New York Giants
Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
A year ago, the New York Giants completed their offseason program and then proceeded to disband around the country for some downtime before the start of training camp.
Then in the crack of a firework, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was thrust into a strange, unprecedented odyssey that would cost the Giants their top pass rusher for more than half the season and that was one of several contributing factors for the team's struggles.
This year as head coach Ben McAdoo bid his veteran players farewell the rookies and first-year players will stay on until Wednesday before being dismissed for the summer the head coach is optimistic that the next several weeks will be a lot quieter.
"I think we have a good locker room, a strong locker room. I trust them," McAdoo said when asked if he was nervous about the players scattering for the next six weeks.
"We educated them. They were listening and paying attention and buying in. They're excited for this upcoming season and I feel like they'll make good decisions."
Still, it could probably be argued that Tom Coughlin, who preceded McAdoo, felt the same way when he dismissed the players this time last year. So what was it that made McAdoo certain that the message given to the players would ensure a quiet, uneventful break?
"That's a better question for the players," he said. "As you know, making good decisions in this business and surrounding yourself around people you respect, admire and want to be like is important. Also anything can come around the corner and bite you on the backside so you always have to have your head on a swivel that way."
Running back Rashad Jennings revealed that the veterans in the locker room stepped up to the plate this year to make sure their younger teammates understand that what they have isn't guaranteed.
"Some of the veteran leaders and I took the opportunity to meet with all the rookies and first-year player - anyone who is about to enter his first NFL training camp-and remind them that they work their entire life to get to this position and that it can be taken away so quickly."
McAdoo said he met with the players Wednesday night, before the final practice of the mandatory minicamp and again after the practice to remind the team that the next step is to build on the foundation they've laid this spring.
"The veterans have taken the bull by the horns," he said on emphasizing the message. "The coaches obviously have their thoughts and this is a key time for every club in the league.
"We feel we could put pads on, give them a couple of days off, put pads on and practice for a couple of weeks and be ready for the first game. That's not the case, they have a little "prep-cation" coming up for them to prepare for what's coming up down the road and we hope they all make smart decisions."
The Giants are reportedly interested in acquiring the services of offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, who was released by the Ravens Wednesday.
While Monroe would certainly provide a boost to their depth, questions regarding the offensive lineman's stance on medicinal marijuana and how they might fit in with an otherwise squeaky clean image that the Giants take pride in have been raised.
"I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion," said head coach Ben McAdoo. "Myself, I haven't done any research, so I don't have a great answer for you. That's probably more of a political question, something I'm not necessarily willing to jump into at this point or ever. But everyone running around has their own opinion."
Running back Rashad Jennings, who like Monroe was drafted by the Jaguars in 2009, called Monroe a "good friend" and described him as someone with whom he's had numerous conversations and debates over a variety of topics.
"When you talk about marijuana, because I don't know the details of his comment, I don't want to chop and edit and rebuttal against it," Jennings said. "I've never smoked in my life, so it won't affect me. I don't know where the help comes from. I'd have to hear it from him before I give my opinion."
Opinions aside, the bigger question for the Giants as they compete to land Monroe's services is if they would have to back down from their insistence of leaving Ereck Flowers at left tackle, especially if Monroe or any offensive tackle they might be eyeing as a starter insists on playing on the left side.
"We look at all possibilities and you never say never in this business," McAdoo said. "If we feel one's out there that can help us, we'll add him to the mix.
"I'd rather not deal with hypotheticals," he added in response to a question about moving Flowers to the right side. "Ereck is working hard to develop into a standout left tackle for us and we feel like he had a good offseason."
In the long run, the NFL's rule that prohibits rookies from joining their team until their college semester ends is for their benefit.
In the short-term, however, it's a rule that often times puts a rookie jockeying for a high position on the team's depth chart behind the eight ball, especially the longer it goes.
Such is the situation of Giants running back Paul Perkins, their fifth-round draft pick. Perkins' classes at UCLA finished last week, which meant that he had to stay away from the team until he completed them.
The good news for Perkins is that he's not exactly starting from the ground floor. Thanks to the structure of the rules, running backs coach Craig Johnson was able to keep the rookie in the loop via modern technology.
"I had an IPad with all the plays and a script with what they were doing each day and then coach Johnson would call me periodically throughout the week to see how I was doing," Perkins said.
While he's not completely lost, Perkins still has a long way to go to come up to speed.
"Paul has watched every practice," head coach Ben McAdoo said. "We had a chance to catch up with him at night. ... to go through and look at the installs and study the book. Certainly it is not as good as being here, but he has some catching up to do."
"I definitely wish I was here, but it definitely helped me more so than not having it and just watching," Perkins added.
While he was at school, Perkins said he also kept up with his studies and with his conditioning.
"You still have to keep your priorities straight. School comes first and then definitely come out here and/or watch the plays on the IPad. But it is definitely tough studying and at the same time studying for New York."
With a six-week break coming up before the start of training camp on July 28, Perkins is ready to jump in head-first into the deep end of the pool.
"I think I am going to take the whole enchilada," he said laughing. "Rashad (Jennings) and Shane (Vereen) and Andre (Williams) those guys have really helped me get acclimated to the system and have really taken me under their wing."
Once upon a time, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dreamed about being the toast of the town, the topic on the lips of fans and media alike, all of whom, he hoped, would adore him for his football prowess.
"I remember coming into the league, I wanted ... there were guys, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, guys who are brothers in my class," Beckham said during the Giants' three-day mandatory minicamp.
"They're guys who I compete against, who I wanted to be talked about the way that they were talked about. I was like, 'Man, they never talk about me.'"
These days Beckham's dream has come true. He's one of the most talked about athletes in any sport. However, the extent of the conversations in which Beckham's name gets mentioned are often a little more personal than what the receiver initially hoped they'd be.
This offseason he's been in the headlines quite a bit, none of which has anything to do with his football talents.
There's the ongoing saga with his biggest on-field nemesis, cornerback Josh Norman, who signed with Washington after Carolina rescinded the franchise tag.
His social life has also come under the glare of the spotlight. He has been living in Los Angeles with rap star Drake.
Before that, he stepped out with actress and singer Zendaya during the Grammys and, more recently, he was linked to reality television star Khloe Kardashian of the "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" fame.
For Beckham, who warns other up and coming athletes to "be careful what you ask for," the attention on his non-football life continues to be something with which he struggles to keep under control.
"I feel like if I hid under a rock for 364 days, and I came out on the 365th, and someone saw me somewhere, there's going to be a story about it," he said. "Something's going to happen, I'm going to hear about it, it'll be here, it'll be there. I think people just need something to talk about sometimes."
Still, he wishes people wouldn't talk about him only because he believes that such gossip becomes a distraction to the Giants.
"I hate that it causes so much distraction for my team and for myself," he said. "Especially when a lot of the stuff is not so much true, and there's just all kinds of things that they come up with. It's what comes with the territory, though."
To refocus the wagging tongues on what matters most, his football career, Beckham said that when he puts on his team-issued apparel to engage in a weight training session or a practice, he slips into another dimension, one that takes him away from the whirlwind that has become his life.
"At the end of the day, this is my sanctuary, this is where I come and I feel free," Beckham said. "This is my getaway from all the outside distractions that this world provides. This is the only place where I can't be bothered.
"I'm really just free when I get out here. I feel like a kid again."
There are a lot of ways the NFL's worst-ranked defensive unit can improve, from adding new faces to trying new things.
Then there is the luxury that has afforded New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who is looking to get the Giants' defense headed back in the right direction.
That luxury is to consult with the architect, head coach Ben McAdoo, and the quarterback, Eli Manning, responsible for producing the NFL's eighth-ranked offense last season.
"Usually every day I'll visit with Eli and Ben about things we've done on defense and if it's giving then any trouble, should we keep it in and things like that," Spagnuolo said.
"So the feedback has been good to help us with cutting it down and helping us get rid of what's not working."
That feedback, which is reciprocated, has helped him put together a bunch of new ideas and concepts that have been installed this spring.
When it's all said and done, the feedback on his ideas are ones that the 56-year-old defensive coordinator plans to evaluate over the six-week break that begins at the end of the team's mandatory minicamp this week and ends when the players report back for training camp on July 28.
So far during the OTAs and the three-day minicamp, Spagnuolo has introduced a lot of new wrinkles to get the most out of his personnel. The wrinkles have included moving guys around who last year were more stationary, such as defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and having guys who were otherwise anchored in at a certain spot switch positions as the snap of the ball.
"I think you're going to have to mix some things," Spagnuolo said when asked if he might be able to do more pre-planned scheming rather than having to be creative based on necessity.
"Hopefully this year we won't have to do as much as that (creating on the fly)."
Besides the feedback from the offense, which has been invaluable for Spagnuolo, the addition of some reinforcements at every position helps.
That reinforcement has included defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, linebackers Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard, safety Darian Thompson, and corners Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple, a mixture of young and old that has given Spagnuolo more ingredients with which to work.
"I've always said this league is about players, and the more top-notch players you have, the better defense you're going to be," Spagnuolo said.
"To me it doesn't matter what scheme you have or what you do; players make plays. Certainly if the quality of your talent is strong toward some spots, you have to play toward your strengths, and that's what we're going to do."
It all sounds and looks good in June, but of course the real litmus test won't come until the summer when the pads go on and the preseason games begin.
While Spagnuolo also expressed similar optimism this time last year about the direction the defense was headed, this time around he sounded even more convinced that last year's issues were a thing of the past.
"Everything we went through last year is over and done," he said. "We're going to be better because the players are going to be better, because of better coaching, and less mistakes.
"We're going to be better because it's the second year in the system, and that's what we fully expect to do."