Training-camp postcard: Giants
Posted: Sunday July 29, 2007 6:36PM; Updated: Monday July 30, 2007 10:15PM
At the University at Albany, where the Giants are conducting their camp for a 12th consecutive summer. Almost half the league (15 teams) now hold training camp at their home complexes and eschew the logistics-challenging summer road trip. But the Giants still seem to love it here, and Sunday morning's practice drew an enthusiastic gathering of Big Blue believers. Everybody else in upstate New York seemed to be at the Hall of Fame induction of baseball's Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn in Cooperstown.
1. I think I'm coming around to the notion that the combination of new Giants quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer and new Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride (he was elevated from QBs coach) will end up being a good thing for Eli Manning, he of the up-and-down results in his first three NFL seasons. Palmer and Gilbride worked together in Houston in the early '90s, and both had separate stints on Tom Coughlin's staff in Jacksonville later that decade. They're all very familiar with one another, and I think Manning will benefit from that ease of relationship.
"That's a plus for us,'' Coughlin said Sunday. "It's kind of easy to get back on the same page. Chris has been able to come in and just jump right in on the task at hand with Eli. We all want consistency from Eli. Including Eli. It's a real high expectation level, but we all want more of that Philadelphia finish.'' (In Week 2 of last season, the Giants won 30-24 in overtime at the Eagles in what was hailed as Manning's coming of age performance).
Palmer and Manning are also well-matched temperamentally, because the laid-back Eli doesn't need a screamer at this point in his career. He needs a good teacher who can provide a calm, efficient approach to ironing out the kinks that his fundamentals get into from time to time. I'm not predicting a monster season for Manning, but the double-teaming of Palmer and Gilbride should give No. 10's game a chance to shed some of inconsistency that has driven the Giants and their fans more than a little crazy.
2. People seem worried that Manning will suffer without Tiki Barber to throw to out of the backfield as his ever-present safety valve. Besides rushing for 1,662 yards last season, Barber caught 58 passes for another 465 yards. Who will take up the slack on the receiving front, given that running backs Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns seem to be north-and-south runners? Coughlin assured me Sunday morning that the 6-foot-4, 264-pound Jacobs can catch the ball out of the backfield, and will far surpass his 11-reception showing of 2006.
We'll see, but the idea of Jacobs rumbling around the corner, with only a defensive back between him and first down could cause a few cases of nights sweats for opposing defenders. Oh, and one other plus in Jacobs' column? Manning admits he loves the idea that the hulking runner will be there most of the time to pick up those blitzing defenders.
"He's a powerful guy,'' Manning said. "When a safety or a linebacker is blitzing, they're not going to bull-rush him.''
3. The Giants are convinced 2006 first-round pick Mathias Kiwanuka can handle the transition from defensive end to strongside linebacker, even if they know he might get abused a few times this year in open-field pass coverage assignments. And if you're wondering, New York isn't likely to reverse field on its decision, even if veteran defensive end Michael Strahan doesn't wind up playing left end in 2007.
The Giants probably feel they're stronger with Kiwanuka on the strong side, with third-year defensive end Justin Tuck emerging to win Strahan's vacated position, than to switch Kiwanuka back to end and still find themselves searching for a starting outside linebacker.