EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The best way for the Giants to ramp up their training for the 2022 season might be to simply get healthy.
As they get deeper into training camp, the Giants, like many teams, would like to reduce the number of players on their injury report. They left 16 players behind in New Jersey when they traveled to New England to face the Patriots in their preseason opener last night. That included four players who are ineligible to play because they are on the reserve/physically unable to perform or non-football injury lists.
Three more players were hurt in the Giants' 23-21 victory: starting left guard Shane Lemieux (toe), backup offensive lineman Jamil Douglas (ankle) and rookie cornerback Cor'Dale Flott (groin). Coach Brian Daboll did not have an update on their status when he spoke to the media this afternoon.
That's 19 players, or 21.1% of the 90-man roster, that could be sidelined or limited when the Giants return to practice on Sunday. And the Giants must reduce the roster to 85 players by the NFL's mandatory cutdown at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The absences could affect their preparation prior to preseason game No. 2, on Aug. 21 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I think that's always something you talk about," Daboll said. "You like to have as many guys out there as you can. Again, our ultimate goal is to get to Week 1 as healthy as we can with the right roster. Anyone that is healthy that's ready to go, we're going to play. And the guys that we don't think are quite ready or maybe need a little bit more time, we're going to help them get as good as they can so that we'll get the best version of themselves when they're ready to go. But injuries, you talk about injuries every week. There's constant roster management. Who's going where. That's just part of the business."
Daboll said he is not concerned when asked specifically about second-year wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who was limited to 10 games as a rookie because of injuries and has been held out of several training camp practices or drills.
"He worked really hard coming from the offseason to get to where he is right now," Daboll said. "Things happen in practice, things happen in a game. If he was ready to go, he would be out there. We thought it would be in our best interest and in his best interest not to play this game relative to what he was going through, his injury and hopefully these next few days will calm it down and we'll be ready to go again."
View photos from the preseason opener between the Giants and Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
Among the players who were in uniform, Daboll came away with a favorable early impression of the Giants' 2022 draft class. Four of the rookies started: right tackle Evan Neal and tight end Daniel Bellinger on offense and edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and inside linebacker Darrian Beavers on defense. When Lemieux went down, third-round draft choice Joshua Ezeudu replaced him. Linebacker Micah McFadden was one of three Giants with a team-high four tackles.
"I'd say really with all the rookies, and this has usually been the case in my history coaching, is it takes them a little time to get warmed up," Daboll said. "And I thought that that was the case with really all of our rookies. But I thought we saw a lot of good things from those guys as you went on. A lot of the things that I showed the team today, whether it be Ezeudu doing a good job with getting movement at the line of scrimmage or McFadden making some good instinctive plays, Beavers, Bellinger on some back-side blocks, (wide receiver) Wan'Dale (Robinson), really all the guys I thought as the game went on, they improved. Which you like to see that and they're going to need to take another step this week of having a good week of practice and going out there and playing again."
Beavers had three solo tackles last night. He also called the defensive signals at times. Beavers was the last of the team's 11 draft choices this year, No. 182 overall. But he made an immediate positive impression in the spring and has a chance to open the season as a starter.
"I think he's an instinctive player," Daboll said. "He's got good size and length. Much like Ezeudu, there were some good plays he had and some plays that we need to correct and teach from so that next time, we're a little bit better at them. But he's a young man that loves football, that has good intelligence, that's tough, that's dependable. And he's a good young player to work with."
Beavers played three seasons at the University of Cincinnati after beginning his collegiate career with two years at UConn. He amassed 233 tackles, including 28 for loss, and 14.0 sacks.
Though it is the preseason, the game last night represented a major milestone for Beavers.
"The first couple of drives I was saying, 'I'm actually out here playing an NFL game,'" he said. "And I feel like that's something that's big, man. That's something I dream for. I was a little bit nervous out there. I'm a human. But it definitely started to calm down throughout the game and it was great to be out there."
Daboll was also excited by the contributions from the running backs. After Saquon Barkley ran for 13 yards on four carries on the game's first series, rookie Antonio Williams led the way with 61 yards and a two-yard touchdown, Gary Brightwell rushed for 40 yards, Jashaun Corbin for 23 and Sandro Platzgummer, who is in his third camp as the team's representative of the NFL's International Player Pathway Program, ran for 21 yards on the game's final possession. Matt Breida did not play due to injury.
"I think the running back room has good competition and I said that in the meeting today to those guys," Daboll said. "It's a competitive room. Their tough, their doing a good job with the system, they're a supportive group even though it's a competitive group, they run downhill with power, and they break tackles. They're certainly things that we can clean up, pass protection, physicalness without the ball, but it's been a good group to work with. Gary did a nice job on special teams and so did Antonio and so did Corbin. Hopefully, we'll get Matt as quickly as we can but it's a competitive group. Saquon was good in those first couple carries. I thought he hit the ball downhill, didn't dance, and then Sandro finished it off. Let's not forget about him."
*Daboll was asked for an update on Sterling Shepard, Nick Gates and Matt Peart, who are on reserve/ PUP, and Azeez Ojulari, on the reserve/NFI list.
"I think they are getting closer," Daboll said. "In terms of a time frame, I can't give it to you right now, but they are getting closer. They're improving day to day and hopefully they'll be out there as soon as they can."