New York Jets: Brandon Copeland Is A Big Return

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

A lot of people have focused on the high profile return of Sam Darnold. Yes, the offense really really needs a boost and Darnold will provide that. However, the New York Jets pass rush could use a boost. One of their best pass rushers returns this week and the New York Jets will immediately get a leader back on the field.

Brandon Copeland Constantly Improves

Originally, Copeland came into the league and had trouble finding a spot. He played on the Ravens and Titans practice squads. Then he finally found a home in Detroit with the Lions.  In his first two years in Detroit, Copeland played solid football. He had 19 tackles, a TFL, 2 QB hits, and 1 FF as a backup/rotational LB. After tearing a pectoral and missing the whole 2017 season, Copeland was hungry last season. Copeland posted a career year with 35 tackles, 2 PDs, 5.0 sacks, 8 TFLs, and 14 QB hits. Copeland had a great year and was coming back this season with high expectations.

PEDs In The Past

There were lofty expectations for Copeland this season and those got diminished immediately. Copeland tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and was hit with a 4 game suspension. Copeland is a good guy and a hell of a ballplayer who made a bad mistake. Now he is back with a clear mind and a chip on his shoulder. He can be a key impact guy immediately and his presence should help in a big way. The Jets needed to make an impact on their pass rush and his return will do just that.

New York Knicks: Fizdale Wants Aggressive and Stifling Defense

New York Knicks, David Fizdale

Defense, defense and more defense is what New York Knicks assistant coach Jud Buechler was preaching during the 2019 NBA Summer League. The entire regime from top to bottom is on the same page when it comes to New York Knicks being identified as a tough hard nosed and aggressive defensive team in the open Eastern Conference.

David Fizdale wants the New York Knicks to run often and hard. He wants the fast paced offense to be predicated on forced turnovers defensively. The Knicks certainly have the personnel to push the envelope defensively and stop the most important play in the game right now which is the “Pick-and-Roll”. The defensive terror in the middle for the Knicks by the name of Mitchell Robinson covers a ridiculous amount of ground when hedging and rerouting towards the basket for a devastating and MSG crowd pleasing block at the rim. Even on a “pick and pop” Mitchell Robinson is able to contest and block the shooters jump shot. Isolations against Mitchell Robinson on the perimeter is pretty much a death wish if one is intending to shoot a jump shot over the 7’1″ and 7’4″ wingspan future Defensive Player of the Year. Mitchell Robinson’s block party however might lessen due to the fact Robinson will have to display more discipline while defending the paint and avoiding foul trouble. This means he might have to lessen the amount of block attempts and stay grounded lessening the risk of fouls.

Other Knick players like Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton, Damyean Dotson, Marcus Morris, Frank Ntilikina, Taj Gibson, and even the second rounder Ignas Brazdeikis will take advantage of their depth and play ultra aggressive defense under Fizdale’s orders. Whoever doesn’t play defense won’t see the court. If executed correctly, the stifling defense will wear down opponents during games. This will cause the Knicks to have a decent home record this season due to opponents dreading the trip to MSG.

New York Jets: Attempting To Solve The Cornerback Issues

New York Jets, Jason Myers
This past Thursday night proved a few things but none being clearer than the true seriousness of the New York Jets cornerback issues. The Jets released Derrick Jones today, who was one of the disappointments in the past. They also have decisions to make on a few other corners. The situation is really bad but there are a few solutions the team could explore.

Bringing Back Morris Claiborne

Morris Clairborne was statistically one of the better corners in all of football last season. Despite a suspension, he still provides a good value to the team. He was great last year and no doubt could be a big help to the weak secondary. He was one of the few smart moves by Mike Maccagnan and Joe Douglas should consider bringing him in.

Trade for Jalen Ramsey

Hear me out, it may sound wild but the logistics make sense. He’s a young, big personality but he’s also one of the best corners in the game. Jalen Ramsey has been having some issues in Jacksonville and if Douglas wants to make some big moves, one would be to go out and get him from Jacksonville.

Trade for Xavier Rhodes

”Rhodes Closed”, Xavier Rhodes is a great cornerback. Rhodes is at 29, still a shutdown corner who can hang with most team’s #1 receiver. He’s a 2-time pro bowler and a 1-time all-pro in 2017. He is also semi-realistic. He has a tough contract and he’s 29. Both of those circumstances could make for a less large package being given and could make it a real possibility.

Bring Someone Out Of Retirement

I mean nobody saw Ryan Kalil coming, so why not another one. Adam Pacman Jones is the only semi-realistic corner who is still talented and could make an impact. The other main retirees either have health issues or haven’t played in a while. Although Pacman has some off the field issues, maybe he’s the guy the Jets could get. It’s a low chance, but who knows.
Ultimately in all seriousness, the New York Jets need help. Their cornerback situation is atrocious. Trumaine Johnson was overpaid and needs a big season. Darryl Roberts and Brian Poole could be good but the Jets still need depth beyond them. They currently lack that and that issue needs to be fixed very soon.

New York Giants: How DC James Bettcher Can Maximize his Impact in 2019

New York Giants, James Bettcher

When the New York Giants hired James Bettcher to be the defensive coordinator in January of 2018, there was a sense of optimism for those in and around the organization. There was no hope for a defense that was ranked 27th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed per game the prior year.

Bettcher was known for his aggressive style in Arizona which ranked in the top 5 in blitz percentage each of his three seasons as defensive coordinator, according to pro football focus. Bettcher’s defense also ranked in the top 6 in yards allowed per game from 2015-2017.

While there was a slight improvement in ranking from 2017, Bettcher’s first season with the Giants was widely considered a disappointment. The defense couldn’t get to the quarterback, stop the run, or stick out close games. While finishing tied for second to last in sacks (30), Bettcher’s defense also cost the Giants four wins in 2018 by failing to get a stop on the last possession.

Where It Went Wrong for the New York Giants?

After further analysis as to why the defense underachieved, it is obvious that the lack of success was personnel related, rather than scheme. In fact, James Bettcher had to abandon the main source of his success due to a lack of talent.

As stated above, Bettcher ranked in the top 5 for blitz percentage every year he was in Arizona. In New York, the defense only blitzed 26.3% of the snaps, which ranked them 22nd in the NFL. For reference, each of Bettcher’s defenses in Arizona blitzed between 37% and 47% of the snaps from 2015-17.

After losing six of their first seven games, the Giants knew the season was a wash and realized they must start building for the future. They responding by trading both former first-round pick Eli Apple and All-Pro nose guard Damon “Snacks” Harrison for a fourth and fifth round pick, respectively. Bettcher also lost his best defensive player in Landon Collins who tore his labrum and required season-ending shoulder surgery after week 13.

The Giants did not have enough talent on the defensive side of the ball to execute Bettcher’s scheme. In a defense that needs at least five new starters, Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur are well aware that the Defense must be improved to be successful in 2019.

Off-Season Additions:

Instead of signing big name free agents with limited cap space, GM Dave Gettleman made the conscious decision to sign defenders who held great value but were not expected to bring in top dollar. The two most notable defensive signings include Antoine Bethea (2 years, 6.5 million) and Markus Golden (1 year, 4.75 million), who both played under James Bettcher in Arizona.

Bethea, who will be turning 35 before the season starts, is still a great value pickup for the Giants who has a lot of football in him. In a failed system under former head coach Steve Wilks, Bethea still managed to make a team-leading 121 tackles along with 3 sacks. Bethea played the best football of his career under James Bettcher in 2017, grading out as PFF’s 9th best safety in the NFL. In that same year, Bethea also led the Cardinals with 5 interceptions; the most he’s had in his 13-year career.

Bethea will be joined by teammate Markus Golden (28), who is playing on a one year prove-it deal for New York. Golden’s 2018 season was greatly hindered by an ACL tear the year prior. Like Bethea, Golden played his best under James Bettcher. He totaled 12.5 sacks in 2016, which tied for third in the NFL. Golden also produced 16 tackles for loss in 2016 along with 4 forced fumbles. A one year contract is beneficial for both sides. For Golden, who is looking for a chance to prove he can get back to being a quality pass rusher, a familiar defense could be a perfect fit. For the Giants, who were already in the market looking for an edge rusher, Golden can come in to replace Olivier Vernon for a fraction of the cost.

Replacing Landon Collins:

As apart of the Odell Beckham Jr trade, the Giants acquired swiss army knife Jabrill Peppers from the Cleveland Browns along with a first (17) and third (95) round pick in the 2019 draft. Peppers, a New Jersey native, played three years at the University of Michigan before being drafted 25th overall by the Browns in 2017. Peppers struggled his rookie year, mainly due to playing deep safety for 88% of his snaps. At Michigan, Peppers played around the line of scrimmage and was considered an undersized outside linebacker. It was clear that Peppers was playing out of position as he only posted a PFF grade of 60.5.

Year two was a different story for Peppers. His new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams valued his ability to play multiple positions around the field. In fact, Peppers lined up in the box for 329 snaps, at cornerback for 155, and at deep safety for 281. Peppers coverage from the safety position also improved from a 61.5 to a 77.3, per PFF. Peppers finished the season with a total grade of 77.6, a 17 point improvement from his rookie year. GM Dave Gettleman was adamant in Peppers being involved in the Beckham trade, knowing he must replace a talent like Landon Collins. If used correctly, it won’t be long before the new #21 in blue will be looking similar to the last one.

Outlook:

While the New York Giants lost two valuable pieces this offseason in Landon Collins and Olivier Vernon, there is plenty of hope for the defense in 2019. With 12 picks in the upcoming draft, the Giants will certainly look to upgrade the defense with more than half of those. Similar to last year, another strong draft could spring the Giants in position to greatly improve their defense. The Giants have a huge decision to make as it pertains to picks 6, 17, and 37. Will Dave Gettleman take one of the elite defenders at 6 or do the Giants believe that they’ve found their next franchise quarterback? What remains consistent through all is that the more talent in place for the defense, the more effective James Bettcher will be in executing the scheme that got him to New York originally.

New York Giants Big Money Linebacker Falling Short Of Expectations

When the New York Giants traded for middle linebacker Alec Ogletree on March 17, fans were hopeful for a better linebacking corps. They hoped that the Giants finally found their center piece to command the defense. However, 11 games into the 2018 season, Ogletree has not lived up to the hype.

Alec Ogletree Commands A High Price:

The Giants traded their 2018 fourth and 2019 seventh round draft picks for Ogletree. Considering the Giants received a fifth round draft pick by trading Damon Harrison, the best run stuffer in the NFL, maybe a fourth round pick for Ogletree was too much. On top of that, his cap hit next season spikes up to $11 million. This would make him the third highest-paid inside linebacker in the league next season. Alec Ogletree’s performance does not reflect that of a top three linebacker in the NFL. Thankfully, if the Giants decide to cut him next season (post-June 1st), they will save $10 million in cap space.

Below Average Performance:

Alec Ogletree is currently ranked as the 75th linebacker on Pro Football Focus with a below average grade of 43.2. Considering what the Giants gave up for Ogletree, and what they plan on paying him, this is unacceptable. This low grade comes from Ogletree’s poor play in coverage. For example, against the 49ers in week 10, Ogletree allowed tight end George Kittle to gain 83 yards on nine receptions.

In week 11, Ogletree was not assigned to pass coverage because of his play in San Francisco. Rather than play coverage, he was assigned to play run defense, but he struggled mightily there, too. The big-money linebacker played his part in allowing Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber to rush for 109 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The Giants have been allowing 125.4 rushing yards per game this season and 152.3 per game over the last three games. Their run defense is arguably their biggest weakness, and the blame for that should be carried on the shoulders of the middle linebacker.

Alec Ogletree does have a captain’s patch, and he has seemed to be an excellent leader this season. But that doesn’t excuse his poor play. The Giants can’t afford to pay top dollar for someone just to be a locker room leader. They need to pay for performance, and they need to get top level play when spending top dollar. Unfortunately, Alec Ogletree has not been giving the Giants top level performances, and this makes him a big cut-candidate next season.

Why The New York Giants Defense Is Going To Increase In Turnover Production

The New York Giants defense ranked 21st in the league in turnover ratio last season, but 2018 should promote a revitalized offense and upgraded defense, hopefully improving the ratio. Making the transition to the 3-4 scheme under James Bettcher will increase the potential of making big-plays (aka turnovers).

The defense will be unpredictable, unique, and aggressive. Linebackers will be darting beside the line of scrimmage while the defensive line prepares to wreck havoc in the trenches. The safeties will sit back and spy on the quarterback, occasionally blitzing and forcing the opposing quarterback to rush the pass and make a mistake. Ultimately, the Giants will benefit extremely from the movement and constant blitzing from all angles.

How did the New York Giants defense perform in 2017 in regard to turnovers?

The defense recorded just 13 interceptions and six fumble recoveries all of last season. To put that into perspective, the No. 1 ranked turnover team amassed 22 interceptions and 12 recovered fumbles. A large aspect of the lack of product for the Giants was due to injury and lack of depth. This offseason, general manager Dave Gettleman, made it a priority to solidify the defensive line and provide Bettcher with a tough group of linebackers to help create turnovers.

The secondary will be the biggest weakness on the team and likely be a liability later in the season. This will put extra stress on the defensive front to rush the quarterback and force errant throws. Despite the lack of depth in the secondary, the Giants still have cornerback Janoris Jenkins. He alone recorded three interceptions and scored two touchdowns. His presence on the field will be essential for the defense to remain consistent and relevant throughout the year.

Additionally, third-year corner Eli Apple will be looking to make a comeback after a disastrous 2017. His blatant attempts at breaking the moral of the locker room and coaching staff are a thing of the past as he’s displayed legitimate effort and quality during training camp. If his abilities can translate onto the field he should add a few more turnovers to a defense that saw him fail to record a single INT last season.

The New York Giants Could Have The Best Run Defense In 2018 – Here’s Why

New York Giants, Damon Harrison

Despite finishing the 2017 campaign with the 27th ranked run-defense in the league, the New York Giants have added several essential pieces to help change the narrative in the months ahead. The defensive line features Damon “Snacks” Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and B.J. Hill. Two of the assumed starting three have less than two years of experience, which would question the idea that the Giants could have one of the league’s most prolific run-stopping units next season.

Having Harrison automatically gives the Giants the boost they need to land in the top-10, but as we saw last year, without a group of solid linebackers to plug the holes, it’s near impossible to effectively stop the run. Trading for Alec Ogletree and drafting Lorenzo Carter should help exponentially. Additionally, B.J. Goodson should be a solid secondary inside linebacker alongside Ogletree. Goodson recorded 17 tackles in week one of the 2017 season, but failed to replicate the performance due to consistent injuries.

How did the New York Giants defense fair against the run last season?

Big Blue allowed 4.2 YPC and 120.8 YPG to opposing running backs in 2017, which indicates a porous defensive unit and surely doesn’t promote any sort of optimism for the coming season.

It takes all 11 members of the defense to truly reach their goals, but with the acquisitions and fortifications made by GM Dave Gettleman, I’m confident we will see a major boost in rankings and overall effectiveness.

The influx of talent at the linebacker position and the installation of the 3-4 defense will ultimately be the reason the Giants have one of, if not the best run-stopping unit in the league. Having physical linebackers to play the run in a scheme that heavily focuses on blitzing will only keep the offense honest and force them to pass the ball.