August 15, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Afternoon Practice)

by Contributor Marty in Albany

The players were in uppers: helmets, shoulderpads and shorts. It was nice to see that the bicycle squad has been reduced to six players, with DT Damane Duckett and WLB Barrett Green practicing.

The most interesting thing about today’s practice was the scuffle between TE Visanthe Shiancoe and (I think) SS Gibril Wilson. It was in the 11-on-11 drill down at the other end of the field. There were a whole bunch of players involved and it stopped very quickly, but Gibril was clearly shaken up afterwards to the point where he asked some assistants come over and look at him. At long range it looked like his wrist was injured.

Five minutes later Gibril was fine. Then TE Jeremy Shockey attempted a look-in pass over the middle and was belted onto his rear end with the pass going incomplete. I could not tell if the hit was made before the ball arrived. I believe that Gibril picked up the ball and tossed it back to the coaches.

On the very next play Shockey caught a pretty slant pass from Manning in full stride and appeared pleased that he had redeemed himself with the good catch. As he trotted back to the huddle, he gave Gibril a mighty shove that sent Gibril flying for a yard or two. It then became clear who had knocked Shockey down on the prior play. Then it was all over and forgotten. No hard feelings.

QB Eli Manning looked good throwing the ball even though not at the top of his game. He got about 70 percent of the snaps with QB Tim Hasselbeck getting about 20 percent and Jesse Palmer about 10 percent. Hasselbeck hit WR Tim Carter on two passes. Carter did not get many throws today. Other than that, Hasselbeck did not look like he could hit the side of a barn if he were inside. He even missed players during the warm-ups when the quarterbacks were just playing catch with the receivers and no one was covering the WRs or pressuring the QBs.

DTs William Joseph an Kendrick Clancy continued to play with the first team while DT Fred Robbins continued to play with the third team. Although WLB Barrett Green practiced, he played with the second team and LB Reggie Torbor played on the first team. Rookie CB Corey Webster played with the second team and was taken to school on one play when WR Plaxico Burress caught a pass in front of him and then was ten yards away by the time Webster reacted to the catch.

Plaxico looked smooth and comfortable catching the ball. He tends to be nonchalant, but he appears to have gotten accustomed to the practice routine. He looks so cool. I just wish he would show some anger or even mild irritation when he misses a pass.

DE Adrian Awasom, who saw a lot of action on Saturday against Cleveland, was escorted off the field in the middle of practice. He looked like his legs were a bit wobbly. At first I thought he was limping, but it is possible that he was just shaken up or dehydrated. Towards the end of the practice, rookie RB Brandon Jacobs was sitting on the ground with four or five assistants looking at him. It took them all to help him stand up. I assumed it was some sort of abdominal injury as he was walking (waddling really) with his feet about 18 apart. He stayed on the field and watched and looked to be in less discomfort after about 15 minutes. He watched the rest of the practice. (Editors Note: Jacobs was hit in the groin.)

The second team defense has corners Frank Walker and Curtis Deloatch; safties James Butler and Shaun Williams; linebackers Nick Greisen, and Kevin Lewis and Barrett Green. It was nice to see both Greisen and T.J. Hollowell both practicing.

In PR Mark Jones’ absense WR Willie Ponder and others were catching punts. WR Michael Jenning fair-caught one punt. The first fair catch I’ve seen in camp. None were muffed. P Jeff Feagles might have kicked one punt that wasn’t excellent. Feagles also continued to warm up the receivers throwing them 10 – 15 yard passes as they ran at him, away from him and across from him. All of his throws were tight spirals that were right on the money. Unfortunately for the Giants, Feagles’ arm is only slightly stronger than Tim Hasselbeck’s, so I don’t see him competing for the QB position.

While Feagles was throwing to the receivers, the QBs were practicing handoffs. The goal was to use the same motion on both fake handoffs as on real handoffs. Clearly, a convincing fake handoff is a tremendous asset on a play-action pass. It never occurred to me until today that a real handoff that the defense thinks is fake, will freeze the defense and help the runner advance. The art of handing the ball off and making the defense think that it is really a pass play is light-years beyond anything that was in Kerry Collins’ repertoire.

It looks like the main drill that the team was practicing at the beginning of the afternoon was short passes to receivers, tight ends, and backs. This culminated in a practice-ending three minute drill with Eli Manning marching the team the length of the field in five yard passing and running increments. If they did not “score” they got very close.

There were four field goal tries. Jay Feely kicked his through the uprights. David Kimbal missed on both of his attempts.

Tiki Barber looks like he has added it least an inch to his biceps and he really protects the ball when running through traffic where he would find little holes, duck his head and run through. Running backs Ryan Grant, Mike Jemison, and Mike Cloud all made short catches over the middle. RB Brandon Jacobs continued to look fast and athletic until sidelined with a groin injury.

CB William Peterson continues to look the best on pass coverage. He broke up several Manning passes. On a completion from Tim Hasselbeck to WR Michael Jennings, CB Curtis Deloatch had a coach screaming at him, “What the hell were you doing?” Michael Jennings’ ability to get open in my opinion offsets his lack of height. Unfortunately if camp were to end today, he would have little chance of making the team.

There was a pass from Manning to Plaxico Burress, who was covered by CB Will Allen. It was about 12 yards, I think. Eli dropped back and threw the ball in rhythm to Burress, who was exactly in the right position to catch the ball and run with it. The timing and the execution was perfect. Burress caught the ball with complete ease and was gone. It would not have mattered who was covering Burress. That is exactly the type of pass that I want to see them do again and again this season. If the quarterback and the receiver are in synch, that pass is easy to complete and virtually impossible to cover. Plaxico caught a pass from Manning where he circled over the middle and caught the ball. Will Allen then pushed him after the catch. Plaxico did a somersault, but still hung onto the ball. Plaxico had a much better day than WR David Tyree who dropped two or three passes.

The funniest moment of the practice was during the three minute drill when water boys were running and pulling cooler chests on wheel out onto the field. The chests overturned and dumped their contents onto the grass. By the time the boys put the drinks back in the chests, it was time to take them off the field.

Over the years I have learned a few things about the usefulness of camp reports. Here are a few rules that you may or may not find helpful.

Using and Misusing Camp Reports

Camp reports describe the present. If you attempt to use them to describe the future you will most likely be disappointed. Oh sure, if a player is the starter for the entire camp, you may safely predict that he will start on opening day and continue to start until he is injured or plays so horribly that he is demoted. You can predict that a player who is small and slow will continue to be small and slow when the season starts. You CANNOT predict that a player who catches a million balls in practice will catch any passes during the season.

Camp reports can compare one player at camp to another player at camp, but can’t compare a player to players on other teams. Throughout camp Shaun O’Hara has been the starting center. Based on his starting status, it is safe to assume that the coaches think that Shaun is the best center on the Giants. However, you still don’t know if Shaun is the best or the worst center in the League. All you know is that (according to the coaches) Shaun is the best center on the Giants.

Camp reports can describe a play as a success or a failure, but can’t make conclusions about the intentions behind a play. If you see the ball hit Chris Luzar in the numbers and it bounces off, it is safe to assume that Chris botched the play. If passes continue to bounce off Chris, it may be safe to conclude that he is a clutz. However, in most cases, you don’t know if a pass is incomplete because Toomer was out of position, or Manning threw it to the wrong place, or threw it poorly, or if the offensive line missed a block and didn’t give Manning enough time, and on and on and on. A great play may result from the confluence of talent, execution, and design or it may just be the result of dumb luck.

Camp reports can tell you who looks good in camp, but cannot tell you how successful a player will be during the season. (This rule is really important.) There is no question that Brandon Jacobs is very big, very fast, very strong, and has been very successful is college and in camp. I can tell you that he catches the ball very well and has big hands. He is agile and graceful after the catch. I have not seen him block. So far as I know, he has no weaknesses. Most likely, the Giants don’t know if he has any weaknesses, either. Here is the point: Most players DO have weaknesses. A player can get through College without his weakness being exposed, but in the pros, EVERY player is tested by EVERY opponent to find his weaknesses.

If Brandon has a weakness, the Eagles, Cowboys, and Redskins, will find it. When, not if, they discover a weakness, they will exploit it until that weakness is corrected. If Brandon can’t correct it, he could become the next Sean Bennett. If he does correct it, then the teams will search for a new weakness.

NFL play is a crucible in which every player is severely tested. Teams will test Strahan’s pecs, they will test Gibril’s savvy, and they will test Eli’s nerve. The regular season is unlike college play or pre-season play. NOBODY, can predict how successful Brandon Jacobs will be, because right now, NOBODY is sure what Brandon’s weaknesses are. It may take one game or it may take the full season to find out.

One more rule. Although rookies often get better as time goes by, and sometimes veteran players look bad because they are taking it easy during the preseason, players who do poorly in camp generally do poorly during the season, assuming that they even make the squad.