Players Report to Albany Today for the Start of Training Camp: Giants’ players are scheduled to report to Albany, New York today for the start of training camp. The first practices are scheduled for tomorrow. The team will practice twice in shells on both Saturday and Sunday. Monday will be reserved for meetings and the team will practice in full pads for the first time on Tuesday.
New York Giants Agree to Terms with CB Aaron Ross - All the Draft Picks Are in the Fold: According to various press reports, the Giants have agreed to terms with CB Aaron Ross, their first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. The contact is reported to be a 5-year, $13.5 million deal that includes $8 million in guaranteed money.
With Ross signed, all eight of the Giants’ 2007 picks are now in the fold.
Injury Report: Head Coach Tom Coughlin provided the following injury update yesterday, heading into the start of training camp: “(WR Amani) Toomer (knee), we are going to have to see exactly where he is. He is coming off of an ACL. He has made good progress. I saw him the other day. He is scheduled to go once a day and I hope it is a full-fledged one, but I think we are going to have to work our way into that. We would not just throw him out there and let him go. (DE) Michael (Strahan) (foot) will go once a day, more by my design than anything else. (DE Justin) Tuck (foot) will have to go once a day. Then we are going to have some guys that we are going to have to check on to see what their status is. (DE) Osi (Umenyiora) (hip) came off an injury, (WR) Plaxico (Burress) (ankle) coming off an injury; we are going to have to see exactly how they are. Hopefully they will come in and they will be just ready to go, period.”
DE Michael Strahan May Hold Out?: Rumors have been running rampant that 35-year old DE Michael Strahan, who is coming off of two serious injuries in three seasons, is unhappy with his current contract and may hold out unless his deal is restructured. Strahan has two years and $8 million in salary left on his current deal.
The Star-Ledger is reporting that Strahan wants to meet with General Manager Jerry Reese this morning and suggests that if the Giants don’t dish out some more dough, Strahan will walk.
If Strahan does not report, he is subject to a fine of up to $14,000 per day by the Giants.
The Ledger reports that an unnamed, high-ranking Giants’ official says the Giants will not budge from its position that Strahan must play out the final two years of his current contract.
July 26, 2007 Media Sessions With Assistant Coaches: The following are portions of the media Q&A sessions with various Giants’ assistant coaches yesterday:
Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo:
Q: Speaking of the hot seat coach, are you ready for training camp , are you ready to improve this defense?
A: Yes, I’m always ready for training camp, I called Pete about mid-way through the summer and he had told me he had received phone calls from all the assistant coaches halfway through vacation itching to come back. You know we enjoy our time off, and that was great, but we are ready to go. For me, it was a little different, I feel like a rookie again. I couldn’t find my way up here, it’s a new university, a new camp. I’ve been in the same place for eight years. But, we are all excited to go. Yeah I am fired up.
Q: Last we saw you at the mini camp you had a sense of what these guys can do. Now, it’s going to be a little different, players have the chance to put the pads on, start hitting, are you anxious to see what you have back?
A: Yes, let’s face it, the game is played with pads on, so I am not going to have a complete feel for what we have, and what we can do, and who we can trust, and who we can count on, until we actually have played a real game of football. I am really anticipating that first day when we put the pads on.
Q: The reason you are standing here right now is because of the way the defense performed last year, whether that is fair or not, they were ranked in the 20s, do you feel that is unacceptable for a defense, especially a Giants defense, especially if they are going to be competitive this year?
A: I am probably no different that any coordinator in this league right now. If they are standing here at their training camp, we are all striving to be the number one defense. I don’t think that anybody wants to be in the 20s and I don’t think that anybody wants to be in the teens. I would not put a figure or a number on it, but I will say this, and I have always been this way, the rankings, the statistics, and all those things, whether it’s defensively or offensively, really take a backseat to one stat. We are all trying to win games, and winning takes care of everything. As a group, as a team, as an offense, as a defense, as a group of special team players, if we can get the W, that’s the one that matters the most.
Q: Earlier in the spring your defensive players said they were eager to learn your system and gave you great reviews, does that make it a lot easier to get your point across?
A: I am happy to hear that. But I don’t know if I would use the word easier. Even when I speak to them tomorrow for the first time, it is just going to be a continuation. This is a long process and I spoke to the guys about that back in the mini-camp, it was just the beginning. We have a lot of growing to do and a lot to get done, and there are still a lot of elements and still a lot of unknowns. We don’t want to put too much emphasis on one portion of this. We have a long ways to go, and that is what training camp is for.
Q: Are you anxious to see how Kiwanuka progresses now?
A: Yes, because let’s face it, his head was spinning trying to learn all of those different things. Now, he can probably add to what he does really well, which is a lot of the physical aspect of the game, and that is all natural, physical football stuff, which he has been doing for years. So, yes I am looking forward to seeing that.
Q: How many reps are you looking for him to get during those defensive sets?
A: At the Sam linebacker position, with what we call the base defense, we want him to get as many as possible. I mean we haven’t figured out a number yet, but we want to keep him healthy and keep him fresh.
Q: Your general manager has expressed concern about the secondary. Do you share that with him, is that area of the defense a question mark?
A: I hate to say that anything is a question mark, but certainly Jerry knows what he is talking about, so I am sure he has a feel, a better feel than me, for what these guys can do in games right now. I think the best way to put it , isn’t that I am concerned about these positions, but rather , I am anxious to find out about these positions. Now, we are getting closer and closer to the first game, so we certainly want to get the questions answered.
Q: Is it a good sign to have the ability to rush the passer and how will that affect the rest of the defense?
A: Certainly, if you have two guys that can do that, or four or five or whatever it is, it makes everyone else behind them better. That’s a slam dunk, a no brainer.
Linebackers Coach Bill Sheridan:
Q: Could you tell me what you see from spring practice and a new unit coming back in the summer now?
A: Probably the biggest change is that we’ve moved Mathias Kiwanuka to Sam. We had a good spring and this will be a very important preseason for him and he’ll get better every day. It’s new for him, laying back in pass coverage. He’s so used to rushing the passer.
Offense Coordinator Kevin Gilbride:
Q: So are we going to recognize this offense this year?
A: I don’t think you will have any difficulty in being reminded of a vast majority of things we have done in the past. I think it will actually be the same. Again, I think we discussed at the end of the spring, there are some different components and I’m anxious to see the next three-four weeks exactly what those parts can do and what will be the things that they do best. And that will be the kind of shape and the tweaking of whatever it is that we do, but essentially they will be the same.
Q: With the Jim Finn Injury, do you use a fullback?
A: That is a great question. We will experiment with Robert Douglas, we will experiment with some of the tight ends and move positions. There are certain kind of runs that you kind of need a fullback and I’m not just talking about short yardage or goal line but certain runs that have been pretty successful for us have required a lead back. Now, you can fool around with one back and there are certain things that you can do that way that you can’t do with the two backs, but those two back runs have been good runs for us and we would like to have the ability to go to them. So if somebody can surface as a proficient fullback we will certainly have that aspect or that part of the game in our game plan. It certainly remains to be seen.
Q: Can Jacobs and Droughns play in the same backfield?
A: Rueben was a fullback at one time, but he certainly does not want to be a fullback again, if you ask him, I’m sure. And he’s a little undersized for what you ask of that position. So could it happen? Yes. Do I anticipate it? In a likely scenario, probably not.
Q: Is there a depth chart for running back? How do we classify Brandon and Rueben?
A: I mean you got to start with Brandon as the guy with Rueben competing for as much playing time as he can get and Brandon trying to hold off and trying to get as much as he can hold on to. But, I mean, there are other guys there too. Derrick Ward, young guy that we are anxious to see what he can do. Again, as Tom just talked about in his speech, there’s some interesting competition at certain positions and it is probably not proper for me to say that I think this guy is going to start. But right now you got to say that Brandon is the guy we feel confident in to be the running back to carry the ball 20-25 times a game, but we will let it all play out.
Q: So you think Jacobs is going to be your guy?
A: He could be, I don’t know. He certainly gives you a tough physical presence and I think that he catches the ball reasonably well and I think he can do that part of it but the other aspect is can you decode what is being thrown at you with all the sophistication and that’s a whole other animal. You know, right now we would like him to, and if he can do all three, great. But make sure we can use you for first and second down back and then if you can do third down that’s great. But right now if somebody can be that guy, we would like him to be that guy. But right now, we don’t know.
Q: Every year we seem to ask when is Eli going to be more like Peyton. Is that a fair question?
A: I don’t think so. The only thing that is similar about them is the last name and that they both are big, cerebral quarterbacks, but the style of offense, the compliments that he has and the complimentary parts that the offense that he has are vastly different then what Eli has. So what we ask him to do, what we ask our offense to do and the different players that we have, is significantly different than what the Indianapolis Colts offense has, talent wise and what they do systematically. So it’s really not a fair question. To be honest with you, it’s fair for us to ask him to get better, yeah, and that is what we have to expect that those times that he plays very, very well we need to see that more often and probably more importantly those times when he makes those big mistakes that we can ask him, he’s certainly smart enough to say, “hey, let’s cut those out and I think if he does that, we will be delighted.
Quarterbacks Coach Chris Palmer:
Q: What have you learned from your students the last couple months, especially Eli?
A: Well I’ve been very pleased with Eli. I think he’s done an excellent job in the spring. I thought that we worked on his accuracy and we worked on his footwork and I thought he did an excellent job there. I saw improvement from when we first started until the end. And I thought that as the camp went on I thought he became more comfortable with everything.
Q: Are there things you could do in practice to simulate pressure? To simulate a blitz or simulate anything like that and try to work on throwing off the back foot and the things Tom talked about, how you’re going to have to do that at times?
A: Well for me it’s all about balance and rhythm. And I think he sees the blitz and the pressure very, very well. You know there are two types of pressure. There’s mental pressure where you’re in a two-minute drive and you have to execute the mental aspect of it. And then there’s physical pressure and our defense has done a good job giving us a variety of blitzes and coming after us and I thought we handled that fairly well. And I thought that he did an excellent job in that area. I think the quarterbacks, you’re never in a comfort zone where you can throw with both feet on the ground. I mean there are going to be times where that happens, and I know that I’ve seen Eli make all the throws, I’m encouraged. I mean I’ve been around enough good quarterbacks that he can be one of those good quarterbacks that I’ve dealt with in the past. So I’m encouraged by everything that I see right now.
Q: With Tiki gone, can you see Eli taking more control of the huddle, even if it was just in the mini-camps?
A: Well I wasn’t here last year so I really can’t comment on that, but I know this, that he’s talked to the guys that he needed to correct. I thought that he was more vocal. I saw him grow as a person from the first time we started going over the film and watching for thirteen hours. I saw the development of a player that I was very pleased with.
Q: How much is the re-tooled offensive line going to be critical for Eli developing this year?
A: I think a quarterback’s like a good spaghetti sauce. He can cover up those noodles when they’re not real good. And I think the quarterback has to make plays and he makes guys better. Now my wife’s Italian, so don’t get me in trouble for that. I think that quarterbacks make the whole team better and I think if you look at Eli when he’s playing very, very well, he’s done an excellent job in that area.
Q: Is there anything you can point to that says Oh yeah, he’s a Manning’? Is there something in his demeanor, something in his background, something in the way he carries himself that helps him at quarterback?
A: I can tell you that he’s a football player. I can tell you that. And a General Manager in this league who has been very successful and who has gone to Super Bowls, a number of Super Bowls, told me that the salary cap has changed the league, but the development of the player has not changed. And everybody wants to compare Eli and Peyton and everyone forgets that Peyton had a 6-10 season there in his development and nine years later he’s in the Super Bowl. And I think that what I see from Eli is an excellent quarterback that’s going to be very, very good in this league and will lead his team to the Promised Land.
Q: How have you been helping Eli improve between last season and this one?
A: Let me just say that the thirteen hours we spent watching film was very tedious and Why did you do this? What did you see here? And when you sit down and you go over films for thirteen hours, that’s a grueling experience and I thought that he learned from it and the things that we talked about early in the film session, he carried out to the field and had great carry-over.
Q: How are you developing that trust you need in a relationship between yourself and your quarterback? How close does it have to come? How quickly is it coming?
A: It varies. It takes two. It’s like a marriage. You’ve got to say, This is what I see, what did you see? You have to have an understanding, you have to use the same language, and you’ve got to be open. There are a lot of factors that are involved in that and it doesn’t happen overnight.
Q: Is he a guy that wants it? Some guys want it and some guys can deal with it. Does he want that?
A: Well I hope he wants it, because if not, I’m out of a job. Here’s my experience, any time that we’ve coached a player, if the player thinks that you’re helping him, he’ll listen to you.
Wide Receivers Coach Mike Sullivan:
Q: What’s your outlook for your young receivers (Sinorice Moss and Steve Smith)?
A: Both of those young men bring a lot to the table. I think they both have the skills and ability to help us. I think obviously with Sinorice, it’ll be important that he gets reps, as many of these game-type reps in the preseason. With the situation last year, he was set back a bit with the injuries and so in a lot of ways we need to take extra steps. We’re confident that he’s headed in the right direction. We’ll see his ability and his energy and make for some good competition.
Q: Could Steve Smith have done more in the pre-season mini-camp?
A: It’s so hard to say. Those guys come in and we throw a lot of material at them and they had to make that quick jump from the college game to the pro game. He did a lot of good things, but I can’t say, it’s very premature. We got a lot of practices ahead of us. We’ve got four pre-season games. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up.
Q: The two of them, are they really competing for the same position or are their skill sets different enough that you guys can use them in different ways?
A: Well we want to get the best players we can on the field. Each of the receivers has a lot of their own unique talents and features that can help us win and whatever the best mixture is, with Coach Coughlin and Coach Gilbride, we’ll put that together and make those decisions with the best players on the field. I think they both have talents and the key thing for them both will be to make sure they understand their assignments, that they’re not making any of the mental errors and all the areas where they can improve. The fundamentals. Their ability to beat man-to-man coverage, to recognize defenses, to recognize zones. If they maximize that, they get that type of momentum heading into the season.
Q: What are each of their strengths?
A: I think Steve catches the ball very well. He’s got very good hands. I think Sinorice has an explosiveness and a suddenness and he’s very, very quick when he’s changing direction. A guy that has been able to show an ability in practices to make some plays inside as well as outside.
Q: Who do you think is going to play where and how often?
A: In any of those type of questions, it’s hard to explain who’s in what position. You’d have to ask Tom. I’m just chain of command. My job is whoever’s out there, get them squared away. Make sure they know what their assignments are. And most importantly improve their fundamentals that help them become the best possible receivers that they can be.
Q: Is Steve further advanced than other young guys you’ve seen maturity-wise?
A: He definitely has brought a lot to the table, impressed a lot of people through the mini-camps and now it’s very important for him to take that next step and build upon it. But the standpoint of where he was at with regards to other receivers at that stage, we’re certainly very impressed with what we’ve seen.
Q: Sinorice fully healthy? Is there any fear at all that he’s not?
A: To my knowledge, I understand he’s in good shape. I’m not aware of any injuries. Again, any of those type of questions, you’re going to have to ask Tom about.
Q: Do you know where Amani is physically or is that just going to be played out in training camp?
A: It’s really going to have to be played out in training camp. I do know he’s worked extremely hard. He’s been very diligent in his rehab in the training room, very focused. Right now coach has said that he’s going to come out and try to practice once a day and we’ll see where that shakes out. Hopefully there will be more and we’re really looking forward to that. We know he can be a big part of our offense.
Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty:
Q: The last couple of years you had a certain running style with Tiki Barber. How much of an adjustment will it be with Jacobs back there now on your offensive line?
A: Brandon ran a lot of the same offense that we have had in the past year and he is very capable along with Rueben Droughns and Derrick Ward to run our offense. Going in we have a core of a running unit, we will do the same that we have done in the past. You always tweak things, not only with the personnel you have but you tweak things against the defense you are going to run. Obviously one guy can make things happen in a different way than another guy. Maybe one guy is more powerful. I mean Brandon Jacobs is a big human being and we want him to get down as fast as he can and open up holes. So we do have a philosophy on offense, as you well know from watching us. You may see some tweaks in that but nothing that we are going to go out and totally change up.
Q: What are the qualities David Diehl has that will make him a good left tackle?
A: The biggest quality that David has is that he is a football player and he is an offensive lineman. Probably when he was born he was able to walk or crawl, he probably did it in three point stance. Now that’s what he is. He takes his job, whatever it is, very seriously. And I have been fortunate from a personal standpoint to be around a group of guys on the offensive line like we have here with the New York Giants because they are all in that same mold. They come to work, in the classroom and on the football field, to get better and make their team better. That’s really what he brings to the table. Our habits are formed at a very young age, when you are a youngster. When you have good habits, work habits, it carries over into whatever profession you choose in life. David’s work habits are second to none.
Running Backs Coach Jerald Ingram:
Q: Do you find that Brandon Jacobs leaves himself vulnerable at times near the end of runs and have you tried to teach him how to go down?
A: The thing that is different about him, is that he is one of the biggest running backs to play the game. Franco was big, Eddie George was big, this guy, he is a different kind of big. He is defensive big. He is big and strong, so in his mind going down equates to being defeated, so that is why he wants to stand strong. But, that is part of the learning process that he has. We are all creatures of habit, so he has been able to get away with those things over the years, and probably carried people for extra yardage by doing that. But, he is in the NFL now, so he has to learn how to get a little bit lower, get yourself on the ground, so you can last a little bit longer, and we can protect ourselves by running the clock. So, yes we have addressed the issue.
Q: Brandon has a very tough mentality about him, and obviously creates a physical presence out on the field. What else does he need to do to complete his game?
A: Playing physical and tough, running straight at people, only gets about 1.5 yards per carry. This is the NFL, we need to be around 5 yards per carry, and over 4.5 yards per carry is good. You know, it’s all great, but you have to be able to make people miss in this league. And you have to make big plays, because big plays excite the offense. Big plays excite the offense. Big plays excite your offensive linemen. He will have enough physical plays that will excite our defensive players; he will excite our offensive line by just being physical and big and hitting people. But, you have to be a playmaker in the NFL, to last long and be productive and be a good, successful team. That’s what he wants to bring. He wants to bring some leadership, he really does. He may not have known how in the past but he has grown to learn how now. Now, he has the shot to be a leader. He gets his values lined up right; everything will take care of itself. Learn how to get low, learn how to handle situations, learn short yardage, goal line, the best thing we did last year was teaching him how to run the 2-minute drill and third down situations. He had never had to deal with these types of situations before as a running back. That is your value as a running back, when you leave this game; you want to leave as someone who could do everything. You don’t want to just be a power back, a goal line back, no, your value is being able to handle everything. Did you protect the quarterback, did you help the o-line, did you move the chains? It is just like Walter Payton, you know, he was everything.
Q: In practice, we have seen beautiful form as a receiver from Jacobs, but we never see that during the games. Will we see more of that?
A: Brandon has good hands. It is amazing when you look at some of the bigger backs from last year, and how effective they were in the pass game. When they catch a five-yard pass, that is almost a guaranteed extra three yards until they are brought down, so that’s a solid eight yards. It gives your quarterback a chance, so he isn’t throwing third and long or third and extra long.
Tight Ends Coach Mike Pope:
Q: Are there any new, good drills that you will be implementing this training camp?
A: I do have a couple new drills, yes, and they will be exposed on the practice field. So, you will see them when they are there.
Q: How much of Jeremy continuing to improve is on Jeremy and how much of the equation are the other components that go into production from a tight end, such as Eli Manning’s ability to get Jeremy the ball?
A: Unlike golf, where people can go out and work on their own, it doesn’t quite work that way. It is combination of many things, and we spent a lot of time this spring getting everyone on the same page and trying to emphasize getting the ball downfield more. Everybody is displeased that a guy with his size only averaged 9.1 yards per reception. We have to do better than that. It doesn’t take that many balls downfield to improve that. Hopefully, something that we can come out of this camp with is the ability to push the ball more downfield and stretch the field. Particularly against the type of coverages that are played today, so many two-deep coverage schemes. We hope him to be a player in the middle of the field.
Q: Jeremy is in his 6th year, do you feel that he is still on the rise?
A: I think that initially you have to be every year, because he has been a Pro Bowler two times. He led the team in receiving last year, he’s not an unknown item. There are always coaches who are eyeing him, and plan to stop the type of player that he is. You get to a point where the player physically probably won’t get a lot bigger or faster, the age is in the decline, so the experience and the things that they have learned along the way they need to put that all together. And then, as you said, it’s about creating opportunities, getting open, getting him the ball, and then contributing that way. I thought that he made a great deal of progress on the blocking side this past year. He really contributed to our running game. You don’t run for that many yards, especially off tackle, without contribution from a guy like him.
Q: Everyone makes a big deal of what he does in the off-season, are you satisfied that he does what he has to do to be ready for training camp?
A: The conditioning part of it, you can do anywhere and you can do it with your teammates, or you can do it by yourself. I don’t have an argument for that.
Notes and Quotes: Linebackers Coach Bill Sheridan said he has been really impressed with WLB Kawika Mitchell.
Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty of LT Guy Whimper: “He’s improved in 2007 in a lot of facets: Strength, footwork, knowledge, the mental part of the game. Now what he needs to show is, when the pads come on, the consistency of making the right moves every play, whether in individuals or team work…He knows now that he needs to fully concentrated on his opportunity – and what an opportunity he’s got. I know he’s turned the page on 2006, which is what you want to see.”
Defensive Backs Coach Peter Giunta on CB E.J. Underwood: “He’s starting all over again. He got to the third preseason game and he got hurt, and then he couldn’t do anything. He got a taste of what it’s like to be part of it and then it was taken away from him. Hopefully that will motivate him.”
Giunta on the defensive backs adjusting to Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s more physical coverage scheme: “The guys like it, because they get to be physical instead of sitting back and reading and reacting. We couldn’t do a whole lot in the OTAs because of the league rules (restricting contact), so we’ll see how we do with the pads on.”
Spagnuolo on the shifting of Mathias Kiwanuka from defensive end to linebacker: “I’ve been involved with a number of these guys who were defensive ends in college that stand up in the league, and it’s not an easy transition. It has not been easy for any of ’em. I don’t know of any that I’ve had that have been slam-dunk, no problem, he can do it. There’s always a growth process and that process is sometimes a little bit longer than we would like it to be. We obviously see something in him from an athletic standpoint that he can help us there, so we’ll stick with it, for now.”
Spagnuolo says his biggest adjustment from moving from position coach to defensive coordinator will be on game day when he now has to make the defensive calls. “As an assistant coach, by the time Saturday came, I pretty much had done my job,” said Spagnuolo. “There were a couple little things I had to do on game day, but the bulk of my work was Monday through Saturday. Now it will be Monday right through Sunday.”