New York Giants: Ryan Connelly returns to compete for starting position

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants’ 2019 5th round pick, Ryan Connelly, has returned from a severe injury. Connelly completely tore his ACL in week four against the Washington Football Team. Connelly was hitting his stride as one of the leaders on a terrible defense.  Despite his efforts in the previous season, Connelly will have to win his spot back, this time from veteran linebacker David Mayo.

2019 Stats

Connelly only started in three games last year, but he made a huge difference on the mediocre Big Blue Wrecking Crew. Connelly recorded 20 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 pass deflections, and 2 tackles for loss. In my opinion, if Connelly had played all 16 games, he would’ve been considered one of the best rookie defenders in the league. Connelly is just a very impressive player; he’s smart, quick, aggressive, in the right spots at all times, and he listens to his veterans. Connelly had a way better season than David Mayo. If you watch the film, you can see that Connelly’s led defense flowed, unlike Mayo’s, who was more a run-stopper than coverage linebacker. The Wisconsin product can do both.

Future

The Giants recently signed Blake Martinez to serve as the number one middle linebacker after they released Alec Ogletree. This leaves the middle linebacker depth chart as such: Blake Martinez, David Mayo, Ryan Connelly, Tae Crowder, and TJ Brunson.

The Giants will most likely have to cut one of these players, and the further you are to the bottom, the better chances you have of being cut. Connelly needs to prove his worth to the new management if he wants to continue his play with the G-men. The new management will really hurt his chances of making the Giants. Joe Judge has no ties to Connelly; he didn’t draft him or sign him. Judge drafted/signed/resigned all the other middle linebackers currently on the roster. Especially with no preseason games, Connelly needs to show his worth as fast as possible.

New York Giants: 3 Players Who Could Surprise in 2020

New York Giants, Julian Love

Every year there are always 1-3 players that surprise fans and go on to have a career year. This new New York Giants team is as young and exciting as it’s ever been.

Here are three New York Giants players who could surprise in 2020:

Dion Lewis

Dion Lewis had a decent year in 2019, backing up the beast Derrick Henry. Lewis recorded 209 rushing yards on 54 carries and had 164 receiving yards on 25 catches. You may sit there and say, “well, we have Saquon Barkley, and he’s better than Derrick Henry, so how would Lewis have a surprising year?.”

In comes newly acquired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett; Jason Garrett loves using his running backs. Ezekiel Elliott has run the ball over 300 times, three times in his 4-year career. I can easily see Dion Lewis commanding 90-100 carries with the New York Giants, and be more of a threat in the passing offense. Lewis is a shifty Darren Sproles type player, Garrett will make sure to use Lewis to his full potential. I predict that Lewis will have 402 yards on 88 carries for three rushing touchdowns, and have 34 catches for 210 yards and 1 receiving touchdown.

Julian Love

Julian Love had a very confusing year last year. Love was told he would be the starting Nickel cornerback when he was drafted. Then he got moved to safety, then back to cornerback, finally, Love was moved back to safety. Even with all of this controversy, Love still recorded 37 tackles, five tackles for loss, three passes defended one interception, and one forced fumble.

Love only started in 5 games last year. Imagine if he had a full season. Assuming there are no positional controversies, Julian Love is set to play as a third-safety in Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme. Adding Xavier McKinney will bring changes to the secondary, but Love is a valuable piece on defense who can supplement injuries at multiple positions. I predict that Love will have 79 tackles, eight tackles for loss, six passes defended, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions.

Ryan Connelly

Ryan Connelly was definitely one of the few bright spots in a very dark year for the Giants. Connelly was one of my favorite players last year. It’s sad that Giants fans only got to see him start three games before tearing his ACL against the Washington Football team. In only three games, Connelly recorded 20 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, two passes defended, and two interceptions.

If Connelly stays healthy, and he starts all 16 games, Giants fans may very well be seeing the next phenom for the Big Blue Wrecking Crew. Also, with the addition of Blake Martinez, Ryan Connelly is primed to find his groove once more. I predict Connelly will record 90 tackles, five tackles for loss, six sacks, two passes defended, one forced fumble, and three interceptions.

Conclusion

There is so much untapped talent on this new New York Giants team; I could probably list 10-15 players who could break out this year. Giants fans should be very excited to see all these young players in action.

New York Giants: Is Ryan Connelly ready to claim a starting role on defense?

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

It is not often that an NFL team starts a fifth-round pick right out of the gate. For the New York Giants, they did just that with Ryan Connelly in 2019. The Wisconsin product was not the fastest, strongest, or highest rated linebacker coming out of the draft, but he did post elite grades in one specific category.

Despite being average in most facets, Connelly is one of the quickest linebackers to enter the NFL since 2010. According to PFF, he ran the third quickest 10-yard split (1.54 seconds) of any off-ball linebacker that weighed in at 240-plus pounds at the NFL combine since 2010.

In addition to his incredible agility, Connelly predicates his game on an elite burst and diagnosing at the line of scrimmage. He’s incredibly talented at reading plays and shooting gaps with lightning speed, attesting to his short-area quickness. Disrupting the backfield is his ultimate goal, and he fit perfectly in James Bettcher’s defensive scheme.

Connelly suffered an ACL year in week four against the Washington Redskins, which severely limited Bettcher’s efficiency on defense.

The New York Giants should benefit from a change in scheme

Moving into a new system under Patrick Graham, the Giants will play a majority man coverage and utilize their safeties and linebackers to blitz and dropping back into coverage. Connelly’s premier strength stopping the run, but he’s also decent in coverage against running back’s and tight end in the flat.

In 2019, he posted 1.0 sacks, 20 combine tackles, two tackles for loss, two passes defended, a 57.1% completion rate against, and missed zero tackles.

Having the ability to attack downhill and find gaps in opposing offensive lines is precisely what the Giants need to create havoc in the pocket. Combining his instincts, quickness, and vision are several traits head coach Joe Judge will be looking to maximize.

However, Connelly won’t be given the starting job. He will have to compete with David Mayo, who the Giants signed to a three-year deal this off-season.

In 13 starts with the Giants last year, he posted a career-high 82 combine tackles, five tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, and 2.0 sacks. He supplemented the loss of Connelly well in the run game, but struggled in coverage, giving up a 65.5% completion rate against and missed 11% of his tackles.

Realistically, Mayo likely holds the advantage over Connelly due to his injury, but if the former Wisconsin standout can return to where he left off in 2019, I believe he will earn the starting job rather quickly. Missing an entire season of essential experience is tough, but he has the potential to be a solid linebacker moving forward.

New York Giants’ LB Cam Brown gearing up to compete for starting reps

New York Giants, Cam Brown

The New York Giants made it a priority to overhaul several positions this off-season, one of them being linebacker, where they replaced Alec Ogletree and spent a bevy of late-round picks to build out the depth on the roster.

While we can expect new signing Blake Martinez to be an upgrade over Ogletree, Ryan Connelly is returning from an ACL tear last season and is an unknown going into 2020. Best case scenario, Connelly emerges as the sure-fire starter and picks up where he left off in 2019 when he had 2 interceptions, 20 combine tackles, 1.0 sacks, and missed zero tackles over four games.

However, the Giants went out and drafted Cam Brown out of Penn State in the sixth round. He was primarily a 4-3 base linebacker from the strong side, which doesn’t match up with new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme.

Despite Graham utilizing a system that doesn’t fit Brown specifically, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a position for him on defense. With his size, there is hope he can develop into a 3-4 outside linebacker who rushes the passer on earlier downs.

It’s possible he could transition to an inside linebacker role and provide depth behind Connelly or Martinez. At 6-foot-5 and with 34-inch arms, Brown should be utilized off the edge.

Taking a look at Cam Brown’s stats from 2019

His numbers from 2019 were solid, as he started 13 games, 12 at linebacker, with 72 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 4 passes defended, and 16 QB pressures.

Despite Brown’s odd fit on defense for the Giants, he is a high character player that brings fantastic intensity to the game. He was the Penn State leader and Captain, giving the Giants another excellent person and player to mix into the competition.

Even if Brown doesn’t play on defense, he can be a fantastic special-teams player, and I expect him to make an impact right away.

One thing that certainly stands out for Brown is his incredible reach. He reminds me a bit of Lorenzo Carter, given his size and bend around the edge. However, Brown’s athleticism is average, despite his reach and solid explosion from the line of scrimmage. As a sixth-round pick, the Giants are expecting him to be a solid player on special teams and hopefully develop into a rotational player on defense. Of course, the ultimate goal is to find a starting-caliber player in Brown down the line.

The New York Giants are taking a risky approach at linebacker

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants are taking a risk at linebacker in 2020, but the rebuild makes it necessary: 

The New York Giants are still in the middle of a full roster rebuild, and expecting every unit to play at a high-level is unrealistic. With a second-year quarterback and an entirely new secondary, Big Blue will face its fair share of troubles in 2020, but improvement is all we are asking for.

While some positions theoretically got better, the linebacker corps is still very unpredictable and lacks elite talent. The Giants went out and signed former Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez, who brings experience as the MIKE linebacker who can stop the run and contain big plays. Martinez was often utilized in a vilifying scheme, noting that Green Bay didn’t value the middle linebacker position too much. He was forced to play zone coverage, Which affected his pass protection grades and efficiency.

The veteran defender will hopefully be an improvement over Alec Ogletree, but we won’t know until the regular season comes around, and we see his fit in the new defensive scheme, orchestrated by Patrick Graham.

The riskier spot is next to Martinez, where Ryan Connelly and a bevy of other players will compete for starting reps. The Giants seem optimistic that Connelly will return from a torn ACL in 2019 and play at a high-level. In four games, he posted 20 combine tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 passes offended, and 2 interceptions. He looked fantastic in a limited sample size, and if he can return to full health, Connelly will be the favorite to pair with Martinez at weakside linebacker.

Behind Connelly and Martinez is David Mayo, who signed a three year, $8.4 million deal this offseason. Mayo is a solid depth piece who can stop the run efficiently, but he is poor in coverage. Mayo played in 16 games for the Giants last year, tallying 52 solo tackles, 82 combined, 2.0 sacks, and allowed 19 completions on 29 targets, compiling a 65.5% completion rate against. One category he improved significantly in was his missed tackles. In 2018, he missed 26.3% of his tackles, which decreased more than 15% to 10.9% in 2019.

The Giants don’t have elite talent at linebacker — they have serviceable players that can hold down the fort while they continue to rebuild the roster. I anticipate they will look to bring in another player next year in the middle rounds of the draft or free agency, depending on how Connelly turns out. For now, we can expect them to enjoy some improvement after the replacement of Ogletree.

New York Giants: Two Players Bouncing Back From Injury In 2020

New York Giants, Giants, NYG, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants have a very different looking roster than they did last season, with one of the highest rates of player turnover in the league so far, and a number of new additions who weren’t there in 2019 will take the field for the team this fall.

However, those aren’t the only new faces that might show up in the lineup. The Giants have some players who were on the roster last year but didn’t get to play much or at all because injuries took them out early.

Two players in specific stand out a Giants that could make a splash after bouncing back from an injury from last year.

WR Corey Coleman

The team might have a competition at the receiver position if Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate don’t return at the top of their game, and one of the competitors may be Corey Coleman. While Darius Slayton broke out last year and is the obvious choice to have a bigger role in 2020, Coleman is a near unknown factor.

That’s because Coleman didn’t play at all last season, tearing his ACL on the first day of training camp instead.

The 25 year old has three prior seasons before his injury, where his best performance came in his rookie year where he caught three touchdown passes and 413 yards. Not the world’s most impressive numbers, but at this age, there’s still time to improve.

At 5’11”, Coleman doesn’t quite fit the role of a big bodied receiver and is likely to end up in competition with Shepard, who is only an inch apart in height. But this might not be such a bad spot. Shepard struggled last season with concussions, and if he misses time again, the Giants will need further depth to compensate for his absence.

That, of course, is a chance for the previously injured Coleman to play a larger role.

ILB Ryan Connelly

The Giants have another player that didn’t get to do much during the 2019 season before getting put out of action by an ACL tear. That was the fate that Ryan Connelly shared with Coleman, except Connelly was already off to a hot start in the league by the time it happened.

Connelly ended up starting 3 games in 4 overall appearances during his rookie season. He had 20 total tackles and one sack, and it looked like he was set to breathe new life into the inside linebacker position as a recent steal in the draft.

However, the ACL tear ended his hopes of making that kind of impact last season.

Unfortunately for Connelly, he has increased competition now that the Giants have had time to shop in free agency. Blake Martinez is a big name new addition at his position and fans will expect to see Martinez make an immediate and big impact for the cost the Giants are spending on him.

David Mayo also became established in the linebacker group last season, and following the assumption that Martinez is an automatic starter, it looks like Connelly may compete heavily with Mayo for time in the rotation.

Despite this, Connelly still has a chance to make an impact – it’s unknown how fast he’ll get back to his form from the early 2019 season, and it may help to come off the bench this year with others handling the bulk of the snaps at inside linebacker. After all, inside linebacker is known as a position that requires more depth than others.

What should the New York Giants expect from Ryan Connelly in 2020?

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants did address the inside linebacker position in the 2020 NFL draft this year, but it was with several later round picks that don’t represent exceptional talent or value. Essentially, creating a position battle next to Blake Martinez seems to be the most efficient way of finding the Giants’ second starter. However, they do have Ryan Connolly still on the roster, who suffered a torn ACL in week four against the Washington Redskins in the dying moments of the game during his rookie season.

Connelly started off his career nicely, posting 20 combine tackles, 1.0 sacks, two tackles for loss, two passes defended, and two interceptions. He missed zero tackles and logged a 57.1 completion rate against and zero touchdowns allowed. While his sample size is extremely small and we cannot base a cemented judgment on the numbers he did provide, the early promise he showed should offer optimism moving forward.

The New York Giants also landed Blake Martinez to pair at linebacker:

Signing Blake Martinez should get the Giants another tough run-stopping linebacker in the middle of the defense. While his coverage grade from 2019 is horrendous, he was playing in a strange mesh-zone scheme that didn’t allow him to play his preferred man coverage.

I believe new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham well utilize his players in a more efficient way. He tends to rely on man coverage far more often than James Bettcher. He played man 50% of the time with the Miami Dolphins last year and blitzed on 41% of snaps on third downs. I estimate that Connelly and Martinez will be active in the blitz game but also playing coverage against opposing tight ends and running backs.

The most exciting aspect of Connelly is his ability to shoot the gap instinctively and stop runners in the backfield. He’s also solid in coverage, allowing four completions on seven targets for just 19 yards. He is a smaller more shifty player at 6-foot-2 and 242 pounds.

I really liked what he offered early on in the 2019 season and I believe the Giants defense would’ve been much better if he was active. Nonetheless, plenty of players suffer ACL injuries and return to full health, so I believe he can do the same. The most recent injury updates are positive and he had already begun running and training. While we haven’t heard much from his camp, he should be in line to return to the defense with the green light this summer.

Again, the pairing of Martinez and Connelly could be a bit tumultuous in the beginning, considering it is a new tandem and the defensive playbook are completely overhauled, but they are two capable players who have the potential for more. I believe Connelly is a starter in the NFL and will show that in the near future.

New York Giants: What Should We Expect From Ryan Connelly In 2020?

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants‘ defense suffered a devastating blow early in the 2019 NFL season. Rookie linebacker Ryan Connelly was outperforming his draft stock by a mile in the first four weeks of the season. Then, Connelly unfortunately suffered a gruesome knee injury. In the middle of an impressive Week 4 performance, Connelly suffered a torn ACL that would sideline him for the rest of the season.

This was a huge blow to the Giants’ defense. Ryan was demonstrating a lot of potential and talent in his rookie season. Since then, the Giants have made numerous changes to their linebacker corps. New York cut Alec Ogletree, signed Blake Martinez in free agency, and drafted four linebackers in the 2020 NFL Draft. So now, with an improved and crowded linebacker room, where does Ryan Connelly fit in?

Ryan Connelly Injury Update

The most important thing for Ryan Connelly is that he gets healthy. Fortunately, Ryan is on the right track in that regard. According to the NY Post, Ryan Connelly has stated that “there haven’t been any setbacks” in his recovery and that he will “be ready to go for training camp.” This is exciting, knowing the kind of talent Ryan can bring to the Giants’ defense.

Ryan Connelly’s Potential Role On The Defense

The Giants paid Blake Martinez big money, so he is locked in as their number one linebacker. But who will start alongside him? At the moment, it is safe to assume that David Mayo will have that job. The team gave Mayo a contract extension after a decent 2019 season. But there is a problem with a linebacker corps that features Martinez and Mayo on the inside: there is little pass coverage.

Martinez and Mayo are both excellent defenders against the run. However, both of them struggle in pass coverage. This is where Ryan Connelly could come into play. Admittedly, Connelly’s strength is also in run defense. But he certainly played better in pass coverage (in an albeit small sample size) than Mayo or Martinez did in 2019.

Ryan Connelly held opposing quarterbacks to a 22.6 passer rating in 2019. He allowed only 19 yards on a 57.1% completion percentage. On top of that, Connelly had a knack for finding the football, totaling 2 interceptions. Martinez did play a lot more coverage snaps in 2019 but he allowed an 83.8% completion percentage. Mayo allowed a 65.5% completion percentage.

The key to examining Connelly’s 2019 performance is remembering that he only played in 4 games. While he was highly impressive in those games, it is a super small sample size and not enough to bank on in 2020. Connelly, once healthy, is going to have to earn his spot back. It will not be given to him. But if Ryan can play at a similar level to which he played in 2019 and sustain it over a longer span of games, then the Giants’ linebacker corps will be in good shape next season. Ryan Connelly could provide the Giants’ defense with the pass coverage they need from the linebacker position, allowing Martinez and Mayo to thrive as run-stuffers.

New York Giants Linebacker Corps: Strength or Weakness?

New York Giants, Giants, NYG, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants have long been plagued with a weakness on defense. For years, the Giants’ linebacker corpse created a vast hole in their defense. New York rarely invested top assets into the position and it was exhibited by the unit’s performance. New York has worked to correct this error under general manager Dave Gettleman. Gettleman had made multiple key acquisitions at the linebacker position, though not all of them have panned out according to plan.

Alec Ogletree was the first move that Gettleman made to strengthen the middle of the defense. But, as fans know all too well, Ogletree was a severe underperformer in Big Blue and was cut this offseason. Last season, there did seem to bee some improvement in the Giants’ linebacker corps. David Mayo became a serviceable starter, earning a contract extension. Additionally, in the first four weeks of the season, it seemed like the Giants found a gem in Ryan Connelly. Connelly unfortunately suffered a devastating, season-ending injury in the fourth game of the season.

Fast forward to the 2020 offseason: Dave Gettleman has once again prioritized the inside linebacker position. One of the Giants’ big splash signings in free agency was linebacker Blake Martinez. New York then went on to draft four linebackers in the final two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft, providing the team with plenty of depth at the position.

Taking all this into account, how does the Giants’ new linebacker corps fare? Is it now a strength on the team, or is it still a weakness?

The Positives

The New York Giants’ linebackers excel in run defense. Blake Martinez and David Mayo are both excellent run defenders. 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%). Mayo earned a 90.1 run-defense grade according to Pro Football Focus in 2019.

Another positive of the Giants’ linebacker corps is its depth. As stated earlier, Gettleman has invested into the position group multiple times in the past two years. The Giants’ starting linebackers, Mayo and Martinez, will be accompanied by rising star Ryan Connelly once he returns from injury. Behind the three of them are three new rookies drafted in the final two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. If injuries strike the linebacker corps again, the Giants have the depth to stay afloat.

The Negatives

The Giants still do not have a linebacker that excels in coverage. Some fans believed this flaw in the unit would lead the Giants to draft Isaiah Simmons in the first round. Evidently, that did not happen, and Giants fans are all happy to have their left tackle of the future in Andrew Thomas.

However, this still does not solve the Giants’ issue pertaining to a coverage linebacker; But a different draft pick just might. The Giants drafted safety Xavier McKinney in the second round. The versatile safety will see plenty of reps in the box as a coverage linebacker. McKinney serves as a possible solution to the Giants’ weakness, but they will still need to see improved coverage out of their linebackers in 2020.

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 must improve in coverage for the Giants’ defense to flourish in 2020.

The New York Giants are taking a big risk at the inside linebacker position

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants invested plenty of draft capital into the linebacker position this offseason; the problem is none of them are high round selections and capable of starting immediately. What does this tell us? The Giants are confident in Ryan Connelly moving forward, but that could be a risky move considering he tore his ACL in week four of the 2019 campaign (his rookie season).

Connelly posted great numbers on such a small sample size: 20 combined tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1.0 sacks, and 2 interceptions.

As a rookie linebacker, Connelly showed the instincts to plug running lanes, and the awareness to diagnose plays a high level. While he did get stuck in no-mans land a few times trying to catch runners on pitch plays, Connelly’s development was promising and deserving of optimism. Nonetheless, instilling faith in a player coming off a torn ACL is always problematic, especially when they only have four games of professional experience under their belt.

As a former fifth-round pick, Connelly will be learning an entirely new defense under Patrick Graham, consisting of different timings and pass-rush schemes. Graham utilizes linebackers and safeties frequently to scheme a pass rush, indicating that Connelly could be heavily involved in those plans. The former Wisconsin standout is also solid in coverage, posting decent numbers in the category. He allowed a 57.1% completion rate against in his first four games, including two passes defended.

Should the New York Giants be putting all their chips in on Connelly?

Overall, Connelly’s worthy of optimism but injecting late-round talent as his depth does not shore up a position of inexperience. The Giants drafted TJ Brunson, Tae Crowder, and Cam Brown, who can all adapt to inside linebacker with the Giants.

Brunson, who’s a decent player with solid athleticism, is very slow with diagnosing plays and can get lost in transition. He’s a fringe-roster player as a seventh-round pick. Crowder was the final pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and while he’s a high-character player, he lacks the playmaking ability to emerge as a starting-level player immediately.

Crowder emerged as a linebacker in college, earning the final scholarship spot on Georgia back in 2015:

“I was just on scout team at practice, just working hard, and my coach ended up noticing it going against the number one defense, making plays,” Crowder said. “He saw that I was an athlete and that I should be on the field. He reached out to me, we had a meeting, and he was like he sees me as a linebacker and stuff like that, as a defensive player. We just had a one-day tryout, and at that tryout I ended up doing pretty good and I stayed there from then.”

While I like Crowder’s work-ethic and mentality, he needs ample development before earning any reps on the Giants’ first-team. Lastly, Big Blue landed Cam Brown out of Penn State in the 6th round. While he acted as an outside linebacker in college, Brown has the size and athleticism to emerge as an inside linebacker. I would expect the Giants to test him out at both positions.