It was weird, very weird.
I'm talking about the game-like atmosphere that Giants head coach Joe Judge tried to create for the team's first scrimmage of the summer in the stadium. All the little bells and whistles were brought out from the traditional playing of Hell's Bells before kickoff to the celebratory Back in the New York Groove after a touchdown.
But without the fans present, there just wasn't any electricity, and for as exciting as it was to finally get back into the groove and cover what resembled a football game, the absence of fans was hard for me to swallow.
I can only imagine how it must be for the players and coaches who get their rush off the fan reaction.
But I digress. The score and the stats from the scrimmage don't mean much in terms of the big picture. So let's jump into some observations.
Head coach Joe Judge set up his own unique scoring system for the scrimmage in which the defense was awarded points for plays as well.
For example, a defensive touchdown was worth 12 points. A three-and-out series was worth three points, as was a defensive turnover. A forced punt was worth one point, and a field goal block returned for a touchdown was worth 12.
Let's start with the offensive line. There was no game planning, and Judge said as much in his postgame press conference. But with that said, at the end of the day, it's mano e mano, and the first team defensive front won the battle hands down, and it wasn't even close.
In particular, the edges were exposed--I had tackles Cam Fleming and Andrew Thomas and tight end Levine Toilolo each giving up a sack or a pressure at least once. And there was an instance where the defensive front executed a twist that turned into a mini jailbreak.
One offensive lineman whose play stood out to me was Tyler Haycraft, Mr. Versatility, who could very well have a spot on the practice squad as a developmental center. Haycraft has fine mobility in firing out to the second level and di so beautifully on a screen pass.
Haycraft and Shane Lemieux, who I also thought had a solid night, combined to throw the key blocks on Wayne Gallman's 44-yard touchdown run.
And speaking of Lemieux, what's not to love about this guy? He goes out there with a physical, mean streak and seems intent on finishing every single block until the last of the whistle sounds.
Andrew Thomas caught a lot of flak for his struggles against Lorenzo Carter, who was unstoppable Friday night, but Thomas also came through with a handful of encouraging plays. He stonewalled Leonard Williams on one in which his set up and hand placement was textbook.
I put the binoculars on Thomas a few times, and you can see that at times he is a little careless with getting his hands inside his man's frame.
I thought Matt Peart had a solid showing when he was in there. One thing that has impressed me about Peart is how quickly he gets into his pass block set.
Most young guys struggle to go backward, but Peart made it look easy and moved without that herky-jerky motion that some guys tend to have when trying to keep their balance when moving backward.
I'm sold on Nick Gates at center. Gates has always been a diamond int he rough and a guy who has flown under the radar, but the more I see him play, the more he looks as though he's been playing the center position his entire life.
He worked well with Jones (no botched snaps from what I saw). The real test will be when they start game planning and calls have to be made, but I do not doubt that Gates will handle that.
Moving on now to quarterbacks, I know Daniel Jones' fumble following a Lorenzo Carter strip-sack wasn't ruled a fumble because of scrimmage rules and all that, but the big picture here was some old habits crept back into the picture.
For one, Jones, who had done a good job keeping his left hand glued to the ball before he was ready to throw, took his hand off it when he finally realized the pressure.
Speaking of the pressure, he seemed so fixated on what was going on down the field that he didn't realize the pocket around him was collapsing until it was too late.
"I have to make sure I’m conscious of my depth in the pocket and step up in the pocket, and making sure I’m getting the ball out on time consistently," Jones said when asked about all the pressure he faced.
On the plus side, Jones did wisely slide feet first during a scramble. Unfortunately, the first-team offense struggled to move the ball and only managed three points.
But that's not all on Jones. The pass protection, as noted, wasn't solid at all. Give Jones a chance to stand in the pocket and go through his reads, and he can move the ball--we saw that last year.
Judge agreed, saying that while there are things Jones needs to clean up, overall, the second-year quarterback played a good game.
"We need to make sure that we give him some help as far as getting this out. Receivers need to do their job as far as taking advantage of opportunities right there. But I thought Daniel was productive when he was in there."
I thought Colt McCoy, my projection for Jones' backup, had a slightly better night. He received five drives and managed to get 10 points out of his opportunities. McCoy, who is deceptively athletic, added two runs for about nine yards when he sensed the pocket closing in around him.
At running back, Wayne Gallman and Javon Leake both had strong showings.
Gallman looked the smoothest of the backs in slicing through traffic. There's no hesitation in his game; he takes the ball and is off. He reads his blocks well, and while he's not shifty in terms of his change of direction skills like Ahmad Bradshaw was back in the day, Gallman has enough in his legs to give him a chance to get away from a would-be tackler.
"He’s a guy who’s really flashed over the course of the entire training camp. He’s a guy that we’ve challenged and told him we want to see how he responds in competitive situations," Judge said.
"Obviously tonight, he had a good night. But he’s a guy that’s shown a lot of potential throughout his career. He’s shown a lot of improvement for us, and we’re happy with the night he had tonight."
Gallman might have helped his chances of sticking around with his Friday night performance, but it's important to remember that one good showing alone doesn't make a guy a lock for a roster spot.
Javon Leake, a guy I've liked for a roster spot given his special teams ability, is another running back whose number I kept writing down for good plays. Leake has good vision and is a decisive runner who doesn't waste steps when he had his opportunities.
And that compact, decisive running carried over to the return game, where he got a look.
"Yeah, he did a good job in the return game right there. There was some space to hit it. He didn’t waste the opportunity," Judge said. "He did a good job tonight in the run game. Took advantage of some opportunities."
Update: In a surprise move, the Giants waived Leake and cornerback Christian Angulo to make room for corners KeiVarae Russell and Brandon Williams.
I've wondered if Eli Penny might be in jeopardy of losing his roster spot. I know this is a new coaching staff with their own views on fullbacks and all, but you see more and more teams using a tight end as that lead blocker because a tight end provides more flexibility.
Moving on to the receivers, C.J. Board was cruising right along by making some nice receptions in traffic, but as a returner, he had a muffed punt and made a bad decision in fielding a punt inside the 10-yard line.
Receiver Binjimen Victor was a guy I thought might have a solid chance given his size and toolset, but he came up empty in the scrimmage despite being targeted several times (he also had at least one dropped ball).
I thought David Sills V, who had been impressive in camp, had a quiet night. I'm not sure how the bottom of the depth chart is going to play out at receiver.
I would say Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Corey Coleman are locked into the first four spots, and I could see CJ Board as the fifth guy if he bounces back from his rough showing as a punt returner.
Defensively, I thought the front seven, and in particular, the line had a solid showing. I love it how these guys are getting their hands up into the passing lanes. Dexter Lawrence II had one deflected pass in this one, and I believe he’s now had multiple deflected passes this summer.
"He has a good knack for getting his hand up at the right time and batting the ball down," Judge said. "A lot of that comes into just his instincts. But he’s also got that good length where he can really keep extension off the offensive line and see through them to when the quarterback is in a rhythm of throwing the ball, he gets his hand up at the right time."
Indeed, and who out there won't take a tipped ball that ends up as an incompletion or even an interception?
I've already mentioned Lorenzo Carter, who was a terror coming off the edge. Carter has just looked like a different player all camp long, and if he carries that over to the regular season, lookout.
I thought Kyler Fackrell and Markus Golden each got off to slow starts, but then started to pick up the pace after an initial slow start. I had both recording at least one sack during their respective units' turns.
Tae Crowder played a solid scrimmage at inside linebacker. Crowder made the most of his opportunity by blanketing running backs out of the backfield. He also showed good instincts and straight-line speed in getting to the line of scrimmage and shooting gaps to limit the inside running game.
I'm not sure what the defensive secondary will look like when it's all said and done, but that group still appears to be finding its footing.
Again, that could be due to the vanilla nature of the play calling, but there was some uninspired play by that group, such as guys not getting turned around while chasing down receivers and guys losing a footrace by a step or two.