The Giants concluded their first week of OTAs and the best news is they suffered no injuries. Given that contact is not permitted, and injuries during OTAs are rare, but Dallas lost linebacker Sean Lee for the 2014 season to a torn ACL early last week, a devastating blow to their already weak defense. Any week with players on the field and no injuries is a good one.
Eli Manning took part in practice all three days and looked to be moving well on his scoped ankle. He reported that it felt fine, wasn’t swelling, and he has not been experiencing any pain. Having Manning take part in offensive drills for the entire off season program will accelerate the assimilation of the new scheme being installed by coordinator Ben McAdoo.
Screen passes, three step drops, quick release passes, and intermediate ten to fifteen yard throws will be featured prominently in the new scheme, if the first week of practice is any indication. This is a radical departure from Kevin Gilbride’s offense that often pushed the ball down field on deep pass attempts. On Wednesday, when media was allowed access, there was even a hand off to fullback Henry Hynoski. Perhaps the fullback will be featured more in the running game this season.
Will Beatty (Broken Leg, surgery), Mario Manningham (ACL), and John Jerry (Knee debridement) will not practice this spring, Coughlin reported in his press conference that they are expected to be available “in the fall.” It’s possible that one or more may start the season on the PUP list, resulting in their missing the first six games of the season.
Also missing the first six games of the season is the suspended Will Hill, who lost his appeal, and blames his positive drug test on the inhalation of second hand smoke. Reportedly talking to friend and former Giants Deon Grant, Hill claims that he did not use marijuana, but was present when it was being smoked by others, resulting in his failed test. While the results of tests are not made public, give Hill’s history, it would have been prudent to leave any location where he could detect the distinct odor of burning marijuana. His declaration can’t sit well with the Giants, who are said to be considering cutting ties with the talented third year safety.
The starting offensive line, from left to right, is… Charles Brown (for Beatty), Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Chris Snee, and Justin Pugh. Snee has been moving well following his hip surgery and looks to be in excellent shape for a bounce back season. Rookie Weston Richburg is working at both center and right guard and took some snaps with the first unit, as did James Brewer, at left tackle.
David Wilson was a surprise participant in practice, although he has yet to be cleared for contact. He reported that he has had no pain, although pain has never been an issue with his neck injury, but his weight lifting, both type and volume, has been restricted. Wilson has an MRI scheduled for June 4th and hopes to be cleared for contact. He joked that if he is not cleared he intents to take up placekicking.
Odell Beckham and Andre Williams were both absent to attend the NFLPA Rookie Premiere event in California.
More positive news on the injury front, Jason Pierre-Paul called himself “a full go” and moved well in practice, without limitation or pain. He reports his weight at 275, his standard playing weight. Coughlin remarked last season that weight gain was a contributing factor in his decline in play, which Pierre-Paul has vehemently disputed. He reported to training camp last season weighing 285 pounds.
Stevie Brown reported that his surgically repaired ACL feels good, that he is not limited, but is just “watching.” Brown is drawing on former Giant teammate Terrell Thomas rehab experience to accelerate his own and loos forward to starting opposite Antrel Rolle this season. He moved well in practice and did not appear to be favoring his injured knee.
Quintin Demps was used as both a kick returner and as third safety in the three safety defense that the Giants have favored under Perry Fewell, perhaps giving fans a glimpse of how the team intends to deploy him the season. Rookie Nat Berhe was also used in this alignment and early returns on his performance are favorable.
Linebacker Jameel McClain, a free agent joining the Giants after six seasons in Baltimore, showed quickness, burst, and coverage ability. Coverage is the weakest part of Jon Beason’s game and if McClain bring that to the Giants defense he will compliment Beason well and make him a contributor to the defense this season. Also making an early impression is undrafted rookie Dan Fox, from Notre Dame, who moved well, and had an interception returned for a touchdown. Fox is a name to keep an eye on in training camp.
In addition to the highly publicized release of quarterback Josh Freeman, the Giants also waived/injured offensive lineman Stephen Goodin. Replacing them on the roster are rookie wide receiver Corey Washington and offensive tackle Roger Gaines. Washington was waived by the Arizona Cardinals after being signed as an undrafted free agent. He is 6′ 3 1/2″ tall and weighs 207 pounds and attended Newberry college, where he caught 13 touchdown passes last season. Gaines is 6’6″ and 334 pounds, was waived by the Chicago Bears ,and spend the 2013 season on their practice squad after playing the preseason with the Baltimore Ravens. Gaines attended college at Tennessee State. Seen as a raw talent, Games 36 1/4″ arm length appeals to NFL coaches.
The Giants will receive a $5 million boost in their salary cap this week, realizing the benefit of waiving center David Baas, who was designated a post June 1st cut. An agreement with the NFLPA in 2007 allowed teams to waive the players with that designation ahead of the actual June 1st date to give players the best chance of catching on with another team. Baas remains a free agent after refusing to take a pay cut to stay with the Giants. It will be interesting to see what the team does with the extra cap space, but it should be noted that free agent tight end Jermichael Finley, who was Green Bay and McAdoo, was cleared by his personal doctor last week. He would still need to be cleared by the team physician of whatever team signs him. Finley suffered a neck injury last October and missed the remainder of the season.
Practices this week offered no clarity at tight end as Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis, Larry Donnell, and Adrien Robinson all spent time with the first team. Robinson did show more flashes of athletic ability than in past seasons, and is again raising hope that he will have a breakout year. The worst thing that happened to Robinson was being dubbed the “Jason Pierre-Paul of tight ends” as it unrealistically raised expectation for him and he has not been near ready to achieve at Pierre-Paul’s level.
Giants Co-Owner Steve Tisch contributed $10 million to a UCLA program that researches sports concussions, with an emphasis on youth concussions. The program has been renamed the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT (Sports concussion Prevention Outreach Research and Treatment) program. This significant contribution from noted philanthropist Tisch is a great way to give back towards solving one of the major issues football needs to resolve in order to secure it’s future as America’s pastime.
An interesting tweet from retired Giant Brandon Jacobs on Friday, who was watching highlights of the Giants 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl victories. Jacobs predicts that the Giants will return to the Super Bowl this season. Given that expectations are low, perhaps he’s on to something. The Giants are historical overachievers.
The team has OTA practices on June 2nd, 3rd, and 5th this week. Look here for breaking news and highlights of the week.