Takeaways from Giants Rookie Minicamp

It wasn't a traditional minicamp, but the Giants two-day rookie camp afforded head coach Joe Judge and his staff a look at the future of this team.
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In a sign that life in the NFL is gradually returning to normal, the New York Giants were able to hold a rookie minicamp, the first of head coach Joe Judge's tenure with the team.

But unlike previous rookie minicamps in which prior Giants coaching staff throw everything but the kitchen sink at the youngsters, Judge took a different approach.

The approach, not only reflective of the smaller than usual roster with which he had to work, was more about the long-term picture of helping these kids settle into a new environment and a new role, thus relieving them of some of the anxieties that come with starting a new job.

"I think the biggest thing with these rookies--with any class of rookie, it's all brand new to them. It's their first day in the National Football League, first time on the grass and first time in our systems and schemes," Judge said.

"So really this is an orientation weekend. This isn't a competition weekend. This isn't a situation where we are cutting down the team this weekend. This is just get the guys out there moving on the grass, take a look at them and get a better idea where they are physically."

Judge's approach to rookie minicamp is smart. Although these players are no strangers to the game, let's remember the NFL isn't like college or high school and it does take some getting used to.

Kadarius Toney's Shoe Problem

The biggest story of the rookie minicamp centered around first-round draft pick Kadarius Toney and his cleat issues.

Toney, for those who missed it, went through some of the drills on the first day of the camp without one of his cleats, an issue that he later said was a result of his assigned cleats not being the right fit for his feet.

As a result, Toney didn't participate in post-practice sprints on Day 1, and on Day 2, he only made it through the first half-hour of the hour-long practice.

This sequence of events raised questions about whether the Giants were hiding an injury, but Judge insisted it wasn't an injury issue.

"One thing we keep in mind with these guys is these guys have not been with team sports now in over five months, and that's something we have to consider bringing them in and for all these guys, the first time of football activity. That's why we structure practice the way they do," Judge said.

Toney, unlike some of his fellow rookie camp participants, played last season, which is why some might have trouble buying Judge's explanation. But another possible reason to back him off--and one that Judge probably didn't mention because he didn't want to throw the equipment staff under the bus--was that Toney's ill-fitting footwear might have created some blistering of his feet.

Blisters can cause people to change their gait and how they distribute their weight. For an athlete trying to move at full speed, that can be dangerous and lead to other problems. 

So if the ill-fitting shoes did create blisters for Toney, it made no sense for the team to force him to run and participate in the entire practice and was in fact smart to back him off of doing everything.

Perspective, Please

Did Kadarius Toney make an unfavorable first impression?

That's the opinion of one reader who apparently was bothered by, among other things, Toney's indifference over having received jersey number 89, famously worn by the great Mark Bavaro.

First, Toney answered honestly whether he picked that number or it was assigned to him. He also mentioned that a jersey number doesn't make a person (so true), but the person makes the number. 

That all said, does anyone really expect rookies to walk into the organization and be expert Giants historians regarding jersey numbers, who wore them in the past and what the player meant to the organization?

Again, this was the first day of a new job for these guys. In time they'll learn about the Giants franchise's history if they manage to hang around, as Judge has made that a part of the coaching staff's teachings. 

Another concern expressed was in Toney's inability to complete all the drills. (I've already covered that in this column, but I'd also be willing to bet that his not completing the drills wasn't his choice.)

So how about we reserve rushing to judgment on any of these rookies until they actually get on the field and start doing real-time footballs stuff at the NFL level?  

Looks Really Can Be Deceiving

This two-day camp was not one to gauge football skills, but they are still a couple of things that stood out to me.

The first was how business-like the draft picks were in their media interviews. I've been covering this team a long time, and I've seen instances where, out of nervousness, a rookie will either run at the mouth or clam up when meeting the press. 

I didn't get a sense that any of these rookies were nervous when they did their media interviews. If anything, I thought the rookies relayed are how focused and locked in they are about what's in front of them rather than worrying about the extraneous stuff that will come in time.

The second impression is one I share with Judge, who admitted that this weekend was the first time he had seen some of these players in person.

"There are a lot of guys you meet for the first time in person," he said. "You turn around, me and (defensive coordinator) Pat (Graham) are talking walking off the field, 'Yeah, that guy is bigger than we thought he was going to be; that guy has thicker legs than we thought they were going to be.' The first time seeing a guy in practice is bizarre because even our meetings are virtual."

In seeing the players in their Giants jerseys, two impressions that I came away with is that cornerback Aaron Robinson (third-round pick) is a lot bigger up top than I remember from his draft night call, and Elerson Smith looks like he has even more room for some additional upper body bulk.

Imagine what these guys are going to show when they start to mix it up in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s (which will hopefully happen next month).

Clear Intentions

When I first saw the Giants rookie minicamp roster, it was clear to me that finding additional depth at running back was a top priority.

How could it not be? Although Saquon Barkley is on schedule in his rehab, the fact that head coach Joe Judge hasn't been comfortable enough coming out and saying if, for example, Barkley is going to be ready for training camp has been very telling.

To be clear, this doesn't mean there's a problem with Barkley's rehab. Quite the contrary, as he's reportedly on schedule and has made a world of progress. But as I've said many times before, when it comes to injuries, the body is ready when it's ready. Everyone is different.

While all those videos of Barkley working out are great to see, let's hope that whoever supervises his workouts also paces him to where he's not overdoing anything and putting himself at risk for a setback.

This is why the Giants needed to find another veteran running back before the start of training camp.

My early guess is Barkley isn't going to get the green light until later in training camp. In the meantime, it would behoove them to not only have depth at the position (which they've added) but to get that depth ready, which is apparently what they intend to do.

As for Kelvin Benjamin, he's a longshot to make the roster. He might end up on the Giants' practice squad, but at the very least, he'll get an opportunity to put together some film for the rest of the league if the Giants aren't in his long-term future.


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