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Practice notes (8/2): Giants have first early practice

As will be the case for the next couple weeks of Giants camp, I invite you to read the Top Performers (link) article, as well. With Dan Salomone on assignment, I am compiling the top performers as well as the practice notes, and I won't repeat what I write there in these notes as well.

-       It was the first morning practice of training camp. In order to allow fans to attend, the session had to be held in the morning due to Beyonce, Jay-Z concert at MetLife Stadium this evening. I wonder if it was a coincidence that this was one of the sloppier practices of camp. Two balls hit the ground, one on a fumbled exchange on a handoff from quarterback Kyle Lauletta and another on a bad shotgun snap from center Jon Halapio. On a couple of separate occasions, coach Pat Shurmur had to ask the offense to re-huddle after initially lining up. After one of the re-huddles, a Davis Webb pass flew over wide receiver Travis Rudolph's head as he cut to the outside instead of going up the field. It was a clear miscommunication (only the coaches know who was at fault). Rudolph had two other drops from Webb later in practice. Needless to say, the head coach did not seem happy after many of the mistakes.

-       This report has been very short of kicking news because the team has been getting their field goal work in 15 minutes before practice officially began. I got out early for it today and watched Marshall Koehn make five of six kicks with his only miss coming from 50 yards away.

-       The Giants have officials at every practice, but they are usually local college officials. Today, the team welcomed a members of referee Jerome Boger's crew for the first of three days of work with the team. There were not a lot of flags thrown during a relatively penalty-free workout. Read the end of the article for a few notes from the officials meeting.

-       During media availability, Pat Shurmur called Sterling Shepard a "gritty" football player. He showed it when he laid a nice, loud block on Landon Collins. It was legal, with the shoulder pads and not the helmet doing the hitting. The two slapped helmets after the play in acknowledgement of the strong block. Wide receiver Alonzo Russell dropped a nice block on safety Sean Chandler during a screen pass to Kalif Raymond.

-       Chad Wheeler saw a lot of time at left tackle with the second team, with Nick Becton going to the right side.

-       For the most part, the Giants offensive line did a good job protecting its quarterbacks today. Defensive players were not in the backfield a ton on passing plays.

-       The defensive line worked against the offensive line in two different competitive periods. The last was the standard one-on-one pass protection drills. Nate Solder did a very nice job on Olivier Vernon on his rep, as did Will Hernandez on B.J. Hill. The top move during one-on-ones belonged to Kristjan Sokoli. The second -ear defensive lineman put a mean spin move on guard Chris Scott to get into the backfield up the middle. The earlier period was the first time we have seen the group working on "defensive games". The defensive line ran twists and stunts with both the ends and tackles, and the offensive line had to pick them up. Communication is key between the offensive linemen to survive the machinations of James Bettcher's defense.

-       Darian Thompson was back running as the first team safety, with Michael Thomas and Andrew Adams working with the second group. Other players are getting opportunities with Curtis Riley working his way back from an injury with the medical and training staffs.

-       The battle between Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Apple continues. The two were lined up during red zone drills, with Apple stopping a pass in Beckham's direction on a comeback route. Unfortunately for Apple, the flags flew and he was called for defensive holding. The replay showed Apple had his arm wrapped around Beckham's waist and impeded him. Good call.

-       Grant Haley is getting time at outside cornerback with the second team, as B.W. Webb gets more reps in the slot.

-       The Giants ran a "situation" at the end of practice. The team worked on getting to the line of scrimmage quickly after a completed pass, and running a play as fast as possible. I think it was designed to get a play off before the opposing team had a chance to challenge a play on the field, but that's just a guess.

We had a chance to meet with the officials today and here are my takeaways:

-       The new helmet contact rule is all about eliminating the lowering the head and initiating contact with the crown of the helmet. If the official sees a player coming at another with his head down and leading with the crown of the helmet, the flag is coming. The act of lowering the helmet will be key. The league wants players to see what they hit. In some ways, it will be easier to officiate because what the helmet contacts no longer matters. The penalty is for the act of lowering the helmet and using the helmet to initiate contact. It doesn't seem all that nebulous to me. If players keep their heads up, it will be okay. I expect many of these calls will be on tackles in open space rather than plays between the tackles.

-       The catch rule will continue to be the subject of replay reviews and Monday morning arguments, but it seems like the calls will be far more intuitive for the officials on the field. They will be able to make their ruling based on what they think looks like a catch based on common sense. A player needs control of the ball, two feet down and make a football move for the play to be a catch. The controversy will come as officials use their judgment to determine what a football move is. I expect there to be a lot more fumbles on bang-bang plays down the field than before.

-       One rule that hasn't been discussed much is that runners no longer need to slide feet first to give themselves up. If a player purposely dives head first to the ground, they are down as soon as they hit the ground and do not need to be contacted for the officials to blow the play dead.

View the best photos from Thursday's practice