EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It has been a while since a raucous crowd at MetLife Stadium had the opportunity to influence a truly meaningful New York Giants game. And the lack of opportunities have not all been coronavirus pandemic-related.
A case can be made the last big-time Giants home game was on a Sunday night, Dec. 11, during the 2016 season when Odell Beckham Jr.‘s 61-yard catch-and-run was the difference in a 10-7 win against the Dallas Cowboys.
New York went 11-5 then (including 7-1 at home) and hasn’t had a winning season since. That makes it 1,635 days and counting since Giants fans experienced a buzzworthy game at MetLife Stadium.
In other words, too long.
With word that MetLife Stadium is expected to be at full capacity for the 2021 NFL season, there is a chance the lack of big games finally changes. But only if the Giants can find a home-field advantage that hasn’t existed in years. New York is 9-23 at home over the past four seasons and hasn’t been a consistently strong home team since the doors to MetLife Stadium opened in 2010.
Still, there is hope with this current group it can be different.
“I couldn’t be more excited to know there’s going to be 100% capacity,” said Joe Judge, who still hasn’t coached his first game in front of the home fans because of the empty stands last season in response to restrictions from the pandemic. “I’m not going to speak for the entire team, but I know there’s a lot of energy, upon hearing that announcement. … I can’t wait to walk in a stadium and hear it at a deafening level. It’s something we’ve missed, and I’ve expressed before how much we value and thrive on as a team, going out playing in front of your home crowd and the animosity playing on the road against a visiting crowd.”
The Giants haven’t given their fans much to cheer about in recent years with an 18-46 record over the past four seasons. Their nine home wins during that span is brutal, even for a struggling team.
Take the crosstown rival New York Jets. They have been equally bad over the past four seasons at 18-46. They have played in the same stadium under much of the same circumstances during four straight losing seasons and have still won 11 games at MetLife Stadium during that span. They had a winning record at home in 2019 (5-3) and split their eight games in 2017.
The best the Giants have done at home was 3-5 this past season, when there wasn’t a home-field advantage and road teams had a better record for the first time in NFL history.
The Giants’ home struggles are magnified when you consider that in 2019, the last season there were packed stadiums, four teams that finished below .500 had winning records at home. It was the same in 2018, and eight losing teams finished .500 or better at home in 2017.
Teams that have finished with losing records the past four seasons have combined to win 39% of their home games, well above the Giants’ 28% over the same span.
There are a lot of reasons for the Giants’ home struggles, and a big one has been their slow starts. Winning matters, or at least the possibility of winning. And the Giants have dashed fans’ hopes early with 0-2 starts or worse in four straight seasons.
Add on, the stadium doesn’t seem to offer a unique home-field advantage. The Giants are 39-49 in 11 seasons at MetLife Stadium with two winning seasons there — the inaugural 2010 campaign and 2016. Even in the Super Bowl season of 2011, they were 4-4 at home.
It’s definitely not the old Giants Stadium, which was known for nasty swirling winds that left opposing players confounded while Giants players were used to the challenging conditions. It provided an edge that seems to be gone now with MetLife Stadium, which for whatever reason (whether it’s the losing or the stadium design) also seems to lack the same distracting fan noise.
None of this has curbed the Giants’ desire to get the stadium filled and create an extra buzz among fans.
“I feel great about it. I mean, I missed the fans a lot. Last season was a little weird playing without them,” Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “Happy to get them back in the stands, cheering us on.”
A large chunk of the Giants’ roster has never played a home game in front of New York fans. Of their 90 players, 68 fall into the category, whether they are rookies, second-year players or free agents from each of the past two offseasons.
“Definitely want to see the fans,” said Giants second-year linebacker Tae Crowder, who only heard the cheers from his teammates on a 43-yard game-winning fumble return at MetLife Stadium in Week 6 last season against the Washington Football Team. “Want to see how things used to be.”
The Giants wouldn’t mind that being the case, either — especially if it includes winning at home.
Packers don’t hold back any of offense because it’s Jordan Love at QB1 – Green Bay Packers Blog
GREEN BAY, Wis. — One bad, one good and one somewhere in the middle.
That much could be seen by anyone inside the gates at Clarke Hinkle Field.
But what only those in the huddle knew was how much of coach Matt LaFleur’s offense Love actually had to work with.
Did LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett run a stripped-down version of their scheme and bring only a portion of their playbook with them to practice?
“No, we installed our offense and kind of threw everything at him,” LaFleur said Thursday at the conclusion of the three-day camp.
If it looked like Love was overwhelmed on Tuesday, when he struggled with accuracy and rarely threw the ball much beyond the line of scrimmage, then Wednesday was a 180. He hit receivers in stride down the field and showed poise during a successful two-minute drill.
Thursday was a mix: He threw his first interception when first-round pick Eric Stokes jumped in front of receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on an out-breaking route and returned it for a touchdown. Love later lost a fumble on a bad exchange with running back Dexter Williams. But in a red zone period, he threw a pair of touchdown passes: a 7-yarder to receiver Juwann Winfree in the back of the end zone and a 12-yarder on a deception play to tight end Robert Tonyan.
That’s far different from the usual quarterback pattern, where the starter takes the first four or five snaps of a period followed by three or four for the No. 2 and a couple for the No. 3. On Thursday, Love took the first 10 snaps, Bortles took two and Love got five more before Benkert took three. At one point on Tuesday, Love remained on the field for 16 straight plays.
“He’s a guy who hasn’t had the experience as some others,” LaFleur said. “We’ve got to get him multiple looks at many different plays and really find out what he does best and what our team does because every year things change in the National Football League.
“Just trying to get a feel for how much he can really handle, and I think he’s done a great job of being intentional about his work, how he goes out to practice every day, and I think it’s paying off for him. I think he’s made some progress.”
Best moment: Doing his best Rodgers impersonation, Love got the defense to jump, earning a free play. Love went deep and hit Allen Lazard in stride for a 45-yard touchdown between a pair of defenders. It was part of a stretch in Wednesday’s practice in which Love had three other completions of at least 30 yards.
Worst moment: On Tuesday during a two-minute drill, he faced a fourth-and-7 from the defense’s 46-yard line with 31 seconds left. He saw receiver Malik Taylor wide open on the sideline just past the first-down mark, but Love sailed the ball well over his outstretched arms, ending the drill.
Stats: Love completed 40 of 70 passes (57.1%) during the 11-on-11 competitive periods over the three days (12 of 23 on Day 1, 20 of 31 on Day 2 and 8 of 16 on Day 3). By comparison, Love attempted only 64 passes during team (11-on-11) periods in all of training camp last summer as the third quarterback, completing 37 (57.8%).
While the numbers might not look all that different, Love was far more vocal and sure of himself as a leader.
“That’s a part of my game that I’m trying to improve as well, just being able to take charge of this offense and be able to command these guys and take a leadership role,” Love said. “Last year, obviously I wasn’t in that role. That was Aaron’s voice being heard and whatnot. Now I’ve just got to be able to take that next step and take command of it and lead these guys.”
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In other notes from minicamp:
The Packers often lined up with two rookies as part of their regular first unit on the offensive line: second-round pick Josh Myers at center and fourth-rounder Royce Newman at right tackle. Billy Turner, the regular right tackle, worked on the left side while David Bakhtiari continued to rehab from his torn left ACL.
The two rookie defensive backs also made noteworthy plays: Stokes had the pick-six and fifth-round cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles broke up a pass on the sideline intended for Valdes-Scantling.
While Davante Adams attended, he did not take any snaps during the 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 periods. Adams, who skipped the OTAs, said he will be full go by the time training camp starts.
Speaking of the start of training camp, no official date has been announced, but LaFleur several times referred to July 27 as the start.
Giants CB Sam Beal pleads guilty to firearm charges stemming from 2020 arrest
Beal was arrested last year and charged with improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle, carrying a concealed weapon and marijuana possession less than bulk. He was entered into a pre-trial diversion program and placed on two years probation.
“We have been aware of the situation,” the Giants said in a statement. “We have no further comment at this time.”
Northjersey.com was the first to report on Beal’s legal troubles.
Beal, 24, opted out of the 2020 season back in August after being a spotty participant in the virtual portion of the offseason in the spring. He was indicted on the gun charges eight days after the official announcement of his decision.
Things have not gone smoothly for Beal ever since being drafted in the third round of the 2018 supplemental draft. He has played in just six games, with three starts, over three years.
Beal failed to last through a single practice his rookie season because of a pre-existing shoulder injury suffered at Central Michigan. He missed the entire 2018 season. After another injury cost him the first half of the following season, he took the opt-out option available to players last year because of COVID-19.
Beal was already a long shot to make the Giants roster this year prior to news of his arrested and guilty plea. New York signed veteran Adoree Jackson to a lucrative free-agent contract and drafted cornerback Aaron Robinson in the third round.
Beal did not attend voluntary OTAs this spring along with most of the Giants’ defensive backfield. He was at mandatory minicamp this past week.
Jameis Winston ‘even hungrier’ as he embraces second chance with Saints – New Orleans Saints Blog
METAIRIE, La. — Jameis Winston is well aware of the narrative that surrounds him these days.
In fact, he’s embracing it as he strives to become a starting quarterback again with the New Orleans Saints.
“I went from being the No. 1 draft pick to (having) everybody laugh at me,” Winston proclaimed, tackling the elephant on the field as he addressed a group of kids at former Florida State teammate Kenny Shaw’s youth camp in April.
“But guess what?” Winston continued. “I’m about that business. I’m outworking everybody at my position. … I’m doing things every single day, committing to the dream.”
Jameis Winston: “I went from being the No. 1 draft pick to everybody laughing at me. But guess what? I’m about that business. I’m out working everyone at my position… I know @dak is right here.” 😂 #Noles pic.twitter.com/UAOXLRFZwk
— Logan B. Robinson (@LogansTwitty) April 19, 2021
Winston, who turned 27 in January, isn’t just talking the talk. Ever since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to swap him out for Tom Brady last spring, Winston has been committed to flipping the script.
He took a backup job with the Saints last year so he could get a “Harvard education in quarterback school” under Drew Brees, Sean Payton and the rest of New Orleans’ loaded offensive coaching staff.
And he has spent this offseason traveling the country to work with trainers like Brees’ longtime mentor Todd Durkin and Jay Glazer to “be challenged on new levels.”
“I was tremendously impressed by his humility and his mindset,” said Durkin, who had never met Winston until he reached out. “He wanted to know, what does it take to be great? And he immersed himself.”
Winston has also placed an emphasis on working with many teammates this offseason. Saints wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith said Winston paid for his flight to Los Angeles and invited Smith to stay with him and his family.
“One year not playing has just made me even hungrier to get back at the [helm] and lead a team,” Winston said as he prepares to compete with Taysom Hill to become Brees’ successor. “It’s all about being able to be humble and keep your eyes on the prize. I’m moving forward in everything that I do. I have to get better every single year, whether it’s a great year or a not-so-good year.”
Winston has consistently shown more humility than bitterness since the Buccaneers let his contract expire after a wild 2019 season, in which he led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards but also became the first player in league history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season.
Winston told Jim Trotter and Steve Wyche on their “Huddle and Flow” podcast: “I was angrier at myself for basically putting myself in this situation. Because I know that I can play quarterback at a high level, and I just felt like last season was such an anomaly.”
That humility and mindset aren’t new, however.
Longtime trainer and friend Otis Leverette, a former NFL defensive end who has worked with Winston since he was 14 years old in his home state of Alabama, said he has always told people Winston worked with a “blue-collar swagger” even when he was a top recruit in high school and Heisman Trophy winner in college.
“Naturally, just from a natural growth perspective, you would hope to see expansion in any human being as they age. So there’s been a certain maturation process mentally that he’s gone through,” Leverette said. “But to be very honest with you, Jameis Winston is pretty much who he’s always been. I don’t want to sell to the world like he’s just revamped himself, where he was this synthetic human being up until last year when he got humble.
“You’re just seeing a more refined, rational version, like that aged wine. But it wasn’t like all of a sudden he had this epiphany and became a real human being last week.”
Another thing that hasn’t changed is Winston’s love and passion for football.
That’s what Leverette said drove Winston most when he was without a team for a few months. And that’s what Winston’s teammates and coaches have mentioned most about him over the past year.
“The guys loves football. He’s really a football junkie,” said Brees, who said Winston constantly picked his brain. “I could not have been more impressed with Jameis, honestly. I think everybody in the locker room admired his love and passion for the game and the way he worked at it.”
Winston said the No. 1 thing he learned from Brees is “making the right decision” and not trying to force things that aren’t there. As he told Trotter and Wyche, he never wanted to be deemed a “game manager.” But he appreciates there is a “time and place” for trying to “light the scoreboard up” at this point.
Winston got emotional earlier this year when he talked about how much it meant for him to build that relationship with Brees after admiring him for so long. And Durkin said Winston told him that he relished having Brees as a mentor since he rarely had that experience in Tampa.
Durkin also trains former Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. And he said McCoy teased Winston, saying, “I was trying to get you out here for years, then you finally come out when Drew tells you to.”
Durkin said he introduced Winston to some Pilates techniques, core-muscle exercises and backside-shoulder stability exercises. At Glazer’s Unbreakable Performance Center, Winston did some boxing exercises centered around getting more explosive in his hips and stronger in his core.
Winston has also continued to work with throwing coaches John Beck and Adam Dedeaux from the 3DQB organization led by another of Brees’ longtime mentors, Tom House.
Winston’s maturation process has also included a number of life changes, big and small, over the past two years. He got married to his longtime girlfriend and they had their second child earlier this year. He had LASIK surgery to improve his eyesight and revamped his diet and exercise routine to noticeably slim down.
“One thing me and Jameis both believe in,” Leverette said, “you can sit in your own little wheelhouse, your own little area of the world and think, ‘Man, no one’s outworking us and we’re the hardest workers in the world and we’re doing everything right.’ Or you can get out there and challenge.
“Always being honest with ourselves, dissecting ourselves, putting ourselves on the table and doing that autopsy. Continue to evolve.”
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