The Day at Camp: August 13, 2013

If “variety is the spice of life,” then Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is sure going heavy-handed on the spice rack.

Fewell has been experimenting with many combinations and looks that his Giants defenses haven’t shown to date.  He’s also been moving around his safeties and corners to where he hopes to get more favorable matchups in games and not locking himself in to matching say Corey Webster against the opponent’s number one receiver, etc.

Lately, he’s been messing around with his defensive ends, flipping them from side to side and having them stand up as pass rushers. He’s even trying to move the linebackers around more.

“We’ll be very multiple,” Fewell said of the various looks the defense has been showing. “Personnel wise, we have guys that fit a 4-3. We have guys that fit many different defensive combinations and so I’m going to build a defense based on our personnel.”

And that’s all fine with head coach Tom Coughlin, who is looking for the defense to bounce back from a sub par showing last season.

“It helps to prepare for everything,” he said of all the different personnel combinations shown on defense. “The league is very sophisticated . Generally speaking, defenses are a little ahead, so you get all these different things to work on and focus on and it helps from a mental standpoint so the more you can do it, the better off you are.”

Maybe so, but there is a thing such as doing too much too soon.

I always remember how last year there was some confusion among the defense trying to run a more simpler scheme were guys knew where they were going to lineup. While this would be the time to experiment and get guys used to new looks, at what point is it too much to where you’re taking away from what a guy does well?

Consider this statement from Justin Tuck, who will be part of a defensive unit that will switch sides this season to get better matchups.

“It’s something new, something we’re trying to see if it can benefit this defense. It allows you to showcase a little versatility and it keeps things fresh,” he said.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand the difference in playing both sides. It’s completely different techniques, completely different way of going about things when you’re on a quarterback’s backside or front side and just the strength of the offense going left or right. For me it’s exciting and I’m looking forward to it and doing more of it and getting more of a feel for how it will be implemented into our defense this year.”

With all these new looks Fewell has been trotting out, just how much danger is there of there being guys who get confused or blowing assignments,  especially if there was trouble last year mastering the simpler stuff? That remains to be seen, of course, but I suppose given the defense’s performance last year, desperate times call for desperate measures.

As I wrote about earlier today, safety Antrel Rolle has a sprained ankle, which, he said, is not a high ankle sprain. However, he did say it was a significant sprain and it’s just a guess here on my part, but I have a feeling that we might not see Rolle not just the rest of the preseason, but possible for the first week or two of the season.

Not working today were offensive lineman James Brewer (concussion), safety Cooper Taylor (hamstring), offensive lineman Chris DeGeare (ankle), defensive end Damontre Moore (shoulder contusion), cornerback Corey Webster (groin), receiver Brandon Collins (hamstring), running back Da’Rel Scott (shoulder) and receiver Jerrel Jernigan (soreness).

Fullback Ryan D’Imperio, whom the Giants signed when training camp opened on July 26, has decided to retire; he was placed on the reserve/retired list.

The Giants signed  fullback Ben Guidugli, 6-1, 242 lbs. out of Cincinnati, to take D’Imperio’s spot. Guidugli spent most of the 2011 season on the practice squad of the St. Louis Rams, who signed him as a rookie free agent on July 28 of that year. He was added to the active roster for the season’s final game, but was inactive. Guidugli, who played at the University of Cincinnati, was waived by the Rams last Aug. 31, and did not play in 2012.

Lots of mixing and matching going on today on the defense, as I mentioned, so here’s the run down:

* The Giants opened their 11-on-11 series with a 3-4 look that had Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers, and Linval Joseph up front; Mathias Kiwanuka and Keith Rivers as the outside linebackers, and Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger as the inside linebackers.

* Marvin Austin, whom defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said played well in the preseason opener, was rewarded with a few snaps with the first team defense.

* Johnathan Hankins got a few snaps at defensive end with the second-team.

* In keeping with their quest to find defensive ends who can function as “stand up” rushers, both Justin Trattou and Adrian Tracy were given some snaps in seven-on-seven as linebackers.

* At safety, Ryan Mundy took the majority of his snaps up near the box while Stevie Brown took the majority as the cover safety.

On the offensive side, Justin Pugh was given some snaps with the starters at right tackle  in their two-minute drill. So when I asked Coughlin if Pugh picked up where he left off prior to suffering his concussion, he said, “ He’s got ways to go, but he’s in there fighting, battling.”

Looking ahead to the preseason game against the Colts, Coughlin said that he anticipates having defensive end Justin Tuck and receiver Hakeem Nicks in the lineup for the first time this summer. Both guys sat out last week’s preseason opener against the Steelers. As for cornerback Terrell Thomas (knee) and right guard Chris Snee (hip), I got the impression that those  two would be at least another week away from seeing live action.

* Jayron Hosley had himself the best practice of the summer so far. He broke up a pass play intended for tight end Larry Donnell, who  at 6-6 has much more size than the 5-9 Hosley. The cornerback also baited quarterback Curtis Painter into through an ill-advised pass over the middle which Hosley easily picked off.

Want more? There was Hosley’s pass breakup of a pass intended for Victor Cruz, and then a couple plays later, Hosley, who was identified as the “Mike” came in on a blitz which Brandon Mosley managed to pick up.

* It’s great to see cornerback Terrell Thomas moving around and looking no worse for the wear, but sadly, he was no match going against receiver Victor Cruz on a  deep ball. Fortunately for Thomas, the ball went off Cruz’s finger tips, but Cruz, who is hard to cover, managed to separate from Thomas by a mile.

* Cornerback Prince Amukamara also had another impressive showing. He broke up a pass intended for Rueben Randle to end the practice (the offense was running the hurry-up and refused to let any receiver get too far away from him.

* Nice job by David Wilson to pick up linebacker Spencer Paysinger on a blitz. Wilson set his base, squared up his man, and stopped Paysinger’s forward momentum. It probably helped that Wilson saw Paysinger start to cheat toward the lien, but still, give him credit for getting the job done.

* Linebacker Aaron Curry blew by tight end Chase Clement, who was actually lined up at fullback  to record a sack against Curtis Painter. Clement was way late on recognizing  and reacting to Curry’s blitz.

* Nice alert move by running back Ryan Torain to cut back against the grain when thing in front of him got bottled up. I didn’t see who the defensive end was, but he got stuck in the wash and Torain had no trouble getting around the outside for a gain.

* Justin Tuck, who’s been doing a lot of that “joker” position where he stands up (and no, not like in comedy), beat David Diehl to get pressure on Eli Manning, forcing a quick throw intended for Hakeem Nicks but which Prince Amukamara picked off.

* Brandon Myers looked like he had some struggles trying to get Mathias Kiwanuka blocked. Meanwhile Adrien Robinson easily handled Keith Rivers while in-line.

* Louis Murphy is like a faster version of Domenik Hixon. By that I mean Murphy has shown to be an outstanding downfield blocker thus far this summer. On an André Brown outside run, it was Murphy who shoved the defender inside, thus clearing a huge lane for Brown to exploit for a large gain.

* Ryan Nassib’s lone pretty pass of the day was a deep ball caught by tight end Chase Clement.

*Ryan Mundy came in on a blitz in a defensive alignment that had Terrell Thomas as the safety, and Aaron Ross at corner, where he was tasked with covering Rueben Randle. Mundy ended up beating David Diehl for the sack.

* I’ve been very impressed with running back Michael Cox this summer. Off the field he’s quiet and doesn’t really say much, but on the field he’s a little scrappy fighter who refuses to let bigger defenders bully him around. I saw him really scratch and claw his way out of a pile, keeping his legs moving until the whistle blew. For a moment, I had flash backs to the days of Ahmad Bradshaw, as he used to always keep his legs moving until that whistle blew.

* I mentioned above that Justin Pugh was given some snaps with the starters in the 2:00 offense, (so too was Brandon Mosley, who worked at right guard in the 2:00 offense). Lining up at right tackle, Pugh actually didn’t look too shabby, as he held up well against Justin Tuck on one rush but yielded a little pressure on a second one which resulted in Eli Manning having to throw the ball away.

Pugh also held off Adrian Tracy on a rush as well. His technique wasn’t always perfect, but he got the job done, so it will be interesting to see if his reps at that spot start to increase even more as training camp winds down.

I’ve been covering this team for a long time, and in all those years, I don’t think I’ve seen so much mixing and match, so much uncertainty on one side of the ball.

I’m talking about the defense. I mentioned this thorough this report, but with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell trying to find the right combinations of players for the right packages, I find it a little unsettling because I wonder if all this experimenting is going to take guys away from doing what they do best.

What I found really interesting today is what middle linebacker Dan Connor had to say when he was talking about the run defense, which was as follows:

That’s a focus going in there, being able to stop the run and make the team one-dimensional. We focused on that for a few days, like any other year. But it’s probably a bit more a point of emphasis since I’ve gotten here. We’ve got to be a physical defense. We’ve got to be able to stop the run and not let teams give you that slow death. That’s something we have to improve on and hopefully we can do that.”

What jumped out of me there was his statement, “We’ve got to be a physical defense,” something that the Giants defense wasn’t all the time last year. And I’m just not so sure that scrambling the personnel sets and getting so ultra-creative is going to translate into a more physical defense where guys are able to fight off blocks, guys are going to be able to bring down ball carriers, and guys who are going to be able to hit their opponents.

That comes from within. And no amount of mixing and matching can bring that out of a player.

“I hope he comes back next week. Why would I talk about Week 1” – Head coach Tom Coughlin when asked if he thought safety Antrel Rolle would be back on the field by week 1.

The Giants will practice on Wednesday and Friday of this week, leading up to their second preseason game, and preseason home opener on Sunday night when they host the Colts. All training camp practices this week are scheduled to be open to the public, weather permitting, of course, and will begin at 1:30 p.m.


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