Monthly Archives: July 2012

JPP taking Giant steps toward LT stature?

Jason
ALBANY, N.Y. — ”JPP” is no “LT,” but he’s getting there. And fast.

New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (my photo of him, above, at camp on Monday) is so dynamic a game-changing pass rusher— so scary good — that he’s reminding NFL observers of a Giants’ Hall of Fame pass rusher of yesteryear. One Lawrence Taylor.

As Taylor was, Pierre-Paul is freakishly super-athletic — at times seemingly unblockable.

Defensive linemen are considerably beefier and faster since Taylor terrorized NFL quarterbacks in the ’80s. At 6-foot-5 and 278 pounds, Pierre-Paul is about two inches taller and 45 pounds heavier than LT in his heyday.

As LT was in comparison to his contemporaries, JPP has long arms, and possesses incredible burst, power and speed for his size.

“He’s a physical force,” head coach Tom Coughlin said.

And fast as hell. JPP ran the 40 at the combine two years ago in 4.7 seconds.

No, really.

In his second NFL season last year, Pierre-Paul tallied 16 1/2 sacks, when 10 is a solid year for a defensive end. Taylor and Michael Strahan are the only

Giants ever to drop the quarterback that many times in one season.
It gets better.

Pierre-Paul arguably was the lynchpin in the Giants’ dominating front seven late last year, which helped take the team to the Super Bowl championship.

And JPP is only 23 years old, probably as young as dozens of this year’s rookies.

He told reporters the other day at Giants training camp at the State University of New York (Albany) that he is only going to get better — a lot better.

“Trust me, I don’t know it all,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot to learn about the game of football. I’m doing quite a good job of it, but I’ve still got a lot to learn.”

Asked if he’s only, say, 50% of what he can be, Pierre-Paul agreed. So did his defensive coordinator.

“That’s pretty good math by JPP,” Perry Fewell told reporters Monday. “I can remember as JPP and I were going through and talking about the defences, he had a lot of questions. But I was in the meeting room with him yesterday, and he had more answers than questions. Some of the questions (were) very technical.”

So far in the NFL, Pierre-Paul has relied mostly on his rare athleticism. At times, Fewell admitted, he and his coaches just get out of the way and unleash JPP on opposing offensive lines.

“You don’t try to coach him too much, because you don’t want to screw him up. That’s the best thing about coaching him right now, because he understands the game to a certain degree, but he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do … So we try not to over-coach him.”

The son of Haitian immigrants, Pierre-Paul was born in Deerfield Beach, Fla., and refined his craft after high school at College of the Canyons in California, at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, and at the University of South Florida.

A first-round draft pick two years ago (15th overall), JPP picked up 4 1/2 sacks in his rookie year with the Giants. Last year he was named to the Pro Bowl.

It probably won’t be his last.

“He doesn’t feel like he’s arrived yet,” said veteran Giants DE Usi Umenyiora.

“He works in the practice field, he takes notes in the classroom … He’s going to be a phenomenal player for a long time.”

Fewell is telling JPP he can expect to be a marked man in every game this year.

“Just what the offense is doing to him, how they’re trying to take advantage of him and how he can counteract that,” Fewell said. “And how some of the offensive linemen are trying to set him up in different ways.

“He came in as Jason Pierre-Paul, this defensive end. And now he’s JPP, so people are going to study him a little bit more and pay more attention to him.

They’re going to have something ready for him this year, so he’s going to have to be a lot smarter about how he plays the game.”

Pierre-Paul seems to possess the desperate hunger to improve — a trait that separates most sports superstars.

“I’m just trying to be that 23-year-old kid trying to make the football team, like I don’t even have a spot on the team,” he said

Oh, he’ll have a spot on the team. Likely for years to come.

—–
Giants stopped celebrating when the rings arrived

ALBANY, N.Y. — There comes the time when every championship team must cease celebrating, and start devoting themselves fully to doing it all over again.
For the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, that moment arrived when a heavy, valuable piece of jewelry arrived in the mail.
“I think it was after we got our rings,” defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “After we got them, it was time to get back to work. That was it.”

Leafs GM attends NY Giants camp practice

Brian

burkie

ALBANY, N.Y. — Hey, wasn’t that Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke? Here at the New York Giants’ training-camp practice?

Indeed it was.

Burke was a guest Monday of Kevin Abrams, the Giants’ assistant GM — and a Canadian.

Abrams was raised in Toronto and earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont.

Burke watched from areas restricted to the media on Monday as the Giants practised in pads for the first time. He walked near a group of reporters and photographers at one point, which is when we spotted him.

A Giants publicist confirmed Burke’s presence and described it as a “professional friendly visit” with Abrams.

Rex Ryan probably won’t be happy to hear about it.

The head coach of the Giants’ crosstown arch-rivals, the New York Jets, grew up a huge fan of the Leafs.

If Burke is on the search for truculence, he’d sure find that and more at the Jets camp in Cortland, N.Y.

My Tebow Touch + why he can’t throw

Tebow

If I hadn’t had both hands on my camera, I swear I would have caught this Tim Tebow bounce-pass to me at New York Jets practice on Sunday. He might not have been intending to throw it to me, but hit my hand it did. See, he’s locked right on to me!

 

CORTLAND, N.Y. — I got a hand on as many Tim Tebow throws as his wide receivers did Sunday morning during his first series of 11-on-11 reps at New York Jets training camp.

Honest ta gawd, I think I did.

That as much as anything shows how ridiculous it is, really, that anyone might think Tebow would give the Jets a better chance to win than entrenched starter Mark Sanchez. At least in a traditional NFL offence.

Here’s how my Tebow Touch happened.

TebowThe pop-culture phenom went 0-for-3 on that series. His first incompletion was a swing pass to the left. He misfired, hard and high. The ball skipped up and over the advertising signs that separate the media from the main practice field at SUNY-Cortland.

I happened to be standing at that exact spot, behind the signs, taking photographs. The ball bounced right up at me, and with my right hand I batted it down to another reporter’s legs.

Yes, I’ll wash that hand again.

After watching Tebow throw for three hours, I can’t help but wonder how in the hell he ever led an NFL team to one win last year, let alone to one playoff win, as he did with the Broncos.

Here’s the deal.

His delivery is slow. Achingly slow. His shoulder swivel on his follow-through seems truncated to me. And when he speeds things up, he practically abandons his shoulder swivel altogether, which probably further hurts his accuracy.

TebowBut it’s way more complex than that even.

Greg Cosell, the NFL Films expert known for his astute critiques of player mechanics, informs me that four “departments” must work together, and fire at the right time, for a QB to be successful in the pros: legs, shoulders, hips and arm.

Arm is only 20% of it.

“Tebow’s legs, hips and shoulders don’t work in proper Tebowsequence,” Cosell says, “thus his arm speed is very slow. Limited velocity.”

So, he releases it slowly and throws it slowly.

By contrast, the Tebow Media Circus travels on hyper-speed.

More than 80 reporters and cameramen were on hand Sunday. You cannot have claustrophobia and survive an impromptu scrum around here.

The coverage is only intensifying. ESPN will air live reports from here all this coming week, even building a special set. All Tebow, all the time. Olympics, shmolympics.

Tebow make news whether he seeks it or not. At the end of Saturday’s practice, held in a downpour, he removed his drenched jersey and ran off the field, bare-chested.

Many Olympic events will not receive the same coverage from U.S. media.
Tebow and Sanchez are speaking to the press only on a limited basis at camp. Sunday was not one of those days.

To their credit, Sanchez and Tebow are doing all they can to avoid sparking any unintended controversy between them. It can’t be easy.

Especially because, as Jets head coach Rex Ryan reiterated Sunday, they’re not exactly Joe Montana and Steve Young.

Ryan also reiterated that Sanchez is the starter — full stop. But he sees value in Tebow coming in occasionally to run an alt.offence of sorts, one that we’re suspecting will be more zone-read than Wildcat.

“As much as I loved (ex-Jet and current Buffalo Bill) Brad (Smith running the Wildcat), Brad wasn’t going to give you the inside running game that Tim can give you. And Tim can throw the ball (pause) … a little better than Brad.

“Tebow is a guy that we know can be effective.”

Especially running the ball. Reportedly now weighing 251 pounds — 15 pounds more than listed — Tebow is a load. He’s powerful, has good vision and is far more slippery than he’s given credit for.

Off the field, Tebow of course is a superstar. He might now be the best-known NFLer in America. His unabashedly strong religious convictions got him there.

Beyond all that, his teammates seem to genuinely like him, respect him, and want the best for him — just as the Broncos did, and as his University of Florida teammates did before that.

“How can you not accept somebody who has humility, who works hard, who is a great teammate?” said veteran linebacker Bart Scott.

“You’ve seen the cameras that follow him. Half of you guys wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t here. But he takes it all in stride, and it never affects his relationship with his teammates.”

But they do chuckle sometimes at how news follows Tebow at every turn.

Such as the episode in the rain on Saturday.

“The slow-motion run,” Scott said, chuckling. “Like I told him, I’ve never seen anybody decide to take their shirt OFF in the rain. Usually I put stuff ON.

Maybe it was holy water, I don’t know.”

Speaking of which, it says here that if Tebow cannot dramatically improve his passing mechanics, it’ll take divine intervention to get him another starting job in the NFL.

That said, heaven help us all if Sanchez falters this fall.

Tebow

Bills D dominates + VY rolls out the barrels

Mario

Mario Williams pulls up on a pass rush to avoid killing QB Ryan
Fitzpatrick Saturday in the Buffalo Bills’ first practice with pads in 2012. My photo, here and below…

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — All that off-season talk sure appears justified about the Buffalo Bills suddenly having a vaunted defensive line.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey on Saturday afternoon summed up what was plain for all to see, after the team went at it in pads for the first time in 2012 at St. John Fisher College.
“I thought the defence dominated the practice,” Gailey said off the top.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on offence to meet their level of play right now. It’s a little bit different than it has been, and it’s good for our football team.”
And the focal point of the defence’s dominance was along the line of scrimmage.
Big-buzz free-agent acquisitions Mario Williams and Mark Anderson — both defensive-end pass-rush specialists — ate up the OL much of the time. So did tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. And all of their backups.
“They’ve got some good players, and they work hard, and they play hard and they’re good leaders,” Gailey said. “That’s a strong group up there.”
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was harassed often, and probably threw far more incompletions than he did in any previous OTA or pre-season practices.
To be fair, the first-string offensive line had two backups, plus arguably its second-best left tackle.
AndersonRookie LT Cordy Glenn was with the twos on Saturday, and second-year man Chris Hairston (left, vs Anderson) took the first-team reps, as they alternate by day. As well, starting centre Eric Wood is not ready to go yet after off-season ACL surgery (Kraig Urbik took his spot), and starting right tackle Erik Pears aggravated a lingering groin-muscle injury on Friday and was replaced Saturday by his backup, Sam Young.
MarioYoung was tasked with blocking Mario Williams, who always lines up at left DE. Williams blew him up a lot of the time (see right), crashing underneath Young, blowing around him, or just ploughing him inside.
Williams also displayed savvy awareness in pass coverage on one play, quickly diagnosing a bang-bang bubble screen thrown laterally to his side by Fitzpatrick. Williams instantly halted his pass rush and took off back toward the receiver. If tackling were allowed Williams would have been in on it, for a loss or negligible gain.
The DL’s dominance only increased as the second- and third-teamers got reps.
“That’s where probably most of our depth is — in the defensive line,” Gailey said. “I would expect that to happen here for a while until we can get our offensive line geared up to the speed of the game.
“From shorts to pads it goes up a speed, and then you go to pre-season games and it goes to another speed. So we’re going to have to gear it up to meet the challenges, offensively.”
The Bills defence statistically was the seventh worst in the NFL in 2011. New coordinator Dave Wannstedt has discarded the failed one-year attempt to run a 3-4 and installed an attack 4-3.

Mario

Super Mario was super hot.

Fitz

This was Fitz’s view on more than a few pass plays.

 

OTHER INJURIES: Wideout David Nelson went down on one of the first 11-on-11 plays, and hobbled off after hurting his right leg. “(Medical staff) said it’s like a bruise,” Gailey said. “They don’t think it’s any kind of ligament (injury) or anything like that. So we’ll see what the determination is tomorrow, probably.”
In addition, oft-injured DE Shawne Merriman rolled an ankle near the end of Friday’s practice and sat out Saturday, and DT Kellen Heard‘s sore ankle kept him out, but slot CB Leodis McKelvin practised after leaving Friday’s practice with an illness.

THIGPEN’S STRUGGLES CONTINUE: Tyler Thigpen took second-team reps at QB, as he continues to alternate by day with Vince Young. While Young again didn’t raise eyebrows with his play, Thigpen again was the master of the cringe. Late in the day in 11-on-11s, Thigpen threw two bad picks. Just as with the two interceptions he threw on Friday, both times Thigpen locked onto blanketed receivers yet delivered anyway. He did complete one nice pass on a slant to WR David Clowney, and looked good on a zone-read keeper. Otherwise, yeesh.

EXTRA POINTS: Linebacker Bryan Scott was the only player who wore game pants. Everyone else either was in shorts or sweats … In 7-on-7s, WR Stevie Johnson had a few impressive catches that wowed the thousand or so fans in attendance, one on a deep post in double coverage.

TOMORROW: The NFL Circus, aka New York Jets camp, as my seven-camps-in-nine-days tour continues…

- – - – - -

Vince hits the barrel on the head — twice!

Vince Young won’t be challenging Ryan Fitzpatrick any time soon as the Buffalo Bills’ starting quarterback.
BarrelBut on Saturday at training-camp practice, Young succeeded in a fun but difficult test of accuracy — twice! — when Fitzpatrick couldn’t.
Young twice lobbed a ball about 27 yards and into a stack of barrels — and hit the rim another time.
Fitzpatrick, as well as backups Tyler Thigpen and Brad Smith, couldn’t sink one.
Each QB attempted about 10 passes from about the eight-yard line on near-side hash-mark, throwing toward the barrels stack in the same-side corner of the end zone. By my pythagorean-theorem calculations, that’s 27 yards.
Fitzpatrick wasn’t happy about it either. After practice, he tried again. Twice. And failed both times.

10 more observations from Friday’s Bills practice

Donald

Bills WR Donald Jones — yeah, morning walkthroughs lack excitment. (my photo from Friday)

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Ten other observations from the Buffalo Bills’ afternoon practice in shells on Friday afternoon at St. John Fisher College:

1. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is almost always dead-on accurate, and has made few bad throwing decisions in the three OTAs and one camp practice I’ve attended. He is wholly comfortable and confident in this offence. That goes two ways. Head coach Chan Gailey and GM Buddy Nix underscored in separate interviews with me on Friday their confidence in Fitz to lead this offence and this team to the playoffs.

Cordy

2. Cordy Glenn (right) is friggin’ huge. He’s listed at 6-foot-6, 345 pounds. He must have had one foot off the scales when they weighed him. His listed weight reminds me of a story Lee Corso once told on a USFL broadcast, about a player who weighed 345. His nickname? “Quarter-to-four.”

3. Glenn, a rookie, is battling second-year man Chris Hairston (below right) for the key left-tackle starting spot. Glenn appeared to struggle quite a bit on Friday while working with the ones. Late in the 11-on-11s, backup defensive end Kyle Moore kept blowing past him. But it’s early. Hairston worked with the twos on Friday (he and Glenn are alternating by day) and had his struggles at times too. Nothing counts, Gailey reiterated Friday, until Saturday’s scheduled first practice of the year in full pads.

Chris4. After Leodis McKelvin left practice with an illness, rookie Ron Brooks got quite a few reps with the ones at nickelback, covering the slot receiver. As defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt told me last month, Brooks is super fast and athletic. Just raw. Justin Rogers also got time at slot CB.

5. The punters were killing it. Starter Brian Moorman and undrafted rookie Shawn Powell had a healthy wind at their backs, granted. But by my count both twice launched rockets from their own 20 that landed between the 5 and the 15 of the opponent. And I wasn’t paying attention the whole time they were punting.

6. The OL with the ones in the final 11-on-11 reps on Friday were, left to right: Glenn at LT, Andy Levitre at LG, Kraig Urbik filling in for still-recovering Eric Wood at C, Chad Rinehart at RG and Sam Young at RT, with Erik Pears seemingly stretching out a leg tweak.

7. CB Stephon Gilmore, the Bills’ No. 10 overall draft pick in April, seemed to be playing less press-man coverage in 11-on-11s than I remembered from OTAs. That is insignificant, as Gailey told me earlier the coaches are mightily impressed with Gilmore’s press-coverage abilities. Gilmore made a few stellar plays Friday, including a first-rate PBU against Derek Hagan on a quick slant. Gilmore is the real deal.

8. Fullback Corey McIntyre, an eight-year man out of West Virginia, had a couple of nice grabs — including a deep one after being flanked wide, which might have gone for six in a game. McIntyre is listed at 6-foot, 245, but appears shorter and heavier than that, with remarkable agility and speed for a man so squatly built.

9. Fans and media alike got a brief, glorious chance to watch up close DL coach Giff Smith working out his players on a huge blocking sled, on the defence’s practice field. The sled was situated less than 20 feet from the end fence, where more and more people started gathering. It was a rare chance to see, hear and practically feel the violence of the collisions that occur all game long in the NFL.

10. Star DE Mario Williams stayed and signed autographs as long as any other player afterward. He was swarmed. It prompted some of the loudest yelling of the day from Bills fans.

Hopefully the weather co-operates on Saturday afternoon. At 8 a.m., it was dismal, overcast and had rained a bunch overnight. Now at 10 a.m. it’s merely overcast. We’ll see.

On Sunday, my nine-day, seven-team NFL camps trip continues. Second stop: New York Jets camp in Cortland, N.Y.