Today was the heaviest practice for the Giants before their first preseason game on Thursday night. It was, in my opinion, the hottest practice day of the year. You know it was hot and steamy when the break period in the middle of practice was extended, and head coach Pat Shumur sent the team into the air conditioned field house to cool down. It was a nice day for the players to acclimate themselves for what could be some hot September games.
Here's what I saw today:
- There wasn't a whole lot going on at practice in terms of big plays. Practice opened with Aldrick Rosas making all his kicks, including one from 50+ during field goal work. Rosas is still in a competition with Marshall Koehn for the placekicker job. Preseason will be huge.
- Early in practice, before the team even stretched, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard joined tight end Evan Engram and running back Saquon Barkley for a one-handed catch contest. The players threw the ball at one another and had to catch it one-handed every time. Engram was out first, and then Barkley. Shepard and Beckham went back and forth a few times before Shepard failed to handle a high pass that went to the ground. Odell was the day's champion.
- The first team session was a 9-on-7 drill with all running plays, which is often the most physical part of a camp practice, spare full contact goal line drills. From my view on the sideline, the defense won the day, starting with big-time penetration from nose tackle Damon Harrison and edge rusher Olivier Vernon on the first two plays. Both would have resulted in losses. Defensive linemen Josh Mauro and Kristjan Sokoli also got into the backfield later during the period. One highlight for the offense came when guard Will Hernandez joined center Jon Halapio on a wicked double-team on Harrison, opening a hole up the middle.
- We saw two head-to-head sessions between the offensive and defensive lines. The first featured twists and stunts from the defensive line, with the offensive line working on passing blocking responsibility off properly. It's actually similar to pick and roll defense in basketball, except with a lot more physicality. The defense won a few of the early matchups with offensive linemen failing to pass off rushers properly. The offensive line picked it up later in the drill. Will Hernandez and Nate Solder communicated well on an end/tackle stunt, with the rookie guard yelling "go, go, go" when he was ready for Solder to pass off the defensive end crashing inside. Offensive linemen John Greco and John Jerry also communicated well on their reps, with Jerry laying a nice lick on rookie Lorenzo Carter, who came inside and paid a loud price.
- The second head-to-head session was pass protection one-on-ones. Edge Rusher Avery Moss and John Jerry, who was at right tackle, had a nice competition. Moss won the first matchup with a quick inside mood, but Jerry won the second rep. Offensive line coach Hal Hunter called for a rubber match, and Moss won that one by sliding inside of the offensive tackle and into the backfield. Edge rusher Romeo Okwara had a nice pass rush move inside around John Greco. Offensive tackle Nick Becton had a nice block of linebacker Lorenzo Carter, moving his feet and preventing Carter from getting outside of him. Offensive tackle Chad Wheeler had a tough rep, including one where defensive lineman Kerry Wynn pushed him all the way into the backfield.
- The one-on-one rep that jumped out to me came from edge rusher Connor Barwin. He was lined up on Wheeler, who was at right tackle. He started outside and executed a perfect lightning quick inside spin move, flying past Wheeler and into the backfield. Even offensive line coach Hal Hunter was impressed, who turned away and said quite audibly, "Damn, that's a good move." Barwin can still play.
- Nice play during the team portion of practice from defensive lineman B.J. Hill, who got leverage on offensive tackle Nate Solder, and showed impressive power by pushing him into the backfield. The rookie is playing like a veteran.
- Newcomer, cornerback Leonard Johnson, got some time as the first team slot cornerback today.
- Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. beat cornerback Janoris Jenkins on a deep post that would have been for a big score, but Eli Manning put a little too much mustard on the pass and it landed over his head incomplete. Beckham failed to get both feet in later in practice on a red zone catch.
- I saw a fun special teams drill with the gunners today. Assistant special teams coach Anthony Blevins bounced a volleyball towards the goal line and the gunners had to catch the ball or knock it back before it or they went into the end zone. There were some nice diving stops, knocking the ball back into the field of play.
- The situation at the end of practice featured a fourth and inches scenario. The offense lined up and either ran a play or tried to draw the defense offside. The trick was that the defense didn't know what the offense was going to do. The defense stay disciplined and never jumped.