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Mara — Eli starting all 16 games would be ‘ideal’

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants owner John Mara would consider it ideal if longtime quarterback Eli Manning started all 16 games and No. 6 overall pick Daniel Jones didn’t see the field during the 2019 season. He also cautioned to temper expectations on the rookie quarterback based solely off the preseason opener.

Mara reiterated Tuesday what head coach Pat Shurmur has said on multiple occasions: “Eli is our starting quarterback.”

The plan is for Manning to be behind center on Sept. 8 for the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys with Jones as the backup. If the Giants season goes as they think it will, that won’t change.

“I hope Eli has a great year and Daniel never sees the field,” Mara said. “That would be, in an ideal word, you’d like to see that. At the end of the day, that is going to be a decision by the head coach as to when, or if, Daniel ends up playing this year.”

Mara said the decision ultimately rests on the shoulders of Shurmur, just like it did for coach Tom Coughlin the last time the Giants were in this situation after trading for Manning in 2004 NFL Draft. Coughlin eventually inserted Manning into the starting lineup in Week 11 in place of Kurt Warner with their record at 5-4.

The Giants’ record this season will determine if, or when, Jones gets on the field. General manager Dave Gettleman and Shurmur told Manning immediately after drafting Jones that it will be the two-time Super Bowl winner’s job as long as he wins games.

That would keep Jones pinned to the bench.

“I’d be very happy about that because it means we’re having a great year and Eli is having a great year,” Mara said in his first full session with the Giants media since the draft.

The Giants have been ecstatic about what they’ve seen from Jones since April’s draft, even if it’s what they expected. He picked up the playbook and immediately looked like he belonged in the spring, has played well during training camp and was close to perfect in his preseason debut.

Jones went 5-for-5 with a touchdown pass on his only drive Thursday night against the New York Jets. It’s a small sample size, but it’s something.

“So far so good. He’s everything we thought he would be,” Mara said. “He’s been terrific on the practice field, did a good job the other night.

“I think people need to temper their enthusiasm a little bit. It’s one preseason game, one series, but so far so good.”

Jones’ time will come. Manning is in the final year of his current contract. The Giants don’t appear ready to address that any time soon.

“I think we’re in one year at a time mode right now,” Mara said.

Manning, 38, knows his future is on the back-burner. Any decision will have to wait until the offseason.

It’s a reality he seems to have accepted.

“Yeah, I think that is fair. I’ve never been one to ever be concerned or worry about contracts and things like that,” Manning said. “Won’t start now.”

The future of Gettleman and Shurmur seem more secure. They’re under contract past 2019 and they’re now married to the new quarterback. Mara just wants to see progress. That means more wins — the Giants have eight in the past two seasons combined — and potentially competing for a spot in the postseason. They’ve made the playoffs just once in the past seven years.

Mara expects this team to do well. He seems to believe they’re better than most expect, and even thinks they’re better than the 2004 Giants that Manning joined with the young talent they’ve accumulated in the past two drafts, an improved offensive line and an improved locker room. Mara didn’t think the locker room was as strong as it could have been during a 5-11 campaign last season.

The belief inside 1925 Giants Drive is that Gettleman has this organization headed in the right direction with their quarterback of the future in place. Despite the public criticism, there isn’t a concern about the direction of the franchise or the job the controversial general manager has done.

“Not at all. I think the best thing for me about Dave is he makes decisions that he feels are in the best interest of the franchise and he doesn’t give a damn what people think about it, be it the media or fans or anybody,” Mara said. “He has the courage of his convictions. And you have to have that.”

Mara believes in Gettleman and Shurmur perhaps as much as the coach and GM believe in Manning and Jones.

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Memorable Raiders moments in the Oakland Coliseum – Oakland Raiders Blog

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Editor’s note: This is an update of a story originally posted on Dec. 24, 2018.

ALAMEDA, Calif. — With Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars being the Oakland Raiders‘ final regular-season game in Oakland, here are five memorable moments at the Oakland Coliseum, which the Raiders have called home from 1966 through 1981 and from 1995 through today. Keep in mind, should there be significant delays in the construction of the team’s new stadium in Las Vegas, the Raiders have the lease option to return to the Coliseum for the 2020 season.

The Heidi Game (Nov. 17, 1968)

Trailing Joe Namath and the New York Jets 32-29, the Raiders rallied to score two touchdowns in nine seconds, on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Daryle Lamonica to Charlie Smith and a fumble recovered for a TD by Preston Ridlehuber on the ensuing kickoff. Thing was, NBC had cut away from the game with a minute and change to play, and the Jets leading, to show the children’s movie “Heidi.” Only West Coast viewers, those listening on the radio and anyone in the Coliseum knew what had happened — a 43-32 Oakland victory. “We walked around like we won the Super Bowl,” said Raiders Hall of Fame center Jim Otto. “Because it was like winning the Super Bowl for us.”

The Sea of Hands (Dec. 21, 1974)

The Miami Dolphins, the two-time defending Super Bowl champions, were leading the Raiders 26-21 with Oakland at the Miami 8-yard line with first-and goal to go. Ken Stabler drifted in the pocket and, wrapped up around the legs by Vern Den Herder, was about to hit the ground for a sack. But before his knees touched, he lofted a wobbly pass between three Dolphins to Clarence Davis, who somehow wrestled the ball away for the go-ahead score. George Blanda’s PAT gave the Raiders a 28-26 lead, but it took a Phil Villapiano interception of Bob Griese to seal the AFC divisional playoff win.

“I got that ball and I knew how much John Madden wanted to beat Don Shula and I went and gave coach the ball and he loved it,” Villapiano said. “He actually said, ‘That should be your ball, you made that interception.’ I said, ‘Nope, coach, nobody wanted that more than you and that’s your ball.’ I loved that. That was great. Kenny had just thrown that crazy pass into the end zone for us to take the lead? Oh my God, we couldn’t lose it. We had to do it.”

Beating Snake, Assassin, Ghost and the Oilers (Dec. 28, 1980)

Having acquired Ken “Snake” Stabler in a starter-for-starter deal that offseason — the Raiders got Dan Pastorini — the Oilers were the AFC’s preseason favorites. Instead, Stabler had to come to his old stomping grounds for a playoff game. His old teammates were not in a welcoming mood, hitting him with aplomb and picking him off two times, the final indignity a 20-yard pick-six by Lester Hayes.

“During my decade in Silver and Black, stats were not paramount to us mentally,” Hayes said. “I don’t speak of ‘I.’ Mr. Davis planted a seed in us of being successful and constantly winning. It was the daily branding of team success. Never, ever a mentality of ‘I.’ Mr. Davis brands you, you are branded. It’s focused on team and technique, it’s always ‘us.’ And winning. Team success. He branded our medulla.”

A pair of longtime Oakland fan favorites in safety Jack Tatum and tight end Dave Casper had also been dealt to Houston. The Raiders used the 27-7 wild-card win as a springboard to Super Bowl XV, where they thumped the Philadelphia Eagles behind game MVP Jim Plunkett, who had replaced Pastorini after he suffered a broken leg in Week 5.

“The Silver and Black Are Back!” (Jan. 19, 2003)

So opined former Raiders radio announcer Greg Papa as the final seconds ticked off the clock of the Raiders’ 41-24 beatdown of the Tennessee Titans in the 2002 AFC title game, seven years after the Raiders had returned to Oakland following 13 seasons in Los Angeles. Rich Gannon, that season’s NFL MVP, passed for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns, Tim Brown caught nine passes for 73 yards, Jerry Rice had five catches for 79 yards and Oakland’s defense sacked Steve McNair twice and limited him to 194 yards passing and Eddie George to 67 yards rushing. There was no week off before the Super Bowl that year, though, and Jon Gruden, traded to Tampa Bay a year earlier, knew the Raiders intimately as the Buccaneers blew out the Raiders, who have had only one winning record and one playoff appearance since. Gruden’s return to Oakland this season has done little to ease that sting.

Brett Favre’s Seminal Showing (Dec. 22, 2003)

A day after his father’s death, a heavy-hearted Favre put on a show for the ages in Oakland. The Green Bay Packers quarterback passed for 399 yards, 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions on Monday Night Football. He had 311 passing yards and four TDs before halftime of the Packers’ eventual 41-7 victory as the Raiders limped to the finish with a 4-12 record one season after playing in the Super Bowl. Bill Callahan, who had replaced Gruden, was fired after the season and set off a stream of coaches — Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano, Jack Del Rio — until Mark Davis, who took over the team following his father Al’s death on Oct. 8, 2011, coaxed Gruden out of ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth in January 2018.

Honorable (Dishonorable?) Mention

• Raiders win their first AFL title, beating the Oilers 40-7, on Dec. 31, 1967.

• Raiders lose last-ever AFL title game 17-7, to the Chiefs on Jan. 4, 1970.

• Helped by a questionable roughing the passer call on Ray “Sugar Bear” Hamilton, the Raiders rally to beat the Patriots in an AFC divisional playoff game on Dec. 18, 1976.

• Eight days later, the Raiders finally break through to win the AFC title by beating the rival Steelers 24-7 en route to winning Super Bowl XI.

• Ravens DT Tony Siragusa belly-flops onto Rich Gannon, knocking the Raiders QB out of the game and neutering Oakland’s offense in the 2000 AFC title game, a 16-3 Baltimore win on Jan. 14, 2001.

• Lane Kiffin’s final act of defiance is having the Raiders wear white away jerseys at home (or is it trotting out Sebastian Janikowski for a 76-yard field goal attempt?) in his final game as coach on Sept. 28, 2008, before Al Davis fired him.

• Lighting the Al Davis Torch before every home game began as a tradition a week after his death, on Oct. 16, 2011, a day in which the Raiders beat the Browns but lose QB Jason Campbell to injury, setting in motion the trade for Carson Palmer.

• Hue Jackson loses his composure and calls out his team after the Raiders lose the season finale to the Chargers, costing them a division title on Jan. 1, 2012, and the coach his job.

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Inside the high-tech room where Jets star in their ‘own video game’ – New York Jets Blog

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — At 1:10 p.m. every Friday, the New York Jets’ defense holds a players-only meeting in a big, colorless room on the first floor of their facility, where they prepare for the upcoming game in a high-tech world that incorporates a hint of old school.

Jets players watch cut-ups of their opponents’ plays, but this is more than your typical football film session. This is like a trip to your neighborhood movie theater, except there’s no concession counter and the experience is interactive.

The screen is massive — 37 feet by 9 feet — stretching the length of the entire back wall and nearly connecting floor to ceiling. There are three overhead projectors hanging from the 11-foot ceiling, resembling a trio of condors flying in the same direction. There are 25 straight-back chairs along the perimeter of the room, pressed against white boards that are filled with X’s-and-O’s diagrams, scouting reports and coaching points — i.e. “Pass Rush Rules.” Sorry, no cushy reclining chairs with cup-holders.

A few feet in front of the giant screen are five gray plastic garbage cans, flipped upside down. They represent the offensive linemen. (There’s your old-school touch.) The defensive linemen take their positions in front of the garbage cans, with the linebackers behind them and the defensive backs on the third level — 11 players standing in the middle of the room, their mini field.

A video staffer on the computer in the back of the room controls the camera angle. He can punch up a wide view from the defensive end zone, making it appear as if the offense is coming right at them. When the offense gets to the line of scrimmage, the Jets’ players do their thing, shifting, barking signals and making pre-snap adjustments in the room, which gets loud. When the ball is snapped, the players — at walk-through speed — carry out their assignments.

Each week, the Jets defensive players play the game 48 hours before the actual game — call it a 21st-century dress rehearsal. Players and coaches absolutely believe it’s one of the reasons why their defense, riddled with injuries, has overachieved.

Plus, it’s fun.

“It’s like we’re playing in our own video game,” Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland said with a smile.

They call it the virtual reality room even though, technically, it’s not true virtual reality. No one wears a VR headset in the room, which, in previous years, hosted the offensive meetings. When coach Adam Gase visited the room on his first tour of the facility in January, he immediately envisioned a different purpose. He had heard about other NFL teams and big-time colleges upgrading their video technology, and he wanted the same for the Jets.

Quarterback Sam Darnold used the room a lot in the offseason as he learned Gase’s offense. It’s available to any player or any unit, but it’s home for the defense, which spent the past few days preparing for its biggest challenge of the season: Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens (11-2), whom they face at 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday (Fox/NFL Network) at M&T Bank Stadium. The defense had to alter its schedule because of the short week, but the process was the same as usual.

“Pretty cool,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said of the room, joking he should have patented the idea a long time ago. “We can take 1,000 reps and never have anybody take a bump, bruise or anything.

“I’ve got a call structure and game film, and they’re going to be playing a game in there — in the virtual-reality room — just like they’re doing all the steps, all the reads, all the eyes, and it looks like they’re playing the game.”

Williams learned the basic concept from former NFL and college coach Bobby Ross, back when Ross coached at West Point (2004-06). The video technology took it to a new level.

ESPN was granted access to the room during an off hour last week. For competitive reasons, no pictures or video were allowed. On the big screen was a life-sized image of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick facing the Philadelphia Eagles. Embedded in the video was the Miami playcall, translated into Jets terminology. It had the feel of a Madden game on steroids, sans a game controller.

Funny thing is, the room isn’t located in a tucked-away place in the facility. The room is in a high-traffic area, but it’s hard to spot because there is no signage on the door. It’s one of several rooms on a 100-yard hallway that connects the front lobby to the locker room. The wall is adorned with life-sized photos of past Jets greats, which camouflage the door openings. You can walk past the door and not even realize what you’re missing.

For the record, there is a VR room and it is located behind a picture of Aaron Glenn, a star cornerback and first-round pick by the Jets in 1994.

The Friday meeting has several benefits. No coaches are in the room, so the players — on their own — must communicate among each other and iron out any issues.

Actually, the process starts on Tuesday, when the linemen and linebackers meet on their day off to review how they will set their fronts against certain formations. On Friday, they receive a play script from Williams, and they work off that. Typically, the middle linebacker runs the session, with C.J. Mosley (injured reserve), Neville Hewitt and James Burgess Jr., alternating duties.

“If somebody isn’t on the same page, we can sit there and talk it out,” defensive end Henry Anderson said.

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Stephen A. Smith makes the case for sitting Lamar Jackson for the Ravens’ Thursday night game against the Jets.

That might explain why the Jets haven’t suffered as many blown assignments as they did in recent years. They’ve surrendered six pass plays of 40 yards or more, down from 11 in 2018. They have allowed four rushes of 20 yards or more, down from 24. Their stout run defense will be tested by Jackson & Co., the No. 1 rushing offense.

Instead of running plays against the scout team on the practice field, the defense gets extra reps by lining up against life-sized images of the actual players they will face, so to speak. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins likes it because he can study the offensive linemen he will face on game day, looking for tells in their body language. The pass-rushers like it because they walk through their line stunts, using the garbage cans as props.

“We go through footwork and steps,” said Jenkins, who leads the Jets with seven sacks. “It’s almost like a practice, like a walk-through, while we’re watching film.”

Free safety Marcus Maye, who often goes to the room on his own to watch extra video, likes the technology because a reverse angle can be employed — the view from the quarterback’s eyes. This allows him to see pass coverage from the offensive perspective.

“There are a lot of different tools with that room that we use,” Maye said. “It’s actually been helpful. We used it a lot in the offseason, too, working on gap fits and seeing the eyes of the quarterback.”

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Giants’ 2018 draft class has been disappointing after promising first season – New York Giants Blog

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Dave Gettleman’s résumé as New York Giants general manager isn’t perfect. Far from it. There are misses in NFL free agency, unfortunate public declarations and a record that will make ownership shudder.

The area on which Gettleman was supposed to be able to hang his fedora was the draft, beginning in 2018. Although that group appeared promising after its rookie season, there no longer is the same optimism. Year 2 has not gone well.

It begins with the struggles of the “Gold Jacket” running back, Saquon Barkley, and filters all the way to the bottom. Quarterback Kyle Lauletta, last year’s fourth-round pick, was barely on the Giants’ roster for a calendar year. A flash from fifth-round defensive lineman RJ McIntosh is almost as rare as a Giants victory.

This seems to be how everything is going for the Giants lately, and it reflects poorly on Gettleman. That is why the feeling from some around the league indicates that his future could be in jeopardy two years into his tenure as general manager.

The Giants (2-11) have dropped nine straight to tie a franchise record and are 7-22 the past two seasons. When Gettleman was asked what constitutes a successful season, the first 35 words of his answer were about the 2018 draft class.

“Improvement,” Gettleman said the last time he talked publicly this summer. “You would like to think that guys like Saquon and Will [Hernandez] and B.J. [Hill] and Lorenzo [Carter] and RJ McIntosh are going to make a significant jump. That old saying ‘from Year 1 to Year 2.'”

That hasn’t worked out as planned, possibly because the bar was set too high. Players such as Carter (outside linebacker), Hernandez (guard) and Hill (defensive lineman) were expected to be upper-echelon starters on a team that desperately needed it to happen.

Barkley was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year last season after he led the league in total yards. This season has been a struggle since he suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 3. He hasn’t topped 100 yards rushing since Week 2 and is averaging a pedestrian 4.0 yards per carry.

Barkley hasn’t played well, but there is hope that his struggles are related to the ankle injury and the Giants’ offensive line problems. Included in that is Hernandez, the second-round pick last year. Hernandez started 16 games and showed signs during a promising rookie season. There was reason to believe that he could develop into a Pro Bowl guard with his tenacious approach in the run game.

Although Hernandez insists that he has improved, the results haven’t been quite the same.

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