August 6, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Both Practices)

by Contributor Thomas

The practices were set up on two separate fields, making it impossible to catch the offense and the defense at the same time. There were referees on hand regulating the action. I made a decision to primarily watch the Giants offense vs. the Jets defense. Taking the typical camp warnings into account, this is what I observed:

The first direct match-up between Green and Blue was a running drill with no wide receivers. On the very first play, LT Luke Petitgout jumped offsides run blocking. The next play, a non-descript 3 yard run up the middle, ended with Jeremy Shockey road-grading a defensive back 20 yards downfield like a psychopath. Next thing you know, three Jets are surrounding Shockey and fists are flying as they tumble to the ground. The benches clear and a giant pig pile ensued. Looks like a baseball brawl. As things simmer, Shockey is the last guy cleared from the bottom, and walks back to the sidelines in a business-as-usual routine. The unmistakable rise in intensity level starts at “Ground Zero” and reverberates throughout the crowd.

Now it’s Brandon Jacobs’ turn. We know Jacobs is a legit 6’5” 260 pounds. What I wanted to see was how tough he ran: if he would use his size to his advantage and run with attitude. Well, folks, from his very first carry, Jacobs showed he is all of that. Big #27 went off right tackle, ran through an arm tackle and just abused the cornerback up the sideline. Unless this kid totally punks out when the games start – we’re sitting on one helluva unique and dangerous weapon. And he’s no one-trick pony, either. Jacobs looked just as comfortable running sweeps and catching the ball out of the backfield. In the 11-on-11’s, Jacobs took a swing pass into the flat, got a full head of steam together and trucked a defensive back up the sideline again. Bare minimum, his between the tackles stuff was done with authority. In my opinion, Jacobs looks like a future star.

WR David Tyree was getting a ton of reps with the first team as the slot receiver in 3-wide packages. QB Eli Manning throws to him often and looks to have a lot of confidence in him. WR Tim Carter was fully practicing, but would not usually come onto the field until the second unit played. WR Plaxico Burress dropped one but otherwise made some nice diving catches and ran his hitches well. WR Amani Toomer is in mid-season form, just like he was when I went to camp early in 2003. He looks very slick and has transformed his body to fit his responsibilities as a flanker. That’s going above and beyond, and a kudos to Mr. Toomer. He also showed the mental toughness to go over the middle and hang onto a catch while getting hit. In fact, towards the end of the first practice, Toomer got into a scuffle when he was hit from behind after securing a ball on a drag route. Carter didn’t do much. I saw one bad drop 15 yards downfield on an otherwise nicely executed play. Of the lesser-knowns, WR Mark Jones showed very good hands by continually extending his arms and securing the catch. He caught a ton of passes today. WR Brandon Smith started out well and showed some good tenacity run blocking, but also had some frustrating plays where he tried to one hand the ball and ended up dropping it. WR Michael Jennings had his moments, but allowed CB Derrick Strait to rip the ball out of his hands on a deep pass he was unable to catch cleanly.

The offensive line did well. RT Kareem McKenzie makes Luke look small. The interior offensive line held up well against a talented defense. One of the core plays right now seems to be the Colts-like stretch play off right tackle. Everyone moves right quickly, and Tiki Barber takes a wide handoff and slides with the offensive line until he finds a crease. I was pleased to see them working some nice play action passes off this look, again, just like the Colts do. They did this enough that, after a while, you really had no idea whether it would be run or pass. The first team offensive stayed the same, but I spotted Rich Seubert and Bob Whitfield taking reps with the first unit together. LG David Diehl had a great blitz pickup where Jonathan Vilma shot his gap and Diehl just stoned him cold. He didn’t just block him, he ate him up. Got his base set early and really crushed him. Seubert looks fine. He was pulling with authority and pushing people around. He has the rare ability to stand out as an offensive guard, certainly a position that generally flies under the radar from a spectator’s perspective. Almost non-newsworthy was that Seubert got in a brief scrap shortly after the Shockey melee.

At tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe (Shank) was a spectator and Chris Luzar took the first team reps after Shockey stopped practicing. He looks good, but I have to wonder how he’ll do in a real game when everything’s happening 110 mph. Hopefully, the solid play we’re seeing from Luzar translates to the game field. He is tall, has a shaved head and is looking feisty in there.

Overall, the offense looked okay. Manning was okay. See the parallel? There are a ton of weapons at his disposal, but he still needs to be a surgeon to utilize their full potential. The Jets play a cover-2 and did a nice job keeping everything in front of them. There were not a lot of big plays down the field. The Giants were gashing the Jets with dump-offs to the RBs and TEs over the middle, but that’s the strategy of the cover-2: make them beat you with short stuff and wait for a mistake. This is just not a big play offense yet like the Colts and Chiefs.

QB Tim Hasselbeck seemed to get most of the second team reps today. He showed good accuracy on most of his throws, which made up for some of his missing arm strength. In a red zone drill, he threw a nice seam TD to Mark Jones, which Eli followed with a TD to WR Ataveus Cash. However, a couple of throws by both Hasselbeck and Jesse Palmer were very poor. Jared Lorenzen actually seemed to get more reps than Palmer today, but did a lot of dumping off.

Closing Optimism: Jeremy Shockey. There is a reason I believe Shockey is the best player the Giants have had since L.T. Just like in 2003, Shockey looks like an illegal player out there. I look at a soft physique like William Joseph – who still looks like that huge, apologetic 15-year old fat boy at lunch – and compare it to Shockey’s and it’s night and day. Shockey is a solid lump of granite. He was obviously the best player on the field today. And it’s not even close between him and the next guy. On either team. The best offensive play of the day was a play action pass to Shockey were he caught it on the right hash, stopped on a dime and wheeled into the secondary for some great YAC (yards after the catch). He looks unbelievably quick and fast after the catch. And determined! I hope the wrapped hammy I saw him with is nothing serious. The guys look up to him. Shock stands in the middle of the offensive huddle, and tapped each guy on the helmet before the first play of 11-on-11’s. Just a little roll call for the Shockster.

Closing Pessimism: The QB play. It’s not that Manning was bad, but he just doesn’t seem to be at the level where we can dominate. Again, this may have been the cover-2 dictating play, but very few deep balls were attempted. Manning was looking for completions underneath and moving down the field 10 yards at a time is a tough way to make a living in the NFL.

Some quick notes on the defense:

I only watched the defense about 25% of the time. Some random observations:

Kendrick Clancy was the nose guard and Joseph the under tackle on the first unit for much of the day.

Second team defensive tackles were Kenderick Allen at nose guard and Damane Duckett at under tackle. Fred Robbins worked with the third team a lot.

Gibril Wilson and Will Allen weren’t practicing at one point and Shaun Williams and Curtis Deloatch replaced them. The starting defense seemed to take a step back when Deloatch entered, as on consecutive plays he was targeted and victimized by the Jets’ quarterback on a slant and then got pancaked on a power sweep right through his front doorstep.

Compared to when I saw him in 2003, DE Osi Umenyiora was a completely different player vs. the run. He stayed at home on the snap and quickly got into his rush mode when he read pass. He used his hands well to set up some quick inside and outside moves. This guy is going to embarrass NFL offensive tackles this year.

LB Reggie Torbor got into a fight during the second practice, ripping someone’s helmet off and throwing a grazing right hook before being separated.

Safety James Butler looked good. But Jack Brewer is an animal on specials. Since the backup safeties are judged primarily on specials ability, I have to wonder if Butler can beat out Brewer here. The starting punt team had both Shaun Williams and Jack Brewer on it.

DE Justin Tuck played first team for Strahan on a few snaps. I think they rest the Hall of Famers in camp! Tiki also clearly gets limited reps.