The weather in New Jersey remains humid, but the overcast skies provide some temperature relief for the Giants today and another evening practice will give them an additional atmospheric advantage when they take the field at 5:40 PM. It was a melancholy Wednesday and a day for goodbyes , as David Wilson, dressed to the nines, addressed the media, presumably for the last time as a member of the Giants, in what was called his farewell press conference. His spinal injury may have forced him out of the game, but it will not dampened his spirits. Former Giant Jake Ballard also announced his retirement from the Arizona Cardinals.
Stating that he never felt the same after tearing his ACL in Super Bowl 46, Ballard retired from the Cardinals where he signed in the 2013 offseason. A bit of a stir was created when the New England Patriots claimed Ballard on waivers as the Giants attempted to pass him through waivers to put him on injured reserve in June 2012. At the time, the Patriots seemed loaded at tight end, having both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez on their roster. Three murders and a torn ACL later, claiming Ballard seemed like another Bill Belichick genius move. Ballard, who has microfracture surgery, in April 2012, never returned to his 2011 form when he broke out with the Giants, catching 38 passes for 604 yards and 4 touchdowns, and his arrow was pointing up.
Wilson cried, but called them tears of joy, as he said he has accepted that his NFL career is over. A long and high jumper on the track team in college at Virginia Tech, Wilson is young enough to pursue opportunities as a track and field athlete. He would also like to start a family. “When life knocks you down,” Wilson said, “Land on your back, so you can look up, and get up.” He realizes how many people have helped him along the way and is thankful for it. On his teammates, Wilson offered that he wants to see them play hard without him, and “Try to be great.”
Tom Coughlin was up next and lead off by saying that Wilson was a “Tough act to follow,” and that the halfback shared with him that “God has another plan for him.” On the day’s injury reports, Coughlin said that guard Geoff Schwartz has a sore knee and will not practice today. He also mentioned that running back back Peyton Hillis has a sprained ankle and will be out “for a little while.” There is encouraging news on wide receiver Odell Beckham, as Coughlin proclaimed him “Getting closer,” and will do some more running and catch some passes from quarterbacks rather than the JUGGS machine. The coach is disappointed in the lack of progress with wide receiver/return specialist Trindon Holliday’s hamstring. Coughlin also praised Trumaine McBride’s practice performance, saying “Doctors tell me he can’t play, then he takes one 80 yards the other way. Every day.” McBride hasn’t appeared on any injury reports, but has struggled with groin injuries throughout his career.
Special teams coach Tom Quinn met with the media today, and joined the ranks of coaches singing the praises of safety Cooper Taylor. A gunner on punt last season, a bulked up Taylor has moved inside this season. Quinn believes inside is ideal for his skill set. Asked about wide receiver Cory Washington, Quinn advised that if he is to make the team, it will be because he excels on special teams. Given that Washington would be the fifth or sixth receiver, Quinn’s statement rings true. The kicking competition has been an unexpected training camp battle, and Quinn said it is as close as it seems. While Brandon McManus has the stronger leg, and Josh Brown more experience, Quinn prefers the kicker who “Makes more kicks.” As do we all, Coach Quinn, as do we all.
Victor Cruz also spoke to the media and confessed that he would like more reps in practice, but the coaches are holding him out. He agreed that the offense “Started a little rough” on Sunday night, but then the team settled in. Asked what young players are standing out in camp, he mentioned wide receiver Marcus Harris, and that Harris is taking advantage of every opportunity presented. Harris’ performance will earn him some practice reps with the first team. When Beckham’s name was brought up, he said it’s tough not having him in practice, but that he’s quizzing him on the offense constantly and the first round draft pick is “Ahead of the learning curve.” Cruz was highly complimentary of the Giants secondary, saying they “Give him fits every day.”
As previously mentioned, Schwartz, Hillis, and Beckham didn’t practice. They were joined on the sidelines by wide receiver Jerrell Jernigan who has what the team described as a knee injury. No information was provided about the severity. Tight ends Daniel Fells and Xavier Grimble were out, as was Wide receiver Trindon Holliday. Defensive Tackle Mike Patterson did more individual drills. Defensive end Robert Ayers returned to practice. Defensive tackle Kelcey Quarles suffered an injury severe enough to require the cart to remove him from the field. The team said it is an ankle injury, that Quarles is having tests performed, and they will know more on Thursday.
The Giants practiced in full pads. Harris continued to take advantage of his opportunities, elevating, as anticipated, to the first team, with Jernigan’s injury, by catching everything thrown his way. The fans have noticed him, chanting “Soooooooooooup,” Harris’ nickname, after his receptions.
In shades of the 2013 season opener, Manning was intercepted on a screen pass, intended for Henry Hynoski. The pass bounced off Hynoski into the arms of Cullen Jenkins. Hynoski saw more reps with Peyton Hillis sidelined, particularly blitz pickup assignments. He drew Coughlin’s ire on on missed block on Devon Kennard, but otherwise seemed to acquit himself nicely.
Weston Richburg took Shwartz’s starting spot and Andre Williams was the first team running back for the second straight day. Manning and Cruz seem out of sync in the new offense. This system has always favored spreading the ball around, but it should also give Cruz a chance to shine with his skill set. As well as Harris is assimilating, Cruz seems a step off, but the two have a month to work out the kinks. Walter Thurmond intercepted a pass from Manning intended for Cruz and has been making life challenging for Cruz throughout camp. Perhaps that’s part of the issue – the talent bump in the Giant secondary.
Today was Adrien Robinson’s opportunity to work with the first team, but he has not shown anything spectacular when given his chances. With Fells injury, Larry Donnell seems to have emerged at the likely starting tight end. In reviewing tight end depth charts on the other 31 teams, the only name the seemed reasonable for a free agent to bolster the ranks was Ballard. With his retirement, it would seem we are in for a spartan season at the tight end position. Mike Pope’s magic would be comforting right about now. His dismissal from the coaching staff was counter intuitive.
After saving a fumble on a bad snap from Eric Herman, playing center, Ryan Nassib later threw his requisite interception of the day. This time to newcomer Chandler Fenner.
The defense steps up. Jason Pierre-Paul beats Charles Brown for a sack of Manning. Shortly thereafter, Jay Bromley registered one on Nassib after beating guard John Jerry.
Practice ends with the second team practicing two minute drill. They are unable to spike to ball to stop the clock and time expired. Defense wins?
After practice, Eli Manning stayed on the field and had a catch with his daughter.
The team practices again tomorrow evening, in a session closed to the public because of the Jet game at Metlife Stadium. Check back here for Camp Notes.