Today was the Giants last open training camp practice for fans at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, NJ. With the weather conditions being absolutely perfect, 80 degrees, partly sunny, and a nice cooling breeze, I just could not miss out on this last opportunity to see the GMEN practice in person.
The practice itself was slow, and mostly uneventful. The Giants were not in pads today, so there was no hitting. It was nice to see rookie Odell Beckham Jr. taking reps on the practice field, as he has been mostly absent due to a hamstring injury. He looked smooth and quick when running his routes and showcased his soft hands on a couple of occasions. He even joined in a couple of team drills during the 11 on 11’s.
Another wide receiver, Mario Manningham, struggled again. He still looks very slow, especially watching him run the same route right after seeing Rueben Randle run it. To me, he will need to really step it up to make the 53 man roster. Speaking of Randle, the biggest negative on the day involved the young receiver having more miscommunication issues with Eli Manning. Randle ran a stop & go, and Eli was expecting him to sit on his route, leading to an easy Zack Bowman pick six. Giants’ fans saw way too many interceptions caused by these two not being on the same page last year, and it was a little disconcerting to see they are still having issues. Hopefully, this gets worked out over the last couple of weeks of camp.
Overall, the offense was up & down. Painter continued his trend of playing well, even leading the Giants to a two minute drill touchdown with no time on the clock to close out practice. He made a perfect throw to wide receiver Preston Parker, another player on the roster bubble who shined today.
The defensive unit was a stark contrast to the offensive unit. They were whooping and hollering after most plays, and seemed very energized. Mathias Kiwanuka had a fantastic pass block of an attempted Manning-to-Randle wide receiver screen. If Kiwanuka had not blocked the pass, the play would have been blown up by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who continues to impress. Jameel McClain also exploited a shaky offensive line and would have had a sack on Eli Manning if it was a real game. Young cornerback, Ross Weaver, made a couple of nice plays, including one on camp breakout star Corey Washington. Walter Thurmond III also had a strong practice, something that could be said about a lot of the Giants defensive backs.
While watching the Giants practice was a thrill, as it always is for me, one of the most enjoyable parts of my experience today was talking with the old school Giants fan I was standing next to. He was telling me stories of his favorite Giants’ teams of the late 80’s and early 90’s. We also both got a big kick out of Rodney Hampton being at Giants camp today, one of my childhood favorite GMEN. It was just great to spend the day watching my favorite team, and also talking about them with another true die hard Giants’ fan.
In my humble opinion, there truly is no greater fan base in sports than the New York Giants fan, especially the old school fans. I could sit around listening to stories of the Giants of past for days on end. Hopefully, 20 years from now, I will be attending Giants training camp and talking to a young fan about that great 2014 Giants’ team. Hey, we can all dream, right?