New York Giants: 1st Impressions from Training Camp
Just like that, the New York Giants now have a week’s worth of training camp practices in the books.
As you might have expected, it’s been an interesting week filled with ups and downs.
On the whole, the focus has been on the progress of the new offense being installed, a process that, while advancing, hasn’t always been smooth and that has favored the defense more as of this point.
According to head coach Tom Coughlin, the defense is ahead of the offense as of this point.
“Yeah, they are,” he told reporters. “But there were some plays out there both ways. There were.”
That’s nothing new, though, as the same thing can probably said across the NFL landscape. However, what is new from the Giants’ perspective is some of the key takeaways after one week, some good and some not so good.
Read on to find out.
Quarterback Ryan Nassib Is Still Inconsistent
The Giants appeared to have made the decision to elevate second-year man Ryan Nassib to the No. 2 quarterback spot during the offseason.
The problem is that they can’t simply give him the position and call it a day; Nassib still needs to show that he’s capable of handling the job.
Thus far, it’s been a mixed bag for the 24-year-old Nassib. While he’s shown he has a grasp on the new playbook, executing has been quite another story.
Many of Nassib’s throws, including some in the seven-on-seven drills where he doesn’t have to worry about a pass rush, have taken too long to develop.
His accuracy has also been off, as has some of his decisions regarding where to go with the ball.
It’s all part of the maturation process, though, as Nassib explained to NJ.com’s Jordan Raanan.
“You’re going to have some growing pains with a new offense. I made mistakes, we fixed them and now it’s all about trying to make it become habit,” he told Raanan.
If head coach Tom Coughlin was concerned with what he’s seen so far from Nassib, he didn’t let on when the question was put to him by reporters on Saturday.
“He’s learning, he’s progressing,” Coughlin said. “Sometimes the execution is there, sometimes it isn’t. That’s kind of the way it is.”
We’ll see what the upcoming week brings in terms of Nassib’s progress.
The Fullback Position Is Still a Mystery
It’s long been believed that the fullback, a position which has been an integral part of the Giants offense under head coach Tom Coughlin, is a dying breed in the NFL.
So imagine how surprising it might be if the Giants, who in Henry Hynoski and John Conner have two very capable fullbacks, decide to join the ranks of several other teams that have turned to a tight end over a pure fullback to handle the lead blocking duties.
That’s a real possibility, according to Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger, who reports that the tight ends have been put on notice that there exists a very real possibility that the team won’t carry a fullback on the 53-man roster.
Such a move wouldn’t be a surprise and in fact was one that, following the spring practices, I explored in my analysis of the fullback position.
As Orr also noted, the fact that neither Hynoski nor Conner have a clearly defined picture of what their role will be in Ben McAdoo’s West Coast system—Conner also told me last week that they were still waiting to see what the role would be—isn’t necessarily a good thing.
While injuries could ultimately affect the final decision, it makes more sense to put the ball in the hands of the running backs, receivers and tight ends than it does the fullback.
If the fullback is removed from the Giants’ offensive attack as a potential receiver and runner and reduced to just a lead blocker, then is it really necessary to carry a player whose only role is to block if another position can handle that?
A Legitimate Battle at Kicker Is Taking Shape
It’s not uncommon for a team to carry an extra kicker or punter in training camp to take some of the workload off the incumbent’s shoulders.
So when the Giants signed rookie free agent Brandon McManus in the offseason, the plan apparently was to give 35-year-old Josh Brown, whom, per Over the Cap, the team had signed to a two-year deal in the offseason, a breather during the extra-long preseason.
However, McManus has made a strong case for a roster spot. He’s consistently boomed his kickoffs out of the back of the end zone and has mostly split the uprights on his field-goal attempts.
In the end, the Giants will only keep one, the odds-on favorite right now being Brown, of whom head coach Tom Coughlin told reporters, “There’s a lot of power in that leg,” and of whom Coughlin said, he “probably has the advantage” as far as field goals were concerned.
Still, Coughlin didn’t deny that McManus has done well so far in camp, when asked about the former Temple star’s performance.
“Both guys seem to have done pretty well whenever given the opportunity,” he said. “The kickoffs have been very strong.”
It will be interesting to see if Brown and McManus keep the current pace, what the Giants decide to do. Will they keep the older, more experienced Brown, who potentially has another three to five years left in his career?
Or will they go with the younger (and cheaper) McManus, who is just now getting started in his career?
The Tight End Battle Remains Fairly Even
How close is the Giants’ tight end battle?
When the team released its depth chart last week, the chart had Adrien Robinson, a 2012 fourth-round draft pick, listed as the fifth man in the pecking order, behind rookie Xavier Grimble.
“The tight end in Denver, Julius Thomas, how many catches did he have before last season?” Reese asked reporters last week.
“He didn’t have many catches. Actually, I think he had one catch going into his third season. So hopefully, we can have a guy step out of the shadows and do something like that for us, because they have the skill set. They just have to get out there and do it.”
Actually if anyone is starting to step out of the shadows a bit, it’s been Larry Donnell, listed as first on the team’s depth chart.
The 6’6”, 265-pound Donnell has been thriving from his first complete offseason—he missed last year due to a broken foot—and has put his previous experience playing a variety of roles from an in-line blocker to a fullback to a slot receiver to good use.
“I’m trying to grow and become a better football player,” Donnell told me during last month’s OTAs. “I’m trying to do some of the little things, like watching more film, staying longer and doing some of the things I see the older guys doing.
“I’m trying to get a grasp on everything so I can play faster and know what I’m doing by training camp.”
So far so good after one week, though there’s still a lot of football to be played before the decision on who the starting tight end will be must be made.
Rookie Linebacker Devon Kennard Is Opening Some Eyes
It’s been a long time since Giants GM Jerry Reese has had a Day 3 draft pick, let alone a drafted linebacker, who’s opened some eyes the way that rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard has.
Thanks to the foot injury suffered by middle linebacker Jon Beason, Kennard has seen his training camp reps increase.
The Beason injury has pushed Jameel McClain from the strong side to the middle, thereby opening the gate for Kennard to get some valuable practice time on the outside.
“I think he is very smart and physical. I am excited about him,” McClain said of Kennard.
“I have seen a lot of good rookies, and he is definitely one of the most impressive young guys that I have seen maturity wise and professionalism. I gave him a lot of compliments in that one sentence. I usually don’t do that much.”
McClain said that Kennard’s ability to catch onto the teachings in the classroom have been particularly impressive.
“You know this isn’t college. We have more than five or six plays going in. There are about 40 or some odd plays or more. For him to be able to lock in and focus in and play the game at a fast enough speed, you have to be impressed with it, regardless of whether he was linebacker, defensive lineman or cornerback.”
Giants linebackers coach Jim Herrmann has also been impressed with the rookie out of USC and believes that if it came down to it, Kennard could handle the responsibilities that come with lining up at middle linebacker now.
“Pittsburgh, I think, started Jack Lambert right? He turned out pretty good,” Herrmann said. “So if (Kennard) can handle it, and get everyone lined up and understand the nuances and where he belongs, he’s a pretty thick kid, he can hit people, so that’s good.”
Kennard has not only shown that he has a nose for the football, but also made some eye-opening plays, his biggest one thus far coming on a special teams drill where he popped into cornerback Bennett Jackson.
That hit, which you can see in this video, came at the start of the Giants’ practice on Saturday and seemed to set the tone for the defense, energizing it.
Herrmann said he’s very excited to see what Kennard can do in the preseason games, which for the Giants begin on Sunday against the Bills in the Hall of Fame Game.
“We’ll find out a lot about him, but he played at USC, which is pretty good football, so he’ll probably have a pretty good idea (about what to do).”