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?

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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.

The New York Giants could have a big problem at inside linebacker

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The New York Giants’ roster is far from a finished product, but they took several positive steps forward this off-season on both sides of the ball. On offense, they drafted left tackle Andrew Thomas to protect Daniel Jones’s blindside for the foreseeable future. They also signed running back Dion Lewis and allocated more draft capital toward potential starting talent down the line and depth pieces. On defense, they signed Blake Martinez, Kyler Fackrell, James Bradberry, and drafted top safety, Xavier McKinney.

Based on all of these quality additions, you can estimate that the Giants will have a far better 2020 campaign, despite having a difficult schedule, according to Las Vegas betters. However, the NFL ranks the Giants’ schedule as the seventh easiest, based on combined 2019 winning percentages.

The Giants’ 2020 opponents were 123-132-1, which equates to a .482 winning percentage. This is good news for a Giants team that is in desperate need of wins and success in the third year of their rebuild. However, there are still positions that are uncertain and require more focus moving forward. The inside linebacker spot is one position that could be problematic for the team in 2020.

Currently, they have Ryan Connelly, and draft picks TJ Brunson, Cam Brown, and Tae Crowder available.

Connelly showed promise last year in his rookie campaign, posting 20 combine tackles, two interceptions, and one sack in four games. However, a torn ACL ended his season prematurely and he has been recovering ever since. These types of injuries are frequent in today’s NFL, but guaranteeing he will return to full form is optimistic.

The hope is that he can pick up where he left off, and if that is the case, the Giants will be in decent shape at the position while he continues his development. Alternatively, Cam Brown out of Penn State has great athleticism and high upside as a fifth-round pick. I don’t see him as an instant starter, but a bit of development could prove to be worthwhile and significant for the 2021 season.

If the Giants want to look to the free-agent market to supplement any concerns, Cardinals linebacker Hasson Reddick is a young player with unlocked potential. He was terrible in 2019, but as a former first-round pick, it’s worth taking a low-price chance on him.

Wilson’s Perspective: Reasons the New York Giants could pass on Isaiah Simmons

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Taking a look at the reasons the New York Giants could pass on Clemson defender, Isaiah Simmons:

When the Giants hired head coach Joe Judge to be the leader of the franchise moving forward, one of the positive traits he brought from New England was the ability to maximize players on both sides of the ball. His goal is to extract the most value from each positional player, and that fits right in line with Clemson stand out defender Isaiah Simmons in the 2020 NFL draft.

Last season, Simmons posted impressive numbers across the board, suggesting he played multiple spots and succeeded at each one. Over 15 games as a junior, Simmons log 104 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, three interceptions, eight passes defended, and two forced fumbles.

Looking at his sack numbers and ability in coverage, you can conclude that Simmons played all over the defense. That is precisely the type of player that Judge likes, but there are also reasons he could pass on the defender for an offensive tackle. That would be the number one reason the Giants forgo the opportunity to draft a player of his quality, simply because Daniel Jones needs more protection on the offensive line.

Investing a significant draft pick on a passer should force management to build around him, and Jones being sacked 38 times in 2019 suggests that his protection scheme might need reinforcement. His 18 fumbles lead the NFL and is a statistic that needs to decrease significantly next season. That means the New York Giants and general manager Dave Gettleman need to draft a potential left tackle to replace Nate Solder for the future — whether it be in the first or second round.

Another justification to pass on Simmons would be the presence of Ryan Connelly. The Giants drafted Connelly in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL draft, and he posted impressive numbers over four games before suffering a torn ACL against the Washington Redskins in the dying moments.

He recorded 20 combine tackles, two tackles for loss, two passes defended, one sack, and two interceptions. Those are some quality numbers for a rookie mid-round pick and could be enough to convince the Giants brass to give him another opportunity, deciding to pass on Simmons a little more justifiable. However, Isaiah’s attributes eclipse Connelly’s by a fair margin, but again, drafting a tackle to protect Jones could ultimately benefit the team more efficiently in the long run.

New York Giants: Ryan Connelly “Ready To Go For Training Camp”

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants definitely need help at linebacker if they want to improve but some of that help might come from a player that’s already on the roster despite not playing much last season – that player is Ryan Connelly, and his lack of playing time was due to missing most of the 2019 season with an ACL tear after a hot start where Connelly looked like the best defensive rookie on the team.

Connelly now has an uncertain place in the lineup thanks to missing most of his rookie season, but if he comes out playing the same way that he did before his injury, he’s a guaranteed starter on a team that hasn’t been strong in recent years at his position. All of that, though, hinges on his ability to rehab well and come out with good performances again in 2020.

According to Connelly himself, though, things are going well so far – even if the coronavirus outbreak this year is throwing a wrench into some offseason plans.

“I’ll be ready to go for training camp,” Connelly told the New York Post. “I think I would’ve been able to do some limited participation in OTAs. I was excited to do individual periods and get reps, but who knows if I will get that chance given the scheduling changes due to the coronavirus.”

“There haven’t been any setbacks. I’m starting to do some cutting and explosive running. We understand that I’ve had a lot of time, so we haven’t been pushing it or trying to rush through things. Lower body, starting from ground zero getting my strength and flexibility back, and making sure [the knee] can flex and extend fully,” Connelly continued.

During his time on the field last season, Connelly did manage to make a statistical impact. He had three games started out of four played, and had 20 tackles, one sack, and perhaps most notably a pair of interceptions. He was predicted by most of the fanbase to start for the entire season, but obviously, the torn ACL ended those hopes.

The hope now, of course, is that Connelly can come back and fill the same role well this season – which based on his talk about there being no setbacks, is entirely possible.

New York Giants: What To Expect From Ryan Connelly in 2020

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The New York Giants are slowly but surely rebuilding their defense. They addressed two major positions of need in free agency, spending big at linebacker and cornerback. But there is still room for improvement in the linebacker corps.

The Giants might add to their linebacker room in the 2020 NFL Draft. Isaiah Simmons is a popular selection for the Giants in mock drafts. However, New York does have another linebacker on the roster that will be thrown into the mix. After missing most of the season with a torn ACL in 2019, Ryan Connelly will return in 2020. But what will his role be, coming off of a season-injury?

An Impressive Start To His Career

The New York Giants drafted inside linebacker Ryan Connelly in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The rookie out of Wisconsin wasted no time impressing coaches and fans, playing his way into the starting lineup in Week 2.

Ryan Connelly played in four games and started three games in 2019. The rookie totaled 10 combined tackles, including 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack. On top of that, he flashed his potential in coverage, coming away with 2 interceptions and allowing only 4 receptions on 7 targets (57.1% completion) for a minimal 19 yards (4.8 yards per completion). His coverage skills could complete the Giants’ defense after they signed two run-defending inside linebackers this offseason.

Temper Expectations

A lot of Giants fans have set the bar pretty high for Ryan Connelly heading into his second season. This is unreasonable. Fans will need to temper their expectations as Connelly will basically be playing in his second rookie season. It might be a while before Ryan sees the field.

Ryan Connelly’s current injury status is unknown. His progression has not been reported on in quite some time so he cannot be penned into the starting lineup at this point. Hopefully, Connelly is healing and on track to be ready for the season, but torn ACL’s are no joke and take a long time to recover from. It is possible that Ryan Connelly will not be ready for the start of the 2020 season.

But if Ryan Connelly is ready for the 2020 season, its hard to determine what his role will be. Obviously, Blake Martinez was paid to be the Giants’ starting inside linebacker. Behind him, though, the Giants have David Mayo who started 13 games in 2019. If the Giants do decide to draft Isaiah Simmons next month, that addition would push Connelly even further down the depth chart.

Surely, after an impressive first four games of his rookie season, Ryan Connelly will get an opportunity to see the field next season. But his role will likely be limited since he is essentially still a rookie coming off of a gruesome knee injury.

New York Giants could land second-round linebacker to pair with Ryan Connelly

New York Giants, Zack Baun, Ryan Connelly

One position the New York Giants desperately need to address this off-season is linebacker. Last year, they featured Alec Ogletree and Ryan Connelly to start the season, but Connelly quickly went down with a torn ACL against the Washington Redskins, prematurely ending his season and an impressive development up to that point.

With several premium options in free agency and the NFL draft, the Giants have the resources to bolster the position exponentially, finally plugging in a player to cover tight ends and stop the run. Isaiah Simmons out of Clemson has been the frequent flyer for the Giants regarding projection in the draft, but one other option has me intrigued, and he is also from Wisconsin, just like Connelly.

Linebacker Zack Baun, who is a projected second-round pick in the upcoming draft, has elite instinctual attributes but is also a solid pass rusher. Logging 12.5 sacks as a senior for Wisconsin, he can attack quarterbacks as an edge rusher, but he truly stands out in the middle of the field. During Senior Bowl practices, Baun played weakside linebacker, and he also tallied 19 tackles for loss in 2019, earning the playmaker accolade for Wisconsin.

The most exciting thing about Baun is that he made the transition from quarterback to linebacker coming out of high school.

Already having Connolly with the New York Giants makes his potential light landing spot a lot more attractive.

“Yeah, that would be awesome,’’ Zack Baun said Tuesday before the first Senior Bowl practice of the week. “I think if I go to a team with any other Wisconsin linebacker, it’s automatically going to help me pick up the defense. We have a strong bond, connection, being from essentially the same bloodline.’’

Baun expressed his confidence in Wisconsin for producing quality linebackers:

“I think every linebacker that started at Wisconsin since I’ve been there is in the league and doing very well,’’ Baun said. “I think we’re the new Linebacker U.’’

If the Giants decide they don’t want to allocate too much capital in a linebacker in free agency, or find better value with the 4th overall pick and pass on Simmons, Baun is an exciting prospect with tons of potential.

Big news could await the New York Giants on Tuesday

New York Giants, Pat Shurmur

As New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was walking out of the locker room following the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in week 17, he quickly barked to patient reporters, “We’ll talk Tuesday.”

Gettleman seems confident that he will remain with the organization beyond what was a tumultuous 2019 season, but head coach Pat Shurmur couldn’t say the same during his press conference. He mentioned that “it’s only going to get better,” and that he wasn’t given the most talented roster to play with this season, but nothing in regards to his future with the Giants.

Tuesday will likely spell the end of at least one coach, and Shurmur is undoubtedly on the hot-seat, especially with Ron Rivera being available as his replacement. Gettleman is close with Rivera, who spend multiple years with him in Carolina, putting together a playoff-caliber team.

Theoretically, the Gettlman/Rivera tandem makes the most sense for owner John Mara. However, for everybody else, it seems like another go around the circle of failure. Being trounced by the Eagles in what was likely Eli Manning’s final game in blue was a disgrace, and co-owner Steve Tisch’s “tear it down” attitude might finally come to fruition, but the “let the Mara’s figure it out” mentality will surely reignite once again.

Is Dave Gettleman’s job safe with the New York Giants?

Gettleman has done plenty wrong to justify his firing, starting with his attempt at piecing together the offensive line. Left tackle Nate Solder has been a huge miss, and he will count $19.5 million in cap next season. On the flip side, Gettleman did draft Daniel Jones who seems to have the tools to become the next franchise quarterback for Big Blue. He also hit on multiple late-round picks, UDFAs (Ryan Connelly, Darius Slayton, Kaden Smith, Nick Gates, etc.), some of which have a limited sample size.

I would say Gettleman is about 50/50 on his hits and misses, maybe a bit more on the negative side, but he’s a voice Mara is intimidated by and won’t be keen to fire in the coming days. That’s the issue with hiring Gettleman in the first place. He’s close with the Mara’s. One day, John will learn not to mix friends with business.