The Giants returned to the practice field Sunday for their last open practice in front of the fans.
In exactly one week, Brian Daboll's squad will take the field at MetLife Stadium to face off against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second game of the preseason. Coach Daboll met with the media prior to practice, while Azeez Ojulari, who returned to practice for the first time in this camp, and Andrew Thomas spoke to reporters after the session.
Here is what we learned:
1. Ojulari passes physical, returns to practice
Daboll shared with the media this morning that Azeez Ojulari had passed his physical and would be returning to practice. The second-year linebacker was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list at the start of training camp due to a hamstring injury, but was able to get back on the practice field less than three weeks later.
'It feels good to be back with the team doing what I do best – what I love to do, the game of football. It felt good to be back with the team working…" Ojulari stated. "I've been locked in since the jump. Even though I was on the side, I'm still locked in with the walk throughs, the play calls, the playbook and everything – the conditioning and everything. I'm still locked in. Just continue to get back into the flow of things with pads on and everything."
Ojulari set a franchise rookie record with eight sacks last season, and also became the first Giant to register a sack in each of his first three games with the team. Despite last year's success, the 22-year-old has left his rookie achievements in the rearview mirror.
"I've put that in the past now," said the outside linebacker. "It's a new season. I'm trying to leave that in the past and just focus on what's in front of me day-by-day. Just keep grinding, trying to elevate and get better every day."
2. Williams taking advantage of opportunities
The Giants rushed for 177 yards against the Patriots while averaging nearly 5.5 yards per carry. A lot of that success was due to the strong play of Antonio Williams. The third-year pro led the team with 61 yards on nine carries (6.8 avg.) and scored the Giants' only rushing touchdown.
Williams signed with the Giants in late January after spending the past two seasons with Daboll and GM Joe Schoen in Buffalo. He played in just one game over those two years with the Bills, but shined in that lone appearance (against Miami) in which he rushed the ball 12 times for 63 yards (5.3 avg.) and two touchdowns, adding a reception for 20 yards. Williams is part of the competition at running back trying to make the 53-man roster.
"Consummate pro," said the head coach. "I mean, he took advantage of his opportunities. The best play he probably had was on the kickoff on the second half. He went down there and tackled a guy for not much of a gain. He was excited about that. He's a guy that's constantly working to try to stick on a roster, try to stick around. His mindset's good. He's smart. There's good competition in that room."
3. Thomas likes O-line's effort vs. Patriots
Andrew Thomas started 13 games at left tackle in 2021, allowing just two sacks on 517 pass block snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. His 82.1 pass block grade ranked No. 12 among all offensive tackles, and he finished with a strong 78.9 overall grade.
Thomas arrived at training camp as the only returning member from last season's starting offensive line. Jon Feliciano and Mark Glowinski were signed during free agency, while Evan Neal was drafted seventh overall in this year's draft. Due to all of the additions across the O-line, Thursday's preseason opener was the first time the unit got to play together. Although encouraged by their performance, Thomas knows there are still things they can improve.
"For the first time, a new unit being together, not terrible, but a lot of things we've got to clean up," said the left tackle. "We didn't have that big of a sample size, so we have to be really efficient in the plays that you get. Just going back, working on the technique, and making sure we get it like coach wants it."
Williams, Gary Brightwell, Jashaun Corbin, Sandro Platzgummer and Saquon Barkley, the team's running backs combined for 158 yards on 29 carries, good for an average of nearly 5.5 yards.
"That's definitely good," Thomas said about last week's rushing performance. "We want to be dominant in the run game and that definitely opens up the passing game. But like I said it's still some things on film that we want to clean up technique-wise, but the effort and energy was high."
View the top photos from Sunday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
4. Last open practice
Wednesday marks exactly three weeks since training camp opened. During that span, the Giants have taken the field to practice in front of the fans on most days, including the annual Fan Fest at MetLife Stadium. In fact, today's session was the final open practice to the fans at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The head coach opened his press conference this morning with a quick thank you to all of the fans that were able to make it out for a practice.
"Last day here of open practices. Really appreciate the fan support," Daboll said. "Good attendance. I know it gives the guys juice."
5. Injury update
The Giants have suffered some hits to the offensive line since the start of training camp. It started with the losses of Marcus McKethan and Matt Gono, and continued during Thursday's opener against the Patriots. Starting left guard Shane Lemieux suffered a toe injury and was spotted in a walking boot after the game.
"He probably won't be out there this week," Daboll stated about the third-year lineman. "We'll see. We'll kind of take it day-by-day… He definitely, he did something, but we're day-by-day with these injuries, we'll see where he's at. I know the guy will rehab the best he can to get available for us."
Jamil Douglas, listed as the backup center on the team's first unofficial depth chart, also left Thursday's game with an ankle injury and was not out there for today's practice. The same goes for rookie Joshua Ezeudu, listed as the backup left guard and left tackle, along with rookie CB Cor'Dale Flott, currently the backup nickel corner.
"He'll be working back. We'll see where he's at by the end of the week," Daboll said about Flott. "So, we had some guys that got a little big dinged up. I don't think anything real serious, but also trying to do right by the players to get them back as healthy as we can."