Inside Slant, Quotes, Injuries, Rookies, etc.

Inside Slant, Quotes, Injuries, Rookies, etc.

There is a sudden and relatively unexpected development in Giants' camp involving the punt return specialists. All along, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that veteran Chad Morton would be back at the same old job this season. But suddenly there is a kid named Michael Jennings, a mere slip of a child at 5-11 and 175 pounds (to the naked eye, both those figures appear inflated).

He took back a 57-yard punt to the end zone against Baltimore August 11 and nearly broke another one last week against Kansas City. He had one kickoff return for 27 yards, three punt returns for 26 yards and led a widely diverse passing attack with three catches for 24 yards (diverse because 14 different receivers caught 21 passes thrown by three different quarterbacks).

The kid is from Florida State but never played football there, preferring to run track and field. Why? "Because I didn't think I could make it," he said. "I was kind of small and I just looked at some of the guys they had. I was always fast, so I thought track and field would be the answer."

Fast? How fast? "Oh, 4.3 flat," he commented casually.

Now the coaching staff is getting more confident in Jennings as a receiver while special teams guru Mike Sweatman is more and more assured that the kid can handle the return duties as well. That would free up Morton for assignment -- as in a trade to perhaps San Diego, which lost super returner Darren Sproles for the season, in return for a defensive tackle.

"No comment," said general manager Ernie Accorsi. "We are not now discussing a trade with any team involving any of our players."

Well, "not now" doesn't mean never.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Giants will break camp Aug. 24 and finish out the preseason schedule by practicing on the grounds of Giants Stadium, where they can use the actual stadium field, a manicured practice field and an artificial turf field inside the "bubble" in case of inclement weather.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Head coach Tom Coughlin is pleased with the performance of second-year cornerback Corey Webster, the team's second round pick last year. "He has all the talent and all the ability he needs," Coughlin says. "Now he needs to be more technical in his approach."

--Running back Brandon Jacobs, who made a big splash vs. K.C. running both outside with speed and moves and up the gut with power, was going through a pass-catching drill at camp. It was specified that there was to be no hard tackling, and when he caught a pass over the middle and a defensive back came rushing up, veering off at the last possible split second, Jacobs grinned: "Yeah, that's right. You ain't stupid," said the 6-4, 265-pound bruiser.

--DT Sir Henry Anderson, a FA undrafted rookie, has made some of the coaches take notice. He is huge (6-3, 315) and Sir is truly his first name. "My mother didn't want me to be called Henry all the time, because that's my father's name, too. And she didn't want me to be a junior," he said. "So it became Sir." His mother's name is Fortress.

--Another odd name on the roster is that of RB Little John Flowers, a Michigan State product who had a chance with the New York Jets last summer. Little John is his given name, because his mother's favorite literary character was Robin Hood, and one of the Merry Men was named Little John. It might have been worse -- he could be Tigger, you know? Or Ahab.

--Walking out of the team cafeteria, linebacker LaVar Arrington was approached by a mother with two young sons asking for his autograph. He smiled. "OK, but first give me 10 (pushups)," he said. The kids hit the ground, did the pushups, and were rewarded with autographs. Their mother then said: "May I ask for an autograph for my husband?" and Arrington smiled. "OK, but first... "She looked at him and said: "You've got to be kidding." He laughed and signed.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think our offense is right on schedule. We're doing the right things at the right time and this is going to be a great unit once we're finished tinkering." -- Giants' RB Tiki Barber.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Head coach Tom Coughlin was concerned enough about the porous nature of the middle of the Giants' defensive line that he gave additional time last Thursday night to rookie Barry Cofield -- who didn't do badly.

He also seems to have gotten through to the enigmatic William Joseph, the 2003 first round draft pick from Miami University, who has mostly been a disappointment as a defensive tackle. This summer "Willie Joe" is playing more consistently and had a few positive mentions from Coughlin. But the middle of the defensive line is where the problems lie, where the weaknesses are and where the Giants are going to have to do some quick fixing-up.

--There are three defensive players, all undrafted rookie free agents, who seem to have impressed the coaches enough to make it through the first cut. They are cornerbacks E.J. Underwood and Kevin Dockery and LB Nick McNeil. Another veteran who has made serious inroads to the final roster is three-year veteran CB Frank Walker, who finally seems to have his game (and his emotions) under control.

--G Rich Seubert, who was the starter on the right side until Oct. 19, 2003, when he suffered a compound fracture of his right leg, has entrenched his position as a backup guard and center. He started in the opening preseason game for RG Chris Snee and filled in for C Shaun O'Hara (knee) last week.

--Reports that the Giants were close to signing Grady Jackson, the veteran free agent DT, appeared to be premature. He was seen on a flight from Chicago to Albany, N.Y., where the team's training camp is situated, but GM Ernie Accorsi denied the 6-2, 350-pound Jackson visited the team camp.

--WR Tim Carter, who has a world of talent but carries a suitcase full of nagging injuries, seems to be healthy this summer and it's showing in his performance. Right now he's the absolute third receiver behind Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress, especially with the strained quad injury that has kept second-round draft pick Sinorice Moss off the practice field for most of the summer.

--It seems more than just a possibility that Carlos Emmons will lose his WLB position to Brandon Short. Emmons suffered a "burner" two weeks ago and hasn't played in either preseason game. He is starting his 11th season.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: QB Jared Lorenzen seems to have pulled ahead of Rob Johnson in the battle for the third string position, and now he is making headway in his attempt to unseat Tim Hasselbeck as the backup to Eli Manning. Through the two preseason games, Lorenzen is the only one besides Manning to have seen action each week; he came in for Hasselbeck Aug. 11 in Baltimore and came in when Johnson was done last Thursday vs. K.C.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Visanthe Shiancoe is feverishly fending off the charge of veteran TE Boo Williams, who was out of the game last season with a knee injury he claimed New Orleans "overstated." At the moment there is doubt as to the identity of the backup to Jeremy Shockey.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Rookie DE Mathias Kiwanuka, the team's first round selection, has shown quickness and aggression in his two games and leads the team with 2.5 sacks. "He's quick, and when he plays he doesn't stand as tall as he does in practice," noted a scout. "He was too high when I saw him in (rookie tryouts) in Indianapolis, but he almost looks like a different player now."

ROOKIE REPORT: DE Kiwanuka has impressed and will push for playing time; No. 2 WR Sinorice Moss still hasn't solved his strained quad injury and has almost nothing in his summertime resume; No. 3 LB Gerris Wilkinson shows quickness and strength, had two solo tackles and a special teams tackle vs. K.C.; No. 4 OT Guy Whimper has leveled off; No. 4a DT Barry Cofield is impressing the coaches and considering the lack of quality at the position he might even emerge as a potential starter; SS Charlie Peprah and CB Gerrick McPherson have shown special teams talents.

INJURY REPORT: WLB Carlos Emmons (burner), WR Sinorice Moss (quad), C Shaun O'Hara (knee), OT Luke Petitgout (back spasms) are all likely to miss the third preseason game, Aug. 25 vs. the N.Y. Jets.

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