It’s another unseasonable day in New Jersey, with surprising low humidity for August and the temperature expected to barely crack the 80 degree mark. Following their improbable victory in Indianapolis on Saturday Night, the Giants will take the field for their first post training camp practice where Tom Coughlin will certainly keep things running hot. He spoke with the media yesterday and despite being pleased with the team’s competitiveness in the fourth quarter, he expressed his displeasure with their overall lack of early execution.
“It is disappointing not to be a little more advanced than we are,” said the coach, indicating that whispers of an work in progress offense in September are not unfounded. He said not enough plays were made by the starters on either side of the ball and that the team has to work on “Everything” with the time left in the preseason. Discussing the five players who made up the starting offensive line against the Colts, Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Brandon McManus, and Justin Pugh, Coughlin cautioned that the team is not locked in on that combination and plan to look at guys at different positions. If significant improvement is not seen in Friday night’s game against the Jets, the starters could play more than the traditional quarter in the preseason finale against the New England Patriots on August 28th.
Coughlin also provided updates on the four players injured against the Colts. The most serious of the injuries is safety Cooper Taylor, who fractured a sesamoid in his foot and will miss “significant time.” While not specifically saying as such, Taylor would seem to be a candidate for the Injured Reserve, Designated for Return slot that each team is allocated. His foot injury seems more severe that Jon Beason’s and the linebacker has been out two months and counting. Taylor could bolster the defense in the second half of the season upon healing from the injury. Offensive Tackle Charles Brown will miss “Some time” with a shoulder injury, but will be able to play with a brace once he’s pain free. It sounds as if Brown will miss the remaining preseason games and be ready to assume his backup role against the Detroit Lions in the season opener on September 8th. Cornerback Prince Amukamara’s groin injury was expected to require a MRI today, but had improved enough that it was canceled. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn is expected to be able to “Deal with” his hyper extended elbow.
Losing Taylor is a blow to the Giants defense as safety is a position they are dangerously thin at going into the season. Behind starters Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown are return specialist Quintin Demps and rookie Nat Berhe, who is most effected by Taylor’s injury. Berhe and Taylor were fighting for one roster spot if the Giants kept only 4 safeties. This was a position of strength coming into the season prior to Will Hill’s suspension and subsequent waiver.
Polished media master Eli Manning spoke this morning and said that the team will engage in some game planning this week to help their offensive execution, but that ultimately, they must simply perform better. Asked what caused the Giants starting offense to stumble, Manning said, “The Colts did some good things.” Refuting speculation that he doesn’t have a grasp of the new system, Manning claims it is an issue of execution and points to the Giants history of prior poor performance in preseason games. He also takes responsibility for needing to see pressure earlier to check the team into better plays. Manning said “It’s not just one thing” the offense needs to do to turn it around, but that the team is “Doing some good things in practice” and needs to carry that over into games.
Victor Cruz echoed Manning’s assertion that the offense’s struggles can’t be pinned on one specific thing, but said that the problem needs to be found and quickly fixed. He believes it’s only a matter of time before things start to click. Cruz joked that “He’ll never escape” his three touchdown performance in a preseason game against the Jets his rookie year. He was asked about it, as is traditional at this time of year.
Schwartz also spoke and said that the game film from Saturday was tough to watch. He added that although the Colts have a good front seven, the Giants were communicating well, and things just didn’t go well. Schwartz added to the team’s mantra that the offense’s execution needs to improve.
Amukamara said that his pain level from the groin injury is at a 3/4 down from a 6/7 when he sustained it. He’s not sure if he will practice, and while he would like to take some snaps in the final two preseason games, he will do fine without them. Asked about the “Point of Emphasis” penalties that have dominated the preseason games, Amukamara said that as a defensive backfield, they need to adapt. Rolle has a different viewpoint, saying, “They’re gonna call what they’re gonna call,” and that he will continue to play his game.
Beason was asked if Taylor’s injury was similar to his, and pointed out that the safety was unable to put any weight on his foot, while Beason was able to almost immediately. He thinks he is very close to coming back, but needs to do some things on the field first and test out orthotics. Asked if he is on track for the regular season opener, Beason replied, “I think so.” He plans to continue to ramp up his efforts and be more aggressive in practice. Beason remains impressed with rookie linebacker Devon Kennard, especially with his preparation. He thinks Kennard will help the team a lot and called him “Wise beyond his years.”
Practice started at 3:30 PM, and the stationary bicycle squad was pedaling at full force, with Brown, tight end Kellen Davis, running back Peyton Hillis, offensive lineman James Brewer, tight end Xavier Grimble, and cornerback Ross Weaver on the sidelines. Amukamara warmed up with the team, as did returner Trindon Holliday who has been out for weeks with a hamstring injury. It’s likely too late for Holliday to steal a roster spot from Marcus Harris or Corey Washington unless he’s absolutely flawless and explosive at the highest levels for the next two weeks. After warming up, Amukamara spent time on the sideline working with trainers, a sensible precaution to prevent aggravating his groin injury. Tight end Daniel Fells also returned to practice today and will renew his quest to secure the starting tight end job. He was the best among the poor options before sustaining his knee injury in the first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
In his post practice press conference, Coughlin said Davis’ issue is with his Achilles tendon, and Brewer’s with his back. He expects both players back soon. Coughlin was impressed that Amukamara came out in pads, saying that it “showed him something.”
Holliday caught and returned punts with injured hamstring “friend” Odell Beckham, who was returning them rather than just fielding them as he had in past weeks. If Beckham dazzles on punt returns, Holliday’s slim chances of securing a roster spot will drop to nil rapidly. Holliday did not take any snaps with the offense. Beckham took snaps during the 7 on 7 drills, but not during the 11 on 11 period.
Today was Josh Brown’s turn to kick and he went 4 for 4, continuing the neck and neck race between he and Brandon Mosley.
When the first team offense took the field, Mosley remained at right guard, despite speculation that Weston Richburg was overtaking him. No changes were made in the starting offensive line. Later in practice, Richburg took some first team snaps at left guard for Schwartz. Richburg switched sides of the line and took some first team snaps at right guard for Mosley. Coughlin is keeping his promise to experiment with various line combinations.
Ryan Nassib’s fourth quarter performance vaulted him back onto the second team. Or perhaps it was Curtis Painter’s horrific showing when he entered the game. Painter did rally to drive the team for their first score of the night, but prior to that breakthrough, his performance was decidedly underwhelming. There is a segment of the Giant fan base clamoring for Nassib to start in place of Manning. If Nassib is thrust into the first string role, the season will be lost. While he has shown some small flashes of ability, Nassib remains woefully unprepared to play quarterback at the NFL level. There has been speculation that he will not make the final roster, although it’s likely he will be retained this season and given another year to develop into a NFL passer. Manning gives the Giants their best, and only chance to win game in 2014.
Trumaine McBride and Walter Thurmond alternated at cornerback for Amukamara with the first team. Harris joined Cruz and Rueben Randle as the first team wide receivers, dropping Jerrell Jernigan down to the second team. Harris caught the first pass of the day. Mario Manningham also took a few snaps with the first team. Berhe received second team snaps with Taylor sidelined. Fourth quarter specialist Washington was also given some snaps with the first team, and it appears the coaches are looking for someone to step up and spark the first team offense.
When asked if Jerigan’s success at the end of last season has carried over, Coughlin replied, “Not necessarily,” and added that it certainly could have helped if he had caught the ball. This sounds like Coughlin motivating Jernigan to step up.
The hit of the day was delivered by Demps on running back Michael Cox. He may be motivated to show he’s more than just a return specialist. Manning is having another shaky day, and was nearly intercepted by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a deep pass to Manningham. Manning’s screen passes have been especially off target, and as a staple of Ben McAdoo’s offense, something he’ll have to improve upon if the Giants are to make the system work.
Painter found Washington who made a deep leaping catch over cornerback Chandler Fenner. Washington made a second impressive catch, but when took a spill and was walking something off on the sideline. Beckham used his speed to snare a crossing pass. But then joined trainers on the sideline, may have re-aggravated his hamstring. Beckham took no snaps after leaving for the sideline. Painter his Julian Talley over cornerback Bennett Jackson for another long gain.
The official word after practice is that Beckham is “fine.” He was walking around without a limp and jogged at half pace. He got his in the back of the leg with the injured hamstring and was held out of the remainder of practice as a precaution.
Practice ended with a near Charles James interception during a two minute drill as a Curtis Painter pass went through Adrien Robinson’s hands. The offense did not show much progress today and have only a few days before their next outing against a stout Jets front seven.