In six days the NY Giants will be playing their first pre-season game at home against Miami and they are chomping at the bit to get into some real action. I reflect back on last year without JPP, question marks at Safety and Linebacker, several players walking wounded and questions about where is Cruz and can Rueben Randle step up to take his place. There were questions about the Running Backs and of course the Offensive Line. Even at Corner, the Defense was suspect except for DRC.
Fast forward to August 2016 and a few phrases come to mind. Conspicuously Missing, Continuity, Upgrade and Addition by Subtraction.
Let’s touch on conspicuously missing. The big one is Coach Tom Coughlin. With his leaving there is no doubt a change of atmosphere is present. Nothing bad, it’s just different not seeing him there. Several changes have transpired. So what’s conspicuously missing? Well, the practices are not in the peak heat of the day so we don’t see players standing with their hands on their hips, slouching and looking exhausted. I wouldn’t know if any players have had to go inside to get an IV for dehydration but we do know there is a conspicuous lack of injuries so far. It’s not that players aren’t working hard because they are but by the end of practice as they are doing their walkthroughs, they look like they could go another hour.
Continuity is the key word when discussing the improvement of the Offensive Line with Pugh and Richburg as the foundation. Not much has been said about it as it’s pretty much gone unnoticed but that right side looks to be on it’s game with John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse. The pressure from that side has been nullified with an I’ll show them attitude. It’s not for lack of effort or talent on the part of JPP or Oliver Vernon who occasionally slides over. The left side with Flowers…not so much of an improvement but he’s going against Vernon who no doubt is upping his game and not letting up.
What about upgrades you ask. How much time do you have? Let’s start with the secondary. The Giants now have what looks to be a tandum of two starting Safeties with Box and Coverage ability. Yes a Strong and a Free Safety finally! They also have a competition between players for the other 2-3 spots where it appears Nat Berhe has the edge. Last year they had a hope and a prayer, a rookie, a slew of injuries, has beens and never will bes. At the Secondary positions we can also introduce addition by subtraction. Gone are Hosley, McBride, Dahl, Jacobs, and Meriweather. Yes Prince is gone but it clearly looks like Janoris Jenkins is a nice upgrade considering Prince pretty much played in a body brace when he wasn’t injured.
More upgrades? Well how do you feel about Damon Harrison teaming up with an in shape Hankins. I call ‘em Hank ‘n Snacks. Sounds like Frankenstein but they are a two headed Monster in the heart of that Defensive Line. Try to get push on Hank ‘n Snacks and it just ain’t happening. The pass rush? Well…Snacks ties up two players and that allows Hankins to push and collapse the pocket. How about JPP with a glove and not a club? How about him just being there? How about his new found friend and bookend in Oliver Vernon? The Defensive Line is a Huge Upgrade.
What about Receiver you ask? Well, sadly Hakeem Nicks’ best days are over and the never will be picture in the encyclopedia is the enigmatic Rueben Randle. Both gone but we have Sterling Shepard who looks to be the real deal and the #2 Receiver uncontested. With another year under their belt in the system we have Geremy Davis, Dwayne Harris and Myles White and don’t discount Tavarres King and Darius Powe. Then there are Backs that can be weapons in the passing game in a much improved Shane Vareen and Will Johnson. The Tight Ends look good with Donnell and Tye leading the pack with some competition between Matt LaCosse, Jerell Adams and Ryan Malleck.
Alas, we won’t really know what we have until the season starts at Linebacker since JT Thomas is still out but Devon Kennard looks to be on the cusp of a breakout season. Jay Bromley is also conspicuously missing and he’s going to be needed as substitution depth. He was running sprints today and that’s a good sign and JT was the first one out there rebabbing and working hard to get back.
We can all look forward to the pre-season to sort things out and see how Bobby Hart fairs as the swing Tackle and who’s going to win the competition at depth because there are about 25 positions up for grabs. Some of those cut will surely find their way on another team or a practice squad.
Ok, on to practice. Rather than a play by play let’s touch on those that made an impact today.
Hankins got to the QB twice.
Donnell is the sure handed TE Receiver who gets open on almost every play.
Marshall Newhouse, the starting Right Tackle.
Bobby Rainey showing versatility on Special Teams, Blocking in Pass Protection and Running the ball.
OBJ is just trying not to be a show off but sometimes he just can’t help it and shamelessly beats his man for a TD.
Oliver Vernon is a player to really get excited about in the pass rush and I'm hoping to see him solidify the run. Losing Robert Ayers was a loss but I can see this is an upgrade.
Hank ‘n Snacks is an immovable mountain.
There was good competition between the Offense and the Defense and it went back and forth today. You see, better competition improves everyone’s game. It was a beautiful thing to watch the battle between Pugh, Richburg and Jerry against Hank ‘n Snacks…JPP and Vernon against Flowers and Newhouse. The TE’s against the Linebackers. Jenkins, DRC, Apple, Wade and Hall against OBJ, Shepard, Cruz and the rest of the bunch. Eli Apple by the way doesn’t look like a rookie on the outside either as he’s been right there many times step for step with the Receiver. As he also proved in a One on One drill. He’s going to be a fine player.
Now the concerns…I’m still not sold on Bobby Hart yet as a swing Tackle. Nikita Whitlock was a good story last year but he’s going to have to beat out Hughs, Montori, Milhouse and Niks at DT to earn a job this year. Unless it’s Special Teams. He had two passes bounce off his hands today that were very catchable and Will Johnson is just too versatile. Let's see how Johnson can lead block hopefully on Friday.
Rich and I are very concerned about the DE depth past the starters. With Cullen Jenkins gone it’s pretty much Kerry Wynn and Odighizuwa unless someone else steps up. That’s what the pre-season is going to determine.
I’m liking Kennard but I’m just not sitting right with Brinkley and Casillas looking like the crème of the crop at this point at Linebacker. So they need JT Thomas back and Keenan Robinson has to show a lot in the pre-season. That’s really where we can see the Linebackers because in all fairness to them they have to hold back in practice all the time except in coverage and even there sometimes.
One last topic to touch on is the QB play. Eli Manning really is very comfortable with the Offense at this point. With few exceptions, his passes have been on the money with perfect precision and angle of trajectory on deep passes. Ryan Nassib is clearly the better backup and he has really improved on his mechanics and delivery. He sees the field well and has been pretty accurate. He truly does understand the Offense. Not knowing how he may react in a real game situation, I can say with confidence that he’s the best backup since the Hefty Lefty, The Pillsbury Throw Boy, The Round Mound Of Touchdown, The Abdominable Throwman…yes the legendary Jarred Lorenzen.