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Practice Report: Engram battles Peppers; Eli is sharp

The players were outside and back in full pads for the eighth practice of training camp. It was a more abbreviated practice with a number of players not working with the rest of the team.

Here's what I saw from the sideline:

* Every once in a while, even in practice with no tackling, Saquon Barkley reminds everyone why he is special. On the first play of the team work, he burst through the middle of the line like he was shot out of a cannon and only a couple of defensive backs were left between him and a big run for a touchdown. Barkley did have an uncharacteristic drop on a pass from Manning for the second straight day. Despite that, he has showed off his ability to be a downfield receiving target.

* The battle between tight end Evan Engram and safety Jabrill Peppers continues on a daily basis. On a simple play action pass where the pocket moved to the right, Engram went across the field away from Manning in an attempt into open space and make a big play. Manning hit Engram with the pass, but Peppers was right there for what would have been a tackle for a short gain. Peppers was not influenced by the play action. 

* There were a couple of notable plays during blitz period. Safety Michael Thomas and corner DeAndre Baker had consecutive pass breakups on passes from Daniel Jones. Running back Wayne Gallman had an excellent blitz pick up on Peppers, who looks to be a real weapon going after the quarterback. Manning showed his smarts on the first play of the period by using a hard count to get inside backer Alec Olgletree to show he was blitzing. Knowing what was coming, Manning completed a pass to wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who is doing more and more in practice with his healing thumb (and without the yellow jersey).

* Manning looked sharp again. He slightly overthrew a post to Cody Latimer during the first team session, but otherwise very few of his passes hit the ground, which has been the case most of the week. He has good zip and accuracy, and has found success on hitch and come-back routes to Golden Tate, Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer. During high red zone drills (nothing inside the 10-yard line), Manning threw a strike to tight end Rhett Ellison on a slant for a touchdown. 

*Julian Love made a good play on a contested catch in the end zone when he jumped with the much bigger Alonzo Russell (5-11, 195 lbs. vs. 6-4, 218 lbs.) and knocked the ball away. Jones put it high where he thought Russell could go up and get it, but Love kept his eyes on the quarterback and made a nice play on the ball.

*Despite not making that play, Russell is having a nice camp. He might not be a burner, but he is getting open and is consistently catching the football. At his size, he has a frame that sets him apart from most of the other wide receivers on the roster. The progress he has shown since entering the league in 2016 and since joining the Giants in 2018 is clear to see.

* Golden Tate, Jabrill Peppers and Sterling Shepard were back during punt return drills.

* There were two sets of competitive drills between the offensive and defensive lines. The first was at the beginning of practice and focused on the stunts and twists from the defensive line. These are plays where either a defensive end and a defensive tackle or two defensive tackles cross one another on their way to the quarterback. The goal for the defense is to confuse the offensive linemen and set basketball style screens to open up rush lanes to the quarterback. The goal for the offensive linemen is to communicate and successfully pass off the rushing defenders and keep them out of the pocket. The offensive line did a markedly better job picking up those games (twists and stunts) than I saw from last year's unit in camp. More experience from Will Hernandez and the addition of veterans Mike Remmers and Kevin Zeitler have something to do with that.

* The second competitive period between the groups was late in practice with 1-on-1 pass rush drills. Most of the reps went to the second and third stringers, but one stood out with the starters. On a rep against right tackle Chad Slade, Lorenzo Carter got very low and showed elite bend to get around the edge and turn the corner on the way to the quarterback. His athleticism at the position is off the charts. Now it is the matter of taking these good practice reps into a game and using his athletic skills as part of a pass rush plan to get to the quarterback consistently.