Training camp continued Monday as the Giants held practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Unlike the last few weeks, today's practice did not have fans present. However, that did not change the format of the practice, as the offense and defense still went up against each other during some team drills.
Head Coach Brian Daboll spoke to reporters in the morning and broke down yesterday's session. Following practice, wide receiver Collin Johnson and safety Julian Love met with the media.
Here is what we learned:
1. Collin Johnson making the 'most of his opportunities'
Collin Johnson enjoyed a strong performance against the Patriots last week. The third-year veteran reeled in seven of eight targets for 82 yards, both of which led the team. Johnson was listed as a fourth-string receiver on the team's first unofficial depth chart, but Daboll pointed towards his versatility and productivity thus far in camp as reasons for his increasing playing time.
"He's made the most of his opportunities," Daboll said. "So, we've talked to these guys about earning it, and he's certainly earned it with his opportunities that he's gotten. If he does well, he'll get more opportunities. He's smart. He's got position flexibility in terms of intelligence and understanding the roster. He's made plays. He's done a nice job…
"It's not so much the size. It's his overall intelligence of being able to line up at multiple spots. The ability to separate and get open is important and then make plays on the football when he has an opportunity to."
In his rookie season with Jacksonville, the 6-foot-6 receiver brought in 18 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson was claimed off waivers by the Giants right before the start of the 2021 campaign. The former fifth-round pick played in 12 games (one start) last season and finished with 11 receptions for 105 yards.
"At the end of the day, you've just got to focus on being the best you can be," Johnson said. "I feel like if you do that, when the opportunity comes, you'll make it. I have full confidence that when I get an opportunity, I'll make the play because I know the way I work every day. I'm definitely going to keep working and keep taking advantage of my opportunities…
"I feel like I'm better today than I was yesterday. I control just getting better every day and taking advantage of my opportunities when my number is called. Like I said, that's all I can control. How many targets I have, maybe can't control, but my attitude and effort I can always control that. I'm big on that. That's just my focus and that will always be my focus, my attitude and effort. I feel like if I stay focused on that the results and taking advantage of opportunities will take care of itself."
2. Pressure in practice beneficial for offense
It's no secret that Wink Martindale loves to bring pressure. During the preseason opener against the Patriots, the Giants blitzed on 48 percent of New England's passing snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. The defense finished the game with 12 pressures.
Players from all levels of the unit have discussed how much they enjoy playing in Martindale's blitz-heavy scheme. But from a preparation perspective, the biggest opportunity the players get to work on their blitzing is during practice. On the flip side, this means that the Giants' offense must go up against Martindale's pressure on a daily basis. Daboll believes these sessions serve as a great opportunity for the offense to improve its communication leading up to the season.
"I think it's good. I think it's good for an offense, too, to have to deal with that," the head coach stated. "However many plays in a row, it's still good. It makes you think. But I do think you want to do that at times where you say, 'Hey, give me two or three so every play isn't mental gymnastics of figuring out different things.' But I think it's good to apply as much pressure because you're going to deal with it at some point. Whether it's 20 plays in a row, you never know about that, but it's good for an offense to have to work through communication. And it's really good to sit back after the practice and go through it and really talk about some things that are issues at times."
3. Julian Love impressed with young DBs
The Giants have a lot of youth across the secondary. Adoree' Jackson is the oldest cornerback on the roster at 26, while Andrew Adams (28) is the only safety older than 25. When talking to reporters Monday, fourth-year safety Julian Love said he liked what he saw out of the defense in New England, especially from some of the young guys.
"I think it was good, I think it was good to see what you have in front of you," said the 24-year-old safety. "I think we have a lot of evaluation being done, top-down from starters on. So, it's big you want to see guys competing, you want to see guys getting after it in a game setting so, it was good. I think we got some good feedback on some things to improve on. It's the initial shock for a lot of young guys on what an NFL game can be."
Of the 16 defensive backs currently on the roster, only three (Jackson, Adams and Love) have been in the NFL for at least three full seasons. Included in that group are six rookies, a few of whom have impressed the veteran safety.
"I think we're a talented group," Love said. "I think personally, it stinks, but I liked what (Safety) Dane Belton has shown before he was out for a little bit, I like what (Cornerback) Zyon Gilbert has shown, he's a sneaky athlete, so it's exciting to see him get more and more. We have a good young group; I think we have some really good players.
"You saw (Cornerback) Darren Evans - D. Evans - he had a solid game, and I want to see more from (Cornerback Cordale) Flott. We've got some guys, this game and the next one, you want to see guys take the next step. This first one, coaches may feel a certain way, but I'm like, "it's their first game" let them ease into it. I'm also forgetting (Safety Trenton) Trent Thompson, he's been flashing all over the place. He's a guy who has really been earning his way from the bottom of the bottom to now earning some quality reps for us, I think that's someone to keep an eye out for sure."
4. Daboll pleased with O-line's communication
The offensive line has been a position to watch this summer. The Giants had already lost Marcus McKethan and Matt Gono prior to the preseason opener. Then, Shane Lemieux and Jamil Douglas got hurt against the Patriots, leading to some depth players receiving extended snaps. Daboll was pleased with how the unit looked in its first action against another team.
"I think those guys did a good job of communicating," the head coach said about the O-line. "Some of the guys on the second and third lines, they've only been here a few days. And I think that again, (Offensive Line Coach) Bobby (Johnson), (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) Tony (Sparano Jr.) did a good job of getting them ready. They did themselves a good job of getting ready. You got to try to win the game up front, both sides. So, the first group, obviously Shane went down. But I think the first group communicates well. They're working good. And the second group did a nice job as well of closing out that game with five minutes left, whatever it may be. It's an important part of your team, is the trenches."
The Giants' two highest-graded players against the Patriots, according to Pro Football Focus, were reserve offensive linemen, starting with Devery Hamilton (90.1 overall grade).
"He played a lot of plays in that preseason game, and he competed really well," Daboll stated. "He has position-flex. Today, you'll see him inside at guard. He can play tackle. He can play inside. Another smart guy that's doing everything that we ask him to do."
Coming in right behind Hamilton was Ben Bredeson and his 90.0 overall grade.
"Smart, tough, dependable," the head coach said about Bredeson. "Very good communicator. I think he has good leadership skills. Was really good on the sideline the other night. Practices hard. Out there every day. A guy you like to work with."
5. Excitement for Sunday's game vs. Bengals
The Giants return to MetLife Stadium for their second preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night. Although the team emerged with the victory in the opener, the head coach explained there are certain things he wants the team to improve.
"Just keep grinding away. Keep improving our fundamentals," Daboll said about this week's preparations. "It's going to be a big thing. I thought we improved a little bit on that yesterday pass protection-wise with the backs, playing the deep ball with the defensive backfield. Again, you can't tackle. I think we missed six tackles the first game. So improvements fundamentally is the most important."
The Giants have two games remaining in the preseason, with the finale coming against the Jets. It's easy to see that the players remaining from last year's team are eager to get the regular season started.
"I'm excited for Cincinnati (Bengals) and the (New York) Jets just to get into the flow so I can be hitting the ground running and we can hit the ground running in Week 1," Love stated. "It's hard not to be excited, we want to win games, we want to see a new season, and get that bad taste out of our mouths as soon as possible."