The Giants will officially kick off the 2022 NFL preseason when they travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night. The game will represent the first under head coach Brian Daboll and his staff, including offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey was retained from last year's coaching staff.
The game against the Patriots will serve as the first time the Giants showcase their new offensive and defensive systems. Daboll told the media earlier this week that he anticipates all of the team's healthy players will get on the field Thursday, although for how many snaps remains to be seen.
"I think it's an individual basis with the players," Daboll said about play counts. "Some guys have played a lot of football. Some have played less. Everybody's in new systems here. With our system on offense, our system on defense, the kicking game is similar. But I think that's important to play football: to have live reps. How many reps that's going to be, I can't tell you right now. I think it's going to be less for some and more for others, and each game will have a plan going into it. I anticipate all of our guys playing on Thursday."
Thursday's contest is the 31st preseason matchup between the Giants and Patriots, with the Giants leading the series, 19-11. It is just the ninth time that the two clubs meet in the preseason opener. The teams met in the preseason finale every year from 2005-2019. In last year's preseason matchup, which came in the final week of the preseason, the Patriots took home the win, 22-20. Daniel Jones completed 17 of 22 passes for 135 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and Sterling Shepard lead the team with five receptions for 42 yards. On defense, Blake Martinez intercepted a pass from Cam Newton, while Dexter Lawrence registered a sack of Mac Jones.
View photos of the Giants traveling to Foxborough ahead of their preseason opener against the New England Patriots Thursday.
While there are no official injury reports in the preseason, coach Brian Daboll announced the following players will likely not suit up against the Patriots: S Dane Belton, LB Carter Coughlin, TE Ricky Seals-Jones, WR David Sills, CB Rodarius Williams, TE Andre Miller, OL Nick Gates, OL Marcus McKethan, LB Azeez Ojulari, OT Matt Peart, WR Sterling Shepard. Additionally, Daboll said there is a high probability that RB Matt Breida is out, while G Joshua Ezeudu is questionable.
KAFKA TO CALL PLAYS VS. PATRIOTS
Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka will call the offense's plays in Thursday's preseason opener, Coach Daboll said earlier this week. Kafka, the first-time coordinator, came to the Giants from the Kansas City Chiefs, where he served as the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator the previous two seasons. The former quarterback learned under Chiefs head coach Andy Reid over the last five years and is excited to call plays for the first time Thursday.
"I look at it as an opportunity," Kafka told the media about the opportunity to call plays Thursday. "An opportunity not only for myself, but for the players. Everyone out there is, those guys are, you know, everyone on there is working hard to make the team and show what they can do and show that they can build themselves a role. So, I'm looking to go out and do my job to the best of my ability and put the guys in the best position to be successful and show what they can do."
Coach Daboll has yet to determine who will call plays in the regular season.
FIRST LOOK AT DJ IN NEW OFFENSE
The arrivals of Daboll and Kafka earlier this year brought a new offense to the Giants. The two coaches come from successful systems, with Daboll helping lead Buffalo to one of the NFL's top offenses over the last few years and Kafka doing the same in Kansas City. For Daniel Jones, the offense is the third new system he's had to learn in his four NFL seasons.
"I think Daniel's doing a phenomenal job," Kafka stated this week. "He's working. He's operating the offense. I like what he's doing as far as being a leader and trying to get these guys up and push the tempo of the offense. So, I like where Daniel's at."
We don't yet know how much Jones, or anyone else on the first team offense, will play in Thursday's game in Foxborough.
While a few players are likely to miss Thursday's contest, the game against the Patriots will serve as the NFL debut for most of the team's rookies. There are currently 24 rookies on the 90-man roster, many of whom are set to take the field at Gillette Stadium. Both S Dane Belton and OL Marcus McKethan will be sitting out the preseason opener, while G Joshua Ezeudu is questionable. But all other members of the Giants' 11-man 2022 draft class are likely to take the field in some fashion on Thursday, in addition to the undrafted rookies.
For first-round picks Kavyon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, it will be the first time the two get to take the field and go full contact in the NFL, something the latter told reporters he can't wait for.
"I expect it to be fast, aggressive, up-tempo, and violent, just like any other football game would be," Neal said. "I'm excited for that."
Rare photos from the storied history between the New York Giants and New England Patriots.
WINK'S BLITZ-HEAVY DEFENSE
Perhaps the biggest addition the Giants made on defense this offseason was bringing on Wink Martindale as the unit's coordinator. Martindale spent the last four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens in the same position, where he led their defense to top 5 finishes in both points and yards allowed three times.
Through the first few weeks of training camp, numerous defensive players have expressed their excitement about playing in Martindale's blitz-heavy defense. The system allows many of them to line up in multiple spots along the defense, which in turn helps keep the opposing offense on its toes. With the preseason opener finally here, Martindale likes what he's seen from his unit during the first two weeks of camp.
"I'm excited, I'm happy with where we are at right now defensively," the defensive coordinator exclaimed. "I think personnel and Dabs have done a great job of gathering some smart, tough, and dependable players. We're going to be on the process of the next three preseason games finding out who's the smartest, who's the toughest and who's the most dependable – because all three of those factors are what we're going to build on. I like where we are at."
It was clear after his hire that one of general manager Joe Schoen's biggest priorities of the offseason was to improve the offensive line. The Giants signed G Mark Glowinski and OL Jon Feliciano in free agency and then spent first-, third-, and fifth-round picks on Evan Neal, Joshua Ezeudu and Marcus McKethan, respectively, to help bolster the O-line. The only returning player that saw significant time last season is left tackle Andrew Thomas, who is now the longest-tenured starting O-lineman.
While the unit has been working on growing its chemistry during training camp, Thursday's game is the first chance for them to go up against real competition from another team. Their position coach has a few specific things he would like to see out of the O-line in the preseason opener.
"I always want to see improvements in the use of the techniques," offensive line coach Bobby Johnson told reporters Tuesday. "But, more importantly, I want to see improvements in the communication and always ramping up high level effort. So, for me, I just want to see the guys communicate, and I want to see them give max effort. And that won't every change. I'll always want to see that stay at a high level from practice to practice, game to game, year to year, I always want that to be as high as it can possibly be."
Since the conclusion of the 2021 season, the Giants parted ways with several members of last year's secondary, most notably CB James Bradberry and S Logan Ryan. The moves have paved the way for some of the Giants' young defensive backs to earn more playing time and a spot in the starting lineup. On the team's first unofficial depth chart of the season, Aaron Robinson was listed as the second starting corner opposite Adoree' Jackson, while Julian Love joined Xavier McKinney as the starting safeties. Meanwhile, third-year corner Darnay Holmes was listed as the team's starting nickel corner.
Wink Martindale shared with the media that he has "loved" the way the first-team secondary has competed at the start of training camp. Now the defensive coordinator wants to see the unit build on its depth, a message their position coach reiterated Tuesday.
"I think that the whole group is really working," said defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson. "You know, the first group has stayed together most of camp and have played at a pretty high level. We got to get the second group and third group to play up to the standard that the first group is playing with. And that's our, their growth and my challenge is to get that second group because we're going to have guys in that second and third group that are going to play meaningful snaps for us. And, got to get those guys ready to go and playing at that same level so when they play it's no drop-off…
"I can't wait to see them Thursday night and see how they do when the lights are on. You have what you think they're going to do. And sometimes, guys get in, and they play better. Sometimes, quite frankly, guys get in, and they shrink. I hope that this group will get in and play better when you look at your second and third group."
SCOUTING THE PATRIOTS
We don't know yet which Patriots will be suiting up for the preseason opener, but let's take a quick look at some of New England's key players.
On offense, it starts with Mac Jones, who completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, leading the Patriots to a 10-7 record, in his rookie campaign last year. Damien Harris (202 rushes for 929 yards and 15 TDs last year) returns as their top rusher, while Jakobi Meyers and newcomer DeVante Parker are likely to serve as the Pats' top two receivers.
On defense, Matt Judon led New England with 12.5 sacks in 2021, and is joined up front by veteran Lawrence Guy and second-year lineman Christian Barmore. The Patriots' secondary consists of several experienced vets, including safeties Adrian Phillips (four INT in 2021), Devin McCourty and Kyle Dugger.