Monday Morning Notes: Backup QB search; Finley update

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

What you need to know this morning…

The Giants will be auditioning backup QBs this week. Josh Freeman and Matt Flynn are two in particular that the Giants are interested in working out. SNYGiants insider Ralph Vacchiano says the Giants need four QBs to run their OTA drills and Eli Manning (ankle) will likely be unavailable:

“Organized team activity sessions begin on May 28, not long after the 33-year-old Manning is scheduled to resume running, and he won’t likely be fully ready for drills then. According to several sources, the expectation is Manning will either not be ready for, or held back from most of the OTAs this spring and possibly even the full-team mini-camp in mid-June. So there will be a lot of on-field work that he’ll miss….That’s why the team is expected to look at several veterans, such as the 26-year-old Freeman and the 28-year-old Flynn. The Giants do have veteran Curtis Painter and second-year pro Ryan Nassib on the roster, but they’ll need at least one more quarterback to run their spring drills.”

The Giants were said to be interested in former Packers’ TE Jermichael Finley, who is recovering from neck surgery and waiting to be cleared by doctors. His familiarity with new OC Ben McAdoo is the reason many have him dotted-lined to the Giants. But his former Packers OC, Joe Philbin, may want him for the Dolphins.

From Rotoworld:

The Miami Herald reports the Dolphins have “had conversations” with free agent Jermichael Finley (neck surgery).
Joe Philbin spent four seasons as Finley’s offensive coordinator in Green Bay. The Fins “could have interest” in Finley if he receives clearance to resume his career, but “other teams have been more proactive,” per beat writer Barry Jackson. Finley is undergoing X-rays and an MRI on his neck over the next week. Finley previously failed a physical during a March visit to the Seahawks. 


New additions aim to make returns special again

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

One of better stories coming out of QDTC this spring will be the transformation of the Giants’ return game from an uphill struggle to a downhill stampede.

Last season, without a healthy David Wilson, the kickoff return game went from 7th (26.2 YPR) in 2012 to 27th overall (21.2 YPR). Michael Cox led the Giants in returns with 20, his longest going for 56 yards.

Punt returns remained a dormant exercise. The emphasis continued to be on ball security. There were 26 fair catches. Rueben Randle averaged 8.2 yards on 29 returns with a long of 32.

This year, the Giants will seek to capitalize on their revamped units. They are hoping that Wilson, who led the NFL in kickoff return yards in 2012, can make it back this season. If he doesn’t, the Giants have an alternate plan.

GM Jerry Reese signed free agent Quentin Demps, who was third overall in the league in KO return average (30.1 YPR) and Trindon Holliday , who finished fifth in the league wit a 27.7 average. Both players should make returns a more pleasurable watch for Giant fans this fall.

Holliday will likely be the team’s primary punt returner this season. He returned 32 punts for Denver last season for an average of 8.5 YPR, very similar to Randle, but Holliday took one to the house (an 81-yarder vs the Giants) while Randle has yet to break one.

Regardless, the specials have a more exciting look and feel to them as the Giants aim to better their field position this season.

In 2013, the Giants began their drives on the 27.3 yard line, which was 11th worst in the NFL. They haven’t had a punt returned for a TD since Domenik Hixon torched the Cowboys in 2007. It’s about time they invested in their special teams. 

Eli injury has Giants preparing for life without him

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

No matter which version you believe of how Eli Manning (re) injured his ankle, the facts this morning do not change. He’s laid up for the next six weeks – at the least – and possibly beyond.

Yesterday, Dan Graziano reported that Manning was down at Duke doing ‘football stuff’ but was doing basketball stuff as well:

“Eli Manning had ankle surgery Thursday, one day after photos surfaced of him, his brother and some of their teammates on the basketball court at Duke. So if you are wondering whether Manning re-injured his already-sprained ankle playing basketball, you’re not out of line for asking.”

I’m not against guys getting in a little recreational activity here and there. That is, unless they don’t get hurt and jeopardize their livelihood. Eli, by admission, was still feeling the effects of the injury, which he sustained during the Giants’ season finale last Dec 27th.

The Giants had hoped the ankle would heal with rest. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. But suspicions are arising over the ankle’s overall stability and if even the operation will solve the two-time Super Bowl MVP’s problem.

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Giants to work out Josh Freeman, Matt Flynn?

Josh Freeman may work out with the Giants next week (Mike Freeman, April 11). It may happen on Tuesday, according to the report.

The Giants are also interested in Matt Flynn (Vacchiano, April 11). Flynn would know the Giants’ new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo from their time in Green Bay.

The Giants have Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib on the roster to backup Eli Manning, who had ankle surgery on April 10.

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Again, the readiness of Ryan Nassib comes into question. Freeman is a former first rounder (taken 17th overall by the Bucs in ’09) that began his career with several strong seasons.

In 2013, however, he seemed to disconnect from head coach Greg Schiano and the club and played so poorly the Bucs ended up dumping him. He was picked up by the Vikings in October but failed to regain his form after given the opportunity to win the starting job.

The Tom Coughlin Giants seem to have a way with talented players who have run aground. Perhaps Freeman can be salvaged, and in the process solve the Giants’ lack of depth at the quarterback position.

On Flynn….He’s already familiar with McAdoo’s way of doing things, so naturally the Giants would want to take a look at him.

The reason why the back QB search has heated up is the Giants want four working QBs for the OTAs and the summer camps. If by some chance Eli is not 100%, they will need a veteran presence to get the rest of the offense comfortable in McAdoo’s new schemes.

Carl Banks is right: Clowney is no LT

People get carried away this time of year with comparisons.

For instance, the comparison of South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney to former Giant great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.

From PFT:

Former Giants linebacker Carl Banks has heard some people compare his former teammate, Lawrence Taylor, to Jadeveon Clowney. And Banks isn’t impressed by that comparison.

Banks told ESPN that anyone who has been criticized for lacking a great work ethic (like Clowney) should not be compared to Taylor who, for all his off-field faults, went 100 percent on the field.

“L.T. was the guy that would always set the tempo for practice, whether he hated every drill,” Banks said. “He would complain after the fact, but he would give 100 percent. . . . He never took a play off, never wanted to take a play off and resented players who took plays off. He’d talk about you if you wouldn’t finish.”

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

I’m personally surprised that Clowney, after sitting out games by choice to safeguard his future, is still being considered a top-three selection in the draft. The NFL is unforgiving. You need to go 110 pecent on every play. Players – especially one that have never played a snap in this league – cannot expect to get by on talent and natural ability alone.

Clowney is an exceptional talent, no question, but he’s no LT. It’s unfair to compare anyone to No. 56. Taylor, in my book, is like Wayne Gretzky in hockey and Mariano Rivera in baseball: head and shoulders over the competition.  A player you see once in a lifetime. Dominant. Peerless.

I’m sure there are many youngsters who read this site that never saw Taylor play. All I can say is I’m sorry. You missed it. The highlight reels, as impressive as they are, don’t do him justice. He sold out on every play. He lived hard and played harder.

Clowney may end up being great, but he won’t be LT. God made only one of those. 

Friday Morning Notes: Eli should be OK; Giants could trade up in draft

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

What you need to know this morning….

QB Eli Manning underwent a successful procedure (officially being called a “debridement”) on his left ankle yesterday in Charlotte, NC.

The injury occurred during the Giants’ season finale vs the Redskins last Dec 29. With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Manning’s ankle got caught under Washington DL Chris Baker while he was attempting a pass to RB Peyton Hillis. Manning stayed in the game one more play (in which he threw and INT) before realizing he could not continue.

The rehab period for the ankle is set for approximately six weeks, which would take Eli out to May 22. The Giants begin their first leg of OTAs on May 28.

The injury is unrelated to the 2009 bout Eli had with plantar fasciitis, which was in his right foot, by the way.

For those beating the drum for the Giants to throw their hat into the ring for the services of Cleveland Browns’ center Alex Mack….

The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed the transition-tagged Mack to a five-year, $42 million offer sheet. The Browns, who said they would match any offer, are suddenly hedging.

For you math and finance majors out there, the Giants (with less than $4 million in cap space) really have no shot at landing Mack.

The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah suggested this morning that the Giants could be looking to move up in the first round of the draft to take Michigan OT Taylor Lewan:

“There are three premier tackles in this draft – Greg Robinson for Auburn, Jake Matthews from (Texas) A&M and Taylor Lewan from Michigan. I think the third guy could be Lewan. I think that’s when you see a target for a team to move up to secure him. I look at the New York Giants picking at 12, I don’t think they’d have to move very far, but they could secure a tackle that they so desperately need…”

SNY Video: Is Eli’s ankle a concern?

The Daily News Live panel discusses if Elli Manning’s health is a concern for the Giants after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle.


Eli Manning had ankle surgery

7:06 p.m.: Eli Manning had a successful arthroscopic procedure on his left ankle this afternoon, the Giants announced.

The surgery stems from the high ankle sprain Manning suffered in the final game of the 2013 season.

The procedure, a debridement of the ankle, was performed by foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C, the team said.

“I went through the recovery and rehab after suffering the sprain,” Manning said in a release. “I was still experiencing some discomfort as I began my normal offseason preparation, and after consultation, we felt the right thing was to have Dr. Anderson clean out the ankle. The doc tells me I should be running in about six weeks. I’m looking forward to the start of the offseason program on the 21st. I will be in the weight room and in the meeting rooms so we can all learn the new offense. I got some good work in this week at Duke, and I think it’s smart to get this procedure done now so the ankle isn’t an ongoing issue. I’m eager to get to work with our new offensive coaches and system.”

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Manning should be rounding out his rehab approximately a week before the Giants begin their first leg of OTAs on May 28. It may delay, however, his new on-field relationship with new OC Ben McAdoo and QB coach Danny Langsdorf.

The injury, as I have stated in prior posts, was more serious than many had thought. Tom Coughlin said at the NFL Combine in mid-March that Eli was still recovering, which pretty much told you the injury was severe and/or still lingering. Had the injury happened earlier in the season than it did, Eli’s consecutive starting streak (now at 151 games) would have certainly come to an end.

What does this mean to the Giants and their fans? It reveals that Eli is not invincible and the Giants have to be certain they have a viable backup on the roster. Curtis Painter is back (I know, so what?). So is Ryan Nassib, who needs to show massive progress this offseason for the Giants to even consider keeping him. He’s gone from coveted asset to impending bust in a hurry.

Jerrel Jernigan has earned his shot, but will the Giants give it to him?

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

As the Giants’ season wound down last December and injuries began to pile up, Tom Coughlin was relegated to playing the end of his bench. Like a scene out of the film, “Rudy,” little-used, third-year WR Jerrel Jernigan got his chance to play after Victor Cruz was lost for the season.

For three seasons, the Giants carried WR Jerrel Jernigan. Yesterday, he carried them.

For three seasons, the Giants carried WR Jerrel Jernigan. Yesterday, he carried them.

Coughlin did not play the role of a begrudgingly resistant Dan Devine, but rather a coddling father who finally realized it was time to let go.  So far down the depth chart was Jernigan that he was almost a cinch to be bumped off the roster this summer.

Before Cruz injured his knee in the Giants’ Week 15 loss to Seattle, Jernigan’s Giant career was nonexistent: 13 receptions for 112 yards and no touchdowns in 27 games. He was basically used as a kick returner and an afterthought on the offense.

Jernigan made the best of what was probably his last chance to prove that he was worth spending a third-round pick on. He finished the Seattle game with an impressive seven catches for 67 yards to go with 74 more yards on KO returns.

The following week in Detroit, Jernigan caught six more balls for 80 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown. He finished the season in style vs the Redskins with a career-high 90 yards on six catches and another TD. The most memorable play was not a reception, however, but a 49-yard run for a TD to break the game open for the Giants at the end of the 3rd quarter.

The Giants, who had practically written Jernigan off, began scratching their heads. Perhaps CEO John Mara said it all:

“I’m not sure why it took us three years to find out that Jerrel Jernigan can play. We finally put him in the game and he starts making plays…”

Now comes the decision to either promote Jernigan, who projects as a slot receiver in the NFL, although the Giants have lined him up outside. Cruz owns that position as he currently one of the league’s best SRs. Jernigan will revert to being Cruz’ backup and scrambling for playing time in a crowded field.

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Extra week of preseason will actually benefit Giants

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Giant fans are already moaning about the long preseason they are being asked to endure this summer. The addition of a fifth week, the August 3 contest vs. Buffalo in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, extends the preseason beyond tolerance for some.

But, figure this…

Of the 75 players the Giants have listed on their roster, 27 of them have yet to put the uniform on. They will add at least a half dozen draftees and some UDFAs this summer, bringing the total of new faces in camp well into the thirties.

Tom Coughlin said recently that it will be a major challenge to forge a team out of the current core and all the new arrivals.

“You’ve got a big part of our football team that has not been through our routine,” the coach told “The way we do things, the presentation of our values and our principles, what we believe in, how we work, how we practice, how they are to come to work. So we have a lot of basic, fundamental teaching to do. It is definitely a year of transition, no doubt. I think that it must be recognized in terms of the due diligence that’s been done by pro personnel, (assistant general manager) Kevin Abrams and by (general manager) Jerry (Reese).”

It is very possible the new roster could contain more new faces than old in 2014, which would put a load of pressure on the coaching staff, many of whom are new themselves.

“The coaches have done an outstanding job,” Coughlin said. “You talk about a recruiting job, they’ve done a very good job. (Secondary/cornerbacks coach) Peter Giunta has done an outstanding job and (defensive coordinator) Perry (Fewell). But, yes it is, it’s exciting. And you know what, it’s good for us. It’s good for us at this point in time.”

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