With no preseason games to allow for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones to get into game condition and put the new ball security techniques he’s been working on since the spring to practice, Giants head coach Joe Judge is thinking about having Jones take the red jersey off for the team’s upcoming scrimmage Friday night.
“I don’t think we’re going to throw him in any Royal Rumbles, or anything like that,” Judge said when asked about that possibility.
“With quarterbacks, you want to be calculated with how you bang them around. At some point, we’ll pop his pads a little bit in a controlled environment.”
The move might sound risky, but Judge has tried to address every last detail to ensure that his team is as ready as can be when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday, September 14.
Jones, who last year lost 11 of his 18 fumbles when defenders hit him, has been working to keep his left hand glued to the ball as he drops back into the pocket this summer.
But other than having his defensive line teammates get their hands up in the passing lanes resulting in some deflected passes, Jones hasn’t been under too much duress.
While having an overall solid year last season, Jones frequently showed a lack of pocket awareness when the rush was closing in around him.
Judge has been impressed by what he’s seen from Jones so far in terms of toughness, especially of his tape last year in which he was sacked 38 times behind an inconsistent offensive line.
That toughness and poise have continued to grow this summer.
“This guy took some shots last year and he got up,” Judge said. “You saw him improve. He comes to work every day, you know he’s committed to the team.”
Judge has made sure he gets an up-close look at how Jones has handled what “pressure” he does get in camp.
“When I stand behind the huddle, I like to see his poise. I like to see how he handles it with those bodies collapsing around him in the pocket, to receivers not getting open right away, and how he handles moving on,” Judge said. “When things get going faster, are quarterbacks panicking?”
Judge understands that taking the red jersey off of Jones and the rest of the quarterbacks carries some risk, especially with a young defensive player who might forget he’s facing a teammate looking to make a statement.
That’s why Judge is being thorough in weighing the pros and cons of the details and conditions under which the red jersey will come off.
“I’m not in a hurry to just beat the hell out of him, but at some point, we want to prepare his body for what it’ll take in the first game,” Judge said.
Giants Practice Photos
When a team starts looking to bring in players at a position where there aren’t any known injuries, that’s usually a sign that the team isn’t entirely sold on what they have.
Such is the case with the Giants at cornerback, where they have a bunch of young players trying too find their way and convince Judge that they’re all he needs on the team. Nevertheless, the Giants have begun the COVID-19 testing process on a pair of corners, Brandon Williams and KeiVarae Russell, who can also provide some veteran depth on special teams.
So what does that mean for the young pups at cornerback?
“They're young and are improving,” Judge said. “We've seen daily improvement. You know, it travels over from the individual drills to the competitive releases to are one-on-one drills to the group pass and seven on seven, and then going the team full and 11 goals. You see on a daily basis that improvement.”
So does that mean that these young players aren’t improving fast enough?
“Listen, they're young, they're learning the speed of the game. They're learning how to handle multiples. There's going to be things that every day are new to them,” Judge said.
“You know, it's not that they make mistakes; it's that they can't repeat mistakes. So that's our goal as coaches to get them out there, make sure they learn from their own experiences and from their other experiences as teammates.”
CENTER COMPETITION IS "SCRATCH EVEN"
According to Judge, the competition at center between Nick Gates and Spencer Pulley is "scratch even."
Gates, who has never played the position in a live game, has looked very comfortable. He hasn’t appeared to commit any egregious mistakes as he continues to develop a feel for making the calls, snapping the ball, and looking for work all in a matter of seconds.
Ultimately, Judge's opinion counts more than anyone's, but with Pulley sidelined and Gates performing so well at the center spot, it's hard to believe the competition is dead even.
The Giants coaches have come up with a creative way to teach their young defensive backs not to be grabby in coverage.
The defensive backs practice with tennis balls taped to the palms of their hands. This prevents them from grabbing a fist-full of the opponent’s jersey.
“Yeah, to be honest with you we're teaching them not to hold,” Judge said. “We're not gonna accept penalties, so we’ll find any little trick we can to go ahead and teach.”
Tight end Evan Engram and edge rusher Lorenzo Carter got into a bit of a heated exchange when Engram caught a pass against Carter, and the linebacker angrily ripped Engram’s helmet off his head and flung it in frustration. Carter drew a penalty lap from the coaching staff for losing his cool, but the good news, besides no one getting hurt, is that the rest of the team kept its cool.
“I think our players understand the emphasis towards how we have to practice and how that carries over into games,” Judge said.
“We've talked at length and team meetings about why we're not fighting on the field. There's a number of reasons, but probably the most apparent and important is it's a penalty in the game. You throw a punch in the game, you're thrown out.
“Obviously they're frustrated with the competition, but you know what? They handled it the right way. They’re hugging and kissing after practice, and they put it behind them and like brothers, they moved on.”
Receiver Darius Slayton returned to practice after missing Monday’s session. Safety Jabrill Peppers and offensive lineman Shane Lemieux returned as well, but Peppers appeared to cramp up later in the session.
Linebacker Ryan Connelly missed his fourth straight practice. He was joined by fullback Eli Penny (third straight missed practice), safety Nate Ebner and offensive lineman Spencer Pulley.