Today marks the first day of practice after the Hall of Fame game and the Giants first opportunity to put into action the corrections needed from their analysis of the game film. The heat and humidity in New Jersey will be partially mitigated by the practice schedule as the team will practice from 5:40 PM to 7:50 PM, avoiding the midday sun. It would still not be surprising if the GPS devices cut the practice short due to the heat index. The practice is closed to the public, due to the One Direction concert at Metlife Stadium, but media will have access, allowing this report to be compiled.
Tom Coughlin met with the media yesterday and today, and addressed the topic that has been on everyone’s mind, the decision to end David Wilson’s season, and the probable end the running back’s career. Coughlin said Wilson has remain upbeat despite the disappointing outcome. The Giants took the first step toward putting the running back on injured reserve, waiving him with the injured designation. The other 31 teams in the NFL can claim him today, however, given his prognosis, it’s highly unlikely any will. He will clear waivers tomorrow, and when placed on the injured reserve list, will be eligible to collect his full salary of $997,682. Wilson will also get and injury benefit protection payment of half his 2015 salary, approximately $650,000. Coughlin, when asked if the team has enough running backs on the roster without Wilson, replied succinctly, “The answer is yes.” He pointed out that Henry Hynoski can go in at running back, if necessary, perhaps tipping his hand about the fullback training camp battle.
Discussing Sunday’s game, Coughlin singled out punt protection as one area that needs improvement. Regarding the blocked punt, he added that Cooper Taylor “Didn’t block the guy,” a rather simplistic, but accurate, breakdown of the play. When asked about right guard Brandon Mosley’s performance, Coughlin’s cryptic reply was “He competed well,” leaving doubt as to whether he was pleased or disappointed in it. He was surely pleased, but not surprised by the strong game from running back Andre Williams, stating that it was “Expected” when the Giants drafted him in May.
Wide receiver’s coach Sean Ryan also addressed the media and praised Corey Washington for being more serious in this year’s camp. He called Washington a “Big, raw, physical athlete with tremendous ball skills.” This conjures an image of a player that will excel against the lower rung players late in preseason games, but will not maintain a superior level of performance if moved up in class. Time on the practice squad would benefit his development. Ryan likes the tablets that are now being used on NFL sidelines to provide coaches with rapid snapshots of formations. They are new this season and the preseason is being used to work out the kinks, while Bills coach Doug Marrone was not impressed, Ryan did not see many kinks with his tablet. The NFL has come a long way from instant camera photos being thrown down from the press box in a sock with a rock in it, an image my father and uncle described from 1950’s Giants games so vividly that it has remained burned into my memory.
Both Giants secondary coaches, safeties coach Dave Merritt, and cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta addressed the media and expressed their delight in the talent the team has assembled in the defensive backfield. Merritt has the line of the day, giving rookie safety Nat Berhe the nickname “The Missile” because he attacks “Like a heat seeking missile.” He also praised Taylor, saying that the second year player graded out the highest among the safeties. Merritt also commented Giunta called Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie “Everything he was advertised to be” and a physical player at the line of scrimmage. He also singled out Zack Bowman as a player who stood out in Sunday’s game.
Eli Manning reported that there were issued with his injured ankle after the game on Sunday. He spoke well of the offense’s communication, all the running back’s performances, and singled out Jerrell Jernigan for catching a ball that “Had some heat on it.” He said he’s not spoken to Wilson yet, but that he’s a good man and will find something to do. The eldest Manning brother, and some have said the most talented of the three, Cooper Manning, quit football in college due to spinal stenosis.
Linebacker Jameel McClain had the revelation of the day when he shared with reporters that he was born with spinal stenosis and was advised to give up football because of it. McClain is in a unique position to empathize with Wilson. Commenting on the game, McClain said he was impressed with the defense’s energy and effort.
It was announced that wide receiver Odell Beckham would not practice this evening. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson’s shoulder injury will keep him sidelined, along with wide receiver Trindon Holliday, who is nursing a sore hamstring and in danger of being Pipp’d. Defensive end Robert Ayers (ankle) did some individual drills to allow trainers to assess his fitness to return to team portion of practice. Tight end Xavier Grimble, another player with a tender hamstring, remained sidelined. Offensive tackle Will Beatty, cornerback Bennett Jackson, and linebacker Spencer Paysinger returned to the practice field today. Beatty’s status for Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is undetermined, as the team remains cautious with his continued recovery from a surgically repaired fractured leg. The Giants also announced that tight end Daniel Fells’ knee injury is a bone bruise and not a sprain as previously reported. No update on how long he is expected to be out of action was provided. Linebacker Jon Beason ran and did agility drills on the sidelines with trainers, the first time he has been observed running off the treadmill since his injury, another milestone in his recovery.
The Giants signed eleven year veteran defensive lineman Israel Idonije to the roster spot opened up by David Wilson. The 6’6″, 275 pound, Idonije originally signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2003, was waived mid season by the Browns, and joined the Chicago Bears practice squad. Idonije made the Bears active roster in 2004 and stayed with the team until 2012, excelling on special teams and recording 29 sacks. He signed as a free agent with the Detroit Lions in 2013, playing sparingly in 15 games as a reserve lineman. Rejoining the Bears in March of this year, Idonije was released on June 19th.
Tight End Jerome Cunningham, a 2013 undrafted free agent, also signed with the Giants today. He attended the Arizona Cardinals minicamp in May 2014, but was not offered a contract. Attending college at Southern Connecticut State University, Cunningham caught 61 passes for 690 yards and 7 touchdowns in his college career. He is 6’3″ tall, weighs 250 pounds, and runs the 40 yard dash in 4.70 seconds. To make room for Cunningham, the Giants waived linebacker Kendrick Adams.
In a move that should surprise no one, Special Teams practice focused on punt protection, with Coughlin directly overseeing it. Taylor stayed out post practice and worked on his punt protections against Mathias Kiwanuka, again, under the watchful eye of Coughlin. Today was Brandon McManus’ turn to kick, he turned in another 4 for 4 performance.
Beckham wore pads, fielded punts, and did some stretching and running with the team. This represents a step up from his practice regimen from last week and indicates that he’s on the mend. Let’s hope the team doesn’t rush in back and create another setback. Hamstrings are fickle and are often re-injured if not given sufficient time to heal fully.
The first team drill was a Hurry Up practice, and featured Beatty at left tackle, Williams as the running back, and Kellen Davis at tight end. Davis elevated after Fells injury and Larry Donnell’s fall from grace in Sunday’s game. They also worked in some hook and lateral Hail Mary plays where Manning was lead blocker. Make note if they use this to win a game later in the season. Geoff Schwartz left practice after two plays and is flexing his left knee and walking it off on the sideline. Weston Richburg replaced him. Jonathan Hankins beat Richburg and registered a “sack” by tapping Manning on the shoulder.
Ryan Nassib came out firing and completed his first couple of passes to Mario Manningham and Marcus Harris. It was the first of two nice receptions for Harris, who caught another with Jayron Hosley draped on him. Dan Fox registered a “sack” on Nassib when he came on a blitz unblocked.
Schwartz returned the next time the first team came on the field, but quickly left again, this time replaced by James Brewer. Peyton Hillis walked into the locker room with his shoe off. The team announced that Hillis has a sprained ankle. No word if it’s the dreaded “High ankle sprain.”
The brisk pace of the new offense has not solved old problem. Manning has gotten two delay of game penalties. Schwartz returned with the first team and has stayed in, playing through whatever issue he has with his leg.
The 7 on 7 drills brought interceptions for Taylor on a Nassib pass, and for The Missile, Berhe, off of third string quarterback Curtis Painter.
Kiwanuka logged a “sack,” beating Justin Pugh. Manning comes back and hits wide receiver Travis Harvey deep for a touchdown on a busted coverage. Donnell showing himself as a practice warrior again, making a leaping, turn around grab over Berhe’s head.
Another injury, running back Kendall Gaskins’ right thumb. The medical staff attends to it and Gaskins returns to the lineup. It’s been a bad week for Giant running backs.
Trumaine McBride got into the interception spirit with a pick 6 of Nassib. After a hot start, Nassib went gone stone cold.
The Giants end practice 25 minutes early with another hook and lateral, Manning connects with wide receiver Julian Talley, flipping the ball to Williams, who sprints off the field as One Direction plays in the background.
The team practices tomorrow evening again from 5:40 PM until 7:50 PM. The first 2,500 fans will receive a t-shirt commemorating the team’s 90th season. David Diehl, Shaun O’Hara, Deon Grant, and Kareem McKenzie will be on hand to sign autographs. The rain date for this event is Monday, August 11th from 3:20 PM to 5:30 PM.
Camp notes for August 6th will be delayed and will not be posted until Thursday, August 7th due to a commitment. Check back early on Thursday for all the happenings at camp and all your Giants news and notes.