New York Giants: Curtis Painter
But the Giants' first-team offense has looked so bad so far this preseason that coach Tom Coughlin says it shouldn't assume it's getting that final preseason game off. Basically, he's challenging his first-teamers to show something this week.
Recall that the reason Coughlin put then-co-starting running back Andre Brown in the preseason finale last year in New England was because he didn't think Brown had played well enough and he wanted to see more from him. Brown broke his leg in that game and missed the first half of the season as a result, but that doesn't mean Coughlin won't run guys out there if he doesn't think they've played well enough to start the season.
As he had Saturday night, Coughlin praised the effort his second-team and third-team players made to score 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to come back and win their preseason game against the Colts in Indianapolis. But there's no disguising the concern Coughlin feels about the way his starters performed en route to a 20-0 halftime deficit.
"Anytime you set up a schedule in the preseason, you expect to be at certain points along the way," Coughlin said. "So, certainly, it's disappointing not to be at least a little bit more advanced than we are."
The Giants hired a new offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, and have spent much of the offseason installing and learning a new offense. But it hasn't come together yet in practice or, obviously, in the games. Manning is 7-for-16 for 49 yards in the Giants' three preseason games and just 1-for-9 in the last two. It's entirely possible, with three weeks left until the start of the regular season, that the Giants' new offense will enter the season with more learning still to do.
"I don't know that there's any way to put it but that," Coughlin said. "The last few years, we've had what would have to be looked at as unproductive games in preseasons and we've still been able to come out and perform early on in regular seasons. But is it a concern? Yes it is."
In other news from Coughlin's day-after conference call with reporters:
- Rookie Weston Richburg saw more time with the first-team offensive line Saturday and remains a candidate to start at right guard, where Brandon Mosley has taken the bulk of the first-team reps since Chris Snee retired. Coughlin pointed out that Richburg has played right guard, center and left guard in these games, so I guess you have to say he's also a candidate to start at center ahead of J.D. Walton. "Just because five guys trot out there doesn't mean that's the starting unit," Coughlin said. "It's a work in progress and we're trying like heck to speed that up, but we have to make sure we're looking at all the possibilities."
- Ryan Nassib led the fourth-quarter comeback and could reclaim the No. 2 quarterback spot from Curtis Painter this week, though Coughlin also pointed out that the rally got started with Painter under center.
- Backup safety Cooper Taylor suffered a serious toe injury and could end up on injured reserve as a result. Coughlin said it was a sesamoid bone injury that would require "quite a bit of time" to heal.
- Cornerback Prince Amukamara was scheduled for an MRI on his injured groin and could have to miss some practice time. Unclear at this point whether the start of the regular season is at issue, but from what I understand the team is not overly concerned about Amukamara's injury.
- Backup tackle Charles Brown has a shoulder injury and could miss some time. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn hyperextended his elbow in the game, but Coughlin said Kuhn "for sure can deal with that."
1. Can the Giants get the offense going? The first-team offense has scored a touchdown in each of the first two games, but both have come from the running game. Eli Manning and the passing game could use a strong showing to prove to themselves and the outside world that the new offense is working. Starting left tackle Will Beatty, who missed the first two games as part of his rehab from a broken leg, is scheduled to start, which could help. But Manning could use a couple of quick ones to Victor Cruz to help pick up first downs and sustain a drive.
2. The defense up front: Giants coach Tom Coughlin made a point this week of saying he'd be watching the first-team run defense after the Pittsburgh Steelers ran the ball well against them last Saturday. There are questions about the defensive tackle rotation, as Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn are inexperienced, Cullen Jenkins has struggled and Mike Patterson has been out with a shoulder injury. The defensive line composition as a whole will be interesting to watch, as the Giants would like to change up looks involving ends Robert Ayers, Damontre Moore and even newcomer Israel Idonije, who's also a helper on special teams.
3. The backup quarterback competition: Curtis Painter takes over for Ryan Nassib as the No. 2 quarterback this week. Nassib has been a disappointment this preseason in spite of being handed every opportunity to seize the backup job for himself. Could they be demoting him to send a message? Or are they starting to feel they'll have to cut bait on their 2013 fourth-rounder and get Painter ready for the season? Nassib has a major problem with accuracy, and he'll have to show a lot in this game to get back into good graces and see his practice reps increase again next week.
- OK, so now I think the Giants' offense is just trolling us. There was a play Thursday when Eli Manning looked right, Rueben Randle cut up the field but Manning threw short and cornerback Zack Bowman intercepted the pass and ran it back into the end zone. Which is the exact same thing that happened in the Giants' loss to the Bears in Chicago last October -- right down to Bowman, who was playing corner for the Bears that night! That had to be staged, right? Like some kind of obscure Civil War battle re-enactment? Maybe they're just messing with us and they're going to be the 2013 Eagles offense when the curtain goes up next month. Think about it.
- Tom Coughlin said Curtis Painter would be the No. 2 quarterback behind Manning on Saturday night in Indianapolis, which is a change from the first two preseason games, in which Ryan Nassib was. And it's not a coincidence -- it's because Painter is playing better. Asked whether this was the plan all along or whether that's just where things stand right now, Coughlin said the latter.
- Wide receiver Victor Cruz had a strong practice, beating slot cornerback Walter Thurmond for one of the few times this camp and scoring on an Eli Manning pass up the seam.
- Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. continues to do more and more, and his hamstring is feeling better to an extent that he's able to be a bit less careful out there. He caught a pass from Nassib with Ross Weaver in coverage and fell to the ground with Weaver tumbling on top of him. He got up without issue and walked back to the sideline. Beckham won't play Saturday, but Coughlin said they believe he'll play in next week's preseason game against the Jets.
- The Giants are lining up fullback Henry Hynoski all over the field, and had him split out wide on one play in practice Thursday, though Coughlin said the idea of lining Hynoski up at the line is far fetched. "Up position, wing position, all over the backfield," Coughlin said. Hynoski's versatility could be important for a team struggling to find answers at tight end.
- Tight end Daniel Fells continues to miss practice with a knee injury. Return man Trindon Holliday continues to miss practice with a hamstring injury. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder) was back at practice Thursday.
- Coughlin, GM Jerry Reese and Eli Manning all took the ice bucket challenge for ALS after practice.
- Though they will continue to practice in the same place and at the same times next week as they have been for the past three, Thursday was the last official day of Giants "training camp." So no more practices open to the public. The team is off Friday and will travel to Indianapolis for Saturday night's preseason game against the Colts.
- Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. continues to make significant progress from the hamstring injury that has held him out of practice since the first day of camp. The team's first-round pick even took a couple of snaps Wednesday in 11-on-11 drills and caught a touchdown pass on one of them. Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't even rule out the possibility that Beckham could play in Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis, though I have to think that's a long shot and that next Friday against the Jets is more likely.
- Coughlin said left tackle Will Beatty and cornerback Trumaine McBride, who have been practicing but didn't play in the first two preseason games as part of the plan for their recoveries from offseason surgery, would play Saturday. He said to expect Beatty to play about as much as a starting offensive lineman would play in a first preseason game of the year. For comparison's sake, Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton played 20 snaps in the Hall of Fame Game, and right tackle Justin Pugh played 24.
- Cornerback Walter Thurmond continues to dazzle, and I have to think it will be a huge relief for Giants slot receiver Victor Cruz to go up against whoever the Detroit Lions are using as a nickel cornerback Sept. 8 in Detroit. Thurmond's highlight plays Wednesday included a pass breakup on which he had tight end Larry Donnell blanketed over the middle and a stop on running back Rashad Jennings when Jennings caught a pass in the flat.
- Other highlight plays: Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard knocking rookie running back Andre Williams to the ground in the backfield on a run play; Rueben Randle's acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in one-on-one goal-line drills; Rookie cornerback Bennett Jackson ripping the ball out of wide receiver Travis Harvey's hands at the end of a long pass play; Interceptions of Curtis Painter by Mark Herzlich and Chandler Fenner in early team drills.
- Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan was back at practice after sitting out Monday and Tuesday with a knee injury. New to the list of injured players sitting out practice was cornerback Zack Bowman (unclear what his injury was). Also sitting out were running back Peyton Hillis (ankle), tight end Xavier Grimble (hamstring), tight end Daniel Fells (knee), return man Trindon Holliday (hamstring) and defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder).
- Cruz, who had some knee issues in practice this week, seemed completely fine and appeared to do everything in Wednesday's relatively short practice.
- Though they will continue to practice here next week as they have been, Thursday marks the final official day of Giants training camp. That means Thursday's 1:20 pm practice will be the final practice of the year that is open to the public. So take off work and come out to say hi. Tell your boss I said it was okay.
- Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. participated in individual drills Monday. Beckham, the team’s first-round draft pick, hasn’t practiced since injuring a hamstring on July 22, the very first day of training camp. “They said he did all right, and maybe they can extend it a little bit tomorrow, I hope,” coach Tom Coughlin said. The highlight of Beckham's day was a one-handed catch on a pass from Eli Manning. “He’s out there running around, doing individual (drills), that’s all I saw,” Coughlin said. “Did he look fast? He probably wasn’t full speed today, but he did some things. I won’t be able to ascertain anything until he takes some team stuff.” Fellow wideout Victor Cruz (knee) was given a day off as a maintenance day, but Coughlin said Cruz will practice Tuesday.
- The injury report was a long one. It included wide receivers Jerrel Jernigan (knee) and Marcus Harris (hip) -- both are expected to return Tuesday as well. Also sitting out: fullback John Conner (concussion), tight ends Daniel Fells (knee) and Xavier Grimble (hamstring), running back Peyton Hillis (foot), wide receiver/kick returner Trindon Holliday (hamstring), cornerback Jayron Hosley (foot), defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder) amd linebacker Jon Beason (foot).
- Third-string quarterback Curtis Painter worked with the second team, while backup QB Ryan Nassib took snaps with the third team. Painter had been working with the 3s, and Nassib with the 2s, but Painter played extremely well Saturday against the Steelers. “Curtis certain did earn it, but I never put them in any kind of order for you and I won’t do it now, either,” Coughlin said. “They both have worked with the seconds, they both have worked with the threes and we will decide later in the week how we are going to play.”
- Wide receiver Corey Washington -- a long-shot at the start of camp, but with two touchdown catches in the team's first two preseason games -- had a phenomenal practice. Working with the starters, he had three consecutive catches during a 2-minute drill and made a jumping grab over cornerback Zack Bowman near the sideline. Fellow wideout Rueben Randle made an amazing one-handed 50-yard catch in the back of the end zone from Manning with Prince Amukamara and Stevie Brown draped all over him.
Painter found Washington in the back-corner of the end zone with just under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter Saturday night, for the game-winning points in the New York Giants' 20-16 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For two players fighting an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster, it was a play that could pay immense dividends.
Washington, the undrafted rookie free agent from Division II Newberry College, has now scored a touchdown in each of the Giants' two preseason games.
Last week he had a 73-yard TD catch and run against the Buffalo Bills. This time, on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Washington outjumped his defender and hauled the ball in for a score.
"The coach, he called a fly route and I saw that we had smaller corners on the outside," Washington said, "so I ran it and the corner was holding me so I kind of boxed him out and made a play on the ball."
Washington is using his height to his advantage -- at 6-foot-4, he is at least two inches taller than the 10 other wide receivers on the Giants' roster. Coach Tom Coughlin has sounded intrigued by Washington's size during training camp, and was complimentary of Washington -- who finished with three catches for 23 yards -- after the game, despite not being happy with the team's play in general.
"Corey Washington made a nice play over in the corner," Coughlin said.
The coach was also complimentary of Painter, the five-year veteran who is currently No. 3 on the Giants' quarterback depth chart. Ryan Nassib, the team's fourth-round draft pick in 2013, is being given every opportunity to win the backup QB job behind Eli Manning. Nassib gets many more snaps in practice, got much more playing time in the Giants' first preseason game against the Bills, and the same occurred against the Steelers.
Painter was more impressive Saturday night. Nassib wasn't bad, completing 12 of 21 passes for 81 yards, and standing tall in the pocket under duress at times. But Painter was a perfect 7-for-7 for 68 yards, capped off by the touchdown to Washington.
"Curtis played well," Coughlin said. "When Curtis came in, he moved the ball. It was an outstanding drive."
That was Painter's only drive, other than running out the clock at the very end, and he certainly made the most of it.
"You've just got to stay ready," Painter said. "As a backup, you never know when you're going to get your shot."
Painter and Washington still have plenty of work to do. The Giants traded up to draft Nassib a year ago, so they aren't going to give up on him easily. Washington is still listed as a fourth-stringer on the depth chart, behind Mario Manningham and Julian Talley, and alongside other players who have flashed in training camp, like Marcus Harris.
Luckily for them, we still have a long way to go, and three more preseason games to play.
"I'm just staying humble," Washington said. "It's football, it's fun to go out there and make plays and help the team get a win."
Even if it doesn't really count.
- Let's get the nightly interception rundown out of the way first. Zack Bowman intercepted Curtis Painter, Charles James intercepted Eli Manning and Bowman intercepted Ryan Nassib in the end zone. Chandler Fenner almost got a pick for the second night in a row, but Corey Washington turned into a defensive back and knocked it away from him at the last second. The secondary is ahead of the offense, is the basic point here.
- The star of the secondary is Walter Thurmond, though. He came on a corner blitz and got to Andre Williams in the backfield on one play. And while they love him as the nickel corner, Thurmond got a lot of work on the outside Thursday night as well, staying on the field with the first-team base defense while Prince Amukamara or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie took a break.
- Left guard Geoff Schwartz returned to practice, but his left knee is obviously bugging him and he didn't take many reps. Weston Richburg got most of the snaps at first-team left guard. Charles Brown took most of the first-team left tackle snaps, but not because of any fresh injury to Will Beatty. It's just that Beatty isn't playing Saturday and Brown is.
- I watched running back pass-catching drills. The most natural pass-catchers in the group are Rashad Jennings and fullback Henry Hynoski. Rookie Andre Williams seems to be doing a bit better job catching the ball in his hands (as opposed to against his body), but it's a work in progress.
- The tight ends still look bad catching the ball, other than Larry Donnell. Adrien Robinson had a bad drop. Kellen Davis caught a ball awkwardly near the sideline and stepped right out of bounds even though there was no one near him. Some of the players not in on that play groaned a bit.
- Marcus Harris made two nice catches, including one jumping at the goal line to corral a touchdown pass from Nassib.
- I'm always fascinated to see who stays after practice for extra work. Charles James, Preston Parker, Harris and Jayron Hosley stayed to work on punt returns a bit more. Cooper Taylor was off to the side with a blocking sled, presumably honing that punt-protection technique. Amukamara and Rodgers-Cromartie stayed late for the third night in a row so Amukamara could work on jumping for interceptions. And all three quarterbacks, including Manning, stuck around to practice taking shotgun snaps from all three centers.
- The Jets were playing a home preseason game across the parking lot at MetLife Stadium that kicked off about an hour and 20 minutes into Giants practice. During Giants practice, some (presumably Jets) fans kept driving by on Paterson Plank Road and hollering insults at the Giants. None were printable, sorry.
- The Giants are off Friday in advance of Saturday night's preseason game against the Steelers at MetLife Stadium.
- There seemed to be a lot more practice reps than usual for backup quarterbacks Ryan Nassib and Curtis Painter on Thursday, likely because those are the quarterbacks who'll get the most playing time in Sunday night's preseason opener in Canton, Ohio. Eli Manning was fine and worked with the first team, don't worry. But it seemed as though the guys more likely to play Sunday got on the field a bit more on Thursday.
- Nassib had some nice throws, including one to running back Kendall Gaskins up the left side with linebacker Devon Kennard in coverage, one that Corey Washington high-pointed on the right sideline and one on which Travis Harvey shook Prince Amukamara in the open field and got clear for a long gain. Painter had a ball tipped in the air and intercepted by Jordan Stanton. And the last play of practice was a Manning pass that Jacquian Williams batted into the air and Jameel McClain intercepted near the goal line.
- Tight ends continue to be everywhere. There was a play on which Daniel Fells was the receiver lined up wide left and Larry Donnell was in the backfield. Running back Peyton Hillis was the one who ended up with the ball on that play, but it's clear the Giants would like to use the tight end liberally, and in a wide variety of roles, in their new offense. Now they just need to find one they can consider a starter.
- Wide receiver Rueben Randle, who missed Tuesday's practice with a sore hamstring, was back practicing Thursday and made a nice touchdown catch from Manning in the back of the end zone. He and the tight ends (who are all 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7) seem to be the primary and logical red zone targets since the rest of the receiving corps lacks height. Another reason they want the tight ends to step up. Fells caught a touchdown pass from Manning in goal-line drills, and Victor Cruz dropped one on the very next play.
- Before he had to leave practice due to an illness, I thought left tackle Will Beatty was doing a good job dictating the action in his one-on-one matchups with Jason Pierre-Paul. Charles Brown got the bulk of the practice reps at left tackle, though. Beatty isn't likely to play Sunday, but he's done a good job so far in his recovery from a broken leg.
- The Giants are scheduled to practice from 1:20 pm to 3:30 pm ET Friday and have Saturday off as they travel to Canton for Sunday night's game.
- I know you guys want to know about tight ends, so we keep asking. As I wrote here, the initial "unofficial" depth chart listed Larry Donnell as the starter and Adrien Robinson as the No. 5 tight end. Robinson has not impressed coaches in the early going with his ability to catch the ball, and Donnell's was the only name coach Tom Coughlin mentioned when asked if anyone was standing out in the group so far. Coughlin said different guys do on different days, but he mentioned that Donnell had a strong practice Wednesday.
- The Giants cut practice short to get in a "recovery stretch" because the GPS monitors they're attaching to their players told them it would be a good day to do so. There's a renewed emphasis on injury prevention and overall health and wellness in this year's Giants camp. Candy and other sweet snacks have been removed from the players' cafeteria as well.
- The play of the day at practice was a long Curtis Painter pass that Corey Washington caught with one hand in double-coverage. It was a great play that got the few fans who were on hand fired up, but honestly, if Painter and Washington are in a regular-season game, a lot of things will have gone horribly wrong.
- The defensive star of the day for me was defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who batted down an Eli Manning pass and also stuffed a Rashad Jennings run play. Kiwanuka seemed to be getting into the backfield quickly all day. He said earlier in the day that his pass-rush responsibilities have increased this year due to the free-agent departure of Justin Tuck.
- No one who was worried about rookie running back Andre Williams' ability to catch the ball out of the backfield went home Thursday feeling any better about it. It's not just bad hands. Williams seems to pick up the ball late and doesn't get himself or his hands in position to catch it. They can use him as a goal-line back right away, and he does show more speed and shiftiness getting through the line than his reputation may indicate. But there are plenty of parts of his game that need work, as he himself has admitted.
- Coughlin said the players would practice in "uppers" (meaning shells and shoulder pads) on Friday and that the first full-pads practice would be Sunday after they come back from Saturday's off-day.
Starter: Eli Manning
Backups: Ryan Nassib, Curtis Painter
Giants likely to keep: 2
The contest here is for the backup spot. Nassib, the 2013 fourth-round pick, worked as the No. 2 in minicamp, likely because they already know what Painter is and Nassib needs to get reps in order for them to figure out whether he's ready to ascend to the backup role. The Giants would like Nassib to win the job, because if he doesn't, they'll end up either having to cut bait with one of last year's draft picks or have to carry three quarterbacks again as they did last year. There is a school of thought that Nassib is better suited to the West Coast-style of offense the Giants will play this year than the offense in which they operated last year and for the nine years before that. But Nassib hasn't even suited up for an NFL game. So before making him the Week 1 backup, the Giants are going to have to either see something impressive from him in preseason games or be prepared to take a major leap of faith.
As for Manning, he's nothing short of the key to the whole team. The Giants were non-contenders last year as Manning suffered through the worst season of his career, leading the league with his career-high 27 interceptions amid an offensive line meltdown and other offensive calamities. His offseason ankle surgery appears to have been a minor hiccup and didn't cost him much if any spring practice time. So at this point, it's all about results. Manning's ability to master the new offense under coordinator Ben McAdoo and deliver a much higher level of on-field performance than he did in 2013 will go a long way toward determining whether the Giants can be legitimate contenders for a playoff spot in 2014.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Let's assume, for the sake of this discussion, that middle linebacker Jon Beason does not make it back from his foot injury to play for the New York Giants in Week 1 in Detroit. If that is the case (as seems likely), then Jameel McClain is the front-runner to start at middle linebacker.
At this point, the starters on the outside would be Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams, but rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard impressed coaches in the spring program and could be in the mix to start on the strong side. What's interesting to me is that linebackers coach Eric Hermann had a lot to say Thursday about the improvement Williams has shown as a weakside linebacker in the Giants' base defense. They already love him on the weak side in their nickel package due to his speed and coverage ability. But if they like him there in the base as well, Williams might be ahead of Paysinger to start there even once Beason returns and McClain moves back to the strong side. So to answer your question, I'd expect to see McClain in the middle, Williams on the weak side and either Paysinger or, if he has a big camp, Kennard on the strong side in Week 1.
Giants coaches like his progress. Quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf on Thursday praised Nassib's intelligence and his ability to pick up the new system but said he's still got to work on his accuracy and his timing. Which is understandable, given that he's still a young quarterback who's never played in the league. It's clear they view him as the No. 2 right now behind Eli Manning -- or that they're at least giving him every chance to beat out Curtis Painter for that spot in camp. But no, if Manning got hurt, at this point the Giants would not have honest confidence in Nassib or anyone else who might replace him.
Manning costs the Giants 17 percent of their salary cap. He's the player around whom their team is built. If they don't have him, they simply won't be a remotely competitive team. Even if Nassib comes quickly in camp and becomes a viable No. 2, there's no chance that, in 2014, he offers anything close to what Manning offers as a starting NFL quarterback. All the Giants want from Nassib is continued growth and development, and their hope is that he's a decent backup/emergency option this year and maybe more down the road.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I agree that the Giants' defensive line is questionable behind the starters, and that there's a chance it could be a bad defensive line. They desperately need Jason Pierre-Paul to stay healthy and dominate from the defensive end position, because honestly they're not going to get much pass rush from the other side at this point. Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers are what they are, and they're not the kinds of defensive ends who are going to whip tackles regularly and pile up sacks. And Damontre Moore is still developing.
On the inside, you mention Cullen Jenkins, and I agree he's key because he's the one guy in there who's not a question mark. Coaches were raving this week about the development defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn have shown, and if so then that's a positive thing for them and for the Giants. But there's no way to know until they can practice in pads and play against other teams what they really have in there. To me, the Giants are hoping a lot of people -- namely, Hankins, Kuhn, Moore, Ayers and Kiwanuka -- outperform anything they've yet shown in the league in order to make them strong on the defensive line. It's not nuts to think one or two of them will, but... all of them?
@DanGrazianoESPN: The first-team offensive line in minicamp was, left to right: Charles Brown, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Brandon Mosley, Justin Pugh. Which, no, is not good. They believe Chris Snee could play right guard if he had to right now, but he's working his way back from elbow and hip surgeries and they're taking it slowly with him. And they're also hoping Will Beatty is healthy enough to play left tackle in training camp ahead of Brown, who was signed as a backup. Rookie Weston Richburg is in a straight-up competition with Walton for the starting center spot. So it's possible that by Week 1 it's Beatty/Schwartz/Richburg/Snee/Pugh, which would look a lot better than what they ran out there this week. But as of now, that's your starting five.
Mosley's an interesting case. They like him and think his development has been hurt by injuries. But the fact that Snee and John Jerry (knee surgery) haven't been able to get on the field helped Mosley get a lot of first-team reps this spring. And that can only help him if they need to turn to him to play a starting role in camp, in the preseason or in the season.
Thanks for all of your questions. Enjoy the first weekend of summer.
The Giants drafted Nassib in the fourth round in 2013 and, as planned, made his rookie season a redshirt one, leaving him inactive for all 16 games while Curtis Painter served as Manning's backup. Now, though, the Giants would like Nassib to progress this offseason and fight off Painter and newly signed Josh Freeman for the No. 2 quarterback spot.
"That's the goal right now, to secure that backup spot," Nassib said Tuesday. "We have a great competition going on in our room. We have so many great guys in there. We're all learning. We're all grinding right now, helping each other."
Nassib will get his reps this spring. Manning is recovering from ankle surgery and Painter is recovering from knee surgery. Manning has been on the field a bit doing some throwing, but mainly the quarterback reps right now are going to Nassib and Freeman. And the change in offensive coordinator from Kevin Gilbride to Ben McAdoo could work in Nassib's favor, since McAdoo's offense is similar to the West Coast style offense Nassib ran at Syracuse.
"There's some carryover from college to Coach McAdoo's system," Nassib said. "It's something I've done in the past and kind of got away from last year. Now that we're back in, the lessons I've learned in the past are kind of becoming relevant again. It's been nice to have that background now when I'm trying to learn something new. Getting the ball out quick, having a good running game and playing fast, which is something I think I do pretty well and that I fit pretty well into."
The Giants obviously aren't designing an offense around Nassib, since their hope is that he doesn't play a single snap for them this season. Manning hasn't missed a game since his rookie season in 2004, and the Giants expect him to remain their durable, reliable starter. But the extent to which Nassib can develop in a backup role could be helped by his relative fit and familiarity in the new system.
If Nassib does not win the backup job, the Giants will have to decide whether to keep three quarterbacks again and continue Nassib's development, or whether to cut the cord and move on. But that decision is a long way down the road.
The Year 2 plan for Nassib is a bit different.
There is competition, to be sure. Last year's backup quarterback, Curtis Painter, is still on the roster (albeit recovering from knee surgery). Because of Manning's recent ankle surgery, the Giants signed former Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, whose experience obviously makes him a strong candidate for that No. 2 quarterback spot. And after Painter hurt his knee, the Giants also signed former Titans backup Rusty Smith. So even with Manning (and Painter, potentially) out of spring workouts, there will be competition for snaps this offseason. And the Giants will be watching with an open mind about the identity of Manning's 2014 backup.
"There's competition at the No. 2 spot," Reese said. "Obviously, Eli has the ankle, so we wanted to have more competition in the spring and we think Josh is a talented player. We like Nassib. He hasn't really had a chance to do a lot for us, so we're going to take a real good look at him in the spring, but we think he's still a good player. He hasn't had a chance to really play yet, so he's going to get a lot of work this spring, and obviously he'll get a lot of work in the preseason, along with Curtis Painter and Josh Freeman."
How do we handicap Nassib's chances, having not seen him play? Some who evaluated quarterbacks prior to last year's draft believed Nassib's best fit would be in a West Coast-style offense, and new Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo appears like to run something that fits that description. If that's the case, maybe there's reason to like Nassib's chances of moving up the depth chart into a No. 2 quarterback role.
On the other hand, Freeman's presence could make that tougher. Freeman's experience and physical ability are likely to help him look very good on the practice field this spring and summer. And if he can answer some of the questions about the extent to which he can be an asset in the meeting rooms as a backup, he likely would be considered the front-runner. It's not as though Nassib can claim familiarity with the Giants' offensive system, since he's learning it along with Freeman and everyone else.
And please forget the idea that the Giants might be able to trade Nassib. I have no idea who came up with this, but how in the world can he possibly have any trade value right now? He was the No. 110 pick in the draft a year ago and hasn't played a competitive football game since clobbering Geno Smith and West Virginia in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl. Sure, if some team is willing to offer a pick better than 110 in this year's draft, the Giants would ship him off. I just can't imagine how a team could convince itself that this particular asset has appreciated over the course of the past calendar year.
No, this is about patience -- a clearly outdated concept when it comes to the NFL and especially quarterbacks. The Giants picked Nassib in the fourth round in April 2013 thinking that maybe he could develop into a useful quarterback. May 2014 is too soon to know whether they were right, and they knew it would be. They're hoping he gives them a little bit more information over the next couple of months so they can figure out whether it's worth it to spend more time on him. If so, great. If not, pfff. It was a fourth-round pick. If Nassib played any other position, we simply wouldn't be writing or reading about him right now.
The list of quarterbacks who can do that now reads as follows:
- Curtis Painter, their 2013 backup, who finished the shutout losses to Carolina and Seattle and played the second half of the Week 17 victory over Washington after Manning got hurt.
- Ryan Nassib, the 2013 fourth-round pick who was inactive for all 16 games in what would otherwise have been his rookie season.
- Josh Freeman, the 2009 first-round pick of the Buccaneers whose one start for the Vikings in 2013 was on "Monday Night Football" against the Giants was one of the worst games an NFL quarterback has ever played.
- Smith, a former Florida Atlantic standout who was taken in the sixth round of the 2010 draft by the Titans and played three regular-season games (one start) in four seasons in Tennessee.
Not exactly a murderer's row there, but such is the state of quarterback in the NFL in 2014. When presented with a list of substandard options, it's not a bad idea to sign a bunch of them and play the percentages. None of these guys costs the Giants much of anything to have on their roster this spring and summer. They will need to get their other offensive players as many reps as possible in the new offense, so the ability to run drills simultaneously with as many quarterbacks as possible is appealing. And who knows? If Freeman or Smith shows enough, it's possible that one of the newcomers could overtake one or both of the returnees for a regular-season roster spot as a backup quarterback.
So while yes, it seems silly to keep adding random quarterbacks willy-nilly off the street, there are reasons for the Giants to be doing it and, frankly, few reasons not to. I promise they won't still have five quarterbacks on the roster when they open the season in Detroit on Sept. 8. You can hold me to that.
UPDATE: Later in the day Monday, the Giants announced that Painter had arthroscopic right knee surgery Friday and would need about four weeks to recover. This almost certainly led to the Smith signing, as Painter may not be available for the start of OTAs either.