NFL Nation: Eli Manning
Date: Feb. 3, 2008. Site: University of Phoenix Stadium.
This was not a difficult call for me. The third-down Eli Manning pass that David Tyree caught against his helmet in the waning minutes of the Super Bowl XLII victory over the New England Patriots had to be the winner for most memorable play in New York Giants history.
The helmet catch was a runaway winner in fan balloting, pulling in more than 70 percent of the votes.
So what are the possibilities? The Phil Simms Super Bowl doesn't really have a standout play. It was a thrashing from the start. The most memorable play from the second Bill Parcells Super Bowl win was a missed field goal by the Buffalo Bills' Scott Norwood at the end of the game. And while Mario Manningham's sideline catch in Super Bowl XLVI was an all-time play, I rate the Tyree play ahead of it because of the difference in the significance of those two Super Bowls in NFL history.
The first Manning/Tom Coughlin Super Bowl was one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports, the Giants coming from behind against a Patriots team that was 18-0 and had set multiple offensive records. Also, the play had more to it than the helmet catch, as Manning had to escape what looked like a sure sack in order to get the throw off.
The Giants converted a fourth down earlier in that drive and would have to convert another third down later in it to keep their hopes alive before Manning connected with Plaxico Burress for the game-winning touchdown. But the Tyree play was so brilliantly improbable, so incredibly clutch on both ends and so significant in changing the history of the NFL (the 2007 Patriots would have plausibly been able to call themselves the greatest team ever) that it had to be the winner.
Manning is 33 years old now and has two years remaining on his contract. Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants chose not to try to extend Manning's contract this offseason, though it would have saved them significant cap room. His cap numbers the next two years are $20.4 million and $19.75 million, which are monster numbers that make it difficult for the Giants to budget around him, but they don't mind that if he's performing like a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
That's why the biggest key to the Giants' success over the next three years is Manning's ability to master new coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense, help all of the new pieces jell together and convince the Giants that an extension that keeps him in blue for the remainder of his career is a no-brainer. If Manning flames out in 2014, then the Giants have a major decision to make about the most important position on their roster. And that would throw their next three years -- and likely a few after that -- into disarray.
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in New York Giants history. In the next two days, we'll feature Lawrence Taylor's sack that broke Joe Theismann's leg in 1985 and the Joe Pisarcik-Herman Edwards "Miracle at the Meadowlands" play from 1978. Please vote for your choice as the Giants' most memorable play.
Score: Giants 17, Patriots 14
Date: Feb. 3, 2008 Site: University of Phoenix Stadium
Eli Manning was as close to being sacked as a quarterback can possibly be without actually being sacked. The Giants trailed the undefeated New England Patriots 14-10 with a little more than a minute left in Super Bowl XLII. It was third-and-5 on the Giants' 44-yard line, the eighth play of a drive on which the Giants already had converted a fourth down and would later need to convert another third. The play broke down and it appeared as though the Giants would have to pick up a long fourth down to keep their hopes of the upset alive. But Manning slipped out of the grasp of New England defensive end Jarvis Green, stepped forward in the pocket and fired the ball over the middle, where little-used Giants wide receiver David Tyree and Patriots defensive back Rodney Harrison were jumping for it at the same time.
Replays would show that Tyree caught the ball with both hands but that Harrison's hand got there too and knocked Tyree's left hand off the ball. As the two fell to the ground together, Tyree pinned the ball against the forehead of his helmet with his left hand, then managed somehow to get his left hand back on the ball and maintain possession all the way to the ground.
The result was a miraculous 32-yard gain and a first down that kept alive the Giants' chances. Three plays later, Manning found Steve Smith to convert a third-and-11, and on the play after that, he connected with Plaxico Burress for the 13-yard touchdown catch that gave the Giants the 17-14 lead.
The Giants kicked the ball back to New England, but with only 29 seconds left on the clock, Tom Brady couldn't get the ball out of his own end, and the Giants secured the third, and most astounding, Super Bowl title in their history. Tyree's catch was improbable enough to fit the moment. No one thought the Patriots, who carried an 18-0 record into the game and would have been only the second team in NFL history to finish a season undefeated, would lose. Most expected this to be a coronation of the best team in the history of the game. Manning, Tyree and the Giants did everything they possibly could to deny it.
@DanGrazianoESPN been a fan all my life and I gotta say the helmet grab. From Eli's scramble to Tyree's catch, just flat amazing!— KeithMichaud (@keithmmichaud) June 5, 2014
Luck is ranked higher than fellow quarterbacks like Manning. No, not that Manning, but Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.
The quarterbacks are broken up into four tiers. Luck is in Tier 1 with all future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. He joins Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in that top tier. Impressive company for a third-year player.
Here is what Sando wrote about Luck:
"Luck doesn't have the track record of the other Tier 1 QBs, and there was a clear gap in the voting between him and the top four. But people in the league love him almost unconditionally, and 14 of the 26 voters insisted upon putting him in the top tier (each of the top four received 25 of 26 Tier 1 votes).
The evaluators think Luck has carried a subpar roster to a 22-10 record without much help. They see no limitations. They have zero doubt about his long-term stardom and felt strongly enough to give him 14 first-tier votes even while acknowledging he is below the Big Four at this early stage. Every other QB fell into the tier in which he received the most votes, and so shall Luck, even if his Tier 1 designation feels a bit premature."
The Colts' offensive line was atrocious Luck’s rookie season and only a little better last season. Luck didn’t have a reliable receiver to turn to outside of T.Y. Hilton after Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL in Week 7 last season. The running game? That was a problem, too.
Four players tied for the top spot in Sando’s rankings, using a 1 for the best at the position and a 5 for the worst. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees shared the top spot. Andrew Luck was fifth.
Romo checked in after Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger and tied with Russell Wilson and Eli Manning in the second tier.
Here’s what Sando wrote and the insiders had to say about Romo:
T-8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (2.23 average rating)
A few evaluators questioned whether Romo had the mind-set to play at the highest level consistently. It's a familiar refrain in league circles, a feeling that Romo is an undisciplined QB playing for an undisciplined organization with a poorly constructed roster.
"People want to knock him," one GM responded, "but the guy has talent and is one of the top 10 starters in the league."
Romo is 34 years old and coming off back surgery, but he still could be in line for a "monster" season, one evaluator said. "But I absolutely believe they will not win big with him. As soon as he decides it's a clutch moment, his brain goes elsewhere. He loses focus and tries to create something."
What’s funny is that the GM and evaluator have the same thoughts of those who love Romo or loathe Romo who are not on the inside. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports went so far as to call Romo “underrated” in his yearly rankings, which drew the ire of some.
The “clutch” talk has been a big thing around Romo since the bobbled snap in 2006 against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. That talk is always followed up with Romo having the best fourth-quarter passer rating in NFL history (102.4) and his 20 come-from-behind wins.
Those numbers aren’t hollow, although with one playoff win to his credit that’s what his detractors will say.
That’s why this debate is a good one. Both sides can declare victory with their points. If Romo were to ever win a Super Bowl -- or perhaps just get to one -- then the perception would change entirely.
@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.
"I've been groomed for the position," McAdoo said Thursday in response to a question about how he will handle the challenges of his new job. "You have to prepare for everything you do to be successful in this business. Calling plays is no different. You have to put the time in. It's the planning. It's the planning with everybody on the staff. It's the planning with the quarterback. Just trying to be one step ahead of the game."
"We've put in a lot of time together," McAdoo said. "It's a talented staff, a high-character staff, and we spent a lot of time together before the players got here. It was a little bit of an extended offseason, and that helped us as coaches. We spent a lot of time together and tossed around ideas. We all like football, we all love football and enjoy talking about it, and that goes a long way."
McAdoo insisted, as he has before, that "this is going to be the Giants' offense, not my offense." But no one is pretending there hasn't been a lot of new stuff to learn. McAdoo counted 12 offseason practices the team has had against its own defense, and he seems to think the progress is moving at the speed with which he would expect it to move -- slowly.
"After 12 practices, by no stretch of the imagination do we have everything mastered," McAdoo said. "But they understand the identity that we're looking for. We're making small strides. Our goal is to be sound, smart, tough and committed to discipline and poise. At this point in time, we're not there. But we're getting close."
McAdoo is going to be light on specifics, likely by design. Asked about the tight end situation, he said, "I think we have a nice group right there. We have big men in the room. I like the way they think about the game. I like the way they're moving around on the field. And when we get the pads on, that's when we'll know where we are."
He used "I like the way he thinks about the game" in an answer to a question about quarterback Eli Manning, too. He also said of Manning, "Eli is very humble. He's a guy that is very anxious and very excited to be a part of something. He didn't have the year that he wanted to have last year, and we didn't talk about this, but what I see is a guy who's a consummate pro and is excited to move on."
He said he likes to use a fullback, and that both Henry Hynoski and John Conner have "done a nice job" so far. He praised Rashad Jennings and Rueben Randle when asked about them specifically. He called Trindon Holliday, who was signed as a return man, "a pleasant surprise" for the work he's done so far in the offense. He understands that the Giants turned the ball over 10 more times than any other team in the league last year, and he thinks he can help fix that.
"Watching the film from last year, it's no secret they didn't protect the ball as well as they would have liked to," McAdoo said. "And we've made strides already, I believe, this offseason, in doing that. The fundamentals are a big part of it. Decision-making is a big part of it. And yes, it can be fixed, and yes, I believe it will be fixed."
But whether he agrees with it or not (and it seemed he didn't want), McAdoo's own job performance will be a big part of the story of the Giants' 2014 season. He is well regarded as a smart, talented young coach, but this will be his first experience as a coordinator. He likely will make mistakes, as anyone does when new at something. He likely will have a lot to learn. He's likely to be better at it in 2015 than he is in 2014. He seems to know this.
"Building relationships and having strong relationships is an important part of pro football," he said. "It's difficult in Year 1 to do that. You usually have to go through some things together to have a strong relationship. So that takes time."
McAdoo and the Giants have time -- both to get ready for this season and to grow together to be productive in the seasons to come. His ability to help them all do that together will be watched very closely, starting in training camp a month from now.
"It has definitely felt different," Manning said Tuesday after the first day of minicamp. "There's a lot of learning. The past several years, you never had too many surprises. You could be positive how it was going to turn out or what a guy might do versus this coverage or thinking about protections and stuff -- all of that was second nature. Now, you kind of have to slowly think through it the first time you're doing some things."
"It should be second nature to us now," Manning said. "Calling plays, everyone should know what they're doing, no mistakes, playing a little bit faster, getting up to the line of scrimmage quicker, getting the ball snapped without as much thinking. I think we did a pretty good job today. I thought the tempo was good. It was hot and we ran a lot of plays, but I thought we had a good tempo and felt a little more confident with everything, with the adjustments, the changing of the plays. Everything is happening a little quicker, so I think that's a positive."
Manning is working with a relatively new group of running backs. Peyton Hillis was on the team last year, but free-agent signee Rashad Jennings and rookie Andre Williams were not. Manning said the backs have a lot to work on in terms of blitz pickup and catching the ball out of the backfield in the new offense, but that he likes their progress. As for the wide receivers, he's still without first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr., who has a hamstring injury, and Mario Manningham, who's rehabbing his knee. But in general, Manning thinks, the receivers should find things simpler in this offense than they did in the one Kevin Gilbride used to run.
"There are a lot of different plays and a lot of different things going on, but maybe not as much reading as a receiver," Manning said. "If you know what the play is, then you should be fine. It's just about getting open. You don't have to make as many decisions, probably, as a receiver, but there are still a lot of things to it. We're still fine-tuning a few things."
The Giants still have five weeks until the start of training camp and 12 weeks until the start of the regular season, so there's plenty of time to work out the kinks. Manning is a seasoned-enough veteran to enjoy progress even if it's a bit slow, and to know there's time to get everything right.
Middle linebacker: With Jon Beason out with a foot injury, who will take over his responsibilities in the middle of the front seven? Has Mark Herzlich advanced enough since last September to handle it? Can Jameel McClain move inside to a larger role than the one for which he was signed? Is rookie Devon Kennard a legitimate candidate? Much of what the Giants do on defense relies on Beason's ability to get and keep things organized. How organized will it look without him?
The offensive line: Who's getting more first-team snaps at center, J.D. Walton or Weston Richburg? Can Chris Snee practice every day, or are his surgically repaired hips slowing him down? And who's getting the left tackle reps with Will Beatty out? The offensive line remains the biggest issue this team faces in 2014, and the sooner things start to look settled there, the better.
Odell Beckham Jr.: The Giants' first-round pick missed a chunk of OTA time due to a hamstring injury, and it's unclear whether he'll participate this week. I still don't think we'll be able to make any judgments about the speedy wide receiver until we see him against real competition and can tell how he's going to react to physical press coverage. But just getting him on the field with the rest of the offense would be a benefit, if only to keep everyone else in their proper positions and working on plays that involve Beckham's downfield speed.
Tight ends: They're going to need one. Is Adrien Robinson looking like a real candidate? Is Daniel Fells? Are there different roles possible for guys like Kellen Davis and Larry Donnell as blockers? The Giants' weakest position group bears watching until we get a better handle on the ways in which its members can be expected to contribute.
Manning also sounds rejuvenated by the process of learning a new offense under new coordinator Ben McAdoo.
The two-time Super Bowl MVP is coming off arguably the poorest season of his career, if you toss out the nine games he played in his rookie season. Manning threw for just 18 touchdowns, with a league-high 27 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of just 69.4 in 2013.
His work ethic has never been questioned, but it sounds like Manning's working even harder than usual.
"It's definitely challenging. Each night, I'm staying up and preparing, and I feel like I'm in season right now with the amount of preparation I'm trying to put in to get ready for each practice," Manning said.
"Each practice is draining on you mentally, you're thinking so much about everything that has to go on and the different calls," the quarterback continued. "But it is also exciting. As a football player, as a competitor, you like to be challenged."
The Giants have two more organized team activities, on Thursday and Friday, followed by a mandatory three-day minicamp next week. Manning has been able to participate fully in the team's first eight OTAs, despite undergoing ankle surgery in April.
That should pay dividends, as the 33-year-old prepares to play under a new offensive coordinator for the first time in his career.
"This has been huge, just getting in the offense," Manning said. "It's one thing to listen to a play being called or watch plays being run -- you may think you have a good grasp of it, until you're out there and you gotta pull the trigger, you gotta make a call, you gotta change a play and you’re doing it live, and with the defense, and make all those little decisions. It was huge."
By this point in the offseason, those questions have grown familiar: Can Eli Manning bounce back from the worst season of his career? What will the new offense look like? Can young receivers Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. make a major 2014 impact? How will the running back rotation shake out? Who in the heck is going to play tight end? Is there enough leadership left in the locker room? Can Tom Coughlin and the coaching staff get it all to mesh together in such a short period of time?
All good, important, worthwhile questions. But I'd argue that not one of them matters nearly as much as this one:
Did the Giants do enough to fix their offensive line?
Tell me the 2013 Giants had a lot of problems and I won't say you're wrong. I was there for all 16 games. They were awful. Much worse, I believe, than their final 7-9 record would indicate. But there's no question that, of their myriad problems, the offensive line was the biggest and most devastating. Everything else can be traced to the meltdown on the line.
Sure, David Wilson was an early-season fumbler and he and Andre Brown got hurt. But even if he'd held onto the ball and they'd stayed healthy, there were no holes for Giants backs to run through unless they were playing the Bears or the Raiders. Flanking Jim Cordle with Kevin Boothe and 2013 David Diehl is no way to push the pile.
And, yeah, you can argue that part of Manning's job is to overcome adversity and raise the level of play of those around him. But even the best quarterbacks need at least some time to do that stuff, and Manning's pass protection was cripplingly bad last year. The Carolina Panthers sacked him six times in the first 17 minutes of the Week 3 loss in Charlotte. It's easy for you and me to say a guy should do more to rise above his circumstances. It's quite another to actually do it when your circumstances include defensive linemen running next to you during your drops.
The point is that the biggest and most important of the Giants' 2014 unknowns is that offensive line, which still has legitimate question marks at all five positions. To wit:
Left tackle: Even before breaking his leg in the season finale, Will Beatty was having a bad enough season that he was soul-searching in December. Beatty has got to get right physically and mentally if he's to justify his contract and keep Manning from playing legitimately scared again all season.
Center: Is it J.D. Walton, who hasn't played in two years because of an ankle injury? Is it second-round pick Weston Richburg, who's a rookie? Regardless of which is the answer, will it be good enough? The player at center has more responsibility in this new offense than he did in the old one, and Manning has no prior relationship with either of these guys.
Right guard: Chris Snee is back, and he says he feels great. The question here is whether his surgically repaired hips will allow him to last and play with the same fierceness that characterized the prime of his career. If Snee is what he used to be, this could be the key to the whole line. If he struggles, then they have the same problem they had last year, except with John Jerry as the fallback plan instead of Diehl.
Right tackle: Justin Pugh played well for a rookie and offered reason for hope. He says his footwork improved as the season went on, and the Giants' hope is that he continues to make the necessary improvements. If he has a sophomore slump, that brings up a fresh question mark on which they aren't currently counting.
You can make the argument that this year's starting group looks more talented than the one with which the Giants started the 2013 season -- especially if this year's version of Snee is healthy, which last year's was not. But what remains to be seen is how they'll play together and how they'll all hold up. More than any other item on the Giants' list of offseason questions, the answer to this one will determine how much the team can improve over last season.
Someone is always signing a new deal or an extension to become the highest-paid this or the highest-paid that.
On paper, Kaepernick signed a six-year, $114 million extension that contained $61 million in guaranteed money. But in this case, the definition of guarantee is a loose one.
As ESPN’s John Clayton pointed out in his weekend Mailbag column, Kaepernick's deal is much more of a pay-as-you-play contract than the five-year, $110 million extension Rodgers signed on April 26, 2013. Rodgers’ deal was loaded with real guarantees.
Rodgers' signing bonus of $35 million followed by a guaranteed roster bonus of $9.5 million that was paid this March and another one worth $9.5 million due next March brought his guaranteed money to $54 million in real dollars.
For those who were outraged that Kaepernick received more guaranteed money, a closer examination of the deal revealed that those were "soft" guarantees. Kaepernick's yearly guarantees don't become such until April 1 before each season, meaning the 49ers can get out from under the deal at any point without paying those so-called guarantees.
So for the time being, even though Kaepernick has the potential to collect more than Rodgers, it's not accurate to call him the higher paid at this point.
Perhaps the best measure when comparing contracts is a three-year window. Looking at it that way, here's a breakdown of the top quarterback contracts by average per year, according to ESPN Stats & Information salary data:
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta: $22.9 million
- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay: $22.7 million
- Joe Flacco, Baltimore: $20.7 million
- Drew Brees, New Orleans: $20.3 million
- Peyton Manning, Denver: $19.3 million
- Tony Romo, Dallas: $18.0 million
- Jay Cutler, Chicago: $18.0 million
- Matthew Stafford, Detroit: $17.7 million
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh: $17.6 million
- Eli Manning, New York Giants: $17.0 million
- Philip Rivers, San Diego: $16.8 million
- Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco: $14.7 million
Three of the quarterbacks on the list -- Ryan, Cutler and Kaepernick -- signed their deals after Rodgers did his 14 months ago. In that time, Rodgers' contract has held up. He remains the highest-paid quarterback with a $22 million-per-year average over the life his deal.
Maybe Russell Wilson, the next quarterback likely to cash in, will surpass him. But Kaepernick's deal did not.
It doesn't sound as though the injury should keep Jerry out of training camp, which starts in mid-July. But all of the Giants' offensive players are learning a new system under new coordinator Ben McAdoo, and the lack of practice time could hurt Jerry's ability to pick up what he needs to pick up.
There also remains a possibility that Jerry could face a league-imposed suspension for part of the 2014 season as a result of his involvement in the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin bullying fiasco, though the Giants do not seem to believe he will. They signed him in case veteran offensive lineman Chris Snee couldn't make it back from his second hip surgery and because they felt they needed more experience in the backup offensive line positions than they had last year.
Some other news and observations from Thursday's OTA workout:
- Snee was out there practicing in full at right guard with the first-team offensive line. He said a few weeks ago that he feels great and hasn't been limited in any way.
- Left tackle Will Beatty, who broke his leg in Week 17 of the 2013 season, and wide receiver Mario Manningham, who's had all kinds of knee problems, were working off to the side during practice. Coughlin said they were both on track to be ready by fall, which I took to mean training camp but I guess could technically mean the regular season. Charles Brown took Beatty's place at left tackle with the first-team line Thursday. J.D. Walton worked as the first-team center, with Geoff Schwartz at left guard and Justin Pugh at right tackle.
- A variety of backup wide receivers got first-team reps with Manningham out and first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. missing the day to attend the NFLPA Rookie Premiere event. Fourth-round pick Andre Williams also attended that event and was therefore absent Thursday.
- Safeties Will Hill and Stevie Brown both practiced in full, Brown with the first-team defense and Hill with the second. Brown is recovering from ACL surgery that cost him the entire 2013 season, while Hill is appealing what would be his third drug suspension in as many years. Coughlin said that waiting for a resolution on Hill's status is difficult and would continue to be, but that the team has no idea when they can expect one.
- Running back David Wilson was held out of any drills that may have resulted in contact, as he has yet to be cleared for contact following last season's neck surgery. Wilson said his next doctor's appointment is Wednesday. He says he feels no pain (and never did) and hopes to be cleared soon to practice with his team.
- Oh, and quarterback Eli Manning, seven weeks removed from ankle surgery, practiced in full for the second day in a row.
David Wilson was practicing. Wilson still hasn't been cleared for contact, as far as we know, following last season's neck surgery. The Giants have said they are optimistic that he will be, but they've also said they have to prepare as though he won't be, just in case. But it has to be taken as a good sign that he's working in these late-May non-contact drills. Giants.com reports that Wilson worked as a running back and a return man Wednesday.
Eli Manning was practicing. As we discussed earlier. The Giants' team site reports that Manning "put in a full day" and took first-team snaps.
The offensive line alignment. Apparently, the first-team offensive line was, from left tackle to right, James Brewer, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Chris Snee and Justin Pugh. No surprise that Walton, who signed before Weston Richburg was drafted and has been practicing in the new offense longer, gets first crack at starting center. But there will be a camp battle there. Mild surprise that Brewer and not Charles Brown was the starting left tackle in place of rehabbing Will Beatty. Richburg worked at right tackle with the second-string offensive line, next to Dallas Reynolds at center. But make no mistake, the Giants used an early second-round pick on Richburg because they liked him at center. And while they'd like to know whether they can count on him as guard insurance, center is the position at which they plan to use him.
"Well, it's my third year, my weight's down, we've got a new [offensive coordinator], new tight ends coach, everything is fresh," Robinson said Tuesday. "It's a clean slate, and I'm just ready to go."
Robinson is a 6-foot-4, 264-pound specimen the Giants drafted hoping they could develop him into something special. He was a raw project with impressive physical gifts, which is why GM Jerry Reese famously and unfortunately said on draft day that they hoped Robinson could be "the JPP of tight ends." The Giants liked Robinson enough last year to hold him off of injured reserve even as he couldn't get healthy enough to play in a game. They believed, once healthy, that he'd be a major help as a run-blocker as well as a potential outlet target for quarterback Eli Manning in the passing game.
They still think that, and they believe that in his third year in their building, Robinson is ready to take on the challenge of the starting tight end role. He thinks so, too. The key is to be and stay healthy, something he hasn't been able to do to this point. But if that happens, Robinson thinks he's in a better position to succeed than he occupied in his first two seasons in the NFL.
"Everyone wants to play as soon as they get here, but there's nothing you can do about injuries," Robinson said. "That just pretty much took up my whole second year. Now it's about moving forward."
Robinson said he's clicked with Kevin Gilbride Jr., who moved from wide receivers coach to tight ends coach this offseason after the firing of longtime tight ends coach Mike Pope. He said he likes that Gilbride is closer to his own age. He likes that new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense seems to offer more opportunity for the tight end to catch passes. He's fired up and appears healthy. Given the other choices that were out there, their proclivity for going cheap at tight end and the number of other needs they needed to fill this offseason, the Giants are right to give Robinson a shot to see whether he can do it. If he can, what a bonus that will be.
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