New York Giants: Olivier Vernon Carted Off The Field In Practice

The New York Giants might have traded away reserve lineman Brett Jones today for a seventh round pick from the Vikings, but the bigger news is in regard to Olivier Vernon.

What happened to New York Giants’ Olivier Vernon?

Vernon was carted off the field for an apparent ankle injury. He was caught up between two blocks and appeared to roll the ankle.

Pat Shurmur stated that Vernon would go for tests and the severity of the injury is yet to be determined. The loss of Vernon would be huge for a Giants defense making the transition to the 3-4 scheme.

The veteran defender was expected to play a massive role in containing the opposing team’s run game and quarterback.

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher coached Chandler Jones to a 17 sack season in 2017 after making the switch to OLB. He was planning to do the same with Vernon this season.

 

Giants’ HC Pat Shurmur Ensures Jonathan Stewart Isn’t Going Anywhere

When the New York Giants signed signed Jonathan Stewart to a two-year, $6.9 million contract, it was thought to be a good move in regard to developing Saquon Barkley and providing him with a veteran mentor for his first two seasons. Additionally, Stewart could have played a short yardage grinder role, where Barkley was more at risk of taking big collisions and suffering injuries.

At this point in the preseason, the signing seems to be a massive failure. Over the course of three games, the former Carolina Panther has racked up a total of -5 yards on 10 carries. This is worrisome, as it’s becoming more apparent that Stewart doesn’t have anything left in the tank.

After last Friday’s game against the Jets, he stated, “It’s preseason,” and walked away.

Are the New York Giants in a bad position with Stewart?

Personally, I believe they botched this signing entirely. They’re locked in for two years and would only retain $600k of his salary if he were to be cut this season. That’s a very minimal cap-return for a player that’s 31 years old and has been phased out of the scheme in Carolina due to wear and tear.

Head coach Pat Shurmur seems to think he has plenty of gas left in the tank:

“He’s a veteran player and he’s played really well for a lot of seasons. There’s always a reason why things don’t go well. If you just look at the raw production, and say ‘oh my goodness,’ but we just have to take it for what it is. I know he can play football and play at a high level, and we are just counting on that,” Shurmur told reporters on Saturday.

Stewart lost a fumble last Friday in addition to running straight into several dog piles. He has no obvious lateral quickness or ability to change direction to exploit holes. It seems that he’s more of a straight-line threat that needs to have a perfect lane to shoot through. With the offensive line spotty at times, we shouldn’t expect to see anything positive from Stewart for the most part.

The bottom line, he’s probably the 4th or 5th best back on the team. He will play a minimal role in 2018.

 

Penn State: Herbstreit Favors Nittany Lions In Preseason Predictions

The Penn State football team has a decent amount of hype going into the 2018 season, and not all of it is coming from the fans of the Nittany Lions. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who is notably a former Ohio State quarterback, was high on PSU when making his preseason predictions. He backed them several times over other teams who are higher in the polls, multiple times in his picks.

It started with picking Trace McSorley for the Heisman trophy. “He’s the Baker Mayfield of this year as far as intangibles, what he means to this team, attitude, how he plays with a chip on his shoulder,” said Herbstreit, drawing a comparison to this year’s number one draft pick. While the two have different playing styles, anyone that’s followed McSorley’s career knows that it’s accurate in that both players are the type who can provide a spark to their team.

Herbstreit elaborated on the attitude that Penn State could have this season, saying that the team could play with an added chip on their shoulder as a response to much of their success over the past couple of years being attributed to Saquon Barkley. With Barkley gone, Penn State has taken a hit in the rankings and even some of their own fans enter the season with less confidence than they had last year.

While he picked Alabama to defeat Clemson in yet another national championship game between two of the dominant teams of the 2010s, Herbstreit did pick Penn State to make the College Football Playoff. “I’m going to go Alabama and Clemson… And then I’m going to go Penn State and Washington.”

According to the AP Poll, Penn State is currently the tenth best team in the country. They narrowly edged out Michigan State and Notre Dame to make the top ten, but they sit below Auburn and Miami. Will Penn State make the playoff this season? We’ll see. But at least one well known member of the media has faith that they will.

Wisconsin Football: How Do The Bagders Stack Up vs WKU?

College football is coming. It’s less than two weeks before the start of the season, and the Wisconsin Badgers are one of the teams that will begin play on August 31st. Wisconsin is the favorite in the Big Ten West division and is the fourth ranked team in the AP poll right now, one spot above early conference favorites Ohio State.

But how does Wisconsin match up with the first opponent on the schedule?

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are the first team on the schedule for Wisconsin. The Hilltoppers aren’t exactly a team from a glamorous conference, or one that fans of big time conferences will be familiar with. They went 4-4 in Conference USA last year, with a 6-7 overall record when everything was said and done.

The season didn’t end on a good note for them either, as they lost 27-17 to Georgia State in the Cure Bowl. Their starting quarterback, Mike White, was good enough to get drafted in the fifth round by the Dallas Cowboys earlier this year. While that’s good for White and while it raises the profile of the program a bit, it’s not optimal for WKU.

They lost a player that threw for 4,177 yards last year along with 26 touchdowns, and the second most experienced quarterback from last season is fifth year senior Drew Eckels, who only attempted eleven passes during all of last year. According to head coach Mike Sanford, though, all of the quarterbacks on the team fit the system well.

But it’s not just the Badgers defense that could give WKU trouble. The Hilltoppers allowed an average of 2.1 rushing touchdowns per game, in stark contrast to Wisconsin’s 0.5 average. Jonathan Taylor rushed for nearly 2,000 yards last year, and is expected to improve on his performances from 2017 after picking up more experience as a college player.

Most power five teams struggle to contain Taylor, so it wouldn’t be a risky bet to guess than Wisconsin could finish with more than the two rushing touchdowns that WKU’s opponents averaged last season. Especially after their leading tackler, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, was taken 115th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Senior Masai Whyte will have to step up to replace him, but Whyte’s 63 tackles last season don’t come close to Iyiegbuniwe’s 117.

This is still a rebuilding phase for the Hilltoppers and their tepid running game, which had no gains of more than 20 yards last season, might be the nail in the coffin for their chances of making it a competitive game.

They’ll show up with their best effort, but Wisconsin is more talented in every area and it’s going to be hard for Western Kentucky to even score on a Badgers defense that has redshirt seniors Ryan Connelly and T.J. Edwards at inside linebacker as well as redshirt senior D’Cota Dixon at free safety.

Even if they do find a way, it will be hard to prevent Jonathan Taylor from running wild and boosting his Heisman chances during the first game of the season.

Prediction: Wisconsin Bagders 48 – 6 WKU Hilltoppers

Can New York Giants’ Hunter Sharp Steal The Fourth WR Spot?

When New York Giants fans saw where Hunter Sharp’s name was on the first depth chart of training camp, they might have been a bit confused. Competition for the spots behind Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr. was competitive, with a number of players such as Roger Lewis, Russell Shepard, Amba Etta-Tawo, and Cody Latimer all vying to become the team’s third and fourth receivers.

The New York Giants made a interesting decision:

Well, in the end, the Giants went with Latimer and Hunter Sharp. The decision might have seemed a bit out of place at the time, but Sharp proved himself while returning a punt in the last preseason game against the Jets. The Giants made a fairly normal defensive stop, but turned it into seven points when Sharp ran the ball back for 55 yards and smartly used the lane that his blockers had created for him.

The Jets special teams unit wouldn’t catch up. But what was Sharp’s career like before this point? Let’s look back. He actually started off as a two star recruit coming out of high school, but was one of the main receivers at Utah State during his time there. He had nine touchdowns in 2015, as well as 835 receiving yards in 11 games.

He would have started every game, but didn’t thanks to a two game suspension to begin the season, because of a violation of team rules. Sharp was an undrafted free agent who joined the Eagles in 2016, but failed to make the final roster and was cut from the team in August. He had a stint with the Broncos next, but he only appeared in one game in Denver and was targeted a single time. In that game, however, Sharp returned five punts for a total of 55 yards.

When Sharp joined the Giants near the end of the 2017 season, after being waived by Denver in October, he saw more use as a receiver. He had two catches on two targets against Arizona, returning three punts for 19 yards in the same game. Against Washington, in the closing game of the season, he wasn’t used as a return man at all and played as a receiver. He had 29 yards from 3 receptions and 6 targets, and most notably he pulled in his first career touchdown.

Obviously, Sharp has improved at least somewhat over the offseason, since the Giants consider him one of the top four receivers on the team. Where will he go from here? Well, Sharp may just be the return man that replaces Dwayne Harris, who is now playing with the Oakland Raiders. He also adds depth at the receiver position, which definitely needs more talent than just Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard if the offense is to perform well consistently.

If the good performances continue, the Giants may have a steal of a player on their hands.