NFC East: Antrel Rolle
Those facts, along with the state of the safety market in the 2015 offseason, indicate to me that Taylor or Berhe -- and possibly both -- will get a shot to start at safety for the Giants this coming season.
Answers aren't likely to come via the draft, either. Alabama's Landon Collins is the top safety available this year, and the consensus at the combine seemed to be that No. 9 was too early to take him. After Collins, the safety pool drops off into mid-round options who aren't likely to be any more NFL-ready in 2015 than Taylor and Berhe would be.
There are a couple of possible free-agent safety options, though the best one, Devin McCourty, isn't likely to leave New England and hit the market. So that leaves the Giants to decide how they feel about guys like Denver's Rahim Moore or Buffalo's Da'Norris Searcy. It's possible they could find Rolle's replacement in free agency, but even if they did, that would still leave open one starting spot for one of the young fifth-rounders.
"They’re going to get a chance to compete," Giants GM Jerry Reese said Saturday. "Cooper obviously has to stay healthy, but I think those guys are going to get a chance to compete for that position."
Taylor still has work to do to recover from the foot surgery that cost him the entire 2014 season. But he's making good progress and expects to be ready in time for camp. The Giants believe Taylor's uncommon size (6-foot-4, 228 pounds) makes him a high-ceiling prospect at safety if he ever gets the chance to play it regularly. Berhe (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) doesn't have the same kind of size, but the Giants like his instincts and aggressiveness and believe he could take a leap forward this season.
In the past, the Giants have shown a willingness to commit big resources (Rolle's contract, a first-round pick) on the safety position, so it's easy to imagine them doing that again. But it's tough to believe they're going to go out and bring in two new high-end, experienced starters, which means opportunity this summer for one or both of the young guys.
But everyone loves names, so speculation has some value during this slow time. With only Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe on the roster at safety, the Giants will undoubtedly be looking for help at that position when the new league year opens March 10. Here's a PARTIAL list of some of the safeties who could be available in free agency.
I think the Giants would make a big play for McCourty, who turns 28 in August, if he hit the market. I just don't think he will. The Patriots want him back, he wants to stay, and if they don't get a long-term deal done before free agency opens, it'll only cost them about $10 million to franchise him. They'd have no issue paying one of their best defensive players that much money in 2015 if it came to that. McCourty is likely a pipe dream for the Giants.
The Next Best Things: Da'Norris Searcy, Bills; Rahim Moore, Broncos; Sergio Brown, Colts; Jeromy Miles, Ravens.
Searcy was the Jairus Byrd replacement in Buffalo, played well in his first season as a starter and doesn't turn 27 until November. Moore is even younger -- turns 25 on Wednesday -- and another year removed from a very serious leg injury. Brown is a career special teamer who started eight games for Indianapolis in 2014 and turns 27 in May. Miles turns 28 in July and played for new Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo last season when Spagnuolo was the Ravens' defensive backs coach.
Older Vets: Mike Adams, Colts; Dawan Landry, Jets.
Adams would be a fun story as a Paterson native coming home, but he turns 34 in March and therefore doesn't fit the profile of a Giants free-agent target. Landry is a 32-year-old veteran, but the Giants have one of those they can bring back if they're looking for that (see below).
Rolle is a team captain who just finished a five-year deal in which he didn't miss a game. They'd welcome him back, but at their price, since he's 32 years old and they're looking to rebuild with younger guys on defense. Brown got benched early in the season but recovered well and doesn't turn 28 until July. They'd bring him back if he's cheap, and hope another year away from ACL surgery would do the trick. Demps was signed to return kickoffs, ended up starting some in Brown's place but didn't seem to give the Giants what they wanted. He'd come back if they'd have him, but my guess is they move on.
Restricted Free Agents: Will Hill, Ravens; Tashaun Gipson, Browns; Rodney McLeod, Rams; Jaiquawn Jarrett, Jets.
Other than Hill (been there, done that), these are all guys who could conceivably pique the Giants' interest if they hit the market. But as restricted free agents, they're unlikely to do so.
This is Spagnuolo's supposed bread-and-butter -- a defense built around the idea of the front four getting pressure on the quarterback and allowing him to drop seven into coverage. It's possible that what Tom Coughlin said in Thursday's news release about Spagnuolo evolving as a coach and learning how to defend spread offenses changes the focus, but the pass rush is going to be paramount regardless.
Obviously there is overlap here with the first category, but if we keep this focused on defensive tackle, Johnathan Hankins and 2014 third-rounder Jay Bromley are the only surefire keepers. They could bring back Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Markus Kuhn if they liked, but they can also find upgrades relatively cheaply for any and all of them. They'd save $2.25 million against the cap if they cut Jenkins, and doing that in a continued effort to get younger on the interior of the defensive line isn't out of the question.
Jon Beason's contract doesn't seem sustainable to me. They like him and would bring him back, but his $7.36 million cap number is out of line with his performance (especially given his injury history and the fact that he barely played in 2014). If they really are happy with the way Jameel McClain played in his place, they could cut Beason. Only $900,000 of Beason's 2015 salary is guaranteed, and they'd save about $3.5 million if they released him. Interesting decision looming there. Elsewhere, McClain is reasonable at $1.175 million in salary this year, and second-year man Devon Kennard is a good-looking and versatile piece. Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger are all unrestricted free agents. Williams is a question mark because concussions ended his season, but if he's healthy, they will look to bring him back. Herzlich is a favorite of a lot of people there, a helper on special teams and also likely to be back in a reserve role.
They should look to extend Prince Amukamara's contract now. They exercised his $7 million fifth-year option last offseason, but that doesn't become guaranteed for anything but injury until September. Make it part of the guarantee in a new multiyear deal and they should be good to go into the future with Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as starters. The free-agent question here is Walter Thurmond, who signed a one-year deal last year and went down early with a season-ending injury. He was a big part of their plans as a nickel cornerback, and assuming he's not looking to cash in big, they are likely to try to bring him back.
The only safeties on the roster right now are Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor, neither of whom projects as a starter for 2015. They'll talk to Antrel Rolle about a return, but I have a hunch they'll lowball him -- as they did Justin Tuck last year -- and he'll get more elsewhere. If that's the case, expect this to be a big focus of their offseason resources -- meaning either free-agent money, early-round draft picks or both. Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps are both candidates to return, but only if they're willing to do very team-friendly deals.
@DanGrazianoESPN: The answer to your question is yes, the New York Giants would be open to that if they fell in love with a defensive coordinator candidate who ran a 3-4 defense. But I do not believe that is their preference, because it would require a pretty intense evaluation and overhaul of their defensive front seven. They'd have to move on from Jason Pierre-Paul, who's a 4-3 defensive end, and go out hunting for pass-rushing outside linebackers, which aren't super-easy to find in high quantities. It's possible they could stand up Damontre Moore and turn him into that kind of player, but they'd need more, and they'd have a bit of a logjam at inside linebacker with Devon Kennard, Jameel McClain and Jon Beason. Up front, they'd have to figure out whether Johnathan Hankins fit better as a 3-4 defensive end or a nose tackle. I suspect he'd be an end, which means they'd need to get a nose tackle. Considering they already have major work to do on the defensive line and in the secondary as is, adjusting the front-seven alignment that significantly is likely too extensive an offseason undertaking for them in 2015. Again, if they found a guy they really loved and he was a 3-4 guy, they obviously wouldn't rule it out. But the sense I get is that they'd prefer their new coordinator to run a 4-3.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I'm assuming you're using the Pro Football Focus rankings, right? They're obviously useful but imperfect, and they're better at rating certain positions than others. I could see Beatty grading out as a top-10 left tackle in 2014, but he clearly was far worse than that in 2013, and the inconsistency is what kind of leaves me cold. Since he's not a big, bruising, physical left tackle, Beatty is dependent on technique to succeed. When his technique slips, he struggles to get it back, as was the case throughout 2013. He led the league in holding penalties in 2014 with eight, and I don't think that's a coincidence, because when I watch him I see a guy who likes to grab too much. I think he can be overpowered, especially by top pass-rushers, and I think left tackle is a position where you want to spend major resources on elite talent if you can. While he was serviceable in 2014, and more good than bad, I don't think he's elite, and if I were the Giants I would be on the lookout for a way to upgrade. Not saying it's easy, just saying I don't agree with the perception that they're as good as they could possibly be at left tackle. And I think it's an important enough position not to cut corners.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Without a doubt. If you're trying to guess who the Giants will take with the No. 9 pick in the draft, Alabama safety Landon Collins is as good a guess as any. The Giants only have two safeties -- Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor -- under contract for 2015. Even if they do bring back Antrel Rolle, they'll obviously be looking to build quality young depth at the position. And with the signing of Rolle and the drafting of Kenny Phillips in the first round, there's a good amount of recent evidence that safety is a position on which the Giants aren't afraid to spend major resources. Especially if they come out of free agency feeling like their pass rush and offensive line are in good shape, Collins will be a popular and potentially accurate projected pick for the Giants at No. 9. Good call.
@DanGrazianoESPN: This is a completely worthwhile question, though it's important to remember that when Ben McAdoo took the offensive coordinator job last year, Coughlin was still only signed through 2014. And while John Mara said it was possible they could break with organizational history and allow Coughlin to enter this season as a lame duck, he said the same last year and they still extended Coughlin through 2015 before the season began. So that could still happen. But even if it did, there's no guarantee Coughlin will be the head coach beyond 2015, and anyone applying for the defensive coordinator job will know that. So yes, it's possible that situation could affect the search or their ability to get the coach they want. These things can be overcome with money and the offer of unprecedented opportunity, of course. There are plenty of quality coaches out there who are dying for a chance to be defensive coordinators and would jump at the offer regardless of the head coach's long-term status. But could it keep a guy like Buffalo's Jim Schwartz or San Francisco's Vic Fangio from making a lateral move if they like their current salaries and situations? Absolutely.
But while that issue looms over the offseason, there are some significant salary-cap questions for the Giants to answer on defense as well. Here are five:
A strong finish got Pierre-Paul to 12.5 sacks on the season and seems to have set him up for a free-agent contract push. His demands on a long-term deal, expected to be more than $12 million per year, could be more than the Giants are willing to pay for a player who was as limited by injury as Pierre-Paul was in 2012 and 2013. But he just turned 26 last week, and it's hard to find too many better 4-3 defensive end options on the market. The Giants do not have a ready replacement if Pierre-Paul leaves and will have to address the pass rush either way. One possibility is to use the franchise player designation on Pierre-Paul, effectively signing him to a one-year contract worth something close to $15 million. That would hurt them against this year's cap, but assuming they found relief elsewhere it would give them a year to assess Pierre-Paul's worthiness of their long-term commitment as well as the development of players such as Damontre Moore and Kerry Wynn as potential replacements.
I believe the answer to this is yes. He's clearly not coming back on his current contract, which includes a $4.775 million salary and a $7.45 million cap number for 2015. He's almost certain to be cut, and the only way I can see him back is on a veteran minimum deal, which I don't even know for sure they'd want to offer him. The Giants can save $4.825 million against their 2015 cap by cutting Kiwanuka.
As a 2011 first-round draft pick Amukamara was subject to the fifth-year option rule established by the new collective bargaining agreement, and the Giants did in fact exercise his 2015 option (expected to be about $7 million) last offseason. But that money is not guaranteed, and the Giants still could cut Amukamara by Sept. 1 if they wanted to. They don't, but his season-ending injury cut short a promising year and likely gives them leverage to negotiate a lower 2015 number on a two-year or three-year deal if they prefer. They do like him and want him back.
Middle linebacker Beason was a centerpiece of last offseason's plan, but he barely played after suffering a springtime toe injury, and he carries a $7.167 million cap number for 2015 and $6.992 million for 2016. This is a contract that will need to be overhauled if they're to fit it, Pierre-Paul and free agent Antrel Rolle into the 2015 and 2016 budgets. Beason says he wants to be back, but the Giants have to reassess his value given his injury history.
5. What about safety?
Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe are the only safeties signed to 2015 contracts for the Giants as of right now. Rolle is a free agent they'd like to have back, but he's 32 and they're not likely to overpay to keep him. This is a position on which the Giants have shown they're willing to spend major resources (i.e., first-round picks and big free-agent dollars), so expect them to carve out some room in the budget to plug their holes at this position, regardless of what happens with Rolle.
Here’s a list of the Giants' unrestricted and restricted free agents:
- Zack Bowman, Cornerback
- James Brewer, Offensive lineman
- Chykie Brown, Cornerback
- Stevie Brown, Safety
- Quintin Demps, Safety
- Daniel Fells, Tight end
- Mark Herzlich, Linebacker
- Henry Hynoski, Fullback
- Jerrel Jernigan, Wide receiver
- John Jerry, Guard
- Chris Ogbonnaya, Running back
- Kevin Ogletree, Wide receiver
- Mike Patterson, Defensive tackle
- Spencer Paysinger, Linebacker
- Jason Pierre-Paul, Defensive end
- Antrel Rolle, Safety
- Adam Snyder, Guard
- Walter Thurmond, Cornerback
- Jacquian Williams, Linebacker
The Giants entered the final week of the season ranked fifth-to-last in total yards allowed. And the final performance against Philadelphia wasn't very impressive, either. But when asked if he would like to see his coaching staff return intact, Coughlin said, "Yes, but I'm not going to say anything more about that or anything else today."
There's still a chance Coughlin could be dismissed, with the Giants missing the playoffs for the third year in a row and finishing 6-10 -- their worst record since Coughlin's first year at the helm, 2004.
But the more likely scenario is saying goodbye to Fewell, although that is far from a given.
Rolle went ever farther in Fewell's defense.
"I have full confidence in Perry, and I know what kind of coach Perry is," Rolle said. "I know when he’s at his best, I know when he’s not at his best. I also know how to work with him -- I’ve been his dog for four years, I’ve been his fill-in guy. I love to work with Perry."
Of course, Rolle may not be here next year, either -- the 32-year-old will be a free agent this offseason. The former All-Pro has been a key contributor on the field and leader in the locker room the past five years, but had a subpar season in 2014.
"I've been through this process once before, and I think you just have to take it in stride," Rolle said. "If this was my last game as a Giant, I'm very appreciative, I wouldn't change anything for the world. I've had a wonderful five years here, and I gave the team every single inch that I had, I gave 'em every single thing that I had."
"I definitely want to stay here," Rolle added. "I feel like we're building something. Although we haven't had the season that we wanted to have, I think we're still building something."
Another key player who may not be back is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who also will be a free agent. Pierre-Paul came on strong late, with nine sacks in the final five games of the season -- capped off by two against the Eagles on Sunday. He finished with 12.5 sacks, by far his highest total since he posted 16.5 in 2011, his second year in the league.
Pierre-Paul is younger than Rolle (he'll turn 26 on New Year's Day), and more important at this stage of their respective careers. But he'll also cost a lot more money. He played well against the run the whole season. The question is, was that the real pass-rushing JPP we saw the final five weeks, or just a flash in the pan?
"I don't know what changed. I am trying to figure it out myself," Pierre-Paul said of the last five games. "I am playing better. I had to step up big time. I wouldn't say I wasn't stepping up the first couple of weeks. Injuries, man. I fought through 'em, I got healthy, and I have been on a roll. That's the game of football, you never know."
Pierre-Paul did miss a little practice time with a shoulder injury this season, but he played in all 16 games. He said in recent weeks that he wants to stay with the Giants, reiterated that Sunday, and sounded cautiously optimistic that the game wasn't his final one with Big Blue.
"I am pretty sure it is probably not," Pierre-Paul said. "Like I said Friday, I don't know what the future holds. But I went out there and played great today, my teammates played great, but we didn't play great enough to win this game."
Pierre-Paul may have been great, but some of his teammates certainly weren't. And now it's time to assess them all.
#nygmail do you get the feeling the front office wants McAdoo to succeed Coughlin as HC once the fountain of youth runs dry?— Steven Klein (@Kleindrive) December 26, 2014
@DanGrazianoESPN: Here's what I believe about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. I think the Giants' decision-makers view him as head coach material and believe he could be their head coach at some point in the future. He is only 37 years old and just now getting to the end of his first season ever as a coordinator at any level, so it's hard to have complete confidence that he could handle the job if they gave it to him right now. But what they've seen from him in his first year has not injured their perception of him or his prospects, so he remains a consideration as a possible replacement for Tom Coughlin at some point in the future when they or Coughlin decide it's time to make a change. However, the Giants understand that putting a "succession plan" in place or having a "coach-in-waiting" in the NFL is a tough business because so much can change in a short period of time. What if the offense tanks next year? What if McAdoo gets a job somewhere else first? And so on. So while McAdoo is on their list of potential Coughlin replacements down the road, he's not alone on that list. I guess since you asked what the front office "wants," it's probably that Coughlin coaches for several more seasons during which the Giants have plenty of success and, if McAdoo's still on the staff when Coughlin's time here ends, maybe he gets the promotion. They do like him a lot.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Early returns on GM Jerry Reese's 2014 draft are pretty good. Obviously, first-round pick Odell Beckham doesn't just look like a future star, he actually is a present star. Second-rounder Weston Richburg will end up starting 15 of the 16 games at left guard, and while he's had his struggles, he has also improved and could be a long-range answer at center if he continues to improve. Fourth-rounder Andre Williams has had a couple of 100-yard rushing games, and fifth-rounder Devon Kennard is a valuable contributor at linebacker who already has an NFC Defensive Player of the Week award on his resume. So you're right to like the contributions the Giants have gotten from their rookies this year, and obviously if those guys continue to play and produce at their current levels, this ends up looking like a good draft -- maybe even the best one Reese has had, though that's not necessarily saying much. The key is, of course, how they continue to play and develop. A year ago, everyone was happy with Justin Pugh following his rookie year at right tackle. But Pugh's struggles this year are an example of why we can't always assume a strong rookie year guarantees long-range success. And you can't assess a draft after only one season.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I believe the Giants and veteran safety Antrel Rolle will be able to find common ground on a contract for Rolle to return. I don't see the market opening up for a 32-year-old safety, regardless of Rolle's impressive durability and his evolution as an on-field and off-field leader. He's the kind of guy who likely has more value to the Giants than he would to another team at this point, so I think their offer will reflect that and he'll end up taking it. Will it be for the three more years he says he wants to play? Hard to say. But my hunch is they can work something out.
As for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the entire thing is going to be market-driven. If there's a hungry free-agent market for Pierre-Paul as a still-young/now-healthy pass-rusher, the Giants could get priced out. Not because they don't have the money or cap room, but because the Giants' method with their own free agents is to assign a value and stick with it or close to it. If Pierre-Paul's price goes beyond what the Giants believe he's worth, I believe he'll take the highest offer and go elsewhere. But with Mathias Kiwanuka likely on his way out and Damontre Moore continuing to struggle with his development and maturity, the Giants need to find an impact pass-rusher on this year's market, whether it's Pierre-Paul or someone else. And it's the kind of position on which they don't mind spending money.
@DanGrazianoESPN how do the giants view Andre Williams going into next year? Seems to still have pass protection and pass catching issues— Yokes (@RyYokes) December 26, 2014
@DanGrazianoESPN: The Giants actually believe Williams has improved in both of those areas as this season has gone along. He spends a ton of time after practice each day catching balls off the JUGS machine, and they trust him more in the passing game than they did in September and October. Assuming continued improvement there, they'll feel good about him in the passing game next year if they need to lean on him there. Where Williams has been a bit of a disappointment is in his actual running of the ball. The Giants would like to see him be more patient and find the holes, rather than running as hard as he can to the hole before it has opened up. Some of that can be helped with improvements on the offensive line, but Williams needs to develop better trust and timing with his blockers in order to have success next year and beyond. As veteran running back Rashad Jennings tells Williams when tutoring him, he needs to be "quick through the hole, as opposed to quick to the hole." Williams is a part of the plans for next year, for sure, but at this point I doubt they view him as a surefire, carry-the-load starter.
Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy the final weekend of the regular season.
"Doesn't anyone want to talk about the game?" a frustrated Giants coach Tom Coughlin asked after several questions about Beckham and the first-half brawl. Seconds later, he ended his postgame news conference early with a sarcastic "Happy Holidays" and stormed out before his "game" questions could be asked -- or before someone could explain to him that when you're 6-9 and were eliminated on Thanksgiving, it's not unreasonable for people to ask about the brawl that saw two of your players get kicked out of the game or the continued maturation and development of your superstar rookie before they ask about the game. Not Coughlin's finest moment.Coughlin
- For his part, Beckham said Coughlin spoke to him about his ball-spinning end zone celebration that drew the flag, and Beckham apologized on behalf of himself and the team for his role in sparking the brawl. But he said he wouldn't apologize for playing with passion or for his teammates' standing up to protect him and one another. Damontre Moore, who along with Preston Parker was ejected for his role in the brawl, said he felt bad he let his team down by getting ejected, but he wouldn't do anything differently if the same circumstances presented themselves.
- The talk was, of course, of rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and his three touchdown catches. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said, "He's the fire of the offense." Safety Antrel Rolle said, "Nothing this guy does amazes me." And fellow rookie Andre Williams said, "Odell is playing at the highest level. I catch the 'wow' moment at the end. I don't see him run his routes or anything. I just see him in the end zone, mostly."
- For Beckham's part, he believes he can do more. He chided himself for a first-half play on which he believed he should have gotten both feet in bounds, and of course for his error on the final punt return of the game. "I apologize to my special teams coach," Beckham said of the muff. "There's no better feeling than seeing your offense run on the field to take a knee at the end of the game."
- Tom Coughlin declined to explain Rueben Randle's latest benching but indicated it was more than just a first-quarter benching like the one in Jacksonville two weeks ago. This time, Randle declined to discuss it as well. My impression was that his entry into the game would have been delayed even longer had Kevin Ogletree not had to leave briefly to be checked for a head injury.
- Coughlin said running back Rashad Jennings re-injured his ankle on the first play of the game. Jennings did not return. He had been hoping to get through this game and be at full strength for next week, but it's unclear whether this latest development changes those plans.
Moore said the issue was a failure to understand the rules. He said he believed he could hit the quarterback after the interception to prevent him from making a tackle. But it's not that cut-and-dried, and there are rules that prohibit a player from leveling said quarterback if he's far from the play.
"That's bad on my part that I didn't know the rule all the way," Moore said. "If I had known the rule all the way, I would have made a smarter play. I should be better aware of all the rules of the game. That's my fault."
Coughlin bought Moore's explanation and said he honestly believed Moore didn't think he'd done anything wrong until he explained it to him.
"We all know I've got penalties before, and he's ripped me a new one," Moore said of Coughlin. "This time, he didn't rip me a new one."
Moore is in his second season in the NFL, but he's still only 22 years old. He has the physical talent to be a disruptive force for the Giants on defense, but Giants coaches have talked openly about his struggles to consistently understand and carry out his assignments. Even after the Giants put two defensive ends on injured reserve last week, they used defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins as a starter at the position Sunday rather than elevate Moore to that spot. They don't believe they can fully trust him yet on running downs, and they cite discipline as a key issue for him as he works to improve.
"I apologized to DRC and to the whole defense. I took points off the board," Moore said. "But I don't apologize for being an aggressive player and trying to make a play. I just needed to know the rule better."
"That's not gonna happen here," Rolle added, when asked if the team could crumble, with players turning on each other or the coaching staff. "That's not what we're about."
The defense has played a little better overall in recent games, but has failed late in the fourth quarter the past two weeks, allowing the Cowboys and Jaguars to come from behind and snatch victories away from them.
The Giants are still ranked fourth-to-last in the NFL in yards allowed per game (385.0). And they'll be even more short-handed against the Titans in Nashville this coming Sunday, with defensive ends Mathias Kiwanuka (knee) and Robert Ayers (pectoral) placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Ayers was the team's best pass-rusher on the season.
Futhermore, linebacker Mark Herzlich (concussion) did not practice Wednesday, and fellow linebackers Jacquian Williams (concussion/shoulder), Jameel McClain (knee), defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf) and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (back/shoulder) were all limited.
Rolle started laughing upon hearing that a whopping 20 Giants players are now on IR.
"It's definitely taken its course on this team," Rolle said. "I don't know the rhyme or reason for it. It's just been a weird year all around. If you had asked me at the beginning of the season if we would have been in this situation, I would have put all my chips on absolutely not."
Rolle himself has had an up-and-down year. He had an interception in three of the team's first six games of the season, but none in the past six games, despite some opportunities. Overall he has a positive grade from the analytic website Pro Football Focus, but received a negative grade for eight consecutive games, prior to last week's loss in Jacksonville.
He's been a very good player in his five years with the Giants, and a leader in the locker room. But he'll also turn 32 next month, and will be a free agent at the end of the season. In an interview on WFAN Tuesday, Rolle said, "I still have a lot in the tank." But it's very possible the Giants will choose to spend their money elsewhere this winter.
For now, though, Rolle is one of the Giants veterans still healthy and competing, and saying the right things, too.
"Obviously this is a disappointing season for everyone, but you have to go out there and keep fighting," Rolle said. "That's all you have at this point. You must keep fighting, you must go out there and try to get a win at all costs."
"Absolutely it's hard," Rolle said, about continuing to fight. "It's hard because your mind can get the best of you. I know it is extremely hard for myself. But like I tell myself, you can't do anything about the past. We did this to ourselves. No one put us in this situation. We put ourselves in this situation."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin was at a loss to explain how his team blew a 21-0 lead by letting the Jaguars score two touchdowns on fumble recoveries in the second half. "This team [Jacksonville] is 0-4 when it loses the turnover battle," Coughlin said. "It's 100 percent. And we turn it over three times? Two for touchdowns? And we get nothing? It just doesn't make any sense. We could have knelt on the ball in the second half and had a better chance to win."Coughlin
- Guard Geoff Schwartz had his injured left ankle in a boot and left the stadium on crutches. He did not sound optimistic about his prospects for playing again soon. Coughlin said Schwartz had tendon damage. ... Coughlin also said he had no information on Robert Ayers' pectoral muscle injury, but that if it's torn, that would end Ayers' season. ... Running back Rashad Jennings said he tried to push off on his injured right ankle and couldn't, which is why he couldn't go back in the game in the fourth quarter, but he's not worried about the injury costing him more time. ... Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said he injured his shoulder early in the game, and that's why he wasn't on the field at the end. ... Rueben Randle said he was benched for the first quarter because he was late for a meeting Friday.
- And in perhaps the most shocking quote of the day, safety Antrel Rolle said, "I'm at a loss for words," though he did continue to talk after that.
If you'd forgotten that, then watching Hill cover Jimmy Graham and return an interception for a touchdown Monday Night to help the Ravens beat the Saints brought it all back home for you. Hill is a special talent, and he would undoubtedly be an asset to a struggling Giants defense that's especially banged up in the secondary.
But none of that means the Giants were wrong to release Hill in June after learning of his third drug suspension in as many seasons.
"When you run a business, you have to be able to rely and depend on people to be there when you need them to perform their duties," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said at the time.
And that's it. Releasing Hill had nothing to do with the Giants' feelings about drugs, about Hill personally or about his ability to help them win their Week 12 game. It was all about the Giants deciding, with good reason, that they couldn't trust Hill to show up for work. He misses games due to a drug suspension literally every single year. His next suspension would likely be for at least a full year, if not longer. You can't keep investing time and resources and a roster spot in a player who has proven he's not going to be able to play every game.
There are players all over the league who get injured and miss games every year, and it's easy for people to understand the idea of moving on from those players because they can't get on the field. This should be even easier to understand. Hill doesn't have injury issues, which wouldn't necessarily be his fault. He has bad-life-decision issues, which are his fault and which he has shown an inability and/or unwillingness to correct.
"Will knew the situation he put the Giants in. He forced their hand," Giants safety and Hill confidant Antrel Rolle said at the time of the suspension. "For him to keep moving himself in the wrong direction is not a good thing. It's too easy to do right to keep doing wrong."
The Giants are happy to see Hill succeeding in Baltimore, where he sat out the first six games of the season after his latest suspension. They liked him as a person and loved him as a player, and no one in their building is surprised to see him playing well. But in order to get the benefits of Will Hill, you have to accept the drawbacks -- the most significant of which is the likelihood that he tests positive once again for drugs and can't play for you anymore. The Giants decided they'd had enough of assuming that risk, and just because Hill had a big game Monday Night, it doesn't mean it was the wrong decision.
- Giants coach Tom Coughlin, talking about the last two games and looking ahead to next week: "We've had a defensive fiasco. Now we've had an offensive fiasco. Now maybe we can put something together." It's never good when you're comparing fiascoes.
- Coughlin said right tackle Justin Pugh injured his quad in last week's game in Seattle, which was surprising because Pugh was never on the injury report this week. Coughlin said Pugh took every snap in practice, so they weren't worried, but he came out of this game early and did not return. Charles Brown did a poor job as his replacement.Pugh
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had to physically restrain safety Antrel Rolle from walking across the field to argue with officials following a pass interference call on Rodgers-Cromartie early in the game. I pointed out to Rodgers-Cromartie that his veteran mentor, Rolle, was supposed to be the one who did that for him. Rodgers-Cromartie grinned and said, "Sometimes the younger guy has to play the bigger role."