On an humid overcast day in New Jersey, rain threatened to move the Giants first fully padded practice of the year indoors, disappointing the large crowd that gathered to meet and get autographs from the Giants’ quarterbacks, who were made available today by the team. Fortunately, the rains held off, the team was able to practice outdoors, and with the intensity ramped up because the players were wearing their pads, the offense showed improvement. Tom Coughlin said it’s been “two steps forward and one step back” but knows “it will come” in referring to the offense’s progress. He is generally pleased with their communication and no huddle work but would like to see more out of the running game. Despite the changes in both training and scheme, Coughlin will always be an old school coach who likes his smash mouth football.
Prior to practice commencing, defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins met with the media and said that the Giants have always been known for having a dominant defensive line and “it’s our responsibility not to let that fade.” He is impressed with the progress second year lineman Damontre Moore has made this off season, especially against the run. Jenkins sees Moore as a completely different player in 2014. He called Jonathan Hankins, “deceptively althletic” noting “he can move.” Both Jenkins and line mate Robert Ayers believe this defensive line could be the best they have been associated with.
Ayers said he is still trying to figure out his role and how he can best help the team win. Noting that the Giants are very organized, he said they are “all about business” and “do things under the radar.”
Markus Kuhn, entering his third season, and fighting for a roster spot on the defensive line, said the game “slows down for him the more he knows.” He has been studying but need more reps to improve.
Both kickers met with the media today. Josh Brown expressed that kicking on the practice field is more difficult that kicking in Metlife Stadium as there is nothing to block the wind. On kicking as a craft, Brown noted that practicing consistently is more important than volume, “You don’t need to kick 100 balls to hit 10 correctly, you need to hit 10 correctly every time. That’s what Coach Coughlin is looking for.” Regarding his training camp battle with Brandon McManus, Brown said, “I had a great year last year. I have no reason to believe that they would want to replace me. My goal is not to give them one.” Brown kicked today and is 6 for 8 so far in practice. As previously noted, McManus is 8 for 8 and is scheduled to make significantly less that Brown in 2014. That could be the reason to replace him.
McManus, still listed a rookie on the team website even though he was in camp with the Colts last summer, said he “lost” the competition with veteran Adam Vinatieri, but learned a lot about practice habits and kicking professionally from the Colts kicker. McManus only field goal attempt in the preseason was a 50 yarder at Metlife Stadium against the Giants that split the uprights. That is likely the reason the Giants brought him in to compete this year. McManus also claims to have made a 75 yard attempt while working out at Lehigh university earlier this month.
On the competition at kicker, Coughlin said, “It’s good to have two strong legs competing.”
Backup quarterback Ryan Nassib attributes his camp struggles to learning the new offense, “It’s not only the first time I’m throwing the play, but the first time guys are running it.” Nassib admitted that he does make some bad throws, but hopes that at the end of the day, he makes more than he misses. Inconsistent is the best adjective to describe Nassib’s day at practice. He threw touchdowns to wide receivers Marcus Harris and Jerrel Jernigan, but also wildly overthrew several passes, took a “presumed” sack, and was intercepted on another play when Harris fell down. Despite his struggles, Coughlin praised Nassib’s effort during the off season and in training camp. The head coach says he is “progressing.”
Odell Beckham made an appearance on the field to shag punts, but only catching the ball, not running with it as he continues to nurse his hamstring. He was joined on the sideline by rookie tight end Xavier Grimble, who has a “minor hamstring issue,” and worked individually with trainers on the sideline and rode a stationary bike. Coughlin called Beckham’s continued absence “more than a little disappointing,” but said the decision on his return is in the trainer’s hands.
The players most often returning punts were Trindon Holliday, Rueben Randle, Beckham, and Victor Cruz. David Wilson also fielded a few and may be adding punt returning to his repertoire. Holliday later had a wrap on his right leg. Coughlin said he “tweaked something” but wasn’t seriously injured. He appeared to be moving well.
The offense featured a lot of two step routes by the receivers. First step, second step, turn, catch. Very high percentage, and the potential for big yards after the catch if the receiver can make the defender miss. Eli Manning has also been throwing fades into the end zone. He’s hit Victor Cruz and Jernigan, but, surprisingly, there have been none intended for his tallest receiver, Randle. Ben McAdoo must be saving that wrinkle for the regular season.
Quarterback Curtis Painter took some snaps with the first team, but was mostly asked to hand the ball off. Daniel Fells was the first team tight end today and again paired up with Kellen Davis in the “jumbo” package for the goal line drills.
One of the stars of today’s practice was fullback Henry Hynoski. Getting most of the snaps with the first team, Hynoski made several outstanding blocks, including one where he stood up camp standout, rookie linebacker, Devon Kennard.
Experiencing their first true test in full pads, the first team offensive line acquitted themselves nicely, giving Manning a solid pocket and opening holes for the running backs. On a goal line drill, Justin Pugh and Brandon Mosley opened a huge hole for Rashad Jennings, who easily scored a touchdown. Mosley took most of the first team snaps at right guard. Pugh was asked is changing his number from 72 to 67 is in anticipation of his moving inside, as 67 is a number more often worn by guards than tackles. He responded that it’s the number he’s worn since pee wee football. Mosley wore 67 in 2013, got a steak dinner from Pugh in exchange for the number, and now wears 75.
Although PUP listed linebacker Jon Beason can’t participate, he’s been on the sideline, play list in hand, watching intently, and calling out plays.
Rookie sensation Kennard laid out Wilson on an inside running play. Another in a string of impressive plays by the former USC Trojan. Wilson was up and back in the huddle, apparently suffering no ill effects from the hit.
Linebacker Dan Fox, undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, made a diving breakup on 7 on 7 drills. He is another rookie having an impressive camp and will press for a spot on the 53 man roster. It might come down to Fox or veteran Mark Herzlich and depend on the rookie’s performance on special teams.
Perry Fewell revealed some packages today, showing one of his pass rushing packages that will feature Jason Pierre-Paul and Damontre Moore at defensive end, and Mathais Kiwanuka and Ayers at defensive tackle. An interesting note on the defensive ends, they raced before practice and Moore nosed out Pierre-Paul in the sprint. As JPP is one of the fastest defensive ends in the NFL, it speaks well of Moore’s natural speed.
The nickel package paired Jameel McClain with Jacquian Williams as the first team linebackers, and Kennard with Spencer Paysinger as the second team.
Officials attended practice today, briefing the team on rules changes and officiating practice. Jayron Hosley wishes they hadn’t as he drew two flags during one on one drills. No detail was provided on his infractions, but for a player on the bubble, it’s not a good sign to be getting penalized.
The team practices tomorrow afternoon from 1:20 PM to 3:30 PM. Check here for news and notes on the session.