Thursday's media session was dominated by offensive line talk, which is music to most Giants fans' ears. In addition to head coach Pat Shurmur taking the podium, offensive line coach Hal Hunter, guard Kevin Zeitler, and other players met with the media.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Jon Halapio leading the competition at center; final decision likely won't be made until after third preseason game. In the middle of all the wide receiver talk, Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley have quietly gone about their business in one of the most important competitions on the roster. They are fighting to be the starting center, a job which Halapio held last year before his season abruptly ended with a serious leg injury against the Cowboys in Week 2. Pulley, signed days before the 2018 season began, eventually took over and started the final 10 weeks.
"I'd say right now it's fighting out," offensive line coach Hal Hunter said. "I'm trying to give Spencer at least two groups with the one. Pio starts off with the first group, you guys have all seen, but I'm trying to get Spencer in there working with that first group. They are going to battle it out, and we won't make any decisions— practice is practice, so we'll do all of the evaluations in the preseason games and probably through those first three, and then we make our decision and let the best man go out there.
"They're both good players, they are both a little bit different type of a player. Spencer is a real mentally savvy player, he's a good technician, knows how to, since he's a little bit lighter, use his body technique to get things done. He was really productive for us in the last half of the season. Pio was just starting to hit his stride when he got hurt last year. He's tough, he's strong, he's got a lot of power in everything, he's got a little bit different type game, both within themselves, can fit within our scheme."
2. Offensive line taking old school approach with veteran additions. The Giants bolstered the right side of their offensive line this offseason by bringing in guard Kevin Zeitler and tackle Mike Remmers, who combine for 178 regular-season and postseason starts. Hunter, who had Jamon Brown and undrafted rookie Chad Wheeler in those positions for most of last season, sees the impact that the veterans have made in the room.
"First off, I think it's got a different makeup, mentally," Hunter said. "When you add two veteran players like Mike Remmers and Kevin Zeitler, who are two serious guys who've got a lot of NFL snaps, they are a pro's pro, they are tough, smart. All of a sudden you've added a lot to your group, so you've got some veteran players there.
"You get Jon Halapio back who brings a real toughness about him, you've got Spencer Pulley still in the mix, because I still consider him as starting caliber, and of course you've got Nate [Solder] on the left side who brings a lot to the group and Will [Hernandez] will be a second-year older, so you hope that sophomore year, you'd expect a lot of improvement. I just think there's a more serious focus, I would say more of an old-school approach, and that's what those players bring. We've got some good young players coming up, so there's a little bit of competition in there. There's a real focused, determined, work ethic going on right now."
3. Zeitler "focused" on improving O-line. Hunter said today that Zeitler is the most focused player he has ever been around. Those are big words coming from a man who is going on four decades as a coach.
"This is year number 38 for me and he is the most serious, focused, all-about-football guy I have ever been around," Hunter said. "I thought it was Kris Dielman [with the Chargers] before, but he takes it up a notch. You love being around a guy like that. I worry about him wearing himself out mentally because he is so focused and so in tune. I think it starts to get contagious with the other guys. He's a no-nonsense guy, every day he is a man on a mission, his performance is really important to him. You can see it's kind of working through the room a little bit. He brings something really different. I'm excited to have him."
4. LB B.J. Goodson out with a hamstring injury. Goodson, a fourth-year inside linebacker, is dealing with a hamstring injury. Shurmur said it is "not terrible" and hopes to get him back soon. Goodson started a career-high 13 games last season after playing just seven in 2017. Earlier this week, linebackers coach Bill McGovern spoke about what he brings to the unit.
"He understands the nickel game, (and) he can play the nickel game," McGovern said. "He's strong, he's physical against the run, he's gotten better against the pass receiver and moves better, even in this preseason camp. We're excited just to see everything that he's doing as it continues on, and kind of plays itself out as we get into the games."
Staying on the injury front, wide receiver Sterling Shepard (broken thumb) was still in a yellow pinny yesterday, which means quarterbacks should not throw to him. In the heat of the moment, however, Eli Manning instinctively threw to an open No. 87.
"Winning in practice and doing something stupid is not what we want to do," Shurmur said. "Eli just reacted and threw it to him, and Shep caught it."
5. Eli has more zip on the ball. Wide receiver Russell Shepard is the funniest player in the locker room, but he wasn't joking today when he said Manning could play another five to 10 years. The 38-year-old Manning changed up his workout routine this offseason, incorporating methods typically reserved for baseball players, and his targets have noticed.
"It's amazing to be, what, year 16, and still have that zip on the ball," Shepard said. "I'm truly honored to be able to play with a quarterback of his career, of his demeanor. The man who he is on and off the field, he's a true testament of being a good person and how things work out for the good people."
Tight end Evan Engram, who is going on his third year catching passes from Manning, said he "definitely" sees more zip on the ball. But the reason isn't just his training. It's also his improved protection up front.
"Eli looks really good," Engram said. "Like I said, it's the big picture—you've got guys up front competing their butts off, and protecting, and giving Eli time. He's able to sit back there and be comfortable and make those reads and make the proper throws. He's been slinging the ball around a lot, and there's a lot of velocity, and he still has his touch. He's Eli, he's been making great throws for years, but definitely you can see his confidence, and you can see his confidence really growing this camp."