On another warm, sunny day in New Jersey, the Giants took the field for their second practice. Enthusiasm for the dream pairing at wide receiver has not subsided, and despite limitations on their practice time, Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham are being used with the starters and as a tandem so they and quarterback Eli Manning get their timing down. New arrival James Jones practiced for the first time, with the second team, and rookie Geremy Davis continued to impress, catching everything thrown his way.
Beckham, showing the first signs that he’s human, was unable to haul in a deep pass from Manning over Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He appeared to jam his fingers on the play, but after a brief examination by trainers, returned to catch some passes and doesn’t appear any worse for the wear. Beckham and Prince Amukamara have a friendly feud going in camp, which Amukamara discussed in his interview, summarized below, and the cornerback was switching off with others to ensure he covered Beckham as frequently as possible. It’s the type of rivalry that pushes players to be their best.
The first play of practice featured a completion to running back Andre Williams, who worked diligently this off season to improve his receiving skills. With tight end Larry Donnell apparently limited while recovering from a spring Achilles injury, second year player Jerome Cunningham is making the most of his opportunity, catching back to back passes on the first drive, including a touchdown from Manning. If Cunningham shows blocking ability to go with the receiving skills he’s demonstrated thus far in 2015, he will be pushing Donnell for playing time.
With two tight end spots seemingly locked up by Donnell and veteran Daniel Fells, Adrien Robinson is not going down without a fight. He made a leaping grab over Chandler Fenner on a Manning pass. Robinson and Cunningham are battling for the third tight end spot on the final 53. Cunningham would appear to have an edge based on his work this spring and early in camp. Stony Brook rookie free agent Will Tye made a nice grab near the end of practice and could be making a case for a practice squad spot.
The final tight end on the roster, Illinois rookie free agent Matt LaCosse, who injured his hamstring yesterday, was waived/injured to make room for Jones on the roster. He could be added to injured reserve if he clears waivers as the coaching staff had been impressed with his showing in mini camp. After practice ended, Cunningham was carted off the field with cramps, giving everyone attending practice a pause. Preston Parker also left the field with cramps. John Jerry has been slowed in practice with an undisclosed illness.
Rookie third round draft pick Owa Odighizuwa lined up opposite Robert Ayers with the starters, replacing George Selvie. Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is substituting liberally in practice to determine the best combinations of players at his disposal. At one point, a 4-4-3 configuration was used, with Jameel McClain replacing Rodgers-Cromartie.
In the defensive backfield, converted cornerback Bennett Jackson made a couple of nice pass breakups, and frequent 2014 whipping boy Jayron Hosley appears to have regained his confidence. Spagnuolo has a history of revitalizing cornerbacks, as he turned Corey Webster’s career around on a dime during his first stint with the Giants. If he can do the same for Hosley, it will be a boon for the Giants secondary, who can use cornerback depth.
Geoff Schwartz: Act Tough, Don’t Talk About It
Geoff Schwartz wants to see the Giants offensive line improve their run blocking and the team run the ball better in 2015. Part of the issue last season was the late injuries that sent the line into flux. As Tom Coughlin said yesterday, the sooner the line is set, the better for continuity. Schwartz agrees that it needs to be finalized no later than the third preseason game.
“That third game is treated as a game week, with a game plan, Wednesday and Thursday preparation, it’s the time when you want things set,” explains Schwartz. Saying that its the worst time to make a switch, Schwartz realizes his injury caused some of the issues last season. His ankle is fine now, having held up through yesterday’s practice, but the true test will come when the team practices in pads.
Schwartz is not worried about rookie Ereck Flowers starting at left tackle, saying that he sees growth in him with every practice. “It’s an accelerated process,” says Schwartz. Adding that fast learning is the way of the current NFL.
Damontre Moore: High Energy and Relentless Play
With Jason Pierre-Paul in Florida recovering from his hand injury, Cullen Jenkins and Ayers have filled the leadership void left on the Giants defensive line. They have held extra meeting with players to ensure familiarity with the new scheme and playbook brought by Spagnuolo. Jenkins also wants players to match his intensity and effort in the meeting room and on the field and know that good things will happen if they do.
Damontre Moore knows that the key to additional playing time for him will come from better defending the run. Having worked to get “Bigger and faster,” Moore explains that the biggest difference in Spagnuolo’s approach to defense is telling the players to always play relentlessly and with his energy on the field.
Asked how the team will make up for Pierre-Paul’s 12.5 sacks, Moore believe it will be a team effort and a snowball effect. When one player starts accumulating sacks, offenses adjust and others follow suit, he explains. Asked about Pierre-Paul, Moore just said that he misses his teammate and is ready for him to come back to the team.
Jay Bromley: Improvement is the Order of the Day
Jay Bromley is out to show a night and day difference between his 2014 play as a rookie and his 2015 play with a full off season under his belt. He is confident that he can play at a high level in the NFL. Working out mostly in East Rutherford, and some time in Florida, Bromley is among those players that spoke with Pierre-Paul and hopes that the situation works out best for both his teammate and his team.
Knowing that filling the void left by Pierre-Paul is no easy task, Bromley is confident that there is sufficient talent on the Giants to succeed. He sees no cap on the height his talent can reach, but realizes there are a lot of players he must pass on the roster to see time on the field. One concern not on Bromley’s mind is what outsiders are saying about the Giants defense. “We just push each other to be better,” explains Bromley, “And when all is said and done, the results will show.”
Asked about Spagnuolo’s scheme, Bromley said that as he not one of the bigger defensive tackles in the league [6’2″, 320 pounds], the movement it incorporates will help his game.
Prince Amukamara: Of Cruz, Beckham, and Collins
The Giants starting cornerback is in a unique position to evaluate the status of the wide receiver tandem as they return from injury. While not recalling if Cruz caught a pass in yesterday’s practice, Amukamara did say that he looked great running routes and does not appear to have lost a step. For a player who is self reporting to be at 93% and took part in his first practice since October, this is very encouraging news.
The news on Beckham was more animated, as there was disagreement between teammates on whether Beckham would have been tackled on his 60 yard zigzag touchdown had it been a live game rather than a practice. Beckham told Amukamara he was more worried about opposite cornerback Rodgers-Cromartie, and that Amukamara must have thought they were playing “Two hand touch.” Amukamara naturally thought he would have tackled the second year wide receiver when he cut back to his side of the field. It was left with Amukamara saying that he will get Beckham next time, and he clarified, tongue in cheek, that it means he plans to lay a shot on his teammate, “And make it look circumstantial” so he doesn’t get fined.
Regarding rookie Landon Collins, Amukamara reports that he looks very confident, has made few mental errors, and he is excited to see him play. Amukamara believes that the rookie is ready to start in the NFL, and it’s clear why the coaches have put him with the Giants starters already.
Rashad Jennings: Act Like You’re the Starter
“Act like you’re the starter,” is the advice that Rashad Jennings gives to his teammates in the meeting room. No matter which back is on the field, he should have that attitude and no one should be able to take it away. Jennings comes into 2015 more confident as he knows the playbook, Giants personnel, and soft spots on the offense. He points out that the offense did a lot well in 2014, but they were overshadowed by the things they didn’t do well.
One of the things that needs to be improved are penalties, especially those pre-snap, a sentiment that every Giants coach and fan will agree with. Jennings believes that the team has the personnel to get the job done, and is excited for this season. Ben McAdoo will show more from the playbook as the players know it better than they did last year. “You’ll see a lot more,” exclaims Jennings
Asked if he’s concerned about an offensive line that has a new player at every position, Jennings said he’s not and his confidence in this group is high. “This group is clicking quickly,” he explains. As they get set and the running backs grow familiar with their linemen, they learn how they play certain players and situations and that exposes hidden yardage on the field. “This is the NFL,” says Jennings, “You play against some very good players. Knowing how your linemen will play them helps.”
Corey Washington: Practice, Study the Playbook, and Be Ready When Called
Corey Washington welcomes the competition that veteran James Jones will bring to the Giants. Rather than be discouraged by another talented player at his position, Washington sees it as another player to be called upon if someone goes down, perhaps a reaction to the injuries suffered last season.
Asked if he’s worried, Washington said he’s all about a positive attitude and effort. He will practice hard, study his playbook, and will be ready when his number is called. The second year wide receiver also realizes that improves special teams is one of the keys to seeing more playing time in 2015.
“I’m not worrying about who the team picks up,” says Washington, “I go out and practice full speed and try not to make mental errors.” He not asking where he fits in or is going to argue about the reps he received. His practice effort and play on the field will speak for him. If he improves upon his preseason efforts from 2014, it will be hard to keep him off the field in 2015.
Change to Autograph Procedure
Excitement over the return of Cruz and Beckham lead to a fracas after the Giants practice yesterday. Wide receivers were available for autographs, and anxious fans were pushing and shoving to ensure they would be able to see the Giants starting tandem before the session ended. Unfortunately, the poor sportsmanship lead to buckled bleachers, children pinned against a chain link fence, and a woman who suffered a seizure while waiting in the crowd to be nearly trampled. Some Giants360 followers were in attendance and shared stories of the lack of respect shown to fellow Giants fans, and as predicted, the team adjusted accordingly.
Starting today, players will only be signing autographs for children ages 12 and under. If you are disappointed by this news, you have only some of your fellow camp attendees to blame. Surely it was not everyone there yesterday, but a few rotten apples spoiling the barrel.