The Giants returned to the practice field Thursday after an off day to continue their preparation for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The day started with all three Giants coordinators speaking to the media. Following practice, one which featured red zone work, Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley met with reporters.
The team had another alumni present as Giants legend Osi Umenyiora watched practice from the sideline before addressing the team following the training session.
Here is what we learned:
1. Jones, offense continues to make progress
In his first appearance in a game situation running the new offense, Daniel Jones was on the field for two drives. Jones completed six of 10 passes for 69 yards, adding a six-yard rush. The Giants' offense is the third system Jones has had to learn in just four seasons. Despite spending only a few months with the playbook, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka likes what he's seen from the young quarterback.
"Daniel is doing a great job," Kafka said. "He's doing a great job. We're throwing a lot at him offensively; he's seen a lot defensively and that's all just going to help us. I'm really proud of where the staff has come from where we started to where we are now. I'm really proud of where the players are from where we started to where we are at. Again, we're still going through the process that I keep stressing with those guys. Continue to stay on that process, continue learning, continue throwing and we'll continue to get better."
"He makes plays," Saquon Barkley added about the quarterback. "I've seen it over and over again throughout his career and in practice, especially in this market, we love to focus on some of the negative plays that've happened. But that's anywhere, to be honest. But at the end of the day, I know what we're going to get from Daniel. I know the type of attitude we're going to get, the work ethic that we're going to get and the leadership that we're going to get. And he comes to work every single day, and that's all you can ask him. When you see that, there's nothing you can do but respect the guy. And that's why for me personally, I'm always going to ride for him and I'm going to do the best I can to try to make his job easier."
With the arrivals of both Kafka and head coach Brian Daboll, a lot has been made about the new offensive system combining factors from both of the coaches' previous teams (Kansas City and Buffalo). But with the season just a few weeks away, the team feels they are no longer learning the Chiefs offense or Bills offense, but rather they are working towards mastering the Giants offense.
"I think that's what we're working on right now," the offensive coordinator said about the offense. "I think we're taking every day one day at a time. Working on what we are going to do with our players. Put them in the best spot. Again, continue to evaluate on how these guys fit within that offense, and then we got to be flexible as a staff to understand – alright, this might not be the best look or the best spot for this player, who is the best person for that spot? Who is the best person to put on this route or this concept or this run scheme? It's spread out throughout the entire offense."
"I think it is," Jones added about the offense already having a Giants-feel to it. "I think that's already happened and happening. I think that's a constant process though. I don't think that ever stops. You're growing in that and learning what we do best, learning what our guys can do and want to do I think is a big thing, and continuing to work through that. So, I don't think that every stop, I think it is our system, I think we've made a lot of those changes, we've learned a lot through camp, and we'll continue to do so."
2. 'Good to see' Azeez out there
Azeez Ojulari burst onto the scene last season. The outside linebacker picked up a sack in each of his first three games, a franchise first, on his way to eight sacks on the year. He finished the season with eight tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hits, two pass breakups and a forced fumble in 17 games (13 starts).
After starting training camp on the Non-Football Injury list, Ojulari passed his physical on Sunday and returned to practice. The young linebacker was spotted talking to Osi Umenyiora at one point today, and soon after he picked up a sack when he displayed a strong pass rush move. The second-year edge rusher's return has excited everyone on the defense, especially his defensive coordinator.
"I'll tell you exactly what happened," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale explained. "(Outside Linebackers Coach) Drew (Wilkins) works on their footwork every day. It's their run footwork, which is the most important thing an outside or edge player has to have. He works on it every day. It's the first thing they do. I was just watching their feet like I'm looking at your guys' feet right now. I wasn't even looking up. And I was like, 'Man that guy has good feet.' I look up, and it's him. I'm like, 'Oh, that's right. He's practicing. It's good.' We're really excited about seeing him back. He's a playmaker. He's a good football player... It's good to see him out there."
3. Saquon feeling healthy, doing whatever coaches ask
In his first preseason action since 2018, Saquon Barkley gained 21 yards on five touches against the New England Patriots last week. Barkley was forced to sit out for the entire 2021 preseason due to the torn ACL he suffered the previous year. Now another year removed from the injury that led to him missing almost the entire 2020 season, Barkley feels completely different heading into this season.
"The way I feel different is I can just go out there and practice," said the running back. "I can go out there and work on my craft. Last year, it was kind of more of a battle of get to Sunday. That's a big difference. I couldn't do camp and then during the week once I started feeling good again, I had a thing where I stepped on someone's foot against Dallas, and you got to grind, you got to grind and try to get to Sunday. Now, I can come out and work on my craft and get better every single day. That's the biggest difference. And practice makes perfect. I'm a big believer in that. You'll never be perfect. My game will never be perfect, but that's what I'm going to shoot for and the only way you can do that is by practicing and getting reps in."
Earlier this week, Daboll praised Barkley for his demeanor both on and off the field since the Spring workouts. The fifth-year running back has impressed the head coach with his work ethic and his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team succeed, which includes his desire to improve in pass protection. During a special teams period, Barkley was off on the side working on this aspect of his game with former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, who is currently serving as a Bill Walsh minority coaching intern on Daboll's staff.
"Pass-pro is a big focus for me, just continuing to get more confident, continue to just get more technically sound with the technique and dropping my hips, punching not catching," Barkley said. "K Faulk is doing a really good job with me in that time. And just everything not just that: catching the ball, balance, with so many team reps and short individual time, you don't really get that much work on yourself as a running back. So, we take that time to, and LY (Director of Coaching Operations Laura Young) too, we take that time to just anything, whether it's pass-pro, catching, running back drills, just getting the hands active, getting the feet active, whatever it can be to help make me a better player. We use that time for that."
View the best photos from Thursday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
4. Golladay has 'done a good job'
Kenny Golladay put together one of his strongest practices of training camp today. Golladay caught two consecutive passes from Jones during 11-on-11 drills, one of which resulted in a big gain over the middle while the other was an impressive, contested catch on the sideline. But the highlight of practice came a little later, when the pair connected on a huge gain down the field of 40+ yards.
"I thought he made some plays today," Jones said about the 6-foot-5 receiver. "I thought we spread the ball around well, and obviously, he had the deep shot, and he made a nice adjustment on, a big play there. I think he's had a good camp, and you know we'll keep working with him."
Golladay came to the Giants last year with the reputation of being great in 1-on-1 situations. In 2019, his last full season with the Lions, Golladay led the NFL with 429 yards on contested catches. The veteran receiver has shown that ability to go up and make the catch with a defender all over him throughout camp, something Kafka pointed out.
"Kenny is one of those guys where if he's one on one, he has an opportunity to make a play," said Kafka. "I think it's figuring out the confidence and making sure that we are putting the right people in the right spots again, going back to that. But yeah, you're right. You want our guys to be able to make plays in one-on-one situations. It's a one-on-one game. It's a player's game and I think those guys, tied in with the scheme and tied in with who we got in those spots, they got to be able to execute that."
5. Gillan 'getting better every day'
One of the positions the Giants made a change at this year was at punter. Riley Dixon served as the Giants' punter for four seasons, but after being waived in March, that responsibility falls on Jamie Gillan.
In his first game with the Giants last week, Gillan punted the ball four times and finished with an average of 48.8 yards per punt. Nicknamed the "Scottish Hammer", Gillan's first punt went for 52 yards while his last one went for a whopping 60 yards. Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey revealed that Gillan was named one of the team's players of the game for his performance in Foxboro, and the coordinator has been happy with the improvements he's seen out of the punter.
"He did a hell of a job, he really did," McGaughey said, citing the New England game. "He was player of the game. His first punt was 52 yards, two yards from the boundary. You couldn't walk down there and place it any better than that one. We've just got to make the play. (Safety Julian) J. Love's got to come down and take a shot. But Jamie, he did a heck of a job and he's getting better every day."