The New York Giants met with the media before Wednesday's practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Here are five things we learned:
1. Daniel Jones learning what it's like to be a QB in NY. The rookie quarterback's interception in practice yesterday didn't lose a Super Bowl for the Giants, but it seemed that way if you heard the line of questioning on Wednesday. In those few minutes standing at the podium, which he unsurprisingly handled well, Jones got a glimpse into what Eli Manning has gone through for 16 years. "How did you react to the pick?" "Were you aware you hadn't thrown one yet?" "Do you track your completion percentage?" "How do you judge if you had a good practice?" "Coach Shurmur said you were pissed."
Just as Eli is Eli, Daniel was Daniel in response. He answered the questions without getting too high or too low.
"I certainly wasn't happy about it," Jones said of the interception, which was caught by fellow rookie Corey Ballentine. "It's going to happen. That's part of playing the game. Corey made a heck of a play there, definitely something to learn for me from that. I can be sooner making that decision, probably put the ball a little higher in the back of the end zone. Definitely not happy about it, but something to learn."
Jones was also asked what has been the biggest challenge so far at camp.
"To me, it's as we've gotten a little bit further into camp, the defense has put in more different looks and a lot of stuff I haven't seen before," Jones said. "You're playing against an NFL defense that can do a lot of different things, so I think it's that. It's seeing and understanding the defense quickly, and kind of letting that lead you into your decision and into your progression. So, I think that to me has been a challenge."
2. Shep, in a yellow pinny, sets an example for his team. Despite fracturing the tip of his left thumb in the first practice of training camp, wide receiver Sterling Shepard has not missed a day of work. On Tuesday, he wore a yellow pinny over his white jersey, signaling to the offense "don't throw to him." For the defense, it means "don't hit him." Other than that, Shepard is pretty much doing everything.
"Any player practicing, there's a little bit of a risk. For anything. That's why we try to be smart," Shurmur said. "That's why we try to watch the players and see individually where they're at, and then go from there. Because if not, we'd just throw everybody in bubble wrap and we'll see you opening day. We all understand that that's not how we do it. Now the challenge is to be smart. Guys that are dealing with injuries, bring them back at the pace that they can come back. But also, then be able to practice."
Shurmur added: "He wants to be out here. He's a team player. He knows he needs to work. We all do. Ideally, every player practices every day. You can just look at every team throughout the league. There's guys on every team that, for whatever reason, aren't practicing and they'll be back tomorrow, aren't practicing and they'll be back in two days. Then there are guys that are practicing. That's just the nature of training camp because of some of the physicality that goes with it."
3. Ballentine impressing coaches, could return kickoffs. Ballentine was responsible for the questions that Jones faced today, making a nice play in the end zone on the interception. It was the second pick of camp for Ballentine, who is turning heads among a young group of defensive backs.
"I think he's getting better," Shurmur said. "Yesterday, he made a really nice play on the seam ball. That's what you expect. You get your hands on the ball and finish it like he did. That was excellent. That was a terrific play. And then he had another pass breakup later. So, when you start to see those guys get their hands on balls, and when we watch the tape, they're in the right position. But then early in practice, he gave up a slant. As we go through it, we watch it all and we grade it all. He's definitely, definitely making progress and doing more good things than bad."
"I have been very pleased," defensive backs coach Everett Withers said. "Corey is a very eager young man to learn technique and fundamentals. He's worked his tail off this offseason. He texted me probably four or five times a week during the summer about questions on coverages, so that's what you like about him. He's got some physical tools that God gave him, so now it's just a matter of putting that all together. He's done well the past few days of practice."
Shurmur mentioned that Ballentine could be an option on return kickoffs. There is a need there after wide receiver Corey Coleman, who ranked sixth in the NFL last season with 26.0 yards per kickoff return, tore his ACL at the beginning of training camp.
Ballentine averaged 24.8 yards per kickoff return during his career at Washburn. He averaged 30.6 yards on 23 attempts in 2017, which was fifth in Division II football. Ballentine is also a former track star in college, recording the nine fastest times in the 60m in school history and the six fastest times in the indoor 200m. He also holds the school record in the outdoor 100m (10.51), outdoor 200m (21.25) and has eight of the 10 fastest times in the 100m and the top six times in the outdoor 200m in school history.
4. Amid WR injuries, Bennie Fowler becoming a reliable option. After signing midway through last season, Fowler played in 10 games and started five times for the Giants. In his first full offseason with the team, he looked as good as anyone during OTAs and minicamp. Now he has carried that into training camp, where yesterday he caught a touchdown and made another sensational catch on passes from Eli Manning.
"He's a guy that can play all of the positions," Shurmur said. "Typically he plays outside, but there are times where he'll be in the slot. He's smart, he has good instincts, he picks things up quickly. You saw we've had some receiver injuries within practice, and he's been able to go from being X to Z and Z to X. That flexibility is important."
5. Withers anxious to see how new pass interference rules work with replay. As a former college head coach and a current defensive backs coach in the NFL, Withers has a unique perspective on one of the 2019 rule changes that allows offensive and defensive pass interference to be subject to review. Coaches can now challenge those calls outside of the final two minutes of each half. Inside of two minutes, they will be subject to a booth review.
Withers withheld an opinion on the change, wanting to see what it looks like first in the preseason. He will be particularly anxious to see how first-round pick DeAndre Baker handles it. The Georgia product won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top DB by being physical.
"I think just working everyday on techniques and fundamentals, hopefully that goes down as we get further into camp as they get more comfortable with the technique," Withers said. "In the offseason you don't get to play a lot of press, so when you get into training camp and you can, you have to continue to work on your fundamentals and technique. I think the guys are getting better at it and hopefully that will diminish some of the flags."