New York Giants Rookie Training Camp Progress Reports
Rookies are getting more comfortable in NFL training camps around the league. The New York Giants have a couple handfuls of rookies on their current roster, and it's time to check in on their progress.
For the purposes of this article, I'll update you on the seven draft choices and the five most prominent undrafted rookies.
For some, the future is looking bright. These rookies will carve out a role on this 2014 team, and, perhaps, their impact will be felt for years to come. For others, the window of opportunity is closing. These rookies are doing anything they can to salvage their dream of playing in the NFL.
Read on to get an update on the 12 most popular rookies on this year's roster.
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
The Giants' first-round pick, LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., has a hamstring injury that has reduced him to a spectator for most of training camp.
Although head coach Tom Coughlin told Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News on Aug. 5 that "there's progress" when it comes to Beckham's injury, Coughlin has been frustrated with the situation for quite some time. A week ago, Beckham spoke about a conversation he had with Coughlin regarding the injury, per a report by Dan Graziano of ESPN New York:
He wants me out there as bad as I want to be out there...I'm new and we don't know each other that well yet, and your first impression is one that lasts forever. So you don't ever want to leave a bad impression, but at the same time [I'm] trying to reassure him how hard it is for me not to be practicing.
I'm a high-energy guy. I always loved practicing at LSU and I love practicing now. So for me, it's never been about days off, just about getting better each and every day.
The Giants are in the midst of installing a new offense, and a player who projects to be a key component in its functionality is unavailable. New York spent the 12th overall selection on a smooth, natural pass-catcher to help facilitate the transition to new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's scheme. Until Beckham is healthy, it could be an awkward segue.
When Beckham returns to action, he must be well-versed on the terminology and mental aspects of the position, as one can't expect the quick-paced offense to slow down just to accommodate his learning curve. If Beckham cannot keep up, expect Jerrel Jernigan to get most of the snaps as the third receiver, complementing the starting duo of Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle.
Incomplete—must get healthy.
C Weston Richburg
In the second round, New York drafted what it hopes is the Giants' center of the future in Colorado State product Weston Richburg.
Richburg was the 43rd overall selection in the 2014 draft, and he is now competing with free-agent acquisition J.D. Walton (36 starts with Denver Broncos from 2011-'13) for the starting job at center. A versatile interior blocker, Richburg is also in the mix for right guard duties with Brandon Mosley and John Jerry. Richburg expressed an open-minded attitude but offered no hints about his position in a July 31 exchange with Jordan Raanan of NJ.com:
NJ.com: Consider yourself a center or guard right now?
Richburg: Been doing both. I don't care where I play. I just want to be able to contribute and be reliable. That is the biggest thing here -- being reliable.
NJ: Better chance to start at guard or center?
R: I really have no idea right now. There is a competition at center and guard.
NJ: Breakdown of playing time at center vs. guard?
R: There really is no rhyme or reason. It's whatever that day is. It was 60/40 [at center] on Monday.
The Giants need young guys to step up on an offensive line that was so porous a year ago. Although the edges will be protected by the returning duo of Will Beatty (left tackle) and Justin Pugh (right), the personnel in the interior of the line is less certain. While Geoff Schwartz figures to be the starting left guard, it would be a major step forward in Richburg's young career if he is able to displace either Walton or Mosley at one of the other two positions.
Richburg got off to a slow start, though, versus the Buffalo Bills in the Hall of Fame Game. Raanan listed him as one of four Giants with a sinking stock after the game, describing Richburg's rookie debut as a "struggle" in which he was "slow off the ball and overpowered."
Needs more work—and a home.
DT Jay Bromley
The Giants were certain they wanted Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley in the 2014 draft. So much so that they actually selected him a round or two earlier than he was projected to go. The jump to nab Bromley before anyone else could is not indicative of his immediate impact on the defense.
Bromley is a hard-working interior D-lineman, but he isn't yet in position to become a contributor in 2014. Last week, Patricia Traina of Bleacher Report included him on a list of Giants whose stock is dropping at training camp. The 22-year-old third-rounder is too raw to be in the starting rotation, so he'll likely be kept along as an inactive, fifth-wheeler at defensive tackle this season.
Giants D-line coach Robert Nunn provided a realistic assessment of Bromley, per Traina:
"He’s real raw. Really needs to work on his technique and he needs every rep he can get. ... But he’s very eager, has a great attitude, good personality (and) fits in the (defensive line) room. He’s off to a good start but he needs time.”
In a blog post for Giants.com, Bromley wrote about his ongoing adjustment to the professional game, a new diet he's on to trim some of the body fat from his 306-pound frame and what it's like to play with New York's other former Orangemen (specifically Ryan Nassib, Justin Pugh and Jameel McClain). The 2014 season will be an experience in growth for the big rookie Bromley.
Unless injuries force him into action prematurely, Bromley will spend most of this season picking up tricks of the trade from veterans Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, as well as Markus Kuhn and Johnathan Hankins.
Needs time to grow.
RB Andre Williams
So far, New York's most successful rookie on offense is running back Andre Williams, a fourth-round selection who was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 2013.
The Boston College bulldozer has adapted well to the NFL and, more specifically, the Giants' power running game. At 230 pounds, Williams is making himself at home in the Giants goal-line package. The Giants put Williams' ability to the test from three yards out versus the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night.
He spoke to Dan Graziano of ESPN about his rookie debut:
"Once I got in the end zone, my mind kind of went blank, and it was a great feeling," Williams told Graziano about his three-yard score in the first quarter. "I feel like I'm supposed to be here. I'm part of a team now."
Williams' personal average of 6.9 yards per carry more than doubled that of the team (3.2). He, Rashad Jennings and Peyton Hillis each received seven handoffs versus the Bills, but Williams led them all with 48 yards. Right now, he is behind both Jennings and Hillis on the depth chart.
Williams has a good chance to become Jennings' immediate backup before the regular season begins. Jennings and Hillis are better pass-catchers and more proven pass-blockers, but the downhill running Williams displayed on his game-long, 21-yard rush is desirable for an offense that has lacked a punch.
The key to Williams to climbing the depth chart lies in his ball security.
Ready for action.
S Nat Berhe
The Giants have something amorphous, yet exciting, in safety Nat Berhe, a fifth-round selection out of San Diego State.
Berhe played an "Aztec" role in college, combining elements of the safety and linebacker positions. As a 194-pound professional, Berhe will have to stick at safety, for his frame is too slender for an NFL-caliber linebacker. He should, however, retain his linebacker-like tenacity when attacking plays in front of him.
Some of that tenacity was on display during this hit, which forced a fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter of the Hall of Fame Game.
Berhe hasn't been a standout in camp, where many workouts are not live contact. As the preseason continues, this player will become more and more entertaining to watch. He is a notorious big hitter, who could gain a reputation as a "gamer" before the preseason comes to a close.
Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown are likely to be the starters at safety. Quintin Demps is in prime position to be the next man in. After those three, Berhe and Cooper Taylor, both fifth-rounders, are battling it out to become the other backup. The 228-pound Taylor may currently be a step ahead of Berhe after a strong showing versus the Bills, but either player would make a solid special-teamer.
The player to watch in preseason.
LB Devon Kennard
No rookie has stood out more than linebacker Devon Kennard, another fifth-round selection.
Kennard, a USC product, has started at strong-side linebacker since the first day of training camp. This opportunity is the product of Jon Beason's foot injury, which is expected to keep him out of action until Week 1. When Beason was injured, Jameel McClain was bumped over to the middle, while Kennard took over the outside duties McClain left behind.
With experience as an edge-rusher, Kennard is a player who can contribute in several different ways. As New York's largest linebacker (251 pounds), the only uncertainty about his game is his ability to drop back into coverage. He did a little bit of every thing—and did it well—against the Buffalo Bills in his preseason debut.
Kennard finished the game with two tackles, one of which was for a loss.
After impressing all spring, Kennard has only continued to blow away the coaching staff during training camp. Linebackers coach Jim Herrmann—who described Kennard's frame as a "thick dude body," per Tom Rock of Newsday—offered high praise for the rookie linebacker back in July (per Howie Kossoy of the New York Post):
"He’s not going to shy away from the game. He’s calm, cool, and collected," Herrmann said. "It’s the speed of the game, and we’ll see how he plays. Based on what we do out here, I don’t think he’s going to have a problem."
Kennard could be the Giants' biggest difference-maker at linebacker in 2014 and beyond.
Ready to start.
CB Bennett Jackson
At the tail end of New York's 2014 draft class is cornerback Bennett Jackson.
The former Notre Dame captain was a sixth-round pick of the Giants this spring. Now, injured and buried beneath a plethora of talent at defensive back, Jackson's chances to contribute this season are growing incredibly thin. Although Jackson's ankle was not broken, head coach Tom Coughlin described it as a "significant ankle sprain," per Connor Hughes of Big Blue Interactive.
If healthy, Jackson would make a good special teams player. However, even at 100 percent, it's unlikely that he would receive much playing time in the secondary. Jackson getting another shot to crack the Giants' cornerback lineup may not come for quite some time.
On practice squad watch.
Top Undrafted Rookies
The following undrafted rookies are under the microscope at training camp:
TE Xavier Grimble
The Giants are without a stellar option at tight end, and that has afforded Grimble a veritable shot to make the team. The 21-year-old USC product is behind Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells on the depth chart. Grimble risks falling even further behind if he remains hampered by his current hamstring injury.
Progress Report: Stock dropping.
DT Kelcy Quarles
Everything has been quiet on the Quarles front. He was quite a disruptive force next to Jadeveon Clowney at South Carolina, but in New York he has not made much noise in camp. With Markus Kuhn and Mike Patterson both surging, things at defensive tackle are looking pretty crowded. Third-rounder Jay Bromley will likely force Quarles out of the 53-man roster.
Progress Report: Invisible.
K Brandon McManus
As good as Josh Brown's 2013 season was (converted 23 of 26 attempts), McManus has a strong enough leg to steal his job. While Brown took the extra-point attempts, McManus successfully attempted New York's only field goal of the Hall of Fame Game—a 47-yarder that split the uprights.
Progress Report: Picking up steam.
WR Corey Washington
Washington is the Giants' tallest receiver at 6'4". However, as a Division-II product from Newberry College, he must be electric to grab and hold the attention of the coaching staff. He's off to a good start after reeling in a 73-yard touchdown heave from Ryan Nassib during Sunday's preseason opener.
Progress Report: Next Victor Cruz?
LB Dan Fox
Originally, Fox was a player that some thought could be a pleasant surprise at linebacker. Although few negative reports have surfaced regarding Fox's play, he has seemingly slipped from the consciousness of those who once promoted him. Fox graded out poorly for his performance versus the Buffalo Bills, per Pro Football Focus (via Ed Valentine of Big Blue View).
Progress Report: Forgotten.
All roster and depth chart information courtesy of Giants.com.