July 30, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Morning Practice)
by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany
Year number two with the Giants has begun for Tom Coughlin. Although Imperious Tom has probably changed very little, his PR has improved considerably. You can tell just by reading his press conference transcripts. The questions are friendlier and the Coach no longer gives cutting answers to dumb questions.
This year, the stories that will sell papers won’t be about the Coach’s petty rules or his bad relationship with his players. This year there is better stuff to write about than sock length and players being fined for showing up “on time” for meetings.
The media will focus on the improvements that Coughlin has made in personnel, Eli’s development as a team leader, on the influx of “name” free agent players like Burress and McKenzie (who were not scared off by Coughlin’s “task master” reputation), and how Tom is trying to avoid injuries by reducing the intensity of the training camp workouts.
What has caused this change the media’s perception of TC? In my opinion, what turned it around for Coughlin was his being able to “cure” Tiki Barber’s horrific fumbling problem. That got everyone’s attention. It got Coughlin respect around the League and from the press. More importantly, it earned Coughlin (and his methods) the players’ trust. Tiki held the rock they way Coughlin told him to. Tiki worked hard at it, and voila!: Tiki had a spectacular season even though he was on a 6-10 team. This year, when Coughlin suggests a change in football technique, the players are much more likely to accept that change without hesitation or question.
All right. Enough with the preamble; on to what happened at training camp:
I got to training camp early and spotted Giants PR Director, Pat Hanlon, on the field. I asked him if CB Corey Webster had been signed. He said, “Not yet.” My hunch is that Corey will be on the field this afternoon. Why? Because I think I nearly hit Webster or some other Giant player who was driving into camp at the same time I was. He was driving a White Toyota with New Jersey Plates and he clearly didn’t know where he was going. I pulled into the SUNY parking lot and he continued on towards the players’ parking area. I’m guessing it is Webster because the other players would already have been at camp and the coaches would know where they were going. We shall know if I’m right this afternoon.
Scary stuff: I don’t have much to add to the WR Plaxico Burress injury. He was running way down field for a pass and either tripped or collided with the defender. You could tell immediately that he was hurt because he did not get up for a minute. With binoculars I could see that he was grimacing. He eventually stood and walked a little bit.
At some point in the middle of practice, RT Kareem McKenzie came off the field and watched as LT Bob Whitfield took over for him with the first team. He did not seem to be in any pain. He just stood and watched the practice. He waddled off the field after the practice. With a guy that big, it is hard to know if that was his natural gait or if he was limping.
I did not see it, but I was told that SS Gibril Wilson hurt his ankle. Up until the injury, Wilson was a mile high, frisky and showing no after-effects of his “stinger.” He looked fit and a bit bigger. (Editor’s Note: Wilson was suffering from a cramp in his calf).
TE Visanthe Shiancoe seemed to tweak a knee, but it looked like he shook it off and continued to play.
Hopefully these injuries will prove to be minor.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a practice – a light breeze, sunny and 75 degrees. I found my favorite spot to watch – under a shady tree. As usual, the practice began with a 15 minute warm up for the whole team (except for the linemen who do their own thing almost out of sight of the fans). The players are in shells, helmets and shorts, rather than in full pads this weekend, so there won’t be much in the way of hitting and receiving should be easier.
The first drill of the day was a ball stripping drill in which most of the team participated. There were also some special teams drills.
The quarterbacks practiced fake hand-offs. Eli Manning is just brilliant at it. He looked poised and in control. He threw a bunch of accurate passes this morning. He is clearly the man.
First Impressions of new players:
MLB Antonio Pierce nearly picked off a QB Jesse Palmer pass intended for TE Visanthe Shiancoe. It was very impressive.
Third-round pick DE Justin Tuck looks powerful and athletic. As noted in his photos, he has a pointy head, but it is symmetrical. Fellow draft pick DE Eric Moore also looks well-built. Perhaps a bit chunkier.
DT Kendrick Allen is big enough to “go bear huntin’ with a buggy whip” and DT Damane Duckett is just as big. They are both powerfully built. They tower over DT Kendrick Clancy who appears to be the starter next to DT Fred Robbins. DT Ahmad Childress, who had the “asthma” attack yesterday, did not return.
FB Luke Lawton is as blond as TE Jeremy Shockey, but it looks like he will have a tough time unseating FB Jim Finn who ran well and caught a few passes.
RB Brandon Jacobs looks fast and powerful and has good balance. He looks huge compared to Tiki Barber. On one pass, Brandon showed a lot of concentration. The pass was behind him and he caught it in full stride with one hand. It remains to be seen how he will catch the ball when he has to get open. RB Derrick Ward also showed speed and running ability.
WR Plaxico Burress: He is very tall and very cool. Before his injury, he caught what was thrown to him, but I’ll have to see more.
WR Michael Jennings: Small and very fast and agile. Had a nice move to get free after he caught one pass.
QB Tim Hasselbeck: After watching a few throws I would say that he will be promoted from third team to second team. QB Jesse Palmer did not have a strong showing this morning. When he could find a receiver many of his passes were off or wobbly.
S Diamond Ferri: Short but strong and quick. He could be a running back.
QB Jared Lorenzen: He looked pretty good and moves pretty well for a big guy. I’d say he is down to about 260-265. He has a strong arm and connected on a few nice passes.
TE Chris Luzar and TE Wade Fletcher: He is a big, big raw-boned type player. He looks like he has plenty of speed to get down field. I don’t know if his legs are strong enough for good blocking. Fletcher looks more like a very large receiver. He is not quite as big or as muscular as Luzar. However, he did get down field to catch a pass.
G Lewis Kelly was playing LT with the second team (because Bob Whitfield was playing RT with the first team).
PK Jay Feely is a powerfully built guy who looks like he can run down field and make tackles, unlike the tiny kickers that have played for the Giants in past years. He was in a drill where he was kicking and the defenders were blocking the ball about three feet off his toe. PK David Kimball on the adjacent field was doing the same thing with other players.
He only made four punts, but P Jeff Feagles looks like he is in mid-season form.
Condition of previously injured players:
WLB Barrett Green looked fit and eager. Towards the end of practice he needed a coach to help him stretch his hamstrings. The guy is unbelievably flexible. SLB Carlos Emmons looks fine.
WR Tim Carter looks fast and agile. He caught a pass or two. WR Jamaar Taylor made a few great catches and can run fast, but he does not look like he is at full strength or at full speed yet. He looks like he may be playing with some pain.
LG Rich Seubert is playing with the second team. He looks fit. He does not limp and has lost the “spare tire” he had around his middle when I saw him last year. Apparently, OG/OC Wayne Lucier has gained the weight around his middle that Rich lost.
OL Greg Walker was wearing a very large brace on his leg (and except for WR Jamaar Taylor who had a very small brace just below the knee) was the only player who was wrapped. Everyone else was unencumbered. He was doing some snapping (in a drill where all four QBs receive snaps at the same time) along with OG/OC Jason Whittle and the centers: O’Hara, Lucier, and Tidwell-Neal. Unlike last year, LG Chris Snee did NOT participate in this snapping drill.
WR Willie Ponder made several excellent receptions and was very fast on an end-around, but he muffed a punt, as did WR Mark Jones. By way of excuse, I’ll go so far as to say that the sun might have been in their eyes.
Oh and by the way, WR Amani Toomer looks great. He caught a quick pass over the middle from his flanker position. TE Jeremy Shockey looks great. He had a bunch of catches all over the field. On one he slid (bad shoes) like he was going into second base, but recovered and caught the ball in mid-slide. He has a new and large tattoo on his arm. Shockey’s hair is now cut very short. Frankly, I liked it better long.
The Big Blue Wrecking Crew was out in force at the practice. There were about 45 of them attending the practice. They were all wearing BBWC t-shirts (gentle dig Eric). They very graciously invited me to their after-practice barbecue. Former linebacker great Harry Carson and his wife would be there as well. I was very tempted to go, but I had to decline so that I could go home and write this report. I have no doubt that the prospect of spending a few hours schmoozing with Harry Carson would have been overpowering for BB’56.