Stop #13 – Albany, New York; Giants Camp
Miles Travelled to date: 15,931
Another long drive through the state of New York was compensated for by some of the nicest and most temperate weather since Seattle. The Giants practiced from 1:30 pm until 3 pm so you get the picture that heat wasn’t really an issue for them. I was pretty impressed with the padded practice as they competed well and made some excellent plays on both offense and defense (particularly after the low tempo stuff in Flowery Branch and the disaster in Ashburn). However, it speaks volumes that it wasn’t good enough for Tom Coughlin who laid into the team afterwards with some choice words about lack of effort.
Overall, this looks like a better situation than the one I saw when I visited Giants camp last year, but you can never really tell. At this stage in 2011, I wouldn’t have given them a chance of getting beyond 8 and 8 so what do I know?
1) Not a Priority
When you win the Super Bowl with the worst pass protecting offensive line in the NFL, maybe you start to believe that those positions aren’t so important any more. As we explained in some detail HERE, Eli Manning prospered in spite of his protection, not because of it.
The Giants expended a mid and lower round pick on two tackles but neither were featured with the first string yesterday. It looks like the Giants will be relying on effectively the same group as last year, minus Kareem McKenzie and possibly including Sean Locklear, if Will Beatty can’t shake off his injury bug. The major change is that McKenzie has been replaced at right tackle by, of all people, David Diehl. The Giants love Diehl as a person and as a positive locker room influence but even they must be frustrated by his continuing on-field performance issues; his salary being renegotiated down after the season. He gave up more pressure than any other player last year (both at left guard and left tackle), so the move to right tackle comes with a huge degree of risk. During both drills and in 11 on 11 yesterday he seemed ill at ease and was badly beaten by Mathias Kiwanuka twice that I saw. If Manning plays like last year all this may not matter but however good he is, pressure eventually turns into hits and sacks and winning with David Carr is not something the Giants can bank on.
2) Cornering the Slot
At PFF we often discuss players whose contracts are either well below or well above what we believe they should be. One player who features heavily when discussing the latter of those is Antrel Rolle. At an average salary per year of $7.4M he’s the 6th highest paid safety in the game but rarely plays like that. To be fair to Rolle, the Giants put him in positions which are usually reserved for corners to deal with and therefore it’s not much of a surprise when he struggles. Rolle is the player they utilized most often to cover the slot receiver last year. In fact, he played 48% of plays in that position in 2011. While he started his career as a corner, there’s a reason he’s now a safety and his coverage skills are anything but great.
Well, perhaps the Giants now have some other options. Jayron Hosley was excellent today following many positive reviews of his work in OTAs. He’s ideally built to cover the slot at 5-foot-10 and 178-pounds with superb quickness. In one-on-one and 11-on-11 he made play after play including two interceptions and always seemed to have good position on his man. He may be too small to cover some of the bigger outside guy,s but he looks scrappy enough to give it his best shot. Of all the draftees, he looked the most NFL ready and his ability may allow Rolle to focus on simply playing safety as the season progresses.
3) All-Round Backs
One of the themes in New York, as I mentioned in the first of these “key topics”, is the issue of poor pass protection along the offensive line. As a result the Giants have to compensate in other way and as Khaled showed in this article, no back has been left in to pass protect more in the last three years than Ahmad Bradshaw; averaging more than 111 plays per year. Add in 71 snaps last year from Danny Ware and that’s a lot of help and pressure on those players. What’s more is that both guys (particularly Bradshaw) do a very good job in that regard.
As things aren’t in danger of changing that much in 2012, this is one reason I don’t see much work for first round pick David Wilson this year. I doubt he’ll get much work on third down unless his blitz pick-up skills are superb. I didn’t see much from him one way or another yesterday and while he showed tremendous burst on one play in practice he had a number of issues. He dropped a couple of easy passes and also seemed to get caught up in traffic too frequently. In addition, he muffed a kick-off return to make for a very poor all-round day for the rookie.
- Domenik Hixson played well and was slotted in as the starter opposite Victor Cruz with Hakeem Nicks still injured.
- Martellus Bennett seems a perfect match for the Giants. He caught a very large number of balls underneath from Manning today and when paired with his exceptional blocking skills he looks like he will get the majority of the snaps at tight end.
- The “four aces” defensive line was on show at least for part of the time. Kiwanuka played DLE, Justin Tuck at DLT, Jason Pierre-Paul at DRT and Osi Umenyiora at DRE.