Who was Tom Coughlin telling the media that he was happy with during OTAs
For the New York Giants, the evaluation process has started even though training camp is still nearly two months away.
The third and final phase of OTAs, organized team activities, is underway. The first two phases have included some impressive performances, especially from the wide receiver position.
This is not surprising given the absence of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. With Big Blue's two stud wideouts opting not to participate in OTAs, opportunities to impress have arisen for less established players at the position.
The following slides will highlight five players who have seen their stock rise through the first two phases of OTAs.
Three of these players have improved their statuses on the team over the last few weeks. This puts them in a better position to expand their roles and receive increased snaps on the 53-man roster.
The other two players have improved their chances of just making the team. They were either on the fringe or a long-shot to stick when OTAs started on May 22. At least in the early going, they are responding to the immense pressure to produce in order to secure a spot on an NFL roster.
Adrian Tracy is simply fighting to make the team. He is entering his fourth NFL season, all with Big Blue, after being selected in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL draft.
His first two seasons did nothing to help his cause. He missed all of his rookie year with a dislocated elbow and spent 2011 on the practice squad. In his NFL debut last season, he registered 12 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles in only 70 snaps.
This is decent production for what amounts to about a game-and-a-half of playing time for a starting defensive player.
With fellow defensive ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul absent for the day, Tracy caught the eye of the not-so-easy-to-impress Tom Coughlin during OTAs last Thursday, as you can see in the excerpt below, courtesy of the Morning Call:
In their places, youngsters such as Adrian Tracy stepped in with the starting defense with the goal of showing they're ready to run with the starters. ... So how did the kids do?
"There were flashes," Coughlin said. "We're restricted in that there can't be contact, but the guys are doing the best they can with it," the coach said. "(Tracy) has shown some good ability to get off on the snap."
Coughlin hinted at Tracy's best attribute—a good first step and the speed to get by offensive tackles on the edge.
The downside to this speed and quickness is that Tracy is small and slender for a defensive end at only 6'2" and 245 pounds. He can be easily swallowed up if he fails to get into the backfield in his first attempt and is usually contained in the run game if the offensive lineman gains any leverage on him.
Nevertheless, his pass-rushing ability, though one-dimensional, makes him a somewhat intriguing option to get time in obvious pass-rush situations.
Tracy's day in the sun last week gives him the early edge on defensive ends Adewale Ojomo, Matt Broha and Justin Trattou. The 26-year-old will have to beat out all of these players to give himself a good chance of securing a spot on the 53-man roster.
The second-year player's only apparent competition for the spot is newcomer Louis Murphy and third-year player Jerrel Jernigan.
The former is on his third team in five seasons and caught a meager 40 passes combined over the last two years. The latter is a bust so far, considering that he was selected in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft and has only 22 yards receiving in his career.
Randle is wasting no time seizing the opportunity. Like Tracy, the 22-year-old drew praise from his head coach on his performance at OTAs.
This quote, courtesy of Michael Eisen at Giants.com, implies, however, that Coughlin believes Randle is only scratching the surface of what he can offer: "He’s moving in that direction. He certainly has had many, many opportunities, and if there’s a guy that really has a chance to step his game up and really show what he can do, it’s happening right now for Rueben."
Randle is very talented. He has great size for a wideout at 6'2" and 208 pounds, good speed and tremendous athleticism. He possesses the tools to be both a deep threat and a viable weapon in the red zone. These are great qualities to have in your third wide receiver.
The problem is that Randle lacked experience coming out of LSU. He left after his junior season and only had 97 receptions in three years of college.
It seems that he is starting to bridge that experience gap.
Now he has carried that final-game momentum into OTAs. If Randle continues to impress right through training camp and into the regular season, Big Blue will be saying "Hixon who" in no time.
It certainly appears that Murphy won't surrender the third wide receiver role to Randle without a fight.
As you can see in the below quote from Jon Lane at SB Nation, Manning has been impressed with Murphy's work ethic, among other things:
He's come in and worked really hard. Back in early April, going over to Duke and working those days and learning the offense and asking questions and being here in the offseason, being there for routes and trying to pick up everything in this offense and so he's got talent.
He can really run, he can stretch the field and he's got the desire and the commitment to be a good player and to bring another threat to this offense.
When Manning speaks of "going over to Duke," he is referring to a workout he held with his brother, Peyton, at the esteemed southern university. The fact that Murphy joined this workout less than a month after signing with New York demonstrates how seriously he is approaching the upcoming season.
And for good reason, since Manning is clearly the best quarterback he has ever had throwing him the ball.
Sure, playing with Cam Newton last year was a step up from Carson Palmer, Bruce Gradkowski and JaMarcus Russell during his Raiders days.
Still, Manning is at another level and has a history of quickly acclimating himself to new receivers. He's helped make Nicks and Cruz successful, and Mario Manningham and Steve Smith had their best years with Manning as their quarterback.
Murphy does have good speed and can get vertical. He definitely will have a role in the offense and is doing everything he can so far to make sure it will be as big as possible.
Bear Pascoe is a great example of why the Giants have been so successful during the Manning/Coughlin era. He is a low-key player willing to do whatever is asked of him with the sole focus of helping the team win.
This unselfish attitude has been on display at OTAs, where Pascoe, a tight end, has stepped in to play fullback for the injured Henry Hynoski.
The position switch may be more then just a temporary situation that won't have any bearing on the regular season.
Hearing Hynoski speak about his knee injury, as he did through a statement following the announcement that he would need surgery, it appears that missing opening night against the Dallas Cowboys, at the very least, is possible: "I am going to set my mind to being ready for the first game of the regular season. They said that is not an unrealistic goal, and I will do everything in my power to be ready for the start of the season."
When doctors or training staff (one of these two is likely who Hynoski means by "they") tell you that something is "not an unrealistic goal," that means there is a good chance it won't happen. Hynoski is young and Week 1 is still more than three months away, but as it stands now, he is no sure thing to make it back by the start of the regular season.
Pascoe is a solid blocking tight end, so he can probably fill in adequately at fullback for a game or two. The fact that he is willing to try is commendable and a great way to establish a winning attitude for the upcoming season.
If Tracy was on the fringe of making the Giants coming into OTAs, then Collins was on the fringe of the fringe.
After a strong showing last Thursday, Collins is now at least in the conversation to compete for a roster spot.
Collins performed well in OTAs as a rookie prior to the 2012 season, and it only led to a spot on the practice squad come September.
He is clearly a good athlete, though, as witnessed by his performance at the Southeastern Louisiana pro day prior to the 2012 draft. Some of the highlights were a 4.41 time in the 40-yard dash and a vertical jump of 45".
It appears that he can translate this athleticism onto the football, as his OTA performances have shown.
Collins is still a long-shot to make the team, but it is not inconceivable that he'll be on the roster come Week 1. His competition consists mainly of Jernigan and Ramses Barden along with other unknowns like Kris Adams, Kevin Hardy and Jeremy Horne.
A good training camp could be enough to rise to the top of this underwhelming group.
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