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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
ALBANY, N.Y. -- One of my favorite things to do in training camp is watch practice through a scout's eyes. I've watched college football with Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland before, and he's always noticing things that go way beyond whether a guy catches the ball or misses a block.
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to stand next to Giants general manager Jerry Reese for about 30 minutes during the team's morning session. He watched intently to see how this year's rookies reacted to certain situations -- and he attempted to temper my enthusiasm for third-round pick Ramses Barden, who's on the verge of being named camp MVP -- by me.
Anyway, here are the highlights from my epic interview with Reese:
|AP Photo/Bill Kostroun|
|Giants general manager Jerry Reese is keeping a close eye on the rookies.|
Reese: He's big and he catches everything. He's a quick learner and he's gigantic. He's got a huge strike zone. He had the stigma of the small school, but so did [Kevin] Boss. If a guy doesn't jump off the screen at a small school, he can't play at this level. Barden jumped off the screen. And he didn't look out of place at the combine. And if you talk to him, he's very bright. We expect him to play right from the start.
MM: Do first-round guys like Hakeem Nicks not know how to pace themselves in practice? Is that why so many receivers get hurt in training camp? I remember it happened to Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas for the Redskins last season.
Reese: Yeah, especially your No. 1s. They think they have to be better than anyone else and they get overcooked. All he can do is take mental reps. But it's tough having guys like that out because quarterbacks have to get used to their body language. [A tremendous catch by Derek Hagan interrupts Reese's train of thought.]
MM: How's Steve Smith responding to becoming one of the "veterans" of the receiving corps?
Reese: He's very confident. He was almost NFL-ready when he came out of USC. He's not afraid of competition. People keep talking about how Smith and Domenik [Hixon] only combined for 50 catches or something, but they were only part-time players. You may end up doubling some of those numbers this season. And (Mario) Manningham and Sinorice Moss had good springs. We threw the ball to Moss 12 times last season and he had 12 catches. There were no drops, no missed assignments.
MM: How has David Tyree looked after the long layoff?
Reese: He's still coming off the injury, but he's back in a good position. He's a true gamer. You have to remember that he went to a Pro Bowl as a special teamer.
MM: Who's your No. 2 running back right now?
Reese: (Ahmad) Bradshaw's definitely our No. 2 right now. But the other two guys are nipping at his heels. We want to make guys earn their jobs. That's a heated position battle right there. Andre Brown is everything we thought he would be. He reminded us of Derrick Ward and we were giddy when he was there in the fourth.
MM: Is picking up the blitz one of the toughest things for rookie running backs?
Reese: Yeah, you can just look at a guy like Brandon Jacobs and know that. When he first got up here, he just wanted to run the ball. But one of my favorite things from the throw to Plaxico (Burress) to win the Super Bowl was when Jacobs slid over and blocked No. 37 (Rodney Harrison). No. 37 was getting ready to hit Eli in the earhole. That play never happens if Jacobs doesn't pick him up.
MM: Looking back, what was the biggest factor in you guys faltering down the stretch last season?
Reese: We were fine for three-quarters of the season and then we got banged up on the line and didn't have the firepower to get after the quarterback. (Fred) Robbins was playing with two broken hands, Tuck's foot and knee were banged up and (Mathias) Kiwanuka was fighting through things. We couldn't get Donovan McNabb on third-and-20 [in the Divisional playoff game]. There were a lot of turning points in that game, but that was a big one.
MM: Why do you think Chris Canty's a good fit here?
Reese: We liked his versatility. And we played against him twice a year and he gave us headaches. He and Tuck can go inside or outside.
MM: What's going on with Eli Manning's contract?
Reese: I told our guys here that the contract wasn't done. I didn't care what they wrote, but it's not done. No contract is easy to do, and nothing surprises me when it comes to personnel. Until you have a name on the dotted line, it's not done.
MM: Will you get it done before the start of the season?
Reese: I'm hopeful that will happen, yeah.
MM: I keep hearing people say that Kenny Phillips will have a breakout season. What sets him apart from other safeties in the league?
Reese: First of all, he's having a great camp. He's got some star qualities. There's just a calmness about him. It never looks like he's straining hard. Everything comes easy for him.
MM: Are you still hopeful that Michael Boley can be a productive player this season?
Reese: Yeah, he's outstanding in coverage. We think he can help us cover the running back in Philadelphia (Brian Westbrook), the tight end in Dallas (Jason Witten) and
the tight end for the Redskins (Chris Cooley).
MM: Did it give the team a lift when Antonio (Pierce) wasn't indicted in the Burress case?
Reese: It gave us a little lift. It was a weight off his shoulders. We're happy he's here. It feels like he has something to prove.
MM: Why'd you finally decide to cut your losses with Plaxico?
Reese: You don't want to get rid of a good player. But you have to see the big picture. You've got these other 52 guys. We tried to make it work, but teams have to change sometimes.
MM: What did you learn from last season?
Reese: Well, I learned a lot of things. We got hit right out of the gate last year with a Hall of Famer retiring (Michael Strahan) and a Pro Bowler (Umenyiora) going down. We made it through three quarters of the season, but then we got worn down. I'll try not to let that happen again. We have to sustain the madness up front.
MM: What's the competition like between Rhett Bomar and Andre Woodson for the third quarterback spot?
Reese: Bomar looks like a rookie playing quarterback. But he's got good velocity on the ball. That will be a heated battle in the preseason. Bomar's just trying to figure everything out. Woodson's ahead of the curve because he's been around here. Both of them have good skill sets.