Rookie corner back Rod Babers watched practice in sweats, having pulled a hamstring in the morning session. It's expected he may miss the rest of the week. Also, rookie corner back Frank Walker was taken off on a cart after dislocating his elbow during a drill with his fellow defensive backs. Will Peterson left the afternoon session a bit early, feeling some tightness in a groin muscle. But it was felt this was just a precautionary measure. This leaves the Giants defensive backfield a bit thin.
On the bright side, safety Clarence LeBlanc, who was placed on the physically unable to perform list prior to the start of training camp, seems close to returning to full practices. He ran agility drills at full speed and seemed to show little, if any, signs of injury.
With temperatures hovering around the 80 degree mark, and with little humidity and a nice breeze, the Giants once again focused on individual drills with position coaches. But, unlike last week, these drills seemed to have more purpose and scheme involved.
The Giants linebacker corps, with coach Tom Olivadotti, was working on positioning and defensive calls against particular offensive schemes. These positioning drills focus on assignments against the run or in pass coverage, depending upon the offensive play called. Kevin Lewis, the Giants fourth year backup linebacker, had a nice afternoon. He was running well in space, and in pass coverage drills he held his own up against the Giants backs and tight ends. Lewis, who can play all three linebacker positions, is sometimes forgotten about, but showed that he's steady and rarely out of position.
The Giants tight ends, with coach MIke Pope, worked the majority of time on pass blocking and picking up blitzes with blitz recognition drills. The focus paid particular attention to a speed rusher coming off the edge. Some of the things Pope was stressing was having each of the tight ends keep their head up so that their line of sight is good, and to block the defender and push him to the outside of the pocket.
Wide receiver coach Jimmy Robinson, for the first time this camp, had all his receivers working on short routes and routes that would be cut off if the receivers read that a blitz is being called by the defense. This enables the quarterback to dump the ball off quickly in a hot read situation. The Giants receivers ran 5 to 7 yard in-cuts and the Giant quarterbacks got rid of the ball quickly. Each Giants receiver took a number of reps during this drill, with Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer both displaying good hands.
The Giants quarterbacks also focused on hand off drills with the running backs, and some work with just the backs in the passing game. Each Giants running back got a number of chances to catch balls out of the backfield off a couple of different formations. The quarterbacks then moved over with the Giants tight ends in a 5-on-5 drill, with the Giants linebackers working on coverage against them.
For the most part, the tight ends won the majority of the individual battles; Marcellus Rivers versus Mike Barrow, Darnell Dinkins versus Kevin Lewis, rookie Visanthe Shiancoe versus Dhani Jones, Jeremy Shockey versus Brandon Short, and Mark Inkrott versus Wesly Mallard. Shiancoe turned Jones the wrong way and made a nice catch that would have went for long yardage. Linebacker Mike Barrow made two nice plays against Marcellus Rivers, knocking away passes.
At one point during the drill rookie linebacker Eddie Strong lined up against Jeremy Shockey and made a nice play on a Jesse Palmer pass, knocking the ball out of Shockey's hands. Linebacker Josh Hotchkiss also picked off a Jason Garrett pass. Another point of interest, Nick Greisen got a few reps with the first team, replacing Mike Barrow.
During the middle of the afternoon session coach Fassel broke things up by having the team work on punt coverage. Punter Jeff Feagles had a strong afternoon, on a breezy day, with several booming kicks. Brian Mitchell, Delvin Joyce, and Daryl Jones handled the return duties. But much of the focus was on types of punt coverage, with special teams coach Bruce Read making adjustments and critiquing each attempt. Rookie David Tyree got to show the crowd, and more importantly the coaches, his special teams skills as he worked as a gunner and showed good speed and timing during the drill.
The Giants then switched gears, working in a 9-on-9 format and later an 11-on-11 full scrimmage. You could see tempers starting to flare a bit on both sides of the ball. Coach Fassel got after offensive tackle Jeff Hatch on a couple of occasions for agressive play and a leg whip. Coach Fassel also showed displeasure with the second and third offensive line units, and he felt they were not firing out effectively on running plays.
Kerry Collins got a scare when offensive tackle Ian Allen, in a battle with defensive tackle Keith Hamilton, pushed Hamilton into Collins, knocking him to the ground. That's an enormous no-no during practice, but Collins was no worse for wear. Daryl Jones made up for having a lackluster first three days of camp by making a couple of nice catches during the scrimmage portion of the practice. Ron Dayne also made a positive impression with a couple of nice runs for yardage, as well as a couple of catches out of the backfield.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive tackle Ahmad Miller looked very good against the run during some of the hardest hitting of the afternoon.
At the end of the day, what could be taken from this practice goes back to something coach Fassel said in his closing remarks to the team last Friday. That being, each day the tempo and intensity of the practices should increase. It doesn't mean that players play out of control, but it does mean that focusing on the technique driven drills, coupled with the scheme being introduced, has to translate to intensity and focus. Today's afternoon session saw a lot of this coming together for the first time.