The sound of pads popping will have to wait until Tuesday, which is when Giants head coach Joe Judge said he plans to put players in pads (one day after the CBA allows for that). But there was some football to be had on the grass fields of the Quest Diagnostics Training Center after a long, cold off-season.
"Obviously today is the first day of practice, today is the first day of preparation for the season to get out here as a team and get going," head coach Joe Judge said.
"It’s nice to have a sense of normalcy. Obviously, everything is not 100 percent normal, there’s still a lot of things we have to do protocol-wise and handle a lot of situations off the field, but in terms of the football itself, we’re looking forward to going full speed as much as we can today in helmets and t-shirts."
The CBA mandates a five-day acclimation period. Judge is gradually ramping up the players, who were in shorts and helmets and who will eventually move to shells before moving to full pads.
He's also trying to navigate through COVID-19 protocols handed down by the league and NFLPA, which by the way, seem to be getting stricter every week.
"For the most part, it doesn’t alter much, it really doesn’t," he said. "I think our team is pretty good at changing and adjusting on the fly. It’s something we dealt with last year to a degree."
How Much Better Can the Defense Get?
The Giants defense last year was one of the more pleasant developments of a 6-10 season. After finishing 12th overall, the Giants clearly have their eye on rising int he league rankings in every major category.
"Obviously, you know we’re a competitive bunch," said safety Jabrill Peppers. "It’s the first day, it felt good to get out there, run around, compete with the offense a little bit, but you know we still have a long way to go. This was definitely a great start."
Peppers was asked how high he thought the defense could go this year ow that they have familiarity in Patrick GRaham's system.
"Our goal is to come out here and get better each and every day," he said. "You can’t look too far ahead, you can’t look in the past. We’re out here getting better, getting in condition, going through our football motions and training so we can be at our top level when the season comes."
Leonard the Leader
If you thought defensive lineman Leonard Williams had a stellar season last year, you ain't seen nothing yet.
I asked Williams what he hoped to accomplish for an encore. Here's what he had to say.
Williams, who was very candid in his responses, said that his biggest thing is to work on as far as on the field is the transition from run to pass.
"I think that just comes with more recognition of the game, more film study and more experience in this game," he said. "I’m going into year seven now, I think those things are starting to come to me faster now and just picking up on that recognition to make it that much faster."
The practice itself continued what the team started to work on in the spring, with a little more teamwork mixed in.
And speaking of the spring, as was the case then, with reporters tethered to the patio as opposed to being allowed to stand on the sideline as has been the case in past training camps, there were portions of the practice one couldn't see given the wall of players blocking the view.
That said, the offense wasn't crisp. There were dropped passes and some general sloppiness.
But the good news is that, as was the case in the spring, quarterback Daniel Jones decided to stay after practice to work on a few more things with his top receiver Kenny Golladay.
I noted back in the spring that Jones and Golladay play catch every opportunity they get during practice, and today was no exception. That can only help them as they look to build chemistry leading up to the season.
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Worth noting (or maybe not) was that Jones and Golladay were the only two players on offense to stay after practice to get a little extra throwing time in.
Receiver Darius Slayton had a nice day, catching a couple of red-zone touchdown passes. The Giants offense did a bit of work on their red-zone packages, with Jones throwing various passes, ranging from slants to fades and more to his receivers and tight ends.
As is usually the case, the defense was a little crisper, but again, it's the first day in which the players are getting their feet back underneath them, so to panic over the first day's showing is a waste of energy.
Defensive backs Julian Love and Adoree' Jackson were perhaps the most productive on defense, playing with their hair on fire and breaking up plays. When it comes to the most underrated guys on the Giants' defense, I think a strong case can be made for Love, who does many little things well enough to help a team win.
Speaking of defensive backs, Madre Harper came up with a late interception on a gorgeous play in which he made an outstanding read and positioned himself perfectly to come up with the ball. When talking about cornerbacks at the bottom of the depth chart, Harper is a guy I could see landing on the roster as he also brings value on special teams.
Running back Saquon Barkley (knee), tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot), center Jonotthan Harrison (hamstring), tackle Matt Peart (back), linebacker Oshane Ximines (hamstring), and cornerback Aaron Robinson (core) worked on the side with trainers. All are on the PUP list.
Linebackers Reggie Ragland (hamstring) and Ryan Anderson (back), who are on NFI, also worked on the side.
Inside linebacker Blake Martinez was not present, which head coach Joe Judge confirmed. Martinez is currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Receiver Kadarius Toney did a little work on the side with a trainer as he looks to get his wind back after having been exposed to COVID-19. The Giants have said they will work any player who deals with COVID-19 back slowly.
Running back, Sandro Platzgummer passed his physical and was removed from the Non-football injury list.
Tight end Rysen John was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He now becomes the fourth Giant to land on that list, the other three being Kadarius Toney (since removed), Martinez, and safety Joshua Kalu.
Nate Solder stepped in for Matt Peart at right tackle. Peart is currently on the PUP list with a back strain. Carter Coughlin stepped in for Martinez at inside linebacker next to Tae Crowder.
John Ross, Jabrill Peppers, and Darius Slayton took turns at returning punts. Ross, as I've noted several times before, hasn't participated in special teams in the NFL, though he did contribute on specials in college. If he's to have a chance at making the roster, he's going to have to contribute on special teams.
Eli Manning Sighting
Retired quarterback Eli Manning watched practice with a small group of VIPs.
And in case you're wondering, no, he didn't wave or come to say hello to the media (how quickly they forget).
Giants Terminate Kelvin Benjamin's Contract
Receiver/tight end Kelvin Benjamin was released after an exchange with head coach Joe Judge. Benjamin walked off the field, with general manager Dave Gettleman briskly walking to catch up with his former first-round pick in Carolina.
No details were disclosed about what was said, so draw your own conclusions about why it resulted in Benjamin's release.
For more on training camp, check out the video up top!