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.
QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Eli Manning. Backups - David Carr, Ryan Nassib, Curtis Painter.
The big question going into camp is how many signal-callers will the Giants keep. Manning, of course, is the undisputed starter. The team re-signed veteran backup Carr this spring, but then a few weeks later, traded up in the draft to get Nassib, one of the most promising young quarterback prospects the team has had in a while. Although he is currently unsigned, Nassib is unlikely to miss camp. And while it would be a longshot for him to win the backup job in his rookie year, the Giants will likely try to find a way to keep all three quarterbacks rather than potentially expose Nassib to waivers and then the practice squad.
RUNNING BACKS: Starter - David Wilson. Backups - Andre Brown, Da'Rel Scott, Ryan Torain, Michael Cox, FB Henry Hynoski.
The Giants cut the cord on long-time starter Ahmad Bradshaw in favor of the younger, more dynamic, (and healthier) Wilson, but as of the end of the spring practices, there was still concern about his ability to pass block. Don't be surprised, then, if Brown gets the bulk of the snaps, perhaps even edging out Wilson for the "starting" job early on. The identity of the team's third running back is a mystery, as they will hope someone from the relatively inexperienced pool of Cox and Scott will emerge. Torain, who was sidelined part of this spring with a hamstring strain, will likely enter camp as the incumbent at that third spot. Finally, fullback is a concern, as Hynoski, who injured his knee in late May, is not only expected to miss a good chunk of training camp, he is unlikely to be ready for opening day, despite reports to the contrary. The Giants are currently planning to plug in tight end Bear Pascoe, a tight end, at that spot, but they will also no doubt actively scan the waiver wire for a true fullback until Hynoski is 100 percent.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Brandon Myers. Backups - Bear Pascoe, Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Jamie Childers, Chase Clement.
Myers, who had a breakout season last year as a pass receiver for the Raiders, will likely continue in that role with the Giants. Robinson could be the player to watch in this group as he has exceptional size and strength, and showed that he has a much better understanding of the playbook this past spring. The Giants lined up Robinson in goal-line and short-yardage situations, and also toyed with splitting him out wide. His size is intriguing and he could give the team an advantage against smaller cornerbacks similar to what former receiver Plaxico Burress offered during his time with New York. Childers flashed as a receiver in the spring and also saw some snaps at fullback. He might be someone to keep an eye on this summer as a potential practice-squad player.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz. Backups - Rueben Randle, Louis Murphy, Jerrel Jernigan, Ramses Barden, Keith Carlos, Brandon Collins, Jeremy Horne, Kris Adams, Kevin Hardy.
Both Nicks and Cruz will come into camp healthy and sans distractions related to their respective contract situations. Cruz recently inked a new multiyear deal while Nicks has said he won't skip camp as he plays out the final year of his rookie deal. A big question is Nicks' health; he underwent offseason knee surgery and has yet to log a full 16-game season since turning pro. Randle, the second-year player, took advantage of the extra reps he was given this spring thanks to the absences of Nicks and Cruz. Randle was so good that offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride enthusiastically revealed that Randle had earned the right to play more on offense this season. Speedster Murphy developed chemistry with Manning, and is likely going to be a part of some three- and four-wide sets. Third-year man Jernigan will likely grab the fifth spot if he can finally prove that he's a reliable punt returner. Barden, who came back on a one-year deal after finding no takers on the open market, must show daily consistency both on offense and on special teams if he's to have any chance of sticking.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Will Beatty, LG Kevin Boothe, C David Baas, RG Chris Snee, RT David Diehl. Backups - G/T James Brewer, G/T Justin Pugh, G Chris DeGeare, G/C Jim Cordle, T Matt McCants, G Brandon Mosley, OL Selvish Capers, G Michael Jasper, G Bryant Browning, G Stephen Goodin, G Eric Herman.
The Giants' offensive line continues to be at a crossroad. Other than Beatty, who earlier this offseason signed a multiyear deal that will keep him at left tackle for the near future, the coaches are waiting to see where Snee and Baas, both of whom are recovering from offseason surgeries, are in their respective recoveries. If Baas isn't ready to go, the team may move left guard Boothe to center and let rookie first rounder Pugh, who is projected to compete at right tackle, compete at left guard. Speaking of right tackle, veteran Diehl is completely healthy and is likely going to open camp as the starter. Look for Pugh and third-year man Brewer to push for that job as well.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LDE Justin Tuck, LDT Linval Joseph, RDT Cullen Jenkins, RDE Jason Pierre-Paul. Backups - DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DE Adrian Tracy, DE Demontre Moore, DE Justin Trattou, DE Matt Broha, DE Adewale Ojomo, DT Shaun Rogers, DT Marvin Austin, DT Johnathan Hankins, DT Mike Patterson, DT Frank Okam, DT Markus Kuhn.
Tuck is entering his contract year, and has vowed to bounce back after two subpar and injury-filled seasons. However, with Pierre-Paul potentially looking at missing some time due to his ongoing recovery from back surgery, it will be interesting to see if Kiwanuka, who is penciled in to replace Pierre-Paul, can draw the type of blocking Pierre-Paul started to draw last year. Tracy, who had a strong spring, will probably be the fourth man in the defensive end rotation while Moore, the rookie, will likely spend more time on the inactive list while he works to refine his craft. Inside, the Giants are loaded with candidates behind starters Joseph and Jenkins. Hankins could start contributing sooner than later if he has a solid summer. Austin has been a disappointment since being drafted in the second round in 2011, as he has dealt with one injury after another. Kuhn is trying to come back from ACL surgery from last November, and both Rogers (blood clot) and Patterson (neurological) are trying to bounce back from season-ending ailments as well. The coaches are said to like Kuhn's motor, but it would not be surprising if he begins the summer on PUP. Due to his experience with the defensive playbook, Rogers, who was in camp with the Giants last year, appears to have the inside track on the final roster spot.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - WLB Jacquian Williams, MLB Mark Herzlich, SLB Keith Rivers. Backups - Dan Connor, Spencer Paysinger, Aaron Curry, Kyle Bosworth, Jake Muasau, Etienne Sabino.
Perhaps no unit on the team is as unsettled as this one, as the Giants are looking at fielding three new starters this season. The talent is there, especially considering they have a pair of former first rounders in Curry and Rivers, but the problem for the unit as a whole has been injuries. Williams missed a good part of the spring workouts while letting his knee heal from an injury suffered last season. Rivers, who last year was in and out of the trainer's room, is hoping that a change he made to his offseason workout schedule keeps him on the field. Curry, who bottomed out with two teams, claims he is fully committed to giving his all with the Giants. Meanwhile, in the middle, Herzlich had a strong spring and he has earned the right to go into camp first on the depth chart. Connor, who had a recent brush with the law, and Bosworth are also expected to compete for that spot. Paysinger, often forgotten in the conversation, could end up playing a larger role in some of the defensive sub packages. While the Giants will end up with three starters by default, they will likely mix and match personnel based on the opponent and the situation.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Corey Webster, SS Stevie Brown, FS Antrel Rolle, RCB Prince Amukamara. Backups - CB Aaron Ross, CB Jayron Hosley, CB Terrell Thomas, CB Junior Mertile, CB Charles James, CB Trumaine McBride, CB Terrence Frederick, S Cooper Taylor, S Will Hill, S Ryan Mundy, S Tyler Sash, S Alonzo Tweedy, DB Laron Scott, DB Trumaine McBride.
The Giants will be looking for Webster to rebound from an injury-filled and underwhelming 2012 campaign, while their hopes for Amukamara is that he continue in his growth as one of the league's better cornerbacks. Thomas will attempt to come back from a third ACL injury, and although he's listed as a cornerback on the depth chart, he could be moved inside to safety if he makes it back this summer. Despite being away from the team last year, Ross is projected to land as the nickel over second-year man Hosley. At safety, the Giants have a bit of a conundrum as far as their numbers are concerned. Brown and Rolle are set as the starters, and Taylor, the promising young rookie, seems on his way toward earning a roster spot. The fourth safety spot, however, is up for grabs from a group that includes Sash, Hill, and Mundy. Of those, Mundy drew praise from the coaching staff, but don't discount Hill, who showed signs of being a playmaker as a rookie season last year.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Josh Brown, P Steve Weatherford, LS Zak DeOssie, KOR David Wilson, PR Rueben Randle.
Brown is expected to beat out Buehler for the placekicking job. Meanwhile, the picture at both returner jobs is less certain. Wilson, last year's dynamo, will likely come off kickoff returns now that he is expected to have a larger role on the offense, while Randle, who will also see his role increase on offense, might go back to returning punts. The Giants will also audition several players for each position, including cornerbacks Charles James and Aaron Ross, receiver Jerrel Jernigan, and running back Da'Rel Scott.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--TE Travis Beckum (not tendered as UFA).
--DT Rocky Bernard (not tendered as UFA).
--CB Bruce Johnson (not tendered as UFA).
--OT Sean Locklear (not tendered as UFA).
--RB Kregg Lumpkin (not tendered as UFA).
--CB Justin Tryon (not tendered as UFA).
--CB Brian Witherspoon (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED (all picks signed)
--T Justin Pugh (1/19): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DT Johnathan Hankins (2/49): $4,030,698/4 yrs, $1,311,420 SB/$1,899,633 guaranteed.
--DE Damontre Moore (3/81): $2,800,252/4 yrs, $575,252 SB.
--QB Ryan Nassib (4/110); 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Cooper Taylor (5/152): $2,347,252/4 yrs, $187,252 SB.
--G Eric Herman (7/225): $2,215,952/4 yrs, $55,952 SB.
--RB Michael Cox (7/253): $2,205,896/4 yrs, $45,896.
--WR Ramses Barden: UFA; $780,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--T Will Beatty: Potential UFA: $38.75M/5 yrs, $12.5M SB/$19M guaranteed.
--G Kevin Boothe: UFA; $905,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--RB Andre Brown: RFA tendered at $2.023M with second-round pick as compensation; $2.023M/1 yr.
--S Stevie Brown: RFA (tendered at $2.023M with second-round pick as compensation); $2.023M/1 yr.
--QB David Carr: UFA; $1.005M/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--C Jim Cordle: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Victor Cruz: RFA tendered at $2.879M with first-round pick as compensation); $2.879M/1 yr (subsequently signed a six-year contract worth $46 million; $9.6M SB/$15.6M guaranteed).
--TE Bear Pascoe: Potential RFA; $900,000/1 yr, $185,000 SB.
--LB Keith Rivers: UFA; $715,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--DT Shaun Rogers: Potential UFA; $1.005M/1 yr, $20,000 SB.
--RB Ryan Torain: Not tendered as RFA; $715,000/1 yr.
--DE Adrian Tracy: ERFA; terms unknown.
--DE Justin Trattou: Potential ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
--K Josh Brown: UFA Bengals; $940,000 base/1 yr.
--LB Dan Connor: FA Cowboys; $715,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--LB Aaron Curry: FA; terms unknown.
--LB Kyle Bosworth: Not tendered as RFA by Jaguars; terms unknown.
--DT Cullen Jenkins: FA Eagles; $8M/3 yrs, $2M SB/$3M guaranteed.
--CB Trumaine McBride: FA; $630,000/1 yr.
--S Ryan Mundy: UFA Steelers; $715,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--WR Louis Murphy: UFA Panthers; $715,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--TE Brandon Myers: UFA Raiders; $14.25/4 yrs, $1.5M SB (final three years at $12M voids).
--DT Frank Okam: FA; terms unknown.
--QB Curtis Painter: FA; $630,000/1 yr.
--TE Michael Palmer: Not tendered as RFA by Falcons; terms unknown.
--DT Mike Patterson: FA Eagles; $905,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--CB Aaron Ross: FA Jaguars; $715,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--LB Aaron Curry: Raiders (released 2012); terms unknown.
--TE Martellus Bennett: UFA Bears; $20M/4 yrs, $4.5M SB/$9M guaranteed.
--LB Chase Blackburn: UFA Panthers; terms unknown.
--LB Michael Boley (released).
--RB Ahmad Bradshaw (released/failed physical).
--DT Chris Canty (released).
--WR Domenik Hixon: UFA Panthers; $1.2M/1 yr, $250,000 SB.
--DT Martin Parker (released).
--S Kenny Phillips: UFA Eagles; $2M/1 yr, $1M RB.
--DE Osi Umenyiora: UFA Falcons; $8.5M/3 yrs, $2.5M SB/$5M guaranteed.
--K Lawrence Tynes: Not tendered as UFA/Buccaneers; terms unknown.