Due to the lockout and delays in ratifying the new collective bargaining agreement, teams have experienced a scheduling crunch in preparing for the season.
The Giants are no different in that aspect, as they’ve had to cram in new faces and wrinkles in less amount of actual field time than in past training camps. Most of the teaching in this camp has come from morning walk-throughs and position meetings because — as part of the CBA agreement — there aren’t anymore two-a-days. This means the Giants have had to do as much teaching as actual physical preparation.
Head coach Tom Coughlin said that’s just the way things are and the team will just have to adjust to cramming what was usually two practices worth of work into basically one and a half practice sessions.
“I’ve charted them [amount of practice plays] and between the walk-throughs, jog-throughs and separates in practice, offensively, we’re averaging about 104 snaps a day and defensively 118,” Coughlin said. “So you’re getting, for example on defense, almost twice as many reps as you’re getting on the practice field, despite the one-a-days. So it’s 3-to-1, 4-to-1 [ratio] mental reps to physical reps.”
Coughlin said his players understand the new training camp format and that the smart players can still apply themselves despite the lack of double-sessions — calling every opportunity, walk-through or regular practice “an opportunity to learn.”
Second-year wideout Victor Cruz said it’s been a bit of a transition from last year’s camp — when he was a wide-eyed rookie — to this year’s sessions. The Paterson, N.J. native said last year he was just trying to find his way. And with the organized team activities [OTAs] and mini-camps last year mistakes were allowed to be made without the weight of the world on his shoulders. This year, however, Cruz said there’s more pressure for younger guys because of the limited time on the field.
“I know the [CBA] talks were about limiting the preseason games and I know other guys from small schools were like, ‘No, please don’t,’ because that is where you can make a mark and show in live action against other guys and other teams, what you can do,” Cruz said. “Those preseason games were very important for me personally.”
According to offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, Cruz is certainly in the running to fill the now wide open slot position left behind when Steve Smith signed with the Eagles.
Coughlin acknowledged this summer’s plight, but said he believes guys can gain an advantage this year because they save their bodies and still manage to double the amount of “mental reps” via classroom and walk-throughs.
“There’s different ways to learn,” Coughlin said. “A lot of guys are not great in the classroom but if you take them out so they can visualize it, look at a tape, go in the jog-throughs and then a walk through, they learn it.”
The only challenge this year, according to Coughlin, is the amount of days and practices in between each pre-season game.
“Well, it’s 11 practices and then play a game and you’d like to be able to play as many people as you can,” said Coughlin. “Organizationally we are probably not as far along as you would like to be, so some of this stuff they’ll have to pick up on the fly ... the problem is last year going into the first game we probably had 23 practices, or maybe 20 practices. This year we have 11.”
The most maligned unit in camp so far has been the linebacking corps, but position coach Jim Herrmann said the truncated practices won’t matter once a guy gets into game action. He added he’s looking forward to specifically seeing how the younger guys in his unit perform. Outside of seven-year vet Michael Boley and the newly re-assigned Mathias Kiwanuka [six seasons], the average experience for the linebackers is 1.3 years.
“We don’t get the physical reps that we would if you we were in a two-a-day, one-a-day, two-a-day format,” Herrmann said. “I think the veteran guys are ok because they’ve done it before. It’s the younger guys who are my concern. They have to go out and play NFL football at a fast pace. Their learning curve is going to be real faster in about [two] days.”
Big Blue notes
» Coughlin said injuries are a concern as far as depth but that also means opportunities are opening as well. “If you play a position and something [injury] happens at that position, take full advantage of it. This is what it is. This is the NFL as we know it today.”
» The absence of Steve Smith has left a leadership void at wideout so Hakeem Nicks has been looked at as a mentor by the younger guys, even if it’s a role the third-year vet says he’s not accustomed to: “I don’t look at it like that but I am here if they have any questions. I don’t look at it as if I am looking down on any of them [because] we are our own man.”
» Second-round pick Marvin Austin, who hasn’t played football in almost two years (he was ruled ineligible at UNC last season) has been banged up — most recently with a hip flexor. The defensive tackle was back to practice yesterday, but said the speed of the game has been a bigger deterrent, not his hip: “I noticed that the game is a little quicker and you have to be a lot more focused. Also, the technique [because] they’ve been preaching technique, technique, technique, just making sure I have proper technique. The coaches stress to play every play like it’s your last — even in practice.”
Austin added that the defensive line depth, specifically the re-signing of Rocky Bernard and the signing of Gabe Watson, aren’t as daunting as one would think. He feels there’s enough snaps to go around: “[The coaches] give all of us a pretty decent amount of reps. I’ve never really thought about it like I’m not getting enough reps or anything like that. I just try to learn from those guys because they’ve played in the league for a little while. I just worry about going out and performing to the best of my ability.”
» Wednesday’s newly-formatted session [2-4 p.m. instead of 6-8 p.m.] was very spirited. Highlights included cornerback Brian Witherspoon breaking up several passes in one-on-one and full team sessions, wideout Darius Reynaud snagging everything thrown his way, including a beautiful 50-yard fade from Sage Rosenfels and veteran corner Corey Webster shutting down every receiver who lined up across from him.
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for live updates and breaking news from Giants camp.