Aah, offseason in the NFL and how some love to use it to quarrel and quip about mostly nothing. There really is much more once the sheets of “breaking news” are peeled back. Important layers of players that aren’t news-worthy due to their alleged third and fourth string statuses are what really are currently at the core of these headlines. The New York Giants won their Lombardi trophies on the “next player up” mentality, so why wouldn’t ya’ll care about whom actually is swimming in the blue depth pool?
As with the drama that was the annual NFL Free Agency, back-ups aren’t considered “sexy,” right? Well, not until they step up and make plays that eventually help the team win, that is. Granted, just because one can name everyone on the offensive line doesn’t equate to extensive knowledge of all things Giants. However, grasping a bit of a Big Blue lesson (in June, even) and following the ins and outs of what, why, and how the team operates can only exacerbate an already smoldering flame as far as fandom is concerned. There once was a time when no one knew who tight end Jake Ballard was and now just about everyone in Giants Land has more ire towards Bill Belichick and the Patriots for “stealing” him last offseason.
The point here (there is one), is to know who’s here on the team as far as potential depth. There’s a certain hunger that drives many bubble athletes to not only make the team, but to become factors in the upcoming season. Mandatory mini-camp is this coming week, but much of the true desire is seen in training camp — if they do make it to that invited 90-man.
Reports come out of organized team activities (OTAs) about players that are “flashing” and others that are quietly doing what they should be (and a bit more) in their respective skill position. Building chemistry is a huge factor that comes out of this time of year’s Giants’ camps. The fact that some guys are still convalescing and/or have yet to show plays in the favor of the one that’s on the turf and practicing. Besides the just-drafted kids, there are guy that have a window of opportunity opened before them and they know better and should make every attempt to seize it.
Defensive end/linebacker Adrian Tracy, linebacker Spencer Paysinger, defensive end/backer Mathias Kiwanuka, and now even linebacker Jacquian Williams are all coming about and stepping up for blue in May. It may very well be the open competition (from fellow linebacker teammates Mark Herzlich, Keith Rivers, Dan Conner, and Aaron Curry), but it’s guaranteed that these guys want to get on the field and stay there as long as they can once they do make the cut for that final 53-man.
Head coach Tom Coughlin noticed the “good things.”
“The other day Keith Rivers made a heck of a play…Herzlich has made some plays. Two days in a row now he has intercepted balls,” Tom Coughlin said Thursday. “So I think the guys – they are anxious to make the contribution. They know the position is open. And I think that has motivated them in a very positive way to have a good spring and to give us some strong feelings about where we are.”
The offensive side of the ball isn’t much different, as second year tight end Adrien Robinson is stepping up and “flashing” as fellow end Bear Pascoe fills in for healing fullback Henry Hynoski. Robinson’s not there yet, but should take what is before him as a lesson — especially with end coach Mike Pope.
“Robinson has appeared to have gone to the Land of the Believers,” said coach Pope after Thursday’s OTA. “Yes, he has made some good progress. He’s understanding assignment-wise, just in our most recent meeting, but the plays are still not the lines on the page that we give them for instruction…now we have to get him to adjust to the way the defense is playing on each particular play and to make the best decisions based on how the defense is playing.”
As wideouts Rueben Randle and Louis Murphy takes what is theirs (for now) seriously, others need work. This is the time to put in for it. On this side of the ball, for the most part, it will always be about quarterback Eli Manning and his trust with who is on the field with him.
“I have to worry about the guys that are here,” Eli Manning said this week. “That’s all I can do. I’ve got to worry about each practice and trying to get better, making sure I know what I’m doing, working on the things that I need to improve on and then talking over with the guys who are out there on the field about each play, watching film with them, making sure we’re on the same page and we have a chance to go out there and win the practices.”
Exactly, E. No one is bigger than team. Even in “practice."
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