Five takeaways from the latest Giants practice and media hour:
Ready or not, the 2017 season is here.
The Giants, as they look to be the former and not the latter, are in the thick of their preparations for Sunday night's opener in Dallas. The Quest Diagnostics Training Center was buzzing today as coach Ben McAdoo and players met with the media after practice, talking about everything from tweaks they've seen from the Cowboys to the status of Ezekiel Elliott and the first injury report of the season.
Here is what we learned Wednesday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center:
1. SCOUTING THE 'BOYS
McAdoo begins every Wednesday press conference with a scouting report of the upcoming opponent. Dallas, despite being swept by the Giants in the season series, is the reigning NFC East champion after a 13-3 campaign. Here is what the second-year head coach had to say about the Cowboys.
Offense: "They are returning nine out of 11 starters from one of the best offenses in the league. They do a nice job of mixing personnel groups and they have added a no-huddle package to the mix. They've lost a couple starters up front, but they haven't missed a beat there. They have a stable of talented ball carriers and perimeter carriers that complement each other with their skill sets."
Defense: "They are fast, they're physical, they play hard. The front end and back end are tied together well. They make you work for every inch. They were No. 1 in the run in 2016 and they've added some good young talent over the past couple of years. They play with vision, they rally to the ball well and they are probably the best team in the league in stripping the football."
Special Teams: "They have a trio of specialists and coverage players coming back and they do a nice job on special teams."
2. PREP FOR ZEKE
As the regular season came into focus, questions about Ezekiel Elliott, who was suspended six games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, became more frequent at Giants camp. Last night, word came down that although the suspension was upheld, the 2016 rushing champion will be allowed to play Week 1.
"I was following it a little bit because it's all over the place," said cornerback Eli Apple, who played with Elliott at Ohio State. "But you've just got to focus on stuff you can control and that's what we're going to do."
Apple added: "As a competitor, you want the best players out there on the field. And as a defense, we always want to see the best, so it's going to be a great challenge."
3. GIANTS INJURY REPORT
Did not practice: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle), LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
Full participation: CB Eli Apple (ankle), DT Jay Bromley (knee), CB Michael Hunter (concussion), WR Tavarres King (ankle), TE Shane Smith (quad)
Beckham has not played since injuring his ankle in the second preseason game against the Browns. The Giants are just taking it day by day until he receives medical clearance. Beckham said he feels better today than he did yesterday, which was better than the day before that. But can he see himself playing Sunday?
"I wouldn't count it out," Beckham said. "My heart, it's just not going to make this easy, so I can say it's a day-to-day thing, really trying to get better. It's been two weeks, so I'm itching, I'm itching, but just patience and trusting."
4. COWBOYS INJURY REPORT
Did not practice: LB Anthony Hitchens (ankle)
Limited: CB Jourdan Lewis (hamstring)
Full: CB Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring), DE Taco Charlton (shoulder), DE Tyrone Crawford (ankle), G Chaz Green (ankle), TE James Hanna (hamstring), FB Keith Smith (knee), S Xavier Woods (hamstring)
5. GOODSON WAS 'BORN TO PLAY'
Linebacker B.J. Goodson was already taking on a major role in his second season as the starting middle linebacker for a defense that allowed the fewest touchdowns in the NFL a year ago. But with Robinson still in the concussion protocol, what the coaches are asking of Goodson has expanded into the sub packages, meaning Goodson could be on the field for all three downs.
Over the summer, he gained the trust of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as well as his veteran teammates, a group that includes All-Pros and Pro Bowlers. It all gets put to the test beginning Sunday against one of the best offensive fronts in the game.
"I always say, them being comfortable with me calling and leading the defense was the biggest thing for me," said Goodson, whom Jonathan Casillas calls the "pilot" of the defense. "Those guys feeling that way makes me feel a whole lot better with calling the defense."
"I talked to him today and I told him that he looks like he is born for the position, but most importantly, he has earned it," McAdoo said. "First, second and third down, he's out there. He takes ownership of the defense and I'm excited to watch him play on Sunday."