NFL Nation: Rashad Jennings

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
3:57
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 30-17 victory over the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: Relief for the Giants, who will not repeat last year's 0-6 start and have two games' worth of evidence that their new offense can work. A run-heavy game plan helped set up the play-action game and neutralize J.J. Watt and the Houston pass rush. Eli Manning was patient and accurate. The offensive line held up well in a tough-test game. The defensive line got pressure on jittery Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Giants made some early mistakes that reminded you of last week's self-inflicted meltdown, but they settled in and overcame them for their first victory of the year.

Stock Watch: Victor Cruz, UP. The veteran wide receiver and newly minted team captain had a rough week hearing about all of last week's drops. He made up for it with his first big game of the year -- and his first touchdown catch and end zone salsa dance since Week 4 of 2013. Cruz had five catches for 107 yards, including a 61-yarder and his 26-yard touchdown catch that started the scoring.

Flipping the field: Entering the game, the Giants were one of only three teams in the league without a takeaway. They got three interceptions in this game and also blocked a punt, delivering them the kind of field-position advantage for which coach Tom Coughlin had spent the week pleading. They made their own mistakes early, including a goal-line fumble, a bad snap on a field goal attempt and a holding penalty on a punt return. But their errors were fewer than those of their opponent, and that's the goal.

Game ball: RB Rashad Jennings. What a performance. Last week's goat after his no-contact fumble killed a potential game-tying drive, Jennings absolutely took over this game, rushing for a career-high 176 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries and playing a crucial role in blitz pickup on passing plays. The Giants signed Jennings to be a do-it-all starting running back, and this game showed he could be just that.

What's next: The Giants turn it around quickly and head to Washington for the Thursday night game this week.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If you were looking for some kind of complex explanation from New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings, you're going to be disappointed.

Jennings' noncontact fumble in the final five minutes of Sunday's 25-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals was about as simple as it gets.

[+] EnlargeTed Ginn
AP Photo/Bill KostrounTed Ginn's punt return for a touchdown was part of a series of miscues that saw the Giants' one-point lead turn into an eight-point deficit between touches on offense.
"I turned around. My foot didn't get set on the ground. I slipped as I took off running. My elbow hit the ground. The ball came out," Jennings said.

That is pretty much what everyone saw, and Jennings has no idea why such a thing would happen. The Giants were down by eight points and driving. This happened on the Arizona 15-yard line, with the goal line in sight and the game still attainable.

"We were moving the ball. No doubt we were going to score," Jennings said. "That one hurts."

That last part could be applied to the game itself. The Giants didn't play beautifully by any means, but their offense did look considerably more competent Sunday than it had six days earlier in the season-opening loss in Detroit. The defense had done a decent enough job bottling up Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton, who started in place of an injured Carson Palmer. The Giants got to the fourth quarter of their home opener with a 14-10 lead against a team playing its backup quarterback, which sure sounds like a recipe for a win.

But win they did not, because of a stunning run of fourth-quarter mistakes that took them out of the game.

Up 14-13 with 10:36 to go, Victor Cruz dropped a third-down pass from Eli Manning and the Giants punted. Arizona's Ted Ginn returned the punt 71 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but Giants safety Quintin Demps fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Cardinals would get a field goal out of that gaffe.

"We've got a one-point lead, and the next time we touch the ball, we're down eight," Manning would say when it was over.

Tough to believe, but then Jennings' blunder made it even tougher to believe -- and ensured that the Giants would start 0-2 for the second season in a row.

It boils down to this: The Giants aren't a good team right now. They're a work in progress on offense, and while the defense looked better as this game went along, the secondary was a ragged, penalty-infested mess at the beginning.

In spite of that, the Giants were in a position to win it. But when you're not a good team, you can't get away with the kinds of mistakes they made. They turned the ball over four times, forced zero turnovers and committed nine penalties.

"When you do have an adverse circumstance, you've got to fight your way out of it," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of the way in which the fourth-quarter mistakes piled on top of each other. "But we would have been fine if we scored."

The problem is, right now, scoring is tough for the Giants. If you can't score and you're going to make a whole bunch of mistakes, you're going to lose. Pretty much every game. Even the ones you feel like you have in your pocket.

"We talk about winning the fourth quarter," Coughlin said. "We had the lead 14-13, and from there it was a nightmare."

Second time in as many weeks that Coughlin has used that word, "nightmare," unsolicited in a postgame news conference. That's a sign things are a long way from being fixed.

W2W4: New York Giants

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
3:00
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The New York Giants play the Arizona Cardinals at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here are three things we'll be watching especially closely as the Giants try to avoid an 0-2 start:

[+] EnlargeMichael Floyd
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesArizona has many potent options in the passing game, none more dangerous than Michael Floyd, who had 119 yards in the opener.
1. How will they cover the Cardinals' receivers? Coverage was a big problem Monday night in Detroit against Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and the Lions, and it's not likely to get much easier this week. The Cardinals love to empty the backfield and load up with multiple-wide-receiver sets. You'll see the Giants in nickel and likely some dime this week, with Trumaine McBride on the field as a fourth cornerback in some situations. The biggest threat right now among the Arizona receivers is Michael Floyd, although rookie John Brown is a speed threat on the outside and veteran Larry Fitzgerald obviously can't be ignored in the slot. The Cardinals also throw to their tight ends and can throw it to running back Andre Ellington out of the backfield if Ellington is healthy. There's going to be a lot to keep track of in the secondary for a Giants team that didn't look to have everything together back there in the opener.

2. Will they get the ball to Victor Cruz? The Giants' best wide receiver said Tuesday that he thinks the offense will work better if he and Rueben Randle see more targets, so it'll be interesting to see whether New York runs plays specifically designed to do that. The Giants threw to Jerrel Jernigan and Larry Donnell a lot Monday because those guys were open, so the question becomes whether Randle and Cruz can get separation from defenders in short range better than they have so far -- and whether Cruz, who dropped two passes Monday, can catch everything they do throw to him. It's an offense that's out of sync, and a lot depends on the ability of the big guys up front to protect quarterback Eli Manning and allow him to get comfortable. But assuming he has enough time back there, it's important to watch to see how his timing with his better receivers looks this week. That's where the improvement has to come.

3. Can they run the ball against Arizona? The Cardinals' defense was the toughest against the run in the entire league last year, and it allowed just 52 rushing yards last week to a San Diego team that wants to establish the run. So it won't be easy, but the Giants still believe the best way to get their offense going is to establish balance and run the ball reliably. Rashad Jennings is the lead back, and if they can get enough run plays into the game (i.e., extend some drives with some first downs), they could work Andre Williams into the mix more as a ball carrier. But they need to find a way to get their bread-and-butter run plays blocked against Arizona's tough front early in the game or they won't be able to operate the rest of the offense the way they want to.

New York Giants' projected roster

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
8:00
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One final projection of the New York Giants' 53-man roster before the final cuts are made Saturday:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
Nassib's performances in the past two preseason games make the Giants far more confident about keeping him -- and only him -- as the backup to Manning.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Hillis' sprained ankle could help Gaskins and Michael Cox make the team if it lingers, but if they're picking between Cox and Gaskins for that fourth spot, Gaskins looks like the better player so far in camp. Tom Coughlin also keeps saying that the fullbacks can play running back, and they have been using Henry Hynoski all over the formation in practice, so it's possible they could carry just three here, especially if they can get Gaskins on the practice squad.

FULLBACK (1)

It's a camp battle between Hynoski and John Conner, and I don't think the Giants will keep both. There was even some talk early in camp that they could go without a fullback, but the continued poor showing by the tight ends likely has put that to bed.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Marcus Harris is ahead of both Washington and Parker, but he injured his shoulder Friday night and is likely to miss the start of the season, if not more. Parker sneaks onto the list this week because (a) with Beckham's hamstring injury continuing to be a problem, they may need to carry six wide receivers just to have five and (b) Parker is the primary punt returner right now with Beckham and Trindon Holliday laid up.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Donnell, Davis and Robinson each got exactly 14 snaps in the first half Friday night, and Robinson was the only tight end in the game on the successful two-minute drill at the end of the first half. What's it all mean? Really just that no one has separated himself in this group. Davis was the starter ahead of Donnell for the first time Friday, but there's still no clarity on this situation.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
Geoff Schwartz's injury has created a real mess here, as he projects to miss a significant amount of time due to a dislocated toe. The most likely scenario is that Richburg ascends the starting left guard role, but Mosley remains a question mark at right guard, which is why Reynolds (who can play center or guard) enters the picture here. Jerry could claim one of the starting guard spots, but at the very least, he becomes a more valuable reserve. Brewer, who once appeared gone for sure, becomes more valuable as an all-around backup. And the missed opportunity for Eric Herman, who's suspended for the first four games for a drug violation, looms even larger.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

Very few changes here, though if Kuhn's leg injury ends up costing him practice time, it could open up a spot for someone like defensive end 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.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Kennard has been so good so far that, if they only keep five, you wonder about Paysinger's spot a little bit. Williams is 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. I wonder if Kennard could keep the spot ahead of McClain even once Beason comes back. Herzlich is on the squad 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, though recent injuries to Amukamara and Bowman could result in a short-term spot opening.

SAFETIES (4)
Cooper Taylor's toe injury is serious enough to keep him out for a long time, possibly even the whole season. That's unfortunate for Taylor, but it helps Berhe and likely helps someone at another position, such as Charles James at cornerback or 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.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Brown isn't home-free yet, as Brandon McManus is hitting bombs in practice and has shown well in games. But Brown hasn't done anything to lose his spot, and as long as he remains reliable, my bet is he keeps it.

Giants Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
8:00
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. continues to make significant progress from the hamstring injury that has held him out of practice since the first day of camp. The team's first-round pick even took a couple of snaps Wednesday in 11-on-11 drills and caught a touchdown pass on one of them. Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't even rule out the possibility that Beckham could play in Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis, though I have to think that's a long shot and that next Friday against the Jets is more likely.
  • Coughlin said left tackle Will Beatty and cornerback Trumaine McBride, who have been practicing but didn't play in the first two preseason games as part of the plan for their recoveries from offseason surgery, would play Saturday. He said to expect Beatty to play about as much as a starting offensive lineman would play in a first preseason game of the year. For comparison's sake, Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton played 20 snaps in the Hall of Fame Game, and right tackle Justin Pugh played 24.
  • Cornerback Walter Thurmond continues to dazzle, and I have to think it will be a huge relief for Giants slot receiver Victor Cruz to go up against whoever the Detroit Lions are using as a nickel cornerback Sept. 8 in Detroit. Thurmond's highlight plays Wednesday included a pass breakup on which he had tight end Larry Donnell blanketed over the middle and a stop on running back Rashad Jennings when Jennings caught a pass in the flat.
  • Other highlight plays: Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard knocking rookie running back Andre Williams to the ground in the backfield on a run play; Rueben Randle's acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in one-on-one goal-line drills; Rookie cornerback Bennett Jackson ripping the ball out of wide receiver Travis Harvey's hands at the end of a long pass play; Interceptions of Curtis Painter by Mark Herzlich and Chandler Fenner in early team drills.
  • Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan was back at practice after sitting out Monday and Tuesday with a knee injury. New to the list of injured players sitting out practice was cornerback Zack Bowman (unclear what his injury was). Also sitting out were running back Peyton Hillis (ankle), tight end Xavier Grimble (hamstring), tight end Daniel Fells (knee), return man Trindon Holliday (hamstring) and defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder).
  • Cruz, who had some knee issues in practice this week, seemed completely fine and appeared to do everything in Wednesday's relatively short practice.
  • Though they will continue to practice here next week as they have been, Thursday marks the final official day of Giants training camp. That means Thursday's 1:20 pm practice will be the final practice of the year that is open to the public. So take off work and come out to say hi. Tell your boss I said it was okay.

Giants Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
8:30
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Wide receiver Victor Cruz is worth watching over the next couple of days. He missed practice Monday with a knee issue, and while he returned to practice Tuesday, he went down in a collision with a defensive back in one-on-one drills and was limping a bit when he got up. He returned to practice and caught a long pass in double coverage a few plays later, but he wasn't on the field very much for the two-minute drill that ended practice on a field that was starting to get slippery due to light rain. It goes without saying that the Giants' wide receiver corps, which is littered with unproven entities, could not stand to lose Cruz.
  • Some injured guys are working their way back, though. Rookie receiver Odell Beckham made good on his promise to keep progressing from his hamstring injury. He worked in individual drills Tuesday and was the intended target on one of quarterback Eli Manning's interceptions in 7-on-7 drills. Also catching passes was tight end Daniel Fells, who'd missed some time earlier in camp with a knee injury. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo named Fells and Larry Donnell when asked who among the tight end group has stood out so far. Donnell has been the No. 1 tight end on the depth chart all camp, but Fells has the best chance of anyone to overtake him from what I've seen.
  • Second-year safety Cooper Taylor continues to impress. He kept running back Rashad Jennings from getting around the corner on one run play I noticed in team drills.
  • Veteran defensive end Israel Idonije, who signed last week, could be getting a legitimate look for a roster spot. He's been getting some defensive end reps, and it helps his cause that Idonije is a player who can contribute at a high level on special teams, where he's been working a lot. Just something to keep an eye on.
  • Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan (knee), return man Trindon Holliday (hamstring), fullback John Conner (concussion), running back Peyton Hillis (ankle), defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder), cornerback Jayron Hosley (foot) and tight end Xavier Grimble (hamstring) all sat out. Coach Tom Coughlin said Conner looks as though he could practice this week and that Hillis' progress is "slow."
  • Former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress was a guest at practice Tuesday and watched from the sideline.
  • The Giants practice from 1:20 pm to 3:30 pm ET on Wednesday. Practice is open to the public.

Camp Confidential: New York Giants

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
11:00
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There's a tricky balancing act going on here in New York Giants training camp this summer. The team is trying its best to wash away the memory of a disappointing 7-9 season, but to do that they're asking for a lot of help from a lot of people who weren't even on that team.

"Obviously, we did a lot of work in the offseason and tried to turn the roster over a little bit," said Giants GM Jerry Reese, whose team signed more free agents than any other in the NFL this offseason. "But there are plenty of guys who were here last year for that 0-6 start and have a bad taste in our mouths."

Among those are quarterback Eli Manning, who threw 27 interceptions in the worst season of his career, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who struggled through back and shoulder problems and recorded just two sacks in the 11 games he played.

 They are the biggest keys to potential success on each side of the ball for the Giants, and each has a fresh energy in this camp. Pierre-Paul says he's "110 percent" because he's fully healthy for the first time since October 2012. Manning is invigorated by the new scheme being installed by new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.

"It's different, and you come into the season a little nervous," Manning said. "It's a different feeling at this time of year than in previous years. We still have a lot of work to do, a lot to improve on, but I'm excited about that challenge."

Three reasons for optimism

1. The secondary: The Giants spent big to upgrade at cornerback, signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from the AFC champion Denver Broncos, Walter Thurmond from the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and Zack Bowman from the Chicago Bears. They also re-signed Trumaine McBride, who was a starter for them last season, and still have 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara. The Giants believe the cornerback group is a strength, and, on paper, it appears to be so. "Now," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell asked last week, "can we get them to play together?"

[+] EnlargeJason Pierre-Paul
Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY SportsJason Pierre-Paul, fully healthy for the first time in nearly two years, is eager to regain his form and bolster the Giants' pass rush.
2. Jason Pierre-Paul: The Giants had just 33 sacks last season, and Justin Tuck, who's now with the Oakland Raiders, had 11 of them. The pass rush has to improve in order for the secondary to thrive. That's why the Giants are so encouraged about the health and attitude of Pierre-Paul. Back surgery in June 2013 and a shoulder injury suffered in Week 10 last season combined to make it "a lost year" in Pierre-Paul's own words. But if he's back to full health, they have reason to hope he can return to the form he flashed in 2011, when he had 16.5 sacks and the Giants won the Super Bowl.

3. The line can't be any worse: The total collapse of the offensive line was the biggest reason for the Giants' 0-6 start and 7-9 record in 2013. With Chris Snee having retired the day before camp, they have a question mark at right guard, but they believe they're better with Geoff Schwartz at left guard and J.D. Walton at center than they were in those spots last season. Moreover, the signings of veterans Charles Brown and John Jerry and the second-round selection of Weston Richburg have the Giants convinced their backups are better in case the line is ravaged by injury again. The key might be a rebound season for left tackle Will Beatty.

Three reasons for pessimism

1. Is it all too much too soon? The Giants project to have six new starters on offense and six on defense, as well as a new offensive coordinator. They didn't dip their toe into the free-agent waters this offseason -- they dove in headfirst and stayed in until their fingertips wrinkled. Most teams -- including the Giants -- will tell you that big free-agent sprees aren't the way to build teams. They had to sign a lot of guys because their roster had hollowed out, but it's folly to think they could have possibly solved all of their problems in one offseason. There are likely to be lingering questions to answer next spring.

2. Inexperience on offense: Rashad Jennings has never been a No. 1 running back in the NFL. Odell Beckham Jr. is a rookie at wide receiver, and Rueben Randle is a starter for the first time there as well. They have no established starting tight end on the roster. They have inexperience at center and right guard, and right tackle Justin Pugh is entering his second NFL season. The new scheme is simple and quick and could be fun to watch, but there are reasons to wonder whether the Giants have the right personnel to make it all work.

3. Leadership void: Many of the players who left or retired were significant leaders on the field and in the locker room. Tuck, Snee, Terrell Thomas and Kevin Boothe were all players to whom teammates looked for guidance in good and tough times. Jon Beason and Antrel Rolle return to captain the defense, and Manning takes a leadership role behind the scenes on offense, but the absence of several of the players who helped keep chins up during last season's 0-6 start as well as they did during recent Super Bowl runs creates a challenge for Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff.

Observation deck

  • Jennings is the clear No. 1 back, but now that neck injuries have forced David Wilson to retire, the Giants are trying to sort out the running back depth chart behind him. Their preference is for rookie fourth-rounder Andre Williams to show enough to claim the No. 2 spot. He looks good running the ball but not so good catching it, and, as any rookie back would, he has work to do in pass protection.
  • [+] EnlargeRashad Jennings
    AP Photo/Seth WenigRashad Jennings gets his first shot at being a No. 1 running back. Meanwhile, the Giants' depth chart behind him has yet to be sorted out.
  • Larry Donnell is leading the uninspiring pack at tight end, especially with Daniel Fells laid up with an injury. Donnell has the surest hands of the group and is a good downfield blocker, though he could stand to show more power at the point of attack in the run game.
  • Surprise young stars of camp include rookie fifth-round linebacker Devon Kennard, who could push for playing time at strongside linebacker, even after Beason returns from injury and Jameel McClain gets bumped back outside, and wide receiver Marcus Harris, who's making a strong push for the roster spot once thought ticketed for the still-gimpy Mario Manningham.
  • Beatty has done much more than the Giants expected him to do at this point in his recovery from his broken leg, and he's determined to put his disappointing 2013 season behind him. He has held his own against the revitalized Pierre-Paul in recent practices.
  • Jacquian Williams, once strictly used as a coverage linebacker in nickel packages, has progressed to the point where the coaches consider him their starting weakside linebacker in the base defense. His speed is a major asset.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There's no sugarcoating the fact that the New York Giants' offense looks lousy right now. Other than a gorgeously blocked 73-yard Rashad Jennings touchdown run, the first-team offense did nothing in Saturday's 20-16 preseason victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Quarterback Eli Manning was 0-for-2 throwing the ball in four series. Victor Cruz is without a catch through two preseason games. The tight end situation is a mess, the wide receivers (other than Corey Washington in the fourth quarter) aren't getting the ball and the whole thing looks like a disorganized mess.

From the outside, that is.

The Giants' players and coaches honestly believe things are getting better for their brand-new offense, even though they admit it doesn't look that way when you watch them in practice or in these preseason games.

[+] EnlargeRashad Jennings
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/USA TODAY SportsRashad Jennings, who scored on a 73-yard run against the Steelers, believes the Giants' new offense is coming together slowly but surely.
"It's like when you build a house," Jennings said late Saturday night. "First you have to get the wood, then you get the hammers and put it all together. Then, when it's all up and ready, that's when you start putting the furniture in. And that's where we are right now. We can see it starting to come together, and that's why we're upbeat about it."

Results matter not one bit this time of year, and the Giants have enough veterans on their roster and their coaching staff to know that. They will watch film Sunday and Monday and see things you couldn't see from your seat in the stadium or in front of the television. The new, West Coast style offense coordinator Ben McAdoo is helping install is based so much on timing and the quarterback's footwork that it can show progress in ways that don't necessarily translate into results. And the Giants on Saturday believed that was the case.

"We timed some of the routes up better," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Some weren't as good as others. We still think the ball needs to go out in front of people when they have an opportunity. So I would say maybe a little bit better, but still not to the extent that you'd like."

The Giants still have three preseason games and four weeks of practice before they play a game that counts, so panicking based on what little you've seen so far is a mistake. I think part of the problem is that they have a major liability at left tackle with Charles Brown filling in for a still-rehabbing Will Beatty, and between that and the still-improving Brandon Mosley at right guard, they're worried that taking too many shots in the passing game right now would expose Manning to too much danger.

"They need to play," Coughlin said of the starting offensive line, which played 22 snaps together Saturday. (Manning played only 12.) "Those people need to play. They need to work together. They need to communicate. The idea of a set lineup right now is really not there. They need to play."

Then there's the idea that this offense is new and may not want to show the rest of the league much in preseason games. Coughlin admitted to that to some extent, but basically the point here is that this is still a work in progress.

"Overall, what you're seeing is that it's very early in training camp installations, and you really don't do a lot of game-planning for these games," Coughlin said. "You just say, 'OK, here's what's in at this point in time, this is what we'll run in this game.' And as you continue through preseason, you have more installations and that's what you see during the games."

So the message here is that it's too early to panic based on results. You're more than welcome to wonder, as I do, whether the Giants have sufficient personnel on offense to run the offense they're trying to run. I think the wide receiver corps is a mess of question marks after Cruz. There's no reliable tight end on the roster. Jennings looks great, but he's never had to hold up for a season as a starting running back, and they're thin behind him. And we've already addressed the question marks on the line.

But the Giants' players and coaches believe in the players they're running out there, because they have no choice. So what they're focused on is the idea that things feel as though they're getting better -- even if it doesn't look that way to those of us who are watching.

"I feel very confident in the offense, in our ability," Manning said. "It's preseason and we're not putting everything out there, but I think over these next few weeks, we'll start to get a little bit more aggressive and see if we can make some plays."

That would make everyone watching from the outside feel better about things. But if you're looking for something to make you feel better in the meantime, know that the Giants aren't as worried about what they're seeing out there as you are.

A quiet night for Eli Manning

August, 10, 2014
Aug 10
1:30
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants wanted quarterback Eli Manning to play about as many plays (16) or more Saturday night than he did in their first preseason game. He did not.

Manning
Manning was in the game for four offensive series but only 12 plays. He threw two passes and completed neither of them. He did not get as much work as they'd hoped he would, but his explanation for that was basically that it happens that way sometimes.

"We just had limited opportunities," Manning said. "So I think we'll try to learn from it and understand that it's the preseason and not everything is going to be perfect. We definitely have some stuff to look at and get better on a few things."

Manning opened the game with an incomplete pass to Jerrel Jernigan. The next play was a 3-yard Rashad Jennings run, then an offsides penalty cut a third-and-7 to third-and-2 but the third-down pass to Larry Donnell fell incomplete and they punted.

Surely, at that point, Manning believed he'd throw at least one more pass.

But the second possession was brief, as Jennings ran 73 yards for a touchdown on the first play. When the Giants got the ball back for their third offensive series, Manning was sacked for a loss of eight yards on first down and was all of a sudden backed up on the 4-yard line. At that point, and at that spot on the field, they didn't want to take any chances, so they ran it twice with Jennings and punted again.

On the fourth possession, the Giants opened with a run and got called for two holding penalties and a false start, which put them in second-and-28 from their own 11. Again, conservative runs to avoid disaster were the plays of choice.

Manning did switch the call at the line to a run play on Jennings' long touchdown run, which was a good play for him even though it doesn't go on his stats. He saw a double-team on the left side of his line and called a play that brought right guard Brandon Mosley around to pull. Mosley, left tackle Charles Brown and center J.D. Walton all delivered on their blocks and Jennings ran through a massive hole all the way to the end zone.

"It seems like we're getting good push, and whenever you have a running back break a long one for 70 yards or 80 yards, whatever it was, that's a great thing," Manning said. "Hopefully we can hit a few more of those and also be a little bit more consistent offensively."

As for that 0-for-2 stat line, it drew a patented Manning shrug.

"Preseason game? Yeah, I'm not totally shocked," Manning said. "Obviously, it's not the ideal situation, but when you only have two attempts, there's that possibility."

Manning is likely to see an increased number of snaps next Saturday night when the Giants play their third preseason game in Indianapolis against the Colts.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants right guard Brandon Mosley pulled left and helped center J.D. Walton open up what Rashad Jennings would later call a "gaping hole." Jennings ran through it and all the way to the end zone, 73 yards for a touchdown on the Giants' second possession of Saturday night's 20-16 exhibition victory over the Steelers.

It was a beautifully designed and executed play. It was all the Giants' first-team offense did well.

Eli Manning was on the field for 12 snaps and threw two passes, completing neither. The Giants' new offense remains a work in progress with 30 days to go until their "Monday Night Football" opener in Detroit.

Some other thoughts on the Giants' second preseason game:
  • You want to know who's leading the race for starting tight end? The Giants ran 26 offensive plays in the first half, and Larry Donnell was on the field for 25 of them. The only other tight end who even played in the first half was Kellen Davis, who was in on four plays, all of which also included Donnell. I think the Giants would like to be able to give Daniel Fells a longer look, but he is injured and did not play. Adrien Robinson is doing nothing in practice to help himself.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley, the team's third-round pick, looked good in the second half against the Steelers' backup line, getting into the backfield to snuff out a run play and putting pressure on the quarterback.
  • Cornerback Charles James muffed a punt in the third quarter -- not the kind of thing that's going to help the feisty return man make a team that has this many good cornerbacks. Preston Parker replaced him on the next punt return.
  • The "NASCAR" package of four pass-rushers on third downs featured Cullen Jenkins and Robert Ayers at defensive tackle, with Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul at end when the first team was in the game.
  • The Giants were flagged for 10 penalties for a total of 109 yards. Of those, two were Jayron Hosley pass-interference penalties of 12 and 47 yards. Zack Bowman was called for illegal contact and Mark Herzlich was called for defensive holding (though he wasn't on the field that play, so it's unclear which Giants defender was flagged). Bennett Jackson received a five-yard holding call. And Prince Amukamara was whistled for an illegal-contact penalty that was declined. Giants defensive backs continue to struggle with the new rules/points of emphasis governing illegal downfield contact.
  • Amukamara made a great play to run down speedy Pittsburgh rookie Dri Archer on a 46-yard screen pass that looked to be a sure touchdown. It's the second time in two games Amukamara has shown the speed to keep up with a touted rookie, as he covered Buffalo's Sammy Watkins well Sunday night.
  • Jerrel Jernigan struggled badly with the first-team offense, and the Giants are eager for rookie Odell Beckham Jr. to get healthy and take over that spot.

Giants Camp Report: Day 12

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
8:10
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • 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.
CANTON, Ohio -- When the New York Giants sent in rookie running back Andre Williams for starter Rashad Jennings on Sunday night in their preseason opener, Jennings said he could see the whites of Williams' wide eyes.

"I told him, 'Don't worry about it. As soon as you get hit, you realize it's just football,'" Jennings said.

[+] EnlargeAndre Williams
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsAndre Williams rushed for a touchdown against the Bills in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game.
Williams did just fine. He carried the ball five times for 37 yards on the Giants' first touchdown drive of the game. On the play before he ran it in for a three-yard score, he rumbled 21 yards around the left side on a zone run. He showed power and speed and comfort with the offensive playbook. And while his performance came against a second-team Bills offensive line and he still has a ways to go before he can be trusted to contribute in the passing game, the fact that the Giants rotated Williams and Jennings in and out with their first-team offense indicates that he may be a big part of the initial plan.

"He did exactly what we thought," Jennings said. "He's a physical guy, a downhill runner. He's a talented guy who wants to play, wants to learn and wants to be great."

Williams was very happy with the opportunity and what he was able to do with it. Scoring a touchdown in his first game, even if it was a preseason game whose result doesn't count, was a game-changer for him personally.

"Once I got in the end zone, my mind kind of went blank, and it was a great feeling," Williams said. "I feel like I'm supposed to be here. I'm part of a team now."

Williams is the Giants' rookie fourth-round pick out of Boston College. He led the nation in rushing last year, and they already love him as a runner -- and not just at the goal line. He still needs to work on catching the ball and on pass protection. He said he was in the game for two pass plays Sunday, but that no linebackers blitzed on those plays, so he didn't have anything to do. But with the ball in his hands, he was fun.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After a week of watching New York Giants training camp, it's clear the new offense is a smart, well-designed scheme. Ben McAdoo might be a first-time coordinator, but he has a plan and he's communicating it effectively, and the same goes for the new coaches he brought in and the ones he inherited. That Tom Coughlin oversees everything can only help matters, and if you want to be excited about the fresh, new ideas infusing the Giants offense in 2014, you're absolutely justified. It has a chance to be fun.

But it also has a chance to flop, at least in its first year, and not because of any fundamental flaw in design or planning. The biggest question isn't whether the new offense can work -- it's whether the Giants have good enough players to run it.

The focus will always be on the quarterback, but I think Eli Manning is the least of this team's concerns. He's 33, which is still a prime age for a quarterback in 2014, and there's no reason to think his mental or physical skills have eroded. The issue is the group around him, and the more you look at it compared with its chief competition, the more it starts to look substandard.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz, Jarvis Jenkins
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsVictor Cruz is a proven commodity, but besides him and Eli Manning, the Giants' offense is filled with question marks.
Where does the Giants' running back group rank in the NFC East? Even if you assume David Wilson can stay healthy (and everyone's holding their breath on that after Tuesday), you can't rank them any better than third. Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy/Darren Sproles group is a clear No. 1, followed by Alfred Morris/Roy Helu in Washington. You can argue Rashad Jennings vs. DeMarco Murray, but you could argue it either way. The Giants' running back corps is either third- or fourth-best in the NFC East.

Wide receivers? Again, can't give them anything better than a No. 3 ranking in the division. I think Victor Cruz is fantastic, but he doesn't have enough help for anyone to consider ranking him with Washington's terrifying Pierre Garcon/DeSean Jackson/Andre Roberts trio. Cruz isn't as good as Dallas' Dez Bryant, and Terrance Williams has shown more as a No. 2 receiver than anyone else on the Giants has. So it's down to the Giants and Eagles for the No. 3 spot, and if you want to pick the Giants because Cruz is better than Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper, you're welcome to do so. Maclin's coming off injury, and Cooper is no sure thing to repeat 2013. But you'd like to see something out of Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham Jr. to help your argument.

We don't even want to talk about tight ends, where the Giants clearly have the fourth-best group in the division. They might have the 32nd-best group in the league, mainly because they've decided to expend no real resources on the position. If the Giants find a productive tight end from the group they have in camp, everyone will be surprised.

The offensive line is certainly not in a class with the ones in Philadelphia and Dallas. And while Washington is undergoing some change on theirs as well, the Giants' case here falls apart on the Trent Williams/Will Beatty left tackle comparison, which isn't close. Until it proves otherwise, you have to rank the Giants' offensive line fourth-best in the division.

Now, predictions in July aren't worth the bandwidth they occupy, and surely some of the players we've discussed here will outperform expectations, just as others will underperform. But this is a ton of question marks at nearly every single offensive position, and to think the Giants will answer all of their offensive questions satisfactorily is pure folly.

Should they give up? Of course not. This is the NFC East, which hasn't had an 11-game winner or multiple playoff teams since 2009. You could make a case for the Giants to win the division with a solid defense, a stellar secondary, strong coaching and a bounce-back season from Manning in spite of the group around him. You're not crazy. Last year showed us the Giants' floor is generally pretty high. They had one of the worst rosters in the league last year, and Coughlin still got them to 7-9. Positioning the Giants as contenders is never insane.

But if you're looking for this new offense to operate the way the Giants hope it can, I think there's a pretty good chance you're going to have to wait a year or so. The amount of change and the number of question marks are just going to be too much to overcome in one offseason. Given the issues they're facing up and down their depth chart, this new Giants offense is likely to remain a work in progress well into this season, and maybe even next.
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.

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.

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