In Albany, N.Y., on the campus of the University at Albany. (Every year I come here, and every year I say I'm going to find someone who can tell me why it's the "University at Albany'' and not the "University of Albany.'') While I'm at it, the athletic facilities are fine here, but it's one of the most depressing campuses I've been on. It looks like a high-rise office park. It's impossible to tell one tall, white, personality-less building from the other, and every year, I've got to ask six people directions to the same place where the media gathers and the players eat.
1. Regarding the change in defensive coordinators from Bill Sheridan to Perry Fewell, can you say, "breath of fresh air?'' Talked to Osi Umenyiora (I think he still has Sheridan's shoeprint on the back of his pants) and Justin Tuck, and both feel Fewell's strength will be analyzing strengths and weakness of every player and putting them in the best position to make plays. Even if that means making Umenyiora not an every-down player (I do expect him to start off playing first down, but that may change), Fewell won't be afraid to make the changes he thinks he needs to make.
2. I've always said Tom Coughlin is one of the four or five coaches I'd want to play for if I were a free-agent trying to make an NFL roster. He goes by what he sees. That's why I think Victor Cruz will break into a deep receiver group somehow -- even if it means cutting a vet with promise like Sinorice Moss. Then again, haven't we been writing about Moss as a promising player for five camps now?
3. Chris Canty, a waste last year because of injury, knows he's vital to the success of the Giants front. He's healthy, coming off a strong offseason, and I expect him to be a 70-percent-of-the-snaps player all over the front four.
I call the Antrel Rolle acquisition the "C.C. Brown Memorial Signing,'' because it's obvious the Giants were sick of injuries (Kenny Phillips especially) and marginal players (like Brown) manning the safety spot for them. Rolle, the ex-Cardinal, has had an active camp -- he picked a pass off the day I was there -- and the Giants hope to pair him with Phillips if the latter is able; Phillips is coming off knee microfracture surgery, and they don't sell insurance for that kind of injury. Rolle looks slim for a safety. Still looks like he could play corner, the position he played 'til moving as a Cardinal in 2008. He moves very well, obviously, and will be a center fielder on the back line. He'd better be, for $5.4 million a year.
Defensive tackle Linval Joseph is the most impressive draft choice in camp. The Giants had good depth on the line already, but they had Joseph, the 320-pound space-eater from East Carolina, rated so high in the draft that they honored their board and added him to the mix. He's shown more quickness than some in the organization thought he had. I expect him to be a solid member of the eight-man defensive-line rotation.
The sight of Vinny DiTrani of The (Bergen) Record typing away in the press room in Indian Quad. DiTrani, 65, one of the most respected football beat men in the country, is retiring at the end of the season after 43 years at the paper, 33 covering the Giants. Now, DiTrani was a veteran scribe when I joined the Giants' beat in 1985 at age 28. In those days, I surveyed the scene of the 15 or so regulars on the beat and quickly determined DiTrani was the most knowledgeable and commanded the most respect from the players and coaches. Bill Parcells called him "The Sage,'' and made sure he read DiTrani's story in the paper as a matter of daily habit. DiTrani was one of the first beat guys I knew who watched gametape every Monday, over and over, to determine how every starter and sub on the Giants played. Of all the local NFL writers I've worked alongside, there's no one I respect more. That's why I'll be sure to bookmark The Record's site this year and read him for one last season.
There's a lot of good training-table food in the NFL. I didn't go to Cleveland this year, but the Browns cook nearly everything to order with four-star chefs. But in terms of the best cafeterias serving the most well-round good food, no team can touch the Giants. The choices, the quality, the depth of good food is unsurpassed in the league. Today, at the pasta bar, I had penne with marinara and barely cooked yellow squash, broccoli and zucchini mixed him. Superb. Grade: A
1. Wouldn't be surprised to see Ahmad Bradshaw (4.8 yards per carry on 163 rushes last year) exceed or come very close to the number of carries for Brandon Jacobs (3.7, 224). If Bradshaw stays healthy, they'll feed him more.
2. Defensive end Dave Tollefson had such a good offseason and is having such a good summer in camp that the Giants are going to have to find snaps for him in the line rotation.
3. The Giants want 2009 second-round pick Will Beatty to push, and perhaps replace, David Diehl at left tackle. But I don't think Beatty is ready. Diehl might not be the athlete Beatty is, but he's more reliable, and by the end of camp, my money's on Diehl to hold off Beatty -- for this year anyway.
4. Giants have been very beat up in camp. All three interior offensive linemen were hurt the day I saw them, along with every tight end but Bear Pascoe (what a great name for a tight end -- or for any NFL position, for that matter). Eli Manning was rendered nearly headless the other night against the Jets. It's been a very frustrating camp for Tom Coughlin.
5. Everyone in camp loves Ramses Barden's potential, and how the 6-6 receiver from Cal Poly goes up for the ball so physically and athletically. If you've got a slot on your fantasy team for a breakout receiver, and Barden's there in the later rounds, go for him.