Jul 312005
July 31, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Morning Practice)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany

The morning practice was in shells, helmets and shorts under dark skies that threatened rain. Many of the player were wearing long sleeves because of the coolish weather. Towards the second half of the practice the sun peeked out and the weather remained quite pleasant.

The only player absent from the morning practice was S Jack Brewer. I thought that he might have been cut to make room for CB Corey Webster, but the second round draft pick remains unsigned. Nevertheless, the defensive backfield unit remains strong even without Brewer or Webster. I really would not be surprised if one of the rookie players knocked a veteran DB off the squad.

One of the things that is different this year compared to prior years is that there are no mystery players on the field who are not on the roster. There are no players who do not have their names on their shirts. What this indicates to me is that this year the Giants do not have a revolving door for personnel where they are giving tryouts on a daily basis in order to replace guys on the squad who they know do not have NFL talent. My conclusion is that this year, even the “camp fodder” have a higher level of talent than in the past.

Secret Practices?

During the first half of the morning practice, the defensive backs and the special teams units practiced on the field that was right in front of the fans and VIPs. However, the more interesting drills of the linemen, receivers, and QBs, were on other fields that were 250 to 300 yards away. Even with binoculars it was almost impossible to tell what they were doing.

You may recall that former Giant DE Frankie Ferarra used to get into a lot of fights at camp. Well, most of those fights were during the one-on-one offensive versus defensive lineman drills. Those drills were a great indication of which offensive linemen could block and which defensive linemen could rush. Those drills are now hidden far away from the prying eyes of fans and reporters, alike. My conclusion is that Tom Coughlin does not want to tip his hand about anything, even on these opening days of camp.

None of the quarterbacks were sharp this morning. As one wag in the bleachers put it, “It looked like all of them were competing for the third string-job.” Eli Manning did not hit many passes until the very end of the practice, when he connected for three red zone touchdowns of the 15-yard variety. Don’t get too excited about Eli’s play. He is probably focusing on one specific aspect of his game and that would cause other parts of his play to suffer.

QB Jared Lorenzen did not look bad compared to anybody. Although the Hefty Lefty may be overweight, in my opinion, he moves in the pocket with more grace and agility than Kerry Collins did. That aspect of his game will probably improve with more work and less avoirdupois. Jared had a few nice throws including a wobbler that WR Brandon Smith caught on his knees. There was enough power on the throw that the wobbles did not matter.

Jesse Palmer, the second string QB, had another poor outing. He had a pass blocked by the big hand of big DT Fred Robbins. DT Kendrick Allen and DT Demane Duckett are also seeing some work in the starting defensive line. First round pick DT William Joseph was playing with the third string this morning. I am told that he is getting individual coaching.

In the 11-on-11 drills, Jesse dumped three passes off to TE Visanthe Shiancoe. These were not pretty throws or difficult catches. On each, Shank was standing, uncovered 5-7 yards down the field. In the red zone drill, on a play where RB Brandon Jacobs ran the ball up the middle, I heard a coach yelling, “Shank, where are you going?”

Compare Shiancoe’s play to 6’7″ TE Chris Luzar, who made several good looking catches including one on his knees, this morning. On one play Chris was in motion before the snap. He sprinted from the right side to the left side of the formation with the intention of turning up field at the snap. However, CB Curtis DeLoatch was waiting for him and would not let him past the line of scrimmage. The play had to go elsewhere.

That was not the only good play that Curtis made today. He broke up a red zone pass to WR Plaxico Burress by waiting until the last second, and when the ball touched Plax’s finger tips, he separated Plax from the ball. It was a sparkling pass defense. S Gibril Wilson also broke up a pass, but you could see that he was very angry with himself because he had committed pass interference. Plaxico also failed to catch a very deep pass on which he had clearly beaten both CBs William Peterson and Will Allen. The ball sailed between his outstretched hands like a ball through the goalposts.

Speaking of goalposts, RBs Mike Cloud and Derrick Ward, and WRs Willie Ponder and Mike Jennings, all took kick-offs from Jay Feely and David Kimball. Except for one low screamer that spun sideways like a helicopter and sailed five yards into the end zone, just about all the kicks had decent height and hang time, spun end over end they way they should, and came down between the 5- and 10-yard line. The key here is hang-time and placement.

All of the running backs have had their moments in camp. Part of the reason is that the team is not wearing pads, so no defender wants to touch them. On one running play, LB Joe Scott knocked RB Ryan Grant to the ground. A coach was all over Scott for that no-no. So far, I can say that Grant, Ward, and Jacobs are all pretty fast and this morning Ward and Jacobs both displayed nifty spin moves when running the ball. We’ll get a better idea of who can play next week when the team is in full pads.

Although Toomer has made a few good catches, TE Jeremy Shockey and WR Jamaar Taylor are the receiving stars so far. This morning Taylor made several athletic catches showing speed and good hands. Tim Carter, his rival for the third WR slot, made only one, I believe. Shockey on the other hand, made his catches the way I like to see them made. He got open, made the catch look simple, tucked the ball away, and ran down field with it.

A quick note on various reports you read from camp. Where you sit determines a lot about what you see. Yesterday and today I, and all the other fans, were located behind the endzone. For the most part, the offense had its back to us. This gave me a good view of the offense and the QB, but a poor view of the defensive alignment and personnel. Pat from Inside Football (although I did not see her) sat with the VIPs in the bleachers that are located at about the 50 yard-line. That gives Pat a very different view, and of course, she was quite a bit closer. Nevertheless, Pat’s view of what was happening on the opposite side of the field from her is obscured. As Max Bialystock says in the Broadway show The Producers, “I invented theater-in-the-square. Nobody had a good seat!”

As long as I’m on the subject of seating, I will once again make my annual tirade about fan accommodations. If anything, they are even worse than last year because of the construction going on at SUNY-Albany. If the practice is on one of the five practice fields (as opposed to the stadium) there are no toilets, no water or refreshments, no shelter from the rain, very few shady places, and very few seats. If you are a woman attending training camp, I recommend not wearing a skirt or white pants. You may be sitting on sandy grass. Wear jeans and sneakers because you will do a lot of walking and standing.

I can’t blame the Giants about the fan accommodations. The fans are a nuisance and I’m pretty sure that if nobody attended the practices, the Giants would be secretly pleased. The Giants did change one thing: they added large signs advertising Toyota and other products at various places around the fields.

At least the Giants recognize the revenue potential of the fans. The City of Albany is another story. If the City of Albany and Mayor Jennings arranged for (paid for) better fan accommodations, specifically, more and better seating, you could triple attendance at every practice. The increase in outside visitors would significantly boost Albany’s economy.

Jul 312005
July 30-31, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Morning Practices)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor jaenyg

I have been to the last two morning practices. Here are some observations:

Eli Manning is head and shoulders above any QB on the roster. He might have some second-year struggles, but it’s all over without him. Watching him you know he’s going to be special.

Until you lay eyes on him in person, you have no idea how huge HB Brandon Jacobs is. No corner is going to want to tackle him; hopefully he can get that far into the secondary.

The three teams of offensive linemen as been this – First team: Petitgout/Diehl/O’Hara/Snee/McKenzie. Second team: Whitfield/Seubert/Lucier/Whittle/Winey. Third team: Smith/Kelly/Tidwell-Neal/Pears/Hilliard. Gary Walker has practiced but not in 11 on 11’s. When Whitfield comes in on the first team at either tackle, Lewis Kelly takes over second team tackle.

If training camp is any indication, WR Amani Toomer is going to be fine this season. He is really lighting it up. Manning has been going to Toomer, WR Plaxico Burress, and WR Jamaar Taylor equally but he hasn’t developed much with WR Tim Carter yet. Plax has worked the sidelines well. What is interesting with him is that his height and long arms work well towards the sideline with balls in front of him but has soon as his hands go above his head they become stone-like. I think when he has to look up, his focus falters. The play he got injured on was a lob ball that he easily should have had over the smaller corner but he struggled for it and got tangled up. He does show good separation and soft hands when the ball is out in front of him though.

Take the note I wrote about Manning and the QB’s and substitute Shockey and the TE’s.

It is true that all sorts of combos of defensive tackles have been used with the first team defense. However, almost every first team combo had Damane Duckett in it. I don’t know the real reason for this but he has looked good along with Kenderick Allen and Kendrick Clancy. Clancy is not that big for a “nose tackle” but he is pretty quick and has been standing next to the red shirted QB when they throw quite often. In 11-on-11’s, the defensive tackles have owned the interior of the offensive line. I haven’t seen to much out of the defensive ends. The second team has been DE Justin Tuck and DE Eric Moore with Tuck lining up on Strahan’s side.

The third team rotates with the rest. One thing that I do see is that Strahan looks like he cakewalks through everything, not really being a leader for a crop of young defensive ends. DE Osi Umenyiora has smoked Luke Petitgout a few times.

MLB Antonio Pierce is the man. When the first unit lines up there is a ton of communication being shouted and it is almost always Pierce leading the talk. He is extremely instinctual. Today when WLB Barrett Green went out from the first unit for some rest, T.J. Hollowell took his spot. But later in practice it was Kevin Lewis on the weakside with the first team. Greisen was always second team middle linebacker.

Gibril Wilson and Brent Alexander have been the two starting safeties so far. When you don’t hear Pierce, you hear Alexander. He may stick another year because the secondary seems clueless without him. On Saturday, the second-team safeties were Shaun Williams and Jack Brewer, but Brewer was MIA today and Art Thomas took over for him. Occasionally James Butler would rotate in with the second team.

CB Will Allen has been up-and-down. The first day Toomer was ripping him but today he seemed better. There is no denying his speed has no one could out run him but we all no his problem is locating the ball while maintaining good coverage. In press drills with the wide receivers, CB Will Peterson shines. Today, CB Frank Walker had a great day. He stayed step for step with Toomer on one fly pattern that fell incomplete and on one play Manning tried to pump and go on Frank with Tim Carter going full speed and Frank broke up the perfect pass. He has good man to man skills but he lost track of WR Willie Ponder on a play where he was playing either off or zone.

You can tell that special teams will never be a weakness with this coaching staff; they really focus a lot of time and effort on it. The punt returner position seems wide open, but Ponder still looks like the best option for kick returner.

That’s all for now. I will be back at camp on Tuesday.

Jul 312005
July 31, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Afternoon Practice)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany

The afternoon was very muggy and interspersed with light showers and a little thunder. It is now 7:00 PM and it is pouring. (I have to wonder about those late practices that Coach Coughlin has scheduled.) The practice this afternoon was on the lower practice fields, where it is very difficult to see even half of the plays.

S Jack Brewer was back. Apparently he was neither cut nor injured. (Editor’s Note: Jack Brewer missed the morning practice due to heat exhaustion).

Eli Manning played much better this afternoon. He hit on some deep passes and found the open man. QBs Jesse Palmer and Tim Hasselbeck also did better. Hasselbeck threw a few nice looking passes, but his arm is the weakest of the four quarterbacks. I would say it is even weaker than Kurt Warner’s.

The defense looks quite good. All the defensive linemen are well-proportioned and quick. DT Kendrick Clancy is impressively fast. He got over to the sidelines in a hurry on one running play. Even LB Kevin Lewis had a pass deflection. Nick Greisen started at the Will linebacker position filling in for starter Barrett Green, who practices only once a day because of his knee. Nick did well today. Brent Alexander and Gibril Wilson remain the starters at safety. I am told that in the morning one played inside and the other deep, and in the afternoon they swapped positions.

Last year Michael Strahan would beat then RT Dave Diehl on a consistent basis. This year, going up against RT Kareem McKenzie he still wins a few battles, but so does Kareem.

This afternoon the defensive backs worked on nickel and dime packages.

CB Curtis DeLoatch on one play covered WR Plaxico Burress perfectly. The more I watch DeLoatch, the more I am impressed. Plaxico had a decent afternoon. On several plays he ran smoothly down field and made some easy looking catches in full stride, from Eli Manning. WR Tim Carter had several catches too. On one, he raced fifteen yards down the sideline covered by Will Peterson who was giving him about a five yard cushion. Carter came to a sudden stop ran back three steps then stopped again and ran forward about three steps. He then jumped high in the air for the reception. It was a good play by both players. It really showed Carter’s speed and his ability to stop on a dime.

I am told that former defensive tackle great Dana Stubblefield is now an assistant with the Giants.

Jul 312005
July 31, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Afternoon Practice)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor UAGiant

I pulled into campus a bit later than expected due to some construction on the Interstate, but did catch the tail end of camp from a distance. I decided to cut my losses and just get a spot on “Autograph Alley”. Eli signed for everyone, but his signature has deteriorated to a squiggly “E” and “M” with some loops for appearance, though I’m far from complaining. Antonio Pierce, Brent Alexander, Gibril Wilson, Jason Whittle, Jay Feeley and Jesse Palmer also went out of there way to sign everything. Also, Shockey’s tattoo is huge.

In between practices, I stood between the RACC and the PE building where the players have their daily meetings. I caught the entire team running to get to their meetings. Carlos Emmons had the quote of the day when responding to a fan asking for an autograph, “Pay my $10,000 fine and I’ll give you as many as you want.”

Although clearly established by many others, I have to say HB Brandon Jacobs is huge. I caught him walking into the PE building with a couple linebackers and he was larger than quite a few of them. I also caught WLB Barrett Green with heavy bandage around his knee, icing it down. He had an apparent limp, but I’m not sure if it was due to carrying ten pounds of ice attached at the knee.

Anyways, my impressions of the day:

Quarterbacks: Eli looked pretty good. He had a few miscues here and there, but nothing that isn’t to be expected this early in camp. I was impressed to see him pull WR David Tyree aside and give him a few pointers. Later on, Eli connected with him on a real pretty pass. Tim Hasselbeck is playing the number two spot as of now and his lack of an arm is rather apparent. He hangs a lot of passes and usually watches as defenders catch up to open receivers as his passes slowly sail in. Jesse Palmer seemed to make a few mistakes in judgment and often resorted to dumping it off to an open back five yards down. Not really impressive. J-Load got no snaps, much to my dismay.

Wide Receivers: Plax was on the field and didn’t appear to be slowed by any injuries. I noticed he was walking lightly on it between practices, but no need to take down the “All Year Baby” signs. Ataveus Cash really stood out, as he caught nearly everything thrown his way. Tyree also looked pretty good. Tim Carter had quite an impressive catch, leaping to pull in an overthrown pass to him. Toomer didn’t really do anything to make him standout, but was pretty consistent. Jamaar Taylor looks good and close to full speed (if not already there). He hauled in a few nice passes. Michael Jennings, along with the number 15 he has shaved into the back of his head, was disappointing today. He missed a few gimme’s and you could tell he was down on himself (as was the coach).

Running Backs: Not much to report on the backs. It is very hard to make a clear judgment when they’re in shells and not being tackled. Tiki ran everything out and never stopped hustling. Brandon Jacobs is huge with good acceleration, good speed, and good hustle. It’s hard not to gush about the guy. The rest of the backs also hustled and showed good speed. I didn’t see Ward on the field, but I may have just missed him.

Offensive and Defensive Lines: Again, hard to get a real impression, but could pick a few things up. Starters on the D-Line rotated often, with Robbins being the one constant. Joeseph was thrown in with the third stringers, but the coaches kept on him non-stop. It may be a psychological attempt to break through to the guy – who knows? McKenzie and Strahan are fun to watch. The two seem to go back and forth. Not that it isn’t common knowledge, but Osi has some wheels on him.

Linebackers: Antonio Pierce is quite impressive, not only athletically, but by his “smarts” on the field. He was yelling instructions to the defense and adjusting them to the offense quite often. Emmons looks to be at full speed. Greisen was in place of Green in the afternoon and broke up a pass to Shockey that was right on target.

Secondary: Gibril and Alexander were with the first string defense for the session. Allen and Peterson also performed quite well, breaking up a number of deep passes and generally having good position. Deloatch looks quite impressive as well.

Kicking: Not much to report, it’s obvious who’s already got the job. Feagles is going unchallenged and Feely doesn’t have much to worry in regards to Kimball. Feely hit everything he attempted with room to spare where Kimball nearly missed one without much boom behind it.

Other: It’s amazing how well-run the practices are. I remember watching them under Fassel and seeing a laid back team with no hussle. Everyone is in an all out sprint to start the next drill. On the return to the locker room, Plax, McKenzie, Gibril, and Seubert spent a ton of time on the fans. Seubert came in second place on quote of the day. In response to a fan calling him, “Mr. Sherbert” he called back, “Usually I’ll come over and sign if a guy can get my name right, but you’re so wrong I feel bad.” He is a great guy who took a minute to shoot the bull. I noticed his massive scar where he had his leg repaired and can report, it is not pretty. It is definitely good to see him on the field again.

Jul 302005
July 30, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Morning Practice)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany

Year number two with the Giants has begun for Tom Coughlin. Although Imperious Tom has probably changed very little, his PR has improved considerably. You can tell just by reading his press conference transcripts. The questions are friendlier and the Coach no longer gives cutting answers to dumb questions.

This year, the stories that will sell papers won’t be about the Coach’s petty rules or his bad relationship with his players. This year there is better stuff to write about than sock length and players being fined for showing up “on time” for meetings.

The media will focus on the improvements that Coughlin has made in personnel, Eli’s development as a team leader, on the influx of “name” free agent players like Burress and McKenzie (who were not scared off by Coughlin’s “task master” reputation), and how Tom is trying to avoid injuries by reducing the intensity of the training camp workouts.

What has caused this change the media’s perception of TC? In my opinion, what turned it around for Coughlin was his being able to “cure” Tiki Barber’s horrific fumbling problem. That got everyone’s attention. It got Coughlin respect around the League and from the press. More importantly, it earned Coughlin (and his methods) the players’ trust. Tiki held the rock they way Coughlin told him to. Tiki worked hard at it, and voila!: Tiki had a spectacular season even though he was on a 6-10 team. This year, when Coughlin suggests a change in football technique, the players are much more likely to accept that change without hesitation or question.

All right. Enough with the preamble; on to what happened at training camp:

I got to training camp early and spotted Giants PR Director, Pat Hanlon, on the field. I asked him if CB Corey Webster had been signed. He said, “Not yet.” My hunch is that Corey will be on the field this afternoon. Why? Because I think I nearly hit Webster or some other Giant player who was driving into camp at the same time I was. He was driving a White Toyota with New Jersey Plates and he clearly didn’t know where he was going. I pulled into the SUNY parking lot and he continued on towards the players’ parking area. I’m guessing it is Webster because the other players would already have been at camp and the coaches would know where they were going. We shall know if I’m right this afternoon.

Scary stuff: I don’t have much to add to the WR Plaxico Burress injury. He was running way down field for a pass and either tripped or collided with the defender. You could tell immediately that he was hurt because he did not get up for a minute. With binoculars I could see that he was grimacing. He eventually stood and walked a little bit.

At some point in the middle of practice, RT Kareem McKenzie came off the field and watched as LT Bob Whitfield took over for him with the first team. He did not seem to be in any pain. He just stood and watched the practice. He waddled off the field after the practice. With a guy that big, it is hard to know if that was his natural gait or if he was limping.

I did not see it, but I was told that SS Gibril Wilson hurt his ankle. Up until the injury, Wilson was a mile high, frisky and showing no after-effects of his “stinger.” He looked fit and a bit bigger. (Editor’s Note: Wilson was suffering from a cramp in his calf).

TE Visanthe Shiancoe seemed to tweak a knee, but it looked like he shook it off and continued to play.

Hopefully these injuries will prove to be minor.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a practice – a light breeze, sunny and 75 degrees. I found my favorite spot to watch – under a shady tree. As usual, the practice began with a 15 minute warm up for the whole team (except for the linemen who do their own thing almost out of sight of the fans). The players are in shells, helmets and shorts, rather than in full pads this weekend, so there won’t be much in the way of hitting and receiving should be easier.

The first drill of the day was a ball stripping drill in which most of the team participated. There were also some special teams drills.

The quarterbacks practiced fake hand-offs. Eli Manning is just brilliant at it. He looked poised and in control. He threw a bunch of accurate passes this morning. He is clearly the man.

First Impressions of new players:

MLB Antonio Pierce nearly picked off a QB Jesse Palmer pass intended for TE Visanthe Shiancoe. It was very impressive.

Third-round pick DE Justin Tuck looks powerful and athletic. As noted in his photos, he has a pointy head, but it is symmetrical. Fellow draft pick DE Eric Moore also looks well-built. Perhaps a bit chunkier.

DT Kendrick Allen is big enough to “go bear huntin’ with a buggy whip” and DT Damane Duckett is just as big. They are both powerfully built. They tower over DT Kendrick Clancy who appears to be the starter next to DT Fred Robbins. DT Ahmad Childress, who had the “asthma” attack yesterday, did not return.

FB Luke Lawton is as blond as TE Jeremy Shockey, but it looks like he will have a tough time unseating FB Jim Finn who ran well and caught a few passes.

RB Brandon Jacobs looks fast and powerful and has good balance. He looks huge compared to Tiki Barber. On one pass, Brandon showed a lot of concentration. The pass was behind him and he caught it in full stride with one hand. It remains to be seen how he will catch the ball when he has to get open. RB Derrick Ward also showed speed and running ability.

WR Plaxico Burress: He is very tall and very cool. Before his injury, he caught what was thrown to him, but I’ll have to see more.

WR Michael Jennings: Small and very fast and agile. Had a nice move to get free after he caught one pass.

QB Tim Hasselbeck: After watching a few throws I would say that he will be promoted from third team to second team. QB Jesse Palmer did not have a strong showing this morning. When he could find a receiver many of his passes were off or wobbly.

S Diamond Ferri: Short but strong and quick. He could be a running back.

QB Jared Lorenzen: He looked pretty good and moves pretty well for a big guy. I’d say he is down to about 260-265. He has a strong arm and connected on a few nice passes.

TE Chris Luzar and TE Wade Fletcher: He is a big, big raw-boned type player. He looks like he has plenty of speed to get down field. I don’t know if his legs are strong enough for good blocking. Fletcher looks more like a very large receiver. He is not quite as big or as muscular as Luzar. However, he did get down field to catch a pass.

G Lewis Kelly was playing LT with the second team (because Bob Whitfield was playing RT with the first team).

PK Jay Feely is a powerfully built guy who looks like he can run down field and make tackles, unlike the tiny kickers that have played for the Giants in past years. He was in a drill where he was kicking and the defenders were blocking the ball about three feet off his toe. PK David Kimball on the adjacent field was doing the same thing with other players.

He only made four punts, but P Jeff Feagles looks like he is in mid-season form.

Condition of previously injured players:

WLB Barrett Green looked fit and eager. Towards the end of practice he needed a coach to help him stretch his hamstrings. The guy is unbelievably flexible. SLB Carlos Emmons looks fine.

WR Tim Carter looks fast and agile. He caught a pass or two. WR Jamaar Taylor made a few great catches and can run fast, but he does not look like he is at full strength or at full speed yet. He looks like he may be playing with some pain.

LG Rich Seubert is playing with the second team. He looks fit. He does not limp and has lost the “spare tire” he had around his middle when I saw him last year. Apparently, OG/OC Wayne Lucier has gained the weight around his middle that Rich lost.

OL Greg Walker was wearing a very large brace on his leg (and except for WR Jamaar Taylor who had a very small brace just below the knee) was the only player who was wrapped. Everyone else was unencumbered. He was doing some snapping (in a drill where all four QBs receive snaps at the same time) along with OG/OC Jason Whittle and the centers: O’Hara, Lucier, and Tidwell-Neal. Unlike last year, LG Chris Snee did NOT participate in this snapping drill.

WR Willie Ponder made several excellent receptions and was very fast on an end-around, but he muffed a punt, as did WR Mark Jones. By way of excuse, I’ll go so far as to say that the sun might have been in their eyes.

Oh and by the way, WR Amani Toomer looks great. He caught a quick pass over the middle from his flanker position. TE Jeremy Shockey looks great. He had a bunch of catches all over the field. On one he slid (bad shoes) like he was going into second base, but recovered and caught the ball in mid-slide. He has a new and large tattoo on his arm. Shockey’s hair is now cut very short. Frankly, I liked it better long.

The Big Blue Wrecking Crew was out in force at the practice. There were about 45 of them attending the practice. They were all wearing BBWC t-shirts (gentle dig Eric). They very graciously invited me to their after-practice barbecue. Former linebacker great Harry Carson and his wife would be there as well. I was very tempted to go, but I had to decline so that I could go home and write this report. I have no doubt that the prospect of spending a few hours schmoozing with Harry Carson would have been overpowering for BB’56.

Jul 302005
July 30, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Afternoon Practice)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Marty in Albany

Whew! What a relief. WR Plaxico Burress returned to practice after injuring his knee during the morning practice when he collided with a defender. He made several catches including a deep one in which he tumbled to the ground after the catch. He looked fine and had no wraps on his legs. Plaxico seems very cool and laid back. He does not get excited. It gives the appearance that he is not trying hard or excited about practice. Appearances are often deceiving.

Kareem McKenzie also returned to practice this afternoon after sitting out the last half of the morning practice. His leg was wrapped, but he played.

The second team offensive line appears to be LT Bob Whitfield, LG Rich Seubert, OC Wayne Lucier, RG Jason Whittle, and RT Brandon Winey. It’s early and I would not be surprised if there are changes in the next few days. After watching Seubert a little more carefully, you can tell that he is not at full speed yet. His leg is wrapped. I would think that he will get into much better shape if and when his leg improves. If it does, Dave Diehl will have a fight on his hands for the starting LG spot.

And speaking of fights, the first fight of the year was an exaggerated shoving match between TE Jeremy Shockey (naturally) and a defender who I could not identify. It was over very quickly, but it got big cheers from the fans. Shockey made some more catches and didn’t drop anything. He is sporting a tattoo that appears to be a large American Flag on his large biceps. This year, Shockey seems to be joined by a bunch of TEs who are good receivers. Chris Luzar continued where he left off this morning by making a very athletic catch and run, and Darius Williams caught a pair of passes. I don’t know if Luzar can block, but he seems to be a better receiver than Visanthe Shiancoe.

SS Gibril Wilson was back at practice. I’m not sure if he played. He had some kind of brace on his lower leg.

OT Greg Walker practiced without the large brace that he had on his leg during the morning practice. DT Ahmad Childress was back at practice after his “asthma” attack yesterday. He did not play, however.

WLB Barrett Green was not on the field for the afternoon practice. I believe that he will practice only once-a-day until his knee is better. (Editor’s Note: Coughlin said before camp that Green would only be practicing once-per-day initially). He was replaced by Nick Greisen. I do not know why Mr. Greisen chose to tell the press that he brought his pillow to camp along with his TV, computer, etc. I would be not be surprised if Nick is called “pillow” in the Giants locker room, if not around the League. Come on, Nick. My sister, bless her heart, takes her pillow along when she travels.

Unfortunately, CB draft choice Corey Webster was not at the practice. I thought I saw him before the morning practice, but clearly, I was wrong.

Eli Manning was not as sharp this afternoon as in the morning. Some of his deep passes hung up and one pass found a patch of grass with no player within 7 or 8 yards of the ball. There were some good throws mixed in. Can you say “screen pass?” Eli threw some very nice touch passes to Tiki Barber and others. They were almost lobs, but they were caught.

WR Amani Toomer caught a deep ball on CB Will Allen who was with him stride for stride, but that was Allen’s only bad play. During the rest of the practice Will Allen played with a vengeance. He must have made five or six spectacular diving deflections of passes. SS Shaun Williams made a nice play to deflect a pass as well.

I think that WR Tim Carter made a catch this afternoon. There is no doubt that he is a very fast runner. WR Jamaar Taylor made a bunch of catches. The one that impressed me the most was where he ran fifteen yards down field then cut across the middle and caught a bullet thrown by Manning right into his gut. The timing had to be perfect on that. Jamaar also easily beat William Peterson on a deep pattern, but Manning’s throw hung up in the air and was too short to be caught.

QB Tim Hasselbeck continued to look better than Jesse Palmer, but it is clear that Tim has not yet learned the system or his receivers very well. Even Jared Lorenzen had his moments on some passes. He dropped back, threw in tempo, and hit open receivers.

There were more punts in the afternoon. It will be a battle among Willie Ponder, Ataveus Cash, Michael Jennings, and incumbent punt returner, Mark Jones. There may be others including S Diamond Ferri.

RB Brandon Jacobs continues to impress with his running ability and receiving skills. He caught a pass over the middle (from Manning, I think) and made a beautiful pivot to immediately turn up the field. The problem (if you can call it a problem) is that running backs Ryan Grant, Mike Jemison, and Derrick Ward all have obvious talent. Ryan Grant impressed me with his balance, and ability to change direction. I’m not sure that either Grant or Jemison has the power to run the ball off-tackle in short yardage situations.

Although I have not mentioned specific plays by defensive backs, it looks like there are a lot of young players with talent. CB Curtis DeLoatch made a good defensive play this afternoon and none of the young players was made to look foolish by the receivers. Diamond Ferri, James Butler, Antwain Spann, Ahmad Treaudo, all have athletic ability. Who knows if one or more of them might push a veteran off the squad? The talent should increase when CB Corey Webster is signed.

Jul 282005
Key Questions Heading into the 2005 New York Giants Training Camp

Since almost the beginning of the site in 1995, I have annually produced a “Key Questions Heading into Training Camp” article. So I will certainly continue the tradition. But this year’s article will be shorter as I recently provided a more detailed overview of my opinions of this team heading into training camp (see Shhhhh! This 2005 New York Giants Team May Actually Be Quite Good).

I’ve produced a list of what I think are the key questions heading into training camp and the 2005 NFL season. This list will most likely vary from yours or other folks. I honestly feel quite confident about the talent level on this team and only the top four items are the most worrisome to me.

(1) How Fast Will Eli Manning Mature? It’s a quarterback’s league. More than that, as has been the case with the Giants in recent years, opposing defenses will concentrate on stopping Tiki Barber and force the Giants’ starting quarterback to beat them. Manning has only started seven games. In the U.S. today, everyone (especially sports fans) expects immediate results. I call it the “video game syndrome” where casual fans think you can simply plug in a new player and expect instantaneous performance. It doesn’t work that way. There is a learning curve for athletes just like there is for everyone else. The big question for the entire Giants’ franchise is how big is Manning’s learning curve? The faster he develops, the better the team will be sooner. But if he struggles like most first or second year quarterbacks, then the Giants will hover around .500. It may be unrealistic or unfair to expect him to develop faster than average, but he may be able to do so. To me, this is the most interesting and important issue for the entire team.

(2) Can the Giants Dramatically Improve Their Run Defense? The Giants’ run defense was terrible last year. By season’s end, they were regularly giving up 150+ yards on the ground to opponents. Teams that do that don’t win. Some improvement is expected with the return of previously injured players such as Michael Strahan and the safeties. But Strahan is well past 30 years old and on the decline. The Giants will need their young defensive tackles to step up as well as Osi Umenyiora. Adding Antonio Pierce to the linebacking corps will help a great deal, as will having Carlos Emmons fully healthy. Is it enough? We shall see.

(3) Can We Finally Cut Out All of the Injuries Please? The last two seasons have been ridiculous. Not only have there been huge numbers of players on Injured Reserve, but they have been key players, and the injuries have hit hard in waves at specific positions. Last year, the Giants lost a bunch of defensive linemen and safeties. The Giants have much better depth this year and should be better able to survive the inevitable short-term injury problems. But any long-term issues with their core players (i.e., Manning, Barber, Shockey, Burress, Pierce, Strahan, Umenyiora, Peterson, and Wilson) could prove problematic.

(4) How Fast Will It Take for the Offensive Line to Develop Chemistry and Cohesion? Once again, the Giants have completely revamped their offensive line. This has been an annual event since 2001. Petitgout, O’Hara, and Snee will remain at the same positions, but each of these players will have new flankmates. That will take time to get used to. I am not worried about physical breakdowns (on paper, this is a very good group), but with all the blitzes and stunts in the NFL today, half the game is mental. Each player up front has to be comfortable with his neighbor and have confidence that everyone is on the same page. We saw those types of problems last year with Diehl and Snee and it led to cheap sacks. To a lesser extent, it even happened with the veterans Petitgout and Whittle. The faster this group comes together, the better obviously for the entire offense.

(5) Will the Special Teams Continue to Improve? There was dramatic improvement on special teams last year, but much work remains to be done. The big punt return allowed against the Bengals cost the Giants that football game. Jeff Feagles had two punts blocked. And the Giants did a poor job of blocking opposing gunners on their own punt returns. Mark Jones rarely had room to operate. His job is said to be in jeopardy and there will supposedly be an open competition in camp.

(6) Who Will Start at Weakside Linebacker? Barrett Green will be limited in camp due to offseason knee and ankle surgeries. Will he be near 100 percent by the time the season starts? How badly will the time missed in camp affect him? Will he be pushed to come back too soon? The strength of Barrett’s game is speed and the Giants need to be careful here. A gimpy Green is of no use to them. Nick Greisen has good instincts and is around the ball a lot. But he lacks ideal athleticism and speed and can be exposed by faster, quicker players in space. The wild cards are players such as Reggie Torbor, Jim Maxwell, Kevin Lewis, T.J. Hollowell, and Joe Scott.

(7) Can the Giants Finally Find a Serious Complement to Tiki Barber? THE most interesting comment I saw in the offseason was by General Manager Ernie Accorsi when he said that there were some in the organization who felt that the Giants did not need to draft a running back because of Derrick Ward. If true, then the Giants may have a really interesting and potentially very good backfield with Barber, Ward, and 4th round pick Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs impressed at the mini-camps with his size and athleticism. He also seems to have the right demeanor. If Ward or Jacobs (or both) can develop into quality power running backs, then the Giants’ offense will truly become very diversified and dangerous.

(8) Will Will Allen Rebound at Left Corner? Will Allen did not play well last year. Coming off a serious injury that affected his ability to prepare for the season, he was terrible in the opener against Philadelphia, then settled down and played decently, but also failed to make plays on the football in key situations. Allen not only has to provide tight coverage, but he has to deflect the football or intercept it. If he continues to struggle, look for an early hook with Frank Walker, Curtis Deloatch, or Corey Webster moving into his starting spot.

(9) Who Will Start at Defensive Tackle Along With Fred Robbins? Most people expect it to be William Joseph or Kendrick Clancy, but I wouldn’t completely discount Kenderick Allen, Damane Duckett, or Davern Williams. Just because they are no-names does not mean they don’t have talent. The Giants have a lot of young, athletic big men at tackle. It is going to a fun battle to watch in camp and the preseason. Also keep in mind that these guys are athletic enough to play some defensive end just in case Justin Tuck and Eric Moore struggle early.

(10) Who Starts at Safety? Does It Matter? If healthy, we know Gibril Wilson will start at one spot. But where? He played strong safety at the mini-camps. If that continues, it would suggest that Brent Alexander is likely to see the bulk of the playing time opposite of him. If Wilson is moved to free safety, one would think Shaun Williams would then start at strong. However, the Giants say they use their safeties interchangeably so this might not matter at all. The wild card is Curry Burns.

(11) Who (If Anyone) Steps Up at Tight End Behind Shockey? The Giants need a blocking tight end to complement Shockey in two-TE sets (though the coaching staff strong contends – as I’ve said since his arrival – that Shockey can block). I also continue to argue that Visanthe Shiancoe can block and in fact flashes the ability to be a very good blocker. His problems in the past appear to be mental mistakes (i.e., lack of focus and concentration). Shank says that is behind him now. We shall see. His only serious competition is Chris Luzar – a street free agent.

(12) Who (If Anyone) Steps Up at Wide Receiver Behind Burress and Toomer? It will be interesting to see how Coughlin’s offense is orchestrated this year. If Shockey is used more outside and the Giants don’t employ a lot of four-WR sets, then the third receiver may not see a lot of action. However, if there are more four-WR sets and/or Shockey is not spread out as much, then this becomes a more important question. Injuries to a starter could alter the picture too. Tim Carter and Jamaar Taylor are clearly the speed receivers on this team. Carter has yet to prove he can stay healthy even for a few games. Taylor had late offseason knee surgery. The Giants really will likely need one of these guys to provide another deep target for Eli. Also, how these two develop will largely determine how glaring a need the wide receiver position will be in the 2006 NFL Draft. I doubt Toomer survives another year unless he plays like he did in 2002 again.

Jul 212005

New York Giants 2005 NFL Draft Review

Draft Pick Scouting Reports
Rookie Free Agent Scouting Reports
Eric’s Take on the 2005 Draft

Round Pick in Round Overall Selection Player Selected
2 11 43 CB Corey Webster, LSU
3 10 74 DE Justin Tuck, Notre Dame
4 9 110 RB Brandon Jacobs, Southern Illinois
6 12 186 DE Eric Moore, Florida State

2005 Draft Pick Scouting Reports

2nd Round – CB Corey Webster (6-0, 199lbs, 4.55, LSU)

Scouting Report: Webster played at wide receiver for LSU in 2001. He was converted to cornerback in 2002 and saw time mostly in nickel packages. However, he finished the season with 36 tackles, 17 pass breakups, and 7 interceptions. Webster started all 14 games in 2003 and was credited with 45 tackles, 25 pass breakups, and 7 interceptions. He got hurt in the first game of the 2004 season and played hurt most of the season with knee and turf toe injuries. In 2004, Webster started 10-of-11 games and was credited with 33 tackles, 9 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions. Webster was rated as one of the top cornerbacks in the country entering the 2004 season before he got hurt. His play suffered due to the injuries but he showed toughness by continuing to play. Webster has good size and is a good athlete. He is instinctive and has a nose for the football as indicated by the high number of pass breakups and interceptions he has accrued in three seasons. Has excellent hands for the interception – Webster plays the ball like a wide receiver. Not a burner, but he has good speed and is quick, smooth, and fluid in coverage. Can stay with most wide receivers deep. Webster plays tight man-to-man coverage well, being very aggressive and physical. He also performs well in zone coverage, where he makes a lot of plays on the football. He needs to improve his footwork and technique. While he is a decent tackler who flashes the ability to be a good hitter and tackler, Webster needs to improve in this department and become more consistent. Competitive player. Struggled somewhat at the Senior Bowl, but he still was not 100 percent healthy (knee and toe).

Media Q&A With Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reese:

Q: Where you sold at his workout?

A: I was sold. At his workout there were a lot of defensive back coaches there. The complex where they workout was packed with people and when I left the workout I had my head down, like there was no way this guy was going to be there when we pick. The guy was brilliant at his workout. He walked in and said, ‘Guys, I was hurt all season. I’m 100% today and what you see is what you get.’ He was spectacular in his workout.

Q: What made him spectacular?

A: First of all, he got out there and ran fast. He ran fast for us and then all the drills, the ball drills and change of direction drills, all of them were spectacular and he looked outstanding. He looked big and strong.

Q: What were his injuries?

A: He had a number of injuries. I’d have to look at the medical report but he had a number of injuries during the season. I think he got hurt in the first game of the season. We had scouts going there early on and they were like, ‘Wow, this guy is really something.’ In training camp before the season started, Jeremiah Davis, our scout, he went down early on and he was like, ‘Wow!’ Then the guy got hurt early in the season, probably the first game of the season and missed a game, a couple games, I think he missed them after the first game, I’m not sure exactly how it went. But he was dinged the whole season. You watched a hurt player for most of the season. We feel fortunate to get a guy of this caliber where we picked.

Q: You think he’s injury prone?

A: I don’t think he’s injury prone. I just think the guy, as a sophomore he played and had seven interceptions. He had seven interceptions as a junior and only two as a senior. I don’t think he’s injury prone, he has played through it. You have to like his toughness for playing through an injury like that. He had some significant injuries so I think he’s a tough kid, number one, and you have to like guys who have played through injuries like that.

RE: Injuries.

A: I just know that he had three or four things that he was dinged up with that he tried to play through during his senior year. Again, when you’re evaluating the guy, you’re evaluating a hurt player.

Q: Why do you think he lasted that long?

A: I don’t think that there is any doubt that it was the injury concern that scared people off because again, you go back and look after his junior year and this kid is a top ten pick. It’s a slam dunk. If he comes out as a junior, he’s a top ten pick. A size, speed corner with seven interceptions and played like he played his junior year, it’s shocking that he didn’t come out at the time. If he played to the caliber that he played as a junior, he’s probably right up there, actually he’s probably better than the corner that got picked from Miami, Rolle, and of course, he’s five inches taller than PacMan. So this guy has value if he was still the same as he was as a junior. We’re very fortunate to get the guy. There is no question in my mind.

Media Q&A With Head Coach Tom Coughlin:

Q: What were the qualities that made you select Corey?

A: He had 16 interceptions, outstanding hands. He was a receiver when he was recruited. He played a year as a third or fourth receiver. As you know, he had an outstanding year in 2003 on their National Championship team. And had he decided to come out then, he would have been a top-15 pick and that is the exciting thing here. The one thing that I think that Corey showed all throughout his senior year, this last year, is the fact that he played hurt. Mentally he geared himself up after having been injured in really the first game of the year. He played as well as he could play throughout the season. His workout was outstanding; he answered any questions whatsoever were about whether or not he was fully recovered. When you sit there trying to plan the 43rd and you spend your week as you always do, bracketing players, who would you pick here. We had set this player aside because we had him ranked in the first round. If he along with a couple of other people might possibly fall forward into the second round, then we would be in a great position to have a player who would make a difference on our team and it just so happens that we did have that opportunity.

Q: How do you think he would fit into your defense on the inside or the outside?

A: I think he plays best as a corner on the outside, he does an extremely good job in the press position. As I said, he has a knack for locating the ball in the air, exceptional hands, can make the soft catch despite the fact that he is surprised by the ball. I see him in that way. At this point in and time, I don’t know that I see him in the slot in the third down package, but we hope obviously that he is going to make a contribution. We will know more when we have an opportunity to see him in the mini-camp.

Q: Do you think the 5-yard rule will affect his play and where do you think he fits in?

A: Quite frankly, I think he fits in anywhere, but he is very good in the press, he can get up at the line of scrimmage. He is very athletic. He is one of the taller corners that you see and I think he can play either up, he can play off. I don’t think the rules are going to be a factor. That is not the style he plays with. In other words, he is not one of those guys that tries to force contact at the 5-, 6-, 7-yard area that you see a lot of the college corners do to try to knock people off. No, I don’t think that is the way he plays.

Q: What made him attractive to the Giants?

A: The fact that he has had really an exceptional collegiate career and that he does have height, speed, size and the ball catching ability, I think makes him very attractive.

Q: Considering how late you picked, did you think a player with his talent with be available?

A: It was a very fortunate thing, as I said. There were a couple of other players that entered into that conversation also, but we had our eye on this for quite some time. As it developed, you can’t help but know that in the bottom of that first and then through those picks at the top of the second round, knowing full well that most people agree that the corner or the defensive wing position was a strong position. As you looked, three quarters of the teams in the league have that listed as a need, you have to say boy are we going to get to this spot and we were fortunate that it happened that way.

Media Conference Call With CB Corey Webster:

Q: How do you feel about coming to the Giants?

A: I feel great about it. I came down on my visit and really got comfortable with the coaches, had a good sit-down and meeting with them and I feel good.

Q: The Giants are saying that if you had came out after your junior year you would have been a top 15 pick, how come you stayed?

A: I didn’t think I was ready. I stayed to further my education and got a degree. I stayed for those reasons and also because I liked the team camaraderie. There was no need for me to come out in a rush or anything like that. I stayed in and I think it worked for the best and now I’m with the Giants.

Q: Did you ever think you made a mistake after you got injured early this year?

A: No, sir. I was always taught to not have any regrets. I didn’t regret anything. I just know everything happens for a reason. I strongly believe that. I just think everything took its course and it worked itself out for the best.

Q: Can you talk about the nature of your injuries?

A: I had a PCL that kind of gave me a drop foot. That was the biggest thing that I had and a drop foot that didn’t allow me to plant quite like I wanted to so it slowed me down. It slowed me down a few steps. For pro day when they came to work me out, I was just so happy to be healthy again. I went out and did my very best and a lot of people were really impressed with how I performed on my pro day. That was really the biggest injury the drop foot.

Q: Was the drop foot caused by the PCL problem?

A: Yes, sir. I had a sprained PCL, nothing major but the little swelling that I did have in my knee gave me a drop foot. It kind of compressed my nerves.

Q: Did you have an elbow injury?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did the PCL bother you the whole year pretty much?

A: Yes, sir, the whole year. What it really did was give me a drop foot and I couldn’t plant like I wanted to. I couldn’t plant strong because I would roll my ankle. So I really had to watch how I was planting. It kind of slowed me down a few steps. I’ve been working on it with the trainers at LSU and it has gotten back to where it needs to be. I couldn’t raise my foot up or down. I had no control whatsoever of my foot. That was my right foot.

RE: Coach Coughlin

A: I met Coach Coughlin when I came there on my visit. I just know he’s a real nice guy, kind of a Coach Saban type guy, because he demands excellence from you. I think that will give me an edge because I’ve been under Coach Saban and he’s one of those guys, hard-nosed, get-after-you and wants the best out of his players.

Q: When you left your workout did you think you had shown enough to get into the first round?

A: I just knew I had to go out and do my very best at my workout and everything else would take its course. I had to do what I could, which was my very best at everything that I could control. I could control the workout and I went out and I had a great workout but I didn’t control the draft. I just did whatever I could with the things I could control. I had no control over the draft but I thought I did pretty good.

3rd Round – DE Justin Tuck (6-5, 268lbs, 4.71, Notre Dame)

Scouting Report: Tuck is a junior entry who excels as a pass rusher. Owns Notre Dame’s career sack record with 24.5 sacks. In 2002, he served as a pass-rush specialist in nickel and dime packages, accruing 44 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and 5 sacks. Tuck started 10-of-12 games in 2003, totaling 73 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, and 13.5 sacks. However, he tore the ACL in his right knee in the 2003 season finale and underwent reconstructive surgery in December 2003. He started all 11 regular season games in 2004, accruing 47 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, and 6 sacks. Tuck missed Notre Dame’s bowl game due to swelling in his right knee. Tuck is a very athletic linemen with very good initial quickness. Very agile. He is a good pass rusher who can pressure the edge with his quickness and speed. Tuck has a variety of pass rush moves. Closes on the quarterback in a hurry. Against the run, he can play with leverage and stack the point-of-attack, but he needs to shed more quickly. Tuck can penetrate and disrupt, however he needs to get stronger.

What General Manager Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “Justin Tuck was part of our second-round discussion. He had a big junior year. He had 24½ sacks in three years, 13 in his junior year, six this year. He came out early. We really helped our defense. We helped our defense somewhat during free agency, but we really helped our offense. Today we added a pass rusher and a cover corner, so we really helped our defense. Defensive ends, obviously, are hard to find. We don’t have a lot of depth there. This gives us another end.”

What Head Coach Tom Coughlin Had to Say: “He is a guy that we recognize as an outstanding talent. He had 13½ sacks a year ago. The interesting thing about the kid is that he tore his ACL the last game of the year in ’03 and in the second game of the year last season against Michigan he had two sacks. He’s a tough kid and an exceptional athlete. He was a high-scoring basketball player and an exceptional athlete in high school. He’s an Alabama kid who went to Notre Dame and was their MVP this year. He has outstanding leadership skills. We think Tuck has a tremendous upside. We look for him to be a guy who has the toughness to play the run and he has a real upside as a pass rusher. Anybody can look at our depth chart. We wanted quality and we really did have this kid earmarked prior to the draft. We were wondering if he would last to this point. We’re happy that he did. He has played either side. That’s the way they played him. Whether or not he does that for us, who knows? We’ll see. You really need for a young guy to settle in and understand what you want him to learn from one spot. If we had our druthers, we’d start off that way.”

What DE Justin Tuck Had to Say: “It feels great to have an opportunity to work with Coach Coughlin and his staff and play alongside one of the best defensive ends to ever play the game in Strahan and learn some things from him. I’m very excited. Not to mention the city of New York and the market it provides. It’s a great opportunity for me and my family and I’m very excited. I didn’t come up for a visit but the staff and the D-line coach were at my pro day and they only had great reviews of me. We had a great conversation and I got a pretty good feeling of what type of people they were. Just talking to (defensive line) coach (Mike) Waufle at the pro day, he basically told me that if I was around for the second round he was going to fight his ass to get me. I kind of figure once I didn’t get drafted in the first round, I’d have a great opportunity as far as being a Giant.”

4th Round – HB Brandon Jacobs (6-4, 267lbs, 4.56, Southern Illinois)

Scouting Report: Jacobs originally signed with Auburn coming out of high school but was ruled academically ineligible. He attended Coffeyville College in 2001, where he rushed for 1,349 yards and 17 touchdowns. In 2002, he carried the ball 267 times for 1,896 yards and 20 touchdowns. He then transferred to Auburn where he found himself stuck behind Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown (both high first round draft picks). At Auburn, he rushed the ball 72 times for 446 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jacobs then transferred to Southern Illinois and in 2004 he carried the ball 150 times for 992 yards and 19 touchdowns. Jacobs was named the MVP of the Gridiron Classic college all-star game. Jacobs is a positively huge running back with surprising speed, agility, and balance for his size. He lacks ideal initial quickness and acceleration so he needs the play to be initially well-blocked in order to get going. Runs hard and can pound the football between the tackles. He will run over smaller defenders. Jacobs can bounce the play outside. Jacobs has decent vision and is competitive. He does need to play with better (i.e., lower) pad level. Because of his long legs, Jacobs can be tripped up by leg tackles. He has the size and demeanor to be a good blocker. Has good hands, but Jacobs needs a lot of work in the passing game in terms of running routes.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “The player that I got the most exited over in the two days is Brandon Jacobs. The biggest worry that I had was any time you have to sleep on it, you start looking at the board, size and speed usually catches people’s eyes. I was worried sick that he was going to get picked…we did not draft him as a fullback. He is a halfback. He is a one-back halfback. Obviously he has short-yardage specialization. But he can play anywhere on the field. It gives us a big back who can run. That was an important pick to us…(He is) a legitimate halfback, not as a short yardage specialist…He can run. At 267 pounds he has tremendous speed. He averages 6.6 yards per carry, 19 touchdowns. He gained 992 yards on a rotation. I don’t know what their record was, but they had two transfers and all-pro players. So he never really got a chance to get a lot of statistics, but his average speaks for itself and touchdowns. He can catch the ball…When you see his body, you will see he doesn’t need to lose any weight. It looks to me like an ideal weight for him. He has a chiseled frame. He is not soft in any way.”

What Head Coach Tom Coughlin Had to Say: “He is a big, strong, powerful guy. He had a lot of numbers where ever he played. Lots of yardage. Obviously the 19 touchdowns, the short-yardage. You could see the short yardage goal-line power. I think there is more to him than just that, but that is a nice starting point. A guy that is 267 pounds, runs under 4.7, catches the ball, has had some kickoff returns in his past. A kid who I think has enough versatility but is a good starting place and as I said, with Derrick Ward, who will play at 235, 238 and then Mike Cloud, with his experience and the way we saw Mike in the short yardage package last year against Minnesota, I think Brandon fits in nicely and compliments the group that we have…He is a north-south guy. He is not an east-west guy. He can take the ball outside. That was demonstrated in the all-star game.”

Media Conference Call With HB Brandon Jacobs:

Q: What are your thoughts on being picked by the Giants?

A: I love it. I keep up with the New York Giants. I have two friends that play there in Corey Webster, who just got drafted, and Reggie Torbor. It’s a pretty good thing and I’m very excited about it and I can’t wait for it to start.

Q: How do you know Reggie?

A: I played at Auburn with Reggie.

Q: Do you know much about the Giants’ needs, they’ve been looking for a short yardage back for a couple years now?

A: I know Ron Dayne is now with Denver and I know he was really the only big guy that they had there. Short yardage, long yardage whatever the situation maybe, I just want to get the job done. I was just talking to someone and they said, ‘The Giants haven’t been able to get a third-and-1 in a long time,’ so this will stop finally because I will not be denied one yard.

Q: What do you weigh now?

A: I weigh 267. The same I weighed at the combine.

Q: Who told you the Giants haven’t gotten a third-and-1 in a long time?

A: Someone I just spoke to. It wasn’t one of the coaches, I can’t remember. He told me and it was kind of funny because I know the Giants have. It’s just an honor to be able to come to New York and put on that blue uniform and go to work.

Q: What led you to going to Southern Illinois?

A: I considered staying at Auburn behind those guys. It’s just that when I got there those guys were already there and established. I tried to stay there and coach didn’t want me to redshirt because he felt I was already into my college career. So he wasn’t going to redshirt me. So I made the decision to leave.

Q: Did they want to switch your position at one point?

A: Well, they tried and I actually tried. I was there for whatever they wanted me to do. But they didn’t like it and it didn’t work out. So me and Coach Tubbs sat down in his office and we made the decision that I should leave.

Q: When did they try, was it linebacker they tried to switch you to?

A: They tried linebacker and it was during the bowl preparation. I gave it a shot. It was a one game thing during the 2-3 weeks between the bowl game.

Q: Is there more to your game than just being a short yardage back?

A: Yes, there is most definitely more to my game. I think, as far as just being a short yardage back, I’m going to surprise a lot of people when they only ask for one yard and I take it the distance.

Q: What makes you good at short yardage?

A: When I know it’s short yardage I don’t pitter-patter behind the line of scrimmage. I know the down and distance. I know where I have to go so I get the rock and I barrel down and I just get in. Just one person won’t stop me from getting what I want. It’s going to be a couple people.

Q: Have you kept in touch with Ronnie and Carnell?

A: I talked to Ronnie just about 15 minutes ago. Ronnie is very happy. He just flew in from Miami so he’s back in Atlanta. Ronnie is a great guy. Carnell is a great guy. I’m glad for both of those guys because both of those guys deserve it. I’m glad both of them went so high so people could see that I didn’t have any problems at Auburn. Because a lot of people did think I did…I’m just really glad those guys were picked so high and rated so high so they can see why I really left.

6th Round – DE Eric Moore (6-4, 260lbs, 4.81, Florida State)

Scouting Report: Moore emerged as a starter at right defensive end for the Seminoles in 2003 when he finished the season with 25 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, and 7.5 sacks. He also had 15 quarterback hurries, 5 pass breakups, and 1 interception. Moore started four games at right defensive end in 2004 before spraining his left ankle and missing the next three contests. He returned to start the final five games and finished the season with 17 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, 8 quarterback pressures, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. Moore is an athletic player with good quickness, agility, balance, and speed. He is a solid pass rusher who can pressure off the edge and close on the quarterback in a hurry. Needs to develop pass rush moves. Moore lacks and ideal lower base and struggles to hold his ground at the point-of-attack against the run. He flashes ability to play with strength and leverage, but he usually plays too high – needs a lot of solid coaching and technique work. He needs to use his hands better in order to shed more quickly. Moore can play in space and may be able to play some 3-4 outside linebacker. However, he did poorly on the Wonderlic intelligence test at the NFL Combine.

What General Manager Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “In body structure and style there is not a lot difference between Moore and Tuck, big tall guys that have a lot of room to grow weight wise who are pass rushers. There are very similar in the way they play and what they look like…He is very much a pass rusher. The run stopping is crucial. That is obvious. And these guys have had a lot of tackles. But I have always been a believer, since I came into this league, that the guys who hit the home runs are the pass rushers on defense. You are not going to be able to compete if you don’t get to the passer.”

What Head Coach Tom Coughlin Had to Say: “Another guy that is a pass rusher. He played in an outstanding defense, an aggressive defensive scheme. He had eight sacks a year ago. He had one of those ‘high ankle’ deals this year. He played through it; played with it; he actually had two of them. We worked him out, he worked out very well. He ran well. His numbers were good; his gym numbers were real good coming out of the combine. His 10-yard time was very good. His short-area quickness was outstanding. I think he will be a guy – he is a muscular guy right now but he has enough height that he can put some weight on. His value for us in that round at that time was outstanding. We really couldn’t go any further. We just thought that that value drew us right to him.”

Rookie Free Agent Scouting Reports

HB Ryan Grant (6-1, 215lbs, 4.47, Notre Dame): Ten teams were interested in Grant including the Vikings, Dolphins, Patriots, Packers, and Seahawks. Grant rotated with several backs as a starter at Notre Dame (he was also limited early in the season with a strained hamstring). He carried the ball 127 times for 515 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2004. Finished his career ranked 11th in school history with 2,220 rushing yards. He was the 13th Notre Dame player to run for 2,000 yards. Grant is a big back who is a good inside runner. A slasher with good vision and balance. Not very elusive and lacks ideal initial quickness. Aggressive and physical between the tackles, Grant will slam the ball up inside by dropping his shoulder and running through tacklers. Not a fumbler. Willing blocker, but he needs to improve in this area. Can catch the ball and has been productive on screen passes. Grant played well in the East-West Shrine Game. He was named the “New Jersey Player of the Year” in 2000 by USA Today. Grant played at Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, N.J, a short distance from Giants Stadium.

HB Mike Jemison (5-11, 230lbs, 4.64, University of Indiana-PA): Jemison began his college career at the University of Pittsburgh, where he played in nine games as a backup halfback and fullback in 2001. Pittsburgh moved him to outside linebacker in 2002. In 2003, he transferred to Indiana University (PA). In 2003, he accrued 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns on 220 carries. In 2004, he rushed 103 times for 456 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first four games of the season, but then was sidelined with a broken leg. Jemison is a big, tough inside runner with good balance. He lacks ideal speed, but he has some elusiveness to his game. Lacks ideal initial quickness. Not a fumbler. Decent blocker.

WR Brandon Smith (6-1, 197lbs, 4.38, Vanderbilt): The Titans, Packers, Bills, Texans, and Eagles expressed interest in Smith. Caught 108 passes for 1,497 yards and 5 touchdowns during his four years at Vanderbilt. In 2004, he recorded 41 receptions for 553 yards and three touchdowns. As a junior, had a career-high 595 receiving yards on 39 receptions and scored two touchdowns.

WR Charles Frederick (5-11, 194lbs, 4.81, Washington): Frederick started 9-of-12 games in 2003, catching 59 passes for 831 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also returned 29 punts for 340 yards and 1 touchdown and 11 kickoffs for 202 yards. In 2004, Frederick was limited with a hamstring injury, playing in only five games. He caught 17 passes for 253 yards and 1 touchdown. He also returned 13 kickoffs for 236 yards. Frederick lacks ideal size and speed (ran poorly at the NFL Combine), but he is athletic with good quickness. Has a knack for getting separation from defenders and getting open. Frederick is tough and will go over the middle, take a big hit, and hold onto the ball. Has good hands and is a good runner after the catch – dangerous in the open field. He is a good punt and kick returner. Frederick needs to improve his work ethic. Scored poorly on the Wonderlic intelligence test.

TE Darius Williams (6-5, 262lbs, 4.95, Georgia Tech): Georgia Tech’s blocking tight end. Started 12-of-24 games for the Yellow Jackets. Williams finished his collegiate career with nine receptions for 118 yards. He caught 6 passes for 81 yards as a senior and 3 catches for 37 yards as a junior.

TE Wade Fletcher (6-7, 243lbs, Columbia University): Fletcher was a two-time All-Ivy League tight end at Columbia University, where he transferred from Northern Colorado. He sat out the 2002 season because of NCAA transfer regulations. Fletcher had 1,449 receiving yards in two seasons at Columbia. He had his best season in 2003, when his 874 receiving yards led the nation’s tight ends. It was the fifth-highest single-season total in school history. Fletcher scored nine touchdowns that season. In 2004, Fletcher played in eight games and led the Lions with 52 catches for 575 yards and two scores. Fletcher is a quality pass-receiving-type with find speed and good hands. However, because Fletcher is a converted wide receiver who lacks bulk, he needs to dramatically improve his blocking if he is to make it in the NFL.

OT Kyle Wallace (6-5, 305lbs, 5.32, Georgia Tech): Wallace has some experience at left tackle, but he played mostly right tackle at Georgia Tech. Has good size with long arms. Hard-working lineman who plays with good technique. As a run blocker, Wallace needs to add strength and play with better leverage – does not create much movement at the line of scrimmage. He can block at the second level. More finesse than mauler – not aggressive. Decent pass protector with quick feet, but lacks ideal agility and can have some problems with quick changes of direction. Struggles picking up stunts. Usually does a good job of keeping his man away from the quarterback.

OT Myniya Smith (6-7, 325lbs, Southern University): Smith is a 6-7, 325-pound left tackle from Southern University. He was first-team All-SWAC as a junior, when he started all 13 games. Last year, he started all 10 games in which he played at left tackle. Smith was signed by the Houston Texans as a rookie free agent after the 2005 NFL Draft, but the Texans waived him in June.

OG Alex Bell (6-3, 330lbs, 5.15, Hobart): Bell was a four-year starter at guard for Hobart. He did not allow a sack in his final two seasons. As a senior last year, he was named to three All-America teams, including the American Football Coaches Association and D3football.com first-teams. In an individual workout, Bell was timed at 5.15 in the 40, registered a vertical of 31 inches, and had 27 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds.

OC/OG Andrew Tidwell-Neal (6-3, 310lbs, 5.41, Georgia Tech): Two-year starter on the offensive line, as well as one of Georgia Tech’s 2004 captains. Tidwell-Neal is a smart, tough, competitive player. Versatile – played guard as a junior and center as a senior. However, he is not very athletic and plays smaller than his listed size. Has short arms. Tidwell-Neal does not get much movement in his run blocks. He is a position blocker who is more finesse than mauler. Not really a good puller or blocker at the second level. As a pass protector, he lacks quick feet and lateral agility. Has problems anchoring against power as well. Overachiever.

DE Adrian Awasom (6-4, 279lbs, 5.01, North Texas): Awasom was a three-year starter at North Texas. Very productive. Accrued 41 tackles, 8 tackles for a loss, and 8 sacks in 2002; 44 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, and 4 sacks in 2003; and 52 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and 6 sacks in 2004. Also finished with 5 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries in 2004. Two-time All-Sun Belt selection. Has nice combination of size and athleticism. Has long arms and is quick and agile. Can be stout at the point of attack when he uses proper technique. Can play with leverage but tends to play too high. Awasom sheds well but needs to do so more consistently amd use his hands better. Works hard to push the pocket and get to the quarterback. Tips a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage. Not an explosive rusher – lacks first-step quickness – but he closes quickly. Still learning the game. Needs to become a more dedicated worker.

DE Bret Eddins (6-4, 269lbs, 4.85, Auburn): Eddins started all 13 games in 2004 and finished the season with 20 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, and 2 sacks. He has good size, but has short arms and is not overly athletic. Eddins is a blue-collar, over-achiever. Very competitive and plays with a passion. Has good instincts. Eddins needs to play with better leverage – he plays too tall at times. Eddins struggles to shed blocks. Not a pass rusher. Camp fodder.

DE/LB Derek Wake (6-3, 239lbs, 4.66, Penn State): Wake played mostly linebacker at Penn State, but saw some time at defensive end. He finished his collegiate career with 191 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, and 24 tackles for losses. As a senior, Wake started 10 games and recorded 58 tackles, four tackles for losses, one sack, a fumble recovery, and a forced fumble. He rotated with another linebacker as a senior, limiting his production. In 2003, Wake posted his best season, with 71 tackles, four sacks, and eight tackles for loss. Wake was an athletic strongside linebacker with a good size/speed combination. Looks the part. Lacks some agility in terms of changing directions quickly. He has good strength to hold up at the point-of-attack. Flashes the ability to play with leverage and shed. Needs to use his hands better to shed more quickly, gets hung up on blocks. Good hitter and tackler. Has the ability to cover running backs and tight ends in man coverage on short routes; drops smoothly in zone coverage and breaks fast on the ball. Has the tools to be an NFL starter, but does not look instinctive.

DT Jonas Seawright (6-5, 325lbs, 5.31, North Carolina): Seawright started 6-of-12 games in 2003 and finished 10 tackles and 3 blocked kicks. He was named his team’s outstanding defensive lineman in 2004 for he started all 12 games and accrued 29 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and a blocked kick. Team captain in 2004 as well. Seawright is a big tackle with fairly good athleticism for his size. Has very long arms. Can 2-gap, but he needs to play with greater leverage – Seawright plays too high. Needs to shed blockers more quickly. Flashes power, but is not very quick or agile. Seawright has had weight issues with his weight sometimes nearing 350lbs.

MLB Joe Scott (6-2, 240, 4.50, Jackson State): Scott played his final two seasons at Jackson State, compiling 168 tackles, one fumble recovery, four pass breakups, and 2.5 sacks in 18 games played. As a senior, Scott recorded 129 tackles with 6.5 for losses, three pass breakups, and two sacks. Named All-Southwestern Athletic Conference first team in 2004.

LB Chase Blackburn (6-3, 247lbs, 4.80, Akron): Blackburn was a three year starter at Akron, playing both at linebacker and defensive end. He was named all-conference linebacker as a junior. Blackburn spent his senior season playing the “bandit” – a hybrid between the linebacker and defensive end positions. Voted a team captain. Finished the 2004 season with 71 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, and 5 sacks. Blackburn has good size for a linebacker, but he is not overly athletic. A bit on the stiff side. Plays hard. Plays well at the point-of-attack. OK in zone coverage but lacks the athletic tools to man up.

CB Ahmad Rashad Treaudo (5-10, 181lbs, 4.37, Southern): Treaudo started and ended his career at Southern, with a stop at Division II Delta State in-between. He did not start until the fourth game of his senior season, but still managed to lead the nation with nine interceptions for 166 return yards and a touchdown. Treaudo also finished the season with 28 tackles, a fumble recovery, and four passes defensed. He lacks ideal size, but he is quick and fluid with good speed. Raw – Treaudo will need a ton of solid coaching and technique work.

CB Michael Bragg (6-0, 190lbs, 4.42, Texas A&M-Kingsville): First Team All-Lone Star Conference. Bragg finished the 2004 season with 25 tackles, 9 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, 1 blocked kick, and 1 fumble recovery.

CB Antwain Spann (6-1, 185lbs, 4.48, Louisiana-Lafayette): Spann played his final two seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette after transferring from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Has experience at both free safety and cornerback. In 2004, Spann started all 11 games and had 68 tackles (36 solo), a team-high four interceptions (including one he returned 31 yards for a touchdown), 1.5 tackles for losses, and nine pass breakups. He also returned four kickoffs for 109 yards, a 27.2-yard average. Spann was also invited to partipate in the Colts’ mini-camp at the end of April. Athletic and aggressive. Good tackler.

SS Diamond Ferri (5-10, 223lbs, 4.63, Syracuse): Ferri came close to signing with the Texans. Starting strong safety for Syracuse in 2003, registering 120 tackles, 5 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, and 1 sack. In 2004, he accrued 99 tackles, 6 pass breakups, 4 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. Returned 24 kickoffs for 653 yards. Played some running back for Syracuse. Ferri lacks ideal height, but he is well-built. He is a good athlete with quick feet. Moves well in space. Ferri can stick with backs and tight ends and makes plays on the ball in front of him. However, he lacks the agility necessary to cover slot receivers in man coverage – loses a step in transition. Does not make plays on the deep outside pass (2-Deep coverage) as he is slow to read and react to the play. Has good hands for the interception. Inconsistent player against both the run and the pass, but he is still learning. Needs a lot of technique work and solid coaching. Not always consistently aggressive or focused. Flashes ability to make plays against the run as a big hitter, but he still misses too many tackles. Has experience as a kick and punt returner. Could surprise. Poor Wonderlic intelligence test score. Became the first player in Big East history to earn Offense and Defensive Player of the Week honors in the same game after rushing for 142 yards and two touchdowns and scoring on a 44-yard interception against Boston College.

FS James Butler (6-2, 213lbs, 4.61, Georgia Tech): The Cardinals, Titans, Cowboys, and Bills were interested in signing Butler, a two-year starter at free safety for Georgia Tech. Butler was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back as a senior in 2004, when he was named first-team All-ACC for the second straight season. In 2003, he registered 119 tackles, 6 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, and 5 interceptions. In 2004, he recorded 85 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, and 1 blocked field goal. He has excellent size and good athleticism. However, Butler lacks ideal speed. Butler is a much better pass defender than run defender. He has quick feet and closes on the ball well. Can stick with a receiver in man coverage and reads the opposing quarterback well in zone coverage. Needs technique work to improve his footwork. Sometimes gets fooled on play-action. Has good hands for the interception. But Butler is a soft player in run support. He is not physical or aggressive enough in this area. Seems to avoid contact at times and is not a strong tackler.

The following players were invited to Giants’ rookie-mini-camp, but have not been officially signed:

QB Matt LoVecchio (6-3, 218lbs, 4.78, Indiana): LoVecchio, a transfer from Notre Dame and a two-year starter for the Hoosiers, completed nearly 57 percent of his passes for 1,951 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2004. In 2003, he started 11 games for the Hoosiers in 2003, completing 155-of-291 passes for 1,778 yards and three touchdowns.

WR Marvin Young (6-0, 165lbs, 4.71, Southern Mississippi): Young ended his collegiate career ranking third on Southern Mississippi’s career list with 17 receiving touchdowns, 115 receptions and 1,717 receiving yards. He was hampered most of his senior season by a serious turf toe injury. He enjoyed his best season as a junior in 2003 when he finished with 42 receptions for 703 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 16.7 yards per catch. Young also returned 33 punts for 450 yards, including an 87-yard touchdown run against Memphis.

WR Andy Bertrand (6-2, 195lbs, McNeese State): To be provided if signed.

TE Jocques Dumas (6-6, 263lbs, North Carolina): To be provided if signed.

OG Brian Kovolisky (6-7, 295lbs, Vanderbilt): To be provided if signed.

OG Brandon Harston (6-2, 300lbs, Minnesota): To be provided if signed.

DT Aaris Johnson (6-4, 320lbs, Morgan State): Johnson is a huge player and was one of the best players in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Has good quickness and strength. In 2004, he accrued 40 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, and 2.5 sacks.

LB Dwan Wilson (6-3, 229lbs, Alcorn State): To be provided if signed.

S Zachary Barnett (6-2, 200lbs, Arkansas-Pine Bluff): To be provided if signed.

Eric’s Take on the 2005 Draft

It is difficult to analyze the Giants’ 2005 NFL draft without taking into account the impact of the 2004 Eli Manning trade. That trade had two important ramifications in the 2005 offseason: (1) the Giants were without their 1st and 5th round picks in the draft, and (2) because the Giants did not have to worry about signing a 1st rounder, they had more money to spend in free agency.

Ultimately, the 2004 and 2005 drafts will be judged on the future performance of Manning. The Giants spent two #1’s, a #3, a #5, and missed out on trading down with the Browns in 2004 for another #2 (according to Ernie Accorsi) on Manning. To justify that price, Manning has to develop into a perennial Pro Bowler and/or win an NFL Championship. As expected, Manning struggled as a rookie, but flashed ability late in the season. He is likely to experience more growing pains in 2005, but he will be helped by a much stronger supporting cast (assuming the Giants can stay relatively healthy). It will be interesting to see how good he can become and how fast that can happen.

The 2005 free agency class may end up being the best the team has had since the advent of free agency. If you saw my 2005 Free Agency and the Giants article, you know that I had Kareem McKenzie rated as the top offensive lineman available and Plaxico Burress rated as the top wide receiver available. I also had Antonio Pierce rated very highly at linebacker. Throw in PK Jay Feely, and this is an extremely impressive haul. (DT Kendrick Clancy is more of a stop-gap player). McKenzie, Burress, and Pierce are all young players who are still improving. I firmly believe each has Pro Bowl potential. McKenzie has received the least press, but may be the most important signing. His presence dramatically changes the very nature of the Giants’ offensive line, and therefore the entire offense. By playing him, a power player, right next to Chris Snee, another power player, the Giants have altered the persona of the line from more of a finesse, position-based group to a smash-mouth group. The Giants are going to maul some opposing defenses up front now.

Burress was another key signing because he is a very tall receiver who can get deep and stretch the opposing defense. Amani Toomer, even in his prime, was never able to consistently do that. Ike Hilliard (who was waived) was never a down-the-field guy. Burress should open things up for TE Jeremy Shockey and Toomer underneath. He should also develop into a big-play weapon for Manning, a quarterback who throws a beautifully accurate deep ball.

While ideally the Giants may have wanted to continue to upgrade the talent on the offensive line, their only true pressing need on offense heading into the 2005 NFL Draft was to find a power halfback to complement Tiki Barber. The Giants hope they have found that guy in 4th rounder Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs is a positively huge back with surprisingly nifty feet for someone so big. The big concern with him is his initial acceleration out of his stance. Since he is a bigger guy, it takes him a bit longer to get to full speed than most backs. This could be a problem in today’s game where defenses like to take chances and penetrate rather than 2-gap up front. But once Jacobs gets going, look out! This man can build up an impressive head of steam and run over people. Interestingly, the Giants feel Jacobs is a better prospect than the much smaller, but more heralded Ciatrick Fason, who was taken later in the 4th round. Time will tell.

The big concern for me heading into the 2005 NFL Draft was defense, and I was glad to see the Giants spend three-out-of-four picks on that side of the ball. The Giants’ arguably have the worst defense in the division right now. The Redskins dominated on defense last season and even though they lost MLB Antonio Pierce and CB Fred Smoot, they will have LB LaVar Arrington back and they did draft a top-ranked corner, Carlos Rogers, high in the first round. As much attention as Philadelphia gets from the media and the fans for their offensive players, it is their defense that has enabled them to win four NFC East titles in a row (not to mention the four Pro Bowlers on defense last year). And Dallas had a superb defensive offseason, adding such players as NT Jason Ferguson, CB Anthony Henry, CB Aaron Glenn, LB Demarcus Ware (1st rounder), DE Marcus Spears (1st rounder), LB Kevin Burnett (2nd rounder), and DE Chris Canty (4th rounder). Defensive coaching? Philadelphia’s Jim Johnson and Washington’s Greg Williams have more impressive credentials then Tim Lewis.

So the Giants NEEDED to draft defense. And they will have to do so next year as well. The Giants have no defensive Pro Bowlers on the roster other than DE Michael Strahan who is nearing the end. The Giants are defensively solid, but they don’t scare anyone.

Adding Antonio Pierce is a step in the right direction. Pierce is a super-smart and instinctive player who is a rarity in the NFL: a three-down middle linebacker due to his strong pass coverage skills. He also brings something to the defense that is desperately needed and that is leadership.

The Giants drafted CB Corey Webster in the second round, taking him instead of other such highly regarded defensive talents as DE Justin Tuck (who was under consideration here according to the Giants), DT Jonathan Babineaux, DE Matt Roth, and CB Justin Miller. Heading into the 2004 college season, Webster was widely regarded as one of the top defensive players in the country for his ability to man-up on top receivers and make plays on the football (14 total interceptions during his sophomore and junior campaigns). But various injuries, most notably a strained PCL ligament in his knee, affected his ability to run as well as plant and drive. Though Webster got high marks for his toughness for playing when many would have sat, his play suffered. Webster was slower and not able to close on the football as quickly. The knee and a toe injuries were still not completely healed at the time of Senior Bowl, where Webster did not impress. However, Webster helped to erase doubts about his physical well-being by putting on an excellent athletic display in a private workout for NFL teams before the draft. At this workout, Webster ran in the 4.45-range and once again demonstrated the ability to cut quickly and plant and drive on the football. To make a long story short, if Webster is healthy and has regained his previous form, he will give the Giants secondary something that they desperately need: a ball-hawking cornerback. While Webster is not likely to start in 2005, he should see extensive time in nickel and dime packages and he most likely will replace Will Allen in 2006 when the latter departs via free agency.

The Giants lucked out big time that DE Justin Tuck fell to their pick in the 3rd round. Tuck was widely regarded as a 1st round talent before tearing the ACL in his right knee during the finale of the 2003 collegiate season. That year he accrued 73 tackles, 19 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and 13.5 sacks. But Tuck amazingly came back to play in 2004, accruing 47 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks – despite playing on a knee that was not likely to be 100 percent yet (indeed, Tuck missed Notre Dame’s bowl game because of swelling in the knee). The key to this pick is Tuck’s knee. If the knee is fine, then the Giants got a 1st round talent in the 3rd round. Tuck is a hard-working, athletic end who can get after the quarterback. He has experience at playing both on the strong- and weaksides. How good a player he will become will depend on the knee and how well he defends the run at the point-of-attack in the NFL.

In the 6th round, the Giants took another 4-3 pass-rushing-type defensive end in Eric Moore. Moore was projected by many to be a 3rd or 4th round pick so to get him in the 6th round was great value. Like Tuck, Moore’s play in 2004 was affected by injury as Moore played with two high-ankle sprains (very painful). And like Tuck, much of Moore’s future success in the NFL will depend upon his run defense at the point-of-attack. But with Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Tuck, and Moore, the Giants now have four ends on the roster who can rush the passer.

As of May 17, 2005, the Giants have officially signed 18 undrafted rookie free agents: HB Ryan Grant, HB Mike Jemison, WR Charles Frederick, WR Brandon Smith, TE Darius Williams, OC/OG Andrew Tidwell-Neal, OG, Alex Bell, OT Kyle Wallace, DE Adrian Awasom, DE Derek Wake, DE Bret Eddins, DT Jonas Seawright, MLB Joe Scott, CB Ahmad Treaudo, CB Michael Bragg, CB Antwain Spann, FS James Butler, and SS Diamond Ferri. The most interesting guys are the halfbacks (both are good inside runners), Frederick (a very confident and highly regarded prospect heading into the 2004 collegiate season), Smith (excellent speed), Awasom (productive college player with a nice size/speed combination), Scott (excellent size/speed combination and production), Treaudo (very quick and intercepted 9 passes in his first year as a starter in 2004), Butler (looks the part and makes plays against the pass, but needs to get a lot tougher against the run), and Ferri (versatile athlete).

So in summary, I’m elated with the veteran free agent acquisitions of McKenzie, Burress, and Pierce. Back in February, I expected the Giants to be able to possibly sign only one of these guys. If you had told me that they would sign all three, I would have said you were crazy. I am also very pleased with the first day of the Giants’ 2005 draft. Webster and Tuck are both 1st round talents who fell due to injury problems in their final collegiate seasons. The selection of Brandon Jacobs seems a bit like a gamble-on-greatness-type of selection, but if the offensive line can give him some room to get up to speed, he can become a battering ram that this offense hasn’t had since Gary Brown (and Rodney Hampton before that). Moore was an excellent “best player available” selection in the 6th round.

But the ultimate key to all of this will be Eli Manning.

Jul 072005

The positive comments regarding the 2005 New York Giants’ prospects are few and far between. You’ll hear or read some prognosticator mentioning them as a possible darkhorse team, but most analysts say they will be fighting just to make it to .500 and staying out of the basement of the NFC East. Perhaps these folks are right. But I don’t think so. The Giants’ front office did an outstanding job in the offseason of filling holes and acquiring talent. On paper, I honestly don’t see a lot of weaknesses on this team and I strongly believe this is one of the deepest Giants’ teams in over a decade.

If some things break right for the Giants, New York should not only make the playoffs, but they could press the Eagles for the NFC East title. At the very least, I think this is going to be a very fun team to watch.

Let’s breakdown the roster…

Quarterback: Eli Manning is the key. More than ever, this is a quarterbacks’ league. If you have a very good quarterback, you are almost guaranteed of making the playoffs – especially in the less-than-impressive NFC. Conventional wisdom says that the inexperienced Manning, who has only started seven NFL games, will struggle in 2005 as he will continue to make many mistakes. If Manning is too inconsistent and makes too many killer turnovers, the Giants will indeed struggle to be a .500 football team. Defenses will to try to confuse the youngster and most young quarterbacks have problems reading coverages, maintaining proper technique when under duress, and remaining poised in pressure-packed situations. But Manning’s pedigree, the way he played and handled himself against the Steelers and Cowboys late in the season, and all the hard work he put in this offseason suggests that the quarterback MAY be on an accelerated learning curve. Plus, the Giants have done a nice job this offseason of upgrading his surrounding talent at the skill positions and the offensive line. Manning doesn’t have to carry the team at this point, just smartly use the talent around him. My gut tells me that Manning is going to develop into a less-intense version of his brother – no not a guy who is going to throw for an absurd number of touchdowns, but someone who will be able to read NFL defenses at a surprisingly young age and correctly throw the football to the weak spot in coverage.

I like the Giants’ quarterback situation and I like the Giants’ quarterback situation with respect to the rest of the NFC East. The Redskins have done a poor job of grooming Patrick Ramsey and he looks like he will fall victim to a brewing quarterback controversy in Washington. Drew Bledsoe is nearing the end and is not the type of guy who is going to carry a team far at this stage of his career. Donovan McNabb, for all the positive publicity he gets, is developing a nasty habit of coming up small in big playoff games. Manning is not going to surpass McNabb in 2005, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see this happen in 2006 or 2007.

As for the backups, I was pleasantly surprised by Jesse Palmer’s play in the 2004 preseason. And I am a fan of Tim Hasselbeck’s. He doesn’t have all the tools, but he can step in and lead a football team when needed.

Offensive Line: The biggest move the Giants made this offseason was signing right tackle Kareem McKenzie. McKenzie is one of the young, up-and-coming offensive linemen in this league. He is a big, powerful man who can run and pass block. The Giants will team him on the right side with another mauler in second-year guard Chris Snee. In my opinion, this duo should develop into the best run-blocking tandem the Giants have ever had on the right-side in recent memory – better than Chris Godfrey and Karl Nelson and better than Bob Kratch/Eric Moore and Doug Riesenberg. These two are big, strong linemen who can generate movement at the point-of-attack. Moreover, they are very aggressive, play with a bit of a mean-streak, and won’t be intimidated.

Like most centers in the NFL today, Shaun O’Hara lacks ideal size and strength. But he is a heady player who usually makes the correct line calls and is agile enough to get out an effectively block linebackers at the second level. In this blitz- and stunt-happy NFL, it is critically important to have a center who can read what the defense is doing and help to settle down everyone else. Depth here is good with Wayne Lucier and Jason Whittle being able to man the pivot.

The left side of the offensive line is somewhat more unsettled. After playing well at right tackle in 2000 and 2001, Luke Petitgout had a very successful season at left tackle in 2002. However, his 2003 season ended early with a severe back injury. In 2004, his play was atrocious during the first half of the season, but Petitgout played much better over the second half. Which Luke will the Giants be getting in 2005? The very good left tackle of 2002 or the very inconsistent one of 2004? The good news is the Giants have a Plan B if Luke falters or gets hurt. Veteran Bob Whitfield was signed as insurance in the offseason. And while he is nearing the end of a long and successful career, he still has some gas left in his tank. Whitfield firmly believes he can win the starting job. His acquisition reminds me a lot of when the Giants picked up Lomas Brown in 2000.

At left guard, it is assumed that David Diehl will start. Diehl is a big, strong, aggressive lineman who just seems like one of those guys who is also going to have a long and successful career in the NFL. The key for him will be getting used to his third new position in three years. Breathing down his neck will be Rich Seubert, who looked like a future Pro Bowler before his leg was shattered in October 2003. But Seubert has been impressing the coaches this offseason and looks set to once again contribute. He insists he will regain his 2002-2003 form. If he does, the Giants have quite a positive dilemma on their hands.

To make a long story short, the Giants have nine quality offensive linemen with starting experience: McKenzie, Snee, O’Hara, Diehl, Petitgout, Whitfield, Seubert, Whittle, and Lucier. And many of these guys can play a variety of positions so the depth situation is outstanding. The biggest potential negative is that for the fourth year in a row, there is major personnel upheaval on this unit and so for the fourth year in a row, it will take some time for everyone to get used to their new flankmates.

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: Other than a strong offensive line, the best ally a young quarterback can have is a strong running game. Last year, Tiki Barber put up career numbers with 1,518 yards and 13 touchdowns (plus two more receiving). Without question, he is one of the best running backs in the NFL.

The big change at this position and one that should have dramatic implications in 2005 is that the Giants have improved their depth situation in a big way. The Giants have been very impressed with Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs this offseason. Both are big backs who can move the pile, but who are also a threat to break the big run. One (or both) of these two should see quite a few carries in 2005, spelling Tiki and keeping him fresh. And even more importantly, combining these two big backs with the Giants new and improved offensive line, the Giants’ dreadful short-yardage difficulties should be a thing of the past. I have visions of these powerful backs breaking off big runs behind crushing blocks from McKenzie and Snee.

Fullback Jim Finn is not a punishing lead blocker, but he is entering his third year with the Giants and has developed quite a rapport with Barber.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: Another critically important addition in the offseason was Plaxico Burress. Indeed, getting McKenzie and Burress was the equivalent to getting two extra first rounders. These two are still young, are already experienced, and are proven talents. Both still should be getting better too. The signing of Burress should not be underestimated. While perceived as somewhat of an underachiever in Pittsburgh, Burress still averaged 20 yards a catch in 2004, making huge plays against teams such as the Eagles, Patriots, Cowboys, and Ravens. He was one clearly one of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets and Roethlisberger struggled somewhat down the stretch once Burress was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Keep in mind that Tom Coughlin is a former wide receivers coach. You know he is going to make Plaxico his special project. Burress is big and can deep. Manning throws a beautiful deep ball. We’re going to see some fireworks.

The other quality receiver target is Jeremy Shockey. Shockey has been working out like a madman and is in the best shape of his life. Jeremy’s pride was hurt last year as he was no longer being talked about by national media types as one of the top tight ends in the league. Plus, he no doubt saw the money the Ravens just handed out to Todd Heap. If he can stay health (and that’s always been the key with him), Shockey looks primed for a monster season…especially when one considers that Manning demonstrated a real fondness for throwing to the tight ends in 2004. The improvements on the offensive line will also allow Shockey to be sent out more in passing situations.

There is more talent here, but the question is who (if anyone) will step up and make a real impact. The soon-to-be 31-year old Amani Toomer is now three years removed from his best season in 2002. A very serious hamstring injury sabotaged his 2004 season, but Toomer was not exactly playing all that well before he got hurt either. If he can regain any of his 2002 form, the Giants will be hard to defend. If he doesn’t, he will make life more difficult for Burress and Shockey. It will be interesting to see how Toomer does at his new position of flanker.

With Burress, Shockey, and Toomer likely to see the bulk of the playing time (keep in mind that Shockey will often be spread out wide as a wide receiver), it remains to be seen how much playing time Tim Carter and Jamaar Taylor will actually receive. But both a very talented speedsters who can get deep and make the big play.

Another important cog who the Giants need to step up is Visanthe Shiancoe. Shiancoe lost his second string job last year due to mental mistakes rather than physical ones. Shiancoe is a good run blocker – he just needs to stay more focused and consistent – especially in blitz protection. With opposing defenders likely to concentrate heavily on Burress, Shockey, Toomer, and Barber, there is a real opportunity here for Shiancoe to do some serious damage as a receiver in two-tight end sets. The good news is that Coughlin has singled out Shiancoe for praise in the offseason.

Offensive Summary: The Giants have the franchise quarterback; they have the big, deep-threat wide receiver; they have a Pro Bowl tight end; they have the Pro Bowl running back; and they have the makings of a very solid and deep offensive line. Opponents can’t double everyone. If the various parts can come together quickly and develop cohesion and chemistry, this will be a very dangerous offense to defend. The key is Manning. How fast he grows up will determine everything.

Defensive Line: The Giants were 28th in the NFL last year in defending the run. If they don’t dramatically improve upon that embarrassing statistic, then how good the offense is won’t matter. Much of the problem last year had to do with injuries (the defensive line was incredibly hard hit as was the safety position) and new faces (especially in the front seven). But the Giants are counting on a lot of relatively unproven talent on the defensive line to fix the problem. Michael Strahan will be back, but he is 34 and coming off a serious chest injury. The starter opposite him at end will be Osi Umenyiora – an improving but inconsistent run defender and quality pass rusher. Inside, Fred Robbins is solid, but who starts alongside him will be determined in the preseason. The candidates are Steelers’ castoff Kendrick Clancy, former first rounder William Joseph, and no-names such as Kenderick Allen, Damane Duckett, and Davern Williams. The good news for the Giants is that Joseph, Allen, Duckett, and Williams all flashed ability late last season. All of these guys are young, strong, athletic, and have something to prove. So the odds are that at least one of these guys will end up developing into a decent player. There also may be strength in numbers as the Giants will likely rotate quite a bit the four defensive tackles who make the team. However, as stated, the bad news is that this is all pure speculation at this point. My gut tells me that the Giants will be OK here, but that remains to be seen.

At end, the Giants have two very inexperienced, but talented, athletes backing up Strahan and Umenyiora. Justin Tuck and Eric Moore can rush the passer. Tuck was considered by some to be a possible first rounder. What remains to be seen is how they will do as run defenders. In a pinch, the Giants could play reserve tackles at end again if necessary.

Linebackers: The key defensive addition in the offseason was obviously middle linebacker Antonio Pierce. Pierce is a tad on the light side, but he is a very smart, instinctive, hard-working leader who can play both the run and the pass. He is good friends with Jessie Armstead and plays a lot like him. Redskin defenders credit Pierce with being the brains of the team’s outstanding defense last season, making sure everyone was in the right position.

Another positive will be that strongside Carlos Emmons will be 100 percent healthy after being hampered much of last season rehabbing a broken leg. Pierce and Emmons will likely form the emotional and vocal heart of the defense as both have strong leadership skills.

Keeping this unit from achieving a truly special status is a kickass, play-making weakside linebacker. Barrett Green (offseason knee and ankle surgeries) will be limited in training camp. It remains to be seen if he will become the player the Giants had hoped when they signed him away from Detroit last offseason. If he isn’t near full-strength or if he falters, the instinctive but unathletic Nick Greisen will likely start. Neither candidate is probably ideal. Others who may contend here include Reggie Torbor, Jim Maxwell, Kevin Lewis, and T.J. Hollowell. Torbor is a guy who will be used quite a bit, even if he doesn’t start. Torbor apparently has increased his flexibility and agility this offseason and having a full offseason under his belt as a linebacker should really help his cause

Defensive Backs: The Giants are quite talented and deep at cornerback. Pencilled in as starters are Will Peterson (an underrated player who most opponents stay away from) and Will Allen. Allen had progressed nicely from 2001 when he was drafted until 2003. However, last season he was slowed in training camp coming off a serious foot injury that sidelined him in 2003 and struggled early (especially against the opener in Philadelphia). He then developed an annoying habit of not making plays on the football despite solid coverage and dropping interceptions. With Allen due to be an unrestricted free agent in 2006, he has every motivation in the world to bounce back with a strong season in 2005.

Even if Allen has a strong season, he is not likely to be re-signed by the Giants as the team has invested a high draft pick in Corey Webster – a player who was deemed a sure-fire high first rounder before his play suffered his senior season due to variety of injuries. Webster gives the Giants something they haven’t had since Jason Sehorn – a ball-hawking cornerback.

And the depth doesn’t end there. Curtis Deloatch and Frank Walker have real ability. At 6-2, Deloatch has the size to match-up with bigger receivers. And Coughlin has also sung his praises this offseason. Walker improved his play in 2004 and has demonstrated a nose for the football and making big interceptions. By far, this is the deepest and most talented group of cornerbacks the Giants have perhaps ever had.

At safety, the only sure bet is that Gibril Wilson, if healthy, will start. Whether that will be at strong or free safety and who will line up opposite of him remains to be seen. The Giants say they use their safeties interchangeably (that there is no true strong or free safety). If true, it is likely that Gibril could be teamed up with a variety of characters including Brent Alexander, Shaun Williams, and possibly even Curry Burns. Williams has something to prove and the re-structured contract he accepted in the offseason now appears to make it easier for the Giants to cut him, so he should be motivated. Alexander is up there in years, but the Giants seem to appreciate him and he too has been complimented for his offseason work. Possibly complicating the picture are two undrafted, but talented, rookies in James Butler and Diamond Ferri. Regardless, getting Wilson back will be huge. He was arguably the Giants best defensive player before he got hurt last season. He is very fast for a safety, plays a physical and aggressive game, has a nose for the football, and is a good blitzer.

Defensive Summary: The Giants have a good, young core group to build around in Pierce, Peterson, Wilson, and Umenyiora. Though older, Strahan and Emmons are solid, as is Robbins. The real key here is to have one of the young defensive tackles step up and become a major factor. Someone also needs to take charge at weakside linebacker. Adding Webster and Tuck in the draft will help down the road. Overall depth is solid across the board, and outstanding at cornerback.

Special Teams: The kicking game should be solid with punter Jeff Feagles and place kicker Jay Feely. Special Teams Coach Mike Sweatman helped to turn the coverage and return units around last season. Willie Ponder lead the NFL in kickoff return average. The Giants still need to improve their punt return game.

Coaching: Coughlin is very organized and detailed. He is a work-a-holic who wants to win badly. And Coughlin has his players starting to believe in his program. Year one was dedicated to laying down the law and finding out what his team has and doesn’t have. While he is building more personal relationships in year two, he really hasn’t lightened up as much as the players think he has. The truth is they are simply getting used to him and his demanding style. One senses he has a specific plan and detailed vision for this team. It would surprise me greatly if he doesn’t turn this team around. It will also be interesting to see what Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis does with this defense if everyone stays healthy.

Overall Summary: Beware Philadelphia, there is a storm brewing in New York.