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Postcard from camp: Giants

SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Peter King had to say about the Giants' camp in Albany, N.Y. For an archive of all the camp postcards, click here.

The Giants have trained at one of the oddest college campuses in America (oddly named, too), the University at Albany. The central campus has a couple of beautiful fountains, while the outlying parts look more office park than university. Funny thing about the place: I'd always heard the Giants trained here solely because Wellington Mara, when he was alive, loved going to the Saratoga Racetrack in August, and because the track is only a short drive north of here, he was able to satisfy both passions -- his football team and his love of the ponies. But son John, the Giants president and CEO, quashed that as urban legend to me, saying coming here was a football decision only. "My dad would stay in the dorms here,'' John Mara said. "He loved it. He'd have three or four of the grandchildren with him most of the time, and he'd always be on them to make their beds and clean their rooms.''

1. If this receiving corps had been in place in 2007, there may never have been the miracle David Tyree catch. The following pass-catchers are ahead of Tyree on the receiver depth chart, at least the mental one: Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss, Hakeem Nicks, Ramses Barden ... and just maybe Derek Hagan, the former Dolphin. Tyree is going to have to be a Steve Tasker-like special-teamer to make this team. It's so weird to think he'll be a Jet or Cowboy or Bill (can you imagine Bobby April with this guy as one of his gunners on the punt team?), but it might happen.

2. The Giants better hope Eli Manning stays upright. You saw, certainly, that he agreed to a new contract, one that will keep him in Giant blue till at least 2015 and means he'll never play a year in his prime in any state except New Jersey. But that's not the only reason. His relief is looking downright grim in this training camp. David Carr threw two wobblers in Wednesday morning's practice, and his accuracy was poor. The Giants must see something in him the rest of us don't. Andre Woodson and Rhett Bomar didn't distinguish themselves either, but Woodson looks physically leaner and a little quick to those who've watched practice every day.

3. I love the defense, especially the defensive front, but it must be maddening for Tom Coughlin to see stalwart after stalwart resting or missing time due to injury. In one practice this week, Justin Tuck (sore foot) sat, with Michael Boley (hip), Rocky Bernard (hamstring, shoulder) and Fred Robbins (knee) all on the PUP or Non-Football Injury List and not practicing. Osi Umenyiora (knee) and Barry Cofield (knee) are practicing once a day in a Coughlin preservation tactic. The Giants got all this defensive depth to throw waves of rushers and space-eaters at offensive lines, and they're all supposed to be ready for the start of the season. (Though Bernard's hamstring injury is troubling; the Giants had no idea he even had a hammy till he got to training camp.) It's not time to worry, because all of those players should be ready to play in September, but you'd like to be healthy in August, not already managing injuries.

Defensive lineman Chris Canty. The reason the Giants paid the former Cowboy $7 million a year in free agency is in large part because of his versatility. At 6-feet-7 and 304 pounds, Canty is strong enough to play inside in the 4-3 or at end, the spot he played most often in Dallas' 3-4 scheme. He'll probably play inside mostly. One of the reasons Coughlin and new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan like him so much is that he's relatively egoless, and he won't care where they play him as long as they play him. "That was the idea,'' said GM Jerry Reese. "We wanted to get a bunch of guys we could rotate on the line, because it's such a difficult area to have everyone stay healthy the entire season.'' Canty will help immensely there. In four Dallas season, he missed zero games due to injury.

Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks (first round, North Carolina) and Ramses Barden (third, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo). Here's the first thing you think when look at Nicks and Barden standing side-by-side, as they were at one point behind a Giant huddle in the morning practice I saw: Barden's huge. Just huge. As one Giant scout told me: "Barden's offense in college was run first down, run second down and throw it to Ramses on third down. Worked every time.'' At 6-6 and 230 pounds, he's 20 pounds shy of the exact dimensions of big tight end Kevin Boss. "We're going to have a lot of choices in the passing game,'' Tom Coughlin said. "Now we have to have these guys step up and make plays.'' Barden likely won't make much of an impact this year, moving from small college to the big time, but Nicks looks smoother and more sure of himself in route-running. The Giants have attacked a major weakness with gusto.

The confidence of Eli Manning. I turned around after spending 10 minutes with Mario Manningham at lunchtime, because I could feel a PR aide moving in toward me, about to nudge me. And there was Eli Manning, waiting for me. I'm not much for reading looks on players' faces, but I've never seen Manning so confident. I asked him about his offseason. "Every year you find something to work on,'' I said. "What was it this year?'' Said Manning: "The deep ball. We've just got to get better at it. Last year, we led the league in times inside the red zone, but we just didn't have enough pass plays over 20 yards, and you have to be able to threaten people deep in this league to have a great offense. So we worked on that a lot.''

The Giants were probably the first team to be really attentive to making their training table healthy and innovative, and they must lead the NFC in quality food choices (NO ONE leads the Browns, so I have to differentiate by conference here). On this day, players could choose between about nine entrees or sandwich choices by my count. I went with the lo-mein stir-fry, with a flat noodle underneath a carrot-broccoli-mushroom-water chestnut-light soy sauce mix, straight out of the wok. Fabulous. In addition, I stole half of a charbroiled turkey cutlet off lunch partner AdamSchefter's plate. (Actually, he gave it to me, because he saw how good my food looked and wanted to get his own stir-fry.) The cutlet was so tender I didn't need a knife, and light and tasty.

To drink, I had raspberry water. Delicious, no cals. Functional.

Not a big fan of the Edy's soft vanilla ice cream for dessert. The players should be eating nonfat frozen yogurt anyway (listen to Mr. Nutrition, going for the ice cream and then ripping it), and this ice cream was a little tasteless for my taste.

Overall grade: A-minus.

1. The Giants have two home games before the World Series. With four of the first six on the road (Dallas, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and New Orleans), they're just lucky the schedule doesn't whack them early with impossible games to win.

2. Jimmy Johnson, the Fox analyst and former Cowboys coach, had an interesting thing to say about the Giants' Sept. 20 game opening the new stadium in Arlington, Texas. His point was it's going to be such a spectacular building, with the 180-foot wide high-def TV/scoreboard hanging down from the roof, that it could turn into a real home-field advantage for Dallas. Why? Because teams that play there for the first time are going to have players gawking at the place and perhaps getting distracted by the huge images on TV above them. My advice to Tom Coughlin: Fly to Dallas three hours early, and do the Saturday walkthrough at JerryJones' new palace.

3. Quietly, second-round pick Clint Sintim, the linebacker from Virginia, has moved ahead of Zak DeOssie in the coaches' eyes. It seems DeOssie is moving toward being almost exclusively a long-snapper and special-teamer.

4. Quirk of the Schedule Dept.: For the second straight year, the Giants finish the season with Carolina at home and Minnesota on the road, in that order.

5. I came here expecting to hear that it'l be a breakout season for Mario Manningham. It still might be, but Manning ("I think it'll be receiver by committee'') and others knocked down my perception that it's going to be a 70-catch, 1,100-yard breakout year for the kid. It could be, and he's good enough, but the other guy in the passing game who could put up some gaudy numbers is Kevin Boss, who looks good and has Manning's total trust.

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