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August 22, 2006 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Evening Practice)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany

The Giants were in full pads and the entire team was enthusiastic throughout the practice. They were whooping it up. TE Jeremy Shockey was having fun with the fans who go crazy whenever he does anything. Even Coach Coughlin was all smiles, yes smiles, as he chatted and joked with P Jeff Feagles, and linebackers Carlos Emmons and Antonio Pierce while they were lying on the ground doing warm-up calisthenics. I imagine that the prospect of leaving Albany tomorrow afternoon has everyone in a good mood.

It was good to see LB LaVar Arrington, FS Will Demps, and CB Sam Madison dressed and playing. On one pass completion by QB Rob Johnson to TE Wade Fletcher, LaVar would have planted Johnson a full second before he got the pass off. Will Demps nearly intercepted a Rob Johnson pass in the 7-on-7 drill, but could not hang on. On a sideline pass to WR Plaxico Burress, Plaxico tipped the ball up and Madison came down with it for an interception. Rob Johnson threw a pass for WR Willie Ponder and CB Curtis Deloatch was in perfect position to knock it away. He missed. Ponder caught it. Touchown!

SS Gibril Wilson and WR Triandos Luke were by themselves on an adjacent field and they practiced close coverage at the line of scrimmage. Triandos would try to get past Gibril without being touched. It looked more theoretical than physical, but that is good too.

The Giants did some kick off practice including a few razzle-dazzle plays which may never be used. They also practiced downing punts at the goal line, with Ponder and Deloatch doing the downing.

At the end of practice OG Matt Lentz and OT Na’Shan Goddard sprinted across the width of the field and back. Matt is much faster and beat Na’Shan by 15 yards or more. Earlier in the 11-on-11s, Matt jumped offsides.

In the one-on-one linemen drill, OG Matt Lentz and DT Sir Henry Anderson started throwing punches. I’d say about five by each. No harm done. They would have needed baseball bats to injure each other. Defensive tackles Fred Robbins and William Joseph are still starting, however DT Barry Cofield is getting a lot of playing time next to each of them. DT Jonas Seawright is also paired up with William Joseph. Jonas did a pretty good job of pushing OC Grey Ruegamer backwards in the one-on-one lineman drills. In that same drill, RT Kareem McKenzie held his own against DE Michael Strahan, while DE Osi Umenyiora scooted around OT Bob Whitfield. Joseph “swam” past LG Dave Diehl. RG Chris Snee held out Robbins. Cofield got past Ruegamer once, but not the second time.

Not much looked wrong with QB Tim Hasselbeck’s arm as he connected on a deep sideline pass to 6’4″ WR Anthony Mix over 5’8″ CB Kevin Dockery. The next three passes were caught by 6’3″ Amani Toomer (2) and 6’5″ Plaxico Burress, all over Dockery. In fact Plaxico’s catch was a come-backer and he reached back over Dockery’s head to catch the ball. It was an embarrassing series for Kevin. Plaxico also victimized CB Vontez Duff. By the time Eli’s pass reached him, he had beaten Vontez by about 15 yeards. Hasselbeck also had a deep pass to WR WR Michael Jennings, who beat S James Butler.

Deloatch and Frank Walker appear to be the second team cornerbacks.

In the goal line drill, Rob Johnson hit Wade Fletcher and Eli Manning found Jeremy Shockey for touchdowns from about the 20 yard-line.

On a pass caught by Tim Carter, he juked and twisted, and ran about 35 yards downfield. Nevertheless, Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora were downfield with him. They are fast. It was impressive. Speaking of speed, first round pick DE Mathias Kiwanuka was playing next to the linebackers rather than on the line. At the snap he would rush the passer. Third-round pick LB Gerris Wilkinson batted away a pass in the 11-on-11s.

A colleague of mine was at training camp yesterday (Monday afternoon). He had VIP seating and attended a group presentation given by Vice President of Communications, Pat Hanlon. He said that Pat gave a fascinating presentation. It is appropriate for me to add that Pat, a long-time member of the Giants organization, is a highly competent and thoroughly decent individual whom the Giants are lucky to have.

It is hard to predict how a rookie will play during the regular season because he will have to play against experienced starters and because opponents will have had a chance to study films for weaknesses in his play. However, the rookies have done nothing to discourage my optimism. Here are my thumbnail impressions of what I have seen in training camp this summer.

The Rookies:

First-Rounder DE Mathias Kiwanuka: He will be a star in the NFL. He has it all: size, speed, strength, talent for getting into the backfield. He appears to be disciplined and a quick study and is lacking only in experience (which is a significant lack). I think that he is ahead of where DE Justin Tuck was last year and way ahead of where DE Osi Umenyiora was as a rookie. As I said about Corey Webster last year, this guy has “starter” written all over him.

Second-Rounder WR Sinorice Moss: He has the potential to fill the Giants’ need for a quick slot receiver. We’ll have to wait and see how he pans out after his quad injury heals.

Third-Rounder LB Gerris Wilkinson: In my opinion LB is the hardest position on defense to play well. First, you need large size to handle the blocks of linemen. Next, you need the speed and strength to tackle running backs and cover receivers. Next, you need the intelligence to learn and appreciate what everyone else on the field is doing so that you can quickly diagnose any given play and get to the ball carrier. This type of learning only comes from experience so it has to take a while to get up to speed.

Wilkinson has the size, speed, and athleticism to be a good player. He seems to be quick learner in that he makes plays where he gets to the ball carrier quickly. Only time will tell. He played the LB position exclusively in college, so he should be a quicker study and more polished than Reggie Torbor (Editor’s Note: Wilkinson also played defensive end in college). Reggie played defensive end in his final year at college. For all his physical ability, Reggie is still a journeyman at best. Torbor’s body with Nick Griesen’s brain would be a great combination.

I think that this year Wilkinson can do more than just play on special teams. If he gets some playing time as a reserve player, it would put him in a good position to be a big contributor next year. I do not see him as a starter this year unless there are serious injuries.

Fourth-Rounder DT Barry Cofield: He may have a chance to get a lot of playing time this year. He seems to have the size and strength necessary to contribute. Why would Cofield, a rookie, get the nod over veterans like Damane Duckett, Adrian Awasom (who can play tackle), Jonas Seawright, and other reserves who have more experience? My guess is speed. I think that Barry is a lot faster than the other DTs.

Former Head Coach Jim Fassel used to make the team do sprints after practice. When Cornelius Griffin was a rookie, he stood out because he was easily the fastest of the linemen during the sprints. Well those days are gone. Coach Coughlin does not have the team do wind sprints, so it is difficult for me to evaluate a player’s speed. So I’m guessing about Cofield’s speed. His bio says he’s over 300 pounds and under 5 seconds for the 40. I think that is an excellent size/speed ratio. If he is a smart player and can learn the techniques and avoid being trapped, he could get worked into the defensive rotation this year.

Fourth-Rounder OT Guy Whimper: Here is a guy with the physical size and athleticism to be a good offensive tackle. He has potential, but he is raw and will need time to develop. It is unlikely that Guy will contribute much this year. Like Cofield, Whimper is over 300 pounds and under 5 seconds for the 40 – an excellent size/speed ratio. Fourth round picks generally make the squad and it is likely that Whimper will stick. One must still consider the cost. An extra defensive back or linebacker who can contribute this year (because of injuries at that position) may be worth more to Tom Coughlin than a lineman who has a chance to be very good two or three years from now.

Fifth and Seventh Rounders S/CB Charlie Peprah and CB Gerrick McPhearson: Gerrick is impressively fast and powerfully built. There is a lot of competition in the defensive backfield and not much room because of the acquisition of veteran defensive backs Sam Madison, Will Demps, and R.W. McQuarters. Neither Charlie nor Gerrick have really stood out in camp nor have they looked bad either. If they don’t impress during the next two preseason games they are probably gone.

The Rest of the Team:

QB Eli Manning: I do not expect Eli to scramble out of the pocket, break tackles and run 20 yards into the end zone when all of his receivers are covered. Nor do I expect Eli to run for a first down, or scramble to buy time and then find an open receiver 35 yards downfield. When his receivers are covered, I Expect Eli to run for the sidelines or throw it away.

Eli is a drop-back QB. He is elusive in the pocket and he can make the first tackler miss. He can sprint out to his right and find a safety valve receiver for a first down (something former QB Kerry Collins could never do). However, I don’t expect this more than once a game. Eli’s arm is strong enough for duty in the windy Meadowlands, but I don’t expect him to throw 40 yard bombs in every game. Eli is an adept ball handler so I expect nifty fake hand-offs and reverses.

For the last two years I have been saying that Eli has the “makings of greatness.” If the rest of the offense remains healthy, this will be the year that Eli proves it. Some quarterbacks, can carry a team to victory on their backs. That is not Eli’s way. Eli WILL be great quarterback because he can carry the Giants to victory with his mind rather than his back.

Eli is smart and he is thoroughly prepared. His strength lies in his ability to analyze a situation quickly, make good decisions, and execute under pressure. He is brave and mentally tough. He will not panic or lose his poise when the going gets rough. The rest of the offensive players will come rely on his coolness under pressure and his coolness will become their coolness. I don’t know if Eli and the Giants will go to the Super Bowl this year, but if they do, I guarantee you that you won’t see Eli vomiting or fainting in the huddle if the Giants fall behind.

The Other Quarterbacks: Tim Hasselbeck is the back up. Consider this – if a starting QB is forced to leave the game, it is often because the offensive line cannot protect him. Therefore, the backup QB should be very mobile, because most likely the offensive line will not be able to protect him either. Furthermore, the defense will most likely be blitzing on every play. The knock against Tim is that he has a “weak” arm. Even if that were true, it is unlikely that if and when Tim gets into a game, the offensive line will give him enough time to drop back and throw the ball 40-yards downfield. More likely, he’ll be running for his life on every play.

I think that Tim’s accuracy has improved from last year and that he has good touch on his passes. If circumstances require him to come into a game, avoid the rush, and float the ball over the head of a LB into the hands of Shockey or Tiki, I think that Hasselbeck can do that. I doubt that either Rob Johnson or Jared Lorenzen could do that. I am not sold on either Johnson or Lorenzen.

Rob Johnson is rusty. He holds the ball too long. At the moment, his arm is clearly no stronger than Hasselbeck’s. Can he shake the rust off and make a comeback? Your guess is as good as mine. Rob has courage, but I would not be optimistic about him entering a game in a blitzing situation.

Jared Lorenzen has a strong arm and shows a lot of composure for a young QB. If the offensive line can’t protect Eli, they won’t be able to protect Jared. He will have to develop a quicker release in situations where there is a big rush.

OC/OG Grey Rugamer: A great pick-up as a reserve. He does a workmanlike job at guard and center. It does not look like the Giants can keep more than nine offensive linemen. They would be tackles Petigout, McKenzie, Whitfield, and Whimper; guards Snee, Diehl, and Seubert; and centers O’Hara and Ruegamer.

TE Wade Fletcher: He showed flashes in camp last year. This year he has been much more consistent. He has caught a lot of passes and has dropped very few. He’s athletic and might be able to block a little. He has had a much better camp than either Boo Williams or Darcy Johnson.

Linebackers Nick McNeil and Tyson Smith: If there were no health issues for LaVar Arrington, Carlos Emmons, and Chase Blackburn, neither Smith nor McNeil would have gotten so much playing time or attention in training camp. They got a chance to play and they played very well. This is pure speculation on my part, but Coach Coughlin might want to add an extra player to the linebacking squad as insurance against an injury to a starter. Smith and McNeil are having good camps with McNeil having the edge. Without injury concerns about Emmons and Arrington, they would have no chance to make the squad. If Nick or Tyson makes some plays in the remaining two preseason games, who knows?

CB Sam Madison: I’m told by SOTI, who should know, that he is the smartest of the defensive backs. He is most likely the starter until someone proves better. Corey Webster is the other starter and he appears to be doing well in coverage in camp.

CB R.W. McQuarters: Of all the DBs, he has impressed me the most. He is fast and an excellent return man. He’s made numerous plays and a few interceptions during training camp.

FS Will Demps: He has not practiced much because of his knee injury. He has the size and strength to be an effective safety and is guaranteed to make the squad. We’ll have to wait and hope that he fully recovers and plays well.

CB Frank Walker: Frank is getting playing time. Last year I said that he had all of the physical tools, but that he was undisciplined. Frank was benched much of last season. Perhaps Frank has been told to “shape up or ship out” by the coaches and he is working hard this year to avoid foolish mistakes and unnecessary penalties. If Walker can straighten himself out, he could challenge for a starting spot. If Walker reverts to his former self, he could be among the first cuts. We’ll see.

CB Curtis Deloatch: He did not set the world on fire with his coverage last season. Nevertheless, for the likes of E.J. Underwood or Kevin Dockery, the current cornerbacks du jour, to displace Curtis on the roster, they will have to make some plays when it counts – during a preseason game.

Wide receivers Anthony Mix and Michael Jennings. I think that both of them have futures in the NFL, but I don’t know if the Giants have room for them on the squad. Mix has a rare combination of size 6’4″, 235, speed and athleticism. If he can get open, he is pretty sure-handed. He would be a devastating downfield blocker. Michael Jennings is listed at 5’11″. He is fast and has decent hands. He is also a competent kick returner which makes him additionally valuable. My guess is that they will wind up on the taxi squad.

DE Michael Strahan: Still a stud.

DE Osi Umenyiora: Pro Bowler and still improving

DE Justin Tuck: Still getting better and more versatile

RB Tiki Barber: He still looks great.

TE Jeremy Shockey: Ditto.

TE Visanthe Shiancoe: It looks like this year Shank may be able to contribute more as a receiver. He looks more comfortable catching the ball this year. Last year he looked very awkward catching the ball.

RB Brandon Jacobs: He should be even better this year, but it will still be tough for him to get on the field because Barber is the preferred (better) back.

Returner Chad Morton: I think that he is faster than last year, but I don’t think he will be very effective as a running back at only 180 pounds. RB Derrick Ward’s return from an ankle injury is uncertain. It leaves the Giants with only two reliable tailbacks, Tiki and Brandon Jacobs.

RB Mike Jemison: He is a big strong runner with decent speed. He’s not terribly elusive, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield and he might make the squad if Ward is put on Injured Reserve. It is more likely that Ward will be back in a few weeks and that Jemison will be on the taxi squad.

Wide receivers Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress: They should be as good as last year and can be even more productive if Eli has a good year. Amani should be even better having had a year to adjust to his new position at flanker.

WR Tim Carter: Tim has been healthy and very impressive in camp. He is very fast and very muscular. Last year I thought that he was an awkward receiver. This year I think that he is using better technique to catch the ball. He can give the Giants an added scoring dimension. Sinorice Moss’s quad injury gave Carter a chance to shine and he took full advantage of it. If Carter plays well during the season, it might keep Moss inactive much of the time. I don’t think that Carter is a full 6′ tall, but he is still a lot taller than Moss and just as fast.

P Jeff Feagles: He is as good a punter as I have ever seen. He is rehabbing his knee, but he is still having a great camp. The Giants should do everything they can to prevent him from retiring next year.

I am concerned about the health of the Giants defense. Four of the 11 starters have not played regularly because of injury. Carlos Emmons has no date set for when he can play. Sam Madison and Will Demps are limited and rehabbing injuries. LaVar Arrington could either be a great player for us or of little help. However, LaVar is a special case. We knew from the beginning that he was a gamble because of his injuries, but we decided to take that chance. If LaVar had no injuries, he’d probably still be a Redskin.

The problem is that the injury to Emmons and Arrington prevents any significant practice or cohesion of the linebacking unit. It might also require the Giants to keep an extra player at linebacker because of the added likelihood that Emmons, Arrington, or both will miss a significant number of games. Keeping an extra linebacker takes away a player from the defensive backs, who also have their share of injuries to starters or from the defensive line where Coughlin would probably like to keep nine bodies or perhaps even 10 defensive linemen, as we had at the start of last season.

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