There was a new sound at practice today. The pop of plastic rang through the crisp summer air as the Giants dressed in shoulder pads for the first time since their 2012 season ended on Dec. 30. And there was much rejoicing.
"It was good, it's always good to get started that way,” Tom Coughlin said. “It was real good to see … They were very enthusiastic about it and we'd like to think that would be maintained.”
Enthusiasm in football practice can often lead to fisticuffs, and while there were no brawls or real dustups, there were a couple of times tensions ran hot. The closest we came to an actual fight was when Marvin Austin and Eric Herman took a few swings at each other. This a few snaps after Austin was in the backfield and would have had a sack against Ryan Nassib. The altercation was quickly broken up. Adewale Ojomo and Dan Connor might have had an altercation on a special teams drill after they banged into each other, but two defensive guys hardly ever fight each other and they separated with love taps for each others’ helmets.
The only other fireworks came when Kevin Gilbride was screaming at Adrien Robinson, which was odd because it was in a walk-thru drill against a scout team.
The Giants are off tomorrow and then they come back on Thursday in full pads. That will increase the contact – and the tension – even further.
As for today’s report, we’ll start with the injuries as usual. One of note that happened during the practice was WR Jeremy Horne who did something to his foot and had to be carted off. The five guys on PUP stayed that way. Terrell Thomas (knee) was doing some football-type drills early on. Chris Snee (hip), Henry Hynsoki (knee) and Markus Kuhn (knee) were running as usual. And Jason Pierre-Paul (back) remained inside the facility during the workout. No need to have him standing around as he recovers from back surgery.
Hynoski, by the way, said he is still on course to return in time for the season opener. But that’s still a big we’ll see.
As for Mr. Nicks and his tight groin, he appeared to be feeling much better today. He was still limited, but he was certainly doing more than he did yesterday. In fact during offensive drills he was dancing and grooving and moving around to whatever soundtrack was playing in his head. It looked like he felt good. And he was running routes. He caught one pass in team drills, had another batted away from behind by Prince Amukamara, and was bottled up by Corey Webster on a fade in the red zone from Eli Manning. But he was doing the drills, which in his case is more important than catching the actual passes.
Which brings us to Mr. Cruz. He made a few really nice plays, including a diving catch along the sideline and a really pretty play in the red zone in which he stopped his route short, reached out to catch a pass from Eli Manning, and then pulled the ball in tight to his body to allow safety Antrel Rolle to fly past him. Cruz then cut up and into the end zone. Now there’s no way to say what Rolle would have done in a full contact drill, but the play was classic Cruz: Shifty, elusive, creative.
As you may have read already, though, Cruz is not quite up to speed. Tom Coughlin said he is still knocking off some rust after missing the offseason program. Cruz dropped an easy pass early on. He was the intended target when Manning threw a pass that was intercepted by Aaron Ross in 7-on-7s and it looked like Eli wanted Cruz to continue on his route or cut inside faster than he did. Cruz has never been the kind of player who catches every pass and nails every route. You live with those mistakes because of what he can do on the other plays like the one described above. The Giants, of course, would love to limit the mistakes as much as possible. No kidding.
Hey, we saw a new formation on defense today. The Giants went with a jumbo defensive front. At first it included Cullen Jenkins and Mathias Kiwanuka at ends and Linval Joseph and Shaun Rogers at tackle. That meant Justin Tuck was off the field. But then they tried it with Tuck on in place of Kiwanuka. Coughlin called it an experiment.
“Matching personnel and matching it with some large bodies, some large people inside,” he said.
The offense also trotted out a new jumbo look, although they did not use it in any of the team drills. With the usual starting offensive line they had Justin Pugh playing the sixth lineman slash tight end. That was the role that Will Beatty began his career at and if the Giants don’t think Pugh is ready to take over for Diehl as the starter at right tackle when the season starts, it could very well be the was Pugh starts his.
Speaking of Pugh, he was knocked backwards and rolled up and over by Damontre Moore who jumped offsides on one snap. That drew a yell from Tom Coughlin.
Later on in practice it was Pugh who jumped offsides. Worse was that as the play continued he was smoked by Adrian Tracy. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s struggled, I haven’t seen Pugh dominate yet. He was beaten today by a really pretty spin move by Damontre Moore to the inside, but guard Brandon Mosley was there to help him out. When the Giants run the ball you tend to see number 72 bouncing out of the piles and not in the middle of them generating push. That should come.
I was watching the wide receivers and corners in one-on-one drills today, but on the far field I looked up just in time to see David Wilson beating Aaron Curry deep down the field. Wilson should win that footrace every time. On the field I was watching in one-on-ones, Jernigan caught a deep ball from Manning over Aaron Ross … Horne made a leaping catch on a deep pass from Manning … Robinson made a nice catch holding onto the ball while David Caldwell was trying to rip it away … Jayron Hosley broke up a pass from Ryan Nassib to Jernigan … Nassib overthrew a deep ball down the right sideline for Hakeem Nicks, who had gotten past Trumaine McBride … Ross broke up a pass from Nassib for Louis Murphy … Will Hill did a nice job of poking a ball away from Bear Pascoe.
Some other observations from the team snaps: After Rueben Randle got the better of the competition yesterday, Prince Amukamara was able to break up a pass for the big receiver from Eli Manning early in 11-on-11s. Prince also poked out a pass from Manning to Nicks later on, as I mentioned above. He’s having a heck of a camp. He may be the best cornerback in New York now that you-know-who isn’t around anymore … Will Mundy did a nice job breaking up a pass from David Carr for Robinson, but the better part of the play was Ryan Torain picking up a blitzing Aaron Curry … Cullen Jenkins stuffed a run by Da’rel Scott early on and later did the same to Andre Brown. The Giants can’t wait to see him do that against Alfred Morris and DeMarco Murray … Don’t discount Kyle Bosworth in the wide open linebacker competition. He’s not only a special teams player but he’s flashed some nice play on defense. Today he sliced through the line and would have destroyed Michael Cox had it been full contact. Bosworth has been turning in plays like that rather routinely. In fact he capped practice with another one, there to stop Cox on a run. Of course that’s what you get when you have a fourth-year veteran playing against third-stringers … Cooper Taylor was in position to make a play on a toss to Cox going right … Randle caught a pass over the middle from Manning but Stevie Brown had a bead on him. Would he have broken it up in a game? Maybe. Would he have at least made it harder for Randle to catch it? Yup. Later on, though, Randle absorbed the contact from Corey Webster on a deep pass from Manning and came down with the catch rebound-style … Aaron Curry picked off a pass from Curtis Painter intended for Kris Adams. It’s hard not to imagine what the Giants linebackers will be like if Curry and Rivers can stay healthy and play to their potential … Nassib was not very sharp today, particularly on longer passes. He had warning track power in a home run derby. He threw a floated down the field for Barden that was incomplete and later launched a duck of a pass for Brandon Collins that was underthrown and intercepted by Junior Mertile. It was the second pick in two days for Mertile, who intercepted Nassib yesterday … When the Giants went in their nickel package on defense they had Aaron Ross in the slot with Jacquain Williams and Spencer Paysinger on the field … Bad drop by Bear Pascoe on a seam route down the middle. It looked like he turned late and wasn’t expecting the ball. Nice coverage by Paysinger to stick with him down the field on that play, though. Pascoe did a better job at fullback picking up a blitz by Herzlich in the red zone snaps, although Cullen Jenkins also made a push on the pocket from the outside.
Bands! And enjoy the day off!