John Fennelly, Lead Writer
Minicamp is over and the Giants are not scheduled to reconvene until a month from tomorrow, when they open their training camp here at QDTC.
What have we learned thus far about this team, which underwent an overhaul and facelift this offseason? Was it enough?
Training camp will provide those answers for us when the Giants make their cuts from 90 players down to to 53. This year, that won’t be easy to do. They have a lot more talent under their roof this summer.
Decisions still loom on the offensive line, the focal point of GM Jerry Reese’s quest this offseason to get his club back on track. All-Pro guard Chris Snee (hip, elbow) and starting LT Will Beatty (leg) have yet to prove they are healthy enough for action.
“They’re guys that have played but I surely understand that they’re rehabbing some injuries so we have to be patient with that. Hopefully they get back sooner than later,” OL Pat Flaherty told reporters Thursday.
Flaherty has been a top OL coach for many years in this league and has a track record of molding lines out of spare parts and loose ends. This year, he’s been handed several new charges to go along with the incumbents. But make no mistake, iit would be a huge weight off his back if he had those two Super Bowl-winning veterans up and running, especially Beatty.
“The way that you have to approach things in this game is that when a player is rehabbing an injury you have to get your next guy ready,” said Flaherty. “As a coach that’s all you can do. You trust the player that they’re going to get back as soon as they can, we have an outstanding medical staff as you well know, but as a coach I have to continue to get somebody ready to play because the game doesn’t stop. We’ve got to keep going.”
That next guy is free agent signee Charles Brown, who was responsible for watching Drew Brees’ back in New Orleans the past several seasons.
“He’s going to be one of the options,” Flaherty said. “That’s why we signed him in the offseason, for that reason and that’s why he signed with the New York Giants because he knew there was going to be an opportunity. He, as well as the rest of the offensive line, are still learning the new system so there are some growing pains there but we hope in training camp that each day is going to be a better day for all of those guys.”
Another veteran being added to the mix this year is John Jerry, who was the third wheel in the Miami Dolphins’ “Bullygate” scandal that rocked the NFL. The Giants feel Jerry will paint within the lines going forward, but there’s a small problem: he’s missed most of the offseason with a knee injury, but should be ready for training camp.
“We signed John in the offseason and, again, I say that we signed him and he signed with us for the opportunity to be a starter for the New York Giants,” Flaherty said. “What do I see in him? I see to plug him right in and see how quickly he can make up the time that he lost in the past couple weeks. Any time, I think one of the great questions is: ‘How is so and so improving because he’s been injured?’ Well, you really only improve in football by doing football activities. That’s how you improve in terms of technique and fundamentals.”
The one position on the line Reese addressed with bold strokes was center. Where there was none, there are now two: veteran JD Walton and second-round selection Weston Richburg. It’s a fresh approach as the Giants try to distance themselves from David Baas and Jim Cordle.
“I think the center position is as important as a left tackle, as a right guard, as a left guard, as a right tackle,” Flaherty explained. “What we’re going to ask our center to do in the months coming forward is to help us more with the directing of the offense and take some of that off of the quarterback with our system. Does that change a lot? I’ve always been the type of coach where everyone in our room should know the offense. If you are a center you have to know what the guard does, if you’re a guard you have to know what the tackle does and then when you really get good and know the offense you know what the running back does so we’ve always approached it that way, that’s the way I teach so we move forward in that fashion.”
So, how is it going…?
“They’re getting better every day. They really are,” said Flaherty. “They, a lot of those guys in that room besides JD and Weston, they’re really taking the bull by the horn and challenging themselves to learn the offense. I’ve been pleased from that standpoint and the learning part that’s going on each and every day.”
The line remains a work in progress, but it does appear they’ve plugged holes and upgraded in many of their “need” areas. Then, there are the in-house solutions that bubble up to the top. In this case, third-year OL Brandon Mosley, a player who the team hoped would emerge at some point, is on the verge of doing just that. That has not escaped Flaherty’s eye as Mosley fills in at RG for Snee these days.
“I see improvement on a daily basis, I really do. He’s, as we sometimes forget, Brandon is really in his second year. His first year he was on IR. He was with us in training camp and then he had his foot operated on and he was put on injury reserve so he missed a year of football activity. Last year was really his first year and he was progressing very well and then when he had the opportunity to really take the bull by the horn again Detroit he went against a good football player and was rally battling pretty good and then he broke his hand and it started all over for him again. The one thing this spring showed for him and showed for us is that you’ve got a lot of reps and he didn’t miss any time. That’s a good step in the right direction for him.”
Flaherty is an old dog that has to keep coming up with new tricks. It keeps him young and energized, if not creative. He’s enjoying the challenge of rebuilding the Giants’ offensive line and turning back into one of the league’s top units…
“Change is going to happen, we all know that. I like it, I really do. I mean, do I miss, you always miss people that you’ve been around for a lot of years, sure. But we all understand in most businesses that there is going to be change on sometimes a daily basis, most of the time on a yearly basis and that’s the profession that we’re in right now. So it’s a challenge because we have a mixture of youth and some veterans that come in from other teams that have to learn a whole new offense, as myself. Any time you have that type of… when you’re a competitor as you are as a player and a coach you kind of grab a hold of that and it’s fun. It is.”