a string of strong performances. He will have to continue to hone his game if he is to make the club again. The Giants have a slew of DEs on their roster these days.


Beatty out 5-6 months, setting back Giants’ O-line plans

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The injury bug has bitten the Giants early this season, with LT Will Beatty going down with a pectoral injury on Wednesday. The Giants confirmed on Thursday that the expected recovery time for Beatty is five-to-six months, which means he would miss at least the first half of the season.

So, do the Giants have the depth to absorb his absence? Uh….maybe, maybe not.

The team has a lot of options at the guard position, but very little at tackle, especially LT, where Beatty has been the starter 47 of the Giants’ last 48 games.

The plan before Beatty’s injury was to move RT Justin Pugh inside to one of the guard positions and let first-round selection Ereck Flowers break in at RT. That’s not likely to happen now.

It appears Pugh will stay at RT, since he is not LT material, and Flowers will have to battle veteran free agent Marshall Newhouse for the LT position. Unless Flowers proves himself early, the Giants could be in trouble.

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Line of scrimmage for PAT moved from two yard line to 15 yard line

The NFL has approved a rule change that will move the line of scrimmage for extra points from the two-yard line to the 15-yard line (Garafolo, May 19).

The line of scrimmage for two-point conversion attempts will remain at the two-yard line.

According to Mike Garafolo, if the defense commits a penalty during a PAT attempt, the offensive team can change course and instead attempt a two-point conversion from the one-yard line.

In 2014, 25 of the 32 teams made 100% of their PAT kicks and the other seven converted 95% or higher.

The new rule, which was the result of a proposal by the Competition Committee, allows the defense to return a turnover on a missed conversion.

The league approved the rule by a vote of 30-to-2, with both the Redskins and Raiders voting against it.

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

How does this affect the NFL, and specifically the Giants? Well, not a whole lot.

As for the change in distance, the Giants could cave to going for two in serious weather conditions, but PK Josh Brown has been perfect in 75 PAT attempts since joining the Giants n 2013. As for the new distance (32 yards), his conversion rate for FGAs under 39 yards over that period is 88% (15 out of 17).

The Giants have upgraded the offense with some diverse and tough players the past two seasons, which will give them multiple options from the two yard-line. RB Andre Williams is an excellent short-yardage and goal line back. Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen are versatile backs that add pass-catching element to the playbook.

Let us not forget the receivers such as Odell Beckham, Jr., who can catch the ball anywhere it is thrown. Larry Donnell is a 6’6″ options and Rueben Randle and Geremy Davis are both 6’3″. Free agent Dwayne Harris is a jackknife-type player the Giants hope will become their new David Tyree and make big plays in key spots.

As for the the opponents, this new rule benefits teams with mobile QBs, such as RGIII and, yes, Tim Tebow. The Eagles and the Patriots were the two teams that entered proposals along with the league themselves, so don’t think they did it on a lark. Chip Kelly has plans as does Bill Belichick.



Last chance for Robinson to fulfill Reese’s prophecy

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Remember back after the 2012 NFL Draft when GM Jerry Reese called Adrien Robinson, the team’s fourth round selection out of Cincinnati “the JPP of tight ends?”

We do. And with Reese still trying to fulfill that prophecy by keeping the ineffective, enigmatic Robinson around instead of cutting or replacing him, here we stand four seasons later still wondering if  it will ever come to pass (Football Nation, May 18).

The Giants have passed on many players since then in hopes that the light would go on for Robinson, but they haven’t seen any real progress.  He is entering the final year of his rookie contract (4 years, $2,485,652) and the Giants would have to see a lot from Robinson this season to consider bringing him back.

His career got off to a slow start, playing in only three games over his first two seasons. Last year, the 6’4″, 264 lb Robinson played in all 16 games, recording just five receptions for 50 yards and a TD. He was primarily used as a blocking TE and on special teams. Perhaps he is ready for a bigger role in 2015.

But to gain those reps, Robinson must continue to mature as a player. He will have more competition this summer in camp. Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells are still ahead of him on the depth chart and the team signed two undrafted free agents – Matt LaCosse of Illinois and Stony Brook’s Will Tye, who played at Florida State before moving up the coast to Long Island.

This summer will be the last chance for Robinson to make a genius out of Reese. Will he do it?