New York Giants: jameel mcclain

Giants' McClain calls Rams 'dirty team'

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
8:45
PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the New York Giants' 37-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday:
  • McClain
    Linebacker Jameel McClain walked from the field to the locker room hollering, "Dirty-ass team! That dirty [stuff] doesn't help you win! They suck as an organization!" This was in obvious reference to the Rams, as the Giants felt they'd been targeting Odell Beckham Jr. with cheap shots all game and trying to get under his and the Giants' skin. "I'm just not interested," McClain said later. "I had a lot of respect for the things their defense did. I'm just not interested in chippiness and dirty play. It's not what this game is about, and it has no room in the league." Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle were among the other Giants to use the word "dirty" to describe the Rams.
  • lastname
    Coughlin
    "Doesn't anyone want to talk about the game?" a frustrated Giants coach Tom Coughlin asked after several questions about Beckham and the first-half brawl. Seconds later, he ended his postgame news conference early with a sarcastic "Happy Holidays" and stormed out before his "game" questions could be asked -- or before someone could explain to him that when you're 6-9 and were eliminated on Thanksgiving, it's not unreasonable for people to ask about the brawl that saw two of your players get kicked out of the game or the continued maturation and development of your superstar rookie before they ask about the game. Not Coughlin's finest moment.
  • For his part, Beckham said Coughlin spoke to him about his ball-spinning end zone celebration that drew the flag, and Beckham apologized on behalf of himself and the team for his role in sparking the brawl. But he said he wouldn't apologize for playing with passion or for his teammates' standing up to protect him and one another. Damontre Moore, who along with Preston Parker was ejected for his role in the brawl, said he felt bad he let his team down by getting ejected, but he wouldn't do anything differently if the same circumstances presented themselves.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings missed a third straight day of practice and has officially been ruled out of Sunday's game in St. Louis. Jennings has a sprained right ankle that he aggravated on the first play of last Sunday's game against Washington.

Jennings
Earlier this season, Jennings missed four games with a knee sprain. This is the first game he'll miss due to the ankle injury, which he suffered in Week 13 in Jacksonville, but he was a non-factor in Week 14 in Tennessee and was injured on the first play of the game in Week 15.

Jennings said Friday that his hope is to return to practice next week and play in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles next week. In the meantime, rookie Andre Williams will make his sixth start of the season. Orleans Darkwa will serve as his backup, and Chris Ogbonnaya is likely to be active for the first time as a Giant.

The only other Giants player on the injury report this week was middle linebacker Jameel McClain, who missed Wednesday's practice with a knee injury but practiced Thursday and Friday. McClain is listed as probable and is expected to play.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' coordinators only address the media once a week, so Friday was the first chance we had to speak to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell about what went wrong in Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. There was a lot to ask.

McClain
Start with the Tony Romo touchdown pass to Cole Beasley -- the 45-yard catch-and run in the third quarter that cut the Giants' lead to 21-17. Beasley caught the ball over the middle with no one covering him, Zack Bowman missed a tackle and Jayron Hosley couldn't catch Beasley as he raced for the end zone. Middle linebacker Jameel McClain blitzed on the play, which was apparently the first mistake.

"He was not supposed to pressure on that play. He was supposed to be in coverage. That was an error," Fewell said.

Fewell said he didn't know why the error occurred -- whether McClain misinterpreted the call or confused it for another similar call from the same formation. But he admitted that mistakes such as these are frustrating.

"That's why I don't have hair," Fewell quipped. "It's not genetic. That's the reason why I don't have any hair."

The Giants have been fine with the way McClain has played for the most part since taking over at middle linebacker for the injured Jon Beason. But there is a reason they signed Beason to a big free-agent deal in the offseason, and they do miss him.

Beason
"It's like you lost your starting quarterback," Fewell said. "You lose a guy who, he really didn't practice in the preseason and they elect him captain based just on what he did from last October through OTAs. That says a lot about a guy."

But Fewell knows he has to get by without injured players. That's life as a coach in the NFL. So the fact that he's taking the heat for things like his new middle linebacker missing an assignment and helping give up a long touchdown does not come as a surprise to him.

"That comes with the job," Fewell said. "I'm responsible for it."

He also addressed the personnel groupings and strategy on the Cowboys' game-winning touchdown drive -- something head coach Tom Coughlin seemed to question earlier in the week. Fewell said the main reason he didn't have his pass-rush personnel on the field for that entire drive was that there was a lot of time remaining on the clock and he couldn't be certain the Cowboys would be passing on every down.

"It really wasn't a two-minute situation, so to speak," Fewell said. "They had a lot of time on the clock, so they could run it, they could do a number of things."

Nonetheless, he did admit that pass-rusher Damontre Moore was supposed to be on the field for the final touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, and that the coaches deserved blame for not having the right personnel on the field in that situation.

"We just didn't do a good enough job managing that," Fewell said. "That was a poor job on our part."

Giants' last-ranked defense stands up

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
6:30
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- All week long, the New York Giants defense was reminded time and time again that statistically they were the worst unit in the NFL.

Well, they did something about it Sunday afternoon.

The Giants held Colin Kaepernick & Co. in check, for the most part, giving up just 16 points. But that was enough for the 49ers, thanks to the Giants' ineptitude on offense.

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernic
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants defense held Colin Kaepernick to under 200 yards passing and just 24 yards rushing.
It was a much better defensive effort than last week's debacle in Seattle, but the players were not satisfied after the game.

"There were positives to take from it," said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. "But a loss is a loss, and it hurts just as much."

"We lost the game. I’m not happy about nothing right now," said fellow end Jason Pierre-Paul.

A week after being gashed for 350 rushing yards by the Seahawks -- the third-most allowed in a single game in team history -- the Giants held the 49ers to a much more modest 148 on 37 carries.

Frank Gore (19 carries, 95 yards) had a pretty good day, but the Giants limited Kaepernick to 24 yards on eight carries.

"We executed our plays better, and handled that read-option better too," Pierre-Paul said.

In the air, Kaepernick completed just 15 of 29 passes, for 193 yards. The Giants gave up one big play, but it was a very damaging one -- a 48-yard touchdown grab and run by Michael Crabtree early in the third quarter, San Francisco's lone touchdown of the game.

"I think we played some good football at points. I think at points we gave things up," said middle linebacker Jameel McClain. "We got back to playing assignments and trusting in the scheme and everybody doing their job and playing passionate, so I’m very excited about that. But we obviously didn’t do enough."

Keep in mind, the defensive unit we watched Sunday looked very different than the one we saw at the beginning of the season. The Giants were without starting defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, starting linebackers Jon Beason and Jacquian Williams, and starting cornerback Prince Amukamara due to injury.

The Giants' other starting cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, was shuffled in and out of the lineup as well because of a sore right leg. And he didn't look very good when he was on the field, getting beaten by Crabtree on the touchdown.

There's certainly room for improvement. The Giants' D got just one turnover -- a fumble by Gore on the very first possession of the game (recovered by cornerback Zack Bowman). They had just one sack (by Robert Ayers, who leads the team with five). And Pierre-Paul was quiet, with just one tackle on the afternoon.

But overall the Giants did have five tackles for loss -- one apiece by Ayers, Kiwanuka, McClain, Devon Kennard and Mark Herzlich, who played well (nine tackles) filling in for the injured Williams.

"The defense obviously had listened to enough and they played with good physical play," coach Tom Coughlin said. "They made plays out there today and got a lot of stops."

The Giants may not be ranked dead-last in defense anymore once this week's games are over. But that would be little consolation with the team now 3-7, having lost five games in a row.

"I want to win, I don’t want anything else," Kiwanuka said. "I don’t want moral victories, I don’t want anybody to pat half of us on the back. I want us to get a win."

Giants' D vows to bounce back vs. 49ers

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12
4:45
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' defense has moved on from its historically bad performance Sunday in Seattle, but they haven't forgotten it.

The Giants gave up 350 rushing yards to the Seahawks -- the third-worst total in franchise history. They were outrushed 350-54 -- a 296-yard difference, the largest ever in a Giants loss according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"That’s not the Giants standard, and that’s not the way football is played," linebacker Jameel McClain said Wednesday. "Nobody wants records set on them, and I hate it, it still makes me sick. So the idea that I get to go back out there and hit someone and make them pay for what happened last week, I love it."

[+] EnlargeLynch
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesMarshawn Lynch and the Seahawks outrushed the Giants 350 yards to 54.
Strong words, yes, but the task is more difficult than it sounds. The Giants' next opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, are ninth in the league in the rushing (122.2 yards per game). Running back Frank Gore is ranked 10th in the league (553 yards), and Colin Kaepernick is second among all NFL QBs in rushing yards (298) -- behind only the Seahawks' Russell Wilson (500), who ran for 107 against the Giants last week.

The Giants, meanwhile, are ranked dead-last in the NFL against the run (144.7 yards per game). In fact, they are dead-last in total defense, too (404.9 yards per game), a fact that was brought up to several Giants defensive players Wednesday.

"We know it, we’re aware of it, and we have to change it," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. "We have to have pride, and it comes from inside. It’s something that we’re not gonna accept, we’re not gonna tolerate, and it has to come from the players -- we’ve gotta go out there and do it on Sundays."

The Giants' coaching staff, and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell in particular, have come under fire in recent days. But the players largely took the blame upon themselves Wednesday.

"We watch things on film, it’s simple -- details, minor things that we’ve been taught to do, we’re just not going out there and executing," safety Antrel Rolle said.

The Giants may be missing another key player on defense Sunday against the 49ers. Linebacker Jacquian Williams, the team's leading tackler, has a concussion and did not practice Wednesday. Williams has played 563 defensive snaps for the Giants this season according to Football Outsiders, or 93.8 percent -- second only to Rolle (595, 99.2 percent).

The team has already lost two starters, middle linebacker Jon Beason and cornerback Prince Amukamara, plus slot corner Walter Thurmond and his replacement, Trumaine McBride, for the remainder of the season.

"Jacquian I think he’s been playing good football, but right now with the injuries we’ve been hit with thus far, we’re kind of used to it already," Rolle said. "Next man up. We just gotta get ready."

The Giants have allowed 423 or more yards in four consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. They're giving up 9.1 "explosive plays" (rushes of 10-plus yards, passes of 20-plus yards) per game -- the worst single-season figure since ESPN Stats & Information began tracking that stat in 2001.

There's little reason for optimism, but the defensive players sounded upbeat Wednesday, for what it's worth.

"We made our beds, we gotta lie in them," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "The bottom line is, we’ll dig ourselves out of that hole and make sure that this week is the start of getting out of there."

"We have to go out there and put out the best performance that we’ve had to date," McClain said. "I love the challenge of going out there, and I know my teammates look forward to the challenge. You get to see how people stand up at this point."

Antrel Rolle on Giants: 'We need a pulse'

November, 5, 2014
Nov 5
2:35
PM ET
Antrel Rolle thinks the New York Giants lack passion, but not all of his teammates agree.

Rolle caused a stir Tuesday with some comments he made during his weekly radio spot on WFAN. "I just think [passion's] something we're missing a lot," Rolle said. "On our sideline it's very dead. Throughout the course of the game it's dead. We need a pulse."

Linebacker Jameel McClain, one of four Giants players made available to the media Wednesday via conference call, expressed support for Rolle but at the same time seemed to contradict Rolle's words.

[+] EnlargeAntrel Rolle
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun"On our sideline it's very dead," Giants captain Antrel Rolle said. "Throughout the course of the game it's dead."
"Antrel's a general, and whatever the general says, it goes. At the end of the day I'm a part of this battle with him, and if he feels that way, I feel that way with him," McClain said. "[But] I can speak for myself, and I can speak for some of the things that I've seen. I see passion in guys, and I play the game with passion, I play with everything that I have."

"Whatever Antrel sees, I take it as a challenge, for us to step it up, for me to give more," he added. "That's how I took it -- just, what more can you do as an individual -- and that's how everybody else should take it."

Rolle is one of the team's five captains, but McClain has quickly emerged as a vocal leader in his first year with the Giants, too. In fact, McClain -- who is now starting at middle linebacker in place of the injured Jon Beason -- was made an additional game-day captain for Monday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Speaking of Monday night, one Giant who certainly played with passion was defensive lineman Robert Ayers, who had the team's only sack of Andrew Luck and was credited with a whopping seven quarterback hits in the game.

Ayers, also in his first year with the Giants, agreed with Rolle.

"I do feel like we can play with more intensity," Ayers said. "It is easy to be intense when things are good, but when things are bad, we still have to keep it going. It starts with the players, it starts with the coaches and we just have to keep fighting and keep wanting it, it will come."

The 3-5 Giants have now lost three in a row, and face a short week and a long trip to Seattle to face the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks this coming Sunday.

Coach Tom Coughlin bristled at questions about the Indianapolis game on Wednesday, preferring to look ahead to Seattle, but said he didn't think a lack of effort or passion was the problem against the Colts.

"I think we played hard the other night. I think we played consistently hard throughout the game," Coughlin said. "What is Antrel’s interpretation of that, I am not sure. I know he is an emotional guy and he does wear his emotions on his sleeve. He is a passionate young man.

"Not all people are the same. I think our preparation last week was certainly good. I thought that the idea of playing hard, not looking at the scoreboard, staying with it and working as hard as we could -- I think, for the most part, we did that. It wasn’t a ‘rah-rah’ situation most of the time on the sideline, but people were into the game and they were playing hard."
Injuries could force the New York Giants' defense to look a little bit different in the weeks that follow this week's bye. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins strained his right calf in Sunday's loss in Dallas. Middle linebacker Jon Beason might need surgery to repair the toe injury that's been limiting him since June. And injuries at cornerback could lead the Giants to bring back the three-safety look they used on their way to their most recent Super Bowl title three seasons ago.

"The game plan last week was to have Stevie Brown in the game with the three-safety package versus certain personnel groupings," safeties coach Dave Merritt said Tuesday. "That worked out for us, because Stevie went in and did his job and did what we asked him to do. The fact that we used to play the three-safety package a ton back in the day was because of the fact that we had three veterans who were able to play. I'm talking about Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant. Right now, we feel like we've tested the waters and we have the same right now in our camp here."

[+] EnlargeStevie Brown
AP Photo/Seth WenigStevie Brown could see more playing time as the Giants adapt to injuries in their secondary.
The plan coming into this year was to play three cornerbacks most of the time. The team signed Walter Thurmond to play the nickel spot, but he suffered a season-ending injury in September, and Trumaine McBride, who took over, suffered his own season-ending injury in Week 6. So they are down to their third-string nickel cornerback, Jayron Hosley, and they don't seem comfortable leaning on him to the extent that they leaned on Thurmond or McBride.

Brown entered the season as a starting safety, but he lost his job in Week 4 after a poor start to the season and was replaced by Quintin Demps. Coaches have been pleased with the work Brown has put in since the demotion, and they believe there are situations in which it's better to have him, Demps and Rolle on the field at the same time than it is to have three cornerbacks. This arrangement could force Rolle into the nickel spot, a position he has said in the past he's willing to play but prefers not to, but Merritt said they are comfortable with Brown in there as well.

On the defensive line, Jenkins' absence for at least a few weeks leaves the Giants thin at defensive tackle. But they have had success playing defensive ends Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka at interior positions in pass-rush situations this season, and they might decide to do that more going forward to augment the defensive tackle rotation. Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley likely will be elevated to the active roster in Jenkins' absence, but there's also a chance second-year defensive end Damontre Moore could get more looks on the outside when Ayers and/or Kiwanuka move inside.

"Damontre needs to continue to improve and stay focused on what we're doing on first and second down," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said. "He can do it. He's a lighter body, not ideal, but he can play it. He has to stay focused and continue to improve in that area, and he will get more at-bats. He's going to get more opportunities on third down, so he just has to keep coming along and improve on first and second down. If he does that, then he's going to get those opportunities in pass-rush situations."

Moore has shown exciting ability in pass-rush situations and on special teams. But he has yet to earn the complete trust of the coaching staff as a player who can stop the run (and avoid jumping offsides).

No trust issues at linebacker, though. When Beason missed time early in the season, Jameel McClain filled in for him in the middle. At the time, rookie Devon Kennard was hurt, so Mark Herzlich replaced McClain on the strong side. This time, if Beason is out a while, Kennard could be the one who sees more playing time.

"Now that he's healthy, he's contributing on special teams, and last week was able to go in the game and do some good things," linebackers coach Jim Herrmann said of Kennard. "It was good to see him get out and get some game experience, because that is invaluable for a young linebacker. The other guys love him. He's got a great personality, and he wants to be great. I think we'll see some really good things out of him."
New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason was in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday to once again see foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson about his persistent toe injury. In a radio interview Tuesday, Beason said a determination would be made Wednesday about whether to finally have season-ending surgery to repair the injury, which cost him all of training camp, three full games already this season and the second half of Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Beason
"It's gotten progressively worse over the last couple of games," Beason said on WFAN radio in New York. "Right now I'd say it's 50-50. I'm still deciding if the smart thing is to go ahead and get it fixed and get ready for next season."

Beason injured his toe in the spring and sat out all of training camp with the injury. He aggravated it in Week 2 and missed three games in a row (all of which, he jokingly pointed out last week, the Giants won) before returning in Week 6 in Philadelphia. He aggravated it again Sunday, prompting the latest doctor visit.

When Beason has not been on the field, Jameel McClain has moved to middle linebacker to replace him and either Devon Kennard or Mark Herzlich has replaced McClain as the strongside linebacker. The Giants have at least five defensive backs on the field enough, however, that they usually only need two linebackers on the field.

Still, they made re-signing Beason a priority in the offseason due to the effect his play and leadership at middle linebacker had on them after they acquired him in a trade in 2013. So their strong preference would be to have him healthy and available for the rest of the season. They may find out Wednesday that they don't.

Big Blue Morning: The replacements

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
8:00
AM ET
The New York Giants suffered a couple of big losses on defense in Sunday's loss to Arizona. Nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond III is out for the year due to a torn pectoral muscle he'll have surgically repaired Tuesday, and middle linebacker Jon Beason could be out a while due to a re-aggravation of the toe injury that cost him all of training camp.

Thurmond
"You have to find a way to rally," safety Antrel Rolle said Monday. "One guy doesn't make this defense. Two guys don't make this defense, even though they are huge assets to our defense. We need them out there, no doubt about it. But unfortunately in this business, when guys go down, you have to find someone who can make the standards stay the same or even higher. I'm confident in the backups we have."

The Giants are likely to replace Thurmond with Trumaine McBride in that nickel corner spot in the short term. McBride was a starter for the Giants last year and has a little bit of experience in the nickel position, but he's not an elite option like Thurmond is. He might be able to get the job done, but he's not going to give the Giants a huge edge at the position, which they believed Thurmond did.

Jameel McClain is the most likely replacement at middle linebacker for Beason. When Beason was out in the preseason, McClain moved into the middle and rookie Devon Kennard played the strongside linebacker spot (with Jacquian Williams now the regular starter on the weak side). The issue now is that Kennard is out with a hamstring injury, which means if McClain moves into the middle, Spencer Paysinger has to play the strong side. The other option is to leave McClain on the strong side and put Mark Herzlich in the middle, but Herzlich didn't look good there Sunday, and his inability to handle the role last season was one of the motivations for acquiring Beason in a trade.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He's a realist, so he knows he's not likely to get his wish. But New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason, who broke his foot in early June and has yet to practice with the team since, is still hoping he might get a chance to play in a preseason game before the regular season starts.

Beason
The Giants have two more preseason games -- Friday against the Jets and next Thursday against the Patriots -- before opening the regular season Sept. 8 in Detroit. Beason said he planned to be more aggressive with his running on the side Monday, trying some things that were more reaction-based than anticipation-based, and he believes he's making encouraging progress toward a return.

"Thinking back to where we were going into it, just to have the opportunity to play in the last couple of preseason games was the goal," Beason said Monday. "They may not let me, but to have the opportunity, or to be out there working on the practice field, that's a good sign for Week 1."

Beason has said since the injury happened that he believed he could return for the regular-season opener, and that still hasn't been ruled out. Jameel McClain has been handling middle linebacker responsibilities in Beason's place, but Beason has been on the field as an observer and quasi-coach for every training camp practice. He's also been experimenting with orthotics to help ease the pain in his toe.

"You don't realize how important your feet are, but it's really everything, right?" Beason said. "So we've been playing with it and trying to come up with the perfect equation for what works on the field, and we're getting close."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Never let it be said that I'm not here to serve the people. Every day of training camp, the New York Giants' media relations staff asks us for lists of players we'd like to speak to, and then they work on bringing those players out to us for interviews. Wednesday, I was struggling for ideas and therefore struggling to decide which players to request, and as this was happening I got this from Twitter follower Kevin Oakes:


So I asked to talk to some linebackers, and I got some decent stuff.

With starting middle linebacker Jon Beason still working his way back from a foot injury suffered in the spring, the most likely Week 1 starting lineup for the Giants at linebacker is Jameel McClain in the middle, Jacquian Williams on the weak side and rookie Devon Kennard on the strong side. Spencer Paysinger could overtake Williams on the weak side, but after years of using Williams as a weakside backer in nickel situations, the Giants' coaches now say they're ready to trust him on all three downs. Once Beason returns, the most likely result is that McClain moves back to the strong side, but it's not out of the question to think Kennard could hold him off. The rookie has been impressive.

So here are some thoughts from and/or about the three men likely to be the Giants' starting linebackers on Monday, Sept. 8 in Detroit.

Jacquian Williams

It seems like a long time ago that Williams was one of the heroes of the Giants' NFC Championship Game victory over the 49ers in San Francisco, stripping the ball from return man Kyle Williams and setting up the game-winning possession in overtime. He missed six games the following season to injury and was a rotational player for the Giants in 2013. But he says he thinks back on that 2011-12 postseason for inspiration.

[+] EnlargeSean McGrath
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaJacquian Williams seems ready to take on more responsibility in his fourth season.
"I remember that Super Bowl," Jacquian Williams said Wednesday. "I'm a rookie, and there's two minutes left. Two minutes left! It was a big deal. And I kind of was still trying to find myself as a rookie. You know, it's the Super Bowl. Big time. And (linebackers coach Jim Hermann) says, 'Jacquian! Jacquian! Go out there!' And I'm looking like, 'Huh?' And he's like, 'Go out there!' And that there was a big moment for me as far as knowing I definitely belong here. Even though I had had my flashes and everything throughout the year as a rookie, that was a turning point."

It has taken a while to go from fun, useful rookie to NFL starter, but Williams believes he's completed the journey and he knows what the difference is between now and then.

"Trust," Williams said. "Trust from the team, and not only the coaches, but the players. My teammates are trusting me to be in that role. They speak up for me more at times. And overall, my confidence. My personal confidence for the game, for the position. And experience."

Beason said he thinks Williams and Paysinger both have made big leaps from last season to this season.

"I really feel they're ready to contribute and take that big step to where they can be dominant linebackers in this league," Beason said. "Because they have all the intangibles, and they have the experience now, which is the most important thing. You can't expect a guy to go out there in his first couple of games starting, ever, and kill it. But last year they both made splash plays, and I think this year they're ready to be consistent."

Devon Kennard

The 174th overall pick of this year's draft -- one of two fifth-rounders the Giants had this year -- Kennard didn't seem likely to be a big-splash guy this summer. But goodness, has he been the talk of the defense since OTAs.

[+] EnlargeDevon Kennard
Julie Jacobson/AP PhotoThe coaching turmoil at USC might have been a blessing in disguise for Devon Kennard.
"Great rookie. Very polished, more so than anything," Beason said. "Not just his physical attributes, but the way he prepares. As a rookie, that's kind of unheard of. You don't really see a guy come in and put the time in making calls and doing those little things. Most guys, it takes them a long time. But he's polished, and he's going to help us out a lot this year, Kennard."

Beason said he thinks Kennard benefited from all of the coaching staff turnover and turmoil that happened during his time at USC. Recruited by Pete Carroll, he played most of his USC career for Lane Kiffin after Carroll left for the Seahawks, then had three different head coaches last year after the Kiffin thing fell apart and Ed Orgeron resigned before the bowl game because he didn't get the full-time job replacing him.

"I moved around a lot," Kennard said.

He has been a standup outside linebacker, a standup inside linebacker, a pass-rusher ... you name it. And being an overall student of defense has helped him get rise quickly since the draft.

"I ask a lot of questions, and I spend a lot of time in my playbook," Kennard said. "I try to understand as much as I can, and as more and more goes in, I try to keep it organized in my mind and constantly go over things so I can play as fast as I can when it's time to practice and play in games. It's a work in progress, but I'm working every day."

At this point, if something happened to McClain before Beason returned, Kennard would be the next guy they put in at middle linebacker. They already trust him with the on-field organizational responsibilities associated with that position.

Jameel McClain

"Jameel is a proven vet, very vocal, and he's going to help us out big time, especially at that Mike position, getting guys lined up," Beason said.

They didn't bring McClain out to talk to me, so that's about all I have on him. But his presence on the roster is a sign that the Giants have changed the way they look at this position. They went for cheap solutions for years. Williams, Paysinger and Mark Herzlich, a special-teams ace and backup linebacker, were all rookies in that same 2011 season. Of the three, Williams was the only one who was drafted, and they got him in the sixth round.

But after Beason took over as a leader on defense at a critical time last season, the Giants reconsidered their view of the value of spending resources on linebackers. They re-signed Beason, drafted Kennard and signed McClain, who provides a veteran presence they need on the field as long as Beason is on the shelf.

This position group might not be a clear strength of the team the way cornerback is. But gone are the days it stands out as a clear and damaging weakness (the way, say, tight end is). If nothing else, this year's Giants linebacker group is interesting, and offers reason to hope it might be fun.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Standing on the sidelines and watching practice while healing from a foot injury has been an eye-opening experience for Jon Beason. The New York Giants' middle linebacker said he's gained a greater appreciation of his coaches' perspective.

Beason
"I see how coaches can get frustrated, because you're always right," Beason said. "You've got that great vantage point. You're not tired. You have the script. You get the chance to kind of think about the play longer. So that part of it has opened my eyes, and I get where they come from, their frustration when we don't do things right."

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said last week that Beason has been in his ear all throughout training camp with opinions and suggestions, and that it's been a help. It's about all Beason can do right now. He broke his foot during OTAs and spends time early in practice running by himself on a back field. He tracks his progress day by day while still hoping he can be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener in Detroit.

"You try to get out there and tax it a little bit, see how it feels, and then everything is based on gauging it the next day," Beason said. "Is it really sore? Is it just a little bit sore? And then if you can have consistent days, then you know you're kind of building up a tolerance. So that's usually the process in any rehab. Toes are a little iffy, because it doesn't take much pain to have irritated feet, makes it hard to change direction, especially as a defensive player where you have to do a lot of reacting."

Beason said earlier in camp that he hoped to play in at least one of the Giants' preseason games. But there's no way he'll be ready for Saturday night's game in Indianapolis, and at this point it would be pretty surprising if he were ready to play the Aug. 22 game against the Jets. That would leave only one more preseason game -- Aug. 28 against the Patriots -- for Beason to fulfill that goal. But he's staying patient.

"It's coming along," Beason said. "We still have time. I'm just trying to listen to the staff, who I trust, and trying to listen to my body. But we are playing on Monday night (in the season opener) and it's still a little over three weeks before the game, so a lot can happen between now and then."

Jameel McClain has been manning the middle linebacker spot in Beason's absence, with rookie Devon Kennard playing the strongside linebacker spot that had been slated for McClain.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jon Beason is still working his way back from a broken foot and unable to practice, but he's still a major presence at New York Giants training camp practices. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell says Beason is everywhere.

"He is present," Fewell said before Thursday's practice. "He is listening to every call. He's like a microphone in my ear all the time. He's in my ear and I'm in his ear. I hear things on the field, calls on the field, and I go to him and say, 'I wish we could change that. How can we make this better?' So we're communicating all the time."

[+] EnlargeSean McGrath
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaJacquian Williams looks healthy and poised for a breakout season after injuries slowed him the past two seasons.
Beason's arrival by trade from Carolina last season completely altered the way the Giants viewed their linebacker situation. After basically neglecting it for years, Beason's impact as a leader and a middle linebacker convinced them to invest in the position this offseason, and re-signing Beason was a top priority. They also brought in veteran Jameel McClain (who's taking Beason's spot in the middle while Beason heals) and spent a fifth-round pick on USC's Devon Kennard. Add that to holdovers Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger, and linebacker has gone from a position no one around here wanted to talk about to a reason for optimism.

"I think we look good on paper because I think we're stronger at linebacker than we've been in the past," Fewell said. "Especially if Jon Beason returns, but I still like the 'backers that we have. I like Jameel McClain. I like Jacquian Williams. Devon Kennard, he's been a very pleasant surprise for us. Some of our young players, the Spencer Adkins kid has performed well. So we've strengthened ourselves there."

Beason has been doing more running on a side field during practice the last couple of nights, and he believes he's on track to return by Week 1. Assuming he does, he mans the middle with either McClain or rookie Kennard on the strong side. And Williams, who in the past has been a weakside linebacker in the nickel defense only because of his coverage skills, is now projected as the weakside linebacker in the base defense as well.

"I've worked hard, trained hard, studied hard, and the opportunity as a professional was there, so it's for me to take advantage of it," Williams said. "The goal is to be an every-down linebacker. I belong there, I worked for it, and it's my time."

Williams was a star for the Giants on special teams and in coverage as a linebacker on passing downs during their victory over the 49ers in the NFC championship game three seasons ago. That was his rookie season, and health issues have held him back over the past two. But he says he's healthy now, and his speed and coverage ability should allow the Giants to keep their defensive backs in their regular roles more reliably.

"I think Jacquian Williams has made great strides since his rookie year, and he's performed like he's a three-down player thus far in this camp," Fewell said. "His run fits and his confidence in his coverage ability, his knowledge of his assignments, executing his assignments with speed, coming back with feedback, knowing the other position, saying 'I knew he was supposed to be here and this was what I did,' being able to have a good football conversation about what happened on that particular play."

Such advancements by Williams have taken time, but they're a huge boost. As is the surprising performance of fifth-round pick Kennard out of USC.

"I would say he's exceeded my expectations from this standpoint," Fewell said. "Young guy who played a number of different positions at SC. Came in very mature, extremely football-smart and very poised as a young rookie. We really don't find that a whole lot. So yes, he exceeded my expectations."

Kennard could push McClain for the starting strongside job once Beason returns, or he could serve as a valuable backup at a couple of spots. It has been a long time since the Giants have felt they had depth and quality at linebacker, but they have reason to feel that way going into 2014.
CANTON, Ohio -- Oh, hello. You didn't think I'd come all the way out here for Michael Strahan's Hall of Fame induction and forget to answer those #nygmail questions on Twitter, did you?

@DanGrazianoESPN: Yeah, I think John Jerry and rookie Weston Richburg are both capable of winning that starting right guard spot to replace the retired Chris Snee. But as of now, the front-runner is Brandon Mosley, who's been taking the large majority of the first-team snaps at that position while Jerry works his way back from a knee injury and Richburg also plays center and goes through the typical and expected rookie development period. Mosley's a big, strong guy out of Auburn who was a fourth-round pick by the Giants in 2012 and is in his third year in their system. They would love it if he won the job, because developing their own players into starting roles is the way they like to build their roster, and they've had a tough time doing that in recent years.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Obviously, assuming David Wilson doesn't come back and play following his latest neck injury, Williams and anyone else who was behind Wilson on the running back depth chart (Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox, even Kendall Gaskins) move up. Williams is a fourth-round rookie out of Boston College, and while he was a dominant player in the ACC last year, the Giants aren't going to rush him into action if he's not ready. They think he might be able to help as a goal-line back right away. But they also feel they can use Hillis or starter Rashad Jennings in that role if Williams is not ready. As for regular snaps behind Jennings, I would think Hillis and maybe even Cox are ahead of Williams at this point because they were on the team last year and have experience with the protection schemes. Williams is a talent, but he's a rookie with a lot to learn. They'd like to see him pick up the blitz and catch the ball more reliably before they start using him with regularity in games.

@DanGrazianoESPN: The first thing rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has to do is get on the field. The Giants' first-round draft pick injured his hamstring in the first practice of training camp on July 22 and has not practiced since. He also missed significant portions of the spring program, including the minicamp, with hamstring injuries. The more time he misses, the further behind he falls in his development, and that's tough, because the Giants did view him as a rookie who might be able to contribute right away. In their ideal scenario, Beckham would play the "X" receiver spot. That's the split end, or the receiver who's tethered to the line of scrimmage and doesn't motion. They believe he's capable of beating press coverage with his speed and getting downfield quickly, either allowing them to stretch the field with the vertical passing game or, more likely in the new scheme, help open things up closer to the line of scrimmage for Victor Cruz and the tight ends. Without Beckham, the offense can't operate the way it ideally wants to operate, because they don't have anyone to replace him who can run as fast as he can. So they do want him back, and soon, and if he can get back soon then I see him playing a major role.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Devon Kennard is the Giants' fifth-round pick out of USC, and he's received a fair bit of attention this spring and summer for his pleasantly surprising ability to master the defense quickly. They believe they could move him to the middle linebacker spot if Jameel McClain (who's filling in there for an injured Jon Beason) were to get injured. And in the meantime, Kennard projects to start at the strongside linebacker position with McClain in the middle. When Beason gets healthy, the likely plan is for McClain to move to the strong side and Kennard to back up at a couple of spots. But it's not out of the question that, depending on the way Kennard and McClain both play in the interim, Kennard could claim the spot for his own and send McClain to a backup role. He's certainly got the opportunity, and to this point he's doing well with it.



Thanks for the questions. Tweet at me Saturday night while I'm watching the Hall of Fame ceremony.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jon Beason can't practice with his New York Giants teammates right now because he is still working his way back from the broken foot he suffered in organized team activities. The middle linebacker, whose re-signing was such a high offseason priority, said Friday that he has been running on an underwater treadmill and trying to work out the parts of his body he can while letting the foot heal.

Beason
At the time of the injury, doctors gave Beason a recovery timetable that could have him back for the Sept. 8 opener in Detroit but doesn't guarantee that. Friday, Beason was asked how difficult it would be to play in the regular season without first playing in any preseason games.

"Unfortunately, I've done it before," said Beason, who has struggled with injuries throughout his career. "And I hate it, because you want to be in there getting those live reps with the guys. Preseason games, you don't put much stock in them, but you need them to get ready. The one thing you can't simulate, even out here in practice, is tackling -- live tackling to the ground."

For that reason, Beason hopes his foot will progress to the point of allowing him to play in at least one of the Giants' five preseason games.

"I would hope so," Beason said. "We want to be smart about it, and obviously I'm going to do what they tell me. But I hope to get in a game in the preseason and get some reps. I like to think I'm a little bit superhuman and I heal a little faster, but they gave me a timetable and I've got to stick with that."

In the meantime, veteran Jameel McClain has taken over for Beason in the middle and rookie Devon Kennard has moved into McClain's spot at strongside linebacker.

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