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James Franklin: Saquon will have 'huge' year; Giants get 'culture driver' in Cam Brown

FRANKLIN-SAQUON-BROWN

SAM? WILL? MIKE? You can just call him CAM.

Cam Brown, the Giants' rookie sixth-round pick, played every linebacker position – strongside, weakside and middle – during his career at Penn State. James Franklin, who coached him for 51 games with the Nittany Lions, said Penn State was able to utilize Brown in a variety of roles because he is "smart" and "unusually long."

At the NFL Scouting Combine in February, Brown measured at 6-foot-5 and 233 pounds with a wingspan of 78 7/8 inches.

"It's interesting because the reason coaches like speed and the reason coaches like length is, you know you talk about the football field, the width of it is 53 1/3 (yards), what you try to do is you're trying to reduce space," Franklin said on “Big Blue Kickoff Live” on Giants.com. "You're trying to take away space, and you can do that with your speed and athleticism, and you can do that with size. When you get a guy that has a little bit of both, then obviously it makes those throwing lanes for the quarterback more difficult.

"It makes your ability to make tackles and have a bigger tackle radius no different than a receiver and his catch radius. Length is important because it takes away space from an offense. Now, when you take the combination of good speed, length and intelligence, because intelligence is the other thing. Intelligence allows you to play fast. You can be the fastest guy in the 40, but if you can't process information quickly, you have a difficulty playing fast and again, taking away space. I think that is what's attractive to the coaches of the Giants about Cam, one of his unique qualities."

Indeed it was.

Speaking after the draft, coach Joe Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman raved about his length. But that wasn't the only reason the Giants took him as they bolstered their defense with seven picks on that side of the ball.

"He's also a guy that when you talk to other guys on Penn State and you hit them with who the leader on the defense is, without hesitation, they all said Cam Brown," Judge said. "That stuck out to us. He's been an alpha dog in the locker room and that brings the attitude we really look for on the field."

No disagreement from Franklin.

"Well, he's a culture driver," Franklin said. "We talk about that all the time. He's a guy that is going to have meetings with the coaches then be able to take that information down into the locker room. He plays aggressive, he plays violent, he throws his body around. Yeah, I think he's what coaches are looking for. Everything I know about Coach Judge and everything I know about the organization that he came from, he's going to align with that. He understands this is about production, it's about doing your job. It's not about all the hype, it's not about the things you say in the media, it's not about any of those things. It's about doing your job and being a high-production, low-maintenance guy."

Much of the intel gathered on Brown came from Giants defensive line coach Sean Spencer, who is now a member of Judge's staff. Spencer, known affectionately as Coach Chaos, served as the Nittany Lions' defensive line coach during Brown's four seasons in the program.

So what gives with the nickname?

"Well, he's a little bit of a psychopath in a positive way," Franklin said of Spencer. "He's all over the place, he's full of energy. His mind is going in 1,000 different directions, his body is as well. He coaches with passion, he coaches with enthusiasm. This is something that someone said a long time ago – 'trained in the art of chaos' – which is what he talks about all the time. It's just kind of stuck with him. Same thing, he calls his players the wild dogs and shows them crazy videos of wild dogs in Africa hunting animals. He looks for as many different ways to motivate, connect, and have fun with his players as anybody I've been around."

Franklin added that Spencer is one of his best friends, and while it was sad to see him go, he was happy the Connecticut native is closer to home.

"This was a job that made sense for him," Franklin said. "He had other opportunities. He's had opportunities in the NFL the last couple of years and turned them down. Sean has been with me since my first day as a head coach. He's been with me for nine years. We're going to miss him. Now, I will tell you this. I played against Sean in college (in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference where Franklin played quarterback at East Stroudsburg, and Spencer was listed as a safety at Clarion University). For you to think and for him to tell people he played as a safety is not accurate. He was a safety in the media guide, but Sean was making tackles at the line of scrimmage. Play-action killed Sean because he tried to make every tackle. I don't know if he ever covered anybody.

"We played against each other in college and have known each other for a long time. You look, a lot of NFL and college coaches, a lot of us are coaching positions we didn't play. There are a bunch of NFL coaches that never played college football before. Sean is a guy that had an opportunity, he coached offense, he coached defense, he coached a bunch of different positions. He had an opportunity at one point to start coaching the line and realized that he could make a heck of a career out of being one of the best d-line coaches in the country and has really embraced that and stuck with that, and has been phenomenal. Sean is a guy that understands schemes and techniques are critical, we get that, but it's also about morale. It's about relationships, it's about connecting with people. You guys are going to love Sean. He's fun to be around, he's fun at practice, guys are going to love him. He enjoys himself, he doesn't take himself too seriously. He's great in the community. You guys are really going to enjoy your time with Sean Spencer. He's a phenomenal human being, a great friend of mine. I'm going to miss him and I couldn't be more happy for him and his family."

The Penn State connections don't end there.

Running back Saquon Barkley finished his career as the program's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, and all-purpose yards. He went on to become the first player in Giants history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons and the first with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since Brandon Jacobs in 2007-08.

"Nothing surprises me with that guy," Franklin said. "He's a mutant. That guy can do whatever he wants to do. I'm not surprised at all. He just continues to do great things. He was actually on our team conference call (last month). We had a team meeting … and he came on our team meeting and just once again, did a phenomenal job. We have a couple new staff members and a couple freshman football players, and they were just blown away by him. He obviously continues to do a great job in those types of settings, talking about the best programs that he's been around, the best teams he's been around, the most successful individuals he's been around, what makes them special, what are the common denominators. He was awesome.

"He continues to be someone we're so proud of and always will be. I think Saquon is going to have a huge year for you guys this year. I was really happy watching the draft, I saw you guys picked up an offensive lineman and some guys, so that's going to help your quarterback, that's going to help Saquon and it's going to help the whole team and the whole organization."

View photos of the Giants' 90-man roster as it currently stands.

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