New York Giants: Mario Manningham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin has been answering a lot of questions about the poor performance of his team's passing game this preseason. And after reviewing film of the fifth preseason game, he seemed to have a fresh explanation for Eli Manning's struggles.

Manning
"Did we have a game where we just sat back and threw it? Not really," Coughlin said in a conference call Friday. "And that was because last year, we were so poor in the run game that it ruined our balance and we turned the ball over a ridiculous amount. So we didn't want to get away from our run game."

Coughlin said it's possible they could or should have stressed the passing game more in the preseason, and he said he expects things will look better "once we zoom in on an all-encompassing game plan."

Other notes from Coughlin's day-after conference call:
  • He said the timetable on guard Geoff Schwartz's recovery from toe injury is likely to be a bit longer than 3-to-4 weeks. He didn't rule out placing Schwartz on short-term injured reserve, which would keep him out for the first eight weeks of the season, but it sounds as though they hope they don't have to do that.
  • Coughlin said middle linebacker Jon Beason should be cleared to practice Monday. That likely makes Beason available for the regular-season opener Sept. 8 in Detroit, though it remains to be seen how much he'll be able to play after missing all of training camp with a foot injury.
  • Fullback Henry Hynoski has a "contusion" of his shoulder and felt better Friday than he did after leaving the game Thursday. Sounds as though they have avoided a major problem with Hynoski.
  • Wide receiver Mario Manningham has a strained calf. This likely means the end for Manningham with the Giants, though Coughlin wasn't giving anything away about final decisions on that or any other aspect of the final roster cuts due Saturday.

Observation Deck: New York Giants

August, 28, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Five preseason games weren't enough for Eli Manning and the New York Giants' passing game to show anything, and they will go into the regular season still wondering about the state of their offense.

Manning was 1-for-4 in two series in Thursday's 16-13 victory over the Patriots. The Giants finished the preseason 5-0, but Manning finished the preseason 20-for-41 for 188 yards and one touchdown across the five games. The Giants have looked all right at times running the ball this summer, but overall the passing game has looked well out of sync and the new Ben McAdoo offense continues to look like a work in progress.

Here are some other thoughts on the Giants' final preseason game of the year:
  • This game was wide receiver Mario Manningham's last chance to show he belonged on the roster after a disappointing preseason. Unfortunately for Manningham, he played only four plays before injuring his calf muscle. It's hard to imagine him and his creaky legs on the final roster.
  • Henry Hynoski, however, was looking like a good bet to win the fullback job. But he had to leave Thursday's game with a shoulder injury. It's unclear how serious it is at this point, but Hynoski missed the bulk of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury, so it's a legitimate concern. John Conner would be his replacement.
  • Preston Parker looks to be in line for one of those wide receiver spots with Manningham likely out of the picture and Marcus Harris already on injured reserve. Parker is helped by his ability as a return man, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. and Trindon Holliday out with hamstring injuries. Parker was the primary punt returner Thursday and even lined up to return a couple of kickoffs. It didn't help him, though, that he muffed a punt in the fourth quarter.
  • Weston Richburg and John Jerry started at left guard and right guard, respectively, in place of the injured Geoff Schwartz and Brandon Mosley. Both played deep into the second half, long after the starting tackles and center J.D. Walton left the game. It's possible both will have to start the regular-season opener Sept. 8 in Detroit.
  • Early-game defensive standouts included Jason Pierre-Paul, who batted down Jimmy Garoppolo's pass intended for new tight end Tim Wright on the game's first play, Stevie Brown, who tackled running back James White behind the line of scrimmage, and Zack Bowman, who would have had two interceptions if the first hadn't been called back for an illegal contact penalty.
  • Tight end Adrien Robinson fumbled a ball away after a 17-yard reception at the end of the third quarter, underlining the troubling fact that neither he nor anyone else has separated himself from the uninspiring pack at tight end. Kellen Davis started the game Thursday, and Daniel Fells and Larry Donnell each had his moments, but the Giants are going to have to rotate these guys.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mario Manningham was not one of the 15 players on the cut-down list Tuesday when the New York Giants reduced their roster from 90 to 75 players, but that doesn't mean he's making the team. The Giants still have a lot of sorting out to do at the wide receiver position before final cuts are made Saturday, and Manningham and his balky knee still have to show they belong.

Manningham
"He's had some spurts the last couple of weeks where he's done some things on the practice field, but it hasn't carried over into games," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Tuesday's practice. "He'll get another chance."

The Giants used Manningham a fair bit with their first-team offense in Friday night's preseason game against the Jets, and they're likely to give him a good look in Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots. First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury and is unlikely to be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener, camp star Marcus Harris was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and there remain some open spots on the roster at wide receiver.

"Any of the guys who are left know it goes from 75 to 53," Coughlin said. "You're ending up in a numbers game, and it is competitive."

Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Beckham are sure things to make the roster at wide receiver. Jerrel Jernigan, who's been running with the first team in Beckham's place all summer, looks like a strong bet as well, especially since he's Cruz's primary backup at the slot receiver position. Undrafted rookie Corey Washington has caught a touchdown pass in each of the Giants' first four preseason games and has obviously helped his cause. Preston Parker, who caught 40 passes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 but was out of football last season, appears to be the primary punt returner right now with Beckham and Trindon Holliday hurt, and that could help him earn a spot as a wide receiver as well. Julian Talley also survived Tuesday's cuts and therefore remains a candidate to be kept.

The Giants are likely to keep four tight ends when they cut the roster to 53 on Saturday, which might make it tough to keep six wide receivers, but if they need Parker for punt returns (or as a reserve wideout) while Beckham gets healthy, they may not have a choice.

Regardless, the numbers game doesn't seem to favor Manningham unless he blows the Giants away with a strong showing Thursday night. Maybe the fact the opponent is the Patriots, the team against which Manningham's career highlight came, will inspire him before it's too late.

New York Giants cut-down analysis

August, 26, 2014
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Most significant move: Marcus Harris had done enough to make the New York Giants at wide receiver, but he suffered an injury in Friday's preseason game and has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. The Giants and Harris said Friday his injury was to his shoulder, but in placing him on IR on Tuesday they announced it as a hip injury. Harris will have to miss the entire 2014 season. The injury and resulting move open up a spot for someone such as Corey Washington or Preston Parker to make the team at receiver. Veteran wide receiver Mario Manningham, who continues to struggle with a knee injury, also survived Tuesday's cuts, though he remains likely to be cut when the roster is reduced to 53 on Saturday.

Injuries change the plan: Usually, players cut in this first wave aren't practice squad candidates, but guys such as Charles James and Jerome Cunningham could be exceptions. The Giants certainly didn't want to cut James on Tuesday. But they've had so many injuries on the offensive line in the past week -- Geoff Schwartz, Brandon Mosley, James Brewer, Charles Brown -- that they find themselves having to keep back-of-the-roster offensive linemen (A) so that they have enough to use in Thursday's preseason finale and (B) in case one of them (Rogers Gaines?) ends up having to be on the final roster. So there could be an offensive lineman or two cut Saturday who's a less likely practice squad candidate than someone who was cut Tuesday.

Giants' cuts: K Brandon McManus, CB Charles James, TE Xavier Grimble, TE Jerome Cunningham, LB Spencer Adkins, DE Emmanuel Dieke, LB Justin Anderson, S Kyle Sebetic, CB Ross Weaver, WR Travis Harvey, OL John Sullen, S C.J. Barnett, DT Everett Dawkins, S Cooper Taylor (placed on season-ending injured reserve), WR Marcus Harris (placed on season-ending injured reserve).
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sitting here wrapping things up from MetLife Stadium and taking your #nygmail Twitter questions on the 4-0 New York Giants. Some of these questions came in before Friday night's game, so please bear that in mind, as I did when answering them after it.

@DanGrazianoESPN: No. And either third or fourth. I think they're clearly behind Philadelphia and Washington on paper, and Dallas' offense is light years better than theirs. The problem the Cowboys have is that their defense looks horrible, so flip a coin there for third and fourth place between them and the Giants. Now, this is all just about predictions on paper. The Giants are very well coached and don't appear to have a brutal schedule. And I'm not much good with preseason predictions anyway. But you asked. @DanGrazianoESPN: You're right that Rueben Randle had been having a quiet preseason, as had almost everyone on that Giants' first-team offense. Which is why it was nice for the Giants to see Randle cap off Friday night's first-half touchdown drive with that 15-yard touchdown catch from Eli Manning. Randle is a key component of what they need to do on offense this season. As of right now, he's the most established threat they have on the outside with Victor Cruz in the slot. Mario Manningham looks to be slowed by his knee problems, Odell Beckham Jr. has been sidelined all camp with his hamstring problems, and they're looking for answers out there. If they can truly count on Randle to play well and be consistent, that's a massive help. For me, he's miscast in this new offense, since he's more of a vertical threat and they want to operate in short range. But if he can use his size to create separation quickly and win his matchups, he could be a major factor. We haven't seen enough this preseason to know which way to bet on that. @DanGrazianoESPN: I don't think so, but obviously it's more precarious for Tom Coughlin now than it was a year ago. If the Giants miss the playoffs again, that would be five times in the last six years, and you do start to wonder how much longer the fact that they won the Super Bowl in the other carries him. I have thought since that Super Bowl that Coughlin would coach this team as long as he wanted to. And in truth, he's one of the best coaches in the league and they're unlikely to be able to replace him with a better one. But if things bottom out here and they start having to think about Eli Manning and his future with the team, there exists the possibility that they decide to start from scratch with new leadership. It's not something they want to think about, but it's not out of the question. As for Manning, he's signed through 2015, and he's unlikely to be replaced next offseason or at all. Again, they're not likely to find a clear upgrade on the market. If they go 8-8 and miss the playoffs, I imagine they'd avoid sweeping changes. But if they fall apart and go 4-12 or something like that, all bets are off. @DanGrazianoESPN: It was very interesting that Marcus Harris got (by my count) eight snaps as an outside receiver with the first-team offense Friday night. It was very unfortunate for Harris that he hurt his shoulder and now may not be able to cash in on the opportunity the Giants clearly wanted to give him. He said after the game that his shoulder injury should only cost him 3-to-4 weeks and that he hopes it doesn't cost him a roster spot. But we shall see. As for Corey Washington, who's now caught a second-half touchdown in all four of the Giants' preseason games, it's telling that he wasn't in the game Friday until the fourth quarter. That tells me they rank him behind other options right now, including Harris, Manningham, Jerrel Jernigan and others, in spite of his height and his strong performance so far in preseason games. I've been putting Washington on my Monday roster projections, and honestly he'd be hard to get through waivers after catching four preseason touchdown passes, so he might make it for that reason. But there's still a lot to sort out for the Giants at receiver. Thanks for your questions and enjoy the remainder of your Saturday.

Practice report: More O-line shuffling

August, 19, 2014
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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.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants return Saturday night to Indianapolis, where the greatest catch of Mario Manningham's life helped them win the Super Bowl three seasons ago. Manningham doesn't want to talk about it.

Manningham
"I'm not really thinking about that anymore," Manningham said before Giants practice Wednesday. "I'm trying to make some new memories."

He's also trying to make the roster. After spending two injury-plagued seasons with the 49ers in the wake of that Super Bowl victory, Manningham re-signed with the Giants this offseason. At the time, it was assumed that they signed him with a plan to use him. But watching him in practice makes it obvious that his knee isn't healthy yet. And since they signed him, the Giants drafted wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round and have seen unheralded youngsters such as Marcus Harris and Corey Washington drastically outperform their Super Bowl-hero veteran in camp and preseason games.

"There's always competition," Manningham said. "This isn't the 1960s. There are going to be wide receivers out there. We're not just going to run the ball the whole game. So I'm just going to do what I've got to do, which is just make plays."

That would help, and an offense that's looking to make more of them in these preseason games could use a jolt from a motivated Manningham. But when the Giants signed him, they knew there was a chance that his physical situation might keep him from being able to help. They took a flier on an old friend at a position where they had a need. But that need might be filled by others if Manningham doesn't pick it up soon in practice. He says he's comfortable running routes and not thinking about the knee, but he clearly lacks the speed and explosiveness he had earlier in his career, and there are others moving past him on the depth chart.

"I'm not worrying about that," Manningham said. "I'm just going out and controlling what I can control. I'll leave it up to the coaching staff to decide."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Victor Cruz is clearly the class of the New York Giants' wide receiver group. Of the 11 wide receivers currently on the roster, only six have caught a single NFL pass, and only two -- Cruz and Mario Manningham -- have caught more than 60. But with Manningham's knee still a major question mark, Cruz stands as the one sure thing in the Giants' receiver corps. Which is why he's not getting a lot of work in practice these days.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Harris
AP Photo/Seth WenigMarcus Harris is taking advantage of his opportunities to shine at wide receiver.
"I'm begging for more reps out here in practice, but coach is kind of pulling me back and just making sure I'm staying healthy and we're good to go for the regular season," Cruz said Wednesday afternoon. "They want to get the younger guys reps and get everybody acclimated, and there's only so many reps to go around. So I know, when I'm in there, I have to make the most of my reps."

The Giants would like to carry four tight ends and a fullback, and if they carry four running backs as well, it appears as though they'll have five spots available for wide receivers. Cruz, Rueben Randle, first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. and Jerrell Jernigan are locks to make it. So unless they decide they simply don't have four roster-worthy tight ends (which is entirely possible, even likely) or they decide not to carry a fullback (which also has been discussed), that leaves one spot open for a number of people.

Ideally, Manningham would be the guy to claim the spot. But so far in camp, he is not moving well and at this point it feels unlikely that his knee will allow him to make the final roster. Trindon Holliday may once have had an inside track to a roster spot because of his abilities as a return man, but if Beckham gets healthy and can return punts, Holliday becomes expendable. (They signed Quintin Demps for kick returns.)

That leaves a group of youngsters that includes Marcus Harris (0 career catches), Travis Harvey (0), Preston Parker (44), Julian Talley (0) and Corey Washington (0) competing for that final spot. Asked who's impressed him out of that group, Cruz named Harris, who led the team with four receptions in Sunday night's preseason opener against Buffalo.

"I think Marcus Harris, from the game he had and streaming into practice, he's really been taking advantage of his opportunity with a couple guys being down," Cruz said. "He's really coming to the forefront here as a good player, and he's definitely one of the guys who's been standing out."

Harris did play well against the Bills, showing an ability to catch the ball in traffic and break tackles after the catch. Washington provided the highlight with his 73-yard touchdown catch, and at 6-foot-4 he's intriguing because of his size relative to his competition. Parker had 40 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 but was out of the league last year. The Giants have been using Parker as a return man in camp, which would seem to bode well for his chances, but special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said Wednesday that they were trying to use Harris on returns as well.

Harris went to Murray State. Talley comes from the University of Massachusetts, which is Cruz's school. Harvey went to Florida A&M, Parker finished his college career at North Alabama after transferring from Florida State. And Washington comes from tiny Newberry College in South Carolina. Cruz, who was an undrafted guy who played his way onto the Giants' roster in the 2010 preseason, enjoys watching the unheralded small-school guys try to make it.

"I pull for everyone, but I'm always pulling for the no-name guys who are trying to make it through the ranks, because I was there," Cruz said. "I was in their shoes. I know what it feels like. I know exactly what he's going through in his mind and how it plays out. So those guys talk to me all the time and I always pull for those guys."
It's tough to get New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin excited about very many things, especially when those things happen in preseason games. But a reporter who started asking Coughlin about a play from Sunday night's preseason opener on Monday's conference call couldn't even get his question out before Coughlin bubbled over.

"How about Corey Washington..." the question began.

"How about Corey Washington?!" Coughlin exclaimed. "Wasn't that some play by that kid?"

Indeed it was. In the fourth quarter of what would turn out to be a 17-13 exhibition victory over Buffalo in the Hall of Fame Game, Washington went high in the air to basically pick a Ryan Nassib pass off the helmet of a defender and raced to the end zone with the ball for a 73-yard touchdown catch.

"A game like this is important for a small-school guy like myself," said Washington, a 6-foot-4 undrafted rookie out of tiny Newberry College (enrollment 1,042) in South Carolina. "This is a chance to show the coaches what I have so I can make that 53-man roster."

He's certainly got a chance. With first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. missing basically all of training camp so far with a hamstring injury, and Mario Manningham and his bum knee no sure thing to make the roster, Washington and some of the other lesser-known receivers on the Giants roster are getting chances they might not otherwise have got. And Sunday night wasn't the first time Coughlin's noticed the tallest wideout on his team.

Coughlin spoke Monday of a special teams play Washington made as a gunner on punt returns, and the fact that he'd mention that is an eye-opener for Giants roster-projectors. Everybody knows, if you impress on special teams, it helps your chances. But Washington's chances also are helped by his height, and the fact that Coughlin says he's seen him make plays in practice similar to the one he made Sunday.

"You do sit up and notice when you see it," Coughlin said of Washington's height. "Because you think, 'Can he take the ball off the top of the defender?' And Corey just showed that he could."

Rueben Randle is 6-2 and seems to be the primary red zone target (along with all of the 6-5 tight ends) in practice drills. Washington's height offers the Giants something they don't have with Beckham, Jerrel Jernigan or even Victor Cruz, all of whom are sure to make the team.

Some other Giants notes:
  • Coughlin said tight end Daniel Fells' knee injury was a "bone bruise," which has to count as good news since it was announced as a sprain when Fells left the game. It is unclear whether Fells can practice Tuesday or play in Saturday night's home preseason game against the Steelers.
  • Left tackle Will Beatty, who's practiced more than was expected coming off his major leg injury, missed a couple of practices last week due to an illness and didn't make the trip to Canton for the game. Coughlin said they'd always planned to hold Beatty out of that game and that he didn't know yet whether Beatty would be ready to play Saturday night.
  • The Giants' practice schedule is odd this week. They will practice from 5:40 p.m. to 7:50 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Of those three practices, Wednesday's is the only one open to the public, which is important to note if you were planning to go to any of them. The Giants are off Friday in advance of Saturday's game and off Sunday as well.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin hasn't decided yet who will play -- or how much they'll play -- in Sunday night's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills in Canton, Ohio. Coughlin said after Monday's practice that he'd wait until after Thursday's practice to decide. But you can expect to see quarterback Eli Manning out there for at least the start of the game, even though it's an extra preseason game for the team this year.

Manning
"I'll listen to what the coaches decide, obviously, but if you could you'd like to get out there for an extra series or so just to get your mechanics down, get into the rhythm of it," Manning said Monday. "The first preseason game, you don't really do a whole lot, but it'll be interesting to see the mechanics of everything, the game-planning and how it all works in this new offense."

New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who's never been a coordinator or a game-day playcaller before, will coach from the sidelines. Manning said he's been practicing with the radio in his helmet to get used to hearing McAdoo's voice calling the plays.

The Hall of Fame Game means the Giants will get five preseason games this year instead of the usual four. Manning usually sits out the final game of the preseason and likely will again this year. So if he wanted to get in his usual three, he could skip Sunday's. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo didn't play in the Hall of Fame Game last year, but Romo was coming off of back surgery and the Cowboys weren't installing a completely new offense. In this case, Manning will draw some benefit from playing an extra game.

"There are five games, and you approach it in different ways when you have five instead of four," Coughlin said. "But we are going to benefit from this, from more opportunities in the new offense."

Don't expect to see the first team at full strength Sunday night. First-round wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. still hasn't practiced in a week due to a hamstring injury, and it would be a huge surprise to see him on the field. Wide receiver Mario Manningham continues to be limited by a sore knee. And while left tackle Will Beatty has been taking the bulk of the snaps at left tackle in practice, the Giants may not be ready to expose him to game conditions just yet as he continues to recover from the broken leg he suffered in the 2013 season finale.

Giants Camp Report: Day 4

July, 25, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:


  • Man, the Giants' offense looks like hot garbage right now. Eli Manning threw a ball so badly to Jerrel Jernigan that Antrel Rolle and Prince Amukamara almost killed each other as they collided to try to intercept it. Ryan Nassib (to Charles James) and Curtis Painter (to Mark Herzlich) also threw picks. There was a play in which Manning tripped over the feet of running back Rashad Jennings and fell to the ground. (He got right up, don't worry.) Kendall Gaskins fumbled a ball and coach Tom Coughlin began screaming and cursing at the top of his lungs, wheeling on the offensive players who were standing on the sideline and not in the drill and yelling, "Hang onto the [bleep-bleep] ball!" over and over. Mario Manningham beat Walter Thurmond on a slant route for a nice catch, but Thurmond stayed with the play and knocked the ball out of his hands. I mean, ugly. Still way early, but tough to watch.
  • This was the first day they practiced in shoulder pads, and the first thing I saw when I went out to the field to watch was rookie running back Andre Williams absolutely lay out linebacker Justin Anderson in a one-on-one kick-return drill. It was as though Williams was taking out all of his frustrations about Thursday's dropped passes on poor Anderson. But everyone was feisty. At the end of one drill, linebacker Dan Fox playfully tackled GM Jerry Reese, who was watching by the goal post.
  • Things that are real that you wouldn't have expected: Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard is a guy the coaches and other players continue to rave about, and Brandon McManus remains a threat to take the kicker's job from Josh Brown. McManus is 8-for-8 on field goals so far, was making them easily from long distance Friday and looks more powerful on kickoffs, which ends up mattering to coaches in a big way when these decisions are made. If it's close on the field goals, they take the guy who can kick it out of the back of the end zone. Field position matters.
  • Still no Odell Beckham Jr., and no word on when his hamstring will allow him to practice. Yes, the Giants are frustrated that their first-round pick is not on the field.
  • Keep an eye on Preston Parker, a third-year wide receiver out of Florida State who had legal trouble in college and has bounced around. The Giants are using him a lot with the first-team offense and on returns.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants held their annual conditioning test Monday, the day before their first training camp practice of 2014. Other than veteran guard Chris Snee, who announced his retirement earlier in the day, pretty much everybody was able to answer the bell.

The Giants said linebacker Jon Beason would be the only player to begin training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list, which is no surprise given that he's recovering from a broken foot. Beason has said he hopes to be ready by Week 1, and playing him on the training camp PUP list does not affect that hope. He can practice at any time after the team's doctors clear him medically. The only reason for the active/PUP designation is that it keeps the team's options open in case they end up wanting to place him on the reserve/PUP list to start the regular season. At this point, they hope they don't have to do that. Beason was on the sideline watching his team go through its conditioning test Monday afternoon.

Updates on other Giants injuries and assorted issues:

Beatty
Beatty
Left tackle Will Beatty, who broke his leg in the 2013 season finale and missed organized team activities and minicamp, has been cleared to practice on a "limited" basis, according to coach Tom Coughlin. Beatty ran with the rest of the team Monday, a strong positive sign that he'll be able to practice Tuesday afternoon. The Giants will monitor him closely due to the seriousness of the injury and his history of slow recoveries.

Offensive lineman John Jerry, who's one of the candidates to start in place of Snee at right guard, did not run, but nor was he put on PUP as Beason was. Coughlin said Jerry also would be "limited" in practice after missing OTAs and minicamp due to arthroscopic knee surgery. Jerry, Brandon Mosley and possibly rookie center Weston Richburg are candidates to replace Snee. Coughlin said Mosley was likely to get first crack at it when the first-team offensive line took the field Tuesday.

Wide receiver Mario Manningham, who's got a bad knee and missed spring practices as well, also has been cleared to practice on a "limited" basis, Coughlin said.

Quarterback Eli Manning didn't run with the team instead throwing on a different field with coaches. "He didn't run last year, either," Coughlin said of Manning. This is a case of two Super Bowl MVP trophies buying you special perks, folks. Manning said the ankle he had surgically repaired in April was "great, 100 percent, not an issue at all," which is no surprise since he was able to practice as normal in minicamp last month. He won't be limited in any way in training camp by the ankle issue.

First-round pick Odell Beckham, Jr., who missed some spring practice time with a hamstring injury, is also cleared for practice. The rookie wide receiver will be used on offense and on returns in camp.

The Giants signed undrafted former Auburn guard John Sullen to replace Snee. Sullen was one of several players who tried out for the Giants during their June minicamp.
All this week, and then the week of July 14, we are taking a position-by-position look at the New York Giants' roster heading into training camp. Today, we look at the wide receiver group.

Starters: Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle

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Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsRueben Randle will try to grab a bigger role in the Giants' offense.
Backup candidates: Odell Beckham Jr., Jerrel Jernigan, Mario Manningham, Trindon Holliday, Corey Washington, Marcus Harris, Julian Talley, Preston Parker, Travis Harvey

Cruz is the only sure thing in this group, and the Giants are best when he's working as the slot receiver. That means they need to spend camp identifying their best options on the outside. Randle, the 2012 second-round pick, is the guy they'd like to see take the leap in his third season. He showed enough flashes last year to make them think he can be a big playmaker. They just need him to play and work more consistently.

Beckham was this year's first-round pick, and as such he'll get an opportunity to contribute as a starter as soon as he's ready to handle it. But the Giants don't rush rookies, and if he's not ready, they will wait and use other options until he is. Manningham is a wild card -- a player the Giants know and like but who's coming off knee problems that kept him from being a factor for the 49ers during his two seasons away from New York. Jernigan showed enough late last year to merit more of an opportunity, but regardless of what anyone says publicly, he's still viewed as Cruz's backup in the slot more than anything else.

Holliday was signed as a return man and is unlikely to make much of a contribution on offense, though they did use him there a bit in the spring with others injured, and he held his own. The rest of the guys on that list are long shots and/or practice squad candidates.
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.
A 7-9 season and a turbulent offseason has left the New York Giants' roster littered with question marks heading into 2014. There are so many positions -- receiver, offensive line, running back, tight end, defensive line, linebacker -- where they hope they've found answers but can't be sure. A lot is riding on the ability of Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff to bring it all together, and for help with that they will lean on the few positions at which they're sure they are set -- and the few players who remain roster rocks.

Victor Cruz appears to be such a player.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Al Bello/Getty ImagesVictor Cruz continued his quest for self-improvement, even after signing a big contract.
After signing his big contract extension last summer, Cruz showed up at training camp and told his coaches he wanted to work to improve his blocking. Yes, that's a wide receiver, in the wake of signing his big contract, deciding he wants to work on blocking because he knows he's got to get better at it to help the team and make himself a more complete player. At a time in his career when a lot of players might have started coasting, Cruz decided to work even harder at one of the toughest parts of his job.

"He's that way," Giants receivers coach Sean Ryan said last week. "For the kind of quick ascent he's had, none of that has ever gone to his head or to his work ethic. He's the same guy he was the day he walked in here in terms of working hard and being down to earth and wanting to be a complete football player. You've got to respect that."

Cruz did improve as a downfield blocker last year, in the estimation of the coaching staff. Like the rest of the offense, he endured a tough season from a production standpoint, catching only four touchdown passes and none after September. But toward the end of the season, he spoke with pride about the improvements he'd made in his game, and his coaches are eager to see him continue to work at it.

"With those guys and the blocking, it's about want-to," Ryan said. "They've got to want to do it. They've got to want to get in there and dig out safeties. And there's a lot of technique to it, too, just coming down and beating men to a spot versus just running out to where they are now. It's not blocking them where they are; it's blocking them where they're going to be. And I think he took a real interest in doing that and being good at it and making himself a complete player, and we're going to pick up on it and continue to improve on it with him and with everybody. You've got to block to play receiver in the NFL. You have to do it."

The return of Mario Manningham to the Giants brings someone who obviously knows all about that. Rueben Randle has the size to do it effectively if he'll commit to it as Cruz did. Rookie Odell Beckham Jr.? Too soon to know what his commitment will be to that nitty-gritty aspect of his position. But having Cruz around as an example can only help. He stands as an example of someone who's continued to work to get better even after brilliant early-career success.

"He's got that same skill set," Ryan said of Cruz now compared with early in his career. "He's an explosive player. His change of direction is excellent. I think he's gotten rid of, in my opinion, some concentration drops he had early in his career. I don't see as many of those. And from a leadership standpoint, he's really stepped to the forefront in terms of being vocal and being a leader on and off the field in that position."

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