by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor UAGiant
Training camp began under dark and dreary skies for 2007, but that didn’t keep the team off the practice fields to start their annual return to the University at Albany. Coach Coughlin was greeted to a round of applause as he made his entrance to the field this morning. He waved to the fans and seemed to be in high spirits, joking that he wishes the weather would be a bit more cooperative. The team entered as two large groups, as the receivers and linemen made a late entrance to the field.
From the get-go, a few things were obvious. First and foremost, Michael Strahan was absent from the field. Though it should come as no surprise, Strahan is continuing his holdout. Despite rumors that would have you think otherwise, Mathias Kiwanuka remains a starting linebacker with that unit. Though little can be concluded from the first practice of the season, he was used very close to the line and seemed to blitz quite frequently. He seems massive amongst the linebacker group, as he’s tall with an incredible wingspan.
In Strahan’s place, however, is William Joseph. He completed a unit consisting of himself, Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, and Osi Umenyiora. The linebacker group was Kiwanuka, Kawika Mitchell, and Antonio Pierce. The secondary was shuffled quite frequently, but Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters seemed to stand in with the first unit the most often. The safeties were also shuffled frequently, but it seemed James Butler and Gibril Wilson were on the field most often.
The other point of interest throughout the offseason was in regards to the left side of the offensive line. At least from today’s camp, it appears David Diehl and Rich Seubert will hold down the ever-important left side of the line, with the rest of the line remaining unchanged from last year. Guy Whimper did run with the second team at the tackle position, with David Diehl playing at his former guard spot.
Onto the specifics of the session.
Quarterbacks: While it’s much too early to read into anything and knowing full-well that his mechanics are undergoing “improvements”, Eli Manning had a performance most would peg as below expectations. In particular, he had a few plays that were rather inexcusable for a player entering his fourth season. One that really stands out occurred when it appeared that the play broke down and he stood in the pocket, almost lost, for much too long and then lobbed up a sloppy pass. However, Eli did seem to connect nicely on a few passes with his receivers and looked sharp at times. The inconsistency, however, is still a question mark that hangs over him.
On the other hand, Jared Lorenzen had a very strong performance today, making smart decisions and delivering beautiful passes. One in particular was delivered to a breaking TE Kevin Boss, which hit him in stride and allowed him to turn it up field for what would have been a nice gain.
Anthony Wright did not see a lot of action, but was rather inconsistent in his performance, as well. Some passes sailed on him, others hit their mark.
Tim Hasselbeck performed rather poorly today. He was inaccurate and displayed his lack of arm strength in a few spots. He looks like the odd man out in this group.
Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer was on the field for his one-a-day practice and, while not up to speed, showed encouraging signs. In particular he made a beautiful leaping catch. His speed seems to be returning, but I’d imagine he may have taken into consideration the field conditions today before going full speed. Plaxico Burress seemed to do what you’d expect him to as the #1 receiver, but he did have trouble bringing in one pass from Eli which was bobbled and intercepted. Discouraging to see that even in training camp.
The two receivers that gained a lot of attention throughout the offseason had strong showings today. Sinorice Moss had a pretty brilliant morning session, displaying speed and catching a few passes in tight spaces. It’s encouraging seeing him on the field after last offseason, which seemed full of “maybe tomorrow”. Steve Smith showed why he was the #2 selection in the draft, running crisp routes and displaying good hands. He did have one minor issue with a pass, but seemed pretty comfortable in his first camp. Both were used in end-arounds and both seem to have great speed.
Other receivers also demonstrated things to talk about. Brandon London had a brilliant, acrobatic catch along the sidelines and was consistent throughout. As one person quipped in the crowd, “Its nice seeing #82 finally catch something.” Michael Jennings seemed to perform well with Lorenzen, but struggled on a few from Manning.
Running Backs: Another unit that’s garnered a lot of attention since the retirement of Tiki Barber, a lot of promise was shown today. The obvious first person to look at is Brandon Jacobs. Already a physical specimen, he seems to have worked out this offseason and is in even better shape than last season. It seems he’s been working on staying low, as well. His speed is incredible for someone his size and it’s really something to watch him open up when he’s at the second level.
Reuben Droughns and Derrick Ward both seemed solid. Nothing really spectacular about their days, but Ward seems to be running close to full speed.
Ahmad Bradshaw opened a few eyes, as one of his best runs was on a cut back that he turned into a big gain based on his speed and elusiveness. I don’t want to say he reminded me of Tiki Barber, as that’d be a stretch, but he has Tiki-esque moves that will likely secure him a spot on this team.
Tight Ends: One of the more humorous things to occur today was listening to the crowd react to a pass caught by a tight end and turned into a big gain. The initial reaction was a number of “Shockey!” cheers. The only problem was, the player was wearing #89. Kevin Boss is a very tall and well built player who showed good speed for someone his size and the ability to catch and run with the ball. The one play in particular saw him get separation from his defender and turn up field for what would have been a great play.
Shockey, however, remains a strong factor for Eli’s performance, as a lot of his passes this morning were in his direction. Other tight ends were in today, but none really made a strong mark.
Special Teams: The returners for the morning were Jennings, Moss, Ross, and Bradshaw. No one seemed to have issues in regards to returning.
Of important note is the fact that Jeff Feagles was missing in action. No one really seemed to have an idea where he could be, but he was not on the field anywhere. Cory Ohnesorge was taking over his duties for the day. He has a good leg and can boom them, but it seems as if all his kicks are extremely returnable. Hard to say if it was the specific drill or his style.
Kickers were Lawrence Tynes and Josh Huston. Neither attempted any kicks or did much of note besides Huston taking long snaps from Grey Ruegamer.