The 2017 New York Giants training camp is officially in the books, the team having “broke camp” Tuesday.
Having gone back over the countless transcripts and interviews, and the entire notebook I filled up with observations and thoughts about the camp as it unfolded, I give you some of my observations on the good, bad, unusual and philosophical aspects of camp.
The last 11 days of this month are key
Okay, this isn’t exactly a training camp observation, but this does need to be put at the top of the list because I think it’s important.
Starting August 21 and through the end of the month, a lot is going to go down for the New York Giants, who play three preseason games over that period.
While McAdoo is going to use that time to make some final conclusions about guys on the bubble, that period of three games in 11 days couldn’t have worked out any better for the Giants and their second-year head coach.
During that time, McAdoo, his assistant coaches and the players will get an important dress rehearsal for later in the season, when they’ll have less than a week between Week 2 (Detroit) and Week 3 (at Philadelphia) and in November, where They’ll travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers, return home the following Sunday to host the Chiefs and then head back on the road for a Thanksgiving night clash at Washington.
“This week is going to be our most challenging week,” McAdoo said Tuesday when asked about that upcoming quick-turnaround stretch of preseason games.
“We have three games in 11 days coming up. So, we need to make sure we get the most out of this week right here and that’s by design. We’re going to be a little heavy-legged and we’re going to be sore, but we’re going to build calluses. When we get our legs back, it’s going to lead to great things for us, but we’re not going to get them back any time soon.”
The Offensive Line is Still a Concern
To be fair, the Giants starting offensive line had maybe a dozen snaps together in the preseason opener. Some were good but others, not so good as far as pass protection. And the run blocking? Again, hit and miss.
You can probably make the excuse that the unit needs more reps together, but that’s what training camp is for. McAdoo and company have tried to simulate a game environment as much as possible, which means theoretically the offensive line should be getting better.
But is it? We’ve heard from each member of the starting line since camp began and all five—Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Bobby Hart—all say that it’s coming together.
Seriously, the line has done some good things, but there are still far too many breakdowns popping up in practice that make one shake their head.
You can theoretically argue that it will be a success if the offensive line hits on 97 percent of its assignments, but the counter argument is that within the two percent where it has a breakdown, that leaves the door open to potential injury to a key player.
Don’t believe me? Just look at what happened to former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo who suffered significant injuries behind that heralded offensive line he had which proved it was human with breakdowns.
Yes, there is a degree of risk and no, you can’t really expect perfection, but in the case of the Giants offensive line, would it be asking too much for the unit to clean up some of the issues that seem to be carrying over from the year prior?
Which leads me to point number two.
Ereck Flowers is Still a Concern
There are some who will preach patience with Ereck Flowers, the 23-year-old left tackle.
If this were his rookie season, or even his second year, I might agree. But this is his third year and some of the issues from his rookie season are STILL popping up, the most notable one being that if you look across the offensive line, Flowers is usually the highest one in his stance.
I get it that he’s still young but he’s had two years and all the offseason and training camp to smooth out the rough edges. And yes, you can see his hands are much quicker—he’s not dropping them for that split second like he used to when the ball is snapped.
Yet he’s still being beaten far too many times, usually by Olivier Vernon, who by the way is probably as good if not better than any of the pass rushers Flowers is going to have to fend off this coming season.
If he can’t win more of his battles against Vernon, who has on a handful of occasions zipped by Flowers so quickly that there’s been a temptation to yell out “Ole!” from the sideline, then that’s a concern.
The Backup Quarterback Situation is a Concern
Not that there is ever a good time for a team to lose its starting quarterback for any length of time, but the Giants better cross their fingers, toes, eyes and anything else they can cross that starter Eli Manning continues his iron-man streak.
The backup competition between Josh Johnson and Geno Smith remains close, but not necessarily in a good way. In Johnson, you have a guy who looks indecisive with the ball and who holds on to it for an eternity while trying to figure out what to do. In Smith, you have a guy who has a little better command of the offense but who just can’t seem to scrub those costly mistakes—a fumble, an interception a misread—from his game.
The good news is that by the end of the season, it wouldn’t stun me if Davis Webb, who will be the third-string quarterback to start the season, is promoted ahead of whoever wins the backup job. But the bad news is that if anything were to happen to Manning, we can probably kiss the season and all the high expectations goodbye.
The Defense is Bad Ass
Yes, you read that correctly. This Giants defense, which brought together a bunch of new faces last year, has melded together into a bad-ass unit from front to back.
Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul bring the fierceness up front. Meanwhile second-year man B.J. Goodson, who has pretty much locked up the starting middle linebacker role, is playing like a physical enforcer out there. Toss in safety Landon Collins, who was already a bad-ass last year, and it’s hard to envision a scenario where this unit is going to be pushed around by anyone.
The Offense is More Multiple
Move over Sybil! The Giants offense. who last year was defined by its rather boring 11-personnel look, has shown several different looks dating back to the spring which should allow McAdoo endless options to outwit opposing defenses.
It remains to be seen how many of the different looks stay in the playbook for the regular-season, but among the varied looks include Odell Beckham Jr. in the backfield, two- and three-tight end sets, the I formation with a lead fullback, a double slot set, and a trip formation.
I think several players have so far helped themselves with a strong showing so far.
These include defensive end Kerry Wynn, who after a slow start has stepped up to challenge Romeo Okwara for the third spot on this team; and UDFA linebacker Calvin Munson, who before getting first team reps on defense, was already doing his thing as a core special teamer with the first team.
You can also toss into the mix receiver Jerome Lane, who while a longshot for the 53-man roster, has still made a few plays that make you take notice; running back Orleans Darkwa, who might just end up pushing for the starting running back job after all; and defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who is playing like he really wants that starting job alongside of Snacks Harrison.
On the flipside, you have guys who, for one reason or another, might be in danger of not being part of the 53-man roster.
Leading the pack is 2015 third-round pick Owa Odighizuwa. When the head coach says you’re behind and are still playing catchup with a day to go before camp ends, that’s not a good sign.
Veteran Mark Herzlich might also be near the end. Herzlich missed a few days with a stinger, but returned to practice wearing the yellow jersey signaling no contact. Herzlich then ended up back on the side with the trainers.
While I don’t think the Giants will cut him, I could see him landing on injured reserve, especially if Munson and safety Eric Pinkins both continue their stronghold on special teams spots.
Receiver Roger Lewis is another faller. Lewis had a poor preseason opener and has really struggled in camp. Were it not for the ankle injury suffered by Tavarres King, my guess is Lewis wouldn’t be getting as many first-team reps has he has of late.
Tight end Will Tye is another guy whose soot is in trouble. We still don’t know if the Giants plan to keep three or four tight ends. If it’s three, figure that Rhett Ellison, Evan Engram and Jerrell Adams are locks. If it’s four, then Matt LaCosse might have the edge over Tye since he’s been getting a lot of first-team reps
Thanks for the Memories
Finally, here is a list of my fondest and in some cases unusual memories from the 2017 Giants training camp.
“If” by Rudyard Kipling. McAdoo shared this poem with his 25 and under crowd. It’s a fitting poem for what McAdoo is trying to preach to his players, so I was a little dismayed when Odell Beckham Jr., when asked about the poem, admitted he didn’t pay attention to it.
Frasier the Lion. This is a story about an elderly lion who thanks to a new diet and a new environment became a stud and ladies (or is that lionesses?) man. McAdoo shared that story with his older veterans, perhaps to remind them that while some might be getting up there in football years, they are still virile enough to, er, get the job done.
Timed Intervals, better known as wind sprints. McAdoo had his team run earlier in camp for conditioning purposes. And as a by-product of that competition, we had our first dustup of camp when cornerback Janoris Jenkins threw a hay-maker at safety Eric Pinkins.
Odell Beckham Jr. Whether he was dazzling the crowd with his golden cleats or his red and blue stockings (both would have been heavy fines under former coach Tom Coughlin’s uniform policy, I’m sure); or his playing hacky-sack with his helmet; or his simply getting down to the beat during TV timeouts, Beckham is fun to watch. With countless young fans screaming out his name during the practices, Beckham accommodated whenever he could, further endearing himself to the fans.
Punishment Laps. I’ve read about other head coaches around the league ordering players who screw up to run a lap or two around the field as punishment, but I didn’t’ think McAdoo, who has shown the patience of a saint, would eventually incorporate it.
Yet after seeing Geno Smith and Wayne Gallman screw up one time too many, there was McAdoo with the hammer. Now I only saw a part of the video, but it looked as though Smith and Gallman jogged around the field
Bring on the season!