by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany
This was an abbreviated practice session held in shorts and shells. The lords of football decreed that the Giants play on a Monday night and then again the following Saturday. That does not give the faculty and students of Mara Tech much time to review their mistakes in Monday’s game, continue to install plays and prepare for the regular season, and prepare for the Bears game on Saturday. Trust me, nobody laid out for a diving catch this morning. But if the players were looking for sympathy from Head Coach Tom Coughlin, they were going to be disappointed.
A large part of the practice was devoted to kickoff returns and kickoff coverage. Coach Coughlin was yelling at the team for their lack of consistency (in Monday’s game, I think). He yelled “go full speed” at rookie DE Maurice Evans. Nobody was going full speed. Maurice and OG Terrance Pennington are the only two remaining Giants to share the same number– 74. Is the wily Coughlin using this as an incentive for them?
In the full team kick off drills, HB Danny Ware, WR Sinorice Moss, and WR Taye Biddle each got five returns. The significant part of the drill appeared to be ensuring that all the players understood their lane assignments for the returns. I’m told that it is very tempting for a player to forsake his lane and go after the ball, leaving his assigned section of the field unprotected.
In a quarterback drill that was pretty much just a catch between the quarterbacks and the receivers, a ball rolled by Coach Coughlin’s feet. He picked it up and threw it behind his back (!) to an assistant 8 or 10 yards away. Nifty!
In the Monday night game against Carolina, I was very impressed with the catches made by our running backs, and this morning there was a passing drill for them. P Jeff Feagles, who has an excellent arm, was doing the drill. He would stand about ten or twelve yards away and the backs would run and cut, and Jeff would throw them the ball with a decent amount of velocity on it. The backs from HB Brandon Jacobs on down to HB Dwayne Wright were 100 percent perfect until they adjusted their routes to run directly at Feagles. On the first go-round, every back caught the ball, but on the next rotation, Feagles threw the ball a bit harder.
Suddenly, HB Brandon Jacobs yelled “Oh, [expletive deleted]!” as the ball bounced off his hands and he grabbed his jammed finger. I’m not sure if he yelled in pain or frustration, or both. The drill continued and Feagles maintained the increased velocity. It did not matter which back was attempting the catch, fully 50 percent of the balls bounced off their hands. Mind you, these were all chest high passes, and most were perfect spirals.
What do I conclude from this? If a player is running directly at the passer, there is a place or distance where reflexes and hand-eye coordination break down. That place or distance varies with the velocity of the ball. It does not matter whether it is a receiver running back toward the quarterback, or a defensive back jumping a route, if the ball is thrown too hard, the combination of the distance and the arm movements used in running toward the ball, make it very difficult to catch. Perhaps some of our drops during the 2008 season were not the fault of the receiver, but because QB Eli Manning put a little too much mustard on the ball.
The last 25 minutes of the practice was devoted to 11 on 11 drills. The good news is that DT Rocky Bernard was back for several plays with the starters. He showed good lateral mobility on the one play I focused on. Also back at practice were WR Steve Smith, CB Aaron Ross, and CB Corey Webster.
I’m also happy to report that OT Adam Koets got through the practice without putting the ball on the ground. Some of his shotgun snaps were a bit high, but frankly, C Shaun O’Hara’s end over end shotgun snaps to Eli Manning are nothing to write home about either.
In the passing game, Eli looked very much in synch with WR Domenik Hixon, who got wide open on the first passing play, a 20 yard sideline pass. There were some other good catches as well. WR David Tyree got behind S C.C. Brown and CB Bruce Johnson for a deep, deep pass from QB David Carr that drew oohs and ahs from the crowd. WR Sinorice Moss did the same thing to CB Stoney Woodson and CB Bruce Johnson, also on a Carr pass. WR Ramses Barden out-fought a defender in traffic to snag a Carr pass, too. Frankly, without the pads on, the players were really not going after the ball or each other very hard.
I expect that tonight’s practice will be in full pads or at least “uppers” and the action will be crisper.