New York Giants: Ben mcadoo

If it's Saturday, it's New York Giants Twitter mailbag. And it's Saturday, so here you go.

@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: 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: 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: 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.
It wasn't long ago that New York Giants VP of player evaluation Marc Ross was a hot name on the potential GM circuit. He interviewed with the Jets a couple of years ago before they settled on John Idzik, and he was a candidate for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' GM job last year before the Bucs hired Jason Licht. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, especially after former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi was brought on in Chicago as a consultant, there was some buzz about the Bears possibly calling Ross to talk about their GM opening.

But the Bears never called the Giants to ask permission to interview Ross or anyone else in the front office. In fact, no NFL team has expressed interest in any member of the Giants' front office or coaching staff for any vacant GM or head coach opening this offseason.

How unusual is that? There are only seven teams who haven't had anyone call about any of their people for an NFL head coach or GM opening this offseason:








There's only one playoff team on that list, and combined winning percentage of that group in the 2014 regular season was .366. You can make it a nine-team list, if you'd like, by adding the Packers and Jaguars, whose only requests for interviews have been by the Eagles for their pseudo-GM job. But other than the Packers and Steelers, these are not teams whose company you want to keep on any kind of NFL list right now.

This tells that perception and reputation can be fleeting in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. Ross isn't a worse executive than he was last year or two years ago. It's just that the state of the Giants' program right now is such that teams aren't thinking about them when they're looking for help. They won the Super Bowl three years ago, sure. But they haven't finished above .500 or made the playoffs since.

And while their 2014 draft, headlined by likely Offensive Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Jr., looks as though it could turn out to be a good one, the reason for the Giants' problems the past few years is that they're coming off a long string of terribly unproductive drafts that sapped the roster of depth and quality across the board. Once that starts to sink in around the league, it's not the kind of thing that helps your scouting director get GM interviews.

As for the coaching staff, it would be unfair not to point out that offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo was a red-hot offensive coordinator candidate who even got a head coach interview with the Browns last year before the Giants hired him. But the lack of on-field success in East Rutherford is going to keep NFL teams from looking to the Giants' coaching staff for help when they're making decisions about who should lead them.

It only takes one good year to get back on teams' radar screens. If the Giants turn things around, g0 11-5 and win the NFC East next year, it's entirely possible that Ross and a couple of their coaches and executives start to generate interest again. The lack of interest around the league obviously isn't personal. It's just a reflection of how poorly things are going for the Giants at this particular time in their history.
No final decision yet from the New York Giants on a new defensive coordinator, but it appears as though they've interviewed all of the candidates they plan to interview and hope to have a decision by the end of the week.

In the meantime, they are also closing in on a deal with Tim Walton, the former defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, to join the staff as their defensive backs coach. Walton would replace Peter Giunta, who was fired last week along with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

Once the Giants hire a new defensive coordinator, they will seek his input on the construction of the defensive coaching staff. And that could mean some other defensive assistants would be replaced or shuffled into different roles, as happened on the other side of the ball last year after the Giants hired Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator. But head coach Tom Coughlin has final say on the coaching staff, and Walton appears to be a guy they'll bring on regardless of who they pick for coordinator.

Walton was the Rams' defensive coordinator for one season -- 2013 -- after spending four seasons as the defensive backs coach for the Detroit Lions.

The Giants interviewed their own former defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, for the coordinator position Wednesday. He's viewed by many close to the situation as the front-runner, though at this point they have not informed him that he's their choice. They also are considering former Raiders head coach Dennis Allen and former Giants linebacker and current Buffalo Bills defensive line coach Pepper Johnson.
Mailbag time. You use the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter with your Giants question, I answer on Saturday morning.

@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.

If this were really all about 2015 -- if New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin really were looking at this coming season as a "make-or-break" one for his career -- then Perry Fewell would still be the defensive coordinator.

[+] EnlargeCoughlin
Jim Brown/USA TODAY SportsTom Coughlin is in search of a new defensive coordinator, and that speaks volumes for where the tenured coach is at in his career and with the Giants.
Think about it. If Coughlin really believed he only had one year left as Giants coach, why wouldn't he keep all of the coaches with whom he's comfortable -- the men in whom he believes as fellow leaders? If all he cared about was his own job security -- or his own "legacy," to borrow a word that was being thrown around in East Rutherford last week -- then what would be the point of rebuilding the defense under new leadership. That kind of thing takes time. If Coughlin were being driven by the idea that his time with the Giants was short, big change wouldn't be the way to go.

This is where I think people get it wrong about Coughlin. There's an assumption that everyone acts only out of self-interest, and there's a fair bit of evidence in the world today that the assumption is safe. But I don't think that's the way Coughlin coaches the Giants, and I think the fact he's looking for a new defensive coordinator one year after hiring a new offensive coordinator demands we give him the benefit of the doubt.

Coughlin has coached the Giants for 11 years. He's won two Super Bowls as their coach. He is a significant part of the franchise's history, and as such he is invested in its long-term success. Whether he's the coach for one more year or two more years or five more years or eight more years, Coughlin is bound by his sense of professional duty to do what's best for the Giants -- not for himself.

From the outside, Coughlin's job security didn't look super-solid going into 2014. Yet he still brought in a new and untested coordinator in Ben McAdoo, knowing it would take time to get the offense running as well as it could. A man who thinks his time is short doesn't operate that way. But it was the best thing for the Giants to do at that point in their franchise history, and so that was the move Coughlin made.

Likewise, this month's search for a new defensive coordinator is likely to be wide open. Sure, they could talk to former coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and decide he's the best man for the job. And if they hire him, obviously you could make the argument Coughlin is defaulting to a situation that makes him comfortable. But if he really were doing that, he'd have kept Fewell in the job and gone into his "make-or-break" season with the staff in which he believed so strongly just a few months ago.

I think it's important, when analyzing Coughlin in general and this coordinator-hunt specifically, to consider the kind of person Coughlin is, what he's meant to the Giants and what the Giants mean to him. I think it's fair to trust him to hire the coordinator who's the best bet for the organization in the long run, regardless of what it means to his own immediate future. He cares about winning and about his legacy, yes. He admitted as much last week. But he's been with the Giants long enough that he cares what happens to them after he's gone. And I think you'll see that show up in this process.
According to our man Adam Schefter, the New York Giants have requested permission to interview Raheem Morris, currently the defensive backs coach in Washington, for their vacant defensive coordinator position.

Obviously, this doesn't mean Morris is getting the job, or that he's the only one who will interview, or that he's the only one they've even asked for permission to interview. He's just the first name we've heard. I expect the Giants to cast a relatively wide net and take some time with their search for Perry Fewell's replacement. If they want to interview coaches on the staffs of teams still in the playoffs (such as Baltimore's Steve Spagnuolo), they have to wait until those teams are done playing.

However, since Morris' name is out there and the Giants are talking to him, it's worth at least taking a brief look at him and his credentials.

Morris is 38 years old and has been in his current job for three years. Prior to that, he spent three years as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- a job he got at the preposterously young age of 32 and for which he almost certainly was not ready. He has never been an NFL defensive coordinator, having been promoted to head coach directly from defensive backs coach in Tampa, but he did spend one year (2006) as a college defensive coordinator at Kansas State.

Morris is known as a high-energy coach who is well liked by players, though some have suggested that the knock on him is that he sometimes gets too close to them. He had a strong influence on the defense under former coordinator Jim Haslett in Washington, though the way that defense has performed in recent years, that's not necessarily a feather in his cap. While 2014 fourth-round pick Bashaud Breeland developed quickly and showed promise this year as a starting cornerback, 2013 second-rounder David Amerson has failed to progress and develop under Morris' tutelage.

Now, the failings of the Washington defense have a lot to do with personnel and can't all be laid at the feet of one assistant coach, but it's not as though Morris has presided over dominant defensive units during his time in the NFL.

He is still quite young, though, and the fact that he has three years of NFL head coaching experience is certainly a plus. And it's worth noting that the Giants also fired defensive backs coach Peter Giunta on Wednesday. Since Morris' background is as a defensive backs coach, it's not out of the question that they could consider him for that job if they picked someone else for coordinator. Washington is looking for a new defensive coordinator as well (to this point, Morris is not among the candidates), and once they hire one, it's likely the rest of the defensive staff will be allowed to go elsewhere even on lateral moves.

Conclusion: Morris is a young coach with a strong reputation and a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. Giants coach Tom Coughlin used the word "invigoration" in announcing Wednesday's coaching moves, and Morris is certainly someone who would bring that. The question is whether he has a vision and scheme on which the Giants can build a defense for the long term, and the fact that he's never done this job at the NFL level makes that question difficult to answer. Of course, Ben McAdoo had never been an offensive coordinator before the Giants hired him for that job last year. Long way to go in this process, but Morris is definitely an interesting candidate.
There's nothing wrong with Steve Spagnuolo as a defensive coordinator candidate for the New York Giants. They know him. They like him. Tom Coughlin is comfortable with him, and he'd excite a good portion of the fan base with memories of the 2007 season and Super Bowl XLII.

I just don't think that's the way the Giants should go.

[+] EnlargeDennis Allen
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesSteve Spagnuolo may well be primed for a return, but the Giants owe it to their defense to consider fresh ideas from potential coordinator candidates such as Dennis Allen (above).
The Giants have an opening at defensive coordinator following Wednesday's firing of Perry Fewell. And as they look to fill it, they need to be thinking about the future rather than the past. The team's news release announcing the firings of Fewell and defensive backs coach Peter Giunta said that the Giants had "initiated a restructuring of their defensive coaching staff," and if that's the case, then there's no reason not to make it an extensive or even complete restructuring.

This time last year, after longtime offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride left, many assumed the Giants would turn to former assistant Mike Sullivan as their new offensive coordinator due to his familiarity with the team and the offense. Instead, they hired the unproven Ben McAdoo to install a completely new and different offense, and his first season as a coordinator left them encouraged for the future.

Bringing back Spagnuolo for defense would be the Sullivan-type move. Again, nothing necessarily wrong with that. But I think they should be trying for the defensive equivalent of the McAdoo move.

Throw the whole thing open. Look at everybody you can think of and find the guy you think is the best coach. If he happens to run a 3-4 defense instead of the 4-3 the Giants have run for the last two decades, so be it. The Giants likely are looking at big personnel changes in the front seven this offseason anyway, so it's not as though they would have to force a bunch of entrenched 4-3 guys into a 3-4.

The point is that this shouldn't be a 2015-focused hire but a hire that's focused on the next five or 10 years. The Giants aren't just coming off one or two bad years and looking for a patch job. They're in a big-time hole that they have dug with years of bad drafts and resulting personnel deficiencies. It's a bad place to be, but it's also one that offers them the opportunity to decide and shape what they want to be, going forward, in the long term.

They realized this a year ago when they went out looking for a new offensive coordinator, and they need to take the same approach at defensive coordinator this year. Find someone with fresh ideas. Find someone you believe in as a coach and a leader -- someone you believe your players will follow even if they've just met him. Find someone you think can someday be a candidate to be your head coach, which is what they believe they have in McAdoo. Decide what you want to be as a defense going forward and give the new coordinator the power to establish and teach it.

That could mean someone like Pepper Johnson, the former Giants linebacker who's been an apprentice coach for the past 15 years. It could mean someone like Al Holcomb, a former Giants assistant who's currently coaching the Carolina Panthers' linebackers. It could mean someone like Dennis Allen, who at 42 is still a bright young defensive mind even if he didn't have success as a very young head coach in Oakland the past three years.

And in the end, it could be Spagnuolo. The Giants could survey all of their candidates and still decide that Spagnuolo is the best coach for the job -- that his ideas are still forward-thinking and that he's still eventual head coach material even though that job didn't go well for him in St. Louis. It's a perfectly legitimate conclusion for them to reach. But before they reach it, I think they need to start the process by throwing it wide open and thinking ahead, not back.
The New York Giants on Wednesday announced that former Giants assistant coach and Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan will return to their coaching staff as quarterbacks coach.

Sullivan replaces Danny Langsdorf, who left the team Tuesday after only one season to become offensive coordinator at the University of Nebraska.

Sullivan was the Giants' quarterbacks coach in 2010 and 2011 before leaving to join Greg Schiano's coaching staff with Tampa Bay. He interviewed for the Giants' then-vacant offensive coordinator position last January, but the team decided to hire Ben McAdoo for that position instead. Now, Sullivan, who has a good working relationship with Giants quarterback Eli Manning, will be one of McAdoo's assistant coaches.

Sullivan first worked for Tom Coughlin in 2002, when Coughlin was head coach in Jacksonville and hired him as a defensive assistant. That was Coughlin's last season in Jacksonville, but he hired Sullivan as wide receivers coach when he took the job as head coach of the Giants in 2004. Sullivan served in that position through 2009.

“Mike worked very well with Eli when he was the quarterbacks coach,” Coughlin said in a Giants news release. “We all wished him well when he went off to be an offensive coordinator, but we were sorry to see him go.”

“I have a great working relationship with Coach Sullivan,” Manning said in the same release. “It will be good to have him back on the staff and back in the quarterback room. When he was here, we did a great job getting the game plan together and communicating. We did good work in the offseason, so it will be good to have him back and get back to work.”

Manning had a strong year under Langsdorf, posting career highs in completion percentage, completions and attempts and reaching the 30-touchdown mark for the second time in his career. He also posted his second-highest single-season passing yardage total and threw only 14 interceptions after throwing 27 the year before.

Coughlin made it clear Tuesday that he would have preferred for Langsdorf to stay more than one year. But with Langsdorf gone, Sullivan makes sense for the Giants in this position if their goal is to keep Manning as comfortable as possible and build on his strong 2014 season.

New York Giants season report card

December, 31, 2014
video » AFC: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

The 2014 New York Giants had two three-game win streaks. Their quarterback cut his interception total nearly in half from last year. And they might well have the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year.

But what the Giants didn't have was enough success -- not nearly enough. After going 7-9 last year and overhauling the offense, the Giants went 6-10 in 2014 and missed the playoffs for the fifth time in the past six years.

Yes, they had a ton of injuries -- 22 players on injured reserve, more than any other team in the league. And yes, they did have their moments on offense. But they couldn't hang with the good teams in the league and really were never a factor in the playoff race after the midway point of the season.

At the end of it, another disappointing year for a team that always says it wants to win the Super Bowl but, most years, can't even get itself into the postseason.

Team MVP: Odell Beckham Jr. To win a team MVP award after missing all of training camp and the first four games of the season with a hamstring injury takes some doing. But the Giants' rookie wide receiver was unquestionably their best player once he was on the field, and the numbers he put up in his three-quarters of a season ranked among those of the best players in the NFL. He finished the season with 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 12 games. The Giants are excited as they look ahead to the possibility of a full 2015 season with Beckham and Victor Cruz both healthy at wide receiver.

Best moment: Beckham's twisting, one-handed touchdown catch in the Week 12 loss to the Cowboys might have been the No. 1 individual highlight of the entire NFL season. The catch made Beckham an instant sensation, landed him a dinner in New York City with LeBron James and shined a light on the best thing the Giants had going for them in the midst of a seven-game losing streak and overall dismal season. Those who had been watching Beckham in practice every day, in pregame warmups and in non-prime-time games were of course dazzled to see his best work live and in a difficult game situation, but the excitement over Beckham that has followed is fully justified based on the way he played before and after "The Catch."

Worst moment: When Cruz went up to try to catch a short pass in the end zone in Week 6 in Philadelphia and tore his patellar tendon before he hit the ground, it was as sickening and disappointing a moment as any the Giants had all year. Seeing Cruz, in tears, taken off the field on a cart with a team trainer holding his knee in place was tough to watch, and obviously the impact on the Giants' offense the rest of the way was significant. If they ever had a chance to make anything of this season, losing Cruz just as they were getting Beckham into the lineup took it right away from them.

2015 outlook: Hard to say for sure until we see what happens in free agency. But assuming they add a piece or two on the offensive line and address the pass rush, either by re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul or finding a high-end solution on the market, there is reason to hope next year will be better than the past two were. They obviously demonstrated progress and growth in Ben McAdoo's offense as the year went along. Quarterback Eli Manning had a fine season and -- apart from one five-interception mess against the 49ers -- did a better job of protecting the ball and making smart decisions than he has in years past. The array of weapons around Manning heading into 2015 gives reason for optimism.
Mailbag time. You use the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter with your Giants question, I answer on Saturday morning.

@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: 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.

QB snapshot: Eli Manning

December, 23, 2014
A quick observation of quarterback Eli Manning and the way he played in the New York Giants' 37-27 victory in St. Louis on Sunday:

If this season has been about showing progress in the new offense, then based on Sunday Manning surely is trending in the right direction. This was his best game of the season -- 25-for-32 for 391 yards and three touchdowns.

Yes, he targeted Odell Beckham Jr. 12 times and no one else more than six, but in spite of that the target distribution was more even than it had been. Rueben Randle went over 100 yards and caught a touchdown, each for just the second time this season. Manning was, as Tom Coughlin put it, "as focused and as zoomed in on what he was looking for in this game as any game we have seen this year." He checked in and out of run plays like a surgeon and threw the ball with complete confidence.

This was an excellent game for Manning to put on tape with the offseason and a second year in Ben McAdoo's offense around the corner.

What Ben McAdoo has learned in his 'rookie' year

December, 19, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We've talked a lot about the development of the New York Giants' young players, and you know every case is different. Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. is a comet; third-year receiver Rueben Randle continues to frustrate. Second-year defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is having a dominant season, while second-year end Damontre Moore continues to make slow progress in understanding his responsibilities in the defense.

Lost in this, on occasion, is the fact that Giants offense coordinator Ben McAdoo is himself a rookie. Prior to this year, the 37-year-old McAdoo had never been a coordinator at any level and had never been an in-game playcaller. He's been both for the Giants this year. On Thursday, I asked him what he's learned this season and how he's different as a coach than he was a year ago.

"You don't fall into the trap where you think the system is everything," McAdoo said. "In tough times, you think about players, not plays. That's the first thing that comes to mind."

McAdoo said expanded exposure to a variety of viewpoints has helped educate him about his new job as he's done it. Having been a position coach (tight ends and quarterbacks) during his time in Green Bay, he's now in a position to hear a variety of opinions and perspectives as a coordinator overseeing several different position coaches. And the on-the-job lessons about in-game play calling have helped as well, as there's no better teacher than experience.

But I found it interesting, especially as we watch the offense run through the red-hot Beckham every week instead of a run game that has faltered, that McAdoo's first answer to the question of what he's learned is that there are times when you have to rely on your personnel rather than your plan or your scheme. Understanding that is the mark of a good coach, I believe.

"Simply, the best play may not be the best play because it doesn't get the person the ball who gives you the best chance to win the game," McAdoo said. "Getting the ball to the right guy at the right time is critical."

McAdoo stands as an interesting figure for the Giants in the coming years as a young, developing offensive coordinator the team views as a potential head coach. It should be fun and interesting to track and analyze his development along with that of the players.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have had the Odell Beckham Jr. pass play in the playbook for a while now.

"I don't want to say the Atlanta game, which was his first game," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said Thursday. "But we had it in there pretty early. He's a talented young man, and the more you can do in this league."

The play on which the Giants' rookie wide receiver threw a 60-yard deep pass toward Rueben Randle in the end zone (incomplete) against the Titans on Sunday doesn't require Beckham to throw the ball. It gives him the option to do so. And when Beckham took the pitch and ran out right, he saw a defender crashing toward him and decided it was worth a shot.

"He draws a lot of attention once he puts his hands on the ball," McAdoo said.

Beckham said after the game, seriously, that he should have looked for his second option on that play, as Preston Parker was wide open. But McAdoo said he doesn't expect his wide receivers to necessarily work their way through their progressions the way quarterbacks do when they drop back to pass, especially when they're being pursued by defenders.

Unfortunately for the Giants, the play didn't work this time, and therefore won't be a surprise to the next team against whom they try it. But McAdoo said that won't stop them from using it again.

"Anytime you use a 'deceptive,' you'd sure like to hit it," McAdoo said. "But with that being said, they're like screens. Any time you call one it helps you, because it slows down the pursuit."

It was pointed out to McAdoo that the play didn't seem like a Tom Coughlin-style play, as the Giants' head coach is generally thought to lean toward the conservative side. But McAdoo made it clear that Coughlin was well aware of that play's presence in the playbook and the chance that the Giants might use it in a game.

"You don't ever want to make a call like that without the head coach being involved," McAdoo said.
No, I don't know who's getting fired. No one does. But I'm happy to take your New York Giants questions if you used the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week, and then we'll get into all of that other stuff three-four weeks from now, mkay? Cool.

@DanGrazianoESPN: It's just such a major move, right? It's one thing for Washington to bench Robert Griffin III, who's had one decent NFL season and ticked off two different head coaches in two years, or for Cleveland to ponder benching a career backup like Brian Hoyer for first-round pick Johnny Manziel. But this is Eli Manning, two-time Super Bowl MVP we're talking about here. A guy who literally has never missed a game since becoming the starter in 2004. If you sit him down just to take a look at 2013 fourth-round pick Ryan Nassib, you're making a clear and unequivocal announcement to your team, Manning and the world at large that you no longer have faith in him to be your quarterback. And I just don't think the Giants are at that point with Manning. Or with Nassib, for that matter. If Nassib was blowing them away in practice and looking like he absolutely had to get a shot to start an NFL game, that might be a different story. But he's not, and after a year and three quarters as an NFL backup they got in the fourth round, there's no reason to expect that he would be. People get so locked in on the games, because that's all we get to see, that they forget the coaches are watching these guys work and throw and operate the offense four, five, six days a week. They don't have to find out what they have with Nassib. They know what they have with Nassib, and with what they have with Manning, and right now Manning gives them the best chance to win games. Their offseason evaluations may differ from what they're doing now, especially if different people are making the decisions. But as of now, they're trying to win as many of their final four games as they can, and Manning is their best quarterback option by far. He's also far from their biggest problem right now.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I think that's one of several good possibilities in terms of what happens with Tom Coughlin after this season. They hired Ben McAdoo to be their offensive coordinator last year in part because they saw him as potential head coach material down the road. It's not as though they hired him to be Coughlin's successor, but they saw in him the leadership qualities they like in a coach, and they believed he could develop into a potential head coach candidate. If, after his first year as a coordinator and playcaller, they still feel that way, and they don't want to move on from Coughlin, then it makes a lot of sense to give the Coughlin-McAdoo partnership at least another year in which they can continue to develop and evaluate McAdoo. I honestly don't know how to handicap what's going to happen, because I honestly don't believe any decisions have been made. Coughlin could get fired, could decide to walk away, could come back next year. But your scenario is definitely not far-fetched, and might make a lot of sense.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I think the Giants' biggest problems are on the lines -- offensive and defensive -- and if I were picking No. 7 (which is the pick they currently hold) and I were them, I would take the best available offensive lineman or pass-rusher on the board at that point. I don't think they can go wrong either way. Even if they re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul, the pass-rush is still going to need an infusion of potential building-block players. Can't have too many pass-rushers, as a wise man once said. And even after they took Justin Pugh in the first round last year, took Weston Richburg in the second round this year and signed three free-agent linemen who've started games for them this season, it remains clear that the line still needs a lot of work and an infusion of top-tier talent as opposed to bargain solutions. All you have to do is look at what's gone on in Dallas this year to see the value of using first-round picks on offensive linemen. The Giants need to think big in the draft. As in, big, big players.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I don't think even Eli would think that.

@DanGrazianoESPN: We'll know more in a few hours. Running back Rashad Jennings tested out his injured right ankle by doing some running Friday after missing Wednesday's and Thursday's practices, and the team was encouraged enough to list him as questionable for Sunday's game instead of ruling him out. So they'll try him out again this morning and decide, based on how his ankle responds to Friday's work, whether to take him on the trip to Nashville. If he does make the flight, that doesn't mean for certain that he'll play. (Justin Pugh traveled to Jacksonville last week and was still inactive for the game.) But it's possible they'll decide to leave him home, in which case you'll have your answer for sure this afternoon.

Thanks for all of the questions, and enjoy the college games.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings missed a second straight day of practice Thursday with a sprained ankle, and the team appears to be preparing to play Sunday's game in Tennessee without him.

Rookie Andre Williams has been taking the first-team reps, as he did during the four games Jennings missed earlier this season with a knee injury. And recently signed running back Orleans Darkwa has worked his way into the mix as the top option behind Williams. It's possible Darkwa could play on passing downs if Jennings is out, as catching the ball is among his strengths (and not among Williams' strengths).

"He's been here a little while; he's smart, he's conscientious and we trust him," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said of Darkwa. "He has a little different flavor back there for us."

Asked to expand on what that meant, McAdoo started, then caught himself.

"He is a shiftier type of guy, and we like his..." McAdoo said, then paused. "Stay tuned. We'll leave it at that."

OK, then.

Jennings said Wednesday he was hoping to practice Friday, and that's still possible, though he'd have to show a lot in practice Friday in order for the team to play him Sunday. And even then, they might not be able to use him as much as they'd like to use him.

As for other Giants injury news...
  • Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who might have to play some defensive end because of the season-ending Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka injuries, was a limited practice participant for the second day in a row and could return Sunday from his calf injury.
  • Linebacker Jacquian Williams had a recurrence of concussion symptoms following Wednesday's practice, so he was held out of practice Thursday. Expect him to miss a fourth straight game.
  • Linebacker Mark Herzlich and offensive lineman James Brewer missed practice again because of their own concussion symptoms.
  • Linebacker Jameel McClain was a limited participant due to his knee injury, and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was limited with back and shoulder issues.
  • Tackle Justin Pugh was a full participant and should return to the starting lineup at right tackle after missing the past two games with a quadriceps injury.