The New York Giants are off Tuesday, which makes it a perfect day to discuss overall thoughts on what we have seen and heard during the first few days of the team's 2015 training camp. That is convenient since it is the traditional day for 'Five things I think think' about the Giants. So, let's start thinking.
I think this camp feels different
Yours truly has been attending training camp practices since 2009, and each training camp has a different feel to it. Part of that is because the atmosphere is much different at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, which isn't really set up for fans, than it was at the fan-friendly UAlbany. Part of it, though, is that after you have been through this a few times you can start to see through some of the smoke.
Every year players say they believe their team has the talent to be a Super Bowl contender, to be really good. When I think back on the past couple of camps, veteran players were saying the words but I'm not sure they believed them. Those teams had issues, and you got the sense that while they didn't want to admit it, they likely knew it.
The feeling around this team is different. Maybe it's because there aren't a half-dozen or more guys riding exercise bike rather than practicing every day. Maybe it's because Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz have practiced every day. Maybe it's because they know how special they can be on offense. Maybe it's because while there are question marks on defense, players are obviously excited about playing for Steve Spagnuolo, are buying into what he's selling, and are playing with passion.
Maybe it is all of that. Maybe it won't translate to more wins. Maybe it will. There is, however, a better feeling around this team than there has been the past couple of years.
I think Jerry Reese needs to be right about the 'D'
During his training camp press conference on Sunday, the general manager expressed confident that the team's defense would be better than it was a year ago.
"I think we'll be really good defensively. I think we're going to surprise people," Reese said. "I think we have five defensive ends that we feel like can play and play at a high level at that position. I do think our defense is going to be a better unit than it was last year."
For the Giants to have a chance to make the playoffs, he better be right. If the Giants' offense is anywhere near as good as many think it could be the defense does not have to be great. It can't, however, be ranked 29th in the league -- like it was in 2014.
Spagnuolo's defense has to be adequate. Better than adequate would be nice, of course, but adequate would be enough to give the offense a chance to win games.
I think Eli Manning looks terrific
This is a revealing quote:
Coughlin is, of course, way more qualified than I am to judge how his veteran quarterback is playing. I don't know that I would go as far as Coughlin is saying that Manning looks better than ever, but the 34-year-old looked fantastic in the spring and has continued that during the first four days of training camp.
Every camp Manning seems to throws some passes that simply reek of "I'm gonna throw this for the heck of it to see what happen, even though I know I shouldn't." There haven't been any of those this camp. To my recollection, Manning has yet to even throw an interception during the first four practices. He looks comfortable, confident, in control and he is throwing the ball crisply.
I think safety remains a huge concern
You could tell from the heavy sigh that escaped safeties coach Dave Merritt when he began speaking with reporters on Monday that the Giants' questions at safety have yet to be answered. Merritt said there is "no clarity," but that he expected the picture would "clear up right away" when the preseason games roll around.
The biggest problem remains communication and whether or not the rest of the defense can trust players to make the proper calls in a timely fashion.
"When you look at these linebackers and the corners they need to feel comfortable about who's going to be back making the calls," Merritt said.
Despite Merritt's contention there are no starters, it has to be as close to a lock as you can get that rookie Landon Collins will be one of them. It makes sense that Bennett Jackson has emerged as potential partner because Jackson's background as a corner give him the range and ball skills to be a free safety. It is unfortunate that Nat Berhe is so far behind after missing the spring because he was likely the presumptive favorite to win the job.
I think the WR competition is the most interesting
There are four players who have locks on wide receiver roster spots. Those are Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Dwayne Harris. The Giants will most likely keep six wide receivers -- which leaves Preston Parker, James Jones, Corey Washington and Geremy Davis fighting for two roster spots.
How the Giants sort out who gets those two spots in anybody's guess. You can make a solid case for each player.
Parker was a solid player for the Giants a year ago and offers them insurance as both a receiver and a return man. Wide receivers coach Sean Ryan on Monday praised Parker's toughness and his play-making ability.
Jones has quickly shown why he has 383 career receptions. He is a superb route runner, and a savvy, knowledgeable pro.
Washington is the 6-foot-4 fan favorite who has potential as a red zone threat. Ryan praised his progress and said he had an excellent spring.
Davis catches everything thrown in his direction, has shown better route-running ability than he was supposed to possess and could be a key special teams contributor on coverage teams.
Four players. Two spots. No clue who gets them.