NFL Draft: Giants looking at defensive prospects

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Giants scouts have met with several players at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Florida this week. As per Matt Lombardo of NJ.com, the Giants have shown interest in at least two players: Leterrius Walton, a DT from Central Michigan and USC defensive back Josh Shaw. (NJ.com, Jan 16)

It’s no shock that the scouts are paying specific attention to defensive players. The Giants were statistically one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2014.

Walton (6’5″, 300) is seen as an “ascending player” that “nobody sees coming.” according to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com. He is a versatile player that can be used at all positions on the defensive line, including NT in a 3-4 alignment. More from Zierlein:

“Former offensive lineman who has shown improvement with each passing season. Big man who flashes talent to penetrate and can win with explosive get-off. Good athlete for a big, inside player. Quick hands that should become more explosive with work. Will cruise down the line chasing run plays. Discipline in pass rush and maintains lane integrity….high-motor interior lineman who could become a five-technique in a 3-4 defense with more technique work. Walton has the traits to become an above-average player against the run and should be able to play in both odd and even fronts.”

New DC Steve Spagnuolo will likely stay with a four-man front, since the Giants do not have the personnel to right now to switch things up. Players such as Walton could change that, though.

Shaw (6’1″, 200) played both safety and CB in college. He is the kid, who after suffering off-field ankle injuries, told the media he hurt himself trying to save his nephew from drowning. In actually, he jumped from a second-story to avoid the police. The character issues could scare away the Giants, although Zierlein has a quote from an NFL scout giving Shaw a passing character grade. More from Zierlein:

“While Shaw played boundary corner, slot corner and safety at USC, concerns over his athleticism and speed could limit him to zone-cornerback status as a pro. Shaw seems to go along for the ride while on field rather than operate with a voracious appetite to make plays. He’s not physical enough to play in the box, so he will likely have to be a Cover-2 cornerback or free safety as a pro.”

So? The Giants are looking for safeties, too. Even if they re-sign Antrel Rolle, they’ll be seeking his eventual replacement.

Spags looking to redeem career, Giants’ defense in 2015

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The Giants will try to rekindle their championship defensive mojo with the rehiring of Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator. Spags has a Super Bowl ring as the DC of the SB XLII championship club and has been traveling around the country the past six years or so learning new tactics from astute college and pro coaches, as well as taking his lumps as head coach with the Rams and DC of the Saints.

USATSI_7998985_110579513_lowresSpagnuolo is ready to press the reset button on that long odyssey of failures that nearly ruined his reputation, if not his career.

Spags will be afforded a better shot in 2015 that his predecessor, Perry Fewell, was in 2014. He will likely have a better compliment of players to work with when the team assembles this spring.

CBs Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond III (if re-signed) and Trumaine McBride, who all suffered season-ending injuries early on in 2014, figure to be back. So will safety Cooper Taylor and MLB Jon Beason. Also in the fold will be a healthy Robert Ayers and hopefully, Jacquian Williams, who is eligible for free agency.

The Giants are likely to look for defensive help in the draft and in free agency, a directive from CEO John Mara this offseason. The first moves, however, will be to bring back UFAs Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle. Mara said the team will prioritize re-signing those two but would not break the bank to do so.

Spagnuolo will have the advantage of taking over a defense that has several burgeoning stars such as Jon Hankins, Devon Kennard, Nat Berhe and Damontre Moore. He will hopefully expedite their growth and help them all reach their potential. 

To read more of this story, click here

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Giants hire Steve Spagnuolo as DC

The Giants will hire Steve Spagnuolo as their next defensive coordinator, the team announced.

Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator for the Giants in 2007 and 2008 before leaving to take over as head coach of the Rams. Spagnuolo led the Giants defense when they won Super Bowl XLII.

“We spoke to a lot of very good candidates,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “The energy, enthusiasm and strong personality that we saw before in Steve Spagnuolo, all of that was very evident again. His desire to be a Giant again was very, very obvious.”

After three seasons as head coach of the Rams, where the team went 10-38, Spagnuolo was fired in January 2012. Two weeks later he became the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, a position he held for one season in which Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended. He was fired after the Saints team gave up the most yards in NFL history and went 7-9 in the wake of Bountygate.

“I was hoping to take the next step, God willing, and be a coordinator again. I’m ecstatic that it’s with Tom Coughlin,” Spagnuolo said. “Tom is the highest character guy I know. The feeling I have is one of excitement. We’re going to work our butts off, and hopefully we will do great things together.”

Spagnuolo was most recently a coach for the Ravens, where he’s been since 2013 as a senior defensive assistant and later, secondary coach.

The Giants also hired Tim Walton as secondary/cornerbacks coach, replacing Peter Giunta. Walton was the Rams’ defensive coordinator in 2013.

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The low-risk move. Tom Coughlin is going with the devil he knows. Not sure what the difference is between Spagnuolo and Perry Fewell here. Just a different face, a different voice perhaps.

Coughlin told Mike Francesa yesterday that he didn’t see a “philosophical change” coming to the defense.

“It’s certainly, depending on who that person may be, going to allow that that individual be able to reflect on his strengths, his experiences and what he has done well…We know exactly what we’re trying to accomplish there. And within reason it will be the philosophy that we’ve always had here.”

Yes, Spagnuolo had success here with the Giants the first time around, but his track record since he left in 2008 has been one of losing. And losing big. I guess that doesn’t faze the Giants too much.

I would have preferred another candidate, but the field of applicants for this position was not a deep one, so I guess this will have to do. The Giants will likely be in the market for a new head coach in the next two years, so Spagnuolo could be that in-house candidate the Giants turn to when Tom decides he’s through.

Giants say no to Pepper Johnson; Down to Spags and Allen

The Giants have told Pepper Johnson that he will not be the team’s next defensive coordinator (Schwartz, Jan. 15)

The team interviewed Johnson as one of three candidates for the vacant coordinator position.

New York also interviewed Steve Spagnuolo and Dennis Allen, and the job is reportedly down to those two candidates.

Reese on Beckham, offensive line improvements

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Giants GM Jerry Reese said on WFAN radio yesterday that he had Clemson WR Sammy Watkins rated higher than Odell Beckham, Jr. in last April’s NFL Draft. It’s apparent that he had Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans, taken seventh overall by Tampa Bay, ahead of Beckham, too.

“We did not have Odell Beckham Jr. ahead of Sammy Watkins,” Reese said in the interview, transcribed here by Giants.com. 

USATSI_8225428_110579513_lowres“We really liked him,” Reese said on Watkins. “We had him ranked up there really high. I can tell you this, we had him ranked inside our top 10 picks. We liked the big receiver that Tampa Bay took (Mike Evans). We liked him as well. We felt like Watkins would be gone. (Zack) Martin was there, the offensive lineman. He was a guy that we liked as well. We took the best player on our board at the time and that was Beckham. We thought he could be a game-changing type player. He has been that for us. He has a chance to really develop and be a dynamic player for a long time.

“We liked (Martin) as well. We had those guys ranked close together. We would have been happy taking him if he was the best player up there available, but anytime, I am speaking for myself, not just for our personnel department and our organization, anytime there is dynamic playmaker and a guard, I am taking the playmaker.”

Watkins was selected fourth overall by Buffalo, the pick acquired in a trade with Cleveland in which the Bills’ surrendered their 2014 first round selection (9th), and their first and fourth round selections in 2015. Watkins, nor any of the first eleven selections in the draft are going to the Pro Bowl.

Reese was spot on in his judgement. The meat of the draft would start with the 12th pick.That is when the Giants selected Beckham over three other rookies who would also make the Pro Bowl. DT Aaron Donald, OL Zach Martin and LB CJ Mosely were selected 13th, 16th and 17th respectfully. To read more of this story, click here

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Reese: Cruz on pace to come back

Victor Cruz is on pace to come back next season, Giants GM Jerry Reese said on Wednesday.

“As far as doctors are telling me, he is on pace to come back,” Reese said. “But we can’t put all our eggs in that basket.”

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in his right knee on October 12 and had surgery the next day.

Reese said that he likes how a trio of Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr. and Ruben Randle looks as his top wide receivers.

Cruz has said his goal is to be ready for training camp in 2015, and has begun running on a treadmill in his rehab process.