Special teams got some early work in at the beginning of practice, with coach Bruce Read and assistant special teams coach Mike Priefer working on getting their players to maintain lane integrity and, depending on the type of return called for or dictated by the direction of the kick, not to vary from their assignments. This works both ways with both coverage and return teams. For the most part this drill was more of a walk through, but given the past problems of the Giants special teams units, coach Read had the players' undivided attention. You can definitely tell there is an emphasis and a high importance being placed on getting things correct from the start.
The offensive line, with coach McNally, was working on tandem blocking and double teams off of different defensive situations and looks they may see from various schemes. Each unit on the offensive line, in addition to working on footwork, also went through a number of reps on different blocking set-ups and work with blocking sleds.
All four quarterbacks, with quarterbacks coach Turk Schonert, in their individual segment of drills, worked on roll-outs to the left or right and footwork agility drills, whereby the quarterback maintains the ability to focus down field to find an open receiver and still keep good balance. All four of the quarterbacks looked good in this drill, with number two quarterback Jesse Palmer making a couple of nice throws on the run.
Coach Jimmy Robinson and his wide receivers did a modified cone drill to make sure that all the wide receivers are making precise cuts off a wide variety of pass patterns. Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, and Tim Carter showed the ability to have great body control while negotiating the series of cones laid out for them. Carter later had to leave practice a bit early with tightness in his achilles, but this was felt to be just a precaution and something expected from time to time as he comes back from his surgery.
Free agent fullback acquisition Jim Finn was the lone fullback on the field today for the Giants, as fullback Charles Stackhouse did not dress for practice but was on the sidelines for the entire session. Finn and the rest of the Giants running backs worked on their blocking techniques with running backs coach Eric Studesville, and also did some work on the blocking sleds themselves. Jim Finn showed good technique in this area and drew some hoots and hollers from his fellow teammates for his work on the blocking sled.
During 7-on-7 drills one thing of note was unveiled today, Kerry Collins has really made improvements in his play action skills. His ability to fake hand offs and hide the ball seems to be something he's worked on improving for 2003. It was very apparent at today's practice that he has been successful in upgrading his game in this area.
One of the things coach Fassel seemed to be focusing on was the tight end and H-back screens and getting the offensive line out in front while still selling the idea that there may be a longer play down the field. All the tight ends participated, with Jeremy Shockey, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Darnell Dinkins making some nice catches and runs. Fassel was emphasizing the need for the tight ends to track right behind the offensive linemen, thereby setting up the blocking for the screen to work effectively.
All three units of the offensive line had reps in this drill, with right guard Tam Hopkins and right tackle Ian Allen both showing good ability to get out in front and set their blocks. The buzz around rookie offensive guard David Diehl should continue. In his reps in the same drill he showed good foot speed and the ability to stay on his block and release at the proper time.
The second phase of special teams practice broke up the afternoon, with some work on on-side kicks. Again using more of a walk through format, coach Read was concentrating more on the positioning of players and making sure they knew their assignments on both the kick team and the receiving team. Matt Bryant handled the on-side kick duties, and tight end Mark Inkrott showed good hands recovering a couple of kicks, albeit in a walk through format.
The Giants finished practice by going to a live scrimmage format with some red zone work, as well as goal line situations, with all three units involved on offense and defense. Ron Dayne had a couple of nice runs and, more importantly, displayed some fire by throwing an elbow at free safety Omar Stoutmire. Free agent cornerback Ray Green continued to look good with an interception and a knock down. Tight end Jeremy Shockey, on a pass play close to the sideline, was actually driven into the bleachers by linebacker Brandon Short. Fortunately both players were unharmed.
Coach Fassel, after a nice catch by rookie wide receiver David Tyree, made a point of telling the rookie not to take or make unnecessary cuts. Saying that yes, it was a nice play, but had Tyree not tried to "get cute", as Fassel said, the play would have went for a touchdown instead of ending up just inside the ten yard line. Cornerback Kato Serwanga made a nice hit on Tim Carter on a play over the middle, and middle linebacker Mike Barrow leveled second year running back Delvin Joyce for no gain on a run up the middle.
This session finished with some goal line work, and you could really hear the pads popping on both sides of the ball. Running back Dorsey Levens looked very strong in short yardage scoring two touchdowns from inside the five yard line. Ron Dayne also had two nice runs over the left side of the Giants offensive line.
The players finished their day on the University of Albany practice fields with some spirited sprints and a little competition between Jeremy Shockey and Tiki Barber, with each trying to make sure the other didn't finish first. Barber got the best of that competition but, as Shockey pointed out, it was close.