Giants coach Tom Coughlin turned to an inquiring beat writer and wondered if he wanted the chance to field punts with the team.
“You available to try,” Coughlin asked in response to a question about Jerrel Jernigan, who muffed one punt in the first preseason game and another one on Sunday. “Whoever wants can come out here and catch punts. We’ve got about five guys and they’re going to keep grinding away. They did all right today.”
The Giants drafted Jernigan last season, in part, to become the team’s punt returner. Unfortunately, the third-round pick had trouble handling punts as a rookie, and those issues don’t seem to have dissipated at the beginning of his second season.
Jernigan was having a solid training camp as a punt returner until Friday’s preseason loss to the Jaguars. Jernigan exacerbated his situation on Sunday when he failed to haul in another punt.
Perhaps the most-frustrating moment from Friday’s loss was rookie Jayron Hosley’s muffed punt, which resulted in an easy touchdown for the Jaguars right before the half.
“It’s 24-7, there’s 41 seconds left, you know,” Coughlin said. “He’s just a young kid. He’ll learn. It’s a hard way to learn, but let it go, I don’t care. Just don’t do what you did.”
Hosley was back with Jernigan, Domenik Hixon and Rueben Randle on punt-return duty on Sunday, which is a good sign, because he had a nice return on Friday that was called back because of a questionable penalty (see below). The silver lining is that Hosley has looked good on defense and even played nickelback with the first team on Sunday.
Injuries Keep Piling Up: Will Beatty returned to pracrtice but James Brewer had to sit. After missing Friday’s game with a sore back Beatty returned to left tackle on Sunday, splitting snaps with veteran Sean Locklear.
Beatty said his training camp bed may have exacerbated his situation, but thinks he’ll be better now that there’s only a few days of camp left.
Coughlin was happy to see Beatty back, but was frustrated that the second-year RT Brewer left after aggravating his sore back.
“He got tight in the back again,” Coughlin said. “Trying to keep him out there. When he’s out there, he actually looks pretty good, but we’re having trouble keeping him out there.”
Hixon (hamstring), DT Rocky Bernard (knee), LB Jake Muasau (hamstring) and RB Da’Rel Scott (thigh contusion) also returned to practice. Center Jim Cordle (the team’s only experienced backup at the position) missed practice with a swollen knee, but Coughlin believes he can manage the issue. Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers also missed practice with a swollen knee and CB Michael Coe left practice with some sort of leg issue.
Who’s Still Out: WR David Douglas (quad), WLB Michael Boley (hamstring), WLB Jacquian Williams (hip), DT Martin Parker (chest), CB Terrell Thomas (knee) and DE Justin Trattou (ankle/heel) as well as the PUP guys WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), TE Travis Beckum (knee), LB Clint Sintim (knee) and DT Chris Canty (knee).
LB Move Working For Tracy: Adrian Tracy, a defensive end at William & Mary, was moved to strongside linebacker after being drafted in the sixth-round of the 2010 NFL Draft. But after going on IR with an arm injury as a rookie and playing on the practice squad last season, Tracy has moved back to end and has looked like a possible replacement for departed DE Dave Tollefson.
At 6-2 with a listed weight of 245 pounds (although he’s probably bigger now), Tracy is similar in size to Osi Umenyiora, but he sees himself as a defender who blends power and speed, similar to Justin Tuck.
“They’ve been to the top of the mountain,” Tracy said. “That’s where I’m trying to get. I’m always in Osi and Tuck’s ears, asking them a question about running and passing plays to see what I can do better in both of those areas.”
Tracy, who had a strip sack on Friday, sounded as if playing end was more natural for him. He said being a linebacker, he couldn’t just “see ball, get ball,” because he had so many responsibilities. Now he’s playing on instinct and seems much happier.
Cruz Worried About Officials: Victor Cruz is concerned about the replacement officials. In Friday’s game in Jacksonville, there were several calls that had players begging for this labor situation to be resolved. Perhaps the worst offense was the holding call against punt returner Jayron Hosley ... on a punt he was returning.
“They called a holding call on the returner when he was returning a punt,” Cruz said. “That was probably the most mind-boggling one to me. We just want to make sure we get the refs back out there and out there making the right calls.”
Stanback Continues To Impress: After making a touchdown reception on Friday, Isaiah Stanback had several nice plays again at Sunday’s practice.
Coughlin wouldn’t say that Stanback looks more comfortable at receiver (he’s a former college quarterback), but he did say Stanback is making plays and now both he and Ramses Barden need to show they can use their size as run blockers.
“Go knock those defensive backs down,” Coughlin said. “Let the run game come through.”
Don’t Sleep On Ware: D.J. Ware isn’t the running back people are talking about the most (Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson are competing for that distinction), but he hasn’t been forgotten by QB Eli Manning .
“We feel he’s our best route runner out of the backfield and catches the ball well,” Manning said. “Hopefully, that’s a role where you can get catches to him third and short or third and four or five, or you can get the ball out of the backfield, have him run a route and get first downs for you.”
Ware had five carries for 30 yards against Jacksonville.