Sometimes it's more fun going through training camp than the regular season - there's so much speculation on who's going to make the roster, who's going to step up, how are the new draft choices doing and are the Giants going to plug the holes that hurt their team last year. During the season, reading the papers and the various media outlets, it's all about the game. During training camp, you really get to focus on player by player and play GM of your team. There seems to be so much more written on line and in the traditional outlets, that your morning is filled just following everything. It's also funny that each newspaper seems to cling to similar story lines each day - no doubt because they don't really know what they are seeing and they are fed "inside" information from one of the coaches.
Some interesting notes so far are that the Giants seem extremely happy with their draft choices, especially the first three. Pugh has looked very good and has been sharing first team snaps with Diehl. The coaches say he is very smart and has picked up the playbook well. This is important for OL-men, because you have to adjust quickly and switch your assignments when the defense throws a different blitz at you. The concussion he suffered is a setback, but if he gets back onto the field in the next week or so, we can hope that it won't retard his progress badly.
Hankins has been exactly what they expected - a big space eater at DT but has showed better quickness than they thought. The DL coach expects him to be a contributor and in the DL rotation this year. The big find, however has been Damontre Moore who has really wowed everyone with his talent and speed rush capability. He's a little light, so he may not be a 3-down DE and instead be only a situational pass rusher at first. He has a big enough frame to carry a few extra pounds and for the future, could go heavier than the 250 he is now. Moore was known to have first round talent coming out of college but had a reputation as someone who did not work hard. If he has shed that tendency, he could be a real find. If these two DL draftees have an impact their first year, it may mean that some of the veterans don't make the club. It is really crowded on the DL, especially at DT. Shaun Rogers and even FA signee Patterson may be on the bubble. Jenkins, Joseph and Hankins will make the team. Marvin Austin has looked good also (see my report below), so you can validly ask how many DTs will the Giants carry? Kuhn can probably be stashed on PUP through part of the season in case of injury, making it more likely that one of the veterans will be cut.
I went to Giants training camp on Friday August 2nd and have the following personal report:
1. Prince Amukamara looks like he is ready to step up into the 'shut down' CB status. He is fast, looks very tough and has great instincts and technique. Even when the offense completed some balls against his man, he was right on top of the play and tightly contested the catch.
2. Reuben Randle continued his strong camp and looks like he will be an important player for the Giants this year. I am not sure he is a pure speed burner - in fact Manningham, the guy he is essentially replacing, may have been a bit faster in terms of pure foot speed. But Randle just looks like a great football player. He runs effortlessly with a long stride that makes it seem like he is not working, has great body control and deceptive speed. He can jump really well and has excellent hands.
3. David Wilson at RB also looks like he is ready for a big year. When he gets going nobody can stay with him. On one kickoff return drill, which was admittedly run at 3/4 speed, he just exploded down the sideline. He looks like the car in 'Back to the Future', powered by lightning and when he gets going, there are streaks of light as trails behind him.
4. It's hard to scout OL/DL at practice because they're not really banging hard, and there is a mass of bodies to try and look through from the sideline. But I will say that Marvin Austin looked lightning quick and Tuck looks like he's in great shape - not an ounce of body fat on his frame. In the front 7, the other player that looks extremely impressive to me is Jacquian Williams. I will admit that I always liked him - he reminds me of a slightly smaller Jesse Armstead, but he is extremely athletic and in a passing league, could be a great asset covering TEs from the LB position and running down read-option QBs.
5. Only big negative that I observed was Myers, the TE Giants signed from Oakland. He looked smallish, did not look fast and dropped 2 or 3 balls. He did not seem to get any separation on his routes, though everything he ran was short and intermediate stuff in the middle of the field. On the other hand, Andre Robinson the TE the Giants drafted last year from Cincinnati looked great. He is an imposing physical specimen, can run impressively especially for a man of that size and has very soft hands. He has a really high ceiling - I hope he makes it onto the field with some regularity this year. With his size, if he can learn the proper blocking techniques and assignments, he can be a strong player at that position.
One more note - I mentioned "soft hands" above and I have a new appreciation for what that means, which came from observing practice. In the NFL, everyone catches the ball with their hands, not against their body. It gives the WR an extra fraction of a second to secure the ball before he gets hit by a defender, instead of waiting until the ball (and defender) reaches him. Sitting next to the practice field, with the velocity that the QBs put on the ball, when the WRs catch the ball, you hear a loud slap when the ball comes in contact with their hands. The players with really soft hands have the ability to move their hands back just an inch or two and cradle the ball gently as it hits their outstretched hands. You can't really see a player do that, but you can hear it; or actually, you can't hear it. When the ball hit the hands of most of the WRs, you hear that loud slap. When the ball hit Robinson's hands, you heard nothing, just a soft thud. Since the collision between ball and hands is less "violent" the force of ball against hand is lessened, some of the energy is dissipated and there is less of a chance of drop. For students of physics, it is the difference between a ball hitting a concrete wall or hitting a pillow and the energy that the ball may have when rebounding off those surfaces. Robinson showed these soft, quiet hands.