Share Print RSS Mike O’Hara’s camp observations

Mike O’Hara recaps highlights from Wednesday’s training camp practice at Wayne State.
ebron-article-73014Coach Jim Caldwell promised that Lions fans would see a normal training camp practice Wednesday night at Wayne State’s Adams Field, but he gave a hint of what’s to come later in the week.

Caldwell asked his players to increase the tempo, with the team in shoulder pads for the first time in camp.

“Nothing unusual,” Caldwell said of Wednesday’s practice plan. “You’re going to see basically the same type of practice that we’ve had. For the most part, it’s going to look similar to what you’ve seen.”

But that will change Friday when full pads go on for the first time for the fifth day of camp.

“We’re still in the process of working our way into full pads, which we want to have on, probably on Friday,” Caldwell said. “But we’re making some strides. Tonight (at Wayne State), you’ll see a little more hitting than you’ve seen before, but hopefully we’ll keep everybody up off the ground.”

Players practiced in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts Wednesday night. They wear football pants when they’re in full pads.

Golden hands: Golden Tate made a catch and run that showed why the Lions made it a priority to sign a receiver who not only would be a complement to Calvin Johnson but also one who could make plays on his own.

Tate caught a pass over the middle and raced through a seam up the middle for a long gain. Eventually, he changed direction, from left to right, and ran out of bounds. It was the explosion after the catch that stood out as a sign that defenses aren’t going to be able to concentrate as much on Johnson this year as they have in past seasons.
Rookie hands:
Eric Ebron, the rookie tight end – or pass catcher, as he prefers to be called – made a rolling, tumbling catch inside the 10-yard line early in practice. He beat a linebacker on coverage to make the grab.

“It’s one of those plays where I exploit the middle,” Ebron said. “It’s one of the reasons they drafted me. Hopefully those plays help Calvin out and Golden, by me operating in the middle. It was just a throw and catch, and I made a great catch.”

Later in practice, Matthew Stafford and Ebron just failed to connect on a deep throw down the left sideline against tight coverage.

Thud: Caldwell said there would be more contact on the third day of practice than there was on the first two, and linebacker DeAndre Levy provided early with a hit on running back Mikel Leshoure. There was no tackling, and Leshoure bounced off and continued running, but the hit got a roar from the crowd.

Leshoure didn’t mind the contact a bit.

“It’s our first padded day,” Leshoure said. “Coach wanted them to thud the running backs. Just starting up a little contact today. Not too much. It’s football. I expected it.

“We knew what was coming. We knew want he wanted.”

Back home: Running back Joique Bell, a Wayne State alum, got a big reception from the fans in his return to the place where he made a name as a Division II star.

Brock Coyle was ready when the Seahawks needed him

When leading tackler Bobby Wagner left Tuesday’s training camp practice with a tight hamstring, rookie free agent Brock Coyle stepped in at middle linebacker and the Seahawks’ defense didn’t miss a beat.

140729coyle600Ken Norton, Jr. reminds the Seahawks’ backup linebackers on an almost daily basis about the importance of being ready to step in whenever needed.

During Tuesday’s practice at the team’s training camp presented by Bing, rookie Brock Coyle discovered why. When two-time leading tackler Bobby Wagner felt a hamstring tighten while chasing running back Robert Turbin up the sideline, guess who stepped in at middle linebacker on a defense that led the NFL in average points and yards allowed last season?

That’s right; it was Coyle, a free-agent from Montana who signed with the Seahawks after not being selected in May’s NFL Draft.

As has been the case so often in the past few seasons for the defending Super Bowl champions, Coyle didn’t just step in, he – all together now – stepped up. And he did it not only in the base defense, but also in the nickel package used on passing downs.

On back-to-back plays in the 7-on-7 drill, quarterback Russell Wilson dumped the ball off to Turbin and fellow running back Christine Michael. Each time, the 6-foot-1, 243-pound Coyle was there to thump them almost as soon as the ball settled into their hands. On another play, Coyle rocked rock-solid tight end Zach Miller with a well-timed and well-placed shot.

And so it went for the rest of practice, with Coyle in the middle of a unit that includes the All-Pro duo of cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas, the disruptive trio of linemen Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Brandon Mebane and versatile and productive linebacker K.J. Wright.

Coyle played like he belonged in this impressive company, and that’s why Norton was smiling as the players and coaches left the practices on the shores of Lake Washington.

tempRM2_2946-2--nfl_mezz_1280_1024“It’s amazing, he had a fantastic practice,” said Norton, a former All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebacker and the only player in NFL history to win three consecutive Super Bowls in a 13-season career that was split between the Dallas Cowboys (1988-93) and San Francisco 49ers (1994-2000).
Norton wasn’t amazed that Coyle was able to do what he did, because he has liked the linebacker since before the draft. The satisfaction in this situation came from Coyle showing while working with the No. 1 defense the same traits he had displayed while lining up with the second and third units.

“Coyle has been a guy that a lot of people have been talking about,” Norton said. “Now he has the opportunity. And when opportunity knocks, you’d better answer.”

Enter Coyle, who followed that knock of opportunity by knocking some people around during a practice that was televised live on ESPN.

“He’s ready for it,” Norton said. “He’s been eager. He’s been really studying.”

And this wasn’t a one-practice proposition. Wagner could miss a few days, and outside linebackers Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin and Korey Toomer remain sidelined, so we’ll all see more of the kid from Bozeman.

“This is why I’m here,” Coyle said. “With coach Norton, we don’t want to skip a beat – especially for me being a rookie. You want to come in there and show the coaches that I can play, show them that if Bobby goes down I can come in and help out.”

Wagner’s take? “Brock did really well,” he said. “It was obvious he’s been studying and been watching. He was flying around and making a lot of plays. I was just glad to see it.”

From beginning to end, Walter Jones was a Hall of Famer

Monday metatarsal musings: With Walter Jones being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, it’s a good time to revisit how he became a Seahawk and how quickly he began performing like one of the best to ever play the game.

49ers Seahawks Football“From Day One, once I got in the league, that was the standard that I set – that I wanted to be a guy that when you talk about offensive linemen I wanted my name to come up.” – Walter Jones, July 28, 2014

Now that Jones is about to go where every player wants to get, but the only crème de la crème are allowed, it’s worth revisiting how he became a Seahawk and how quickly he became a player that was an obvious choice to be elected to and enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – which will happen on Saturday in Canton, Ohio.

How he got here – The Seahawks had their sights set on Jones in the 1997 NFL Draft, despite the fact that the athletically gifted left tackle played only one season at Florida State. But they also wanted Shawn Springs, the cornerback from Ohio State.

They traded into the No. 3 spot in the first round prior to the draft and used the pick to select Springs, but also had a deal in place to secure the No. 6 pick they would use on Jones. Or so they thought.

When then-vice president of football operations Randy Mueller called the New York Jets to complete the trade, he was informed the Jets had traded the pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As Mueller was uttering, “Damn,” and before he removed his hand from the receiver, the telephone rang.

It was the Buccaneers, offering the No. 6 pick to the Seahawks for less – the No. 12 pick in the first round and a third-round selection – than they were prepared to give the Jets.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” Mueller would later say. “You go from thinking you’re in position to get Walter Jones to having the deal fall apart in a matter of seconds. Then, just as quickly, you have the pick – for less than you were expecting to give up – and you’re drafting Walter Jones.”

The significance of that now-you-have-him, now-you-don’t, now-you-do-again moment in franchise history cannot be overstated. Over the next 12 seasons (he spent 2009 on injured reserve), Jones would be voted to a franchise-record nine Pro Bowls, named All-Pro six times and selected to the NFL Team of the Decade for the 2000s.

The difficulty when you play offensive line is that there just aren’t the statistics available to make the comparisons from other lineman to another, one generation to another.

temp05_X157457_TK1_1769-2--nfl_mezz_1280_1024Not with Jones. In 5,703 passing plays during his career, which included 180 starts, Jones allowed 23 sacks – or one every 248 pass plays. In 12 seasons, he was called for holding nine times.

“That’s unbelievable,” Mueller would say when Jones was announcing his retirement in 2010. “That might be as good a stat as I’ve ever heard.”

How quickly he became a player that was worthy of being considered an eventual Hall of Famer – Jones was a late arrival to training camp in that summer of ’97 because his contract was being worked out. He didn’t report to Eastern Washington University until Wednesday in a week when the Seahawks would play their third preseason game on Saturday night against the 49ers in San Francisco.

The obvious question: Would Jones play after having just two practices and a walkthrough to prepare?

And the obvious man to answer that question: Howard Mudd, the veteran line coach. Mudd had crashed his bicycle while riding around the EWU campus and injured a knee, so he was getting from Point A to Point B in a golf cart. As I was walking back from the practice field, I heard a cart approaching. It was Mudd.

“I hear you’re looking for me,” he said.

“I am,” I replied.

“Then get in,” Mudd said.

As we made our way from the practice fields to the dining hall, Mudd said all the things he was supposed to say: Jones would see spot action. We don’t want to throw too much at him in this first game. He’s only a rookie who has missed so much of training camp.

Camp report: Lewis ditches Oklahoma; Hill makes some plays

There may have been no Oklahoma Sunday in Bengaldom, but Louisiana was well represented by rookie running back Jeremy Hill.

training-camp-072714Marvin Lewis deep-sixed the Oklahoma Drill with his eye on the Ravens Sept. 7.

One of the staples of the dozen seasons of the Marvin Lewis regime has been the famed/outdated Oklahoma Drill. But when he scratched it Sunday and went with the half-line drill in front of about 1,400 on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields, it was more evidence how the game has changed in the 21st century.

Yet it is also indicative of where his team is. Deep and talented and coming off three straight post-season berths, what does this Bengals team get out of cracking each other over the head?

“It’s not 2003. We know who 35, 40 of the players are going to be. Let’s make sure those 35 to 40, we give them every opportunity to get to Baltimore in one piece,’ Lewis said of the Sept. 7 NFL regular season-opener.

But it was a late scratch. Lewis, who knows some of his players and coaches aren’t enamored with it, was ready to go. He had the Oklahoma Drill matchups posted in the locker room Sunday morning, but with the threat of severe weather, the state of some injured players, and the new rules getting more and more of a foothold, Lewis waved it off.

Instead, Lewis is pleased with how the club hit Saturday in shoulder pads and Sunday in the first day of full pads. They’ll go full pads again Monday (3 p.m.) and Wednesday (3 p.m.) and then start backing it off, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement and the Aug. 7 pre-season opener in Kansas City.

“We were able to have a productive period that otherwise, literally, we would have had guys running into each other,” Lewis said. “It’s not quite as productive for the video. We got the same thing done. We got the stock-and-releases (the blocking by the receivers) in real football down there. We got the half-line offensive run work and defensive front work so we can look at technique. But to have somebody just step and prop, that’s not how we play defense.”

But he’s got to take advantage of these days in pads because they’re running out of them.

“After Wednesday, then we’re 2/3 done with the amount of pads we wear for the rest of the year other than playing games,” Lewis said. “Then I hold my breath and hope we don’t run into anybody.”

He hinted there could be a live period Friday in the 6 p.m. practice on the PBS practice fields.

PLAY OF THE DAY: In a practice that was run oriented (quarterback Andy Dalton was six of nine passing in 11-on-11), let’s go with Lewis’ decision to scrub the Oklahoma Drill.

“I guess there were a lot of guys still recovering from soreness from the days before. If everyone’s not good to go and not practice, there’s no point in doing it. We did another drill for the same physicality and it turned out well,” said middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.

The half-line usually features three offensive linemen and a back against two down linemen and two linebackers. Maualuga thinks that’s about as realistic as the Oklahoma.

“It’s not realistic,’ he said. “It’s a half-line drill and the running back thinks he’s free. It makes us look bad. At the same time, not everybody is there to play it. It’s more for everyone to work together as opposed to going on your own.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Most definitely. Most definitely. Those guys (the defense) have been yapping all week. It’s a friendly competition and I just wanted to get that done. That bravado is what allows them to play better. I’m glad we have a defense that plays with swagger and plays fast. That’s going to make us better every day….Hopefully we can do it, if not we’ll still continue to get better every day.” Rookie running back Jeremy Hill on if he was disappointed the Oklahoma Drill was scratched.

PLAYER OF THE DAY: Hill. This second-round pick’s kind of day. The 230-pound Hill is supposed to excel because of the way he runs with his pads. As he says, “Any time I get a full head of steam, the defense is going to be in trouble.”

Hill lowered his pads in the half-line and doled out some shots in 11-on-11, too. On the last run of the first 11-on-11 period, he cut it back underneath a pulling guard on the power play as if he’d been running it for years.

In a way he has because Hill’s offensive coordinator at LSU, Cam Cameron, has coached with Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.

“They have some of the same sayings, some of the same jokes…Sometimes I laugh inside my head. No one else knows it,” Hill said. “It’s helped me a lot having a guy that comes from the same background. I relate quicker and it’s an easier transition to a lot of the plays.”

Hill also didn’t look out of place in the blitz pickup drills. Linebacker Vincent Rey became the first Bengal ever to have three sacks and a pick in the same game last year in Baltimore, but on Sunday Hill stood him up both times in the drill.

“Some guys are faster, some guys are slower. Some guys can bull rush, some guys have a plethora of moves that they can use to beat you,” Hill said. “I just think you have to know your opponent. Have a happy median on where to attack them. They’re not going to play me no matter how well I run the ball if I can’t pick up the blitz.”

Urgency Arrives At Cardinals Camp

Arians, players know there are only so many chances to be successful
Bruce Arians’ coaching seat couldn’t be steadier after engineering a five-game improvement in his first year with the Cardinals in 2013. Likewise, there are players on the team who figure to be core pieces for seasons to come.

KyleOpenerMAINHowever, as the Cardinals kicked off training camp with their conditioning test at University of Phoenix Stadium on Friday afternoon, Arians was clear that it shouldn’t just be the 30-something veterans who feel a sense of urgency as the countdown to the 2014 season begins.

While wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, linebacker John Abraham and defensive tackle Darnell
Dockett are on the backside of their careers, the same may be true for players still in their 20s.

“Every season should (have urgency), because every one can be your last, as a coach and a player,” Arians said. “I can testify to that. There are windows for guys, and you want to put a ring on their finger.”

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is one of the long-tenured veterans, now entering his 11th season with the Cardinals. He made the Super Bowl with the team in 2009, but does not have a title.

Dockett fully understands the importance of camp and how it will affect the regular season. He
said two or three bad practices now could keep the Cardinals out of the playoffs in January.

It wasn’t a surprise to him to see good energy on the first day. The real test comes a couple weeks from now.

“The first five days I’m not really worried about,” Dockett said. “I’m worried about guys on Day 12, Day 13, when you have to really find out what you’ve got left in the tank. When those days come, I’m going to remind guys what it felt like to miss the playoffs by one game.”

The full 90-man roster – save for linebacker John Abraham, excused for personal reasons — was back together for the first time since minicamp, and Arians was pleased with the condition of the players. Defensive tackle Dan Williams, who at 314 pounds is built for interior line battles and not long sprints, received a specific mention for his performance.

“I thought Dan Williams was as sexy in the run test as he’s ever looked,” Arians said.

tempRT--nfl_mezz_1280_1024.TeamarrivesBefore the test, the players settled into the hotel that will be their home for nearly a month. The start of a new season always brings forth optimism, but even moreso for a team which won seven of its final nine games.

“It’s like a kid waiting on Christmas day,” running back Andre Ellington said. “We’re all excited to get back on the field and get this thing going.”

The Cardinals will hold their first of 18 open training camp practices on Saturday, and pads will go on Monday. Arians said he has “great confidence and optimism” at this juncture, but will get a better gauge once the hitting commences.

“I don’t want to get too excited,” Arians said. “We’re still in shorts.”

Jimmie Ward Debuts, Intercepts Colin Kaepernick

Not a bad first day for the San Francisco 49ers first-round draft pick.

temp0723140002--nfl_mezz_1280_1024About an hour or so into his first on-field work of the summer at training camp, Jimmie Ward showed exactly why he was the 30th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Ward, who had missed OTAs and minicamps due to a foot fracture, saw an opportunity in a 7-on-7 passing drill and seized it immediately when a deflected pass landed nearby.

A Colin Kaepernick throw bounced off the hands of wide receiver Chuck Jacobs and stayed in the air long enough for Ward to swoop in for an impressive diving interception.

Ward described it this way to reporters after practice: “I was in nickel (coverage), and I had inside help. I saw the linebacker take the number two (wide receiver). It was a double-slant. (Cornerback) Chris Cook made a good play on the ball, and it was tipped, and I dove and caught it.”

It was the first of two Kaepernick interceptions on the day. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith later cut off running back Kendall Hunter to nab a takeaway during a later 7-on-7 period.

Kaepernick, even with the two takeaways, had his share of quality throws on the day. Ward would later play as second-team strong safety for most of the team periods.

Offensive Play of the Day

Vernon Davis returned to training camp as the team’s top tight end. But the veteran’s presence didn’t disrupt the strides of second-year tight end Vance McDonald.

In the first team period of the day, McDonald leaped in the air to catch a high pass from Kaepernick over the tight coverage of new strong safety Antoine Bethea.

It was the type of reception that instantly caused a roar from the players on the field.

Defensive Play of the Day

Ward’s interception was surely a memorable moment for his first ever training camp practice. But the Northern Illinois product got his day started with solid reps in one-on-one drills against San Francisco’s deep group of receivers.
Ward showed no fear against the likes of Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson. When it was the rookie’s turn to face Johnson, Ward quickly beat the veteran receiver to the inside and broke up a slant pass thrown by Kaepernick.

The pass breakup was a prelude to the impressive interception.

“It was a good first day,” Ward said. “I’m with the twos, so I’m just trying to fit in any way I can.”

Roster Update

Defensive tackle Justin Smith (shoulder) and offensive tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder) did not practice. They worked out on the turf field and later watched the final team periods.

temp0723140006--nfl_mezz_1280_1024Members of the PUP (physically unable to perform) list did not practice. The group includes linebacker NaVorro Bowman (knee), tight end Garrett Celek (back), nose Ian Williams (leg) linebacker Aaron Lynch (hamstring) and defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey.

NFI (non-football injury) list members also were not practicing. The group included wide receiver Bruce Ellington (ankle), running back Marcus Lattimore (hamstring, knee), center Marcus Martin (ankle), fullback Trey Millard (knee), cornerback Keith Reaser (knee) and guard Brandon Thomas (knee).

Observations

-Running back LaMichael James and wide receiver Devon Wylie handled all of the punt return duties on a windy Santa Clara day.

-Crabtree joined Anquan Boldin, Brandon Lloyd and Johnson for a red-zone pass-and-catch period with Kaepernick, Gabbert and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The most unique sight was Crabtree wearing a red-hooded sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off during the drill. He wore the hood while catching passes.

-Quarterback intern coach, George Whitfield Jr., worked with undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner during the special teams period. Faulkner worked on body mechanics, including a handful of throws with his left arm completely by his side.

-Chris Culliver lined up with the first-team defense at left cornerback and showed solid coverage skills. The fourth-year defender missed the ’13 season due to a torn ACL at last year’s camp.

-Other starting lineup notes included Joe Looney at right guard for Alex Boone and Jonathan Martin at right tackle for Anthony Davis.

-Former defensive tackle Will Tukuafu, who now only plays fullback, caught two passes on the day.

-Lloyd caught the longest ball of the day, a 60-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert during 11-on-11 work. The reserve defensive unit was sucked in by a play-action fake, allowing Gabbert to uncork a perfect deep ball into the waiting arms of the veteran receiver. Safety D.J. Campbell was closest to Lloyd at the time of the reception.

Share Link Print Email RSS Camp Notes 7/23: Red zone and RG battle

The Bills got red zone work in and the battle at right guard took a turn on Wednesday.

woods-notes-7-23-cpWednesday’s morning practice brought the first red zone work of training camp. It was a pretty even battle inside the 20-yard line between the offense and defense.

The defense had the upper hand early with good coverage in end zone on most of the early snaps during 7-on-7 red zone. Rookie Preston Brown and Corey Graham had pass breakups and DE Jarius Wynn had a sack.

But the offense did turn in some plays of their own with Robert Woods making a difficult catch in the end zone along the right sideline. EJ Manuel threw the pass behind the defender’s back and Woods reached around him to pull in the ball for the score.

C.J. Spiller had a nice looking cutback run to the backside of the play and waltzed into the end zone and Thad Lewis took a read option keeper over the goal line on a good play fake.

Defensively, Stephon Gilmore had a pass breakup in the back left corner of the end zone on a pass intended for Watkins. Duke Williams also foiled a pass that had Chris Hogan targeted.

Safety Da’Norris Searcy registered a tackle for loss when he got good penetration and tapped out Spiller in the offensive backfield.

Sammy Watkins got another red zone series going with a touchdown grab in the end zone on a throw from Manuel. Scott Chandler pulled in a pass from Thad Lewis in the back of the end zone. And rookie Caleb Holley made a leaping, twisting catch in the back left corner of the end zone for a score at the close of the final red zone segment.

The execution all around appeared better than it was the day before, but head coach Doug Marrone said there is still a considerable amount of ground to cover.

“I think as a coach my expectations of our performance, especially in practice, is always going to be extremely high,” said Marrone. “There are a lot of things on my mind that I want to make sure we get better with. When you look at where we were last year to where we are now it’s very encouraging, but still in terms of my expectations of where we need to take this team and we have to perform better.”
Right guard battle

Marrone confirmed on Wednesday that there is a competition going for the starting right guard position. The comment came in the wake of Chris Hairston appearing at right guard with the first unit at practice. Hairston was first put there back in the spring. The third-year player is learning the position on the fly, but credits teammates and coaches for bringing him along including the man with whom he’s competing.

“Wherever I can help this team, wherever I can make this team, it’s something I’ve got to work on. Guard is very new to me. I’m learning a lot more about the game and the intricacies of playing guard,” Hairston told Buffalobills.com. “(Kraig) Urbik is helping me out, (Eric) Wood is helping me out. The coaches are doing a real good job of really giving me some time and good teaching. A little bit of getting in with the ones and playing against good (players) is always good. It’s helping me come along.”

Hairston is battling with incumbent Kraig Urbik for the right guard spot. Urbik saw most of his work Wednesday with the second unit, but did rotate in with the first group at times.
Searcy faring well

He was considered the favorite going in to land the safety spot alongside Aaron Williams in Buffalo’s secondary and though it’s early there’s no sign of that changing at this point. Da’Norris Searcy has done well in the practice setting at camp, much like he did in the spring. It has Marrone believing in the safety’s versatility after watching him excel in a hybrid nickel linebacker role in 2013.

“Da’Norris has really played extremely well starting in the OTAs,” said Marrone. “He did a very good job for us last year and I thought at times he didn’t get enough credit for the plays that he made. He made a lot of big plays for us.

“When he came to the OTAs, he’s very solid, good at what he does. Very knowledgeable, he has good instincts. He’s been playing very well and I’m excited about that. He’s a multi-position player. He can play the back end safety for us. He can play up on the line of scrimmage. He can blitz and play man to man. He gives us great versatility and he can play special teams. He’s a great value for us.”

In addition the defensive staff might see a benefit in the fact that Searcy has played with the rest of the starting secondary for the better part of the last two seasons and that group knows how to play off one another already.

“Pretty much everyone knows that me and Aaron came in together and Leodis was already here and the next year we got Stephon so that’s three and a half, four years we’ve been playing together,” Searcy said. “So just being back there with each other every day for the past four seasons now we know how everybody is going to play. Being comfortable with each other back there is great.”
Picking up the pace

The Bills offense still wants to push tempo in games and operate at a breakneck pace. Optimum speed has not yet been reached in the early practices to this point, but Marrone believes the collective foot will be on the gas soon.

“It needs to move a lot faster on and off the field and doing that,” he said. “Obviously we’re re-installing again so I know in the back of my mind that may slow things down a little bit. But my expectation is to be right on the money with it so we have to be faster.”

Five things we learned at practice

Here are five things that we learned at today’s #GiantsCamp practice

NFL Draft Football1. McClain left practice early.Jameel McClain, who was playing middle linebacker with the first team in place on injured Jon Beason, had to leave Tuesday’s practice with what Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hoping “is just a matter of a sore foot.” The Giants opened practice with Jacquian Williams and rookie Devon Kennard playing on his outside. Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich also rotated in and out with the top unit.

2. Beatty and Brown rotated at left tackle. The first-team offensive line was in constant rotation on Tuesday. The Giants opened with Charles Brown, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Brandon Mosley, and Justin Pugh. Brown alternated on the outside with Will Beatty, who is limited coming off a fractured leg. Rookie second-round draft pick Weston Richburg also moved to right guard — Chris Snee’s former position — when Brandon Mosley left practice early on a hot day at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

3. Wilson looked dynamic as ever. Running back David Wilson, who was cleared on Monday for full participation in camp after undergoing a fusion of the vertebrae to repair the herniated disc in his neck in January, took reps with the second-team offense. He was tempD4S_8727--nfl_mezz_1280_1024making cuts like his old self and still looks like one of the most athletic players on the field.

 

 

4. The first interception of camp went to DRC. Offseason acquisition Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie got off to a fast start in his first training camp with the Giants. The cornerback picked off Eli Manning early in team drills on a pass intended for rookie Odell Beckham Jr., who pulled up on the route. Second-year safety Cooper Taylor grabbed the second and final interception of the day later on a tipped pass from Curtis Painter. Rookie safety C.J. Barnett almost made it back-to-back picks on the next play but couldn’t quite come down with the ball.

5. Ryan Nassib is making his case. The second-year quarterback picked up where he left off in spring football and showed good command with the second-team offense on Tuesday. Among all the sophomores on the team, Nassib has stuck out as one of the players who has improved the most from year one to year two.

Seahawks fans camp outside CenturyLink Field for single-game tickets

On Monday, several regular season single-game tickets were made available exclusively at the CenturyLink Field box office, where many Seahawks fans camped overnight to ensure a seat in the stands.
140721-1and2-campers-600The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the Seahawks single-game tickets.

Seahawks fans Luke Duett and Cody Huard – cousin of former Seahawks and University of Washington quarterback Brock Huard, were the first and second fans in line at CenturyLink Field’s exclusive single-game ticket on sale, which opened to the public at 10 a.m. Monday.

Duett and Huard, who both hail from nearby Kent, Wash., showed up on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. – two days before tickets were to be available. But the pair was turned away by stadium staff for being a bit too early. They returned to the loudest venue in sports at 10 a.m. Sunday, setting up their tent for a 24-hour stay with 12s that measured a few-thousand strong by Monday morning.

“It’s been good, there’s Seahawks chants, pick-up football games, Frisbee, Pictionary, we were ready,” said Huard. “We kind of tried to nap, but it was a little hard. It kind of rained. I’d say 2 a.m. was when we finally got some sleep.”
With the 2014 regular season officially sold out as of 1:50 p.m. Monday, the wait was worth it for Duett and Huard, who used their prime position to purchase tickets to the regular-season opener against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 4 and to the NFC West showdown with the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 15.

“It’s a weight off our shoulders because we get whatever we want,” Duett said of being the first fans in line. “It’s a bragging rights thing, really.”

140721-12camper-400Also holding a great deal of bragging rights was Kirkland, Wash. native Marcus Carroll, the 12th fan in line at CenturyLink Field this morning.

“I got about half an hour of sleep last night, maybe,” said Carroll, who was accompanied in line by his mother, Pam. “I was in a little chair. I didn’t bring my tent or anything. It started raining, so I don’t know if I was just so tired that it felt like I fell asleep and woke up, or if I actually fell asleep and woke up. I’m not sure.

“But I’m here. I’m alive. I’m No. 12 – the 12th Man, getting my tickets.”

Carroll, who in case you were wondering bears no relation to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll like the aforementioned Cody Huard did to Brock, also used the opportunity to seize tickets to the team’s opener against Green Bay and the rival matchup with San Francisco.

“It was absolutely awesome,” Carroll said of his overnight experience in the stadium’s north plaza. “Everybody kind of just walked around, met everybody, and we all just had a great time.”

Camp Countdown: How Improved Will Geno Be?

The Jets Seek Improvement From Smith in Year 2 With Veteran Vick in the Mix

In the weeks leading up to the Jets 2014 Training Camp, we will take a position-by-position look at some of the key storylines to follow this summer. qbs-story-top

You can’t contend in the National Football League without quality quarterback play and Jets’ signal callers have battled consistency issues throughout the Rex Ryan era. But the Green & White have expressed a lot of confidence in Geno Smith and they are optimistic he can turn the corner in Year 2.
1. Ball in Geno’s Court: The training camp depth chart hasn’t been released yet, but second-year QB Geno Smith will be on top when it is.

temp20140602-06-Vick-052714--52---nfl_mezz_1280_1024“He’ll get about let’s say 70-75 percent of the reps with the 1s,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told reporters this spring. “Geno, I’ll get him a couple reps there with the second group as well. Here’s my job, this is my responsibility and my duty really — I have to continue to progress the young quarterback that’s got 16 games under his belt. That has to happen.”
2. Quality Insurance Policy: If that young quarterback doesn’t progress, the Jets have an excellent reliever in the bullpen in Mike Vick.

Boyd-front-060214-38“He’s still got some unbelievable physical talent,” Rex Ryan said of the only player in NFL history to pass for 20,000 yards and rush for 5,000 yards. “He does things that look so easy, it is almost effortless the way he can throw the ball. Obviously he possess great speed, skill and escapability, so those are things you notice. He’s accurate on the move and he’s been the kind of teammate we expect.”
3. Run Game Threats: While Vick’s prowess on the ground is well-documented, Smith became a far more effective rusher in the season’s final quarter. He ran for 186 yards and scored three TDs on the ground while averaging 6.0 yards a carry as the Jets closed out 2013 on a 3-1 run.

Quintin Mikell, Geno Smith“Both of those guys are mobile quarterbacks,” said assistant head coach/RB coach Anthony Lynn. “You can do some zone read things with those guys that traditional drop-back passers can’t get away with. That helps the running game as well, but it also opens up the passing game.”

“That slows down rushes a little bit,” added QB coach David Lee. “You’ve got to think hard about your blitzes with a guy that can run. We’ve run the option with (Smith). He’s done a great job with that.”
4. Air Jordan Approach: Last summer at SUNY Cortland, Geno Smith told me he was a Michael Jordan fan because MJ held his teammates to the utmost accountability. After leading five game-winning drives and becoming the 13th rookie QB in NFL history to throw for more than 3,000 yards, Smith is very comfortable in a leadership role.

ALl-In-Vick-060414-1“Every single day it’s about really trying to chase that perfection, just trying to get better every single day, working on my craft and pushing the guys,” he said. “We all want to be great. We all want to be good players. We all want to have a good offense, but it takes every single man on this team.”

“He tries very hard to stay on the same page of the receivers, so if there is a miscommunication on a route that he has a question on — they talk as a group now,” added WR coach Sanjay Lal. “Hey what did you see? This is what I saw. This is what I saw from a quarterback’s perspective and he really relays that to receivers, so they can see it through his eyes. And that’s a big step.”
5. Battle for No. 3: Both veteran Matt Simms and rookie Tajh Boyd, a sixth-round selection from Clemson, will have to take advantage of limited reps. Simms took great strides last season and got his feet wet in mop-up duty while Boyd was a collegiate standout who completed 64.3% of his passes for 11,904 yards with 107 TDs and just 39 INTs for the Tigers.

The 34-year-old Vick, who played four seasons under Mornhinweg in Philly, will be a sounding board for the young group.

“When he says something, the experience, the 10 years behind him and he’s played, those guys listen,” said Lee.