Real football just took another step closer today at Giants camp with the team in pads for the first time after the three-day acclimation period.
While it was only uppers and shorts – full pads will come on Sunday once the team has a day off to recover from the change – head coach Tom Coughlin said he was pleased with the first day of pads.
“It’s good to have the pads on,” said head coach Tom Coughlin, who once again gave his team a short break midway through the practice to cool down inside the field house. “They were frisky. I thought the energy was good, we ran pretty well, which is good and was the intent.”
They were also a bit sloppy, at least on the offensive side of the ball, leading someone to ask Coughlin if the defense was ahead of the offense after four days.
“Yeah, they are. But there were some plays out there both ways. There were. Not as many runs this afternoon, unfortunately. The defense kind of controlled that,” he said.
It will be interesting to see how things progress when they move to the next level on Sunday, which is full pads.
Receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (hamstring) remains unable to practice, though he did do work on the side with the Jugg’s machine. Receiver Mario Manningham spent some time midway through the practice on the stationary bikes.
Other than linebacker Jon Beason (toe) who remains on the PUP list and who spoke about his progress earlier today, there were no other injuries to note.
“I like to think I’m more of a superhuman, (and can) get back a little faster, but at the end of the day, that’s what the time-table calls for, so you try to do what’s right.”
–Linebacker Jon Beason, who is on the PUP list, about his rehab schedule
–There were quite a few highlights today, but the one that I think drew the most animated reaction from the team came during special teams drills when rookie linebacker Devon Kennard blew up—and I mean he annihilated—fellow rookie Bennett Jackson to start practice. Seriously, that play fired up the defense who immediately swarmed around Kennard to pat him on the helmet and I believe that play helped set the tone for the defense, which continues to look to be far ahead of the offense at this point.
–Kennard was also part of the charge that stuffed running back Rashad Jennings at the line of scrimmage. That group was so quick to fill the hole that Jennings had no choice but to cry “Uncle!” on the play.
–Overall it was a sloppy first half showing (first half of practice, that is) by the offense. There were aborted snaps, dropped passes, fumbles, delay of games – you name it. Needless to say, both Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo were among those coaches giving their vocal chords a workout.
–After an intriguing spring showing in the offense, receiver Trindon Holliday has come back down to earth. His problem is that he fights the ball, trying to trap it against his body than extending for it and bringing it in toward his frame. Holliday has had at least one drop per practice, be it in drills or on offense and it’s becoming painful to watch him struggle to catch the ball.
–In receiver vs. defensive backs drills, cornerback Bennett Jackson was badly beaten by Travis Harvey. Jackson failed to get his hands on the receiver, thereby allowing a free release and just seemed either passive or unsure of what to do on the entire play. When he jogged back to the huddle, he was given some coaching by position coach Peter Giunta, who was right there to greet the rookie.
–Damonsta—defensive end Damontre Moore—had himself a very nice practice. Still working with the second team, Moore came up with at least two sacks and a handful of pressure, all coming against James Brewer, the second-team left tackle. Moore is also playing the run better so far this summer –he alertly filled a hole and stuffed Peyton Hillis for a loss. That was a type of play we really didn’t see much of from him as a rookie.
–Mathias Kiwanuka continues to practice with a purpose, giving Justin Pugh some fits out there. Credit Pugh though for battling and scrapping with Kiwanuka, even if he’s not winning all the battles.
–Fullback John Conner showed some nice speed taking a handoff up field. He initially hit a wall, but then alertly bounced it back to the outside.
–Cornerback Charles James came up with an interception of a Ryan Nassib pass that wasn’t thrown well at all.
–Weston Richburg is a feisty player. I couldn’t see who the defender was, but Richburg latched on him and anchored himself to the ground, thereby standing the defender up straight before pushing him back to the ground. Richburg has worked at guard and at center in this camp.
–Will Beatty still isn’t taking his full round of snaps, but in those he’s taken so far, he’s done a nice job, stonewalling his man. So far his position coach, Pat Flaherty, has been encouraged by what he’s seen.
“Anytime you’re at work playing football and putting the pads on, you’re going to get better,” Flaherty said. “He’s got a ways to go but is progressing day to day. He’s progressing more now day by day than standing on the sidelines.
–On the flip side, it was a miserable showing by Charles Brown, who just couldn’t handle Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul was winning his battles so much so that Brown resorted to holding the defensive end, including on one play where he grabbed the side of Pierre-Paul’s facemask.
–On the one hand, I like what I’ve seen from rookie running back Andre Williams, especially in short yardage and by the goal line. However, when he takes a handoff in other situations, he has this little half skip he takes, as though he’s waiting for a hole to open between the tackles. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but today when he had his chances, the holes seemed to close up a lot quicker. Williams is probably still trying to gain a feel for the tempo at this level, so hopefully as the preseason wears on, that little half step he takes goes away and he just quickly hit s the hole and is off to the races.
–Running back Kendall Gaskins didn’t do himself any favors when he allowed the ball to be poked out of his grasp. It trolled a good 25 yards down the field before finally being scooped up by a defender. Naturally, head coach Tom Coughlin, who doesn’t like fumbles and turnovers, wasn’t too happy.
–Defensive end Robert Ayers did a nice job getting his hands up to knock down an Eli Manning pass. One thing I’m seeing a bit more of so far is that the defensive front is finally starting to get their hands on more passes this summer. Last year, the number of batted balls by the defensive line dropped from where it was in 2011 and 2012 and we had wondered why they weren’t at least trying to get their hands up. This year they seem to have rededicated themselves to doing that, which should help them with pressure.
–I’m still not sure what to make of Ryan Nassib. Some of his decisions re panic moves and just ill-advised. When he is on the move and under pressure, his accuracy lacks. And then there was one play, a running play, in which as soon as he took the snap from center and turned around, he stuck the ball out despite the fact the running back was at least five yards away. That clear signal allowed the defense to get into positon to fill the running lanes and the play went absolutely nowhere.
“He’s had a lot thrown at him,” said Coughlin. “He’s studied all spring and has done a tremendous job. He was in here the summer in our weight room. He’s learning; he’s progressing.”
Yes, but what about the execution, coach?
“Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t. That’s just the way it is. The defense makes a play, the offense makes a play; it goes back and forth. That’s to be expected really.”
–I continue to be impressed by Brandon McManus’ leg strength. On kickoffs he was knocking them out of the back of the end zone. He’s also done well on his long field goals, though in that department, Coughlin said that Josh Brown is a little ahead of McManus.
–I’m also liking what I see from tight end Larry Donnell. I had wondered if all the experience he gained last year—and yes I know it wasn’t much but it was more than his competition—filling multiple roles might benefit him. So far, I’d say yes. Donnell has done a nice job squaring up his man when it comes to blocking, though at 6-6, when he has to block from the fullback spot, he doesn’t always get low enough. Donnell has also done a better job with finishing his routes.
–Good job by fullback Henry Hynoski leading the way for Rashad Jennings. Whereas I thought earlier in the week, Hynoski lacked an initial burst, I saw it on that play, a play in which he looked like the 2012 version.
–David Wilson took his first contact on a play between the tackles and bounced right back up ready to go. Wilson is still behind Jennings on the depth chart.
–I didn’t think that Eli Manning threw the ball especially well today. His was just missing receivers on some of the longer sideline routes. It’s no cause for alarm as usually it takes a few days for the offense to catch up to the defense, but it’s something to watch.
–Safety Antrel Rolle barely missed a chance at an interception on an underthrown ball intended for Jerrel Jernigan.
–Linebacker Mark Herzlich made a heads-up play by tipping a batted pass to himself for a big interception. Earlier in the practice, he guessed incorrectly on a running play and had to hustle back to get himself into position.
THE FINAL WORD
I have to tip my hat to head coach Tom Coughlin for exercising patience so far this summer.
And no, I’m not speaking about his patience with the media either.
With there being a sense of urgency to get the offense installed and up and running, one would naturally think that an old-school coach like Coughlin would want to take advantage of every rep he could get into the allotted time, get his players into pads as soon as possible, and get things settled.
Instead, he’s exercised patience. For instance, today was the first day that the team was eligible under the CBA rules to practice in full pads, but Coughlin instead limited them to uppers and shorts.
In addition, despite it being a rather pleasant day in terms of the heat and humidity, he continued the practice of giving the team a break at the halfway point to go into the air-conditioned field house for a breather.
Say what you want about Coughlin, who had a different mentality when he started off as a head coach, a mentality that the new Coughlin would probably scold the old Coughlin for being so short-sighted.
But if the new approach helps cut down on the training camp injuries, then isn’t that the most important thing of all?