- Another short practice for the Giants, who cut it off after about an hour and 15 minutes and headed inside for another recovery stretch. The longer training camp this year gives them a chance to build in rest breaks as dictated by the GPS technology the players are wearing during practice, and they're taking advantage of it. The hamstring injuries to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Xavier Grimble are the only injuries that are holding people out of practices so far, and Beckham's was apparently a holdover from the spring. So I guess you could say it's working.
- One interesting thing I saw in the 11-on-11 period: There was a play on which wide receiver Marcus Harris was lined up out wide to the right, and just before the snap he motioned a few steps to his left into a three-man "bunch" formation with fellow wide receivers Julian Talley and Jerrel Jernigan. Bunch formations are one possible technique the Giants could use to help offset the fact that their wide receiver group is made up of relative small players. Instead of asking a small wideout to beat a defender off the line, you bunch them up in order to try and create confusion at the snap in the hope that one or more of them gets loose.
- For the second day in a row, Ryan Nassib completed a downfield seam throw to a tight end. Monday it was Larry Donnell, who had to go high in the air to catch the ball and then somersaulted foward in the air as he fell to the ground with it. Earlier in the practice, Daniel Fells caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning. It was Kellen Davis who caught the seam pass from Nassib on Sunday. The tight ends continue to rotate in and out of the practice reps as the coaches hope one or two of them start to distinguish themselves. It has not yet happened.
- It was the second straight day in full pads, and there were some incidents. Fullback Henry Hynoski got into a very brief post-play scuffle with a defensive player. We couldn't see exactly who it was -- could have been Johnathan Hankins or Jameel McClain. But Hynoski's helmet went flying off, and the crowd got a kick out of it. Right at the end of practice, defensive tackle Jay Bromley made a big hit and full tackle on running back Kendall Gaskins, drawing a scolding from coach Tom Coughlin, who doesn't want his players tackling each other to the ground in practice.
- The Giants mixed-and-matched some interesting defensive line looks, moving ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka inside on a couple of plays. And their NASCAR showed up, with pass-rushers Pierre-Paul, Kiwanuka, Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore all on the field at the same time.
All of that said, some things about the way Manning has played his entire career will have to change in this new offense, and the most significant may be his footwork.
"I think it's more kind of the footwork based on the route, and whether you're under center or in shotgun, just how it changes," Manning said. "There's more shotgun footwork and mechanics and kind of listening to your feet. You're going to take this type of drop out of the gun, and if it's not open on that first step you've got to listen to your feet, get through your progression so when you have to scramble you're in a good position.
"Some of those things are taught differently than what we've done in the past. I like it. I think it makes sense. You can rely on it, but it's not only remembering the play and the protection but also remembering, 'Do I take a step with my right foot first or my left foot?' Those things have to become second-nature."
Learning all of the details and minutiae of what the new offense asks him to do has been Manning's focus since his ankle healed from surgery and he was able to get on the field and practice in May. McAdoo's offense will demand that Manning get to the line of scrimmage more quickly, get the play off more quickly and work to dictate tempo to the defense. Part of the way that happens is that the footwork on the drops are in perfect sync with the routes and the play that's been called.
"We want our footwork to match what's going on downfield," Langsdorf said. "If our footwork is correct, it's telling you, 'Okay, it's time to throw the ball.' We want to trust our feet and know that it's time to either get rid of it or get out of there. We don't want him standing back there holding the ball, taking sacks. We want him to take his drop and make sure his feet are telling him it's time to do something."
The idea of asking a two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback to change something as fundamental as his footwork in his 11th season in the league sounds daunting. But after a 27-interception, 18-touchdown season, Manning is open to change. And Langsdorf doesn't think it's all that cataclysmic anyway.
"Part of it is having an understanding and being comfortable with where to go with the ball," Langsdorf said. "He's got a receiver in progression when we're going to the first read, and in progression to the second, to the third, and his feet are telling him which time to move on. So there's some transition from what he's done in the past, but everybody has some sense of timing in their offense. It's just a matter of matching it philosophy-wise with what we're doing."
The timing is still a ways from being perfect, and a lot of that has to do with practice time. The Giants remain six days away from their first preseason game and six weeks away from their first real game. So there's time to get it all figured out. But get the footwork figured out and they will, because it's fundamental to the West Coast-style offense they're now committed to running.
"The very basis of this scheme is having your feet in position to make a play at the right time," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "It's something this offense has relied upon since Bill Walsh."
New for Manning and the Giants, but Manning's hardly the first to have to learn it. The Giants have every expectation that he will, and that the results will show up in his play.
The problem is that, to this point, no one from the group that includes Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis and Xavier Grimble has established himself as the all-around guy.
"I think right now, they've all got a shot at doing it," Gilbride said. "They're all very good in certain areas right now and not as efficient or as good in other areas. In order to become that all-around tight end, they need to continue to develop."
Gilbride wouldn't handicap the competition, but based on what we've seen so far at practice, Fells looks like the most capable pass-catcher. Donnell made an excellent leaping catch on a seam throw from Ryan Nassib in practice Monday, a short time after Fells caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning. Davis made a great catch on a seam-route throw from Nassib on Sunday. Robinson has always been a capable run-blocker and continues to show that. The Giants have tried their best to rotate all of the tight end candidates in with the first-team offense to give them all a chance to show what they can do. But it's too early for anyone to have separated himself.
"Every time they get on the field, they know they're being evaluated with everything that they do," Gilbride said. "When guys start to emerge, we'll know it."
So far in camp, we have seen tight ends lined up all over the formation -- in the slot, in tight, out wide... even in the backfield in a fullback or H-back role. Gilbride said that's not a case of experimentation; it's an integral part of the offense and something their tight ends will have to do. The new running game includes more zone and stretch concepts that will require the tight ends to be nimble and flexible as blockers. There is a lot to the job.
"I would describe it as 'Jack of all trades,'" Gilbride said. "Having them be in the backfield and playing a lot of that fullback role, splitting them out as the No. 1 receiver, the No. 2. An in-line tight end as far as the blocking and the pass receiving. It's a jack of all trades and they have to master them all. It's an exciting, fun position in this offense, but we need to continue to develop in order to be ready to help our team win football games."
The Giants could keep as many as four tight ends on their roster, especially if they wrap up the preseason with the same issue they have now -- guys who have disparate strengths and weaknesses and have to be mixed and matched in and out of the lineup depending on circumstances. But Gilbride made it clear that's not the ideal situation.
"I think you can get it done with the specialist-type thing, but that's not really what we're looking for," he said. "What we're really looking for is to develop a number of overall tight ends who can do it all."
The search continues.
New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who's never been a coordinator or a game-day playcaller before, will coach from the sidelines. Manning said he's been practicing with the radio in his helmet to get used to hearing McAdoo's voice calling the plays.
The Hall of Fame Game means the Giants will get five preseason games this year instead of the usual four. Manning usually sits out the final game of the preseason and likely will again this year. So if he wanted to get in his usual three, he could skip Sunday's. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo didn't play in the Hall of Fame Game last year, but Romo was coming off of back surgery and the Cowboys weren't installing a completely new offense. In this case, Manning will draw some benefit from playing an extra game.
"There are five games, and you approach it in different ways when you have five instead of four," Coughlin said. "But we are going to benefit from this, from more opportunities in the new offense."
Don't expect to see the first team at full strength Sunday night. First-round wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. still hasn't practiced in a week due to a hamstring injury, and it would be a huge surprise to see him on the field. Wide receiver Mario Manningham continues to be limited by a sore knee. And while left tackle Will Beatty has been taking the bulk of the snaps at left tackle in practice, the Giants may not be ready to expose him to game conditions just yet as he continues to recover from the broken leg he suffered in the 2013 season finale.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Monday's practice that Beckham spent the day with team trainers and was being sent to New York for tests on his injured hamstring.
It's unclear what this means for the top pick's prognosis, but it's not a step in the right direction. It's possible an MRI and/or other tests could help the Giants determine the severity of Beckham's hamstring strain, which would help them figure out how to proceed with treatment or offer them a timetable on when they can expect him back. In the meantime, he continues to miss valuable practice time as the Giants install their offense.
The Giants drafted Beckham with the 12th pick in May's draft because they believed he offered them a significant speed threat on the outside from the split end position. But he missed a number of spring practices and minicamp due to a hamstring injury, and he pulled the muscle again in the first practice of training camp last Tuesday. He has not practiced since, and Coughlin's frustration over the injury has been evident.
"It's more than that," Coughlin said after Sunday's practice. "We're trying to put a team together. We saw too much of that in the spring."
But Coughlin went on to say that, of course, the team wasn't going to put Beckham on the field until it was sure he was no longer at risk of further injury. The Giants' first preseason game is Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in Canton, Ohio. Their regular season opens in exactly six weeks, with a "Monday Night Football" game against the Lions in Detroit.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Look, I'm not saying he can and I'm not saying he can't. I have nothing but respect for Eli Manning's abilities and the things he can do. He can beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, and if you didn't believe that after the first time, he did it again for good measure. The New York Giants' quarterback is largely underrated and underappreciated, and he's perfectly capable of having a great season even though he's coming off his worst season.
If Manning completes 70 percent of his passes this year in Ben McAdoo's new offense, as quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said Monday he'd challenged Manning to do, then McAdoo, Langsdorf and anyone else who had a hand in it should have their choice of NFL head-coaching jobs next January. And they can ride unicorns with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to the interviews.
Start with the very short list of quarterbacks who've ever hit that number in a full NFL season. It's basically Drew Brees (twice, in 2009 and 2011), Joe Montana (1989) and Steve Young (1994). Langsdorf said the list he gave Manning also included Sammy Baugh, Ken Anderson and Alex Smith. But Baugh played only eight games in the 1945 season in which he hit the mark (the league played a 10-game season that year). Anderson's 1982 season was only nine games long due to a players strike. And Smith put up his 70.2 mark in 10 games in 2012 before losing his job to Colin Kaepernick.
So if Manning is to hit this goal over a full season, he'll be doing something only three other players -- two of whom are in the Hall of Fame, and one of whom surely will be -- have done. The fact that it's a nearly impossible achievement is the first and best reason to doubt it. Manning's career completion percentage is 58.5, and his career high for a single season is 62.9, set in 2010. He would have had to complete an additional 69 passes in 2013 to get to 70 percent from the dismal 57.5 at which he finished. That's 4.3 more completions per game. Even in 2010, he would have needed 39 more completions, or 2.4 per game. May not sound like a lot, but it is when you think about what it means.
Secondly, as much as we've written about the Giants' new offensive scheme, there are still legitimate concerns about whether they have the personnel to run it effectively. The offensive line isn't set yet. Their wide receiver group is littered with question marks after Victor Cruz. They do not have a reliable pass-catching tight end on the roster. And as much as they want to stress high-percentage plays and completion percentage, it's tough to imagine they'll throw to the running backs all season.
Which kind of leads me to my final point: Eli Manning, risk-taker. Manning's calling card as a quarterback has always been, to me, his fearlessness. He has the confidence to try any throw, no matter how risky, because (a) he believes he can make it, and (b) he has an uncommon ability to put mistakes behind him and not let them affect his performance as the game goes along.
It's inconceivable to think that McAdoo and Langsdorf could change this about Manning even if they wanted to, and it's inconceivable to believe they would want to. Manning's ability to deliver an uncanny throw in a huge spot is one of the few things you can point to right now in this Giants offense that might have a chance to set it apart from others in the league. Their challenge is to install an offense that's more efficient and less turnover-prone while still making use of what Manning does best. So there's still going to be plenty of downfield stuff, and that stuff will come with more risk.
Now, OK. I understand about coaching and motivation. If Langsdorf sets a goal of 70 percent and Manning aims for it but falls 5 percent short, he'd still obliterate his career high and improve on last year by 7.5 percent. The Giants would surely take that. But hearing Langsdorf say this Monday brought home the ideas of (a) how much different this offense is going to be than it has been for the past decade, and (b) how hard it's going to be for the Giants to be proficient in their new offense in its first season.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants are setting lofty goals for their new offense in 2014 as new quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf has challenged Eli Manning to complete 70 percent of his passes.
"It hasn't been done very often, so that's the ultimate goal," Langsdorf said before Giants practice Monday. "I think it's been done eight or nine times, maybe? That's an impressive statistic in the history of the league. So that's what we're gunning for, that 70 percent."
Manning's career completion percentage is 58.5. His highest mark for a single season is 62.9 percent in 2010, and it has dropped each year since -- all the way to 57.5 last year, when he led the NFL with 27 interceptions against only 18 touchdowns.
After last season, the Giants changed offensive coordinators and have installed a new offensive scheme.
Langsdorf rattled off the names to complete 70 percent of their passes in a single season -- Sammy Baugh (in an eight-game season in 1945), Ken Anderson (1982), Alex Smith (before losing his job to Colin Kaepernick in 2012), Drew Brees (2009 and 2011), Steve Young (1994) and Joe Montana (1989).
And Langsdorf knows Manning has the list, because he made sure to go over it with him this offseason.
"He's well aware of who's done it in the past and what the system can get you in terms of completion," Langsdorf said. "So we're trying to focus on that and really trying to do a good job of taking care of the ball and hitting open receivers."
Curtis Painter in OTAs and minicamp, and I think he'd have to fall flat on his face in order to lose the job. He's looked terrible so far, but so has the rest of the work-in-progress offense. If Manning goes down, the Giants are cooked anyway, whether it's Painter or Nassib behind him. So they might as well keep developing the kid unless he's totally incompetent.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
Five running backs feels like a lot, so Hillis or 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Cox had to go. It's possible the Giants carry five and Williams could start out as this year's Nassib -- a fourth-rounder who's inactive for at least a little while as he gets his feet wet in the NFL with an eye toward a contribution further down the road. If someone gets hurt, Cox or Kendall Gaskins could find his way onto the team.
It's a camp battle between Hynoski and John Conner, but the Giants won't keep both. And they've been lining tight ends up in the backfield enough early in camp that you start to wonder whether they'll keep a fullback at all. If they do, my hunch is that Hynoski has shown enough ability to produce with the ball in his hands that he'll get the edge in Ben McAdoo's new offense ahead of Conner as long as he's healthy.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
Trindon Holliday doesn't offer much in the passing game, and it's possible he could get squeezed out if the team decides Beckham, Quintin Demps and either Randle or Jernigan are enough to handle return responsibilities. The Giants signed Holliday before they drafted Beckham, after all. At this point, guys like Corey Washington, Marcus Harris and Preston Parker have shown more than Holliday as receivers, and Parker is another guy they feel they can use on returns.
TIGHT ENDS (4)
In spite of the lack of quality experienced options, McAdoo's offense does appear to want to use the tight end a lot. Some Giants fans are hoping an outside name or two can replace some of the ones on this list, but as of now, this is what they have, and they'll hope something decent comes of it. They are eager to see what Robinson can do if he can ever keep himself healthy, and they love what Donnell showed them last year on special teams and think he deserves the reward of an opportunity here.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
- J.D. Walton
- Weston Richburg
- Will Beatty
- Justin Pugh
- Charles Brown
- Geoff Schwartz
- Brandon Mosley
- John Jerry
- Eric Herman
There are injury and health concerns with Beatty and Jerry, but both have been on the field a bit early -- Beatty moreso than the team expected. The Giants signed Brown and Jerry as veteran backups. They like Mosley's upside, and right now he's running with the first team at right guard. He could lose that spot to Jerry or Richburg, but the valuable camp reps will likely make him a useful backup at the very least.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
- Jason Pierre-Paul
- Mathias Kiwanuka
- Robert Ayers
- Markus Kuhn
- Mike Patterson
- Johnathan Hankins
- Jay Bromley
- Damontre Moore
- Cullen Jenkins
I thought about undrafted Kelcy Quarles for one of the defensive tackle spots, but the Giants love what they're seeing from Kuhn and Patterson early in camp. Patterson and Jenkins project as starters right now, with Kuhn and Hankins in the rotation behind them.
Kennard's been so good so far that, if they only keep five, you wonder about Paysinger's spot a little it. Williams looks like the starter at the weakside spot, even in the base defense, as long as he can stay healthy. And Kennard is a first-teamer right now on the strong side with McClain manning the middle in place of the injured Beason. Herzlich is on the team for special teams, where he has great value.
It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson and/or Charles James for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer. If one of those guys makes it.
It's going to be tricky to get fifth-round pick Berhe on this roster, but the Giants like him enough to make room at the expense of someone like Brewer on the offensive line or Charles James at cornerback.
The kicker competition is legitimate between Brown and Brandon McManus, and McManus has looked great so far on field goals and kickoffs. I thought about flipping them, but I'll give it another week before making that move. The other two spots here are in stone barring injury.
- Much better day for the offense Sunday, the team's first day in full pads. They ran a couple of nice short screen passes from Eli Manning to Rueben Randle early in the team period. Victor Cruz made a tough diving catch along the sideline. Rookie Andre Williams looked good slipping through the line on a couple of carries. Tight end Kellen Davis made a nice catch in coverage from Ryan Nassib, who also threw a touchdown to Marcus Harris and was generally much more accurate than he'd been so far. As coach Tom Coughlin says, it's slow progress and there's a lot to learn. But after the way the defense dominated Friday, it was nice for the Sunday crowd of about 3,500 to watch the offense have some fun.
- Cornerback Walter Thurmond is on Cruz a lot, possibly because he's the slot corner and Cruz is the slot receiver. But Thurmond can stay with guys on the outside as well. I had a scout tell me during the spring that Thurmond is "elite" as a slot corner but more than capable if he has to fill in as a starter as well, and you can see why. He doesn't give up in coverage. When the quarterbacks were throwing deep balls and it was corners vs. wide receivers one-on-one, he knocked the ball away from Cruz. In that same drill, I saw Dominque Rodgers Cromartie break up a long pass to Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan catch one against Prince Amukamara.
- First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) fielded some punts but did no running and did not practice with the team otherwise. Coughlin is growing frustrated with the situation. In addition to Beckham, WR/KR Trindon Holliday sat out with some sort of leg injury and TE Xavier Grimble sat out with a hamstring injury.
- Andre Williams got through the line again later, delivering a shot to linebacker Mark Herzlich along the way. But defensive tackle Markus Kuhn was waiting for him and laid him out without even leaving his feet. Kuhn is quite large.
- Brandon Mosley continues to take all of the first-team snaps at right guard. Coughlin grumbled a bit when asked about the progress of John Jerry from spring knee surgery, saying "I hope today was better than Friday," but Jerry is still quite limited and you have to think all the reps Mosley is getting set Mosley up well if it's a competition for the spot.
"I've never stopped growing," the New York Giants' new starting running back said before a practice last week. "I had to, because when I was a little, short, fat, overweight kid, dorky with glasses, I had to figure something out. It's a blessing not to be the most talented guy when you roll out of bed, not to be the fastest guy. It keeps that chip on your shoulder."
Now, he may not have to do all of those things, because right now they have David Wilson and Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis as options as well. And if everyone stays healthy, the running back group should be deep enough to help the coaches keep everyone fresh and put them in the best possible positions to succeed. But Jennings is ready for whatever they want to throw at him.
"This opportunity is great," Jennings said. "I have prepared to start every day since I've entered the league. I've been like that since college. I am not taking this for granted. I'm humble."
He looks good on the field so far in training camp in a variety of roles. He seems to have fit in quite nicely in the locker room. He has an engaging personality and a great deal of confidence, which he says is brought on by his devotion to year-round training and nutrition.
"What separates guys as they continue to play is what they do in the offseason," Jennings said. "I train year-round. And the way I eat, the way I sleep, the nutrition, massage, M.A.T., chiropractor, all those little things. If it works a little, I want a lot of it."
I had to look up M.A.T., but I'm pretty sure he's referring to muscle activation techniques, which is a process that measures and develops the efficiency of a person's muscle contraction. This is a dude who is paying attention to his body and making sure it's in the best possible condition to take advantage of the opportunity now in front of him. He said sitting behind Jones-Drew and McFadden gave him time (and motivation) to work on his fitness, nutrition and wellness techniques, and that the timing of his opportunity to be a full-time starter has therefore actually worked out well.
"I got a chance to mature," Jennings said. "I got a chance to learn how to take care of my body, and I've been blessed to have a chance to allow my body to catch up with my maturity."
Now, those things are intersecting with opportunity. Jennings has a chance to be the man in the ground game for a Giants offense that's ready to look at lot different than it did last year. He's been waiting -- and working -- for this chance for a long time.
At least one of Moore's defensive linemates has noticed major progress.
"His athleticism is hard to compare," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "But from where he was last year, technique-wise and some of the things he was doing to how he's come back in this camp, it's been amazing. How he's setting the edge in the run game. How he's transitioning to the pass, working on some of the techniques that he didn't have last year. He's really working hard and really improving."
That's the key for Moore, who's loaded with natural ability but needs to refine it if he's to be trusted with significant snaps on defense. What Jenkins said about setting the edge in the run game is especially important, since that was a huge part of Tuck's game and is also a strength of Ayers' game. If Moore is getting those techniques down, in addition to being able to fly to the quarterback, that could be a big surprise benefit.
"Yeah, he's taken a major step," Jenkins said. "He's just a lot more physical and holding his ground. You look at him now and he's a completely different player than you saw last year."
Could be just camp hype, but Jenkins volunteered this. He wasn't asked directly about Moore. Jenkins seems to legitimately think Moore stands out in terms of the amount of work he's done and the quality of it. Since those were the lingering questions about Moore after his rookie season, it has to be encouraging for the Giants and their fans to hear it.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the New York Giants' first-round pick from this year's draft, missed his fourth straight training camp practice Sunday with a hamstring injury. For coach Tom Coughlin, it's not just disappointing.
"It's more than that," Coughlin said after Sunday's practice. "We're trying to put a team together. We saw too much of that in the spring."
Beckham missed several of the team's OTA and minicamp practices due to a hamstring injury. He showed up ready to go when training camp opened last week, but during the first practice of camp Tuesday, he got tangled up with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and felt a tweak in the hamstring again. He has not practiced since.
Sunday, he fielded some punts in special-teams drills but did not run after he caught the ball. And he has spent some time on a back field the past two practices catching balls off a machine but, again, not running. While the team practices, he stands off to the side, flipping a ball up in the air to himself and talking to coaches and teammates.
McManus has looked good so far. Brown has too, but McManus has uncommon leg strength and the kind of ability that could win him the job if he keeps hitting all of his field goals. He offers more on kickoffs than Brown does, because he's more likely to kick the ball out of the end zone reliably. And while it's still too early to handicap this, and much will come down to what happens in the Giants' five preseason games, the competition is legit.
"You're not over here hugging each other," Brown said before Giants practice Sunday. "There's things more important than football. There's no Tonya Hardings out here. It is cordial. But there's an understanding that, 'You're trying to take something from me. And I have three kids you're trying to take it from too.' And that's personal. But it's not his fault he's here. He's good. And they chose to bring him in. So it's up to me to be efficient and try to apply the pressure to him."
Special teams coach Tom Quinn said during minicamp that he really liked McManus and that the youngster's experience kicking in adverse Northeast weather conditions while at Temple was part of his appeal. McManus was in camp with the Indianapolis Colts last year and theoretically in a competition with Adam Viantieri, an all-time great kicker who beat him out without too much trouble. But McManus said last year's experience helped him.
"Just knowing that every day, you had to make every single kick," McManus said. "So just learning how it's a game situation every day, and then learning everything about film study and how each individual prepares. I definitely wanted to be a sponge."
Last year, the Colts had Vinatieri kicking field goals but were using punter Pat McAfee on kickoffs, so that was a different dynamic for McManus. With the Giants last year, Brown handled both responsibilities, and so McManus has to beat him out in both areas. If they both look reliable on field goals, the competition could tilt McManus' way due to the advantage on kickoffs, but he's got to show that under game conditions, and both guys know it.
"Going into a game, pressure's different, perception's different, situations are different, and I'm going to have a massive advantage because I've been in all of these situations," Brown said. "A lot of people have asked me, 'You just had the best year of your career. How does that make you feel?' It doesn't change the business aspect of this sport. So I just hope that what I'm doing and what I did last year and also the other attributes I bring through experience and wisdom, that those things will also weigh in my favor."
Only thing is, they're changing offenses this year under new coordinator Ben McAdoo. And while they liked Randle enough as a vertical threat in Kevin Gilbride's system to pick him in the second round in 2012, one wonders whether he'll fit in the new passing game, which operates closer to the line of scrimmage.
"I don't think we have to throw it deep much," Randle said this week, talking about the new offense. "It's going to be on us to create separation, make the catch and make a few guys miss."
Creating separation in short-range areas isn't easy. Cruz is a master of it, with his speed and shiftiness. Randle is a big, tall long-strider who seems best suited to operate down the field. But if he can't use what Cruz has to create that short-range separation, his size (6-foot-2, 208) offers him a tool that can help.
"Sometimes you're not going to get that separation that you want, and with my size, that's something we talked about, creating separation with our arms when there's tight coverage," Randle said. "Especially using my basketball frame to go up and get the ball."
Randle has shown an ability to use his big body to shield the ball from defenders and make plays in traffic. He's likely the best red-zone target Eli Manning will have, as he's the biggest of the wide receivers and also has shown an ability to out-fight a defender for the ball in the air. But perhaps most importantly, Randle has a handle on what he needs to do better than he did last year.
"Create more separation," Randle says, beginning a mental checklist that's clearly right there in the front of his mind when he's asked. "Keeping my body language positive so Eli will know what I'm going to do. And just running out there fast and making plays."
The Giants believe Randle has the ability to be a big-time player for them at wide receiver. Coaches and teammates say he seems newly dedicated and focused this offseason. He may not be an obvious fit in the new offense, but if he can find ways to use his physical gifts to his advantage, there will be a large part for him to play.
"I think he's getting more and more polished every year, and out here it seems like he catches everything," Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "I would say he's going to be one of our big big-play guys this season."