by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany
The First Practice of Training Camp
Rookie Draft Picks, or How the Giants Sabotaged My Camp Reports (written with tongue somewhat in cheek).
One of the most exciting things about training camp is that it gives us a firsthand look at the rookie draft choices. Draftees are mystery men. Will they be busts or stars? Anything is possible.
Veteran players are certainly important, but they are not mysterious. If they are healthy (a big if you are a Giants fan), you pretty much know what to expect from a veteran player. Furthermore, veterans often do not go all out in practice. They know that they have made the team so they try to pace themselves so that they can last for the entire season.
But a rookie, as I said, is a mystery man. Training camp is a rookie’s first big test and BBI wants to know if he will pass or fail that test. We want facts, not the hype put out by the players agents and draft gurus. BBI wants to know if a rookie can help the team and BBI wants to know it now!
The Giants have had their share of exciting rookies. WR Ramses Barden, TE Jeremy Shockey, DB Kenny Phillips, QB Eli Manning, RB Andre Brown, to name a few. What do these players all have in common? Answer: they are WRs, TEs, RBs, QBs, and DBs. They all touch the ball, or compete for the ball one-on-one with another player AND they do it in the open field in plain sight. They give you something concrete to watch and to think about. More importantly, their play in training camp gives you a reasonable indication of how well, or if, they will play during the season.
So what did Head Coach Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese go out and do? They sabotaged my camp reports by drafting three linemen and two linebackers with their first six draft picks. Whoopie!! What can you report about rookie linemen in training camp? The pit is a jumble of bodies and linemen are forbidden to hit hard enough to make a player fall down. Training camp turns the pit into a dance competition. Perhaps there will be some fights. That would at least be interesting, though not very useful in analyzing a lineman.
Most will agree that DE Michael Strahan (a second round pick) is a HOF candidate, but going into his third season Eric from BBI gave him only a 50-50 chance of making the team (Note from Eric – Marty, I was never down on Strahan! Sehorn after his rookie year, yes, but not Strahan). Then there is first round pick T Rich Petitgout. Over a period of several years, he went from being a lousy RT, to a so-so G, to a quality NFL LT (until he was overtaken by back problems and an impatient GM). So much for anyone making an accurate prediction about a rookie lineman.
The same goes for our rookie linebackers Phillip Dillard and Adrian Tracy, who are fourth and sixth rounders, respectively. Despite being a fourth rounder, Dillard is a focus of attention because he might have to fill a very weak area in the Giants defense if MLB Keith Bulluck is not fully healthy when the season starts. The team needs Dillard, Bulluck, or some other veteran LB to be a competent starter from Day One. Is anyone on the Giants an adequate MLB? BBI wants to know right now, not in September.
Oh sure, you will read about a linebacker’s size, speed, strength, and command of the defensive huddle. That’s great, but we all know that the defining quality of a linebacker is how well he tackles. Unfortunately, we also know that there is no tackling in training camp. Clearly, the linebacking skills of Messrs. Dillard and Tracy will remain a mystery until well into the regular season.
As a result of the tragic accident to safety Chad Jones (our third round draft pick), our only remaining non-lineman, non-linebacker draftee is seventh rounder P Matt Dodge. The job is his to lose and the Giants need him to succeed. Even so, Mr. Dodge is not exactly Mr. Excitement.
If the Giants had drafted a quarterback and a running back with their first two picks instead of a DE and a DT, then training camp would be a lot more interesting to read about. Thanks again, Tom and Jerry. But take heart my friends. There are still 25 other new faces on the Giants roster. With a little luck, some of them will be interesting to watch and read about.
Naturally, we will start with Mr. Excitement, P Matt Dodge. He is powerfully built and if the need arises, I could see him nailing a punt returner, assuming Matt has some tackling ability.
I hate to draw conclusions from just eight punts, but here is what I saw: all the punts were down the middle of the field. Four of them were low and short and did not sound like they were struck very well. Two were acceptable and two were excellent. The obvious conclusion is that at this point Matt needs to become more consistent. On his good punts, it appeared to me that he had a good rhythm in his drop and leg swing and that the good kicks were the result of using less effort. The shorter kicks looked like he was over-kicking in an attempt to get more distance.
LB-LS Zak DeOssie’s snaps were pretty accurate. He got the ball to Dodge with plenty of zip, but Dodge did not appear to be handling the ball cleanly. It was catch, adjust the ball, drop, and kick rather than just catch, drop, and kick. It is only day one. Dodge and DeOssie will work those kinks out. I would say that Dodge has the talent to be a fine kicker for us if he is consistent under the pressure of a real game. Only time will tell and that time is quickly approaching.
The main drill was a multitude of punt returns. The jugs gun was used for this drill. CB Aaron Ross, WR Adam Jennings, S Antrel Rolle, WR Sinorice Moss, WR Mario Manningham all got chances to catch the punts. Both Mario and Sinorice each muffed one of the five punts they received. In both cases the ball hit them in the chest and slid down. There was not a lot of wind and the players were wearing shells and shorts. In my view, it is easier to catch a football wearing a shell than wearing shoulder pads.
There was a one-on-one passing drill. Both QB Eli Manning and QB Jim Sorgi looked sharp and accurate in the drills. QB Rhett Bomar did not participate in this drill. According to Coach Coughlin, this was a very light practice and all he wanted to do was get the players on the field and get them used to the practice routine. The coach seemed pleased that all the players passed their conditioning tests which took place in the morning. He was pleased that all the big men came in at their assigned weights.
He described the test as being five “gassers” followed by three minutes of rest followed by another five gassers. My understanding of gasser is running across the width of the field and then back again.
Perhaps the light practice was a reward for passing the conditioning tests and a recognition that some of the players might need a bit more time to recover from it. Coach Coughlin said that the players also had the usual full complement of meetings to attend. In any case, the only time the offense and the defense squared off at all was in the one-on-one drill.
Both S Antrel Rolle and CB Terrell Thomas made an excellent pass defense in the one-on-one drill. Terrell must have felt that he should have gotten an interception, because he did some push-ups after the play was over.
The most noteworthy catch in my opinion was by WR Ramses Barden. The catch itself was quite ordinary, but as soon as he caught the ball he made an outstanding pivot and was gone down the field.
TE Kevin Boss and Eli Manning tried to hook up on a timing pattern. It was incomplete, but it looks like Kevin’s ankle is not preventing him from cutting.
Kevin Boss, TE Scott Chandler, and TE Bear Pascoe all look like football players. TE Jake Ballard looks like a surfer dude. He has the blondest hair since Phil Simms.
The best passes of the day were thrown by Antrel Rolle. After catching a punt he would throw a 50 yard dart to the ball boy tending the jugs guns.
The defensive players have a new drill. Six or eight players form a circle and they bat the ball to each other trying to keep it from hitting the ground. I’m uncertain of the rules, but whatever they are, I have never seen the players more enthusiastic about anything. They were shouting and jumping and it was clear that they were enjoying themselves.