The Giants kicked off their portion of organized team activities (OTA) on Wednesday, with a great turnout, considering the sessions are voluntary.
Such enthusiasm seems to only be matched by urgency for a team coming off three-straight years in which it missed the postseason.
New York’s defense was spotty at best last season, which led to the firing of defensive coordinator Perry Fewell – and the hiring of old friend Steve Spagnuolo, who was the team’s coordinator in 2007, when the Giants won Super Bowl XLII, and in 2008, when they were 12-4 as the defense ranked fifth in the NFL.
The energetic Spagnuolo has been giving his unit a crash course in what he expects, and these OTAs will be the first official time he gets to have his entire room learning together – rookies, newbies, and vets alike.
Spagnuolo noted he’s looking forward to molding the defense to his liking, and said that first on the agenda is to make sure his players love the game of football as much as he does.
“When you embrace something, you have to have a little pride in it. If you’ve got a little pride in something, like your family, you tend to protect it,” said Spagnuolo. “I think we all should embrace [pride]. There should be a passion about it, and should carry it out right here on the field. That’s the goal.”
One goal is to make sure defensive end Damontre Moore “gets it.” Moore, a former star at Texas A&M, has been rather disappointing since being selected in the third round of the 2013 draft. Now having a clean slate, Moore noted he’s excited to learn under Spagnuolo and show the new staff that he’s matured into a reliable player, but won’t press himself and add any further pressure.
“New coach, new opportunity, [but] same old goal,” noted Moore, who is up eight pounds since last season’s listed weight of 248 pounds. Moore added that by also dropping body fat, he can “return to that dominant” player who often flashed in college.
The new scheme, noted Moore, is “very similar” to what he played at Texas A&M. And he added if given the opportunity, he believes he “will thrive under Spags.”
Spagnuolo said he’s also excited to see what Moore could do, but noted he doesn’t “have any expectations” for the young vet. Perhaps, he’s allowing Moore to ease into a larger role, because the starting defensive line featured veterans Cullen Jenkins, Markus Kuhn, Johnathan Hankins, and Robert Ayers, with Moore rotating with the ends.
Usual starter Jason Pierre-Paul wasn’t there, as he’s still yet to sign his franchise tender. And should the defensive end want to attend the voluntary sessions, he would need to sign a waiver to participate.
Eventually, he’ll get into camp – whether that’s for mid-June’s mandatory camp, or August’s training camp. And when he does, Spagnuolo said he’ll put him right to work.
The plan, Spagnuolo said, is to maximize everyone’s talents – especially their one true pass-rushing threat.
“[Defensive line] Coach [Robert] Nunn and I have talked about that, but one other thing I do believe in is you get guys in comfortable spots,” Spagnuolo said, when asked if he’d move around Pierre-Paul along the line. “I haven’t had enough of a long conversation with JPP to know what he’s more comfortable with, but when you’ve got a talented player, you try to put them in places where they can excel and help your defense. We’ll fill that out when he gets here. … And when that happens, it’ll be all about building the foundation. We’ll build this thing gradually and first get all the basics down right.”
Pierre-Paul isn’t here just yet to help build that foundation, but Spagnuolo is happy so far with the guys who are. Hopefully for Big Blue, by the time attendance is mandatory, the new coach can have all his players on hand to build.
Big Blue notes:
- Ayers was seen carted off field with ankle and knee issues.
- Linebacker Devon Kennard (ankle) and safety Nat Berhe (calf) both sat out today's practice.
- Coughlin said he expects Pierre-Paul at mandatory minicamp in mid-June, but acknowledges he might not be there.
- The offense is also undergoing some changes, now that left tackle Will Beatty will be out months with a torn pectoral. One likely change will be customary right tackle Justin Pugh sliding inside to right guard, and this year’s first-round pick Erick Flowers manning Beatty’s spot.
- Pugh said he played some guard at Syracuse and the Senior Bowl, but only in practices. He added that he hasn't actually lined up there in a game since high school.
- Quarterback Eli Manning said it’s good to have Flowers at left tackle from the opening of minicamp, rather than have move him there midstream: “He’ll have mistakes [but best to] get them out now.”
- Wideout Odell Beckham Jr. is the new Madden NFL Football cover boy. When asked about the famed “Madden curse,” he nixed that notion: “I don’t know what a jinx is.”
- Fellow wideout Victor Cruz is recovering from his torn patella tendon, and said there is no change in his timetable. He added that he’s been running routes for two weeks.
- The team announced that they’ll engage with the Cincinnati Bengals for joint summer practices in Cincinnati, in the days before their preseason game on Aug. 14.