New York Giants: devon kennard

Practice report: Jon Beason sits out

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Linebacker Jon Beason surprisingly sat out New York Giants practice Thursday due to continued soreness in his foot.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he didn't know whether Beason would practice Friday. He said he expected Beason to play in Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals, but since he didn't expect him to miss practice Thursday, it's obviously possible something could happen to change the prognosis.

Beason was seen before practice trying out different shoes. He's struggled to find the right footwear to help relieve the pain from the foot fracture he suffered in an OTA practice in June. Beason missed all of training camp and all five preseason games while rehabbing the injury but managed to start and play a decent amount of Monday's regular-season opener.

If Beason can't go Sunday, Jameel McClain likely would take over as middle linebacker. But what complicates the situation is that rookie linebacker Devon Kennard is also out with a hamstring injury and sounds unlikely to be ready to play Sunday. He'd be McClain's backup in the middle and likely the starter on the strong side if McClain had to move into the middle.

Of course, since the Cardinals run so many four- and five-wide receiver sets on offense, the Giants are likely to be in nickel and dime defenses much of the afternoon and may not need three linebackers on the field.

Punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) missed another practice but seems optimistic that he'll be ready to punt come Sunday.

Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) did his usual running on a side field and did not practice with the team. His debut continues to be on hold.

Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (hip) returned to practice after missing it Wednesday. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (ankle) worked on the side.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul came out of Monday night's game briefly with a neck/shoulder injury, but he returned and finished the game. The Giants had some concern that the problem might continue into this week, but so far it has not. Pierre-Paul practiced with the team in full Wednesday and said afterwards that he had no limitations.

Pierre-Paul
"I feel good," Pierre-Paul said. "I'll be out there. Full go."

Not participating in practice were wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), offensive lineman James Brewer (back), defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (ankle), punter Steve Weatherford (ankle), linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (hip).

The Weatherford, Kennard and Jenkins injuries all happened in Monday's game. Jenkins said he expects to play Sunday but couldn't be sure he'd practice Thursday. If he can't go Sunday, that would leave the Giants very thin at defensive tackle assuming Kuhn is still out.

Kennard said he pulled his right hamstring on the first defensive snap of the game (and of his NFL career) when he caught his cleat on the turf. He has no idea when they'll let him practice.

Weatherford got good news on his sprained ankle. He's got some torn ligaments but won't need surgery, and he's not ruling out the chance he can be on the field Sunday.

Beckham fielded some punts at the beginning of practice, which he didn't do last week, but he didn't run with them and continued to work off to the side while the team practiced.

Practice report: More O-line shuffling

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For all of the very legitimate concern over the condition of Odell Beckham Jr.'s hamstring, the more pressing matter for the New York Giants with the season coming up quickly now is the state of the offensive line. The regular season begins in less than three weeks, and the Giants are still searching for the right starting-five combination of offensive linemen.

What's worse, the preseason has given them some reason to question whether they really are deeper on the line than they were during last season's meltdown.

The first-team line for Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis was Will Beatty at left tackle, Geoff Schwartz at left guard, J.D. Walton at center, Brandon Mosley at right guard and Justin Pugh at right tackle. That's what it's been in practice since training camp started, and I think the Giants' ideal plan would be to feel good enough about that line to run it out there Week 1 in Detroit.

Problem is, Mosley has been inconsistent, Schwartz struggled a bit Saturday and Beatty's still recovering from (A) a broken leg and (B) a poor season, so they can't know what they have with him yet. He still needs to take practice reps off, and he did again Tuesday.

Now, the fill-in for Beatty earlier in camp was veteran Charles Brown, but he's got a shoulder injury now and was playing poorly even when healthy. With backup tackle James Brewer also hurt, the Giants tried something interesting Tuesday when Beatty had to come off the field. They moved Pugh from right tackle to left tackle, kicked Mosley out to right tackle and put rookie second-round pick Weston Richburg at right guard.

"They're all playing pretty much everywhere," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "You always attempt to be creative and flexible."

The goal is to find the best combination of five and let it play and jell together. But it seems clear at this point that the Giants don't feel they've done that yet. They could elevate Richburg, who's played both guard spots and center this camp, to starting guard in place of Mosley and put him and Schwartz on either side, really. If they ended up having to move Pugh to left tackle, they could play Schwartz at right tackle, where he has some experience, and keep Mosley and Richburg as the guards. Richburg could yet overtake Walton at center, which is the position he played in college.

What's disappointing, after a year in which they scrambled for depth on the line, is the backup situation. Brown was terrible at left tackle, and John Jerry has been a non-factor so far at guard. These were the veterans the Giants signed with the hope that they'd have more experience behind the starters this year than they did last year. Brewer hasn't developed and is on the roster bubble. Promising guard/center Eric Herman is suspended for the first four games of the season for a drug violation. Injuries to starters on the offensive line have a chance to put the Giants right back where they were when it all fell apart early last season. And in case you don't remember, that wasn't good.

Some other thoughts from Tuesday's practice:
  • This was a "cards" day, with time spent in preparation for Friday's preseason opponent, the Jets, specifically. So for much of practice, for example, the Giants' offense was running Jets plays. Eli Manning in the pistol, etc. And there were times when it was the defense's job to simulate Rex Ryan's exotic blitz schemes. This is the one preseason game for which the Giants devise a game plan, and it'll be interesting to see whether that helps the first-team offense look better.
  • Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard managed to tip and pick off a Manning pass in 7-on-7 drills while the defense was in a Jets-specific look. He's a fun player to watch in practice, though the special-teams coaches continue to work with him on technique on the coverage teams.
  • The Giants have tried the past couple of days to get Mario Manningham more looks on the outside at wide receiver to evaluate him and his balky knee. He does not seem to be performing at a high level. You wonder whether they will start using Victor Cruz outside more if they're not going to have Beckham to start the season, or whether they'll leave Cruz in the slot and use someone like Marcus Harris or Corey Washington on the outside.

Observation Deck: New York Giants

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
10:35
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Giants still have three weeks to practice before their regular-season opener on Sept. 8 in Detroit. Saturday's improbable 27-26 exhibition victory over the Indianapolis Colts was a preseason game, its results utterly devoid of meaning and relevance to the larger picture. It is important that you read everything I'm about to write with that in mind.

Because, my goodness, does the Giants' first team look horrible right now. Eli Manning and the offense generated 45 yards on 23 snaps. Manning was 1-for-7 passing. They averaged 3.2 yards per carry as a team in the first half, and with Curtis Painter under center in the second half they showed no improvement.

Painter did have a fourth-quarter touchdown pass before giving way to Ryan Nassib, who led the furious rally. Nassib passed for 158 yards and the winning touchdown, a 4-yarder to Corey Washington.

The Giants said coming into this game that they wanted to have some success moving the ball with their first-team offense. By no means can they claim they did.

Here are some other thoughts on the Giants' third preseason game:
  • The Giants didn't make it through the game especially healthy, either. Cornerback Prince Amukamara (groin), defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (elbow), safety Cooper Taylor (toe) and tackle Charles Brown (shoulder) all left the game with injuries and did not return. Left tackle Will Beatty and cornerback Trumaine McBride did make their 2014 preseason debuts after sitting out the first two games while rehabbing from offseason surgeries.
  • Penalties were an issue again. The Giants were officially called for six of them for a total of 45 yards in the first half, and that doesn't count a Walter Thurmond defensive holding penalty that was declined because the play resulted in a touchdown or a Quintin Demps defensive holding that was offset by Hakeem Nicks' hilarious taunting penalty. It's a league-wide issue from which the Giants have been far from exempt so far.
  • Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard definitely flashed. They're using him on blitzes, which is something the Giants haven't done with their linebackers much in recent years and likely reveals an increased confidence in the linebacking corps as well as in Kennard himself. He appears to have some speed to go with his smarts.
  • Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka continues to have a strong preseason and was able to get pressure on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck a couple of times in the first quarter.
  • Victor Cruz finally got a deep ball and caught it, but he fumbled at the end of the play and the Colts recovered. The Giants were saved, however, by an illegal contact penalty by the Colts that negated the play. That came one play after a Manning interception was called back due to illegal contact by the Colts. Manning tried going downfield to Jerrel Jernigan a short time later, but while Jernigan appeared to have beaten his man, he wasn't able to stay ahead of him, and the pass was broken up.
  • Larry Donnell was the only tight end targeted at all in the first half, and he only got one target. You start to wonder if the plan to involve the tight end in the passing game is being rethought due to the obvious personnel deficiencies at that position.

Giants Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • 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.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Never let it be said that I'm not here to serve the people. Every day of training camp, the New York Giants' media relations staff asks us for lists of players we'd like to speak to, and then they work on bringing those players out to us for interviews. Wednesday, I was struggling for ideas and therefore struggling to decide which players to request, and as this was happening I got this from Twitter follower Kevin Oakes:


So I asked to talk to some linebackers, and I got some decent stuff.

With starting middle linebacker Jon Beason still working his way back from a foot injury suffered in the spring, the most likely Week 1 starting lineup for the Giants at linebacker is Jameel McClain in the middle, Jacquian Williams on the weak side and rookie Devon Kennard on the strong side. Spencer Paysinger could overtake Williams on the weak side, but after years of using Williams as a weakside backer in nickel situations, the Giants' coaches now say they're ready to trust him on all three downs. Once Beason returns, the most likely result is that McClain moves back to the strong side, but it's not out of the question to think Kennard could hold him off. The rookie has been impressive.

So here are some thoughts from and/or about the three men likely to be the Giants' starting linebackers on Monday, Sept. 8 in Detroit.

Jacquian Williams

It seems like a long time ago that Williams was one of the heroes of the Giants' NFC Championship Game victory over the 49ers in San Francisco, stripping the ball from return man Kyle Williams and setting up the game-winning possession in overtime. He missed six games the following season to injury and was a rotational player for the Giants in 2013. But he says he thinks back on that 2011-12 postseason for inspiration.

[+] EnlargeSean McGrath
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaJacquian Williams seems ready to take on more responsibility in his fourth season.
"I remember that Super Bowl," Jacquian Williams said Wednesday. "I'm a rookie, and there's two minutes left. Two minutes left! It was a big deal. And I kind of was still trying to find myself as a rookie. You know, it's the Super Bowl. Big time. And (linebackers coach Jim Hermann) says, 'Jacquian! Jacquian! Go out there!' And I'm looking like, 'Huh?' And he's like, 'Go out there!' And that there was a big moment for me as far as knowing I definitely belong here. Even though I had had my flashes and everything throughout the year as a rookie, that was a turning point."

It has taken a while to go from fun, useful rookie to NFL starter, but Williams believes he's completed the journey and he knows what the difference is between now and then.

"Trust," Williams said. "Trust from the team, and not only the coaches, but the players. My teammates are trusting me to be in that role. They speak up for me more at times. And overall, my confidence. My personal confidence for the game, for the position. And experience."

Beason said he thinks Williams and Paysinger both have made big leaps from last season to this season.

"I really feel they're ready to contribute and take that big step to where they can be dominant linebackers in this league," Beason said. "Because they have all the intangibles, and they have the experience now, which is the most important thing. You can't expect a guy to go out there in his first couple of games starting, ever, and kill it. But last year they both made splash plays, and I think this year they're ready to be consistent."

Devon Kennard

The 174th overall pick of this year's draft -- one of two fifth-rounders the Giants had this year -- Kennard didn't seem likely to be a big-splash guy this summer. But goodness, has he been the talk of the defense since OTAs.

[+] EnlargeDevon Kennard
Julie Jacobson/AP PhotoThe coaching turmoil at USC might have been a blessing in disguise for Devon Kennard.
"Great rookie. Very polished, more so than anything," Beason said. "Not just his physical attributes, but the way he prepares. As a rookie, that's kind of unheard of. You don't really see a guy come in and put the time in making calls and doing those little things. Most guys, it takes them a long time. But he's polished, and he's going to help us out a lot this year, Kennard."

Beason said he thinks Kennard benefited from all of the coaching staff turnover and turmoil that happened during his time at USC. Recruited by Pete Carroll, he played most of his USC career for Lane Kiffin after Carroll left for the Seahawks, then had three different head coaches last year after the Kiffin thing fell apart and Ed Orgeron resigned before the bowl game because he didn't get the full-time job replacing him.

"I moved around a lot," Kennard said.

He has been a standup outside linebacker, a standup inside linebacker, a pass-rusher ... you name it. And being an overall student of defense has helped him get rise quickly since the draft.

"I ask a lot of questions, and I spend a lot of time in my playbook," Kennard said. "I try to understand as much as I can, and as more and more goes in, I try to keep it organized in my mind and constantly go over things so I can play as fast as I can when it's time to practice and play in games. It's a work in progress, but I'm working every day."

At this point, if something happened to McClain before Beason returned, Kennard would be the next guy they put in at middle linebacker. They already trust him with the on-field organizational responsibilities associated with that position.

Jameel McClain

"Jameel is a proven vet, very vocal, and he's going to help us out big time, especially at that Mike position, getting guys lined up," Beason said.

They didn't bring McClain out to talk to me, so that's about all I have on him. But his presence on the roster is a sign that the Giants have changed the way they look at this position. They went for cheap solutions for years. Williams, Paysinger and Mark Herzlich, a special-teams ace and backup linebacker, were all rookies in that same 2011 season. Of the three, Williams was the only one who was drafted, and they got him in the sixth round.

But after Beason took over as a leader on defense at a critical time last season, the Giants reconsidered their view of the value of spending resources on linebackers. They re-signed Beason, drafted Kennard and signed McClain, who provides a veteran presence they need on the field as long as Beason is on the shelf.

This position group might not be a clear strength of the team the way cornerback is. But gone are the days it stands out as a clear and damaging weakness (the way, say, tight end is). If nothing else, this year's Giants linebacker group is interesting, and offers reason to hope it might be fun.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Standing on the sidelines and watching practice while healing from a foot injury has been an eye-opening experience for Jon Beason. The New York Giants' middle linebacker said he's gained a greater appreciation of his coaches' perspective.

Beason
"I see how coaches can get frustrated, because you're always right," Beason said. "You've got that great vantage point. You're not tired. You have the script. You get the chance to kind of think about the play longer. So that part of it has opened my eyes, and I get where they come from, their frustration when we don't do things right."

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said last week that Beason has been in his ear all throughout training camp with opinions and suggestions, and that it's been a help. It's about all Beason can do right now. He broke his foot during OTAs and spends time early in practice running by himself on a back field. He tracks his progress day by day while still hoping he can be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener in Detroit.

"You try to get out there and tax it a little bit, see how it feels, and then everything is based on gauging it the next day," Beason said. "Is it really sore? Is it just a little bit sore? And then if you can have consistent days, then you know you're kind of building up a tolerance. So that's usually the process in any rehab. Toes are a little iffy, because it doesn't take much pain to have irritated feet, makes it hard to change direction, especially as a defensive player where you have to do a lot of reacting."

Beason said earlier in camp that he hoped to play in at least one of the Giants' preseason games. But there's no way he'll be ready for Saturday night's game in Indianapolis, and at this point it would be pretty surprising if he were ready to play the Aug. 22 game against the Jets. That would leave only one more preseason game -- Aug. 28 against the Patriots -- for Beason to fulfill that goal. But he's staying patient.

"It's coming along," Beason said. "We still have time. I'm just trying to listen to the staff, who I trust, and trying to listen to my body. But we are playing on Monday night (in the season opener) and it's still a little over three weeks before the game, so a lot can happen between now and then."

Jameel McClain has been manning the middle linebacker spot in Beason's absence, with rookie Devon Kennard playing the strongside linebacker spot that had been slated for McClain.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jon Beason is still working his way back from a broken foot and unable to practice, but he's still a major presence at New York Giants training camp practices. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell says Beason is everywhere.

"He is present," Fewell said before Thursday's practice. "He is listening to every call. He's like a microphone in my ear all the time. He's in my ear and I'm in his ear. I hear things on the field, calls on the field, and I go to him and say, 'I wish we could change that. How can we make this better?' So we're communicating all the time."

[+] EnlargeSean McGrath
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaJacquian Williams looks healthy and poised for a breakout season after injuries slowed him the past two seasons.
Beason's arrival by trade from Carolina last season completely altered the way the Giants viewed their linebacker situation. After basically neglecting it for years, Beason's impact as a leader and a middle linebacker convinced them to invest in the position this offseason, and re-signing Beason was a top priority. They also brought in veteran Jameel McClain (who's taking Beason's spot in the middle while Beason heals) and spent a fifth-round pick on USC's Devon Kennard. Add that to holdovers Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger, and linebacker has gone from a position no one around here wanted to talk about to a reason for optimism.

"I think we look good on paper because I think we're stronger at linebacker than we've been in the past," Fewell said. "Especially if Jon Beason returns, but I still like the 'backers that we have. I like Jameel McClain. I like Jacquian Williams. Devon Kennard, he's been a very pleasant surprise for us. Some of our young players, the Spencer Adkins kid has performed well. So we've strengthened ourselves there."

Beason has been doing more running on a side field during practice the last couple of nights, and he believes he's on track to return by Week 1. Assuming he does, he mans the middle with either McClain or rookie Kennard on the strong side. And Williams, who in the past has been a weakside linebacker in the nickel defense only because of his coverage skills, is now projected as the weakside linebacker in the base defense as well.

"I've worked hard, trained hard, studied hard, and the opportunity as a professional was there, so it's for me to take advantage of it," Williams said. "The goal is to be an every-down linebacker. I belong there, I worked for it, and it's my time."

Williams was a star for the Giants on special teams and in coverage as a linebacker on passing downs during their victory over the 49ers in the NFC championship game three seasons ago. That was his rookie season, and health issues have held him back over the past two. But he says he's healthy now, and his speed and coverage ability should allow the Giants to keep their defensive backs in their regular roles more reliably.

"I think Jacquian Williams has made great strides since his rookie year, and he's performed like he's a three-down player thus far in this camp," Fewell said. "His run fits and his confidence in his coverage ability, his knowledge of his assignments, executing his assignments with speed, coming back with feedback, knowing the other position, saying 'I knew he was supposed to be here and this was what I did,' being able to have a good football conversation about what happened on that particular play."

Such advancements by Williams have taken time, but they're a huge boost. As is the surprising performance of fifth-round pick Kennard out of USC.

"I would say he's exceeded my expectations from this standpoint," Fewell said. "Young guy who played a number of different positions at SC. Came in very mature, extremely football-smart and very poised as a young rookie. We really don't find that a whole lot. So yes, he exceeded my expectations."

Kennard could push McClain for the starting strongside job once Beason returns, or he could serve as a valuable backup at a couple of spots. It has been a long time since the Giants have felt they had depth and quality at linebacker, but they have reason to feel that way going into 2014.
CANTON, Ohio -- Oh, hello. You didn't think I'd come all the way out here for Michael Strahan's Hall of Fame induction and forget to answer those #nygmail questions on Twitter, did you?

@DanGrazianoESPN: Yeah, I think John Jerry and rookie Weston Richburg are both capable of winning that starting right guard spot to replace the retired Chris Snee. But as of now, the front-runner is Brandon Mosley, who's been taking the large majority of the first-team snaps at that position while Jerry works his way back from a knee injury and Richburg also plays center and goes through the typical and expected rookie development period. Mosley's a big, strong guy out of Auburn who was a fourth-round pick by the Giants in 2012 and is in his third year in their system. They would love it if he won the job, because developing their own players into starting roles is the way they like to build their roster, and they've had a tough time doing that in recent years.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Obviously, assuming David Wilson doesn't come back and play following his latest neck injury, Williams and anyone else who was behind Wilson on the running back depth chart (Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox, even Kendall Gaskins) move up. Williams is a fourth-round rookie out of Boston College, and while he was a dominant player in the ACC last year, the Giants aren't going to rush him into action if he's not ready. They think he might be able to help as a goal-line back right away. But they also feel they can use Hillis or starter Rashad Jennings in that role if Williams is not ready. As for regular snaps behind Jennings, I would think Hillis and maybe even Cox are ahead of Williams at this point because they were on the team last year and have experience with the protection schemes. Williams is a talent, but he's a rookie with a lot to learn. They'd like to see him pick up the blitz and catch the ball more reliably before they start using him with regularity in games.

@DanGrazianoESPN: The first thing rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has to do is get on the field. The Giants' first-round draft pick injured his hamstring in the first practice of training camp on July 22 and has not practiced since. He also missed significant portions of the spring program, including the minicamp, with hamstring injuries. The more time he misses, the further behind he falls in his development, and that's tough, because the Giants did view him as a rookie who might be able to contribute right away. In their ideal scenario, Beckham would play the "X" receiver spot. That's the split end, or the receiver who's tethered to the line of scrimmage and doesn't motion. They believe he's capable of beating press coverage with his speed and getting downfield quickly, either allowing them to stretch the field with the vertical passing game or, more likely in the new scheme, help open things up closer to the line of scrimmage for Victor Cruz and the tight ends. Without Beckham, the offense can't operate the way it ideally wants to operate, because they don't have anyone to replace him who can run as fast as he can. So they do want him back, and soon, and if he can get back soon then I see him playing a major role.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Devon Kennard is the Giants' fifth-round pick out of USC, and he's received a fair bit of attention this spring and summer for his pleasantly surprising ability to master the defense quickly. They believe they could move him to the middle linebacker spot if Jameel McClain (who's filling in there for an injured Jon Beason) were to get injured. And in the meantime, Kennard projects to start at the strongside linebacker position with McClain in the middle. When Beason gets healthy, the likely plan is for McClain to move to the strong side and Kennard to back up at a couple of spots. But it's not out of the question that, depending on the way Kennard and McClain both play in the interim, Kennard could claim the spot for his own and send McClain to a backup role. He's certainly got the opportunity, and to this point he's doing well with it.



Thanks for the questions. Tweet at me Saturday night while I'm watching the Hall of Fame ceremony.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jon Beason can't practice with his New York Giants teammates right now because he is still working his way back from the broken foot he suffered in organized team activities. The middle linebacker, whose re-signing was such a high offseason priority, said Friday that he has been running on an underwater treadmill and trying to work out the parts of his body he can while letting the foot heal.

Beason
At the time of the injury, doctors gave Beason a recovery timetable that could have him back for the Sept. 8 opener in Detroit but doesn't guarantee that. Friday, Beason was asked how difficult it would be to play in the regular season without first playing in any preseason games.

"Unfortunately, I've done it before," said Beason, who has struggled with injuries throughout his career. "And I hate it, because you want to be in there getting those live reps with the guys. Preseason games, you don't put much stock in them, but you need them to get ready. The one thing you can't simulate, even out here in practice, is tackling -- live tackling to the ground."

For that reason, Beason hopes his foot will progress to the point of allowing him to play in at least one of the Giants' five preseason games.

"I would hope so," Beason said. "We want to be smart about it, and obviously I'm going to do what they tell me. But I hope to get in a game in the preseason and get some reps. I like to think I'm a little bit superhuman and I heal a little faster, but they gave me a timetable and I've got to stick with that."

In the meantime, veteran Jameel McClain has taken over for Beason in the middle and rookie Devon Kennard has moved into McClain's spot at strongside linebacker.

Photos from training camp: Day 3

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
5:45
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Here are some photo highlights from Thursday's practice at New York Giants training camp in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Victor CruzAP Photo/Seth WenigVictor Cruz makes it into the end zone.
Devon KennardAP Photo/Seth WenigOutside linebacker Devon Kennard knocks down a pass meant for tight end Larry Donnell.
New York GiantsAP Photo/Seth WenigIt wouldn't be training camp without a scuffle or two as the temperature and tension rise.

Photos from training camp: Day 2

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
9:00
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Here are some photo highlights from Wednesday's practice at New York Giants training camp in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Dominique Rodgers-CromartieAP Photo/Seth WenigCornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie practicing some momentum-stopping interceptions.
Devon KennardAP Photo/Seth WenigRookie linebacker Devon Kennard looks determined to make it happen.
Prince AmukamaraAP Photo/Seth WenigCornerback Prince Amukamara getting in a little pick practice.

[+] EnlargeDevon Kennard
Julie Jacobson/AP PhotoThe Giants have seen great things out of rookie LB Devon Kennard through offseason team activities.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants are desperate for one of their middle-round or late-round draft picks to turn out to be a helper. It's been way too long since that happened for them. But while it's still incredibly early, what they've seen so far from 2014 fifth-round pick Devon Kennard has them pretty excited.

The former USC linebacker has been working at the strongside linebacker position in early training camp practices, but he got some work at the vital middle linebacker spot in spring practices and showed an ability to rapidly and effectively pick up the responsibilities that go along with that position. With starting middle linebacker Jon Beason out, Kennard is likely the next option for that position behind veteran Jameel McClain. And after McClain was carted off the field with a foot injury Tuesday, the contingency plan was to use Kennard in the middle Wednesday. And they didn't expect the fact that he's a rookie to hold him back.

"Not at all if he can do it," linebackers coach Jim Hermann said before Wednesday's practice. "If he can handle it and get everyone lined up and understand the nuances and where he belongs, sure. He's a pretty thick kid, he can hit people, so that's good."

Kennard may be a "thick kid" physically, but he's a sharp one mentally, and that's where he's stood out in this embryonic portion of his career. He embraces the idea of playing the on-field leader role, knowing everyone's assignments and helping make sure they're carried out. And he's proud his coaches view him as such a quick study.

"I think they're definitely happy with how fast I've picked things up, but it's still a long way to go," Kennard said. "I still have a lot of things to correct from yesterday and I'm still taking steps every day to improve and to make sure I know what I need to do to keep playing at the level they expect of me."

Thing about it is, the Giants don't tend to expect much from their rookies early. If Kennard can be a major contributor on defense this year, that would be a huge bonus and make them feel very good about this particular fifth-round pick. And while the pads have yet to go on and the preseason games have yet to start, so far, so good.

"He played at USC and he played under four different coordinators there and played four different positions," Hermann said. "So I think he kind of got lost in the college shuffle a little bit. Again, we've got to go out and see him in live games, but based on what you see of him on film, he's not going to shy away from that part of it. He's calm, cool and collected. It's the speed of the game that's the question, and we'll see how he plays. But based on what we do out here, I don't think he's going to have a problem."
One last New York Giants Twitter mailbag before I start a too-brief summer vacation ... @DanGrazianoESPN: Yeah, I think that's a fair expectation, and I think you saw the Giants lean that way last year with Terrell Thomas as the regular nickel corner. They signed Walter Thurmond to play that position, and he's as good at it as anyone in the league. And they're thin at safety with Will Hill suspended and released, Stevie Brown coming off knee surgery and Quintin Demps having been signed primarily to return kicks. They have been talking a lot about keeping Antrel Rolle at safety, rather than using him all over the field as they've done in years past, and obviously sticking with a three-cornerback look would help with that. I honestly don't see the need for the old three-safety package, especially if Jon Beason is back healthy at middle linebacker early in the season. It worked well during that 2011 Super Bowl season, but that year they were thin at cornerback and linebacker and deep at safety. You're right if your point is that the scheme should be based around the personnel, and right now cornerback is a Giants strength. @DanGrazianoESPN: With Beason nursing a foot injury, the starting middle linebacker in training camp (and probably for Week 1) is going to be Jameel McClain. He projects as the starting strongside linebacker if Beason's healthy, but he's taking over in the middle while he's not. Jacquian Williams is the front-runner for the starting weakside linebacker spot, and the strongside position should belong to either Spencer Paysinger or rookie Devon Kennard, who impressed coaches with his minicamp performance. As for receivers, that's an interesting case. My first thought is that they keep six -- Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Mario Manningham, Odell Beckham Jr., Jerrel Jernigan and Trindon Holliday. But Holliday isn't really likely to factor as a receiver, as he's pretty much exclusively a kick and punt returner. So that would leave them with five real receivers (four if Manningham's knee won't let him answer the bell). That opens it up for someone like a Marcus Harris, Julian Talley or Corey Washington to possibly sneak onto the roster with a good camp, but that's a long shot. @DanGrazianoESPN: Based on my conversations with Giants people (and with Will Beatty himself) last year and this spring, I think the main reason Beatty struggled was technique. He's not a big, monstrous, mauling left tackle who relies on strength and an ability to overpower people. Beatty's success, when he's had it, has had more to do with quickness and athleticism. I was told last season while he was struggling that Beatty was playing with his hands too low, giving away leverage and hurting his ability to dictate his matchups. That sounds like an easy thing to fix, but bad habits are tough to break, and as the year went along the struggles got into Beatty's head. He admitted in December that he'd felt the weight of his free-agent contract and let the pressure get to him, and I think he was looking forward to an offseason to clear his head. The problem is that Beatty's offseason has been about recovery from that broken leg he suffered in the Week 17 game against the Redskins, and he hasn't had time to practice getting back into good habits. I agree that a Beatty rebound would have a positive ripple effect along the rest of the line, but at this point you have to consider him a major question mark, and not just because of the injury. @DanGrazianoESPN: The firing of their longtime tight ends coach does rank among the more surprising moves of the Giants' offseason. But when they hired young Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator, it was only fair to assume he'd want to bring in a few of his own coaches and help construct the staff. During those discussions, it was decided that Pope's position would be one of the ones to turn over. They moved wide receivers coach Kevin M. Gilbride (the son of the former offensive coordinator) to tight ends coach, Sean Ryan from quarterbacks coach back to wide receivers coach and hired Danny Langsdorf as the new quarterbacks coach. Pope was a Giants icon, and the only person whose name is on all four of the franchise's Super Bowl trophies. But there was an effort to get a bit younger on the coaching staff this offseason. Tight end Adrien Robinson spoke during OTAs about how he's felt a different kind of connection with the younger Gilbride than he did with Pope, and if that's the case with the rest of the group it might answer your question. Thanks for all of your questions. If you need me, I'm on the golf course.
You used the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week, and I thank you for it.

@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.

@DanGrazianoESPN: No. I mean, obviously the short answer is no at this point, because Ryan Nassib, who didn't play at all as a rookie (by design) is still a work in progress.

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. 

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