New York Giants: Eli Manning Talks Free Agents, Coronavirus

New York Giants, Eli Manning

It’s the offseason again and for the first time in many years, retired New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning doesn’t have to think about the NFL and the next Giants season. Manning retired this year and hasn’t immediately jumped to a role in coaching or broadcasting, leaving him to a calmer life with family, at least for this year. However, that doesn’t mean Manning has stopped following the team entirely.

He has some takes on this year’s team and he spoke about it with the New York Post in a recent interview, but first talked of the coronavirus pandemic which has already taken hold in New Jersey.

“We’re doing everything possible to get through this. We’re taking the right steps, and obviously, this is an uncertain time. But, I think this country, and the Northeast and New Jersey and New York, are resilient and we’re tough and we kind of find a way to fight through things,” Manning said.

He says that he and his wife have explained things to their kids, and that they’re staying inside a bit and washing their hands.

The measures against the virus, of course, have disrupted the NFL offseason already – offseason activities are being called off, the Draft will likely be conducted virtually, and the Manning Passing Academy may even have to change plans because of it all.

“It’s not until late June, so we do have a little time to kind of see how this all plays out. We’ll see how this next month goes, and then maybe have to start making decisions there,” Eli said when asked about the Manning Passing Academy and its future plans.

Manning did have some takes on some of the new signings that will play for the Giants in 2020, however. He was positive about both Blake Martinez and James Bradberry, both of whom signed deals this year with the team.

“I think he’s a good player. I haven’t studied him extremely well, but he makes a ton of tackles, and he’s around the ball, so I think he will be a good fit and make a lot of plays. I don’t know much about just from a leadership standpoint and all those things, so hopefully he’ll be a great leader and be able to get the defense back on track,” Manning said about Martinez, who will add much needed help to the linebacker position.

But he was also positive about James Bradberry, the player that comes into this season as the replacement for Janoris Jenkins and the number one cornerback on the Giants.

“He does a good job making plays on the ball. It seems like he’s a smart guy reading things and kind of knowing when he can be aggressive and jump certain routes. I feel he is a good player who should be able to fit into the system and play well,” Manning said of the former Panthers cornerback.

Both players will have a lot of weight on their shoulders because of their sizable contracts, which will be a point of contention in the fanbase until they can prove themselves on the field. One can only hope that’s able to happen on time, and that the 2020 season doesn’t end up as another thing pushed off because of this year’s virus.

New York Giants: How would Isaiah Simmons transform the defense?

The New York Giants need an influx of talent at the tackle position in the upcoming NFL Draft, but general manager Dave Gettleman is a firm believer in taking the best player available, which ultimately could be star defender Isaiah Simmons at 4th overall.

Simmons is one of the more polarizing prospects entering the draft. In essence, his ability to line up as a traditional linebacker in off-ball coverage and against the run is exciting for a defense that hasn’t had a diverse linebacker in years. Simmons represents an overhaul of a dead philosophy, forgoing investing a top pick in a linebacker who can solidify the middle of the defense.

However, Simmons represents much more than just a linebacker. His lankiness and speed allow him to defend in coverage against slot vertical receivers who are trying to beat the defense deep. Currently, the Giants have Julian Love and Grant Haley as suitable slot options, but Simmons could slide into that role as well. It’s not often you find a linebacker who can also play mid-high safety and slot cornerback.

Are the New York Giants setting their defense up for Isaiah Simmons?

One telling signing this offseason was Blake Martinez, who led the NFL at the linebacker position with 155 combined tackles. He’s a patient linebacker who cleans up plays well but struggled in coverage significantly at times.

Simmons seems to be the perfect fit alongside Martinez, as he can also play the run well but also shift around and keep the offense guessing. This duo could be unique, which is the only way I can justify signing Martinez. His deal isn’t significant at three-year, $30 million, but there were other options available that might have made more sense. Even pairing Ryan Connelly with Simmons might have been the more efficient move.

However, we can expect Martinez to fill a specific cleanup role. If the Giants do pass on Simmons, it will be interesting to see how the mitigate the lack of a coverage linebacker. Connelly is good but still unproven.

Are The New York Giants Setting Their Defense Up For Isaiah Simmons?

New York Giants looking at Isaiah Simmons in 2020 NFL Draft?

The New York Giants made a couple of big-splash signings on the first day of free agency. New York landed cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez, both of which will be new starters on the defense making over $10 million per year.

What NFL teams do in free agency usually indicates what they are planning to do in the draft. The Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman once said, “You address issues with free agency so that you can set yourself up in the draft so you take the best player available.”

Who would be the best player available for the Giants with the fourth overall pick? Most likely, linebacker Isaiah Simmons. But the Giants just signed three linebackers: Blake Martinez, Kyler Fackrell, and David Mayo. Does this mean they will not be drafting Simmons? Well, it might actually indicate the opposite.

The Giants Did Not Improve Their Linebackers’ Coverage Ability

The biggest complaint Giants fans have with the Blake Martinez signing is not about the player’s actual talent level. Instead, it is about Martinez’s playing strengths and style. Blake Martinez is not a coverage linebacker. In 2019, Martinez allowed a completion percentage of 83.8% in his coverage. Giants fans will criticize this signing because Cory Littleton and Joe Schobert, linebackers who are known for being able to make plays in coverage, were signed to contracts similar in price to that of Martinez.

The Giants’ inability to guard athletic tight ends and receiving running backs has been the Achilles heel of the defense for years. Former Giants’ linebacker Alec Ogletree allowed a completion percentage of 83.0% in his coverage in 2019. The Blake Martinez signing (83.8%) does not exactly fix this error in the Giants’ defense. But there is another linebacker who will be available this season that could fix that error.

Isaiah Simmons’s top strength is his ability to make plays in coverage. Simmons, the Swiss-Army-Knife defender out of Clemson is the top linebacker prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. He is expected to be on the board when the Giants are picking fourth overall and he is expected to be the best defensive player available. Gettleman wants to take the best player available, but after investing heavily in the linebacker position in free agency, will he? Many fans believe Gettleman’s moves in free agency signal that he will be going offensive tackle in the first round of the draft. Here is why that might not be true:

Isaiah Simmons Would Mesh Perfectly With The Giants’ Linebackers

Blake Martinez and David Mayo are prototypical run-stuffing inside linebackers. Martinez racked up 144 tackles in 2017, 155 tackles in 2018, and 144 tackles in 2019. He is known for being a stalwart run-defender. But he is also known, as stated above, for struggling in pass-coverage.

In 2019, David Mayo totaled 82 combined tackles in 13 games. Additionally, Mayo had 5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. However, Mayo’s coverage was targeted 29 times and he allowed 19 completions, a 65.5% completion percentage. His poor performance in coverage makes it hard to imagine the Giants relying on him and Martinez as their primary inside linebackers. Neither Martinez nor Mayo are proficient in coverage. But Isaiah Simmons is.

According to Pro Football Focus, Isaiah Simmons has allowed only 6.0 yards per target and has earned a PFF coverage grade of 92.5. Isaiah Simmons is exceptional in man-coverage. He has the coverage-ability of a safety but has the size to play linebacker in the NFL. Simmons is no pushover in run-defense either, totaling 104 tackles in 2019 to go along with his 3 interceptions.

All of this falls perfectly in line with what head coach Joe Judge said during his introductory press conference:

Let them play to their strengths. Don’t sit in a meeting and tell me what you don’t have in a player. Don’t tell me they can’t do certain things, tell me what they can do and then we’ll figure out as coaches, because that’s our job, how we can use that. –Joe Judge, head coach of the New York Giants

The Giants’ new head coach plans to play his players to their strengths. If that holds true, do not expect to see Blake Martinez and David Mayo lined up in man coverage on tight ends and slot receivers very often. If the Giants do in fact draft Isaiah Simmons, he will be lining up in man coverage while Martinez plugs the gaps in run defense and blitzes on passing downs. Adding Simmons into the fold masks Martinez’s weaknesses and allows the defense to operate at an efficient level with the linebackers playing to their strengths.

New York Giants: 3 positives LB Blake Martinez brings to Big Blue

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

With the linebacker market being engaged by multiple teams on the first legal day of free agent tampering, the New York Giants were in the mix for some of the best options available.

Players like Cory Littleton and Joe Schobert remained on the market before general manager Dave Gettleman eventually landed on former Green Bay linebacker, Blake Martinez, knowns for his high tackle totals. Missing out on Littleton and Schobert was a disappointment, but Martinez brings some positives to a defense that struggled to stop the run in 2019.

What the New York Giants are getting in Blake Martinez:

To start, Martinez is one of the best tacklers in the NFL at the linebacker position, racking up 155 combined tackles and 97 solos last season. This is an attribute that makes him attractive as a MIKE linebacker, who is in charge of soaking up tackles in the middle of the field while the TED linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme soaks up blocks to open up holes for players like Martinez.

The former Green Bay defender is exceptionally patient and rarely takes risks at his position, which is something I question about his game. I like my linebackers aggressive and open to plugging holes with force; he’s more of a game-manager at MLB.

The second most attractive part of Blake’s game is his age (26). Being so young allows the Giants and coaches Joe Judge, Brett Bielema, and Patrick Graham to develop his abilities further. Seeing his statistical production is one thing, but after watching film, you can see that he’s a smart player with average athleticism. Coming from Stanford, Martinez has learned how to remain patient and fill holes with his size — something Alec Ogletree struggled to do in recent years. The idea of development is what the Giants are betting on here, and $10 million per season for three years isn’t too pricey.

Lastly, Martinez can rush the passer if called upon, and using him in a diverse role where offenses are unsure of his designation will be a focal point for Graham on defense. Over the last two seasons, Martinez has logged 8.0 sacks, a substantial number for an MLB. Three of his sacks came in 2019.

Two extra positives:

Since there is a lot of hate going around regarding Martinez, I threw in two additional positives. One, his health; Martinez hasn’t missed a game in three seasons, and the three he missed in 2016 were during his rookie campaign.

The second extra positive is his missed tackle-rate, which is low for a player who hits numbers like 155 in the combined tackles category. In 2019, he missed 10.4% of tackle attempts and 7.7% in 2018. If the Giants can bring that number back down into the single-digits next season, they will have a reliable tackler in the middle of the defense.

New York Giants land linebacker Blake Martinez in free agency – here’s what you need to know

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

The New York Giants have made another free agent signing. This time, Dave Gettleman and company struck a deal with inside linebacker Blake Martinez, per Mike Garafolo. Martinez and the Giants have agreed to a three-year deal worth $30 million.

Blake Martinez Stats And Highlights

Blake Martinez is a four-year NFL veteran who has spent his entire career with the Green Bay Packers. The 26-year-old linebacker out of Stanford is a tackle machine. He is also a reliable, healthy player that has started all 16 games for the Packers in each of the last three seasons.

Martinez has recorded 144 or more combined tackles in each of the last three seasons. He posted a career-high 155 combined tackles in 2019. In 2018, Martinez only missed 12 tackles (7.7%) and in 2019 he missed 18 tackles (10.4%).

The Packers inside linebacker is also a pretty decent pass-rusher, despite seeing his role as a pass-rusher decline in 2019. In 2018, Martinez blitzed 61 times, recording 11 pressures, 5 hurries, and 5 sacks. The Packers only brought Blake on 24 blitzes in 2019, but he was still efficient. He recorded 5 pressures, 2 hurries, and 3 sacks on his 24 blitz attempts this past season.

Blake Martinez is an excellent run defender and solid pass-rusher, but he has proven to be a bit of a liability in pass coverage. In 2018, Blake Matinez surrendered a 73.8% completion percentage on the 61 targets in his coverage (45 completions). The opposition gained 410 yards on those 45 completions and scored 5 touchdowns. Martinez allowed a 118.9 passer rating when targeted in 2018.

2019 was an even worse performance by Martinez in pass coverage. His completion percentage allowed rose to 83.8%, allowing opponents to complete 62 passes on 74 targets for 570 yards and 2 touchdowns. This is definitely a major red flag for the New York Giants after signing Blake Martinez during the 2020 free agency period.

New York Giants Reportedly Interested In Free Agent Linebacker Blake Martinez

The New York Giants are going to be active in free agency this offseason. The team is going to have over $80 million in cap space to spend on free agents if they choose to and so far they have reported interest in nearly every big-name player set to hit the market this month.

According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the Giants have a “passing interest” in the Green Bay Packers’ free-agent linebacker Blake Martinez.

Blake Martinez Stats and Highlights

Blake Martinez is a four-year NFL veteran who has spent his entire career with the Green Bay Packers. The 26-year-old linebacker out of Stanford is a tackle machine. He is also a reliable, healthy player that has started all 16 games for the Packers in each of the last three seasons.

Martinez has recorded 144 or more combined tackles in each of the last three seasons. He posted a career-high 155 combined tackles in 2019. In 2018, Martinez only missed 12 tackles (7.7%) and in 2019 he missed 18 tackles (10.4%).

The Packers inside linebacker is also a pretty decent pass-rusher, despite seeing his role as a pass-rusher decline in 2019. In 2018, Martinez blitzed 61 times, recording 11 pressures, 5 hurries, and 5 sacks. The Packers only brought Blake on 24 blitzes in 2019, but he was still efficient. He recorded 5 pressures, 2 hurries, and 3 sacks on his 24 blitz attempts this past season.

Blake Martinez is an excellent run defender and solid pass-rusher, but he has proven to be a bit of a liability in pass coverage. In 2018, Blake Matinez surrendered a 73.8% completion percentage on the 61 targets in his coverage (45 completions). The opposition gained 410 yards on those 45 completions and scored 5 touchdowns. Martinez allowed a 118.9 passer rating when targeted in 2018.

2019 was an even worse performance by Martinez in pass coverage. His completion percentage allowed rose to 83.8%, allowing opponents to complete 62 passes on 74 targets for 570 yards and 2 touchdowns. This is definitely a major red flag for teams interested in signing Blake Martinez during the 2020 free agency period.

Blake Martinez’s Market Value

If the Giants want to sign Blake Martinez in free agency, they are going to have to break the bank. According to Spotrac, Martinez has an estimated market value of $16.3 million on average annually. His contract could be a 5-year deal worth over $81 million.

This would be a lot of money for the New York Giants to commit to an inside linebacker that does not make impact plays in pass-defense. There are other linebackers that will be available this offseason for a similar price that can be much more efficient in pass coverage.