Spring practices are underway at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The Giants held their third organized team activity (OTA) on Thursday, complete with individual, seven-on-seven, and team drills. Coach Joe Judge and players also addressed the media to discuss the state of the team.
Here is everything you need to know:
Giants excited for the return of fans
On Monday, the Giants and Jets released a joint statement regarding stadium capacity at MetLife Stadium for the 2021 season: "We are thrilled by Governor Murphy's announcement today to have MetLife Stadium operate at full capacity for the 2021 season. We can't wait to welcome our fans back, creating the gameday atmosphere we have all been missing. We will continue to work to ensure the return of fans is accomplished in a safe and responsible way."
The Giants open the season at home against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Sept. 12.
"I couldn't be more excited to know there's going to be 100-percent capacity," Judge said. "I'm not going to speak for the entire team, but I know there's a lot of energy upon hearing that announcement. Personally, I can't wait to walk in a stadium and hear it at a deafening level. That's something I'm really looking forward to and feeling the energy of the fans. It's something we've missed, and I've expressed before how much we value and thrive on as a team, going out playing in front of your home crowd and the animosity playing on the road against a visiting crowd."
View the best photos from the Giants' spring practices at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Shep sports new number in honor of late father
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard took advantage of the new rules regarding jersey numbers in the NFL. After wearing No. 87 since he was selected by the Giants in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Shepard switched to No. 3, which is what both he and his late father, Derrick Shepard, wore at Oklahoma.
"It's something that means a lot to me," Shepard said. "It's been a number that I've been since I was a little kid, after my father passed. He wore No. 3 in college. That's something that meant a lot to me, a lot to his teammates. I wanted to carry that on. When I came into the league, you couldn't get single digits. Whenever the rule changed, I was happy to grab that."
Last month, NFL clubs adopted six new playing rules and one bylaw. The most visible change fans will see on game days is the expansion of jersey number options for certain positions to the following:
- Quarterbacks, punters, and placekickers: 1–19
- Defensive backs: 1–49
- Running backs, full backs, tight ends, H-backs, and wide receivers: 1–49 and 80-89
- Offensive linemen: 50–79
- Defensive linemen: 50–79 and 90–99
- Linebackers: 1–59 and 90–99
Birthday boy Daniel Jones talks next steps in development
Jones, who turned 24 today, enters his third NFL season with a boosted offense that includes additions like first-round pick Kadarius Toney and free-agent signee Kenny Golladay. What will it all look like under offensive coordinator Jason Garrett?
"There's a constant dialogue between Coach Garrett, Coach Judge, [quarterbacks coach Jerry] Schuplinski, all the coaches," Jones said. "Myself, I'm certainly involved in that, how I see things, what I'm comfortable with, what plays I like. That's a constant conversation and dialogue.
"They're the coaches and I'm the player; I certainly understand that. They ask my input. When they do, I certainly provide that. There's a constant conversation back and forth there in terms of how I see it, what I like, stuff like that."
Aside from the Xs and Os, Jones is also growing into his natural leadership role after being voted an offensive co-captain in 2020.
"A lot of it has to do with the relationships you develop with guys," Jones said. "A lot of these guys I've played with each of my first two years. … We have a good group, a lot of leaders who are communicating regularly. Everyone's always thinking about ways we can get together to get better, to improve, do everything we can to be prepared going into camp. As a quarterback, my role is a lot of times to be that communicator, to bring guys together, to get guys moving toward where we need to go, thinking about our goals and what we want to accomplish come this fall."
"I think we have a lot of great leadership throughout the locker room," Judge said. "There's a lot of layers of leadership; it doesn't come from just one person. It has to come from different people, and you have to make sure you can reach and touch every player on our roster. I love the way our team interacts and the leadership emerging from different age groups and guys being willing to share across the ball and share wisdom and put their arm around the guy. I like the way they challenge each other on the field and push to get better. I'm proud of the way Daniel is working and leading.
First impressions of second-round pick Azeez Ojulari
Linebacker Blake Martinez, who was voted a defensive co-captain in his first season with the team, gave his first impressions of second-round pick Azeez Ojulari, an edge rusher out of Georgia.
"He's a freaky-looking player," Martinez said of the 6-foot-2, 249-pounder. "Just watching him today, he made some great plays out there in practice, showed some athleticism, things like that. Once again, it's OTAs, you've got to wait until we put the pads on, things like that. So far, I have think he's done really well."
Ojulari played in 27 games with 23 starts in three seasons at Georgia. As a redshirt sophomore in 2020, he was named a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive player.
Martinez was also asked about outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who is coming back from a torn Achilles tendon.
"It's awesome seeing a guy come back from an injury like that," Martinez said. "It's been really cool. I'm excited for him. I know he's put in a ton of work this offseason getting ready to go. He's just doing his thing out there."
Judge's goals for first spring with players on the field
At this time last year, Judge was a first-year head coach trying to build a team through virtual meetings. While certain protocols are still in place due to the pandemic, this is the first spring he has a team on the field.
"The first part is see where our players are at physically," Judge said. "Until I know these guys can go out and operate at 100 percent and stay healthy and protect themselves on the field, soft tissues, and we want to avoid collisions at this part of the camp. Until we know that, we are not really going to go ahead and keep this as a competitive drill. You will see team-on-team, 11-on-11 activities out there, but we will control the tempo in practice. But there are other times in individual and group work where we will ramp that up and make sure the guys work on skill development, timing, offense, defense, and place a large emphasis on communication this time of year. You have to take the mental steps forward in terms of the understanding of the scheme and you have to develop chemistry with the communication on offense and defense. This is a great time of year to have it. You're not preparing for an opponent and you can take it day by day and challenge the players in different ways and see the interaction grow with young and old guys."