Usually when a football team starts up again after a long layoff, it’s customary for the defense to be ahead of the offense.
When the offense is learning a new system, however, patience is a virtue.
Thankfully, head coach Tom Coughlin has patience with his offense, which is trying to grasp the concepts of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system.
While many of the players surveyed have sung the praises of the system, it’s been a struggle for the players to get to the point where they’re doing less thinking and are just flying around making plays.
“It’s slow, to be honest with you,” Coughlin said of the progress being made of the offense.
“Progress is slow but steady. Some days, of course, are better than others. But, you know, we’re getting there. There’s a lot of things that have to be converted in the guys who have been here, in their minds and the new people who have not been in a system such as this, you’ve got a lot to learn. It’s a work in progress.”
Unfortunately, time is running out on the spring workouts, and as such, the Giants aren’t going to be able to install all parts of the playbook before they break for a month prior to camp.
With Coughlin admitting that it’s unlikely for them to get everything installed, then what’s the plan for the Giants?
“There will be additional ways once we have more time to get on the board and work it out, spend more time with the players,” he said. “This is, getting into this with a new situation of any kind, the hourly containment is a little difficult.
“You’re on the field for a couple hours, that takes better than half your day and you stick a meeting in there and you don’t have a lot more time. Our meetings will be extended when we come back and I think that will help a lot.”
As Coughlin likes to say, “We’ll see.”
The big news is the foot injury suffered mid-practice by middle linebacker Jon Beason.
Coughlin said that Beason felt something in his foot while he was running on a pass to Rueben Randle. Beason had to be helped to the sideline by safety Stevie Brown.
After being examined by the trainers, Beason, who couldn’t put any weight on his leg, was carted off to the locker room and then whisked to Manhattan for tests.
The concern with Beason, who’s had two prior soft tissue injuries before, is that this injury was to the same leg – the right one—where he had a knee and Achilles issue. Hopefully his injury isn’t serious to where he has to miss training camp or worse yet the season.
As it stands right now, I doubt he works in Friday’s OTA, the last one of the spring. I’d be surprised if he works in next week’s minicamp.
Receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. remains unable to practice. While he’s hoping to be back next week, it seems like the Giants are going to hold him. In fact, I’ve heard that Beckham has only taken part in just a small handful of OTAs because of the ailment.
Beckham said he’s feeling better. “I was out there today running routes (with a trainer) and I feel pretty good.”
Good enough to be back for the minicamp?
“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s up to the trainer, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be up and running next week. I just know I’m looking forward to it and keep progressing day by day.”
Peyton Hillis was held out due to a muscle strain. Coughlin said that Hillis actually tried to play through the strain, but ultimately realized he couldn’t. The injury isn’t believed to be serious.
In honor of the new offense, I’ve been trying to find things that really stand out and which are new in order to give you a better look at how things are being done behind the scenes, such as the red line that spans from end zone to end zone which the receivers use as a guide on certain pass routes.
This week’s “something new” is one I stumbled upon by accident. But first a little background on this week’s topic.
This offseason, the Giants have changed the way media gains access to the players. In the past, we could float around the locker room during a designated period and grab guys for a few minutes as we saw them and if they were willing to talk.
That’s no longer the case, and I had concerns that was going to squash my plans for my annual “Blog Bits” series, which I run during the dead time between the end of the minicamp and the start of training camp.
The good news is that I’ve figured out a way for the feature to go on, albeit it’s going to be different than it’s been in the past.
I mention this because one of the players I spoke to for Blog Bits was running back Rashad Jennings, who shared this week’s “something new” item during our one-on-one interview today.
I’ll save the juicy stuff for the dead period, but what I will share at this time is that Jennings has introduced group text messages with the running backs as a way to help both himself and his fellow backs learn the offense.
The purpose of the messages, he explained, is that if someone is watching film and sees something, he’ll send a text message to the group outlining the scenario. It’s then up to the rest of the group to respond with the correct coverage, sort of like a random pop quiz.
I’ll have more on that when I write up the Jennings piece, so make sure you check it out.
Brandon Mosley took most of the reps at right guard for Chris Snee. Charles Brown filled in again at left tackle for Will Beatty. Otherwise, the first team offensive line had the usual suspects: J.D. Walton at center, Geoff Schwartz at left guard and Justin Pugh at left tackle.
With Beckham and Mario Manningham (knee) out, Jerrel Jernigan has been getting a lot of looks, and not just as a slot receiver.
Jernigan is the latest offensive skill player to indicate familiarity with Ben McAdoo’s offense.
“It’s a lot different but it goes back to some of the same concepts I had in college in the spread with Troy, so it’s going good, just learning different signals and stuff,” he said.
A challenge for Jernigan when playing the outside has been the route running.
“You have bigger corners out there and you have your nickels on the inside, little guys, kind of your size and then you go outside with the bigger corner trying to get contact and get their hands on you,” he said, adding that he hopes his quickness will allow him to win his one-on-one battles.
Jernigan also confirmed that while the receivers are still required to make “a couple of reads,” they are not nearly as many as what they had to do in Kevin Gilbride’s offense.
I’m really starting to get the feeling that the fullback position is eventually going to be phased out here.
Currently, Henry Hynoski seems to be working with the starters, but with the running backs being targeted for check downs and such, there really hasn’t been much for the fullbacks to do yet other than catch a ball or two out of the backfield. And so far, both Hynoski and Conner have looked good in this regard, not dropping any passes.
That could change once the pads go on, but based on what Peyton Hillis had to say today, it sounds like if anyone’s going to be the “John Kuhn” in the Giants version of the Green Bay offense, it’s Hillis.
“They haven’t really said what our role will be,” Hillis said. “We’re just kind of going through the basics of the offense, I’m sure when training camp comes up, we’ll have a different mentality and I’ll probably know more about what they would like me to do.”
There was definitely an emphasis placed on screens in this practice and most seemed to be successful. However, on one play, running back Andre Williams seemed to fight the ball. He seems to trap the ball against his body instead of extending his arms to reel in the pass. If he doesn’t fix that technique flaw, he’s going to have a lot of drops.
The Giants have been rotating their tight ends in each of the open OTAs we’ve been allowed to watch, which to me says that no one has really jumped out and taken the lead in this race.
Coughlin confirmed my hunch.
“Pretty much it’s another day-by-day,” he said. “Somebody will do something well one day and then someone else on another day.”
The good news is the young guys–Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell and rookie Xavier Grimble—are making progress.
“What I do like is the fact that the young guys have jumped in there and done, I think, a good job of understanding what’s been asked of them and really doing well in limiting their assignment errors,” Coughlin said.
Kellen Davis looked to get the bulk of the reps with the starting unit and he moved well, making some nice receptions.
He doesn’t seem like he a plodder out there, which is good. Again, there are no pads so we won’t be able to see how these guys are as blockers, but I’m very interested to see how the tight ends do in this regard.
Quarterback Ryan Nassib had three passes intercepted in this practice. The first was by rookie defensive back C.J. Barnett.
Another was by cornerback Charles James, who I think is the unofficial team leader in interceptions this spring. For what it’s worth, I named James as my “Player of the Week” even though I only saw this one practice.
James has looked very, very good so far, even though it’s just shorts and shells. He knows what to do and gets himself into position to do it, which is more than half of the battle. So far, James has done everything he can to convince the coaches that he’s worthy of a roster spot. Can he keep it up when the pads go on?
The third was by safety Cooper Taylor, who was in the right spot at the right time to reel in a pass deflected off the fingertips of tight end Kellen Davis.
Speaking of Taylor, he’s looked very, very good in coverage. He’s done a nice job of following the ball with his eyes and breaking at just the right time to get into position to, at the minimum, knock the pass away.
What he hasn’t been doing to swell though is selling the blitz. In watching him on a couple of plays in which he came up to the line, Taylor needs to lean in a little bit more to be more convincing if he’s going to sell the blitz.
When he’s not blitzing, he’s literally straight up in his stance and to my eye, at least, it looked obvious when he was going to blitz and when he wasn’t.
Once Jon Beason had to leave, Devon Kennard, the team’s fifth round pick stepped in to take some snaps in the middle and didn’t look too bad doing so, except for one play in which he was late to fill a hole, letting Rashad Jennings burst through it.
“He’s picked things up very well. He’s very smart, very good on the board,” Coughlin said of Kennard. He’s done a nice job on the field, a good job on special teams. We’re excited about him.”
If Beason has to miss any time, the Giants have options in the middle. In addition to Kennard, who they want to take a good long look at anyway, Jameel McClain, who plays the game with a lot of enthusiasm, can play in the middle if necessary.
They also have Mark Herzlich, but based on how the snaps were dished out, it looks like the coaches are really interested in seeing what Kennard and McClain bring to the party.
Running back Michael Cox showed a good burst of speed through a hole between the tackles. Whereas last year, I thought he often looked tentative, so far this year he’s been running with confidence.
Defensive tackle Jason Pierre-Paul got the better of left tackle Charles Brown, jumping in the air and batting down a pass.
On the final play of practice, Rueben Randle, who earlier gave onlookers a scare when he was slow to get up, beat defensive back Ross Weaver down the sideline for a touchdown in the two-minute drill.
That’s a wrap for this OTA. The next reports will be Tuesday through Thursday for the Giants’ three-day mandatory minicamp.