New York Giants Camp Report: A Painful Loss, Progress and a Hidden Gem

Patricia Traina

While the concerns of former players turned media analysts continue to echo regarding the iron fist rule of rookie head coach Joe Judge (who penalized both starting quarterback Daniel Jones and center Spencer Pulley when the two botched a snap during a walkthrough workout Wednesday), Judge showed his softer side when he was asked about receiver and special teams ace Cody Core.

“I hate it for him. I hate it for him,” Judge said on a video conference call when asked about Core, who suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles. “You watch a guy work his butt off, you know, what kind of competitor, what kind of player is how much he's invested in us and what he's done, which is everything we've asked him to do, at a hundred percent.”

Judge went on to praise Core some more whom he said was just as much of a dynamo during the virtual program this spring and who is a player who “made a great deal of improvement” as a receiver.

That wasn’t all the one-time special teams coordinator who knows a thing or two about guys who are special teams gems.

“He's one of the top special teams players in the league,” Judge said about Core, the concern on his face evident. “I look forward to seeing this guy in the future. His personality, the way he competes, his physical ability--he's definitely the kind of guy we want to work with.”

Previewing the Scrimmage Format

The Giants are scheduled to have their first scrimmage practice Friday, a day before what would have been their second preseason game this summer.

While details are still being finalized, specifically the play counts for each player, Judge offered a preview of what the scrimmage is going to look like.

“What we're going to do is we're going to split the squad in terms of offense versus defense. We'll structure the first part almost like a normal practice--some individual periods to get loosened up, get the pads popping a little bit, some seven-on-seven, get the blood flowing.

We'll go some offense vs. defense, some pass rush, and then we'll just go ahead and turn it over to some situational things. We're going to make sure we get plenty of work in the field on early downs, some third-down work, some red area work, and some short-yardage work. We got the goal line (Tuesday). If it comes up naturally in the scrimmage, we'll work it again.

“And then we're going to just put the ball down and just let them play it out, 1st-and-10 on the 25, let Jason (Garrett) called plays. Let Pat (Graham) call the defense, let T-Mac (Thomas McGaughey) ready the special teams units--and just play it out. What we're looking to do is get a chance to go ahead and compete. and put on tape their resume.”

A Hidden Gem?

Training camp is a time for coaches to uncover some hidden gems at the bottom of the roster, and one such gem that’s emerged is inside linebacker Devante Downs.

Downs, a 2018 seventh-round draft pick out of California by the Vikings, was waived last September. The Giants signed him to their Giants practice squad on October 1, and by Week 10 of the season, Downs was on the 53-man roster, where he mostly contributed on special teams, showing enough promise to earn a reserve/futures contract.

So far, Judge likes what Downs has shown him.

“He's got good movement skills. I liked the way he works,” Judge said of the inside linebacker roster candidate. “He starting to communicate a lot better with his command in the system, really understanding it. He's a guy that comes in (and) you can see his eyes and meetings.

“He's very engaged and focused on you when you're talking, whether you're talking directly to him or somebody else. He comes on the field every day, ‘Yes sir, no sir’ and goes to work and does whatever he asks him to the best of his ability. I'm enjoying working with him a whole lot.”

Although the Giants added four linebackers in the draft, including two inside linebackers in Tae Crowder and TJ Brunson, Downs could have a better chance than initially thought at earning a spot as an inside linebacker on this team.

Judge Enjoys Watching Daniel Jones Growth

The Giants are counting heavily on second-year quarterback Daniel Jones taking that proverbial big leap forward, and so far, Judge likes what he’s seen from the former Duke star.

“I see improvement every day. I see a command within the huddle where he’s aware of not only what we’re calling, but he knows the situation we’re calling it in,” he said.

“I see someone who’s understanding why Jason’s calling the play he is at that time and how the pieces fit. I see a lot of confidence in his eyes when he goes to the line of scrimmage. Now how that plays out, he still has a lot more ways to go to really reach his potential.”

Jones will be among the handful of players whose performance I’ll be watching closely at this week’s scrimmage, specifically his decision making, mental processing, and command of the huddle.

BLUE NOTES

According to the NFL Network, the Giants signed kicker Graham Gano to a one-year deal worth up to $2.5 million and $1 million guaranteed. Gano’s deal also has up to $250,000 in incentives. That contract means that Gano will be the Giants’ kicker this year, barring injury.

“I’m anxious to get him on the field and see him get going,” Judge said of Gano, who was with special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey and general manager Dave Gettleman in Carolina. “He’s a big leg guy who has experience. He hits a consistent, straight-line ball with solid flight, the ball gets good lift. He’s made improvements throughout his career.”

Cornerback Corey Ballentine, who appeared to injure his right shoulder during Tuesday night’s practice, was cleared to return to work for Wednesday’s walkthrough.

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