Time for Giants rookies to make their mark
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LANDOVER, Md. -- Mike Shanahan saw his rookie running back in training camp, the one he picked in the sixth round, and said he knew right away he would be a starter when the season began.
Tom Coughlin saw his rookie running back in camp, the one he picked in the first round, and hoped he might be able to contribute later in the season.
Those observations from a pair of two-time Super Bowl champion coaches represent a big difference in philosophies between the Giants and Redskins. Between the Giants and most other teams, for that matter.
Shanahan's Redskins came into Monday night's game led by two rookies on offense -- quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris. But the Giants only now have started to put their rookies in a position of responsibility. Second-round pick Rueben Randle caught his first touchdown pass a week ago, and first-rounder David Wilson was expected to see his first significant snap count on offense Monday night. Both opportunities were because of injury, not depth-chart evolution.
While most other teams routinely put rookies on the field early and let them try to figure things out on Sundays, the Giants more often than not insist that their first-year players wait -- usually until about this time of the year -- before they are thrust into important roles.
"It's a developmental philosophy," Coughlin said. "The concept is to try to get people where they are able to provide good play for us on a lot of levels . . . This time of year, hopefully they've done their homework. They've been developed, they can go into games and we can have confidence that they can do more than just one or two things. They can be a well-rounded player, and that's why it happens at this time of year."
This from the coach who waited until late November to let Eli Manning start in 2004. Even Jason Pierre-Paul spent most of his rookie season on special teams before he was let loose on the defensive line in 2010.
There are some exceptions. Certainly the Giants needed Jayron Hosley this year to plug holes in the secondary. Markus Kuhn was a starter on the defensive line before he was injured. But for the most part, Giants rookies usually don't hit their stride until after Thanksgiving.
The benefit is that when other teams are worrying about the mythical "rookie wall" that their first-year players run into at this time of year from the grind, the Giants' rookies are excited for their new opportunities.
"I'm fresh," Randle said. "Just looking forward to these next couple of weeks to get more playing time and get more plays so I can contribute more. We're just looking to push forward, don't let anything get in our way."
It also allows the Giants to have their own farm system, so that when players get injured -- such as running back Andre Brown, who broke his fibula last week -- the understudies can be called up to The Show. When the Giants drafted him, Randle was called "NFL-ready." It turned out he was just "Giants-ready" and had to wait.
Perhaps the best example of this philosophy in action was 2007, the season the current Giants core won its first Super Bowl. Injuries late in the season meant Steve Smith, Kevin Boss and Ahmad Bradshaw were called upon to play large roles in the playoff run, and each had a key play in Super Bowl XLII.
Only one of those players remains, but he's still preaching about those experiences.
"I've been telling [Wilson] all week when I was a rookie, when I first got my play time, Derrick Ward went down with a broken leg and I was able to step in and be a huge part of our offense," Bradshaw said. "So I've been staying in his ear trying to help him out as much as possible, and he's absorbing and learning."
The waiting and the patience appears ready to pay off for Wilson. And, if history is any measuring stick, the Giants.
Notes & quotes:DE Paul (back), who missed two practices, did not start. Osi Umenyiora started in his place . . . T David Diehl (shoulder) was active but Sean Locklear started at RT . . . WR Domenik Hixon (ankle) was inactive, as was former Redskins RB Ryan Torain. RB Kregg Lumpkin, signed last week, was active.