COMMENTARY | The New York Giants minicamp is over, and with the players off until July 26, the events of the minicamp have set the stage for what promises to be a very interesting summer training camp.
The following is a collection of observations and key story lines that emerged from the minicamp.
Randle is Ready. When second-year receiver Rueben Randle was drafted last year, Director of College Scouting Marc Ross described the former LSU standout as being "NFL ready." However, in his rookie season, Randle was far from that, as he struggled with his consistency in adjusting to be a pro.
This year Randle has made a complete 180-degree turn and it's gotten him noticed by the coaches. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride could barely contain his excitement over the progress made by Randle and has said that the second-year man has earned playing time.
"Oh, he is going to play - he is going to play a lot," said Gilbride. "He will play first and second-downs. He will be an outside receiver for us. Whether he is at the 'X' or the 'Z,' he is going to play. He is looking like he deserves to be out there a significant time."
Diehl Ain't Done Yet. When the Giants drafted offensive lineman Justin Pugh in the first round, many assumed that spelled the end of long-time veteran David Diehl's' tenure as a starter.
Not so, according to Gilbride.
"The man is not going to give up the job," said Gilbride of Diehl. "He doesn't care who has been drafted - he was a low draft pick when he got here and no one ever expected a lot from him. What has he been playing now - 10 years? He has been a starter. I think it is going to be very difficult for someone to unseat him, but certainly Justin was brought in for just that reason - to earn a starting position."
Wilson's Getting There. Last year, running back David Wilson didn't get on the field a lot due to his struggles with pass protection. This year, with long-time starter Ahmad Bradshaw no longer in the picture, Wilson will not only be asked to step up to the plate with carrying the ball, he'll also be asked to do other things in the offense, some of which Gilbride is hoping to see more progress with.
"(Wilson) still makes mistakes but there has certainly been some significant growth," Gilbride said of Wilson's pass blocking ability. "Now until you get the pads on - and he has to show that he, as a smaller guy, can do the things necessary that other small backs in this league have done - you are still kind of holding your breath when you see him. But his approach has been great; his attitude in terms of trying to work on that aspect of the game."
The Linebackers are Loaded with Talent. Giants fans were outraged when the team declined to spend a draft pick on a linebacker, instead looking to acquire veterans on the cheap. But in doing so, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has been given a plethora of unique talents whose skill sets just might be enough to accomplish what he wants done within the defensive scheme.
"I think we have a lot of guys that can compete with different skill sets, and that's why it's important when the pads come on for us to understand those skill sets," Fewell said.
Those who really stood out in the minicamp included third-year man Mark Herzlich, who's competing for the starting middle linebacker job, and Keith Rivers, who hopes to finally put his injury-filled past behind him.
Nicks On Board. Receiver Hakeem Nicks, who's entering the final year of his rookie contract and who was absent for all of the team's OTAs--he did report for the tree-day mandatory minicamp--put to rest any concerns that he might be planning to hold out of training camp when the team reports on July 26.
"I never want to be detrimental in any kind of way to this organization because they've been nothing but good to me," he said when asked about his contract becoming a distraction. "I took care of what I needed to take care of and I'm here now and that's all that matters."
Questions at Fullback. The Giants have been somewhat confusing regarding their intention at fullback, ever since starter Henry Hynoski went down with a knee injury.
On one hand, the coaches say that they'll be fine with Bear Pascoe filling in since Pascoe has played the position before. But then there have been flirtations with other fullbacks, a group of whom worked out for the team last month, and more recently, a reported serious interest in Pro Bowler Vonta Leach, who is believed to be out of reach for the cap-strapped Giants.
Lost in this whole scenario is the status of Hynoski, who is hoping to be back for the start of the regular season. The team hasn't provided any official update regarding the third-year fullback's anticipated recovery period, most likely because Hynoski's injury also involved a fractured tibia, which is making it hard to estimate when he might be ready.
Yet they've provided recovery estimates for other players such as receiver Hakeem Nicks last year when he broke his foot, and more recently, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul who had back surgery.
The Giants do due diligence on any player that becomes available that they think might help them. They could still add another fullback to get through training camp, and they will probably get a healthy Hynoski back at some point this year. It's probably too soon, however, for them to determine when they will realistically have a chance at having Hynoski back,,which is why the status of this position is likely to remain unsettled for a while.
Thomas is Ready to Erase Doubts. Coming back from one ACL surgery is challenging enough, but three? That's only been done once in the NFL, by Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis.
Now Giants defensive back Terrell Thomas is hoping to become the second player to accomplish that feat
What kind of chance does he have? He thinks it's a real good one.
"I'm able to do everything. It's more just about getting comfortable and trusting myself without hesitating, without thinking, and just reacting and I'm almost there," Thomas said.
"Physically, I haven't swelled up in the last four months and I've been progressing every week and each week I get better and faster and stronger, so it's just a progression. I have to be realistic with myself knowing that I had two ACLs in one year and it's a long journey, but I'll be back and I'm going to shock a lot of people."
Whether he's truly ready, though, remains to be seen, at least according to head coach Tom Coughlin.
"I'm sure he will be limited, but he has made good progress and he did some individual this last week, which was good."
Happy Returns. The competition is wide open for the kickoff and punt return job.
"It's an open competition. There are two or three guys that we really like and which one will rise up and take the job is something," said special teams coordinator Tom Quinn. "We've still got to see once we get into the preseason and get live reps at it."
Those guys Quinn referenced include David Wilson, Rueben Randle, and Jerrel Jernigan. Others to have gotten looks at the kickoff or punt return roles have included cornerbacks Aaron Ross, Jayron Hosley, and rookie Charles James.
If Quinn had his way, he'd leave Wilson, who last year was so successful as the kickoff returner, back in that role. But with Wilson set to take on a larger role in the offense, that might not be happening.
"We'll see how that all plays out. Obviously, he would like to do it. He's done it very well, but we'll have to see how it all comes down with where he is on the depth chart and what he's doing on offense," Quinn said.
'YOsi' Could Surprise. The Giants currently have at least one other spot open at defensive end thanks to Pierre-Paul being on the shelf while he recovers from back surgery and the departure of Osi Umenyiora to Atlanta.
Ironically, Adrian Tracy, known as 'YOsi' (Young Osi) because of how Tracy stuck to Umenyiora hip last year in order to learn the finer craft of pass rushing, is one of the leading candidates from that fourth defensive end spot. Tracy has looked very explosive with his first step, and at times has conjured up memories of his mentor, which have not gone unnoticed by Fewell.
"(He's ) playing with a lot more confidence, playing with a lot more purpose and it's very nice to see," Fewell said. "Osi did a nice job in training him. He was kind of (Tracy's) mentor, so to speak, and he has flashes of Osi in him at times."
Prince Aspires to Be King. If in the future any young players might be thinking about bypassing their team's offseason program, they might want to look at cornerback Prince Amukamara as a reason NOT to do so.
That's because Amukamara, who last year started to play like a number one draft pick, has been able to build on what he started and has impressed his teammates and coaches with the progress he's made since the end of last season.
"(There's been) a lot of improvement because he has been here and he's practiced every day and his skill set is much improved," said Fewell about what he's seen from Amukamara this spring.
"This was huge," Amukamara added. "Those reps that I didn't get last year… it was huge. I'm an athlete (and) I like to actually be in it to learn about it more."
As a result of the work he's put in, Amukamara's confidence is at an all-time high, as are his aspirations for the coming season.
"I really want to be the number one corner on this team and I feel like right now Corey (Webster) is, and my goal is to always just try to beat him out," Amukamara said.
"I think as soon as I establish myself as the number one corner, then hopefully just become the number one corner in the whole league. I know that's going to take work, but guys that came out of my draft class are doing great: Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman, and those are the guys I compare myself to. I'm just trying to exceed all of them."
Patricia Traina is a New Jersey-based, accredited sportswriter who covers the New York Giants for Inside Football. She is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow her on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Kevin Gilbride
- David Diehl
- Perry Fewell
- Rueben Randle
- David Wilson
- Henry Hynoski