New York Giants: Early Rookie Progress Reports
When evaluating rookies, especially during OTAs, coaches typically look to see who’s comprehending and retaining the information disseminated in the classroom.
They’re also looking to measure improvement from one day to the next. Of course, they're looking to see whose talents fit in with what the club wants to do as well.
That brings us to the first of the New York Giants OTA rookie reports.
As many of the rookies step into the second phase of the offseason, the phase in which the position coaches can work with the players—but no offense-versus-defense drills—now comes the time to show the coaches that they have a working knowledge of what’s expected of them.
Before I go into some observations on the rookies—I’m covering both draft picks and undrafted free agents in this slideshow—I need to mention some disclaimers.
First, the media has had access to one of the OTAs so far (May 29). At that practice, receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (first-round pick) and running back Andre Williams (fourth-round pick) were not present due to their participation at last week’s NFLPA Rookie Premiere event.
So while I haven't had a chance to watch them work in person, Beckham and Williams are two players I'll be observing at the next practice that's open to the media.
The other important thing to keep in mind—and I can’t stress this enough—is that there is no live contact or use of pads in OTA practices.
That means we won’t necessarily be able to tell much as far as how the offensive linemen and defensive linemen are doing until they can fully go against each other.
The next open practice session is on Thursday and there is also an upcoming three-day minicamp that will be open to the media.
Dan Fox, ILB
We’ll start with an undrafted free agent in inside linebacker Dan Fox.
In my report on Sunday, I mentioned that the former Notre Dame defender was one of a handful of players whose stock appears to be on the rise after one week of OTAs.
As noted by Dan Salomone of Giants.com, the highlight of Fox's spring thus far was coming up with a pick-six on a pass over the middle in 11-on-11 drills during a closed workout.
In doing some additional research on Fox, his NFL.com draft profile points out two areas that I am going to try to key in on the next time there is media access.
The first is how well he performs in shadowing backs. His scouting report notes that he’s “an average athlete with tight hips,” so that could very well create issues when he goes to turn and run with guys.
The next thing I want to see is how many plays he is able to make as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. When evaluating linebackers—especially those with high tackle totals—it’s important to take note of how many of those are coming away from the line of scrimmage.
I’ll say this often when I cover the spring practices: It’s early and there is always room for these players to get better. Many of them will as they become more comfortable in the scheme.
We’ll see if that applies to Fox as well.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR
Although receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t at the OTA last Thursday when the media had access, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been progressing in the offense.
During Monday’s workout, a report from Giants.com's John Schmeelk praised Beckham Jr. for having “a great change of direction” on a pair of dig routes, running the cornerback off the ball and then coming back in for the reception.
With the Giants looking to run more three-wide packages this year, Beckham figures to be a big part of those plans.
Xavier Grimble, TE
If you plan to watch a training camp practice this summer, one of the things you’ll always want to take note of after a play is if position coaches approach their players to offer instruction, as that’s usually a good indicator that the player screwed up or didn’t do something as well as he should have.
That happens to be something I noticed with undrafted free agent tight end Xavier Grimble, who was unable to hold on to a couple of passes thrown by Ryan Nassib during the open practice.
On both occasions, it was Grimble receiving the coaching rather than Nassib. That likely means Nassib threw the ball where it was supposed to go, but Grimble either cut his route short or ran the wrong one.
Grimble (6’4”, 257 lbs) has good size and intriguing tools with which to work. According to his NFL.com draft profile written by Nolan Nawrocki, there are two things to watch with him.
The first is how well he holds up at the line of scrimmage when asked to block. Nawrocki suggests he possesses average balance and is a "narrow-based, underpowered" blocker who “gets manhandled and tossed aside.”
The second and perhaps more important element to watch is how cleanly he releases off the line of scrimmage. Nawrocki writes that Grimble has been prone to being easily redirected by jams.
If that continues, then a season on the practice squad might be in order to help him improve his strength and technique in battling jams by linebackers.
Nat Berhe, S
With the Giants cutting the cord on troubled safety Will Hill and Antrel Rolle entering the final year of his contract, the safety position is looking at a transformation over the next season or two.
That means there will be plenty of opportunities for the younger players like fifth-round draft pick Nat Berhe out of San Diego State to convince the coaches that they can be a part of the defensive backfield’s future.
Berhe, who played a hybrid linebacker/safety role at San Diego State, started OTAs on the right foot.
During one of last week’s practices closed to the media, John Schmeelk of Giants.com reported that Berhe made a great play on a ball thrown down the seam, knocking the pass away after showing "great anticipation."
Playing an instinctive game seems to be Berhe's calling card so far.
In an article by Stefanie Loh of U-T San Diego, CBSSports.com's Rob Rang spoke about how Berhe’s instincts give him a competitive edge in his quest to become an NFL safety:
To me, he looks faster on the field than I anticipate he’ll run on the track. On the field, he makes a lot of plays and I think he’s a guy that can be successful. There’s only so many guys who have real instincts for the position, and that impresses.