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5 things we learned at Giants Rookie Mini-Camp

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  1. The Giants are emphasizing the defensive history of the franchise.  **

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With a rookie mini-camp roster that included the grandson of Hall of Fame defensive end Any Robustelli, the Giants are reaching back in time to restore the rich tradition of the franchise, especially on defense. Head coach Tom Coughlin revealed that the staff has already been educating the "varsity" team, as he calls it, this offseason and then showed a video to the rookies on the night before the first mini-camp practice. That process began with the return of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the architect of the unit that defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

"Maybe that comes from having been there, but the whole staff just felt like when you understand the tradition of defensive football here at the Giants, you embrace it," Spagnuolo said Saturday after the second and final practice of rookie mini-camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. "When you embrace something, you have a little pride in it. If you've got a little pride in something, like your family, you tend to protect it.

"The only other thing I added to them was let's grow our own tradition and history here. We've been going back and feeding the guys all the greats here and we'll eventually start feeding great defensive games. We've got some picked out. I think we all should embrace that. There should be a passion about it, and they should carry it out right here on the field. That's the goal."

2. Jackson officially switched to safety.

Back in February at the NFL Scouting Combine, Coughlin opened the door for the possibility of cornerback Bennett Jackson, the team's 2014 sixth-round draft choice, to move to safety, where the team had no returning starters once free agency opened. The Giants then approached Jackson about the move, and fast-forwarding a few months, Jackson was lining up next to second-round pick Landon Collins as the top safety tandem during rookie mini-camp. Jackson, the Notre Dame product who wore No. 36 last year and spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad/injured reserve list after hurting his knee, also switched his jersey number to No. 24.

"At the end of the day, I want to go out there and be able to get on the field and compete," Jackson said. "I know I can at safety, but it is not going to be an easy road for me. I have to go out there and continue to improve each day."

3. Flowers and Collins set stage for OTAs, training camp.

Photos of OL Ereck Flowers at Giants Rookie Mini-camp

Players drafted ninth overall are expected to produce from Day 1. To a lesser extent -- but not by much -- so are players selected by a team who traded up to get them with the first pick of the second round.

Those are the situations that former Miami offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and Alabama safety Landon Collins walked into at rookie mini-camp this weekend. Now all eyes turn toward OTAs, which begin May 27, and the coaches will see how they acclimate to the "varsity" team. "That is why we drafted them," Coughlin said. "We need the help."

Photos of Safety Landon Collins in Giants Blue

4. Odighizuwa, Thompson, Davis, Hart get their feet wet.

For the Giants' four other draft picks in the six-member class, their education began at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. While working on their craft with position coaches, defensive end Owa Odighizuwa, safety Mykkele Thompson, wide receiver Geremy Davis and offensive lineman Bobby Hart, like all rookies, will have to earn their way on special teams.

"You would like to take the draft choices and college free agents that have been signed and accelerate their learning," Coughlin said about the goals for rookie mini-camp. "Throw a lot at them and see how they handle it. For the invited players, you are evaluating. You are trying to see if they can help you and what capacity they might help you versus some of the opportunities you have here. You have a lot of things in mind for this."

5. Players to keep an eye on.

The vast majority of the 65 players who attended rookie mini-camp won't make the roster past this weekend, but the road doesn't necessarily have to end now. In addition to the Giants' newest draft class and the six undrafted rookie free agents the team signed, most players were on a tryout basis and expected nothing more than a chance. Some made the most of their opportunities and could resurface in training camp and future practice squads.

Below are some players to remember and their highlights:

• The first and only interception of camp went to former Concordia linebacker Takari Johnson.

• Wide receiver Addison Richards of Regina, Saskatchewan, made one of the toughest plays of Day 1 with a toe-tapping grab down the sideline on a pass from quarterback Pete Thomas, formerly of Louisiana-Monroe.

• Wide receiver Lemar Durant of Simon Fraser University had a good diving catch from Hawaii product Taylor Graham, who is the son of former Giants quarterback Kent Graham.

• After spending time on the practice squad last season, tight end Jerome Cunningham made the most of his first day at rookie mini-camp by hauling in a handful of catches throughout practice.

• Tight end Matt LaCosse will be pleased with what he put on tape on Saturday. The former Illinois product made a handful of good grabs during both 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 drills.

•    During team drills on Day 2, Graham hooked up with wide receiver Ben Edwards out of Richmond for the longest passing play of the weekend.

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