NFC East: Ryan Nassib
But, for a brief moment, Giants fans and followers were left with the thought of seeing Ryan Nassib at quarterback against the Washington Redskins. After a full year on the bench as a rookie, Nassib has briefly appeared in four games this season, but has thrown just five passes -- completing four, for 60 yards.
With the 4-9 Giants' playoff hopes long since extinguished, some people might be thinking, why not put Nassib out there in these final three games and see what he can do?
But Coughlin is not one of those people.
You can't blame Coughlin for thinking that way -- after all, his job is on the line. Three more wins, against the Redskins, St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles may not help his cause, but three more losses and a 4-12 final record certainly could.
Manning certainly gives the Giants their best chance to win. He wants to play, and if he's OK physically, he deserves to.
But Coughlin did have some nice things to say about Nassib.
"Ryan's had extensive work on the practice field," the coach said. "He’s done an outstanding job with the scout team. He has shown the ability to do a lot of different things, some different from Eli. He’s making good progress."
Nassib did get a few first-team reps in practice Wednesday, but both he and Manning indicated that was normal -- especially given the Giants are facing an opponent for the second time this season.
Nassib didn't even know Manning was on the injury report until reporters informed him. "Eli’s a tough cat," he said. "He’s been like that his whole career. He does a good job of taking care of his body and stuff like that. So I know there’s no doubt he’ll be ready to go."
It was a long time ago now, but Nassib was impressive in the preseason. He had a quarterback rating of 126.7 or better in three of the Giants' five games. He completed 44 of 74 passes (59.5 percent) for 588 yards -- and most importantly, he threw five touchdown passes with zero interceptions.
Nassib said his confidence has grown this season.
"Seeing the games live and watching the players in the system definitely has helped," he said. "Getting a better idea of what players are good at what, and what plays we do best."
But don't expect him to make any more plays until 2015 -- unless Manning takes a shot he can't get up from.
If he's got any kind of injury that would limit him in practice, we should know no later than Wednesday, because they'd have to list him on the injury report. As we saw last week with Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys, teams aren't always eager to list their quarterbacks on injury reports, but the league has made it clear that it's going to be vigilant.
At this point, Manning deserves the ultimate benefit of the doubt, as he hasn't missed a start since becoming the Giants' starting quarterback in 2004. It would be shocking news if he couldn't play Sunday against Washington. But keep an eye on it as the week goes along. Could be nothing, could be something.
Somewhat shockingly, there were no other Giants who left Sunday's game due to injury. Running back Rashad Jennings was active in spite of his sprained ankle, but he clearly wasn't 100 percent, and rookie Andre Williams carried the load. Williams had 27 touches to Jennings' three, and Jennings said after the game that he and his ankle likely would benefit from the time off, even if he didn't enjoy it.
"It will be good, I know that, but I'm a player. I want to play," Jennings said. "I'm just happy for Andre. I told him this was going to be his breakout game, and it was."
Williams rushed for 131 yards on 24 carries, including a 50-yard touchdown run.
Curtis Painter for the backup quarterback job, and he clearly did. Not that they don't like Painter, but they didn't like carrying three quarterbacks last year and they won't do it again.
RUNNING BACKS (3)
Either Kendall Gaskins or Michael Cox could make it as a fourth running back, and I think the Giants would prefer to carry four. But the injury situation on the offensive line likely means they have to carry an extra player there, and this is the spot they have to take from.
Henry Hynoski has this spot locked up if he's healthy, but the shoulder injury that knocked him out of Thursday night's preseason finale could give it to Conner, who's stuck around all camp as a strong fallback option.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Parker makes the team as the sixth wideout because (a) Marcus Harris is on IR, (b) Mario Manningham didn't show enough to make it and (c) he can return punts, and right now Beckham and Trindon Holliday can't because they have hamstring injuries. Holliday's lack of training camp practice time likely knocked him right off the team.
TIGHT ENDS (4)
I believe they will keep and use all four of these guys, though they'll have to rotate them in and out depending on situations. None has emerged as the do-it-all tight end they were hoping they'd find in camp.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
- J.D. Walton
- Weston Richburg
- Will Beatty
- Justin Pugh
- Charles Brown
- Brandon Mosley
- John Jerry
- James Brewer
- Dallas Reynolds
- Rogers Gaines
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
- Jason Pierre-Paul
- Mathias Kiwanuka
- Robert Ayers
- Markus Kuhn
- Mike Patterson
- Johnathan Hankins
- Jay Bromley
- Damontre Moore
- Cullen Jenkins
Kuhn's leg injury, should it linger, could open up a spot for a defensive end such as Kerry Wynn to make the team. Bromley has looked surprisingly good in games so far and could slide in for Kuhn in the defensive tackle rotation for the short term.
It sounds as though Beason will be ready to start the season, which makes you wonder whether they might keep only five. If they do, the final cut is either Paysinger or Herzlich, who missed Thursday's preseason finale with a shoulder injury.
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 for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer, though Amukamara's groin injury could result in a short-term spot opening.
Cooper Taylor's toe injury landed him on injured reserve. That's unfortunate for Taylor, but it helps Berhe and likely helps someone at another position, such as Adrien Robinson at tight end. The Giants like to have a balanced roster -- 25 offensive players, 25 defensive and three specialists -- but that's not a requirement.
Sure things, all.
"His back tightened up," Giants coach Tom Coughlin explained after practice. "He came out here ready to go, but then he couldn't."
As a result, John Jerry worked at right guard with the first-team offensive line while Weston Richburg, the most likely long-term replacement for Schwartz, worked at left guard. The Giants have major problems in this area, as detailed here earlier Sunday. Coughlin offered no insight on how long Mosley could be expected to be out.
Some other notes from Coughlin and Sunday's practice:
- From the My God This Could Be Even Worse Than We Think Department: Coughlin was asked what he thought of left tackle Will Beatty's performance Friday and he said Beatty was working very hard every day in practice. Asked if he was happy with Beatty's work since returning from his injury, Coughlin said this: "'Happy' and 'satisfied' are not the words I would use to describe it, but I do recognize the progress and I do recognize that he's working hard at his trade." All righty, then.
- Matter of fact, let's just keep profiling Coughlin quotes. This one on rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who missed yet another practice with a hamstring injury: "I would like to see the young man practice before we start talking about him playing in the regular season. That would be a good thing."
- Running back Peyton Hillis returned to practice after missing a couple of weeks with an ankle injury, and Coughlin described him as "rusty." Return man Trindon Holliday also did some work in punt return and individual drills but remains hobbled a bit by his own hamstring problems. Cornerback Prince Amukamara worked on the side with trainers as he continues to deal with a groin injury.
- Yes, Ryan Nassib did work some at quarterback with the first-team offense in Sunday's practice. No, there's obviously no chance they're considering any kind of change. Nassib is certainly going to get a lot more work in Thursday night's preseason finale than Eli Manning is, and that's why he's practicing more this week. The third-teamers spent more time on the field Sunday than the first-teamers did for similar reasons.
But the Giants' first-team offense has looked so bad so far this preseason that coach Tom Coughlin says it shouldn't assume it's getting that final preseason game off. Basically, he's challenging his first-teamers to show something this week.
Recall that the reason Coughlin put then-co-starting running back Andre Brown in the preseason finale last year in New England was because he didn't think Brown had played well enough and he wanted to see more from him. Brown broke his leg in that game and missed the first half of the season as a result, but that doesn't mean Coughlin won't run guys out there if he doesn't think they've played well enough to start the season.
As he had Saturday night, Coughlin praised the effort his second-team and third-team players made to score 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to come back and win their preseason game against the Colts in Indianapolis. But there's no disguising the concern Coughlin feels about the way his starters performed en route to a 20-0 halftime deficit.
"Anytime you set up a schedule in the preseason, you expect to be at certain points along the way," Coughlin said. "So, certainly, it's disappointing not to be at least a little bit more advanced than we are."
The Giants hired a new offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, and have spent much of the offseason installing and learning a new offense. But it hasn't come together yet in practice or, obviously, in the games. Manning is 7-for-16 for 49 yards in the Giants' three preseason games and just 1-for-9 in the last two. It's entirely possible, with three weeks left until the start of the regular season, that the Giants' new offense will enter the season with more learning still to do.
"I don't know that there's any way to put it but that," Coughlin said. "The last few years, we've had what would have to be looked at as unproductive games in preseasons and we've still been able to come out and perform early on in regular seasons. But is it a concern? Yes it is."
In other news from Coughlin's day-after conference call with reporters:
- Rookie Weston Richburg saw more time with the first-team offensive line Saturday and remains a candidate to start at right guard, where Brandon Mosley has taken the bulk of the first-team reps since Chris Snee retired. Coughlin pointed out that Richburg has played right guard, center and left guard in these games, so I guess you have to say he's also a candidate to start at center ahead of J.D. Walton. "Just because five guys trot out there doesn't mean that's the starting unit," Coughlin said. "It's a work in progress and we're trying like heck to speed that up, but we have to make sure we're looking at all the possibilities."
- Ryan Nassib led the fourth-quarter comeback and could reclaim the No. 2 quarterback spot from Curtis Painter this week, though Coughlin also pointed out that the rally got started with Painter under center.
- Backup safety Cooper Taylor suffered a serious toe injury and could end up on injured reserve as a result. Coughlin said it was a sesamoid bone injury that would require "quite a bit of time" to heal.
- Cornerback Prince Amukamara was scheduled for an MRI on his injured groin and could have to miss some practice time. Unclear at this point whether the start of the regular season is at issue, but from what I understand the team is not overly concerned about Amukamara's injury.
- Backup tackle Charles Brown has a shoulder injury and could miss some time. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn hyperextended his elbow in the game, but Coughlin said Kuhn "for sure can deal with that."
- OK, so now I think the Giants' offense is just trolling us. There was a play Thursday when Eli Manning looked right, Rueben Randle cut up the field but Manning threw short and cornerback Zack Bowman intercepted the pass and ran it back into the end zone. Which is the exact same thing that happened in the Giants' loss to the Bears in Chicago last October -- right down to Bowman, who was playing corner for the Bears that night! That had to be staged, right? Like some kind of obscure Civil War battle re-enactment? Maybe they're just messing with us and they're going to be the 2013 Eagles offense when the curtain goes up next month. Think about it.
- Tom Coughlin said Curtis Painter would be the No. 2 quarterback behind Manning on Saturday night in Indianapolis, which is a change from the first two preseason games, in which Ryan Nassib was. And it's not a coincidence -- it's because Painter is playing better. Asked whether this was the plan all along or whether that's just where things stand right now, Coughlin said the latter.
- Wide receiver Victor Cruz had a strong practice, beating slot cornerback Walter Thurmond for one of the few times this camp and scoring on an Eli Manning pass up the seam.
- Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. continues to do more and more, and his hamstring is feeling better to an extent that he's able to be a bit less careful out there. He caught a pass from Nassib with Ross Weaver in coverage and fell to the ground with Weaver tumbling on top of him. He got up without issue and walked back to the sideline. Beckham won't play Saturday, but Coughlin said they believe he'll play in next week's preseason game against the Jets.
- The Giants are lining up fullback Henry Hynoski all over the field, and had him split out wide on one play in practice Thursday, though Coughlin said the idea of lining Hynoski up at the line is far fetched. "Up position, wing position, all over the backfield," Coughlin said. Hynoski's versatility could be important for a team struggling to find answers at tight end.
- Tight end Daniel Fells continues to miss practice with a knee injury. Return man Trindon Holliday continues to miss practice with a hamstring injury. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder) was back at practice Thursday.
- Coughlin, GM Jerry Reese and Eli Manning all took the ice bucket challenge for ALS after practice.
- Though they will continue to practice in the same place and at the same times next week as they have been for the past three, Thursday was the last official day of Giants "training camp." So no more practices open to the public. The team is off Friday and will travel to Indianapolis for Saturday night's preseason game against the Colts.
- Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. participated in individual drills Monday. Beckham, the team’s first-round draft pick, hasn’t practiced since injuring a hamstring on July 22, the very first day of training camp. “They said he did all right, and maybe they can extend it a little bit tomorrow, I hope,” coach Tom Coughlin said. The highlight of Beckham's day was a one-handed catch on a pass from Eli Manning. “He’s out there running around, doing individual (drills), that’s all I saw,” Coughlin said. “Did he look fast? He probably wasn’t full speed today, but he did some things. I won’t be able to ascertain anything until he takes some team stuff.” Fellow wideout Victor Cruz (knee) was given a day off as a maintenance day, but Coughlin said Cruz will practice Tuesday.
- The injury report was a long one. It included wide receivers Jerrel Jernigan (knee) and Marcus Harris (hip) -- both are expected to return Tuesday as well. Also sitting out: fullback John Conner (concussion), tight ends Daniel Fells (knee) and Xavier Grimble (hamstring), running back Peyton Hillis (foot), wide receiver/kick returner Trindon Holliday (hamstring), cornerback Jayron Hosley (foot), defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder) amd linebacker Jon Beason (foot).
- Third-string quarterback Curtis Painter worked with the second team, while backup QB Ryan Nassib took snaps with the third team. Painter had been working with the 3s, and Nassib with the 2s, but Painter played extremely well Saturday against the Steelers. “Curtis certain did earn it, but I never put them in any kind of order for you and I won’t do it now, either,” Coughlin said. “They both have worked with the seconds, they both have worked with the threes and we will decide later in the week how we are going to play.”
- Wide receiver Corey Washington -- a long-shot at the start of camp, but with two touchdown catches in the team's first two preseason games -- had a phenomenal practice. Working with the starters, he had three consecutive catches during a 2-minute drill and made a jumping grab over cornerback Zack Bowman near the sideline. Fellow wideout Rueben Randle made an amazing one-handed 50-yard catch in the back of the end zone from Manning with Prince Amukamara and Stevie Brown draped all over him.
- Let's get the nightly interception rundown out of the way first. Zack Bowman intercepted Curtis Painter, Charles James intercepted Eli Manning and Bowman intercepted Ryan Nassib in the end zone. Chandler Fenner almost got a pick for the second night in a row, but Corey Washington turned into a defensive back and knocked it away from him at the last second. The secondary is ahead of the offense, is the basic point here.
- The star of the secondary is Walter Thurmond, though. He came on a corner blitz and got to Andre Williams in the backfield on one play. And while they love him as the nickel corner, Thurmond got a lot of work on the outside Thursday night as well, staying on the field with the first-team base defense while Prince Amukamara or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie took a break.
- Left guard Geoff Schwartz returned to practice, but his left knee is obviously bugging him and he didn't take many reps. Weston Richburg got most of the snaps at first-team left guard. Charles Brown took most of the first-team left tackle snaps, but not because of any fresh injury to Will Beatty. It's just that Beatty isn't playing Saturday and Brown is.
- I watched running back pass-catching drills. The most natural pass-catchers in the group are Rashad Jennings and fullback Henry Hynoski. Rookie Andre Williams seems to be doing a bit better job catching the ball in his hands (as opposed to against his body), but it's a work in progress.
- The tight ends still look bad catching the ball, other than Larry Donnell. Adrien Robinson had a bad drop. Kellen Davis caught a ball awkwardly near the sideline and stepped right out of bounds even though there was no one near him. Some of the players not in on that play groaned a bit.
- Marcus Harris made two nice catches, including one jumping at the goal line to corral a touchdown pass from Nassib.
- I'm always fascinated to see who stays after practice for extra work. Charles James, Preston Parker, Harris and Jayron Hosley stayed to work on punt returns a bit more. Cooper Taylor was off to the side with a blocking sled, presumably honing that punt-protection technique. Amukamara and Rodgers-Cromartie stayed late for the third night in a row so Amukamara could work on jumping for interceptions. And all three quarterbacks, including Manning, stuck around to practice taking shotgun snaps from all three centers.
- The Jets were playing a home preseason game across the parking lot at MetLife Stadium that kicked off about an hour and 20 minutes into Giants practice. During Giants practice, some (presumably Jets) fans kept driving by on Paterson Plank Road and hollering insults at the Giants. None were printable, sorry.
- The Giants are off Friday in advance of Saturday night's preseason game against the Steelers at MetLife Stadium.
- Cooper Taylor's missed block that led to a blocked punt Sunday night against the Bills annoyed Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who personally oversaw a punt-protection drill in the early part of Tuesday's evening practice and stayed after to watch Taylor work one-on-one with Mathias Kiwanuka on improving his technique. Funny thing about it is, Taylor has actually looked very good at safety this camp (as he did in Sunday night's game). On Tuesday, Taylor had a nice leaping interception of a Ryan Nassib pass. Later, on a play on which Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was covering Victor Cruz and let him go inside, Taylor did a perfect job picking up Cruz and covering him while Eli Manning went through his progression. Taylor can help as a safety, but he needs to get the special-teams work cleaned up if he wants to make the team.
- Cornerback Prince Amukamara was upset that he didn't intercept a deep pass from Jeff Tuel to T.J. Graham on Sunday night, so he too stayed after practice to work on jumping and catching the ball at his highest point. He ran about a half-dozen plays, and his quarterback for the drill was fellow cornerback Rodgers-Cromartie, who doesn't throw a terrible deep ball and who showed Amukamara how it's done with an athletic leaping catch of his own at the end.
- Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who's been out of practice with a hamstring injury since July 22, did more on the field than he's done in two weeks. He stretched with the team and did a good deal of running on his own, practicing making cuts and running not at top speed but at something quicker than a jog. It's definitely progress, though there's no timetable for Beckham's return to the field.
- Other injury notes: Running back Peyton Hillis left practice with a sprained ankle, but he was able to walk off and into the building on his own power. ... Guard Geoff Schwartz was in and out of team drills for some reason and could be seen flexing his left leg in discomfort on the sideline when he came out. I asked Schwartz after practice if he was OK and he said yes, but did not elaborate. ... Linebacker Spencer Paysinger (concussion), left tackle Will Beatty (illness) and cornerback Bennett Jackson (ankle) all returned after missing practice last week. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder), return man Trindon Holliday (hamstring) and tight ends Xavier Grimble (hamstring) and Daniel Fells (knee) all sat out. Defensive end Robert Ayers (ankle) was limited.
- Two little highlights: Tight end Larry Donnell made a nice high-point catch in coverage. And wide receiver Corey Washington caught a ball in traffic and, instead of stiff-arming defensive back Jayron Hosley, slapped him in the side of the helmet on the way by.
- The Giants signed former Bears and Lions defensive end Israel Idonije and tight end Jerome Cunningham. To make room, they put David Wilson on injured reserve and waived defensive lineman Kendrick Adams.
- The Giants practice from 5:40 p.m. ET to 7:50 p.m. again Wednesday, and this one is open to the public.
Eli Manning took the first 20 snaps, getting a third series at the helm of the first-team offense after the first two series disappointed. Ryan Nassib took the next 29 snaps, as the team works to get him a long look in the preseason and the best possible shot at winning the No. 2 quarterback job. Curtis Painter took the final 15 snaps and, for purposes of this analysis, was largely irrelevant. Painter completed all three of his passes, but who on earth was he playing against?
"As we get better with the pass protection, the ball will go down the field a little bit more," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
But that second possession ended ugly, as Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams slipped past a momentarily confused Geoff Schwartz and sacked Manning and forced a fumble that Buffalo recovered. Charles Brown, filling in at left tackle for Will Beatty, had been shaky in protection on some plays before that, but it was Schwartz who was at fault on this one, and it was an ugly reminder that Manning is going to be only as good as his protection.
"I probably had bad pocket movement," Manning said. "I should have more stepped up into the pocket rather than spin out, and also protect the ball. I thought I had a pretty good grip on it, but I have to make sure I have two hands on it, and I can't fumble in that situation."
Manning completed both of his passes on the third possession, when the Giants went heavily to the run and marched 80 yards for a touchdown. The pass to tight end Daniel Fells right before Andre Williams' 21-yard run was Manning's only pass of at least 10 yards.
"I'm glad we had that one last opportunity to get something going there," Manning said.
Overall, it felt like a get-his-feet-wet game for Manning. As he pointed out, the quarterbacks don't have to deal with the threat of contact even in the team's full-contact practices. So preseason games are a different sort of test. He said the communication from the sidelines with new coordinator Ben McAdoo was smooth and that he felt everyone was comfortable with what they were trying to do. The Giants have four preseason games remaining, and Manning is likely to play in all but the final one.
As for Nassib, he was 7 of 12 for 139 yards, 73 of which came on the fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Corey Washington. Nassib admitted that ball was a bit underthrown and gave credit to the 6-foot-4 Washington for leaping over his defender to get it and turn around and run to the end zone. I thought Nassib's first series was his best. He looked good rolling out to his right and firing the ball to Larry Donnell on his first play. And he hit Marcus Harris on a nice 25-yarder two plays later. On that possession, which ended with a field goal, I thought Nassib looked cool and in command.
But his accuracy is obviously still an issue, and he had a rough third-quarter series on which he threw an interception right into the chest of linebacker Preston Brown. It called back due to a roughing-the-passer penalty that didn't seem to contribute to the throw or the decision. On the play after that, Nassib found himself in trouble and all he could do was spike the ball for an obvious intentional grounding penalty. He's still shaky, but that's to be expected for a second-year quarterback who didn't play as a rookie.
"He needs to get better and add some more, but the play there at the end was nice to hit a big play," Coughlin said. "He's a very serious young man, a talented kid that needs to play. Didn't get to play at all last year, so he needs some time. He'll grow and he'll get better."
Expect to see a lot more of Nassib on Saturday night against the Steelers.
- There seemed to be a lot more practice reps than usual for backup quarterbacks Ryan Nassib and Curtis Painter on Thursday, likely because those are the quarterbacks who'll get the most playing time in Sunday night's preseason opener in Canton, Ohio. Eli Manning was fine and worked with the first team, don't worry. But it seemed as though the guys more likely to play Sunday got on the field a bit more on Thursday.
- Nassib had some nice throws, including one to running back Kendall Gaskins up the left side with linebacker Devon Kennard in coverage, one that Corey Washington high-pointed on the right sideline and one on which Travis Harvey shook Prince Amukamara in the open field and got clear for a long gain. Painter had a ball tipped in the air and intercepted by Jordan Stanton. And the last play of practice was a Manning pass that Jacquian Williams batted into the air and Jameel McClain intercepted near the goal line.
- Tight ends continue to be everywhere. There was a play on which Daniel Fells was the receiver lined up wide left and Larry Donnell was in the backfield. Running back Peyton Hillis was the one who ended up with the ball on that play, but it's clear the Giants would like to use the tight end liberally, and in a wide variety of roles, in their new offense. Now they just need to find one they can consider a starter.
- Wide receiver Rueben Randle, who missed Tuesday's practice with a sore hamstring, was back practicing Thursday and made a nice touchdown catch from Manning in the back of the end zone. He and the tight ends (who are all 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7) seem to be the primary and logical red zone targets since the rest of the receiving corps lacks height. Another reason they want the tight ends to step up. Fells caught a touchdown pass from Manning in goal-line drills, and Victor Cruz dropped one on the very next play.
- Before he had to leave practice due to an illness, I thought left tackle Will Beatty was doing a good job dictating the action in his one-on-one matchups with Jason Pierre-Paul. Charles Brown got the bulk of the practice reps at left tackle, though. Beatty isn't likely to play Sunday, but he's done a good job so far in his recovery from a broken leg.
- The Giants are scheduled to practice from 1:20 pm to 3:30 pm ET Friday and have Saturday off as they travel to Canton for Sunday night's game.
No? I didn't think so. Good. Let's go.
The thing to remember, of course, is that the only place Robinson has ever been an effective pass-catching tight end is in Jerry Reese's imagination. Robinson caught a total of 29 passes in four years of college football at Cincinnati and didn't catch one in either of his first two NFL seasons. He's a blocking tight end, if anything, but Reese drafted him thinking he had the physical gifts to become a good NFL tight end. It's still possible he turns out to be correct, but to this point there's no evidence to support it.
The Giants' starting tight end job remains wide, wide, wide open and could conceivably still go to someone who's not yet on the team. But it's stunning to see Robinson listed all the way at the back of the depth chart when there was an assumption that he could get the first crack at it.
Elsewhere on this gilded document:
- Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle are listed as starting wide receivers, with rookie Odell Beckham Jr. behind Randle and Jerrel Jernigan behind Cruz. Beckham is, somewhat surprisingly, not listed at all among the kick returners or the punt returners, but that could be because he hasn't practiced much because of hamstring problems.
- J.D. Walton is listed as the starting center and Brandon Mosley as the starting right guard. Rookie Weston Richburg is listed as the backup center and John Jerry as the backup right guard. Those positions both could flip between now and Week 1. Richburg also could conceivably end up starting at right guard. Those two spots are in flux. Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz and Justin Pugh are in their usual spots at left tackle, left guard and right tackle.
- Ryan Nassib is listed as the No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Curtis Painter. We'll see whether they keep two or three, but Nassib has to show more.
- Henry Hynoski is listed as the starting fullback ahead of John Conner, but man. The way they've been lining up tight ends in the backfield makes you wonder whether they'll carry either one.
- Rashad Jennings is the starting running back, with David Wilson, Peyton Hillis, Andre Williams, Kendall Gaskins and Michael Cox listed behind him, in that order.
- Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul are the starting defensive ends, with Robert Ayers behind Kiwanuka and Damontre Moore behind Pierre-Paul.
- Devon Kennard, whom we discussed Wednesday as a quick study, is listed as the starting strongside linebacker, with Jameel McClain in the middle in place of the injured Jon Beason. McClain could move back to the strong side when Beason returns, but Kennard has a chance for significant playing time as a rookie based on what he's shown so far. It wouldn't be a shock to see him hold on to the starting job. Jacquian Williams is listed ahead of Spencer Paysinger as the starter on the weak side. Rookie linebacker
- Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson are the starting defensive tackles, with Johnathan Hankins behind Jenkins and Markus Kuhn behind Patterson. They'd love for Hankins to play his way into a starting spot.
- Quintin Demps, Trindon Holliday, Wilson, Preston Parker and Jernigan are the listed kick returners, in that order.
- Holliday, Randle, Jernigan, Parker and Wilson are the listed punt returners, in that order.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Let's assume, for the sake of this discussion, that middle linebacker Jon Beason does not make it back from his foot injury to play for the New York Giants in Week 1 in Detroit. If that is the case (as seems likely), then Jameel McClain is the front-runner to start at middle linebacker.
At this point, the starters on the outside would be Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams, but rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard impressed coaches in the spring program and could be in the mix to start on the strong side. What's interesting to me is that linebackers coach Eric Hermann had a lot to say Thursday about the improvement Williams has shown as a weakside linebacker in the Giants' base defense. They already love him on the weak side in their nickel package due to his speed and coverage ability. But if they like him there in the base as well, Williams might be ahead of Paysinger to start there even once Beason returns and McClain moves back to the strong side. So to answer your question, I'd expect to see McClain in the middle, Williams on the weak side and either Paysinger or, if he has a big camp, Kennard on the strong side in Week 1.
Giants coaches like his progress. Quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf on Thursday praised Nassib's intelligence and his ability to pick up the new system but said he's still got to work on his accuracy and his timing. Which is understandable, given that he's still a young quarterback who's never played in the league. It's clear they view him as the No. 2 right now behind Eli Manning -- or that they're at least giving him every chance to beat out Curtis Painter for that spot in camp. But no, if Manning got hurt, at this point the Giants would not have honest confidence in Nassib or anyone else who might replace him.
Manning costs the Giants 17 percent of their salary cap. He's the player around whom their team is built. If they don't have him, they simply won't be a remotely competitive team. Even if Nassib comes quickly in camp and becomes a viable No. 2, there's no chance that, in 2014, he offers anything close to what Manning offers as a starting NFL quarterback. All the Giants want from Nassib is continued growth and development, and their hope is that he's a decent backup/emergency option this year and maybe more down the road.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I agree that the Giants' defensive line is questionable behind the starters, and that there's a chance it could be a bad defensive line. They desperately need Jason Pierre-Paul to stay healthy and dominate from the defensive end position, because honestly they're not going to get much pass rush from the other side at this point. Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers are what they are, and they're not the kinds of defensive ends who are going to whip tackles regularly and pile up sacks. And Damontre Moore is still developing.
On the inside, you mention Cullen Jenkins, and I agree he's key because he's the one guy in there who's not a question mark. Coaches were raving this week about the development defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn have shown, and if so then that's a positive thing for them and for the Giants. But there's no way to know until they can practice in pads and play against other teams what they really have in there. To me, the Giants are hoping a lot of people -- namely, Hankins, Kuhn, Moore, Ayers and Kiwanuka -- outperform anything they've yet shown in the league in order to make them strong on the defensive line. It's not nuts to think one or two of them will, but... all of them?
@DanGrazianoESPN: The first-team offensive line in minicamp was, left to right: Charles Brown, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Brandon Mosley, Justin Pugh. Which, no, is not good. They believe Chris Snee could play right guard if he had to right now, but he's working his way back from elbow and hip surgeries and they're taking it slowly with him. And they're also hoping Will Beatty is healthy enough to play left tackle in training camp ahead of Brown, who was signed as a backup. Rookie Weston Richburg is in a straight-up competition with Walton for the starting center spot. So it's possible that by Week 1 it's Beatty/Schwartz/Richburg/Snee/Pugh, which would look a lot better than what they ran out there this week. But as of now, that's your starting five.
Mosley's an interesting case. They like him and think his development has been hurt by injuries. But the fact that Snee and John Jerry (knee surgery) haven't been able to get on the field helped Mosley get a lot of first-team reps this spring. And that can only help him if they need to turn to him to play a starting role in camp, in the preseason or in the season.
Thanks for all of your questions. Enjoy the first weekend of summer.
But because Manning is the most durable quarterback in the league, having not missed a game since he got the starter's job as a rookie in 2004, it's worth examining the concept of an Eli Manning injury in general. He doesn't, in any meaningful way, ever have them. Oh, sure, he has played through pain and maybe even an ailment or two that would have sidelined other quarterbacks. But an injury that forces Manning away from the field is not something the Giants have had to confront. Ever.
That's important. The Giants make their plans, every year, around the idea that Manning won't miss any time. He doesn't miss games, practices or offseason workouts. He is always there, without exception, and that and his two Super Bowl MVP awards are the reasons he's paid as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. The Giants don't really employ a backup quarterback in the fill-in-starter sense. What they look for in a backup is a good scout team quarterback. Curtis Painter isn't a real option to play if Manning has to miss a bunch of time, and Ryan Nassib remains what he was on draft day last year -- a long-range project who may or may not ever play for them. If Manning were to have to miss games, the Giants would quite honestly have little reason to show up for those games. He's as important to his team as any player in the league, and the key to that importance is the reliability of his health.
Which is why this is a faint-sounding, long-range alarm bell if not a short-range one. Manning is 33, which isn't old by modern NFL quarterback standards but certainly isn't young. There will come a time when he's not able to answer the bell for every single game and every single practice. Whether that time comes this year, next year or five years down the road, it is coming. At some point in the not-too-distant future, the Giants will have to answer questions at quarterback that Manning's reliability has kept them from having to address for the past decade. News that their indestructible franchise quarterback is having surgery is cause to appreciate what Manning has meant to the Giants, and a warning that he won't always be there for them.