Reserve quarterback Jason Garrett, a veteran of 11 NFL seasons and five more in such failed enterprises as the USFL and the CFL, should be counted on for clarity, calm and logical behavior. Yet even the 37-year-old was unable to hide his enthusiasm for the Giants' burgeoning offense.
"We have more weapons than we have ever had before," he said, "and I think Kerry [Collins] is going to become a great quarterback this season. The receivers are big and fast, the running game with Tiki [Barbed] is going to provide the perfect balance and I don't think anybody realizes how good [right end] Jeremy Shockey is going to get."
Shockey, the 2002 Rookie of the Year, caught 74 passes for 894 yards, combining the power of his 6-5, 255-pound frame with unusual speed and an instinctive knack for finding open areas and a delight in running over smaller defensive backs.
"I think there have been other outstanding tight ends in the last 15 years or so," Garrett continued, "but the amazing thing is that Jeremy did all he did as a rookie. The others, and I would include Shannon Sharpe, Brent Jones, Jay Novacek and a few others, needed two or three years to develop. Jeremy is going to get better, he'll run better routes, he'll see how to better get open and he'll learn how to beat guys."
The prospect is frightening to defensive coordinators who have already spent much of the off-season attempting to devise ways of shutting him down. Now there is yet another problem -- the third-round draft pick Visanthe Shiancoe. He is 6-4 and 250, has exceptional speed and can get down the middle of the field, the deep middle, step for step with Shockey.
How would you defend that, with two or three wide receivers also flying downfield? "I guess you could rush three guys and cover with eight," said tight ends coach Mike Pope, "but then we'd be able to run the ball a lot easier. So if they rush four and drop seven, we'd still get somebody open or at least in single coverage."
CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes Aug. 22.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES --For the first time in the six years that the Giants have been using Albany as their summer training camp base, two practices were rained out on the same day. That was Friday (Aug. 1) , and it forced the team inside to the college gymnasium. Clearly, it was less than full scale. The afternoon session ended with a free throw contest, offense vs. defense, the loser having to run five additional 40-yard wind sprints Monday. The offense won; the defense grumbled.
--Defensive line coach Denny Marcin is starting to like Osi Umenyiora, the second-round defensive end. "He is making plays, especially against the run," he said, "and that's not what he's supposed to be best at." The 6-3, 280-pounder from Troy (Ala.) State was drafted for his exceptional speed and the hope that he would become a pass-rushing threat from the edges. "Oh, he'll do fine with that," Marcin said, "but he is learning to defend against the run and as a rookie, that would be a bonus."
Marcin, who coached famed linebacker Lawrence Taylor as a defensive end at North Carolina, considers Umenyiora to be "a situational player right now," and says that he doesn't want to overload him with plays and responsibilities. "Instead of asking him to 100 things, I'm going to count on him to do just 50, but to do them right."
Marcin has a different view of quarterback sacks. "They are overrated," he said, "and the correlation between pass rush and interceptions is not sacks but pressures."
Someone countered with: "Well, yeah, coach, but a sack sure brings a play to an abrupt end," and he had trouble not laughing at that. "I guess you are right," he giggled. "I won't throw them back."
The serious note is that the Giants have determined to increase both their sack and interception totals this year and are depending primarily on the increased speed of the players.
*Running back Tiki Barber didn't get to play in the intrasquad scrimmage, but not because of an injury or any attempt to hide one. "We have a lot of running backs and we know what Tiki can do," Fassel said. "We wanted to see what some of the others did." He got an eyeful from little Delvin Joyce, the second year 5-7, 195-pounder from James Madison University, who gained 40 yards in 11 carries. "You bet there's a role for Delvin on our team," the coach said after. "I have always liked him. He's tough and quick and smart."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think the rain came at the right time. We needed time for them (the players) to do a little mental housecleaning. We have been throwing a lot of football at them in a concentrated period of time." -- Giants' coach Jim Fassel.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL The Giants are growing more impatient with first-round draft pick William Joseph, the defensive tackle. He has now missed 14 practices and the intrasquad scrimmage and will have to play catch-up ball perhaps all season.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Matt Bryant vs. Mike Hollis for the kicking duties. Bryant is the incumbent and made 26 of 32 field-goal attempts last season, three of the misses due to bad snaps, but the rap against him is his lack of immediate height on kicks. Hollis is a more proven veteran, but his kickoff distance isn't great (nor is Bryant's) and there is a thought that both might be kept.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Rookie David Diehl vs. veteran Tam Hopkins for the right guard position. Diehl, 6-5 and 315, is a fifth-round pick from Illinois while Hopkins, signed as a free agent last season, at least has some experience. O-line coach Jim McNally calls the battle "head and head" right now.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: This category seems to be split between a pair of wide receivers, Amani Toomer and Tim Carter. Both have made any number of circus catches and Carter, with a reputed 4.29 time in the 40-yard dash, is said to be the fastest player the Giants have ever had. He is also 6-0 and 200, which is football-size.
ROOKIE REPORT: First-round pick William Joseph is still a no-show, but the second round pick, defensive end Osi Umenyiora, has impressed the coaches with his ability to stop the run when he was drafted primarily as a situational pass rusher. He's 6-3 and 280. ...
Third-round pick tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, also, has impressed, and with his size (6-4, 250) and speed (4.61) might be a companion down-the-middle receiver to Jeremy Shockey. ...
Fifth-round pick guard/tackle David Diehl is being given a chance to start at either of those positions, on the right side. ... Receivers Willie Ponder and David Tyree, both sixth-round picks, have impressed and Tyree caught six passes for 51 yards.
INJURY REPORT: Nothing serious, but CB Will Peterson will miss another few days (groin pull), rookie CB Frank Walker (dislocated elbow) will miss two to three weeks and veteran DE Keith Washington (hamstring) is day-to-day.