New York Giants: Greg Jones

Notebook: Brown shines in preseason finale

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
12:34
AM ET


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Andre Brown knows what the next two days are going to be like.

After being cut seven times during his career, he knows the next 48 hours will be nerve-wracking. The Giants will trim their roster down to 53 on Friday and Brown feels he made a good final impression by rushing for a team-high 55 yards on 14 carries and adding two catches for 22 yards in the Giants' 6-3 win over New England.

"[Coach Tom] Coughlin said I ran the ball pretty well," Brown said. "I picked up all pass protection pretty solid there. Went out on special teams, didn't make a tackle but I felt that I did everything I was supposed to do, kept everybody off the punter and ran out there on kickoff and tried to make a tackle and leave the rest to God.

[+] EnlargeAndre Brown
AP Photo/Kathy WillensAndre Brown gained more than half of the Giants' 101 rushing yards on Wednesday night.
"I know we are very deep at the running back position," Brown continued. "I just feel like I can contribute to this team and I finally grew up in this offense and am confident in my ability to go out here and do what I am capable of doing."

On the first series of the third quarter, Brown gave a dormant Giants offense much-needed life. He ran the ball nine times for 52 of the Giants' 64 yards and caught a pass for nine yards. He ran hard and had gains of 8, 16 and 9 yards on the drive which resulted in a Lawrence Tynes' field goal to tie the game at 3-3.

"I was tired," Brown said. "I didn't have that many carries since like junior year in college. I am very proud of that drive."

The one glaring negative of Brown's night was a fumble inside the Giants' 10-yard line in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, Bear Pascoe recovered it at the one-yard-line.

"I had one bad play and that was the fumble," he said. "I saw that hole outside and I was like, 'Oh my goodness, this could be it, the big run they were looking for.'"

Brown hopes his effort was good enough to erase the fumble and keep him on the roster. The Giants have D.J. Ware, Brown and Da'Rel Scott behind Ahmad Bradshaw and first-round pick David Wilson.

"Since I have been in the league, I have been cut, what, seven times?" Brown said. "This is not a very good feeling. I finally felt that I understand the offense where I can go out there and be comfortable and be a great running back that I know I am.

"It is not a good feeling [waiting]. The next few days is going to be very worrisome. All I am going to do is continue to pray and let God lead the way."

Mr. Jones: Another Giant who may have a anxious next couple of days is Greg Jones.

The second-year player is part of a crowded linebackers unit which has Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Boley, Keith Rivers, Chase Blackburn, Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger, Jones and Jake Muasau.

Jones collected a sack on Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Jones said his only other sack as a Giant came against Hoyer, a fellow Michigan State product, last preseason.

"Just showing a little Spartan love, tough love," said Jones, who recovered a blocked punt last weekend against Chicago. "I feel like I laid everything on the line and gave it my heart and everything I could do."

Paysinger had six combined tackles despite briefly leaving at the end of the first quarter after having his ankle rolled. He said he is fine. Herzlich had an active night, recording four tackles, including stuffing Brandon Bolden on a third-and-3 at the Giants' 3-yard-line in the second quarter.

Marcus in the middle: Defensive tackle Marcus Thomas made his first big play as a Giant when he recovered a fumble by Hoyer after preseason sensation Adewale Ojomo strip-sacked Hoyer.

Thomas scooped the fumble up at the Patriots' 32-yard-line and ran 12 yards before fumbling the ball and recovering it at the Patriots' 17 with 2:27 left in the game. That helped set up the Giants' go-ahead field goal with 1:07 remaining.

"The end zone kept getting further and further away the more steps I took," Thomas said, laughing. "I feel like I could have done a lot better [overall] but sometimes plays just don't go your way. In this particular instance, it did at the end."

Thomas has a good chance of sticking on the roster since Chris Canty is on the PUP list for at least the first six games, Shaun Rogers is out indefinitely due to a blood clot and Marvin Austin has been sidelined by a back injury.

"I don't know, man," Thomas said when asked if he felt he had done enough to remain a Giant. "I have seen a lot of things in my career. I am going to watch film and take it from there."

Practice 411: Prince watches practice

August, 6, 2012
8/06/12
6:16
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- On the same day the Giants got positive news about Terrell Thomas, cornerback Prince Amukamara had to sit out practice because of a hamstring issue.

Head coach Tom Coughlin didn't sound too concerned and called it a "little bit" of a hamstring injury. LB Michael Boley (hamstring) returned to practice. But LB Jacquian Williams, LB Jake Muasau and LT Will Beatty also did not practice. DT Dwayne Hendricks appeared to suffer an injury to his knee -- Coughlin said there was initial concern about his MCL -- but was up on the sideline moving around afterward.

Coughlin said the news regarding Beatty is positive, but the left tackle "does have some sciatic nerve issues and they are trying to eliminate that." The team is being very cautious with Beatty.

Here are some observations from Monday's practice:

• The Giants were able to put Chase Blackburn and Boley back with the first-team linebackers. CB Michael Coe took Amukamara's spot at cornerback. S Will Hill continued to see action as the third safety, sometimes lining up with the linebackers.

• On the play that Hendricks went down on, there were several collisions at the line of scrimmage, including MLB Mark Herzlich running into RB Da'Rel Scott to stuff a run.

• The Giants have tried a few tight end screens to Martellus Bennett. I like this look a lot, as long as it doesn't take too much time to develop. Bennett followed a convoy of blockers until he was pushed out of bounds by Keith Rivers. As he trotted back past reporters on the sidelines, 'The Black Unicorn' said, "Now y'all can write about the speed." I love this guy.

• WR Dan DePalma made some more nice catches, but he's been opening eyes with his blocking as well. He delivered a great block on that tight end screen to Bennett. The more he can do, the better, because David Douglas continues to make impressive catches as well.

Douglas had a leaping grab over the middle, and another nice catch in the corner of the end zone on Janzen Jackson. Coughlin has been impressed. Douglas' cause will be aided by his ability to excel on special teams.

Still, watching DePalma and Douglas make nice catches in camp has been fun to watch.

• LB Greg Jones, who has been moving back and forth between outside and middle linebacker with Muasau out, has been physical in practice. He ran smack into RB David Wilson twice on would-be tackles.

• Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell also continues to tinker with lineups and personnel. We again saw the jumbo package of DTs Linval Joseph, Shaun Rogers and Rocky Bernard inside with two defensive ends on the outside. The Giants utilized this in clear run-stopping situations.

• On punt returns, Jerrel Jernigan had a nice one that could have been a touchdown -- always hard to see when in non-tackling snaps -- to the delight of fans. Jayron Hosley also displayed speed on one return as well.

Practice 411: Hill and Douglas active

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
7:04
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- It was a lively practice as the Giants took to the field in full pads.

There were even a couple of skirmishes on the field and some hits even though it was a non-tackling practice.

Here's the Thursday practice report:

• LB Michael Boley and LB Jake Muasau joined PUP list players WR Hakeem Nicks, LB Clint Sintim, TE Travis Beckum and DT Chris Canty on the sideline. CB Jayron Hosley and S Chris Horton had to be taken off the field due to cramps/dehydration issues according to head coach Tom Coughlin.

• One of the first things we noticed at practice was safety Will Hill lining up where Deon Grant used to be as the third safety lined up with the linebackers. Hill was active and all over the field, getting physical and colliding with a few players, including rookie David Wilson.

Hill has impressed the coaching staff and will continue to get a shot with Tyler Sash suspended for four games to start the season. Hill looks athletic and fast.

"Will Hill is practicing well," Coughlin said. "I think he got himself into a good weight for a safety in the spring and then lost some weight in Florida training. So you see a real quick, well-conditioned athlete right now. So he has definitely had a couple of days where he has stood out and he has stood out on teams too."

• WR David Douglas has also caught the eye of Coughlin and now the fans. He made the catch of camp so far when he hauled in a one-handed 40-yard catch while falling down on Janzen Jackson, who had good coverage. Douglas is athletic, has size (6-1), the Cowboys had interest in him before he signed with the Giants and has shown terrific hands.

• Linebacker Greg Jones got some reps at middle linebacker with Muasau out and moved between MLB and OLB. He was very active as well, running so hard at times that he ran into ball carriers and heard from Coughlin about it after he wrapped up Wilson. So when he went to chase down Ahmad Bradshaw and ran into him, he quickly stuck his arms up in the air the way Kevin Garnett does after contact in the paint to show he hasn't done anything wrong. Coughlin praised Jones for his first week of practice.

• CB Prince Amukamara got work with the first team again as did OLB Spencer Paysinger, who has gotten valuable reps with the first team with Boley hurt.

Jacquian Williams has added 20 pounds in the offseason and has tried to be more physical in practices. He came in hard and got physical with Bear Pascoe on a pass rush. He definitely has tried to let people know he plans on being more physical this season.

• First small camp skirmish: Brandon Collins and Brandon Bing got into a tussle. The battle of the Brandons ended with Collins' helmet flying off.

• Before Horton left practice, he showed some nice speed coming in on a blitz and got by Adrien Robinson into the backfield. Another safety who hasn't been mentioned much is Jojo Nicolas, who made a nice breakup on a deep pass early in practice.

• LB Mark Herzlich nearly picked off a pass that went off his hands before later colliding and knocking down Andre Brown on a would-be tackle.

• CB Justin Tryon continued to show how scrappy he is, battling the much taller Ramses Barden and knocking down a pass. Barden did make a nice twisting catch on a pass that was behind him earlier in practice.

• Manning found soft spots in the defense twice on passes to tight ends Bear Pascoe and Martellus Bennett.

• Hosley had an interception off David Carr before he left practice. But Carr later made a nice play, taking a flea flicker from Da'Rel Scott and hitting a wide open Dan DePalma behind the defense.

Rueben Randle came down with a nice leaping grab over Bruce Johnson. Both guys had their hands on the ball but Randle came up with it.

Domenik Hixon made a terrific catch, grabbing a high ball over Amukamara from Manning in a two-minute drill to put the offense near the end zone. He came down hard but got up.

• The practice ended with Mathias Kiwanuka and Bennett locked in a tussle before needing to be separated.

Day 4: Steppin' to the A.M.

July, 30, 2012
7/30/12
10:57
AM ET
ALBANY, N.Y. -- The weather is dry today and the forecast is for upper 70s to low 80s when the Giants are on the field for practice starting at 1:30 p.m.

We get to talk to the offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell so we'll have state of the offense and defense blogs up later today.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Mark Herzlich wanted to come into camp stronger and leaner in an attempt to secure a roster spot and win the middle linebacker job. So he went caveman -- at least eating-wise.

Hakeem Nicks said his rehab is going well and that he is still on schedule to return in mid-August.

Tom Coughlin likes what he has seen from linebacker Greg Jones so far. Here's yesterday's practice report and how some receivers impressed as well.

Also, here's Dan Graziano's take on the Giants and all that he gathered from his two-day visit here in Albany. Lot's of good stuff here from my man Graz. Check it out.
ALBANY, N.Y. –- Tom Coughlin liked what he saw in the Giants’ third practice of camp.

It was hot and the sun came out and some wide receivers and linebackers showed that this team has depth. Here are some highlights from Day Three’s practice:

The backup wide receivers caught a lot of balls today. Isaiah Stanback caught several passes and really the only negative part of his day was one drop.

Fellow backup David Douglas also showed sure hands and caught several passes, including a touchdown in the back of the end zone on Brandon Bing.

Stanback spent some time on the practice squad last year. Dan DePalma, another practice squad receiver from last year, also had a few catches over the middle. Douglas, an undrafted rookie, is athletic and has some nice hands. Playing special teams and blocking will be key for the backup receivers.

Jerrel Jernigan continued to flash his speed and elusive ability with a few catches. He looks more sure of himself and more comfortable with the offense. That’s natural after having an offseason of training and coaching. Last year, the lockout prevented him from learning as much as he could.

Rueben Randle continued to look sure-handed across the middle. He has good body control when doing the intermediate routes. The second-round pick, though, did not finish practice as he took off his jersey and watched. Coughlin said the rookie got fatigued.

• With Michael Boley and Keith Rivers sitting due to hamstring injuries, the Giants shuffled some linebackers around.

Spencer Paysinger worked with the first team at outside linebacker in Boley’s place, presumably so the Giants can see what Paysinger can do. They already know what Jacquian Williams is capable of. Williams is ahead of Paysinger on the depth chart at OLB.

On the second team, Greg Jones moved up and played OLB and he was all over the field. He drew some praise from defensive coordinator Perry Fewell for covering a tight end well on a checkdown pass to a running back and Jones also blew up a short pass attempt to DePalma. On another play he showed good closing speed as he chased David Carr out of bounds from the middle of the field.

“He has practiced well for a couple of days ever since camp has opened,” Coughlin said. “He runs well and appears to be around the ball. He can play inside and play outside.”

Jones has been used pretty much at OLB. The Giants also used Mark Herzlich at OLB with the third team. Herzlich still is the second-string MLB but they also had him do outside work to show his versatility with third team due to the lack of bodies.

• Safety Tyler Sash made a nice diving interception on an errant pass by David Carr. Cornerback Corey Webster also deflected a deep pass down the right sideline for Victor Cruz to himself for an interception.

Antrel Rolle then shouted, “Salsa that!”

Ahmad Bradshaw said he is feeling great and he certainly looked like it on one run on the left side where he showed good burst through the line for a long run.

David Wilson highlight of the day: The rookie stopped and came to a complete halt while also bending backward to make safety Stevie Brown miss him. To be fair to Brown, the play was likely over as Wilson kept running after likely being tackled already in the non-contact drill. And Brown probably started to slow down and hold back. Still, Wilson continues to show flashes of how sudden his cuts and stops can be.

• Tight end Martellus Bennett made a few plays, including catching a high and hard ball in traffic for a touchdown from Eli Manning in red zone drills. Bennett showed his size and hands there.

• Defensive end Justin Tuck had a nice practice, blowing up a running play in the backfield and batting down a screen pass later. Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers used his big body to stuff another run play.

• Giants will go to a contact practice on Monday. That should give us a better idea of where the running game is at.

Camp preview: Special teams

July, 22, 2012
7/22/12
2:31
PM ET
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the defending champions, position by position.

Position: Special teams.

Projected starters: K Lawrence Tynes, P Steve Weatherford and LS Zak DeOssie.

New faces: WR Rueben Randle, CB Jayron Hosley and RB David Wilson.

Going, going, gone: PR Aaron Ross, KR Devin Thomas and PR Will Blackmon.

Player to watch: Weatherford. He turned a position of weakness back into a strength for Tom Coughlin with his outstanding punting last season. Weatherford averaged 45.7 yards per punt with a net average of 39.2 with 25 punts landing inside the 20-yard-line. He also was terrific in the postseason, landing a total of five punts inside the 20 against San Francisco and New England.

The Giants gave Weatherford their franchise tag before re-signing the punter to a five-year deal worth a reported $12.75 million according to the Newark Star-Ledger. That’s a lot of coin for a punter but Weatherford is eager to show that he is worth it.

Potential strength: Weatherford’s punting is just one reason why the Giants’ special teams improved last season. The other major reason was the coverage units. With Jerry Reese infusing the coverage team with youth and athleticism with several draft picks like Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich, Greg Jones and Tyler Sash, the Giants did not allow a single punt or kickoff return for a touchdown.

Considering that those rookies are now second-year players, the Giants coverage units could actually be better this season with more experience. Also, as the season progressed, the Giants utilized some of their defensive ends like Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck on the front line to try and block punts or field goals and it paid off with JPP blocking Dallas’ potential overtime-forcing field goal in December.

Potential weakness: The punt return game was abysmal last season, providing no spark. The kickoff return game was slightly better but the Giants longest return of the season was for 40 yards but Thomas. Both Ross and Thomas left in free agency.

The Giants drafted Randle and Hosley knowing that the two have experience returning punts. Wilson has experience returning kickoffs as well. Randle, Hosley, Jerrel Jernigan and Domenik Hixon are in the mix at punt returner. They also give Victor Cruz reps in practice on punt returns as well. And on kickoffs, Da’Rel Scott, Jernigan, D.J. Ware, Hixon and perhaps Wilson could be the starter this season.

Wild card: Hixon. He is attempting to come back from a second torn ACL in as many years and the Giants likely will be cautious with Hixon, who is competing to become the third wide receiver spot. If the Giants don’t think Jernigan, Randle or Hosley is the answer at punt returner, they could look to Hixon. Hixon has scored a touchdown on a punt return and kickoff return during his Giants’ tenure. But if the Giants don’t want to risk Hixon, they may hope that Jernigan emerges as the primary returner since he shined on special teams while in college.

Tell us what you think of the special teams below.

Camp preview: Linebackers

July, 17, 2012
7/17/12
9:00
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As training camp approaches, we’re starting a countdown to camp by taking a look at the defending champions position-by-position.

Position: Linebackers.

Projected starters: OLB Michael Boley, MLB Chase Blackburn, OLB Mathias Kiwanuka.

Projected reserves: OLB Keith Rivers, OLB Jacquian Williams, MLB Mark Herzlich, MLB Greg Jones, OLB Spencer Paysinger.

New faces: Rivers, MLB Jake Muasau.

Going, going, gone: None.

Player to watch: Rivers. The Giants acquired Rivers for a fifth-round pick hoping that the former ninth-overall pick can stay injury-free and show his talent with a fresh start. Rivers enters camp behind Boley, Kiwanuka and Blackburn but could eventually emerge as a starter. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said he plans to see how versatile Rivers is and could try him at MLB for some snaps in practice during camp. Rivers is still learning the defense but the Giants hope Rivers gives them another athletic, quick and versatile linebacker capable of playing the run and pass.

Potential strength: The linebacker unit is deep and more versatile than in recent years. It should be one of the most competitive positions in camp as players like veteran Clint Sintim, who is making his way back from a second serious knee injury in as many years, will fight for a roster spot. Fewell has more options at linebacker and says he feels more comfortable with playing three linebackers on the field –- as opposed to three safeties -- than he has in the past two seasons. Boley and Blackburn have become extensions of Fewell and can direct the defense on the field, helping improve the defense's communication which also was problematic at times last season. Kiwanuka is more comfortable with his linebacker/pass rusher hybrid role. Williams impressed during his rookie season and showed he can cover and be an asset on passing downs. The Giants hope Rivers will realize his potential and become a difference maker. Herzlich and Jones provide depth at middle linebacker and can help stop the run when called upon. Fewell has also tried Jones at outside linebacker in OTAs and minicamp as well. Those two and Paysinger are contributors on special teams.

Potential weakness: The Giants had trouble against the run last season and stopping the run will be a point of emphasis again this season. For the past two seasons, Fewell has often employed three safeties on the field. With Deon Grant unsigned and plenty of options at linebacker, Fewell says he is comfortable using three linebackers more often but it remains to be seen how much he will employ three linebackers on the field. Fewell could use Kiwanuka, Boley and Blackburn on running downs. He could also throw Rivers or Herzlich out there to combat the run. Rivers might be able to join Boley and Williams on passing situations. Fewell will try to figure out the right combination in training camp. The linebackers should and likely need to play a much more pivotal role in the defensive scheme than in the past two seasons.

Wild card: Kiwanuka. Jerry Reese likes to refer to Kiwanuka as a “joker” who can play multiple positions. He has improved in his pass coverage and can rush the quarterback from the linebacker position or defensive end. Kiwanuka is more comfortable in his hybrid role and could be used more as a rusher this season with the departure of Dave Tollefson. His versatility can make the Giants defense even harder for opposing offenses to deal with.

Spotlight: Linebackers

June, 19, 2012
6/19/12
3:50
PM ET

Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
Now that minicamp is over, we're going to take a look at a Giants player or specific unit or issue each day this week. Tomorrow we'll explore Perry Fewell's options for replacing defensive end Dave Tollefson.

SPOTLIGHT: The Giants linebackers.

THE 411: Ever since Antonio Pierce's injury and subsequent retirement, linebacker has been considered somewhat of a weakness. Fans have clamored for the team to draft or sign a high-profile linebacker. But the Giants put a higher premium on their pass rush and have often gotten by with two linebackers and three safeties in the past two seasons.

This year, the Giants' linebackers unit is deep and it may be the most competitive position in camp this summer. The addition of Keith Rivers could give the Giants another playmaker at the position and there are several second-year players itching to prove what they can do with a full offseason of coaching and training.

Mathias Kiwanuka is getting more comfortable in his hybrid linebacker/pass rusher role and Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn understand exactly what Fewell wants on the field.

With Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich, Greg Jones and Spencer Paysinger all benefiting from a season of experience and now a full offseason of training, the Giants have several young linebackers they are excited about. There will not be enough snaps to go around on defense but several of the young linebackers will continue to play important roles on special teams.

THE COMPETITION: During minicamp, the Giants started Boley, Blackburn and Kiwanuka in their base defense. The second team consisted of Rivers, Herzlich and Williams for the most part. The third team was Jones, rookie free agent Jake Muasau in the middle and Paysinger. Clint Sintim has been rehabbing from a second consecutive season-ending knee injury and has been doing running on the side during OTAs and minicamp. Adrian Tracy is listed as a linebacker but the team has been utilizing Tracy as a defensive end.

Fewell has declared Blackburn as his starting MLB entering training camp. But the defensive coordinator left the door open for the competition. He says he will experiment with Rivers at MLB a bit to see what the former ninth-overall pick of the 2008 draft can do. If Rivers shines in camp, he would appear to be the most likely guy who could replace Blackburn in the starting trio of linebackers because of his versatility.

The team likes Herzlich, and Fewell mentioned second-year 'backer's good play in practice this offseason. Jones was supposed to compete with Herzlich at MLB but Fewell moved him to strongside with the third team during minicamp. Fewell says he wants to see how versatile Jones is while testing Muasau at MLB. Fewell gushed about Muasau coming out of rookie camp and sees some promise in the Georgia State product.

WHAT THE COACHES ARE SAYING: Fewell is excited about the potential of his linebackers and says he feels comfortable enough to use three linebackers more this season after relying heavily on the three-safety package of Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips and Deon Grant over the past two years.

"Our linebacking corps a year ago was young and inexperienced," Fewell said. "They were talented but it was an area of concern [last year] because there was no OTAs, no mandatory minicamp. With a year under their belt, with some playing experience, they look bigger, they look stronger, they look faster, they are more knowledgeable. I think we are a better linebacking unit than at the end of the 2011 season."

"I think we have depth and there is real competition for different roles in our linebacker unit," Fewell added. "I am going to have to do a good job of evaluating those guys when we get to training camp and make sure we put them in the proper positions for success."

CAMP PREDICTION: Blackburn enters camp as the starting MLB and my guess is he will start the season opener because Fewell trusts Blackburn, who is an extension of him on the field. Fewell likes Rivers' potential and Rivers' role could grow as the season moves on. The Giants, though, could go with Boley, Blackburn and Kiwanuka on obvious running downs.

During passing situations, Kiwanuka could move to pass rusher and the Giants then will bring in Williams, who impressed last year with his speed and coverage ability, to pair with Boley. With Grant still unsigned, Fewell could utilize Rivers to go with Boley and Williams and have three quick linebackers out there on passing situations or go with two linebackers and an extra defensive back like safety Steve Brown.

The competition among the rest of the linebackers will be stiff, and the Giants will have some tough decisions to make when it comes down to final cuts. Herzlich also contributes on special teams. Jones was a staple on special teams but the team's decision to try him at outside linebacker on the third team and use rookie free agent Muasau as the third-team MLB was a bit curious. Jones started the season opener last year at MLB after Jonathan Goff went down with a knee injury. But he naturally struggled after spending the entire training camp as the third-string MLB and having just a handful of practices as the starter. Fewell has said Jones will still get snaps in practices at MLB in camp.

Jones and Paysinger will have to continue to contribute on special teams. The coaching staff likes Muasau, who could land on the practice squad if he doesn't make the final roster. The Giants should take it slow with Sintim in camp after his latest setback.

We'll have to see how many linebackers the Giants opt to keep. Will they carry nine linebackers or more? By the end of last season, the Giants had eight linebackers on the active roster if you include long snapper Zak DeOssie.

Tell us what you think of the Giants' linebackers and how you want to see Fewell use them below.

Rivers eager to show he's a steal

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
1:03
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Much of the attention surrounding the New York Giants’ offseason moves centered around losing Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs.

Keith Rivers, though, hopes that people will be talking about his addition to the Giants' defense by the end of this season.

The Giants didn’t make any huge offseason moves but they hope they upgraded at linebacker by adding Rivers, the former top-10 pick out of USC in 2008. The Giants traded a fifth-round pick to the Bengals for the oft-injured Rivers and if the linebacker lives up to his draft pedigree, the Giants will have landed a steal.

“Uh yeah, I was the ninth pick in the draft,” Rivers said when asked about playing to his potential. “[Play] anywhere near that and that [trade] is beyond a steal. It’s armed robbery.”

The Giants like Rivers’ potential, which has been slowed by injuries. He missed all of last season with a wrist injury that required surgery. He has been hindered in the past by a broken jaw, a calf injury and plantar fasciitis as well.

Now he is ready to prove what he can do when healthy.

“For me it is more about proving to myself I am who I was and nothing has changed,” Rivers said. “I want to prove to myself, ‘hey, I have been hurt, I want to come back.’ And whenever you get hurt, there is always a little bit of, ‘will I come back the same way?’”

Besides rebounding from injuries, Rivers also has to learn a new defensive scheme. The Giants currently have Rivers working with the second team behind Chase Blackburn, Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka. Perry Fewell said he wants to see what Rivers can do and is tinkering with the idea of using Rivers some at middle linebacker in practices as well.

“He’s still a work in progress from a mental standpoint,” the defensive coordinator said late last month. “But he is an athletic guy. He can move, he can flip his hip. I want to push it quicker. He’s playing the WILL linebacker for us. At some point in time, he’ll play some MIKE linebacker for us.”

“It’s how much can he digest and how much he can execute for us at this point in time,” Fewell added. “At some point in time, we’re going to move him around a little bit more.”

Rivers had 77 and 72 tackles in 2010 and 2009 respectively. The Giants think Rivers, 26, still has plenty left in him.

After using three safeties for much of the last two seasons, Fewell now has a deep unit of linebackers to utilize and he could play three linebackers much more this season.

After the starting trio of Blackburn, Boley and Kiwanuka, Fewell has Rivers, Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich, Greg Jones, Spencer Paysinger and undrafted rookie free agent Jake Muasau among those at linebacker.

“We have a ton of linebackers and everybody can play,” Rivers said. “It is thick trees out there so you definitely got to cut through it if you want to get onto the field.”

Rivers played some middle linebacker in high school and a little in college. Otherwise, he mostly has been an outside linebacker. Thus far the Giants have used him as an outside linebacker for the majority of time.

Fewell said he has to remind himself not to throw too much at Rivers.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Fewell said about Rivers’ pedigree and potential. “I want him to have a little flexibility, saying, ‘I’ve learned this and I have to put it all together when I get to training camp.’ [But] I have to think about how to approach that and how to do that so I don’t shatter his confidence.”

Rivers, though, is motivated to not only prove what he can do but to also hold up his end of the bargain for the defending world champs.

“It is a situation when you have been hurt, you always want to show people what they have been missing,” he said. “So you are excited to get out there and prove a lot of things to myself.”

Fewell looking at all MLB options

May, 12, 2012
5/12/12
1:33
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Perry Fewell is in the process of figuring out how many linebackers he will play and who will be in his main middle linebacker this season.

Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn, Greg Jones and Mark Herzlich all are in the mix at middle linebacker. Fewell said typically he is looking for a two-down middle linebacker and then perhaps another middle linebacker to play on third downs or passing downs. Boley was the team's middle linebacker on passing situations.

As for who could be that two-down middle linebacker on first and second downs, Fewell pointed first to Blackburn.

"Chase goes back to that role," Fewell said. "Or Herzlich will have an opportunity to compete for that role. Greg Jones will have an opportunity to compete for that role. And Keith Rivers, we are giving him an opportunity to compete for that role also. So there's going to be competition."

The addition of Rivers, another athletic outside linebacker, gives Fewell more flexibility and options. But the defensive coordinator says he is looking for somebody to take control and step up as his middle linebacker.

"That is going to be an area of emphasis for us this year," Fewell said. "I sense that we are going to put it up for grabs. Whoever can take the bull by the horns and lead us will have the opportunity to step up and play."

GM Jerry Reese mentioned Boley as a candidate for the middle earlier in the offseason. Fewell said Boley can do it, but wondered if it was best for Boley and the team.

"Is that his best position?" Fewell asked. "I don’t think that is his best position in the long run, but he has the ability to do that."

Fewell is looking for a middle linebacker to take control in the classroom and become a leader. In the meantime, he and his coaching staff will have to figure out how to utilize their linebackers. He also has his wildcard linebacker/defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka in the arsenal as well.

"A lot of these teams are one-back spread teams and they throw the ball all over the place," Fewell said. "We talk in terms of being a two-down MIKE and then having a third-down middle linebacker. But what is a two-down MIKE? So we might have to redefine that a little bit as we continue to evaluate what offenses are doing in the National Football League."

Fewell could potentially play more lineups with three traditional linebackers and fewer three-safety packages. But the defensive coordinator likes his three-safety looks and said he wants to keep that in his defensive arsenal, even with Deon Grant remaining an unsigned free agent.

"We have talked about that," Fewell said when asked if he could potentially use fewer than three safeties with the addition of Rivers. "We are just going to wait and see. Obviously we like that particular package and we don't want to lose that particular package. That is valuable for us."

"But with the addition of the linebackers that we have, we can be a little bit more creative," he added. "We just have to figure out who goes where, who can learn the best and we will take it from there."

Notebook: 2011 class ready to play more

April, 20, 2012
4/20/12
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The Giants are hoping several members of their 2011 draft class are ready to step up into some bigger roles this season.

Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan is in the mix to compete for the vacant third receiver spot. Running back Da’Rel Scott has a shot at the backup spot behind Ahmad Bradshaw. Tackle James Brewer is considered a candidate to compete for the right tackle position.

Cornerback Prince Amukamara and defensive tackle Marvin Austin will see more playing time this season. Safety Tyler Sash could be the third safety this year and linebackers Greg Jones and Mark Herzlich, an undrafted rookie from last season, hope to compete for more playing time as well.

Each of last year’s rookies feel they will be better off this season with the advantage of going through an entire offseason of training with the team and exposure to the coaching staff and playbook after being unable to do just that last year due to the lockout.

“For me, it set me back a lot I think coming in and learning the playbook and being thrown in there,” Jernigan said. “This year, I am looking forward to learning more of the playbook and keep progressing.”

Scott says he is ready for a bigger role this season and ready to earn the trust of the coaching staff.

“One-hundred percent,” Scott answered when asked if he can shoulder a bigger load. “Just having that rookie year under my belt and these offseason workouts, I feel like I can prepare as much as I can for this upcoming season. I have all the access right now so I can’t make any excuses. I want to make sure I can take the load if they call my number.”

SNAPPY MOVE: The Giants continue to solidify their special teams. They signed long snapper Zak DeOssie to a three-year contract extension, a move first pointed out by BigBlueInteractive.com. According to the NFL Players Association records, DeOssie will earn a base salary of $700,000 this season.

ACL BROTHERS: Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard are both trying to make it back from torn ACL injuries suffered in the Super Bowl.

“We’re ACL buddies,” Beckum said. “But we got a ring out of it. A torn ACL and a ring, you couldn’t ask for more from the aspect of the ring.”

Beckum, though, is ahead of Ballard in his recovery and is hopeful of a possible return for the season opener.

“My knee feels great, have minimum swelling,” said Beckum, who has barely a hint of a scar on his right knee from the surgery. “You got to try to think positively about the situation. Obviously I would love to be back by the first game. If I am not, PUP, I don’t necessarily look at it as a bad thing. It is more time to make sure my knee is 100 percent.”

“To hear the fact that you can possibly be back by Week one when everybody is doubting you is very crucial.”

Ballard underwent microfracture surgery and repaired his torn ACL in February and he may not return until the middle of the season or later.

“My best chance would be midseason, if at all,” Ballard said. “A lot of people have ACL’s and miss a year. I’m trying to get better. I’m still a young player. Have the [microfracture] surgery to help build some of that cartilage back and make my knee more solid than it would have been without it.”

Reese discusses Giants' MLB situation

March, 26, 2012
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Jerry Reese says there is still work to do and that the Giants aren't done in free agency.

The Giants are waiting to see how the free agency market shakes out and what becomes available. One player they could be waiting on is their free agent middle linebacker Jon Goff. Tom Coughlin has said that Goff is a part of his plan for the upcoming season. Goff recently visited with Cleveland and is seeing what else he can get on the market.

During an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio, Reese was asked who would play middle linebacker if the Giants had to play tomorrow.

"If we had to play tomorrow the MIKE backer, I’m not sure because we have some interesting candidates for that job," Reese said. "We have some young players that we think can step in and do the job."

Reese then mentioned Mark Herzlich and Greg Jones as two players the Giants are high on. Jones was a sixth-round pick last year and was rushed into the starting lineup in the season opener after Goff went down. Herzlich started two games later in the season before suffering an ankle injury.

"Obviously Herzlich is a guy we like and we like Greg Jones," Reese said. "Those two kids played a lot for us last year until Mark got hurt… [Michael] Boley… we have linebackers. We do.”

It's one of your favorite topics so tell us what you think the Giants should do in the middle below.

Report card analysis: Special teams

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
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I recently gave my report card for the Giants 2011 season position-by-position. But because there was only so much space to discuss each position, I wanted to go more in-depth on each position and spin it forward to next season.

Today we look at the special teams. Tomorrow: Coaching.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Grade: B+


A huge weakness from the season before became a strength at times. The Giants drastically improved their punting game thanks to the signing of Steve Weatherford. Weatherford’s punting was exceptional at times and he basically was almost as consistent and even clutch at what he did as Eli Manning was at quarterback.

They coverage on punts and kickoffs drastically improved as well thanks to an infusion of young athletes. Rookies Tyler Sash, Mark Herzlich, Greg Jones, Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger were among several young players who helped turn around a weakness from the season before.

Lawrence Tynes made 19-of-24 field goals and sent the Giants to the Super Bowl with a game-winning overtime field goal in San Francisco. He also had 34 touchbacks on kickoffs in the regular season.

The special teams, maligned in 2010 for allowing DeSean Jackson to break the Giants’ backs, had moments that saved and made the 2011 season. Jason Pierre-Paul provided a season-saving field goal block in Dallas.

And Devin Thomas’ two fumble recoveries on punts during the NFC Championship Game and Williams’ strip in overtime on a punt helped send the Giants to the Super Bowl. Heck, the Giants even tried blocking punts by using defensive ends like Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck to rush. And the Giants came close on several occasions.

The Giants’ weakness is the kickoff and punt return game, which basically provided little to nothing all season.

Looking ahead, Weatherford is an unrestricted free agent and an offseason priority. Thomas, Domenik Hixon, Michael Clayton, Aaron Ross and Will Blackmon are among other special teams contributors who are unrestricted free agents.

The Giants could try to address their return game from within with last year’s third-round pick Jerrel Jernigan, who did return some kickoffs. And the Giants likely will re-sign Hixon, who will be coming off his second torn ACL.

The Giants could draft a speedy returner to help upgrade the return game as well.

Tell us what you think the Giants should do on special teams and how you would have graded the unit.

Report card analysis: Linebackers

February, 27, 2012
2/27/12
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I recently gave my report card for the Giants 2011 season position-by-position. But because there was only so much space to discuss each position, I wanted to go more in-depth on each position and spin it forward to next season.

Today we look at the linebackers. Tomorrow: Secondary.

LINEBACKERS
Grade: B

During last year’s draft, fans wanted the Giants to draft a linebacker in the first round. When they didn’t, fans wanted Jerry Reese to sign a linebacker in free agency. And when Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim went down with torn ACLs in the preseason, the calls for adding a linebacker grew to a deafening pitch.

But in the end, the Giants only added Chase Blackburn to the mix late in the season and were able to win a Super Bowl with the linebackers on the roster.

Michael Boley emerged as one of the most valuable pieces on Perry Fewell’s defense. He relayed calls into the huddle and was the Giants’ only every-down linebacker. When he missed two games due to injury, the defense struggled badly.

Mathias Kiwanuka grew more comfortable with his hybrid linebacker/defensive end role and speedy rookie Jacquian Williams showed promise. The Giants might not have won the Super Bowl without the late addition of Blackburn, who made the big interception on Tom Brady while covering Rob Gronkowski.

While the Giants could draft another linebacker, they seem pretty upbeat about the potential about the linebackers from last year’s rookie crop. Head coach Tom Coughlin mentioned the young linebackers when asked about which young players he is looking forward to seeing emerge this season.

Williams, Greg Jones, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger saw plenty of special teams action and will receive a full offseason of coaching and training this year after having the lockout shorten their on-the-job training last year.

Goff and Blackburn are unrestricted free agents. Reese and Coughlin have said that they will try to bring Goff, who is still recovering from ACL surgery last year, back. But the Giants could use another veteran linebacker since they won’t know how Goff and Sintim will be returning from knee surgery. Also, depending on what happens with Osi Umenyiora's contract, the Giants may need Kiwanuka to play more defensive end. That remains to be seen.

Perry Fewell played three safeties -– Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips and Deon Grant –- often to help cover at linebacker. Fewell still might do this next season even with Grant becoming an unrestricted free agent. Tyler Sash is waiting in the wings and could become the team’s third safety. And if Fewell wants to play three safeties again, he’ll go with two linebackers again as well.

What do you guys think the Giants should do at linebacker? Tell us below.

Greg Jones wins a ring and gives a ring

February, 6, 2012
2/06/12
1:07
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John Korpics/ESPN
Greg Jones proposes to his girlfriend, Mandy Piechowski, right after the Giants won the Super Bowl.
INDIANAPOLIS –- Linebacker Greg Jones did more than just celebrate the New York Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI win over the New England Patriots on Sunday night.

Shortly after the Giants beat the Patriots, 21-17, Jones proposed to his girlfriend, Mandy Piechowski, on the confetti-covered Lucas Oil Stadium field as the celebration was under way.

Click here to view a photo gallery of the proposal.

An emotionally overwhelmed Piechowski said yes.

“She was bawling,” Jones said Monday morning before hopping on the team bus to head to the airport. “Just everything we have been through together ... she has been there since day one.”

Jones, a rookie drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan State, has known Piechowski for three years. She played basketball at Michigan State, and the two became friends first but did not start dating until a year and a half ago. He purchased the engagement ring -- a brilliant round cut diamond ring with several smaller diamonds on the band -- recently and had been waiting for the right moment to pop the question.

When Piechowski ran onto the field looking for Jones to celebrate the Giants' win, she was already emotional. She began crying as soon as she found him and embraced him.

"But then he put me down pretty fast and I was like, 'Oh, OK,'" she said. "And then he is digging in his pants and I am like, 'What are you doing?'"

Piechowski had no idea what was coming.

"He pulls out a box and I am still not comprehending what he was about to do," she said. "First thing I thought of was their ring and that doesn't make sense. Then he opens it.

"We had talked about wanting to get married next year possibly but in terms of this happening last night, no not at all. I didn't know he had a ring."

Jones got down on one knee on the field and said, "Amanda Piechowski, will you spend the rest of your life with me?"

Despite a chaotic celebration going on all around them, Piechowski heard Jones as if they were the only two on the field.

"It honestly felt quiet for a second," she said. "I didn't even know what they were doing with the trophy [celebration]."

What a night it was for Jones, who decided to make the best night of his football career the best night of his life. He had tight end Christian Hopkins, who is on the Giants’ practice squad, hold onto the ring until he proposed.

Jones said he didn't have a speech prepared for his proposal.

“She already knows how I feel,” Jones said. “A speech wasn’t needed.”

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