August 23, 2005 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Evening Practice)

by Contributor Marty in Albany

The Giants were in full pads this evening and everyone seemed to be in a jovial mood. This including QB Eli Manning who was smiling and joking as he tossed the ball left-handed to CB Will Allen. Perhaps it was the combination of the cool, breezy evening weather and the players’ knowledge that there was only one more “wake-up” before they could leave Albany and go home.

WR-PR Zuriel Smith is number 19. He replaces WR Brandon Smith. If the Giants had given Zuriel number 83 (Brandon Smith’s number), they would not even have to sew new names on the jerseys. As of this evening Zuriel has no name on his jersey. That is not generally a good indication of longevity on the Giants’ roster.

Wayne Lucier is back and is the second team center. As Jesse Palmer and OC Andy Tidwell-Neal combined to fumble a snap, he came back at a good time. Speaking of centers, they were all doing a little long snapping. Ryan Kuehl is indeed the gold standard based on whether or not the punter has to move to catch the snap.

Zuriel Smith and WR Michael Jennings were both catching punt from the ball machine. Michael muffed two of the six or eight balls. That disappointed all of the fans.

Injured DT Kendrick Allen and DE Eric Moore were doing an interesting exercise. There was a large wheeled “gondola” cart that they each would push across the field. Former Giants’ FB Charles Way was on the other side of the cart pushing in the opposite direction.

DE Michael Strahan was not dressed, nor WR Jamaar Taylor. RB Brandon Jacobs saw little if any action this evening.

QB Tim Hasselbeck looked much better throwing the ball than when I saw last week. His throws were much crisper and also more accurate. My favorite completion was a short drop back and an immediate bullet thrown to WR Plaxico Burress who had managed to get about 7-10 yards down field. The throw was made about one second after the snap. Plaxico also caught a deep pass from Hasselbeck when he beat S Curry Burns by about five yards. Tim also found TE Jeremy Shockey on a deep sideline pass when he easily beat S Diamond Ferri. Tim still had a number of miscues, and was forced to make a number of dump-off passes, but he was not nearly as bad as QB Jesse Palmer.

Jesse had interceptions by CB Will Allen and by LB Nick Griesen, who made a fine grab of a pass over the middle. Jesse often had no place to throw the ball and would have been sacked.

Shockey made some excellent catches as did the other tight ends. Visanthe Shiancoe caught a ball running a fly pattern and got a congratulatory pat on the rear from a coach. Wade Fletcher caught at least four deep passes and looked good. In the blocking sled drills with Coach Pope, Shockey was clearly the best blocker, but all of the tight ends looked pretty accomplished. It was good to see everyone healthy. In past years there were plenty of injuries and many of the tight end candidates were obviously inept at hitting the sled.

TE Wade Fletcher and WLB Nick Greisen got into a tussle. I think that Greisen won because Fletcher was on the ground longer. As Nick made an interception and Fletcher had his best day as a receiver, perhaps they should fight more often.

CB Corey Webster continues to get snaps with the first team and seems to be doing well, although when he and WR Zuriel Smith both jumped up for a deep pass from Jesse Palmer, it was Smith who came down with it. DT William Joseph continues to play with the first team.

As this is my final camp report, I am going to add a few thoughts and observations about the team’s progress since last year’s training camp. Last year Coach Coughlin correctly called the Giants “a work in progress.” Although that may be said of every team, every year, to Coughlin’s credit, the Giants have indeed made much progress.

The squad is more talented, healthier, more in tune with what Coughlin and the coaches want from them, and there are fewer obvious holes on the team to fill. Kicking and special teams have improved. There is veteran depth on the offensive line and in other places where it did not exist last year. OG Rich Seubert’s return from oblivion is an act of God, but Coughlin gets the credit for it anyway. We have found out that players will play for Coughlin and that his no nonsense style of coaching does not discourage free agent veterans from signing with the Giants.

Coach Coughlin’s latest adjustment is starting Reggie Torbor at strongside linebacker and switching Carlos Emmons to weakside linebacker. It may or may not work, but it shows that he is not afraid to experiment to improve the team. It tells the players, “Play well and be rewarded. Play poorly and William Joseph or someone else will take your starting slot.”

The rookie players have been impressive so far. There are no guarantees how they will do during the season. It will be tougher for them when they have to play against starters and when other teams have had a chance to probe them for weaknesses in their play. However, the rookies have done nothing to discourage my optimism. Here are my thumbnail impressions of what I have seen in training camp this summer.

The Rookies:

CB Corey Webster: He has “starter” written all over him. Every time he gets into a game, he gets his hands on the ball. He is a play-maker. He has the size, strength, and speed to make him a first class cornerback. He does not have an uncoordinated bone in his body. Just watching him run gives me goose bumps. He claims that the pro game is not too fast for him and that his missing the first five practices has not set him back in his training. Confidence is a good trait in a cornerback.

If he gets to play I predict that he will collect a bunch of interceptions. The interceptions will be partly skill and partly because so many balls will be thrown his way. Any rookie cornerback will have quarterbacks salivating to throw at him to take advantage of his inexperience. I expect Webster to give up a lot of completions due to inexperience. However, if the ball is not perfectly thrown, I expect Webster to recover and make some good plays.

DE Justin Tuck: As advertised, he is quick off the snap and has the ability to rush the passer. That is why he was drafted. He has the skills to help the team on passing downs and on special teams. He may not be as big or strong as some people would like. That could change with time. Nobody expects him to step in and be a full-time starter as a rookie.

RB Brandon Jacobs: It looks like Jacobs will fill the gaping hole the Giants had in short yardage situations (pun not necessarily intended). We have seen how big, fast, and agile he is and how he can pick up big chunks of yardage once clear of the scrimmage line. If the only thing he does this year is pick up the first downs on “third-and-short” he will greatly improve the Giants’ offense. For Brandon to get into the game on a regular basis he needs to learn the playbook, show that he can protect Manning on passing plays, and catch the “outlet pass.” Once that is established, the sky is the limit for him.

Other Players:

WR Plaxico Burress: He is a huge target at 6’5″. He is smooth and quick. Catching the ball comes naturally to him. Have you noticed how wide apart Plaxico’s eyes are set? This can only make it easier for him to judge distances and the location of a passes. He always acts calm and confident. When he is not running for a pass, he always seems to be in the “energy-saver” mode. He does not get angry, he barely celebrates a good play, and he does not hurry. I don’t think that pressure will bother him. I expect him to be a clutch player that Manning goes to when the game is on the line.

QB Tim Hasselbeck: The bad news is that he does not have a very strong or accurate arm. Opponents will not have to respect the deep pass and they will clog the line of scrimmage. That will make running the ball and pass protection a bit harder for the Giants. The good news is that Tim realizes that he does not have a gun for an arm. He will not be tempted to zip a pass into heavy coverage. He will throw the ball away rather than take a sack. Unlike the other Giants QBs he has the ability to scramble. This will cut down on sacks and give him more time to find an open receiver.

MLB Antonio Pierce: Replacing Kevin Lewis at middle linebacker is like adding an extra player to the defense. Linebacker is a tough position to learn. It may take a while for Antonio to get accustomed to the Giants defensive scheme. If he lives up to his large contract, the improvement in our defense should be substantial.

QB Eli Manning: Last year I said that he has the makings of greatness. I have not changed my mind. The good news is that he does not have to be great this year or carry the team on his back. He has excellent wide receivers, a running game to fall back on, good special teams, and (I hope) an adequate defense.

WR Jamaar Taylor and WR Tim Carter: Two very different receivers. Tim Carter is faster, but Jamaar Taylor is the more talented, more natural receiver. When healthy, Taylor caught everything, both long and short. Tim Carter’s speed and strength make him a threat to score on any given play. Jamaar is the more coordinated athlete. He knows how to get open and is more likely to be open than Tim Carter. Carter is a very muscular and no doubt can do some damage in run support. If he runs down the field he can’t be ignored because he has the speed to get behind the defenders. Both receivers could be outstanding if they can stay healthy for an extended length of time. Health is the key to their careers.

WR David Tyree: He has developed into a reliable receiver. He is the classic overachiever. In my opinion, he lives up to his full potential because he is absolutely fearless. He does not worry about being pounded and therefore he does not tighten up or lose his concentration.

TE Jeremy Shockey: We have heard that Shockey is in the “best shape ever” and he has made lot of fine catches in camp. That is NOT the key. In his rookie year, Jeremy had MAGIC. That magic depends on two things: wider receiver speed and cutting ability. As a rookie he got wide open on almost every play. Linebackers were too slow to cover him and defensive backs were too small to stop him. The question: Have nagging injuries and the general wear and tear of playing in the football affected Shockey? Does he still have the blazing foot speed? Can he still make those eye-popping cuts? If the answer is “No,” then the magic will be gone. Don’t get me wrong, Shockey still has the ability to be fine player, even a Pro Bowl player this year, but whether the “magic” is back remains to be proved during actual games.

WR Amani Toomer and HB Tiki Barber: Same fine skills; different year.

TE Visanthe Shiancoe: After Shockey, he is the best blocking TE on the team. He is big, strong, and fast. His receiving skill have improved, but he is still awkward and unnatural catching the ball. I would not throw to him unless he was uncovered, or I was desperate.

DE Michael Strahan: He is still a stud. He can be defeated on a given play, but he can’t be fooled. We are in a situation similar to last year where there is no way to tell if the rest of the defensive line and the linebackers will jell into an effective unit. At least this year we have more talent and more health at linebacker. LB Reggie Torbor could develop into more than a role player and DT William Joseph and Osi Umanyiora look like they are starter material.

CB Curtis Deloatch: He is very big and fast and always had the potential to be a fine defensive back. Last year, I did not think he was very smart or that he would be very good under pressure. It looks like I was very wrong.

CB Frank Walker: He is no longer the heir apparent. He has been overtaken and left in the dust by Curtis Deloatch and by rookie Corey Webster, who is the new heir apparent. Last year, Frank got by on his natural talents – his size, speed, and strength. If he wants to compete for a starting spot he will have to play with more discipline this year- no more foolish mistakes, or risky plays. Whether this means studying the play book or studying films, I don’t know. However, Coach Coughlin knows a great deal about discipline so Frank won’t have to go far to figure out what he needs to do.

LB Carlos Emmons: A veteran player who was injured last year. This year he is healthy so he should play much better than last year. Like Michael Strahan, Emmons can be defeated on a play, but he is not likely to be fooled.