The Giants continued their preparation for this weekend's preseason finale against the Jets today with another carded practice. This came one day after the two teams participated in a joint practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, an experience that pleased head coach Brian Daboll.
"Thought it was a productive practice yesterday with the Jets," said the head coach. "I thought we got a lot accomplished. It was good to see another color jersey, guys going against different skillsets, the competitiveness. I thought we practiced the right way. (Jets Head) Coach (Robert) Saleh and his team I thought did a fantastic job, and we tried to reciprocate it. We got a lot out of it. It was good work."
Daboll, running back Saquon Barkley and safety Xavier McKinney spoke to the media.
Here is what we learned:
1. Azeez 'day-to-day' after injury scare
The Giants got a bit of a scare towards the end of Thursday's practice when second-year outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari went down with an injury. With Kayvon Thibodeaux already sidelined for the time being, the Giants could ill afford to lose Ojulari for an extended period of time. Coach Daboll announced to the media Friday morning that Ojulari avoided a major issue and the linebacker will take it "day-to-day" before they determine when he might be able to return.
"Anytime you get better news on an injury that it may or may not be, I think you're always happy as a coach," said Daboll. "But he'll be day-to-day. We'll just keep on grinding him through."
Ojulari set a franchise rookie record with his eight sacks in 2021. He also became the first player in Giants history to record a sack in each of his first three games with the team.
2. Shepard's return provides boost
The Giants received great news Wednesday morning when it was announced veteran Sterling Shepard had passed his physical and was activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list. Shepard suffered a season-ending Achilles injury during last season's matchup against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15. Wednesday's practice was the first one in which Shepard was able to participate in some team drills.
Shepard's return provided a welcomed boost to not only the wide receiver room or offense, but the entire team. The 29-year-old is the longest tenured Giant, now entering his seventh season with the team. It was clear that Shepard's presence was a welcome sight for everyone on the roster.
"It feels great," Xavier McKinney said about Shepard's return. "When he got hurt and I talked to him, I told him how much I looked up to him, how much he meant to us as a team, how much he meant to me as a leader on this team. It was great to have him back. His energy is like no other. He brings a great energy, a great spirit every day. He's just one of those guys you just love to be around, so definitely good to see him back out there moving like himself."
"To see him back on the field brought a smile to my face," Saquon Barkley added. "It actually hurt me when he got hurt in that game. I remember the play, and I was just like 'Oh man. It can't be. It can't be.' But to see all the work he put in and to finally get back on the field, it'll just make the offense better. It'll just make the team better because of his personality, his character, his leadership, and his energy. If anyone has anything to say about Shep, the first thing we talk about is just the way he's able to light up a room no matter what's going on. So that's big, and that's important. And I'm excited for him this year, too."
3. McKinney stepping up as leader
Xavier McKinney emerged as one of the key players on the defense last season. The safety out of Alabama not only led the team with five interceptions, but he was also among the league leaders. He added 10 pass breakups, 93 total tackles (59 solo) and one defensive touchdown.
The 23-year-old safety, who overlapped with Daboll at Alabama during his freshman season, has also taken a big step in his development as a leader this year, according to his head coach.
"I think for a younger player, he has no problem speaking up," Daboll said about the third-year safety. "He's a good communicator. He knows the defensive system very well. I think he does a great job with, not just a defense backs, but communication with the linebackers, the front guys, the offense. He's really been a pleasure to be around."
4. Giants ready for season
It's been exactly one month since veterans officially reported to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the beginning of training camp. In that time, the Giants have significantly ramped up their intensity in preparation for the start of the regular season.
The Giants emerged victorious in each of their first two preseason games, first defeating the Patriots, 23-21, and then beating the Bengals, 25-22. Brian Daboll's squad won the time of possession in each contest and outgained each of their opponents (418-308 vs. New England, 423-271 vs. Cincinnati). Between all of their training camp practices, meetings and preseason games, the Giants feel prepared for the upcoming start to the season in a little over two weeks.
"I think we're ready," McKinney said. "I think we've done a great job of getting prepared, making sure that we're conditioned, tightening up the little things as far as plays and things like that. I think the coaches have done a great job with us, of helping us get prepared and be ready for the season. So now, obviously we've got another game, so play that game and then onto the regular season."
Added Barkley, "I'm ready. I'm ready to go."
5. Injury updates for Sunday
There are no official injury reports in the preseason, but once again, Daboll announced this morning that the following players will not be suiting up for Sunday's preseason finale: WR Sterling Shepard, WR C.J. Board, OL Shane Lemieux, OL Josh Ezeudu, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Garrett McGhin, OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux, OLB Azeez Ojulari, OLB Elerson Smith, CB Rodarius Williams, S Dane Belton and K Graham Gano. Additionally, WR Kadarius Toney, WR Darius Slayton and OLB Jihad Ward are all questionable for the game.
Daboll told reporters that OL Shane Lemieux "probably" will not be ready for the season opener against the Titans in two weeks. The head coach said he "wouldn't anticipate him anytime soon" in regards to the young lineman's return to the field.
Additionally, with Gano missing Sunday's game due to a concussion, the Giants signed Ryan Santoso. He spent the 2020 campaign with the Giants before bouncing around with a couple of teams last season. Wide receiver Travis Toivonen was also brought back exactly one month after the team released him.
View rare photos from the local rivalry between the Giants and Jets.