August 18, 2010 New York Giants Training Camp Report (Afternoon Practice)

by Contributor Marty in Albany

Manning and Sorgi Watch as Bomar Solos

This is my final report of 2010. Training camp was a week shorter than last year. The shorter length of training camp, combined with injuries to so many players means that significant team changes will happen between now and the start of the season, so let’s not jump to any hasty conclusions. Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

This is my tenth year posting camp reports. As with last year, it is uncertain if the Giants will return to Albany. In case they don’t, I want to thank everyone who has read and enjoyed my camp reports (as well as those who have not, but have refrained from calling me names). Providing BBIers with both enjoyment and information that may not be available elsewhere has always been my goal and it has always been a source of great satisfaction for me.

Today’s Practice:

The Giants were in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts on this overcast 80 degree day. QB Rhett Bomar was the only quarterback dressed. QB Eli Manning was wearing a baseball cap. As far as I could tell, there were no bandages or gauze showing. He threw one or two passes, and warmed up with the team, but that was all. QB Jim Sorgi took quite a beating in the Jets game so I am not surprised that he got the day off.

I guess, if you are a third string QB, you dream of days like today. QB Rhett Bomar did all the passing in the offensive drills, the 7 on 7s, and the 11 on 11s. Frankly, I thought that he looked about the same as he usually looks in practice. He made some good throws and some poor ones which got tipped and intercepted.

It was good to see TEs Kevin Boss and Travis Beckum dressed, as were WRs Steve Smith, Tim Brown, and Sinorice Moss.

Boss is probably not 100 percent healthy yet, nor WR Mario Manningham, who looks a bit gimpy. Nevertheless, Mario and Bomar hooked up on a wonderful timing pass with Mario making a great move to get wide open for a TD. Mario also made one of his patented catches where the ball bounced off his (or someone else’s) hands in traffic, then bounced off a defender, and finally bounced back to Mario for a reception.

I was also glad to see WR Steve Smith make a nice athletic leaping catch. I looked for OG Chris Snee, but I don’t believe that he was on the field today.

There were kickoff returns and WR Victor Cruz participated in them as well as in the punt returns.

Speaking of punts, P Matt Dodge had a practice that he’d like to forget. Usually he has a mix of great and not so great punts. Today, all of his punts looked like the low, short punts that he made in the Jets game. He needs to find his swing, and fast.

In the 11 on 11s LB Jonathan Goff got an interception. There were completions to HB Gartrell Johnson, FB Madison Hedgecock, and TE Travis Beckum. Beckum looks as smooth as ever running and catching the ball. DE Jason Pierre-Paul continued his good play by swatting away an attempted pass.

In the 7 on 7s, CB Corey Webster made a fine pass defense on a ball intended for WR Hakeem Nicks, and CB Terrell Thomas swatted away a ball as well. WR Victor Cruz had a few catches, the best of which was a side line catch defended by CB Bruce Johnson. CB Seth Williams made an excellent defense of a pass intended for WR Derek Hagan.

Back in the 11 on 11s, WR Duke Calhoun made a fine deep diving catch, and LB Jonathan Goff got his second interception of the afternoon when Bomar’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, possibly by DE Justin Tuck. That concludes today’s camp report.

As I have done in prior years, here are some overall evaluations of training camp:

The 2010 Draft Choices:

First Round – DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida: JPP is big, quick, fast, and athletic. In terms of potential, the proverbial “sky is the limit.” We are told that he is working hard to learn the defensive scheme, but (and this applies to all linemen) training camp is not the best place to evaluate Jason. It is better to study his play in the preseason games.

Conventional wisdom says that it might take awhile, perhaps more than a season, before we know if Jason is quality NFL material because his playing time will be limited and that he will be playing behind Kiwi, Osi, and Tuck. If Jason is quick to develop, there will be less pressure on the Giants to retain the services of all three of those veteran DEs.

Modern history differs from conventional wisdom. Last year our defensive line was “stacked.” All the experts said so, and they were wrong. On Monday night Jason had a sack against the Jets’ starters. It was the only sack of the game. Our vaunted veterans put very little pressure on the Jets QB and got pushed around by their offensive line. Jason’s good health, speed and strength may see him playing a major role much more quickly than anyone has imagined. If Jason continues to make one sack a game, he’ll do just fine.

Before a player can get to the highest level, he needs experience. When I say experience, I mean getting schooled by savvy opponents rather than learning from coaches or film study. As mentioned above, the veteran DEs on the Giants’ roster may or may not limit how fast Jason gets that experience. Jason is not nearly as good as he is going to be, or as good as he needs to be.

Second Round – DT Linval Joseph, East Carolina:
He’s a VLT- a very large tackle. In camp he has shown quickness and speed belying his 320 pounds. Drafting a DT in the second round was no doubt inspired by last season’s nearly total meltdown of our defensive line due to injuries. Pretty much everything I said about JPP’s development in terms of time and experience also applies to Joseph. Like his draft-mate JPP, Linval played well against the Jets with four tackles and some good penetration. At this point, there is reason to be optimistic about Joseph’s future in the NFL.

Third Round – S Chad Jones, LSU: Chad was drafted to shore up an ineffective safeties squad that was depleted by S Kenny Phillips’ knee injury. A serious car accident put Chad in the hospital. Chad will need surgeries and long-term rehab. At this point, his football career is very much in doubt. We all wish Chad a normal and healthy life, even if football is no longer a part of it.

Fourth Round – LB Phillip Dillard, Nebraska: The departure of Antonio Pierce left a large void at the Mike LB position with no heir apparent to fill it. There was (and still is) a dire need for a first rate middle linebacker. Drafting one in the first round might have been a good idea, but there would be no guarantee that a rookie, even a first round pick, could start from day one. This became a moot point when no worthy MLB prospect was available when it was the Giants’ turn to draft in the first round. Instead of “reaching” for a LB, the Giants picked the best player available (JPP). At that point it became clear that the Giants would either make due with the veteran LBs already on the team, or try to acquire another veteran LB.

Eventually Dillard was drafted and we were told that he would compete for the starting Mike position. While fourth round rookies seldom become immediate starters, the veterans on the Giants had hardly set the world on fire. In camp, Dillard has gotten praise for his dedication to training and his desire to be a team leader. He is quickly picking up the defensive scheme and he has the on-field smarts to make the calls needed to set up the defense.

The problem for Dillard is that a linebacker’s career really depends on how fast he can get to the ball carrier and tackle him. Since there is no live tackling in training camp, it is impossible to know if Dillard is our savior, or just another average player that his fourth round draft status tends to suggest. He will get a chance to shine in the preseason games, but until then, he remains a reserve. He is behind newly acquired veteran Keith Bulluck and current starter Jonathan Goff.

Fifth Round – OG Mitch Petrus, Arkansas: The Giants offensive line is not getting any younger and they have had their share of injuries. A backup center was probably the position of greatest need on the offensive line, but it turned out that Guard was the position with the best player available. At this point you may want to refer to the beginning of my August 1, Camp Report wherein I “thanked” Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin for drafting so many linemen who would remain total mysteries in training camp.

Mitch has all the measurable to be an NFL lineman, but there are very few linemen like David Diehl, who come in and play at a high level from day one. We will have to wait until the real games begin before we know what we have in Mitch Petrus. Last year, there might have been some doubt about Mitch making the squad. The recent injury to veteran OG Kevin Boothe, seems to insure that Mitch will make the Giants roster. With our two starting guards too nicked up to play against the Jets, Mitch’s presence came in handy.

Sixth Round – LB Adrian Tracy, William & Mary: Adrian started 47 games at LDE in college. The Giants drafted him to be a Sam linebacker. There is a considerable difference between those positions and that complicates his making the team. According to DE Mathias Kiwanuka, Adrian is very rapidly picking up the defensive scheme and if he makes the roster he is likely to back up LB Clint Sintim.

In camp, Adrian has shown speed, agility, and coordination. He has also made a play or two at linebacker. As with LB Phillip Dillard, Tracy’s status on the Giants will be determined by his ability to cover and tackle in the preseason games. The Giants are very thin in talent at the linebacker position. They may not have the luxury of letting Tracy watch and learn from the bench until he is able to pull his own weight. He may end up on the practice squad. However, if he does make the roster, we can all yell, “Yo! Adrian!”

Seventh Round – P Matt Dodge, East Carolina: Dodge was drafted because at 43 years of age, veteran punter Jeff Feagles could no longer meet the physical demands of playing football. The soon to be “legendary” Feagles was classy enough to come to Albany and shepherd Dodge into the world of NFL punting, especially directional punting.

Dodge has an impressively strong leg, and impressively muscular arms as well. He looks like a football player. When camp started it was very clear that Dodge was struggling to handle the snaps cleanly. He was not consistent in where he held the ball when he kicked it and he lacked rhythm. The good news is that when he kicks the ball properly, they are high and deep spirals that turn over at the top of their arc and bore into the wind.

Although he is not yet consistent enough, it appears that under Jeff Feagles’ tutelage, Dodge is becoming more consistent with every practice. Dodge is handling LS Zak DeOssie’s snaps much more cleanly and kicking with more rhythm in practice. Dodge has also replaced Jeff Feagles as the holder for field goals. Dodge has done an excellent job as holder and has received praise from K Lawrence Tynes.

Dodge had a dismal game against the Jets averaging just 37 yards. One of his punts was blocked (not his fault) and the others were low and short. Nevertheless, the punts were not disastrous for the Giants because Dodge’s low punts generally result in a long forward roll and that is what happened against the Jets. If Dodge does not have a marked improvement in the next game, the Giants will probably be watching the waiver wire for his replacement. As with Adrian Tracy, the Giants don’t have the luxury of waiting for Dodge to develop. They need him to produce immediately.

Last Year’s Rookies:

WR Hakeem Nicks: You know what they say, “big hands…big…plays.” If ever a first rounder lived up to the hype and hopes for him, it was Hakeem Nicks. He is now a starter and the receiver most likely to turn a short pass into a TD. Nobody mistakenly calls him “Hicks” anymore because everyone knows who he is and what he can do with those big hands. As a part-time starter last year, he caught 47 balls for almost 800 yards, including 6 TDs.

How has he looked in camp? Better than ever. He has enough strength to out-fight a defender for the ball, or to break a tackle for extra yardage. He is usually in a good position to make a catch, but he has made catches when he was out of position and he has made them look easy. If WR Steve Smith is our most prolific receiver, Nick is our most dangerous one. The only thing that will hold him back are injury issues. He has been limited to one practice a day. Hopefully, his rehab will be complete prior to the start of the season.

LB Clint Sintim: A big and athletic player, he was a reserve last year and somewhat of a disappointment. It was hoped that he would make more plays last year even in his limited time on the field. Clint played in a 3-4 defense in college and needs to adjust to the Giants 4-3. Frankly, I am always astonished when a player comes out of college and fits right into the NFL style of play. At least so far, the Giants have shown confidence in Clint. The starting SAM linebacker position is Clint’s to lose. He is backed up only by rookie 6th rounder Adrian Tracy.

Sintim recorded no tackles in the Jets game and Adrian Tracy had only one assist. On the bright side, only 3 of the Jets’ 29 completions were to their TEs, so maybe our SAM coverage was good.

LT William Beatty: Another second round pick, Beatty has played well enough as a rookie, for the Giants to consider starting him at LT, the premier job on the offensive line. Clearly, he is a better tackle than veterans Guy Whimper and Adam Koets. They are currently filling in at guard and center, respectively. Beatty will need some outstanding performances in the preseason or regular season before the Giants will allow him to protect QB Eli Manning’s blind side. That would result in Dave Diehl shifting to LG and the current LG, Rich Seubert, becoming a reserve.

Against the Jets, Beatty allowed no sacks, but he did not plow defenders out of the way either. I imagine that this experiment will be continued in the next game.

WR Ramses Barden: I raved about Barden last year and I continue to rave about the way he has performed in camp this year. At first, I though it was foolish to expect him to replace Plaxico Burress. I’ve changed my mind about that. Barden is 6’6″ and 227. He is not designed for making gymnastic catches, but he has made them in training camp. When he is on the field with WR Hakeem Nicks and WR Steve Smith, they will draw the most attention from the defense leaving Barden in single coverage and almost certainly with a size mismatch.

He has huge hands, a very powerful build, and long muscular arms. He has a smooth running style that helps his balance and body control. It allows him to see the ball well and get into a good position to catch it. After the catch, he can pivot much more quickly than you would expect from a man his size.

Putting a 5-10 defender on him is almost like cruelty to animals. He can out-leap defenders and he can come back towards the QB and make a “shield” catch by putting his body between the ball and defender. Barden has the size to make it nearly impossible for him to be covered by a single small DB. He has the strength to make yards after a catch by running through tackles or dragging DBs along with him. It may not happen immediately, but it will happen.

However, do not expect the Giants to give Ramses a starting spot just on my say-so. Unless he has some superb preseason games, he will start the season as the fourth receiver behind WR Mario Manningham who had 57 receptions for more than 800 yards last season.

TE Travis Beckum: Travis has been injured and has played very little in camp this year. He is a talented receiver, but he never got incorporated into the Giants offense. Last year the Giants had a boatload of draft picks and I think that Travis was drafted as insurance against Nicks, Barden, Smith, and Manningham not panning out as WRs. Fortunately for the Giants, but unfortunately for Travis, those four WRs played so well that he was relegated to blocking TE – a role for which he is unsuited.

Travis is perhaps 240 pounds. He is not a good enough blocker to fill the traditional second TE role. As a result, he got very little playing time last season. He has been injured in camp and it is uncertain if his blocking has improved. While he is very likely to remain with the Giants this year, it is not yet clear how the Giants intend to take advantage of Beckum’s receiving talents without being harmed by his shortcomings as a blocker.

HB Andre Brown: For all intents and purposes, Andre is still a rookie. Last year at this time he was running down field for a pass and tore his Achilles’ tendon. Up until that point, he was having a very good camp, showing elusiveness and power to go along with his receiving skills. He is probably the best receiver of the Giants’ running backs.

Most people doubted that Andre, or anyone else, could return to football from an Achilles’ tendon injury, but here he is looking pretty much the same as last year. He runs, he cuts, he catches the ball, he drives into defenders. In Andre’s case, being back where he started is a good thing.

Andre needs to prove that his repaired Achilles’ tendon can withstand actual game conditions. Before he can be considered a lock to make the Giants roster, he also needs to show that he can gain yardage against a real opponent, not just look good in practice. Against the Jets, he gained some yardage against their scrubs and returned three kicks for reasonable yardage. He also missed a tackle which resulted in Matt Dodge’s punt being blocked.

Last September, the Giants acquired HB Gartrell Johnson to fill Andre’s slot. Gartrell is about the same size as Andre. He is a more powerful inside runner, who has excellent balance. He is not as elusive, or nearly as good a receiver as Brown. At this point Johnson is behind Brown and is the fifth running back.

For all of his short-comings, Gartrell is a known quantity. He has shown that can stay in the backfield and pass protect. The Giants could go with either four or five RBs, but Gartrell will certainly remain a Giant until it is certain that Brown is fully healed and that he can pass protect.

QB Rhett Bomar: Last season Rhett was far behind back-up QB David Carr and was not ready to play at an NFL level. The Giants risked putting him on the practice squad and kept only QBs Carr and Manning on the roster. The Giants’ gamble paid off and Rhett is back for another try at making the team. In camp, Rhett has a strong arm and a quick release. He is usually accurate. He is playing better than he did last year, but he still hesitates when looking for receivers and still makes some poor decisions in camp.

The preseason games will provide Rhett with ample opportunities to show what he can do. He will get much more playing time than last year, because this year the Giants have three QBs in camp instead of the four that they had last year. Can Rhett show the Giants that he is too valuable to risk losing off the practice squad? Rhett may have done just that on Monday night against the Jets.

He completed six of seven passes, threw for a TD, and scrambled 23 yards for an important first down when he saw that the defensive coverage would allow it. What impressed me most was that when the Jets defense went into an overload formation that the Giants were not prepared for, Rhett diagnosed the problem in time to call a time out. He then came back with the answer. I’m not sending Rhett to Canton just yet, but I think he has earned a longer look from the Giants.

The Rest of the Team:

QB Eli Manning: Manning’s arm looks just fine in camp. How far he can take the Giants depends on whether the Giants can run the ball on offense. The Giants receivers are developing nicely, but health issues for the offensive line and tight ends, could derail the Giants.

QB Jim Sorgi: He has performed well in camp. His arm may not be as strong as Manning’s or Bomar’s, but he is smart and gutsy and his throws are accurate enough.

HB Brandon Jacobs: He has shown speed and cutting ability in camp. He has also caught the ball well. If Brandon does not do well, it will not be because he lacks speed, strength, or desire, but because he uses poor technique or poor judgment.

HB Ahmad Bradshaw: He has looked healthy in camp and his 50 yard catch and run against the Jets shows why he is now the starting RB.

HB D.J. Ware: He can do it all. He has size, speed, strength, and receiving skills. He returns kicks. In my opinion, there is a significant gap between him and Andre Brown and Gartrell Johnson.

WR Derek Hagan: He has played well in camp. He is a very consistent receiver in terms of getting open and not dropping catchable passes.

WRs Mario Manningham and WR Steve Smith: Hopefully they will be healthier when the season starts. There was no reason for either of them to kill himself in training camp.

WR Victor Cruz: He has good hands, a decent amount of speed, and can make yards after the catch. He made some fine catches in camp, but he had the good fortune to shine in the Jets game. He had 6 catches for 145 yards, Jets, including 3 TDs. I still want to see more from him before I jump on his bandwagon. In camp, there were a fair number of balls thrown his way that he failed to catch. Maybe they were just bad throws by the QBs; maybe not.

In the long run, it is not circus catches that win football games, it is pitch and catch. The top receivers get open consistently. When they do, accurate and well-timed throws from the QB result in a multitude of routine, yet unstoppable catches and an annual invitation to the Pro Bowl. When Cruz makes a few catches in the first half of a preseason game, then I’ll become a believer. Cruz also caught a punt against the Jets. That can only help his cause. If Victor has the talent for returning punts, it could signal the end of Sinorice Moss’ career as a Giant.

Sinorice Moss: Sinorice is a tough, speedy, hardworking, and thoroughly decent guy, who is on the wrong team. He has spent a lot of time on the bench because of injuries and this year was no exception as he sat out the Jets game.

Every year I write that Sinorice should be replaced. My suggested replacement is usually someone who is six or eight inches taller. This year it is Victor Cruz who is three inches taller at 5-11 rather than the 6-1 the Giants list him at. My reason is always the same: Eli Manning has trouble connecting with short receivers like Sinorice. Even if that is Eli’s fault, Eli is not going anywhere. Last season, QB David Carr had no trouble finding Sinorice in traffic. In one preseason game last year, they hooked up for two TD receptions. Carr is now with the 49ers. Perhaps Sinorice should go West to find his fortune.

WR Tim Brown: He has flashed in camp with his great moves and speed as a punt returner, but his injury may be his undoing. Tiny Tim at 5-7 (or less) 165, also suffers from the short receiver syndrome that afflicts Sinorice Moss.

WR Duke Calhoun & WR Nyan Boateng: They are both swift and rangy. They have shown good receiving talent in camp, but they are playing behind a very good group of receivers. If they have a good game or two in the preseason, they might catch on with another team, but they have little chance of making our roster.

TEs Bear Pascoe, Scott Chandler, Jake Ballard: In camp, Pascoe and Chandler both looked good as receivers. They got open and caught the catches that they were supposed to make. They are close enough in their receiving skills to warrant keeping the better blocker to join TEs Kevin Boss and Travis Beckum on the roster. Ballard has shown very little.

FB Jerome Johnson: If he can block, he is going to make some NFL team very happy. Although he is probably the best receiving Giants FB since Charles Way, the Giants will keep only one FB and that will be Madison Hedgecock.

CBs Terrell Thomas, Corey Webster, andAaron Ross. The only thing that will stop these guys is health. They have all looked great in camp and CB Bruce Johnson is not very far behind them.

CBs D.J. Johnson, Courtney Brown, and Seth Williams: D.J. Johnson has had a brutal camp allowing reception after reception. In the Jets game, Santonio Holmes took him to school. D.J. also intercepted an inaccurate pass, but it did appear that the receiver (who was not Holmes) had still beaten him on the route.

Between Seth and Courtney, I would give the edge to Seth who had more good plays in camp. However, against the Jets, it looks like Courtney got into the game ahead of Seth. Courtney is taller and 20 pounds heavier than Seth. This might make him more effective in run support and on special teams.

Safeties Sha’reff Rashad, Michael Greco, and John Busing: Rashad has made more plays than Greco in camp and he had an interception against the Jets at the end of the game. Busing is a newcomer and I have not seen much of him. As with the young CBs above, Greco and Busing are about twenty pounds heavier than Rashad. That may be significant.

As of now, the first and second team safeties are S Antrel Rolle, S Deon Grant, S Kenny Phillips, and S Michael Johnson. With Phillips still recovering from micro-fracture surgery, and Michael Johnson dinged up, the Giants may want to keep five safeties and four cornerbacks instead of the other way around. John Busing has the reputation of being a very good special teams player. That may give him an advantage in making the roster.

Linebackers: It may take a few games before LB Michael Boley gets accustomed to DC Perry Fewell’s defense and the same goes for LB Keith Bulluck. Bulluck wins the “most ripped Giant” contest. I don’t think there is an ounce of fat on him. Keith has an “8 pack” where DT Rocky Bernard has a keg. In camp, Bulluck has shown that he is fast and quick. We know that they both can play, but when will Keith Bulluck get healthy enough to play and will Michael Boley stay healthy for an entire season?

The Giants are very thin at LB and there is not much talent to back these guys up if they can’t play. I am concerned that our linebacking squad will consist of capable starters who are not healthy and reserves who are mediocre.

My prediction for the 2010 Giants: They will go as far as their health will take them.