For New York Giants QB Daniel Jones, 2021 will provide an opportunity to prove that he can be the team’s franchise quarterback. In his first two seasons as the Giants starting quarterback, Jones has had some good moments and some not-so-good moments.
In 26 games as a starter, Jones has thrown 35 touchdown passes, but he has 22 interceptions and 17 lost fumbles, so after two seasons, the Giants probably don’t know what they have in Jones.
As he enters his third training camp, Jones feels some pressure, but he believes that’s a good thing.
“Yeah, I think at this level, and in this job, we’re all expected to perform and play at a high level every day, and that starts today,” he said. “I certainly feel that. I think everyone on the team does, and I think that’s healthy; I think that’s the way it should be, and I know we’re excited for the opportunity.”
The 24-year-old Jones should benefit from working in OC Jason Garrett’s system for the second straight season, and he will have some new weapons to throw to in Kenny Golladay and rookie Kadarius Toney. Being with Garrett and head coach Joe Judge should benefit Jones, and he discussed that on Tuesday.
“I think it’s valuable,” he said. “I think it’s valuable for all of us. I think it’s the second year in the system under Coach Garrett and [Head] Coach [Joe] Judge. A lot of us are back and, like I said, have developed chemistry and know how to communicate with one another, but kind of the same theme, to start over and take it day by day, to start with step one and make sure we’re going about it the right way. We’ve got several new guys and had some time to get to know them during the spring and in the summer, and we’ll continue to go from there, but definitely helps to be back with Coach Garrett, Coach Judge, and a lot of the same guys.”
It’s a make-or-break year for Jones. If he struggles, the Giants will probably have to look in a different direction at the quarterback position, so the pressure is on Jones to perform at a high level this season, especially if he wants to stay the starting quarterback of the New York Giants going forward.
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney, the Giants’ first selection in the 2021 NFL draft, has been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced on Thursday.
The Giants’ rookies reported yesterday for training camp. Toney is following the NFL protocols by isolating and participating in meetings remotely, according to the team.
The Giants selected Toney from the University of Florida with the 20th selection in this year’s draft after trading with the Chicago Bears to move back from No. 11.
On other moves, the Giants have signed running back Mike Weber and defensive back Jordyn Peters.
Weber was a seventh-round draft choice in 2019 by the Dallas Cowboys, then coached by Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Weber spent that entire season on Dallas’ practice squad. He has also been with Kansas City and Green Bay and was released by the Packers on June 9.
In three seasons at Ohio State, Weber rushed for 2,757 yards and 24 touchdowns and caught 54 passes for 297 yards.
Peters was signed as a rookie free agent by the Jets on May 2 and waived on July 2. In his four seasons at Auburn, Peters played in 50 games and had 101 tackles (60 solo), 2.0 sacks and one interception.
Jim Fassel, who led the Giants to three playoff berths and a Super Bowl and mentored some of the franchise’s greatest players in his seven seasons as the team’s coach, has passed away.
He was 71.
According to numerous reports, Fassel, who lived outside of Las Vegas, was taken to a hospital with chest pains and died of a heart attack while under sedation.
Fassel coached the Giants from 1997-2003. His 58 career regular-season victories are the fourth-highest total among the 19 coaches in the 96-year history of the franchise. He was named NFL Coach of the Year after his first season.
After those two seasons with the Giants, rumors surfaced for the first time that Fassel was on the hot seat and that he had to reach postseason play in 2000 to keep his job.
He did better than that, leading the Giants to the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a 12-4 record, a 41-0 demolition of Minnesota in the conference championship game and a berth in Super Bowl XXXV. The journey to get there was unlikely and unforgettable.
On November 12 and 19, the Giants lost home games to St. Louis and Detroit to fall to 7-4. With three of their final five games on the road, the Giants looked to be in trouble and the pressure on Fassel ratcheted up. No one could have predicted how Fassel would respond.
Three days after the loss to the Lions, Fassel delivered a startling performance at what was normally a pro forma news conference.
“This team is going to the playoffs,” he declared to a room full of stunned reporters. “I believe in my players, I believe in my coaches and I believe in myself. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I have a lot of confidence in my coaches and I have a lot of confidence in the players and I have no fear. I came into this season with a lots of people wondering if I was worried about my job. I’m not worried about it, I’m not worried about the pressure. I’ve got no worries. I’ve got no fear. None. Zero. Count on it.”
The Giants responded in their next game by routing the Cardinals in Arizona, 31-7. The following week they edged Washington, 9-7, to take control of the NFC East race. After Fassel’s declaration, the Giants won their final five regular-season games to finish a game ahead of Philadelphia in the NFC East race. After defeating the Eagles in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game, the Giants annihilated the Vikings in the conference championship game.
“Without a doubt, in a big game, that was by far the best one of my teams ever played,” Fassel said.
The dream run ended with a thud. Facing the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, the Giants fell into a 17-0 hole and did not score an offensive touchdown in a crushing 34-7 loss, their only defeat in five Super Bowl appearances.
Fassel coached at the collegiate and professional levels for 30 years. He was the head coach at the University of Utah from 1985-89 and he coached in four different professional leagues (the World Football League, United States Football League, NFL and UFL). Fassel coached Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway as an offensive coordinator at Stanford and with the Denver Broncos and he also had NFL stints with the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals.
NFL free agency has evolved into a mix of blind dates and musical chairs.
Teams often commit millions of dollars to players without meeting face to face – a practice conducted even before the pandemic – at the risk of being the last one standing. The Giants, however, did it differently this year. Their relatively long courtship of free agents like Kenny Golladay, regarded as the top wide receiver on the market, was well-documented as they wined, dined, and ultimately signed.
“We had them in here and it was an old-school free agency,” general manager Dave Gettleman said Tuesday. “We got to talk, a chance to visit with them, they went out to dinner with various people in the organization, they were here a couple of nights, our doctors were able to put their hands on them. It was an old-fashioned free agency.”
“It wasn’t just our decision, the players wanted to come in as well,” vice president of football operations and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams said. “Both parties wanted to have the visit.”
The result was a free-agent class that surprised everyone but the people in the building.
“We got a pretty good understanding of what they’re about and that, to me, was a big advantage,” team president and chief executive officer John Mara said a few weeks ago when the dust settled after the first wave of free agency. “It’s much more difficult to do this when you can’t get the guys in the building and you have to make a commitment to a large amount of money without getting a chance to eye them up and talk to them and get a feel for them. I was happy that we were able to do that this year. It made it easier to give the final okay to say, ‘Yeah, go ahead, get the thing signed.’”
Mara described the approach as “thorough” in the recruiting cycle, stemming from the philosophy that fit supersedes skill when building a team. There was also a tangible reason to bring prospective players in for a visit: medical examination.
In 2020, Golladay missed Weeks 2 and 3 with a hamstring injury and the final nine games with a hip flexor strain.
“Well, you bring him in because you want to get a physical on him,” Gettleman said. “That was the biggest reason, get a physical on him. But it was nice for a change to get to know a guy and have that opportunity to do that. Like I said, it was like the old days. The biggest reason was the physical.”
Meanwhile, a medical check of Kyle Rudolph, who signed with the Giants after a decade in Minnesota, revealed the need for the two-time Pro Bowl tight end to undergo a procedure to repair a foot injury stemming from last season.
Despite the discovery coming after he had agreed to terms, the Giants felt confident to follow through with the signing. “Once he went through all the medical evaluations, we didn’t think that it was necessary [to adjust the contract],” Abrams said.
“We are the Giants, we’re going to do everything with class,” Gettleman said. “We had an agreement, [head athletic trainer] Ronnie [Barnes] signed off on it, [head team physician] Doc [Scott] Rodeo signed off on it, so we were fine.”
While people like to count the dollars spent, how does the front office quantify how much they improved in free agency?
“From my opinion, and I think Dave would agree, I think our roster is a lot better now than it was at the end of the season,” Abrams said. “And the offseason is not over yet, so we’ll still have more opportunities to add players. So, I think we feel good with what we’ve done. I think we’re a deeper, more talented team.”
“You know, you can’t quantify it,” Gettleman said. “It’s not going to be quantified until the fall and we start playing in September. But we feel very good about what we’ve done, we feel very good about the direction the team is taking with getting Kenny signed and Kyle Rudolph and Devontae Booker and Adoree’ Jackson and Leo. We feel really great about that and we really feel we’re building a solid football team that the fans can be proud of.”
And they’re not done yet. The Giants hold six picks in next week’s draft, starting with the No. 11 overall selection.
Courtesy: Dan Salomone/Giants
The Giants announced a pair of personnel moves on Monday, one in the front office and another on the performance staff.
Kyle O’Brien, who has 19 years of NFL experience, will fill the team’s newly created position of senior personnel executive. Drew Wilson is the Giants’ new assistant strength and conditioning coach.
O’Brien comes to the Giants from the Detroit Lions, for whom he worked the previous five years. In his first season with the Lions in 2016, he was the team’s director of player personnel. The following year, he was promoted to the vice president of player personnel. In those roles, O’Brien was instrumental in helping the Lions acquire both rookie and veteran players.
Prior to his tenure in Detroit, O’Brien was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ director of college scouting for three seasons (2013-15). He spent one season as a national scout with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012.
From 2002-11, O’Brien served in several roles within the New England Patriots’ player personnel department. He was twice an area scout (2002, 2006-09). The Patriots elevated O’Brien to national scout in his final two seasons (2010-11). In 2004-05, he was a Patriots’ pro personnel scout.
A graduate of Harvard where he lettered in lacrosse, O’Brien originally joined the Patriots as a player personnel intern in 2000 and continued those duties during the Patriots’ first Super Bowl season in 2001 while still attending Harvard. He began his NFL career as an intern with the Jets’ player personnel department in 1999.
Wilson replaces Thomas Stallworth, who left the Giants after three seasons to become the Atlanta Falcons’ strength and conditioning coach.
Wilson, 42, comes to the Giants after a four-year stint as the director of football strength and conditioning at the University of Colorado. He coordinated all aspects of training and development of the football team and managed a staff of four full-time assistants dedicated solely to the football program.
Prior to working for the Buffaloes, he spent five years (2011-15) as the director of strength and conditioning at the University of Maryland. Before moving to Colorado, Wilson worked for five years (2006-10) at the University of Connecticut as the assistant strength and conditioning coach. He previously was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Kansas from January 2005 to May 2006. Prior to his stint with the Jayhawks, Wilson spent five months at Florida State University assisting with football, baseball and the track and field programs.
Daunting challenges rooted in history, statistics and athleticism will greet the Giants when they face the Baltimore Ravens tomorrow in M&T Bank Stadium.
The Giants haven’t won in Baltimore since Sept. 15, 1963, when they defeated the Colts, 37-28. Okay, that’s misleading because they’ve since played there just twice, but both of those games – also played in December – were eminently forgettable. In 2004, rookie Eli Manning had an 0.0 passer rating and was replaced in a game for performance reasons for the only time in his career in a 37-14 loss. Eight years ago, the Giants lost, 33-14, as the Ravens gained 533 yards (309 passing, 224 on the ground), and owned the ball for more than 39 minutes. And we don’t need to discuss what happened when the teams met in Super Bowl XXXV 20 years ago.
Now the Giants are 5-9 and hoping to end a two-game losing streak in which they scored just 13 total points. They can win the NFC East title if they defeat the Ravens and Dallas and the Washington Football Team loses at least one of its final two games. But a Giants loss coupled with a Washington victory tomorrow will make Washington the division champions.
“Not to think about the playoffs or anything like that, but we’re basically treating it like the playoffs right now,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “We know what’s at stake and we know that we have to win these last two games basically to go to the playoffs. Starting now is basically our playoffs. That’s kind of how we’re treating this game.”
Baltimore, which has defeated the three other NFC East teams, is 9-5, a record perhaps skewered by a COVID-influenced three-game losing streak that forced them to play a Wednesday night game in Pittsburgh without several players, notably quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens scored 121 points in defeating Dallas, Cleveland and Jacksonville the last three weeks.
“Obviously, they’re getting guys back now healthy,” Giants coach Joe Judge said. “They’re really hitting their stride. This is a very good team. It’s going to take everything we have to prepare for them. We have to have our best on Sunday.”
Baltimore will make that difficult. The Ravens are the only team in the top six in the league in both points scored (fourth at 28.8 a game) and points allowed (sixth at 20.5). Baltimore leads the NFL in both rushing yardage per game (172.7) and per carry (5.2). Defensively, the Ravens rank ninth by allowing 343.7 yards a game and their third-down defense is tied for fourth (allowing conversions on just 36.6% of opponents attempts).
The Ravens have plenty of incentive; they’ve not clinched a playoff berth and could miss the postseason at 11-5 if they don’t get help.
Safety Logan Ryan last season played for the Tennessee Titans when they took leads of 14 and 22 points on their way to a 22-12 victory against the top-seeded Ravens in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game in Baltimore.
“The reason why my team had success against the Ravens last year is that we came out, we started fast, we got a lead,” Ryan said. “I think when you get a lead on the Ravens it makes them play behind, it changes their defense and their offensive schemes a little bit from playing from behind. They’re built to play from ahead because they’re really good at running the ball, they’re really aggressive on defense and you want to get those guys behind on the scoreboard early. So, starting fast is a major point for us and be ready to go on Sunday, believe you can win the game. Be ready to go and start fast is definitely a key point for us.”
The Ravens tied the NFL high with seven players selected to the Pro Bowl. One of those excluded was Jackson, the league’s most valuable player in 2019. In 13 games, Jackson has completed 64.8% of his passes and thrown for 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He leads all NFL quarterbacks with a team-high 828 rushing yards and has scored seven touchdowns on the ground. After running for 1,206 yards last year, Jackson is the only quarterback in NFL history with at least 800 yards rushing in consecutive seasons.
Jackson is 9-0 in starts against NFC teams.
“I think this guy is a unicorn in terms of how he can play,” Judge said. “He really makes explosive plays with his legs, along with the arm strength and the plays down the field he’s capable of making right there.
“This player is explosive. He’s very elusive, he’s extremely fast, he has great running instincts, he has very good balance and body control, he’s tough to take down, he breaks a lot of tackles. He can get to his top speed very quickly, but then also decelerate and changes direction at will. This is a guy, he’s a much different type of player at that position than really any other quarterback I can think of in the league. Obviously, he’s having a tremendous amount of success with what he does.”
After facing Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Arizona’s Kyler Murray this month, Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has had to devise a plan for another dynamic, multi-dimensional quarterback in Jackson.
“He’s different, he’s very different,” Graham said. “…This guy is so fast, he’s so big, he’s so dynamic with the ball. When you sell out for the run game, he will throw the ball over your head and it will be a touchdown with the targets they have. With Hollywood (Marquise Brown) and (Mark) Andrews. It’s a unique challenge. I’m looking forward to it. Guys have to get ready for it. It’s going to be fun. We just have to see if we can execute.”
Their hopes of staying in the division race might depend on it.
“The weather’s cold, most teams are physical this time of year, most teams run the ball, most teams want to stop the run,” Ryan said. “It’s really about executing your details, executing the game, being good situationally and when we tend to do that, we tend to win the game. To us, it’s about cleaning up our details and executing and getting ready to play the Ravens.”
*Wide receiver Golden Tate will not play because of a calf injury. Tate is fourth on the team with 35 catches for 388 yards. He has two touchdown receptions.
Quarterback Daniel Jones (hamstring/ankle), linebacker Blake Martinez (ankle) and cornerback Darnay Holmes (knee) are questionable.
This unique NFL season today took another twist for James Bradberry and Evan Engram, who learned they earned their first Pro Bowl selections although the game will not actually be played.
Bradberry, the cornerback in his first year with the Giants and fifth in the NFL, and Engram, the 2017 first-round draft choice in his fourth season, would have represented the NFC team in the game. But the league announced in October that it canceled the game to focus on completing its season amid the pandemic. Las Vegas, which had been scheduled to host the game, will instead host the Pro Bowl after the 2021 season. This will be the first time since the 1949 season that the NFL hasn’t held some form of postseason all-star game.
“When they announced that, I was like, ‘That would be crazy if I made the Pro Bowl and we don’t even play the Pro Bowl,’” Engram said. “But I think they’re doing some Madden tournament. I’ve been playing a lot of Madden lately, so hopefully I can go win that.”
No Giants player was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2019. Bradberry is the first Giants cornerback to be voted in since Janoris Jenkins in 2016, while Engram is the team’s first Pro Bowl tight end since Jeremy Shockey in 2006.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Bradberry said. “That’s on everyone’s, I wouldn’t call it a bucket list, but it’s on their goal list, to be Pro Bowl, to be All-Pro, just be the best in the game. I try not to think about it too much. I just try to go out there and play my best and just let the chips fall where they may.”
“I’m really just truly thankful,” Engram said. “Just blessed and thankful for just the whole process that I’ve been through. This past year has been hard for literally everybody. Me and my mom were talking about it this weekend.”
The Giants devised a unique plan for informing Bradberry and Engram of their selections. They told them the NFL was scheduling Zoom calls so current players could meet former players who once played the same positions on their teams. Jason Sehorn spoke to Bradberry, while Howard Cross Zoomed with Engram. The retirees then told the active players they were Pro Bowlers.
“It was cool, because I really learned about who Jason Sehorn was when I got up here,” Bradberry said. “I just started doing some research, and I saw that he was a great cornerback for the organization. It was cool to get the news from him, a fellow cornerback.”
Engram didn’t have to research Cross, who is a regular presence at Giants headquarters.
“My guy Howard, I see him all the time,” Engram said. “I definitely was glad it was him. They made it seem like I was getting on to talk ball and chop it up with some of the former Giants. They set it up pretty good.”
Bradberry joined the Giants as a free agent on March 26 and has been one of the NFL’s premier cornerbacks this season. Frequently assigned to cover the opponent’s best wide receiver, Bradberry leads the Giants with three interceptions, is tied for second in the league with 17 passes defensed and has 46 tackles (38 solo), two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He was the leading fan vote-getter among NFC corners with 87,818.
“It definitely means a lot that I made it,” Bradberry said. “I try not to put too much emphasis on it beforehand because I just felt like it was something I couldn’t control. The one thing I can control is how I play on the field, and that’s what I try to control. But, of course, I wanted to be a Pro Bowler, so it feels good to be recognized as one.”
Bradberry was asked if he thinks he has played better this season than he has in the past.
“I played pretty well in my last year in Carolina,” he said. “But I think I’ve been playing at a high level this year. I actually think we have a lot of guys on the defense that are playing at a high level. Leonard (Williams) has been playing out of his mind. Blake (Martinez) has been playing well for us, he’s been playing out of his mind. Logan (Ryan) came in, didn’t even have a training camp and he’s been playing some elite football.”
Bradberry did not play in the Giants’ loss last night to the Cleveland Browns because he was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list week after he was deemed a high-risk close contact of an individual who tested positive. Bradberry was activated off the reserve list today.
“I was just disappointed I couldn’t go out there and play and help the team,” Bradberry said. “I kind of felt helpless because my team was out there battling and I wasn’t out there to battle with them. It’s just a difficult situation with COVID and stuff. I was just really disappointed that I couldn’t be out there.”
Engram leads the Giants with 54 catches and is second with 572 receiving yards. He has scored two touchdowns, one receiving and another rushing.
Engram, who made his 12th start of the season last night, has a chance to play in all 16 games for the first time (he played in a career-high 15 as a rookie). That would be no small achievement considering in 2019, Engram played in only eight games and underwent foot surgery that required a long rehabilitation. That he returned to play at a Pro Bowl level is particularly satisfying.
“To where I am now and to receive this news today literally was just icing on the cake,” Engram said. “I’m really just truly blessed and thankful for where I am, everything I’ve been through and everything that’s going to come.
“The foot injuries, I didn’t realize how tough it was going to be. That one was tough. It was just a lot of ups and downs. There was some doubt that crept in sometimes about if I would be the same. But I’ve had great people helping me.
“I’m a real positive person. I’m young still (26), but I feel like I’ve gained a little wisdom. Especially in this profession, doubt is an athlete’s biggest enemy. It was definitely a fight because it’s a natural thing, everybody has it. I’m not perfect and I’m a human being. It did creep in a little bit. But I just kind of stayed the course, I kept my faith and kept praying to God about it. He’s definitely pulled through.”
The Giants’ newest Pro Bowlers insist this will not be a pinnacle, but a springboard for future achievements.
“I want to get more interceptions,” said Bradberry, who has 11 in his career. “You see what (Miami’s) Xavien Howard, (New England’s) J.C. Jackson, they have eight-nine picks, so of course, you always want to be able to create more turnovers as a defender. But I feel like I also want to become more of a vocal leader. I don’t really talk a whole lot. Just trying to be comfortable with that in the future.”
“I want to be more consistent at all levels of my game,” Engram said. “I want to continue to be more consistent when I’m blocking. There are sometimes where I’m very physical and use great technique, and there are sometimes where I get away from that. Same thing with route running. There are sometimes where I’m able to be really sharp and create separation. There are times where I get myself covered. Also, ball security. Holding the ball, catching the ball, being dynamic at the point of attack. Just being an overall consistent player, I think that’s my biggest goal. Just continue to try to improve in all aspects of my game.”
That is a good starting point for each of the Giants’ 2020 Pro Bowlers.
Giants cornerback James Bradberry has been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced on Thursday.
According to the Giants, Bradberry was placed on the list because he was deemed to be a high risk close contact of an individual who has tested positive. The contact did not occur at the Giants facility and the individual is not a member of the organization.
Bradberry will remain isolated from the team and continue to participate in meetings remotely. Given the timing of the close contact, Bradberry will miss Sunday night’s game against Cleveland. If he continues to test negatively and has no symptoms, he would come off the reserve list on Monday.
Earlier in the day, New York announced that their offensive coordinator Jason Garrett tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t coach against the Browns on Sunday.
Leonard Williams has become one of the Giants most productive players this season and he said it’s all part of the process.
The sixth-year defensive lineman leads the team with 5.0 sacks, seven tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hits. The sack total is 10 times greater than the half-sack he had in the entire 2019 season and just 2.0 sacks shy of the career-high total he registered as a pro sophomore with the Jets in 2016. Williams has been credited with 32 tackles (16 solo).
“I think this guy has done a really good job with everything we’ve asked him to do,” coach Joe Judge said. “He’s playing good, fundamental technique and good, sound execution within the schemes. He’s using his hands very well to get off blocks, he plays with a high motor. He’s really using his pass rush moves and his counters off it to get him to the ball. Leonard’s a guy that obviously we knew had a tremendous amount of potential. He has a great attitude. This guy comes to work every day with his hair on fire, really into his football. The team loves being around him, he brings a lot of energy to the building. He’s fun to coach. I think this guy has really helped our team just on all avenues, but for his own specific game, I don’t see any area of his game that hasn’t been improved this year. I think (defense line coach Sean) Spence(r) has done a phenomenal job working with him.”
Leonard credits Judge, Spencer and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham for helping him take a take a step forward – literally and figuratively – this season.
Williams is aware of public perceptions that he hadn’t made enough plays to justify the Jets selecting him with the sixth overall draft choice in the 2015 NFL Draft. At times, that prompted him to try to do too much to raise him numbers. When Spencer joined the staff this season after 20 seasons as a collegiate coach, he believed the Williams needed a change of perspective to maximize his skills.
“The whole thing with Leonard is he’s tremendously talented individual,” Spencer said. “Myself and him and coach Graham and coach Judge have really just concentrated on him focusing on the process and not the results. I think sometimes when you’re results driven, you go outside your work and you start to press. And when you start to press, you’re not going to get the results you want. Focusing on the detail of how do you get the sack – low pad level playing with your hands, playing with extension. Those are the things we’ve tried to work on with him to get him to where he wants to be and where we want him to be.”
Williams became more productive doing what he’s asked to do and not what he thought he had to do.
“There have been times where if I heard something in the media, as much as you try not to pay attention to that stuff, it’s clearly out there,” Williams said. “I started playing out of my game a little bit, pressing to make the big play or make a sack or a flash play like that. I would just get out of my progression. Whereas Coach Spence said if you just play every down hard and you go through your progression and you read your keys and you just play every down, then the big plays will come to you, basically. You’re not out there reaching or searching for a big play. The big play will just come by doing your process.”
Williams has had a sack in five of the Giants’ nine games this season. After tackling Tom Brady and Alex Smith for eight and seven-yard losses the last two weeks, he hopes to run his sack streak to three consecutive games when the Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday in MetLife Stadium.
The irony to Williams is that he believes he’s always been a consistently productive player. But since his sack numbers were not as large as fans and the media apparently expected them to be, he didn’t receive acknowledgement from his contributions.
“I’ve had this same game in my style of play since I’ve been in the league,” Williams said. “It’s just now that the sack number itself, that stat is on the paper, that’s all people see. They think that all of a sudden, I’m playing way better than I have been before. I think I have been still playing well in the past. It’s just like fans don’t see those plays that you make that just don’t count toward a sack.
“Not too much has changed from my game in general, honestly. I feel like I was still making those same plays in the run game. I think the difference is closing that gap between a quarterback hit and a sack at times. That just goes from Pat Graham and Spencer staying on me about being consistent and just trusting myself basically. Just trusting myself more and that confidence growing in myself, which has helped me play harder and faster.”
So did a week he spent in Atlanta last spring with former defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who won three Super Bowls and was selected to seven Pro Bowls in a 12-year career with the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders.
“He introduced me to his family and basically kind of took me under his wing, talked some football,” Williams said. “We watched a little bit of film together. Then we worked out a few days together. He was teaching me mindsets, because he was like, ‘Now that you’re in the league, a lot of people have the body types to be successful. But you have to apply the mindset with the body to make it work.’ He was just teaching me mental game stuff.”
Like the advice he received from Spencer, Williams has taken the lessons from Seymour and applied them on the field, with impressive success.
“I think just knowing that he’s watching and knowing that he’s a mentor in the back of my mind kind of also plays an effect,” Williams said. “I feel like every snap I’m playing, I’m like ‘Oh, Richard’s watching.’ I feel like that’s kind of helped me a little, honestly. He’s reached out to me after games and vice-versa. If I feel like I have a question or something I need to think about, I’ll reach out to him. It’s a cool relationship.”
Williams is pleased he’s made more constant and conspicuous contributions this season but he’s hardly satisfied. The Giants have seven remaining games and Williams intends to be a force in every one of them.
“I would say that this has been one of my more productive years, but we have another game coming up,” he said. “We still have almost half a season left after the bye week. I’m focused on trying to finish and not be satisfied with where I’m at now.”