by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor UAGiant
Camp started under very sunny skies this morning down on the lower field. While you can get a lot closer to the action and can see the players close up, you also have to contend with both the media and the individuals lucky enough to get a VIP pass that are put right in front of you. Unfortunately, this really obscures your view and makes you miss out on a lot of things.
One thing that is very obvious throughout the few sessions I’ve been to is that the defense is not the same as it was last year. Players like S Gibril Wilson and DE Osi Umenyiora seem to be playing with a chip on their shoulders out on the field. In particular, Wilson was jawing at the offensive unit that they hadn’t gained a first down on the 11-on-11 drills they’d be running. The other thing about the defensive unit that’s really apparent is the staffing coach. Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is everywhere throughout the practice sessions. Each particular unit is broken apart and the drills are headed by their specific position coaches, but Spags makes his rounds and gets right in there. When the defense is together as a unit, he’s in the middle of it, barking at the troops or telling them how to improve or correct something he saw done wrong. Defensive Backs/Safeties Coach David Merritt is another coach who is very vocal and holds the players accountable throughout the sessions.
Coach Coughlin also is very active in camp and, surprisingly, seems to be less of a dictator and more of a leader than in the past. He has continually gone up to players during stretches at the beginning of sessions and talked to individual players and I’ve actually caught him cracking a smile or two and actually had a laugh with some of the media today.
Another point to make is that a few of the coaches have taken up to wearing shirts that basically say, “Talk is cheap, Shut up and play”. That’s not an exact quote from the back of the shirt, but the message is pretty clear.
As I had mentioned, practice was on the lower field, so a lot of the practice was spent spread out across a number of fields. The defense did practice in front of me, so I got a chance to see what the drills were intended for. The secondary is extremely hard at work on improving their hands and being a lot more physical. Most of the drills I have seen them run focus on turning and catching a ball not directly thrown to them or proper techniques in wrapping up and bringing a runner down. The linebackers were focused on shedding blockers this morning for one particular drill and making the proper read and reacting later on.
Here’s my specific thoughts for the day…
Quarterbacks: Eli Manning is still inconsistent, making a great pass followed by a few bad ones. At the end of the morning session, the offense lined up with WR Sinorice Moss split out wide and ran a basic go route with no defensive coverage. The point was to hit Moss in stride as he was taking off downfield. Eli, however, threw up an ugly pass, which got the entire offense, led by TE Jeremy Shockey, turned around and quacking at him. The team got a good laugh out of it, but you’d hope he’d be making that pass in his sleep. Jared Lorenzen continues his strong camp, solidifying his spot on the roster. A lot of his throws seemed to be timing throws, and everything was where it should have been, allowing his receivers to catch the ball and make a play up the field. Anthony Wright was impressive, having a great pass that may have very well been the play of the day to TE Charles Davis. Tim Hasselbeck still seems like the odd man out, as he especially continues to struggle. A lot of his passes sail or don’t get to the intended receiver. It’s almost as if there’s miscommunication between his receivers, but it happens to often to peg on anyone but Tim.
Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress were out this morning, so the others got a chance to make their case for either their position on the depth chart or spot on the roster. Interestingly, Sinorice Moss and Michael Jennings were running with the first team. Sinorice is having a great camp and continues to look fast. He catches a lot of balls across the middle of the field and can quickly turn it up field fast. Jennings had a pretty good morning, catching a few. Steve Smith is continually proving he comes as advertised, as he catches basically everything thrown to him, always seems to be where the quarterbacks expect him to be, and has a nice burst of speed. Watching both he and Sinorice the past few days, it seems as if the Giants will not only run the reverse a few times this year, it may actually work out well for them. Anthony Mix had a solid morning, snagging a catch out of the air and confusing more than a few people around me whether or not Plaxico had taken the field. The two have a similar build and both have jersey numbers in the teens. David Tyree and Brandon London both had a mixed morning, missing a few balls they should’ve had, but making up for it later on in practice with very impressive snags. Of the few receivers on the bubble, I’ve really seen a lot of upside in Brandon London. If he continues to perform well in camp, he has the size and speed to help this team out.
Tight Ends: Shockey made a number of nice catches on a simple crossing route that he and Manning seem to have down pretty well. It’s also worth noting that Shockey was split out as a receiver for quite a few plays run today, with Darcy Johnson lined up along the line. Charles Davis again had a great catch that got a few claps from his teammates and a slap on the back when he got to the huddle. Didn’t really see anything of note from Boss today.
Running Backs: Brandon Jacobs hits the hole hard, moves well on his feet, and has a lot of speed. He has very little hesitation after the handoff and gets low (and if not, he’s reminded by the coaching staff). Additionally, the staff appears to be focused on getting him involved in the passing game, as a lot of passes in the session were in his way, coming out of the backfield. He seems to have no issue with this part of his game and carries the ball well.
Offensive Line: It’s hard to focus on the unit and get a real good read, as it’s still a training camp setting. David Diehl appears to be holding up well along the line and Rich Seubert seems to be doing well, also. Both units are going a bit harder than they were over the weekend, but it’s still not game speed (as the defense will pull up after a certain point). Shaun O’Hara looks a lot more bulky than I remember him in past years, as he seems to have a few pounds on Chris Snee. The right side of the line continues to look solid.
Defensive Line: William Joseph continues to start in the place of Michael Strahan as the head games continue. Surprisingly, he looks a bit more trim than in the past and was getting accolades from his coaches and teammates. Justin Tuck is still not practicing at both sessions, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in that regard, but Joseph is looking to be motivated. Start re-writing the Legend of Jonas Seawright, as he blew up Zach Piller today. I wasn’t focusing on the interior of the line, but Seawright seemed to pancake Piller and get to the backfield to stuff the play.
Linebackers: Little to report on this front. Starting unit remains the same since the start of camp. Mathias Kiwanuka often lines up almost along the defensive line (though still standing) and blitzes quite often. It’s likely they’re just getting him use to the idea and techniques and not blitz with him as often as they do in practice, but he was in the backfield quite often and would’ve had Manning a few times. Kawika Mitchell seems to be a solid player, a welcome change from what the Giants have fielded in the past.
Secondary: One thing that really stood out today was a particular play in which James Butler (still starting) crashed hard on a blitz and would’ve had a sack had the QB not been wearing red. He penetrated the line perfectly and did exactly as the play was designed to do, much to the delight of Spags, who was cheering with the rest of the defensive unit. R.W. McQuarters and Sam Madison continue to start at the corners. However, when running a nickel package, Ross would play corner and McQuarters would play nickel. Madison seems comfortable playing bump and run, as he was jamming receivers at the line most of the morning. Wilson is obviously still the other starting safety. He made a few nice plays this morning and seems to be very happy within the unit.