July 31, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Morning Practice)
by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany
The morning practice was in shells, helmets and shorts under dark skies that threatened rain. Many of the player were wearing long sleeves because of the coolish weather. Towards the second half of the practice the sun peeked out and the weather remained quite pleasant.
The only player absent from the morning practice was S Jack Brewer. I thought that he might have been cut to make room for CB Corey Webster, but the second round draft pick remains unsigned. Nevertheless, the defensive backfield unit remains strong even without Brewer or Webster. I really would not be surprised if one of the rookie players knocked a veteran DB off the squad.
One of the things that is different this year compared to prior years is that there are no mystery players on the field who are not on the roster. There are no players who do not have their names on their shirts. What this indicates to me is that this year the Giants do not have a revolving door for personnel where they are giving tryouts on a daily basis in order to replace guys on the squad who they know do not have NFL talent. My conclusion is that this year, even the “camp fodder” have a higher level of talent than in the past.
During the first half of the morning practice, the defensive backs and the special teams units practiced on the field that was right in front of the fans and VIPs. However, the more interesting drills of the linemen, receivers, and QBs, were on other fields that were 250 to 300 yards away. Even with binoculars it was almost impossible to tell what they were doing.
You may recall that former Giant DE Frankie Ferarra used to get into a lot of fights at camp. Well, most of those fights were during the one-on-one offensive versus defensive lineman drills. Those drills were a great indication of which offensive linemen could block and which defensive linemen could rush. Those drills are now hidden far away from the prying eyes of fans and reporters, alike. My conclusion is that Tom Coughlin does not want to tip his hand about anything, even on these opening days of camp.
None of the quarterbacks were sharp this morning. As one wag in the bleachers put it, “It looked like all of them were competing for the third string-job.” Eli Manning did not hit many passes until the very end of the practice, when he connected for three red zone touchdowns of the 15-yard variety. Don’t get too excited about Eli’s play. He is probably focusing on one specific aspect of his game and that would cause other parts of his play to suffer.
QB Jared Lorenzen did not look bad compared to anybody. Although the Hefty Lefty may be overweight, in my opinion, he moves in the pocket with more grace and agility than Kerry Collins did. That aspect of his game will probably improve with more work and less avoirdupois. Jared had a few nice throws including a wobbler that WR Brandon Smith caught on his knees. There was enough power on the throw that the wobbles did not matter.
Jesse Palmer, the second string QB, had another poor outing. He had a pass blocked by the big hand of big DT Fred Robbins. DT Kendrick Allen and DT Demane Duckett are also seeing some work in the starting defensive line. First round pick DT William Joseph was playing with the third string this morning. I am told that he is getting individual coaching.
In the 11-on-11 drills, Jesse dumped three passes off to TE Visanthe Shiancoe. These were not pretty throws or difficult catches. On each, Shank was standing, uncovered 5-7 yards down the field. In the red zone drill, on a play where RB Brandon Jacobs ran the ball up the middle, I heard a coach yelling, “Shank, where are you going?”
Compare Shiancoe’s play to 6’7″ TE Chris Luzar, who made several good looking catches including one on his knees, this morning. On one play Chris was in motion before the snap. He sprinted from the right side to the left side of the formation with the intention of turning up field at the snap. However, CB Curtis DeLoatch was waiting for him and would not let him past the line of scrimmage. The play had to go elsewhere.
That was not the only good play that Curtis made today. He broke up a red zone pass to WR Plaxico Burress by waiting until the last second, and when the ball touched Plax’s finger tips, he separated Plax from the ball. It was a sparkling pass defense. S Gibril Wilson also broke up a pass, but you could see that he was very angry with himself because he had committed pass interference. Plaxico also failed to catch a very deep pass on which he had clearly beaten both CBs William Peterson and Will Allen. The ball sailed between his outstretched hands like a ball through the goalposts.
Speaking of goalposts, RBs Mike Cloud and Derrick Ward, and WRs Willie Ponder and Mike Jennings, all took kick-offs from Jay Feely and David Kimball. Except for one low screamer that spun sideways like a helicopter and sailed five yards into the end zone, just about all the kicks had decent height and hang time, spun end over end they way they should, and came down between the 5- and 10-yard line. The key here is hang-time and placement.
All of the running backs have had their moments in camp. Part of the reason is that the team is not wearing pads, so no defender wants to touch them. On one running play, LB Joe Scott knocked RB Ryan Grant to the ground. A coach was all over Scott for that no-no. So far, I can say that Grant, Ward, and Jacobs are all pretty fast and this morning Ward and Jacobs both displayed nifty spin moves when running the ball. We’ll get a better idea of who can play next week when the team is in full pads.
Although Toomer has made a few good catches, TE Jeremy Shockey and WR Jamaar Taylor are the receiving stars so far. This morning Taylor made several athletic catches showing speed and good hands. Tim Carter, his rival for the third WR slot, made only one, I believe. Shockey on the other hand, made his catches the way I like to see them made. He got open, made the catch look simple, tucked the ball away, and ran down field with it.
A quick note on various reports you read from camp. Where you sit determines a lot about what you see. Yesterday and today I, and all the other fans, were located behind the endzone. For the most part, the offense had its back to us. This gave me a good view of the offense and the QB, but a poor view of the defensive alignment and personnel. Pat from Inside Football (although I did not see her) sat with the VIPs in the bleachers that are located at about the 50 yard-line. That gives Pat a very different view, and of course, she was quite a bit closer. Nevertheless, Pat’s view of what was happening on the opposite side of the field from her is obscured. As Max Bialystock says in the Broadway show The Producers, “I invented theater-in-the-square. Nobody had a good seat!”
As long as I’m on the subject of seating, I will once again make my annual tirade about fan accommodations. If anything, they are even worse than last year because of the construction going on at SUNY-Albany. If the practice is on one of the five practice fields (as opposed to the stadium) there are no toilets, no water or refreshments, no shelter from the rain, very few shady places, and very few seats. If you are a woman attending training camp, I recommend not wearing a skirt or white pants. You may be sitting on sandy grass. Wear jeans and sneakers because you will do a lot of walking and standing.
I can’t blame the Giants about the fan accommodations. The fans are a nuisance and I’m pretty sure that if nobody attended the practices, the Giants would be secretly pleased. The Giants did change one thing: they added large signs advertising Toyota and other products at various places around the fields.
At least the Giants recognize the revenue potential of the fans. The City of Albany is another story. If the City of Albany and Mayor Jennings arranged for (paid for) better fan accommodations, specifically, more and better seating, you could triple attendance at every practice. The increase in outside visitors would significantly boost Albany’s economy.