ALBANY, N.Y. -- With 98 percent attendance during the offseason training program, Giants coach Tom Coughlin feels he has good reason to be excited about the 2010 season.
Camp preview: Bouncing back?
Will Brandon Jacobs return to form as an elite running back? Or is it time to feature Ahmad Bradshaw? That's just one issue facing the Giants in training camp. **More ...**
They come to camp as a bunch of prideful guys with an edge, believing that they're better than advertised.
As All-Pro guard Chris Snee said, "We are a prideful group that wants to get back to winning football."
With everyone around the country talking about the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants are the forgotten team. But my warning is this: Not so fast. This team is working hard to turn things around and isn't using the injuries of 2009 as an excuse for the collapse. Even Eli Manning took a long, hard look at being sacked 30 times and evaluated what he could do better to eliminate the problem.
» Two things jumped out at me during the morning practice on Monday, and they were reinforced in the afternoon. The offense is way ahead of where it was last year now that the receivers have been established, and Brandon Jacobs is 100 percent healthy.
» Secondly, the defense is much more upbeat with passionate Perry Fewell coordinating the unit. He is running around practically jumping on loose balls himself and getting his players to understand what an up-tempo practice looks. More importantly he's getting his players to understand what it can lead to.
» Some of the media have already written off Rich Seubert as the starting left guard of the Giants. After watching two practices and talking with a number of offensive linemen, it wouldn't surprise me if he holds off the competition and keeps his job. As one assistant coach said, "Seubert is a vocal leader and will not surrender his spot to anyone."
» All three running backs with medical issues last year looked great at practice. Jacobs had a down hill run that burst into the second level of the defense -- no trouble with the hamstring. Ahmad Bradshaw had a stop and start run that forced him to change direction four times, and he still escaped the grasp of the defense. Andre Brown, a second-year runner who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon, moved around extremely well.
» There's a rookie free-agent wide receiver who really surprised me a lot. Little 5-foot-8, 165-pound Tim Brown was great in practice. As one player said, "He can do many of the things Sinorice Moss does for us." Brown may get caught up in the numbers game with all the good receivers, but he should enjoy a good camp and find his way to the practice squad.
»Jason Pierre-Paul ("JPP" as Coughlin referred to him) lined up at left defensive end most of the day and surely looks the part. He gets out of his stance well and usually leads with his hands and can be very active. He is raw, but he's also very motivated. There were times I thought the coaches, especially defensive line coach Robert Nunn, will get on him for his lack of pursuit. From my vantage point it appeared more like Pierre-Paul was uncertain rather than lazy. He just hasn't played enough football to key and diagnose well, but the tools are in place.
»Linval Joseph might be the Giants' best looking physical prospect. The veterans have already pronounced him as the second strongest player on the team to Chris Snee. If you get a chance to come to training camp make sure to watch those two go at it in one-on-one drills. Joseph should play a significant role in the run defense.
» The signing of veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck makes it shaky for Phillip Dillard in the middle, but I got a good chance to watch him in the morning practice. He may be able to do the job based on what I witnessed. Dillard can drop deep into coverage, he can work down the line of scrimmage, and he can take on a blocker.
"It was a life-changing moment in my life, and I learned to appreciate every moment and go for it." -- Mathias Kiwanuka on his brother's motorcycle accident that almost took his life
» The Giants, on both sides of the ball, want to clean up their red zone production. The defense was the worst in the NFL last year, and the offense was 23rd in touchdown production in the red zone. The addition of safeties Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant should help repair the mistakes made.
» When I asked Manning about his 30 sacks taken he said that "every sack has a story." Some were his fault, some were attributed to protection issues and still others were due to route running and receiving skills. He also said he has watched every one of those sacks in the offseason, and he and his offensive teammates plan on fixing the issue this summer.
Manning is throwing the ball better than I have ever seen. After a career-high 27 touchdown passes last year, I expect him to break 30 this season.
» Rolle had something real nice to say about wide receiver Hakim Nicks: "He reminds me of Anquan Boldin with his ability after the catch."
» Tight end Kevin Boss is feeling confident heading into 2010. on his steady rise in production from 33 receptions in 2008 to 42 in 2009 "It is about team, but I also have a goal of 50-60 receptions this year," said Boss, who increased from 33 receptions to 42 from 2008 to last season. "Eli Manning trusts me."
» The Giants seem very comfortable in the shadow of the Cowboys and the rest of the NFC East. At least five players said there's nothing to talk about and that they're ready to let their play on Sundays do the talking. This year I see the Giants playing right down to the last week for the division title and making the playoffs one way or another.