On another hot and humid day in New Jersey, the Giants held their last practice prior to Saturday night’s second preseason game with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his pre-practice press conference, Tom Coughlin announced that wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is battling a minor calf strain, will “Probably not” play in the game.
The Giants starting offensive line will be unchanged, with John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse making up the right side, despite the frequent substitutions during this week’s practices. Coughlin did say that Geoff Schwartz would “Get his opportunities” to play at both the right guard and right tackle positions.
Coughlin declined to comment on who would start at the safety positions against Jacksonville, but did say that new arrival Brandon Meriweather was still learning terminology and would see limited action in the same. With Prince Amukamara back at practice, the secondary received some reinforcements, but it is unclear if he would play against the Jaguars. Nat Berhe has been limited to individual drills only while continuing to recover from a calf injury.
Expect the starters to play into the second quarter on Saturday night, as Coughlin said they will “Go a little longer than they did the other day.” Asked that he wants to see from the team in this game, Coughlin answered succinctly, “Improvement.”
As practice started, the list of players sidelined continues to grow, starting with Cruz, Landon Collins (knee), Cooper Taylor (toe), Jayron Hosley (concussion), Rueben Randle (tendinitis), Julian Talley (walking boot), Will Beatty (pectoral), and George Selvie (knee) were all absent from practice. Shortly after the session, in which the team wore uppers, began, Chandler Fenner limped off the field and was examined by trainers. Collins is improving, and did some individual drills and sprinting on the sidelines.
With multiple receivers sidelined, James Jones and Geremy Davis were given some snaps with the starters. Jerome Cunningham took some snaps with the first team at tight end. Odell Beckham caught a crossing route and took it 85 yards for a touchdown, thrilling his teammates and the crowd. Cunningham also caught a touchdown over linebacker Mark Herzlich.
Schwartz started the day with the second team offensive line, taking snaps at right guard. Towards the end of practice, he took some snaps with the first team at right guard.
Ben McAdoo, Offensive Coordinator: Go Out and Make Plays
Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo was disappointed that the productivity the Giants offense had in practice didn’t translate into the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He thought the team came out flat, but have made progress in this week’s practice. McAdoo wants the offense to come out against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night and execute. It’s not about numbers, but about making plays, protecting the football, and putting points on the scoreboard.
McAdoo has set the goals for the season “High,” but won’t share them publicly, although he did say there is only one ultimate goal in the NFL. If the media and fans want insight into the offense’s goals, McAdoo suggests trying to get it from the players.
Don’t blame the offensive line for the Giants offensive woes, said McAdoo, who believes the unit is in a much better place than they were a year ago. That includes right tackle Marshall Newhouse, who McAdoo called “An athletic guy and a smart guy, and a player who is growing comfortable with the guys around him and growing into the role. He did hedge his statement by pointing out that other players are being tried at the position, but showed confidence in Newhouse.
The Giants offense won’t be looking for penalties are part of their strategy for moving the ball. McAdoo says that fundamentally the players need to fight through contact and make plays on the field. While he’s willing to accept the benefit of a flag for pass interference or illegal contact, it’s up to the players to make plays and “Not rely on the zebras.”
When asked again about the offense line, McAdoo said, “We aren’t where we want to be, but thank God we’re not where we used to be.”
Tom Coughlin: What Passing Game?
Coughlin is concerned about the Giants lack of practice time together, as Beckham missed time yesterday due to dental work, Cruz due to a calf strain, and Randle due to knee tendinitis. He’s concerned that without practicing together, the elite passing game that’s been predicted for the team will not materialize on the field. While their absence has provided opportunities to develop the younger players, Coughlin wants his top players on the field. And he wants it to happen soon.
Orleans Darkwa impressed Coughlin last season with his special teams play last season, and has continued to impress with his work on offense this year in camp. Despite their depth at running back, capturing the head coach’s attention is a good way to fight for a roster spot. Playing well on special teams is another.
Dwayne Harris caught Coughlin’s eye as he was game planning against him when he played for the Dallas Cowboys. His work as a gunner on special teams, kick and punt returning, and blocking on offense showed Coughlin a versatility that made him a target for the Giants in free agency. Pointing out that Harris is an “Obvious special teamer,” Coughlin says he takes pride in that role and it shown.
Davis needs to take a page from Harris’ playbook and concentrate on his special teams work. While he’s impressive as a receiver in camp, the Giants depth at the position means his future playing time will depend on his versatility. Coughlin would like to see him as part of the gunner rotation as he has the size, strength, and speed to excel in that role.
Coughlin expects the Giants offense to improve in all areas this season. With teams having to decide which of teams weapon to defend, he expect the offense to be excellent. The offensive line needs to be settled and the team needs to find the five guys that work best together. With Schwartz and Newhouse missing time, it’s given the team a chance to bring some of the younger players along. Bobby Hart is one of those players and had been given playing time at both right guard and right tackle. Coughlin said he’s had good and bad days, but has improved.
Speaking at length about the revised extra point rules, where the conversion is the equivalent of a 33 yard field goal, Coughlin said he thinks is just as important to practice the extra points as it is to run two point conversion plays from the two yard line. Where strategy comes into play, he said, is when there is a defensive penalty, and the ball will move to the one. Pointing out the he expects the Giants extra point success rate to remain at 100%, Coughlin said that wind and other weather factors will be monitored as always, and be incorporated into this game day decisions.
Confidence in the Giants defense is growing, but Coughlin wants to see the unit prove themselves on the field against the Jaguars. As a tough team that wants to run the ball and defend the run, Coughlin sees them as a good test for the Giants.
Tom Quinn, Special Teams Coordinator: Need to See Improvement
Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn manages the workload for his kickers to keep their fresh. They have to kick through the long season and he doesn’t want them to “Kick their legs out.”
Harris, was signed for primarily for his special teams play, and Quinn looks forward to seeing him play on “The Big 4 special teams.” Rookie Akeem Hunt may challenge for the kick return job, but Quinn thought he should have taken his big kick return against the Bengals back for a touchdown. The players are learning and it’s all part of the process.
Davis, who did not play special teams in college, is progressing, according to Quinn, who confirmed he’s being trained as a gunner. It’s different getting free against two defenders on the line, but Quinn tries to keep it simple for the rookie.
The new extra point will not be a big deal, as it meant that the field goal team started their practices from the 15 yard line instead of the two. There will be more of a defensive rush, but Quinn is not worried about it.
Zak DeOssie is a leader, and a football player rather than just a snapper. When the rules were changed to not allow defenders to line up over the center on punts, it allowed DeOssie to get down the field faster and has unleashed the linebacker in the veteran.
Quinn expects the Giants to improve in both net punt and punt return yards based on their off season acquisitions and the work they have done in camp. Their work on the punting and punt coverage team has always been significant, but Quinn said they increased their workload on punt returns. They investments and hard work should pay dividends in September.
Eli Manning: I Don’t Know Where That Came From
Sweeping the internet like a Khardassian magazine cover, a statement attributed to Eli Manning that he wants to be the NFL’s highest paid player is completely false, according to the Giants quarterback. Not only did he not make the statement, but neither did his agent. He’s uncertain if it was a reporter “Trying to make a name for himself,” or if it came from anther source, but Manning said it’s not true and declined to comment on his contract negotiations.
Manning learned of the report fro his father, Archie Manning, and immediately contacted the Giants Vice President of Communications, Pat Hanlon. Assuring him that the source was unreliable, Hanlon told Manning not to concern himself and to focus on practice and preparation for Saturday’s game against the Jaguars.
Plays that have been made in practice need to translate onto the field, said Manning, in response to how the offense can improve it’s performance. In their second season in McAdoo’s system, Manning expects the offense to be faster in the early part of the season, with adjustments made more rapidly, and fewer mental errors. Having gotten more practice reps with Beckham and Cruz, Manning expects to hit more plays with them as well.
In the game on Saturday night, Manning wants to sustain drive and put point on the board. If the offense plays fast and gets into a rhythm, he sees that happening.
Victor Cruz: A Small Hiccup
Coughlin called it a product of dehydration. Cruz called is a “Little tweak” from running around and his increased practice reps. The topic, of course, is the calf strain that kept Cruz out of practice yesterday and will most likely keep him out up to and including Saturday’s game.
Pointing out that the strain is not in the leg that suffered the torn patellar tendon, Cruz assures all concerned parties that it’s completely unrelated to his knee injury and it’s minor. Feeling “Light years better” than when it happened on Tuesday, Cruz is certain he will be able to return to practice next week and play in the Giants third preseason game against the New York Jets.
“It’s not going to be a huge hindrance,” said Cruz, “It’s not related to the knee and is just a small hiccup on the road to recovery.”
Expecting the offense to be considerably better in the second year of McAdoo’s system, Cruz said that “If we can get everyone out on the field at the same time, we can be a force.” Speaking with confidence about the talent on the team, and be sure to mention that it’s on both sides of the ball and special teams, Cruz said he sees the Giants as ready to take the next step.