New York Giants: What We've Learned Through Week 2 of Training Camp
In the blink of an eye, the New York Giants are through two weeks of training camp.
Slowly but surely, things are starting to round into place for head coach Tom Coughlin’s crew. So let’s run down the latest developments to emerge from the Giants camp last week and see what it all means in the grand scheme of things.
Running Back David Wilson's Future Is Uncertain
The Giants were hoping that once running back David Wilson, who underwent spinal fusion surgery in January, was cleared for contact, there would be no looking back.
For a while, things looked good, as he absorbed two significant hits in padded practices. However, it was a collision in a non-contact practice that shook up the 23-year-old Wilson, causing him to leave the field with a trainer by his side after he experienced what head coach Tom Coughlin described as a “burner.”
The problem with Wilson is that he has a bad habit of running with his head down, which, per the Giants, was the case when he collided with offensive lineman Eric Herman.
When a running back doesn’t run with his head up, that can only lead to trouble. When that same running back is coming off neck surgery, that risk of trouble increases.
The Giants announced that Wilson will be evaluated medically by Dr. Frank Cammisa, the specialist who performed his surgery, on August 4.
However, even if the doctor clears Wilson to return to practice—Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger reports that Wilson needs a miracle for that to happen—would the Giants be willing to continue having Wilson put his future well-being at risk under their watch?
It's probably a safe bet to assume they probably won't take that risk, as Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo points out:
Keep in mind with this David Wilson thing: Giants have long been known as being among the more cautious teams w/ neck issues.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 31, 2014
Tight End Larry Donnell Is Starting to Separate from the Pack
One of the biggest question marks coming into camp was about the Giants tight ends and if they had anyone among a five-man group who might be able to fulfill new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s expectations for the position.
It turns out that they do, and that someone is Larry Donnell, a second-year, undrafted free agent out of Grambling.
He’s also drawn recent praise from Coughlin, who told reporters, “He’s done a nice job. He has improved. He has to keep doing (it). He has a long way to go, but I like what I see.”
According to tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride, Donnell needs to continue to work on his techniques if he’s to take his performance to the next level.
“He has athleticism, size, speed and strength,” Gilbride told reporters. “He’s got it all as far as that’s concerned.”
One issue, as Gilbride noted, is Donnell’s 6'6" height sometimes makes it hard for him to get the proper pad level when he has to block from the backfield.
“We’re working hard to get him to develop his techniques and understand how to use his body within the blocking, within the in-line position or even from the fullback position,” Gilbride said. “He can do it physically, and he’s starting to be able to do it athletically, meaning knowing how his body has to move to get those things done. So he’s improving.”
Quarterback Ryan Nassib Is Starting to Make Progress
After a rough first week in which his passing was all over the map, projected backup quarterback Ryan Nassib seems to have turned the corner.
Nassib has been making some nice reads in practice. He has also been more effective with making expedited decisions.
The biggest improvement, though, has been in his accuracy. Unofficially, Nassib threw four touchdown passes in the final two days of practice last week while cutting down on his interceptions; the one pick he did throw was more of the receiver's fault for not running a crisp route than it was on Nassib.
“Last year he was trying to find the door to the field, but this year, he has a lot of offseason study, he has had a lot of spring work, he was here on his own over the summer,” Coughlin told reporters last week when asked abut Nassib. “He is a very meticulous, conscientiousness kid (who) studies well and retains well.”
The next step for Nassib, according to Coughlin, is to show that he can be as effective in every preseason game, which will give him some valuable experience.
“I expect to see him have plenty of playing time and take full advantage of it and prove to the world what he can do,” the coach said. “The experience factor has to come for Ryan right now through these preseason games.”
If it does, the Giants might just be able to keep two quarterbacks on the roster this year, which would give them some leeway with their numbers at other positions.
Cornerback Charles James Is Making a Strong Push for a Roster Spot
At the start of training camp, the numbers at cornerback didn’t exactly favor second-year man Charles James II or his chances of making the roster.
That’s because ahead of him on the team’s depth chart are projected starters Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara, nickel back Walter Thurmond and corner/safety Zack Bowman.
With four spots already reserved (barring injury), James, an undrafted free agent who was added to the 2013 roster after beginning the year on the practice squad, was facing a competition against two draft picks—Bennett Jackson and Jayron Hosley—and veteran Trumaine McBride, who did an excellent job for the team last year when pressed into a starting role.
Jackson came into camp as a long shot to make the 53-man roster. His chances further diminished when he suffered a significant sprained ankle in practice this week.
Hosley still needs to serve a league-imposed, four-game suspension, which begins after the final roster cutdown date. Even after he returns, his place on the roster is far from being a sure thing.
That leaves McBride as James’ only true competition at this point for that fifth cornerback spot.
Where James has the edge is that he’s made more plays in camp, specifically interceptions. A ball hawk by nature, James unofficially has three interceptions, coming close on a couple more.
James can also serve as a punt returner, a role in which he finally got a chance to run last week thanks to receivers Trindon Holliday and Odell Beckham, Jr. both being sidelined with injuries.
If James can make the kind of plays in games that he's made in practice, there’s no reason to think he won’t be the last man standing when the final roster spot at cornerback is assigned.
Safety Cooper Taylor Is Playing with More Confidence
If there is such a thing as a “sophomore jinx,” don’t tell second-year safety Cooper Taylor about it.
Taylor, the Giants’ fifth-round pick last year, actually had a forgettable rookie campaign filled with injuries.
Because of that, he missed large chunks of training camp, a time that he told Inside Football is devoted to working on one’s technique and fundamentals: “This training camp has been really great for me to get back to the roots and focus on the foundation of football,” he said.
One of the biggest changes Taylor made to his offseason regimen is he paid closer attention to his post-workout recovery.
“I realized, from watching some of the veterans, that it wasn’t so much about what you do in the weight room, which is important, it’s about flexibility, different types of cold tubs, (and) compression booths,” he said.
In addition, Taylor hit the weight room and bulked up during the offseason.
“Cooper hopefully has the ability this year to break in and have the impact for us on special teams if he can stay healthy,” safeties coach David Merritt told Inside Football at the end of the mandatory minicamp this past spring.
"The sky’s the limit for this young man. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, but again, Cooper is going to get his chance to shine on the field and in the preseason games, which is going to be really big."
So far in practice, Taylor, who last week received some snaps with the starting defense, has flashed some of that potential the coaches were hoping to see.
He’s not only playing with more confidence, he’s also shown nice sideline-to-sideline speed and has taken better angles toward stopping ball-carriers.
“I feel like I’m a completely different player from last year,” he told Inside Football for an article appearing last week. “Things are starting to slow down for me, but I still have a long way to go. I have a lot of things to work on, but I think with more time I’m here and the more I can show what I am able to do, it will become easier for me.”