by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany
Full Pads; Hot Afternoon Sun; It Shows
The intensity and the pace of the practice was a bit less than yesterday. The Giants were in full pads and the high temperature, strong sun, and lack of a breeze cannot have been very comfortable for the players. It certainly wasn’t comfortable for me.
As he did yesterday, WR Ramses Barden made the best reception of the practice. In the 11 on 11s he caught a long TD pass from QB Eli Manning while being covered by CB Bruce Johnson and S Antrel Rolle.
The next best thing that happened in practice was the return of S Kenny Phillips. I spoke to Jon Berger on the side lines. Jon is the Giants’ Senior Director of Football Information. He was happy about the return of Phillips, but cautioned that they are going slowly with him. I agreed that going slowly is the prudent thing to do. The NFL referees were back and they were standing right in front of us. I learned that they had thrown flags yesterday, but I just did failed to see them. I did see them call a holding penalty today.
Perhaps I have been a little too hard on the refs. In the 7 on 7s, the ball was thrown in the direction were I was standing. The receiver and defender came racing for it (thundering may be more accurate). The reception was made and the receiver also took a shot from the defender. This all happened about 7 or 8 feet in front of me. The referee was right there, too. With a big smile on his face and in a loud voice, he asked the people in the general vicinity, “Was the catch in or out?” I had no idea whether it was in or out. I was too busy watching my life flash in front of my eyes.
In addition to speaking with Jon Berger, I had the good fortune to strike up a conversation with a very nice gentleman, who was standing next to me on the side lines. It turns out that he knew the Chancellor of SUNY. In fact, he is the Chancellor’s husband. I immediately launched into a speech about how SUNY and the City of Albany could attract many more fans to training camp (increased tourism) if SUNY would provide better fan accommodations, such as shelter from the sun and rain, more toilets, easier access to the fields, and on and on.
He extremely gracious and he never once tried to stop me or disagree with what I said. Afterwards, I thanked him profusely for his kindness and his courtesy in allowing me to rant. For years, lack of fan accommodations at training camp had been a source of irritation for me and today I was finally able to get it all off my chest. Thank you again, sir.
WR Ramses Barden made several more catches and he made them look easy. That is a characteristic that he shares with WR Hakeem Nicks. Barden is a big guy, not just tall. After one catch he faked a step to his right and then reverse pivoted to his left to completely and impressively disengage himself from the defender and fly down the field. It was a move that you might expect from WR Mario Manningham or possibly Nicks, but you would not think that Barden could make that move.
The Giants continue to work on punts and P Matt Dodge continues to get help from Jeff Feagles, who was on the field with him. They had a drill where Matt punted from his own 35 yard line and the kicking team players tried to down the punt before it crossed the goal line. I had to smile because the Giants have almost never been able to make this play work regardless of who was punting, or how much they practiced it.
WR Tim Brown, CB Aaron Ross, and WR Mario Manningham returned punts. Brown had a fine run back and received cheers from the fans on the nearby hill. The punt return by Aaron Ross was even better, juking, twisting, and avoiding potential tacklers. He got an even bigger cheer.
In general, the defense was ahead of the offense today. Right from the start of the first set of 7 on 7s, with Eli Manning at QB, there was a pass defense by CB Aaron Ross followed by a P.D. by CB Bruce Johnson. When QB Jim Sorgi took over, there was a P.D. by CB Courtney Brown, followed by a P.D. by CB D.J. Johnson. It was good to see D.J. get a pass defense, but much of the offense today consisted of receivers beating him like a rented mule.
I was impressed by a fine touch pass from QB Jim Sorgi to WR Hakeem Nicks. Nicks was covered by LB Keith Bulluck. Nicks is going to catch that ball no matter who is defending him, but at least Bulluck was able to keep up with him going down the field. Nicks made other catches and looked good doing it.
S Michael Johnson made some plays today. He jumped a route to knock away a Sorgi pass to Nicks in the 7 on 7s, and he defended an Eli Manning pass intended for WR Ramses Barden in the 11 on 11s.
There was a red zone drill (and yes the coaches call it that) near the end of the practice. DE Justin Tuck batted away an Eli Manning pass. Eli then threw a TD pass to WR Derek Hagan in the corner of the end zone. Jim Sorgi followed this with a TD pass to WR Hakeem Nicks.
One of the coaches loudly chewed out OT William Beatty for blocking a rusher to the inside instead of to the outside. I’m guessing that Beatty will remember it for next time.
You may have noticed that much of my report involves good plays by already established players and you may be wondering how the lesser known players are doing. During this practice there were plenty of opportunities for these players to show what they can do. The problem is that their rate of success is not high enough to move up the team’s depth chart.
It is most obvious with receivers like WR Victor Cruz, WR Nyan Boateng, and WR Tim Brown (Sinorice Moss did not dress). On occasion they will make an outstanding play or two, but many other times they are a step away from making the catch, or they don’t hold onto the ball after a diving catch. Compare this to say, WR Derek Hagan, whom many consider to be on the bubble. If the ball is thrown to Derek, he is almost always going to catch it unless a defender physically prevents it. Cruz, Boateng, and Brown are not yet at Hagan’s level and it shows.