Starting wideouts Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have been in and out of the Giants’ rotation this week for varying reasons, so for Rueben Randle it’s been a great opportunity to take full advantage of the extra reps.
The second-year pro has made a name for himself during the early portion of Big Blue’s training camp with acrobatic catches and punishing blocks, while also taking advantage of the rapport he’s formed with quarterback Eli Manning.
“I think he has a lot more confidence in me to make plays for him,” Randle said. “I think with any quarterback they want to have confidence in you to make plays and that’s coming with me and Eli.”
Cruz missed the entire offseason organized team activities (OTAs) program due to a contract dispute and Nicks was recovering from knee issues and his own unknown OTA hiatus, so Randle used the extra reps as a way to improve his game.
Randle acknowledged he’s not disillusioned about overtaking either of the two in the starting lineup, but reasoned his current position is beneficial to all.
“It’s definitely a gift because as only a second-year guy in the league I’m learning so much from them,” said Randle. “They’re always teaching me something, so when I do become a No. 1 receiver, whether it’s on this team or on another one, I’ll just take what they taught me and keep pushing forward and getting better as a player.”
As Randle continues to progress, he thinks this season can be a big year for both himself and the Giants offense.
“I’ve been playing faster [and] been more explosive out of my breaks,” said Randle. “It’s always a great feeling to work so hard and see results. When I come out here in practice and work hard every day it’s to make the actual games easier. That way you have a lot more success on the field.”
The past two days on the practice field might be Randle’s unofficial coming-out party as he’s dazzled the crowd and impressed the coaching staff with numerous long touchdown catches. During an 11-on-11 drill against the first-team defense, Randle hauled in a 50-yard, over-the-shoulder touchdown from Manning, as he beat both cornerback Corey Webster and safety Antrel Rolle. Randle also caught a handful more red-zone touchdowns against the starting defense and had several other dazzling catches along the sideline with perfect toe-tapping footwork.
“He’s made some outstanding plays,” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “There was one [play] in the team drill in the left corner [where] the jump ball post [route] in the middle of the field was a nice play.”
Such efforts are becoming the usual for the former LSU star, who credits his big spring and summer to an additional offseason workout regimen aside from what the Giants offered. Randle honed his skills at the Sonic Boom Academy in New Orleans where he added strength and speed, while fine tuning his conditioning under the sweltering Louisiana sun.
“They do a lot of things in the receiver workouts to make us more explosive. The main thing why I go down there is to work on that, because I felt that was the one thing that was lacking in my game,” said Randle. “I’ve always been fast but he’s helped me in becoming faster and more explosive and more difficult to cover because I’m honing my techniques to become a more balanced receiver.”
Big Blue notes ...
»Former Giants cornerback Sam Madison has been a welcome addition to Coughlin’s arsenal of assistant coaches and staff. Madison has been working with the defensive backs, and to a man, they’re all excited to have him in the mix. The veterans, in particular, are happy to have Madison around, as a handful of them were with the Giants when Madison was still here.
“I love it,” cornerback Aaron Ross said. “Man, that’s like the big brother. My rookie year when I came in Sam took me under his wing and kind of showed me the ropes, taught me what to do, taught me how to take care of my body, how to study, how to take notes. He’s doing exactly the same thing he was doing in my rookie year. Sam, that’s a huge bonus to our secondary, especially the corners.”
“It’s infinity times infinity [on Madison’s impact],” fellow cornerback Corey Webster said. “To have him back [on the sidelines] he can see everything now. It’s harder when he’s on the field, too [as a player], and trying to get himself better. But now he’s on the side watching, and he can critique, can be very critical and I use the constructive criticism to ultimately make my game better.”
Ross said one guy who is benefitting from all the vets and former players around is Prince Amukamara.
“It’s still the same Prince as far as his personality but it’s a different Prince on the field,” Ross said. “He’s really matured on the field. I think he’s understanding the game a little more. As far as Prince being Prince, with him it’s like I never left. He’s like the little brother of the group. But on the field he’s impressing a lot of people. He’s understanding what’s going on. He’s looked like he’s feeling very comfortable out there.”
»The Giants defensive line is undergoing a bit of transition, as Jason Pierre-Paul is still recovering from back surgery, Justin Tuck is in an apparent decline and vets like Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard are no longer with the team. But for Ross, he believes this version of Big Blue’s front four will be as good as he’s ever seen.
“We’re loaded. It seems like anybody you put in from the D-tackles [defensive tackles] to the D-ends [defensive ends], doesn’t matter. [Adrian] Tracy is coming along, [and Demontre] Moore, the young guy, too. Tuck and them are already proven,” Ross said. “But when you see the young guys come in and it seems like there’s not a drop off, that’s something to look forward to. We can go in there and go 100 miles an hour and then take a play or two off and there’s not a huge drop off in performance. ... And for us [defensive backs], all I have to do is cover for three or four seconds. I know if I can do that then we’ll get the quarterback scrambling or we’ll get him on the ground. It’s huge for our secondary.”
»Webster also has high hopes for Big Blue and thinks this could be a special season.
“We want to get the rings. Everybody wants to be a champion team,” Webster said. “You’re only as good as your last game. ... I think we have the pieces to be a great defense as well as a great team — the offensive side of the ball as well. I think we’ve got all the pieces of the puzzle. We’ve got leaders who have to lead by example and doing what we’re supposed to be doing. ... It pisses you off, [and] it should piss you off [for another team to use the Giants’ locker room for the Super Bowl should they not qualify]. That motivates you [and is] just fuel to the fire. We’ve used somebody’s locker room, so we don’t want it to happen to us. We’ll do everything in our power, work hard, all the little things in between and hopefully that will help.”
»The Giants practiced in shoulder pads on Tuesday. They’ll have Wednesday off to recuperate before going to full pads on Thursday.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for updates from training camp.