On a blistering hot afternoon the Giants took to the fields at the University at Albany for their first practice since their victory Saturday night over the Patriots. With temperatures topping out in the lower 90s, and having just played two games in the span of six days, coach Jim Fassel decided not to have the players in full uniforms but rather shorts and helmets.
Also for the first time, and to coincide with the Giants playing their first true road game of the preseason this coming Saturday, the Giants offensive players wore white away jerseys while the defense switched to the traditional home blue jerseys. This move reversed the way the units have worn their colors up to this point at camp.
Darnell Dinkins can also no longer be called a fourth string QB for the Giants. He is now assigned number 82 and officially took his reps with the rest of the Giants TEs, playing mostly with the third unit, and still playing a large role with the Giants special teams.
The first half of the practice was dominated by mainly conditioning drills, with the players stretching and doing some running. Also, each particular unit engaged in agility drills.
Kerry Collins, Jason Garrett, and Jesse Palmer spent the early part of the session working on pocket awareness and also working on protecting the ball in both center exchanges and when being flushed out of the pocket. All the RBs, as well as the TEs, spent a good portion of the afternoon on chip blocks as well as drive blocking, and later working with the O line to get their timing down and assignments correct in pass blocking drills.
FB Darian Barnes, a street free agent from Hampton College, seemed to have an exceptional day, especially in technique oriented drills. Later on in light scrimmage work he was in with the first unit.
Giants TE coach, Mike Pope, was doing some very hands on coaching with Jeremy Shockey, getting him used to the slide blocking techniques, and helping him to get more comfortable with the Giants offensive line. As with all the Giants TEs, Pope was going over particular blocking assignments in regards to blitz pickups and how to read defensive keys as they pertain to the Giants offensive packages.
On the defensive side of the ball, the booming voice of defensive coordinator Johnnie Lynn could be heard all over the practice fields. You could see now that the Giants are actually installing much more of the complexities and subtleties of the Giants defensive playbook.
What was stressed over and over again was communication from the D line, to the LBs, to the secondary, and making sure that everyone is on the same page and that there is good communication between the sidelines and the particular defensive scheme that is being run out onto the field. Coverage assignments and key recognition was stressed over and over again with all three Giants defensive units taking their reps against their counterparts on the Giants offense.
The Giants offense engaged in a little more use of play action and Lynn was instructing the LBs, along with DB coach DeWayne Walker, to make sure that the defense reacted correctly and stayed with their assignments and not to be fooled into falling for the play action. Key recognition, especially by the Giants second and third units, had Lynn unhappy at times.
Also what was stressed, and stressed heavily, by Giants defensive line coach Denny Marcin and offensive line coach Jim McNally, to both of their units, was to maintain gap integrity.
McNally's point of view, especially on running plays, was to concentrate on pad level and the use of block and release techniques. From a defensive perspective, Marcin was getting after the younger players on the defensive line on their pursuit techiniques and not to overplay their hand.
As for special teams drills, Rodney Williams had a good day of punting the football for both distance and accuracy. Gabe Lindstrom was punting adequately, but without Williams' distance. Coach Fassel and special teams coach Bruce Read both handled much of the technique oriented special teams portion of the practice, stressing various lane techniques and release drills with the gunners.
In a very short live scrimmage format at the end of practice Amani Toomer made a nice catch for a TD, as did Ron Dixon who was working a great deal out of the slot and ran a number of crossing patterns. TE Jeremy Shockey also had a few catches, as did RBs Sean Bennett and a very healthy looking Tiki Barber, who was showing no signs of rib discomfort.
For the first practice back to work after their preseason game on Saturday, the day was very much technique driven. With the hot and sunny conditions the Giants may start to see players hitting the wall as the dog days of training camp continue. So coach Fassel and his position coaches need to be conscience of not overworking or overhitting with the bulk of the preseason still ahead of them. You could tell, although the practice was spirited, it was not too spirited as to risk injuries to Giants players.
On a lighter note, the old adage, what a difference a week makes, never rang truer than what happened after practice on Monday. Darnell Dinkins, who in past sessions could walk very much unnoticed on and off the practice field, has now become a favorite of the media and was surrounded by reporters on his way to the locker room after practice. Maybe his hard work, a new position or positions, will lead to bigger things for him, and hopefully bigger things for the Giants.