New York Giants: Surprise undrafted defender could replace BJ Goodson

Josiah Tauaefa, New York Giants

While most are focused on New York Giants rookie passer Daniel Jones, most are forgetting about the reserve players fighting for a roster spot. The spotlight will focus in on one specific athlete in this article, an undrafted one that has been one of the highest-rated defenders this preseason period.

Linebacker Josiah Tauaefa of Texas-San Antonio is the undrafted surprise that has made waves with his performance during the preseason. While his name is seldom called during practice, he’s quietly left his mark. PFF gave him an 86.8 grade, the seventh-highest graded rookie so far.

PFF stated:

Undrafted free agent Josiah Tauaefa has been a pleasant surprise for the New York Giants so far this preseason. Tauaefa has seen most of his preseason time in coverage where he has recorded four coverage stops, but he has also excelled in his limited action against the run and in the pass-rush. The former UTSA product was a legitimate threat as a blitzer in college, as he finished his three-year college career with 63 pressures and a 94.0 pass-rush grade his final season.

His 12 total tackles, sack, and special teams tackle have earned him praise from the coaching staff and fans that have a keen eye for undrafted free agents looking to make a run at a roster spot.

Could New York Giants rookie Josiah Tauaefa replace BJ Goodson at linebacker?

The three-year veteran is in line to earn a roster spot solely due to his experience and familiarity with defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Tauaefa has made a case for himself to steal his role, but he’s more likely to end up on the practice squad than on the active roster.

Playing against second and third-string players only provide so much information to keep players on the roster after cuts. The most exciting aspect of Josiah is his physicality and desire to hit with power and precision.

Check out this his lone sack:

He’s certainly a player to keep an eye on during Thursday’s game against the New England Patriots. It will be his final opportunity to prove his worth in front of the coaching staff.

New York Giants: Could Ryan Connelly Become An Impact Player As A Rookie?

The New York Giants drafted Wisconsin linebacker, Ryan Connelly, in the fifth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

The New York Giants have had one of the worst linebacker corpses in the NFL for years now. The Giants’ last general manager, Jerry Reese, placed little to no emphasis on the linebacker position.

This was strange considering the Giants thrived off of a strong linebacker corpse in the ’80s. Fortunately, the Giants’ current general manager, Dave Gettleman, has placed more emphasis on improving the Giants’ linebacker position than his predecessor.

Dave Gettleman has made two notable moves to improve the Giants’ linebacker corps in his two years as the Giants’ general manager. Last offseason, Dave Gettleman made a trade for former Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree. Ogletree struggled at times in 2018, but still, lead the Giants in interceptions with 5 picks.

Big Blue’s latest attempt to improve the linebacker position came in the 5th-round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The New York Giants selected inside linebacker Ryan Connelly out of Wisconsin with 143rd overall selection. Giants fans have high hopes for Connelly’s future, but will he be able to make an instant impact as a rookie?

How Connelly Can Make An Instant Impact:

Ryan Connelly considered a surprise pick for the Giants in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Many expected the Giants to draft an offensive lineman, but the decision to draft an inside linebacker could pay dividends.

The Giants’ current linebacker corps is weak. The starting linebackers on the Giants, Alec Ogletree and B.J. Goodson, both had disappointing seasons in 2018. Alec Ogletree is a leader and will certainly start in 2019, but B.J. Goodson has been an inconsistent player in each of his first three seasons, so Connelly could overtake his starting role.

B.J. Goodson has not played 16 games in any of his three seasons in the NFL. He played 15 games in 2016 and 2018 but played in only 7 games in 2017. In order for Ryan Connelly to take over the starting linebacker position, he must stay healthy.

Goodson started in 13 games in 2018 and finished with 61 tackles. He also added 2 interceptions, 4 tackles for loss, and 1 fumble recovery. Still, Goodson did not grade out particularly well by Pro Football Focus’s standards in 2018, finishing with an overall grade of only 66.2. PFF noted there were times when Goodson “couldn’t seem to find [his] covers.”

Pro Football Focus grading might not have been too kind to B.J. Goodson in 2018, but it was certainly favorable towards Ryan Connelly. Connelly finished ahead of the 10th overall pick, Devin Bush, in PFF grading in 2018.  Ryan finished with an overall grade of 85.2, a run defense grade of 82.5, and 50 total stops in 2018.

Ryan Connelly is a speedy linebacker with the ability to shoot gaps. His 1.54s 10-yard split recorded at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine ranks third among participating off-ball linebackers that weighed in at 240-plus pounds since 2010. Connelly was praised by NFL scouts for his instincts and play recognition.

Ryan Connelly was a great linebacker against the run for Wisconsin in 2018. Ryan totaled 89 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and 1 forced fumble. Unfortunately, Connelly was not an extraordinary linebacker defending the pass as he finished his collegiate career with 2 interceptions and 5 passes defended in 4 seasons.

There is some serious potential in the New York Giants’ 5th round pick this year. Ryan Connelly is a talented inside linebacker who could end up starting for the Giants in his rookie season and beyond. If Connelly can reach his true potential, he will be an absolute defensive steal.

New York Giants: Former Broncos Linebacker Could Be An Option In Free Agency

It is no secret that the Giants had one of the NFL’s absolute worst defenses in 2018. General manager Dave Gettleman has said publicly that fixing the defense is a priority for him in the 2019 offseason.

One position group that the Giants could improve at is linebacker. Luckily for them, there are plenty of quality linebackers in this year’s free agency class. On Friday, another veteran linebacker was added to the mix.

Brandon Marshall

In an effort to free up cap space, the Denver Broncos declined the option of one of their defensive starters. This player is linebacker Brandon Marshall. Marshall is 29 years old and has played for the Broncos since 2013. But now, in the 2019 offseason, Brandon Marshall will become a free agent.

Marshall had a down year and 2018 and was not able to stay on the field. He played in only 11 games due to injury, but only started in 7 of them. He still managed to total 42 tackles. Despite missing 5 games in 2018, Marshall does not have an extended history with injuries.

In 2017, Brandon Marshall played and started in all 16 games. Brandon racked up 106 total tackles, 3 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, and four passes defended. On top of that, Marshall forced a fumble, and recovered one for a touchdown.

Brandon Marshall was in impact player in 2017. If he can return to form in 2019, he could wind up being a steal in free agency for whichever team signs him.

The Giants’ Linebacker Needs

Last offseason, the Giants traded for linebacker Alec Ogletree. Alec was a captain for the Giants in 2018, but he was far from being a top linebacker in the NFL.  Alec Ogletree finished the season with a 50.7 overall grade, ranked 81st out of all linebackers in the league. He was inconsistent in coverage and missed many tackles that left fans frustrated with the defensive captain. B.J. Goodson performed better (66.2 overall PFF grade), but was still only the 41st ranked linebacker in the NFL.

With these low grades, the Giants are clearly in need of another linebacker. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, Marshall recorded PFF grades of 74+ each season. In 2017 and 2018, his grade was in the 60s, but that would still be an improvement from Alec’s 50.7 overall grade.

The Giants need help on defense, and adding another solid veteran linebacker would be a huge addition to the 5-11 team. Brandon Marshall should be available on a cheap contract due to his age and injury during 2018. However, that low price point is why he might be a fit for the Giants. Marshall could come in and be a solid starter for the Giants in 2019. If he is able to exceed expectations and return to his prime form, the Giants could come away with the steal of free agency.

New York Giants: 2019 Free Agent Targets At The Linebacker Position

Last offseason, the Giants attempted to improve their linebacker position via trade. The Giants acquired Alec Ogletree and a 2019 7th round pick from the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a 2018 4th round pick and a 2018 6th round pick.

Despite this trade, the Giants’ linebacker position was still below average in 2018. Alec Ogletree finished the season with a 50.7 overall grade, ranked 81st out of all linebackers in the league. He was inconsistent in coverage and missed many tackles that left fans frustrated with the defensive captain. B.J. Goodson performed better (66.2 overall PFF grade), but was still only the 41st ranked linebacker in the NFL.

Luckily for the Giants, there are plenty of options to upgrade the linebacker position in the 2019 offseason. There are options in the 2019 free agency class. The Giants can certainly find quality linebackers to start for 2019 and beyond.

Free Agency:

If the Giants want to make a splash in free agency, there are a couple of big-name free agents they could look to sign. However, it does not stop there. There are not only big-name free agents, there are solid depth pieces they could look to sign on cheaper contracts.

Anthony Barr:

One big-name linebacker they could sign is Anthony Barr from the Minnesota Vikings. Barr is a jack-of-all-traits. He can rush the passer, defend the run, and play in coverage. Anthony Barr has been selected to the Pro Bowl each of the past four seasons.

Anthony Barr accumulated 23 pressures on just 94 pass-rush snaps in 2018. On top of that, 2018 featured a career high in sacks for Barr 3 total sacks. This is especially impressive considering Barr’s high number of pressures and low number of pass-rush snaps. This prompted some to believe he should be converted to a full-time edge defender like he was in college

However, it would not be surprising if Barr remained at linebacker because of his ability to play in coverage. His 22 total passes defended in only 5 seasons proves he is a playmaker at the linebacker position.

He had a down year in 2018. He posted a career worst tackle total with only 55 but that could work to the Giants’ benefit. His 2018 campaign could lead him to a lower market value this offseason. If Barr could return to form, he could take the Giants’ defense to the next level.

Jordan Hicks:

Jordan Hicks is another big-name free agent that the Giants could look to sign. Stealing an impact player from a division rival could reap plenty of benefits. He could give the Giants some insider info on how to beat the Eagles’ defense. On top of that, Hicks is one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL. He had 5 passes defended in 2018.

After missing 9 games in 2017 with a leg injury, Hicks bounced back with a solid campaign in 2018. In only 12 games, Hicks posted 91 total tackles. Hicks also totaled 3 sacks and one fumble recovery.

Hicks was still working his way back from injury in 2018, but if he is completely healthy in 2019, he could return to form as one of the best linebackers in the NFL. In 2016, Hicks played all 16 games and was lockdown in coverage. He had 5 interceptions and 11 passes defended in 2016. The Giants’ defense would welcome that production with open arms.

Deone Bucannon:

Deone Bucannon from the Arizona Cardinals is not a top-tier, big name free agent. He should be a cheaper option in free agency, but he could very well be a match for the Giants. Bucannon has a connection to the Giants’ defensive coordinator, James Bettcher. Bettcher was the defensive coordinator of the Cardinals before he joined the Giants in 2018.

Bucannon used to play safety for the Cardinals, but Bettcher had the wits to convert him to linebacker because of his tackling ability. In 2015, when Bucannon was playing both safety and linebacker, he racked up 109 tackles. He also had an interception, 3 passes defended, and 3 forced fumbles.

Unfortunately, Deone’s production has not been as stellar as 2015 in recent years. In 2018, Bucannon only started in 6 games, played in 13, and racked up just 38 tackles. He has become more of a rotational player. However, it is possible that a reunion with Bettcher could bring out the best in Bucannon.

New York Giants: Looking Into How Defensive Lineman B.J. Hill Is Progressing

When the New York Giants made the transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense, it brought upon a slew of changes that could ultimately pay dividends for a team that had the 26th ranked unit defense in the league last year. Drafting defensive end, B.J. Hill, will help the cause.

Hill was selected with one of the Giants’ third-round draft picks, helping solidify the defensive front and provide defensive coordinator James Bettcher with a potential starting tackle. The 3-4 defense requires three down lineman that can take up space and open up gaps for the linebacker to exploit.

How had B.J. Hill performed in training camp for the New York Giants?

The North Carolina State product has quietly made a name for himself in camp, earning first-team reps alongside Damon Harrison, the Giants’ most prolific run-stopper. He will be able to learn and soak in all of the available information from Snacks, who has capped himself as one of the NFL’s best nose tackles.

“B.J. came from a great program. He’s done a great job in college. They had four guys get drafted in the NFL — in the first four rounds, I believe. He was prepared when he came in. So, he just continued to grow when he got here,” defensive line coach Gary Emanuel told reporters on Wednesday. “He’s a good football player, number one. He can hold the point, he can strike, he can separate. He can get off blocks, he can rush the passer. He does everything that you’re looking for in a defensive lineman.”

Snacks has had nothing but good words to say about Hill, who has apparently managed to open the eyes of his teammates, more-so than the reporters.

“B.J., he’s an interesting character, man. I don’t know if you guys have been watching, but he’s probably the most athletic defensive lineman that we have, and that says a lot,” Harrison said on Wednesday. “He can do a little bit of everything, which is encouraging to see, so I’m excited to get a chance to go out there preseason game one and beyond it and actually see what he can do during gameday.”

Having a fresh lineman that can apparently provide a major boost of athleticism and ability in the trenches will help the defense operate successfully in the long run. His youth will force him to adjust to certain road-bumps, but having a veteran in Harrison and a sophomore in Tomlinson will help him smoothly take on any challenges that’re presented.

New York Giants: B.J. Goodson Impressing In Training Camp

New York Giants linebacker, B.J. Goodson.

There’s one thing for certain in regard to the New York Giants‘ defense, it’s a hell of a lot better than it was in 2017. With depth on the defensive line and the linebacker corps being bolstered by new acquisition, Alec Ogletree, things seem to be heading in the right direction for a unit that ranked 28th in points allowed per game last season.

But despite Ogletree making an entrance filled with expectation and excitement, third-year man B.J. Goodson has been quietly making a name for himself in training camp. After a stellar week one performance against the Dallas Cowboys in which Goodson racked up 17 total tackles in 2017, his season was hit by the injury bug. The Clemson product displayed a keen ability to locate running backs in traffic and hunt down crossing tight ends. His presence was missed, but he will have a chance at redemption in the campaign ahead.

How has B.J. Goodson impressed in New York Giants training camp thus far?

https://twitter.com/JordanRaanan/status/1024044513625616387

His underrate speed and athleticism has provided a spark to the defense this offseason, and standing alongside MIC linebacker Ogletree, Goodsoon seems to finally be comfortable in his natural role. Making the move to the 3-4 defense allows the run stopper to play closer to the line of scrimmage and confuse offenses with his movement off the ball.

Defensive coordinator, James Bettcher, will use his two middle linebackers to disguise the defense and bait the quarterback into making a mistake. We should expect to see a lot of darting north and south in an attempt to convince the opposing signal caller of who’s blitzing, or not.

Two fellow beat writers are saying something similar – if he’s healthy, the Giants will have a productive linebacker in the run-stopping and pass-rush game. He’s a workhorse that knows his play dictates the flow of the game and the overall success of the defense.

In regard to the new scheme, Goodson stated:

“Honestly, for me, it doesn’t matter what type of defense it is. Scheme doesn’t really matter to me,” Goodson said on Sunday. “Line up, and I have an offensive lineman in front of me, the ball behind the offensive lineman, win against the man I’m against, and make the tackle.”

Although Goodson only played in seven games last year, there was a fair bit of optimism and talent left on the field. We should see his potential finally begin to blossom once September hits.

New York Giants Review: B.J. Goodson’s No. 1 Priority In 2018

New York Giants linebacker, B.J. Goodson.

As the New York Giants begin to transition to a linebacker heavy approach, third-year man, B.J. Goodson, will be expected to take a major leap forward on the defense. His ability as an inside linebacker is apparent, but injuries have plagued his career.

In week one of the 2017 season, Goodson finished the game against the Dallas Cowboys with 18 total tackles. After suffering an injury, he was forced out until week four and again from week seven to 12. Consistently staying on the field has been a struggle for the young defender, but he will look to change that narrative in the season ahead.

Why has Goodson suffered injuries so frequently for the Giants?

Former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo relied on the defensive line to do most of the heavy lifting in season past, while leaving the linebacker corps stripped of talent and depth. Bringing on Goodson was supposed to benefit the run defense, but injuries limited his prowess on the field.

Pro Football focus ranked him third in combined tackling efficiency among NFL inside linebackers. He ranked fifth in running game and fourth against the pass. Goodson only landed behind Jacksonville’s Paul Posluszny and Seattle’s Bobby Wagner.

Goodson will be Robin and Batman will be…

The Giant traded for Alec Ogletree this offseason, marking the full transition to the 3-4. He will play an important role as the captain and leader of the defense alongside his counter-part, Goodson. Both will be expected to fill the gaps in the defensive line as they play a three-man front consisting of Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and rookie B.J. Hill.

“Yeah, I’ll have the mic,” said Ogletree. “But B.J. does an excellent job of relaying the message as well, so we definitely bounce off each other in relaying the message to the defense, and it definitely helps me out a lot. And I think it helps him out, too.”

Ultimately, Goodson’s No. 1 priority will be staying healthy. He cannot make a true difference on the defense if he’s not on the field. Playing conservatively and choosing his battles will be a challenge for the Clemson product, but one that’s not too far fetched.

New York Giants Linebacker Trying To Take Significant Jump In 2018 – Can He?

New York Giants linebacker, B.J. Goodson.

The New York Giants added two new linebackers this offseason, Alec Ogeltree and Kareem Martin.

Martin is a player of former Arizona Cardinals and current Giants defensive coordinator, James Bettcher. With Bettcher comes a 3-4 scheme, or some sort of hybrid system. With the Giants working with a 4-3 system for years, switching to a 3-4 would be an extreme change, which makes a hybrid system more likely.

This benefits Martin and Ogletree greatly, as both are great at the point of attack and were primary run defenders in their respective defenses. GM Dave Gettleman traded for Ogletree to solidify the middle of the field, a position that former GM Jerry Reese avoided oh so religiously.

But, there is one remaining linebacker from the Reese era that is trying to make a significant jump in the new system. Former third-round Clemson product B.J. Goodson will be fighting against the storm, as he now has competition at the position he was once arbitrarily awarded.

After coming off an injury plagued sophomore season that saw Goodson enjoy some success, he has the odds stacked against him in 2018. He only managed to start in seven games before spending the remainder of the season on IR. He was awarded with managing the defense and calling plays, an extraordinarily intimidating task for such a young third-round player. But, with new defensive quarterback Alec Ogletree entering the scene, Goodson now has to fight twice as hard for the playing time he was freely given in 2017.

According to Giants.com, Bettcher’s defensive starters are still to-be-determined:

“I’ll tell you what,” Bettcher said earlier this month, “I can’t tell you today who we’re going to be on defense and really what we’re going to look like until we get through training camp, until we get into meetings, until we actually get on the field, until we don’t just play some basketball on grass in the offseason program. Until we get to training camp and we have helmets and pads on and we’re striking and separating and playing off of blocks and what we’re really going to look like.

Goodson stated:

“Football is football, schemes are schemes, but at the end of the day, all teams play the same coverages,” Goodson said. “And basically it turns into all of the same defenses. Football is football. We’re going to go out and play, and I’m excited about the new faces that I get to play with and embracing them.”

On Ogletree, Goodson said:

“All I knew about him was watching film on him versus opponents we were game-prepping on. And as I get to know more and more about him, knowing that he’s from a part of Georgia where I’m familiar with, it’s nice to get to know him.”

The young linebacker surely knows that the competition will be aggressive and fierce, but there’s nothing that says Ogletree will win the job based on his past success. Goodson will have his opportunity to impress Bettcher and earn his playing time like everybody else.