August 22, 2007 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Evening Practice)

by Contributor Marty in Albany

The evening practice was in the low 60s and overcast just like the morning session. The Giants were in full pads, but there was little hitting.

QB Jared Lorenzen did not dress and his reps were shared by Anthony Wright and Tim Hasselbeck. Wright made some excellent completions and Hasselbeck continued to have problems. QB Eli Manning looked sharp and in rhythm. There is a big difference when Eli has WR Plaxico Burress to throw to. WR Amani Toomer did not play, and I did not notice TE Jeremy Shockey playing either. P Jeff Feagles must have asked for the night off as he was not on the field.

It appears that in the absence of Shockey, Kevin Boss and Michael Matthews are the number 2 and 3 tight ends, respectively. Boss and Matthews both made deep/and or TD catches and TEs Charles Davis, and Rodney Burgess continued to make catches as well.

Newly acquired WR Will Buchanon is tall and has excellent speed. He made several catches and looked comfortable in the system. Newly acquired S J.R. Reed and CB Darren Barnett both look like they can cover man-to-man. On the other hand, 5-8 CB Kevin Dockery was matched up against 6-5 WR Anthony Mix all evening. Mix absolutely had his way with Dockery. It was like cruelty to animals.

WR Sinorice Moss was last seen riding the stationary bicycle. As the Saratoga racing season is now in full swing about 20 miles north of training camp, I’ll put it in racing terms: Sinorice has great blood lines and early speed, but he stumbled (again) coming out of the starting gate. If his leg does not get better, some racing fans may want a guy with a large pistol to put Sinorice out of his misery. Others would also save a bullet for GM Ernie Accorsi, who used the Giants 2nd and 3rd round picks to claim Sinorice for the Mara-Tisch Stables.

CB Gerrick McPhearson, RB Ryan Grant, and RB Ahmad Bradshaw were running back kickoffs. Ryan muffed one and really heard it from Coach Coughlin. “Catch the Goddam ball!” On the following kicks Coughlin was screaming “Go, Go, Go!” and McPhearson, Grant, and Bradshaw added an extra jet in their run backs.

K Josh Huston and K Lawrence Tynes each made field goals of about 30 and 37 yards.

RB Derrick Ward did not dress. Except for Ryan Grant’s muff of a kickoff, the running backs did well this evening. RB Ahmad Bradshaw got a lot of work and showed a lot of quick, darting moves. The play that impressed me most was when he took a hand off, quickly accelerated and then came to a dead stop when he saw that there was no hole. He then started up again when the defense overran the play.

RB Reuben Droughns caught an Eli Pass over the middle. Droughns was maybe 10 yards from Eli. It looked as if Eli threw the ball as hard as he could, yet Droughns handled it in stride.

RB Brandon Jacobs caught a flip pass from Eli and then just ran down the field for about 50 yard into the end zone where I was sitting. The combination of his size and speed coming right at you is frightening. It will take real courage or foolhardiness for a defensive back to throw himself under the wheels of that express train.
The defensive star of the practice was CB Corey Webster, he made at least 4 pass defenses. Honorable mention goes, I believe, to LB Zak DeOssie who intercepted an Eli Manning? pass.

This is my final Camp Report for 2007. As in prior years, I’m including my impressions and opinions of the various players on the team. Unlike Mel Kiper, and others of his ilk, I invite you to check out my final camp reports from prior years (located in the BBI Training Camp Section) so that you can decide how much weight to give my current opinions.

Before I discuss the players, here are some things to remember:

  1. Predicting a rookie’s performance in the NFL based on his performance in training camp is like predicting a student’s performance in college based on his SAT scores. Obviously there is some correlation, but clearly, there is no direct relationship. Here is a personal example: My wife and I both went to Queens College (a long time ago). My SAT scores in math and English were dramatically higher than hers. Nevertheless, my wife graduated with honors, while I graduated with a great sigh of relief from my family.
  2. You can’t compare rookies to veterans; especially veteran starters. Rookies are complete unknowns in many important areas. With veterans, it is usually only a question of injuries and if they have declined physically. Rookies almost always have something to prove. Veterans try to coast through. In general, you ought to compare veterans only to other veterans and rookies only to fellow rookies.
  3. Rookies may have hidden weaknesses that will be discovered and exploited by other NFL teams. That is why you can never assume that a rookie will start in his first year.
  4. Rookies can improve. A player who is “useless” in his first year, may develop into a fine player down the road.

Here is my take on what I have seen in training camp:

The Rookies:

First Round: CB Aaron Ross is among those players who have been returning kicks and punts. He is of average size and speed and has really not stood out in practice. He looks very raw to me. If we can field even average quality veteran starters at cornerback, I would not expect Aaron to become a starter this year. Perhaps he is a year away from being a contributor on defense. The injury to CB Sam Madison may require Aaron to be thrown into games before he is ready and he may play poorly. Do not write him off as a bust. He may very well have talent that takes a while to emerge. If, in the remaining preseason games, he snags a few interceptions, or makes some impressive pass defenses, that might be a better indicator of his true abilities. If neither Aaron nor Corey Webster looks ready to meet the challenge of starting, GM Jerry Reese may be forced to acquire a veteran CB.

Second Round: Like Aaron Ross, WR Steve Smith is of average size, strength, and speed. However, he has made some impressive catches in practice and demonstrates far more polish and understanding of what is expected of him. If the ball comes to him, I would expect him to catch it. Steve must still prove that he can get open consistently in a real game. So again, we have to look at the preseason games to get the best perspective on Smith. If WR Amani Toomer is not ready to play in the opening game, my guess is that WR David Tyree or even Anthony Mix would start because of their veteran status, rather than either Steve Smith or WR Sinorice Moss.

Third Round: DT Jay Alford has both the quickness and speed to rush the passer. Although he seems huge to me, people say that his size and strength will prevent him from being a starter. We’ll see. He long snaps for field goals. He made the team when Jerry Reese decided not to hire a long snapper to replace injured LS Ryan Kuehl. DT Fred Robbins and DT Barry Cofield are the established starters, so this season Jay may a niche as either a rotational player or in a rush package. It is very difficult to evaluate linemen in training camp. Only time will tell, based on observations in real games.

Fourth Round: LB Zak DeOssie is the long snapper for field goals (see: Jay Alford above regarding making the team). He has the right attitude for a linebacker: “nasty.” I get the feeling that Zak does not even like the offensive players on the Giants. He is big and very fast for a man his size. Zak will probably play mostly on special teams. With a year of experience, he should be ready to play a substantial part in the defense. The linebacker position requires understanding/intelligence – one of the reasons why Antonio Pierce excels. My gut tells me that Zak is a quick study and will become a solid player.

Fifth Round: If, and it’s a very big if, TE Kevin Boss can block adequately, he could make the biggest contribution of all the rookies this year. Kevin is tall, 6-6 and more than fast enough to get the job done. He is a very talented receiver who would be very difficult to cover in sideline patterns because he can jump so high. Everything hinges on whether he can block. If he can’t block, he won’t play. Part of the problem is that Kevin is not powerfully built and it may take a year or more of weight room work to get him strong enough to block well.

Sixth Round: Linemen are hard to evaluate in training camp, so I’ll generalize. The difference between a 6th round draft pick and a free agent is usually not that great. OT Adam Koets is/was the third-team OT and just recently, the second-team RG. Offensive linemen are seldom ready to start as rookies (David Diehl, is a glorious exception). I believe that the Giants would prefer a journeyman veteran, or even a first year player with a training camp or two under his belt, to an untested rookie like Koets. I doubt that Koets could contribute this year even if he made the squad. Unless Guy Whimper is injured, I think that Koets is practice squad material, at best.

Seventh Round: RB Ahmad Bradshaw is a rookie who has intriguing possibilities as change of pace back. He has played well in practice and had a great game against the Ravens. He is among the players returning kicks. Ahmad is powerfully built, is an elusive, darting runner, and has exceptional acceleration after the handoff. He is a decent receiver. RB Ryan Grant, his main competition, has also played well in practice. Grant has more experience, is bigger, probably runs with more power, but is less quick. Grant can also catch the ball. Unless Ahmad demonstrates that he can pass block, he will not play.

S Michael Johnson has excellent size and athleticism. The mental part of the game (recognition of formations and understanding coverages) is very important for a DB. If Michael Johnson is quick to pick up the defensive scheme and does not make any blunders during the preseason games he will very likely make the team. If he can make an interception, some quality tackles or a good pass defense or two in a preseason game, that would certainly help him make the team. There are either one or two safety slots still in contention. The contenders also include Craig Dahl, Michael Stone (currently injured), and Richard Yancy. None of them have been impressive in camp. Johnson could make the team by default.

The Rest of the Team:

QB Eli Manning: I expect continuing incremental improvements in Eli, not necessarily anything dramatic. In the fullness of time, those improvements may add up to a very fine QB indeed.

Based on last year, if Eli has Amani Toomer, Plaxico Burress, and Jeremy Shockey to throw to, I expect the team to prosper. There is a huge gulf between those players and their backups. If one of them gets hurt, there is nobody on the team to step in and fill the void. Eli is not a scrambling QB who can buy himself extra time to find an open receiver or occupy the attention of a defensive spy to keep him from picking up a first down on 3rd-and-7. Eli needs quality receivers who can get open and an offensive line that provides a reasonable amount of time to find an open receiver. So when you try to predict how well Eli will play, you have to consider whether Toomer, Shockey, and Burress will remain healthy all season. Based on prior seasons, it is hard to be optimistic about that.

QB Jared Lorenzen: He holds the ball too long, has a very slow release, is often inaccurate, and sometimes uses poor judgment. On the positive side, he has a cannon for an arm and does not get flustered. He is a threat to QB sneak in short yardage. If the rest of the offense is healthy and the defense is playing well, Lorenzen might win some games for the Giants. My biggest doubt about Jared is his desire, not his ability. Tiki Barber was willing to improve his strength and endurance by running up and down a hill in New Jersey in his spare time. Why can’t Lorenzen push himself away from the table in order to improve his mobility, speed, and endurance? People who are out of shape tire easily and performance suffers when you get tired. If Lorenzen had a fire in his belly instead of pasta, he might have a career as a starter in the NFL.

RB Brandon Jacobs: We know that he is big, strong, and amazingly fast. He is still learning how to be a running back. There is no reason why he can’t turn into a devastating pass blocker. This year he has shown that he can cut back and find the hole. He looks like he may even have a move or two in the open field. It will be fun watching him.

RB Reuben Droughns: Droughns is a veteran who has run twice for 1,000 yards. I don’t see anything physical that would prevent him from being able to do it again if he gets a sufficient number of carries. He is a big back with surprising speed and elusiveness. He can also cut back. He may also be returning kickoffs as the up-back.

FB Robert Douglas: At 6-3 he is tall for a FB. His height makes him a better target as a receiver and he catches the ball very well. He is muscular, speedy, and athletic. He seems to have learned the play book. As there are no other FBs on the Giants, he appears to be a lock to make the team. However, the only thing that really matters is how well he can block. That is the main job of a FB these days. So here is a little rhyme for Douglas to remember: “You’re not a lock if you can’t block.” The proof will come in the preseason games.

Tight Ends TE Charles Davis, TE Michael Matthews, and TE Rodney Burgess: All three have made impressive receptions in camp and all have surprising speed. Davis and Matthews are bigger than Jeremy Shockey. Rodney Burgess is only 230. Assuming that we keep three tight ends and that Shockey and Kevin Boss are two of them, the best blocker of the remaining TEs will make the team. My guess is that Davis and Matthews being bigger than Burgess are more likely to win the position. TE Coach Mike Pope has said that the new TEs are a year away. All three can have an NFL career if they can block.

LB Kawika Mitchell: He is just what the doctor ordered after a run of veteran linebackers who where never healthy enough to pull their own weight. Kawika is big and strong at 253, and quick. He is usually in the right place at the right time. Very importantly, he is healthy. I have confidence that he will do a solid job as a starter.

LB Mathias Kiwanuka: My opinion is that a star football player can be a star at many positions. Kiwi was a star as a rookie DE. I predict that he will learn the LB position and become a star linebacker. What is my reasoning? A good dancer can dance to any music. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

LB Chase Blackburn: Big, strong, and smart. He provides good depth at MLB.

OG Zach Piller: A solid veteran pick up who will be more than adequate to fill in for a starter.

OT Guy Whimper: He makes the squad, but may need another year of seasoning before he is ready for prime time.

RB Derrick Ward: Big, quick, and versatile. He makes the team if healthy.

RB DeCori Birmingham: Can catch passes out of the backfield, but is not fast, powerful, or elusive. Next month he may be inflating footballs at a junior college.

LB Reggie Torbor: Big, strong, and fast.

LB Tyson Smith: Unless Gerris Wilkinson goes on I.R., he probably gets cut.

SAFETIES: The veterans are Will Demps, James Butler, and Gibril Wilson. If Will Demps recovers quickly from his dislocated elbow and all three stay healthy, they solidify the safety position. There is a big drop-off in skill after them.

CORNERBACKS: I have not seen anybody shine at cornerback. Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters are the starters and deservedly so. Neither of them is getting any younger and one has to ask if they have enough left to be full-time starters. Let’s hope some younger CBs start making interceptions and pass defenses. Sam Madison’s hamstring pull could turn out to be a devastating blow to the CB position. It requires the Giants to make sure that third-year CB Corey Webster is healthy enough and savvy enough to be a full-time starter. I assume that he will be the starter in the remaining two preseason games.

Kevin Dockery is only 5-8. It is said that a good big man will beat a good small man. Well the NFL is full of good big men who will victimize Kevin in a one on one situation. When 6-6 Plaxico Burress and 6-5 Jeremy Shockey are single-covered, Eli can often just throw the ball up for grabs and our big guy will come down with it or knock it away. The Giants must avoid putting Kevin Dockery in a situation where there will be a huge mismatch in height.

E.J.Underwood and Gerrick McPhearson have not set the world on fire and presumably are not in the running for a starting position. Cornerback is not a strength of this team.

WIDE RECEIVERS: In terms of receiving skills, there is a wide gulf that separates Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress from the other receivers on the team.

Anthony Mix, Brandon London, Marco Thomas, and Kevin McMahan have all had their moments in camp. They are all good sized and have decent hands. Getting open consistently in a real game is something they have to prove in order to make the team. I like Mix and London because of their height, Marco Thomas might have the most talent, and McMahon may have the best combination of skills. Regardless of which one makes the team he will not play much if Toomer, Burress, Smith, and Sinorice Moss are playing.

Sinorice Moss is quick but he is only 5-8. He has also had his moments in camp, but he has had little opportunity to shine. At this point, I would not pick him over Mix or London.

COACHING: Every coach has strengths and weaknesses. I will harp on only one point: many players who are limited in ability have contributed to their team because the coaching staff was able to build the plays around their skills, rather than forcing the players into a scheme that was unsuitable for them. I think that this is an area where the Giants could improve.