by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany
Day One of Training Camp. Super Bowl Champs Draw Big Crowd
This is the 16th time that the Giants have trained at SUNY Albany. I’ve been here for most of them. I know from experience that big news seldom happens on the field on Day One. Nevertheless, as is customary for Day One, the media was out in force. TV cameramen, still photographers and reporters of every persuasion were shoulder to shoulder on the sidelines just in case something newsworthy happened. And of course, the place was packed with happy Giants fans who came to watch their heroes, take photos, and perhaps get an autograph.
Hundred of thousands of dollars worth of cameras took thousands of photos and hours of footage in the quest for a single photo worthy of the back page, or 10 seconds of air time on ABC or CBS News. After all, the Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions. That alone, makes this an event that is worthy of coverage. Ahh! Super Bowl champions. I like the sound of that.
The annual opening practice media glut usually prevents me and the regular Giants beat writers from getting an unobstructed view of the field. That is something that we have come to expect and we just have to put up with it until things calm down and the sidelines thin out in a few days. But today was a little different.
It rained all morning and the four practice fields were soggy, so they switched the practice to the main field. It has much better drainage and much more room along the sidelines for the press and cameramen to stand. By the end of the practice it was sunny, humid and about eighty degrees.
Although last year’s NFL labor problems prevented the Giants from training in Albany, it made this year’s camp doubly exciting. There are 90 players on the roster instead of 80 and lots of new faces. There is the promise of last year’s rookies who will be improving with every practice. For instance, DT Marvin Austin, S Tyler Sash, CB Prince Amukamara, LBs Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich, and OT James Brewer.
There are a raft of injured veteran players who are perhaps ready to get back to where they left off like OT William Beatty, DE Justin Tuck, CB Terrell Thomas and CB Bruce Johnson, and there are newly acquired veteran players like LB Keith Rivers, DT Shaun Rogers, TE Martellus Bennett, and OT Sean Locklear, who may be able to make an immediate impact.
Most exciting of all, are this year’s draft choices, because they are mysteries. Can they make a difference? Can they excel? Personally, I am thrilled that our first three choices are an RB, WR, and CB, respectively. Those positions can demonstrate their talents on the practice field, so I will be writing about them in my reports, whereas LBs and linemen really can’t be evaluated or written about with any certainty until they play in actual games with actual hitting.
It is going to take at least a few practices for Tom Coughlin and the rest of the coaches to sort things out. Until then, things will be in a constant state of flux. There will be new players arriving in camp all the time. S Deon Grant is expected to be at the top of that list. There will undoubtedly be players on the final roster who are not yet on the team.
The Giants only have about month to get down to 53 players. That will be more difficult this year because of the CBA inspired shorter practice schedule.
As always, my thanks to Pat Hanlon for making my job easier. Okay, enough preamble, here’s what I saw on the field:
In the past, Head Coach Tom Coughlin put the team in shorts and shells rather than in full pads for the first few practice sessions. It kept them cooler as they eased into the training camp routine and reinforced the non-contact aspect of the practice. They focused more on fundamentals such as where to line up and they executed the techniques and the plays that they were learning at a walking pace, rather than at full tilt. If there was a second practice that day, the players would be given the chance to run the plays that they walked through in the earlier session. Except for the absence of a second practice, things were pretty much as usual.
The Giants were wearing helmets, shorts, and jerseys with little or no discernible padding. LS Zak DeOssie was wearing shoulder pads and P Steve Weatherford was wearing his regular uniform pants rather than shorts. Clearly, they want to make punts and snaps as realistic as possible.
Keeping in mind the lack of pads, the Giants looked sharp. Nobody muffed a punt and nobody dropped a pass that they reasonably should have caught, well, except for RB Da’Rel Scott who had a quick pass over the middle from QB David Carr bounce off his hands. All of the QBs were throwing passes in the 5-15 yard range.
The only really deep pass was an interception thrown by Carr and intended for WR Rueben Randle. It looked like CB Prince Amukamara and S Stevie Brown were with him all the way down the sidelines and Prince was in the best position to catch it. It was an impressive interception and indicates that Prince may be healthy at last.
That was the only time that Randle failed to make a catch. I think his best catch was a line drive 15-20 yard pass from QB Ryan Perrilloux that Randle caught in stride with a semi over-the-shoulder-semi basket catch.
Rueben was also catching punts (and made some nice moves), along with WRs Victor Cruz, Domenik Hixon, and Jerrel Jernigan (who also looked good catching punts), and CB Jayron Hosley. P Steve Weatherford looked very strong and very accurate on just about all of his punts. He did not look like he was even exerting himself and the ball would just explode off his foot.
If given time, Steve was perfect. When the defense rushed him, I think he lost some concentration. There was one punt that went twenty yards over the receivers heads and into the defensive linemen who were watching the punting drill. DT Marvin Austin pretended that he was going to catch it and that brought a laugh out of the crowd. I like a guy with a sense of humor.
Speaking of humor, there is S Antrel Rolle’s Mohawk haircut. On the left side of his head where his hair should be, he has a large design in a shade of neon green known as chartreuse. Humor aside, Rolle made an excellent pass defense on an Eli Manning pass intended for Domenik Hixon. Hixon redeemed himself later on, with a diving sliding reception of a Manning pass.
Aside from the punting drills, all of the defensive players worked on stripping the ball from behind. The WRs also practiced getting off the line of scrimmage against the DBs. I don’t think that WR Ramses Barden did a bad job of it. He also made an outstanding catch in traffic over CB Jayron Hosley on a pass from David Carr.
RB David Wilson made a leaping catch over the middle on a pass from QB Ryan Perrilloux. RB D.J. Ware showed some speed on his hand offs and showed a nice spin move as well. RB Andre Brown also showed some speed, along with making a few nice catches.
FB Henry Hynoski had two catches and showed some power running after the catch. He has an enormous chest and shoulders. He runs like a bull. The catches that he made last year were not flukes.
Surprisingly, after all the knocks on Bear Pascoe in BBI, he made several nifty catches. If he has the ability to get open, he could be a pass catching weapon. I do not believe that TE Martellus Bennett was the target of any throws today.
QB Eli Manning looked sharp except for a pass that he appeared to throw directly to LB Michael Boley for an easy interception. Maybe the target was WR Victor Cruz who made several nice receptions. A much harder interception was made by LB Jake Muasau on a pass from Ryan Perrilloux to WR David Douglas. The pass was either behind Douglas or high. It bounced off his hands and into the air. Jake made a diving grab for the turnover.
Rookie WR Brandon Collins made a nice catch of a Ryan Perrilloux pass by outfighting the DB.
Some observations are in order regarding yesterday’s practice–not based on what I saw yesterday, but on what I didn’t see. I only just realized it. Yesterday’s opening practice was impressively smooth. The players knew what they were supposed to do and more importantly, they were able to do it. It looked like what you would expect from a championship team, with smart and talented players filling the entire squad.
In past years, the first day of camp was often pretty ragged. The areas where drastic improvements needed to made were painfully obvious. I doubt that anyone will forget the shock of seeing Matt Dodge mess up half his punts on the first day of camp.
Yesterday was not ragged. There were very few obvious mental errors, or error in execution. There were no fumbled center snaps and no missed handoffs. There were no muffed punt returns. Linemen were not jumping offsides (with the sole exception of Rookie OT Matt McCants, who might have been fooled by QB David Carr’s excellent hard count).
Plays were well executed. There was an end around play from QB Ryan Perrilloux to WR Julian Talley that was perfectly executed. That type of play is usually a recipe for disaster in camp. The same goes for the bubble screen that Ryan Perrilloux threw to WR Isaiah Stanback. Nobody even fell down except for RB Andre Brown on a running play. I’m guessing that he slipped making a cut.
There were no fights. I heard no coaches yelling to players to get them properly positioned. I saw no QBs instructing the RB where to stand in the backfield. I did not see any coaches taking players aside to correct their mistakes.
There were no horribly thrown passes. All of the passes were zipped and had little air under them. In the past there were always one or two passes that fell untouched on a vacant patch of ground. Most of the passes were made in rhythm. That is, the QB takes the snap, drops back and throws the ball with little or no hesitation. Although there were times when the QBs could not find an open receiver and would have been sacked, it was less frequent than usual.
I’m sure that much of the good passing is due to having three veteran QBs, who all have a good command of the playbook. Also, this year there is no 4th QB in camp, whose only purpose is to take some of the passing load off the arms of the other QBs.
I saw no lumbering linemen with guts overtopping their belts, but more about that when I see the team in full pads.