Tom Coughlin and playing rookies go together like oil and water, apples and oranges, Eagles and Super Bowls, or so we are told. I thought before we took a look at what we should expect from the New York Goiants rookies this year, I'd take a quick study at whether or not Ccoach Coughlin is truly adverse to playing rookies.
In order to do this I thought I'd pull up a few different teams across a spectrum and see how often their rookies played. That wouldn't give us a comprehensive view of all rookies playing times, but you would get a further insight into how teams played their rookies. I thought I'd grab one team from each category below.
You will see that they play their young guys a lot.
2013 Class: QB E.J. Manuel 10 games started (and played), Robert Woods 14 GP and GS. Kiko Alonso 16 GP and 16 GS. WR Marqees Goodwin (12 played, 1 start), Jon Meeks (8 played, 0 starts), Duke Williams (16 games no starts), Chris Cragg (1 start)
2012 Class: Stephon Gilmore (16 games started), Cordy Glenn (13 GS and played), T.J. Graham 15 Games played 12 starts, Nigel Bradham 16 games played and 11 starts, Ron Brooks 9 games played and 2 starts , Zebrie Sanders No statistics, LB Tank Carder (cut and played for Browns rookie year), OL Mark Asper no games played for Bills rookie year (currently on Giants)
2011 class: DT Macel Dareus 15 starts, DB Aaron Williams 9 games with 6 starts, LB Kelvin Sheppard 16 games played with 9 starts, Da'Norris Searcy 16 games played with 3 starts, OL Chris Hairston 13 games played with 7 starts, RB Johnny White 12 games played 0 starts, LB Chris White 7 games played 0 starts, Justin Rogers 13 games played with 1 start
So over the past three seasons the Buffalo Bills have had 11 players who were consistent starters (at least 6 games started their rookie year) and a number of players with other starts. They have played their rookies what seems to be a lot...and they also have been picking in the top 10 consistently and haven't made the playoffs in 14 years.
2013: Jarvis Jones (14 GP with 8 starts), Le'veon Bell (13 GP and 13 starts). 6th round pick LB Vince Williams had 11 starts and 15 games played Then from the rest of their draft class there were 3 combined starts (2 Markus Wheaton, 1 Shamark Thomas). Landry Jones, Terry Hawthorne, and Justin Brown didn't register any games played.
2012: David Decastro started only 4 games (because of injury), OL Mike Adams started 6 and played in 10. LB Sean Spencer, DL Ta'Amu, and Chris Rainey had zero starts. Only Rainey played (return man), OL Kelvin Beachum started 5 games, and TE David Paulson started 5 games.
2011: First-round pick Cameron Hayward had 16 games played but no starts. 2nd round OL Marcus Gilbert started 11 games, DB Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen were depth (no starts), and only LB Chris Carter (5 games played) played out of the last three round picks.
The Steelers, who have had about the same success as the Giants recently, seem to take a play if you have to and are ready approach with their rookies. Decastro was injured he may have played every game, but their other rookie 1st round picks Hayward and Jones were eased into action. Day 2 guys were played some but didn't start a ton. Some guys from day three stepped up and played a lot (Vance Williams) while most were not played at all, practice squad, or off the team.
New England Patriots
2013: First pick (2nd round) Jamie Collins started 8 games and played in 16. WR Aaron Dobson started 9 and played in 12, Logan Ryan started 7 and played in 16. Duron Harmon started 3 and played in 15. WR Josh Boyce started 3 and played in 9. Michael Buchananon played in 15.
2012: Chandler Jones started in 13 games as did Dont'a Hightower. 2nd round pick Tavon Wilson started 4 (played 16). DL Jake Bequette had no starts. CB Alfonzo Dennard had 9 starts, and Jeremy Ebnet and Nate Ebner did nothing.
2011: First-round pick Nate Solder started 13 games, CB Ras I Dowling started and played in 2. RB Shane Vereen and Steven Ridley combined for 2 starts. TE Lee Smith had 3 starts, Marcus Cannon played in 7 games, and Markell Carter and Malcolm Williams combined for 2 appearances.
The Patriots have played their first-round pick as starters for much of the season, but after that it has been very hit and miss with playing time. Other than Alfonzo Dennard no played really started after the third round and many of their players were special teams players-and sub-package players.
New York Giants
2013: Justin Pugh started all 16 games. Jonathan Hankins played 11, Damontre Moore played in 15. Cooper Taylor played in 10, Michael Cox in 15 (1 start). Eric Herman was active for one game, and Ryan Nassib didn't play on the active roster.
2012: David Wilson played in 16 (started 2), Rueben Randle played in 16 (started 1), Jayron Hosley played in 12 (started 6), Adrien Robinson played in 2, Markus Kuhn played in 10 started 1.
2011: Prince Amukamara played in 7 (injury), Marvin Austin played in 8, Jerrel Jernigan played in 8. Greg Jones started 5 and played in 15. Jacquian Williams played in 16 and started 2, Tyler Sash played in 16, and Da'Rel Scott played in 11.
I didn't want to make this completely comprehensive (and long) but I went through and looked through other teams in the categories and as you might expect the better the team, in general, the less their rookies played.
The Giants haven't gotten a lot of starts from their high picks, other than Pugh, which is a little unusual, but not unheard of. But they have also shown that they will start players if they feel they are deserving of the playing time even if they are not high picks.
To me it doesn't seem like Coughlin is against giving rookies playing time. It seems like he's against just handing it over. Using the above (and then just looking through other rosters and their rookie playing times) it does seem that it takes a little longer to earn Coughlin's trust than it might from another coach, but the rookie playing time isn't an egregious oversight by Coughlin. It's a little on the lower end of rookie playing time for the annually competitive teams (but I should also reference that the Giants seem to have been a magnet for injuries to their top picks), but not a sign of the times passing a coach by.
With that being said, here the 2014 rookie expectations:
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Round 1 -- WR Odell Beckham Jr.
I think the hamstring injury that Beckham Jr. is facing right now will indeed impact his playing time, but not to any significant degree. To me Beckham Jr.'s number of "starts" will be impacted much more by the continued development of Rueben Randle. During the offseason Jerry Reese has said that he didn't know what Randle is yet. Is he a No. 1 wide receiver? Is he a 1A, a good number two, or just an average outside guy? If Randle's greatest problem was the offensive system run by Kevin Gilbride and he's ready for a 1,000-yard, eight-touchdown kind of season then Beckham Jr. won't start unless there is an injury. If Randle is just average I think Beckham Jr. takes his starting spot by midseason. I think Randle will have a nice year, but I think Beckham Jr. will end up with at least eight "starts" because if the Giants open up their first play in any three wide receiver sets Cruz, Randle, and Beckham Jr. will all be credited with starts. I'd expect numbers similar to Randle's numbers last year for Beckham Jr. this year -- 650 yards receiving and six touchdowns -- but would love to see more. (Hakeem Nicks rookie numbers were 790 yards receiving and six touchdowns as a reference).
Round 2 -- OL Weston Richburg
It's tough to guess how well Richburg has been doing in practice because of the limited number of padded practices so far, but I think it's clear that Richburg seems to be in the competition to win either the starting guard or center job. John Jerry has also been battling injuries even though he was signed to start. I think Richburg will be a good NFL player and while I think the Giants don't feel they have to rush him because they wouldn't mind him getting stronger and ideally is the super back-up this year to both guard positions and the center position, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say he ends up the season with 10 starts. He could end up starting at either guard position or the center position depending on injuries.
Round 3 -- DT Jay Bromley
This is a for the future pick if we've ever seen one. I think Bromley ends up with a large number of inactives on game day unless there is an injury. Patterson/Jenkins/Kuhn/Hankins are the four guys the Giants plan on going into game-day with. No starts for Bromley and four games played based on injuries.
Round 4 -- RB Andre Williams
I think Williams will play in all 16 games this year, but not get any starts. I think he is the short-yardage back, goal line back, and fourth-quarter workhorse back this year, especially as the season wears on. Right now Williams is not super useful in the passing game because his catching is suspect. David Wilson, if I had to guess as of right now, doesn't play for the Giants this year. I'll say Williams gets 70 carries, five touchdowns, and 220 yards rushing.
Round 5 -- S Nat Berhe
Berhe is in a tough position because Cooper Taylor seems to be playing well according to most practice reports and he's a guy who might not even make the active roster. I think Berhe is battling Taylor for the last safety spot and Mark Herzlich for the last linebacker spot. I think if Behre can show that he can handle many of the responsibilities that Herzlich had on special teams then he makes the team, then the Giants go with one less linebacker. But I'll guess he makes the team and plays 16 games on special teams.
Round 5 -- LB Devon Kennard
Every year there is a player who makes waves in camp and then ends up making the team and getting a lot of playing time. Last year that player was Trumaine McBride. This year it seems to be Kennard. Every practice report has him making a big play and blowing somebody up. The Giants have not been afraid to start rookie linebackers (often because the linebacker corps has been very weak), and I think they will again this year. Spencer Paysinger is a nice player, but he's a great backup and an average at best starter. There could be something special about Kennard. He starts 11 games this year.
Round 6 -- CB Bennett Jackson
Jackson just hurt his ankle and will be out for awhile.
There you go -- rookie predictions sure to be wrong. I would expect much of the same from the Giants rookies as we have seen in the past, depending on whether or not Richburg wins a starting job. Beckham Jr. will play a lot (if he's healthy), but maybe not start every game. Bromley won't play at all. Jackson doesn't make the team. Berhe and Williams contribute on special teams. The big contributor, though, could end up being Kennard.