NFC East: New York Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The crux of the New York Giants' tight end problem, with six weeks until the regular season begins, continues to be this: Their new offense wants to rely on the tight end to a significant extent, but it still doesn't really have a tight end on which it can rely.

Robinson
Donnell
"Right now, we're looking for that complete tight end who can do it all," Giants tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride said Monday. "But we also need guys who are role players -- guys who can be specialists in certain areas. If he's best at executing a certain block, he's going to have the opportunity to make that block in the game. If he's best at running a certain route, he's going to have the opportunity to run that route in a game. So you need to have that all-around tight end, and then you also need to have specialists, guys who are great at a particular role."

The problem is that, to this point, no one from the group that includes Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis and Xavier Grimble has established himself as the all-around guy.

"I think right now, they've all got a shot at doing it," Gilbride said. "They're all very good in certain areas right now and not as efficient or as good in other areas. In order to become that all-around tight end, they need to continue to develop."

Gilbride wouldn't handicap the competition, but based on what we've seen so far at practice, Fells looks like the most capable pass-catcher. Donnell made an excellent leaping catch on a seam throw from Ryan Nassib in practice Monday, a short time after Fells caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning. Davis made a great catch on a seam-route throw from Nassib on Sunday. Robinson has always been a capable run-blocker and continues to show that. The Giants have tried their best to rotate all of the tight end candidates in with the first-team offense to give them all a chance to show what they can do. But it's too early for anyone to have separated himself.

"Every time they get on the field, they know they're being evaluated with everything that they do," Gilbride said. "When guys start to emerge, we'll know it."

So far in camp, we have seen tight ends lined up all over the formation -- in the slot, in tight, out wide... even in the backfield in a fullback or H-back role. Gilbride said that's not a case of experimentation; it's an integral part of the offense and something their tight ends will have to do. The new running game includes more zone and stretch concepts that will require the tight ends to be nimble and flexible as blockers. There is a lot to the job.

"I would describe it as 'Jack of all trades,'" Gilbride said. "Having them be in the backfield and playing a lot of that fullback role, splitting them out as the No. 1 receiver, the No. 2. An in-line tight end as far as the blocking and the pass receiving. It's a jack of all trades and they have to master them all. It's an exciting, fun position in this offense, but we need to continue to develop in order to be ready to help our team win football games."

The Giants could keep as many as four tight ends on their roster, especially if they wrap up the preseason with the same issue they have now -- guys who have disparate strengths and weaknesses and have to be mixed and matched in and out of the lineup depending on circumstances. But Gilbride made it clear that's not the ideal situation.

"I think you can get it done with the specialist-type thing, but that's not really what we're looking for," he said. "What we're really looking for is to develop a number of overall tight ends who can do it all."

The search continues.
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.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the New York Giants' first-round draft pick, still hasn't practiced since last Tuesday due to a hamstring injury. But at least he'd been attending practices and moving around on the field a bit. That changed Monday, when Beckham didn't show up at all for the Giants' shorter-than-usual practice.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Monday's practice that Beckham spent the day with team trainers and was being sent to New York for tests on his injured hamstring.

It's unclear what this means for the top pick's prognosis, but it's not a step in the right direction. It's possible an MRI and/or other tests could help the Giants determine the severity of Beckham's hamstring strain, which would help them figure out how to proceed with treatment or offer them a timetable on when they can expect him back. In the meantime, he continues to miss valuable practice time as the Giants install their offense.

The Giants drafted Beckham with the 12th pick in May's draft because they believed he offered them a significant speed threat on the outside from the split end position. But he missed a number of spring practices and minicamp due to a hamstring injury, and he pulled the muscle again in the first practice of training camp last Tuesday. He has not practiced since, and Coughlin's frustration over the injury has been evident.

"It's more than that," Coughlin said after Sunday's practice. "We're trying to put a team together. We saw too much of that in the spring."

But Coughlin went on to say that, of course, the team wasn't going to put Beckham on the field until it was sure he was no longer at risk of further injury. The Giants' first preseason game is Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in Canton, Ohio. Their regular season opens in exactly six weeks, with a "Monday Night Football" game against the Lions in Detroit.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Look, I'm not saying he can and I'm not saying he can't. I have nothing but respect for Eli Manning's abilities and the things he can do. He can beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, and if you didn't believe that after the first time, he did it again for good measure. The New York Giants' quarterback is largely underrated and underappreciated, and he's perfectly capable of having a great season even though he's coming off his worst season.

However.

If Manning completes 70 percent of his passes this year in Ben McAdoo's new offense, as quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said Monday he'd challenged Manning to do, then McAdoo, Langsdorf and anyone else who had a hand in it should have their choice of NFL head-coaching jobs next January. And they can ride unicorns with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to the interviews.

Start with the very short list of quarterbacks who've ever hit that number in a full NFL season. It's basically Drew Brees (twice, in 2009 and 2011), Joe Montana (1989) and Steve Young (1994). Langsdorf said the list he gave Manning also included Sammy Baugh, Ken Anderson and Alex Smith. But Baugh played only eight games in the 1945 season in which he hit the mark (the league played a 10-game season that year). Anderson's 1982 season was only nine games long due to a players strike. And Smith put up his 70.2 mark in 10 games in 2012 before losing his job to Colin Kaepernick.

So if Manning is to hit this goal over a full season, he'll be doing something only three other players -- two of whom are in the Hall of Fame, and one of whom surely will be -- have done. The fact that it's a nearly impossible achievement is the first and best reason to doubt it. Manning's career completion percentage is 58.5, and his career high for a single season is 62.9, set in 2010. He would have had to complete an additional 69 passes in 2013 to get to 70 percent from the dismal 57.5 at which he finished. That's 4.3 more completions per game. Even in 2010, he would have needed 39 more completions, or 2.4 per game. May not sound like a lot, but it is when you think about what it means.

Secondly, as much as we've written about the Giants' new offensive scheme, there are still legitimate concerns about whether they have the personnel to run it effectively. The offensive line isn't set yet. Their wide receiver group is littered with question marks after Victor Cruz. They do not have a reliable pass-catching tight end on the roster. And as much as they want to stress high-percentage plays and completion percentage, it's tough to imagine they'll throw to the running backs all season.

Which kind of leads me to my final point: Eli Manning, risk-taker. Manning's calling card as a quarterback has always been, to me, his fearlessness. He has the confidence to try any throw, no matter how risky, because (a) he believes he can make it, and (b) he has an uncommon ability to put mistakes behind him and not let them affect his performance as the game goes along.

It's inconceivable to think that McAdoo and Langsdorf could change this about Manning even if they wanted to, and it's inconceivable to believe they would want to. Manning's ability to deliver an uncanny throw in a huge spot is one of the few things you can point to right now in this Giants offense that might have a chance to set it apart from others in the league. Their challenge is to install an offense that's more efficient and less turnover-prone while still making use of what Manning does best. So there's still going to be plenty of downfield stuff, and that stuff will come with more risk.

Now, OK. I understand about coaching and motivation. If Langsdorf sets a goal of 70 percent and Manning aims for it but falls 5 percent short, he'd still obliterate his career high and improve on last year by 7.5 percent. The Giants would surely take that. But hearing Langsdorf say this Monday brought home the ideas of (a) how much different this offense is going to be than it has been for the past decade, and (b) how hard it's going to be for the Giants to be proficient in their new offense in its first season.
Projecting the New York Giants' 53-man roster after the first week of training camp:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Giants didn't like carrying three quarterbacks last year. They did so because they drafted Nassib as a fourth-round project with the thought that he wouldn't be active for any games as a rookie. But this year, they've come out and said that Nassib needs to win the No. 2 job. He worked as the clear No. 2 ahead of Curtis Painter in OTAs and minicamp, and I think he'd have to fall flat on his face in order to lose the job. He's looked terrible so far, but so has the rest of the work-in-progress offense. If Manning goes down, the Giants are cooked anyway, whether it's Painter or Nassib behind him. So they might as well keep developing the kid unless he's totally incompetent.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Five running backs feels like a lot, so Hillis or 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Cox had to go. It's possible the Giants carry five and Williams could start out as this year's Nassib -- a fourth-rounder who's inactive for at least a little while as he gets his feet wet in the NFL with an eye toward a contribution further down the road. If someone gets hurt, Cox or Kendall Gaskins could find his way onto the team.

FULLBACK (1)

It's a camp battle between Hynoski and John Conner, but the Giants won't keep both. And they've been lining tight ends up in the backfield enough early in camp that you start to wonder whether they'll keep a fullback at all. If they do, my hunch is that Hynoski has shown enough ability to produce with the ball in his hands that he'll get the edge in Ben McAdoo's new offense ahead of Conner as long as he's healthy.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

Trindon Holliday doesn't offer much in the passing game, and it's possible he could get squeezed out if the team decides Beckham, Quintin Demps and either Randle or Jernigan are enough to handle return responsibilities. The Giants signed Holliday before they drafted Beckham, after all. At this point, guys like Corey Washington, Marcus Harris and Preston Parker have shown more than Holliday as receivers, and Parker is another guy they feel they can use on returns.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

In spite of the lack of quality experienced options, McAdoo's offense does appear to want to use the tight end a lot. Some Giants fans are hoping an outside name or two can replace some of the ones on this list, but as of now, this is what they have, and they'll hope something decent comes of it. They are eager to see what Robinson can do if he can ever keep himself healthy, and they love what Donnell showed them last year on special teams and think he deserves the reward of an opportunity here.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are injury and health concerns with Beatty and Jerry, but both have been on the field a bit early -- Beatty moreso than the team expected. The Giants signed Brown and Jerry as veteran backups. They like Mosley's upside, and right now he's running with the first team at right guard. He could lose that spot to Jerry or Richburg, but the valuable camp reps will likely make him a useful backup at the very least.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

I thought about undrafted Kelcy Quarles for one of the defensive tackle spots, but the Giants love what they're seeing from Kuhn and Patterson early in camp. Patterson and Jenkins project as starters right now, with Kuhn and Hankins in the rotation behind them.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Kennard's been so good so far that, if they only keep five, you wonder about Paysinger's spot a little it. Williams looks like the starter at the weakside spot, even in the base defense, as long as he can stay healthy. And Kennard is a first-teamer right now on the strong side with McClain manning the middle in place of the injured Beason. Herzlich is on the team for special teams, where he has great value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson and/or Charles James for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer. If one of those guys makes it.

SAFETIES (5)

It's going to be tricky to get fifth-round pick Berhe on this roster, but the Giants like him enough to make room at the expense of someone like Brewer on the offensive line or Charles James at cornerback.

SPECIALISTS (3)

The kicker competition is legitimate between Brown and Brandon McManus, and McManus has looked great so far on field goals and kickoffs. I thought about flipping them, but I'll give it another week before making that move. The other two spots here are in stone barring injury.

Giants Camp Report: Day 5

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Much better day for the offense Sunday, the team's first day in full pads. They ran a couple of nice short screen passes from Eli Manning to Rueben Randle early in the team period. Victor Cruz made a tough diving catch along the sideline. Rookie Andre Williams looked good slipping through the line on a couple of carries. Tight end Kellen Davis made a nice catch in coverage from Ryan Nassib, who also threw a touchdown to Marcus Harris and was generally much more accurate than he'd been so far. As coach Tom Coughlin says, it's slow progress and there's a lot to learn. But after the way the defense dominated Friday, it was nice for the Sunday crowd of about 3,500 to watch the offense have some fun.
  • Cornerback Walter Thurmond is on Cruz a lot, possibly because he's the slot corner and Cruz is the slot receiver. But Thurmond can stay with guys on the outside as well. I had a scout tell me during the spring that Thurmond is "elite" as a slot corner but more than capable if he has to fill in as a starter as well, and you can see why. He doesn't give up in coverage. When the quarterbacks were throwing deep balls and it was corners vs. wide receivers one-on-one, he knocked the ball away from Cruz. In that same drill, I saw Dominque Rodgers Cromartie break up a long pass to Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan catch one against Prince Amukamara.
  • First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) fielded some punts but did no running and did not practice with the team otherwise. Coughlin is growing frustrated with the situation. In addition to Beckham, WR/KR Trindon Holliday sat out with some sort of leg injury and TE Xavier Grimble sat out with a hamstring injury.
  • Andre Williams got through the line again later, delivering a shot to linebacker Mark Herzlich along the way. But defensive tackle Markus Kuhn was waiting for him and laid him out without even leaving his feet. Kuhn is quite large.
  • Brandon Mosley continues to take all of the first-team snaps at right guard. Coughlin grumbled a bit when asked about the progress of John Jerry from spring knee surgery, saying "I hope today was better than Friday," but Jerry is still quite limited and you have to think all the reps Mosley is getting set Mosley up well if it's a competition for the spot.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The NFL wasn't the first place Rashad Jennings found himself overlooked. By the time he'd been a seventh-round pick and a backup to Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville and Darren McFadden in Oakland, Jennings had already made his peace with the idea that nothing was going to come easy for him.

"I've never stopped growing," the New York Giants' new starting running back said before a practice last week. "I had to, because when I was a little, short, fat, overweight kid, dorky with glasses, I had to figure something out. It's a blessing not to be the most talented guy when you roll out of bed, not to be the fastest guy. It keeps that chip on your shoulder."

Jennings
Signing the 29-year-old Jennings was one of the first things the Giants did in their incredibly busy free-agent season. Rather than let the market sort itself out, they jumped to get Jennings, who tore them up a bit as Oakland's starter in Week 10 last year and impressed them as someone who hasn't yet had a chance to showcase his full range of skills because he's played behind others. They see him as a do-everything type of back, who can carry a starter's workload, can catch the ball out of the backfield and can be used at the goal line as well.

Now, he may not have to do all of those things, because right now they have David Wilson and Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis as options as well. And if everyone stays healthy, the running back group should be deep enough to help the coaches keep everyone fresh and put them in the best possible positions to succeed. But Jennings is ready for whatever they want to throw at him.

"This opportunity is great," Jennings said. "I have prepared to start every day since I've entered the league. I've been like that since college. I am not taking this for granted. I'm humble."

He looks good on the field so far in training camp in a variety of roles. He seems to have fit in quite nicely in the locker room. He has an engaging personality and a great deal of confidence, which he says is brought on by his devotion to year-round training and nutrition.

"What separates guys as they continue to play is what they do in the offseason," Jennings said. "I train year-round. And the way I eat, the way I sleep, the nutrition, massage, M.A.T., chiropractor, all those little things. If it works a little, I want a lot of it."

I had to look up M.A.T., but I'm pretty sure he's referring to muscle activation techniques, which is a process that measures and develops the efficiency of a person's muscle contraction. This is a dude who is paying attention to his body and making sure it's in the best possible condition to take advantage of the opportunity now in front of him. He said sitting behind Jones-Drew and McFadden gave him time (and motivation) to work on his fitness, nutrition and wellness techniques, and that the timing of his opportunity to be a full-time starter has therefore actually worked out well.

"I got a chance to mature," Jennings said. "I got a chance to learn how to take care of my body, and I've been blessed to have a chance to allow my body to catch up with my maturity."

Now, those things are intersecting with opportunity. Jennings has a chance to be the man in the ground game for a Giants offense that's ready to look at lot different than it did last year. He's been waiting -- and working -- for this chance for a long time.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Damontre Moore is something of a wild card on the New York Giants' defensive line this year. The 2013 third-round selection played little on defense last year as he worked to pick up the playbook, but he was a terror on special teams, showcasing his athleticism while blocking punts and laying out return men.

Moore
If Moore can make a big jump this year as a pass-rushing defensive end, it would be a significant boost to a Giants pass rush that's working to replace stalwart Justin Tuck and the team-leading 11 sacks he had last year. Moore is in the mix with veteran Mathias Kiwanuka and free-agent signee Robert Ayers for the defensive end spot opposite Jason Pierre-Paul, but if Moore develops quickly he offers more explosiveness and a higher ceiling than Kiwanuka and Ayers do.

At least one of Moore's defensive linemates has noticed major progress.

"His athleticism is hard to compare," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "But from where he was last year, technique-wise and some of the things he was doing to how he's come back in this camp, it's been amazing. How he's setting the edge in the run game. How he's transitioning to the pass, working on some of the techniques that he didn't have last year. He's really working hard and really improving."

That's the key for Moore, who's loaded with natural ability but needs to refine it if he's to be trusted with significant snaps on defense. What Jenkins said about setting the edge in the run game is especially important, since that was a huge part of Tuck's game and is also a strength of Ayers' game. If Moore is getting those techniques down, in addition to being able to fly to the quarterback, that could be a big surprise benefit.

"Yeah, he's taken a major step," Jenkins said. "He's just a lot more physical and holding his ground. You look at him now and he's a completely different player than you saw last year."

Could be just camp hype, but Jenkins volunteered this. He wasn't asked directly about Moore. Jenkins seems to legitimately think Moore stands out in terms of the amount of work he's done and the quality of it. Since those were the lingering questions about Moore after his rookie season, it has to be encouraging for the Giants and their fans to hear it.

Giants Camp Report: Day 4

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
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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. -- We got to talk to New York Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty on Friday, and it was excellent. He told us a story about how his father taught him to play center by having him practice in front of a huge oak tree that he'd have to jump up and hit every time he snapped the ball. It was horrifying and awesome all at the same time. I would like to talk to Pat Flaherty every day if possible, but it's not, so we enjoy what we get.

Also, I know most of you would rather hear about what is going on with the New York Giants' offensive line than what Flaherty did to that oak tree (or what that oak tree did to him). So here's a spot-by-spot breakdown of some stuff Flaherty said Friday:

Left tackle

Beatty
Beatty
Will Beatty has practiced a lot more than anyone expected he would coming off the broken leg he suffered in Week 17 last season. Beatty also has a bit more of an edge to him when he talks to you this summer. Not a ton, mind you. He's still mild-mannered Will. But he definitely seems extra motivated to get back out on the field and show what he can do. And the coaches have noticed.

"Will Beatty's working, and anytime you're at work playing football and putting the pads on, you're going to get better," Flaherty said. "The thing we don't have to have happen is regression with his rehab, but he's handling both things very well, as expected. He's got a ways to go, but he's progressing more now than he would by standing on the sidelines talking to me."

Beatty is coming off not just a broken leg but a rotten 2013 season in general. He signed a long-term contract extension with the team prior to last season and admitted late in the season that the pressure of it affected him.

Schwartz
"He's not that player," Flaherty said of the 2013 version of Beatty. "That starts with me coaching. To be able to coach somebody, he has to be out there on the practice field. If he's not out there practicing the day-to-day drills, then that sets him back and affects your technique on Sundays. Your flaws get magnified. That's what happend last year. This year, we'll see. He's attacking and making sure it doesn't happen again."

Left guard

Geoff Schwartz is a proud, beaming father who misses his newborn baby but looks forward to seeing him again when the family comes to town following the Aug. 3 Hall of Fame Game. The free-agent signee projects as one of the few sure things on this line. Flaherty didn't address him to any significant extent during his news conference.

Center

Walton
J.D. Walton is getting the first-team snaps ahead of rookie second-round pick Weston Richburg, and the sense I get is that the Giants are happy with Walton so far. The center is tasked with more responsibility in the new offense this year in terms of making the protection calls, and Walton told me it's been the toughest thing for him to learn. But Flaherty seems to think he's made a breakthrough. Walton missed the past two seasons with an ankle injury, and Flaherty was asked whether Walton was still shaking off rust.

"If he was rusty, I think he's had some WD-40, because he's out there greasing pretty good, each and every day," Flaherty said. "Was there mental rust? Was there physical rust? Probably. But I don't see rust anymore. He just has to go out and play. He's excited about the opportunity."

So is Richburg, who has been working at both center and right guard but is a rookie. The Giants think he's great, and drafted him in large part because of their belief that he could handle the center's responsibility in their new offense. But 2013 Justin Pugh notwithstanding, they don't rush rookies here.

"If and when Weston continues to develop, he's going to be a very good offensive lineman," Flaherty said. "But he's got to get in there and grow into that position. There's a sense of urgency about being able to grow into a position, and the only way you're going to be able to do that is if you have an opportunity to play."

Hence, all of the extra reps for the rookie at two positions. If Richburg dazzles the Giants at both, he improves his chances of winning one of the two starting spots.

Right guard

Mosley
With Chris Snee having retired Monday, this is wide open. Flaherty is a fan of John Jerry, but Jerry is still quite limited as he works his way back from knee surgery. So Brandon Mosley has been running with the first team at right guard.

"He has to be consistent," Flaherty said. "Somewhere in your career as a player, you have to get off the waves, and that's the point he's at. There will always be peaks and valleys, but you need to have more peaks than valleys. You have to be consistent as an offensive lineman. (Thursday) I saw more consistency. Those guys are pretty good that we're blocking in practice -- Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins. They're as good as there are in the league, and that's a great challenge for a guy like Brandon Mosley."

Guys like Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the defensive tackles who await the Giants in Week 1 in Detroit, might dispute Flaherty's assessment. But if Mosley takes advantage of his opportunity, he could get a shot at those guys Sept. 8.

Right tackle

Pugh
After starting 16 games as a rookie in 2013, Pugh projects as the starter at right tackle once again. Flaherty says he's told Pugh that he believes he wasn't 100 percent physically last season and that he needed to get into the weight room and hit it hard this offseason. Pugh apparently took that advice.

"It started in the weight room," Flaherty said. "His approach these past few months, starting back in February, has been a difference. I saw it for the first time when he came back. He was stronger. He weighs more, but more importantly he's stronger. And what he has between his ears in terms of wanting to be good, that's always going to be there. He wants to be the best at his position."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- I have no idea whether Larry Donnell will be the starting tight end for the New York Giants this season, because no one has any idea, and if anyone did know for sure on July 25 it wouldn't be me. What I do know is that the Giants' coaches really, really like Donnell and don't have any clearly superior options. So the fact that Donnell was listed first at the position when the team handed out its first unofficial depth chart of training camp Thursday wasn't the most shocking thing we've ever seen.

Donnell
As far as Donnell's concerned, it neither means nor changes anything.

"I'm just trying to do everything I can do to show the coaches I can do all of the right things as a player, so if that role comes my way, I can handle it," Donnell said before Giants practice Friday. "I just want to do the best I can to show I'm worthy of being here."

Those are common-sounding words, but Donnell lives them, and that is how he has caught the friendly attention of Giants coaches over the past two years. He was a willing and eager special-teams player in 2013, and Giants coaches say his dedication and work ethic were such that they looked for opportunities to involve him more in the offense. He is 25 years old. At 6-foot-6, 265 pounds he is the second-largest of the five tight ends on the Giants' roster after the 6-7, 265-pound Kellen Davis. Donnell was an undrafted free agent in 2012, one full year out of Grambling State, where he began his career as a quarterback and caught only 38 passes in four years once he moved to tight end during his freshman year.

This is an unlikely path for an NFL starting tight end, and Donnell remains far from a sure thing. He still needs to refine his run-blocking, which is likely to be the most important quality the Giants look for when they decide on a tight end, and he's obviously also still evolving as a pass-catcher. He believes his progress in the offense last year could have been more significant if not for a foot injury he suffered in the spring, and he believes he's coming along quickly this camp as he competes with Davis, Daniel Fells, Adrien Robinson and Xavier Grimble for the starting role.

Donnell is also cognizant of the importance of continuing to be an animal on special teams. While the Giants will surely pick the best tight end as the winner of the competition, if it's close, they're likely to select the guy who has made the most favorable impression on them in the dirty work.

"No change on that," Donnell said. "Still on special teams, still flying around, doing all those things. The more you can do, the better."

Giants GM Jerry Reese tends to downplay the need for an experienced, reliable tight end, pointing out that the tight end hasn't been a big pass-catcher for much of recent Giants history. But Donnell thinks that's changing this year under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.

"The tight end plays a big tole in this offense," Donnell said. "We're a big part of it. We're main reads, No. 1 reads, so it's important to know where you need to be and how you need to get there. We're a big part of the offense."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When I was here for New York Giants minicamp in June, I noticed that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a collection of superhero cleats in his locker. Batman cleats, Flash cleats, Superman cleats, Captain America cleats... I even took a photo and tweeted it out. See?

Well, Rodgers-Cromartie came out and addressed the media today, and naturally one of the questions he got was about how he decides which pair of superhero cleats to wear on a given day. He said he has six of them. I only see four in the photo, so clearly more research is needed.

"It depends on the mood of the day," Rodgers-Cromartie said, confirming what I'd both assumed and hoped to be the case. "Some days, if we're playing a lot of man-to-man, I tend to put on the faster superheroes, because that's a day I feel like we'll have to do a lot of running. It just depends on my mood. You can tell by the type of cleats I have on what kind of day it's going to be."

From where I was standing for practice, I couldn't tell which hero Rodgers-Cromartie was wearing Friday. But like most of his defensive teammates, he looked like all of the superheroes combined out there against the Giants' work-in-progress offense.

Giants Camp Report: Day 3

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
7:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of training camp:


  • I know you guys want to know about tight ends, so we keep asking. As I wrote here, the initial "unofficial" depth chart listed Larry Donnell as the starter and Adrien Robinson as the No. 5 tight end. Robinson has not impressed coaches in the early going with his ability to catch the ball, and Donnell's was the only name coach Tom Coughlin mentioned when asked if anyone was standing out in the group so far. Coughlin said different guys do on different days, but he mentioned that Donnell had a strong practice Wednesday.
  • The Giants cut practice short to get in a "recovery stretch" because the GPS monitors they're attaching to their players told them it would be a good day to do so. There's a renewed emphasis on injury prevention and overall health and wellness in this year's Giants camp. Candy and other sweet snacks have been removed from the players' cafeteria as well.
  • The play of the day at practice was a long Curtis Painter pass that Corey Washington caught with one hand in double-coverage. It was a great play that got the few fans who were on hand fired up, but honestly, if Painter and Washington are in a regular-season game, a lot of things will have gone horribly wrong.
  • The defensive star of the day for me was defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who batted down an Eli Manning pass and also stuffed a Rashad Jennings run play. Kiwanuka seemed to be getting into the backfield quickly all day. He said earlier in the day that his pass-rush responsibilities have increased this year due to the free-agent departure of Justin Tuck.
  • No one who was worried about rookie running back Andre Williams' ability to catch the ball out of the backfield went home Thursday feeling any better about it. It's not just bad hands. Williams seems to pick up the ball late and doesn't get himself or his hands in position to catch it. They can use him as a goal-line back right away, and he does show more speed and shiftiness getting through the line than his reputation may indicate. But there are plenty of parts of his game that need work, as he himself has admitted.
  • Coughlin said the players would practice in "uppers" (meaning shells and shoulder pads) on Friday and that the first full-pads practice would be Sunday after they come back from Saturday's off-day.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants stopped their training camp practice about 45 minutes earlier than usual Thursday, but instead of heading back into the locker room right away, the players and coaches all went into the field house for 20 minutes of stretching.

"That was a recovery stretch," Giants coach Tom Coughlin explained. "Again, trying to enhance some of this soft muscle business."

It wasn't random, either. The Giants' players this summer are wearing GPS devices that monitor their vitals in real time. The team gathers the data and uses it to help determine when to ease off the work for the benefit of recovery. The Giants announced early in the day that their practice would end early, so the decision was not based on the day's weather (which was unusually cool and cloudy) or anything that happened on the field Thursday.

"The GPS helps us structure the practice and learn when we should be doing things such as this," Coughlin said. "The whole purpose is to be able to come back and have a full-speed practice tomorrow."

It's been an odd first few days of camp. Tuesday, four Giants players were carted off because of heat-related illness. On Wednesday, Coughlin stopped practice midway through and had the players all walk into the field house for a five-minute cool-down break. And then Thursday, the short practice with the stretch after.

This is all a far cry from the days when Coughlin and other NFL coaches could put their players through two practices a day in the hot July and August sun. And it's certainly a lot different from what Coughlin and his Syracuse teammates likely put themselves through in the 1960s. But player health and safety has become a more significant part of the NFL consciousness in recent years, and from a pragmatic standpoint, preventing injuries is good business. So the Giants' 67-year-old coach might wish he could work his players harder, but he's doing what he can to put a smiling face on the whole matter.

"I'm doing the best I can, how about that?" Coughlin said. "I'm doing the best I can."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For the second straight day, as his teammates went through training camp practice, New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. stood on the sidelines, twirling a ball in the air with his hands and chatting up wide receivers coach Sean Ryan. Beckham wears a uniform and a helmet, but he does not practice because his hamstring still hurts. If you're looking for a prediction on when he'll return to the field, don't ask his coach.

"You know as well as I do," Tom Coughlin said after Thursday's practice, when asked about a timetable for Beckham's return. "Let's face it: I don't want it to be like it was in the spring. We need to get him out on the field."

Beckham, the Giants' first-round pick from this year's draft, sat out a significant portion of spring practices due to hamstring issues. He practiced with the team Tuesday, the first day of training camp, but he injured the hamstring again during that practice and has not worked with the rest of the team since.

The Giants plan to practice in shells Friday, take Saturday off and then practice in full pads Sunday. The first preseason game is still 10 days away, and the first game that counts is still 46 days away, so Beckham has time to recover. But the Giants would like to see him on the field and operating in their new, high-speed offense before too much more time elapses.

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