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OC Mike Kafka to call plays in regular season


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Coach Brian Daboll is officially relinquishing the duty he has held for nine seasons in his 25-year coaching career, including in each of the last five years.

The first-year head coach announced Monday on a Zoom interview with reporters that offensive coordinator Mike Kafka will call the team's offensive plays when the season begins Sunday in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans.

Kafka called the plays in the Giants' three preseason games.

"I talked to Mike over the weekend," Daboll said. "We were working yesterday; talked to him today. I have a lot of confidence in Mike. We'll stay with how we did things in the preseason."

Kafka has never been a fulltime play-caller. But he worked for Andy Reid, one of the NFL's most respected offensive coaches, the previous five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, including the last four as quarterbacks coach (working with Patrick Mahomes). He was also the team's passing game coordinator the last two seasons.

Rookie wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson enthusiastically endorsed Kafka.

"He knows how to get the guys matched up," Robinson said. "He's going to get us in a groove and get us going. Knows when to take the shots and things like that and get us in the best plays each and every play."

Daboll called plays for the Buffalo Bills from 2018-21 and at the University of Alabama in 2017. He was also the play-calling coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2009-10, Miami Dolphins in 2011 and the Chiefs in 2012.

After Kafka called the plays for the first time in the preseason opener in New England on Aug. 11, Daboll was asked if it was "strange" for him to not have that responsibility.

"I tell you when it was strange was before the game and the night before," he said. "You're going through so many things in your head and thinking about situations. Whether it's the preseason, regular season, or the playoff game, whatever it may be. You know, it's a tough job to call plays, and you got to really put a lot of time and effort and energy into it, and Mike has done a good job with it."

View photos of the New York Giants' 2022 roster as it currently stands.

*Daboll spoke publicly for the first time since the Giants released linebacker Blake Martinez last week. He was not interested in doing a deep dive into the thinking behind the transaction.

"I appreciate the question," he said. "All I'll say is every decision that we make regarding releasing a player is always a difficult decision. Just like all our guys, I'd say good luck to Blake and the rest of the guys that we released; and we're looking forward to getting ready on our preparations for Tennessee.

"I'm not going to get into why (the) release, why we didn't release, where he's at. That's how we're going to handle our stuff here in terms of our releases. Wish Blake the best and looking forward to moving on to this week."

*The Giants have five inside linebackers on their current roster: Tae Crowder, the team's leading tackler last season; Austin Calitro; Cam Brown; Carter Coughlin; and rookie Micah McFadden.

"The guys we have on the roster, we have confidence in," Daboll said. "Those spots are interchangeable, the inside linebacker spots. Again, whether it be Tae, McFadden, Calitro, we have confidence in the guys that are on our roster."

*Daboll also reveal little injury information, specifically regarding edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee), the team's top draft choice, and Azeez Ojulari (leg), who led the Giants with 8.0 sacks as a rookie last year.

"They're rehabbing," Daboll said. "They're day-to-day, and we'll just take it that way. We'll talk to our training staff tonight and see where they're at for tomorrow."

Do they have a shot to play on Sunday?

"Day-to-day," Daboll repeated.

*Daboll did not say who will start at left guard for Shane Lemieux, who is on injured reserve with a toe injury.

"We have a week here to move guys in and out and let those guys compete," he said.

*Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who injured his back last week vs. the Jets, is "good to go," Daboll said.

*Since the NFL schedule was released in May, rookie right tackle Evan Neal thought he would be matched up against Tennessee outside linebacker Harold Landry III, who led the Titans with 12.0 sacks last season. But Landry tore his ACL in practice on Wednesday and is out for the season.

"That doesn't change anything," Neal said. "They are going to have a guy that's in his place that I am going to have to block."

Daboll also said Landry's absence doesn't alter the Giants' preparation.

"First of all, my condolences to him," Daboll said. "He's a fantastic player, and you never want to see any player get injured. He brought a lot to their defense and really was a dynamic player. Again, every team has backups. And those backups are fully capable. We respect every player we have to play against. We'll take a look at the other players that are behind him. We don't exactly know what's going to happen – whether (Defensive End Denico) Autry's going to move over there. Whatever it may be, the first game you have to rely on your rules and the things that you did through training camp. And that's where our focus will be."

"I watch film on everybody," Neal said. "I'm studying all those guys."