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Mini-camp takeaways, Day 2: Quarterbacks continue to shine

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Rookies Darius Slayton, C.J. Conrad have good days

NFL: New York Giants-Minicamp NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY NETWORK

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—With Day 2 of the Giants three-day mandatory minicamp in the books, here are some of the takeaways from Wednesday’s workout.

Lorenzo Carter has a pass-rush plan

As questions continue to swirl about where the Giants pass rush is going to come from this year, defensive coordinator James Bettcher believes that second-year man Lorenzo Carter has made significant enough strides to be part of the solution.

“He is rushing with a plan,” Bettcher said. “When you see him rush, a year ago he was trying to get off the ball as quick as he could and use his hands when he could. Now, you see a guy that is aware of how he wants to rush, aware of techniques that he wants to rush with.”

Bettcher also noted that Carter is starting to find his identity as a pass rusher.

“Whether you are Chandler Jones and a really bloody rusher or a speed counter guy. He is really starting to figure that out,” Bettcher said. “He is building his pass rush toolbox right now.

The second thing, he is practicing as hard as anyone on the field right now. He is running around and has been a great example that we have been able to show defensively of just straining and effort, and finish.”

Carter, who has been working with the first team defense, has had some nice rushes where he’s come off the edge and penetrated the backfield.

Eli Manning has a strong showing...

Manning had one of his best practices of the spring Wednesday. With the exception of one errant pass that looked like a miscommunication (and which was that Manning pointed to himself as though to say, “That’s on me,” after the play was done), Manning hit tight end Rhett Ellison in stride and right in the breadbasket as he streaked down the field toward the end zone.

Manning also connected with rookie Darius Slayton on a crossing pattern. Slayton not only caught the pass but turned on the jets as he blew by two defenders in pursuit.

And Manning, who was almost flawless in the red zone drills, had another pretty ball to Ellison, dropping the fade over the tight end’s shoulder in the end zone.

“I think it is going well,” Manning said of his spring showing. “Made some good plays and we are throwing the deep ball well. Always room for improvement. Missed a couple throws here and there getting back on the timing of things with the receivers.

“There is always things you want to improve on and that you wish you had back but I think for the most part, I feel good. I’m comfortable within the offense and with the protections. Off to a good start.”

Now before going any further, my opinion on the quarterbacks is based on the entire practice, including the individual drills. I don’t keep stats on how many passes were completed because some of those incomplete passes are drops by the receivers.

For example, Saquon Barkley had a perfectly thrown ball sail through his hands, and Corey Coleman had a ball hit him in the hands only to fall to the ground.

Then there have been other plays in which the defense has brought the pressure and forced an early throw which leads to an incompletion.

The point is that I wouldn’t get too worked up either way about the numbers you see reported at this point in the calendar year because practices aren’t run at full speed and the point of these practices is to sharpen up the skillsets, so that come next month, they can hit the ground running.

Offensive coordinator Mike Shula agreed that Manning has been throwing the ball well of late.

“I think there have been some really good connections down the field with (Sterling) Shepard and Golden Tate, and really with some of those other guys—Cody (Latimer) and Bennie (Fowler),” Shula said of Manning.

“I said about a month ago that he looks like he’s in better shape than he was last year, and I still think that. I think he’s really dialed in.”

...So did Daniel Jones

The rookie quarterback was no slouch either in the various drills. One of the knocks against Jones has been a lack of arm strength; well so far this spring, he’s debunked that as a myth, tossing some nice passes down the sideline and connecting with receivers.

One pass in particular that was impressive was to tight end Scott Simonson. Jones threaded the needle and Simonson, who had a ball go off his hands earlier in the day, somehow twisted around and came down with this one despite having multiple defenders closing in around him.

Jones continues to play with jumpy feet in the pocket. When he takes the snap and drops back, he tends to jump up and down slightly and will also give the ball an extra pat or two.

All of these little habits make for the ball either coming out of his hand late, which sometimes leads to him putting a little extra on the pass to make up for lost time. Hopefully, as he continues to be groomed for the starting job, the coaches iron these wrinkles out.

Speaking of Jones, he’s been doing the majority of his work with Jon Halapio at center. I mention this because on the surface it looks like there’s a competition for the starting center spot, but I am not so sure that’s necessarily the case.

I think the reason why the Giants rotate Halapio and Spencer Pulley in at center with the first-team offense is to give Halapio, who is still recovering from a broken leg, some breathers given that the first-team offense does get the bulk of the reps.

Remember this name

Tight end C.J. Conrad has had himself a nice spring going back to the rookie minicamp when he first made himself noticed with his pass receiving ability. With Evan Engram sidelines this camp, Conrad got some first-team snaps and justified the coaches’ confidence in him by coming up with every ball thrown within his catch radius.

Head coach Pat Shurmur was spotted giving Conrad some instructions during the team’s final special teams drill toward the back end of practice. Conrad then proceeded to go out on the field and take a smart angle on a play that was run at half speed, causing Shurmur to give a little celebratory fist pump.

“He’s done a really good job,” Shurmur said after the practice. “He’s gotten a lot of reps. He’s a smart player, and each day he gets better. He’s one of those young players who’s taken advantage of all the reps he’s getting, and he’s fun to be around because he’s really into it.”

Conrad is competing with Scott Simonson and Garrett Dickerson for the third tight end spot on the roster.

Roll call

Three prominent Giants were missing from today’s practice: receiver Sterling Shepard, cornerback Sam Beal, and safety Jabrill Peppers.

Head coach Pat Shurmur said that Shepard was being treated for a wrist injury, an injury he stressed was not something they were worried about. Peppers had a tooth extraction but was expected back at work for Thursday’s practice. And Beal was excused due to a personal matter.

Corey Ballentine, who had been working with the third team defense, took snaps with the second-team defense at cornerback, alternating with DeAndre Baker.

Otherwise, the same players who missed Tuesday’s practice — tackles Nate Solder and Mike Remmers, tight end Evan Engram, receivers Brittan Golden and Alex Wesley, quarterback/tight end Eric Dungey, defensive lineman Olsen Pierre, and safety Sean Chandler — were on the side for Wednesday’s session.

The effect of the youth movement

Veteran linebacker and defensive captain Alec Ogletree admitted what we all knew about last year’s defense: that the unit didn’t put the best product out there on the field.

But this year, he’s feeling a lot better about the defense’s chances of playing better ball, and it’s all thanks to the youth movement on the defensive line, linebackers and defensive secondary.

“They definitely try to keep you young,” he said with a chuckle. “You bring new faces in. They definitely bring a new energy, but it keeps us guys that have years in the league definitely on our toes.”

Besides the youngsters rejuvenating the returning veterans, Ogletree said those who survived the tear-down of the unit last year feel they have something to prove.

“Guys that were here last year and that came back are looking forward to this year, to going out there and proving that we are a good defense,” he said. “We just have to put the work in.”

Other observations

  • Receiver Darius Slayton has done a nice job this spring cutting down on dropped balls. That was a problem in college and when he first got here, but so far this week, I don’t think I’ve seen him drop a single pass that was within his catch radius.
  • Running back Paul Perkins is turning quite a few heads this spring. After missing last year due to a pectoral injury, Perkins has been rotating in with the first-team offense and has looked much more confident as a runner and as a receiver.
  • Cornerback DeAndre Baker continues to impress. He’s been playing with a purpose out there and took full advantage of having most of the snaps with the first team defense to himself. “Like all those young guys, he is working and coming with good questions. Him, Grant and Beal—all those guys are competing their butts off to be the guy opposite (Janoris Jenkins), said defensive coordinator James Bettcher.

Up next

The Giants wrap up their three-day minicamp on Thursday. They will then have one more week of OTAs before breaking for the summer.