Lower humidity was the order of the day as the Giants took to the practice field in full pads in a session that would feature more hitting and allow the coaching staff to better see the progress the team has made in 2015. Rookie Ereck Flowers remained sidelined with a hip flexor, but said he’s always been a fast healer and he expects he won’t be out much longer.
Joining Flowers on the sideline is starting center Weston Richburg who was doing plank exercises on the sideline with a trainer while the offensive line warmed up. Coughlin said the issue is knee tendinitis.
The Giants starting offensive line for this practice from left to right: Justin Pugh, Adam Gettis, Dallas Reynolds, Geoff Schwartz, and Marshall Newhouse. Brett Jones has apparently not ascended into the second team center job at this point in camp. With all the substitutions along the line, Eli Manning struggled to find a solid pocket and threw a lot of quick passes.
Safety Nat Berhe spend the practice riding an exercise bicycle on the sidelines as the calf injury that kept him out of the spring off season program has apparently not completely healed. Safeties coach Dave Merritt cautioned in his press interview earlier his week that Berhe was behind the other safeties due to this injury and would need time on the practice field to make it up. Missing fully padded practices will further damage his ability to earn a starting spot and could jeopardize his standing on the final 53 man roster.
The first team safeties were Landon Collins and Bennett Jackson. Mykkele Thompson was teamed with Jackson with the first string, and has been rotated out. His late reaction on a play that resulted in a 60 yard touchdown to Odell Beckham may have hastened his rotation out of the first team. Thompson bounced back to have a good day in practice today.
The Giants may have avoided the injury bug when linebacker Jameel McClain went down in 9 on 7 drills. He was attended to for several minutes by the medical staff and the cart was brought out for him. Fortunately, McClain was able to get up, jog in place, and then walk off under his own power. He went inside the Quest Diagnostic Training center to get checked out and it was reported that he suffered a “Stinger.” Expect him to be sidelined for several days.
Defensive ends are being rotated heavily in today’s practice, with Robert Ayers, Cullen Jenkins, Owa Odighizuwa and Damontre Moore all taking turns with the first team. Steve Spagnuolo is assessing all of their abilities in the full contact practice. It’s not expected that the regular season starting defense will start to take shape until the third preseason game.
In special team drills, Preston Parker and Dwayne Harris bobbled back to back punts from the Juggs machine, something that will surely give Tom Coughlin fits. Harris did recover to take the ball back for a touchdown.
Prince Amukamara spent some time on the sideline icing his upper leg/groin area. Coughlin said he “Tweaked his groin,” during individual drills. Jayron Hosley, who appears to be a Spagnuolo reclamation project, took his place on the first team defense. Keep an eye on Hosley in the preseason games as he may be on a Corey Webster track for a career rejuvenation. Chykie Brown also took some snaps with the first team in place of Amukamara.
Another training camp scrap broke out between 6’8″ 340 pound offensive lineman Michael Bamiro and 6’5″ 315 pound defensive lineman Dominique Hamilton. Bamiro lost his helmet and appeared to be quite angry over something, but these flare ups tend to smooth over quickly. It’s Hamilton’s second 2015 bout, as he also got into a dust up with offensive lineman Eric Herman during spring practice.
After practice ended, there was another contest between wide receivers and defensive backs. The players threw footballs at the goal post with the objective of hitting the crossbar. James Jones and Josh Gordy hit it, resulting in a tie and requiring all the players and coaches to do push-ups.
Kevin M. Gilbride, Tight Ends Coach: The More Guys the Better
The interview with tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride may be foreshadowing the team’s plans at the position. He discussed Larry Donnell and Jerome Cunningham at length, touched upon Daniel Fells, and failed to mention Adrien Robinson or Will Tye at all. While the oversights could be meaningless, and things can change quickly between now and the start of the regular season in five weeks, it could be indicative of the coaching staff’s thoughts on the position at this point in time.
Donnell has been dealing with an Achilles injury that kept him off the practice field in the off season program, but he was dialed in for position meetings and took full “Mental reps,” according to Gilbride. The focus for Donnell, who started 12 of 16 games last season, has been improving his blocking technique, and the product of his work has been evident to Gilbride since he’s returned to the practice field.
“Not dropping his inside knee and keeping his elbows tight,” responded Gilbride to the question of what Donnell needs to do to be a more consistent and effective inline blocker. Gilbride added that confidence plays a big role in blocking effectiveness and he’s seen more from Donnell in 2015.
A collegiate quarterback, Donnell’s experience at the tight end position was lacking when he came to the Giants in 2012. Gilbride also pointed out that last season was the first that Donnell prepared and played in all 16 regular season games, and that the wear and tear slowed him down as the season progressed.
Another area where Donnell needs to improve is protecting the football, something that’s been an area of focus for the tight end this off season. Carrying the football high, Donnell is learning to concentrate on protecting it at all times, and that’s included when he comes off the field where teammates are encouraged to try to knock the ball out of his hands.
Noting Donnell’s penchant for leaving his feet while carrying the ball in 2014, Gilbride said that jumping over defender or lowering your shoulder and plowing through them are the two options available. Either is fine as long as the football is protected at all times.
Of Donnell, Gilbride says he can be a “Special player,” and expounded upon that statement by saying he can be a “Big time pass catcher” as well as a “Big time run blocker.” However, in order to achieve those lofty goals, Donnell must first fully recover from his injury and get back to where he left off in 2014 running routes. Gilbride is confident that he will.
Cunningham has shown that he can be an explosive pass catcher throughout the off season program and early in training camp. What’s not as evident, said Gilbride, is his run blocking. Calling it “Exciting,” Gilbride says that Cunningham likes to finish blocks and move defenders off the ball.
Stopping short of saying that Cunningham’s practice success has earned him regular season snaps, Gilbride said he will see playing time in the preseason and “We will take it from there.” From his demeanor in discussing the second year player, it was easy to tell that the tight end’s coach has high expectations for him.
Fells is a consistent player and great leader, says Gilbride. He will make all the plays you expect him to make and surprise you by making one you don’t expect him to make every once in a while. Coughlin is a coach who values veteran players and consistency, making Fells a player difficult to dislodge from the roster in 2015.
With the talent the Giants have assembled on offense, the tight ends could see favorable coverage match-ups from opposing defenses, but don’t tell that to Gilbride. He expects that defenses will swiftly adjust if the tight ends start making plays and won’t allow his players to get complacent.
Gilbride enjoy having multiple contributors at the position as it will limit the wear and team on any individual player during the long NFL season. Calling the evaluation process “Ongoing,” Gilbride’s inclusions and omissions during the interview will be compelling to watch on the field as the remainder of the preseason unfolds.
George Selvie: Giants Redux
Defensive End George Selvie has a history with both the Giants and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Drafted by the Rams when Spagnuolo was head coach, in the seventh round of the 2010 draft, Selvie spend a season on a team where Spagnuolo was head coach. He notices that Spagnuolo is much more hands on as defensive coordinator, but his fit into his system was a big factor in deciding to come to the Giants as a free agent.
Selvie attended a Giants rookie tryout minicamp when was a free agent and wasn’t offered a contract prior to his signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He held no ill will as he wasn’t fully healthy and the team was stacked at defensive end at the time. Former college teammate Jason Pierre-Paul talked to Selvie about the team and was also a part of his decision to sign.
Asked about Pierre-Paul, Selvie said he’s talked to him, that the defensive end is healing, and will be back when he’s ready. Pressed for a time frame, Selvie said it’s not up to him to make that decision and declined further comment.
New York has a much different “Feel” to it than Jacksonville and Dallas, Selvie’s last two NFL stops, but he’s enjoying it, and is looking forward to making a contribution to the Giants this season.
Mike Sullivan, Quarteback’s Coach: Manning has a stronger arm
Manning is healthy, more comfortable in the Ben McAdoo offense, and has improved his arm strength by taking great care of his body. Quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan is in a unique position to know as he is in his second stint as Manning’s quarterback coach, having served in that capacity in 2010 and 2011 after six seasons as the Giants wide receivers coach. After leaving to take the position of offensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Greg Schiano, Sullivan returned to find a new offense in place and a revitalized starting quarterback.
Manning’s work ethic, attention to detail, communication with the other players, and workout regime are what have him in a position to succeed. In his second season running the West Coast offense, Manning is no longer processing everything, but rather reacting naturally and “Trusting his feet.”
We learned in 2014 how important footwork is in this offensive system, and Manning often practices his off to the side when the other quarterbacks are taking snaps. He’s also learning how to spread the ball around, something that will be necessary given the wealth of weapons the Giants offense will enjoy this season.
Should Manning suffer an injury, Sullivan is confident that backup Ryan Nassib will be ready to step in. Complimenting the third year backup’s work ethic, competitiveness, and calling him a “Gym rat,” Sullivan points out that Nassib has the mobility to extend plays if needed. Among the areas he’s been working on is getting the ball out of his hands faster and Sullivan is excited to see him play this preseason to gauge his progress.
While having a game ready backup is idea, Sullivan cautions that the player is a back up for a reason, and you don’t necessarily want him in the game.
Asked about comments that the game has passed Coughlin by, Sullivan scoffed, saying that the veteran head coach’s core values remain intact – integrity and honor – and that his belief in team over individual won’t ever waiver. However, Sullivan points to the music playing during warmups to how Coughlin adapting to more modern methods and says there’s more to come. “He’s growing and evolving,” says Sullivan, “Look at this veteran quarterback in a new offensive system.”