New York Giants
Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
As more and more details emerge concerning the rocky relationship between kicker Josh Brown and his ex-wife Molly, legions of New York Giants fans have called for the team to part with the 14-year veteran.
Inside New York's locker room, however, Brown has the support of at least one of the team's emerging leaders, that being defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
"Why should we cut him?" Pierre-Paul said when asked if the Giants should part with Brown, who received a one-game suspension from the NFL for having violated its personal conduct policy. "Every guy needs a chance."
When it was pointed out to Pierre-Paul that the league is taking a hard-line stance against domestic violence, of which Brown has been accused of committing, the defensive end glared at the questioner and snapped, "Who knows? You weren't there."
Brown's suspension stems from a May 2015 incident in which he was arrested and charged with fourth-degree assault against his ex-wife. In a police report, it was alleged that Brown grabbed his former wife's wrist during an argument that occurred in Washington state at a home shared by the couple.
The case was dropped by the district attorney's office five days later. However, new reports have claimed that Molly Brown has accused the kicker of threatening behavior on 20 separate occasions.
In a statement released by the league last week, it was revealed that Molly Brown declined to provide any further information to aid the league in its investigation.
"At the end of the day, every guy on this team has a situation," Pierre-Paul said. "I don't like people knowing about my business, and my situation, so I try to keep out of people's situations unless they come to me and ask for help."
Josh Brown, who spoke to reporters the day after the announcement of his suspension, also declined to offer further comment of the accusations made by his ex-wife.
"It is what it is," said Pierre-Paul. "We're all family around here. People have their own problems to handle. He's still our brother and we look past it. We going to need him. Every player, we're going to need them."
It's amazing what a revamped defensive line and an abundance of full health has meant to Giants outside linebacker Jonathan Casillas.
This time last year, Casillas was struggling to learn a new defensive system, a struggle that was amplified thanks to a neck issue that forced him to miss some chunks of time in the offseason and during the preseason.
When he was on the field, he was either playing out of position due to injuries or having to try to play like Superman despite his injuries, thanks to the struggles of the defensive line last year to generate any kind of pass rush.
With all those issues in the past, Casillas has locked down the starting weak-side linebacker job, previously held by J.T. Thomas III, who was removed from the physically unable to perform list this week.
Casillas has been rewarding the coaches with some solid play, particularly in coverage, where he leads the defense with three passes defensed this preseason.
"I'm just trying to show that out there as much as I can. I want to let (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) and my other teammates know that they can rely on me in passing situations and situations where I'm covering skill guys," he said.
Not one to make excuses, Casillas, who dealt primarily with a neck issue, admitted that injuries took a toll on him last year in more ways than one when it came to learning the defense.
"If you're not actually getting reps, football reps, everybody always says you have to get mental reps, well, it's hard to replicate it in your head," he said.
"You can't replicate an actual stance and actual contact if you're not doing it. I think I was a little bit behind as we started the season and I had to play catch up during the season. I'm playing now just like everyone else, so I'm not missing any other steps."
The difference between then and now has been like night and day.
"I'm healthy and I'm able to run around. I'm fully integrated with all the guys. Not only am I better but I feel like everyone else is getting better," he said.
Casillas, who opined that the coverage provided by the linebackers is probably the biggest improvement, also sang the praises of the Giants' revamped defensive line, which features Olivier Vernon and Pierre-Paul on the ends and Johnathan Hankins and Damon Harrison at the tackles.
"This defensive line is a linebacker's dream," Casillas said, his grin growing. "It's a dream to play behind these guys and we just have to continue to get on the same page and continue to build and put these blocks together."
Giants center Weston Richburg has a message to fans grumbling about the showing put forth thus far by the starting offensive line.
"It is the second week of the preseason," he said.
That one-liner probably won't assuage the concerns of a fan base that saw the front office attempt to bring in some veteran help in the form of Donald Penn, Russell Okung and Eugene Monroe, only to be rejected by those players.
Nor will last week's performance against the Buffalo Bills in which the Giants once again struggled to run the ball, and three of the starting offensive linemen left tackle Ereck Flowers, Richburg and right guard John Jerry were all flagged for holding penalties.
Despite the hiccups of the first two games, Richburg wants people to know that having the same starting five offensive linemen returning from last season is a big advantage.
"I think it is a big advantage because we are kind of comfortable with each other more than we would be if we had someone new thrown in there, so being comfortable is a huge thing and we communicate well with each other," he said.
Richburg pointed out that despite having the same five starters in place on the offensive line, at least for now, the unit hasn't really managed to get as much work in together through two weeks of the preseason.
"It takes a lot to get the run fits together and we still have two preseason games, two preseason weeks to get some good work in," Richburg said. "We saw a different kind of defense, much different from the first week and we got some good looks and got some good things on tape that we need to come in here and fix this week."
Looking ahead to this weekend's game against the New York Jets, Richburg said one of the goals of the offensive line is to start solidifying their desired identity for when the curtain rises on the 2016 NFL campaign.
"It needs to be to finish," he said. "We want to finish each play and from there finish each game and that consists of being physical, having a mean attitude and really getting after people," he said.
Receiver Victor Cruz is ready for his long-awaited football close-up this Saturday.
"I'm ready," Cruz said upon taking the podium, flashing that megawatt smile of his that fans have come to know and love. "It's been a long time coming. I had a good week of practice, everything feels great, so I'm just excited."
Oh sure, it's just a meaningless preseason game against the neighboring Jets, but for Cruz, the game formally known as the MetLife Bowl is much more than who earns the right to gain possession of the Snoopy Trophy that's given to the winner.
"This one is crossing so many hurdles, so many barriers, so many ups and downs that I had to face to get to this moment," Cruz said. "Now I'm just ready to relax and just go play some football again. To me this game is bigger than just a game."
Almost two years to the day since he first suffered a potentially career-ending knee injury in October 2014, Cruz has overcome one setback after another and is set to play in his first game Saturday against the Jets, the team that essentially helped launch his star back in 2010.
Head coach Ben McAdoo and the Giants have been pacing Cruz's return so as to avoid any more setbacks, such as what he suffered last summer when he tore his calf muscle. Although Cruz did strain his groin this summer, the team's training staff came up with a plan designed to pace his return to the field.
The plan worked.
"He got through a good practice on our Wednesday practice on Tuesday. Yesterday he got through a three-hour practice in good shape," McAdoo said. "When he first got out here this week, he showed a burst and showed some acceleration, he can put his foot in the ground. He had a really nice release on a slant, which reminded me of the Houston game a few years ago, so it is encouraging."
No one is more encouraged than Cruz, who has tried to stay patient while his body heals. Now that he has that opportunity, he can't help but be a little giddy.
"I feel like a rookie again. There will be butterflies, there will be anxiety. There has been for some time now."
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said earlier this week that he saw flashes of the old Cruz during practice this week.
"There was the suddenness, the explosiveness, the things that I have in my mind, visions of 2011 in terms of that type of quickness," Sullivan said. "So obviously that is something to be excited about, and again, we're just progressing and hoping for the best.
"We're not trying to get overly excited or put too much pressure, just taking it one day, one rep at a time; and he's certainly shown some flashes."
McAdoo said that Cruz will get some early game snaps with the starting offense, though he didn't indicate if there was a set number in mind.
Whatever he gets, Cruz is looking to build on what he started on the practice field.
"Obviously this game is more for me to get hit, have that opportunity to get that game rep, have those game-like actions with Eli (Manning), being on the same page, all those things that you look forward to as a player," Cruz said.