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‘Valentine’s Views:’ Thoughts on Alex Tanney, Alonzo Russell, more

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Here are some things I think about the Giants with a new season dawning

NFL Pre-Season: New York Giants Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium
Alonzo Russell (84)
Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

As the New York Giants get set to embark upon another season, it’s time to offer up a Week 1 edition of ‘Valentine’s Views.’ I have to start with some thoughts on the over the top reactions to one player who is on the 53-man roster, and one who isn’t.

Let’s talk about Alex Tanney

So much vitriol spewed over a No. 3 quarterback. Pretty amazing, to be honest. Especially when the guy he beat out for a roster spot was a fourth-round pick out of an FCS school. Not to mention that should a No. 3 quarterback for the Giants see the field in 2019, they’re in trouble, anyway.

Many thought the Giants might keep only two quarterbacks. Since the spring I predicted they would keep three. Pat Shurmur has said repeatedly that he likes keeping as many quarterbacks as possible, so three was always probably. Shurmur said Monday that the Giants chose the veteran Tanney because he “adds to the room.”

There are, in my view, some layers to those four words.

In my view, you can at least partially translate those words to mean “he helps Daniel Jones.” Whenever he plays, Jones is the most important piece of the Giants’ future on the current roster. Doing right by his development is thus the most important job the Giants’ organization currently has.

Left unsaid in Shurmur’s words, unless you read between the lines, is what Lauletta perhaps did not add to the room. Giants’ fans remember his reckless driving arrest last October, born out of desperation to make up for tardiness. Perhaps, and I’m speculating here, that wasn’t the only time Lauletta gave the Giants reason to be concerned.

There is so much that goes on behind the scenes, away from the field in meeting rooms, hotel rooms, practices away from the prying eyes of the media, on airplanes. We will never really know, but more went into that decision than what fans saw on TV in preseason games.

Now, let’s talk about Alonzo Russell

The Giants initially kept Alonzo Russell on the 53-man roster, then dropped him when they claimed Cody Core from the Cincinnati Bengals. As you know, fans have been outraged after watching Russell make a couple of hustle plays and catch a game-winning touchdown pass in the preseason.

Here are a couple of things I tweeted.

The second tweet is the bottom line. Core is a better player, and the Giants got better by adding him and dropping Russell.

While Russell has been spending the past three season on the practice squads of the Bengals, Arizona Cardinals and Giants, Core has been a productive player on the Bengals’ 53-man roster.

Russell is, unfortunately, really a guy who just isn’t quite good enough. He had five catches in the preseason finale, but it took him 15 targets and there were a couple of drops. Yes, he appeared to have figured out finally that special teams were important. Core, though, has been a quality special teams player for a couple of seasons now.

It is easy, and understandable, that fans get attached to players in preseason games. Remember, though, these guys are generally doing what they do against players who are also not going to be in the league. Remember Corey Washington? Adewale Ojomo? Preseason superstars who ended up doing nothing.

The Giants know Core can contribute. He’s been doing it for years. Signing him improved the roster. Yes, it showed once again that the NFL is a hard business. The Giants, though, feel like they got better.

That is what they are supposed to do. Try to get better.

Ping-pong?

Reporters had access to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center locker room for the first time this season on Monday. I was not there on Monday, but those who were discovered a ping-pong table in the center of the oval-shaped room.

It’s really just another sign that the personality of this team is different than its recent predecessors.

Sterling Shepard said Monday that “without a doubt” this Giants team is closer as a group than it was a year ago.

“I think that’s the thing that we wanted to accomplish over the offseason, is getting guys with great character. You look around the locker room and we’ve just got a group of great guys at the end of the day,” Shepard said. “You know that if you’ve been in a locker room before, you can feel when a team is very close. Like I said, I can’t be too specific with it, but it’s just a feeling, and it feels great.”

Captain Saquon

Becoming a team captain in just your second season is quite an honor for any NFL player. With Saquon Barkley, who has carried himself like a leader since Day 1, it was a role you could see coming from a mile away.

Barkley is easily the Giants’ biggest star. Yet, he is also a guy who is invested in his team and in doing things right. The ping-pong table was reportedly his idea. Also, did you notice how much Barkley reveled in teammates’ success during the preseason.

“Star player. Guys naturally gravitate toward him because he’s a great leader, carries himself on and off the field and obviously the way he plays he’s doing something right,” center Jon Halapio told me during the preseason. “So you want to follow him.”

Yes, his teammates obviously do.

Moving to Miami

Three players who were with the Giants in the preseason — long-snapper Taybor Pepper, outside linebacker Avery Moss and defensive tackle John Jenkins — ended up on the Miami Dolphins’ 53-man roster. I’m particularly glad Pepper and Moss are getting opportunities to really start their NFL careers.

Pepper is a guy who has been trying to stick in the league for three years now, and finally gets a real chance. Moss, a 2017 fifth-round pick, could never quite to enough to earn a role with the Giants. He has some ability. Here’s to hoping he takes advantage of his chance.