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10 things to watch in Giants vs. Jets

DABOLL-SALEH-10-THINGS

PRESEASON FINALE

The Giants will wrap up their three-game preseason slate with a "visit" from the Jets on Saturday night. The Jets come into the 2023 season looking a lot different than last year, largely due to the addition of four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"I've got a lot of respect for that organization and the people there, (Jets general manager) Joe (Douglas) and (Jets head coach) Robert (Saleh) and ownership," Daboll told the media Thursday. "I've got a lot of respect for them. But we're on our stuff, and again, this week, it's the Jets. It's also finalizing roster spots."

Saleh has made it clear that the Jets will be playing their starters on both sides of the ball on Saturday. However, Daboll has yet to announce playing time for the Giants.

HISTORY VS. JETS

The Giants faced the Jets in 51 consecutive summers (1969-2019) before the NFL canceled the 2020 preseason due to the pandemic. The Jets have won the two games since they resumed in 2021 and lead the series, 27-25-1. The tie was in 1972.

You can't discuss the preseason history between the Giants and Jets without mentioning the 2010 matchup, which catapulted Victor Cruz into the national spotlight. Cruz, who at the time was wearing No. 3, exploded onto the scene with six receptions for 145 yards and three touchdowns. This performance not only solidified his spot on the team, but it was also the unofficial birth of the Victor Cruz that fans have come to know and love.

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GIANTS EXCITED ABOUT 'ATHLETIC, EXPLOSIVE' SIMMONS

The Giants agreed to a trade with the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, acquiring the versatile Isaiah Simmons for a 2024 seventh-round draft pick, pending a physical. Originally the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Simmons has played 50 regular-season games with 37 starts, as well as one postseason game. He has not missed a game in his three NFL seasons.

His career numbers include 258 total tackles (181 solo), 7.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four interceptions, 16 passes defensed and one defensive touchdown.

"(General manager) Joe (Schoen)'s done a good job with his staff of, again, just evaluating and keeping conversations open about a number of players, him being one of them," Daboll said Thursday morning. "Again, he's almost 6'4", around 240, explosive, high pick. So, just got off the phone with him a little while ago, said hello to him, introduced ourselves. We'll put him in our system and start teaching him our stuff."

One of Simmons' biggest attributes is his athleticism, as the 6-foot-4, 238-pound defender ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the 2020 NFL Combine. Since then, Next Gen Stats has recorded him reaching 20+ miles per hour on nine plays from scrimmage since his first NFL game, four more than any other linebacker. On top of his physical skillset, the Giants are also looking forward to taking advantage of Simmons' versatility.

"He could do a lot of different things. Explosive, athletic. That's why he was picked where he was picked. Again, we'll get him here and see how he looks and start teaching him our stuff, but excited to have him…

"We thought there's some upside there. Again, we'll put him in, we'll ask him to do probably quite a bit of things just to see what he takes to. A guy that's, again, athletic, explosive, has good size. I've seen him do some multiple things. So again, until we get him here, I'll give you a better answer, but certainly happy to have him."

BROWN: 'ACQUIRE, DEVELOP, RETAIN'

When speaking to reporters for the first time this summer earlier this week, assistant general manager Brandon Brown was direct about what the goal is for the front office when it comes to constructing a full roster.

"Obviously, we've elevated the talent overall of the team, but we're going to canvass everything," Brown said. "At the end of the day, when you look at it, it's going to be acquire, develop, retain. That's what we want to do. It's acquiring the best talent, developing the best talent and retaining the best talent."

The process of trimming the roster to 53 players looks a little different this summer. Due to a rule change, this year features only one roster cutdown day to get from 90 players to 53, a change from previous seasons when there were several cut days. No matter how teams across the league approach Tuesday's roster deadline, the assistant GM said the Giants will be prepared for any and all scenarios.

"If there's guys that are playing well out there, there's nothing that's going to be a surprise to us whether it's a guy that's at the cutdown, whether it's a guy who's traded in the next two weeks, we will be doing our due diligence throughout the process," said Brown. "So, whether teams decide to cut prematurely to call it a benchmark of 80 before they get down to 53, we'll be prepared. There's no curveballs or surprises on our end."

WINK HAPPY ABOUT 'SELFLESS' DEFENSE

The defense found success under Wink Martindale in his first season as defensive coordinator. The unit ranked fifth in the league in both third down and red zone defense, and also ranked in the top 10 in passing touchdowns allowed.

Following a busy offseason that saw the defense add more players at all three levels, the unit now looks to build off of last year's success. While the defense enters the season with more talent, Martindale said his unit has displayed a true sense of selflessness, putting the team's success above any individual's.

"I like the players, the people. You know what I mean?" Martindale said Wednesday. "The players themselves. It's, like I said, I know you hear the word selfless, but it truly is a selfless group who cares about our success and that is cool in today's day and age of the NFL. Like you got (cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson), who is helping those young corners out. I mean, he's a stud and he wants them to be great and I just love the people here. I think that's what Joe and Dabs and even the prior regime, there is some good people in this building that want to do right for the Giants and do right for our defense and do right for our team most importantly."

HAWKINS, RILEY EARNING THEIR ROLES

One of the biggest storylines this summer has been the performance of cornerback Tre Hawkins III. The rookie out of Old Dominion has burst onto the scene with a strong training camp. Hawkins has earned significant playing time with the starting defense, playing opposite fellow rookie Deonte Banks while veteran Adoree' Jackson works out of the slot. While Daboll is far from ready to declare Hawkins a starter, the head coach did acknowledge that the rookie has earned his reps.

"He's had a good camp; he has been consistent, which is what you look for," Daboll said about the sixth-round pick. "The consistency, the discipline that you need to improve every day. It's not always perfect, there is a lot of things that he can do better but he's had the right approach to his job of improving each day, to being consistent. Again, there is plenty of plays out here I know he wishes he would have back, but he has the right mindset of what you are looking for in a young player...

"I'd say whoever ends up being the best 11 or 13 or 14, I mean there is a lot of different positions on both sides of the ball. Whoever is out there is the ones that earn it. Still a few weeks away from here, but let's just keep on grinding away, getting better and earning what we get."

"Nothing has been too big for him," Brown added. "Every time there's been a platform, he's answered the bell. So, I think more guys like him that fit our profile, and then they have the mental toughness, play with short term memory. They're getting coached the same way. It doesn't matter how we acquire them. Once they're here, it's an even playing field. Dabs says, again, you earn your playing time based on merit, and Tre's nothing more than an example of that."

Speaking of rookies earning their playing time, defensive tackle Jordon Riley is another first-year player making waves this summer. The seventh-round pick has also played well this summer, which has led to him earning some reps with the first-team defense. Riley's hard work has not gone unnoticed by his veteran teammates.

"He's coming in head down working every day, focused, locked in…" outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari said. "If you're out there playing hard every day, you're going to gain some type of respect from your teammates, coaches, and everyone, putting it all on the line at practice. When you get an opportunity on Sunday, Saturday, whenever we play, it's just great to show what you've got."

View the best photos of all the action at the Giants' 2023 training camp.