by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany
The Last Practice?
This may be the last practice held in Albany. When the Giants did not return to Albany last summer, it left me with a void that for the prior ten years had been filled by watching football, writing about it, and sharing that time with others to whom the Giants are important. It now appears more likely than not, that last year’s void will become permanent.
I know that there are many in the Giants organization and elsewhere, who are thrilled with the prospect of having the Giants stay in New Jersey for training camp. For me, this is a poignant moment. If this turns out to be the last practice in Albany, I want to thank all those people who have read and enjoyed my Camp Reports. Your enjoyment and appreciation has always been of great satisfaction to me. On to today’s practice:
The Giants were in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts today, but they played hard nevertheless. As usual, Head Coach Tom Coughlin wandered amongst his players as they were stretching. He was spreading his usual message of “energy” and “no mental errors.”
I noticed that OT James Brewer had returned to practice and sometimes was playing with the starters. It was only on my way home that I realized that I did not see OT Sean Locklear on the field. I hope Locklear is okay, because Brewer got yelled by the line coach at least once today.
Also back is WR David Douglas, but he did not make any plays of note. He may have been limited so he was not able to make up any ground on WR Ramses Barden, who for some reason, was not dressed today.
There was a punting drill and the first return man was CB Jayron Hosley. Walking back after the catch, Hosley looked in our direction, smiled and asked, “Was that okay?” It looked okay to us, but not to Coach Coughlin who gave him a few minutes of additional instruction. The returners also practice making fair catches. Perhaps that was a result of Jacksonville game, where a fair catch, or even letting the ball drop, would have been a better option that attempting to catch the punt.
There was a one on one passing drill. S Kenny Phillips defended a QB David Carr pass intended for TE Bear Pascoe. QB Eli Manning had a bunch of his passes defended. CB Prince Amukamara defended against WR Brandon Collins, S Kenny Phillips against Bear Pascoe (again), CB Jayron Hosley against WR Rueben Randle, CB Bruce Johnson against WR Victor Cruz, and S Kenny Phillips against TE Martellus Bennett.
In the 11 on 11s, WR Jerrel Jernigan used good reflexes to catch an Eli Manning pass that was tipped up into the air by CB Bruce Johnson(?). I’m not sure who the intended receiver was. Later, Manning’s play action pass found WR Domenik Hixon, who was defended by CB Bruce Johnson.
I have not mentioned TE Ryan Purvis much, but he managed to snag a QB Ryan Perrilloux pass in the 11 on 11 drill. In that series, CB Prince Amukamara defended a pass intended for WR Julian Talley. Later on, CB Justin Tryon defended a pass intended for WR Isaiah Stanback. Isaiah is a really big guy and he can easily push Tryon backwards when coming off the line at the snap.
QB David Carr threw a very long sideline pass to WR Jerrel Jernigan, who was covered almost step for step by the speedy CB Brandon Bing. Jerrel hauled it in over his shoulder to the great appreciation of the fans. Later on, QB David Carr hit Jerrel Jernigan over the middle in a lot of traffic and covered by S Chris Horton.
There were many plays where a pass was completed long after a sack would have taken place had this been a real game. LB Mathias Kiwanuka, S Tyler Sash, and others penetrated the offensive line. On one handoff to RB Da’Rel Scott, DT Linval Joseph was right there to wrap him up. WR Brandon Collins made a wonderful leaping catch on a pass over the middle, long after Ryan Perrilloux would have been sacked.
S Antrel Rolle dropped an easy interception and in disgust, gave himself punishment pushups.
There was some kicking and K Lawrence Tynes continues to look strong. None of the kicks are very long, but they are straight and after they cross the goal posts they hit the top of the 40 foot TV crane that is positioned behind the posts.
In the 7 on 7 drill, S Kenny Phillips had a fine interception and CB Brandon Bing made good plays against WR Isaiah Stanback and then against Brandon Collins on a deep pass attempt.
Back in the 11 on 11s, WR Victor Cruz beat CB Prince Amukamara on a Ryan Perrilloux pass.
Here is a play that I think we are going to see a lot of: Victor Cruz and TE Martellus Bennett are lined up on the same side. Cruz goes deep and clears out the defensive backs and Bennett comes underneath Cruz’s route for an easy wide-open catch in the flat.
The State of the Giants, August 14, 2012
What is the essential difference between playing Madden and playing football? Playing football requires courage. In a tough game, courage is often the difference between winning and losing.
You can’t measure a player’s courage on the practice field. The measurement must be taken when there is a crisis and that only happens in a real game.
I say this as a preamble to my annual evaluation of the players. BBI has come to expect these evaluations and I don’t want to disappoint anybody. However, I’ve only had two weeks at training camp to observe the team. That is not a whole lot of time to come up with something useful, so I am desperately trying to cover my butt in case my evaluations turn out to be caca.
“The roster is never something that’s 100 percent predictable. So anyone on the outside trying to do that will be surprised by some of the people we have on the final roster. It’s a constant shaping and molding and that’s how it finally emerges.” – Tom Coughlin
Eli Manning is the man. He looks better than ever. He is throwing more accurately, with less hesitation, and with prettier spirals. As in the past, the Giants success rests on his shoulders. David Carr is a career backup and could fill in for a brief time without destroying the team. Ryan Perrilloux is not ready for prime time. If his primary receiver is covered, he either has to throw the ball away or run for his life.
Ahmad Bradshaw is still the starter. He has played well in camp, both running and receiving. If he can stay healthy he will gain a lot of yards for the Giants. David Wilson, the first round pick. With the departure of Brandon Jacobs, the Giants needed another back to share time with Bradshaw. Neither Bradshaw nor Wilson has the build to carry the ball 400 times a season. Wilson could be the home run hitter that the Giants have really never had. In practice he has looked very fast and very agile. He has made unbelievable cuts and has caught the ball extremely well.
If the Giants need an extra wide receiver to run a play, say in the hurry-up offense, I could see Wilson moving up into the slot receiver position allowing the Giants to leave the same personnel on the field. As a rookie, he will probably run a more limited set of plays than Bradshaw and they will probably be designed to take advantage of his abilities.
He is not a big guy. He has had problems in the past with ball security. As a rookie he still has a lot to learn about the offensive scheme. Does he have the toughness to take the pounding that RBs take? Will he develop the skills needed to pick up blitzes and block much larger defensive players? Only time will tell.
D.J. Ware is versatile. He’s a good pass blocker, a hard runner, and a decent receiver. He has caught the ball well in camp and seems to be healthy. I think that staying healthy is the deciding issue on his continued career with the Giants. He is the logical choice for short yardage situations.
Andre Brown and Da’Rel Scott. Scott is faster. Brown has more experience and is more reliable as a pass blocker. Both have caught the ball well in practice. Both can run with some wiggle. They are probably both competing for the fourth running back slot.
The Giants have five serviceable running backs and will only keep four. It is always better (in football) to have one too many, than one too few.
Henry Hynoski is the starter. With a year of experience under his belt and a lot of muscles above it, he looks ready to have a great year as a lead blocker and pass protector. At 265 pounds, he is not going to get many yards rushing the ball, but he is a fine receiver and runs very well after the catch.
Joe Martinek. If Hynoski were injured, the 40 pounds lighter Joe Martinek could play fullback or the Giants could look for somebody else. Joe is a good receiver and perhaps a decent runner, but I doubt he can make the team as a running back unless several players are injured. He would have to play much better in the pre-season games than what he has shown in camp if he is to stick.
Bear Pascoe has the reputation of not being very athletic, or a good blocker. In terms of receiving, there have been few catchable balls that he has dropped in camp. He runs very well for a 280 pound man. He is the “move TE” and as such he will complement TE Martellus Bennett. He is also versatile and can play FB in a pinch.
Martellus Bennett is a former Cowboy. He has the reputation of blocking well and dropping a lot of passes. It is hard to tell in practice how good a blocker he is, but I have not seen him drop many passes. Some of his catches have been impressive bordering on spectacular. Of course, that could change in a real game when there is a lot more pressure and hitting than in a practice.
Bennett is big, strong, and fast for a man his size. He seems to be a good receiver and has made a number of leaping catches in camp. If he is a good blocker, he will be able to help the Giants with that alone. If his receiving is as good as he has shown in camp, it will add a dimension to the Giants offense that we have not had since TE Jeremy Shockey.
At first I thought that Bennett was a rather self-satisfied, showboater. After speaking to a number of people who have interviewed him, he comes away as a friendly, funny, and intelligent guy who is trying hard to fit in and to prove that he is a good receiver. Many veteran players don’t go all out in training camp. They already know what they can do and so do the coaches. It is clear that Bennett’s high level of play in camp is because he is highly motivated. GM Jerry Reese may have hit a home run with Bennett; at the very least, a stand-up double. If we can get the Cowboys to kick themselves for letting him go, that would be icing on the cake.
Travis Beckum was injured in the Super Bowl and has not practiced in camp. I cannot remember Beckum ever making a noteworthy play. He is too small to block effectively in the Giants offensive scheme and the Giants have never found a niche for him as a receiving TE. It irks me that Beckum has never tried to gain some weight and muscles to try to fit in as a blocker.
Adrien Robinson, a fourth round pick, is a very big, very athletic, and very raw player. He looks like a lineman and he blocks like a lineman. He also looks like he can catch the ball, assuming he knows which player is the quarterback. He is that raw. In recent practices he has shown great improvement and has shown that he is a fluid runner and receiver. How fast he can learn the system is the big question. NFL football is entirely different from what Robinson did as a TE in college. Frankly, he looks heavier than his program weight and slower than his reported 40 time of 4.57. Those numbers don’t matter if he is as talented a receiver as he appears.
With Robinson, it would appear that the Giants have changed their draft philosophy from “best player available” to “best athlete available.” This is also evidenced by the selections of OT Matt McCants in round six and DT Markus Kuhn in round seven of the NFL draft. With all three players, their “body” is more impressive than their “body of work.” Numbers may decide whether Matt and Markus are heading for the practice squad.
Larry Donnell, Christian Hopkins, and Ryan Purvis have all had their moments in camp. They are all huge and reasonably fast and have caught the ball when it came their way. They have decent speed for such big men, but I really can’t comment on their blocking. Nevertheless, they are all better choices than Travis Beckum in my opinion. Hopkins has had the most catches, but I doubt he will make the team unless Bennett, Pascoe, or Robinson is injured.
Hakeem Nicks is rehabbing and has not practiced. Victor Cruz has picked up where he left off last year and is clearly the best receiver on the field.
“You want a receiver that doesn’t make movements that confuse you about where he’s going – that’s kind of like trying to hit a gnat. You want a guy who’s smooth. You want a guy who you understand…his body language, and a veteran guy where you know that if you throw it, he can make a play.” – Jim Fassel
Jerrel Jernigan has surprised me. I feared that because of his height at 5-8, that Eli would not be able to find him on the field. I was wrong. Jernigan has gotten open and has caught the ball very well. Well enough to be in the competition for third receiver now that Mario Manningham has departed. He will probably be the Giants punt returner as well. If he performs as well in the preseason games as in practice, I think he could be the Giants slot (Y) receiver. Performing well in a real game is not yet a given for Jerrel, or for Rueben Randle for that matter.
Rueben Randle, the second round pick, is virtually the same height and weight as Nicks and Cruz. Unlike them, he has been impressive from his first day in camp. He is a smooth route runner and has instinctive ball skills. I see him more as a backup to Cruz or Nicks or in rotation with them, rather than as the slot receiver. I say this not because Rueben lacks the necessary skill, to be the Y receiver, but as the X or Z receiver Rueben would be a threat to run down the field, beat his defender, and catch a TD on every play.
As impressive as Randle has been in camp, he will see a lot tougher coverage in real games, when there is the certainty that he will be hit before, during and after catching the ball. He is taller, heavier, and perhaps faster than Mario Manningham. Very likely, he will run his routes more consistently than Mario did. That would be a real plus. Rueben will have to make a few clutch catches in real games before we can decide if he has anything close to Manningham’s talent.
Domenik Hixon has picked up where he has left off before he was injured and has caught everything thrown his way in camp. Hixon, when healthy, was a game breaker as a kick returner. The continued health of Hixon’s surgical knee will determine how long Hixon stays with the Giants.
Ramses Barden, in my opinion, is the sixth player on the squad…for now. He has performed well in camp. In the past, he has been held back because of injuries. Coach Coughlin expects Ramses to perform now. If he does not do well in the preseason games, it might be hard to keep him on the team, because there are a number of young players who have shown a lot of promise.
When I talk about performing well in a game, I don’t mean making spectacular leaping one-handed catch. I’m talking about running routes that allow you to make a bunch of easy catches, or making a catch under pressure, or making a good play to get a first down. You can’t make spectacular catches all day long. It is far better to make a bunch of routinely easy receptions. Receivers get injured a lot. It is better if you don’t fall down when you catch a pass.
Barden is by far the tallest receiver on the team. At 6-6, he should have a great advantage against most cornerbacks, even if he does not get much separation. He is also 220 pounds which should make him a tiger when it comes to downfield blocking for running backs, or other receivers. “Talk’s cheap. Play the game” should be posted inside his locker.
Julian Talley, Brandon Collins, Dan DePalma, Isaiah Stanback, and David Douglas are all talented and all have made some fine receptions. Do they look as good in camp as Victor Cruz did in his first training camp? Yes. Absolutely. Of this group, perhaps David Douglas has impressed the most. What will it take for Douglas or one of the others to make the team? Obviously, an injury to one of the six above, or he will have to have an outstanding game or games in the preseason. As I said before, consistency as a receiver, not just one spectacular catch, is what a rookie needs to demonstrate in the preseason.
Offensive Line and Defensive Line
Giants have a one-on-one drill where a defensive lineman tries to get past an offensive lineman. In this drill, the players go all out and you can tell who can block and who can rush the passer. In past years, this was the drill that started so many fights between DE Frankie Ferrara and his offensive lineman du jour. When the Giants run this drill, they do it far away from the prying eyes of yours truly. So far as the other drills in camp go, the linemen might as well be playing patty-cake with each other. So the best way to evaluate the linemen is to watch the games on TV and see who the Giants are using as starters and reserves.
Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka are starters and Jacquian Williams is a second year player who flashed last year and is primed for a big year in 2012. Williams is very fast and good in coverage. Lately, Boley and Williams have been slowed by injury and are not practicing. If healthy, they should play well.
Chase Blackburn is the starter at middle linebacker. He re-signed with the Giants in the middle of last season and became a Super Bowl hero. It is very possible that in the near future, he will share the same fate as former Super Bowl hero WR David Tyree. Last year, LBs Greg Jones, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams were all rookies and very raw. They were basically thrown into the game without much coaching or experience. They made a lot of rookie mistakes.
Chase already knew the defensive system and he had the experience needed to call the defensive plays. He may have been slow, but at least he knew where to run. The Giants are well aware of Chase’s assets and liabilities. Chase is still slow, but last year’s rookie crop has much more experience and has improved considerably. If Mark Herzlich can replace Chase as the starter, and the other young linebackers continue to improve, the Giants may decide that they no longer need the experienced, but slow Blackburn.
Mark Herzlich. At the start of training camp I was worried that Mark did not have the foot speed to get the job done, regardless of how good his head was. After watching some drills, it appears that Mark is at least as fast as Greg Jones and Spencer Paysinger, if not faster. Mark seems to be the heir apparent to Chase Blackburn. My guess is that it will happen when Mark gets a little more experience and his body gets a little stronger as part of his recovery from cancer.
Keith Rivers may just be the veteran free agent acquisition who will seal Chase’s fate. Rivers was a first round pick who disappointed the Bengals. We got him for a 5th round pick. In my opinion, that fifth round pick was a much better investment than the mid-fourth round pick that got us LB Phillip Dillard from Nebraska, in 2010. Keith is currently Mathias Kiwanuka’s backup at the Will linebacker.
The big question is whether Rivers is going to be the second coming of former LB Kawika Mitchell, or of the injury plagued Gerris Wilkinson? Only time will tell. However, let’s not be hasty in our judgment (unless of course, Rivers gets injured and can’t play). Then, we can jump all over him and Jerry Reese, too.) If Rivers stays healthy, his physical skills and experience could make him a great pickup for the Giants.
Please remember that even veteran linebackers need a period of adjustment before they get up to full speed when they change teams. Sometimes that period of adjustment takes half a season or more. Kawika Mitchell, Michael Boley, and Antonio Pierce ALL played poorly at the beginning of their Giants careers and it was well into their first season before they hit their stride.
Greg Jones and Spencer Paysinger and Jake Muasau are also in the mix for making the squad. Paysinger has added pounds of muscle and has been praised by Coach Coughlin for improving his game skills. As such, he has the edge over the others. Unfortunately Clint Sintim has not practiced due to injury.
If Keith Rivers, Michael Boley and Jacquian Williams have no lingering health issues (and that is certainly not a given), the Giants might only keep six linebackers.
Corey Webster is a starter and so is Terrell Thomas, if he plays this year.
The big question is whether last year’s first round pick, Prince Amukamara, can start in place of Terrell Thomas. It appears that he has the talent, but like all of last year’s rookies, he started at a disadvantage because of the labor dispute. It is just a question of how long it will take to learn from his mistakes. Will he be ready to be a starter at the beginning of the season? Maybe, maybe not.
Jayron Hosley, the third round pick, has had his moments in camp. He can return punts and is fast and athletic. He is on the small side, but he makes up for that with his athleticism. Although he has done well in camp, as a rookie, it is unlikely that Jayron would be considered as a starter to replace Terrell Thomas. Aside from special teams, I would expect Hosley to cut his teeth on more limited roles, such as nickel and dime back.
Michael Coe and Bruce Johnson are both seasoned veterans and both were injured last year. In camp, Coe gets beaten a lot and Johnson has not looked good either. Johnson had an Achilles tendon injury, so maybe he still needs additional time before he gets all of his speed and quickness back.
Justin Tryon, Dante Hughes, and Antwaun Molden. These backs all have several years of experience and it shows in camp. Of the three, I think Tryon has played the best. Of course, they are playing against the second and third team offenses, so that has to be taken into consideration.
Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips are the unchallenged starters. The question for Rolle is whether he will be a pure safety or whether he will have CB duties in certain defenses as he did last season. At this point in his career Antrel is more effective as safety than as a CB. The answer to the question will depend more on the versatility of the Giants corners and linebackers than on Antrel.
Tyler Sash is a second year player. He was supposed to be the primary backup to Rolle and Phillips. He has had a quiet camp and has been suspended by the League for the first four games of the season for using a banned prescription drug. Safeties are supposed to be smart and that violation was stupid. I don’t know if the Giants will be allowed to put another player in Sash’s slot until Tyler’s suspension is over. If they can’t, it will severely impact the Giants.
The other players competing for the fourth Safety slot are Will Hill, Jojo Nicolas, Stevie Brown and Chris Horton. Stevie Brown came into camp with the most fanfare, but has been quiet while Will Hill has been making a lot of plays. If Hill (who has had off the field problems of his own) continues to play this well, he is going to make the team. At this point, Nicolas, Brown and Horton are longshots to make the team.
Zak DeOssie is the long snapper, Steve Weatherford is the punter and holder for kicks, and Lawrence Tynes is the kicker. All have looked great in practice. Weatherford looks consistent and Tynes has been booming kickoffs and has looked very accurate and long on field goals. It is nice to go into the season having confidence that the kicking and punting will be reliable and consistently at a high level.
“Let’s talk about winning first before we talk about anything else. We need to win some games. What we talk about is great effort, outstanding preparation, and being the very best that you can be. If you are as good as you can possibly be, the rest of that stuff will take care of itself. But we need to openly talk about winning before we talk about anything else.” – Tom Coughlin
My prediction for the coming year: The Giants will go as far as their health will take them.