After a day of rest Sunday, the New York Giants are back at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center to begin Week No. 2 of their 2021 training camp.
And just in time, as after Monday, the NFL-mandated acclimation period comes to an end. So here is a look at some items of interest ahead of the coming week of camp.
The Pads Go On
The NFL mandated five-day acclimation period ends Monday, which means full pads and live contact drills will be permitted starting Tuesday.
That's important to note because the coaches will be able to get their first full look at the offensive and defensive lines engaging in the pit at a faster tempo than what the team has been able to practice thus far.
It also means that the Giants defensive backs can work on their man-press coverage, and the Giants receivers can show if they've improved in fighting off jams and finding success against man coverage.
Last year, the Giants wide receivers caught 58.5% of their pass targets against man coverage for 743 yards and three touchdowns with five drops. By contrast, they caught 69.2% of their pass targets against zone coverage for 1,267 yards and four touchdowns.
The Giants made a flurry of roster moves over the weekend, two of the more interesting ones being the additions of inside linebacker Todd Davis and center Joe Looney.
Davis, a run stopper, could factor into the mix at inside linebacker, with Reggie Ragland still on the NFI list with a hamstring injury and starter Blake Martinez having just come off the Reserve/COVID-19 list late last week.
Martinez's roster spot will be there waiting for him when he's deemed healthy enough to return, but will Davis slide into the mix and unseat Ragland and/or T.J. Brunson, one of the Giants' seventh-round draft picks last year?
Meanwhile, the acquisition of Looney is interesting for a few reasons. First, there was a report over the weekend that the Giants were planning to host center Austin Reiter, most recently with the Chiefs.
Then came the word that the Giants signed Looney, a player they had expressed interest in last off-season before returning to the Cowboys.
Looney has significant experience at center. The Giants' interest in him (and the reported interest in Austin Reiter, another center) makes one wonder if the coaches are contemplating moving current center Nick Gates to guard while Shane Lemieux is sidelined.
Looney's as of yet undisclosed contract details could provide something of a hint, despite Joe Judge's declaration that he doesn't determine how much a guy plays based on the contract.
"Look, I don’t care how you got here; I really don’t," Judge said last week. "Once you get in here, it’s the land of opportunity, the best players will play. You’ve got to show consistent dependability and production throughout training camp to show that we can count on you. We’re going to keep the 53 players, I don’t care what your history is."
Still, it will be interesting to see if Looney has any play-time incentives in his deal that might suggest some planned snaps are in his future.
Return of Old Faces
As mentioned above, Martinez was back in the building as of late last week. The expectation is he'll be brought back up to speed slowly rather than simply thrown out there.
Another player who should be back at practice is second-year offensive tackle Matt Peart, who passed his physical late last week and came off the PUP list.
Peart has been working with trainers on the side in preparation for being removed from the PUP list, but even still, he'll probably be slowly eased into the team drills while he gets his wind back.
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Will the Offense Be Crisper?
Every year it seems the defense jumps out ahead of the offense, which can sometimes cause angst among the fan base.
This has been the case with the Giants offense, which has had some good moments, but otherwise hasn't looked as crisp as the defense. But that's what training camp is for: to gradually build up to an acceptable performance level.
Judge agreed. "I think we all have plenty to work on right now. So in terms of who's ahead of someone one way or another, I’m watching tape every day and just looking at what corrections we have to make, what we have to improve on, what fundamentals need to be honed in and how our conditioning is as a team," he said.
"In terms of who’s ahead, offense or defense, that’s going to go back and forth at different times day-to-day. To me, it’s not some kind of assessment or status of the team of who’s winning, offense or defense. To me, it’s about getting everybody on the same page and movement."
The Giants have been slowly ramoing up rookie receiver Kadarius Toney after his unexpected visit to the Rreserve/COVID-19 list. Although Judge has been vague as to when Toney will get on the field, there is some optimism that it could be at some point in the coming week.
"I can’t speak directly for Kadarius and where he’s at," Judge said last week. "I’m going off of what I’ve talked about with the trainers. Obviously, we’re going to take him day by day."
Judge and the Giants have been taking things slowly with guys coming back from COVID-19 based on lessons learned last year.
"We had guys come back last year where they were a little bit winded early in the phase, but they responded quicker," he said. "A lot of times based on what the symptoms had been or how hard they had gotten hit by the virus, that can reflect on when they come on back."
When Toney does get on the field, it will be interesting to see how he's deployed in the offense.
Of all the players currently on PUP and NFI, the return of running back Saquon Barkley (PUP) is undoubtedly the one that's been generating the most interest.
Barkley has been out on the practice field every day doing work with a trainer, sometimes in full view of the media, which was not the case earlier in the spring.
"What I’ve seen from him every day is a guy that comes out and he’s just very focused on keeping it narrow and just understands that today is what’s important and he’s got to go ahead and take a step forward every day," Judge said.
"I’m very pleased with where he’s at. He’s got a great attitude, he’s shown a ton of leadership for us right now, does a tremendous job staying engaged. The important thing for guys when they’re away from the field mentally, they’ve got to stay sharp and involved in communication and the installs so when they come back they’re playing full speed."
While I'm not qualified to accurately assess how well he's moving during his workouts (or, more importantly, how he's feeling after them), it goes without saying that Barkley's return is much anticipated.
That said, it probably won't happen this week. Judge has stressed that they're not going to put Barkley out on the field until they are sure he's ready. Right now, they do have time on their side as Barkley isn't expected to partake in the upcoming scrimmages or any of the preseason games.
But that common sense doesn't dim the growing anticipation of seeing how far along Barkley's comeback story is.
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