BEREA, Ohio – Defensive lineman Leonard Williams stood in a corner of a field at the Cleveland Browns' practice facility late this afternoon and put his voice to what many of his Giants were certainly thinking: he liked the teams' second joint practice much more than the first.
"Yeah, definitely," Williams said. "I think yesterday, speaking for myself personally, but also just the feel of practice, it felt like people were kind of feeling each other out, feeling out the scheme. It felt like it was almost like the first day of pads in camp, just because it was our first time going against different competition. Today, I felt like I was flying around a little bit more. I was a little more sure of what type of reads I'm going to get, what type of looks I'm getting, and it allowed me to play a little bit faster."
And louder. And with more emotion. And superior execution, both offensively and defensively. The Giants may not have been hitting on all cylinders in their second workout with the Browns, but they clearly fired on more of them than they did on day one. Daniel Jones and the offense completed more passes and were particularly proficient in the red zone. Sacks aren't officially counted, since no one tackles to the ground, but Williams and his defensive cohorts constantly pressured Cleveland's quarterbacks up front and provided close coverage of the receivers in the back.
"Kind of got a feel for it yesterday, but we really didn't have that juice that we had today," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. "That's what it's all about. That's the reason why we came out here, to get good work. I feel like that's what we got today."
Check out must-see photos from the joint practices between the Giants and Browns in Cleveland.
The Browns were clearly frustrated at times, leading to a couple of chippy exchanges, but they were never close to escalating.
"It was friendly competition," Shepard said. "That's what we came out here for is competition. It's going to get into a talking match, it's going to get physical out there. This is football, this is what we do. They understand that on their side, we understand that over here."
"Guys were going out there competing hard and playing hard," Jones said. "Coach (Joe) Judge had clear instruction from the get-go and wanted to make sure we played hard but kept it between the whistles and I thought we did that."
Jones connected on numerous passes to wide receivers Shepard and Darius Slayton and tight end Evan Engram.
"We did a pretty good job executing," Jones said. "Good to go against another defense and see some different looks, different schemes and thought we executed pretty well."
Judge said it's not uncommon for joint practices to have greater tempo and intensity as they progress.
"I think the third day is, historically, if you go three hard practices," said Judge, whose team will again share the field with the Browns on Sunday when the teams meet in a preseason game in FirstEnergy Stadium. "Now, the ones I've been part of, day one and day two have been what we've been doing right here. I think both teams had good tempo yesterday. I think both teams played controlled and had good competition against each other and also took care of each other. That's really what the goal was. Coming out here and making sure we get good, quality work and we come out here and get better as a team.
"In terms of the tempo or emotions … it depends on who you are and where you're at. I've been a part of these practices where we've gone out there day one and are getting our teeth kicked in and went out there and wrote our name all over the opponent the next day. I've been in it the other way around, too. We've gone out there the first day and places I've been, and you come out feeling like you're the world champions and the next day, guess what? You find out the hard way that you weren't ready for it. So again, the importance of these days of either building on success or handling adversity, that's a good challenge for our team."
Despite the heat on the practice fields, the Giants' defensive front was energized throughout the afternoon. Williams and Co. were constantly in the grills of quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum.
Why was today's performance better than yesterday's?
"I think we just came out as a team ready to practice," outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. "We knew we had to come out with intensity just to come out here and get ready to compete against a great team, and I think that's what we did."
"I think today we did a great job," Williams said. "The edge guys are playing really well. We're doing a good job communicating and playing a lot of different games, which is doing really good for switching it up. It's hard for them to pick up on what we're going to run. We have a lot of different looks."
And a lot of talented players to execute them.
*Running back Saquon Barkley again participated only in individual drills. Judge was asked if Barkley will be similarly limited next week when the Giants practice twice with the New England Patriots.
"I don't have an answer for you right there," Judge said. "This will be kind of evaluating him coming out of this week. We'll actually get some opportunities today. We're going to get some one-on-ones with our safeties and our tight ends, our running backs and our linebackers in practice. The intention is for Saquon, when it's our guys, to let him work a little bit against some of our guys and get the one-one-ones and get moving with some of that stuff right there. Now, it's all still controlled as well and then when we get to New England next week, we'll deal with that."
*Veteran tackle Nate Solder continues to be held out of team drills.
"He's actually doing well, moving at a good progress," Judge said. "We just felt this would be a good week to kind of let him go ahead and continue with that. We expect to get him back soon. He's had a really good camp for us. I'm really proud of the way he's working. I'm proud of the leadership he's giving to our team. He's come back – obviously, we've talked earlier in camp about him getting back in the swing of things, like every other player. I don't think it took him long. He jumped right back on that horse and kept on riding. As soon as we can get him back out there, we will."