NFL Team Report - New York Giants - INSIDE SLANT
Head coach Tom Coughlin likes to say that talk is cheap. But all offseason and into the start of training camp, the head coach has been very vocal about the areas he'd like to see improved, particularly on defense, and to ensure those improvements were made, he was given a combination of youth and veterans to shore up every unit across the board.
Although the Giants haven't practiced in full pads yet - they were set to do so on July 30, the first day following their three-day acclimation period - so far, Coughlin has liked what he's seen from the defense as far as the energy and, in particular, how the secondary has covered the deep ball.
That has been no accident because the players banded together to make sure that they don't repeat the mistakes of last year that led to games in which they came out flatter than day old soda pop.
"Honestly, what stuck out is that we didn't play consistent," said defensive end Justin Tuck. "There were some games we played great and we played the type of football we're accustomed to playing around here, and some weeks where you scratch your head and say, 'Yeah, that wasn't the team we wanted to be that week.'"
As the captain of the defense, Tuck, who, by the way, is fully recovered from the injuries that affected his performance the last two seasons, has donned his sheriff's hat to make sure that every member of the defense, both young and old, is doing his part to make sure that the defense's stock goes up and not down.
"I think it comes down to being consistent, trying to be the same team every week," he said. "That goes to the preparation during the week and making sure that we're in the right mindset every week, whether we're coming from a great win or a bad loss. Just understanding that it's a long season and we can't allow ourselves to be on those roller-coasters like we have been."
Starting up front, Tuck said that there has been a shift in the philosophy along the defensive line regarding sacks.
"I think we've gotten too wrapped up in sacks," he said. "I think where we've kind of made our mark is the times when we don't get sacks and the quarterback is throwing the ball fast, or they are max protected and we're still after the quarterback. We kind of got away from that and got so caught up in 'my sack numbers aren't up.'
"It's not necessarily about the sack numbers. It's about the pressure, the hits, and things of that nature. So we've got to get back to doing that."
Once the pass rush returns to form, the rest of the defense should also round into shape, a process the Giants are hoping comes together quickly.
And once it does, the next step as far as Coughlin is concerned is to see the defense develop an identity, particularly one that he's had on his mind for some time now.
"Physical, New York Giant defense; tough, physical and hard-nosed defense," he said. "We're not that far removed from that and hopefully we'll get right back to it. You have to get an identity. You have to represent something. You have to be there week in and week out.
"You have to have that kind of consistency and you have to control the line of scrimmage. You have to stop the run first before you can rush the pass and we're capable of both."
NFL Team Report - New York Giants - NOTES, QUOTES
--On July 7, Giants linebacker Dan Connor, whom the team signed as an unrestricted free agent in the winter, was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport for allegedly possessing a switchblade in his carry-on luggage.
Connor called the incident a misunderstanding in his first public comments about the events.
"It was a tough situation, kind of a misunderstanding at the airport," he said. "I was flying out to a friend of mine's wedding in Pittsburgh and had something in my bag, a pocket knife that I didn't even know about. I hadn't seen it in over a year.
"I was a little shocked when they pulled it out. It's something I have to deal with now."
Connor, who is competing for the starting middle linebacker job along with Mark Herzlich, Aaron Curry and Kyle Bosworth, said that he was also embarrassed that the incident immediately thrust him into a bad light with his new employer.
He said, "Being a new guy here I don't want to put a scar or have a bad mark on a city that doesn't even know me that well. It's just unfortunate. But at the same time, it's my fault and I have to prove to everybody that I'm not that type of guy, a guy to get in trouble. It was the first time I've been arrested, so it's pretty embarrassing for me."
While he's also determined to put the incident behind him as quickly as possible, Connor might not be out of the woods just yet if the NFL levels a fine or suspension against him for the incident.
"I don't know," he said when asked about the possibility of a punishment form the league. "(My attorney) didn't even want me to comment on it. I'll probably already be in trouble with him, but that seems likely. Hopefully, it'll get resolved sooner rather than later and I can put it behind me and move on from it."
--Receiver Rueben Randle is probably the most improved player from his rookie season to his second year, and he attributed that improvement to a refined work ethic that included more film study to gain a better understanding of the game and his role within the offense.
"Being in the system the whole year, I understand what needs to be accomplished, so, that's a big part of that," he said.
With Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz ahead of him on the depth chart, Randle is firmly in the driver's seat for the third receiver spot. Should he officially win that job, he hopes to bring something to the table that wasn't always there last year.
"I just want to go out there and make more plays," he said. "I think we left a lot of them out there last season that could have at least gotten us into the playoffs and had a chance to go into the Super Bowl, so I feel like we could make up on that year and come out this season and make a lot of more plays."
--Linebacker Aaron Curry, who hopes to revive his career with the Giants as a potential strong-side linebacker, said that he's managed to get his weight down to 250 over the break, a big stepping-stone in his quest to make an NFL roster.
Curry said he is gaining a comfort level with the playbook and believes that in time, if given a chance, he can become the playmaker that he was expected to be when he was taken in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, the fourth overall pick, by the Seahawks.
Curry said, "Sometimes I think we always think that the playmaker is a guy that has 30 sacks or 15 sacks, but sometimes you have a nose tackle and he's an extreme playmaker because he demands a double-team and he doesn't get any glory or you have a (middle) linebacker that fullbacks fear. To me, they're considered playmakers because without them the next guy can't make that spectacular play."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody's on notice." - General manager Jerry Reese, who described the team's one playoff berth in the last four years "unacceptable."
NFL Team Report - New York Giants - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Cornerback Prince Amukamara recorded the first interception of training camp and has been on fire since. Amukamara has started to show the aggressiveness that the team initially fell in love with when they scouted him at Nebraska, and during practices, he's barely been beaten by receivers. The third-year pro's confidence is at an all-time high and it shows.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: At the start of camp, it was expected that David Wilson would be the starter, followed by Andre Brown. However, if history is any indication, the starting running back role might not be etched in stone. That's because head coach Tom Coughlin has been alternating the first handoff of each 11-on-11 series between Wilson and Brown. Coughlin himself gave his standard "We'll see" response when asked about the workload distribution between Wilson and Brown.
--C David Baas (multiple surgeries), has been limited in the team portion of camp. Baas, who said that he's feeling better following his multiple procedures, believes that he'll be at 100 percent by opening day.
--FB Henry Hynoski (knee) in on the physically unable to perform list. Hynoski, who had surgery to repair a broken tibia and a MCL injury, has been sporting a knee brace as the Giants open camp, his status for opening day in doubt.
--DT Markus Kuhn (knee) was placed on the physically unable to perform list. Kuhn, who had surgery to repair an ACL in late November of last year, might not be ready to start the season.
--WR Hakeem Nicks (groin) experienced some tightness in his groin during the team's second practice on Sunday. Nicks, who missed most of the spring while he continued to rehab his surgically repaired knee, was pulled from practice as a precaution and has been limited since then.
--DE Jason Pierre-Paul (back) is on the physically unable to perform list. Pierre-Paul said that he was not sure if he'd be ready for the Giants September 8 season opener at Dallas.
--RG Chris Snee (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list. Snee believes that his stay on PUP will be short-lived and that he should be able to get a few preseason snaps in with the team later in the summer.
--CB Terrell Thomas (knee) is on the physically unable to perform list. Thomas' status was a bit of a surprise considering he had been able to do some work in the team's spring drills as he continued his rehab from a third ACL surgery and his second in as many years. While the Giants didn't say that Thomas had any setbacks, head coach Tom Coughlin was nonetheless surprised that Thomas wasn't able to go at least partially. "The sooner he can get out there, the better off we'll all be," he said.