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Mini-camp Notebook
By Ken Palmer

Head Coach Jim Fassel said that this was his “most pleasant” mini-camp since he came aboard before the 1997 season. Perhaps it was because everyone stayed healthy and there were no problems. Also, most likely, Fassel is pleased because it sure looks like, in the early returns at least, that he has a solid draft class that may be able to contribute sooner rather than later.
“It’s like opening Christmas presents,” Fassel said.
From the seven draft picks to the longshot rookie free agents to newcomer Kenny Holmes, there were 48 players present for Fassel and his staff to watch over. Also looking on were several veterans. CBs Emmanuel McDaniel and Reggie Stephens watched from the sideline, as did DT Ryan Hale. MLB Micheal Barrow even popped his head in for a peek.
Another reason for Fassel to smile was that he expects RB Sean Bennett, LB Dhani Jones and OT Chris Ziemann – who all watched but didn't participate – to be ready for the veteran mini-camp, which will be held June 4-7. All three finished last year on injured reserve, with both Bennett and Jones out all season. One unfortunate rookie free agent candidate – Penn State S Titcus Pettigrew – worked out for Big Blue Friday morning, but wasn't signed.
While it’s always tough to make strong evaluations when players aren't in pads and participating in contact drills, here’s a position-by-position look at how the weekend unfolded.

QB – One of the major stars of the mini-camp was fourth-round pick Jesse Palmer. He showed great arm strength and accuracy. He also seemed to pick things up pretty quickly and did a good job of checking off to second and third receivers. Numerous times, Palmer caught everyone’s attention with perfectly thrown deep passes. His throwing motion is very tight and quick; he zips the ball without much wasted movement and is able to fire the ball well on both short and longer passes.
Palmer said after one of the practices that Fassel had tweaked a couple things in his delivery, which helped him out a lot.
On Friday, Palmer caught a lot of eyes, but his best practice may have been Saturday morning, when he connected on several throws in a row, including deep balls down the middle to Jonathan Carter and Pat Woodcock.
“He can throw the ball through the wall,” Fassel said. “He’s got a very strong arm. He’s thrown the ball very well.”
With how impressive Palmer looked all weekend, most of the lines of questioning once again turned toward Florida Coach Steve Spurrier and what negative affects he may have had on Palmer. It didn't take Fassel long to notice.
“You can tell that Spurrier stepped on him some,” Fassel said after Sunday’s practice. “There were a few times during the mini-camp when Jesse threw a pass and before it even [reached the receiver], he was looking at me, asking, ‘Is that right? Is that where I’m supposed to go with it?’ And I’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s right. You’re right.’ He was looking for the okay.”
Without indicting his former coach, Palmer all but admitted that it was pretty tough to survive practices while at Florida.
The only other question regarding Palmer was whether or not he could handle himself when the real bullets start flying. We’ll have to wait until preseason to see about that. That was the problem with the previous third-stringer, Mike Cherry. He had a strong arm and knew what he was supposed to do, but when he got into game situations, he had difficulty incorporating everything all at once. Jason Garrett was the oldest veteran player taking part in mini-camp – partly because he wanted a little extra work, and partly because New York needed another arm.
“I’m glad that Garrett’s around to get some work and to help show Jesse some things,” Fassel said. Garrett uncorked a beautiful pass on Saturday afternoon, a perfect bomb down the right sideline to Ron Dixon that split two defenders.

RB – Without any drafted backs, all eyes were on last year’s number one pick, Ron Dayne. And he didn't disappoint. Again, it’s tough to judge running backs when they’re not getting tackled, but Dayne looked to be moving around pretty well. He was most impressive in the passing game. Dayne checked in with the two best moves of mini-camp, one successful and one not. On Saturday morning, Dayne drew oohs and aahs as he put an ‘ankle-breaker’ move on LB Josh Stamer. But Dayne failed to catch the short pass. That afternoon, Dayne ran the same route on another unsuspecting LB, and once again got himself wide-open. This time, however, he was able to gather in the pass, drawing playful applause from several of his teammates.
Dayne, who looked to be about the same as last year’s playing weight of 253, said that he’s run the famous hill at Ramapo College a few times and that he plans to continue to. He’s also trying another tactic this off-season, one designed to help him concentrate and focus on football. He’s living without his fiancée, Alia, and their two children. She’s back in Madison, Wis., working on her master’s degree in journalism. It’s been tough for Dayne so far. “Of course, I already miss them,” he said.
One RB who never has to worry about his weight is Joe Montgomery, who is always in tip-top shape, but hasn't been able to consistently get on the field during his first two seasons. He caught the ball well, and seemed to run as hard as he would in a game all mini-camp. The Giants say that they never really tried to unload Montgomery and are glad that they have him, as he could step in for either Tiki Barber or Dayne without the club missing a beat.
Damon Washington, last year’s special teams ace, also showed good quickness running the ball, and good hands gathering in passes.
There was a trio of fullbacks on hand trying to make the club as Greg Comella’s backup. West Virginia’s Anthony Green is a Jersey City, N.J., native with good size (6-2, 245) and speed, while 6-1, 230-pound Adam Wright (Nebraska-Omaha) looks like he may be a very solid blocker. They both seem to have an early lead over Central College (Iowa) product Mark Kacmarynski, who is 6-0, 229.

WR – Fifth-round pick Jonathan Carter got a chance to show his 4.32 speed, and he fared pretty well. While obviously raw, Carter seemed to have better hands and route-running ability than advertised. He caught a couple deep balls, and while he let a few passes slip through his hands, he seemed to catch the ball pretty comfortably.
“He’s got a lot of raw talent,” said Fassel, who added that Carter is “a little behind” where Ron Dixon was at this point this last year.
Ron Dixon also took part and was pretty impressive. His speed, hands and ability are not in question; what it comes down to is whether or not he can keep his focus on football.
Last year’s fifth receiver, Thabiti Davis, turned in the best catch of the entire camp. He went deep down the left sideline on Saturday afternoon and made a leaping full extension grab at the sideline. Fassel was very impressed, twice yelling, “Heck of a catch, TD.”
Quinton Spotwood, who finished last year on the practice squad, also looked very good. He runs very precise routes and showed very dependable hands. He can push himself into the mix for the fifth receiver spot.
One player who won’t be around come opening day is Syracuse product and Canadian native Pat Woodcock. Given unlucky number 13, the 5-9, 166-pound Woodcock will be simply an extra set of hands for training camp.

TE – While Jesse Palmer threw the ball well and the drafted corners both showed themselves very well, there was only one mini-camp MVP, and that honor went to TE Marcellus Rivers. The Oklahoma State product came highly-regarded, and he even surpassed the sizable expectations that preceded him. He clearly needs to put on some weight and get stronger, but he caught everything in sight, from all areas on the field. He was as adept getting open on short crossing routes as he was getting deep downfield and running by cornerbacks. For those upset that New York didn't draft a tight end, one look at Rivers will set your mind at ease.
It didn't take him long to get going, making a very impressive leaping grab on Friday afternoon that had Fassel, Ernie Accorsi and Pro Personnel Director Marv Sunderland exchanging smiling glances. The Giants considered drafting Rivers in the seventh round, but gambled and signed him right after the draft. Before the Draft even ended, Fassel was on the horn with Rivers, and that made all the difference.
“I knew even if I didn't get drafted, I would get an opportunity to play,” Rivers said. “Several teams called me, but all the rest had their personnel guys make the call. Coach Fassel was the only coach who called. I knew from my visit here before the draft that if I wound up with the Giants, I’d be surrounded by people who would work with me.”
And Rivers also made an impression on Fassel, writing him a heartfelt thank you note after his visit. “That was a nice gesture,” Fassel said. “That just shows you a little about the kid. On the field, he’s been very impressive. He’s a pass-catching athlete.”
As for why he was available after the Draft, Fassel said, “I don’t think at Oklahoma State that he got a chance to really show his abilities.”
The knock on the 6-4, 231-pounder is that he’s severely lacking in strength. He ranked the lowest of all the TEs at the combine, bench-pressing 225 pounds only seven times.
“Most of the work I did in college was to get faster and quicker,” said Rivers, who was basically an H-back at OSU. “But one of my goals now is to get stronger. It’s something I need to work on.”
“It’s a heck of a lot easier to take a guy with great hands and athleticism and have him build strength than to take someone who’s as strong as an ox and try and put hands on him. That never seems to work,” Fassel said. “I feel a lot better about our tight end situation now than I did a few days ago.”
Giants LB Jack Golden, who was a teammate of Rivers’ at Oklahoma State, had this to say: “He’s a great athlete, and a tremendous, tremendous tight end. He has great catching ability, running ability and blocking ability. He’s an all-around good player. He’s really the total package.”
The other tight ends in camp were clearly overshadowed, although Colorado’s Brady McDonnell caught almost everything thrown his way. Adam Young, who finished last year on the practice squad, also fared pretty well.

OL – The Giants had eight offensive linemen in camp – four rookies and four holdovers. Chris Bober was running at right tackle, Jason Whittle at both guard positions, while Scott Kiernan and Jim Goff took some reps at center.
As for the newcomers, Louisiana Tech OT Terrance Sykes was the most impressive. He has a decent chance to make the club as a reserve tackle. Sykes, who played LT in mini-camp, is very athletic, and looks like he’ll be able to add some weight to his 6-6, 270-pound frame. Rich Seubert, from Western Illinois, is the other tackle in camp, and was also working on the left side. Ray Redziniak (Illinois) can play both guard and center, and Brockport State’s Josh Warner manned left guard.

DL – The defensive line standout was five-year veteran Kenny Holmes, whom Fassel was very pleased with for attending camp. Obviously he dominated when put in one-on-one situations. He even playfully offered to field punts before Saturday’s afternoon workout.
Draft picks Cedric Scott and Ross Kolodziej showed well in drills as well. Scott, at 6-5, 274, seems to have the perfect build and definitely showed enough speed as well. He ran strictly at LDE during camp.
Kolodziej is solid with a squatty build. He appears pretty fast for a DT prospect, although nowhere nearly as fast as Cornelius Griffin, the fastest 300-pounder in football. Griffin was present and impressive during camp. Last year’s seventh-round pick, Jeremiah Parker, has an inside shot at a reserve spot a year after spending most of his Sundays on the inactive list. Lance Legree from Notre Dame and Kentucky’s Matt Layow didn't do much to stand out.

LB – All eyes were on new starting SLB Brandon Short, who was more vocal than usual during camp. Second-year players Jack Golden and Kevin Lewis joined him in camp. Of the LB prospects, Clayton White (North Carolina State) seems to have an early edge on Toledo’s Kevin Rollins, who showed very good speed, and South Dakota’s Josh Stamer, who didn't. Undersized at 5-11, 225, scouts like White’s quickness and toughness. He played outside while Jerry Phillips (Tulane) manned MLB.

DB – Will Allen and Will Peterson were impressive, Allen very much so. “Will Allen was more than what I was expecting,” Fassel said. “He looked tighter and more aggressive in his coverage than we had seen on tape,” Fassel said. “That really shows confidence.”
Allen kicked off the mini-camp with a beautiful downfield pass break-up on a long pass intended for Ron Dixon. He moved around very well and displayed his impressive speed on deep balls. Not surprisingly, no one wanted to discuss Allen’s prospects of starting at LCB in place of Dave Thomas just yet, including the rookie. “Right now I’m just trying to get to the point where I could challenge for a job,” he said. “I read a lot in the papers where I could start, but I know nothing is handed to you. I just want to make sure I can get on the field.”
As for Peterson, he also showed good confidence and a great break on the ball. On the rare occasions he was caught out of position, he was able to recover in time. Unfortunately for him, there was no hitting, which is a strong suit of his game.
Another secondary player to keep your eye on is DeWayne Patmon, a free safety from Michigan. “He looks good,” Fassel said. “He has good skill level. He has good speed, athleticism and ability.” Patmon, who was paired with Lyle West in Big Blue’s top safety combo, was another of the first players that the Giants called after the Draft.
“He’s good,” Accorsi said. “We’re really glad to have gotten him.”
Ralph Brown, who missed almost all last season due to injury, got much better as the weekend went along. However, Jonathan Carter did beat him once on a deep pass.
On the rookie front, Delvin Jones (Minnesota) was beaten deep by Marcellus Rivers, although during this camp that was nothing to be ashamed of.
Houston S Emile White has good size (6-0, 219), but didn't really stand out.

P/K – On the placekicking front, we didn't get to see much from fifth-round pick John Markham. He looked to have been beaten on kickoffs before Saturday afternoon’s practice, but Fassel later said that Markham and Matt Simonton (Southern Illinois) were kicking off for location and not distance. Fassel also said that Markham fared well on his field-goal tries, but the coach wasn't sure exactly how many he made and missed. Markham does have good size, though; he looks at least an inch or two taller than the 6-0 the Giants list him as.
With Markham and Jaret Holmes in camp, Simonton should probably wait before unpacking all his belongings.
While Rodney Williams, punting overseas in NFL Europe, is hardly a can't-miss as the Giants punter, he certainly has the upper hand on South Florida’s Tony Umholtz.

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