The Giants opened up Phase III of their offseason program, the organized team activities (OTAs), today at the Timex Performance Center.
And we all know what that means, so let me stop right here before I get into the highlights and lowlights.
Offense get to work against defense, but this time of year, teams don’t have their complete offenses and defenses. For example, offensive linemen David Baas and Chris Snee, both of whom are recovering from offseason procedures, were sidelined. Guys were rotating in and out of the lineup on their respective units and to say that the communication on plays was choppy would be an understatement.
So what I’m getting at here is don’t get too worked up over what you’re about to read. Seriously, the only thing to come out today that bears ANY kind of hand-wringing is the knee injury suffered by fullback Henry Hynoski, who had to be carted off the field after he collided with teammate Andre Brown on the second play of the group work.
As I write this, Hynoski was undergoing an MRI. I’m not going to speculate what happened with him but injuries are the one thing you never want to see in these light-contact drills.
Concerned about receiver Hakeem Nicks’ absence today? Don’t be. Nicks is under contract and while he’s believed to be in town – he was honored last night at a United Way gala – these practices are VOLUNTARY.
Sure it would be great to have everyone in and participating, as head coach Tom Coughlin will tell you. But just as there were players who were rehabbing and unable to participate, Nicks was absent for the first day.
Point is let’s see if he continues to be absent before we get all worked up about today. Like I said, the injury to Hynoski is a greater concern right now, pending his visit with the doctor, which was ongoing when I wrote this.
In addition to Nicks, Victor Cruz, who remains unsigned, was not present. I’m really not expecting to see Cruz this spring, but contract situations are fluid. The important thing is that Cruz be in training camp ready to work and in top condition.
On the injury front, in addition to Baas and Snee being sidelined, DT Markus Kuhn (knee), CB Terrell Tomas (knee), and LB Jacquian Williams (knee) were also sidelined.
Kuhn told me that he’s making good progress with his knee despite being limited right now., but he is optimistic that he’ll be ready for training camp.
Thomas is also taking things slowly – he had told me earlier this offseason that he was going to take things a little more slowly so as to not cause himself another setback.
Williams told reporters that he’s continuing to rest his PCL injury suffered last season. After some initial confusion with him, he did not have any kind of offseason surgery, and he described his condition as ‘day to day.”
Some good news – all of the Giants rookie draft picks were present, including those unsigned, such as first-rounder Justin Pugh. I believe the rookies who don’t have contracts need to sign a waiver to participate, so it was good to see them present and wanting to immense themselves with their veteran teammates right away.
First-rounder Justin Pugh began working at right tackle with the second string team – the first string had David Diehl at right tackle and James Brewer inside at right guard for Chris Snee (who will not do much work this spring as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery).
As practice went on, though, Pugh saw his reps at right tackle with the third team. But don’t read too much into that because as Coughlin pointed out, it’s still very early in the process. And as I pointed out above, the absences of Snee and Baas necessitated moving guys into different positions they might not ordinarily play.
Jim Cordle worked at center for David Baas.
The first-string linebackers consisted of Keith Rivers on the weakside, Mark Herzlich in the middle, and Spencer Paysinger on the strong side.
Dan Conner, Aaron Curry, and Etienne Sabino were second-team middle, weakside and strongside linebackers, respectively. Mathias Kiwanuka stayed at defensive end and Damontre Moore, who is being groomed to play the “joker” spot that Kiwanuka used to execute, did most of his work standing up.
The punt return candidates included Aaron Ross, Jerrel Jernigan, and Rueben Randle.
Strong showing by Prince Amukamara, who was targeted only twice and on one play, he timed the pass breakup perfectly. Amukamara is playing with a lot more confidence and is looking to build off a solid season last year. He’s healthy and he’s quietly been establishing himself as a leader in the defensive backfield.
Tight end Brandon Myers made a nice lunging reception on a Manning pass that was a little short. Myers
Cornerback Junior Mertile did a nice job of staying patient and reading quarterback Curtis Painter on a pass intended for Kevin Hardy. Mertile jumped the route and came up with what would have been a pick-six in a live drill.
Rookie defensive linemen Damontre Moore and Johnathan Hankins double-teamed to blow up a running play in the backfield. Both looked like they got into the backfield so quick that the offensive linemen didn’t have time to react.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul got a hand on a Manning pass that was nearly deflected into the waiting arms of safety Stevie Brown, who just missed getting a handle on it.
Tight end Morgan Newton, who was signed to replace the injured Michael Palmer, came up with a pretty reception on a pass thrown at his knees. He quickly righted himself and managed to get up field for some additional yardage.
Receiver Jeremy Horne, who impressed as a rookie minicamp tryout, held his own against Corey Webster on one play, remaining squarely focused on the ball.
Rough outing for Corey Webster, who was targeted far more than Amukamara. Webster was burned on three plays, though to be fair, the third own looked like the receiver was out of bounds.
Remember, Coughlin said that they’ll be looking for Webster, who had a subpar year last year, to bounce back, so the more he gets thrown at, the better because it will give him a chance to work on getting his feet back under him – Webster dealt with injuries last season which may or may not have had an effect on his play.
Ryan Nassib’s pass intended for receiver Kris Adams fell woefully incomplete as on the play, Adams ran the wrong route. The receiver caught an earful about it too, from his position coach, Kevin M. Gilbride, when he jogged back to the huddle.
Receiver Brandon Collins dropped a pass that hit him squarely in the hands. While he was tightly covered by Terrence Frederick, Collins still should have made the catch.
I didn’t see who the quarterback was, but I did see the ball sail over the head of Louis Murphy, who seemed to be a favorite receiving target in this practice of the quarterbacks. Murphy had a step against safety Tyler Sash but he had no chance of coming up with the reception.
Cornerback Terrence Frederick gave a little shove to receiver Kevin Hardy on a pass by Nassib that was ultimately overthrown. Methinks that might have been a flag on that play as he was outside of the five-yard range and the ball hadn’t passed over Hardy’s head.
Defensive end Justin Tuck on the importance of attending the OTAs: “With the CBA and just the ever-changing game of football, OTAs have become more important. You’re not allowed to do as much as you used to nor have as much time as you used to. So these days that we have, have become more important. We’ve got an opportunity to get back in the flow of things and we’ve got to use these wisely.
Receiver Jerrel Jernigan, on if he feels any extra pressure given the expectations of him that were made public by Kevin Gilbride at the rookie minicamp: “No. I don’t think it’s pressure. I’m going into my third year. I agree with him. It’s time for me to go out there and start making plays and start helping my team out besides just special teams.
Linebacker Aaron Curry on if he felt frustrated over not living up to the hype after he was drafted in the first round by the Seahawks: “It was like I knew I could do it and I knew I would do it. I just don’t think at the time I was interested in doing it. I think I was interested in other things and at the time football just wasn’t my top priority, just to be honest. I just had so much going on that I tried to make a balance out of everything instead of doing it the right way.”