Quarterback Rhett Bomar, a 2009 fifth-round draft pick that spent most of the year on the Giants' practice squad, knows that with Eli Manning ahead of him on the depth chart, he probably won't have much of an opportunity during the regular season to show off his skills.
Bomar is also smart enough to know that in the NFL, the backup quarterback is always one play away from active duty, which is why the second-year player out of Sam Houston State who made his first NFL start against Pittsburgh last week, always makes sure he is ready.
"You can't really think of yourself as a backup," Bomar said. "You have to prepare to be a starter."
Bomar not only took the bulk of the snaps in the team's final practices at the University of Albany while Manning was sidelined with an injury, he has also seen his most extensive playing time in the NFL to date this preseason.
Against the Jets in the Aug. 16 preseason opener, he completed six of seven passes for 67 yards and one touchdown. Against the Steelers, Bomar took every snap under center in leading the team to 17 points, including a pinpoint pass to wide receiver Steve Smith that went for 45 yards to set up the Giants' first score, a 9-yard touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw.
"(Bomar) showed some toughness (and) he showed some ability in there," said head coach Tom Coughlin after the Steelers game. "He did a good job with maneuvering the offensive plays around."
"It was fun to be out there, be out there with the pressure and things flying at you," Bomar said. "It was great to be a competitor, and I feel like I am a competitor, so I am going to go out there and play."
Bomar's play so far has not only helped build his own confidence, but also the team's confidence that he could step in for Manning if need be in case Manning's original backup, Jim Sorgi (shoulder), is out longer than the estimated three weeks originally announced.
"He's a physically tough kid -- no question about it," Gilbride said. "There's a lot of pressure on him. Instead of looking at guys who he has been on the scout team with, he's looking at the starters in the eye and they're expecting him to lead and do the things that Eli would do. He's going to have to do enough because he is the leader, and he has to direct the things and say it with enough confidence so that they feel good about where he is taking them."
While Bomar would ideally like to be a starter in the NFL, he knows that for as long as Manning is healthy, that won't happen. But rather than pout or demand a trade, Bomar sees the opportunity as a stepping-stone for him in his young career.
"Everybody wants to play, but only one person can play at the quarterback position and we have a great quarterback here," he said. "So I just try to learn as much from him as possible, and then when I get my opportunities, take advantage of it."
--Giants' offensive linemen David Diehl, Rich Seubert and Shaun O'Hara were seen sporting bandages on their foreheads as they reported to lunch two days after their preseason game against the Jets. The "new look" was a tribute to QB Eli Manning, who took a three-inch laceration against the Jets when LB Calvin Pace knocked the helmetless Manning into S Jim Leonhard and who was sporting a bandage of his own.
Manning, who is actually one of the team's biggest pranksters, took the "tribute" that was reportedly orchestrated by Seubert in stride.
"I wouldn't expect anything less," Manning said. "You have to keep it fun."
"He's going to be okay," O'Hara said. "He's looking for some blood donors. Rich and I got tested, and we're not a match, but we think he'll be okay."
--QB Dominic Randolph, who was signed by the Giants to help provide depth at the position, was on his way from Richmond, Va., to visit friends in Nantucket, Mass., when he got the call from the Giants that he's hoping will change his life.
Randolph was awaiting a connecting flight at Newark-Liberty (NJ) International Airport to Nantucket when his agent called to advise the rookie to change his travel plans.
"It's great to be back here," Randolph said. "I wasn't expecting a call, but I got one and I'm here now and I'm loving it."
Randolph, who had been working part-time in construction, was hoping to have another chance to catch on with an NFL team. The Giants had signed him back in the spring during their rookie minicamp, but after that camp concluded, the team waived him in favor of Riley Skinner, who had been in the camp on a tryout basis. Randolph then went on to have a tryout with Baltimore, but that didn't work out for him.
Now that he's back with the Giants, Randolph, who has been busy trying to catch up on the playbook, wasn't sure how much playing time he might actually get in the rest of the preseason. Whatever he does get, he said he'd be ready when his number is called.
"In this league you've got to do what you've got to do, and I'm hopefully prepared and ready to go," he said.
--Although QB Eli Manning knew he was going to be all right after suffering a three-inch laceration to his forehead, the same apparently couldn't quite be said of one of his offensive linemen.
"I think (C Shaun) O'Hara passed out," Manning said with a straight face. "He came over there, and he kind of saw it, and I saw the look in his eyes."
Despite all the blood, Manning said that the hit he suffered against the Jets was nothing compared to one he took in his rookie season.
"I always thought my first game ever at Philadelphia, would be the biggest hit I'd ever take," he said. "(DT) Jerome McDougle kind of gave me a good pop, but this is right up there."
--S Antrel Rolle and RB Ahmad Bradshaw were both late to a team meeting the night before the Giants hosted Pittsburgh, and were both fined and held out of the starting lineup by head coach Tom Coughlin.
"I was in the hotel and I read my schedule wrong, so I was late for a special teams meeting," Rolle explained. "I've been around long enough to understand there are consequences, so I took it like a man. There is no issue. We'll move on."
--WR Hakeem Nicks was ejected from the game against the Steelers on the fourth play from scrimmage for engaging in a brief fist-fight with Pittsburgh CB Ike Taylor.
"I've never been ejected from a game in my life," Nicks said afterwards. "I was blocking downfield and trying to finish my block, and the next thing I knew, he was throwing punches, so I tried to defend myself. I'm disappointed because I let my coaches and teammates down."
--WR Victor Cruz, who became a pop culture hero amongst Giants fans, didn't quite have as a strong night production wise against the Steelers as he did against the Jets. So when the crowd let out what sounded like a chorus of "boos" when the rookie took the field, he was somewhat surprised.
Turns out that the crowd was actually calling to him.
"I realized they were cheering 'Cruuuuz'," said the wide-eyed rookie. "It was pretty cool to hear that one I realized that's what was going on."
--Tickets are still available for the first Giants Kickoff Luncheon to be held in the New Meadowlands Stadium. The charitable event, proceeds of which will benefit Hackensack University Medical Center's Touchdown Fund: Score for Kids, Cardiac and Cancer, will be held on Wednesday, September 1, 2010 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Gridiron Club, located between the Pepsi and Verizon gates at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
In addition to introducing the 2010 Giants, the team will honor former WR Amani Toomer as their "Alumni Man of the Year." Attendees can also enter a raffle drawing to win a grand prize trip to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas that includes round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations for four nights.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I heard LeBron James tweeted about me so that's definitely one of the highlights of my life." -- WR Victor Cruz on his fairy tale summer quest to make an NFL roster.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Back in February, the Giants were flirting with the idea of adding a kickoff specialist to their roster to challenge incumbent Lawrence Tynes. Meanwhile long-time punter Jeff Feagles, had just signed a new contract to return for a 22nd NFL season.
Since then the tides have turned. Shortly after signing his contract, Feagles realized that his body couldn't hold up to the rigors of another season, so he retired and the Giants drafted P Matt Dodge, a young punter from East Carolina who came with a reputation of having a big leg but also being inconsistent.
Tynes, meanwhile, who sat by reading reports of his team's alleged interest in various kickoff specialists, is not only today sitting comfortably as the only member of the special teams group whose job appears safe, he's been having a fine preseason so far in both field goal attempts and kickoffs.
The difference for Tynes has been that he hasn't tinkered too much with his kicking mechanics this year. He has instead gone back to what he did in the last six games of the 2009 season in which he achieved consistency in his kickoffs.
"What I realized, is you have to be honest with yourself," Tynes said. "I think I was trying to be something last year that I wasn't. I just need to hit the ball the way I always hit it like I did the last six games of the year which (the coaches) were happy with and just keep doing that consistently."
Dodge, meanwhile, has had a harder time of late trying to master consistency, let alone even attempting to kick directionally as Feagles did for so many years. Against the Jets in the pre-season opener, Dodge averaged 46.5 yards on four kicks with one touchback. However, none of those four kicks had the ideal hang time or distance the coaches typically like to see.
Against the Steelers, he was a little bit better, but still mixed in low line drives and at times out-kicked his coverage.
"The punter did not perform the way he has to, but I think that these experiences will be good for us going forward," head coach Tom Coughlin said.
Coughlin said that the team was not yet considering brining in a more seasoned punter to challenge Dodge, and is hoping that the rookie punter, who is being tutored several times a week by Feagles, works out all the kinks in his game before the regular season begins.
"Maybe this is what the doctor ordered," said the coach, referring to Dodge's early pre-season struggles. "If you're going to go grow up, then you've got to do it under fire, and this is the only way to make sure that he gets some composure and understands the role that he plays."
--The Giants somewhat surprising signing former Eagles OL Shawn Andrews to a six-year contract on their final day of training camp could turn out to be a steal for New York as Andrews can play both guard and tackle. His presence offers some additional veteran depth, especially if OG Chris Snee's injured knee, which head coach Tom Coughlin said would have to be managed, becomes a long-term issue.
Andrews also provides insurance at offensive tackle, as if the Giants follow through with their plan to insert William Beatty at left tackle and move David Diehl over to the left guard, the depth at tackle thins out as the Giants' only "experienced" linemen at the tackle spot include seldom-used veterans Guy Whimper and Adam Koets.
"He's just another quality football player that can help us," the coach said.
--OL Cliff Louis, who was brought on board as a replacement for OL Ruben Riley after the latter suffered a MCL injury to his left knee earlier in camp, was waived to make room for the addition of Shawn Andrews. Louis, who was in his second camp with the Giants, had been a long shot to make the final 53-man roster.
--The Giants raised a few eyebrows last week in practice when they began inserting different linebackers into roles with the starting defense, such as rookie Phillips Dillard in with the starters at strong side linebacker, in place of Clint Sintim. However, head coach Tom Coughlin later explained that the MCL injury suffered by LB Chase Blackburn, the veteran linebacker who can play all three positions, prompted the team to get the rest of the younger players as much work as possible at as many spots as time permits.
However, there was one linebacker who received some snaps with the first team purely based on merit, and that was Gerris Wilkinson, who took snaps at the weak side and middle. Wilkinson, who initially was part of the mix for the starting middle linebacker role until the team went out and landed Keith Bulluck, had seemingly faded from the equation the past few weeks until he came back strong against the Jets during the giants' preseason opener.
"Yes, it was earned by the way he played (against the Jets)," Coughlin said of Wilkinson's placement with the starters. "He had some physical tackles, he did well on special teams, and he did well in the open field tackling a back in the backfield. So you want to be able to encourage the guys that do that.
Wilkinson was also rewarded by Coughlin for his good week of practice as the coach named him a defensive captain for their game against Pittsburgh.
--The Giants signed former Holy Cross QB Dominic Randolph to provide depth at the severely depleted quarterback spot.
Randolph, who was with the team during the rookie minicamp in early May, was waived in favor of Riley skinner, the latter of whom was cut shortly after the team concluded its June mini cam. With Eli Manning (head) and Jim Sorgi (shoulder/ribs) sidelined for the team's second preseason game against Pittsburgh, New York wanted to have an extra arm in place to help share the workload with second-year man Rhett Bomar, the only healthy passer in camp.
--The Giants waived/injured TE Jake Ballard who had missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. Ballard, a rookie out of Ohio State, was a long shot to make the final 53-man roster, but his inability to get on the field certainly didn't help his situation.
--C Shaun O'Hara, who developed an ankle issue over the spring that caused him to miss the first week of practice in camp, continues to have his snaps monitored as the team attempts to manage his injury.
"He has the ankle that he's had earlier in camp but he can fight through it in a game and practice," Coughlin said.
The Giants have been giving O'Hara's backup, Adam Koets, a good number of snaps with the starters in hopes of accelerating his readiness for action should O'Hara not be able to go.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Victor Cruz vs. Sinorice Moss for the fifth wide receiver spot. Moss, who had been having a fine camp until a couple of weeks ago when a groin injury sidelined him, has not done much with the numerous chances he's received since being drafted in the second round in 2006. So when Cruz, the Paterson, N.J. native began catching the attention of the media, fans, and head coach Tom Coughlin, suddenly Moss finds himself facing his first real serious threat for his roster spot. Cruz, who debuted this preseason with a team-leading six catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns, has looked like a veteran in terms of adjusting his routes and making the tough catches that have often times eluded Moss, a five-year veteran. For added measure, Cruz has been receptive and eager to contribute to special teams as a punt returner, a role that Moss has in the past been unable to make his own. However, Cruz remains a work in progress as he's had problems with ball security on punt returns, and this part of his game could be the deciding factor in this battle as the Giants are looking for their fourth and fifth receivers to contribute on special teams.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Jonathan Goff vs. Keith Bulluck for the starting middle linebacker spot. The Giants added the veteran Bulluck a week before the start of training camp with visions of him holding down the starting middle linebacker spot this year. However Goff, who finished as the starter last season, has been trying to convince the coaches that he's perfectly capable of retaining the job. To do that, Goff will need to show the coaches that he's more of a complete linebacker who can be just as effective outside of the tackles as has shown to be inside of the tackles. That will include showing more explosiveness when he hits people and showing that he can move better from sideline to sideline. Bulluck, meanwhile, is more of a complete linebacker who says his surgically repaired knee is responding well to the continued treatment and rehab, and that he hasn't been experiencing any post practice swelling or discomfort following those times when he's worked. Barring any setbacks, it appears all but certain that Bulluck, who made his Giants debut against Pittsburgh in about six plays, will at least open the season as the starting middle linebacker despite the fact that Goff has raised his game this summer.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Victor Cruz -- The 6 feet 1, 200-pound Cruz, who played his college ball at UMass and who is a Paterson, N.J., native, has taken the Giants camp by storm of late starting with the practice week leading up to the preseason opener against the Jets. There, the rookie took advantage to injuries to Mario Manningham, Steve Smith, and Sinorice Moss to make some spectacular catches in practice. He continued his fine play with three touchdowns against the Jets, all in second half action, including a gorgeous one-handed grab off a throw from QB Jim Sorgi in the third quarter for a 64-yard touchdown. Cruz's three-score performance made him the first player with three touchdown receptions in a preseason game since Terrell Owens did it with San Francisco in 1998. The rookie receiver finished his night with six catches for 145 yards and was the team's second leading receiver against the Steelers with two catches for 30 yards.
ROOKIE REPORT: DE Jason Pierre-Paul continues to look more and more comfortable in his role within the Giants' defense. He's been using his quick first step to rush the passer and drop ball carriers for a loss, and has quietly emerged as a disruptive force. ... DT Linval Joseph, who in the past has said he enjoys playing to stop the run, had an impressive preseason so far by mucking up running lanes and knifing inside of defenders to create disruptions. ... LB Phillip Dillard, who has worked almost exclusively at middle linebacker, has fared well against the running plays, where he was able to quickly diagnose and react to what was coming his way. He did, however, struggle some in space covering backs out of the backfield. ... G Mitch Petrus, who had received some snaps with the starters given the absences of Rich Seubert and Chris Snee, has performed relatively well with his opportunities, showing the power and quickness the Giants like to see from their offensive linemen. Petrus in particular continues to look polished when asked to pull and has shown good balance when squaring up against his man. ... LB Adrian Tracy, who is converting from defensive end to outside linebacker, looked comfortable in preseason game action, particularly in chasing down running plays. Thus far in preseason action, Tracy has received snaps not only at outside linebacker, but also at the weak side defensive end spot in some of Perry Fewell's sub packages. ... P Matt Dodge, whose NFL career has gotten off to a rocky start, continues to struggle with consistency in his punting. Although his numbers haven't been bad, many of his kicks have been low line drives with poor hang time. ... G/T Dennis Landolt, an undrafted free agent from Penn State whom the Giants had to offer a higher signing bonus back in the spring to land, has mostly worked at both guard spots, where he has shown fine athleticism and has made some bone-crushing hits to blow defenders off the line. At 6-4, 306, Landolt has looked very stout at the point of attack.
INJURY REPORT: WR Ramses Barden (lower back) admitted that he probably should have sat out the Giants' preseason opener against the Jets as his back was bothering him then. Barden, who missed practice this past week, said the soreness has been affecting his route running and receiving. Barden, who missed the game against Pittsburgh, said his condition wasn't chronic and he was hoping to be able to return to practice this week.
--TE Travis Beckum (hamstring) returned to practice last week after previously being able to work in just two practice sessions prior. Beckum was active for the Giants' preseason game against Pittsburgh.
--LB Chase Blackburn (right knee) suffered an MCL injury in the Giants' preseason opener against the Jets. Head coach Tom Coughlin said that the six-year veteran will not need surgery, but that he will miss at least a couple of weeks. Blackburn said he was hoping to return for the Giants' preseason finale against New England on September 2.
--OL Kevin Boothe (pectoral) remains on PUP. Boothe was expecting to receive clearance from the team's medical staff to resume weight lifting.
--TE Kevin Boss (ankle/hamstring) returned to practice on August 18 and was active for the Giants' preseason game against Pittsburgh.
--WR Tim Brown (groin/hamstring) returned to practice and played against Pittsburgh. Brown had been having a fine camp and emerged as an early favorite to win a roster spot. However, between his injuries and the emergence of Victor Cruz, the former Rutgers receiver's chances for a roster spot no longer appear to be a lock.
--LB Keith Bulluck (knee), who sat out the preseason opener again the Jets, has been working daily now that the team's two-a-day practice schedule is complete. Bulluck was given six plays against Pittsburgh and was no worse for the wear afterwards.
--RB Brandon Jacobs (neck) was a late scratch against Pittsburgh after developing a stiff neck resulting from shrugs in the weight room. Jacobs underwent an MRI that didn't show anything serious; however, the running back was unable to turn his neck without pain and was held out of the game as a precautionary. It was not immediately known when he might be able to return to practice.
--S Michael Johnson (back), who missed the preseason opener, missed another week of practice and sat out of the Giants' preseason game against Pittsburgh.
--QB Eli Manning (head laceration) was kept out of practice last week and missed the team's second preseason game against Pittsburgh. Manning, whose wound required 12 stitches, has since had the stitches removed and is expected to return to practice this week.
--WR Sinorice Moss (groin) returned to practice on August 18 after missing several practices. Moss' roster spot could be in jeopardy given the emergence of rookie Victor Cruz, who in the Giants win over the Jets, posted a three-touchdown night and a 145-yard receiving performance that has continued to draw praise from head coach Tom Coughlin. Moss was active for the Giants' preseason game against Pittsburgh.
--S Kenny Phillips (knee), who has remained on a managed schedule in which he takes two snaps, made his long-awaited pre-season debut against the Steelers, nearly one year since being shelved with a knee injury. Phillips received six plays, and reported that everything went well. "I didn't get a chance to make too many plays, but in the little time I was out there, everything felt great."
--S Sha'reff Rashad (concussion) suffered a blow to his head at the end of the second quarter against Pittsburgh and did not return to the game. He will most likely be held out of practice for at least a couple of days until he can pass a series of concussion-related tests.
--WR Steve Smith (groin) returned to practice for the first time since August 7 and was active for the Giants' pre-season game against Pittsburgh.
--RG Chris Snee (knee) is making progress the swelling in his left knee. "We're not going to rush him back but it's good to see him with a smile on his face so he's on his way," coach Tom Coughlin said. Snee was not available for the team's game against the Steelers.
--LG Rich Seubert (hand) was held out of the team's preseason game against Pittsburgh. Seubert has been able to practice, but the team is not willing to risk further damage being done to the offensive lineman's healing hand.
--QB Jim Sorgi (shoulder) was sent for a MRI on his throwing shoulder after some discomfort he had been experiencing was exacerbated by a hard hit he took in the preseason opener against the Jets on August 16. Sorgi, who was already dealing with a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, has torn capsule and partial dislocation that will keep him sidelined for at least three weeks.
--RB DJ Ware (concussion) took a blow to the head/neck area while covering a punt in the second quarter of the game against the Steelers. Ware was able to get up off the field on his own, but was carted off to the locker room. It was the second concussion Ware has suffered in the last 12 months and he will most likely be unable to return to practice this week until he completes a series of concussion-related tests.
--CB Corey Webster (glute) returned to practice after missing several workouts, and was active for the Giants' preseason game against Pittsburgh.