Prior to practice, the Giants released a lengthy injury report that contained some good news. Jameel McClain (stinger) and Geoff Schwartz (ankle) both returned to practice, bolstering the linebackers and offensive line, respectively. Landon Collins (MCL sprain), Trumaine McBride (hamstring), Rueben Randle (tendinitis), Nat Berhe (calf), and Prince Amukamara (groin) are listed as day-to-day, indicating that their absences are not expected to be long term.
Chykie Brown (LCL sprain) is listed as week-to-week and Jayron Hosley is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, indicating a potential longer term absence. Additionally, Hosley has a cervical issue in his neck that is still being examined. It was reported yesterday that rookie Mykkele Thompson would miss the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. The team held private free agent tryouts prior to practice and Giants360 will bring you the names of the players that attended and those signed as soon as they are available. Jonathan Casillas also missed practice with a stiff neck.
The Giants signed veteran safety Brandon Meriweather, who spent four seasons with the New England Patriots, including his rookie season with the team that lost Super Bowl 42 to the Giants. Meriweather also spent a season with the Chicago Bears and three seasons with the Washington Redskins. Know more for being a big hitter than a coverage safety, Meriweather’s Pro Football Focus ratings bear this reputation out. Meriweather has been fined four times by the NFL for helmet to helmet hits and it was his 2010 hit on Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap that caused the NFL to start suspending players for these infractions.
Meriweather was suspended for such a hit on Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall during the 2013 season, which caused Meriweather to say, “I guess I just got to take people’s knees out. That’s the only way. I would hate to end a guy’s career over a rule, but I guess it’s better other people than me getting suspended for longer. You just have to go low now, man. You’ve got to end people’s careers. You got to tear people’s ACLs and mess up people’s knees. You can’t hit them high anymore.”
As practice started, the Giants secondary was made up of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trevin Wade at the corners and Bennett Jackson and Jeromy Miles at safety. If and how quickly Meriweather ascends into the starting lineup will be a storyline over the next two weeks. Wade had an interception in Friday night’s game and is a young player to watch. He appears to be carving out a role for himself on the team.
The offensive line shuffling continues, as Schwartz took some snaps at both right guard and right tackle. The right side of the line was an issue against the Bengals and exploring options to sure it up will be one of the objectives for the coaching staff this week. John Jerry and Schwartz were a frequent combination at right guard and tackle, respectively, with Marshall Newhouse rotating out of the first team. Rookie Bobby Hart also took some snaps at right tackle. Newhouse was missing towards the end of practice, having left practice “Overheated.”
Dwayne Harris dropped a pass from Ryan Nassib that hit him in the hands. Later, when the first team offense was back on the field, Odell Beckham caught another touchdown from Eli Manning. The large crown assembled for this evening’s practice roared it’s approval. Manning then fired touchdowns to Victor Cruz and Larry Donnell on this next two passes, giving himself a camp hat trick. Towards the end of practice, Beckham made a leaping catch over Wade and to again thrill the crowd.
Jerome Cunningham was the target on back to back plays. One was broken up by J.T.Thomas, and the tight end hauled in the second. Corey Washington made a diving catch, showing the concentration he lacked in the Bengals game on Friday night. Cunningham later blocked Thomas completely out of of relevance on a running play.
Practice ended with Wade defending a pass intended for Preston Parker and Jackson making a diving interception on the play.
Geoff Schwartz: No Setback, But I Need the Reps
Schwartz was upset that he missed the joint practices with Cincinnati as it was a team bonding event that everyone was looking forward to for the entire off season. Calling his absence from practice “Frustrating,” Schwartz said it wasn’t a setback, but part of the process of getting his body back into shape from last year’s injuries. He’s excited to be returning to practice today.
It’s expected that his ankle will need to be managed on an ongoing basis, but Schwartz does not expect to miss significant practice time between now and the regular season. “Everyone’s goal is to be ready for week one,” said Schwartz, “But honestly, I need the reps.” Saying that he missed out last week, Schwartz added that he had no doubt moving forward that everything will be ok.
The offensive line’s performance in the preseason opener, “Didn’t go how we wanted,” according to Schwartz, but he won’t blame it on the injuries and moving players around. He said that’s part of training camp – rotating players around. He did concede that it’s difficult to build chemistry as an offensive line if you don’t have the same five players on the field. Hopefully his return marks the upswing in the offensive line’s play for 2015.
Odell Beckham: We Have to Play Better
Those five simple words summed up Beckham’s take on the review of the game film from Friday Night’s preseason opener with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Giants have noted their mistakes, will learn from them and move forward starting with today’s practice. Beckham said his statement applies to the wide receiver group and the team as a whole. Employing a 24 hour rule after games, the team does not dwell on their performance. They review, they learn, and they correct. Those corrections start today.
Beckham sees the talent running deep in the Giants receiving corps, and admits that there will be a tight competition for roster spots next month. “Everyone can play,” says Beckham. But the competition is friendly, and the receiver push each other and want to the one another succeed.
Jim Herrmann Linebackers Coach: Block Destruction
The Giants linebackers coach, Jim Herrmann saw the team’s linebackers getting off blocks and getting to the ball on Friday night. Called “Block Destruction” on the meeting room, Herrmann was pleased with what he called “Quite a few plays” made by the linebackers and liked how they knocked back the Bengals on numerous occasions.
Asked about Uani Unga, the middle linebacker who caught everyone’s eye on Friday night, Herrmann said he “Did a great job for a young player.” Having suffered a knee injury as a senior at BYU, Friday night was Unga’s first game in a year and three quarters. Herrmann likes his development, saw him make quite a few plays, and saw him take over as the “Mike” linebacker and line up the Giants defense. Herrmann added that for a stocky player, Unga moves well.
Jon Beason was also seeing his first game action in almost a year, and Herrmann thought he had a good command of the defense. “He made the calls and I liked what I saw in his limited snaps,” said Herrmann.
Pressed as to whether Devon Kennard would take over for Beason should he suffer another injury, Herrman pointed out that due to roster limitations, the five or six linebackers on the 46 man game day roster all play dual positions. What positions they cover changes due to injuries and the week to week situation. Kennard has played middle linebacker in practice and done well in the role, but it currently an outside linebacker.
Having done a good job in his increased role as a blitzer, Herrmann called the balance between practicing the blitz and practicing coverage skills a “quandary.” He added that you need to get the reps in when you can in both roles.
Free agent acquisitions Thomas and Casillas are both speedy linebackers who run well and have range. Herrmann says that helps in coverage and in backside pursuit. Currently, the team in still installing defensive packages, and the linebackers that will be used in the defense will be ultimately determined on a week to week basis by the individually tailored game plans. Herrmann added that each linebacker’s unique abilities will be taken into account when making those decisions and that the flexibility is nice to have as a coach.
Craig Johnson, Running Backs Coach: Competition
The Giants running back rotation is far from set. Running backs coach Craig Johnson is putting the backs in different situations to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each man. That process will continue until it’s time to prepare for the season opening game in Dallas on September 13th. Once that date draws near, a rotation will be determined, giving each player touches and also put the team in the best position to win games. Translation: Don’t read too much into who gets snaps, and draft a Giants runner on your fantasy team at your own risk.
Johnson relishes the competition, and says he’s yet to meet a coach that doesn’t. He speaks of the strengths of each player. Shane Vereen, the smart, touch veteran who can make plays on early and late downs. Rashad Jennings, who trains hard and will do more in his second year in the McAdoo offense. Andre Williams, a tireless worker who spent the off season trying to improve his weaknesses.
In the Bengals game, Johnson said the running backs did “OK” and added that they didn’t lost the game, but also didn’t help the team win. He wants to see the running backs “Pick it up as a unit.” The one exception is Orleans Darkwa, who Johnson said was good in all three phases, running, pass blocking and running routes, but he added that he doesn’t want any “One week wonders.”
Of Darkwa’s performance, Johnson said he had speed to the hole, set up his blocks well, was in good timing with the offensive line, and finished runs well. The last point, finishing well and forward on tackles, is key, as it can turn 3rd & 6 into 3rd and 2. Of the other backs, Johnson said they’ve performed at a high level in practice and he wants to see it in the games.
Williams came out of Boston College not having caught a pass in his senior year. Johnson said he is nothing like the player scouted at the combined in February 2014. Pointing to the screen pass he caught on Friday night, Johnson said that the old Williams would have dropped that pass because of sight lines, but because of this work, he caught it for a 16 yard gain. A blind ball drill, catching countless tennis balls, and game situation drills in practice have made Williams a better receiver. Johnson said the results are evident on the field.
When giving advice to his backs, Johnson sums it up succinctly, “If there is something there, make more of it. If there’s nothing there, make something of it.” If they heed those words, their part of the rotation will increase accordingly.
Rashad Jennings: Chemisty
Jennings is not alarmed by Friday night’s loss. “It’s game one,” he said, adding that the team didn’t perform, but they’ve been productive in practice and in the joint practices with the Bengals. They just need to transition that to the games.
Calling their deep group of runners a “Stable,” Jennings admires the differing skill sets and points out that the team will need every body going down the stretch. Emphasizing the body, in everybody, Jenning’s play on words was a commentary on their running back injuries, including his own, in 2014.
Urging patience regarding the loss in the preseason opener, Jennings said that you can’t get on an emotional roller coaster. “Win, Lose, or Draw,” said Jennings, there are things we have to learn from the day. He also said that the offensive line is building chemistry after having players moved around. “Chemistry is a word you never see on a trophy,” said Jennings,” but it’s the reason you win one.”
As far as he and his fellow running backs, Jennings said what they need to work on is common sense. “Breaking more tackles and other common sense items.” Adding that it applies to all the team’s positions, Jennings added that “Excellence is in the details.” He is starting to sound more like Coughlin every day.
Cooper Taylor: Getting the Details Down
Each of the safeties in Giants camp, all nine of them, or the eight remaining with Thompson out for the season, is comfortable and confident that he can perform at this level, according to Taylor Taylor. But he also sees every rep taken in practice as a chance to get better.
Jeromy Miles, having been exposed to Spagnuolo’s methods previously, is a great leader, and has been a great asset to the young safeties. Working in tandem, but in constant changing rotation in practice, the Giants safeties have built a rapport with each other. It’s stronger with some of their backfield partners than others, admits Taylor, but they all built it with each of the other safeties.
Having surrendered 428 yards to the Bengals, Taylor admits that there is a lot of room for improvement at the safety position. Keeping in mind that it’s the first time this new Giants defense went against “Live bullets,” Taylor said they team needs to get the details down and perform better. The details are the alignments and techniques that will make the defense more effective on the field and practice reps along with game experience will make that a reality.