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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Giants' D shines in morning practice

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

ALBANY, N.Y. -- At least 2,000 fans gathered on the mounds surrounding the lower practice fields at the University at Albany on Wednesday morning. The Giants were coming back from a day off, but the defense looked more refreshed than the offense.

Even without starting cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Corey Webster, the defense was dominant at times. The Giants weren't in full pads (shorts), but there was still some popping going on. Rookie linebacker Clint Sintim, who's had a relatively quiet camp, made a couple of plays in the morning practice. He's the prototypical Giants defender with his long arms, and he reached up and batted a ball to himself during team drills.

Players such as linebacker Bryan Kehl and cornerbacks Kevin Dockery and Terrell Thomas are making the most of the extra reps right now. Kehl's in a battle with Gerris Wilkinson to start the first game of the regular season since Michael Boley's suspended for that game. General manager Jerry Reese told me Boley (hip) is on pace to be up to speed for the second regular-season game. He doesn't seem to have any worries about lingering effects from the injury and he raved about Boley's ability to cover some of the top running backs and tight ends in the NFC East.

"Having him will keep us from having to go to the nickel or dime in some situations where we usually would," said Reese.

I was able to spend about 30 minutes with Reese during practice, and you can read that interview later this afternoon. First, though, I talked to coach Tom Coughlin. He was in a foul mood because of all the injuries. He had hoped to get either rookie Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) or Steve Smith (knee) back this morning, but it didn't happen. And Coughlin talked to me about how much it hurts to see a young player such as Nicks miss three or four practices at this stage.

The good news for Giants fans is that rookie wide receiver Ramses Barden continues to shine. I thought his small school background (Cal Poly) might make for a tough adjustment, but he looked like a veteran today. Actually, he looked like an absolute superstar at times. He has a huge "strike zone" -- as Reese put it. And he rarely drops passes. I think he'll be an immediate threat in the red zone. He's been one of the most pleasant surprises in camp.

OK, I'm about to prepare the Coughlin interview for public consumption. The Beast had one-on-one interviews with Coughlin, Justin Tuck, Steve Smith, Chris Canty and Hakeem Nicks today. We'll visit with Eli Manning in the morning. Look to hear from a lot of those guys in Friday's much-anticipated Giants Camp Confidential.