The defensive backs were all gathered in a circle around reserve cornerback Charles James, bobbing up and down as James regaled them with some sort of song-and-dance routine.
“At the end of the day Coach Coughlin is still our coach, and his motto is, 'Talk is cheap, play the game,'" cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “So I think if anyone starts to open their mouth a little too much, I think he’ll shut it for us real quick.”
Amukamara was responding to a question regarding the Giants’ high-profile additions to the secondary this offseason, and whether there’s an added boldness or brashness to the unit this season.
Cornerback Walter Thurmond, who the Giants signed away from the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, did make one eyebrow-raising statement back in April, saying the Giants’ secondary was at least as good if not better than the Seahawks’ so-called Legion of Boom.
But a week into training camp, no Giant has said anything in the same ballpark as the New York Jets' Dee Milliner, who pronounced himself the best cornerback in the NFL a few days ago.
Amukamara did say the Giants’ defensive backs are playing with a little more swagger.
“I would say during this camp we are starting to tune to our swag,” Amukamara said. “With the addition of Walter and DRC, they definitely bring a different dimension to our defensive backfield, and it’s pretty contagious.”
DRC, otherwise known as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Thurmond certainly should help the Giants this coming season. So too could the fact that the defense is facing a faster-paced offense in practice under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
“Reps against the no-huddle with our offense, it does help,” Amukamara said. “Going against guys like Philly, their offense is very, very fast. And I think the Redskins, they do the same thing, too. So that’s only [going to] prepare us for the season.”
But if you’re looking for chest-thumping or self-aggrandizement, East Rutherford is not your best bet -- except maybe right after practice, in the defensive back huddle.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After a week of watching New York Giants training camp, it's clear the new offense is a smart, well-designed scheme. Ben McAdoo might be a first-time coordinator, but he has a plan and he's communicating it effectively, and the same goes for the new coaches he brought in and the ones he inherited. That Tom Coughlin oversees everything can only help matters, and if you want to be excited about the fresh, new ideas infusing the Giants offense in 2014, you're absolutely justified. It has a chance to be fun.
But it also has a chance to flop, at least in its first year, and not because of any fundamental flaw in design or planning. The biggest question isn't whether the new offense can work -- it's whether the Giants have good enough players to run it.
The focus will always be on the quarterback, but I think Eli Manning is the least of this team's concerns. He's 33, which is still a prime age for a quarterback in 2014, and there's no reason to think his mental or physical skills have eroded. The issue is the group around him, and the more you look at it compared with its chief competition, the more it starts to look substandard.
Wide receivers? Again, can't give them anything better than a No. 3 ranking in the division. I think Victor Cruz is fantastic, but he doesn't have enough help for anyone to consider ranking him with Washington's terrifying Pierre Garcon/DeSean Jackson/Andre Roberts trio. Cruz isn't as good as Dallas' Dez Bryant, and Terrance Williams has shown more as a No. 2 receiver than anyone else on the Giants has. So it's down to the Giants and Eagles for the No. 3 spot, and if you want to pick the Giants because Cruz is better than Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper, you're welcome to do so. Maclin's coming off injury, and Cooper is no sure thing to repeat 2013. But you'd like to see something out of Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham Jr. to help your argument.
We don't even want to talk about tight ends, where the Giants clearly have the fourth-best group in the division. They might have the 32nd-best group in the league, mainly because they've decided to expend no real resources on the position. If the Giants find a productive tight end from the group they have in camp, everyone will be surprised.
The offensive line is certainly not in a class with the ones in Philadelphia and Dallas. And while Washington is undergoing some change on theirs as well, the Giants' case here falls apart on the Trent Williams/Will Beatty left tackle comparison, which isn't close. Until it proves otherwise, you have to rank the Giants' offensive line fourth-best in the division.
Now, predictions in July aren't worth the bandwidth they occupy, and surely some of the players we've discussed here will outperform expectations, just as others will underperform. But this is a ton of question marks at nearly every single offensive position, and to think the Giants will answer all of their offensive questions satisfactorily is pure folly.
Should they give up? Of course not. This is the NFC East, which hasn't had an 11-game winner or multiple playoff teams since 2009. You could make a case for the Giants to win the division with a solid defense, a stellar secondary, strong coaching and a bounce-back season from Manning in spite of the group around him. You're not crazy. Last year showed us the Giants' floor is generally pretty high. They had one of the worst rosters in the league last year, and Coughlin still got them to 7-9. Positioning the Giants as contenders is never insane.
But if you're looking for this new offense to operate the way the Giants hope it can, I think there's a pretty good chance you're going to have to wait a year or so. The amount of change and the number of question marks are just going to be too much to overcome in one offseason. Given the issues they're facing up and down their depth chart, this new Giants offense is likely to remain a work in progress well into this season, and maybe even next.
Wilson, who left Tuesday's practice with what coach Tom Coughlin called a "burner," will be evaluated by Dr. Frank Cammisa at the Hospital for Special Surgery on Monday. He will miss Sunday's preseason opener against Buffalo.
Cammisa, who is the chief of spine services at the hospital, is the same specialist who performed season-ending spinal fusion surgery on Wilson after Week 5 to correct a disk problem in his neck.
According to Tuesday's practice report, Wilson "caught a shovel pass from Curtis Painter, turned upfield with his head down and ran into the back of guard Eric Herman. Wilson was surrounded by several defensive players, and when the scrum separated, linebacker Mark Herzlich had the football and two athletic trainers were running toward Wilson."
"We were all praying that it would not be an issue, that he would be able to come back and go to work," Coughlin said Tuesday. "But we'll see."
Wilson, the Giants' first-round pick in the 2012 draft, had been cleared for contact on July 21, and he has been practicing as normal with the team.
ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano says it will be interesting to watch the way the Giants utilize wide receivers and tight ends when the preseason kicks off Sunday night in Canton, Ohio.
No. 40: Cowboys 31, Giants 7 | Sept. 21, 1998
Deion Sanders almost single-handedly beat the New York Giants on a Monday night in September 1998, becoming the first player since 1966 to return a punt and an interception for touchdowns in the same game.
The Week 3 tilt between the Giants and Sanders' Dallas Cowboys was scoreless through the first quarter when "Prime Time" opened the scoring with a 59-yard punt return in the second quarter.
He added a 55-yard reception to set up Dallas' third touchdown of the night, an 18-yard Sherman Williams run that put Dallas up 24-7.
With the game out of reach for the Giants and less than three minutes to play, Sanders put the icing on the cake. He picked off a Danny Kanell pass and raced 71 yards to the end zone, the final display of Sanders' dominance in all three phases of the game. And one score stood out among the rest: Sanders 12, Giants 7. Factoring in the remainder of his team, the Cowboys won handily.
- Unfortunately, the news of the day was injuries, headlined by running back David Wilson's neck burner. The Giants sent Wilson to New York and the Hospital for Special Surgery for a full battery of tests because they want to be as careful as possible with his neck as he's coming off spinal fusion surgery and only last week was cleared for full practice. It's possible this turns out just to be a low-level scare, but it's important to take every possible precaution given the recent history with Wilson and his neck. By comparison, the nagging hamstring troubles that kept Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle, Xavier Grimble and Trindon Holliday sidelined seem like minor issues.
- Interesting practice for Larry Donnell, who's still No. 1 on the team's tight end depth chart and possibly in the coaches' hearts. He fumbled a ball near the goal line after one catch, but then got back up and made a leaping, one-handed touchdown grab in the back right corner of the end zone on the next play. All of the tight ends (except the injured Grimble) are getting lots of run, and they're all getting their share of first-team reps. There are a lot of formations the Giants are using in practice in which two tight ends are on the field at the same time, and they're lined up all over the place. They really need one or two guys to step forward from this group.
- Jerrel Jernigan dropped three punts that my "NFL Insiders" colleague Field Yates and I counted during punt-return drills. That's not good, and with Beckham and Holliday unable to return punts we're seeing a lot of David Wilson (before he had to leave), Victor Cruz (who's not going to do it in games) and Charles James on the punt return unit. Maybe that's a way for James to sneak onto the roster, who knows? It was good to see Field, regardless.
- Humorous highlights included a halfback pass from Peyton Hillis to Donnell that, shockingly, fell incomplete and a Trumaine McBride interception of Curtis Painter that he ran back for a touchdown with fellow corners Prince Amukamara and Walter Thurmond rushing off the sidelines and accompanying him home. I also thought it was funny that Jason Pierre-Paul joined in the defensive backs' post-practice huddle but left because their motivational chants are growing too complicated. Pierre-Paul continues to look fantastic in practice, by the way.
- And I haven't been charting each and every rep, but it seemed to me that John Jerry got more time at first-team right guard Tuesday than he has been. Brandon Mosley's still the main guy there, and certainly has an opportunity to hold off Jerry and claim the spot for his own. But they do like Jerry and want to give him a look as his surgically repaired knee allows.
- The Giants are off Wednesday and return to practice Thursday.
"I've seen him recover from positions that you wouldn't think would be possible," fellow defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "I've seen him lose a step and go down to almost a knee and a hand and then be able to fight back out of it and make a play. He's a great athlete."
Patterson doesn't resemble a great athlete any more than he resembles Gumby. He's 6-foot-1 and, by his own count Tuesday morning, 316 pounds. But he was, back in 2005, a first-round draft pick. And even if you're a defensive tackle, you need to be more than just a big, chubby guy to get picked in the first round.
"I'm able to pretty much have a good bend in my hips," the genial Patterson said after he got done chuckling. "A lot of guys are still and not able to get down low and stay low and take on double teams and move around like that. It's most definitely a technique learned over time and something I didn't get right off the bat. But I kept working on it and it became natural."
Frankly, Patterson's just thrilled about where he is right now, in life and in football. Three years ago, Patterson collapsed on a practice field at Lehigh University during training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles. He played the entire 2011 season once he recovered, but the following offseason he was diagnosed with a rare brain condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM). That required an extensive surgery that involved removing a part of his skull.
Patterson played only five games in 2012 while recovering from the surgery and then signed with the Giants prior to 2013. He performed well enough in a reserve role last year that the Giants re-signed him when they decided to let Linval Joseph leave as a free agent. And when the first depth chart of training camp hit last week, you'd better believe Patterson enjoyed seeing himself listed as a starting defensive tackle next to Jenkins.
"I'm very excited and very thankful that this opportunity wasn't cut down or cut short for me," Patterson said before Giants practice Tuesday. "Since I've been able to get back to that starting role, I'm taking it very serious and very personal to keep it. I want to go out there and do my best to show them I'm still a good player."
The Giants rotate their defensive tackles routinely, and Patterson knows that he and Jenkins will share playing time with Markus Kuhn and 2013 second-round pick Johnathan Hankins. He knows that Hankins may ultimately be ticketed to replace him as a starter, maybe even by the end of this camp if Hankins shows enough. But in the meantime, Patterson's pride in having re-established himself as an NFL starter is evident -- and justified.
"The AVM stuff, I'm just happy to finally put that behind me and just move on," Patterson said. "I've had a lot of questions. People were wondering if I was going to be able to play, things like that. But all that's behind me. Now I'm here, a fresh new year and I'm just excited to be out there with nothing to worry about."
They're also going there to celebrate one of their own.
Former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan is one of seven players being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin had plenty of praise for Strahan following practice Tuesday afternoon.
"Incredible pride, just incredible pride," said Coughlin, when asked to share his thoughts on Strahan's upcoming enshrinement. "Michael Strahan was a great football player. He had that ability -- he was taught right in the very beginning. He practiced hard, he ran to the ball, he was a great example for all the younger guys about doing that.
"He was excellent in the classroom. He was a dynamic leader -- he had one of those magnetic personalities, everyone was attracted to him. He was a superb player on the field against both the pass and the run."
Coughlin coached Strahan for the final four seasons of Strahan's 15-year career. But the two did not get along at the beginning. Strahan rebelled against Coughlin's strict style of team management. In fact, Strahan has admitted he "hated" Coughlin at the start.
But by the time Strahan retired in 2007, following the Giants' Super Bowl XLII victory over the New England Patriots, the five-time All-Pro said he wouldn't have played for any other coach again.
"We didn’t necessarily see eye to eye right away, but thank goodness we won Michael over when we spent some time together and went through some times that were good and bad," Coughlin said. "I think that he appreciated the fact that what we were trying to do was in the best interest of everybody and our team being the best it could be. And he became an outstanding captain, very good in the leadership council, did a great job with us that way."
Strahan, who continues to hold the NFL's single-season sacks record (22.5 in 2001), and is fifth in career sacks with 141.5, will become the 17th Giants player enshrined in Canton, not including former owners Tim and Wellington Mara and former coach Bill Parcells.
Coughlin is planning to take the current Giants through the Hall of Fame on Saturday, the day before their preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills, and then stay for the enshrinement ceremony in the evening.
"It's a wonderful feeling," Coughlin said of having a former player going into the Hall. "Shared by our whole staff, but a great feeling."
One year later, he might be the starting tight end for the New York Giants.
That doesn't speak well of the Giants' depth at that position. But it's an incredible opportunity for the 30-year-old from Anaheim, California, who sat at home on Sundays last season, wondering if his football career had come to an end.
"It’s hard. It’s very hard," Fells said Tuesday about sitting out last season. "Personally I felt like I had the skill set to be in the league and be able to play. But certain things dictated differently."
Undrafted out of California-Davis, an FCS program, Fells spent his first two seasons as a member of the practice squads of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, respectively. He finally saw his first real action with the St. Louis Rams in 2008, playing in 12 games, starting one, and catching seven passes for 81 yards.
He remained with the Rams in 2009 and 2010, playing in 30 of 32 regular-season games, starting 10, and scoring five touchdowns. In 2010 he posted a career-high 41 receptions for 391 yards.
The Denver Broncos signed Fells as a free agent, and he started 15 of 16 games for them in 2011, with 19 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Then the New England Patriots signed him in the spring of 2012.
Fells played in 13 games for the Patriots in 2012, with four starts, but had just four catches for 85 yards. He was still with the team last summer but was cut at the end of training camp.
A couple of teams brought him in for tryouts in the first few weeks of the regular season, but things didn't pan out either time. Fells continued working out at home, but admits he had begun seriously contemplating life after football.
"I thought about owning a business," Fells said. "My father-in-law is a business broker, so he brings different businesses out in California to my attention, just things that he thinks that I would be pretty successful in. So I kept an eye towards certain things like that, but at the same time, football is where my heart is."
The Giants brought Fells in for a tryout just a few days after their disappointing 2013 regular season ended, and signed him on Jan. 7. Six months later, he's getting some reps with Eli Manning and the rest of the starters during the first week of training camp, and he caught a touchdown pass from Manning on Monday.
"Anytime you get your hands on the ball, it always feels good," Fells said Tuesday, smiling.
There are five tight ends on the Giants' roster, and Fells' main competition appears to be Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell, who were both with the team last season.
The Giants also have free-agent addition Kellen Davis, formerly of the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, and undrafted rookie Xavier Grimble.
But Fells, despite sitting out last season, has the most NFL experience of the five. And probably the most appreciation of this opportunity, too.
"I’m not looking at it as a last chance, but at the same time, [I know] it can be taken from you at any moment," Fells said. "So I wake up every single morning and I go out every single day, I try to give my all, I try to do everything that I can to be the best athlete that I can, the best Giant that I can be."
Rueben Randle sat out Giants practice Tuesday with a hamstring injury, joining rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., rookie tight end Xavier Grimble and wide receiver/kick returner Trindon Holliday among those missing practice with the same injury.
"He was sore in the hamstring, so we held him," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of Randle.
It didn't sound like a serious problem, but we will see. The Giants are off Wednesday and return to practice Thursday. It's possible Randle returns after missing just this one day, but if he doesn't, there's obviously a strong chance they won't play him Sunday night in the preseason opener against the Bills in Canton, Ohio.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants running back David Wilson left Tuesday's practice with what coach Tom Coughlin called a "burner" -- an alarming diagnosis for a player who only last week was cleared to return to the field following neck surgery.
"We were all praying that it would not be an issue, that he would be able to come back and go to work," Coughlin said. "But we'll see."
A team spokesman said Wilson was taken for tests, but the team didn't expect any update on Tuesday.
"Given his history, David has been sent over to Hospital for Special Surgery for a battery of tests and a complete workup to determine the effects of the burner he suffered today," the spokesman said in a statement.
According to the team's daily practice report, Wilson "caught a shovel pass from Curtis Painter, turned upfield with his head down and ran into the back of guard Eric Herman. Wilson was surrounded by several defensive players and when the scrum separated, linebacker Mark Herzlich had the football and two athletic trainers were running toward Wilson."
Wilson left the Giants' Week 5 loss vs. Philadelphia last year with a burner and ended up missing the remainder of the season and having spinal fusion surgery to correct a disk problem in his neck. It's possible that this injury isn't that severe, but given that it's the neck again, it's a troubling sign for Wilson and the Giants.
Wilson was excited July 21 when doctors finally told him he had been cleared for contact, and he has been practicing as normal with the team.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin has made it clear he's frustrated by the right hamstring injury that's keeping first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. off the practice field. On Tuesday, Beckham met with Coughlin to make sure the coach knew he was frustrated about it as well.
"He wants me out there as bad as I want to be out there," said Beckham, who missed his sixth camp practice Tuesday. "I'm new and we don't know each other that well yet, and your first impression is one that lasts forever. So you don't ever want to leave a bad impression, but at the same time [I'm] trying to reassure him how hard it is for me not to be practicing.
"I'm a high-energy guy. I always loved practicing at LSU and I love practicing now. So for me, it's never been about days off, just about getting better each and every day."