New York Giants Training Camp: 6 Early Player Storylines to Watch
When it comes to the NFL, there is never any shortage of storylines, especially when summer training camps commence.
That brings us to the New York Giants’ training camp, were there are storylines galore developing. Sunday, I touched upon some of the “to-do” list items that are no doubt priorities for the Giants, a team coming off a 7-9 season.
Here, I’m going to look at six individual player storylines that need to be written (hopefully with a happy conclusion). These are just a few of the storylines that I’ll be keeping an eye on as camp progresses.
Quarterback Eli Manning
One upon a time, quarterback Eli Manning was known as the “Comeback King,” a reputation he earned thanks to his ability to engineer 25 fourth-quarter comebacks and 30 game-winning drives, per Pro-Football-Reference.com, throughout his career.
This year, however, Manning is looking at having to engineer his most important comeback of his career, that being a comeback from a forgettable season that saw him throw a career-high 27 interceptions while posting career lows in touchdowns (18) and in his NFL passer rating (69.4). (Manning’s career lows do not take into consideration his rookie season in which he played in only nine games.)
Did I mention that his comeback needs to happen in a brand-new offensive scheme?
Manning himself has said he’s been re-energized, according to Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News, by the new scheme being installed by offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
While Manning and his teammates are still trying to get the hang of McAdoo’s offense, the hope is that it will reverse an alarming trend that, per Pro-Football-Reference.com, has seen Manning’s completion percentage dip every season since 2010, with the last two seasons dropping below 60 percent.
Team co-owner John Mara shares Manning’s optimism, telling Steve Serby of the New York Post, “I just think that he’s had too much success here, he’s still physically in great shape, mentally, I think he’s as excited as he ever has been.
“I think the new offense has re-energized him, and I’m very confident he’s going to have a good year for us. And we’ve added some pieces for him that I think will help him also.”
With Manning’s contract set to expire after the 2015 season, Mara deflected any talk of extending the two-time Super Bowl MVP.
“We haven’t even really discussed that yet,” he told Serby. “We’ll discuss that at the appropriate time. Obviously it’s our hope that he finishes his career as a Giant.”
Whether that happens will largely depend on how Manning engineers this latest comeback.
Running Back David Wilson
If you follow running back David Wilson on Twitter, you probably have seen a video or two of him doing his trademark backflips, including this one in which he does a backflip onto what appears to be the soft surface of a bed.
Wilson, of course, has insisted ever since he had surgery in mid-January to address a herniated disc in his neck that he’s pain-free.
He told reporters in May that the only thing holding him back is a picture (X-ray) of his neck to convince doctors that the fused bones in his neck have solidified enough for him to withstand the type of contact associated with playing football.
“I passed every test except a picture,” Wilson said. “That’s the only reason I’m not on the field. Because of pictures.”
The good news it that Wilson received the picture he was hoping for, which means, as he tweeted on Monday morning, that he’s cleared to do everything.
Although Wilson has been cleared for contact, it remains to be seen how quickly he’ll be worked back into the mix.
Wilson, remember, excelled on kickoffs in his rookie season; however, it’s unlikely the team will want to expose him to any more hits than is necessary by putting him back at the kickoff returner spot.
Linebacker Jon Beason
While suffering an injury is never a good thing, the severity and the timing can make all the difference in terms of whether a player has a chance to contribute in a season.
That’s the position that middle linebacker Jon Beason, who suffered a fractured sesamoid bone and ligament tear in his right foot last month during an OTA practice, is currently in.
The original prognosis for Beason, who didn’t need surgery to repair the injury, was supposed to be three weeks in a cast and three weeks in an orthopedic boot.
Based on when the injury occurred (June 12) and the prognosis provided by the team, Beason would have been scheduled to come out of an orthopedic boot this coming week.
The good news is that he’s apparently ahead of schedule. Beason, who is the only Giant on the PUP list, not only is out of the boot, but also was able to stand on the side during the team’s conditioning drills held on the first day of camp.
Although Beason didn’t participate in the team’s conditioning drills, he told Newsday’s Tom Rock that he remains optimistic about his chances of being ready for the start of the 2014 regular season.
“We’re hitting all those benchmarks in terms of the prognosis. It’s getting better and better every day.”
While there was never a question if Beason’s stay on the PUP list would be a short one, a big question he’ll still need to answer is whether he can hit the ground running once he is cleared to return to football.
Beason seems to think he will be. “I’ve had seasons where I didn’t have any training camp and I went out there and got busy right away,” he told Rock.
Given that other injured Giants before Beason expressed similar optimism following an offseason injury only to struggle physically, seeing might very well be believing.
Even Beason acknowledged that there’s still some time before he can get to the point where he wants to be, telling Rock, “I feel fine right now, but then again, I know that I’m not ready to go full speed and change direction and tackle people.”
When he is ready for that, his return will be a huge boost for the Giants defense.
Tight End Adrien Robinson
After two seasons, Adrien Robinson, the Giants’ 2012 fourth-round pick, has yet to develop into the all-around tight end the team has hoped for since it began scouting him.
That could change this summer if Robinson can stay healthy and if he is indeed serious about getting better at his craft.
To his credit, Robinson came into the 2014 offseason with a better understanding of what is at stake and what he has to do in order to convince the coaches that he should be their starting tight end.
“I stay extra every day, stay and get extra film,” Robinson told reporters in May.
“I’m on the elliptical every day trying to get my weight down more so I’m just doing a lot of things differently. I feel like I’m more mature, I’m more of a professional now, so I have that approach.”
Although the race for the starting job was even as of the end of the mandatory minicamp, head coach Tom Coughlin told reporters that he liked what he saw from Robinson in the spring.
“I think he’s done a really good job in terms of just learning,” Coughlin said. “Again, not many mental errors. I’ve been really impressed with that.”
Of course, optimism generally runs high in the spring, where practices are non-contact. Still, it’s encouraging to hear from Coughlin that Robinson didn’t make many mental errors, as grasping the offense’s concepts is half of the battle.
The other half will come when the pads go on and the players have to execute the concepts at a quicker pace.
Left Tackle Will Beatty
The good news is that left tackle Will Beatty, who broke his leg in the 2013 regular-season finale, will not begin training camp on the PUP list.
The bad news is that Beatty will be limited in training camp, according to what head coach Tom Coughlin told reporters.
Why is that bad news? Given how poorly Beatty played last season, in which he earned a dismal minus-11.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he could probably use all the work he can get in Ben McAdoo’s new offense.
Coughlin admitted to reporters that he wasn’t quite sure what the medical department’s classification of Beatty being “limited” meant exactly, so it will be interesting to see just how much Beatty will be able to do and how well he does it.
This time last year, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was trying to work himself back into playing shape after having surgery on his back in June 2013.
Although Pierre-Paul improved, he didn’t come close to resembling the player he was in 2011, when he posted 16.5 sacks as part of a defense that contributed to the Giants’ second Super Bowl championship under head coach Tom Coughlin.
This year, Pierre-Paul’s back and shoulder, the latter injury playing a role in him missing the last five games of 2013, are fully recovered.
With Justin Tuck having departed for Oakland via free agency, the Giants are going to need the 2011 version of Pierre-Paul in terms of not just leadership, but also production.
Per data assembled from Pro Football Focus that covers the 2011-2013 seasons, the Giants are 14-6 when Pierre-Paul posts at least a half-sack in a game.
When Pierre-Paul last spoke to reporters at the end of May, he said he lost some weight, noting he was down to 275 pounds at the time. Moreover, he declared himself fully fit and eager to show people that he can be the JPP of 2011.
“This is a new season, new faces. I’m ready to get out there and show everybody,” he said.