New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge and Cleveland Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski are most likely thrilled with the amount of work their respective teams got done during the two days of training camp practices on Thursday and Friday. When two teams practice against each other in camp, they can get double the amount of work done since one team’s offense can practice against the other team’s defense at the same time when on another field the other defense is battling the other offense. Since there are more safeguards in place, players are also less likely to get injured and it appears there were no major injuries during the two-day affair.
Indeed, joint practices make the preseason game less important. Coach Stefanski has already announced that most of his starters will not play against the Giants on Sunday. Coach Judge will likely do the same or only play his starters a couple of series. Regardless, we won’t learn much from Sunday’s preseason game. Its importance has already been minimalized. The most important work was done on Thursday and Friday. And what did we learn from those practices? The Giants could compete at the same level as the playoff-calibre Browns. On Friday, it appears the Giants were the better team on offense and defense. One or two days of practice should not be overvalued, but the results were encouraging. My gut tells me one of the reasons why the practice was so testy is the Browns didn’t expect the Giants to be so competitive.
If the trend of holding joint practices continues in future years, the actual preseason games simply won’t matter as much. It will be interesting to see if Coach Judge arranges two joint practices again in 2022.
THE INJURY REPORT:
As I mentioned in last week’s preview, Coach Judge and his training staff are very cautious, perhaps excessively so, in protecting players who are not near 100 percent. Based on who did not practice or fully practice on Thursday and/or Friday, it’s probably a safe bet to assume the following players will not play:
- RB Saquon Barkley (knee)
- WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring)
- WR Kadarius Toney (unknown)
- WR John Ross (hamstring?)
- WR Austin Mack (hamstring?)
- TE Kyle Rudolph (foot)
- TE Cole Hikutini (unknown)
- OT Nate Solder (shoulder?)
- LB Tae Crowder (unknown)
- LB Elerson Smith (hamstring)
- CB Aaron Robinson (core muscle)
- CB Josh Jackson (unknown)
- S Montre Hartage (unknown)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Folks are going to start complaining that I’m being “Mr. Doom” again, but there is somewhat serious concern brewing: much of the firepower that the Giants imported during the offseason has not been on the field practicing. Indeed, right now, the Giants healthy starting offense looks a lot like the unit that finished near dead-last in 2020.
Reporters were stating that Kenny Golladay and Daniel Jones didn’t appear to be in sync before Golladay pulled his hamstring more than two weeks ago. Saquon Barkley has yet to practice in team drills and AT BEST, may be ready for only a few touches on opening day. Kyle Rudolph is still on the PUP and we have no clue when he will even be able to practice. John Ross isn’t practicing. And oddest of all, Kadarius Toney hasn’t really practiced during the spring or summer at all. We don’t even know what is wrong with him. But Toney has no work in with Daniel Jones and the starting offense. It’s hard to imagine he will be much of a factor for possibly even the first half of the season.
Much of the optimism for an improved offense centered around the additions of these guys. For now, the Giants may be in the hands of Devontae Booker, Corey Clement, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Evan Engram, and virtually the same offensive line as last year.
What to look for offensively in this game? I assume the starting offensive line will get at least a couple of series, just like they did against the Jets. Shane Lemieux (knee) missed that game. Matt Peart gave up a sack against the Jets. Fans will be looking at how the starting five performs. Without Nate Solder playing, the reserve line will be undermanned, but this should be our first look at Jon Harrison and Ted Larsen. Kenny Wiggins struggled last week and gets a chance to redeem himself.
The battle at running back between Booker and Clement continues, as does the battle for the final roster spots at wide receiver between David Sills, C.J. Board, Dante Pettis, Alex Bachman, Matt Cole, and Damion Willis. Special teams play will be ever important there. Cole Hikutini was making a move at tight end before he got hurt. Now the door is open for Rysen John and Nakia Griffin-Stewart.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The early indications are that the Giants are going to be pretty good on defense, stronger than last year. The defensive line has been performing well. The secondary is deeper and more talented. And while there are no superstar edge rushers, the Giants appear to have strength in numbers. Fans may have written off Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines too soon. Both have flashed in Ohio. So did Trent Harris. And rookie Azeez Ojulari is coming along nicely. Inside we, we may have a battle brewing between Reggie Ragland and Tae Crowder for playing time. Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin are showing inside-outside, jack-of-all-trades versatility. Then you still have Ifeadi Odenigbo, Ryan Anderson, Niko Lalos, and Elerson Smith (who has yet to get on the field).
The Giants pass rush against the Browns at practice was pretty darn good. Some of these guys probably won’t play or play much against Cleveland. Still, I’d like to see some of Carter and Ximines before they give way to the others. I wouldn’t play Martinez much, if at all. Same with corners James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson and safeties Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan. Peppers, in particular, was giving the Browns fits on blitzes. We know what he can do.
The biggest issue the Giants had in the practices was covering WR Jarvis Landry out of the slot. He won’t play so Darnay Holmes and Julian Love won’t be tested as much. It’s not known if we will see newly-acquired corners Josh Jackson (he didn’t practice on Friday) and Keion Crossen. Expect a heavy dose of Rodarius Williams, Madre Harper, and perhaps even Sam Beal.
We know who the base guys up front are. Leonard Williams is having a really strong camp. Dexter Lawrence is one of the most important players on the team. Austin Johnson and Danny Shelton look like they can do the job. B.J. Hill is a valuable reserve. But there are some guys who we didn’t expect to make much noise who perhaps have a chance to make the team. One guy is Raymond Johnson. Keep an eye on him.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I get the sense that Joe Judge is still not thrilled with his gunners, hence the additions of Keion Crossen and Josh Jackson. That said, Matt Cole made a heck of a play last week downing a punt inside the 10. C.J. Board handled the kickoff and punt returns last week. Is that an indication that he has a leg up on the others? As I suspected, Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey indicated that Ryan Santoso will see the bulk (if not all) of the preseason action.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Joe Judge on the second preseason game: “I haven’t decided, yet (who will play). We’re going to see how we come out (on Friday) and I’m going to talk with Kevin (Stefanski) in terms of his plans. We’ve talked earlier in the week about what they’re intending to do and we’re going to see how that’s going to measure up and we’ll evaluate our team after (Friday’s practice). I don’t see playing as a punishment specific to anything in terms of what a performance would dictate to us. I just want to make sure we keep our overall players’ loads in consideration going into it because it’ll also be a quick turnaround going from Cleveland, getting back home, training up to Boston and going against New England for a couple of days before playing the preseason game, through which we’re going to truly treat as more of that regular season dress rehearsal.”
THE FINAL WORD:
This was a good week for the Giants. My biggest disappointment is the apparent lack of immediate impact from the 2021 Draft Class:
- 1st Round: WR Kadarius Toney
- 2nd Round: LB Azeez Ojulari
- 3rd Round: CB Aaron Robinson
- 4th Round: LB Elerson Smith
- 6th Round: RB Gary Brightwell
- 6th Round: CB Rodarius Williams
It seems like it will be a long time before we see Toney, Robinson, and Smith receive any meaningful playing time. It also sucks that Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph are not getting in sync with Daniel Jones.