New York Giants: Will FB Elijhaa Penny See An Expanded Role In 2020?

The fullback position is dying in the NFL. Every year, NFL teams utilize the fullback position in their offense less and less. Last season, the New York Giants ran 21-personnel on just 5% of their offensive snaps. Pat Shurmur’s offense featured a heavy dosage of 11-personnel, operating out of that grouping 74% of the time (2nd-highest rate in the NFL).

The Giants were rarely using the fullback position despite having a pretty talented player on the roster at that position. Elijhaa Penny has been with the Giants since 2018. But in both of his seasons with the Giants, Penny played 12% of the team’s offensive snaps.

In 2018, Penny finished the season as the 4th highest graded fullback with a 68.6 overall grade according to Pro Football Focus. Penny’s PFF grade dropped to 57.7 overall in 2019, but the Giants’ offense as a whole saw a decline in performance.

Why Elijhaa Penny Should Be Utilized More In 2020

Pat Shurmur was a fan of Elijhaa Penny, but he never really utilized him in the Giants’ offense. Shurmur spent the vast majority of the Giants’ snaps in 11-personnel. The Giants’ wide receiver-heavy offense struggled the past two seasons. But the Giants now have a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive scheme to implement.

The Giants’ new offensive coordinator is Jason Garrett. Garrett was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys since 2010 and served as their offensive coordinator for three years prior. He has not called plays on offense since 2012, however, the offensive coordinators on his staff have been running Garrett’s offensive system. Garrett’s system has been highly efficient for the Cowboys as they had six top-ten finishes over the years.

Jason Garrett’s offense has a strong emphasis on the running game. In 2019, Dallas ran the ball on average 28.1 times per game (9th highest rate in the NFL). Pat Shurmur’s offense in New York averaged 22.6 rushing attempts per game (4th fewest). The Cowboys also utilized 21-personnel far more often than the Giants.

As previously mentioned, the Giants ran 21-personnel on just 5% of their offensive snaps (21st highest frequency). The Dallas Cowboys utilized 21-personnel on 9% of their offensive snaps (13th highest frequency). Under Jason Garrett, the Giants are likely to run more 21-personnel and utilize the fullback position at a higher rate. This could mean an expanded role is in store for Elijhaa Penny in 2020.

New York Giants Drop Asafo-Adjei, Bring Back Penny

New York Giants, George Asafo-Adjei

In the buildup to free agency, the New York Giants have made two roster moves – one dropping a player that they drafted last year and another one bringing back a member of their running backs group.

The waived player in this case is offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei, the right tackle who the Giants took in the last round of the draft. Despite this, there were some hopes that Asafo-Adjei could have at least some kind of role with the team. It doesn’t seem like that’s going to be the case – surprisingly, Asafo-Adjei failed to pass a physical, which is the likely reason behind the Giants cutting him.

Asafo-Adjei didn’t have a chance to show his skills in his first season after spending it on the injured reserve list, thanks to a concussion which was suffered before the start of the season.

The Giants did announce some better news at the same time, however – the team has come to terms with running back Elijhaa Penny. Assuming everything goes as planned when free agency opens, the Giants will extend Penny’s contract by a couple of years after Penny rushed for a pair of touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, both of which were with the Giants.

More importantly, however, Penny is the blocking running back to contrast with the more rushing oriented Saquon Barkley and any other similar backs which the Giants may have on the roster going into the 2020 season.

Position wise, right tackle is of course a bigger concern than running back, as proven by the fact that the Giants have just lost another player at the already thin position. Expect it to be addressed in free agency or the Draft, as one of the most pressing needs for the roster at the moment.

New York Giants Putting Faith In Home Grown Talent Against Patriots

New York Giants, Evane Engram

The New York Giants seem confident in their current talent level, as they head into an important Thursday Night Football matchup with the New England Patriots. The game, of course, has a chance to be one of two things – it could be a chance for Daniel Jones and the rest of the team to shine against one of the premier teams in the league, and something to breathe life back into the season. Or it could be a national TV embarrassment such as some of the ones that the Giants had last season as success slipped further and further away.

One would think that for such an important game the team might bring in a veteran running back from free agency, due to Saquon Barkley and Wayne Gallman being out with an ankle injury and concussion respectively, but it doesn’t seem that’s the case.

Rather than going for a free agent option like Jay Ajayi, the team is handing the keys to the running game, at least for this week, over to Elijhaa Penny and Jon Hillman. The former, of course, typically plays at fullback while the latter is an undrafted rookie who was promoted recently from the practice squad. It’s not the lineup anyone predicted the Giants coming into the game with.

“He has good vision. He has good collision balance. To this point, when we’ve handed it to him, he’s secured it well. Those are all of the elements that you’re looking for in a runner,” Shurmur said about Penny. “We’ll see how much he plays tailback. He’s listed as a fullback, but when we put him in at tailback, we expect him to do tailback things.”

A game against the Patriots is, of course, one big way to introduce Penny to the tailback role as a member of the Giants. Penny has only had to carry the ball sporadically for the Giants in the past, which might raise some eyebrows as far as the Giants’ decision to stick with what they have now instead of bringing in a more experienced player to try to give some help to Daniel Jones and the rest of the offense.

The Patriots defense, after all, is a tough one that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and after entering the game as a sixteen point underdog according to some sources, it will be hard for the Giants to steal a win without coming into the game in the absolute best condition they can manage.

Elijhaa Penny Could Just be the New York Giants Lucky Penny

This past March the New York Giants re-signed fullback Elijhaa Penny after a stint with the team last year.  He had a season total of eight receptions for 50 receiving yards and seven carries for 25 rushing yards.  Penny was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Arizona Cardinals.  He had quite the 2017 season here as he had two rushing touchdowns and four receptions for 38 yards.

Penny has always proved his athleticism. At Norwalk High School, Penny had a total of 1,338 yards for 20 touchdowns in just a single season!  This earned him very well-deserved accolades.

In his college career as a running back, playing for the Idaho Vandals, he totaled 1,748 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns and 346 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, setting school records in his first season for most rushing touchdowns by a Vandal.  Penny also is a great contributor on special teams.

Penny is a very versatile player who shows great potential due to his drive and determination.  In Sunday’s game against Washington,  Penny had 3 carries for 12 yards.  Being so adept at many positions, Penny can most certainly be a bright star in the New York Giants rushing game, along with Wayne Gallman and Jonathan Hilliman.

Athleticism is in his genes.  Penny’s younger brother Rashaad is a running back for the Seattle Seahawks, while youngest brother Brionne just started for the San Diego State University Football Team.  Another thing they share is their love for giving back.  Together, as part of their 2twocentsfamilyfoundation, the Penny brothers host a youth football camp for kids in elementary school to high school teaching them skills for football and fitness in general.  They have also done a backpack drive for those less fortunate and have hosted a Celebrity Basketball game as part of a backpack drive and book drive.

Penny is truly a great player and an even better guy!  He shows a lot of heart and skill in each and every endeavor he takes on. No matter what he faces, he is grateful for the opportunity and chooses to see it as a blessing and something positive.   In his own words, “it’s never bad!”

New York Giants Lock up Several Quality Players Ahead of Free Agency

The NFL’s new league year begins on March 13th. That is the day that NFL teams can officially sign free agents and make trades. Until then, teams can only communicate with their own players and impending free agents.

With the new league year coming up, the New York Giants have gotten to work resigning their free agents (or letting them walk for nothing). On Wednesday, the Giants made a few decisions on their exclusive rights free agents.

Aldrick Rosas

One of the Giants’ top in-house free agents this offseason was their kicker, Aldrick Rosas. The Giants officially tendered Rosas on Wednesday. This move brings him back next season at the minimum salary.

This move was a no-brainer for the Giants. Aldrick Rosas was arguably the best kicker in the NFL last season. Rosas had a 97% field goal percentage in 2018, making 32 of his 33 attempts. Aldrick was Pro Football Focus’s highest graded kicker of the season with an 88.7 overall grade.

Week 13 was Rosas’s best game of the season. He won Special Teams Player of the Week. In week 13, Rosas went 3/3 on field goals, including a game-winner in overtime. Aldrick even nailed a 57-yard field goal at the end of the first half, which was a franchise record for the longest field goal in Giants history.

If Rosas can perform like this again in 2019, expect him to get a proper long-term extension next offseason.

Corey Coleman

The Giants signed Corey Coleman back in November after he had been cut by the Buffalo Bills. Coleman has had a tough time staying on a roster. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2016 but played there for only two seasons. He never even made the Bills’ 53 man roster.

Once the Giants signed him, Coleman got limited playing time. He played in 8 games and caught 5 passes for 71 yards. Coleman also fielded 23 kickoffs. He showed the potential to be a great kick returner for the Giants in the future.

According to Ian Rapoport, Corey Coleman showed enough flashes in his short stint to warrant a longer look from the Giants. Along with Rosas and the others, Coleman received his tender on Wednesday worth $2.025 million. The Giants will be hoping to turn Coleman into a legitimate receiving threat in 2019.

Jon Halapio

The Giants’ starting center at the beginning of the season went down with a season-ending injury in week 2.

GM Dave Gettleman has noted on multiple occasions how well Jon Halapio was playing prior to breaking his leg. According to Pro Football Focus, Halapio had the 3rd best pass blocking grade (85.2) from week 1 among centers with at least 50 offensive snaps.

Jon Halapio will likely be the Giants’ starting center in 2019. This is why he received an exclusive rights tender to keep him around for the 2019 NFL season. If Jon Halapio can prove that his 2 weeks of solid play in 2018 were not a fluke, Halapio could potentially play his way into a long-term contract extension in 2019.

Elijhaa Penny

The Giants tendered exclusive rights free agent Elijhaa Penny as well. Penny was the Giants’ fullback in 2018. Penny is a solid receiving fullback who can contribute as a blocker, too.

He was Pro Football Focus‘s 4th highest graded fullback in 2018 with an overall grade of 68.6. He is a versatile fullback who performed well in 2018. Penny could be the fullback for the Giants for years to come if he continues to play at this level.

New York Giants: New Blocking Back Signed After Dallas Disaster

It will likely only be a small boost, but the New York Giants might just get a bit better on the offensive line. Blocking is what the Giants need right now. It doesn’t even matter if it’s run blocking or pass blocking, they need both. Especially going into a game against the Houston Texans and their defensive line that is anchored by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

Giants address full-back position after disastrous Shane Smith performance:

They’ll have some help with that, however, in the form of a new fullback that was signed yesterday from the practice squad of the Arizona Cardinals. This fullback is Elijhaa Penny, and if that last name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the brother of Seahawks draft pick Rashaad Penny.

While he plays the less glamorous position, Elijhaa is actually the older of the two brothers and has spent his entire career until now with the Cardinals, after starting his college football career at a community college and eventually making it to the University of Idaho.

He made it onto the Cardinals team as an undrafted free agent, but his rookie year wouldn’t see him escape the practice squad. He did, however, finish last season with two touchdowns, representing some progress. Penny, a fullback, isn’t being signed to rush the ball, though. His main job will be to block, and that’s an important task given the terrible performances of the offensive line through the first two weeks of the season.

The addition doesn’t seem like a big one at first glance, but having another blocking specialist who can buy some extra time for Eli Manning is something that can make a big difference in games like the upcoming one. Additionally, it seems that Penny will fill roster space left by recently injured center Jon Halapio, whose injury further decreases the performance of the offensive line and creates a need for more blocking players.

It’s an interesting move that, whether it ends up showing much of an impact or not, shows that the team is at least trying out different options to address the ongoing problems that have plagued the Giants from the start of the season.