Guess what? David Tyree has moved himself up, by virtue of his own brilliant training camp and the inability of two others -- Tim Carter and Jamaar Taylor -- to stay healthy over a long period of time. Saturday night against the Carolina Panthers, the 6-0, 205-pound Tyree caught a pass from young starter Eli Manning and began to solidify his hold on that third wide receiver position. The play was third-and-five at the Giants' 10-yard line. It was early, with 7:49 remaining in the first quarter. Manning dropped back; actually with a five-step drop because of his proximity to the team's end zone, and threw to Tyree on the right sideline. He caught it at approximately the Giants' 25, broke a tackle attempt by Panthers' strong safety Colin Branch, neatly stepped out of another frantic attempt by weak side linebacker Will Witherspoon and was gone. He ran the distance to the end zone, accompanied by fellow wide receiver Plaxico Burress (from whom such heroics are expected) and a quick glance to the Giants' sideline showed a huge grin on the face of the usually taciturn head coach Tom Coughlin.
"It wasn't much," Tyree said as he downplayed the catch. "Eli put the ball right on the money. I was kind of shocked at how quickly it came out and into my hands. I got it, turned and kind of jumped out of the [Witherspoon] tackle and it was off to the races. It was a great way to start the game." But Tyree's first love is special teams, and he made another of those almost patented plays shortly after the touchdown. Jeff Feagles punted to the Panthers, and the ball hit at the two-yard line before starting its bounce into the end zone. Tyree flung his body into the end zone first, then reached out and slapped the ball back onto the field, where it was downed on the two-yard line.
"Jeff was on top of his game," Tyree said. "He downed one inside the five. He had some big hits in the return game. I have to give a lot of credit to [cornerback] Curtis Deloatch, too. He played a whole game and played well on specials."
Coughlin appreciates this kind of player above all others. "He showed that he can contribute to the team in many ways," he said. "It was a great catch and run for the touchdown, and he made some amazing plays on special teams, too. He proved his versatility and value to the team." It might not be a bad idea to put Tyree's name on the projected final 53-man roster in ink. He is no longer on any coach's bubble.
CAMP CALENDAR: The Giants will break camp Wednesday, Aug. 24.
- The jobs for a couple of O-line spots are still up in the air. LG David Diehl, moved there from RT last year (after starting all 16 games as a rookie at RG and all 16 last year at tackle). But coming on fast is veteran Rich Seubert, who suffered a broken leg in 2003 and hasn't played since. That competition is still too close to call.
- The Giants' revamped linebacker corps didn't perform as well as Coughlin would have hoped against the run. Carolina gained a staggering 171 yards rushing, averaging 5.2 yards per rush. DeShaun Foster was the leader with 11 carries and 39 yards. "We just need to get some sense of unity," said veteran Carlos Emmons, who was moved from SLB to WLB. Second-year player Reggie Torbor came off the bench to take Emmons' SLB job, while veteran Barrett Green (still gimpy with post-knee surgery) went to the bench. The only LB who remained untouched was Antonio Pierce in the middle.
- Speaking of LBs, the Giants are going to have to make room for an undrafted rookie, Chase Blackburn, who continues to impress in practice and in the games. He had three tackles vs. Carolina and two special teams stops. He is 6-3 and 247 pounds, and is listed on the depth chart as the third-stringer at MLB behind Pierce and veteran Kevin Lewis, who started all 16 games there last year. But Lewis was moved to backup support at WLB (and could be in danger of making the final roster). DT William Joseph continued to play sporadically at DE as well.
- QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coach always preaches 'turnovers, turnovers, turnovers' and last week we got our hands on a few of them but didn't make the catch. So we just picked up from where we finished and came up with the four picks tonight." -- Giants' rookie CB Corey Webster, who had one of the team's four picks (rookie defensive end Justin Tuck had another).
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
- BATTLE OF THE WEEK: It apparently comes down to either David Tyree or Tim Carter as the third wideout, and with Carter healthy, the battle heats up even more. Taylor, whose speed is at least as great as the other two, can't seem to get healthy, and is now nursing a sprained hip flexor. Tyree has been flashy and effective so far, but then again, so has Carter. Tyree is in no danger of not making the team no matter how the final verdict comes in since he is the team's top special teams performer.
- OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Decisions will have to be made on the starting LG (David Diehl vs. Rich Seubert), the starting LT (Luke Petitgout vs. Bob Whitfield), LDT (Kendrick Clancy vs. incumbent Fred Robbins). Diehl holds a shaky and slim lead, Petitgout is more comfortably in front and Clancy seems to have a lock on the job, with Robbins now glancing over his shoulder at Kenderick Allen. William Joseph appears to be the surprising winner at RDT over Damane Duckett.
- PLAYER OF THE WEEK: This category is owned by WR David Tyree for the week, with a brilliant 90-yard TD vs. Carolina coupled with three special teams tackles and an acrobatic "save" of a punt about to touch the end zone but batted out to pin the Panthers on their 2-yard line. Tyree had two catches in all for 113 yards.
- ROOKIE REPORT: CB Corey Webster is moving quickly to threaten one of the starters (Will Allen and Will Peterson), and a knee sprain suffered Saturday night by Peterson might give him his opening. DE Justin Tuck is improving, seemingly having adjusted to the speed of the pro game, and had an interception on a deflected pass vs. Carolina. RB Brandon Jacobs continues to be the star of the camp and is almost certainly the second RB. He might also be tried on occasion as the second TE. DE Eric Moore still sports his knee bandages and may not avoid the season-ending preseason Injury Reserve list.
- INJURY REPORT: QB Eli Manning (bruised elbow) and CB Will Peterson (sprained knee) were the only game casualties.