Giants Camp Report: Day 2

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of training camp:
  • Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the New York Giants' first-round pick, did not practice Wednesday due to a hamstring injury. He did work some on the side with a trainer, and he stood talking to coaches while the rest of the team practiced, so those are a couple of signs that the injury isn't overly serious. If it's real bad, generally the player will stay inside. That said, the Giants are frustrated that Beckham's hamstring kept him from practicing as much as he should have in the spring and that it's already an issue in training camp. They need him on the field, getting reps in the offense, because he plays a key role as the "X" receiver who's supposed to stretch the field with his speed. It's still early -- remember, due to the extra preseason game, the Giants started camp about a week earlier than they usually do. But Beckham is a rookie who needs to practice.
  • Left tackle Will Beatty has taken more practice reps that I expected, and I asked Giants coach Tom Coughlin if Beatty had done more than he expected as well coming off the broken leg. "He's doing a little bit more, and that's very encouraging, and I'm giving him a lot of credit for this," Coughlin said. "He's not overdoing it, but he's doing more than what was expected. I hope he's able to continue to work his way back once he put pads on. I do know that he feels like he needs to be stronger, but I would say that that's normal." Beatty was a slow healer early in his career, so the fact that he's pushing to get back is encouraging to the Giants, as long as he stays smart about it.
  • One possible bit of good news that could help ameliorate the Beckham situation is that injured wide receiver Mario Manningham has been taking some reps and made a very nice catch on one of those reps Wednesday. Manningham's knee could be an issue all year (and for the rest of his career), but so far so good on his recovery.
  • Daniel Fells lined up as the starting tight end at the start of 11-on-11 drills for the second day in a row, but he, Adrien Robinson and Kellen Davis all took some first-team reps, though sometimes they were lined up in a fullback or H-back position in the backfield.
  • Brandon McManus is a legitimate threat to Josh Brown for the placekicker job. He can kick it a mile, and if he shows reliable accuracy on field goals, he could have the edge for what he might offer on kickoffs.

Coughlin gives Giants chance to cool down

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- So halfway through the New York Giants' training camp practice Wednesday, the whole team left the field, walked over into the field house and stood there for five minutes before coming back out and finishing practice.

Yes, it was odd.

What they told the fans as it was happening was that the team was going inside for a "cool-down break" and would return, which as I said it did. After the practice, coach Tom Coughlin confirmed that's what it was. He said that because four players had to leave Tuesday's practice due to issues with the heat, he promised he'd build a break into Wednesday's practice -- even though he didn't think it was as hot Wednesday.

"Today we had a breeze and we had cloud cover," said Coughlin, who stayed outside and talked to former Giant Shaun O'Hara instead of partaking in the shade himself. "But I said I was going to do it, so I did it."

Coughlin said he might keep doing it, in fact. Liked some things about it even other than the health benefits.

"If I keep it, it would be because of the heat we experienced [Tuesday], and there's nothing wrong with that," Coughlin said. "It gives them a sense of first half/second half. It gives them an opportunity to cool a little bit and come back ready to go. It gives me an opportunity, too, because after they've had the break they should be flying around."

For the record, not one Giants player left Wednesday's practice due to a heat issue. And all of those who left Tuesday's returned and practiced in full Wednesday.

Photos from training camp: Day 2

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
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Here are some photo highlights from Wednesday's practice at New York Giants training camp in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Dominique Rodgers-CromartieAP Photo/Seth WenigCornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie practicing some momentum-stopping interceptions.
Devon KennardAP Photo/Seth WenigRookie linebacker Devon Kennard looks determined to make it happen.
Prince AmukamaraAP Photo/Seth WenigCornerback Prince Amukamara getting in a little pick practice.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants GM Jerry Reese doesn't love talking about his tight end situation. He doesn't consider it as big a worry as some outside the organization consider it. He points out, correctly, that the Giants' top tight end over the past seven or eight seasons has tended to catch 40-50 passes a season, and he believes he doesn't have to spend major resources to acquire a run-blocking tight end who can offer such a minimal contribution in the passing game.

[+] EnlargeAdrien Robinson
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsGiants GM Jerry Reese hasn't been shy in comparing tight end Adrien Robinson to Pro Bowl players.
That said, even Reese would have to admit that this year's tight end group looks a little bit thin.

Or would he?

"We feel like we have some young players who have some dynamic skill sets that can get out there and do it," Reese said Wednesday. "Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, a couple more young tight ends on the roster that we like. Those guys have to go out there and do it."

Fair enough. He has guys he likes athletically but who haven't proven anything yet. He thinks they can and has decided to bank on that. He thinks the risk is small. Robinson can definitely run-block, and if he ends up being able to catch the ball, so much the better.

Problem is, Reese kept talking. And said this:

"The tight end in Denver, Julius Thomas, how many catches did he have before last season? He didn't have many catches. Actually, I think he had one catch going into his third season. So hopefully, we can have a guy step out of the shadows and do something like that for us, because they have the skill set. They just have to get out there and do it."

Okay, so first things first. Julius Thomas, who caught 65 passes for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns with Peyton Manning as his quarterback last season, has just joined Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on the list of players to whom Jerry Reese has now -- without solicitation -- compared to Robinson. You likely remember that Reese described Robinson by saying, "we hope he can be the JPP of tight ends" after drafting him in the fourth round in 2012. The reference was to the fact that Pierre-Paul was a raw player coming out of college who became a star in his second season. It was an unfair label to affix to Robinson, a fourth-round pick who caught a total of 29 passes in his four years of college football at Cincinnati.

Thomas caught 29 passes (for 453 yards and two touchdowns) in one season as a senior at Portland State in 2010. That was Thomas' only season of college football. The difference between him and Robinson is that Robinson played four years at Cincinnati, and no one ever thought to throw him the ball on a regular basis, whereas once Thomas decided to play football, they found he was pretty awesome at catching it.

So Reese's point on Robinson really isn't much different right now than it was on draft day 2012. He thinks the guy has the skills to be a good tight end in the NFL, but he admits he has no actual proof of that and he's hoping to see some of that proof.

Maybe Robinson can deliver it. If not, maybe Donnell can. Or Xavier Grimble. Or Daniel Fells or Kellen Davis, both of whom actually have a fair amount of NFL tight-end experience.

But based on the guys to whom he likes to compare him to, Reese really thinks Robinson has a lot of talent.

Andre Williams starting from the bottom

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Andre Williams was the featured back at Boston College. As a senior, he rushed for an NCAA-leading 2,177 yards along with 18 touchdowns on 355 carries.

That won’t be the case with the New York Giants.

If the 21-year-old rookie, who was selected by the Giants in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft, ever wants to be a featured back in the NFL, he’s going to have to earn it -- and Williams knows that.

“I’m just looking to contribute in any way that I can, continue to do well in practice and build faith with the coaches so they can put me on the field,” Williams said Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeAndre Williams
AP Photo/Seth WenigThe NCAA's leading rusher in 2013, Andre Williams must get used to a reduced role with the Giants.
In the offseason, the Giants overhauled their backfield. They gave Rashad Jennings a four-year, $10 million contract to be their No. 1 rusher for 2014. But Jennings is going to need some plays off. And that’s where guys like David Wilson and Williams come in.

During training camp, Williams has been in with the starters in goal-line packages. He’s also lined up on special teams.

“He’s become more than a [straight-ahead runner],” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “He was not used that way at B.C.”

Williams, who Coughlin called “a high-conditioned, powerful athlete,” is looking to improve on his pass-catching and blocking techniques. Those are areas in which he must make strides if he’s going to gain the trust of Coughlin and the coaching staff.

Williams has tried to learn from the veteran running backs on the team. He’s looking forward to seeing some lanes open up.

“In college, being the workhorse at Boston College, every time I lined up I’d see eight or nine bodies in the box. Now, sometimes I’m coming out and there’s only five or six, so that’s definitely a positive,” he said.

Running backs coach Craig Johnson said he likes what he’s seen from Williams thus far.

“We are going to do drills all the time, and he’s coming along. He is big, strong and physical, and that is what you are looking for,” Williams said. “We just have to continue to practice the technique because it is not ever the same in practices and in the game. We are trying to make that as close as possible.”

Williams knows making the transition to the speed of the NFL game is going to be a challenge, but he’s ready for it.

After all, when asked if he would be able to excel in a goal-line role, Williams responded, “Absolutely. As long as it’s running the ball, I think I can excel.”
[+] EnlargeDevon Kennard
Julie Jacobson/AP PhotoThe Giants have seen great things out of rookie LB Devon Kennard through offseason team activities.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants are desperate for one of their middle-round or late-round draft picks to turn out to be a helper. It's been way too long since that happened for them. But while it's still incredibly early, what they've seen so far from 2014 fifth-round pick Devon Kennard has them pretty excited.

The former USC linebacker has been working at the strongside linebacker position in early training camp practices, but he got some work at the vital middle linebacker spot in spring practices and showed an ability to rapidly and effectively pick up the responsibilities that go along with that position. With starting middle linebacker Jon Beason out, Kennard is likely the next option for that position behind veteran Jameel McClain. And after McClain was carted off the field with a foot injury Tuesday, the contingency plan was to use Kennard in the middle Wednesday. And they didn't expect the fact that he's a rookie to hold him back.

"Not at all if he can do it," linebackers coach Jim Hermann said before Wednesday's practice. "If he can handle it and get everyone lined up and understand the nuances and where he belongs, sure. He's a pretty thick kid, he can hit people, so that's good."

Kennard may be a "thick kid" physically, but he's a sharp one mentally, and that's where he's stood out in this embryonic portion of his career. He embraces the idea of playing the on-field leader role, knowing everyone's assignments and helping make sure they're carried out. And he's proud his coaches view him as such a quick study.

"I think they're definitely happy with how fast I've picked things up, but it's still a long way to go," Kennard said. "I still have a lot of things to correct from yesterday and I'm still taking steps every day to improve and to make sure I know what I need to do to keep playing at the level they expect of me."

Thing about it is, the Giants don't tend to expect much from their rookies early. If Kennard can be a major contributor on defense this year, that would be a huge bonus and make them feel very good about this particular fifth-round pick. And while the pads have yet to go on and the preseason games have yet to start, so far, so good.

"He played at USC and he played under four different coordinators there and played four different positions," Hermann said. "So I think he kind of got lost in the college shuffle a little bit. Again, we've got to go out and see him in live games, but based on what you see of him on film, he's not going to shy away from that part of it. He's calm, cool and collected. It's the speed of the game that's the question, and we'll see how he plays. But based on what we do out here, I don't think he's going to have a problem."

Eli Manning's career at a crossroads

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
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video

With the Giants just a few days into training camp with their new offensive coordinator, an up-in-the-air offensive line and an owner, John Mara, who seems to have inched into public view a bit more to ratchet up the feeling of urgency, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has reached an interesting little crossroads in his career.

Where Manning ranks anymore as an NFL quarterback is a bit up for grabs. The "Is Eli elite?" question that grew so tiresome a few years ago has been re-opened. And great swaths of what to expect from him this season defies hindsight or predictions.

Over the offseason, Justin Tuck and Chris Snee joined all the Super Bowl-winning teammates who had already walked out the door, and Manning admitted Monday he's noticed their absence. Kevin Gilbride, the only NFL offensive coordinator the 33-year-old Manning worked with since 2007, has been replaced by Ben McAdoo, a West Coast offense guru from Green Bay. The answers about what it all means are just going to have to play out.

Monday, even Manning allowed he's still adjusting to it all, saying: "Yeah, it is different. You come into the season a little nervous."

Eli? Nervous?

"You have a good feel for [the new offense], but not to where I want it to be," he continued. "That just comes with repetition and more plays. It is a different feeling at this time of year than in previous years. Still have a lot of work to do, a lot to improve on to get comfortable myself and get comfortable with my teammates and everything that goes on with being successful in an offense."


(Read full post)


Photos from training camp: Day 1

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
3:00
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Here are some photo highlights from Tuesday, the first day of practice at New York Giants training camp in East Rutherford, N.J.

Eli ManningAP Photo/Seth WenigEli Manning is either signaling for peace, flashing a victory sign or, more likely, working through some offensive plays.
Odell BeckhamAP Photo/Seth WenigRookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. demonstrates his aerial skills.
Justin PughAP Photo/Julie JacobsonTackle Justin Pugh douses his head and face with water while taking a break. The temperature rose to 91 degrees on Tuesday afternoon in East Rutherford.

Strahan: Hall of Fame 'nothing I imagined'

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
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StrahanRob Tringali/Getty ImagesGiants great Michael Strahan says his goal at the start of his career was "just to make a little money."
When his NFL career began, Michael Strahan was not thinking about the Hall of Fame.

In fact, being enshrined in Canton was the furthest thing from his mind. “My goal when I first started was just to make a little money so I didn’t have to move back to my parents’ house,” Strahan said Wednesday. “I just didn’t want to live with my parents.”

He didn’t have to. Strahan made millions.

He ended up in the Hall of Fame, too.

Strahan, one of the most dominant pass-rushers in NFL history, will be enshrined in Canton on Aug. 2.

“It’s overwhelming, to be honest with you, because obviously (late New York Giants co-owner) [Wellington] Mara was there when I was drafted,” Strahan said. “He’d come to practice every day, the face of the NFL and more so the Giants, one of the original founders of the game. It’s such a rich history. And on top of that, Harry Carson being a great friend of mine as well as L.T. [Lawrence Taylor] being a great friend and the one guy I looked up to when I came in. Just so much history on the side of the Giants.”

During his 15-year career, Strahan racked up a franchise-record 141.5 career sacks which puts him fifth on the all-time list. He went to seven Pro Bowls and set the NFL’s single-season sack record in 2001 (22.5). He also went out a champion, winning Super Bowl XLII in his last game as a pro.

“I’m just honored,” Strahan said. “Because it’s something, it’s nothing I had in my brain, nothing I imagined when I started out, that I’d be joining these guys in the Hall of Fame.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning is 33 years old and coming off the worst season of his career. But New York Giants GM Jerry Reese said Wednesday that the team expects a return to top form by their franchise quarterback in 2014.

Manning
"I expect nothing except for him to bounce back and be the Pro Bowl-caliber player that we know he can be," Reese said before Giants training camp practice. "He's still a young football player, all things considered, with respect to the quarterback position. So we expect him to come back and be a leader and bounce back and not have some of the things that happened to him last year and be a dynamic football player for us."

Manning threw a career-high and league-leading 27 interceptions in 2013. His completion percentage and yardage totals were his lowest since 2007 and 2008, respectively. And his 18 touchdown passes were the fewest he's ever thrown in a full season. It's fair to ask the question of whether Manning is on the decline, but the determination the Giants made this offseason was that he is not.

"Quarterback's a little bit different," Reese said. "Thirty-three is getting up there, but it's not like a running back at that age or some other position. Quarterbacks don't take hits like a lot of other positions do. So hopefully, Eli doesn't take a lot of hits like he took last year."

Many of Manning's problems in 2013 were traceable to the complete collapse of the Giants' offensive line in front of him. Still, his performance was alarming enough that the organization decided not to extend his contract this offseason. Manning is signed through 2015, and the Giants could have helped themselves against the salary cap with an extension, but they decided not to do it, and Reese said Wednesday they're not working on anything now, either.

"We keep all of our options open with respect to that, but right now it's nothing really to talk about," Reese said. "We're two days into training camp, and there's really no need to talk about contracts at this point."

With a big year, Manning could ensure one more big quarterback contract (likely an extension signed next offseason) to carry him through the end of his career. But if he slumps again, the Giants are going to have to start asking some tough questions about whether they need to replace him sooner than they expected to.
video

Tim Hasselbeck breaks down his rankings for the quarterbacks in the NFC East.

Can Adrien Robinson grab the TE job?

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
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ESPN NFL Nation Giants reporter Dan Graziano discusses the chances of the vastly inexperienced Adrien Robinson winning the job as the starting tight end for the 2014 New York Giants.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- I wrote about the Tony Dungy-Michael Sam controversy on Tuesday, so you know where I come down on the gay rights issue. I think these are issues of human decency, not of religion or culture or the sanctity of the NFL locker room.

But if Dungy merely put his toe over the line and onto the wrong side of this issue, former New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree is the mayor of the wrong side of this issue. In 2011, Tyree said he'd trade his miracle "helmet catch," which led to the Giants winning Super Bowl XLII, in exchange for a law outlawing gay marriage. And he's publicly professed his belief that "there is no scientific data to support the claim of being born gay." Tyree has explained his views by citing his religious beliefs, which is an excuse a lot of people use and is, in my opinion, a crummy reason for treating fellow human beings poorly. You believe what you want to believe, but once you start using it as a weapon with which to mistreat other people, you have lost me.

Anyway, this comes up because the Giants hired Tyree on Tuesday as their new director of player development. And while I don't think wrongheaded views should necessarily prevent a person from seeking and holding a job in his chosen field, I'm surprised that the Giants would make such a tone-deaf move in the current NFL and social climate. The move was ripped by the Human Rights Campaign, and Tyree declined to comment about the criticism when contacted by ESPNNewYork.com.

Obviously, given the sensitive nature of the Michael Sam story, we're at an important social time in NFL history. One of the points of Sam's decision to live his life as an openly gay man trying to play in the NFL is that gay football players in the future will be less afraid to live their lives openly. Sam's story should lead us all to a deeper understanding of each other as people and to treat each other with more kindness and decency regardless of where we disagree or where we're different. People like Tyree stand in the way of that, which is why I don't think this is the right time for Tyree to hold a job like this in the NFL.

Imagine, if you will, there was a hypothetical closeted gay player on the Giants who was thinking about coming out. Maybe he was inspired by Sam, maybe not, but as of, say, Monday, he was thinking about telling the world he's gay. He was nervous but excited about finally not having to feel as though he had to hide who he is -- a great, positive thing for the player and the world in general.

And then on Tuesday, the Giants go and hire a guy to work in a position of authority in the organization, and this guy loudly and publicly believes what Tyree believes.

What does that player think now? What does that player do now? What message has his organization sent to players in that position?

Tyree might well be qualified to hold the job of director of player development. Heck, he might be great at it. And maybe his medieval views on this issue won't affect his ability to do the job or relate to players in any way. But given what's going on in the NFL and the world right now, I have to think the Giants could have made a less tone-deaf hire.

Giants Camp Report: Day 1

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
8:15
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of training camp:

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was not at all happy that four of his players had to leave the team's first practice of training camp with heat-related problems. Guard Brandon Mosley, who had been working at starting right guard in place of the retired Chris Snee, was carted off early in practice. The cart also came for linebacker Spencer Adkins and tackle Charles Brown for what Coughlin described as heat-related issues, and Coughlin made it clear in an interview with Sports Illustrated's Don Banks that he was not pleased about it. The Giants will look to make it all the way through their second practice Wednesday, when the high temperature is forecast to be 92 degrees. The high Tuesday was 89.

Linebacker Jameel McClain was also carted off, but that was due to a foot injury. X-rays on McClain's foot were negative, which is good news for the Giants as McClain is filling in for middle linebacker Jon Beason, who also has a foot injury but hopes to be back in time for Week 1. For what it's worth, rookie Devon Kennard continues to look good at linebacker. He worked on the strong side but has been mentioned as someone who could handle the middle linebacker responsibilities.

Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., the team's first-round pick, pulled up short on a pass route in practice, leading to an interception of Eli Manning by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Coughlin seemed annoyed about that and said of Beckham, "He has a ways to go." Earlier in the day, Beckham told us he was planning to watch out for and be careful with the hamstring injury that held him back in minicamp. It's possible the incident here was an example of that, but Beckham's health and overall progress will be worth watching as camp goes along. He has obvious blazing speed and good hands, but he will need to run his routes and run them again if he's to advance to the point where he's a Week 1 helper in the new offense.

Manning shows absolutely no ill effects of the ankle surgery that sidelined him for a portion of his spring work. He's practicing as usual and seems excited about working in the new offense.

The Giants used rookie running back Andre Williams as the goal-line back during that portion of practice Tuesday. Williams likely could slide into that role right away while he works on the finer points of his NFL game as a rookie.

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