New York Giants: Antrel Rolle
Wouldn't it make the most sense to move pugh inside and get a f/a tackle..then draft picks can be defense.. #nygmail.. - brett vollant (@BLV2180) January 15, 2015@DanGrazianoESPN: I do think it would make sense to move Justin Pugh to guard and find a big-time, mauling, run-blocking right tackle. I have thought that for a couple of years now, and based on the comments the Giants' decision-makers made on the radio earlier this week, it sounds as though they believe it now as well. And your plan -- to find a tackle in free agency and not leave it for the draft -- is likely to be the one they pursue. I believe in the value of building the line through the draft, but at the No. 9 pick it does not appear as though there's going to be a must-take tackle for the Giants this year. There are some interesting tackle names on the free-agent market (Doug Free? Bryan Bulaga? Joe Barksdale?), and it's possible the Giants have their eye on one of them. If they can't upgrade at right tackle, they're fine with Pugh there and could beef up at guard again instead. But it sounds to me as though they'll be in the tackle market, yes. And I think they should be.
@DanGrazianoESPN what are the chances we bring back both JPP and Rolle? #nygmail - Jason De Rozario (@THE_REAL_JayDee) January 14, 2015@DanGrazianoESPN: It's certainly not impossible that the Giants could re-sign free agents Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle, but the chances depend on a number of things. First and foremost is price. If Pierre-Paul is determined to max out as a free agent (which I believe he is), then the Giants would either let him leave or franchise him. If they franchised him, there would be less money for Rolle, who also believes he's worth a lucrative free-agent deal and could leave if they lowball him the way they did Justin Tuck last year. Their best chance for keeping both is that at least one of them gives some sort of "hometown discount." They're not likely to get that from Pierre-Paul. But as a 32-year-old safety, Rolle might not find the market for which he's hoping and could decide staying with the Giants at their price is the best option for finishing his career.
@DanGrazianoESPN Will Cruz's return help or hurt Odell's production and who is the odd man out in the wr rotation? #nygmail - Kerry Loomis (@kerryloomis) January 14, 2015@DanGrazianoESPN: A return to full health for wide receiver Victor Cruz is not guaranteed. But if he does make one then his return to the offense would help Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the offense immensely. I do not think Beckham's role would change at all, and if he continued to play at the level at which he played in 2014, he would continue to pile up targets and catches. But offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo had big plans for Cruz before his season-ending injury last year, and having Cruz back as the slot receiver could make things even easier for Beckham as defenses had someone else who required their attention. Cruz is a guy the Giants feel they can use in a role similar to the one in which the Packers use Randall Cobb -- move him around the formation, line him up in the backfield, etc. And having Beckham as the threat he represents on the outside would enable them to maximize those options. Cruz and Beckham played only one full game together in 2014. As for the "odd man out," good question. Assuming Rueben Randle as the No. 3 (which I think is a fair assumption), they have a fair bit of depth with guys such as Marcus Harris (assuming he comes back from his injury), Corey Washington and Preston Parker and Kevin Ogletree if they bring those guys back. They were surprised by what Parker delivered for them this year, and they view him and Ogletree as good fits for their offense. Wide receiver could be a position of good depth for the Giants if Cruz does return.
@DanGrazianoESPN #nygmail to take next step with new O, do Giants need a better passing threat TE? - Steven Haderer (@stevenhaderer) January 14, 2015@DanGrazianoESPN: I don't think so. If we go back to the Packers comparison (which I think we should always do when talking about the new Giants offense), they really haven't had a high-impact passing-threat tight end recently, right? Jermichael Finley for a time, maybe, but not lately. The Giants (a) don't like to spend big resources on tight end and (b) really like Larry Donnell as a high-ceiling developmental player. They believe that another productive offseason will help Donnell make another leap and emerge as a major threat in their passing game. But even if he doesn't, they showed this year that he can be useful as-is, and as we discussed above, they might have more than enough options at wide receiver.
Thanks for all of your questions.
This is Spagnuolo's supposed bread-and-butter -- a defense built around the idea of the front four getting pressure on the quarterback and allowing him to drop seven into coverage. It's possible that what Tom Coughlin said in Thursday's news release about Spagnuolo evolving as a coach and learning how to defend spread offenses changes the focus, but the pass rush is going to be paramount regardless.
Obviously there is overlap here with the first category, but if we keep this focused on defensive tackle, Johnathan Hankins and 2014 third-rounder Jay Bromley are the only surefire keepers. They could bring back Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Markus Kuhn if they liked, but they can also find upgrades relatively cheaply for any and all of them. They'd save $2.25 million against the cap if they cut Jenkins, and doing that in a continued effort to get younger on the interior of the defensive line isn't out of the question.
Jon Beason's contract doesn't seem sustainable to me. They like him and would bring him back, but his $7.36 million cap number is out of line with his performance (especially given his injury history and the fact that he barely played in 2014). If they really are happy with the way Jameel McClain played in his place, they could cut Beason. Only $900,000 of Beason's 2015 salary is guaranteed, and they'd save about $3.5 million if they released him. Interesting decision looming there. Elsewhere, McClain is reasonable at $1.175 million in salary this year, and second-year man Devon Kennard is a good-looking and versatile piece. Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger are all unrestricted free agents. Williams is a question mark because concussions ended his season, but if he's healthy, they will look to bring him back. Herzlich is a favorite of a lot of people there, a helper on special teams and also likely to be back in a reserve role.
They should look to extend Prince Amukamara's contract now. They exercised his $7 million fifth-year option last offseason, but that doesn't become guaranteed for anything but injury until September. Make it part of the guarantee in a new multiyear deal and they should be good to go into the future with Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as starters. The free-agent question here is Walter Thurmond, who signed a one-year deal last year and went down early with a season-ending injury. He was a big part of their plans as a nickel cornerback, and assuming he's not looking to cash in big, they are likely to try to bring him back.
The only safeties on the roster right now are Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor, neither of whom projects as a starter for 2015. They'll talk to Antrel Rolle about a return, but I have a hunch they'll lowball him -- as they did Justin Tuck last year -- and he'll get more elsewhere. If that's the case, expect this to be a big focus of their offseason resources -- meaning either free-agent money, early-round draft picks or both. Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps are both candidates to return, but only if they're willing to do very team-friendly deals.
Injuries have been a problem here as well, but any way you cut it, potentially losing five defensive backs in free agency is pretty daunting.
The Giants actually have six unrestricted free-agent defensive backs. Matt listed safeties Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps and cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Chykie Brown, but he forgot about cornerback Zack Bowman. Add in the fact cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride are coming off season-ending injuries, and the Giants have a great deal of work to do in an area that was one of their main priorities in free agency just a year ago.
The first issue is what to do with Rolle, a 32-year-old veteran captain who just played every game and earned every dollar of a five-year free-agent contract. They would bring him back, but it will have to be at the right price. And as they did with Justin Tuck a year ago, the Giants could lowball Rolle and send him into the arms of some team with a whole bunch of cap room and a willingness to spend for a big name. If that happens (and maybe even if it doesn't), the Giants may end up playing in the deep end of the free-agent safety pool, making an offer for someone such as New England's Devin McCourty or Buffalo's Da'Norris Searcy in an effort to replace Rolle.
I imagine they'll be able to bring back Stevie Brown on a sensible, low-cost deal. He played a bit better in the second half of this season after his benching, and they stuck with him last year through his ACL rehab. Demps didn't play great, nor did he make a major impact as a kick returner, which was the primary reason they signed him, so I think they'll likely let him go. It's also worth mentioning that some of these decisions could be impacted by the choice of the new defensive coordinator the Giants need to hire.
As for cornerback, they still have Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Amukamara and McBride under contract for 2015, though they have to figure out whether to bring Amukamara back on his one-year, $7 million option or work out a longer-term, lower-cost solution. Jayron Hosley is a good bet to be cut, and my guess is they let restricted free agent Mike Harris walk. The question marks here are Thurmond and Bowman, two guys they signed last year hoping they'd have a bigger impact. Thurmond got injured early and missed nearly the whole season. They like him a lot, but if he shows he's healthy they could have competition for his services.
My guess is they bring back Thurmond to play that nickel corner spot for which they had him earmarked then hope they can stay healthy at corner this year with all of the quality depth pieces they have and focus on safety. But if they start to feel Amukamara and McBride are question marks, or if Thurmond goes somewhere else, the Giants showed last year they won't hesitate to use their offseason resources to make themselves as deep as possible at cornerback. As 2014 showed, you can never have too many of them.
@DanGrazianoESPN: The answer to your question is yes, the New York Giants would be open to that if they fell in love with a defensive coordinator candidate who ran a 3-4 defense. But I do not believe that is their preference, because it would require a pretty intense evaluation and overhaul of their defensive front seven. They'd have to move on from Jason Pierre-Paul, who's a 4-3 defensive end, and go out hunting for pass-rushing outside linebackers, which aren't super-easy to find in high quantities. It's possible they could stand up Damontre Moore and turn him into that kind of player, but they'd need more, and they'd have a bit of a logjam at inside linebacker with Devon Kennard, Jameel McClain and Jon Beason. Up front, they'd have to figure out whether Johnathan Hankins fit better as a 3-4 defensive end or a nose tackle. I suspect he'd be an end, which means they'd need to get a nose tackle. Considering they already have major work to do on the defensive line and in the secondary as is, adjusting the front-seven alignment that significantly is likely too extensive an offseason undertaking for them in 2015. Again, if they found a guy they really loved and he was a 3-4 guy, they obviously wouldn't rule it out. But the sense I get is that they'd prefer their new coordinator to run a 4-3.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I'm assuming you're using the Pro Football Focus rankings, right? They're obviously useful but imperfect, and they're better at rating certain positions than others. I could see Beatty grading out as a top-10 left tackle in 2014, but he clearly was far worse than that in 2013, and the inconsistency is what kind of leaves me cold. Since he's not a big, bruising, physical left tackle, Beatty is dependent on technique to succeed. When his technique slips, he struggles to get it back, as was the case throughout 2013. He led the league in holding penalties in 2014 with eight, and I don't think that's a coincidence, because when I watch him I see a guy who likes to grab too much. I think he can be overpowered, especially by top pass-rushers, and I think left tackle is a position where you want to spend major resources on elite talent if you can. While he was serviceable in 2014, and more good than bad, I don't think he's elite, and if I were the Giants I would be on the lookout for a way to upgrade. Not saying it's easy, just saying I don't agree with the perception that they're as good as they could possibly be at left tackle. And I think it's an important enough position not to cut corners.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Without a doubt. If you're trying to guess who the Giants will take with the No. 9 pick in the draft, Alabama safety Landon Collins is as good a guess as any. The Giants only have two safeties -- Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor -- under contract for 2015. Even if they do bring back Antrel Rolle, they'll obviously be looking to build quality young depth at the position. And with the signing of Rolle and the drafting of Kenny Phillips in the first round, there's a good amount of recent evidence that safety is a position on which the Giants aren't afraid to spend major resources. Especially if they come out of free agency feeling like their pass rush and offensive line are in good shape, Collins will be a popular and potentially accurate projected pick for the Giants at No. 9. Good call.
@DanGrazianoESPN: This is a completely worthwhile question, though it's important to remember that when Ben McAdoo took the offensive coordinator job last year, Coughlin was still only signed through 2014. And while John Mara said it was possible they could break with organizational history and allow Coughlin to enter this season as a lame duck, he said the same last year and they still extended Coughlin through 2015 before the season began. So that could still happen. But even if it did, there's no guarantee Coughlin will be the head coach beyond 2015, and anyone applying for the defensive coordinator job will know that. So yes, it's possible that situation could affect the search or their ability to get the coach they want. These things can be overcome with money and the offer of unprecedented opportunity, of course. There are plenty of quality coaches out there who are dying for a chance to be defensive coordinators and would jump at the offer regardless of the head coach's long-term status. But could it keep a guy like Buffalo's Jim Schwartz or San Francisco's Vic Fangio from making a lateral move if they like their current salaries and situations? Absolutely.
But while that issue looms over the offseason, there are some significant salary-cap questions for the Giants to answer on defense as well. Here are five:
A strong finish got Pierre-Paul to 12.5 sacks on the season and seems to have set him up for a free-agent contract push. His demands on a long-term deal, expected to be more than $12 million per year, could be more than the Giants are willing to pay for a player who was as limited by injury as Pierre-Paul was in 2012 and 2013. But he just turned 26 last week, and it's hard to find too many better 4-3 defensive end options on the market. The Giants do not have a ready replacement if Pierre-Paul leaves and will have to address the pass rush either way. One possibility is to use the franchise player designation on Pierre-Paul, effectively signing him to a one-year contract worth something close to $15 million. That would hurt them against this year's cap, but assuming they found relief elsewhere it would give them a year to assess Pierre-Paul's worthiness of their long-term commitment as well as the development of players such as Damontre Moore and Kerry Wynn as potential replacements.
I believe the answer to this is yes. He's clearly not coming back on his current contract, which includes a $4.775 million salary and a $7.45 million cap number for 2015. He's almost certain to be cut, and the only way I can see him back is on a veteran minimum deal, which I don't even know for sure they'd want to offer him. The Giants can save $4.825 million against their 2015 cap by cutting Kiwanuka.
As a 2011 first-round draft pick Amukamara was subject to the fifth-year option rule established by the new collective bargaining agreement, and the Giants did in fact exercise his 2015 option (expected to be about $7 million) last offseason. But that money is not guaranteed, and the Giants still could cut Amukamara by Sept. 1 if they wanted to. They don't, but his season-ending injury cut short a promising year and likely gives them leverage to negotiate a lower 2015 number on a two-year or three-year deal if they prefer. They do like him and want him back.
Middle linebacker Beason was a centerpiece of last offseason's plan, but he barely played after suffering a springtime toe injury, and he carries a $7.167 million cap number for 2015 and $6.992 million for 2016. This is a contract that will need to be overhauled if they're to fit it, Pierre-Paul and free agent Antrel Rolle into the 2015 and 2016 budgets. Beason says he wants to be back, but the Giants have to reassess his value given his injury history.
5. What about safety?
Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe are the only safeties signed to 2015 contracts for the Giants as of right now. Rolle is a free agent they'd like to have back, but he's 32 and they're not likely to overpay to keep him. This is a position on which the Giants have shown they're willing to spend major resources (i.e., first-round picks and big free-agent dollars), so expect them to carve out some room in the budget to plug their holes at this position, regardless of what happens with Rolle.
Here’s a list of the Giants' unrestricted and restricted free agents:
- Zack Bowman, Cornerback
- James Brewer, Offensive lineman
- Chykie Brown, Cornerback
- Stevie Brown, Safety
- Quintin Demps, Safety
- Daniel Fells, Tight end
- Mark Herzlich, Linebacker
- Henry Hynoski, Fullback
- Jerrel Jernigan, Wide receiver
- John Jerry, Guard
- Chris Ogbonnaya, Running back
- Kevin Ogletree, Wide receiver
- Mike Patterson, Defensive tackle
- Spencer Paysinger, Linebacker
- Jason Pierre-Paul, Defensive end
- Antrel Rolle, Safety
- Adam Snyder, Guard
- Walter Thurmond, Cornerback
- Jacquian Williams, Linebacker
@DanGrazianoESPN: Based on what we heard at the postseason news conferences Tuesday, it sounds as though the Giants have not ruled out using the franchise player designation on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. The price is very high -- likely around $15 million -- but other than that the move makes sense if the Giants want Pierre-Paul back next year but are too worried about committing to him long-term. They have very real reasons to worry about that long-term deal, given the injury issues he had in 2012 and 2013 and the uneven nature of his performance in 2014. Pierre-Paul is looking to cash in with a big deal, and it may be tough for the Giants to compete for his services if they allow him to hit the open market. If Pierre-Paul realizes that his performance to date doesn't merit a top-five pass-rusher deal, it's likely he and the Giants can work something out before they have to make a decision about franchising him. But if he's determined to hit the market and see what he can get, then franchising him may be their best bet for keeping him in 2015. I don't see them using the franchise player designation on Rolle, but I do think they will be able to work out a deal with him.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I expect the secondary to be among the top offseason areas of focus for the Giants this year, along with the offensive and defensive lines. But the second part of your question is key, because they may decide to address the secondary simply by bringing back the guys they had this year and hope they stay healthy. Just because Walter Thurmond tore a pectoral muscle in Week 2 doesn't mean the Giants think any less of his abilities as a nickel cornerback, and the injury might help them bring him back relatively cheaply. They have Prince Amukamara's $7 million option picked up already, but they can negotiate around and get the 2015 cost down if they want to, and Amukamara was having a strong season before his biceps tear. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played hurt all year, and he'll surely be back. If they can keep that threesome healthy in 2015 and address safety, they should have a strong secondary. The law of averages says they can't possibly have as many defensive back injuries next year as they did this year. Right? Right???
Do you expect the focus to be in secondary? Or hope injured players come back in good shape? #nygmail— B.J. Hanley (@thebejota) January 2, 2015
@DanGrazianoESPN: They have to address the pass rush. If they bring back Pierre-Paul, they need to find another piece for the other side to go with Robert Ayers, because Mathis Kiwanuka is unlikely to be back. Kerry Wynn showed promise late in the season, and there's still hope that Damontre Moore can figure some things out and make use of his considerable natural ability. But I would expect the Giants to add at least one veteran pass-rusher, and if they can't bring back Pierre-Paul, more than one. On the offensive line, they'll surely bring back tackles Will Beatty and Justin Pugh, and the expected return of Geoff Schwartz from his injury-wrecked season would solidify one of the guard spots. From there, it's a matter of deciding whether Weston Richburg's future is at guard or center (they thought center when they drafted him last year) and adding a guard or center who's an upgrade over John Jerry or J.D. Walton. From where I sit, there's more work to do on the defensive line than there is on the offensive one, but that doesn't mean they should ignore opportunities to upgrade on the offensive line if they have one. I'm not super-high on Beatty as the answer at left tackle, and if I were the Giants and had the chance to take a potential franchise tackle at No. 9, I'd do it.
@DanGrazianoESPN: The case for keeping Perry Fewell as defensive coordinator is the same as the case for keeping Tom Coughlin as head coach. You do it if you like the way he coaches and can't come up with a clearly better option. There's a comfort level with Fewell, ample explanation (injuries, years of poor drafts) for why the defense struggled this year, and the knowledge (based on experience) that he can win for you if the right circumstances and pieces fall into place. The Giants don't like to fire coaches if they don't have to. They believe in continuity in positions of leadership. And if Coughlin thinks it's a win-or-else year in 2015, why shouldn't he stick with the people he picked and in whom he believes? I don't know what will happen with Fewell, and it's entirely possible that the Giants could announce next week that he's being replaced. But that's not the way the wind was blowing at week's end, and it's not as though they don't have reasons to keep him if that's what they decide to do.
Is there any upside to keeping Fewell? The defense has tanked for two years now. Why should I be hopeful? #nygmail— Steve Fredericks (@stevefredericks) January 2, 2015
Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy the playoff games.
The Giants entered the final week of the season ranked fifth-to-last in total yards allowed. And the final performance against Philadelphia wasn't very impressive, either. But when asked if he would like to see his coaching staff return intact, Coughlin said, "Yes, but I'm not going to say anything more about that or anything else today."
There's still a chance Coughlin could be dismissed, with the Giants missing the playoffs for the third year in a row and finishing 6-10 -- their worst record since Coughlin's first year at the helm, 2004.
But the more likely scenario is saying goodbye to Fewell, although that is far from a given.
Rolle went ever farther in Fewell's defense.
"I have full confidence in Perry, and I know what kind of coach Perry is," Rolle said. "I know when he’s at his best, I know when he’s not at his best. I also know how to work with him -- I’ve been his dog for four years, I’ve been his fill-in guy. I love to work with Perry."
Of course, Rolle may not be here next year, either -- the 32-year-old will be a free agent this offseason. The former All-Pro has been a key contributor on the field and leader in the locker room the past five years, but had a subpar season in 2014.
"I've been through this process once before, and I think you just have to take it in stride," Rolle said. "If this was my last game as a Giant, I'm very appreciative, I wouldn't change anything for the world. I've had a wonderful five years here, and I gave the team every single inch that I had, I gave 'em every single thing that I had."
"I definitely want to stay here," Rolle added. "I feel like we're building something. Although we haven't had the season that we wanted to have, I think we're still building something."
Another key player who may not be back is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who also will be a free agent. Pierre-Paul came on strong late, with nine sacks in the final five games of the season -- capped off by two against the Eagles on Sunday. He finished with 12.5 sacks, by far his highest total since he posted 16.5 in 2011, his second year in the league.
Pierre-Paul is younger than Rolle (he'll turn 26 on New Year's Day), and more important at this stage of their respective careers. But he'll also cost a lot more money. He played well against the run the whole season. The question is, was that the real pass-rushing JPP we saw the final five weeks, or just a flash in the pan?
"I don't know what changed. I am trying to figure it out myself," Pierre-Paul said of the last five games. "I am playing better. I had to step up big time. I wouldn't say I wasn't stepping up the first couple of weeks. Injuries, man. I fought through 'em, I got healthy, and I have been on a roll. That's the game of football, you never know."
Pierre-Paul did miss a little practice time with a shoulder injury this season, but he played in all 16 games. He said in recent weeks that he wants to stay with the Giants, reiterated that Sunday, and sounded cautiously optimistic that the game wasn't his final one with Big Blue.
"I am pretty sure it is probably not," Pierre-Paul said. "Like I said Friday, I don't know what the future holds. But I went out there and played great today, my teammates played great, but we didn't play great enough to win this game."
Pierre-Paul may have been great, but some of his teammates certainly weren't. And now it's time to assess them all.
#nygmail do you get the feeling the front office wants McAdoo to succeed Coughlin as HC once the fountain of youth runs dry?— Steven Klein (@Kleindrive) December 26, 2014
@DanGrazianoESPN: Here's what I believe about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. I think the Giants' decision-makers view him as head coach material and believe he could be their head coach at some point in the future. He is only 37 years old and just now getting to the end of his first season ever as a coordinator at any level, so it's hard to have complete confidence that he could handle the job if they gave it to him right now. But what they've seen from him in his first year has not injured their perception of him or his prospects, so he remains a consideration as a possible replacement for Tom Coughlin at some point in the future when they or Coughlin decide it's time to make a change. However, the Giants understand that putting a "succession plan" in place or having a "coach-in-waiting" in the NFL is a tough business because so much can change in a short period of time. What if the offense tanks next year? What if McAdoo gets a job somewhere else first? And so on. So while McAdoo is on their list of potential Coughlin replacements down the road, he's not alone on that list. I guess since you asked what the front office "wants," it's probably that Coughlin coaches for several more seasons during which the Giants have plenty of success and, if McAdoo's still on the staff when Coughlin's time here ends, maybe he gets the promotion. They do like him a lot.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Early returns on GM Jerry Reese's 2014 draft are pretty good. Obviously, first-round pick Odell Beckham doesn't just look like a future star, he actually is a present star. Second-rounder Weston Richburg will end up starting 15 of the 16 games at left guard, and while he's had his struggles, he has also improved and could be a long-range answer at center if he continues to improve. Fourth-rounder Andre Williams has had a couple of 100-yard rushing games, and fifth-rounder Devon Kennard is a valuable contributor at linebacker who already has an NFC Defensive Player of the Week award on his resume. So you're right to like the contributions the Giants have gotten from their rookies this year, and obviously if those guys continue to play and produce at their current levels, this ends up looking like a good draft -- maybe even the best one Reese has had, though that's not necessarily saying much. The key is, of course, how they continue to play and develop. A year ago, everyone was happy with Justin Pugh following his rookie year at right tackle. But Pugh's struggles this year are an example of why we can't always assume a strong rookie year guarantees long-range success. And you can't assess a draft after only one season.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I believe the Giants and veteran safety Antrel Rolle will be able to find common ground on a contract for Rolle to return. I don't see the market opening up for a 32-year-old safety, regardless of Rolle's impressive durability and his evolution as an on-field and off-field leader. He's the kind of guy who likely has more value to the Giants than he would to another team at this point, so I think their offer will reflect that and he'll end up taking it. Will it be for the three more years he says he wants to play? Hard to say. But my hunch is they can work something out.
As for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the entire thing is going to be market-driven. If there's a hungry free-agent market for Pierre-Paul as a still-young/now-healthy pass-rusher, the Giants could get priced out. Not because they don't have the money or cap room, but because the Giants' method with their own free agents is to assign a value and stick with it or close to it. If Pierre-Paul's price goes beyond what the Giants believe he's worth, I believe he'll take the highest offer and go elsewhere. But with Mathias Kiwanuka likely on his way out and Damontre Moore continuing to struggle with his development and maturity, the Giants need to find an impact pass-rusher on this year's market, whether it's Pierre-Paul or someone else. And it's the kind of position on which they don't mind spending money.
@DanGrazianoESPN how do the giants view Andre Williams going into next year? Seems to still have pass protection and pass catching issues— Yokes (@RyYokes) December 26, 2014
@DanGrazianoESPN: The Giants actually believe Williams has improved in both of those areas as this season has gone along. He spends a ton of time after practice each day catching balls off the JUGS machine, and they trust him more in the passing game than they did in September and October. Assuming continued improvement there, they'll feel good about him in the passing game next year if they need to lean on him there. Where Williams has been a bit of a disappointment is in his actual running of the ball. The Giants would like to see him be more patient and find the holes, rather than running as hard as he can to the hole before it has opened up. Some of that can be helped with improvements on the offensive line, but Williams needs to develop better trust and timing with his blockers in order to have success next year and beyond. As veteran running back Rashad Jennings tells Williams when tutoring him, he needs to be "quick through the hole, as opposed to quick to the hole." Williams is a part of the plans for next year, for sure, but at this point I doubt they view him as a surefire, carry-the-load starter.
Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy the final weekend of the regular season.
"Doesn't anyone want to talk about the game?" a frustrated Giants coach Tom Coughlin asked after several questions about Beckham and the first-half brawl. Seconds later, he ended his postgame news conference early with a sarcastic "Happy Holidays" and stormed out before his "game" questions could be asked -- or before someone could explain to him that when you're 6-9 and were eliminated on Thanksgiving, it's not unreasonable for people to ask about the brawl that saw two of your players get kicked out of the game or the continued maturation and development of your superstar rookie before they ask about the game. Not Coughlin's finest moment.Coughlin
- For his part, Beckham said Coughlin spoke to him about his ball-spinning end zone celebration that drew the flag, and Beckham apologized on behalf of himself and the team for his role in sparking the brawl. But he said he wouldn't apologize for playing with passion or for his teammates' standing up to protect him and one another. Damontre Moore, who along with Preston Parker was ejected for his role in the brawl, said he felt bad he let his team down by getting ejected, but he wouldn't do anything differently if the same circumstances presented themselves.
- The talk was, of course, of rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and his three touchdown catches. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said, "He's the fire of the offense." Safety Antrel Rolle said, "Nothing this guy does amazes me." And fellow rookie Andre Williams said, "Odell is playing at the highest level. I catch the 'wow' moment at the end. I don't see him run his routes or anything. I just see him in the end zone, mostly."
- For Beckham's part, he believes he can do more. He chided himself for a first-half play on which he believed he should have gotten both feet in bounds, and of course for his error on the final punt return of the game. "I apologize to my special teams coach," Beckham said of the muff. "There's no better feeling than seeing your offense run on the field to take a knee at the end of the game."
- Tom Coughlin declined to explain Rueben Randle's latest benching but indicated it was more than just a first-quarter benching like the one in Jacksonville two weeks ago. This time, Randle declined to discuss it as well. My impression was that his entry into the game would have been delayed even longer had Kevin Ogletree not had to leave briefly to be checked for a head injury.
- Coughlin said running back Rashad Jennings re-injured his ankle on the first play of the game. Jennings did not return. He had been hoping to get through this game and be at full strength for next week, but it's unclear whether this latest development changes those plans.
Coughlin didn't like the behavior of Giants safety Antrel Rolle and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie following Rodgers-Cromartie's interception return for a touchdown in Sunday's blowout victory in Tennessee. The play was called back due to a penalty on Damontre Moore, but Rolle also got flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his celebration after Rodgers-Cromartie high-stepped the ball into the end zone.
It's not the first time this season that Rolle, a veteran and a team captain, has been involved in such an incident. After the game, he bristled a bit when asked about it.
"We're not talking about anything negative today," Rolle said after the Giants' first victory in two months. "It is what it is. We got caught up in the moment. A teammate made a play and we celebrate."
Time was, this could have been a big issue between Rolle and Coughlin. But the relationship between the two has deepened over time to the point where the discussion is likely to be civil, brief and professional.
Coughlin also was asked about a sideline incident between punter Steve Weatherford and special teams coach Tom Quinn after Weatherford blasted a 61-yard punt into the end zone for a touchback rather than out of bounds inside the 20. Coughlin said he hadn't seen the incident but would speak to both men about it to find out what happened and whether it's something that's a lingering problem going forward.
"I will be glad to talk to both of them about it, but it will be private, and it will remain that way," Coughlin said. "I'm interested in all things running as smoothly as possible. When competitive spirits are high, sometimes things happen and you don't want them to, and then you have to settle it down and continue as best you can professionally."
Weatherford said after the game that he and Quinn made up two minutes later and were upset about the same thing. Quinn and the other Giants coordinators only speak to the media on Thursdays.
Moore said the issue was a failure to understand the rules. He said he believed he could hit the quarterback after the interception to prevent him from making a tackle. But it's not that cut-and-dried, and there are rules that prohibit a player from leveling said quarterback if he's far from the play.
"That's bad on my part that I didn't know the rule all the way," Moore said. "If I had known the rule all the way, I would have made a smarter play. I should be better aware of all the rules of the game. That's my fault."
Coughlin bought Moore's explanation and said he honestly believed Moore didn't think he'd done anything wrong until he explained it to him.
"We all know I've got penalties before, and he's ripped me a new one," Moore said of Coughlin. "This time, he didn't rip me a new one."
Moore is in his second season in the NFL, but he's still only 22 years old. He has the physical talent to be a disruptive force for the Giants on defense, but Giants coaches have talked openly about his struggles to consistently understand and carry out his assignments. Even after the Giants put two defensive ends on injured reserve last week, they used defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins as a starter at the position Sunday rather than elevate Moore to that spot. They don't believe they can fully trust him yet on running downs, and they cite discipline as a key issue for him as he works to improve.
"I apologized to DRC and to the whole defense. I took points off the board," Moore said. "But I don't apologize for being an aggressive player and trying to make a play. I just needed to know the rule better."
"That's not gonna happen here," Rolle added, when asked if the team could crumble, with players turning on each other or the coaching staff. "That's not what we're about."
The defense has played a little better overall in recent games, but has failed late in the fourth quarter the past two weeks, allowing the Cowboys and Jaguars to come from behind and snatch victories away from them.
The Giants are still ranked fourth-to-last in the NFL in yards allowed per game (385.0). And they'll be even more short-handed against the Titans in Nashville this coming Sunday, with defensive ends Mathias Kiwanuka (knee) and Robert Ayers (pectoral) placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Ayers was the team's best pass-rusher on the season.
Futhermore, linebacker Mark Herzlich (concussion) did not practice Wednesday, and fellow linebackers Jacquian Williams (concussion/shoulder), Jameel McClain (knee), defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf) and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (back/shoulder) were all limited.
Rolle started laughing upon hearing that a whopping 20 Giants players are now on IR.
"It's definitely taken its course on this team," Rolle said. "I don't know the rhyme or reason for it. It's just been a weird year all around. If you had asked me at the beginning of the season if we would have been in this situation, I would have put all my chips on absolutely not."
Rolle himself has had an up-and-down year. He had an interception in three of the team's first six games of the season, but none in the past six games, despite some opportunities. Overall he has a positive grade from the analytic website Pro Football Focus, but received a negative grade for eight consecutive games, prior to last week's loss in Jacksonville.
He's been a very good player in his five years with the Giants, and a leader in the locker room. But he'll also turn 32 next month, and will be a free agent at the end of the season. In an interview on WFAN Tuesday, Rolle said, "I still have a lot in the tank." But it's very possible the Giants will choose to spend their money elsewhere this winter.
For now, though, Rolle is one of the Giants veterans still healthy and competing, and saying the right things, too.
"Obviously this is a disappointing season for everyone, but you have to go out there and keep fighting," Rolle said. "That's all you have at this point. You must keep fighting, you must go out there and try to get a win at all costs."
"Absolutely it's hard," Rolle said, about continuing to fight. "It's hard because your mind can get the best of you. I know it is extremely hard for myself. But like I tell myself, you can't do anything about the past. We did this to ourselves. No one put us in this situation. We put ourselves in this situation."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin was at a loss to explain how his team blew a 21-0 lead by letting the Jaguars score two touchdowns on fumble recoveries in the second half. "This team [Jacksonville] is 0-4 when it loses the turnover battle," Coughlin said. "It's 100 percent. And we turn it over three times? Two for touchdowns? And we get nothing? It just doesn't make any sense. We could have knelt on the ball in the second half and had a better chance to win."Coughlin
- Guard Geoff Schwartz had his injured left ankle in a boot and left the stadium on crutches. He did not sound optimistic about his prospects for playing again soon. Coughlin said Schwartz had tendon damage. ... Coughlin also said he had no information on Robert Ayers' pectoral muscle injury, but that if it's torn, that would end Ayers' season. ... Running back Rashad Jennings said he tried to push off on his injured right ankle and couldn't, which is why he couldn't go back in the game in the fourth quarter, but he's not worried about the injury costing him more time. ... Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said he injured his shoulder early in the game, and that's why he wasn't on the field at the end. ... Rueben Randle said he was benched for the first quarter because he was late for a meeting Friday.
- And in perhaps the most shocking quote of the day, safety Antrel Rolle said, "I'm at a loss for words," though he did continue to talk after that.