by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany
This morning was a perfect day to watch football practice Ð mild, sunny, and breezy. The Giants were in shorts and shells. For the second day in a row, P Jeff Feagles was absent from the morning session, however there was no punting. Instead, there were plenty of kickoffs. Most of them by Lawrence Tynes and none of them crossed the goal line. Many were around the ten yard line. They were not line drives, but they did not have a lot of hang time either.
Josh Huston did better and got many of his kicks past the goal line. Nobody returned more kicks than RB Reuben Droughns. Reuben made a nice cut-back on a handoff during the 11-on-11s, but you have to wonder if this 8-year veteran RB has enough speed, moves, etc., to run back kicks. Time will tell.
WR Sinorice Moss and CBs Aaron Ross and Gerrick McPhearson also returned the kicks. McPhearson, who was playing with the second team CBs today, is easily the fastest of the group. Derrick Ward also returned a kick, but I think the Giants already know what he can do.
WRs Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress were not dressed, nor was CB Corey Webster. Most likely they will play this afternoon. With Webster out, CBs R.W. McQuarters and Sam Madison were the starting cornerbacks. CB Kevin Dockery was back and seems okay after hitting his head yesterday. Mathias Kiwanuka and William Joseph continue to play first string Sam LB and LDE respectively and safeties James Butler and Gibril Wilson are the starters.
Kiwanuka was victimized on a few long passes this morning. The first was an Eli Manning pass to TE Jeremy Shockey that went right over Kiwi’s head about 25 yards down field. Had he raised his arms, he could have knocked it away. Hopefully, he will learn when to turn to look for the ball. The second was a deep pass from QB Jared Lorenzen to TE Darcy Johnson. It was a good catch. Johnson and Kiwi were 40 yards down field with no DB help for Kiwi. Nevertheless, I have not noticed any coaches re-positioning Kiwi or tell him what he has been doing wrong, so I guess this is just part of the learning process.
There was a flock of Canadian geese on the rolling field adjacent to the practice field. They calmly sat and pecked at the grass as the Giants practiced just over the fence. Perhaps they were wondering if Coach Coughlin will get all of his ducks in a row. A good sign of that was the significant improvement of today’s quarterbacking. Eli Manning was much sharper today than yesterday, although on one play in the 11-on-11s he could not find a receiver so he actually ran down the field with the ball, to the derisive shouts of the defensive team. The other quarterbacks including Tim Hasselbeck were also sharper. By that, I mean more consistent and accurate. Hasselbeck is still far behind the others, but he was not horrible like yesterday.
There were some interesting drills this morning. Many of the footballs had their ends painted white and they were used for various drills. I don’t really know why. The OL practiced a long distance away using what look like medicine balls about the size of beach balls. A player would stand 4 or 5 feet from another and they would sort of bat the ball back and forth to each other volleyball fashion, but at chest height. It looked like a useful drill for strength and coordination. The OL also practiced pulling. It was interesting to watch a center snap the ball and then pull.
A new wrinkle is “target football” for the quarterbacks. There are stationary targets Ð nets that have pouches in them. The pouches are about 30 inches square. The QBs roll out and try to get the ball in the pouches from about 20 yards away. All of the QBs were able to get a few passes into the pockets to the oohs and aahs of the fans. I don’t know how useful this drill is, but it is far and away the most entertaining drill that I have seen and I’m sure it will continue to be a crowd-pleaser.
Guy Wimper is the second-team left tackle and Justin Jones and Ryan Keenan are the third-team right tackle and right guard, respectively.
WR Marco Thomas made a spectacular diving catch of a Lorenzen throw. It was a really deep pass and it did not look like Thomas would be able to run under it. A short time later Thomas made a second good catch. The coaches hooted and congratulated him warmly on the sideline. Another player who got congratulated was CB E.J. Underwood on an excellent pass defense in the 11-on-11s.
Rookie TE Kevin Boss continues to make tough catches in traffic and shows a great deal of athleticism and leaping ability. Rookie 7th round pick RB Ahmad Bradshaw continues to run well and catch well.
The competition between RBs Derrick Ward and Ryan Grant continues. Both are about the same size, have about equal speed and equally good moves. They can both catch the ball too. All of the RBs caught passes out of the backfield today with no problems, including DeCori Birmingham. DeCori is not big or strong or fast or shifty, but he can catch the ball. He appears to be at the bottom of the RB depth chart and will only make the squad in the event of nuclear war.
FB Robert Douglas caught several passes. On one of those catches, in the 7-on-7 drill, LB Zak DeOssie was right there unloaded on him blasting him across the sideline. Steve seems to have a nose for the ball. Walking back to the huddle, Douglas gave Steve a look as if to say, “Save that for opening day.”
In the 11-on-11s, Eli Manning took a shotgun snap and handed off to RB Reuben Droughs in a draw play that was exceedingly ugly and will hopefully not be used again. Eli connected on a pass to WR Michael Jennings that was tipped into the air by Sam Madison and then caught by Jennings. It was a good catch and showed good concentration by Jennings. Another good catch was by rookie WR Steve Smith who caught a somewhat off-line, chest-high bullet from Eli Manning. It was a short pass, but Smith was impressive because he caught it with his hands and secured it.