by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Beez
Early this morning, my brother, my son and my son’s best buddy cruised up to Albany to see this morning’s session. It was a gorgeous morning and the two-hour drive took us through plenty of fog and tons of sun, all in cool temperatures.
We arrived on campus as practice was about begin. We were first re-routed by a rent-a-cop, sent in a bad direction where parking was not permitted, so we did what any crew participating in the passive BBI takeover would do – we parked slyly alongside the veterans’ parking, slipping the BeezMobile in with numerous Jersey plates, clearly the younger players’ row. I’d like to say the BM is classy enough to hang with the big boys, but I suspect it was more a matter of luck it was still there, unticketed and untowed, after practice.
Walking around RACC, our first sight was to see jerseys 81-17-91 lined up with their backs to us, riding exercise bikes as the rest of the squad stretched. WR Amani Toomer, WR Plaxico Burress and DE Justin Tuck all pedaled leisurely through warm-ups and remained on the bikes for between 20-30 minutes. Plax and Tuck then got off, but Toomer pedaled some more (maybe another 10 minutes).
The first humorous moment of the morning followed. As we scoped our first viewing spot, the Giants’ first draft pick, DB Aaron Ross, looked to leave the practice field as the rest of the DBs performed drop-back/interception drills nearby. At first I thought, “Crap, he hurt already?” But then a couple young guys in red STAFF t-shirts called out to Ross. “There’s a closer bathroom over here,” one said, pointing back toward a porta-potty between the playing fields. Ross shifted his body weight a couple times, clearly confused, then he redirected toward the pooper. Rookies.
The WRs were off to themselves with a couple coaches on “shed” drills, where they’d go one at a time, working off first contact to fire a forearm into a hand-held pad, juke and go. Participating in this drill were WRs Brandon London, Michael Jennings, Sinorice Moss, Steve Smith (strange to actually see him wearing No. 12), David Tyree, Marco Thomas and Kevin McMahan, (At this point Plax and Toomer still pedaled.)
TE drills occurred at the same time. First impression, as six of them paired off and locked horns a bit: If Jeremy Shockey is huge (and he is), his partner for drills, Charles Davis, is gigantic. I say he’s plenty heftier than his listed 6-6, 260. I’d put him closer to 275, maybe more. He makes Shock look like a sizeable wideout by comparison. Meanwhile, Darcy Johnson and Rodney Burgess squared off, as Kevin Boss and Michael Matthews worked together. (Note: First impression on Boss – lanky. He’s listed here at 252, but with that frame, he could add a few meals a day and benefit. Maybe inherit my late-night pasta habit? I’d gladly give it up. In any event, if he’s quick enough and learns the system well, don’t be shocked to see Bossman lined up as a 6-6 slot receiver at some point down the road.)
During curl-in drills as QB Eli Manning worked with receivers, Manning’s first toss to RB DeCori Birmingham was a nice, tight spiral. It was a quick-hitter, was flat and had zip. It was the first throw I saw this morning from Manning and it made me think, “Hmmm. That’s a little different.” Watching as the QBs shuttled in and out of this drill, my impression was that Manning and Anthony Wright were throwing the better balls, to that point. Jared Lorenzen looked sluggish to me, even though my brother and I agreed he must have lost some weight in the off-season. Still, his drops were markedly slower than those of Manning and Wright, and even his delivery was languid. You could easily apply the word “zing” to Manning’s or Wright’s short passes. The word that comes to mind on Lorenzen’s? Blahhhh.
There was a fourth quarterback out there this morning – the guy married to the hot “Survivor” contestant and morning show hostess. This quarterback, in my opinion, will be unemployed shortly. And that’s all I have to say about that.
During RB walk-throughs, FB Robert Douglas (6-3, 250) lined up ahead of HB Brandon Jacobs (6-4, 264) with the first team. Looking on from a distance, it’s an incredible understatement to write the following: That is one hell of a physically imposing backfield. I cannot emphasize that too much. Hinging on health, of course, we are going to enjoy watching our “new” ground game develop this fall.
Just beyond the RB drills I could see one play, in particular, from the hill. On the play, Manning delivered a nice deep ball to Sinorice Moss on a sideline route, maybe 30-40 yards out. Moss caught it high, just under the facemask. One of those over-the-top plays we’d all like to see more of. I then shifted attention to passing drills. Play by play, here’s what I observed:
- Manning had a nice deep ball to Moss, going right to left, complete.
- Manning threw a nice out on the left side to WR Michael Jennings, who caught the ball and quickly turned it up field.
- Lorenzen in … lazy, dopey drop, lazy, dopey ball to the left side and over the top, complete to TE Darcy Johnson.
- Wright in … hit WR Anthony Mix in the left slot. Just a quick-hitter, complete. Nothing extraordinary.
- That other quarterback – oh, what the hell, I’ll name him – Tim Hasselbeck in … threw a little high across the middle where TE Charles Davis reached up and snagged it. It was a very nice grab. Also was a ball that may have gotten a receiver impaled by a lurking FS.
- Manning in … on this play, Shockey barked orders and directed WR Steve Smith on a pre-snap shift. Smith went in motion and settled into the right slot. Manning then hit Smith as he slanted in. (By this point, Manning had me thinking he was on the money with just about everything. That would hold true, for the most part, throughout the morning session.)
- Lorenzen back in. At this point do I need to say his drop is deliberate? His corresponding deliberate throw (with zero mustard whatsoever – weird for a guy I hear has one hell of an arm) was complete to TE Michael Matthews. But Lorenzen’s slug-like movement was so distracting, I failed to note whether it was a good or routine catch.
- Manning in. Somewhat of an entertaining thing, Manning is routinely barking out “diamond, diamond,” followed by colors and numbers. Of course, it’s often followed by the now-infamous, “Omaha! Omaha!” on occasion. So, “diamond, diamond, white-eighty-white was a Jacobs bolt off right tackle. “Diamond, diamond, thirty-black … Omaha, Omaha” opened up into a HB Reuben Droughns bounce off right tackle, too. Next play, “diamond, diamond …” pass to TE Johnson in right flat, over his outside shoulder (perfect placement). Next, another “diamond/Omaha” pass on which WR Jennings does a quick button-hook into the slot, almost like a delayed screen. Pretty little zip pass. Might be a fun play for Moss, now that he looks healthy.
- On a 5-yard out-pattern, TE Matthews caught a quick-hitter from Manning. More impressive on this play was the free (and spry as hell) movement of Moss as he looked to block.
- Lorenzen in (my brother noted that it looks like he’s lost some weight, prompting my question – will it hurt him on 4th-and-inches plays, because that’s the only time I want to see him in a football game), handed to HB Derrick Ward, who took most handoffs with the second “O”. Next play, HB Ryan Grant got a chance up the gut. Third Lorenzen play of the series, he completed a quick out, right, to TE Burgess, who is a lumbering player, despite being listed as the smallest of the TEs at 6-4, 230. Probably not a winning combo for the kid.
- Manning back in … hands off to Droughns who, at three-quarters speed, cut very nicely. It’s early, but I have a feeling we’re going to be very pleased with this pick-up.
- Manning handed to Jacobs going right, looked to pick his way, then shows off a really nice burst. (Folks worried about this guy’s speed? Get this straight – worry about something else.)
- “Diamond, diamond, diamond, diamond,” and a handoff to Droughns, who showed off a few more quick moves.
The horn sounded and the offense (wearing white, aside from the QBs, who wore the usual red jerseys) faced off against the blue-clad defense. I missed the first set of plays as we re-situated over behind the main practice field. Lorenzen was in for the first play as I got settled.
- Lorenzen passed to his right in the direction of WR Anthony Mix. The throw was to the wrong shoulder and DB Aaron Ross broke it up and yanked Mix to the ground.
- Wright stepped in … OT Chris Patrick jumped the snap and appeared to get a face full of rookie DT Jay Alford. Coughlin was heard yelling, “Let’s go, let’s go!” The ball snapped, DB Craig Dahl blitzed from the left side and was in the backfield quickly, but held up when he reached Wright, whose flat pass reached the hands of FB Douglas, but was flat-out dropped.
- Wright hit TE Matthews on an out to the left. He made the catch and turned the corner on LB Zak DeOssie.
- Wright handed to HB Birmingham, who was stacked up by LB James Davis.
- Wright passed over the middle to WR Kevin McMahan, who showed some nice speed crossing to the right. (In this and the last play, DeOssie seemed to pick it up … maybe pissed about getting beaten to the corner by Matthews? Anyone surprised DeOssie might show signs of being an emotional player?)
- First-team “O” back in … Moss split right, LB Antonio Pierce pursued Manning and had a clean kill shot as the QB scrambled right. No pass … coverage sack, implied, at least.
- Manning handed off to Jacobs off left tackle. He just wants to hit someone. He bounces off the guys who aren’t laying into him and he goes looking to bounce off someone else – hard.
- With FB Douglas in the left slot, Manning had what I witnessed to be his first lousy throw of the morning. He went left, but over everyone and to no one in particular. It was hard to say, but likely someone broke off a pattern.
- Lorenzen in … WR Smith split right, WR David Tyree split left. Lorenzen threw INC in the general direction of Tyree on a sideline route.
- Lorenzen hung Tyree out to dry on this play, as DB Gerrick McPherson was close on coverage. Ill-advised pass, incomplete.
- Wright in … trips over HB Ahmad Bradshaw as he took a handoff and went right. He looked strong behind a big front wall. What we’re hearing looks to be true about this kid. Quick, but also he’s thicker looking than I had expected. Don’t mistake him for a small scat-back when someone says “change of pace.” Hate saying it, but size-wise he’ll remind you of someone we’ve seen retire very recently.
- Wright rolls right and his pass was tipped by an increasingly more active DeOssie. Incomplete.
- Manning, with Moss, Douglas and Shockey all lined up off the left shoulder of the left tackle, handed off to Jacobs that way. Slightly strong-side run.
- LB Mathias Kiwanuka cheats and gets into the backfield quickly from his left-side spot, but Jacobs gets a quick handoff from Manning and very quickly was gone off left tackle. Again … quick is the word. Quite. At that point my brother looked at me and commented on just how quick … “It’s unbelievable,” he said. (I hope he doesn’t call me out for that.)
- Manning zipped an 8-yard pass into TE Johnson’s hands, and through them. The ball popped Johnson in the chest and he dropped it. The ball was perfect.
- Lorenzen in … sorry, but looking lethargic in the pocket. He took a snap, drifted back like he was in a college intramural game – no, a Thanksgiving Day backyard family game – was under pressure by a front-line surge (Chunky Uncle Jimmy, most likely), held the ball up in the air while double pumping, and somehow snuck a ball away to WR Smith, who had McPherson wrapped all over him immediately.
- Wright in … hands to HB Birmingham … again flashes some quickness.
Summation of the punt drills … didn’t see Jeff Feagles, and Cory Ohnesorge handled all the punts, with mediocre success. Not impressed. Fielding what punts did reach them were Moss, Jennings and Bradshaw.
More entertaining during the punt drills was when Coughlin yelled at a cameraman and his “assistant” crowding toward the backfield. Yelled TC: “Get outta here … get out!” The love affair continues, but what the guy was doing where he was … no clue.
They moved to 7-on-7 drills. Here are those details, in short:
- Manning: threw behind Jennings, who was well covered by DB R.W. McQuarters.
- Manning: quick out to Droughns, nice pass, good touch, but Droughns bobbles it and drops it.
- Manning: Dump-off underneath (after several looks downfield) complete, going left to right. My brother and I laughed and said we hope to see a lot of that play this fall. I think we will.
- Lorenzen (shotgun): Threaded needle over the middle to a diving TE Johnson, with LB Gerris Wilkinson on pretty nice coverage. The ball was in and out of Johnson’s hands. He was a little slow getting up but was all right.
- Lorenzen (under center): Passed in the flat to Droughns, but the pass was inside, so the ball turned Droughns around. Droughns adjusted and motored toward the sideline, but properly placed, hitting he RB in stride, it’s an extra 5 to 7 yards.
- Wright: Threw a deep ball (nice spiral) left toward WR Marco Thomas. The ball went high and over the top of DB Travonti Johnson and Thomas caught it, eliciting a big cheer from the fans in attendance.
- Wright: He threw a shorter high ball to the left toward WR Brandon London, who was just in front of Travonti Johnson. London went up high, extended and with glue on his hands, pulled it down. Really great catch, getting an even bigger ovation from the fans … and one guy yelling, “How to look, Brandon!”
- Manning: Quick pass to WR Smith in front of DB McQuarters on the left side.
- Manning (shotgun): Passed underneath to WR Jennings, open in front of DB Sam Madison.
- Manning: Underneath outlet to Jacobs again, this time with Jacobs coming right to left. (Gonna be trouble for opposing defenses, I tell ya.)
- Lorenzen: Lazy pass left, behind Tyree, incomplete.
- Lorenzen: Wayyyyyy overthrew WR Thomas on a 25-yarder down the right sideline. The pass was 5 yards out of bounds.
- Hasselbeck (who?): With a noticeably slow drop (compared to Manning and Wright, that is), he got a quick-hitter into traffic to Tyree. Solid pass.
- Hasselbeck: WR London covered on the left side by LB Davis. Just as London broke off the pattern, Hasselbeck heaved it deep. INC.
- Manning: Quick flick out to FB Douglas in the right flat, place well over the outside shoulder. Douglas got outside LB Kawika Mitchell’s coverage to make the catch. (So, is Douglas actually a decent receiver, or is Mitchell maybe a liability on outside coverage? Maybe just too soon to tell.)
- Manning: Hit Moss on a quick slant from the left. What was most fun about this play – aside from the fact that when I saw this play at camp a year ago, it got me very excited … damn injuries – was that Moss immediately began screaming at Eli as soon as the ball was snapped. He was alone on the slant. A small thing, but fun to see a young player be that vocal.
- Wright: A low pass over the middle, but WR London went down to get it. Very nice hands on this kid.
- Manning: Threw right, just over the LOS to Shockey. He made the catch, turned and surprised me with just how quick he looked for how big he’s gotten (I mentioned he’s friggin’ huge, yes?).
- Manning: Threw to Shock over the middle again, this time coming in from the left. Quick feet and burst again. Healthy, this guy is an absolute monster. (Coughlin, for some reason not apparent to me from my vantage point, began screaming “What the hell’s going on?” just after this play. Ahhhh, feelin’ the love.)
- Lorenzen: Threw behind Tyree, who adjusted very nicely to make the catch in front of McPhearson.
- Lorenzen: Threw deep over the middle toward Smith, who was actually in a crowd of three defensive backs. The ball was overthrown.
- Lorenzen: Completed to Mix … more of a nice catch than a good throw (I swear, not beating up on Lorenzen … just telling you what I saw).
- Wright: DE Charrod Baker gave a nice rush and had to hold up (would have had a sack). Wright pulls away then and delivers a ball underneath to WR McMahan. The ball was low – pretty decent catch.
- Wright: Handed off to Bradshaw … again looked quick and very strong.
- Manning: Coverage solid, so he tucked this one away and ate the play. Meanwhile, more interesting was when DC Steve Spagnuolo admonished DBs Michael Stone (and slightly more annoying) Corey Webster, both standing on the sideline, to “hey, pay attention to the play-calling here.”
- Manning: Again, a quick pass out to Moss in the right flat, complete (might we see this often this season?).
- Manning: Draw to Droughns … again, quicker than we thought.
- Manning: Directed WR Smithto split wide left, then moved WR Jennings out wide right, followed by a quick-hit try over the middle to WR Tyree, coming left to right … but LB Chase Blackburn got a hand in there to break it up.
- Lorenzen: HB Ryan Grant took the handoff and LB Reggie Torbor flew in to stuff it and knock Grant down … which got many cat-calls and other comments from the rest of the defensive players on the sideline. (They liked it. They wanna hit.)
That’s a lot. I missed a few plays, but tat gives you a look at the morning. Now, just a few post-practice impressions:
- My son got autographs from Bradshaw, Boss, Wilkerson, Johnson, Mix and Demps. One bit of advice I’d offer to folks with kids looking to get players to sign – while some flat-out don’t, or only sign after the second session (Diehl, Shockey, a few others mentioned this as they cruised through the lineup), some actually DO respond to good manners. It’s funny watching players ignoring kids yelling “Number 58, number 58!” At least know their names. Also, in the cases of Bradshaw, Wilkerson and Johnson, they were walking away when my son, out of the crowd, asked politely, “Would you please sign my football, Mr. _________.” It was interesting to see all three of these guys react to that and come back.
- Tom Coughlin signed autographs for quite a while, despite a PR guy trying to whisk him away for better than five minutes. I was tempted to joke with him about his love affair with the media (after he’d yelled at that cameraman), but decided better of it. One guy did ask TC, “Hey coach, how much can I buy your Escalade for?” To which Coughlin deadpanned, “How much you got?”
- Will Demps gets my “game ball” for being most accessible and most pleasant. A few Demps stories from this morning:
- One little boy, obviously prompted beforehand by his Dad, asked Demps (who was in the process of posing for a picture with the approximately 6-year-old), “Are you the guy who gave Shockey a concussion last year?” Demps smiled, chuckled a little and answered, “Wasn’t me. I’m one of the good guys.” Then he signed the kid’s yearbook and admitted, as if he’d been caught red-handed, “Yeahhhh, that was meee.” Cute moment.
- Demps signed for a teen-aged boy with Down syndrome. The boy was beside himself, chatting up Demps, who was all smiles for the kid. The boy was telling him all about how he was a Giants fan and Demps gave him a high five and told him to watch him on TV because he needs the help. The boy walked away after he got his autograph, on cloud 9. I couldn’t resist, so I asked the kid, “You a big Will Demps fan?” He was all over it. “Yeah, Will Demps and I love the Giants.” Made his day, probably more. All it took was Demps taking a moment.
- My brother joked with Demps (well, he was serious, actually), “I always start out as you on Madden,” to which Demps looked up, smiled, and said, “Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about.”